What is "Mind?"


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Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 5, 2017 - 04:31pm PT
I don't see a lot of hope for reconciling the neuroscientific with the spiritual aspects of mind.

Neither do I, John, that's why I have always taken an empirical approach to mind. As many do. If you'll look at the descriptors of the 4 Immaterial Jhanaas, you will find no "spiritual" language, nor yet inferences, whatsoever. Harris has been clear on this point - that those involved in the subjective adventures - as he has - all have to get out of religion business. I couldn't agree more.

But it seems obvious that neuronal activities underlie those spiritual experiences.

Again, I'm not at all sure what you mean by "spiritual." When technical terms like focus, awareness, attention, and so forth are used, and spoken of in strictly technical ways, one wonders what in fact you are meaning trotting out a dog-eared conception of "spiritual." Maybe you could explain what, exactly, you mean by that, because in my experience, it makes no sense at all. But then I have no idea what experiences you have had to lead you to use such terms, and how you hope to clarify the conversation by doing so.

Also, "underly" often gets conflated with "caused," or sourced, and this is vastly misleading because some believe that ALL aspects of mind are the direct result of dancing neurons, which greatly limits the field of investigation, IMO. That much said, brain is unquestionably a key factor in consciousness as I understand it. The fact that we need the input of other disciplines beside neuroscience to understand mind is no knock on the former, though Type A Naturalists might think so.

And John, I wasn't "trying" to draw analogies to physics, I WAS doing so, and at no time did I try to draw said analogies to "spiritual practices."
And why shouldn't I draw analogies?

But most of all, what on earth ever made you think we need a physicists nod to vouchsafe what goes on in the subjective adventures? That's as silly as saying Ed is trying to curry the Dali Lama's favor to add luster to his equations. But it does, in a canny way, try and make Naturalism the gold standard for all of this, and imagining that I am and should seek verification by that group is simply betraying your own biases.

Fact is, there seems to be one seamless reality, comprised of objective and subjective sides of the same coin. References to physics are used to illustrate that in both fields, understanding in classical terms runs aground. If there is something in there that you disagree with, or that this doesn't square with your understanding, I'm sure we'd love to hear all about it. But as is your insistence to pot shot the conversation with pejorative slights about religion, where they don't fit at all, seems misguided. How do they drive the conversation forward? What new insight or data are they bringing forth?

Put differently, in what manner do you suggest one might take in studying the subjective adventures that would be free and clear of "spiritual" woo, and what, exactly, would you be dealing with?


Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Oct 5, 2017 - 06:03pm PT
If you really want to know the answer to your question,

I like your answer, JL. Direct and clear. Thanks.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Oct 5, 2017 - 06:23pm PT
"Harris has been clear on this point - that those involved in the subjective adventures - as he has - all have to get out of religion business."

I couldn't agree more.

Largo, nice to see.

Would you also agree "subjective adventures" could include:

(1) introspection (remember Harris and Metzinger lamented the West didn't follow up on this as a study or discipline as fully as it could have - following, eg, William James' interest)?
(2) incorporating principles, lessons and facts from psychology incl, now more than ever, evolutionary psychology?

Said conversation re consciousness and self (mind) was chock-full of allusions to evolutionary psychology if you recall (eg, model-self and adaptive delusion systems, as evolutionary products; over tens of millions of years). It could use more currency or inclusion here on this thread, no? Introspection, too, not as a replacement for meditation but in addition to meditation.

Mental Life 101 - Mental Life 404: (a) introspection studies (b) evolutionary psychology studies (c) meditation studies (d) neuroscience studies.

Knowing what we now know from the vantage point of 21st c sciences across the board, study of either (a) the mental life or (b) mind-brain relations is simply incomplete in the absence of (1) Evolution and Evolutionary Psychology; (2) Introspection Studies; (3) Neuroscience.

