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Posted: 03 October 2006 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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If this has been covered before, please just post a link to the relevant topic please:

I've seen Sam take A LOT of criticism for the stuff he says at the end of TEOF regarding sprituality.

After reading that, I did some very brief reading on Buddhism and other eastern practices, specifically concerning meditation. I've read about monks who can slow their heart rates, breathing rates to just a few for minutes, sit for long periods of time in very cold climates without succombing to hypothermia.

Now, assuming any of this is scientifically verifyable, aka i go stand with the monk and freeze my butt of and get taken to the hospital, why is sam getting attacked so hard for claiming that the mind holds certain possibilites??

IF we can actually observe that these monks can do whatever "meditation" it is they do, and physically affect their bodies, then there is science there.

I agree that it looks bad in light of him attacking irrational beliefs, but considered on its own, there is a lot of merit there.

thoughts?

adam

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Posted: 03 October 2006 05:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I started a discussion a while back about Zen and healing.  Also, it’s fairly well known that laughter promotes healing.  As you say, if it’s true, then there’s science there.  In the future, doctors may prescribe comedies, or have their patients attend ‘laugh sessions’.

On NPR tonight I heard Terry Grosz interview someone about the spread of Christianity in the Southern Hemisphere.  Most Catholics now live in that hemisphere and this person said that popes in the future would be from that part of the world.  This person told the story of an Adventist pastor who was quietly visiting a small, packed, African Church (Catholic).  Word got out that he was there, and reached the pulpit.  The priest announced that they had a visitor who had come thousands of miles to visit them, and he asked the visitor to kindly perform the EXORCISM.  The startled visitor was now in the spotlight.  He had seen several Hollywood films on the subject and so was able to pull it off.

The person being interviewed said that almost all the churches there performed exorcisms regularly - the culture being very superstitious.  If a church didn’t perform exorcisms they had to come up with a very good reason why not.

At any rate, the mind has a powerful influence on the body, and science will learn more and more about that.  If there is such a thing as ‘faith healing’ - there’s a reason for it, and in the future it won’t be called ‘faith healing’.

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“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 05 October 2006 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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The meager response to this topic indicates that there are few people here with any meditation experience, a good guess would be no one. This holiday season will mark the 30th anniversary of my first 9 day intensive meditation retreat. The health effects of meditation are merely a fringe benefit. For those who can stick it out there are other benefits. Meditation is very simple but very difficult.[/img]

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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: 05 October 2006 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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The important detail is that if adequate scientific evidence against the spirituality that Sam advocates came in, he would change his views.  That’s rationality.  Besides, I am confident that there is a lot of truth in Sam’s spiritual thoughts.  He seems like a very rational man.  I will still, however, reserve judgement until I’ve done enough research, of course.  But for now, I trust Sam (to a rational degree).

And there is a difference between faith-based spirituality and reason-based spirituality, as I trust most of us know.

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Posted: 06 October 2006 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]The meager response to this topic indicates that there are few people here with any meditation experience, a good guess would be no one. This holiday season will mark the 30th anniversary of my first 9 day intensive meditation retreat. The health effects of meditation are merely a fringe benefit. For those who can stick it out there are other benefits. Meditation is very simple but very difficult.[/img]

Who is this lone wolf who’s been at it for 30 years?  If it’s difficult, doesn’t that mean effort is being applied?  Are we talking about meditation or gymnastics?  If you give up effort, what’s left?  Just this.  What’s difficult about just this?

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“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 07 October 2006 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Good questions Unsmoked!

I have no idea who it is that has been at it for 30 years.

How much effort does it take to rest in the present moment, not very much at all, that’s what makes it difficult.

Reason based spirituality vs faith based spirituality, any view of life which pretends to know what it’s all about is faith based. Even a scientific view demands faith.

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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: 08 October 2006 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]I have no idea who it is that has been at it for 30 years.

Let me help:

[quote author=“JustThis”]This holiday season will mark the 30th anniversary of my first 9 day intensive meditation retreat.

