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Lise
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PostSubject: Other voices   Sun Mar 18, 2012 12:12 pm

I have some comments that don't really fit under "Deifying the still small voice within" topic, so I thought a new thread would be good.

Years ago I had an experience of hearing "a voice" that I believe, in looking back, was not the intuitive expression of my own Buddha nature, nor a faceless, impersonal manifestation of the "Cosmic Buddha" or the "Eternal". I hadn't heard of Buddhism back then so I couldn't have applied that framework to try to understand, but even if I had, those concepts don't capture what I perceived and felt. I believe that I was contacted by a being who came to help me during a very dark period of emotional distress. I was in deep despair and sadness, feeling trapped in a situation I couldn't escape or see a way to change; couldn't talk to anyone about it; it was intolerable. And one night when I was in the midst of this pain, someone else was there. It wasn't visual. I felt a female presence and heard, in my mind, a woman's voice speaking the words "be at peace", several times over. I didn't hear with my ears; I heard her with my soul. (I don't follow Zen so it's ok for me to have one.) I remember the sound of her voice, the low soft tone and the way the words were spoken, and the feeling of being enfolded. What stays with me so strongly is the memory of her tangible presence, coupled with a purpose; I knew she had come to help me and wanted to give comfort.

Eventually I got past the dark time and began to get a grip again. And it's been with me since, the certainty that we are not alone here; that we coexist with other planes/realms whose entities may take an interest in our well-being from time to time. I don't try to label my experience as "God" talking to me, or "the Holy Virgin", or "Kanzeon" or "Chenrezig"; that adds nothing to what I already know. It's enough for me to have received that help and to remember it, and to let it keep helping me. And I kind of think we do go on after death, and if so I hope to find my helper some day and thank her face-to-face - or maybe that's heart/mind to heart/mind -

I know some won't find my experience believable, which is all right; I'm not talking about this to try to persuade anyone or seek public validation. And I don't mind if someone offers de-bunking explanations; that's the nature of forum discussions. I just wanted to share these thoughts because I felt the time was right.


Last edited by Lise on Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:44 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo)
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Sun Mar 18, 2012 1:36 pm

Hey lise

I'm not sure if I know anyone who has not experienced some version of what you speak of.

The fact that every diverse faith seems to experience this dressed up to suit there own particular cultural framework, makes me think just how subjective our very consciousness really is.

Either there is a plethora of beings that are ethereal by our standards and sometimes respond to our needs in ways that are the most palatable to us

OR

within a seemingless unlimited consciousness, each individuals self made barrier of separateness occasionally slips enough to experience something of a wider truth.

My similar experiences have always been of a most science fictioned nature which of course happens to be the form I find the most believable.

It makes me wonder if the very structure of human intellect that we treasure as the earnings of human evolution are the same structures that now mostly limit our experience of that wider truth.



PS. I think Zen only frowns on the concept of a soul because of how commonly it's seen hopefully as an individually eternal identity. I suspect mine's just a rental.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:26 pm

Howard wrote:
. . .

The fact that every diverse faith seems to experience this dressed up to suit there own particular cultural framework, makes me think just how subjective our very consciousness really is.

Either there is a plethora of beings that are ethereal by our standards and sometimes respond to our needs in ways that are the most palatable to us

OR

within a seemingless unlimited consciousness, each individuals self made barrier of separateness occasionally slips enough to experience something of a wider truth.

Howard, I think both can be true; I don't see anything about one possibility that precludes the other.

I agree intellect can limit our experience of the wider truth. If this had happened to me when I was older and more jaded, or had branded myself with a rigid ideology that says "I follow the ________ tradition and we don't believe in that", I probably would have rejected all awareness of the event and have no memories of it now. It happened when I was still young enough to let something into my mind without naming/labeling it instantaneously, and then checking to see if it falls into the approved categories of "Things I Agree With". Intellect helps us, but it's a terrible gatekeeper too, isn't it; so much is shut out and rejected as "not possible".

In the very early days of exploring Buddhism I tried to talk about this once or twice, with a sangha friend or someone at a retreat who wanted to share spiritual experiences. I soon stopped talking about it because it just didn't fit with the particular Buddhist doctrines that others already held dear, or were learning to pledge allegiance to. I never got as far as pledging myself to any ideology to the exclusion of others, though; because of that I have yet to experience any dissonance between my experience of that "other voice" and the validity of what Shakyamuni taught.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:06 pm

The step from having an awareness of a wider reality, to believing that each of us will continue on after death as something individually identifiable, escapes me.

If every being that ever was, continues on as an individual entity then just imagine how crowded the next state must be. I don't know if we could have a number for all the beings that ever were. The inability to ever end an existence seems such an unloving factor for a higher plane. Every meal I ever consumed or the billions of mosquitoes from my trucks windshield alone, or even Henry could eventually be waiting for me just beyond deaths door.

Yes, I think a sincere meditative path is the fluid experience of ever widening possibilities. I view the 2500 years of shakumunis editings as useful spiritual advertising but I still keep my cash with my my zafu. A pledge is just a idea to give something some momentum. I prefer to leave each moment to its own possibility.

I liked your " I think both can be true; I don't see anything about one possibility that precludes the other".


H
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:18 pm

Lise, thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts. It certainly resonates as true in my perception.

I don't think there is any dissonance between your experience and Buddhist teaching.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:56 pm

I remember at a retreat in throssel Hole, many years ago, several people
reported seeing the ghost of a man going upstairs to the then zendo.

Upon reaching the zendo, the man was nowhere to be found. It was one of
those seshins with R M Jiyu present.
When everyone had gone home, Jiyu and all the monks slept in the main house.
The remaining few lay people were also given the privilege of sleeping in the
house as opposed to the zendo. I was the only person told specifically to
sleep in the zendo on my own. I was in a rather `open` state at the time and
assumed that I was used as the `test guinea pig`. Can`t say I was particularly pleased.


However, due to earlier difficult and traumatic experiences, I had mastered the
art of falling asleep instantly....even should I be lying on barbed wire with
bombs going off overhead.

That night I slept wonderfully and felt totally refreshed in the morning.
No ghosts had come to bother me.

Sure enough, some of the monks approached me to ask how I slept. When I
said `why`, the answers were ..`oh, nothing, nothing !`
The following night I was allowed to sleep in the house. Got my own back with
a good dose of loud snoring.

Perhaps Mark might recall the `ghost` incidents ?

Stan.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:09 pm

Hi Lise,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I know exactly what you're talking about.

~mokuan
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Sun Mar 18, 2012 10:14 pm

Lise how can an experience possibly be dissonant. An experience is just that an experience, obviously true as experience. The problems if any come afterwards with our reification of the experience. It was what it was, and seems to have been helpful at the time. As with any 'good' experience, be thankful but don't get bound up in it.

Stan I don't remember the incident, but over forty years memory is very selective, and more and more is expunged every year.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:04 pm

Mark - I agree. I meant dissonant in the sense of how some devout Zen folks would react if I shared the story. They bristled at hearing me say that I really did think I was contacted by a being; their view, as they described it, is that there ARE no distinct entities or beings with particular gender or personality, no afterlife state where these creatures go wandering round, responding to stray human cries for help . . . if they granted that my experience could be something other than overwrought hysteria, then it might mean something they believed may not be the only explanation or truth. That seemed to tick them off more than anything else. Which wasn't what I meant to do. I'm generally a private person and try not to inflict my personal stuff on others. I was asked a question and answered it, and got snarkiness in return

Mokuan - thanks. I think there must quite a few of us who have bumped into something similar.

