Vipassana recreates infancy?

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby ricketybridge » Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:27 am

Hey everyone,

So I just finished reading "Mindfulness in Plain English" and found it very interesting, and I'm looking forward to practicing in that way, but it occurred to me that a couple key aspects of vipassana meditation are directed at undoing fundamental things that I believe are developed in early childhood, namely, separation between self and other and verbalization. I know this is a sort of more theoretical question than one that specifically pertains to me, or anyone else on this board, but it begs the question: if distinguishing between self and other and using words are fundamental obstacles to achieving nibbana, then would it not be advisable to attempt to inhibit a child's development between self and other (however you do that...), and to not teach them language?

I know that sounds like horrific child abuse, but just hypothetically speaking, if someone was somehow raised that way, would they not already have the mindset of an arahant, or at least a stream-entrant? Or, because it would probably be impossible to teach them morality and other related concepts, they wouldn't be even close?

Since I expect the answer will be no, they would not be like a stream-entrant or arahant, it just makes me very curious as to why we must "corrupt" our minds with language and selfhood, only to later attempt to strip them away? This is why I was wondering if it would be more efficient not to develop them in the first place. I guess because we need language and selfhood for practical reasons (e.g. being able to jump out of the way of an oncoming truck), but must be able to willingly put them on hold?

And why, for that matter, is language such a barrier to nibbana? Language isn't inherently filled with dukkha; it's just a tool, isn't it? I guess it's because language stands in the way of "pure experience", but why is "pure experience" necessary for attaining nibbana? If your answer is only "I guess you'll have to find out," since I've already mentioned it, no need to post it yourself.

I don't mean to sound like I'm asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin; to me these questions have practical ramifications and will aid my understanding and, I hope, those of others.
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby Kenshou » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:09 am

It's not that language is bad, it's quite useful, to a point. We should recognize it's limitations, and also know when to not get all tangled up in words. Meditation is one of those times, generally.

Also, the uprooting of "selfhood", specifically the concepts of "I/me/mine" doesn't mean a person can't distinguish themselves from another. To put it another way, a person is not a "self" but a process, and it ought to be possible to still understand that this process here (me) is different from that one over there (some guy).
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby Reductor » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:22 am

Babies and very young children suffer enormous amounts of craving. That isn't undermined by the seeming lack of duality and absence of language.

Just deny junior his bottle to see what I mean.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby legolas » Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:19 am

:smile:

By an extension of the hypothetical argument - if we all had a labotomy, we may all be in a better position to practice certain types of meditation.
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:07 am

legolas wrote::smile:

By an extension of the hypothetical argument - if we all had a labotomy, we may all be in a better position to practice certain types of meditation.
And hereImagewe have another little empty snarky snipe aimed at vipassana.
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: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby legolas » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:38 am

Actually I believe vipassana is an absolute must.
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:10 am

We are begining to see the limitations of language already, on this thread. :tongue:

The point about language is that it is based on things either existing or not existing.. and even more problematically, our thinking follows our language/concepts. It can be difficult to convey more nuanced ways of existence (see I fell into 'existence' trying to convey that!). In any case that particular limitation is linked to understanding nibbana. Another problem is trying to describe transcendental states, with language used to describe mundane states- again in reference to nibbana, but experientially (the previous one was, conceptually). There is also the problem that even mundane meditative states can't be described accurately because language has been created to talk about non- meditative experiences which are mostly 'out-there'. So we use special terms (eg: samadhi) to denote them. In any case language is a poor substitue to experience because as the saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words' suggest, it is not easy to put all of what you experience in a single moment, in to words.

Importantly the first steps in to the dhamma constitutes of words and thinking- you must be able to understand someone teaching you the dhamma and have the concepts (which are derived from language) to think further about what you just heard (and hopefully understood). This is called the wisdom of hearing (sutamaya panna) followed by the wisdom of contemplating (cintamaya panna). These form an important base for the later meditative practice so that you are fully aware of 1) the reasons why you are practicing 2) how to practice 3) what to expect when you practice in a certain way 4) how you know you have reached the end of your practice .. and so on.

It would be impossible to survive without language- first we must eat, drink, be stable and educated to some degree before we can practice- these serve as a foundation, even though not expressly stated. A more useful endeavour would be to bring up kids with as few defilements as possible- indeed the Buddha says that one of the duties of a parent is to teach children what is right and what is wrong (singalovada sutta).

