What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

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kmath
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What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby kmath » Wed May 22, 2013 3:05 am

Hello all,

During the course of practice, some people have "mystical experiences" that aren't specifically "Buddhist." I'm talking about experiences of divine union, asral projection, lucid dreaming, colors in mediation, etc. You know I mean, weird stuff.

Do you think they play any role in developing the path? There seem to be two views on this. Some people say no, these experiences tend to be a distraction. Others say yes, these experiences tend to inspire more practice.

What do you think?

Thanks,

kmath :jedi:

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby ground » Wed May 22, 2013 3:24 am

And what is most mystical is that some people experience this but not that while others never experience this but only that. So it seems that people just experience what they believe in. Isn't that mystical? :sage:

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby convivium » Wed May 22, 2013 4:54 am

it's all dhamma
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby kmath » Wed May 22, 2013 5:17 am

I'll put both of you down for: no significant role

:quote:

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby Crazy cloud » Wed May 22, 2013 6:54 am

I'v expirienced that keeping the natural mystic to oneself is the safest way to deal with the magic

Have heard that by babbeling to much about things like that, tends to tighten up oneself, and are also a trigger for coempetition amongst fellowseekers.

:console:
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby manas » Wed May 22, 2013 8:02 am

kmath wrote:Hello all,

During the course of practice, some people have "mystical experiences" that aren't specifically "Buddhist." I'm talking about experiences of divine union, asral projection, lucid dreaming, colors in mediation, etc. You know I mean, weird stuff.

Do you think they play any role in developing the path? There seem to be two views on this. Some people say no, these experiences tend to be a distraction. Others say yes, these experiences tend to inspire more practice.

What do you think?

Thanks,

kmath :jedi:


hi kmath

apart from the occasional colour or unitive experience, I've not had much of the phenomena you listed. But despite the simplicity of the phenomena I've generally experienced, I have sometimes experienced in the mind-and-body: joy, rapture, love, amazement, peace...all on a quite humble level thus far, but still I do not feel as though I've missed much by not having had some of the more exotic things that sometimes get reported by meditators.

But I don't see why they would be a problem, so long as one did not end up getting obsessed by them and forgetting the real reason we sit meditation, which is (as I understand it): the bring to completion the four frames of reference, the seven factors for awakening, and clear knowing and release.

:anjali:

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby floating_abu » Wed May 22, 2013 8:09 am

Buddhist teachers that I have read generally greatly discourage so called mystical experiences in that they can genuinely be big areas of attachment and misidentification. This is also why guidance under a genuine and long standing practitioner can be helpful, like a parent that can sometimes steer a child away from an upcoming pothole. Of course we still fall, that's life.
In another sense, there can be a lot of seemingly mystical experiences kind of like 'wow really?' and these are usually kept to oneself. Typically this is when some staid practitioners with no experience of anything out of the ordinary might come and attack, or others might get entranced. So again, the advice is keep it to yourself. The objective in Theravada Buddhism as I understand it is not one experience or another, it is truth, and liberation (as in genuine liberation that the Buddha was said to have taught).

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby kmath » Wed May 22, 2013 4:47 pm

Thanks everyone for your responses.

A lot of you said to keep this experiences to yourself and don't make too much of them. I kind of expected that's what people would say because that's all I ever hear. But personally I wish teachers would talk about these experiences more. Hearing about them is fun and inspiring, and at times the Dhamma is so dry. I like to think there will be these nuggets of mysticism along the path.

Anyway that's just my two cents.

kmath :jedi:

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby reflection » Wed May 22, 2013 5:55 pm

Depends on what you call "mystical". The point of Buddhism is to find the truth and not be mystical about it. But I think some extraordinary exeriencec (not imaginable from an outside perspective) do certainly play a role; nimittas, jhanas, recollection of past lives, and things of that nature. And could one say the realization of egolessness is an experience of the divine? Depends on the definition of divide I think. Some other things don't really play a central role but can occur. Like lucid dreaming certainly exists but I don't see any specific place for it in the path.

However, the main point is not to long for these things, because the main teaching is to let go of craving. So I would say they do play a role but shouldn't be the source of inspiration to practice. That source should be the realization of suffering, and the resulting faith in the teachings.

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 22, 2013 11:45 pm

Greetings,

kmath wrote:A lot of you said to keep this experiences to yourself and don't make too much of them. I kind of expected that's what people would say because that's all I ever hear. But personally I wish teachers would talk about these experiences more. Hearing about them is fun and inspiring, and at times the Dhamma is so dry. I like to think there will be these nuggets of mysticism along the path.

