You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby Ben » Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:55 am

I want to make it clear to everyone on this thread that everyone is welcome here at Dhamma Wheel, regardless of their religious/spiritual affiliation, gender, sexuality, race, natiionality, dis/ability - whatever. There is a wide variety of fora and people can discuss what they so choose, or present ideas for the sake of discussion - all within reason.
There is only one forum, the Classical Mahavihara forum, which has strict rules on discussion and the provenance of the ideas presented in those discussions.
I want to make it abundantly clear that Dhamma Wheel is a venue for the discussion of the Theravada by all those who have a genuine interest. It is not a ghetto for people who feel that they can safely criticise and infer fault with the doctrines of non-Theravadins - however subtly imputed.
If members feel the need to present ideas with a Mahayanist provenance, for the sake of discussion on this forum, so be it - they have the freedom to do so.
If some members are uncomfortable with this inclusive attitude - then maybe they should find another forum that is more to their liking.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby pink_trike » Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:49 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:
pink_trike wrote:There are many gates to the Dharma that lie outside the fences of Buddhism. Buddhism is particularly thorough and relatively intact, but to say that it is the only way to The Truth is an attachment to form. Buddhism claimed ownership of The Dharma by conflating the Buddha's teachings and the principle that orders the phenomenal world, but claiming and conflating doesn't make it so.

Also, could you please point to the concept of " Dharma" gates in the Pali Canon ?
I am unfamiliar with it in that context.
:anjali:

Yes, you're right...please excuse me. The older I become, the more the fences between grazing areas within Buddhism and between it and other sophisticated cosmologies are fading away for me. I now have a tendency to mistake all the fences for gates to the great ancient mono-myth. If my signature line is insufficient to clue folks in to my deficiencies, please feel free to invisible my fenceless ramblings as need. :yingyang:
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 12, 2009 11:55 pm

pink_trike wrote:There are many gates to the Dharma that lie outside the fences of Buddhism....



Unquestionably, there are bits and pieces of the Dhamma out there outside of what the Buddha taught, but I have yet to see anything, the older I get, that is as comprehensive and as deep as what one finds in the Pali texts. And let us not mistake complexity and arcaneness for depth or insight.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:05 am

I agree with you Tilt, but I think its interesting that researchers are coming to conclusions that seem, at least on the surface, to coincide with the Dhamma. The reason I started this thread was because of Metzinger's conclusions of 'no-self' were derived at from his work in neuroscience and philosophy and seem to reflect the Buddha's doctrine of anatta. It no way replaces the Buddhadhamma, but it is an intersting development that as we progress knowledge in certain mundane fields, it appears to support contentions found in the Dhamma. Another example my teacher mentions during his ten-day courses is the work of Rutherford(?) in nuclear physics which, he said. supported the Buddha's notion of the atthakalapa.
As I said, it is interesting and somewhat inspiring. An inspiration to continue practice and engage with the Dhamma - rather than replacing it.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby Jechbi » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:23 am

Having listened to the radio interview, I was left with questions about how Metzinger accounts for the experience of consciousness as he describes it. He seems to reject a purely materialistic view, which leads me to wonder, then what? A lot of the radio interview consists of Metzinger talking about his own lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences, and he describes a luminous other body that he says hundreds of thousands of people have experienced over the ages in out-of-body experiences. This, he says, probably accounts for the theory that a person has a soul. But he doesn't explain what would account for such an experience, although he mentions "phantom limbs" that amputees sometimes also experience still having. That's all interesting, but I was hoping for a little more science out of him. Maybe that's in his book.
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby zavk » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:59 am

Wow, it is encouraging to see the conviction and trust that others have in the Dhamma. :anjali: :group: It certainly inspires me to work harder.

In recent years, I too have developed more and more trust in the Dhamma. As Ben suggests, a certain degree of my trust in the Dhamma has been strengthened by non-Buddhist works that arrive at similar conclusions. I have learned much from them and am curious to learn more. This doesn’t mean that I am about to take refuge in them. The Buddhadhamma has so far proven to be the only real refuge for me. :bow: :bow: :bow:

But does this then mean that all other approaches—scientific, philosophical, artistic, or otherwise—will always pale in comparison with Buddhism? Does that mean that I can say ‘objectively’ that they offer no true refuge for anyone, anywhere?

