Thread for unbearablelightness

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Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby dridhamati » Sat Nov 29, 2014 1:04 pm

Hi unbearablelightness,

Thank you for accepting me as your guide.
Shall we use the name "unbearablelightness" or do you prefer something else?

Now, before we get started, a few points…

… about the process:
1. Could you please confirm that you agree with the Disclaimer on the home page of the LU site?
2. Let's aim to write once a day if possible, even if it's short. It is a good way to keep up the momentum.
3. Responses require utmost honesty.
4. Responses are best formulated from direct experience (felt senses and observed thoughts). If you are unfamiliar with Direct Experience please let me know.

… about posting:
1. You might want to familiarise yourself with the useful 'Quote' function: http://liberationunleashed.com/nation/v ... ote#p12593.
2. Best write your post in your favourite word processor, then copy & paste it into the editor on the LU forum, then format it as you wish. That way you won't lose your work half-way through (which can happen if there is a hiccup with the Internet connection...)
3. Please click the 'subscribe topic' link at the very bottom of the page to ensure you get an email whenever a reply comes in.

Sooooo. Now the formalities have been seen to, let's start shall we.

It would be helpful to know something of what brings you here, and particularly what you think/hope/expect could come out of this process?

Looking forward to working with you!

All the best,
Dridhamati

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby unbearablelightness » Sat Nov 29, 2014 8:01 pm

Hi Dridhamati

unbearablelightness is a bit long isn't it, let's use something shorter. How about “vajrapriya”? ;)

I agree with the disclaimer, and am happy to check in every day and work the way you suggest. I should say, I'll be on retreat between 27/12 and 5/1. From 11 Jan I'll be on my next year-long retreat and so may suspend the process if gates remain untraversed at that point. Email contact for a while could still be possible, so we could review then if necessary. I hope it feels ok to take me with that time stricture, let me know if not.

(I'll work out the quote function when I'm on home wifi rather than a very slow tethered connection)

What brings me here, what do I expect?
Approaches to insight, particularly insight into anatta, have long been of importance to me. It feels like I have an easy way into what I think of a “mild anatta”, after experiences of anatta both spontaneously and through more deliberate practice, on solitary retreats especially.

Last year I was on a year long retreat, during which it felt like I relaxed more deeply into right view for stretches of time. And then this October I was on retreat with 5 retreatants all of whom had been thru the gate LU-wise. I found it fascinating hearing about their experiences, trying to work out if the LU process does something deeper, or more irreversible, or different, to what I already felt I'd experienced. I was left very happily baffled!

So expectations? I guess I want to learn first hand what the process does, and see just what effect it might have. Although, whenever I check, it's quite easy for me to see that there's no fixed self present, most of the time I don't check, or don't check thoroughly, and am left with a ghost lingering around who believes in himself. I imagine we'll be going more into just how that manifests. But I suppose I'm interested to see if the seeing can become deeper, more thorough, more steady. I don't have many expectations of how that would manifest, but I guess maybe greater ease, and reduced inner conflict might be among them. I've experienced some of both this year, and can feel just how much further there is to go.

I hope that's enough to be getting on with. Looking forward to whatever comes.
All the best
Vajrapriya

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby dridhamati » Sun Nov 30, 2014 12:25 am

Hi Vajrapriya,
How about “vajrapriya”? ;)
Sounds good. :-D

No worries about retreats, etc. Whatever gets done before January 11 can only be useful. I'm happy to proceed with the dialogue within the time constraints.
Approaches to insight, particularly insight into anatta, have long been of importance to me ... I was left very happily baffled!
Thank you for all this background information. There are some interesting turn of phrases here but rather than spending time on these now, perhaps we'll revisit them closer to the end.
So expectations? I guess I want to learn first hand what the process does, and see just what effect it might have. Although, whenever I check, it's quite easy for me to see that there's no fixed self present, most of the time I don't check, or don't check thoroughly, and am left with a ghost lingering around who believes in himself. I imagine we'll be going more into just how that manifests. But I suppose I'm interested to see if the seeing can become deeper, more thorough, more steady. I don't have many expectations of how that would manifest, but I guess maybe greater ease, and reduced inner conflict might be among them. I've experienced some of both this year, and can feel just how much further there is to go.
Starting from the end, it seems clear that seeing through the illusion of "self" is only the beginning, that the 'journey' goes on. More metaphorical gates will get crashed. A very important realization.