Maybe you should become a Vajrayanist then?

Alternatively, what is the underlying reason for wanting to hear about them? Remember that the path is geared towards the cessation of dukkha, and that craving is the cause of dukkha. Is your inclination expressed here giving rise to craving (and thus, dukkha) or to the alleviation of it? Only you can answer that...

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby daverupa » Wed May 22, 2013 11:59 pm

kmath wrote:at times the Dhamma is so dry


Would you like to expand on this?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby ground » Thu May 23, 2013 5:15 am

kmath wrote:... But personally I wish teachers would talk about these experiences more. Hearing about them is fun and inspiring, and at times the Dhamma is so dry.

Maybe you should try Mahayana and its sutras. At times very colourful and at times great fun :sage:

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby kmath » Thu May 23, 2013 5:46 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Alternatively, what is the underlying reason for wanting to hear about them? Remember that the path is geared towards the cessation of dukkha, and that craving is the cause of dukkha. Is your inclination expressed here giving rise to craving (and thus, dukkha) or to the alleviation of it? Only you can answer that...

Metta,
Retro. :)


I want to hear about these experiences because it's a lot more interesting than another talk on breath mediation, or contemplating the characteristics or some other esoteric topic that doesn't inspire me to practice. :zzz:

Hearing about "out there" experiences reminds me of the awesome possibilities that can come through spiritual cultivation, even if they're not directly related to liberation.

Do I think this inclination gives rise to dukkha? It definitely gives rise to some frustration, sure. But it doesn't mean the desire itself is unfounded or that it doesn't tell me something important.

:anjali:
Last edited by kmath on Thu May 23, 2013 6:08 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby kmath » Thu May 23, 2013 6:02 am

daverupa wrote:
kmath wrote:at times the Dhamma is so dry


Would you like to expand on this?


Sure. I find many of the contemplations (elements, body parts, khandas, impermanence) somewhat interesting initially but pretty soon they lose their spark. My mind just sort of says: so what? This is no fun.

The more devotional practices are refreshing but tend to fall short for me as well. For example, recollecting the Buddha tends to bring up more fear than anything else lol. I guess I'm projecting onto him, but the point is I don't feel this great love for the Buddha that gets me going. Do you know what I mean?

Cultivating bhrama viharas is another way to bring some emotion to practice. The only issue with those mediations is that they feel a bit contrived. Sure I want some feeling, but I'm just going to "send this person metta?" It just doesn't feel natural.

I think some of these views come from my Christian background. I always assume a religious path must include a great deal of service to others, which is not at all emphasized in Buddhism. That service can bring quite a bit of joy and fulfillment to the heart, and not having it contributes the the dryness I experience with Buddhism.

:heart:
Last edited by kmath on Thu May 23, 2013 6:15 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby kmath » Thu May 23, 2013 6:04 am

ground wrote:
kmath wrote:... But personally I wish teachers would talk about these experiences more. Hearing about them is fun and inspiring, and at times the Dhamma is so dry.

Maybe you should try Mahayana and its sutras. At times very colourful and at times great fun :sage:


Perhaps I will. Thanks ground!

:clap:

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby Crazy cloud » Thu May 23, 2013 6:12 am

kmath wrote:Thanks everyone for your responses.

and at times the Dhamma is so dry.


kmath :jedi:


Agree - the dhamma can be a little dry sometimes, and it helps to "play around with it". I'v found it very pleasing to use dhamma in every aspect and in every situation during the day, and its funny and "powerful". Also when it comes to the breath, dont think "breath" - think; beuatiful breath ... Thats what it actually are - its your carpet for the ultimate ride, and your closest ally - play with it as much as you like, and never think about your best friend as just "breath". Your interest in the mystic will happen when you forget about it, and maybe this old tale can be of some help

“We think far too much, and that stops us from getting any peace in life. Whenever you’re thinking about life, you can’t enjoy life. You’re just listening to the commentary. You’re reading the book about life. The thoughts and ideas in your mind. You’re not really enjoying the real thing.

Similarly, an old meditation story of Lao Tzu. Every evening he would go on a walk, and he would choose one of his disciples. Only one could go on a walk with the great master. But there was a golden rule, if you were on a walk with a great Taoist master, you have to be quiet. You were not allowed to speak, not even one word.

One day this young man was going on a walk with the master. And they got to a region of mountains and there was this sunset. And it was one of those amazing gorgeous sunsets.
The young man couldn’t help but say ‘Wow what a beautiful sunset.’

