I want to understand.

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Gardenia
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I want to understand.

Postby Gardenia » Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:31 am

LU is focused guiding for seeing there is no real, inherent 'self' - what do you understand by this?
That there is no controller governing how life unfolds. It is just a series of conditioned responses.

What are you looking for at LU?
A paradigm shift so I feel in my guts that there is no inherent self. I know lots of Dharma intellectually but I am not sure I have seen through the self. I am doubting what I have experienced. I am looking for intensity so that I am almost forced to really 'see' there is no inherent self. I hope I can have a good relationship with my guide.

What do you expect from a guided conversation?
I think I have already answered this- an intense exchange that makes me really get in touch with my direct experience without interpreting. I want to not rush things so that I take the time to contemplate my experience and not rush to give answers too soon as it won't go deep enough if I do.

What is your experience in terms of spiritual practices, seeking and inquiry?
I have been a member of Triratna Buddhist Order for 15 years and meditate daily. I went through a Direct Pointing process with a friend 2 years ago but I don't think it went deep enough. I saw that any separation between self and other is an illusion but am not sure if that meant I had seen through the self. I felt great for 2 weeks and felt I understood the Heart Sutra for the first time. But it then all faded and I went back to how I was before.

On a scale from 1 to 10, how willing are you to question any currently held beliefs about 'self?: 10

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Jack'n'theBox
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:58 am

Hello Gardenia, my name's Mark. What would you like me to call you?

So you've been through this process before? You say:

What are you looking for at LU?
A paradigm shift so I feel in my guts that there is no inherent self. I know lots of Dharma intellectually but I am not sure I have seen through the self. I am doubting what I have experienced.
Right. There is no self. "Self" is an idea, an image, an impostor -- just like "Santa". Can Santa have a feeling in his guts about his own non-existence?

What is it that "knows lots of Dharma?"

What is it that doubts experience?

Have a very close look at what comes up in relation to the above questions and let me know.
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Gardenia
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Gardenia » Thu Feb 23, 2017 3:11 pm

Hi Mark
Thanks for agreeing to guide me. I appreciate the time and energy you are offering and very grateful to you.

Just to clarify I didn't do the Direct Pointing process with LU.

I think I'd rather be called Gardenia. I love gardens and flowers so that came to mind.


I liked your question about Santa having a feeling in his guts and his own non existence! That does sound crazy I agree. I suppose I meant that I wanted to see through the illusion of self so deeply that it would encompass all of 'me'.

What knows the dharma is the mind sense, the 6 th sense, that interprets the info coming in through the other senses, the cognition I suppose, which is stored and surfaces as memories when thought about, as required. But I guess all I have just said is all just thoughts too which are fleeting.

What doubts is also just thoughts too which I can choose to believe or not. Doubt is also an unpleasant feeling but feelings are so ephemeral they cannot be a self.

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Jack'n'theBox
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Thu Feb 23, 2017 7:15 pm

Hello Gardenia, thanks for the above.

You say
What knows the dharma is the mind sense, the 6 th sense, that interprets the info coming in through the other senses, the cognition I suppose, which is stored and surfaces as memories when thought about, as required.
and then you say
But I guess all I have just said is all just thoughts too which are fleeting.
What you say first suggests that the mind sense is a kind of "boss sense" i.e. it does stuff -- it recognises and organises information from the other senses. Then you catch yourself and recognise that "Oh that explanation is just a bunch of thoughts"! That's great. What we will be doing here is checking in to see if it is *thought* that knows anything. Or put it another way, Can thought *do* anything?

So let's just check -- do you have any direct experience of a thing called the "mind sense" -- what is interpretation -- how does storing happen -- what are memories (i.e. are they different from any other kind of thought?)

These questions may help focus your inquiry:

1) Where do thoughts come from and where do they go to? Look very carefully. Is there an obvious cause or reason for their appearance or their sequence OR are they just appearing out of nowhere?

2) Can you predict the next thought that appears?

3) Observe thought closely. Try to determine what your next thought is going to be before it appears. Can you do this?

4) It seems that thought has some logical ordered appearance, but look carefully. Is there an organised sequence OR is that just another thought that says ‘these thoughts are in sequence’ and that ‘one thought follows another thought’?

5) Observe a thought. Did you do anything to make that thought appear. When a thought appears, are you ever given an option to avoid that thought or is every thought appearing spontaneously without anyone’s permission?

