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Harris on Mysticism
Posted: 25 March 2005 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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[quote author=“Iisbliss”]
My husband has meditated for 17 years, he still has NO CLUE how I think = )

Alice? Is that you?????

g

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Posted: 25 March 2005 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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[quote author=“Iisbliss”]Are you talking about scientifically studying someone who is meditating?
And comparing the subjective data of multiple subjects in an objective frame of reference?

Yes, that is what I meant by “comparitive”.  I think that the real point (and this is what Sam gets at) is that people can be given precise instructions for meditating, and achieve similar mental states by following them.  If scientific rigor is applied to this, it is possible to define a science of inner cognition.

It is important, though, that we maintain a clear understanding of what is actually illuminated by this process.  Many ancient mystics made, in my opinion, the mistake of assuming that wierd images in their heads could somehow be directly related to the nature of the physical universe, which we are rightly skeptical of.

-Matt

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Posted: 25 March 2005 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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[quote author=“psiconoclast”][quote author=“Iisbliss”]Are you talking about scientifically studying someone who is meditating?
And comparing the subjective data of multiple subjects in an objective frame of reference?

Yes, that is what I meant by “comparitive”.  I think that the real point (and this is what Sam gets at) is that people can be given precise instructions for meditating, and achieve similar mental states by following them.  If scientific rigor is applied to this, it is possible to define a science of inner cognition.

It is important, though, that we maintain a clear understanding of what is actually illuminated by this process.  Many ancient mystics made, in my opinion, the mistake of assuming that wierd images in their heads could somehow be directly related to the nature of the physical universe, which we are rightly skeptical of.

-Matt

I’ve posted this before in the Science section, but I’ll repeat it here.  This is one of the best books I’ve seen on this attempt to ameliorate western science and eastern spiritual practices by having neuroscientists look at various aspects of brain function in long-time practicing Buddhist monks.

Take a look at:
Goleman, D. with the Dalai Lama, (2003). Destructive Emotions: How We Overcome Them, Bantam Books, New York.

George

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Posted: 25 March 2005 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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[quote author=“TimR”]This is that since the mystical experience contains emotional content (we “feel” it) then it must be real. The “truths” we derive from meditation, unlike the data points we might acquire via other methods, are reliable and valid.

I see no reason this must be true. Just because we feel certain something has been revealed to us does not mean it might not be totally illusory. This is just a bit too New-Agey.

  Tim,

  You are mistaken when you say that mystical experience contains emotional content, what Sam is talking about might be thought of as introspective experience. Basically it is a type of experience that is available to everyone but it is usually overlooked or drowned out by the constant chattering of the thinking mind.

Insight meditation is about experience, not philosophy. Over the centuries various schools of Buddhism have developed powerful and sophisticated arguments to “prove’ that external reality does not exist, that all experience is empty, and that the nature of mind is sheer clarity or emptiness or something equally as wonderful and incomprehensible. For the practice of insight, however, these arguments and proofs are almost worthless. At best such arguments open your mind to new possibilities. At worst they lead to particularly intractable forms of belief.
  Don’t simply read the instructions and commentary and say, “Yes, that’s interesting.” Use these instructions to examine your own mind and how you experience thoughts, feelings, and sensations until you see how things are. Nothing else is important.

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“Every minute we spend oblivious to the value of a minute is a minute of unconsciousness. This isn’t some screwball scheme to latch onto the present moment in time, it’s simply what it means to be awake.”

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Posted: 25 March 2005 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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The immense intellectual, emotional, psychological, and cultural investment in a worldview makes it immune to any challenge except direct experience. Even direct experience is not always sufficient . Inside we all have a bit of the politician who says, “I’ve make up my mind; don’t confuse me with facts.”
Insight meditation is seeing, clear direct seeing. It is experience, experience so direct and vivid that you know and that’s that. It is not speculation, deduction, inference, or any form of understanding arrived at through the intellect. It is not belief, holding on to a concept or idea because it conforms with how you want things to be despite evidence to the contrary.

Thoughts and feelings come and go; they constitute movement in the mind. Let a thought float up in your mind, and look at it. What is a thought? The content of the thought is not important. What is thought itself? What is it made of? You have hundreds of thoughts every day. They move through your mind, triggering actions and reactions. Until this meditation have you ever wondered what a thought actually is? It’s not an object like a book or a house. When you look at a thought it seems to come to your mind. Does it come from the outside? Try to see a thought the moment it forms in your mind. Try to catch it in the process of forming. Then try to catch it in the process of dissolving. Keep looking until you see.

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“Every minute we spend oblivious to the value of a minute is a minute of unconsciousness. This isn’t some screwball scheme to latch onto the present moment in time, it’s simply what it means to be awake.”

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Posted: 04 April 2005 04:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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“Let me make sure I understand the realization that “all life…is of equal value.” If I get a bacterial infection, are the lives of the bacteria equal in value to my own life? If they are, how do we justify using antiobiotics against them?”

Good point. The Buddhist I know get around this by dividing living things into sentient beings and others. They don’t kill or eat sentient beings. Vegetables are okay. Also for reasons that are not clear the Buddha himeself would, on occassion. eat animals if someone else killed them.

I noticed in Thailand that packs of sick and starving dogs roamed arouund Buddhist temples where owners had abandoned them. There they lived a mangey existance until death came. The priest wouldn’t kill them but they couldn’t take care of them either.Go figure.

Also I think this ...to strange for words, is a copout. when you don’t know what you’re trying to say, it’s gets very confused and the only way to write it is to become so turgid and vague that the reader isn’t sure if this is nonsense or mybe the reader’s lack of intelligence.
Notice that the Wall Street Journal, a model of clarity on complicated subjects has a once a week coumn on religion that is almost always incomprehensible. See Tom Wolf’s book on painting, the Painted Word, on how this works with art. Anytime you can’t explain something in words,it is a pretty good sign that your argument is seriously flawed. 
There is a pretty good explanation from Buddhism on why the self doesn’t exist.  Your “I’ exist as a container. Perceptions come in but go out. Nothing is permanent. There is no ego. It is constantly being formed by experience and has no permanence. There is no essence only existence.

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Posted: 05 April 2005 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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[quote author=“lynne h”]When I read this chapter,  I thought it was the most important chapter and the key element to his whole message.
Me too Lynne. I liked and indentify with your coments.
So much of what Sam said is identical to what I heard at a presentation by a buddhist priest recently. He also sounded much like the Stoics with the exception meditation with is a tool the Stoics don’t mention.  I am skeptical of any mystic, new age type explanation of phenomon. But what I have experienced in meditation is not supernatural at all. It is very hard to do and boring beyond belief but yet…stay with it and one can go longer and longer with a clear mind and no interrupting thoughts with all the associations that go with the thoughts. The mind becomes calm and clear for a short time. The promise is that you one can increase these periods of clarity. It isn’t magic. There isn’t anything strange about it. It’s just clearing your mind for increasing periods of time.
There is a recent book called “An End to Suffering” which explains this better than the Buddhist do. I can’t remember the author’s name. The Buddhist have a difficult time explaining things, at least to me, they use words such as “empty” in a non literal way. When pressed they never answer directly but play a game” I’ve got a secret” where they try to get you to discover what they mean. Tthey believe it will have more meaning to you if you discover it yourself. True but sometimes it is incomprehensible to me as if we are using words in different ways.

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