« Some thoughts on divine dying | Main | What I love about Buddhist meditation »

August 03, 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Oh, I sooo agree with you on this one! It probably explains why I stopped at philosophical Taoism and tread no further into Eastern mysticism. The very idea that we humans can somehow detach ourselves from the worldly world -- including ourselves -- borders on delusion.

This is not to say, as you stated, that practices like meditation cannot help each of us find inner calm and a measure of peace of mind. But it just gets too utopianistic for me if someone suggests we can reach nirvana by sitting cross-legged on the floor and chanting OMMMMMMMM...

"...Insight meditation turns the mind away from delusion, our confused notions about ourselves, others, and our world. It turns the mind toward the reality of things as they truly are."

--Has anyone, engaged in this 'insight' meditation, and actually experienced(using a turned mind) a particular reality of a particular thing as it truely is? The non-conceptual, nonknowable of this particular thing? Take a particular thing and tell me what it truely is. I need to know this.

Roger, I'd like to know also. Excellent question. If you asked my wife, she might say that her "suchness" experience of our stainless steel kitchen sink informs her that it needs to be wiped down after any use that gets water drips on certain visible surfaces.

However, my "suchness" of a sink is that the damn thing is supposed to have water put in it, so it should be able to handle water drops and drips. Two different suchness'es. To me, that's the way life is -- though my wife would prefer that I see the sink "just so" as she does.

(Lest I appear less than the aspiring compassionate Buddha nature that lies somewhere under the surface of my lazy egotistical sink-unwiping self, I am doing much better with the sink where I brush my teeth at night.

It looks pretty good to me after I wipe it down, though as I lie in bed reading I can hear my wife touching up the spots that didn't meet her "suchness" standard of how a sink should look after it's been used.)


Yes, there are a variety of non-meditated "suchness" regarding a stainless steel sink. Could there be a non-suchness? If so, I too would like to experience.


I think someone could reach nirvana by sitting cross-legged on the floor and chanting OMMMMMMMM. The "reach" conceptualized nirvana could be interpreted as an "inner' calm, as well as a "measure" of peace of mind. I can reach "this" nirvana mowing my lawn, so no big deal.

One problem I see here is the human propensity for exaggeration and absolutism, another is the vagueness of abstract language and the nature of subjective experience. Language is already vague enough without concrete referents and proper context before it gets stretched into a different creature altogether by human imagination and desire.

To be more precise, "Seeing things as they truly are" has a specific meaning in Buddhist practice as described in the early texts, namely anicca, dukha and anatta, or impermanence, dissatisfaction and impersonality, the three marks of existence, not of the universe and its contents, but specifically of living things.

To say more is to exaggerate and a great many do. The Buddha's intent was not to expound on the nature of the universe, which he refused to do on numerous occasions, but to encourage a way of life that reliably led to happiness. For that he points the practitioner to the practice of moral restraint and generosity and an inspection of our subjectivity.

So this 'seeing' is to involve the full realization of these 3 processes, the fact of death which makes us selfish and selfishness which brings us misery,( to grossly simplify.)

Furthermore, with continued insight practice (vipassana) the commentaries of the Pali canon specify a sequence of twelve specific insights one gains as one's faculties of observation increase. What's important here is that the technical language employed, while being as specific as philosophical language can get about the mind, is essentially a map of human cognitive and perceptual processes. Not at all the airy New Age vacuity of the spiritually inclined and which even some seasoned practitioners get into. There is some innate inclination to gloss over inconsistencies of logic and to paint language with broad colorful strokes. I don't know, maybe it's psychologically reassuring.

When it comes to understanding meaningless phrases like "seeing things as they truly are," context is everything. Most people make up their own context rather than seek out clarification. It seems to be a common human failure (or what we do naturally to interpret unclear information) and I'm as guilty of it as anyone.

Now, it is my understanding, in the context of early Buddhism and especially in light of the anatta doctrine (no-self, impersonality,) that "seeing things as they truly are" is the process of observing that MY thoughts didn't come from ME nor are they MINE but can be observed to simply arise and fade (anicca, impermanence) without MY involvement.

