Mod+ 267. DR. JEFFERY MARTIN, CAN ENLIGHTENMENT BE TAUGHT?

#82
Dr. Martin wrote:
http://nonsymbolic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/PNSE-Article.pdf

The term non-symbolic was derived from Cook-Greuter’s (2000) research involving ego development and transcendence. While she generally favored the word postsymbolic, she used a term related to non-symbolic in a 2000 paper, in the following context:

Eastern psychologies have often pointed to the nonsymbolically mediated, or immediate ways of knowing as the only kind of knowing that can lead to enlightenment or true insight into human nature. In fact, they consider our addiction to language-mediated, discursive thought as a major hurdle in realizing the true or divine Self, or union with the Ground. (Cook-Greuter, p. 230)​
...
As I sought to increasingly identify the most consistent PNSE elements that were being reported by participants, the research became primarily focused on changes in: sense of self, cognition, emotion, memory and perception. These elements were used in an effort to get below individual beliefs, cultural differences, and so forth. It proved to be a highly effective strategy that produced clear and consistent answers.
Breath! You are Alive by Thich Nhat Hanh:
Impermanence also means "signlesness." The reality of all that exists is beyond every concept and linguistic expression. We cannot go directly to their essential and true nature, because we are accustomed to grasping phenomena through the intermediaries of perception and thought. The categories of perception and thought are "signs."

The example of wave and water is often given to help us understand the "signless" nature of all that exists. A wave can be high or low, can arise or disappear, but the essence of the wave - water- is neither hight nor low, neither arising nor disappearing. All signs - high, low, arising, disappearing - cannot touch the essence of water. We cry and laugh according to the sign because we have not yet seen the essence. The essence (svabhava) is the very nature of everything that is and of the reality of ourselves.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn40/sn40.009.wlsh.html
Animitto Sutta: The Signless

"Then, friends, paying no attention to any distinguishing signs, I entered on and dwelt in that concentration of the heart which is without signs. But as I dwelt thus,[4] the consciousness-conforming-to-signs arose.[5]

"And then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by his powers[6] and said: 'Moggallaana, Moggallaana, Brahman,[7] do not slacken off in the signless concentration, make your mind steady, make the mind one-pointed, concentrate your mind in the signless concentration!'

"And after that, friends, paying no attention to any distinguishing signs, I entered on and dwelt in the signless concentration of the heart.
http://realitysandwich.com/229496/d...jeffrey-a-martin-explains-the-finders-course/
Dr. Jeffery A. Martin: ... On any given day, I’m talking to many people who experience what we call Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience. This state is publicly known by terms like “enlightenment,” “non-duality,” “persistent mystical states,” “unitive states,” such as “union with God,” or with the Divine or with nature,” or “transcendental consciousness.” Things like that. Our term for it is Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience, which we often shorten to PNSE.
I don't see how you can identify an experience of the signless nature of ultimate reality by measuring of "sense of self, cognition, emotion, memory and perception". I think PNSE measures the effects of meditation but not necessarily the experience you have because of that meditation.
 
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#83
Contents

Introduction
How I Practice Buddhism
Further Reading
Try it Yourself

Introduction


Can Enlightenment be taught? My thinking on this has changed recently. I approach the question from a Buddhist perspective. In Buddhism the term in the language of the sutras is better translated as "awakening" than enlightenment. There are stages of awakening and the final goal of spiritual practice is to end suffering for the practitioner. (In Buddhism, pain is considered different from suffering. Pain is a physical sensation, suffering is mental anguish. When I write about suffering here I am referring to mental anguish, ie unpleasant emotions.)

My own meditation practice has evolved over time and it has become something very different from what is typically taught by Buddhist teachers. So much so that I posted on the Dharma Overground, a forum for Buddhist practitioners, and asked if what I was doing was even Buddhism. I found out that what I was doing is Buddhism but Buddhist practice is not typically taught in the way I described it. It seems to me that my approach is easier to learn and to practice than the traditional methods of teaching. It doesn't involve any abstruse philosophical concepts, the practices are easy to do, don't require intense concentration, and there is a huge variety that you can choose from.

Buddhist practice centers around learning to let go of attachments and aversion because these mental constructs are the source of mental anguish which constitutes suffering. The key question of Buddhist practice is: How does one learn to let go of attachments and aversions? Different schools offer different solutions. They are based on traditional methods and often involve abstruse philosophical concepts.

How I Practice Buddhism

My answer to the question uses modern knowledge of how the nervous system works. To understand this, consider what it would be like to not experience suffering. Nothing could cause you to experience mental anguish. Anything could happen, and you would be serene and relaxed.