Pursuant to the Harris Metzinger conversation: do you agree that it is likely that there is an underlying brain architecture millions of years in the making as evolutionary product that corresponds to our subjective sense of a "self-model" that "identifies" with various "objects of consciousness"?

If either of these two inquiries I've posed is unclear, please let me know, I'll try to clarify. So you can answer. I'm sure you agree they're pretty basic to any serious "mind fundamentals" inquiry.


"Buddhism’s philosophy, insight, and practices would benefit more people if they were not presented as a religion." -Harris



Aside from the H-M conversation re consciousness and self, what did you make of those other items, that: (a) the species is approaching bottlenecks over the next couple hundred years (basis for much pessimism); (b) the internal mental conflicts (of our "innerworld") that have arisen in modern man between his primal biases (eg, existence bias) and his cognitive self-model strongly influenced by cultural evolution (modern understanding largely due to science); (c) the BAAN scenario where we have a benevolent Super AI that decides to pull the plug on all life on the planet due to its benevolent decision making that net suffering outweighs joy; (d) religions are evolved belief systems featuring "death denial" as adaptive delusion systems (in our mental life, some delusion is adaptive); (e) a full 80% of humanity across the world still locked into some sort of "death denial" system (major influence if not ball and chain on one's mental life, no?); (f) a great many secular Buddhists and Buddhist teachers still embrace, still internalize, "death denial" as delusion, as means to giving their lives meaning.

Just food for thought, really.

Pursuant to the subject matter of this thread, personally I gave the Harris Metzinger exchange an A Grade.

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Oct 5, 2017 - 07:13pm PT
JL: The path or progression of encountering the Four Jhanas without Form is helpful because the work is so slippery at this point, and the material overlaps willy nilly, that one can easily get lost or stall out without a few signposts. Not concentrating, no paying attention (this after years of paying attention to your breath etc) is the means of setting up the conditions for the work on formless or objectless adventures to naturally unfold

For me, this sort of thing is "spirtual", and not necessarily diety-related.

Dictionary: "relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things." A Google search shows many interpretations of the word, including Yoga, Zen, and other meditations. I'm not accusing you of worshiping a god.

JL: Also, "underly" often gets conflated with "caused," or sourced, and this is vastly misleading because some believe that ALL aspects of mind are the direct result of dancing neurons,. . .

Unless you can provide evidence to the contrary, i.e., there are aspects of mind that have no physical basis, I fall into this camp by default. We all have our beliefs.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Oct 5, 2017 - 07:41pm PT

Do we REALLY REALLY know this dog is happy?

Trad climber
Brooklyn, NY
Oct 5, 2017 - 08:08pm PT
^ Let's ask a rocket scientist ...


Oct 5, 2017 - 08:22pm PT
Unfortunately, for the impersonalist meditators here, the Ultimate Truth eternally has form and is in full dynamic variegatedness ........

The gross and subtle material world is direct imperfect reflection of the absolute truth.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 5, 2017 - 09:05pm PT
Don't think for a second that people working on these questions over the centuries did "not consider" what you just said.

yes, I've made this point many times, the progress made is underwhelming on the "spiritual" side, you are no closer to explaining "mind/consciousness/awareness/etc" than you were a thousand years ago.


Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Oct 5, 2017 - 09:56pm PT
John, it doesn't help your explanations that Werner is on your side. Might want to go into an offensive huddle. Jus' sayin'


Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
Oct 6, 2017 - 12:38am PT
It seems like fructose, myself and a lot of other people are exploring the same themes. I just ordered this book which was published only two months ago and is on the New York Times bestseller list. Personally, I would have preferred a less sectarian title.

Why Buddhism is true, the science and philosophy of meditation.

Here's an edited synopsis.

" Robert Wright famously explained in The Moral Animal how evolution shaped the human brain. The mind is designed to often delude us, he argued, about ourselves and about the world. And it is designed to make happiness hard to sustain.