6) Where is the starting point and ending point of thoughts?

7) Is the 'I'-thought a special thought? For example, can it think other thoughts?

8) Is there a thinker of thoughts?
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Gardenia
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Gardenia » Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:29 pm

Hello Mark
Lots of questions!

No I cannot experience the mind sense, I only have thoughts.

Interpretation is just more thoughts.

I don't know how storing happens but I know memories arise of past events or conversations so they must have been stored somehow.

Memories are just thoughts too.

1) Thoughts don't come from a particular place but just appear then disappear. Sometimes thoughts are just random but they can be affected by what is going on in a situation ie they are conditioned by or dependent on the previous thought or action.

2) I cannot predict the next thought. If I try to I just get a big warm space opening up inside me!

3) No, as above.

4) It can seem like 'I' am thinking around a subject ie associative thinking, or even directed thinking. But the 'I' doesn't need to be there. Thoughts are just dependent as in (1).
I am not an obsessive person so I don't have a lot of prapunca but those thought trains are just thoughts conditioned by anxiety or fear etc. I wouldn't feel I was making those happen. I would more likely think my mind was in overdrive going a bit frantic and out of control.

5) No, thoughts are not under my conscious control. They appear without permission. I cannot avoid a thought appearing although I have heard of good meditators being able to notice one starting and somehow letting go of it so it doesn't come to fruition. But I can decide not to think about a subject now until I have the time to give it some consideration. But that would just be a thought too. If I do have a lot of thoughts about something eg if I am feeling hurt by someone, then I can by relaxing around the hurt or irritation lessen the thoughts appearing but that isn't being able to avoid a particular thought.

6) I notice that thoughts are happening. But sometimes I am aware that I have been thinking of something for quite a while and have only just noticed. I suppose I must have had my attention elsewhere for that time. Thoughts don't have clear beginnings or endings. They can be quite elusive too. Sometimes I cannot catch a thought clearly. I know I was thinking something briefly but it disappeared so quickly I can only subconsciously know there was something there that could have been important. As I get older I sometimes cannot think of the word I want to say or the name of something. It's like there is a blank there. It can take days for the word to appear!

7) The I- thought is not special and cannot think other thoughts. I don't see how one thought could think another thought.

8) Well I am obviously not in control of my thoughts, they just happen so no, there is no thinker of thoughts.

That was very interesting. Hope I haven't written too much.
Regards
Gardenia

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Jack'n'theBox
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:10 pm

Hello Gardenia, sorry for overloading you – but since you’ve been guided before you are on track and did really well looking at thoughts!

The trick to dealing with thoughts is just to look at them as another appearance in awareness – just like sights or sounds. Open your eyes and look around – shapes and colours just appear. Rest attention on the hearing faculty – sounds just happen – even in a very quiet room there is breathing and maybe a slight buzzing or humming noise. Allow attention to rest on the “mind sense” like we do in meditation and thoughts can be seen appearing and disappearing – like a bird that flits across the window. They aren't special kinds of arising -- as the Buddha would say "In the seen, just the seen . . . In the cognized just the cognized . . . "

Just a couple of points to look into:
I don't know how storing happens but I know memories arise of past events or conversations so they must have been stored somehow.
Right – can you see this is an inference (that happens in thought) not a direct experience? So can we put it aside for now? (We will look at "time" in a bit). Would it be true to say that in direct experience all we can say is “Some of the thoughts that appear say they reference a past event. We call these memories?”
Sometimes thoughts are just random but they can be affected by what is going on in a situation ie they are conditioned by or dependent on the previous thought or action.
Can you check – is this an inference or a direct experience? i.e. what is it that knows/says that “this thought” is conditioned by “that thought?”
I cannot predict the next thought. If I try to I just get a big warm space opening up inside me!
Right. This “warm space” – that’s a good sign! When some people begin to notice this lack of agency in thought the response is fear and the fear of letting go can be a problem. But the thing is, "you" never *were* in control – and relaxing into that understanding can be wonderful.

“Big warm space” is a nice way of putting what happens when the "I" is in abeyance. As we go through these exercises can you notice if this “big warm space” arises and passes away – i.e. is it an “event” triggered by something else or – is it always there? For example if you shift attention from the thoughts, i.e. “the mental objects” to the “space” in which they appear, what happens?