Howard - I don't take any step at all between the "awareness of a wider reality, to believing that
each of us will continue on after death as something individually
identifiable, escapes me." One doesn't logically follow or posit the other in any way.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:53 am

Lise wrote:
Mark - I agree. I meant dissonant in the sense of how some devout Zen folks would react if I shared the story. They bristled at hearing me say that I really did think I was contacted by a being; their view, as they described it, is that there ARE no distinct entities or beings with particular gender or personality, no afterlife state where these creatures go wandering round, responding to stray human cries for help . . . if they granted that my experience could be something other than overwrought hysteria, then it might mean something they believed may not be the only explanation or truth. That seemed to tick them off more than anything else. Which wasn't what I meant to do. I'm generally a private person and try not to inflict my personal stuff on others. I was asked a question and answered it, and got snarkiness in return

I think a problem that many of us have had to struggle with is not allowing our past negative experiences with organized religion to limit what we experience now. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church which I came to despise at an early age and to this day I believe the world might be a better place if it were disbanded. But strangely enough Zen practice has made it possible for me to appreciate the teachings of Christianity in a personal way not associated with my previous organizational programming. When we reject notions of a personal God, of helping spirits (angels?) and other lore that is not normally considered "Zen" is that based on knowledge or a reaction against our previous experiences of repression? It is our nature to understand things in terms of opposites; God/no God, eternal/finite, afterlife/extinction, etc, but the truth is beyond this. It will not be limited by our personal beliefs of what is or is not possible. The closest we can get is to do zazen and allow everything.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 20, 2012 12:44 pm

@Lise

A plainly helpful and healing experience such as yours should be validated by yourself and others. Speaking personally and as a trained spiritual director of many years experience, your experience as described is resonant with what a large number of human beings have experienced and continue to experience every day. As Shakespeare said in one of his characters "There are more things on heaven and on earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of of in your philosophy." Anytime we try to squeeze the reality of the life of the spirit into some "ism" it goes wrong. It's become an ideology rather than a spiritual paradigm. And every healthy paradigm must be an open system, open to new experience, new learning, and open to being replaced with a more expansive paradigm. The paradigm I've found helpful is the Communion paradigm, and it doesn't allow for the imposition of "isms."
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:13 pm

Well Lise the kind of certainty that they displayed is the enemy of truth. Many people are drawn to it because of their insecurities and they crave the certainty that dogmatism provides. But often it just leads to intolerance and in extremis the burning of heretics and Jamestown. Don't let them trouble you but try and find in your heart compassion for them, they were trying to do what they thought was right.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:21 pm

Yes, they are.

I appreciate everyone's comments. I was a little nervous about posting something personal, but I might do it again.

Adherence to dogma, and the imposition of "isms" as Bill says, are a mystery to me. I must have been born with that part of my brain turned off, for it has no power to draw me, never has. And I found the religion of my nuclear family to be harsh and frightening, which probably does echo even now as Isan talks about.

Sometimes I wonder though, if I will ever have "faith and trust" in something and would I even want to - hmm.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:23 pm

Lise wrote:


Sometimes I wonder though, if I will ever have "faith and trust" in something and would I even want to - hmm.

Thanks for your personal sharing, Lise. I think you have defined very well here the spiritual quest. For me the important question was eventually narrowed to "is there something within me, some 'isness' within my own being that is utterly trustworthy?" That question became even more important, even critical to me, after my trust in external religious authorities had been terribly, traumatically betrayed. That helped me be liberated from the "isms" and focus on the real question for me, "what is the truth within I can trust and follow"? That approach has been validated all along the way by others who have followed the same approach. One of the teachers I found resonance with in my journey defined meditation as "returning to the center of one's own being, and finding there the gateway to the Center of All." And for me my meditation practice has essentially been about trust in the deep heart within me.

I'm of a generation who came of age listening to Firesign Theatre recordings. Anyone out there old enough to remember those days? I remember one of their recordings was a devastating satire on institutional religion. In the recording one of the characters, emulating a radio commercial says, "Dad, where can I get a good deal in a Christian atmosphere?" I found the whole routine hilarious, but especially that one, because it was so revelatory and accurate in how superficial our culture addresses the vital issue of the spiritual search. At some level it also reminded me of my longing to find "something" trustworthy that is real, and not a consumer choice of something external. I'm glad I followed that longing. (I believe 'longing' here probably translates into Dogen-eze as 'the mind that seeks the way.') I believe that giving myself to the practice of zazen was pivotal in following that longing, and learning to discipline myself to the practice at a young age. For that much I am eternally grateful to Shasta Abbey and in particular to Doug (Daizui) MacPhillamay and others for support in establishing that foundation.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:13 am

Isan wrote:
I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church which I came to despise at an early age and to this day I believe the world might be a better place if it were disbanded.

Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water though. I love annoying neo-pagans I meet by telling them that the Catholic Church is the best living museum of European pre-christian poly-theistic paganism we have.

The cults of the saints
The holy wells and springs.
The goddess-Mother Mary (in fact, as a kid, I remember Mother Mary being emphasized more than Jesus or even God)
Etc

The papacy, however, that last taxation finger that the crumbled Roman Empire kept hooked around Europe, can get swallowed up by Mount Vesuvius.


Concerning far out stuff: Love it!! But If we incline toward thinking that the experiences are suggestive of external, independent beings (which I'm on the fence about), then don't we have to accept that Amalia MAY have been "occupied" by a hungry ghost?


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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:55 am

glorfindel wrote:
Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water though. I love annoying neo-pagans I meet by telling them that the Catholic Church is the best living museum of European pre-christian poly-theistic paganism we have.

The papacy, however, that last taxation finger that the crumbled Roman Empire kept hooked around Europe, can get swallowed up by Mount Vesuvius.

Yes, the RCC may like to believe otherwise, but a great deal of pre-Christian belief had to be absorbed as part of bringing the masses on board. They've put a coat of paint over it, but that's all. As to the papacy/Vatican, the continued existence of that travesty shows the extent to which people are still held in fear from the dark ages when life depended on kowtowing to the likes of them. Man, could I go on about that, but this is already off topic.


glorfindel wrote:
Concerning far out stuff: Love it!! But If we incline toward thinking that the experiences are suggestive of external, independent beings (which I'm on the fence about), then don't we have to accept that Amalia MAY have been "occupied" by a hungry ghost?

Inside/outside is just another duality. Regarding experiences being suggestive of external, independent beings we first have to ask if we are in fact separate, independent beings. That belief is taken for granted, but it doesn't hold up in the face of transcendent experience. What would quantum mechanics say? (queue Kozan) Regarding the koan of Amalia and the Hungry Ghost I'd say the question of the independence of such phenomena is less important than the power it can wield over one's psyche and the need to figure out how to relate to it.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:34 am

The last couple of posts here make me long for the days when we could note the posts we liked. It was great when a post connected with you but seemed complete enough to not need anything more than a "Yeah".

It was canned partly for it's anonymity and partly for the idiocy of an accumulating points system but I notice other chat sites have a bar below the post that allows members to tag a post to say " Thanks! Howard found that post helpful". I don't think they bother with a negative version of it.

??????
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:53 pm

In regard to the above posts regarding separateness/non separateness, interrelatedness of phenomenon,Isan wonders what Kozan would say about quantum mechanics, I couldn't help but be reminded of what I thought was a great teaching tool and apparently had been a favorite of RMJK, the lava lamp, which was revived for a while where I had trained when it re emerged after a long absence.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:45 pm

hmm, lava lamps, and maybe we join and split off repeatedly from a larger whole . . . I wonder if my head can wrap around that idea of entities perhaps not being separate and individual . . . OW, maybe not. I'll try again later .. .