This may indicate the success of meditation in leading to loss of sense of self. Pay attention. :shock:

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Posted: 10 October 2006 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]Good questions Unsmoked!

I have no idea who it is that has been at it for 30 years.

How much effort does it take to rest in the present moment, not very much at all, that’s what makes it difficult.

(JustThis makes a journey to visit Master Joshu, and the following exchange takes place):

JustThis:  When one doesn’t bring a single thing, not even my identity, then what?

Joshu:  Put it down.

JustThis:  If I don’t bring a single thing, what should I put down?

Joshu:  I see you cannot put it down.

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“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 13 October 2006 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“unsmoked”]Who is this lone wolf who’s been at it for 30 years? If it’s difficult, doesn’t that mean effort is being applied? Are we talking about meditation or gymnastics? If you give up effort, what’s left? Just this. What’s difficult about just this?

you obviously don’t have much experience with meditation if you cannot even appraciate the difficulty factor. I am not attacking you, unsmoked, I am only trying to explain.

Yogananda used to tell the story about a man who came to a Yogi guru and demanded that the guru teaches him how to levitate.

“Can I master levitation in a month?”
- Absolutly. Just sit down, close your eyes and be quiet for 10 minutes every morning.
“Is that all?”
- Oh, yes.

The man got up to leave when the guru stopped him.

- One more thing. You can think about anything you want when you do your daily meditation but you must not think about monkeys.

The story goes on with the ending that the man came back to the guru in a week and confessed that every time he sits down to meditate he becomes obsessed with monkeys. He vividly sees all kinds of monkeys in his head and he admits his absolute failure in meditation.

I will spare you the usual conclusion and explanations that follow the story but I hope you understand the message.

T. O.

P.S. I really appreciated Yogananda’s lessons in meditating allowing me to overcome difficulties I had in my previous few years of practice (TM and another form of meditation, which I prefer to keep secret). He was the first teacher recommending good 10 -15 minutes in muscle and breating exercises prior to starting a meditation session. It was very helpful in getting easily into the state of relaxed body + alert mind, without witch attempts to meditate produce little results.

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Posted: 13 October 2006 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Thomas,

as you know, if there’s even a hint of effort then the self is active.  Who else is there to make effort?

During a meditation session, if you look around the hall you may see some people who look like they are trying to have a bowel movement, and others who look like they are trying not to have a bowel movement.  This is the self trying to accomplish something.

On this forum I assume that most people know that the ‘me’ is a phantom, and that wrestling with it (effort) is a kind of shadow boxing sport. 

Let’s say, for the sake of illustration, that memory on a computer consists of microscopic pits on a CD, and our own memory, or sense of self, consists of ‘microscopic pits’ in our brain or other cells.  (in the future, scientists may know what memory is in the physical sense - arrangements of atoms or molecules or other temporary systems that will disolve when we die,  or when we suffer certain brain injury or illness).

As soon as we know that the ‘me’ is just data, it’s relatively easy to watch the data ‘running automatically’ - what we call the usual habitual activity of thought.  Since there’s no central entity, (no real me) to control this habitual activity, most people interested in meditation as a means to gain peace and quiet, or serenity, use the self to try and quiet the self.  This mistake requires effort - you try to keep the door closed (the mind quiet) while a dozen chattering monkeys (our usual habitual thoughts) try to get in.

So, how can one meditate without effort?  The answer is that thought (the me) can watch itself chattering.  This doesn’t take any effort.  The self knows that the self is just data running more or less out of control - fear, anger, desire, jealousy, love, hate, boredom, resentment, ambition, etc. etc. etc. and the self watches this without trying to change it or stop it.  This doesn’t take effort - just attention, interest, curiosity.  What are these monkeys doing?  What do they want?  They want to be peaceful and wise?  They want to be creative?  If the monkey watches its own antics long enough, no effort, just watching, it may eventually realize that the nature of the monkey is chatter, and noise - not serenity, not creativity -
perhaps little bits of occasional pleasure here and there when it gets what it wants, but not real joy.