Good luck!
Mark
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Gardenia
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Gardenia » Sat Feb 25, 2017 7:45 pm

Hello Mark
Yes I can see that memories are just a thought about the past experienced in the present.

About thoughts being conditioned - all I seem to be able to say is that there can be several thoughts about the same subject where there is a connection between them and some difference. One thought stimulates another thought. One thing leads to another as they say. There is a response to a situation or a previous thought, either in the form of a thought, a feeling or a physical reaction. I can see that again no 'I' needs to be involved.

I haven't had much chance to notice the 'big warm space' today and I think that happens a lot. I just don't notice it. I notice it more if I am relaxed and open. But from past experience it is always there. it gets covered over with thoughts and busyness. I tend to be a head rather than a heart person. I am not always aware of how I feel. I can be task orientated and forget to gauge how things are affecting me or anyone else for that matter!

Regards
Gardenia

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Jack'n'theBox
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Sat Feb 25, 2017 8:02 pm

Hello Gardenia,
I tend to be a head rather than a heart person.
Right, that's useful to know.

Let's look at thought a little more closely:

Can there be more than one thought in awareness at a time (i.e. can you think two thoughts simultaneously?)

Is thought itself aware of anything?

Can thought think?
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Gardenia
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Gardenia » Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:28 am

Hello Mark
I have only just looked at your post and feel like replying straight away.

There can only be one thought at a time but they can come in quick succession. But there can be different emotions in awareness, if we are calling those thoughts as well. I have been trying to notice the shades of emotions in my experience sometimes and to actually name them otherwise sometimes I don't even notice I am feeling anything. I have to give it time for the emotions to present themselves.

I don't think thought is aware of anything and no thought cannot think.

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Jack'n'theBox
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:55 am

Great, thanks for this.

Let's look at what shows up in/as "experience".

If you sit quietly and relax -- simply allow whatever to arise to come and go -- what kinds of arisings appear?

You will probably notice thoughts (this can include mental images), sensations (the 5 "body" senses) and emotions or feelings.

Can you find anything else that appears that doesn't broadly fit into these three categories?
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Gardenia
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Gardenia » Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:43 am

Hi Mark
There are just thoughts. feelings, sights, sounds and tactile sensations. Hardly any smell or taste.
But that big warm space was there that I mentioned before. I wanted to call it awareness but I suppose it is just a bodily sensation.
Attention went to these experiences, that's how they were noticed. But it wasn't under my conscious control, it just happened. It's as if this body/mind is naturally aware.
In meditation this morning that warm heart space became vast and endless, expansive, alive, vibrant, inviting, loving and very satisfying, and everything else faded away. It seemed to encompass body and mind then be even bigger. The outline of my body was just a thought, I couldn't actually experience it.

I am enjoying this. Thanks.
Gardenia

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Jack'n'theBox
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:53 pm

Hello Gardenia.
There are just thoughts. feelings, sights, sounds and tactile sensations. Hardly any smell or taste.
OK great. So “experience” might at times feel extremely overwhelming but when we look closely all we find are the above. Once we have noticed these components the Buddha advised us to check and see if any of these elements could be a “self”.

So let’s go ahead and do this. As you sit quietly and observe what comes up, take a look:

Can a thought be a “self”?
Can a feeling be a “self”?
Can a sensation be a “self”?
Can all three in combination be a “self”?
Attention went to these experiences, that's how they were noticed. But it wasn't under my conscious control, it just happened.
Good to notice this.
It's as if this body/mind is naturally aware.
This suggests there are two things in experience: a body/mind that is aware and “objects” (sensations, feelings, thoughts) that are separate from the body/mind. Is this your actual experience? For instance, where is the dividing line between a sensation and the body/mind that thought says is aware of it?
In meditation this morning that warm heart space became vast and endless, expansive, alive, vibrant, inviting, loving and very satisfying, and everything else faded away. It seemed to encompass body and mind then be even bigger. The outline of my body was just a thought, I couldn't actually experience it.
Yes! “the body is just a thought, I couldn’t actually experience it”. Might this be true of the “self” also!?
xx
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Gardenia
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Gardenia » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:55 pm

Hi Mark

No a thought, a feeling or a sensation, or all three cannot be a self as they are impermanent. I have searched several times and cannot find a self in any of the shandhas/aggregates. But it feels like I am persuading myself of the self's non-existence.