Since I started this thread I can confirm that off-topics and asides are welcome

On hungry ghost "possession" -- I've corresponded over the last 2+ years with former SA monks (not Amalia) whose comments lead me to think this:

Some OBC seniors may label someone as a hungry ghost as a last-resort manipulative device to try to publicly shame a monk into stopping whatever behaviour, mindset, etc., that the others don't like, and can't otherwise get the person to conceal or change. To be told that one is acting like a hungry ghost, or responding to "hungry ghost karma" is the equivalent of being cast as the lowest and most deplorable object of pity, someone who is as far from Enlightenment as he/she can get, through their own stubborness and willfulness. Reportedly, this also comes with being chastised for "clinging to selfish views" and being "full of self", both known Abbey-speak for "you aren't doing or thinking what we have told you is good to do, and think".

I'm not sure if this applied to what happened with Amalia, but apparently it's not uncommon for OBC monks to be told they are "obsessed" by hungry ghost karma of some type or other. It may be a pretty effective tool of the monastic trade, for keeping people in line.

I have always been like this Suspect about hungry ghosts. I can't say I've ever heard religious persons (OBC or otherwise) express a coherent statement of what this actually means. Is it a dead person's unquiet spirit or unhappy remnant? A left-over karmic jangle? Nobody seems to agree.


Last edited by Lise on Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:21 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : unnecessary snarkiness)
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:41 pm

Isan wrote:

Inside/outside is just another duality. Regarding experiences being suggestive of external, independent beings we first have to ask if we are in fact separate, independent beings. That belief is taken for granted, but it doesn't hold up in the face of transcendent experience. What would quantum mechanics say? (queue Kozan) Regarding the koan of Amalia and the Hungry Ghost I'd say the question of the independence of such phenomena is less important than the power it can wield over one's psyche and the need to figure out how to relate to it.

Lise wrote:

I have always been like this Suspect about hungry ghosts. I can't say I've ever heard religious persons (OBC or otherwise) express a coherent statement of what this actually means. Is it a dead person's unquiet spirit or unhappy remnant? A left-over karmic jangle? Nobody seems to agree, much less tie together three sentences about it that makes sense.

Lise, I have many of the same reactions that you've expressed about "hungry ghosts"! My current conclusion is that when one person alleges that another is behaving like a "hungry ghost" in some way (as opposed to simply expressing unmet needs or wants), what they are probably doing is projecting some aspect of their own denied and suppressed shadow onto another person or thing.

RMJK more actively introduced the concept, and alleged the presence, of hungry ghosts during her HTGLB period, a time during which, I believe, she was getting glimpses of her own unhealed fear and trauma, and ended up largely repressing them to the point that they became part of her own shadow. As we now understand more clearly, when this kind of suppression occurs, its content is perceived through a process of "projection" onto someone or something external to one's own physical body and mind.

I think that Eko and Koshin may have both continued this same dynamic of denying those aspects of themselves that were not sufficiently "spiritual", rather than accepting, making friends with, and healing.

Amalia's account provided clear evidence (IMO) that she was doing the best she could, to follow the teaching that she was being given, to, in effect, suppress and cut off those aspects of herself that were not in accord with Koshin's party line. Fortunately, some aspect of Amalia's psyche would not go along with the program. Koshin's explanation (apparently) was that she must have been taken over by a hungry ghost.

I am inclined to believe that "hungry ghosts", "demons", and malevolent "spirits", in general, are forms of perception that arise from suppressed aspects of the psyche. And that this phenomena is quite different from the experience of the benevolent being that you have reported, Lise. Of course, your experience has raised the question of how it might be possible to experience another being in the way that you describe.

So, here is my shot at suggesting what might be the nature of an answer (and yes, Isan was right, I will draw on physics ;-):

Buddhism and many, if not all, of the other mystical traditions seem to have reached a high level of consensus that the source of existence is unborn, undying, unbounded, nondual, empty awareness--which differentiates itself and unfolds as bounded, ever changing, physical existence. Many physicists increasingly hypothesize that the whole of physical existence consists, not of fundamentally existent "things", or even "particles", but of "fields"; and that these fields are not simply "local" but universe-wide: the gravitational field, the electomagnetic field, the quantum field, the Higgs field, and an "information field" to mention a few. The fields themselves cannot be perceived, only their effects. Einstein spent the last years of his life searching for a Unified Field Theory, and many continue the quest today.

The concept of an information field is so similar to the traditional Buddhist concept of the Akashic Record that it has been referred to as the Akashic Field. The Universe, as a Field of fields, is also stikingly similar, I think, to the Jeweled Net of Indra: existence arising as a synergetically integrated whole, in which every facet reflects and is reflected by, supports and is supported by, every other.

Another idea gaining traction with some scientists, is that mind itself is, ultimately, the manifestation of field phenomena, in which the brain functions as a kind of "receiver" for, and "interface" with, the body.

So, to summarize the framework: the ocean of empty awareness (prior to existence itself), gives rise to the manifested ocean of existence, as a field-spectrum ranging from consciousness, to mind, to however many still not physically existent intermediate fields there might be, to the fields that give rise to space-time-energy-mass, which in turn provides the basis by which physical life takes form and evolves.

The essence of our own being, I would propose, is awareness itself. Awareness is born into existence as a mind-body, and then necessarily develops a sense of being a functionally separate self, in order to survive and function as a separate living organism. So long as awareness identifies with mind and body, awareness can relax back into the all-is-one of Awareness itself. At this point, I think, we can also become aware of other "beings" within the fields that we share with all beings. I think that this becomes less possible, or virtually impossible, at the point at which awareness begins to identify not simply with our particular mind-body, but as (nothing but) our particular mind-body. I think (again as a general, brief summary) that this tends to result when we encounter the existential dilemma of change, loss, threat, and fear, and conclude that the existential dilemma must be overcome through an adversarial struggle against other people, ourselves, or existence itself, for survival, success, and salvation. This conclusion is the result of our collective, unconscious, culture conditioning. This misunderstanding is often passed on, and learned, through an experience of trauma. When we act from the belief, however unconscious, that life requires an adversarial struggle, we create adversity. This belief divides awareness from the whole of existence; and awareness becomes alienated from itself.

Now that this comment is already way too long (but since I have already come this far), I will use these thoughts to again assert my conviction that spiritual practice should have nothing to do with the concept of trying to overcome, or subjugate, or get rid of the "separate self" (which is simply a functional construct). Instead, spiritual practice is, appropriately, the process of becoming aware of, embracing, letting go, and thereby healing, the causal dynamics of misunderstanding and trauma that led awareness to identify exclusively as a mind-body-separate self to begin with, so that awareness can find its way home (to where we always are).

Anyway, just a few thoughts, as part of the ongoing development of a hypothesis.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:48 pm

Lise--In regard to your first post, you may find the following excerpt from one of Joseph Campbell's lectures of the late 60's / early 70's period to be of interest. I'm guessing that the parallels to your experience will be obvious. There's also one obvious difference here with Siddhartha's enlightenment story, namely, that in these cases severe suffering is what brings about the transformational and life-fructifying experience. So, I take it, it was for you.

FWIW, I think y'all (the eskimos in the story below and you) are encountering a deep thing within your own psyches that is occluded by normal daily experience, and much like "non-self" is not an external entity at all. But I freely concede that I could be wrong, and in any case (exactly like kenshos or other experiences of "non-self"), it certainly ought not to invalidate the meaning of the experience (imnsho*) if it turned out that the helping spirit was part of you all along.

