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December 30, 2018

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So... what’d ya think then...

Wish you all ( Brian and all the commentators and visitors) a
Very Happy New Year 2019.

Hi Brian

Interesting post. Sam Harris’ approach to meditation as you describe is both simple and very useful in my view. It does seem that what he describes re that ‘point’ anchored by breath could be aligned with some other Buddhist teachings such as given by Rodney Smith (intersection of the inner/outer, vertical/horizontal), as well as the likes of Nisargadatta when he talks of the point between being and non-being. It also points to the importance of breath in all this. Putting aside the obvious physical situation (no breath = death), there is a solid link between breathing, thinking, and how the thinker is both created and dismantled. So what remains at that ‘point’? I guess ‘awareness’ is one of the better terms for it. When Harris says ‘It’s in that awareness of there being nothing to see, that you should rest your mind’. This is both confusing yet a pointer to the truth of things - at that point the mind has been laid down, there is no thinker or seer, this does not mean however we no longer exist. That’s my current take on it.

I do not know how or if this sort of experience in meditation relates to the other practices you mentioned with their focus on withdrawing to the ‘third eye’ etc. The third eye seems to be less glamourised in Buddhist pictures as I recall - they seem to focus more on the ‘halo’ around the head as also portrayed in the pictures of saints etc. Is this more about the state of connected consciousness rather than depictions of a ‘portal’ where an ‘entity’ believing itself separate from the totality has to get to before it can become whole?

I like your term ‘immaterial consciousness’ - causes brain fry especially if there is no ‘centre’ :-)

Here’s to a year where the human race does a better job of looking after each other and the planet.

Best wishes

A very happy 2019, Brian, and regular commenters here, and everyone else as well !


Brian, re. your (that is, Sam Harris's) 'conclusion' about not finding a seat of consciousness, etc.:

"Conclusions" of this kind tend to make a great many implicit presumptions, that are not always evident unless you consciously look under the surface.

In this case, the implicit assumption is that meditation -- and, specifically, Vipassana -- is a bona fide, valid instrument for 'finding' a seat of consciousness. How valid is that assumption?

You can meditate away all you want, and not uncover many different functions of the human body, including our brain as well as specifics of how the brain function, as well as many other organs within the body. That does not mean that those organs do not exist, or that they do not function in the way we know them do, does it?

Not for a minute am I arguing in favor of there actually being a "seat of consciousness" here! But what I'm doing is questioning Sam Harris's implicit assumption that meditation (and, specifically, this form of meditation) is a valid instrument with which to go excavating for that "seat of consciousness". That seems to me to a blind unthinking acceptance of the "teachings" of the Buddha.

As I see it, this kind of presumption belongs together with other "esoteric" assumptions about the third eye, inner planes, et cetera.

The only thing that meditation does -- that we know for sure -- is that it has certain effects (usually beneficial) on the human body, as well as imparts to one a subjective state of well being and clarity.

Anything else -- any other conclusions arrived at via meditation -- is plain conjecture and speculation, unless it is backed up by concrete evidence.


Tim Rimmer, while I can't speak for all of Buddhism, nor even all of Vajrayana, but definitely there are specific schools within Vajrayana that actually teach conscious focus on the third eye, as one of many techniques with which to arrive at Shamata.


Of course, this isn't an end in itself, and one is taught to see even experiences had in the course of this kind of practice as "arising and falling", same as everything else, and in any case subsequently move one's focus from Shamata to "insight" or Vipassana. So sure, this isn't in any way central to the practice. Nevertheless, there are schools within Buddihist Tantra that do teach focus on the Ajna Chakra.


Appreciative Reader, are you aware that Sam Harris has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience?

He's very much aware of how the brain works on both conscious and unconscious levels, including how neuroscience has found no sign of the sort of enduring "self" so beloved by believers in such -- which includes religions and mystical practices that assume the existence of a soul.

So Harris blends modern science and Buddhism in his writings and talks. This makes him one of the more believable commentators on the nature of consciousness and awareness.

@ Brian - Happy New Year.