But if we know our minds are rigged for anxiety, depression, anger, and greed, what do we do? Wright locates the answer in Buddhism .... Buddhism holds that human suffering is a result of not seeing the world clearly—and proposes that seeing the world more clearly, through meditation, will make us better, happier people.

...... this is the first book to combine evolutionary psychology with cutting-edge neuroscience to defend the radical claims at the heart of Buddhist philosophy. ... it will persuade you not just that Buddhism is true—which is to say, a way out of our delusion—but that it can ultimately save us from ourselves, as individuals and as a species.


Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
Oct 6, 2017 - 01:28am PT
As for how to evaluate subjective experiences, the traditional model has been to share them with a teacher who has been there before. It has also been traditional not to share them with others unless in a strict monastic environment.

I feel that this model is changing however, as more explorers of the inner environment read eclectically across religions and cultures, and share their experiences and insights with fellow searchers, most of whom are lay people. The trend of modern life is generally towards more individuality, diversity, eclecticism, and egalitarianism.

One concern I would have with a secular subjective science of mind is that it too, in the name of science and objectivity, would become as monolithic as religions have been in the past.
PSP also PP

Trad climber
Oct 6, 2017 - 07:33am PT
Here is a piece from an interesting Buddhist teacher discussing the questions

NDM: You say that Yogananda's description sounds like the Theravada Buddhist formless attainment known as The Base of Boundless Consciousness, which is the second formless attainment, and the sixth in the eight-jhana progression.

Yogananda used the word "seen" in his description. So the 6th jhana is when you see as in seen, this infinite boundless consciousness, empty space as a subtle immaterial object. As well as when you feel "one" with it. Indicating that there is still a subject and an object. There is a seer and what is seen. Then this is often mistaken by some people in deep states of samadhi meditation, (6th jhana) to believe that this is what or who one is?

For example, sometimes people in these subtle immaterial states see themselves as energy, or flashing bright lights, then believe they are just some kind of conscious energy or light waves, particles, subatomic quarks and so on. The same way that others may see visions, hallucinations in meditation (makyo in Japanese).

Richard Shankman: This is getting into very tricky territory, because these meditative states are subtle and hard to describe accurately. Verbal descriptions can more or less point to the experience, but they are necessarily inadequate. Also, there could be many different experiences that match the verbal descriptions but are quite different. Since you have read my book, I refer you to the opening comments in the interview with Ajaan Thanissaro where he talks about this very articulately.

Since this is subtle terrain in the map of consciousness, I think we have to be very careful about making categorical statements. We can, however, make some general statements.

I don't know how useful it is to try and figure all this out. In the Pali texts, the range of experiences possible in the jhanas is one of the Four Imponderables. From a Buddhist perspective we can have these experiences, which are talked about quite often in the texts, but in the end they are just something else not to cling to.

From the Pali suttas:

". . . a bhikkhu enters upon and remains in the first jhana . . . He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with the body, feeling, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness as impermanent, unsatisfactory . . . void, not self." This same wording is then repeated in reference to the other three jhanas and the formless attainments, including boundless consciousness.

I think there is a range of experiences that could fall under the category of meditative experience you are asking about. To name just two, there is an experience of boundless or universal consciousness in which a sense of the experiencer is retained. It is subtle. There is also an experience which I would describe as pure boundless consciousness, but I'm not sure I would use the terms 'subject' and 'object' at this point. Perhaps there is still a subtle sense of 'I' - I can't say for sure - but mainly there is just consciousness. The experience is not so much that 'you' experience this expanded consciousness. There is just the experience.

NDM: I was just talking to someone who studied and teaches in the Zen tradition. He was told not to pay any attention to these deeper samadhi states, that they were considered "dead states" and in fact more or less useless and a waste of time. He said the counter sign, (nimitta) was Makyo. What are your thoughts on this?

Also that Zen teaches one way and Theravada another? Which one is the "right concentration" that Buddha spoke of in the Noble Eightfold path? Zazen or samadhi?