I don’t know. My experience with the Dhamma has taken me where I am, and based on where I have come to I feel convinced that the Buddhadhamma is my one true refuge. My experience gives me that much grounds to make that claim. But I wonder if it allows me to claim anything more than that without it being anything but a speculation.

It might indeed be the case that all other approaches--when compared to the Buddhadhamma--would always fall short. Maybe. I can’t say for sure. But I’m just not prepared to take the leap out of the grounds of my present experience (if such a leap were possible at all) to assert that claim.

This is not to say that we cannot engage in comparison with other approaches, making distinctions here and there and calling out flaws and inconsistencies where we find them. It is important to do so, in order to develop greater clarity about our own position and other people’s positions--this, I would add, is an ethical obligation.

But even as I develop greater clarity, I don’t think it allows me to ever leap out of my position, as if I could detach myself from the conditions that have brought me to where I am and establish a free-floating, aerial 'God's eye' view to unambiguously pass judgements about the different positions--this acknowledgement of one's situatedness, I would say, is also an ethical obligation.

So even as I engage with different approaches, I’m also trying to be mindful about how I make distinctions between them. Distinctions are unavoidable. But I want to be cautious about how I make them because distinctions have the tendency to exclude, establish hierarchy and isolate. With my limited experience of the Buddhadhamma, I’m not too sure about the skilfulness of that. Distinctions, as we are taught, are the great 'worldly winds'.

This is of course what I understand from my position at the moment. To the extent that the Buddhadhamma is a path, my position will very well change. But even if my position changes, I still don't see how I could levitate above the ground on which the path unfolds.
With metta,
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby pink_trike » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:58 am

tiltbillings wrote:
pink_trike wrote:There are many gates to the Dharma that lie outside the fences of Buddhism....



Unquestionably, there are bits and pieces of the Dhamma out there outside of what the Buddha taught, but I have yet to see anything, the older I get, that is as comprehensive and as deep as what one finds in the Pali texts. And let us not mistake complexity and arcaneness for depth or insight.


I would suggest that there are much more than just "bits and pieces". And of course "arcaneness" is in the eye of the beholder and depends on the depth of one's understanding of other equally complex and deep cosmologies. On the surface of Buddhism, your observations of it seem reasonable as long as we don't look too closely. However, the closer we look, the messier and more overlapping things become (as Buddhism teaches us is the nature of all phenomena) - I'll note the Iranian influence during the Sassanian period as just one small example of the syncretic nature of the time associated with the presumed origins of Buddhism. There's a tendency among Buddhists when they reluctantly acknowledge this syncretic phenomena to insist that it was a one way street with Buddhism influencing other cosmologies but not being influenced in any significant way itself because Siddhartha sat under that very interesting (and remarkably common) tree and did his remarkable thing on his own...but this view isn't holding up well at all. As we move deeper into the tech age scholars all over the world now have access to each other's data in all fields of research. As a result many missing pieces of information are connecting many dots that were previously not recognized when scholars each worked in their own narrow intellectual space. We know now that there was very likely a global mono-cosmology - likely dating back as far as 12,000-18,000 BC, and perhaps dating back even further into the mists of time...from which all other cosmologies emerged - and it's very clear that Buddhism retains significant chunks of this mono-myth...though parts of it have been reinterpreted over time as memory of the mono-cosmology grew fainter and gradually faded away due to worldly circumstances that broke apart a once well-connected global civilization for a very long period of time.

Yes, I'm aware of that one significant difference that Buddhists use to stress that Buddhism is the only way out...but even that isn't so very different from elements of very early Egyptian cosmology and Zoroastrianism, and is remarkably similar to information found in the Zhang-zhung snyan-rgyud, a Bon text from the Xang Xung region of TIbet dated in the tradition at 18,000 BC - a date that used to be considered as fantastic but in light of new discoveries re: the dating of early human civilization (80,000 BC) by strict anthropological criteria is now considered to be quite reasonable. But even if we disregard what the tradition itself states as the date of origination (something that Buddhists are reluctant to do with the dating of Buddhism as stated within the tradition) the Xang Xung civilization significantly predates the presumed origins of Buddhism.

