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August 01, 2021


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@ Brian : "We find ourselves by losing ourselves in the greater world."

Does "greater world" encompass that hidden, subtle world
of consciousness within. If so, the mystic would agree that
is our genesis. That's where to look. The "self" however is
not found outside our consciousness, not through sensory
awareness, Not through any profound notion generated by
a gooey brain rummaging around in our limitless attic of
thought. Certainly not some emotive experience of rapport
with an object of illusion.

All that exists for us is filtered through consciousness. It's
where "god" and "self" and where all ultimate answers are
to be found. We don't stop searching outside for answers
and solutions and predictability in the physical world. But to
peep behind the curtain, to unravel the knot of time-space,
to make sense of a dream, we must awake within.

Stilling the mind is no joke, nor is it just an overused phrase. Try...just try, and you will see that there is a constant generation of thoughts and feelings, in spite of our very best efforts. This has been termed as "chitta santana flow", which is a constant mindstream of thoughts and sense impressions within the mind of everyone. It takes quite a bit of training (ask any devoted practitioner) to even achieve a few seconds of real stillness, especially in these frenetic and chaotic times. Even if a quiet place is found to practice stilling the flow of thoughts, the space and air around every square millimeter of our planet is polluted with radio waves, microwaves, beams from satellites, radiations from power lines, etc. These toxic disturbances cannot be eliminated and are a distinct sign of the degeneration of our environment. Eastern philosophy is succinct in labeling this age as the "Kali Yuga" (the worst of the four ages).

The average number of thoughts in a "normal" human mind is around 4000 per hour, or 70 thoughts per minute, or a different thought every second. This activity of thinking that we so prize and take pride in is actually a detriment and impediment when it comes to truly "seeing and perceiving clearly". The thoughts constitute a constant and ever-present cloud over our discriminative ability. So distorting and confounding are thoughts (and feelings) that the "SUN" of our own consciousness is always under a thick veil.

True discrimination is highly prized in the world of experienced meditators and yogis, not to mention Sadhs and Saints Who utilize the Audible Life Stream to penetrate through the veils of thoughts, even transcending the mind itself.

If this sounds woo woo to you, so be it. Brian knows how difficult it is to achieve stillness in order just to have a brief touch of the ecstasy of union with the Sound Current.

The point is this: Reality cannot be perceived because of "chitta santana". The veil of thoughts and sensations is way too chaotic, too thick and too constant. In my humble view, a sincere seeker of truth - one who is weary of "mystery" and dead ends - must find a teacher who has transcended the mind and its many layers entirely. Good luck!

Whatever you experience exists for you. And that isn't just there to label, but to explore and discover. Science can give us tools and information, just as meditation is a tool that leads to information also.

Meditation is a laboratory. The secret is not to label, but investigate.

Then you can label anything you like, but more likely others with no direct experience of those things will try to set labels in order to understand within their own context. That's actually not a bad thing, so long we do not confuse those temporary labels with the exploration and discovery, that is very science like...Qualsi scientific, a little more than anecdotal but not quite as hard verification as Science, which can create a basis for consensus around many things we can't witness yet.

We fire a telescope into space with the understanding that what it sees and transmits, we will believe. The construction of the telescope has passed our tests.

Millenia ago that was the mystic. They were the telescope.

Today, that habit has grown, we have a few space telescopes and more on the way: Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, Herschel, Planck....They are today's Gurus of astrophysics. They serve us well, as any good Guru, with insights and without judgement.

The mystics of the past also reported what they saw, and mystic writings confirm similar experiences, similar internal geography. And similar high ethics that arose out of the deeper connections they made with all things.

But unlike today's telescope, where the data can be reviewed, it can't personally be replicated.

The mystic uncovered two important things that modern science has verified. We have within us mechanisms, biological and physiological mechanisms that are triggered and modified by the inner laboratory experiments of worship and meditation. The mystics were right about inner peace resulting from meditation, and the healthy physiological results have been scientifically supported.

And secondly, most people have access to that laboratory, if they follow the practices involved, which include preparation, controlled lifestyle, and deep meditation focus.

In both cases, there is discovery and exploration and no labels.

That makes it tough to communicate to anyone who hasn't done that investigation, or those who have tried but not succeeded. Not unusual. Efforts to replicate scientific findings are usually not 100%, and often replication happens after people have failed to replicate, but reviewed with greater scrutiny the original experiment.

We are complex beings, and our connections to this creation are ill understood.

So long as formal science has only explored a small part of this creation, and therefore is not a complete study, all conclusions are incomplete and highly conditional to just the conditions tested.

We can wait. Or, that internal lab is available to anyone and all.
In all cases, cultural claims and myths aside, there is an avenue within for any science-minded, science world view individual with a real interest in exploration of a new world.