Anyway, this is from the book Myths to Live By, which I believe is still in print:

*************************************

Now let me describe to you the case of an Eskimo shaman who was interviewed in the early 1920s by the great Danish scholar and explorer Knud Rasmussen. Rasmussen was a man of the broadest human sympathy and understanding, who was able to talk in a marvelous way, man to man, with the characters he encountered all the way across the Arctic lands of North America in the course of the Fifth Danish Thule Expedition, which from 1921 to 1924 trekked the whole long stretch from Greenland to Alaska.

Igjugarjuk was a Caribou Eskimo shaman of a tribe inhabiting the North Canadian tundras. When young, he had been visited constantly by dreams that he could not interpret. Strange unknown beings came and spoke to him; and when he woke he remembered all so vividly that he could describe to his friends and family exactly what he had seen. The family, disturbed, but knowing what was happening, sent for an old shaman named Peqanaoq, who, on diagnosing the case, placed the youngster on a sledge just large enough for him to sit on, and in the depth of winter—the absolutely dark and freezing Arctic winter night—dragged him far out onto a lonely Arctic waste and built for him there a tiny snow hut with barely room for him to sit cross-legged. He was not allowed to set foot on the snow, but was lifted from the sledge into the hut and there set down on a piece of skin just large enough to contain him. No food or drink was left with him. He was instructed to think only of the Great Spirit, who would presently appear, and was left there alone for thirty days. After five days the elder returned with a drink of lukewarm water, and after another fifteen, with a second drink and with a bit of meat. But that was all. The cold and the fasting were so severe that, as Igjugarjuk told Rasmussen, “sometimes I died a little.” And during all that time he was thinking, thinking, thinking, of the Great Spirit, until, toward the end of the ordeal, a helping spirit did in fact arrive in the form of a woman who seemed to hover in the air above him. He never saw her again, but she became his helping spirit. The elder shaman then brought him home, where he was required to diet and fast for another five months; and, as he told his Danish guest, such fast, often repeated, are the best means of attaining to a knowledge of hidden things. “The only true wisdom,” Igjugarjuk said, “lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and can be reached only through suffering. Privation and suffering alone open the mind of a man to all that is hidden to others.”

Another powerful shaman, whom Dr. Rasmussen met in Nome, Alaska, told him of a similar venture into the slience. But this old fellow, Najagneq by name, had fallen upon bad times in relation to the people of his village. For shamans, you must know, live in a rather perilous position. When things anywhere go wrong, people tend to blame the local shaman. They imagine he is working magic. And this old man, to protect himself, had invented a number of trick devices and mythological spooks to frighten his neighbors off and keep them safely at bay.

Dr. Rasmussen, recognizing that most of Najagneq’s spirits were outright frauds of this kind, one day asked him if there were any in whom he himself believed: to which he replied, “Yes, a power that we call Sila, one that cannot be explained in so many words: a very strong spirit, the upholder of the universe, of the weather, in fact of all life on earth—so mighty that his speech to man comes not through ordinary words, but through storms, snowfall, rain showers, the tempests of the sea, all the forces that man fears, or through sunshine, calm seas, or small, innocent, playing children who understand nothing. When times are good, Sila has nothing to say to mankind. He has disappeared into his infinite nothingness and remains away as long as people do not abuse life but have respect for their daily food. No one has ever seen Sila. His place of sojourn is so mysterious that he is with us and infinitely far away at the same time.”

And what does Sila say?

“The inhabitant or soul of the universe,” Najagneq said, “is never seen: its voice alone is heard. All we know is that it has a gentle voice, like a woman, a voice so fine and gentle that even children cannot become afraid. And what it says is: Sila ersinarsinivdluge, ‘Be not afraid of the universe.’”

Now these were very simple men—at least in our terms of culture learning, and civilization. Yet their wisdom, drawn from their own most inward depths, corresponds in essence to what we have heard and learned from the most respected mystics. There is a deep and general human wisdom here, of which we do not often come to know in our usual ways of active rational thinking.

*************************************

*imnsho = in my not-so-humble opinion

Note: People seem to love the series "The Power of Myth" that Joseph Campbell did with Bill Moyers. But for my money, the best popular accounts he ever gave of his scholarly work were in the Cooper Union lectures that were compiled into the book Myths to Live By, which again was the source of the above excerpt.


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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:53 pm

Lise wrote:
I have always been like this Suspect about hungry ghosts. I can't say I've ever heard religious persons (OBC or otherwise) express a coherent statement of what this actually means. Is it a dead person's unquiet spirit or unhappy remnant? A left-over karmic jangle? Nobody seems to agree.

If you look up Hungry Ghosts in wikipedia you will see that there are a number of possible meanings depending on country and historical period. During my time at Shasta Abbey we performed the ceremony of Segaki during which there is a symbolic "feeding of the hungry ghosts". Before the ceremony everyone who wished to had names of the departed added to a list and the ceremony was performed for their benefit. The idea was to transfer merit to them. No judgments were made as to the status of the departed. It was an unconditional offering.

In more general terms "hungry ghost" was meant to indicate a state of mind where someone had difficulty accepting what they needed to learn or do in order to make progress. While there was no shortage of manipulation and coercion while I was at SA I don't remember anyone literally be called a hungry ghost and there was no notion of anyone literally being possessed as is indicated in the Amalia story. Of course I can't say how this may have changed after I left in 1984.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:40 pm

Aaaaand I think Kozan is completely mistaken with his universal "awareness", whether the first "A" gets capitalized or not.


There simply doesn't need to be anything antecedent to our universe in order for it to be, or rather, no real reason to expect that there is anything going on there in the background other than completely impersonal and UNaware gravitation and nuclear forces. The physicist Lawrence Krauss has a recent book in which he describes why he thinks that the universe was spawned from exactly nothing (and it's called A Universe From Nothing).

And there's no evidence whatsoever that our own awareness isn't just the pinging of electrons through our brain's synapses.

...Does it really detract from numinous experience to suggest that there's nothing supernatural about it? Why? It's still exactly as good and meaningful, and even if you are only a physical self and there is no Awareness to melt back into at death, you are still not separate from every other thing in the universe which is made of the same essential stuff being acted upon by the same physical rules as all the parts of "you" and your life.

Numinous, ineffable experience is wonderful, and while it's a rare or hard state to achieve routinely (e.g., by solving the koan of daily life), it does NOT follow that it points to some supernatural realm, or being, or state either underlying (antecedent to) or beyond this life.


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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:12 am

Quote :
So, to summarize the framework: the ocean of
empty awareness (prior to existence itself), gives rise to the
manifested ocean of existence, as a field-spectrum ranging from
consciousness, to mind, to however many still not physically existent
intermediate fields there might be, to the fields that give rise to
space-time-energy-mass, which in turn provides the basis by which
physical life takes form and evolves.

Only quoting part of it, but I appreciate all of it. Many things tied together here, and described in a way that even simple folk (moi) can grasp. Many thanks, Steve.

Quote :
Amalia's account provided clear evidence (IMO)
that she was doing the best she could, to follow the teaching that she
was being given, to, in effect, suppress and cut off those aspects of
herself that were not in accord with Koshin's party line. Fortunately,
some aspect of Amalia's psyche would not go along with the program.
Koshin's explanation (apparently) was that she must have been taken over
by a hungry ghost.


Those poor little blighters get blamed for a lot, don't they. All it is, is common sense and self-respect waking up -


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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:21 am

Why call it "awareness"? Why not call it God? Or the square root of pi (or whatever physical constant seems to be the underlying root of the rest)?
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:36 am

Dan wrote (in blue):

Aaaaand I think Kozan is completely mistaken with his universal "awareness", whether the first "A" gets capitalized or not.

