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Sunday, September 25, 2016

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Bill,

This is fascinating, and useful.

Just one admonition. I doubt it is enough to avoid psychedelic drugs and lead an otherwise balanced life.

It seems that people doing intensive meditation along Buddhist lines regularly need a competent teacher to overcome (without unnecessary harm) stages of fear, disgust, sensory overload, etc. Cf. www.buddhistgeeks.com/2011/09/bg-232-the-dark-night-project

In addition to that, I dare to say, they also may need yet something else. Say, certain philosophy or religion to prevent the Buddhist belief (all is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and devoid of self-nature) or maybe even the belief that classical logic isn't true.

As for the Scupoli post,

It is very interesting but I don't think Scupoli wants to say there what the self is or is not, in the sense of strict identity. He only wants what the self does or does not originate. In fact, what he says in the quoted passages is compatible with the self being identical to, say, the body.

V,

I guess I don't get the 'sensory overload' part. Isn't it more like sensory deprivation?

I have been practising meditation for some thirty-odd years now, and think BV's post is an excellent one, full of sound advice. As for this:

Will deep meditation and the experiences that result drive you to accepting Buddhist teaching according to which all is impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and devoid of self-nature (anatta)? I don't think so. Many Buddhists claim that these doctrine are verified in meditation. I would argue, however, that they bring their doctrines to their experiences and then illictly take the experiences as supporting the doctrines

It is worth remembering that the path recommended by the Buddha is much more than meditation. It might be that these doctrines (if such they be) are verified in meditation, but such verification would require the other aspects of the path (morality and wisdom) as necessary conditions. Meditation alone is a necessary but not sufficient condition, according to the canon.

Of course, one might practice all three aspects of the path, have experiences, and still take them as illicit verification. This is a potential pitfall that presumably imperils all spiritual searching.

Bill,

The link in my first comment clarifies that. Search there for "overload" and "truck". Sensory oversensitivity might be a better word.

Thanks for the comment, Whyaxye.

You are right to question whether the Buddhist doctrines, as I referred to them, are really doctrines. After all, the Tathagata is supposed to have no theories.

Long before Wittgenstein had a ladder, the Buddhists had a raft.

And you are right to point out that the other aspects of the path are necessary conditions.

And to be fair, I admit that Christian interpretations of meditation experiences are brought to the experiences and so cannot be taken as conclusively verified by the experiences.

Bill,

A tough one on ascesis. Would you say that, in general, all sexual activity is a hindrance? Even something worth dispensing with, in return for progress in meditation or other ways spiritual?

V,

Yes, to both questions.

All sexual activity is a hindrance to spiritual development. This is not to say that sexual abstinence is sufficient for such development; nor is to say that that sexual abstinence is necessary for such development: there is such a thing as grace.

I take it that a key difference between Buddhism and Christianity is that the former is a 'self-help' religion, a religion of 'own power' whereas Christianity insists on the need for divine grace and 'other power' in addition to one's own efforts.

Perhaps we can say that the Protestant mistake is to think that God does all the work and that we only need faith.

But why should sexual activity be a hindrance? Because it drags us into the body and enslaves us to bodily pleasures in such a way that things of the spirit appear unreal.

This is why priests and monks take vows of chastity.

Ratzinger fully understood that Platonism is essential to Christianity.

Bill (and Whyaxye),

I want to ask, which meditation techniques do you practice? Or rather, do they include some specifically Buddhist ones? Even vipassana/insight practice?

Some Buddhists told me that doing vipassana seriously always tends one towards Buddhist belifes. I wonder if you agree. Or if you think that vipassana practice as such is not exerting that tendency and that the tendency is rather exerted by the combination of the practice with certain doctrines brought into the practice.

E.g., yesterday I read (in a Buddhist manual by Daniel Ingram) that when practising vipassana -- in a way that increases the speed, precision, consistency and inclusiveness of our experience of all the quick little sensations that make up our sensory experience -- "it just happens to be much more useful to assume that things are only there when you experience them and not there when you don’t. Thus, the gold standard for reality when doing insight practices is the sensations that make up your reality in that instant. ... Knowing this directly leads to freedom."

Will the vipassana practice tend me to believe that "useful" assumption, so useful for becoming to believe the Buddhist doctrines? Also, can I make any serious progress in that practice without making that assumption?

>> the former is a 'self-help' religion <<

That’s right. And the former turns out to be a religion according to which there is no self to help, and no self to do the helping!

>> the Protestant mistake is to think that God does all the work and that we only need faith. <<

Dallas Willard noted the distinction between effort and earning. He wrote that (Christian) grace is not opposed to (human) effort. Rather, grace is opposed to (human) earning.

“The path of spiritual growth in the riches of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude. You have never seen people more active than those who have been set on fire by the grace of God.”

http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=5

Bill,

May I ask again? Do you practise anything like vipassana? If so, have it tempted you to embrace the Buddhist doctrines of anicca, dukkha or anatta?

V,

I am working on a separate post as we speak. These are topics that interest me greatly. Thanks for asking about them.

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