So I’m saying that what I’m calling effortless, is the monkey watching itself chattering and being a monkey - the data, the self, running habitually, mechanically.  I’m suggesting, just watch everything carefully without trying to be somebody, or gain something.  Be content to be nobody.  When you start to save power, then you gain power.  The artists who carve statues of the Buddha try to show a demeanor that is without effort - a human being sitting peacefully - a manifestation of serenity.
As the poet, Walt Whitman wrote - “Aplomb in the midst of irrational things.”

I’d like to know how this strikes you, and also what you think of my other recent topic, ‘The Science of Champion’s Peace and Joy.  Again, the self is either applying effort or it isn’t.  Some hear this and think, “Oh, he’s talking about being a vegetable.  No thanks!”  What I’m saying is, when you stop trying to be somebody, or gain something - when the self stops shadow boxing with itself, then you save energy.  When the monkey really sees itself, it may voluntarily, spontaneously, become quiet.  When your data stops recycling, something else can happen.

[ Edited: 14 October 2006 08:19 AM by ]
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“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 13 October 2006 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“unsmoked”]. . . What I’m saying is, when you stop trying to be somebody, or gain something - when the self stops shadow boxing with itself, then. . . .

The ability to lose one’s subjective perspective when necessary is valuable beyond words. But unsmoked’s words come pretty close. Remember that the self you may think you are has been defined by others, not by you. Forget about it when you need to. It will return when it needs to.

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Posted: 13 October 2006 06:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“unsmoked”]
So, how can one meditate without effort?  The answer is that thought (the me) can watch itself chattering.  This doesn’t take any effort.  The self knows that the self is just data running more or less out of control - fear, anger, desire, jealousy, love, hate, boredom, resentment, ambition, etc. etc. etc. and the self watches this without trying to change it or stop it.  This doesn’t take effort - just attention, interest, curiosity.

It’s been compared to watching clouds in the sky.  Or a pond in the forest.  Bubbles come to the top and break, frogs jump, insects come and go. 

I was taught a drearier one.  You are standing at the bottom of a conveyor belt with packages rolling towards you.  These are your thoughts.  You grab them off the conveyor belt and throw them into buckets.  You could label the buckets Worried, Sad, Happy, Angry or Past, Future, Maybe and sort the thoughts if you need to at first.  Eventually you can weed it down to just one bucket labeled Not Now.  Soon the packages start to come at longer and longer intervals.  Now you can turn your attention to your breath while still keeping an eye on the conveyor belt in case a package appears.  At some point you stop throwing packages into buckets and simply notice thoughts appearing and fading away when you don’t get involved with them. 

It sounds clumsy and effortful but it worked for me because I kept unwrapping the packages - that is, starting a train of thought that distracted me - until I tried this image system and learned to quit.  I experienced my first meditative “bliss” using this method.

What I found interesting was how many of the thoughts involved explaining, justifying, teaching, conversing, etc.  That’s probably why I’m posting here.

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Posted: 14 October 2006 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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homunculus, made maka,

What we’ve been talking about brings to mind one of Jesus’ remarks.  He said something like, “When you are called into court, don’t rehearse or worry about what you are going to say to the judges, or how you are going to defend yourself.  When the time comes for you to speak, your Father in Heaven will tell you what to say.” - (or, perhaps, ‘you will speak God’s Truth’ - no time lapse of listening and speaking).

Reading this, a Buddhist might suggest,  “Jesus was talking about the true self, or our original nature, which doesn’t need to rehearse what to say.”  If we look at it this way, it is interesting to note that what Jesus called ‘God’ is what Buddhists call ‘Original Nature’, the ‘True Self’, or our ‘Buddha Nature’.