The term for "suffering" in the language of the sutras is "dukkha" and if you google "dukkha = stress", you will find that stress is sometimes used as a translation for dukkha. So one way to understand Buddhism is that the end result of the practice is to end stress. If you look carefully within when you experience any type of unpleasant emotion you will see that it is a form of stress. If you can relax deeply, the emotion, the mental anguish, will dissipate. Maybe you have noticed that sometimes when you wake up from sleep you feel good and it takes a few seconds to remember a big problem you are in the middle of and then you feel unhappy or stressed again? That is because deep relaxation causes unpleasant emotions to dissipate. When you are having a big problem do you ever just want to lay down in bed? That is because when you are deeply relaxed, on the edge of sleep, you don't feel unpleasant emotions as strongly.

So if you could understand how the body switches from "stress" to "relaxation" and learn how to control that switch you could develop a system where you cultivate your ability to turn the switch to "relaxation" and keep it there even when you are in normal waking consciousness.

Because of this, I would say that yes, enlightenment can be taught, because people can learn to control that neurological switch between stress and relaxation.

In modern society people experience a lot of stress. The nervous system becomes better at what it does more often, so people become unbalanced, they become stressed very easily and find it harder to relax. This process can be reversed. By practicing meditation and other relaxation techniques a person can learn to relax very easily and over time become more and more resistant to stress.

The advantage of this perspective on Buddhist practice is that it is easy to understand. There are no complicated philosophical concepts like non-self, dependent origination, or your true nature. And it is easy to measure your progress, you know at anytime if you are feeling stress. You can tell if a practice is helping you immediately. You don't have to hope that something mystical will happen years in the future. And you can use many different relaxation techniques developed by other traditions or modern doctors and scientists. You can use the techniques that work best for you.

(It is also important to understand that sometimes emotions are produced by biological processes. For example, in some cases depression is caused by abnormal brain chemistry and a purely mental technique will not cure it. However any secondary emotional reactions like anger at being depressed, can be helped by relaxation.)

Further Reading

I have several articles on my blog and web site that describe the practices I have found to be helpful:

This article is about the neurological switch between stress and relaxation. It offers many suggestions for relaxation exercises:
"Turning Off Stress: The Parasympathetic Nervous System And Spiritual Development"
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-parasympathetic-nervous-system-and.html

This article is about the type of meditation I use. You can use it just for relaxation. Even though it describes a method of producing intense spiritual experiences, you don't have to do that part. I think it helps but it is not a requirement if you want to use the meditation technique for relaxation alone:
http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/meditation-1

More here:
"Focusing the Mind Can Help You Relax"
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2018/05/focusing-mind-can-help-you-relax.html

"Diet and Serotonin" It is possible to increase serotonin levels in the brain by eating protein 20 to 40 minutes after eating carbohydrates.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/occasionally-i-post-something-to.html#misc_diet_mood

My posts on this topic at Dharma Overground:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8317313#_19_message_8317313

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8317313#_19_message_8322964

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8317313#_19_message_8334612

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8317313#_19_message_8335074

Try it Yourself

If you want to try this type of practice, start doing relaxation exercises. The articles above offer many suggestions. Find the ones that work best for you. Some will work best when you are highly stressed, other will be best when you are only slightly stressed.

The key to this practice is to experience how relaxing makes you feel better. Notice your emotional state after you do the relaxation exercises. Once you see that relaxing reduces unpleasant emotions and makes you feel better you will naturally turn to relaxation when you are suffering. It doesn't take will power any more than taking aspirin for a headache does. You do it because you know from experience that it offers relief

Develop the habit of doing meditation or some type of relaxation every day. Lean how to relax. Noticing what causes you stop being relaxed will help you learn how to stay relaxed. In time your ability to relax and stay relaxed will improve. You will experience fewer unpleasant emotions, less mental anguish, and less suffering.
 
#84
Jim,

I liked that article, and I wonder just how far you have managed to take it. For example, can you avoid yourself suffering while (say) having a dental filing - even to the point of not needing a local aesthetic!

I find that focussing on a part of my body that has a problem (e.g. a bit of arthritis, or indigestion) , often seems to fix it.

David
 
#85
Jim,

I liked that article, and I wonder just how far you have managed to take it. For example, can you avoid yourself suffering while (say) having a dental filing - even to the point of not needing a local aesthetic!

I find that focussing on a part of my body that has a problem (e.g. a bit of arthritis, or indigestion) , often seems to fix it.

David
When I wrote ...

(In Buddhism, pain is considered different from suffering. Pain is a physical sensation, suffering is mental anguish. When I write about suffering here I am referring to mental anguish, ie unpleasant emotions.)
... i meant to imply that pain would still be unpleasant and one would not want to endure it. In the sutras there is a case where Buddha suffered a physical injury and he dealt with the pain by going into a meditative trance so deep that he did not feel pain.