There simply doesn't need to be anything antecedent to our universe in order for it to be, or rather, no real reason to expect that there is anything going on there in the background other than completely impersonal and UNaware gravitation and nuclear forces. The physicist Lawrence Krauss has a recent book in which he describes why he thinks that the universe was spawned from exactly nothing (and it's called A Universe From Nothing).

My hypothesis is not the result of looking for an "explanation" of how existence arises. It is the result of looking through the lens of science, and looking through the lens of transcendent experience, simultaneously. The undeniable fact of the matter is that the methodology of science--the testing of hypotheses through physical measurement, is inherently incapable of apprehending, let alone understanding, the nature of emptyness. A universe from Nothing is precisely my point as well!

And there's no evidence whatsoever that our own awareness isn't just the pinging of electrons through our brain's synapses.

Science has been able to offer no explanation, whatsoever, for either consciousness or awareness. Its purview is limited to the contents of awareness--the "pinging of electrons through our brain's synapses".

...Does it really detract from numinous experience to suggest that there's nothing supernatural about it? Why? It's still exactly as good and meaningful, and even if you are only a physical self and there is no Awareness to melt back into at death, you are still not separate from every other thing in the universe which is made of the same essential stuff being acted upon by the same physical rules as all the parts of "you" and your life.

The word numinous is defined, in my Webster's New World College Dictionary as "1. of or characteristic of a deity; supernatural; divine 2. having a deeply spiritual or mystical effect" Therefore, I'm not sure what your point is here.

The realm of that which is awareness itself, I am proposing, is not accessible to the methodology of science. If this is true (and science has yet to disprove my claim), you (therefore) cannot refute the claims of mystics, from many different traditions, on this point, in the name of science.

Numinous, ineffable experience is wonderful, and while it's a rare or hard state to achieve routinely (e.g., by solving the koan of daily life), it does NOT follow that it points to some supernatural realm, or being, or state either underlying (antecedent to) or beyond this life.

When you look at, and talk about, mystical experience from the outside, as you are doing here, it will never point to anything beyond your experience of physical existence. The unborn, undying ground of awareness can only be apprehended through direct experience.

I think that the case you are attempting to make is based on the perspective of Material Reductionism--the belief that only that which has physical existence is real--and only physically verifiable hypotheses can be considered true. This belief and the claim that it makes however, cannot be supported by science or by the methodology of science.

The full methodology of science entails the use of physical measurement and often, the use of mathematical modeling; the learning of the disciplines and skills required for their use; the formation of hypotheses; the development of experiments that will enable the use of physical measurement to test the hypothesis; and the repetition of the process by others to achieve communal confirmation or refutation.

The mystical traditions use the same basic sequence: the development of the hypothesis (spiritual teaching, pointing the way to direct experience of the transcendent); the development of the skills and discipline required for its application and testing (meditation, prayer, spiritual practice...); and communal confirmation or refutation, achieved by comparing the experience and findings of many people, from many different traditions.

In my experience and viewpoint, the mystics from all traditions seem to consistently achieve an astonishingly high level of consensus--and are not concerned about the many different ways of describing the experience that have been developed by different traditions. In my opinion, spiritual teaching is, and should always be treated as, hypothosis; and like hypotheses developed in science, should remain continually subject to reassessment as an ongoing evolution. This is true because our collective understanding evolves. And it is especially important because, as ample evidence on this Forum site indicates, religious institutions have a way of getting spiritual teaching and practice seriously wrong--often and consistently. Not altogether unlike scientific institutions. ;-)

That, I think, is why methodologies that allow us to reassess our most cherished beliefs are so important.


Last edited by Kozan on Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:41 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : To update Dan's revised first paragraph.)
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:58 am

ddolmar wrote:
Why call it "awareness"? Why not call it God? Or the square root of pi (or whatever physical constant seems to be the underlying root of the rest)?

Dan, this is the question that I've been waiting for someone to ask!

Because, "God" is a concept; all mathematical models are a different form of concept; "Buddha Nature" is a concept, the "Eternal" is a concept, "Enlightenment" is a concept...I could go on far too long here.

Our own everyday awareness, closer to our being and every moment of our experience--that which is actually perceiving these words, which your mind is interpreting, doesn't depend on concepts.

If that which is experienced, in the experience of emptyness, as reported by mystics, were not awareness itself--emptyness could not be experienced.

That said, you can call it anything you like!
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:02 am

Lise wrote:

Only quoting part of it, but I appreciate all of it. Many things tied together here, and described in a way that even simple folk (moi) can grasp. Many thanks, Steve.

Thank you, Lise. I'm glad it made sense!
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:16 am

The mystics all find the same thing because they're all part of the same species, and have brains with roughly the same components.

Re numinous...sorry I meant to differentiate your definition 1 from definition 2. That is, things which feel spiritual in a purely material universe are nevertheless material, and are no less wonderful for being material. "Ineffable" may be a better word, although I don't have a Websters handy to learn what you will read there.

I think Albert Einstein said something to the effect that it's a miracle that there are no miracles, in other words that the universe can be a UNIverse and not have exceptions to the rules or little "course corrections" from outside of it.

Re explaining consciousness through science: there's no doubt that your consciousness goes away if your brain is sufficiently damaged. Also, there's a bit of the "god of the gaps" fallacy in this. We can explain in a lot of detail why people do and think certain things in response to controlled stimuli, etc. And the field of psychology is getting increasingly quantitative these days, with the help of MRI brain scans. So to put awareness or consciousness or whatever out there just beyond the reach of science is, to my mind, to intentionally try to put it in a gap between our scientific models of things. And you will always be able to do this if you're sufficiently flexible in your definition of "awareness". When science encroaches on your previous definition, say we figure out precise the matrix of cells which make it possible to think "I am", you will be free according to mysticism to find another trunk in which to store that idea ("No! Awareness is not what they've found!"), until science finds a way to open the new trunk as well.

Even without materialism (I think the "reductionism" label you offer is a telling dismissal*), if Awareness can interact with the physical universe, then it has physical effects in terms of mass and energy. Which means that in principle, if not YET in fact, we should be able to measure those places where it juuust crosses over into this universe, and start asking questions about how that mass/energy arises. That is, if Awareness isn't part of the material universe, then while we can't measure it we should be able to get arbitrarily close to where it's spilling forth.

In the evolution vs. creationism debate, the Creationists used to be very fond of pointing to the eye, and asking "How could that have possibly evolved in incremental steps? It's useless without all of its components. Therefore, the eye couldn't have evolved!" But now biologists have examples galore of creatures and geneologies with intermediate ocular recesses and eye spots and creatures that evolved separate pairs of eyes at different stages of their evolution...And to this giant bonanza of evidence against one of the Creationists' favorite arguments, they have responded "The Krebs cycle! All of that complex machinery of energy-making within living cells couldn't have evolved in incremental steps!"

In other words, they have just changed the goal posts, and yet again declared science an utter failure. Thus Creationism must be true, because science can't explain every single detail through evolution. And there probably always will be SOME question that can't be addressed, or a phenomenon that can't YET be explored with scientific tools. So they will be able to play this game against serious, evidence-based biology pretty much forever.
*****************

* It's so much better to be the opposite of Reductionist, isn't it? That would make you expansive and accepting and everything that a decent human being should want to be. Not like those narrow science geeks with their hostility toward our pet spiritual notions.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:24 am

ddolmar wrote:
I think Albert Einstein said something to the effect that it's a miracle that there are no miracles, in other words that the universe can be a UNIverse and not have exceptions to the rules or little "course corrections" from outside of it.

Since you mention Einstein here are two quotes from him:

  1. Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science
    becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the
    Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of
    which we with our modest powers must feel humble.

  2. The scientists’ religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous
    amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence
    of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking
    and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.