Just as real and new as microbiology or astrophysics.

Missing phrase from above...
But unlike today's space telescope, meditation practice can replicated and verified for oneself, directly. But at the significant loss of data integrity to anyone else. Hubble is in Space and we cannot go there physically to replicate its findings. But the integrity of its data is unassailable, making the trip unnecessary.

Great example Brian Ji
"Whatever name it goes by, there's no evidence of it [soul] even though it seems entirely real. So does a mirage, until we drive close to the shimmering pool of water in the middle of a road and realize that it only exists as ephemeral waves given off by a hot road.

"(When I was a child my mother lived in El Paso and drove to New Mexico regularly, so I became familiar with this sort of mirage.)"

The Mirage wasn't unreal. What appeared as water is light reflected, the sky reflected. That's an actual physical event. Not a hallucination, nor imagination.

It's real. But people may misunderstand what they are seeing. Someone might say" you are imagining things, " but that would be untrue. What it actually is requires investigation. What appears as water is really distorted light....

(Just like the entire crearion.)

The marvelous complexity is an indication of a Designer.

There is no credible explanation for why this world is created for human life.

Richard Dawkins said he has no ultimate explanation, and offered the theory that an "alien intelligence" deserves credit for the existence of life. Of course, this begs the question of what created that alien intelligence.

So many examples. For one thing, scientists have found you can't create DNA by mixing chemicals together. The insanely intricate coding of life beggars all the theories of evolution.

Brian - a very meaty post. Got me thinking and though I don’t have the book I had a quick look at Jeremy Lent’s page about it.
You say ‘It’s a big mistake to think that scientists have a narrow mechanistic perception of reality’ and that most actually don’t. I’ll take this in the context of the book and say ‘some more are’ (changing their approach). Lent is making the case that a new science backed paradigm is emerging that will help save the world from catastrophe - maybe.
Putting the whole thing into a past 400 years or so context - as an environmentalist, myself and many others believe the ‘dominant scientific/technological world view’ during this time has generated the thinking and behaviour now reflected in the climate, ecological and socio/economic crisis. So historically I would strongly disagree with your view.

You then go on to consider how complexity (didn’t Lent use the term ‘extended’?) links with ‘discreet entities’. I not sure what you are getting at when you say ‘When I’m with my wife I am a different person than when I’m by myself’. Are you making the point that a new more ordered system results when the two of you are together? Are you saying you are a different ‘self’ when on your own?
You then state ‘we have no idea who our self is …. Almost certainly the reason is that the self doesn’t exist’. I interpret this as ‘Because the self does not exist there is nothing there to recognise/form an idea that it does’! - OK

Then you move to a possible bigger picture scenario occupied by Consciousness. Soul. Ego. Self.
Did you put Ego in there to just show its essentially the same? I can get why but don’t agree.
Based on a brief peruse of Lent’s overview of The Web of Meaning, I’d say he would also think in similar terms as I do: an aspect of consciousness, yes, but not the totality. He mentions soul and ‘the democracy of consciousness’ and says ‘underlying everything there exists a unity of reality’. He even uses the term ‘mystic vision of oneness’. So I’d say (without access to the book and based on a quick look at a web page!) he’s just reframing the case for ‘consciousness’ underpinning everything, in an ecologically informed scientific way.

Which brings me to the Zen discussion. I recall a Youtube image associated with one of Alan Watts’ talks - a person sitting cross-legged with no head, but a universe instead. Isn’t this what’s there when the I, the Ego is seen as a mere abstraction?
I wonder if Jeremy has had this realisation or his take on the great traditions is more a summation from his research rather than from practice/experience? What informs his view on Anatman being more ‘no-fixed-I’ rather than ‘no-self’?
I believe a really good discussion around this (Anatta) can be found in Rodney Smith’s book of the same name. Also, possibly in this book (it’s a while since I read it), Smith uses the vertical/horizontal analogy for awareness/human, self. He says the intersection/integration of the vertical/horizontal is where its at. Hence things such as the cross.

Stephen Batchelor also wrote of this in in his book 'After Buddhism'. In the chapter aptly entitled 'The Everyday Sublime', he writes ;-

I have no interest in achieving states of sustained concentration in which the sensory richness of experience is replaced by pure introspective rapture. I have no interest in reciting mantras, visualizing Buddha's or mandalas, gaining out-of-the-body experiences, reading other people's thoughts, practicing lucid dreaming, or channelling psychic energies through chakras, let alone letting my consciousness be absorbed in the transcendent perfection of the Unconditioned. Meditation is about embracing what is happening to this organism as it touches its environment in this moment. I do not reject the experience of the mystical. I reject only the view that the mystical is concealed behind what is merely apparent, that it is anything other than what is occurring in time and space right now. The mystical does not transcend the world but saturates it.

