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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.

I thought I would post this here.....Unfortunately Culadasa John Yates has been accused of being "engaged in ongoing conduct unbecoming of a Spiritual Director and Dharma teacher.".

This is of course always disappointing to hear of any teacher, and whilst the context of this issue is completely different to that of alleged Radhasoami "Satgurus" whom the doctrine of RS (it's in the books, sold right outside the tent Gurinder holds satsangs in, in case anybody is wondering where all these silly notions of "PLM" come from!) claims have totally transcended all issues of ego, lust, anger etc, and are indeed infallible etc - but I think it is interesting to note how this organisation has dealt with the issue, and the reason I posted here, how some of the practitioners and students of John Yates are integrating the situation.....this is from the live reddit thread on the subject:

https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMindIlluminated/comments/csow9f/important_message_from_the_dharma_treasure_board/

One of the first few comments (as are many others), I found to be really wise......and perhaps contains helpful thoughts for some of those processing the recent revelations about Gurinder, too:

"To anyone feeling disillusioned, I would offer these words: good. Disillusionment is the stripping away of illusions. We collectively had a certain narrative of the way things were and now that narrative is being challenged; this is the way of the world-stream -- The world-stream often disappoints. Don't get me wrong, I am in no way speculating whether Culadasa did or did not do these things - what is more intriguing than the situation itself is each of our own respective responses to the situation.

The ultimate goal of The Way is complete and total transcendence. In my view, even attachment to Buddhism is another attachment that is open to being stripped away. Nothing that is "content" is safe from this. I know this runs counter to the notion of taking refuge in the 3-jewels, so I suppose this is where I would differ from a Buddhist. The Way does not belong to any particular teacher, religion, or tradition. No tradition owns the state of Revelation, Inner Peace, or egolessness; any situation can be used towards Realizing these modes of being - including this situation. Take whatever life gives you and use it as fuel to further your advancement towards these modes of being.

Regardless of what happens here, I would extend and open invitation for us all to engage in these 2 things:

Be aware of your attachments relating to these matters and let go of them. Be like a stone, which perpetually becomes more purified every-time it is put into the furnace, perhaps one day to be transformed into a full-fledged gem.

Clarify your Intention; the reactive mind becomes easily swayed by the arising-and-passing of content in the world-stream. Know what you value; decide what is important, and let your intention carry you forward in peace.

And finally, I wanted to send my sincere love and gratitude to Culadasa. To be honest, the facts of the situation make no personal difference to me. Only Culadasa will know the truth of the situation with absolute certitude; it is none of my business. His teachings have worked incredibly well for me so regardless of how things unfold, I am unspeakably grateful.

With best wishes of love and peace; your friend, -batbdotb"

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