Still, it can be said that he's entitled to his opinion and doesn't speak for Science or all scientists. So, I feel a better answer is the acknowledgement of scientists that science does not presume to understand the Universe. It only creates and refines functional models based on observation which approximate the truth. The scientist and mystic share a common appreciation of the fact that what they know is only the smallest part of "IT".
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:57 pm

LOL then I must not be a serious scientist.

Because science doesn't know everything, what size of a truck does that entitle one to drive through the spaces where we must concede that "We don't know"?

I don't know my exact bank balance, therefore I'm sure it's well over a million dollars. I don't know Winona Ryder's thoughts, therefore I am completely entitled to assume that she loves me. Deeply.

Say I like this game! Everywhere a scientist concedes that he doesn't know, we can make up whatever the heck we want, and nobody can contradict us!

I think the universe was created five minutes ago. Prove me wrong!

**************************************

While we're on Einstein quotes, there's also this from after he'd encountered one too many false quotations about his supposed religious faith:

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:04 pm

ddolmar wrote:
LOL then I must not be a serious scientist.

Because science doesn't know everything, what size of a truck does that entitle one to drive through the spaces where we must concede that "We don't know"?

I don't know my exact bank balance, therefore I'm sure it's well over a million dollars. I don't know Winona Ryder's thoughts, therefore I am completely entitled to assume that she loves me. Deeply.

Say I like this game! Everywhere a scientist concedes that he doesn't know, we can make up whatever the heck we want, and nobody can contradict us!

I think the universe was created five minutes ago. Prove me wrong!

I'm going to ignore your snarkiness and assume you didn't understand me. First off if the quotes I posted were not in fact statements by Einstein or if they are not generally representative of his point of view then my apologies to him.

I'll try to be more clear about what I meant by the limitations of science. Science posits theories based on observation and then tests those theories. When the theories don't hold up they are discarded or refined, and that process goes on indefinitely. I was listening to a show on NPR recently where the guest scientist said that Newtonian physics was good enough to get a man on the moon, however a great deal more is understood about gravity now as a result of quantum theory, etc. As the investigation continues more is learned, but there is always a new frontier. I've been hearing a lot about dark matter lately. Scientists have observed effects in the universe normally caused by matter which cannot be accounted for by currently detectable matter so the theory of dark matter has been created. Dark matter exists only by inference - the mystery recedes into the distance. This doesn't invalidate the fact that Science offers the most accurate description of the physical universe possible.

On a personal note Science does not sufficiently answer the question of birth and death to satisfy me. Zen practice offers a way to approach that question.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:32 pm

To know that
what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest
wisdom and the most radiant beauty whose gross forms alone are intelligible to
our poor faculties - this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the
true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself
among profoundly religious men
.

– Albert Einstein :The World as I See it
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:55 am

:-) In 1982, I set up a two-way clairaudient 'link' (for want of a better word) with someone I was and remain deeply fond of. (He's still alive.) I picked up a few a things that way that I had no prior knowledge of (e.g names of places and people), which I later checked out. It can be very confusing too...

I think that perhaps, just as our bodies are not conventionally-speaking a homogenous mass with our physical environments (at least while we're alive, hopefully!) though our forms are not separate from these environments (edges, as far as I know, by definition join up directly with something else even if we call it "nothing" or "space"), it's somewhat similar with our minds.

On a similar sort of theme, in my view one can sometimes also pick up the sentiments of others...and might even mistake them for ones own, especially if there appears to be 'a reason to feel like that'. Some years ago, at a workshop led by healer Matthew Manning, during one of the exercises I found myself puzzled by sudden feelings of irritation...the train journey hadn't been that bad, I thought! I couldn't think of anything that I was that annoyed about, and I was puzzled too because I hadn't felt anything as bristly as that in years! The exercise was one of sensing what might be called a 'field boundary' of our workshop-partner as we walked toward them with eyes shut and palms forward, and comparing the distance at which we naturally stopped while they exercised either a 'positive' or 'negative' state or mind (a 'positive' state tended to increase the distance). It occurred to me that my workshop-partner might be recalling, for the purpose of the exercise, something that had annoyed her...which of course was the case. I don't know if I would have experienced those feelings of irritation almost as though they were 'mine' had I not deliberately opened myself to sensing the field-boundary...I certainly wouldn't recommend blaming all unwelcome sensations and internal formations on ones neighbours, but I've noted being affected similarly by surprising vibes (not all unpleasant!) on a few other occasions. Had the train journey really been a pain, I would probably have explained my experience that way and then focused on the perceived shortcomings of London Underground, which might not have had overtly disastrous consequences; but I imagine there could be nasty repercussions from misclaimed vicarious vibes!

Voices it ain't, but at a workshop led by English medium, Tony Stockwell, someone who had studied previously with him asked him to do what I very roughly remember as being called "that thing with a table". We had convened in the cafeteria of a Spiritualist organisation in London; lightweight chairs and dining-tables were in the further half of the room, and by the clear area in which we were gathered was a small, lowish chunky-looking table. Tony placed his hands on this low table for a while...and then it took off! It sped about just above the floor, Tony with his fingertips still on it; then other people...one, two, several...came and put their fingertips on it, and Tony left them to it...some left and others joined as they felt inclined. I approached and put my fingertips on it, and for a glorious while was the sole carnate person touching it...and boy did I have some job keeping up with it as it zipped and darted about. That was fun!

I have done some proof-reading for Archie Lawrie, a Scottish psychic investigator who works a lot with mediums on reported possible 'hauntings': I find the cases he writes about utterly interesting. You won't have quibbles from me, Lise, about the possibility of the type of experience you describe. A few years ago, I was talking with remote-viewer Angela Thompson Smith about an experience I'd had similar to the one you described, and she told me that sometimes she set out to deliver words of encouragement psychically ('out of the ether', as it were) to desolate persons at distance and whose existence was formerly unknown to her...she considered it a service, mentioning a particular case to me (she did not know what caused her to link up with particular people), her point being that words psychically delivered might not necessarily come from someone discarnate. (-:
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:38 pm

There may be genuine psychic phenomena, and in fact I have been party to at least one event that appeared to have no coherent explanation from science or materialism.

And there have been some serious studies which have concluded that some psychic phenomena can't be otherwise explained. For example,

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-social-thinker/201010/have-scientists-finally-discovered-evidence-psychic-phenomena

...seems to promise something good, although I haven't followed up to find the promised published journal articles.

However, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" should always be a guiding rule, and the capacity of our senses and our brains both to fool and flatter us appears to know few bounds.

I think that "keeping an open mind" about the possibility of natural explanations for apparently psychic/supernatural phenomena is even more important than "keeping an open mind" about the supernatural, if we're going to be honest beings, precisely because the supernatural has a wish-fulfilling quality.

Isan: if you mean that Zen meditation gives a coherent answer to birth and death, I couldn't agree more. If you mean that you've met Avalokiteshvara/Kwannon, and had a fruitful conversation about birth and death with her over cocktails, then I think you should invite her into the laboratory. (You too, Anne...)

And regarding the snark, it's really just about the only way to put the point across...people shouldn't feel free to connect the dots (data) in any old way, not unless they don't mind someone telling them that their view seems to be incoherent. By all means talk about your subjective experience (how are the rest of us going to learn?), but also be careful what you conclude!

Maybe no firm conclusion is warranted.