Richard Shankman: Jhana and samadhi might well be useless within the Zen tradition of the person you talked with. But even if true, you cannot make a categorical statement that they are useless as some kind of universal truth, but only as useless within that person’s understanding and approach to meditation. The Buddha of early Buddhism certainly emphasized those meditative states (which are conditioned, impermanent, etc.) as important in realizing the unconditioned.

You may be aware that there are many types of Zen. In Rinzai, for example, deep states of samadhi are quite important. In Japanese Sotozen (which I'm guessing is the tradition in which the person you talked practices), the idea is that everything is Buddha Nature. The practice is not to realize Buddha Nature, or realize or gain anything at all, but just to express the Buddha Nature that is already here. Therefore, any realization, any gaining, any meditative states are considered purely incidental and of no consequence.

The world of Buddhism, and as far as I can see every other spiritual tradition, has always been full of people criticizing and judging each other. I find it amusing that people seem to have so many opinions about others while not having any direct experience upon which to base it. Unless that person has practiced deeply in the traditions he is criticizing, he is not qualified to have an opinion about them in and of themselves, but only as applied within his own practice.

Samadhi and jhana are simply meditative states - states of consciousness one can experience and which can be used like everything else. They can be sought after, identified with and clung to, or they can simply be useful tools in service of liberation. I wonder if there is anything for your zen friend in this world he would not consider useless. Compassion?Wisdom? Wholesome and skillful action? Samadhi should be viewed in exactly the same way.

From the Buddha (Pali suttas): "Having released knots, a sage here in the world does not follow any faction when disputes arise. Calmed among those who are not calm, equanimous, he does not take up opinions, saying 'Let others take them up'”.

I don't try to critique one tradition from the perspective of another. As far as I can see, there are people who have come to deep states of enlightenment and liberation having practiced in all the many forms of practice. Theravada Buddhism is quite different in its practice and goals from Sotozen, and each tradition can realize its own ends. Those ends may or may not be the same thing.

In case you are interested, or perhaps you know this: The Pali word 'jhana' is 'dhyana' in sanskrit, 'chan' in Chinese and 'zen' in Japanese. So zen is the 'meditation' or 'jhana' school of Buddhism.

Regarding 'nimitta': The counter sign (I don't practice or teach in that tradition, but can talk about it and guide people who do want to practice that way) is certainly a conditioned arising, so is impermanent, inherently unsatisfactory and empty. It is not considered to be anything more than a tool. In the Visuddhimagga it has a specific purpose, but is not identified with or considered to be more than it is. The term nimitta appears in the Pali suttas, but means 'theme' or 'basis' or 'sign' of something. It never means a mental image that appears in meditation. That is from the Visuddhimagga, not the suttas.

Full interview here http://www.nondualitymagazine.org/nondualitymagazine.4/nonduality_magazine.4.richardshankman.interview.htm
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 6, 2017 - 10:51am PT
As far as I can see, there are people who have come to deep states of enlightenment and liberation having practiced in all the many forms of practice.

What does this mean, really? "deep states of enlightenment and liberation"?

It seems rather specious, and extremely limited.

Trad climber
Brooklyn, NY
Oct 6, 2017 - 11:09am PT
I've not been following this thread closely in recent months, however after reading some entries from the last few pages it brought to mind some comments I'd read recently in a meditation forum which were inspired by a discussion of some ideas in Robert Wright's book mentioned upthread (which I've not read) Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. The following comments are by Daniel Ingram (and are extracted out of a larger give and take conversation so are presented below somewhat out of context):

"Scientific materialism (SM) is a fascinating set of contraditions. Check this out:

SM says that the real world is material, made of atoms, subatomic particles, probability waves squared, probably has 7-11 or so dimensions, and that we can't know it directly. It is inferred from the senses, deduced by careful measurement by machines, and correlates freakishly with mathematics.