Now rather than address the expectations, there is a sentence that nicely opens up the dialogue:
"Although, whenever I check, it's quite easy for me to see that there's no fixed self present..."
Question: Is there an 'unfixed' self, a self that comes and goes?
Then:
"...most of the time I don't check, or don't check thoroughly, and am left with a ghost lingering around who believes in himself."
Questions:
- If it is seen that there isn't a self, how can there be a belief in a self when not 'checking'?
- Who or what is this ghost that believes in himself?
- What is this 'checking' that seems to have an influence on the presence of a self?


Please answer all four questions from direct experience.

Thanks.
All the best
Dridhamati

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby unbearablelightness » Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:42 pm

Dear Dridhamati
I'm happy to proceed with the dialogue within the time constraints.
Thanks!
Is there an 'unfixed' self, a self that comes and goes?
I use the self in the "unfixed" sense to be the conventional designator for a body/mindstream. Inasmuch as I think it's useful to distinguish Vajrapriya from Dridhamati.
If it is seen that there isn't a self, how can there be a belief in a self when not 'checking'?
Mmm, interesting question, but I'm not sure I can answer from direct experience. What appears is greater or lesser identification with experience. When there's more presence there's less identification, when there's less presence there's more identification, meaning that there's an unthinking set of assumptions at work. More anon in the next question I think.

To give a "how" answer I'd probably have to lean on theories: the habitualness of thought patterns reasserting themselves, underlying anusayas, that kind of thing.

Or maybe it's more of a rhetorical question, pointing out that maybe seeing lack of self isn't that thorough, which is likely and why I'm here.
Who or what is this ghost that believes in himself?
Well this is the nub of the issue, and the question that occupies most of my enquiring. I guess most abstractly, it is made of thought patterns and a clinging, prioritising of this body/mindstream, combined with the sense of awareness having an origin. How this all manifests is so dependent on the situation. When there's no particular emotion at work, the way the "ghost" tends to give the feeling of being around is by thought patterns that tell the story of what's happening, and what will happen etc.

When there's more constricted emotion around, that gives a stronger feeling of self. eg. in the London underground today, weaving through hoards of shoppers, feeling people getting in "my way"; so there's a sense of ownership, of judgement of others' actions, of irritation, all referenced to a sense of me who's being inconvenienced. The understanding of what's happening arises pretty quickly too, but doesn't completely eliminate some belief in the story, because of the "I've got a train to catch" story!

I could multiply examples many fold!
What is this 'checking' that seems to have an influence on the presence of a self?
It feels like a kind of looking back into awareness accompanied by a subtle thought, which if it were verbalised would say something like "who's experiencing this?", "who's thinking this?", "who's doing this?" And that leads to a certain sort of looking. Of course it never finds anything, but establishes a different "frame" for experience. Sometimes it's less of an enquiry and and more of a remembering, that establishes the same frame. It has the feeling of deliberate action, although in the process that's seen as clearly just high level thinking believing in its originator.

How's that for starters?
Thanks
VP

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby dridhamati » Mon Dec 01, 2014 12:41 pm

Hi Vajrapriya,
Is there an 'unfixed' self, a self that comes and goes?
I use the self in the "unfixed" sense to be the conventional designator for a body/mindstream. Inasmuch as I think it's useful to distinguish Vajrapriya from Dridhamati.
Thank you for the explanation. So another way of putting it is: the "self" is that ineffable quality that differentiates, and separates, objects into distinct entities. As you say it is useful for distinguishing Vajrapriya from Dridhamati.
Now what about the "unfixed" adjective. Is there another, "fixed", self?
Mmm, interesting question, but I'm not sure I can answer from direct experience. What appears is greater or lesser identification with experience. When there's more presence there's less identification, when there's less presence there's more identification...
That's a very good observation.
Now what would be the reaction to the statement:
Identification with experience is the source of the "self". And that can be observed (as the answer above proves). Anything else is a nice theory, concept, view, helpful perhaps but doesn't stand to scrutiny: ie. can it be observed?