I have found that pain due to illness or injury is much easier to bear when I am in a good mood. Being in pain can be frightening and demoralizing. If you can deal with those two symptoms, it is much easier to bear. So relaxation, meditation, and other techniques to elevate one's mood can help in that way. Particularly, the type of meditation I do can cause the brain to release endorphins which are natural pain killers.

I also use self hypnosis and affirmations to change how I perceive pain. If you tell yourself you are perfectly comfortable, in some cases it can change how you experience or react to different sensations. I think if you want to convince your subconscious mind of something, you can do it by repeating it over an over until you wear ruts into the neurological pathways and it works its way into your implicit beliefs. Repetition is a technique of persuasion. You can use it on yourself.

But I would not want to have a dental procedure without anesthetic.

I write about the subject of meditation because I have found it to be tremendously helpful personally. I am not trying to make money or seeking personal publicity. I want to share the information because I think it would be helpful for other people, and I think the world would be a much better place if people were more relaxed and suffering less. When you are suffering, you are focused more on yourself and are naturally more selfish. When you feel good, you are more likely to be tolerant, loving, and generous.

I don't know if relaxation can be perfected, belief that it can be would have to come from the sutras. I don't think anyone alive is believed to have reached nirvana. I asked on the dharma overground if a fully awakened person would experience the fight or flight response and I learned that this is no consensus on that question.
 
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#86
"CAN ENLIGHTENMENT BE TAUGHT?"

Yes,

(An updated version of this post can be found on my blog; https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-untethered-soul-by-michael-singer.html)
I have been reading "The Untetherd Soul" by Michael Singer.

I highly recommend this book. Singer offers a somewhat different perspective on certain aspects Buddhism which I have an interest in. His background is in yoga and he writes about many of the more esoteric / mystical aspects of the mind in a way that is much easier to understand than the way it is presented in Buddhism.

He cuts through a lot of the obscure verbal gymnastics you find in Buddhism and explains very clearly how understanding the mind can cause awakening. As far as I have read (74%) he has not given any meditation instructions but if you are already meditating, the information in the book can help you understand how meditation and mindfulness practices should work and how to do them correctly. I have a lot of experience in this area so what I am getting out of it is fairly advanced. I'm not sure how a beginner would react to it. What he is saying is not much different in essence from my own practice (observe the mind, relax, let go of unpleasant emotions) but Singer gives a clear explanation of the nature of the mind and how to use that understanding in combination with letting go of emotions to achieve awakening.

Singer's approach is somewhat different from Buddhism. In Buddhism you are told to meditate and someday if you are lucky something magical will happen and you will get enlightenment and your suffering will end. Singer says you have to confront unpleasant emotions to let go of them and that process leads to enlightenment.

Singer uses some "new age" type jargon chakras and "energy" etc but you can still understand the practical aspects of what to do with the information even if you don't like the way he says it.

I've looked at web sites about yoga and I found them harder to understand than Buddhism so I think what Singer has done is exceptional.

According to his biography "He had a deep inner awakening in 1971 while working on his doctorate in economics and went into seclusion to focus on yoga and meditation."

The book's web site is here:

https://untetheredsoul.com

If you are interested in the book and have access to e-books from your library you might be able to borrow a copy. I borrowed the e-book through hoopla (hoopladigital.com). It is also available to borrow from overdrive.com but there was a waiting list when I checked there.

In the book Singer explains that you are just awareness. Thoughts and emotions and events around you are things you observe.

Singer uses the analogy of a lucid dream to explain how to experience yourself as just awareness.

In a lucid dream you know you are dreaming. In a regular dream you are immersed in the dream, you think it is real.

When you meditate or practice mindfulness, you know you are observing, you are mindful, you are lucid. But if you get distracted by thoughts and get carried away by them, you become immersed in them, you might notice after a while that you are thinking about something and not meditating you are not lucid. The thoughts have taken over your mind.

By practicing meditation and mindfulness you can learn to be mindful (lucid) all the time. You can be what you are, awareness observing.

If you allow yourself to experience emotional pain (Buddhists say "suffering") you will learn to let go of it and that leads to awakening: the end of suffering. But you have to confront your emotions from a lucid state of mind or you will not be able to let go. When you experience emotions and you are not lucid, you are immersed in the emotions, they will take over your mind, like distracting thoughts during meditation. You will see the event that caused the emotion as a problem needing a solution and you be focused on that. But when you experience emotions while you are lucid, you are not immersed in it, you see the emotion as something you are observing, not necessarily as a problem that has to be solved. Because you are detached, because the emotion has not taken over your mind, you can just relax and allow the emotion to exist until it naturally ends which is the way to let go of emotions - relax and allow them to exist until they cease naturally. When you are lucid, if there is a problem that needs to be dealt with, you will be able to do so without emotions clouding your judgement.