Yes, Buddhism is quite amazing. Is it unique to the point it's claims to be? Likely not, when all the facts are in at some point in the future. Does that rendered it impotent? Of course not...it is a very effective gate to The Dharma, one among many. It was easy to believe at one time very recently that it was a self-contained path born from The Buddha...not so easy now if we're to remain awake to the strengths of our own culture to clarify the past by way of reasonably unbiased detailed research. There's a choice to be made...cling to a narrow structure of information that is quickly being identified as inaccurate, or open the windows of perception another little bit. All conditioned things change...
Last edited by pink_trike on Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:28 am

Hi guys

Hi Jechbi
I wasn't too perturbed by the fact that the radio interview opened more questions and left most - if not all - unanswered. Given the breadth and depth of the topic, I thought it was too short a time to do anything other to introduce his work. I am looking forward to receiving Metzinger's book (hopefully within a month) and reading what he has to say. Good on you for downloading the interview!

Hi Ed
But even as I develop greater clarity, I don’t think it allows me to ever leap out of my position, as if I could detach myself from the conditions that have brought me to where I am and establish a free-floating, aerial 'God's eye' view to unambiguously pass judgements about the different positions

Isn't it this that we do when we practice and develop the special vision of vipassana?
...just a thought!

Hi Pink
Thanks for your post. I was actually thinking about 'Buddhist' cosmology today in preparation for a talk I'm giving our year-10 students on the Buddhist perspective on death and dying in a few weeks. Something themes that seem to come up, or I expect will come up during the talk and question time will be the issue whether Buddhist cosmology, the 31 planes, how much of it was 'skilfully' adopted by the Buddha for teaching purposes and whether it is really really real. I think its an interesting conundrum; unfortunately we can't take a time machine and go back and ask the great man ourselves. However, what I can say is that as the result of my practice my conviction is that he spoke the truth regarding all things. Furthermore, I have developed the conviction that in time these types of questions will be revealed as the result of bhavana-maya-panna (penetrative insight as the result of practice).
As for your statement that there are different Dhammas, all I can say with my hand on my heart is that it is this Buddhadhamma that is the ekayano maggo for this little black duck!
metta

Ben
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby pink_trike » Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:50 am

Ben wrote:As for your statement that there are different Dhammas, all I can say with my hand on my heart is that it is this Buddhadhamma that is the ekayano maggo for this little black duck!
metta

That's the best we can do - find the path that shines and do our best to follow it. :smile:
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby pink_trike » Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:06 am

zavk wrote:Wow, it is encouraging to see the conviction and trust that others have in the Dhamma. :anjali: :group: It certainly inspires me to work harder.

In recent years, I too have developed more and more trust in the Dhamma. As Ben suggests, a certain degree of my trust in the Dhamma has been strengthened by non-Buddhist works that arrive at similar conclusions. I have learned much from them and am curious to learn more. This doesn’t mean that I am about to take refuge in them. The Buddhadhamma has so far proven to be the only real refuge for me. :bow: :bow: :bow:

But does this then mean that all other approaches—scientific, philosophical, artistic, or otherwise—will always pale in comparison with Buddhism? Does that mean that I can say ‘objectively’ that they offer no true refuge for anyone, anywhere?

I don’t know. My experience with the Dhamma has taken me where I am, and based on where I have come to I feel convinced that the Buddhadhamma is my one true refuge. My experience gives me that much grounds to make that claim. But I wonder if it allows me to claim anything more than that without it being anything but a speculation.

It might indeed be the case that all other approaches--when compared to the Buddhadhamma--would always fall short. Maybe. I can’t say for sure. But I’m just not prepared to take the leap out of the grounds of my present experience (if such a leap were possible at all) to assert that claim.

This is not to say that we cannot engage in comparison with other approaches, making distinctions here and there and calling out flaws and inconsistencies where we find them. It is important to do so, in order to develop greater clarity about our own position and other people’s positions--this, I would add, is an ethical obligation.

But even as I develop greater clarity, I don’t think it allows me to ever leap out of my position, as if I could detach myself from the conditions that have brought me to where I am and establish a free-floating, aerial 'God's eye' view to unambiguously pass judgements about the different positions--this acknowledgement of one's situatedness, I would say, is also an ethical obligation.