Now please don't take on board anything I say without first testing it.
To do this look at the rest of your post and look: what is actually observable and what is a view?

And then ask the question:
Can a view, a thought, be trusted to reliably represent the truth?

All the best
Dridhamati

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby unbearablelightness » Mon Dec 01, 2014 3:01 pm

Can I clarify something here:
Identification with experience is the source of the "self". And that can be observed (as the answer above proves). Anything else is a nice theory, concept, view, helpful perhaps but doesn't stand to scrutiny: ie. can it be observed?
"...that can be observed" - ie the identification can be observed, or that identification is the source of the self can be observed?

"Anything else..." do you mean any other ideas about what the self is?

I think I know what you're getting at, but would like to be sure I'm clear.

VP

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby dridhamati » Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:24 pm

Hi Vajrapriya,

Thanks for asking, clear communication will only help in this process. :-)
Can I clarify something here:
Identification with experience is the source of the "self". And that can be observed (as the answer above proves). Anything else is a nice theory, concept, view, helpful perhaps but doesn't stand to scrutiny: ie. can it be observed?
"...that can be observed" - ie the identification can be observed, or that identification is the source of the self can be observed?
"'Identification is the source of the self' can be observed" was the original meaning. Naturally 'identification' can be observed too.
"Anything else..." do you mean any other ideas about what the self is?
'Ideas', yes. Not 'other ideas'. "Anything else..." here is meant as 'anything else [other than observation in direct experience]...'
And observation in direct experience is about 'actual experience', not about 'ideas and views about experience'.
Does this help clarify the statement?

All the best
Dridhamati

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby unbearablelightness » Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:44 pm

Dear Dridhamati

Let's start with the easy bit
Now what about the "unfixed" adjective. Is there another, "fixed", self?
No! That's clear. There's nothing in experience that is or can be fixed, and that's observable empirically and accessible to thought (I know that doesn't count here, but it does all help me arrive at conviction). I've spent plenty of time watching skandhas and elements flow on, and am pretty convinced, there's nothing that can be found.
Now what would be the reaction to the statement:
Identification with experience is the source of the "self". And that can be observed (as the answer above proves).
It reads like a tautology to me so maybe that means that the reaction is one of agreement! Identification with experience feels like another way of talking about experiencing a self (or "selfing"). The types of identifying with experience are many, but they all have the effect of recreating the sense of self. To be completely sure that I agree with the statement, I had to check that there aren't other "sources of the self"; but whether they're emotional or cognitive, they all rest on appropriating some aspect of experience as I, me or mine.
Anything else [ie ideas about what constitutes the self] is a nice theory, concept, view, helpful perhaps but doesn't stand to scrutiny: ie. can it be observed?
Right I'm not sure I completely get your drift here. Maybe because I don't think I have any particular other metaphysical ideas about constitutes the delusory self? I can see you're pointing me to the direct experience of identification, and I guess suggesting that there's no point philosophising. I'm with you!
look at the rest of your post and look: what is actually observable and what is a view?
Again I'm not 100% clear what you're looking for, but I guess go paragraph by paragraph; and by "the rest of your post", I'm taking you mean Q3 & 4 (tell me if you meant earlier parts too). I thought I was writing from direct experience, to be honest, but maybe I'll explain how I experience what I wrote, and you can flag up any views. (my original post in blue:

I guess most abstractly, it is made of thought patterns and a clinging, prioritising of this body/mindstream, combined with the sense of awareness having an origin.
To be more precise, I should say it's identification with or believing the thoughts that leads to the "ghost". The sense of awareness having an origin is maybe a strange turn of phrase, another way of talking about identification with perception. I think of it the way when you see converging lines they mentally imply a point of convergence. Equally all these perceptions seem to converge on a point, me the perceiver. I didn't say this, but equally actions can seem to flow out from a point of me the actor. Neither of those points are findable. This doesn't feel like a view to me, but a way of trying to express what I find when I look at the selfing going on.