He broke the rule. Lao Tzu turned around, returned to the monastery and would never allow that young man on a walk ever again.

The young man’s friend pleaded for him. ‘It was only one sentence. Give him a break. Cut him some slack… What’s the big deal anyway of keeping silent.’

That’s when the master said this very profound explanation.

He said, ‘When that young man said, ‘what a beautiful sunset’, he wasn’t watching the sunset anymore. He was only watching the words. He wasn’t watching the sunset. He was only watching the words.’

Every time you think you’re watching a beautiful sunset, you’re not watching it anymore.”


btw: Here's a pic from my homeplace :)

Image
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby reflection » Thu May 23, 2013 7:48 am

Sole dominion over the earth,
going to heaven,
lordship over all worlds:
the fruit of stream-entry
excels them.


So, not so boring. However, reached by letting go, not by craving for excitement.

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby Sekha » Thu May 23, 2013 9:29 am

If you want to practice the Dhamma, you have to let go of "fun". There are experiences along the path that are so peaceful and pleasant that they set the bar so high that little of what you deemed "fun" formerly is of any interest any more. But even those experiences do not escape the sphere of momentariness and they are always replaced sooner or later by something which is "not fun". This is the inescapable law of nature.

We do not practice the Dhamma to have fun. We practice it to get rid of suffering, which encompasses getting rid of "fun".
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Postby nem » Sat Jun 01, 2013 6:05 am

I experienced, during breath meditation, what seemed to be going directly to the second jhana without ever passing through the first. And then later, the first jhana during another session. It was mystical to me and then I understood the idea of clinging to the jhanas being a danger, because in the sittings afterward I know I was really thinking about the possibility of getting back to jhanas and worried about that. But I cannot say that it has helped me to practice in daily life or has brought this being closer to nibbana. Probably I am further away now, than then.. :)

So I had this experience, but to me, practice outside of formal meditation is what has been really beneficial.. Just trying to be mindful of the body, contents of the mind, practicing right speech, or contemplating how my own near past actions make sense in the context of the chain of co-arising. The jhanas and so forth, they are attractive goals in the path, but probably to 'dwell' in them and use them..someone would already need to have mastered the simple things, engrained the basic teachings into mind and seeing the dhamma in everything from an intellectual standpont first. Nowdays, I don't even care about hitting jhana ever again. I just sit, and like Ajhan Sumedho suggested, I note the body, the mind, and 'it is like this' without any idea of gaining jhana or goal of attaining nibbana. I can imagine the truth of the idea, nibbana is something you get when you stop wanting nibanna. It makes a little sense to me now, the catch-22, that harder you want the fruits of the path, the further off the path you are going. Because there is no you to have those mystical experiences in the first place. :) Ajahn Amaro has put it well in his talks, I am paraphrasing "We don't study dhamma or realize dhamma, we are not something outside of dhamma to see it from the outside, so to realize the true nature of things we need to see that there is no difference between the observer and the observed" Other teachers like Thích Nhất Hạnh put it pretty much the same way. In summary, there is nothing mystical to be found..like they said above, it's all dhamma. I remember when starting my practice, that I thought that I was practicing for nibbana or some kind of special thing..today I am just practicing because it makes sense to me to follow the path..if I get something mystical or have some fortunate rebirth okay, but I'd never expect it.

The most mystical experience for me, is probably having some severe 'losses' in life like divorce, loss of other loves..being pretty much crushed down and having my goals blown apart, being 95% in the pit. So...maybe go get divorced, or enter a war zone or something..haha. Then, it's easy to start to see the dhamma nature of things and it starts to fit together. If life is going 'well' in the wordly sense, the dhamma seems hypothetical..but when forced to let go of things..to see suffering in my clinging in real world examples, that's a little mystical when you see dhamma in real life and it makes sense. That's even more mystical than the jhanas..when you can feel, hey life is showing me what the Buddha was talking about. I sit and meditate, but just looking around in inside my own mind and actions teaches more about the dhamma than those 'jhanas' or whatever taught me. I am a little perplexed about how some of the Asian teachers who ordained as boys, are able to deliver profound teachings..perhaps they realized the dhamma through mystical experiences.. because entrance into monastic life as a boy, would pretty much shield them from experiencing much of the hardcore opportunities for dhukka and practical world experience that many years of laylife provides. The "opportunity to experience suffering." Maybe to learn about mystical experiences, it's best to talk to a life-long monastic who might have gained their understanding through that path.


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