Allowing yourself to feel emotional pain can be difficult, but understanding that the process is beneficial can change your attitude and motivate you to embrace it so you can reap the benefits of letting go. You also quickly learn that most daily upsets are not too bad and that you can endure them quite easily. And if you observe the emotional pain from a lucid state you see emotions as something you are observing rather than a problem (that needs a solution).

Being lucid all the time is necessary because we are bombarded with stresses that can cause emotional upsets all day long. In order to be able to let go of unpleasant emotions as you encounter them, you have to be lucid all the time.

But even when we are lucid and are being just awareness observing, we still do not understand our true nature. Over a lifetime we have built up a "reality" in our mind with thoughts about who we are, what we are, how we relate to the world, how other people should act, what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad etc. etc. But this is not reality. It is just thought. To see beyond our self constructed reality we have to disassemble it. Allowing ourselves to experience emotional pain can help us disassemble this illusory reality. When things in our experience don't match our expectations, we feel threatened, we feel emotional pain. We protect our mental model of reality by pushing away pain or by clinging to our ideas, Every time we feel emotional pain it is telling us about a flaw in our model of reality. Emotional pain can help us to deconstruct the illusion of reality if we allow ourselves to experience the pain and let go of it because by doing that we are accepting that our mental model of reality is flawed and in time it will be so weakened by so many accumulated flaws that we will be able to see through it. That is awakening.

I have been trying to put this information into practice and I am finding it very helpful.

A form of meditation that would be a good compliment to the book is this:

https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-meditate-dzogchen-ponlop-rinpoche-on-mahamudra/

In this type of meditation you first sit quietly and relax for a little while. Then begin to notice any thoughts that arise. Observe a thought but do not continue along in a train of thoughts. If there are no thoughts, just sit being aware of awareness. If you are not sure what "being aware of awareness" means, think any random word for example "automobile", when you are thinking it, you are observing a thought, when the thought is over, you are left being aware of awareness. If any unpleasant feelings arise go back to relaxing for a while and return to observing thoughts and awareness when you feel more at ease.
 
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#88
"CAN ENLIGHTENMENT BE TAUGHT?"

Yes

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2019/08/enlightenment-what-is-it-and-what.html
When you observe everything that appears to your consciousness: sense perceptions, thoughts, emotions, various other kinds of feelings, impulses, and intentions, you may also notice the cause and effect relationships: sense perception - recognition - thought - emotion - impulse - intention - action. If you are immersed in this process, it seems like you are in control. But if you step back and just observe this process, it seems like it goes by itself. You see that when you are immersed, the "self" exists, but when you are just observing, there is no feeling of self. This is how the sense of self is produced and how, by observing the activity of he mind, you can learn to see reality without the filter of self. From this you realize that your inner reality is a creation of the mind and you are no longer attached to your emotions, you see they are not you or yours, and you no longer overreact to them.
 
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#89
"CAN ENLIGHTENMENT BE TAUGHT?"

It doesn't have to be taught. It is intuitive. But people getting enlightened on their own doesn't fit the business model most meditation teachers.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2019/09/gradual-enlightenment.html

In The Science of Enlightenment, a book written by Shinzen Young, Shinzen says that people can become enlightened gradually without knowing it.
He writes:

... in my experience as a teacher, enlightenment usually sneaks up on people. Sometimes they don't quiet realize how enlightened they've become over time because they have gradually acclimatized to it.

This intrigued me so I searched for more information on this. I found a file on the Shinheads facebook group, (Shinzen Enlightenment Interview.pdf) that discussed this in greater detail and I have included the relevant excerpt below.

What Shinzen describes seems to be that the effects of meditating over a long period of time produce the changes in a person that constitute enlightenment, whether you know it or not, whether or not you have the insight reported by people who experience sudden enlightenment.

Evidently, being released from the fetter of identity view is not necessarily something that has to be conscious - it does not necessarily require an insight.

If this is the case, then one can simply meditate and not worry about having any particular insight or crossing any particular milestone.

You can judge your progress and the effectiveness of your practice by your own observation as to how it helps you to live with increasing equanimity. If you find your equanimity is increasing over time, then you are probably doing it right.

