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December 19, 2018

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The 'Mind Illuminated' sounds a book worth checking out. I'm always interested how other's put meditation over. Can't say that I'm personally happy with 'stages' but I guess that in the mindfulness movement a clear path would be helpful – but that said, the description of 'stage 10' reflects what I understand as Nirvana - once reactivity is reigned in. (N.B. not that there is anyone to do the 'reining in?)

(Quote – “When you have mastered Stage Ten, the many positive mental qualities you experience during meditation are strongly present even between meditation sessions, so your daily life is imbued with effortlessly stable attention, mindfulness, joy, tranquility, and equanimity.”)

Quite so. My idea of meditation/awareness is for it to carry on into everyday life and activity – particularly in the area of thoughts/emotions that come up and how we automatically react to them.

Much of what I have read on meditation/awareness talk about people as 'living in a bubble', which seems true. We finish our time of (perhaps sitting) meditation and then go about living with a head-full of, often irrelevant thinking.

The quote on the difference between attention and awareness also seems quite pertinent. (Not that it is possible to be attentive and aware all the time, but perhaps - your daily life being imbued with effortlessly stable attention, mindfulness, joy, tranquillity, and equanimity - still applies.)

(Quote – “There's a time to be focused on one thing, and there's a time to be aware of the entirety of what surrounds us.”)

I put my comment under the wrong heading. It was meant to go here instead of under "The Danger of Religious Abstractions". Just in case anyonevis interested!🧚

Hi Brian,

Yes, this is an absolutely terrific book.

In fact, I would probably go as far as to say this, along with Daniel Ingram's (a friend and reviewer of Culadasa) "Master the Core teachings of the Buddha" - available here online for free, though a new version was recently released:

http://integrateddaniel.info/book

(Tim - IIRC, this book contains several detailed descriptions of direct, experiential understanding of "discrete" bit of "reality" via insight meditation, though I'm not 100% certain as I read this probably 10 or more years ago!).

And "Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition" by Daniel Brown:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0861713044/ref=asc_df_086171304458679807/

To probably be the 3 best practical instruction guides to Buddhist meditation practices written by westerners.

All 3 are highly recommended for those with a real interest in Buddhist meditation. Very accessible to Western readers, very detailed, very informative.

Coming back to Culadasa's "The Mind Illuminated", Brian wrote: "So there is no mention of God; no mention of supernatural entities; no mention of heavenly realms separate from this world.

Instead, Yates writes clearly about how the human mind works, and how meditation can help it function better. It's great how the book is based, as noted in the quote above, both on Buddhist tradition and current neuroscience."

Indeed!

Zen and the Brain is another excellent book (tome) attempting to synthesise buddhist meditation experiences, consciousness and neuroscience. Attempting. But fascinating.

Anyway, Culadasa writes in his book:

".....we find there are neural correlates for mental activities. Although some will resist this statement, I believe we will eventually find that all mental phenomena, without exception, have their neural correlates. This has led many scientists to become staunch materialists, insisting that mind is merely what matter does when organised to an appropriate degree of complexity. I am not one of them......
.............
...Materialistic reductionism asserts there is only matter, and that mind is at best an emergent property of highly organised matter........
On the other hand, meditation and other spoiritual practices often make it clear that our subjectively experienced reality is mind-created............This realisation often draws people to some for of idealism, the other reductionist intepretation, which asserts there is only mind, and that matter is an illusion.......
....Obviously, I am not one of those either.

I am a non-dualist...

...Non-duality, as realised through direct experience in meditation, completely resolves this dilemma.....
.....I have spent my life investigating my mind from the outside through neuroscience, and the brain from inside through meditation.

"

Etc.

Now, I was sure that in this book Culadasa somewhere mentions William James, but I cannot now locate it and now I'm not sure sure it was mentioned in this book or if I've conflated it with something else.

But regardless, yes, William James.

I believe the reductive materialism that Brian believes in is an out-dated, incoherent, unscientific, ideological world view.

William James, and his friend and influencer FWH Myers, were proposing far more sophisticated lingustic-maps of the mind-brian territory than the last of century of pop-neuroscience (even the forefathers of neuroscience, Wilder Penfeld & John Eccles were not materialists, and believed in more sophisticated & nuanced models of the mind) has even begun to get to grasps with - tertium quid, a 3rd way of looking at things. This is intelligence, imo. (and, appropos this blog post, reminiscient of Buddha's "the middle way").

Beyond what will no doubt in future be called their remarkable prescience in proposing more coherent models of mind-brain connections in context of the vast amount of "paranormal" or "mystical" experiences and events, and other "abormal" psychologies, physics itself renders most of today's outdated reductive materialism, "consciousness is an epi-phenomena/emergent property/doesn't even exist" models obsolote.

David Lane hints at this wonderfully - even if I think he is completely oblivious that his sophistication in defending the reductionist arguments is completely contraditory in meaning and intent to almost all of the current culture's reductionist, materialist, atheist heroes.

What I mean is, when David Lane says we don't know what "matter" even IS (quantum weirdness), to reduce brain states to "matter" does not in any way lessen the mystery of consciousness and brain states (I would like to make a distinction between these two "processes").

We are simply reframing one mystery (brain states) in the terminology of another mystery (matter). Mystery hasn't disappeared. Not by a long shot. (and, that is before we even get to the profound and dismal failure of reductionist science to even begin to approach the mystery of consciousness itself, let alone it's mere contents!).

But, in contradiction to David Lane, I do not believe THIS is the intention of our current cultural intelligentsia's reductionism, atheism, scepticism of anything any everything remotely mystical, spiritual, "woo" etc, the relentless drive to dis-enchant us, when THEY state "consciousness is an epi-phenomena/emergent property/doesn't even exist" of matter. I actually find it disingenuous to suggest it is.

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