When there's no particular emotion at work, the way the "ghost" tends to give the feeling of being around is by thought patterns that tell the story of what's happening, and what will happen etc.
Again, it's believing and taking hold of the stories as about a me that causes the ghost.

When there's more constricted emotion around, that gives a stronger feeling of self. eg. in the London underground today, weaving through hoards of shoppers, feeling people getting in "my way"; so there's a sense of ownership...
= identification with the space around my body

judgement of others' actions, of irritation, all referenced to a sense of me who's being inconvenienced.
- yes, it's the belief in the thoughts and emotions as mine that cause the problems

The understanding of what's happening arises pretty quickly too, but doesn't completely eliminate some belief in the story, because of the "I've got a train to catch" story!
Now I feel into it, I can't find a difference between believing in a thought or identifying with it.

(The checking) feels like a kind of looking back into awareness accompanied by a subtle thought, which if it were verbalised would say something like "who's experiencing this?", "who's thinking this?", "who's doing this?" And that leads to a certain sort of looking. Of course it never finds anything, but establishes a different "frame" for experience. Sometimes it's less of an enquiry and and more of a remembering, that establishes the same frame. It has the feeling of deliberate action, although in the process that's seen as clearly just high level thinking believing in its originator.
Feels pretty direct to me. That's a way of looking for identification or letting go of identification.
Can a view, a thought, be trusted to reliably represent the truth?
Well, now you're getting all epistomological on me! I'd say a thought can on occasions reliably represent a conventional truth - eg right now I'm typing and sitting in a room in Cambridge. Direct experience in its fullness is ungraspable and cannot be represented without simplification into conventional concepts. Kinda depends what you mean by "truth". If you mean direct experience = truth then the answer is "no"; but I think truth comes in many flavours.

A bit of sense of dissatisfaction with some of those answers, but maybe this is just an iteration, and I might be clearer on where you're going on the next iteration.

All the best
Vajrapriya

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby dridhamati » Tue Dec 02, 2014 11:01 pm

Hi Vajrapriya,
Is there another, "fixed", self?
No! That's clear. There's nothing in experience that is or can be fixed, and that's observable empirically...
Great, we’ve eliminated that one (fixed self)! :-)

Now would it be correct to assume that the “unfixed self”, previously referred to as “the conventional designator for a body/mindstream”, points to that which ‘arises’ say when there is identification with experience, the ‘ghost’?

I am trying to get to the bottom of this “unfixed self”. So can we look at this first then we’ll come back to other excellent points in your post.

All the best
Dridhamati

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby unbearablelightness » Tue Dec 02, 2014 11:31 pm

Hi Dridhamati
Now would it be correct to assume that the “unfixed self”, previously referred to as “the conventional designator for a body/mindstream”, points to that which ‘arises’ say when there is identification with experience, the ‘ghost’?
That's not how I was using the term. I'm not sure I can find an unfixed self in direct experience. But I do know that there's something distinct about this mind / body as opposed to other mind / bodies, and that makes it helpful to bundle the related phenomena into the name "self" or "Vajrapriya". As a conventional truth, it's a concept, but, I think, a useful one.

Maybe it's the other way round: the "ghost" points to the unfixed self, or mistakes the unfixed self, and literalises and fixes it.

Cheers
Vajrapriya

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby dridhamati » Wed Dec 03, 2014 11:52 am

Hi Vajrapriya,

Hmm, again it was worth asking, as the answer opened up a few more questions.
I'm not sure I can find an unfixed self in direct experience.
Fixed or unfixed, can a self be found at all in direct experience?
But I do know that there's something distinct about this mind / body as opposed to other mind / bodies, and that makes it helpful to bundle the related phenomena into the name "self" or "Vajrapriya".
And what is it exactly, that can be observed in direct experience, that is distinct between mind/bodies?
As a conventional truth, it's a concept, but, I think, a useful one.
Ah, here is the clincher.