Here is the excerpt from Shinzen Enlightenment Interview.pdf

However, for most people who’ve studied with me it doesn’t happen that way. Not suddenly. What does happen is that the person gradually works through the things that get in the way of enlightenment, but so gradually that they might not notice.
You remember that I said in traditional Buddhism it’s very significant that it’s formulated that something passes away and it’s not something that you get? So what typically happens is that over a period of years, and indeed decades, within that person the craving, aversion and unconsciousness --the mula kleshas (the fundamental “impurities”), get worked through. Because it’s gradual, they may not realize how much they’ve changed. As the mula kleshas get worked through they suffer less and the fundamental alienation between inside and outside diminishes. But because all this is happening gradually they’re acclimatizing as it’s occurring.

In acclimatizing they may not realize how far they’ve come. However, they often do notice it when “the doo doo hits the fan”. Like a major bereavement, a major illness like cancer, a serious injury, or their life is somehow threatened. Then they notice how everyone around them is freaking out and how much less they’re freaking out. Then the contrast becomes suddenly very evident. That’s when they would tend to notice it. That’s why I like telling the story about the samurai.

“This samurai went to the Zen temple on the mountain and lived there for many years. He didn’t seem to be getting anything out of the practice. So he said to the Master, ‘I think I need to leave. Nothing’s happening as a result of this practice’. So the master said ‘Okay. Go.’

As he was coming down the hill one of his former comrades, a fellow samurai, saw him in the tattered robes of a Buddhist monk –which is equivalent to a glorified beggar from a samurai’s point of view –and he said ‘how could you be so undignified to join the counter--culture of Buddhist beggars?’ and he spit on him. Now in the old days the samurais were extremely proud. Any insult to their personal dignity meant a fight to the death. So the monk who had formerly been a samurai just walked on and after he’d walked a certain distance, it occurred to him that not only did he not need to kill this guy, he wasn’t even angry.

As the story goes he turned around and bowed towards the mountain three times where he had practiced. He bowed in his recognition of all that he had worked through. He recognized he no longer needed to kill someone that had offended his dignity. He noticed how fundamentally he had changed as a human being.”
Of course, it’s not just samurai in 16th century Japan. The same things apply to 21st century North Americans. Maybe they’ve been practicing for 10, 20, or 30 years and it doesn’t seem that much has changed. And then something big happens and then they realize how different they’ve become compared to ordinary people. I’ll give you an example that happened just a few weeks ago. Someone who has been coming to retreats for quite a while went to have a biopsy to determine whether they had a serious cancer or not. While waiting for the results this person noticed they weren’t worried. Anyway, it turned out that the biopsy was negative. So all the unnecessary suffering that would’ve happened but didn’t, that was the effect of that person’s years and years of practice. It’s my impression that many more people have that gradual unfolding than have the sudden...
 
#90
"CAN ENLIGHTENMENT BE TAUGHT?"

There is no way to know because enlightenment cannot be measured objectively. There is no way to tell who is enlightened and who is not, so there is no way to tell if any teaching methods are effective.

To support this contention I have included four excerpts below:

Daniel Ingram, author of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha writes that some people think they are enlightened when they are not and some people think they are not enlightened when they really are. He also says that sometimes other people may incorrectly diagnose the attainments or lack of attainments of another person.

Shinzen Young, author of The Science of Enlightenment believes that many people are enlightened and don't know it.

Andrew Cooper, Emma Varvaloucas write in Sex and the Sangha ... Again that many supposedly advanced enlightened teachers have been involved in scandals involving sex, drugs, money, and power.

Scott Adams author of "Wing Bigly" explains why a consensus view even among scientists may be wrong. Based on his reasoning it is reasonable to conclude that just because there is a consensus that enlightenment is a thing and it can be measured objectively, does not mean the consensus is correct.


Excerpts:

Daniel Ingram, author of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha writes that some people think they are enlightened when they are not and some people think they are not enlightened when they really are. He also says that sometimes other people may incorrectly diagnose the attainments or lack of attainments of another person.

https://mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/36-beyond-first-path-what-next/
I t can be easy for meditators to think they have completed a full cycle of insight and gotten stream entry when in fact they have not. It is also possible for meditators to have completed a cycle of insight and yet think otherwise, but this is much less common, at least in traditions that have good maps and in practitioners who have good dharma friends with whom to discuss their practice. Sometimes practitioners will be correct in thinking that they have achieved what they believe and say they have, but their friends and teachers may remain unconvinced. At times, a teacher or friend may think that the student has done it and yet be wrong. Regardless, just keep practicing and see what happens. This is the most fundamental principle for all these stages. A particularly useful and traditional guideline is to wait a year and a day before completely making up your mind. This is slippery stuff sometimes, and many states and stages can easily fool a practitioner, friend, or teacher into thinking that they are something they are not, as has happened to me more times than I can count.
Shinzen Young, author of The Science of Enlightenment believes that many people are enlightened and don't know it.
https://lookaside.fbsbx.com/file/Shinzen Enlightenment Interview .pdf
However,for most people who’ve studied with me it doesn’t happen that way. Not suddenly. What does happen is that the person gradually works through the things that get in the way of enlightenment, but so gradually that they might not notice.