Looking forward to more truth revelations perhaps one blog about how shell companies are used? Lol.

I was thinking if you aske Gurinder about that you are having bad dreams or the like - he often replies that it is just the play of the mind. We give power to such thoughts.

What’s your opinion on spiritual experiences which many commentors talk about on (usually confusing the hell out of themselves and others) may just be deep projections of the mind.?

This fascinated me more so recently with one blogger saying that inner master may be different than the outer?

It’s all mental projections but worth understanding as many of us need to conquer our demons here on earth (reality) so that we may become better versions of ourselves and better humans to our brothers and sisters. Now that’s true seva.

Hi Arjuna,

Maybe it would be good to go to a Vipassana group with teacher..
To become loose from idea's,but just be still and see feel,undergo what is in your inside.
That gives Insight in your/our human condition.
So one cleans up and live a more concious life.

It works very good to me anyway.

s*

I gather that what Sam Harris is pointing out is that there is no seat of consciousness and therefore there is no 'self' that has consciousness – thereby negating the idea that there is a controlling 'self'. Quite so. If it can be seen that the 'self' and 'mind' are just mental constructs and not entities in their own right this paves the way to understanding that our identification with these constructs as being the cause of much of our confusion and anguish regarding who we are and often the reason for our separation from each other and the world about us.

I can see a time when neuroscience can explain consciousness as being generated through brain activity, but, at the moment I take the view that awareness is a necessary condition of consciousness. It is said that awareness is absolute, and that consciousness is relative to its content. Consciousness is always of something.

Maybe extreme, but I see an awareness in everything in the sense that everything (even inert objects such as rocks) responds to the environmental conditions subjected to. If awareness is inherent in everything, is the prime mover of everything then awareness may be the that which we are all feeling and generally confusing it with something mystical and supernatural – hence our frantic searches and turmoil for something so intangible. Just a thought!

@Arjuna

The only proof that an "Inner master" experience is real - is outer objective proof.

What do I mean?

Faqir Chand had an inner experiece of his master, Brat Lal.

The radiant form even guided him to safety in the war (was in WW2 time)

Nevertheless - he went to see his master Brat Lal for confirmation if it was REALLY him.

Brat Lal said it was NOT! That is OBJECTIVE proof in the OUTSIDE world.

He told him is was ALL a projection of the MIND!!

Understand this - it is ALL a projection of the mind.

Your mind creates your inner experience - of regions, lords, radiant forms, etc etc etc.

but you are deluded and think it is REAL!

Brat Lal told Chand "I have no idea of the Radiant form and what it said to you"

Chand first thought he was being humble, so questioned further.

Brat Lal told him that EVERY INNER vision is a projection of the mind's desire.

Chand then made is well known (thanks to David Lave) that the masters are not "all knowing" and are not "all powerful".

Disciples WANT to believe, so they believe and it appears to be TRUE to them.

Until something OBJECTIVE clashes with that belief (as in the case of Spence and Jim) then they DROP that belief and usually replace it with another.

Like for example the Bible or "inner gurus"

But they still want to believe - so they create their OWN version of their own path and nobody can possibly deny or refute it - since it is their own creation.

All of this is delusion - and of course the deluded person can never admit it is delusion - otherwise he would be out of the delusion. By it's nature, delusion keeps the person believing in the delusion.

if a disciple has a vision of his master saying "You will die in 3 days and I will come to get you" - of course he will be convinced. Nobody can shatter his faith - but it doesn't make it true.

Here's the classic example:

can't get any better

Swami Ji (Shiv Dayal) said he is going to leave the body and go into the lap of Sat Purush.

Can't be any clearer than that.

He even gave the time.

Then something happened - he didnt die. His soul apparently came back

The disciples, all surprised said
"What the Fuck happened, Swami JI?" (slight paraphrase - courtesy of Osho Robbins)

He said "The Mauj has CHANGED!"

Nobody asked the follow one question "How the fuck can the Mauj change?"

Listen : this is the truth:

You can JUSTIFY any position you choose to take, so it will appear to be true to you.