As for self-hood, yes like all defilements, it is helpful for survival for animals- ie those creatures who are unable to think rationally and logically. This ability to think clearly, without needing defilements/ignorance to drive us to survive, find food and shelter etc, is said to exist to a degree that would make enlightenment possible, after around the age of 7 years. But of course, other animals cannot be mindful and think/plan in a wise manner, so needs to react to the environment, rather that act rationally. Now the problem with that is those more crude drivers of behaviour not only allow beings to exist, but causes them untold suffering in the same single stroke. Craving drives us to eat- but then causes heart attacks and obesity, because it becomes mindless. Similarly for all those impulses which drive us to do immoral acts for instant gratification, but cause so much unnecessary suffering. Equally the self view is helpful to a very basic degree, but exacts a very high price, for it's limited usefulness.

Hope that makes some sense,

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With Metta

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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:48 am

Hey Ricketybridge,

ricketybridge wrote:Hey everyone,

So I just finished reading "Mindfulness in Plain English" and found it very interesting, and I'm looking forward to practicing in that way, but it occurred to me that a couple key aspects of vipassana meditation are directed at undoing fundamental things that I believe are developed in early childhood, namely, separation between self and other and verbalization.



I don't think this is correct. I think it is more about transcendence than undoing. To see it from a different perspective

Vipassana meditation does not undo things like verbalization - after all, the Buddha could and arahants can still communicate. The mental patterns and functions required for language are intact.

As to separating between self and other - as far as I know even an arahant can still discern between his hand and the hand of someone else, or his bowl of rice and that of another monk. In fact, when one looks at how the brain works to discern between one's own hand and that of another is learned in early childhood. It requires the brain to interpret the information of the senses in a correct fashion. Sometimes it fails. For example, when we sit in an unmoving train and see the next train out of the window moving we sometimes wonder whether it is our train that started to move or the other one. During daily activities even an adult mind sometimes has flaws like that, there are many ways how to confuse or lie to it via unusual sensory combinations. In general the mind trusts visual information more than the others - as shown in the train example. When this trust in the visual does not agree with information by other senses, such as the tactile, we experience confusion or feel sick (like in car or bus).

The body image of homo sapiens sapiens, based on the senses, is very variable, much more variable than that of any other animal. It is this that allows us to use tools. Sometimes we feel as if we ARE the car, not the driver's body inside it. At different times we feel as if we are another person's body or even that of an animal - this, too, can lead to confusion or even sicking up, as many students of medicine experience every year when they are watching first time a corpse cut open. Their visual sense tells them a body (that could be their own) is damaged and the mind trust this but the tactile sense tells them their body is fine. After a while the mind learns to discern between the body seen and the body felt and there is no more confusion.

A human mind has to learn what tactile impression agrees with what visual one. This way babies learn to know their own hands. An arahant's mind can discern in this way, too, even more so. What he sees additionally, IMO, is how this discernment happens. He can see and know how the mind processes the signals of the senses, how the various images are constructed and that there is no difference in essence between the image of his own body and that of another person or another animal. They all are images constructed within the mind based on the senses.
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:37 am

legolas wrote:Actually I believe vipassana is an absolute must.
And what you mean by that is?

And what is it that you meant by this comment By an extension of the hypothetical argument - if we all had a labotomy, we may all be in a better position to practice certain types of meditation.?
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: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby bodom » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:39 am

ricketybridge wrote:it occurred to me that a couple key aspects of vipassana meditation are directed at undoing fundamental things...
\

Yes, greed, hatred and delusion, not language or communication skills.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:49 am

ricketybridge wrote:it just makes me very curious as to why we must "corrupt" our minds with language and selfhood, only to later attempt to strip them away?
Language and "self" are part of our evolutionary structure. The Buddha's teachings of vipassana is not stripping them away. It is a matter of seeing these things without delusive assumptions.
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: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby Ben » Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:06 pm

bodom wrote:
ricketybridge wrote:it occurred to me that a couple key aspects of vipassana meditation are directed at undoing fundamental things...
\

Yes, greed, hatred and delusion, not language or communication skills.