You remember that I said in traditional Buddhism it’s very significant that it’s formulated that something passes away and it’s not something that you get? So what typically happens is that over a period of years, and indeed decades, within that person the craving, aversion and unconsciousness -‐the mula kleshas (the fundamental “impurities”), get worked through. Because it’s gradual, they may not realize how much they’ve changed. As the mula kleshas get worked through they suffer less and the fundamental alienation between inside and outside diminishes. But because all this is happening gradually they’re acclimatizing as it’s occurring.

In acclimatizing they may not realize how far they’ve come. However, they often do notice it when “the doo doo hits the fan”. Like a major bereavement, a major illness like cancer, a serious injury, or their life is somehow threatened. Then they notice how everyone around them is freaking out and how much less they’re freaking out. Then the contrast becomes suddenly very evident. That’s when they would tend to notice it. That’s why I like telling the story about the samurai.

“This samurai went to the Zen temple on the mountain and lived there for many years. He didn’t seem to be getting anything out of thepractice. So he said to the Master, ‘I think I need to leave. Nothing’s happening as a result of this practice’. So the master said ‘Okay. Go.’

As he was coming down the hill one of his former comrades, a fellow samurai, saw him in the tattered robes of a Buddhist monk –which is equivalent to a glorified beggar from a samurai’s point of view –and he said ‘how could you be so undignified to join the counter-‐culture of Buddhist beggars?’ and he spit on him. Now in the old days thesamurais were extremely proud. Any insult to their personal dignity meant a fight to the death. So the monk who had formerly been a samurai just walked on and after he’d walked a certain distance, it occurred to him that not only did he not need to kill this guy, he wasn’t even angry.

As the story goes he turned around and bowed towards the mountain three times where he had practiced. He bowed in his recognition of all that he had worked through. He recognized he no longer needed to kill someone that had offended his dignity. He noticed how fundamentally he had changed as a human being.”

Of course, it’s not just samurai in 16th century Japan. The same things apply to 21st century North Americans. Maybe they’ve been practicing for 10, 20, or 30 years and it doesn’t seem that much has changed. And then something big happens and then they realize how different they’ve become compared to ordinary people. I’ll give you an example that happened just a few weeks ago. Someone who has been coming to retreats for quite a while went to have a biopsy to determine whether they had a serious cancer or not. While waiting for the results this person noticed they weren’t worried. Anyway, it turned out that the biopsy was negative. So all the unnecessary suffering that would’ve happened but didn’t, that was the effect of that person’s years and years of practice. It’s my impression that many more people have that gradual unfolding than have the sudden,
Andrew Cooper, Emma Varvaloucas write in Sex and the Sangha ... Again that many supposedly advanced enlightened teachers have been involved in scandals involving sex, drugs, money, and power.
https://tricycle.org/magazine/sex-sangha-again/
In Buddhism’s relatively short history in the West, there have been so many scandals—sudden scandals and gradual scandals, scandals of all shapes and sizes—that it might not be long before someone decides to write that history not as a noble narrative of high aspiration but as a series of depressingly lowbrow misadventures. Whether they are about money, sex, power, substance abuse, or, as is most often the case, some combination of them all, one thing seems to be clear: while isolation is a symptom of scandals, scandals are not isolated events.
Scott Adams author of "Wing Bigly" explains why a consensus view even among scientists may be wrong. Based on his reasoning it is reasonable to conclude that just because there is a consensus that enlightenment is a thing and it can be measured objectively, does not mean the consensus is correct.

Here is a somewhat related view by Scott Adams
http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...itual-engineering-392.4215/page-4#post-126242