While this is a subjective view of the objective reality of the processes of identity and mind, that is, subjectivity, I think it is a rather amazing parallel to the modern ideas of conscious and unconscious processing. While the Buddhist realization is not about the 'hidden brain', it is indirectly descriptive of the workings of the same physiology. Now a metaphysically minded practitioner might be tempted to conclude that there is an independently detached awareness observing the mental activity, but that is an inference based on supposition, not a direct observation.

These days we would call it meta-cognition, the brain's capacity to monitor some of its own activity. Much of Buddhist practice is just that, metacognition particularly the proper application of 'mindfulness' (satipatthana) and 'right effort' as indicated in the suttas. "Seeing things as they truly are" employs metacognition or self-awareness.

Ric, thanks for the perceptive comment. I agree with most (if not all) of what you said. Your view of "as it is" Buddhism is akin to what I've read in some non-religious'y Buddhist writings -- where the notion of seeing things as they are is taken to mean recognizing the "emptiness" of awareness.

In other words, knowing that everything and everyone is interconnected.

We aren't isolated blobs of pure awareness, as some non-dual writers seem to suggest. How we see things is a product of all sorts of causes and conditions, which are processed and reflected in the human brain/mind -- and increasingly well understood by neuroscience.

Like Mr. Singh, I think that human consciousness is such that it can question the ancient teachings, the method of going about increasing or refining consciousness, the preconceptions that Buddhists hold about the nature of the mind and thought, fundamentals of belief particularly after lengthy efforts on the meditation cushion. His critique is mainly to do with a style of teaching Vippassana, not so much with Buddhism.

Again, a wonderful post with some details lost on my because of my lack of experience with meditation of this sort.

I'm curious. The last section where you quote the Hidden Brain implies to me that reason is untrustworthy because of our innate biases. BUT that reason is still needed because without it we'd be even more lost. Hence your interest in science and reason to balance the excesses of ...other claims?

Have I read that right?

Apart from Ric I think you all missed the point in cluding the otriginal blogger. You need to understand terms such as "bare knowing. Actually happening. Just as they are. Inner life naked. As they truly are" to come with the underlying assumption (not directly spelled out but assumed in all good Buddhist teaching) as meaning you are seeing the itch or your feelings about the world or your mental processes as they really are which is precisly that they are products of what is being reffered to here as the hidden mind. Meditation and the understanding that flows from it are exactly this process of coming to understand that this known, conscious world is a product of a deeper process. Meditation is watching the unfolding of that process of construction of consciousness from "hidden brain" in real time. We do this to be able to take that understanding into the daily world and hopefully no longer be fooled that what we percieve as reality is anything more or less than a construction.
If the teachers quoted in the magazine assume us to have that underlying interpretation (and I will bet they do) then you are criticising a group of people who are in almost 100% agreement with you.

Gerard, you might well be right that when Buddhists speak of "pure awareness," they really mean "awareness of how biased, subjective, individualistic, and clueless of unconscious influences the human brain/mind is."

If so, I stand corrected. And reassured that Buddhist meditation practice is in harmony with modern neuroscience.

I just get a quite different impression from most Buddhist writings -- where the notion seems to be that meditation leads the practitioner to see things more clearly, as opposed to being more aware of how unclear the human brain/mind sees.

Hopefully, for the sake of Buddhists, their paractice leads to "seeing things more clearly" rather than "being more aware of how unclear the human brain/mind sees." In which case they would not know if they were seeing more clearly or not which would mean that their practice has not resulted in clearing anything up at all. Clearly this would make it unclear why Buddhists would practice at all.

I can within duality, one "seeing things more clearly." Bringing clarity into a dualistic unknown.

Likewise, with non-duality, one could do some sort of activity to, "being more aware of how unclear the human brain/mind sees" such non-ness. The no-seeing of no thing.

Am I missing or obtaining the point?

Wow !! Heavy shit !!!😯

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)


  • Welcome to the Church of the Churchless. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.
  • HinesSight
    Visit my other weblog, HinesSight, for a broader view of what's happening in the world of your Church unpastor, his wife, and dog.
  • BrianHines.com
    Take a look at my web site, which contains information about a subject of great interest to me: me.
  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • I Hate Church of the Churchless
    Can't stand this blog? Believe the guy behind it is an idiot? Rant away on our anti-site.