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October 06, 2023


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Good morning Brian,

It is already the 7th in Europe,
Happy Birthday!
Have a nice day with people who love you!

So long as we are merely training the mind by force, attempting to shape it to our will, attempting to avoid pain rather than understand it by telling ourselves "that isn't real" or avoiding it by meditation (yes the windshield needs to be cleaned at some point), that will never work. It can't last. These efforts aren't getting to the heart of the matter. And calling all this, falsely, 'mystical' doesn't raise its value. This is avoidance.

Because the mind doesn't merely react. It acts based on conditioning, including the conditioning from lives long ago, built in genetically, not according to one's desired set of ethics or objects. It acts from its own intelligence.

Our emotional response can drive us. We can attempt to modify that response attending to other things. But forcing change is building on sand. It never lasts.

We can fight with our own mind in one way or another. But it's a lost cause.

There is another way, one where progress is never lost. Integration and wholeness.

Here is where the effort to accept our powerlessness, and to just do nothing, be still, enjoy the fragrance of the forest, and listen in stillness to what our mind is really telling us, is the beginning of actual progress.

A dialogue between what you know and believe and your body and brain, which has its own intelligence, and worth hearing from, learning about.

You aren't what you want to be. You have a relationship with this body and brain, and they are your first family. That can only develop naturally by accepting this, spending some time listening, and exploring.

Then you will discover treasures. They will reveal treasure, and guide you to better teachers who understand.

Dear fellow spiritual-porn addicts: I went to YouTube to hear this discussion, and it's the same old pitch about transcending the mind through just the right kind of insight. The same pitch I read in countless books on Buddhism and Advaita throughout the previous decades. Yes, and I did many retreats and heard many talks at places like Spirit Rock.

My conclusion is that this approach to happiness simply doesn't work. Didn't work for me, and to everything I've seen, it doesn't work for others.

As I said, I've been to Spirit Rock and other lay Buddhist groups, Zen centers, Theravada monasteries, and Goenka retreats. And I've not seen any evidence that the people there are even a bit happier or more compassionate than the average nose-picker. In fact, I've seen very few impressive people among the fans of the no-self crowd.

Why then this fascination with hearing Harris recite the same "no-self" boilerplate that we're all so very well familiar with? Why didn't we get it the first time? Or the 5th? Or the thousandth? Is the fact that the consummation Harris is selling is still so out of reach to us a clue that it's just entertainment? That it doesn't really work? Or, if you like, is just as idealistic and "results are around the corner" as Sant Mat?

The secret to happiness is in the journey. We don't know how far we've come or even the destination. But we enjoy making progress, where our current place is always a delightful entertainment, however victorious our crushing or is. In part this is so because it is all temporary, and in moments of happiness, we touch eternity.

An old friend once said of her various travel disasters, "I don't fear them, nor should you, Spence. With each setback you have an interesting story to tell."

Materialists simply deny the existence of soul but accept that thoughts are very real, though immaterial.

They demand of soul to be a material substance ignoring the simple reality that it exists as a quality of awareness and experience.

When we look upon this creation we make the conceptual distinction of physicality, abstract concept, thought and soul. Or not. Those distinctions are all mental distinctions. And the hard sciences have begun to recognize this. They have begun to acknowldge that the practice of science is inseparably made of arguments, distinctions and their dualistic relationship to reality. But they often work at the expense of legitimate experience.

As mentioned earlier, in every fully valid (both internally and externally) and verified scientific experiment we cannot attribute cause, and thus determinism, without establishing a threshold of random variation (indeterminism and possibly non-materialism) in the very same experiments we use to establish where determinism is actually working.

We use these concepts to understand the complexity of reality with this very immaterial complex of thoughts, feelings, perceptions and experiences we live in.

So why not use that to move from what is wrong, to what is right? From what is fractured to what is integrated and whole?

Just considering these ideas helps us move forward.

SantMat63, in this talk Harris describes how he did just what you described. Engage in lengthy meditation retreats which focused on a dualistic approach in which the practitioner tries to control his/her mind and achieve a state of enlightenment or at least mindfulness. Harris speaks fairly positively about Zen, yet notes that it is indirect in its approach.

For Harris, the turning point was when he studied Dzogchen which introduced him to "direct pointing." Based on my listening to Harris' guided meditations, this direct pointing seems to be aimed toward an instant -- blink of an eye or snap of the fingers length -- glance at the mind to see if there is any self there distinct from experience.

The key thing for Harris is understanding, and then experiencing, the illusion of Self and free will, the two being the flip sides of the same thing. This gives things a bit of an Advaita slant, since there is no self to be enlightened and no free will to pursue enlightenment, but without the Advaita dogma.

Harris recommends frequent moments through our day where we take a few deep breaths and center ourselves before starting a new activity. I find this helpful in breaking the chains of thought about the past and future, since most of those thoughts are unproductive and unnecessary.