Scott Adams writes in his book, "Win Bigly", that when you understand the psychology of persuasion, you are not impressed by the consensus of scientists because they are just as suceptible as ordinary people to mass delusions. According to the psychology of persuasion, mass delusion is actually the normal state of consciousness. This is particularly true for scientists studying climate change because their career and financial incentives are involved. In the following excerpt, 2-D is the normal world view and 3-D is Adam's world view that people are not rational but make decisions based on other factors and then use logic to defend their beliefs.​
On top of our mass delusions, we also have junk science that is too often masquerading as the real thing. To the extent that people can't tell the difference, that too is a source of mass delusion.​
In the 2-D view of the world, mass delusions are rare and newsworthy. But to trained persuaders in the third dimension, mass delusions are the norm. They are everywhere, and they influence every person. This difference in training and experience can explain why people disagree on some of the big issues of the day.​
For example, consider the case of global warming. People from the 2-D world assume mass delusions are rare, and they apply that assumption to every topic. So when they notice that most scientists are on the same side, that observation is persuasive to them. A reasonable person wants to be on the same side with the smartest people who understand the topic. That makes sense, right?​
But people who live in the 3-D world, where persuasion rules, can often have a different view of climate change because we see mass delusions (even among experts) as normal and routine. My starting bias for this topic is that the scientists could easily be wrong about the horrors of change, even in the context of repeated experiments and peer review. Whenever you see a situation with complicated prediction models, you also have lots of room for bias to masquerade as reason. Just tweak the assumptions and you can get any outcome you want.​
Now add to that situation the fact that scientists who oppose the climate change consensus have a high degree of career and reputation risk. That's the perfect setup for a mass delusion. You only need these two conditions:​
1. Complicated prediction models with lots of assumptions​
2. Financial and psychological pressure to agree with the consensus​
In the 2-D world, the scientific method and peer review squeeze out the bias over time. But in the 3-D world, the scientific method can't detect bias when nearly everyone including the peer reviewers shares the same mass delusion.​
I'm not a scientist, and I have no way to validate the accuracy of the climate model predictions. But if the majority of experts on this topic turn out to be having a mass hallucination, I would consider that an ordinary situation. In my reality, this would be routine, if not expected, whenever there are complicated prediction models involved. That's because I see the world as bristling with mass delusions. I don't see mass delusions as rare.​
When nonscientists take sides with climate scientists, they often think they are being supportive of science. The reality is that the nonscientists are not involved in science, or anything like it. They are taking the word of scientists. In the 2-D world, that makes perfect sense, because it seems as if thousands of experts can't be wrong. But in the 3-D world, I accept that the experts could be right, and perhaps they are, but it would be normal and natural in my experience if the vast majority of ciimate scientists were experiencing a shared hallucination.
To be clear, I am not saying the majority of scientists are wrong about climate science. I'm making the narrow point that it would be normal and natural for that group of people to be experiencing a mass hallucination that is consistent with their financial and psychological incentives. The scientific method and the peer-review process wouldn't necessarily catch a mass delusion during any specific window of time. With science, you never know if you are halfway to the truth or already there. Sometimes it looks the same.
Climate science is a polarizing topic (ironically). So let me just generalize the point to say that compared with the average citizen, trained persuaders are less impressed by experts.
...​
 
#91
"CAN ENLIGHTENMENT BE TAUGHT?"

It doesn't have to be taught. It is intuitive. But people getting enlightened on their own doesn't fit the business model most meditation teachers.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2019/09/gradual-enlightenment.html
The above quoted post explains Shinzen Young's views on gradual enlightenment. It continues to reverberate through my mind. I think the implication of gradual enlightenment is that enlightenment is not like something you have or don't have. It is like a substance that everyone has more or less of and that you can increase the amount you have in small amounts continuously as you continue to practice meditation and mindfulness. In this view, there are not two classes of people enlightened and not enlightened. There are just lots of people each with their own level of enlightenment. Any stages of enlightenment are arbitrary, artificial, and meaningless.
 
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#92
The above quoted post explains Shinzen Young's views on gradual enlightenment. It continues to reverberate through my mind. I think the implication of gradual enlightenment is that enlightenment is not like something you have or don't have. It is like a substance that everyone has more or less of and that you can increase the amount you have in small amounts continuously as you continue to practice meditation and mindfulness. In this view, there are not two classes of people enlightened and not enlightened. There are just lots of people each with their own level of enlightenment. Any stages of enlightenment are arbitrary, artificial, and meaningless.
Equanimity is a good analogy. Everyone has some level of equanimity, low or high, and can increase it through meditation and mindfulness. Personally I use the qualities of equanimity, compassion, and goodwill to assess the effects of a meditation practice.

The interesting thing about Shinzen Young's views on gradual enlightenment is that he measures it by how people behave under stress. This seems to me to be one of the best measures I've heard of. There are many different ways people measure enlightenment. The traditional way is freedom from the ten fetters. But some teachers measure it only by states attained in meditation which I think is wrong. Meditation is a tool not the goal. There are all sorts of qualities you can find in people and I think in some schools of Buddhism they made a bad decision when they chose which thing to call enlightenment - hence the number of scandals involving enlightened teachers.
 
#93
God Damn I am happy with this interview Alex.
Thank you for going after these kind of things!

Salesmanship?? Hell, a guy tries to survive while doing this amazing straight research... and he's opening the aspect of salesmanship for the people to weigh his intentions on too? Well I am just pleased with the above normal integrity.

Really pleased with this guys integrity for the research method - asking his compadres to keep an eye on him incase he starts drifting off into the never-never land almost all accomplished gurus end up their lives in.

