What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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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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ground
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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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convivium
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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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kmath
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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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Crazy cloud
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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:
your name Mori means forest like the infinite fresh green distances of your blindness

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

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

Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

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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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kmath
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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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reflection
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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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

your name Mori means forest like the infinite fresh green distances of your blindness

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

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


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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

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

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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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