SM notices that there are no true colors, only the mental images of them that corrlate with but are not photons. There are no true tastes, only the mental images of them that correlate with some atomic interactions with taste and smell receptors. There are no true sounds, only the mental images that correlate with various frequencies of vibrations.

Thus, SM posits that this whole world we experience is not the world, it is merely an image that hints at what the real world is, a world we can't know, can't see, as all we know are sounds, sights, textures, tastes and all of that, none of which is real, all of which is a corrlate with some reality.

SM posits that this is all happening in a brain somewhere, a material brain. Aside from the obvious "Hard Problem" that there is no material basis for consciousness that has been clearly established and no material correlate of consciousness, as all of this is mere atoms and particles and probability densities, none of which are conscious, there is the serious problem of the spacial relationship between this visual, auditory, tactile space and the "real space", the "material space", the "real world" of atoms, particles and all of that which this visual, auditory, tactile, etc. representation represents.

So, where is this set of false images in relation to that brain? Clearly, that brain isn't here, as this "here" is a construct in various lobes of that brain, frontal, temporal, parietal, occipital, etc. Those combine various sense modailities to produce a set of hyper-processed, ultra-filtered images that somehow correlate with the real material world but clearly are not the real material world, as there is no "red", there is no "sweet", those are not real things to SM, only false images.

So, in SM, our whole sensate world, particuarly including thoughs, are not real, and instead only images, impressions, immitations in a brain somewhere, highly processed, extremely representational but not actual, and they are taking place in some created space with no way to conceptually resolve the spacial relationship between that created image space and the "real material space".

This model has many profound implications and is generally poorly understood by scientific materalists, as they tend to believe that parts of what we experience are really "real", which SM flatly disagrees with. We tend to believe that the hands are our real hands, our eyes are our real eyes, colors really are photons, textures really are matter, but clearly none of these are true, and instead the model says that nerves and a brain somewhere (not here) create this functional illusion so the real material "us" somewhere can function.

As Buddhism concerns itself with experience, and, for vipassana purposes, says that sensations, colors, tastes, sounds, textures, thoughts and all of that are the stuff that is relevatant as a basis for awakening, this directly contracts the assumptions of SM.

Were a scientific materialist to posit something like "waking up to the truth", they would mean waking to the real world of particles and forces, not sensations, as the sensations are not the real, material world by definition in SM.


"That there are no material correlates of consciousness in the SM worldview and they vaguely handwave and say crazy things like "emergent property" to try to explain how experience arises and what it is represents such a glaring hole in their entire worldview and puts such a distance between the world that people experience and the totally different world of inanimate particles and forces that they postulate as to be laughable.

Is SM useful for certain problems? Definitely, as shown in countless technological marvels and results.

Does is form a complete theory of human experience and life sufficient to satisfy one who likes theories that explain things we can experience and thus form a basis of awakening? It would be madness and staggering delusion to imagine that SM does in its current form, as it explicitly denies that experience is what is really going on, as experience can't be material by definition, and so, as all of the "material" we experience is thus mental, and it explicitly is not a Scientific Mentalism theory, and as senseate experience forms the basis of awakening, they are explicitly two totally separate domains.
Further, when the SM kids say things like, "Psychic powers are impossible!" they are forgetting that this world is a highly processed, highly removed, highly symbolic sensate representation of their purported "real material world", and so it makes no sense to bind this world of experience and sensations to the laws that they say bind matter, as they are two different if theoretically related things.

Remember, everything about the "material world" is totally extrapolated from sensations, and, while such logic has opened technological doors that are truly imazing, the correlation of imagined laws and math to sensate phenomena doesn't mean that ontologically the "material world" that we are totally unable to experience directly is actually true, and how one would ever prove it was or wasn't is unknown."