Thanks again Alex.
 
#94
"CAN ENLIGHTENMENT BE TAUGHT?"

I think it's relevant to this question to consider what qualities you should look for in a teacher. This advice on that subject seems good to me ...

https://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html#eachandeverybreath

https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/WithEachAndEveryBreath/Section0008.html

With Each & Every Breath​
A Guide To Meditation​
Thanissaro Bhikkhu​
...​
PART FIVE​
Finding a Teacher​
...​
So your search has to ignore flashy qualities and focus on qualities that are more plain and down-to-earth. To save time and needless pain in the search, there are four early warning signs indicating that potential teachers don’t have the wisdom or integrity to merit your trust.​
The warning signs for untrustworthy wisdom are two. The first is when people show no gratitude for the help they’ve received—and this applies especially to help from their parents and teachers. If they deprecate their teachers, you have to wonder if they have anything of value to pass on to you. People with no gratitude don’t appreciate goodness, don’t value the effort that goes into being helpful, and so will probably not put out that effort themselves.​
The second warning sign is that they don’t hold to the principle of karma. They either deny that we have freedom of choice, or else teach that one person can clear away another person’s bad karma from the past. People of this sort are unlikely to put forth the effort to be genuinely skillful, and so are untrustworthy guides.​
Lack of integrity also has two warning signs. The first is when people feel no shame in telling a deliberate lie. The second is when they don’t conduct arguments in a fair and aboveboard manner: misrepresenting their opponents, pouncing on the other side’s minor lapses, not acknowledging the valid points the other side has made. People of this sort aren’t even worth talking to, much less taking on as teachers.​
As for people who don’t display these early warning signs, there are some questions you can ask yourself about their behavior to gauge the level of wisdom and integrity in their actions over time.​
One question is whether a teacher’s actions betray any of the greed, anger, or delusion that would inspire him to claim knowledge of something he didn’t know, or to tell another person to do something that was not in that person’s best interests. To test for a teacher’s wisdom, notice how he or she responds to questions about what’s skillful and what’s not, and how well he or she handles adversity. To test for integrity, look for virtue in day-to-day activities, and purity in the teacher’s dealings with others. Does this person make excuses for breaking the precepts, bringing the precepts down to his level of behavior rather than lifting his behavior to theirs? Does he take unfair advantage of other people? If so, you’d better find another teacher.
This, however, is where another uncomfortable truth comes in: You can’t be a fair judge of another person’s integrity until you’ve developed some of your own. This is probably the most uncomfortable truth of all, for it requires that you accept responsibility for your judgments. If you want to test other people’s potential for good guidance, you have to pass a few tests yourself.​
 
#95
I recently came across an article by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu that explains how to attain awakening without a formal meditation practice, and he backs it up with references to the sutras from which we know the earliest teachings and actions of Buddha.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/08/natural-awakening-without-systematic.html

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu has written about how to attain full awakening without a formal meditation practice.​
He says cultivating spiritual well-being from generosity, good conduct, or the simple forms of meditation naturally leads to full awakening.​
...​
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu says generosity, good conduct, or the lower stages of concentration produces spiritual well-being. This leads to tranquility of mind. This tranquility of mind causes insight into the three characteristics to arise naturally. When one sees all things are inconstant, unsatisfactory, and not-self, disenchantment results and clinging begins to come undone. As clinging loosens, disentanglement occurs which culminates in emancipation from the objects of clinging. This results in final elimination of mental defilements or purity that produces nirvana.​
He sums up by saying:​
".. we simply encourage [nirvana] to come about of its own accord, naturally, by developing, day and night, the joy that results from mental purity, until the qualities we have described gradually evolve. ... We do it just by making our own way of daily living so pure and honest that there arise in succession spiritual joy, calm, insight into the true nature of things, disenchantment, disentanglement, escape, purification from defilements, and finally peace, nirvana."​
Insight by the Nature Method​
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu​
In the Tipitaka there are numerous references to people attaining naturally all stages of path and fruit. This generally came about in the presence of the Buddha himself but also happened later with other teachers. These people did not go into the forest and sit, assiduously practising concentration on certain objects in the way described in later manuals. No systematic effort was involved when arahantship was attained by the first five disciples of the Buddha on hearing the Discourse on Non-selfhood, or by the one thousand hermits on hearing the Fire Sermon. In these cases keen, penetrating insight came about quite naturally. These examples clearly show that natural concentration is liable to develop of its own accord while one is attempting to understand clearly some question; and that the resulting insight, as long as it is firmly established, is sure to be quite intense and stable. It happens naturally, automatically, in just the same way that the mind becomes concentrated the moment we set about doing arithmetic. ...​
...​
 
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