So even as I engage with different approaches, I’m also trying to be mindful about how I make distinctions between them. Distinctions are unavoidable. But I want to be cautious about how I make them because distinctions have the tendency to exclude, establish hierarchy and isolate. With my limited experience of the Buddhadhamma, I’m not too sure about the skilfulness of that. Distinctions, as we are taught, are the great 'worldly winds'.

This is of course what I understand from my position at the moment. To the extent that the Buddhadhamma is a path, my position will very well change. But even if my position changes, I still don't see how I could levitate above the ground on which the path unfolds.

Very well said.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby zavk » Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:17 am

Ben wrote:Hi Ed
But even as I develop greater clarity, I don’t think it allows me to ever leap out of my position, as if I could detach myself from the conditions that have brought me to where I am and establish a free-floating, aerial 'God's eye' view to unambiguously pass judgements about the different positions

Isn't it this that we do when we practice and develop the special vision of vipassana?
...just a thought!


Yes, you are right. Vipassana is about developing a certain 'special vision' of things 'as they really are'. But as far as my understanding and experience of Buddhist doctrine and practice goes, this is a clear seeing of the true nature of 'my' experience. If there is a 'special vision' to be developed it is about seeing how consciousness, or more precisely the five khandas, are anicca and anatta.

It may be the case that this 'special vision' would allow me to perceive other positions differently. But even then my current understanding of the Dhamma tells me that it can only be a perception of those positions that emerges out of the interplay of the khandas. So even if I come to see these positions 'as they really are', what I am 'seeing' is more accurately how I am conscious of these positions rather than how they are in and of themselves. In other words, I am still within the ground of 'my' own experience. This is what I mean when I say that I cannot leap out of my position.

There is of course the possibility of developing a kind of omniscience that the Buddha purportedly had. But hey, I don't know what that is and I don't even want to begin to imagine how that would be like! The five khandas are more than enough for me to work with!

:meditate:
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:45 am

zavk wrote:... So even if I come to see these positions 'as they really are', what I am 'seeing' is more accurately how I am conscious of these positions rather than how they are in and of themselves. In other words, I am still within the ground of 'my' own experience. This is what I mean when I say that I cannot leap out of my position.


It is not to leap out of your position, but to cease coloring your position with grasping after, pushing away, and the assumption of a self thingie.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:21 am

pink_trike wrote: . . . equally complex and deep cosmologies. ...


Cosmologies. Please explain what you mean by "cosmologies," so that we are on the same page, and please explain which of the Buddhist cosmologies you are talking about.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: You are not a self: radio interview with T Metzinger

Postby zavk » Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:46 am

tiltbillings wrote:
zavk wrote:... So even if I come to see these positions 'as they really are', what I am 'seeing' is more accurately how I am conscious of these positions rather than how they are in and of themselves. In other words, I am still within the ground of 'my' own experience. This is what I mean when I say that I cannot leap out of my position.


It is not to leap out of your position, but to cease coloring your position wuith grasping after, pushing away, and the assumption of a self thingie


Hi Tilt,

Yes, that's how I understand it to. But I think there could be a possible confusion here. The word 'position' appears a few times. Let me explain what I meant and replace the word 'position' with other phrases:

    - When I wrote 'these positions' I was referring to non-Buddhist modes of thinking/practice--e.g. those of Metzinger, and other religions, philosophies or sciences.

    - When I wrote 'leap out of my position' I was referring to the context of experience--which is to say, the confluence of the five khandhas.

Because the five khandas provide the context of my experience, even if I develop a 'special vision' of non-Buddhist modes of thinking through vipassana, I am really seeing into the context of my experience (the five khandhas) rather than those modes of thinking/practice in and of themselves. It is not as if non-Buddhist modes of thinking/practices are simply self-existing 'out there' beyond the context of my experience.

This 'special vision' is only possible if--as you say--I don't grasp after, push away, or assume a self thingie within the context of my experience. Nevertheless, even without a self thingie, this 'special vision' is still a vision of the context of my experience. My 'special vision' does not extend outside the context of my experience.

So because I am neither grasping after or pushing away the context of my experience, but simply staying with and witnessing the context of my experience, I say that I cannot 'leap out of my position'--because it is not about leaping out.

My apologies for the clunky writing. But I believe we are on the same page. :anjali:
With metta,
zavk
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