Referring to this ‘true self’ one Zen master said, “It is like a fish hidden in a spring, stirring up waves and dancing by itself.”  It seems that joy in life is when this fish can manifest in us, dancing and stirring up waves.  In most, including myself, such creative activity is usually covered over, hidden, by the ‘bubbles, rapids, reflections of the thought/memory habitual-thinking process - particularly mental activity such as fear and desire, anger, jealousy, ambition etc.

The biggest mistake we make (the ‘we’ being the thought/memory process we call the self) is to think that we can ‘know’ or catch this fish - make it our own - understand it, explain it to others so they can ‘have’ it etc.  Christians make the mistake of calling it their ‘Creator’ thereby separating themselves from it.  (Separate from it, it then appears that they look forward to the day when they can join it again.  In the meantime they ask it for favors, tell it how much they love it, leave presents for it, etc.  Meantime, if they just made a little pool of serentity or quietude in their mind, transcending all the religious hokum that infects their brain, the fish would be there dancing, doing wonderful things beyond the ken of the mind, forever ungraspable and elusive, but there when the disturbance of ego/knowledge/ belief subsides.  As Homunculus suggests words do not even come close to it, but the good news is that it can live in us, manifest in us, and people can see it in us.  “It will be like returning to your native village dressed in brocade.  Everyone will look up to you in admiration.”

Writing to Hsu Shou-yuan, Zen Master Ta Hui said:

“I am giving you the name Chan-jan, “Profound Clarity.”  An ancestral teacher said, “As long as there is mental discrimination and calculating judgement, all the perceptions of one’s own mind are dreams.  If mind and consciousness are quiescent and extinct, without a single thought stirring, this is called correct awareness.”  Once awareness is correct, then in your daily activities twenty-four hours a day, when seeing form, hearing sound, smelling scent, tasting flavor, feeling touch, or knowing phenomena, whether walking, standing sitting, or lying down, whether speaking or silent, active or still, there’s nothing that’s not profound clarity.  And since you don’t engage in wrong thinking, all is pure whether there is thinking or not.  Once you’ve attained purity, when active you reveal the function of profound clarity, and when inactive you return to the essence of profound clarity.  Though essence and function are distinguished, the profound clarity is one: like when you cut up sandalwood, each and every peice is sandalwood.”

quote is from ‘Swampland Flowers - the letters and lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui’ translated by J.C. Cleary

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Posted: 14 October 2006 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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To say that “what has happened is what was intended” is to miss the point. Although it is useless to regret the past, which cannot be modified, the danger is that one will not look forward, but only within.

When you stumble over a rock and break your arm, do not be too quick to apologize that this was what was intended anyway. Your arm was useful for picking up the rock and putting it out of the way.

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Posted: 14 October 2006 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]To say that “what has happened is what was intended” is to miss the point.

Who said that?  (‘Cause it could well have been me… although I try to leave any idea of intent out of it.)

Although it is useless to regret the past, which cannot be modified, the danger is that one will not look forward, but only within.

The dialectic: “On the one hand, this has happened <inward reaction>... On the other hand, let’s see if there is some way I can mitigate (or inhibit or encourage a reoccurence of) the event <outward action>.”

When you stumble over a rock and break your arm, do not be too quick to apologize that this was what was intended anyway. Your arm was useful for picking up the rock and putting it out of the way.

So don’t just react to the past; assess risk and keep your eyes open before accidents occur.  Pay attention.  Notice where there should be a stop sign before someone gets killed.  Don’t forget to notice when something good could be encouraged to happen too.

Am I getting what you’re saying here?

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Posted: 17 October 2006 04:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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You have to start by recognizing where you are and I am rarely ‘here’. I don’t meditate to get somewhere, I meditate to get ‘here’. And when I don’t make the effort then I will just drift in the La-La land of thought for hours, days, months or maybe even years.


Unsmoked, it’s more than a little presumptuous for you to look at others who meditate and know what their practice is and what’s good for them. I’ll bet that all those Zen masters you quote spent years doing Zazen.

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