Once you justify it - you are convinced and it's true for you.

"what you believe is TRUE - IS TRUE FOR YOU!"


Quote Brian:

"Appreciative Reader, are you aware that Sam Harris has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience?

He's very much aware of how the brain works on both conscious and unconscious levels, including how neuroscience has found no sign of the sort of enduring "self" so beloved by believers in such -- which includes religions and mystical practices that assume the existence of a soul.

So Harris blends modern science and Buddhism in his writings and talks. This makes him one of the more believable commentators on the nature of consciousness and awareness."


Hello, Brian.

I agree with all that you’ve said there. And yes, I am aware of Sam Harris’s work: his neuroscience, his Dzogchen, as well the kedgeree he so often serves up by mixing up the two -- which recipe I myself find extremely palatable! (You’ve yourself written often enough about his work, and I’ve read most of your posts. I’ve also read something of Sam Harris’s work elsewhere.)

What you address, actually that isn’t my point at all. I may not have been able to express my thoughts very clearly last time. Let me see if I can’t do a better job in clarifying this time, in some more detail.


Sure, Sam Harris the neuroscientist, basis his research, has uncovered for us the fact (or at least, the strong probability of the fact) that we have no self. That much is all fine and good, and we are grateful to learn this from him.

But then he goes on to draw further validity (or at least, confirmation, if not quite validity) of this conclusion of his from his Buddhistic meditation practice. And what are we to make of this last?

This last assumes that meditation is a bona fide path to uncovering facts about the outer world (in this case, the fact that we have no separate self). It assumes that had there been a separate self to uncover, then we would have uncovered it via meditation; and therefore, the fact that we are not able to access this “seat of consciousness” means that we don’t have a separate self as such.

That, clearly, is the implicit reasoning. That is the (implicit) reasoning I am calling to question. Without for a minute suggesting that the conclusion itself (that there is no self) might be wrong.




See what I’m saying? No? If I may present a couple of examples, to better illustrate my point?

Say Mystic-A, plonking his ass down on his meditation mat in the year 1975, tells us about his detailed visions about a cosmology that includes the whole Kuiper Belt, as well as this huge tenth planet orbiting the Sun way beyond Pluto.

Second example: Say Mystic-B, sitting down to meditate in the year 1700, gets mystic visions that tell him that all around us are innumerable numbers of tiny living beings that no one can see, that are responsible for a great many of the ailments that we, humans and animals alike, are subject to. In short, the germ theory of disease.

Now what are we to make of these pronouncements?

Obviously, the skeptic would bin these ramblings if no evidence were presented.

But then, fast forward to today. Both of these (hypothetical) mystical visions have been proved true, with concrete evidence. In light of this evidence, what are we to make of those (hypothetical) mystic visions?

One way to go -- the hard-nosed, practical way to go -- would be to ignore these mystic visions, and concentrate only on the actual research. Sure, that is one way to go.

But if -- in the course of this little thought experiment of ours -- we do choose to focus on those (hypothetical) mystic visions, what then? Do we take these (hypothetical) mystic visions from decades or centuries ago as further validation -- or at least confirmation -- of what we now know about our solar system, and about how germs cause disease? If we do that, then aren’t we implicitly taking for granted the validity of the mystical means of arriving at conclusions about the outer world? If we do choose to look at these (hypothetical) mystical visions at all, might it then not be far more important to focus on the exact mechanism by which mysticism might yield such visions?




That was my point.

Sam Harris has, apparently, shown scientifically that there is (probably) no self as such. Great. We applaud his work, and happily learn from him.

But when he tells us that his Dzogchen meditation validates and confirms that conclusion, then surely the thing to do is to ask him for a rigorous explanation of the mechanism of how his meditation might act as instrument to yield answers of this nature?

Right?

Because, if we don’t do this, then we’re kind of accepting without question, accepting blindly, taking blindly for granted, what some man from India taught us about his thoughts and visions as they arose to him as he sat buck naked under some tree in some forest, some 2500 years ago.


So Osho my friend- interesting so whats your take on the Sikh holy book?

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