Danger of Vipassana

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Danger of Vipassana

Postby rahula80 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:54 pm

Hi,

How should we respond to this criticism?

Thanks a lot in advance,
Rahula

-----------

Elizabeth Hillstrom points out in her book Testing the Spirits that instead of being glimpses of the impermanent nature of things, the experiences that accompany Buddhist contemplation on the mental states can be explained as misperceptions of the surrounding reality due to imposing on the senses and mind an abnormal way of functioning:

As meditators passively watch their own mental states come and go without trying to control them, these begin to fluctuate more and more rapidly and unpredictably. After a while this chaotic activity creates the strong impression that the mental events are springing into life on their own, from some separate source, rather than the observer's own mind. As meditators persist with this practice, they also notice that there is a definite separation between the mental events being observed and the mind that is doing the observing. As meditation progresses still further, both the mental events and the observing mind begin to seem alien and impersonal, as if they do not really belong to the observer. At about this point the meditator's sense of "self" becomes confused and weakened, and finally it disappears entirely for brief periods of time. This experience of dissolution strongly reinforces the Buddhist notion that there actually is no such thing as an "I" or "myself" - that such concepts are actually false constructions of the mind.

At still deeper levels, meditators eventually reach a stage in which their awareness of events and the events themselves seem inextricably bound together and the whole scene churns in a wild state of flux. Ideas, images and thoughts seem to appear and then dissolve into nothingness with great rapidity. At this point every aspect of mental life (and the physical world itself) seems impermanent, transitory and alien, and disturbed meditators desperately want it all to stop. Relief finally comes when meditators break through Nirvana, a state in which all awareness of physical and mental phenomena ceases, at least for a short time. Reaching this stage ostensibly produces permanent changes in consciousness. Inner processes are set in motion which fill the meditator with equanimity and bliss. These presumably destroy defiling mental states like self-interest, ambition, greed and hatred, and ensure advanced placement in the next life. When interpreted through Eastern lenses, these experiences strongly reinforce the Buddhist belief that the physical universe, our concepts of self and even our inner mental life are only illusions.

(Elizabeth Hillstrom, Testing the Spirits, IVP, 1995, p. 114-15)
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:08 pm

rahula80 wrote:Hi,

How should we respond to this criticism?

Thanks a lot in advance,
Rahula

-----------

Elizabeth Hillstrom points out in her book Testing the Spirits that instead of being glimpses of the impermanent nature of things, the experiences that accompany Buddhist contemplation on the mental states can be explained as misperceptions of the surrounding reality due to imposing on the senses and mind an abnormal way of functioning:

As meditators passively watch their own mental states come and go without trying to control them, these begin to fluctuate more and more rapidly and unpredictably. After a while this chaotic activity creates the strong impression that the mental events are springing into life on their own, from some separate source, rather than the observer's own mind.
If it is not coming frtom one's mind where is it coming from? This tell us right there this clown has not a clue as to what she is talking about. Now it could be that this Xtian author trying to savage Buddhist meditation, but never mind she has not a clue as to how vipassana really function. Why are you wasting your time with this drivel?
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: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Kare » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:11 pm

To me this looks more like speculations than science. What empirical basis has she for her critizism?

I looked this book up on Amazon, and found some interesting comments:

"This author is a Christian who fully recognizes the veracity of the Bible and the existence of Satan, and she doesn't hesitate to point to possible demonic involvement when she thinks it's appropriate."

"Elizabeth L. Hillstrom draws on biblical teaching and the latest scientific research to explore claims of near-death experiences, mystical healings, communication with spirits, altered states of consciousness, Eastern meditation, UFO encounters, and more."

http://www.amazon.com/Testing-Spirits-Elizabeth-L-Hillstrom/dp/0830816046/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288710359&sr=8-1-spell

Therefore I am not sure how seriously we should take this kind of critizism.
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby rahula80 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:17 pm

Hi,

Right on the spot, tiltbillings.

I am wasting my time for the benefit of other Buddhists :)
Preventing them falling into such trap.

See my response to Retro here:
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=5800

Regards,
Rahula
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:21 pm

rahula80 wrote:Hi,

Right on the spot, tiltbillings.

I am wasting my time for the benefit of other Buddhists :)
Preventing them falling into such trap.

See my response to Retro here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=5800

Regards,
Rahula
Well, rather asking our response to this drivel, what is your detailed response?
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: Danger of Vipassana

Postby rahula80 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:23 pm

Hi Kare,

She was Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College.