And, I heard the question 'what is the self?' described thus:-

There is the brain/body organism.
Interreacting with its environment experiences are stored in the brain as memory.
The experience's reflect the time, place and culture being experienced.
From this ad hoc information a 'self' (identity) is formed.
This 'self' is purely a mental construct, a series of thoughts or concepts.

"When the Buddha renounced this core Vedic belief with the principle of anatman, it would have been as revolutionary as an early Christian claiming that the soul didn't exist."


This is the part I've often wondered about, but haven't yet found a satisfactory explanation to.

We know today that there is (probably) no abiding self. We know today that the self is (probably) no more than an artifact of our brain and our neural network, a product of evolution that (probably) helps our genes to get passed on. We know that basis progress made in neuroscience. And we also know that basis an understanding of the scientific worldview, and appreciation of a scientific worldview as the most reasonable in terms of apprehending the world as it is. It also follows, I suppose, from a general appreciation of the burden of proof.

But back in the day, well before either neuroscience was developed, or the scientific method fashioned, or indeed the nature of burden or proof worked out, how on earth did the Buddha arrive at such unwavering understanding of the anatman or no-self (or no-fixed-I, as the more precise translation apparently reads)?


I suppose there's two ways to answer that question:

The first would be to point out that lots of folks have, over the years, propounded lots of weird ideas. The ignorant goatherds celebrated in the Bible had their batshit crazy credo, as did so many other prophets and sages and seers all over the world have their own crazy beliefs. That out of these scroes, probably hundreds, of unsupported beliefs, one or two elements of one or two ancient systems might turn out to be true, is probably only to be expected.

And the second explanation would squarely point to the Buddha's methods (which is, essentially, the Anapana and Vipassana practices followed by the Theravadin) containing some way to arrive at such deep truths.

This latter possibility is well worth exploring. With the wide interest in Buddhism these days, this suggests some serious investigation into this phenomenon might be called for.


Be that as it may, my point was, people who point to the Buddha's teaching of Anatta as one of the supports for the idea of a no-self, are basically making the latter implicit claim, and making it well before science has actually established the veracity of such claim.

the point of my commenting now is to bring this implicit (and perhaps unexamined) assumption out into the open. Everyone who's using the Buddha's teachings as a support for the no-fixed-I idea, is essentially, and in effect, implicitly suggesting that the Buddha's methods are a way of independently arriving at this realization of no-fixed-self (independent of neuorscience, independent of a scientific worldview, and independent of correct appreciation of the nature of the burden of proof). I suggest that this is a pretty much extravagant claim, and must not be made lightly (that is, without taking ownership of everything such a claim implies).

If I understand you correctly, the referance to any pre-scientific claim about reality may be hinting at the supernatural, and therefore would not be a legitimate reference point for the scientific view?

Perhaps, while these references appeal to us on poetic grounds we should be cautious to give them any factual weight.?


Hello, Spence.

You know, I dislike the word "supernatural". Because it is a meaningless term. Anything at all, including Jehovah's divine psychotic tantrums, should it turn out to be supported by evidence, would be part of the "natural" world, to be studied and understood as best one can.

I think I expressed my POV clearly enough there. Might the Buddha's methods offer us a way to directly apprehend Anatta, that is, the no-fixed-self thing? As you've said in the past, that's something that should be explored and studied. You know, the whole hypothesis testing thing. Until such time as these have been explored, and validated, we should, as you say, probably not treat them as true.

But my point was, in using the Buddha's teachings as some kind of support for the no-abiding-self idea, people are implicitly (and perhaps unthinkingly) directly accepting, already, before such studies have been conducted and a satisfactory result arrived at, that the Buddha's methods do give us a way of arriving us at such truths. That is what I wished to point out here.


Incidentally, these teachings are NOT poetic. That is, there is poetry in them, sure, and beauty even. But the essence of these teachings are quite literal. The Buddha's teachings, and other religious teachings as well. Literally is how they were understood by people in the past, and probably how they were meant by those propounding them.

Of course, if despite the factual nature of those teachings, we ourselves choose to ...enjoy them, and draw inspiration from them, in poetic terms, then that seems fine, I mean whyever not? To that extent, sure, as you say, "while these references (might) appeal to us on poetic grounds we should be cautious to give them any factual weight."

Hi AR!
Yes I agree 100%. This is the true Scientific Worldview, at least as far as I can discern.
Appreciating ancient writings as perhaps directional, but actual science as the determination of objective truth.

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