"Brain in a jar" feeling?

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

"Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby ricketybridge » Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:20 pm

Hi everyone,

3rd topic today, lol. I got a lot of questions. :)

Once again, sorry if this has already come up before, but after doing a bit of vipassana meditation over the last several weeks, it occurred to me that the purpose, the type of insight is leading to, is to feel like a "brain in a jar"--i.e. since reality is nothing but sensory input, we could just be brains in jars being stimulated in various ways. I guess like The Matrix (sorry to mention that movie a second time; I swear it's not my favorite movie or something). And when we think that way, we feel separate or detached from reality, given that it may as well be an illusion.

I'm sure this is an over-simplification, but I guess I'm just asking if I'm on the right track, i.e. would it be good if this sensation became even stronger, or is this is some blind alley that I need to avoid?

Thanks,
rick
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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby Ben » Fri Apr 22, 2011 1:55 am

Hi Rick
It is what it is. All sensations arise to pass away.
It is just a sensation. It has a beginning, a middle, and and end.
It is either pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
It is ephemeral fleeting phenomena. Clinging to it (or its absence) will result in dukkha.
My own practice is vedananupassana (observation of sensation) and we are instructed to just observe.
Many of my co-practitioners often report of tactile hallucinations that occur in meditation. Strange feelings. I too have experienced weird sensations like the one you describe and others. Its not the point of the practice nor is it a barrier to progress. Its just stuff that's coming up (and passing away).
kind regards

Ben
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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Apr 22, 2011 5:31 am

Hi Rick,

Note that vipassana does not 'create' a matrix-like situation for the sake of some particular end result- all you are doing is seeing in much more detail how reality is being created in the mind. We think that we inhabit a room for example, but we begin to see that actually the mind builds up a 3D illusion of a room, one sense impression at a time. By doing vipassana we get as close as possible to the limits of what can be actually known.

Since the flow of sense impressions happen so fast it looks like all the sense faculties are working at the same time-but they are not-it is sequential (but very fast) not simultaneous. What felt like a continuous smooth flow of sensory input, now upon closer inspection, is seen to be fragmented. We see that these sense impressions arise and pass away, moment by moment.

It sounds like you are on the right track- you should let the 'matrix sense' get deeper. It is a 'truer' version of reality than what you had known before, even though it may not be as satisfactory!
:twothumbsup:

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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Apr 22, 2011 1:19 pm

Perhaps this is relevant:

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.
...
"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Apr 22, 2011 1:36 pm

rowyourboat wrote:We think that we inhabit a room for example, but we begin to see that actually the mind builds up a 3D illusion of a room, one sense impression at a time.

Well then it's rather unexpected that a mind-built 3D illusion of a room can collapse in an earthquake and kill you. Or is the earthquake a mind-made kinetic illusion?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby ricketybridge » Fri Apr 22, 2011 6:18 pm

rowyourboat wrote:It sounds like you are on the right track- you should let the 'matrix sense' get deeper. It is a 'truer' version of reality than what you had known before, even though it may not be as satisfactory!


I dunno, it wasn't an unpleasant feeling or anything; it just was an interesting observation to me.

So cool, guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.
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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:41 pm

kirk5a wrote:
rowyourboat wrote:We think that we inhabit a room for example, but we begin to see that actually the mind builds up a 3D illusion of a room, one sense impression at a time.

Well then it's rather unexpected that a mind-built 3D illusion of a room can collapse in an earthquake and kill you. Or is the earthquake a mind-made kinetic illusion?

:smile: Hi my friend Kirk,

What is your understanding of conventional reality and ultimate reality ( and more specifically) their interface, experientially?

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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:30 pm

rowyourboat wrote: :smile: Hi my friend Kirk,

What is your understanding of conventional reality and ultimate reality ( and more specifically) their interface, experientially?

With metta

Matheesha

Greetings Matheesha

Interesting question. Just going by my own understanding, I would say that conventional reality is what we say is the case, or not, through words, which are the verbalization of ideas or concepts. For example, "this is written on Tuesday April 26" is a conventional truth. But since that is all conventional agreement, ultimately none of that really applies to experiential reality, which never announces what day it is, nor does it label itself in any way. Even when it would be nice if it would sometimes, so we could know just what meditation state we just attained :lol:

The distinction between experience-as-it-is, and experience-as-it-is-labeled, is basically how I would put it.

However, just because all labeling and conceptualizing can be set aside, we cannot then reverse course and proclaim, falsely, that the things which we originally took for granted as "existing" actually "do not exist" - just because we have set conceptualizing aside. Hence, we can deconstruct whatever conceptualizing we like about the room we are in, the fact remains that its physical reality can still fall down on our head and kill us. Similarly, set aside whatever conceptualizing you please about oxygen, the fact remains that our lungs do not function in a atmosphere of pure helium.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:07 am

Hi kirk,

Ah, I see. From my understanding conventional reality and ultimate reality is the difference between experiencing the 'Tree' and experiencing the aggregates which make up our perception of the tree. Not, the labelling of the Tree and the bare experience of the Tree, which are both conventional. What do you think? :smile:

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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby kirk5a » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:09 pm

rowyourboat wrote:Hi kirk,

Ah, I see. From my understanding conventional reality and ultimate reality is the difference between experiencing the 'Tree' and experiencing the aggregates which make up our perception of the tree. Not, the labelling of the Tree and the bare experience of the Tree, which are both conventional. What do you think? :smile:

with metta

Matheesha

I find the Bahiya Sutta clarifying there - just the seen in the seen, just the heard in the heard, just the sensed in the sensed, just the cognized in the cognized. Is that what you mean by experiencing the aggregates which make up our perception of the tree? Some might call just that "bare experience of the tree."
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: "Brain in a jar" feeling?

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:57 pm

I find that it is a bit more difficult to break into (deconstruct into) the Nama rupa level (the first insight knowledge) using the sense bases, as in 'hearing only in the hearing' instruction (kamatahan) seems to suggest (probably suggests more). What if you see each moment of hearing (for example) as broken down into it's material element (sense base plus object-rupa), whether it is unpleasant, pleasant or neutral to experience (vedana), it's label (sanna), any other thoughts or intentions about it (sankhara), and finally consciousness or 'knowing' (vinnana). That is to say each moment of experience contains within it these elements- simultaneously. It is interesting to focus on each of these aspects of experience in that single moment of experience. To see just one of these aspects arise and pass away, is to see an aggregate arise and pass away. As can be understood, a certain good degree of concentration is required to be able to do this. This is where samadhi gives rise to panna. Hope this is an interesting angle to explore. The Buddha seems to have used this method more frequently, than the purly sense base approach, which might have been more for those with very advanced faculties, who could break through even with very little instruction (not saying you can't :smile: ).

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