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Why Meditate? - Page 2 - Dhamma Wheel

Why Meditate?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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mikenz66
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 17, 2012 10:05 am

Hi Retro,

I guess we'll just agree to disagree. My understanding of the Buddha, the Commentaries and modern teachers has nothing to do with "wallowing in dukkha" and "po faced meditators". Ass far as I can see you are creating distracting strawmen that miss the point. :strawman:

:anjali:
Mike

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retrofuturist
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 17, 2012 10:12 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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mikenz66
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 17, 2012 10:29 am


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retrofuturist
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 17, 2012 10:41 am

Greetings Mike,

Much better.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

Nyana
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Nyana » Thu May 17, 2012 4:22 pm

"Neither difficult nor easy...." -- Lingzhao (daughter of Layman & Mrs. Pang)

:sage:

:tongue:

Ron Crouch
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Thu May 17, 2012 4:47 pm

Hi there - a friend of mine sent me a message this morning that there was an interesting discussion going on over here about my essay "Why Meditate" and that I should drop by and check it out. It looks like it really hit a nerve with some people and that is kind of what I intended with it so it looks like the message is getting out. :console:

I wanted to offer myself up for questions directly about this essay and what I meant by it, since there is a lot of speculation here. Despite having a last name that is suspiciously close to "grouch" and having written such a rough essay, I'm actually a pretty easy going person! I really enjoy answering questions, so don't hesitate to ask me directly. What would you like to know?

P.S. I may take a while to get back to you today but will be back in the evening and will be happy to answer then.

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Challenge23
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Challenge23 » Thu May 17, 2012 5:01 pm

Good afternoon!

The essay at the original post was part of some research I was doing in regards to meditating.

To put it in perspective here is a bit more of what I found.

For the past few years Willoughby Britton has been doing research into negative side effects of meditation(she did an interview on the podcast Buddhist Geeks, the transcript of which is . A lot of the things she found were, to me, pretty disturbing. People experiencing strong fear because they no longer have a sense of self and can't reconcile that with performing mundane actions(which resulted in words spontaneously coming out of their mouths or walking happening without intervention on their part because there was no "they" to intervene) is one of quite a few examples she mentioned in the podcast. The other points was that all of the teachers interviewed were quite explicit in that they believed that 100% of students would go through this negative period she observed and that this period(defined by her as "clinical impairment", effects that hamper everyday interactions with reality) averaged out at over 3 years.

Honestly, as a practitioner I'm not 100% sure that the end goal is worth it(as I'm skeptical of any form of existence of consciousness after death).

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Travis
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Travis » Thu May 17, 2012 5:19 pm


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Challenge23
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Challenge23 » Thu May 17, 2012 5:33 pm


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mikenz66
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 17, 2012 7:17 pm


Bagoba
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Bagoba » Thu May 17, 2012 7:41 pm

I think his essay is based on buddhist meditation, and by asking him if the risks are worth Enlightenment if reincarnation doesn't exist, you're taking it out of context, since Enlightenment, the ultimate goal of buddhist's practice and meditation, is to put an end to the everlasting cycle of rebirths, if I understood correctly.
Last edited by Bagoba on Thu May 17, 2012 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"This path is a thorough investigation and understanding of the limitations of the mortal condition of the body and mind. Now you're developing the ability to turn away from the conditioned and to release your identity from mortality." Ajan Sumedho, "Mindfulness, the path to the Deathless."

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Bagoba » Thu May 17, 2012 7:51 pm

On another note, I used to practice Vajrayana buddhism, and our Lama was always warning us to never undertake any Vajrayana meditation practices without proper guidance, because of the risks involved (which seems to be consistent with the cases you mention). Some Vajrayana meditation practices are actually forbidden to newcomers, while others can only be practiced by very advanced practitioners, and so on...
"This path is a thorough investigation and understanding of the limitations of the mortal condition of the body and mind. Now you're developing the ability to turn away from the conditioned and to release your identity from mortality." Ajan Sumedho, "Mindfulness, the path to the Deathless."

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mikenz66
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 17, 2012 8:10 pm


Bagoba
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Bagoba » Thu May 17, 2012 8:13 pm

Yes Mike.
"This path is a thorough investigation and understanding of the limitations of the mortal condition of the body and mind. Now you're developing the ability to turn away from the conditioned and to release your identity from mortality." Ajan Sumedho, "Mindfulness, the path to the Deathless."

Cafael Dust
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Cafael Dust » Thu May 17, 2012 9:26 pm

We think we shall be vulnerable without hatred, greed and delusion. But we learn that in truth, the poisons cause us to be constantly, heartbreakingly vulnerable. So meditation seems dangerous to those who have not yet realised that there is no safety to settle for. And on the bright side, we are wrong in all our misgivings.
Not twice, not three times, not once,
the wheel is turning.

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 2:57 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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polarbear101
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby polarbear101 » Fri May 18, 2012 3:40 am

From what I recall, dark nights are things that happen to Mother Teresa whereby the realization that there is no caring eternal god out there looking after everybody finally enters the brain :guns:

In buddhism, it's all impermanent, so don't worry, be happy. You're free :tongue:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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mikenz66
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 18, 2012 4:31 am


Ron Crouch
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Fri May 18, 2012 5:45 am

Wow - that's a lot. I'm going to try and address everyone as succinctly as possible. So forgive me if I don't give each point a full answer.