Regards,
Rahula
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:30 pm

I, for one, appreciate, the responses of Tilt, Kare and all of the others much more knowledgeable than myself when such criticisms are levelled at the Dhamma. Good for you Rahula, if nothing else you've done me a valuable service. Mettaya!
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Kare » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:47 pm

rahula80 wrote:Hi Kare,

She was Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College.

Regards,
Rahula


And what is the relevance?

On its Web Site Wheaton College presents itself with these words:

Welcome to Wheaton College—a community of grace. As an academically rigorous, four-year Christian liberal arts college and graduate school, we seek to honor Jesus Christ with mind, soul, body, and strength. We praise God for your interest and pray that in some way your contact with Wheaton College will serve the sacred purpose expressed in our historic motto: "For Christ and His Kingdom."

An Assistant Professor of Psychology at an institution like that may have some knowledge about Vipassana. Or she may not. There is, however, nothing in her title that gives implicit reasons for trusting her expertise.
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby rahula80 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:55 pm

Hi,

I do not have a detail response yet. I am seeking the opinion of people more knowledgeble than me, here.

I will probably formulate a detailed response later, hopefully.

Regards,
Rahula
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 02, 2010 4:54 pm

rahula80 wrote:Hi,

I do not have a detail response yet. I am seeking the opinion of people more knowledgeble than me, here.

I will probably formulate a detailed response later, hopefully.

Regards,
Rahula

Why ?
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:45 pm

Heavens! These Buddhists are rubbishing God's perfect creation .. it's got to be wrong!

:rofl:
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:52 pm

rahula80 wrote:How should we respond to this criticism?

With mindfulness. :)

I think I get what the author is saying.

It's not healthy or normal to develop a psychotic sense of bliss & energy, an obsession with retrieving & remembering every sensory perception, a focus on one-pointed concentration which diminishes one's capacity for broad-range mental skills like long-term memory, psychotic states of out-of-body consciousness and something like what psychologists call disassociative disorder (or what I might call deindividuation?)..

It's certainly conceivable how the words of a meditation practice can be understood wrongly (even with a correct interpretation, the interpretation is understood wrongly) and leads to a bad result. If we see certain practices creating or worsening mental illness, we should avoid them, and not encourage others to cause themselves mental illness, "Because the Buddha taught it". :)
Last edited by Individual on Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 02, 2010 6:40 pm

Which is precisely why Vipassana is or should taught on retreats or courses, and should not be D.I.Y endeavours.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 02, 2010 8:28 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Which is precisely why Vipassana is or should taught on retreats or courses, and should not be D.I.Y endeavours.

For Elizabeth Hillstrom, I would guess that there is no distinction. If a Vipassana teacher gives students various spoken instructions, there is in her view no meaningful difference if a non-Buddhist scientist gives the same instructions, or if somebody follows the instructions on their own, from what they read. It's only on this basis that she can make scientific (statistical) analysis. :)

Theravadins see monks as more credible than laypeople, but to some degree, Theravadins have the same perception between teachers, right? You have kalyanamittas, not gurus. A monk who reads the suttas can give instructions just as good as a monk who focuses on meditation, right? Is that actually true?

I would look at it like swimming. If you jump into the ocean without instructions, you can drown, and even for the most accomplished swimmer, he must know how far out he can go before he would be swept underneath by rip currents. Even David Hasselhoff wouldn't leap out into a rogue wave in the middle of a hurricane (unless he was drunk). Swimmers may learn to swim on their own instinctively, just by jumping the water, but they learn proper technique from a good swimming teacher. :)
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:07 pm

And you arrive at this analogy how exactly Individual..?.I would be interested to hear about your experience of receiving hands on Vipassana instruction.....
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:15 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:And you arrive at this analogy how exactly Individual..?

From drowning
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:23 pm

And the hands on instruction ?
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:24 pm

Individual wrote:
rahula80 wrote:How should we respond to this criticism?

With mindfulness. :)

I think I get what the author is saying.
So, you get it that she is characterizing vipassana as a way of cultivating mental illness, and that she does this by completely misrepresenting a very fundamental aspect of the practice. Good for you.
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: Danger of Vipassana

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:30 pm

Well, so long as nobody tries to learn Vipassana from someone like Elizabeth Hillstrom, there is no problem.

And if anybody does, they are already screwed.

So, where is the problem? Because she's giving a different opinion?

If this woman got this opinion from studying Vipassana groups, I would blame the Vipassana groups.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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Re: Danger of Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:39 pm

Individual wrote:Well, so long as nobody tries to learn Vipassana from someone like Elizabeth Hillstrom, there is no problem.

And if anybody does, they are already screwed.

So, where is the problem? Because she's giving a different opinion?
It is not just a differing opinion, it is an attack.
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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