************************************

The Wikipedia page on parapsychology is particularly well-written and balanced (for the moment), imo:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parapsychology


Last edited by ddolmar on Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:05 pm; edited 5 times in total (Reason for editing : Trying to remove things that could be perceived as slights or insults. For some reason, telling someone that you decline to believe their psychic phenomenon is as fraught as telling them that their jeans make them look fat.)
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:13 pm

:-) "If you mean that you've met Avalokiteshvara/Kwannon, and had a fruitful conversation about birth and death with her over cocktails, then I think you should invite her into the laboratory."

Ah, but I and the lab might only be very convincing products of her extraordinary imagination...yours too, Dan! (-:
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:54 pm

ddolmar wrote:
Isan: if you mean that Zen meditation gives a coherent answer to birth and death, I couldn't agree more. If you mean that you've met Avalokiteshvara/Kwannon, and had a fruitful conversation about birth and death with her over cocktails, then I think you should invite her into the laboratory. (You too, Anne...)

I find it interesting that given your position you also embrace Buddhism. Transcendent experience will never be verifiable in an external manner, ie in a lab. What do you believe is the coherent answer to birth and death that Zen offers?
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:52 pm

Isan wrote:
What do you believe is the coherent answer to birth and death that Zen offers?

LOL, should I hold up a lotus blossom (as if I was really sure what that meant..."thus comes reality" or something)?

First, I couldn't *prove* to a determined skeptic that the state that we call "non-self" is achievable, or in other words that there's something worth finding within meditation practice. However, I do have available testimony from materialists like Sam Harris and Stephen Batchelor--people who've deeply explored meditation and are still doing it outside of a religious context--that this state is there, it inherently feels good, and it doesn't require belief in unprovable things. All it requires is that you sit daily for a few minutes with few distractions, and neither push nor pull on your discursive stream of thought. So while the non-self state is inherently subjective (until the MRI scan catches up, that is), we can find objectively that a great many people report it, and that a good number of them decline to believe in another world, an after life, or karmic rebirth.

Second (here's where I feel vulnerable, incidentally, speaking to at least a couple, if not several, former teachers of Zen), the answer to the koan of birth and death I think must involve the fact that change is, or that time necessitates change, or some formulation like that. Understand fully that it isn't personal, that time isn't out to get you, that you'll certainly be converted into fertilizer if not in this next second, then in some one after that, and you ought to be completely absolved of worrying about change. Your focus can then be properly brought to the present moment (or the past or future if they are most relevant), your own circumstances, and mindfulness, views, speech, effort, etc...the things within your apparently-volitional control. You can give up worrying about not just birth and death but success and failure, praise and blame, all of the pairs of opposites that dominate discursive thought in its un-meditated state.

That's just off the cuff, but notice that however much my understanding of the Great Matter sucks or is brilliant or is so-so, it a) is my understanding which is what you requested, b) it affirms the value of meditation, and c) it doesn't depend on anything supernatural.

QED?

P.S. I realize now that I failed to connect the awareness of "non-self" to birth-and-death in the above. So, not QED even on my own terms, but I can't take more time for now. I prolly should think more carefully about it before bloviating, anyway.

P.P.S I know that certain expressions are against the forum rules, but I think it's only fair play if someone or several chose to take a mighty whack at my beliefs. I'm obviously not too inclined to spare others'.


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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:06 pm

Birth and death?

An open inquiring mind

Is all we need.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:04 am

]An intriguing conversation.

I am in awe of science. I am in awe of awareness. And if truth be told, I am in awe of “me,” which is a combination of both.

Awe seems to be a pretty good place to be right now.

I’ve read physics and mystics. I’ve grappled with theories and concepts and proof, grasping for empirical understanding. Well, I’m just not that smart. So I’m letting go of all those ideas and facts and figures. I’m just going to let them roam around in my brain and see what happens. In the meantime, I’m relishing the beauty of it all…and the mystery.

I have lived two-thirds, if not three-quarters, of my life. And though I will stay tuned to the developments in physics and the experience of mystics and greatly appreciate their contributions, for now I just want to be in this life before it’s gone.


A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a child’s laugh… Awesome


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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:17 pm

Open or closed.

Another nano second, another possibility.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:02 pm

Anne wrote:
...
I have done some proof-reading for Archie Lawrie, a Scottish psychic investigator who works a lot with mediums on reported possible 'hauntings': I find the cases he writes about utterly interesting. You won't have quibbles from me, Lise, about the possibility of the type of experience you describe. A few years ago, I was talking with remote-viewer Angela Thompson Smith about an experience I'd had similar to the one you described, and she told me that sometimes she set out to deliver words of encouragement psychically ('out of the ether', as it were) to desolate persons at distance and whose existence was formerly unknown to her...she considered it a service, mentioning a particular case to me (she did not know what caused her to link up with particular people), her point being that words psychically delivered might not necessarily come from someone discarnate. (-:

Anne, thank you for expanding my perspective - I had not even considered the possibility of the contact coming from someone as described above. Marvelous way to offer merit, isn't it; not that general merit is ever wasted, but it's cool to think of someone being able to perceive a particular disturbance in this net we're all linked to -- maybe when certain strands are plucked really hard, because someone's thrashing about, there are those with a gift to hear or feel this, who can send targeted help in response. It seems very possible, to me.

Mokuan - I love that, the image of things roaming around inside one's head. Any fixed ideas and notions had better watch out for sharp hooves and switching tails Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:33 pm

Mokuan wrote:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a child’s laugh… Awesome


Exactly my feeling, Mokuan. Carl Sagan expressed it, too, and so does Richard Dawkins. The magic of natural reality is enough.

There's a bird outside my office window, singing for a mate in the rain. The theory of evolution tells us that we and he are (very) distant cousins.

You want to feel "connected"? Let's try a current scientific model that appears to be a pretty sure thing: The atoms that make up you and everything you know on this planet were formed in the centers of stars that eventually went nova. You and I are stardust.

Now, what could be more wonderful? Can any of the neolithic creation stories of our long-ago past top that?
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:50 pm

ddolmar wrote:
Can any of the neolithic creation stories of our long-ago past top that?

We have no way of knowing.
And it wasn't all that long ago; just 71 lifetimes (by our present idea of "lifetime"). So a story from the Neolithic only had to pass from lip to ear 70 times to reach us. Sadly, that never happened.

When I have time I will post here about my own awesome (obviously) psychic experiences and the rigorous scientific investigation with which I scrutinised them. For now though, here is a video of physicist Feynman talking in a "far out" manner about how limited our senses are at observing "reality".

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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:23 pm

Interesting discussion. I've just read a couple of books about the nature of consciousness. One book argues relatively persuasively (at least the arguments are self-consistent) that concepts (or the world as idea) are the only reality, and that physical phenomena are illusory aspects of emergent consciousness. The second makes a pretty good argument for panpsychism -- namely that consciousness is not emergent from physical phenomena (which is real), but something outside of it.

After all the dancing about in physics space, it's clear that the world is not what we perceive it to be, and that the entanglement between what we perceive to be "out there" and what we experience "inside" is pretty much a complete mystery at this point.

My own take on it is pretty much Buddhist of the Zen variety. At the end of it, we don't don't know anything except our experience of the world, and what we know is tainted by our physical apparatus for detecting and interpreting it. We can knock ourselves silly (and usually others along with us) by claiming to "know" what we don't.

We know what we know by direct experience (even concepts come to us via direct experience), but we have little basis for claiming that our experience represents an objective reality, except in some very vague, abstract way. At that point, there's inherent sanity in simply training the mind to be fully aware of whatever experience is "apparently" flowing by, rather than ignoring that in favor of perpetual conceptual consternation about how things "really" are.

