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    Thread: being as opposed to experiencing

    1. #1
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      being as opposed to experiencing

      I guess this is so unoriginal its practically a cliche, but here's a thought I had a few days ago that seemed meaningful.

      We all want to have good experiences in our lives. Good jobs, loving relationships, fun activities....I think what matters a lot more than what we experience is what we are. Of course the two are intimately connected. What we are generates our experience, and what we experience feeds into what we are. But the mentality of wanting better experience seems to me to be a distortion somehow. Better to be authentically what we are, and to truthfully recognize what we are. Better to make choices for the sake of becoming something better, and helping other people become something better. Experience flows from that.

      Krishnamurti said that its best not to aspire to be something better, that this is a mistaken projection of identity that involves conflict, that the Self is not something that becomes. Maybe that's sort of true at some level. But it seems to me that the self does contain things that become, that experience and temporal identity are a part of the self. And those things can become better. Not because the self wants to gratify itself in a pleasant illusion, but because the self wants to express itself in an honest and true way. The self is the center that life emanates out of, not a parasite on life that's trying to suck experiential sustenance out of its environment.

      I'm not sure I said that well. Listen to understand better in your mind. Help me to understand better.
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      It depends on what you mean by "self." What is the 'self' in direct experience? That which is transient and changing can become better or worse depending on our preferences, but it can't stay that way forever. Most spiritual teachings teach that the true self is that which never changes, that which remains the same no matter what you said or did to anybody or no matter what anybody said or did to you. That which is changing will always be in a state of change. There are no "things" per se but rather everything is a process and a flux. Most spiritual teachings teach that non-conceptual awareness is that which doesn't change. These are called "awareness teachings." However in Buddhism, awareness is like any other phenomena and is transient and dependent on sensations, thoughts, feelings, objects to be aware of, etc. For example: has there ever been any awareness in total absence of sensations? If one says "in the dark and silence, but are not darkness and silence also sensations? So Buddhism is not an awareness teaching but an 'emptiness teaching'. This means that they posit that everything, including awareness is a transient process dependent on everything else, causes and conditions. Everything is empty of self nature, this is what allows it to change. Since there is no self, self improvement is seen to be a delusion or an egoic mind game that reinforces the illusion of a self. In awareness teachings if we are compared to an onion, if each layer is removed one will come to a core of awareness that never changes. In Buddhism, which is based off of empirical investigation, when you remove all the layers of an onion you don't reach an indestructible core, but you find nothing there but the rest of the universe.
      They speak of something called the "Buddha nature" which is present in all sentient beings. But this is not a self or a soul. It isn't that there is a nucleus of Buddha-nature within each of us that must be revealed by removing obscurations, but rather our very existence as sentient beings is the sum total of our obscurations like clouds floating in the infinite sky of the Buddha nature. Seen from this perspective, any self identity or sense of self is felt to be a contraction or constriction of the basic space of this experience. In other words: there is only experience, and the self is merely a sensation within an experience based off of assumptions, thoughts, and beliefs. Any improvement to the self is just rearranging the clouds in the sky of Buddha nature, and our true nature (which is the union and inseparability of emptiness and form is already and always perfect.

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      Thanks for taking the time to type that out.

      Presumably the "awareness teachings" are based in large part on empirical investigation also. And of course Buddhism has roots in some of those other teachings. I think that one difference is that the expectation in relation to what will be reached after the onion is pealed away is different. Also people are differently predisposed for other reasons.

      I have to agree that I don't think that awareness is a fundamental reality. Not that this is something that I'm absolutely confident of. I also don't agree that permanence or impermanence characterize how 'real' something is. Impermanent things are real also, though of course speaking of things as 'things' is an approximation.

      I have two opposing thoughts about the Buddhist idea, as you describe it. One is that this is what happens if your philosophy gets too far disconnected from your science. Another is that the idea of emptiness really isn't so unreasonable, there just isn't a very good word for it. Buddhism is of course a very complex religion, with a lot of objectively ridiculous stuff in it that doesn't necessarily invalidate other aspects of it.

      It seems to me that some of the distinction between 'emptiness' and 'core of awareness' amounts to the limitations of language. Apparently the 'emptiness' has a property, so to speak, that permits awareness of the 'rest of the universe'. A person might try to call that consciousness, even while distinguishing it from something like conscious identity.

      According to the Theosophists H. W. Percival, if you are conscious of consciousness you are automatically conscious of the whole universe, because consciousness is through everything. In his scheme of things, the collective, universal conscious self was a much lesser reality. He said that his teaching came from his being conscious of consciousness. But there were a lot of details of his teaching that I'm certain are just plain wrong, so I don't know how that would work if it is what he says it is. He believed that his intuitions were infallible if he held is attention on a subject with sufficient steadiness.

      It seems kind of amazing to me that a person with limited awareness could believe their awareness to be unlimited. I guess that wherever they're unaware of something they tell themselves that this is only because they're choosing not to look at it, not because they can't have complete knowledge if they want to.

      Percival's approach to knowledge seems to me to be quite similar to the one in Secret of Golden Flower, the Chinese quasi-Buddhist text, and also to the third section of Patanjali's sutras where a person attains knowledge of any subject by meditating on it. I guess that I accept that in principle a mind can have knowledge of anything by meditating on it. I don't think this can be possible for a human mind though, not without extending the world 'meditate' so much that it loses most of its original meaning. There would be a huge amount of creation in such 'meditation'. Even if the knowledge exists somewhere to be discovered, it still has to be brought into relation with the present context, which involves creation.

      It seems to me that if a person intends to meditate to obtain knowledge, of nature, or even knowledge of any philosophical subject, in practice what they wind up with is an awareness of simple things like objects, and ideas that other people are already aware of. And those are limited to relatively simple ideas, even if they may also be quite abstract or subtle. If their method of thinking really worked for obtaining any knowledge, there wouldn't be so many holes in their theologies. What they wind up with is gurus who have incredible depth and insight in certain narrow areas, while possessing childlike ignorance in other areas, and ignorant of their own ignorance.

      Though he wasn't a guru, one example of this sort of thing was P. D. Ouspensky. In his "A New Model of the Universe", he pontificated with authority on details of Einstein's theories. His paragraphs are all very well ordered and his grammar is clear, so a non-scientist might read it and think it quite plausible sounding. But if you try to understand what he's saying at a detailed level, there's nothing there, its complete nonsense. Its almost as if someone took a scientific paper and randomly replaced all the buzzwords and catch phrases with other buzzwords and catch phrases, so that it still looks good to someone who is unaware that there should be another level of meaning beyond language and how the words feel.

      To some extent a kind of anthropic principle accounts for this problem: only people with such a blindness would attempt to create a New Model of the Universe based on meditative insight. But I also blame meditative techniques that distort a person's mind. Even if they don't cause the problem, they preclude discovering how to fix it. This seems to me to be the most critical problem in esoteric religious teachings, because its what prevents them from correcting all the other issues.

      Maybe you didn't want to hear all that. I'll stop there. Thanks again.

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