There are many relative truths.
Distinguishing between mind/bodies demands a set of relative truths: how that ‘other’ mind/body is referred to (through this mind/body’s set of senses) and how that ‘other’ mind/body refers back (through the other mind/body’s set of senses.)
Distinguishing between this mind/body and the ‘world out there’ demands a set of relative truths: how this mind/body identifies an object called ‘door’ which must be opened in order to exit a room for example.
And so on. All very useful relative truths.
Another relative truth is that we humans wouldn’t be so successful as a species if we hadn’t done such a magnificent job of establishing all these relative truths.

However do any of these relative truths represent reality (thusness, the way it is, etc.)? Are these relative truths the Final Words?

Now accepting the usefulness of relative truths, what happens to relative truths in the light of direct experience?

All the best
Dridhamati

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby unbearablelightness » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:45 pm

Hi Dridhamati

Fixed or unfixed, can a self be found at all in direct experience?
No, and for different reasons. The fixed self, like Batman (as Ilona is fond of saying), doesn't exist full-stop, because it doesn't have a referent. The unfixed self exists conventionally, ie it is a way of referring to a whole bundle of experiences that are consistent enough to make a meaningful cluster. It can't be found in direct experience in the same way that a door can't be found in direct experience. Unlike a door, there is something that can be
And what is it exactly, that can be observed in direct experience, that is distinct between mind/bodies?
I spent a lot of time typing and erasing this answer!

In direct experience, nothing, hands up guv, because other selves can't be found in direct experience in a similar way to this self Vajrapriya can't be found. In direct experience there is a seamless field of awareness. Some aspects of that field are sensations that, conventionally, I label as "other person". In direct experience there is an intuition that this category of "other person" is a significant and real distinction; ie there's an empathy that what are blobby shapes appearing in awareness, have feelings and thoughts etc like "me", and are centres of awareness like this one. There is no direct access to that knowledge; and, circularly, that lack of access to other fields of awareness is the distinction.
However do any of these relative truths represent reality (thusness, the way it is, etc.)? Are these relative truths the Final Words?
OK I'm going to be pernickety here, as I guess you will be in return!

Yes, relative truths represent (re-present) reality, and are a totally different category to the reality they re-present. That's the point of relative truths. To the extent to which they represent reality as accurately as is possible (or useful), they are the Final Words, because they are as close as words can get to reality. Which is not very.

Even saying "I thought of having a cup of tea" is a very poor representation of the experience of thinking "I'll have a cup of tea" with all it's affective qualities, nuances in the body, visual half-images, muscular urges etc.
what happens to relative truths in the light of direct experience?
I'm looking at a door as I type and tune into direct experience. Just that sentence seems a bit ludicrous as I do so, but will continue. Light, colour, tones. Even shapes are an interpretation. There's also the knowing of it being a door - not as a constant mental labelling, but a wordless understanding of how all those visual images relate and their potential. There's a background set of memories of how to interact with that image, what it feels like to touch. There's a kind of shimmering as those habitually interpreted images come alive, with a kind of mystery around them, their vividness, their nowness. But the relative truth of doorness doesn't disappear. It becomes more "transparent".

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby dridhamati » Wed Dec 03, 2014 7:25 pm