@ retrofuturist - If you are saying that what Buddhaghosa wrote (the Vissudimagga) isn't buddhism then you're pretty much saying that most of mainstream Theravada isn't really buddhism and you pretty much have a beef with all of what is currently considered buddhism. If you don't allow any commentary and no further works by enlightened folks beyond the tipitaka, well then Theravada's out, so is Tibetan, so is Zen, Pure Land, and modern teachers like Jack Kornfield or Joseph Golstein - forget about it! I don't have much to say to that except that it sure sounds like you have some pretty serious standards for what is in or out when it comes to buddhism. Good luck with that. If it leads you to enlightenment let everyone know so they can get away from all the garbage.

P.S. - I totally dig the Hank Scorpio reference - made my week!

@mikenz66- regarding the question of whether the path inevitably leads to a dark night, the answer is, unfortunately, "it depends." The issue rests on the kind of meditation a person is doing. In classical buddhism there is a distinction made between "wet" and "dry" insight, which is the difference between the insight knowledges (nanas) experienced directly after deep concentration ("wet" = jhana) or without deep concentration ("dry" = no jhana). If you are doing it wet, then the dukkha nanas (dark night stages) seem like a breeze, a mild bit of turbulence in an otherwise smooth flight. If you are doing it dry however, then the dukkha nanas can really rock your world - and not in a good way. In the old texts and commentaries they divide it up into these two types as if they were all or nothing, but in truth almost everyone mixes it up and so the ambiguous answer of "it depends." Essentially, it depends on how deep your concentration is and how well you use it to move through the insight stages. So, while everyone will go through the insights into suffering in one form or another, how you experience it depends a lot on your concentration. Stronger concentration equals less difficulty.
Hope that helps.

@Challenge 23 - you really have two questions there - "what's up with the circular argument?" and "what's enlightenment?" The first one is easy so I'll take that one first: I'm not appealing to your logic. I may have a PhD but I don't write on my website from an academic perspective. If anyone is looking to me for that please look elsewhere! On a deeper level though, the point I'm trying to make is that the urge to become enlightened is actually an utterly irrational one to the self. One way of looking at enlightenment is that it is the task of putting the self completely out of business, firing it from its job, taking away its crown and authority, and seeing the whole self-improvement project as the joke it is.
So here is the rub - when "you" read the essay, it is actually the self that is really taking in the info and filtering through it to see if it fits its agenda (unless you're already awake). That is why soooo many essays on enlightenment appeal to the self: be a better person, be nice all the time, master your emotions, have a yoga body, learn French, have whiter teeth, etc. My point with this essay was to, in a sense, be utterly real and introduce an radically different view from all of that. When you are trying to meditate to be a better person, that's fine. But don't be fooled. That is not what it's about. When you finally get what it's about the idea of being a better person is absurd because that is a motive that only a self can have. If you are meditating to become enlightened (and I'm talking for real now, not the "idea" of being enlightened, but the reality of it) then there really is a deep yearning to be free from the self that is truly irrational to the self. The essay was an attempt to speak directly to that yearning without appealing to any self-improvement projects that people might have in mind.

Also - as regards Dr. Britton's research at Brown: I'm collaborating with her on this research and we presented on this topic together at the Buddhist Geeks conference in Los Angeles last year. For the project I've interviewed many well-established and mature practitioners (some teachers themselves) from every buddhist tradition that I know of (literally) on their experience of the dark night. The similarities between their accounts is striking. I've also talked informally with people in the Christian contemplative tradition who describe a very similar process. My suspicion is that this isn't a "buddhist thing" or "christian thing" but rather it's a human thing. I believe Dr. Britton is putting together a grant proposal for NIMH and wants to get the word out about this.
That's part of where I come in - I want to get psychologists more aware that the meditation that they are having so many clients practicing (in DBT, MBSR, ACT, and a bunch of other therapies) might not be as harmless as it first appears. As it stands, it is being given out to people like aspirin. And some of these clients learning it are suicidal. There needs to be more warning about the destabilizing effects for psychologists. And more information for practitioners in general, and that is where the essay (and this reaching out to people) comes into play.
I won't go into numbers, but I've been contacted by many people who were introduced to meditation through therapy or some self-improvement group, who started doing it sincerely, found that it helped a lot at first, and then became destabilized. Some to the point of hospitalization. A lot of them get referred to me for meditation teaching from other teachers and psychologists who think my background in psychology might help. Most psychologists have no idea what to do about this and are shocked that it could even happen, so these folks are usually cut adrift without any real help for years. They wander in and out of dharma scenes and therapy circles where they hope to get relief but no one really talks about the dark night or normalizes the experience. I cringe to think about how many people are out there going through that right now. So yes, maybe warning people away from meditation may seem a bit over the top in the essay, but man, if you had seen what I've seen you'd really understand.

@Travis - that's it exactly. First noble truth in action. As it is felt rather than "believed."

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 6:05 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine


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