:anjali:

Yes, but I am inclined to believe that they (greed, hatred and delusion) un-do themselves. If we are engaged in atapi sampajjano satima, then surely we are clearly comprehending and mindfully alert of the anicca (or other ti-lakkhana) characteristic with earnestness - just observing and doing nothing in the real sense of the term. My teacher has a great saying: "Just observe and Dhamma will take care of the rest"
As for the OP's contention "Does Vipassana recreate infancy?", I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding which I am sure will be sorted out when he engages in practice.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby legolas » Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:50 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
legolas wrote:Actually I believe vipassana is an absolute must.
And what you mean by that is?

And what is it that you meant by this comment By an extension of the hypothetical argument - if we all had a labotomy, we may all be in a better position to practice certain types of meditation.?


What I meant was that vipassana is an integral part of the Dhamma.

As for the second part you have already determined that I meant it to be "another little empty snarky snipe aimed at vipassana."


The logical sequence is to make your comment about what you think I meant and then leave it, or ask me what I meant first then state what you think I meant.
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:08 pm

legolas wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
legolas wrote:Actually I believe vipassana is an absolute must.
And what you mean by that is?

And what is it that you meant by this comment By an extension of the hypothetical argument - if we all had a labotomy, we may all be in a better position to practice certain types of meditation.?


What I meant was that vipassana is an integral part of the Dhamma.

As for the second part you have already determined that I meant it to be "another little empty snarky snipe aimed at vipassana."


The logical sequence is to make your comment about what you think I meant and then leave it, or ask me what I meant first then state what you think I meant.
Well, my mistake. Please clarify. You did or did not mean it to be a snipe at vipassana meditation?
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: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby Cessation » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:24 pm

I think it might create the innocent appearance as an infancy because a child has no sense of self or ego. But even as adults our minds get defiled by the world with lust, hatred and delusion. Then just like an innocent child we are prone to suffering because we don't have wisdom and understanding. That is the difference between a child and an arahants, the arahantshave completed their tasks, arahants uprooted lust, hatred and delusion, their minds is unshakable and can never be defiled, while a child if not guided correctly will have his mind defiled by blemishes.
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:32 pm

Cessation wrote:I think it might create the innocent appearance as an infancy because a child has no sense of self or ego.
I rather doubt that that is true at all. The sense of self in an infant may be inchoate, but it is massively there as a wanting and a needing of food and physical comfort and affection.

But even as adults our minds get defiled by the world with lust, hatred and delusion.
Wanting what reinforces oneself, pushing away what what threatens, hurts, oneself, and "viewing" oneself as the center of the universe are very much what characterizes an infant.
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: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby ricketybridge » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:35 pm

Thanks everyone, that clarifies things for me a lot.

The only thing that wasn't wholly clarified, from what I could discern, was why language is such a barrier to these transcendent states of mind. I mean, I know when they do CT scans (or whatever) on people meditating, the language center of the brain shuts down, but why is that? To say that it's because those states of mind are inexplicable is a circular argument. Why is it necessary for that part of the brain to shut down to achieve ultimate happiness/satisfaction/reality, etc.? Why isn't it possible to be able to explain that state of mind, at least to the extent that we can describe anything else, even if it would mean having to create new words?

I know, this sort of falls into the category of this question doesn't even deserve to be answered because the answer (whatever it is) doesn't make attaining nibbana any easier; I'm just plain curious.

Thanks. :)
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby bodom » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:16 pm

Ben wrote:My teacher has a great saying: "Just observe and Dhamma will take care of the rest"


Great quote Ben thanks.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby Reductor » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:25 pm

Every word or phrase carries with it complex assumptions. This set of cmplex assumptions are shared between yourself and those that you comminicate with,which allows you to convey a lot of information quickly. That is useful. Everyone employes the same set of concepts.

But we are seldom aware of all the assumption that are present. Worse is that not all those assumptions prove correct. So by using language in pursuit of the deepest truth you are unwittingly relying on falshood.

How can you find the truth of the forest when you mistake your living room for that forest? You start off sharply limited and preclude the truth from being found.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Vipassana recreates infancy?

Postby ricketybridge » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:08 pm

thereductor wrote:Every word or phrase carries with it complex assumptions. This set of cmplex assumptions are shared between yourself and those that you comminicate with,which allows you to convey a lot of information quickly. That is useful. Everyone employes the same set of concepts.

But we are seldom aware of all the assumption that are present. Worse is that not all those assumptions prove correct. So by using language in pursuit of the deepest truth you are unwittingly relying on falshood.


Aha. Interesting.... So I guess it's kind of like how you can name a color, but you can't really describe, say, the sensation or experience of seeing that color?
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