"It is also true that one of the sets of concepts that bridged the gap for me from my largely scientific materialist upbringing and Buddhism was books like The Dancing Wu Li Masters and its exploration of the strange apparent interactions of consciousness and quantum mechanics, but even Newtonian Mechanics was enough to convince me that there clearly couldn't be a separate agent. So, yes, SM can facilitate some aspects of Buddhist understanding, such as causality and a lack of a separate self that exists as a stable entity separate from the rest of causality somehow.

Still, to go deeper requires working at the level of sensations, which SM would consider entirely unreal and merely representational of an unexperienceable true material reality, and this requires a different set of assumptions than SM offers, as, were one to entirely believe SM, one could easily dismiss this world of sensations as being an invalid basis of investigation in comparison to things like mathematical extrapolation and physical experiments in hyper-controlled, ultra-specialized situations that attempt to approach the clean ideal circumstances in which the math works perfectly. This dismissal has caused profound paradigmatic tensions between realms such as modern physics and the sciences that have more to do with the human condition and experience, as we all know well and has been mentioned above."
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 6, 2017 - 11:21am PT
as far as I know, "scientific materialism" doesn't have anything to do with science, it is a construction of philosophy trying to understand science.

Scientists don't study these dogmas when becoming scientists. It is a mistake to presume that these dogmas are relevant to science.

I believe the most parsimonious description of a scientific "dogma" is that physical phenomena have physical origins.

To the extent that your "experience" is a physical phenomenon, a scientist would look for its physical origin.


Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Oct 6, 2017 - 11:55am PT
"Buddhism is a religion and dharma that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the ..." (Wiki)

And like any significant religious practice the neophyte can be guided to an established dogma by Masters or priests. There is no question that much good can come from meditation, but to then conclude that the mind peering into itself leads to an enlightened Truth is debatable.

And, yes, one needs experience in the practice in order to argue its validity. As a mathematician I would be suspicious if a meditator would try to alter my perception of a functional integral. So, having done a minimal amount of the "work" some time ago I cannot confidently assert that guided meditation does not lead to a true understanding of the mind. But I can offer my opinion that, if nothing can be thought of in physical reality as truly substantive, the same may be true of meditative reality.

But, nice post from the artist from Brooklyn (where my daughter lives).

Trad climber
Brooklyn, NY
Oct 6, 2017 - 11:58am PT
Ed wrote:
As far as I can see, there are people who have come to deep states of enlightenment and liberation having practiced in all the many forms of practice.

What does this mean, really? "deep states of enlightenment and liberation"?

It seems rather specious, and extremely limited.

Ed, it will mean different things dependent upon what one's model of enlightenment is.

Below is an excerpt from Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha (first edition; second edition in the process of being published). This is the best overall examination of this topic that I've found to date. In the book he examines in more detail what he believes to be the claims, flaws, accuracies, problems, and benefits of the various models.

"The temptation when thinking about enlightenment is to come up with something defined that you can imagine, such as a state or quality of being, and then fixate on that ideal rather than doing the practices that lead to freedom. It is absolutely guaranteed that anything you can imagine or define as being enlightenment is a limited and incorrect view, but these views are extremely tempting just the same and generally continue to be very seductive even through the middle stages of enlightenment. Every possible description of the potential effects of realization is likely to feed into this unfortunate tendency."


"Any model that tries to drive a wedge between the specifics of what is happening in your world right now and what awakening entails needs to be considered with great skepticism. With the simple exception of the fact of misperceiving the sensations occurring now and coming up with a separate, continuous individual, nearly all of the rest of the dreams are problematic to some degree. This basic principle is essential to practice, as it focuses things on the here and now, and also happens to be true. Ok, back to the complexities…

The mental models we use when on the spiritual path can have a profound effect on our journey and its outcome. Most spiritual practitioners have never really done a hard-hitting look at their deepest beliefs about what “enlightenment” means or what they imagine will be different when they get enlightened. Many probably have subconscious ideals that may have come from sources as diverse as cartoons, TV shows (Kung Fu comes to mind), movies, legends, 60’s gurus, popular music, popular magazines, and other aspects of popular culture in general. More formal and traditional sources include the ancient texts and traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism, Kabbala (however you spell it), Christianity, Western Mystical Traditions (Alchemy, Theosophy, Golden Dawn related traditions, etc.), the ancient Greek mystery schools (including the fragmentary writings of those like Heraclites), and the non-aligned or ambiguously aligned teachers such as Kabir, Khalil Gibran, J. Krishnamurti, and many others.