You're right. I cannot experience a body/mind being aware. There is just experience of appearances. I do find that word 'appearances' odd but things do just appear, not that there any 'things' to appear.
Experience is just appearances or appearances are experience. So the notion that I am experiencing appearances is imposed on the situation. There is no need for an 'I' yet again.
I am feeling like there is no separation between this body/mind and appearances. It's like they are one and the same thing. Is there even an inside or an outside? No dividing line as you say. It feels like there is something really important here that I am not quite getting. I feel puzzled and intrigued.

I sort of know that the self is just a thought, but you'll ask me what is it that knows that, and that's just a thought too!

I was touched that you put kisses at the bottom of your post. Here's some back for you.
xx

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Jack'n'theBox
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Jack'n'theBox » Mon Feb 27, 2017 8:29 pm

Hello Gardenia,
But it feels like I am persuading myself of the self's non-existence.
Yes, this is the key point. The “I” can’t be “persuaded” of its own non-existence.

What you go on to say is very good. You are clearly “in the zone.”
I am feeling like there is no separation between this body/mind and appearances. It's like they are one and the same thing. Is there even an inside or an outside? No dividing line as you say. It feels like there is something really important here that I am not quite getting. I feel puzzled and intrigued.
Right. In meditation (particularly if you have ever accessed the formless dhyanas) we can have an experience of non-separation (this can also happen with certain drugs) – it is clear at the time that there is no separation (or, rather that the separation is imposed conceptually) – but it doesn’t stick, it’s not transformative.

But we aren’t looking for this “state” or trying to attain or be in a state. What we are trying to do is recognise an habitual pattern of interpretation – of filtering experience through a wrong view (atma-drsti or “self-view” in the Buddhist tradition). The Buddhist tradition sometimes talks of this as jneyavarana (obstruction by what is [mistakenly] known – i.e the self view).

It’s a bit like your whole life you have been wearing these “self-referential spectacles” which make everything about “you”. The thing is the spectacles are an add-on – they are not the natural or original way of seeing. Simply take the spectacles off and you don’t need to “do” anything else to see clearly. Indeed the faculty of seeing is always “just there” – it’s perfect as it is – it is the spectacles (the self-view) that gets in the way.

So “self” isn’t a thing that needs to be got rid of, it’s a way of looking at things that needs to be corrected.

Are you aware of the Buddha’s teaching to Bahiya? Bahiya met the Buddha when he was on his alms round and the Buddha originally asked him to come back later – but Bahiya said “Can’t you just give me a really quick summary of what you teach now?” And this is what the Buddha said:

"In the seen, there is only the seen,
in the heard, there is only the heard,
in the sensed, there is only the sensed,
in the cognized, there is only the cognized.
Thus you should see that
indeed there is no thing here;
this, Bahiya, is how you should train yourself.
Since, Bahiya, there is for you
in the seen, only the seen,
in the heard, only the heard,
in the sensed, only the sensed,
in the cognized, only the cognized,
and you see that there is no thing here,
you will therefore see that
indeed there is no thing there.
As you see that there is no thing there,
you will see that
'you' are therefore located neither in the world of this,
nor in the world of that,
nor in any place
betwixt the two.
This alone is the end of suffering.” (ud. 1.10)

Notice that the Buddha here isn’t saying that you need to do or transform or develop anything but simply notice what is actually here now. You can notice this anytime – just take the “self spectacles” off! There is no self and no object – just what’s happening now.

If I could leave you with a koan to look at, can you explore "Where is the boundary between 'me' and 'everything else'?"
People see it far away. What a pity! They are like a man who, standing in water, complains of thirst -- Hakuin

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Gardenia
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Re: I want to understand.

Postby Gardenia » Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:05 pm

Hi Mark
I haven't accessed any formless dhyanas or ever taken drugs. I have only ever accessed the first rupa dhyana, and that infrequently!

Yes I am familiar with the Bahiya teaching although I don't think I ever really understood all the 'here', 'there', 'therein', thereby, 'twixt the two' etc in different translations. I get it now though, there just doesn't need to be a self involved in his experience, just what is happening.

As to the koan - I couldn't find any boundary between me and everything else. 'Me' was superfluous. There is just experience. I can see that rationally but no great realisation as yet.

Gardenia


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