Hi Vajrapriya,
No, and for different reasons. The fixed self, like Batman (as Ilona is fond of saying), doesn't exist full-stop, because it doesn't have a referent.
Just to make sure we’re on the same wavelength, so to speak, what do you mean by ‘referent’?
The unfixed self exists conventionally, ie it is a way of referring to a whole bundle of experiences that are consistent enough to make a meaningful cluster. It can't be found in direct experience in the same way that a door can't be found in direct experience.
So the ‘unfixed self’ doesn’t exist as such, it’s a convenient label for ‘a whole bundle of experiences...Again checking we’re in sync.
Unlike a door, there is something that can be
??? Something missing here? :-)
In direct experience, nothing, hands up guv ... I label as "other person".
That’s the experience here too.
In direct experience there is an intuition ... is the distinction.
How much of that is subtle interpretation, inferences?
Isn’t all this drawing on ‘memories’ and ‘knowledge’ that a specific blobby shape (say a live mind/body) will have feelings, etc, as opposed to another blobby shape that won’t (say a dead mind/body.)
Yes, relative truths represent (re-present) reality, and are a totally different category to the reality they re-present. That's the point of relative truths. To the extent to which they represent reality as accurately as is possible (or useful), they are the Final Words, because they are as close as words can get to reality. Which is not very.
Hmmm, how about this:
1. Year 1000 CE, a relative truth: the Earth is at the centre of the universe, and the Sun orbits around the Earth.
2. Year 2000 CE, a relative truth: the Sun is at the centre of just an inconceivably small area of the universe and the Earth orbits around the Sun.
Which of these two relative truths re-presents reality?
No 2. is the commonly accepted one, currently, by the majority of mind/bodies and supported by the best thinkers. In a very similar way that No 1. was once commonly accepted and supported by the best thinkers of the time.
So ultimately, even within the limitations imposed by the words that define them, these relative truths don’t stack up: which contradictory one should be taken on board?
Examples abound of contradictory relative truths.
Wouldn’t the words ‘views’, or even ‘beliefs’ better describe these relative truths?
I'm looking at a door as I type ... Even shapes are an interpretation.
A revealing direct experience exercise at this point is to further remove these interpretations, or labels (light, colours, shapes, etc), in order to reach the one label that can’t be removed, the one without which communication ends.
And then revisit the question: “what happens to relative truths in the light of direct experience?”

All the best
Dridhamati

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby unbearablelightness » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:57 pm

Hi Dridhamati

I'll give a quick answer to the easy questions now cos I'm still playing with the others.
Just to make sure we’re on the same wavelength, so to speak, what do you mean by ‘referent’?
That which the word or phrase refers to. There is nothing to be found that the phrase "fixed self" refers to.
So the ‘unfixed self’ doesn’t exist as such, it’s a convenient label for ‘a whole bundle of experiences...’ Again checking we’re in sync.
If by "exist as such" you mean exist ultimately in some concrete way, then yes. Unlike the fixed self, the unfixed self does have referents: body parts, sensations, thoughts etc which have a kind of continuity and unity that can't be pinned down in any final sense.
??? Something missing here? :-)
yep, ran out of steam on that train!

Back tomorrow
VPx

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Re: Thread for unbearablelightness

Postby unbearablelightness » Fri Dec 05, 2014 11:20 pm

Hi Dridhamati
Been spending some time with these two:
How much of that is subtle interpretation, inferences?
Isn’t all this drawing on ‘memories’ and ‘knowledge’ that a specific blobby shape (say a live mind/body) will have feelings, etc, as opposed to another blobby shape that won’t (say a dead mind/body.)
then revisit the question: “what happens to relative truths in the light of direct experience?”
A similar answer seems to come to them both, and I'll need to refer to a Buddhist term for the sake of simplicity as we have that in common. Samjna doesn't seem to vanish in direct experience as I experience it. How do I experience it? Maybe it's a sense of familiarity, implicit understanding. While visual sensation and sound is present, there's an experience that I'd label samjna there too; if the visual or auditory sensation were completely unfamiliar there would be an different experience of confusion or curiosity, which is kind of the opposite to samjna. I could listen to a Chinese person speaking, and have exactly the same direct experience of sound and sight to a Chinese person, but the presence or absence of samjna would make a very different element of direct experience between them.

And yes, that understanding or familiarity is built on previous experience and memories. But it feels different to explicitly referring back to memories in the moment.

I know that doesn't tally with what's said about direct experience, so I'm curious how it opens up.
Wouldn’t the words ‘views’, or even ‘beliefs’ better describe these relative truths?
Yes, those are perfectly good alternatives words. I misunderstood your "Final Word" thing - yes I see what you mean. when you express it that way.

Thanks
Vajrapriya


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