You obviously didn't enjoy this conversation with Harris as much as I did. That's fine. Spirituality is an individual affair. But if you want to better understand Harris, read his Waking Up book if you haven't already. I don't agree with everything in it, but most of it certainly.

Lastly, keep in mind what Harris says about reason near the end of this conversation. Really good observations. Reason keeps us grounded in reality rather than flying off into illusory realms of supernatural and religious conjecture. Direct experience of a "woken up" state is what we're after. However, reason provides the guardrails for keeping us on track toward that experience, which in my view happens gradually, bit by bit, not all at once.

I confess to overstating my case (perhaps grossly) to make a point. Guilty as charged.

But if I may state my point with less invective and more clarity: It pays to consider closely whether what Harris is promoting delivers the promised results, or if it's a rabbit hole.

In other words, why not critique Harris (and other neo-Buddhists like Watts and Breer) with the same standards we critique Sant Mat?

Two basic standards come to mind:

1) Is the promoter/guru an exemplary person, i.e., can we see that the teachings he's promoting make him more serene and moral than the average person.

2) Do we have evidence that the end result they're promising (no-self enlightenment or the gnostic experience of Sach Khand) is achievable by most practitioners of their method? Or are they states of being that are always just out of reach, and require more meditation, more satsangs, more residential retreats with yet another teacher, perhaps this one Tibetan, the next Burmese?

If we're simply looking for a technology of stress reduction to better get on with our lives, then I'm by all means completely for an hour's worth of meditation per day. Whether it's TM or basic anapatasati, such meditation is very simple. As simple (and yes, practical) as brushing one's teeth.
But that's all one needs to say about such stress reduction techniques. No one needs a brushing-your-teeth app, residential retreat, or guru. Not even the Colgate Wisdom Tooth.

But if we're looking for something more than that, it's worth considering whether the salesman is simply selling a pig in a poke.

A few reasons why I won't take initiation from Baba Sam Harris.

Babaji Harris coyly claims that he's enlightened. Gee, even Gurinder didn't do that.

Harris has told of how his years of spiritual seeking in Asia (financed by his rich mother) led him to his ultimate guru, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Harris claims that Rinpoche Urgyen personally gave him a special Dzogchen initiation where the scales of duality fully fell from his eyes. Could Harris please tell us just what the Tulku said to him so that we might share in this bliss? "Sorry," says Sam, the thing won't work unless you have the guru do it to you in person, and Urgyen has passed away.

In days of yore, ie back in the 1970s, a guru could get away with boldly claiming to be enlightened. That won't do today. Nevertheless, Harris' claims of expertise in meditation (to the point where he's confident that most people in Zen are "doing it wrong" have a lot of people believing that Harris is an Advanced Soul. Other people believe that Sam is more of a Chaar Phlashar. That's Tibetan for Fourflusher.

Then there's Harris the New Atheist, and his books like Letter to a Christian Nation. Condescending, reproachful, and bitter, and my god how hypocritical to condemn the practice of religion while having spent one's youth practicing religion. And given Harris' crackbrained opinions, how ironic is his claim that religion ineluctably corrodes the public's morality. To wit:

"I find Trump more despicable than I found Osama bin Laden… With Osama bin Laden, it’s just obvious to me that he could have been a mensch in some sense, right? He’s making serious sacrifices for ideas that he deeply believes in. He’s committed to a cause greater than himself.”

"What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns."

I won't even bother taking the time to unpack the absurdity crammed into either of those paragraphs. But keep in mind that Harris considers himself a foremost expert in moral philosophy. More shocking, much of the public considers Harris the preeminent philosopher of our age.

Sam Harris is America's Babaji. God help us.

Happiness is almost illogical.

As I enter my 50’s I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier. Even I don’t understand it. My life was filled with many more opportunities and material abundance in my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.

But I’m truly very very happy and content now in an away that I’ve never experienced before.

I think it ultimately boils down to what your CORE beliefs are…

Most of our values are built upon our core beliefs.

Occasionally I feel a little guilty for Bryson content. But then I remind myself that we can’t help others until we feel at peace within ourselves.

I know that God didn’t create a world of suffering and that “he” doesn’t desire for anyone to suffer… ever. That’s an extremely critical thing to understand and embrace.

All suffering begins and ends with our EGO.

Bryson = being so

I know that my husband isn’t as happy or content as I am. But he’s on his own path and still believes in a God that exacts harsh “justice” through karma.

It is what it is.

Bummer. 😂

Today is my 51st birthday and I’ve never been happier in my life. I don’t feel the least bit guilty about being happy because I believe that’s what ALL human beings are here to learn.

I don’t own anything and I don’t need or want for anything. My life isn’t “perfect” by the world’s standards yet I am perfectly happy.

I’ve lost a dozen loved ones over the past two years and the grief is dramatic for a few days but then a window to heaven opens up and I feel this peace that passes all human understanding—I feel immense peace knowing it is only a short time before we’re all united.

Can you say the same?

Life is very short… love and eternity are FOREVER.

Blessings to all…

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