Modern fusion traditions, such as the various new versions of Buddhism and other traditions that are present in the West, also have a wide range of explicit and implied ideals about awakening. Plenty of people also seem to take their own inborn higher ideals for themselves or others that have arisen from sources hard to define and made these a part of their working if usually poorly-defined model of enlightenment. There is also a strong tradition in the West of believing that enlightenment involves perfecting ourselves in some psychological sense, though this is also prominent in certain Eastern and traditional models as well in slightly different forms.

Just about all of these sources contain some aspects that may at times be useful and other aspects that at times may be useless or even send people in the wrong direction. The number of contradictions that can be found even within each specific tradition on the subject is much larger than I think most people imagine. For instance, those who attempt a systematic review of the dogmas of enlightenment within the Pali Canon will find themselves tangled in a mass of widely divergent doctrines, myths, stories and ideals, and this is only one tradition.

Thus, to take on the subject of the models of the stages of enlightenment is a daunting task, but by breaking it down into simplified categories, some discussion of this wide mass of dogma and half-truth is possible. I will use both simple, broadly applicable models and also discuss specific models that come from some of the traditions and try to relate these to reality. In the end, relating them to reality is essentially the practice, and that falls to you.

I consider this attempt to be just one addition to an old tradition that attempts to reform the dogma and bring it back in line with verifiable truths. That said, each new culture, place, time and situation seems to need to do this again and again, as the forces within us and society that work to promote models that are out of touch with the truth of things are powerful and perennial, with money, power, fame, ideals of endless bliss and pleasure, and the enticing power of the ideals of self-perfection being chief among them.

In that same vein, this chapter is very much a situation in which I claim a very high level of realization, write as if what I have achieved is sufficient authority to write a chapter such as this one, and then present it as if this is a definitive text on the subject, sufficient to contradict 2,500 years of tradition and the teachings and writings of countless previous and current pundits. While it is hard from my current vantage point to not believe this to be true, anyone with sense will read this chapter with appropriate skepticism, and this, as I see it, is one of the strengths of properly applied Buddhism and rational thought in general. The Buddha was forever asking people to not take his word at face value, but instead to do the experiment and see if they come to the same conclusions. I recommend the same. If you are able to achieve something beyond what I state is possible, more power to you, and please let me know how you did it! I would feel real regret if I thought that this work had hindered anyone from achieving their full human potential, and am always looking for practices and concepts that are useful.

Here is a list of the basic categories of models that I use, though most traditions contain a mix of most or all of these. There are probably other aspects of the dreams of enlightenment that I have failed to address, but this list should cover most of the basic ones. I look at each of these as representing some axis of development, and basically all of them are good axes to work on regardless of what they have to do with enlightenment. That said, from what I have already written, it will not be hard to pick out my favorites:

1. Non-Duality Models: those models having to do with eliminating or seeing through the sense that there is a fundamentally separate or continuous center-point, agent, watcher, doer, perceiver, subject, observer or similar entity.
2. Fundamental Perceptual Models: those that have to do with directly perceiving fundamental aspects of things as they are, including perceiving emptiness, luminosity, impermanence, suffering, and other essential aspects of sensations regardless of what those sensations are.
3. Specific Perceptual Models: those that involve being able to perceive more and more, or all, of the specific sensations that make up experience with greater and greater clarity at most or all times, and usually involve perfected, continuous, panoramic mindfulness or concentration at extremely high speed.
4. Emotional Models: those that have to do with perfecting or limiting the emotional range, usually involving eliminating things like desire, greed, hatred, confusion, delusion, and the like.
5. Action Models: those that have to do with perfecting or limiting the things we can and can’t do in the ordinary sense, usually relating to always following some specific code of morality or performing altruistic actions, or that everything we say or do will be the exactly right thing to have done in that situation.
6. Powers Models: those that have to do with gaining in abilities, either ordinary or extraordinary (psychic powers).
7. Energetic Models: those that have to do with having all the energy (Chi, Qi, Prana, etc.) flowing through all the energy channels in the proper way, all the Chakras spinning in the proper direction, perfecting our aura, etc.
8. Specific Knowledge Models: those that have to do with gaining conceptual knowledge of facts and details about the specifics of reality, as contrasted with the models that deal with perceiving fundamental aspects of reality.
9. Psychological Models: those that have to do with becoming psychologically perfected or eliminating psychological issues and problems, i.e. having no “stuff” do deal with, no neuroses, no mental illnesses, perfect personalities, etc.
10. Thought Models: those that have to do with either limiting what thoughts can be thought, enhancing what thoughts can be thought, or involve stopping the process of thinking entirely.
11. God Models: those that involve perceiving or becoming one with God, or even becoming a God yourself.
12. Physical Models: those that involve having or acquiring a perfected, hyper-healthy or excellent physical body, such as having long earlobes, beautiful eyes, a yoga-butt, or super-fast fists of steel.
13. Radiance Models: those that involve having a presence that is remarkable in some way, such as being charismatic or radiating love, wisdom or even light.
14. Karma Models: those that involve being free of the laws of reality or causes that make bad things to happen to people, and thus living a blessed, protected, lucky, or disaster and illness-free life.
15. Perpetual Bliss Models: those models that say that enlightenment involves a continuous state of happiness, bliss or joy, the corollary of this being a state that is perpetually free from suffering. Related to this are models that involve a perpetual state of jhanic or meditative absorption.
16. Immortality Models: those that involve living forever, usually in an amazing place (Heaven, Nirvana, Pure Land, etc.) or in an enhanced state of ability (Angels, Bodhisattvas, Sorcerers, etc.).
17. Transcendence Models: those models that state that one will be free from or somehow above the travails of the world while yet being in the world, and thus live in a state of transcendence.
18. Extinction Models: those that involve getting off of the Wheel of Suffering, the round of rebirths, etc. and thus never being reborn again or even ceasing to be at the moment of enlightenment, that is, the great “Poof!”
19. Love Models: those that involve us loving everyone and/or everyone loving us.
20. Unitive Models: that you will become one with everything in some sense.
21. Social Models: that you will somehow be accepted for what you may have attained and/or that you have attained something when people think you have."

That's one take on the possible range of possibilities referenced by the term 'enlightenment' or 'awakening'.

Oct 6, 2017 - 12:05pm PT
to then conclude that the mind peering into itself leads to an enlightened Truth is debatable.

No you can't.

You can't debate this at all as you're NOT enlightened.

Also, a master does not install any dogma ever.

You don't even know who the MASTER is, to begin with as you're just plain guessing as usual.

If someone installs dogma then immediately that individual is NOT Master .....

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Oct 6, 2017 - 12:09pm PT
Bruce: Success in convincing others is not in direct proportion to the number of words employed in that effort. A common misunderstanding in the humanities.

Sycorax, congrats on your marathons. Us paunchy old guys stand (or sit) in awe!


just southwest of the center of the universe
Oct 6, 2017 - 05:44pm PT
If you really want to "experience" reality you should hope to come back as a paramecium.

To better function in that reality a dorsal nerve chord evolved.

A case could be made that it is a more than fair evolutionary trade, that to have gained a better ability to function within and even understand reality we had to lose our more direct experience of reality.

(This was meant as a somewhat facetious response to Daniel Ingram's nonsense about "scientific materialism" that Lovegasoline provided 6 posts above)
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