I liked the Feynman video. There are a couple of others I used (one by Dawkins, one by Ted Hartford) in a recent freethinker talk. Dawkins makes the point that reality is probably unknowable by the human mind, and Hartford makes the point that we fail miserably to solve complex problems (even physical ones) when we insist there are simple (religious, scientific, or political) solutions that will fix them. The trial and error of evolution can come up with some remarkable solutions to complex problems, but if left to natural processes, it takes a lot of time to do that.

One of the soundest bits of Zen training that has impacted my life is the willingness to be unsure about things, to be free of discomfort about "not knowing" things I can't possibly know. My mind remains open and curious much more of the time these days. Curiosity and free exploration is a real joy of being apparently alive.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:32 pm

jack wrote:

We know what we know by direct experience (even concepts come to us via direct experience), but we have little basis for claiming that our experience represents an objective reality, except in some very vague, abstract way. At that point, there's inherent sanity in simply training the mind to be fully aware of whatever experience is "apparently" flowing by, rather than ignoring that in favor of perpetual conceptual consternation about how things "really" are.

This articulates what I was aiming for in my initial posts but missed, I think. I have a memory of an experience, that came to me through whatever filters I apply (without knowing or trying). I didn't try to label or understand it, nor deny the awareness of it. Can't imagine trying to invite any part of it into a lab, to be examined for its reality/substantiality.

Favorites from the Feynman video: being reminded that there's so much around us, and perception is aided by the right instruments, tuned correctly. And "an insect with sufficient cleverness" - i love that. Will be turning that one over in my head all day, probably in a meeting, wishing my dept. had an insect with sufficient cleverness who could sit in the corner and figure what exactly is going on . . . as we don't have any people here who can do that. Where's the harm in letting a bug try?

Edited to say, I was referring to my workplace, just in case that was unclear. Where I work, we could use a number of clever insects to help out on any given day. I'm going to start a "workplace vent" thread tomorrow, for those who need it.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:07 pm

Lise,

I just came across this thread and have read about 1/3 of it and felt like writing my own thoughts prior to catching up. Hope my comments fit.

In the mid 80s Koshin left Shasta, seemingly for good. At the time I was Tenkien. I stayed up meditating through the night as a spiritual and practical nightwatch. Prior to going on duty, I'd catch a snooze, hopefully for a couple of hours, four if exceptionally lucky. During that time (and after nightwatch) I had often had many dreams. The exceptionality of the dreams/experiences/other realities are difficult to describe. I know for certain they weren't dreams as we think of dreams. They linked me to this world (and perhaps others) in ways not normally accessible. Anyway, I went to sleep that evening and had the following dream that I'll report as well as I can remember after almost 30 years.

I was in the back seat of a car which Koshin was driving. There were just the two of us. It was raining terribly outside to the point that it was difficult to see out the windshield. I told Koshin that he needed to turn back and return to Shasta but he kept driving. The rain got even worse and Koshin started to cry, eventually sobbing uncontrollably. I continued to try to get him to pull off the highway and to come back to the monastery. Between the sobbing and the rain, Koshin couldn't see enough to drive and so he pulled the off the highway. His crying was the crying of deep deep regret. They seemed to me to be soul searing tears.

I woke up and stopped at Rev. Kennett's before starting Tenkien. I told her and other monks there my dream. I was then told that this was essentially what had happened to Koshin and that he was returning. I don't know if he heard any voice asking him to return. That would certainly be an interesting question. If he did, that would make me, I guess, the voice that, to Koshin, was instrumental in changing the course of his life in an essential way. If he did hear a voice, did he consider it to be the voice of a spiritually advanced being from another plane of existence? Would that make me a spiritually advanced being from another plane of existence? (Anyone but Howard can answer that question).

So what are these voices? Who are they? Are we communicating with and helping each other in ways we don't understand? Are there other forms of beings on other planes of consciousness, or are they us, or is it both? I really don't know. There are mysteries within mysteries here.
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:25 pm

Henry, I like the idea (which is new to me, still) that they could be us -- a part that comes forward when really needed. No way we can know, is there. And yet sometimes I'd like to "know" that it's actually an advanced being who keeps an eye on my doings, but that would be a bit much to ask for or expect. From whatever source, being helped in that one instance did change the course of my life; that much I am certain about.

Agree, it would be interesting to know what Koshin might have heard or remembered from that journey -
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:52 pm

Lise,
I only know what I know, and it ain't much. I like Feynman's take: likening our understanding of the universe to an insect experiencing the waves in a pool caused by many people of various sizes, entering the pool from various places, and expecting the insect to figure out who, what, when and where all from its experience of the waves from its little corner of the pool. It seems to me we have three essential choices: 1. exasperation and frustration (leading to cynicism, inadequacy, or stagnation), 2. believe we know more than we really do (religious fundamentalism or scientific snobbery), or 3. acceptance and curiosity (science and meditation at its best).
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PostSubject: Re: Other voices   Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:26 pm

I had written this post a while back:

I think we can give a scientific basis for the essence of existence being aware, or more
accurately put: awareness.

My
understanding is that science has pretty much established that matter is
merely a form of energy. Matter, essentially, when looked at as the
subatomic particles that make it up, is almost completely void.
Subatomic particles themselves are not even looked upon as solid in any
way, but more as a condensed form of energy. So what we perceive as
solid is not solid at all. What keeps two solid objects from merging is
not their solidity but the energy in the atomic and sub atomic particles
that repels those things outside its sphere.

So when we look at
the essence of existence, it is energy, which itself--in its smallest
manifestations, as far as science can tell at this point--arises and
passes back into the Void (sound familiar?). But as people we do not
experience experience existence at this level; we usually experience it
at the level of solidity. What is this experience of solidity then,
other than consciousness? Isn't it consciousness that takes a swirling
mass of energy and organizes it into discrete objects. People are energy
and our environment is energy, and it is all porous and swirling about
together in a cosmic dance. What separates it off into self and other?
What perceives the arising and passing of energy into and out of the
void as patterns--such as people, mountains, and rivers? These patterns,
though to us having duration and a discrete existence are, in cosmic
terms, too brief and too porous to be seen as separate entities having
physical existence.

As far as I can tell, what does all that is
consciousness. Without consciousness what would transform these swirling
endless patterns of energy (whatever that is) into discrete objects:
people, worlds, galaxies? So the existence of the physical universe,
which is extrapolated from energy, is done so through the alchemy of
consciousness. Existence--that which exists--is a function of
consciousness. Without it there would be only a chaotic (whose judgement
is that?) arising and passing of particles made of energy (whatever
that is) into and out of the Void. Given all that, it seems to me that
to say the essence of existence is aware (or awareness or consciousness)
seems to have a very firm footing in science.


The next question is: Is awareness a function of the individual mind (as Dan appears to be positing) or is it inherent in the entire field of existence (as Kozan appears to be positing)? Is the individual mind functioning solely in its own locality (as Dan appears to be positing), or is it part of a field that extends outward to who knows where (as Kozan appears to be positing)? My own experience, which Dan most likely and rightfully takes with a grain of salt, makes me veer towards the Kozan camp. (Yes Kozan, I have stuck you in a camp! Don't worry about it, just get out the marshmallows.) But Kozan stated that science can't prove that.

Dan might say our minds are like radio receivers and transmitters, and so can be limited to and contained within a discrete physical locality, but that seems a somewhat lacking explanation. In the end though, I don't think the Dan and Kozan camps (I've got the key Kozan, I'm not letting you out!! You're stuck with being my example.) are mutually exclusive. If science eventually discovers that the fields that Kozan spoke about can and do interact with consciousness in such a way that consciousness as existing within a discrete locality is no longer a full explanation of how things truly work, then both camps will have no other choice than to pool their marshmallows, sit around the fire, get some sticks and guitars, roast them suckers and sing kumbaya. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
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