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January 08, 2024


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Great post, enjoyed reading.

Reminds me how negligent I've been with my practice. You realize how ultimately pointless it all is, and yet you end up getting all caught up in the whole hundred and ten issues that keep urgently clamoring for your time and attention, until you find yourself up to your neck in this nonsense, and quietude, and disinterested practice, get thrown out the window.

I'd liked to have started off new year with a long, hard-core retreat, to get my mindfulness gears back in place. But no way I can do that this month, or the next either; and after that, who knows what'll come up.


Although: I'm a bit skeptical about "awakening" per se. I'm skeptical there's such a thing at all. Mindfulness, sure; intellectual understanding of what the mind is, and what the self is, sure. But a direct understanding of that reality, a direct understanding that the earth goes around the sun, I'm skeptical that's even a thing. I kind of suspect she's merely channeling what she's read and been taught, is all.

Maybe I'm wrong. In fact, I hope, very much, that I'm wrong. I'm treading the same path, after all; and maybe, if I'm wrong, then I'll one day know, at first hand, what she's talking about exactly, this thing that's clearly beyond merely the exercise of everyday mindfulness and an intellectual understanding of what all of this amounts to, maybe I'll one day end up understanding and experiencing what his "awakening" thing really is. Maybe, God willing, Buddha willing, The Mighty Flying Spaghetti Monster willing.

I tend to agree with Joan that enlightenment is grossly exaggerated and misunderstood and more to do with the realization that we are already know this yet covered over with habitual abstract and self-perpetual thinking.

Realization intellectually, do you mean, Ron? If that's what you mean, and what you think she means, then that's reasonable, sure.

But that "realization" can be had without ever having meditated, ever. ...And nor would that correspond with the Buddha's "awakening", which, per lore, was definitely a direct, experiential seeing of suchness, not merely intellectual understanding. ...And if the awakening she alludes to is intellectual understanding, then I'm awake too, wide awake! Which is cool, I guess. if that is what you meant, and she meant, even if different than what the Buddha taught.

Or do you mean --- or think she means --- an experiential realization, of the kind the Buddha allegedly experienced? There we're on less sure ground, I'm afraid. Maybe true; but maybe woo.

A.R. From my studies and enquiry through Chan/Zen, it seems that there is no 'big bang' experience, just the gradual or sudden realization - a sense perhaps - that comes from a quiet awareness.
Would write more, but am traveling.

Yup, when you’re traveling, and have twenty other things you should be doing instead, then posting compulsively about arcane philosophy is probably not what one should be doing much of! And particularly so if you aren’t a teenager --- all teenagers are mutants, and are endowed with the superpower of being able to tap out text on phones at miraculous rates that us normies can only marvel at! --- and if you’re not lugging your laptop around, and and are reduced to fatfingering away on your phone. …Absolutely no rush, Ron, get back on this whenever you’re comfortably able to, whenever that might be!


Actually, though, I wasn’t so much wondering about whether this “realization” is instantaneous and dramatic, as opposed to gradual and incremental. What I was wondering about is whether this “realization” is simply an intellectual appreciation of this idea, or if it necessarily involves an experiential “realization” of it.

If it is simply an intellectual appreciation of the no-self idea, and everything it entails, basis science, well then in that case:
(a) That’s perfectly reasonable! Clearly no woo involved.
(b) It doesn’t actually require any meditation. Whether or not one mediates is completely tangential to whether or not one “realizes” this --- albeit there might be an incidental correlation maybe, given that there’s likely to be significant overlap between those interested in this subject and so studying this intellectually, and those interested in this subject and so trying out the meditation thing.
(c) It means yours truly is a fully realized being, awake, enlightened. Yep, that’s right. AR’s attained to Buddha-hood, already!
(d) That’s also most emphatically NOT what the Buddha taught. This enlightenment is most emphatically, and without a shadow of doubt, not the Buddhistic enlightenment. (Which is cool. We aren’t Buddhistic, or Buddha-ic, fanboys, and are fine with not doing the Buddha thing precisely. But, just to be clear, this is apples to oranges, two different things, this thing and what the Buddha spoke of.)

But if it is a question of experiential realization, then in that case:
(a) That’s kind of …tilting into potential-woo territory. Which isn’t to say it’s wrong, it might well be perfectly valid. But it’s …something else, something …fantastic?, that might turn out to be true, but might, on the other hand, turn out to be superstitious nonsense, aka woo.
(b) This is exactly what the Buddha did teach.
(c) In general it requires meditation, although atypically you might see cases of completely spontaneous enlightenment. Basis lore. Particularly Zen-ic lore.
(d) Unfortunately AR will need to turn away the worshipful hordes that might line up to pay obeisance to him, and also will, very sadly, have to turn away the hot girls lining up to throw themselves at him. Because basis this criterion, he isn’t enlightened, nope. Not yet.
(e) I’m skeptical this might even be a thing. That is, it would be cool, very cool, if it is. But of *course* I’m skeptical about this thing, until I see evidence that it’s a thing, why wouldn’t I be?


Finally, I was asking not so much about what different traditions teach!

You mention Zen. I’m not that closely familiar with Zen, but I do know and understand Theravada, and without a doubt Theravada alludes to experiential understanding, and scorns intellectualization empty of actual experience. And it is my impression that Zen does that, as well.

In any case, like I said, what I was asking about is not what Zen teaches; but about what Joan Tollifson’s talking about when she speaks of this “realization”.

And if it is the case that she’s alluding not merely to intellectual understanding but to experiential realization --- IF --- then the obvious question that further suggests itself is: Does she speak from her own personal experience, from her own experiential realization? Or is she merely parroting teachings, from Zen, and/or Theravada, or whatever other tradition/s?

I’m enjoying browsing her website, and going through her essays particularly, those “Outpourings” --- and knowing this about her might be key to understanding where she’s coming from.

And yes: obviously, I realize you don’t speak for the lady, and can’t be expected to read her mind, or speak authoritatively on her behalf! Just, given you said what you did about her, up there, I was wondering what is your impression about what she means exactly, when she speaks of this “realization”, in the particular terms I’ve just now discussed.

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