26 Aug 2014
As an introduction to approaching devotional practice and practicing with meaning, Alan talks of how faith in Buddhism differs from both western/Christian faith, and faith in science. He gives examples including Galileo’s role, based on his belief which he validated with empirical evidence, in overturning the physical sciences and Aristotle based thought of his time. Nothing similar has happened in the mind sciences. Buddhist faith has the depth and beauty of western traditions, but also has empiricism and the passion to ‘know’.
Following the meditation, Alan picks up on the notion of ‘taboo’ and the idea that what you don’t look into keeps you blind. He talked of how understanding the body was advanced once the taboo of opening up the body with dissection was overcome. You know where this is heading … one of Alan’s favorite topics: the western taboo of not giving credence to introspection in the sciences. Introspection is still taboo, and if you don’t look, you don’t learn. The session ended with an exhortation from Alan the revolutionary to “burn down the city walls” where there is (scientific) faith without the balance of intelligence.
Meditation starts at 34:48
Oh ya. So we’ll begin this morning as we did yesterday. There’s just a short time of the reciting of the Seven Limb prayer, the Vajraguru mantra and then we’ll go into the main practice. And perhaps a few comments could be helpful with respect to engaging in such devotional practices, and there are many, in all traditions of Buddhism : Theravada, Zen, Chan, they all have in various ways of course. But faith plays an important role. Devotion plays an important role, taking refuge in all schools of Buddhism is a very crucial element of the practice. For those who’re really dedicated to this path. And to do such chanting, and boy, do Tibetans know how to chant. So do the Thais for that matter, and other Therevadans, but when it comes to chanting or devotional practices like this there are two ways in which it can be really quite meaningless. So it’s good to recognize those, and one is if one has no faith and one is simply going through an outer ritual, of doing some visualization doing some chanting,doesn’t really want to, has no faith and so forth, so what’s the point? You are not fooling yourself, you are not fooling the Buddha, you’re not fooling anybody else, you may as well be just little parrot going - wawawawa. You know, what’s the point? So if there is no faith then don’t feel bad about it, but you know, there is really no point, is there ? And the other one is if your mind is simply wandering, and boy, it’s easy. And I have been, I’ve spent a lot of time in monasteries and dharma centers and the chanting goes on and on and on and even when you are fluent, I have been fluent for a long time, it’s so easy to say - yeah I got it, and the mouth just goes on autopilot; and the mind’s just goes on a vacation, you know. And Shantideva, the great Shantideva said, if that’s what you’re doing, the mouth is going here and the mind’s going there, what you are doing is completely meaningless. You might as well just sit there with your mouth shut and just daydream. At least then nobody is being fooled. Nobody thinks you are practicing dharma. They just think you’re sitting there probably daydreaming, which is true. And so this is why, there’s a wonderful complementarity between Shamatha and the preliminary practices; devotional practices, chanting, liturgies of all kind, sadanas of all kind. Shamatha makes the mind serviceable and then the sadanas, the devotions and so forth put it into service, and that’s a wonderful combo.
[2:26] But I thought it might be useful just to comment briefly on the issue of faith. Uh it’s something that has been a central concern to me even since I was a kid, because as many of you know my father is a Baptist theologian, became a Presbyterian theologian later on. Um, so the issue of faith was there all along, of something to be grappled with, try to understand, make sense of, and I’d like to keep this fairly short, but it’s very meaningful to me. So maybe it will be meaningful to one or two people among you, maybe more. But there are different types of faith and one, if you have a kind of religious background in the west, you know faith is especially in Christianity, to a lesser extent perhaps in Judaism but still it’s there and of course it’s there with Islam. But in Christianity, it’s salvation by grace, and you receive grace by faith, right? Faith as in belief, and so faith, especially since the protestant reformation, and then the counter reformation, faith has been really, absolutely central, that by way of faith we receive grace, we receive an undeserved gift of salvation, so your salvation, that is what you know when you hit the fork in the road of death, you either go to eternal hell or eternal heaven. The stakes could hardly, cannot not be higher. . Could not be higher than that. You are like: Oh god! No! No! What do I need to do? I mean if really if the stakes are that high, I mean, I would just be freaking out, you know, I really would be. And that’s maybe why I am not following that path anymore. I don’t like freaking out. But faith is the key, if you lose your faith, then, the left fork of the road you know, neh, that way, neh… you start screaming, and so faith in that context is really not intended to, or expected to be an avenue to knowledge in this lifetime. It’s an avenue to, it makes you suitable, or a suitable vessel to receive grace, and you’ll know what’s going on after you’re dead when you go to heaven and you’ll think - thank goodness, I’m right, you know. Um,so that’s kind of the prospect. And if you were wrong, and of course you’ll never know it, that is if there’s, if death means termination, well at least you know, you die happy. [4:32] And so, so there’s one type of faith, faith not as a means to knowledge, but as a means to salvation, to, and then knowledge comes in after life, but then you don’t get to phone home, you know, phone your living loved ones. [ Alan whispers] “I was right.” You know. Unfortunately there is no service, the cell phone doesn’t work there. There’s no service, if you’ve ever tried, you know, phone up heaven, no service. What do you do? So there’s one, we are all very familiar with that. An area that we may not so familiar with but I have spending a lot of time looking into, I’ve taken it extremely seriously - The role of faith in science. At first glance it would say, you’ve just said something gibberish because this is the whole point of science, they don’t have faith. Religious people have faith, scientist don’t have faith, they are dealing with reason and empirical fact. That’s a lovely myth, it’s never been true. Uh, but do scientists have trust, do they have confidence and do they have intuition that they sometimes deeply trust? That is unequivocally true. Unequivocally true, right? And so trust in your predecessors in the field of science, confidence in them, gosh if we say trust and confidence, why don’t we just say faith? And be done with it. And so you cannot get a scientific education and you cannot become a scientist if you don’t have confidence and trust in your colleagues, in the people who are making your technology, in your predecessors, your professors, their professors, their professors, going back to Galileo and so forth, you just cannot test everything. Especially with this massive amount of specialisation in modern science. It’s hopeless.You’ll never be able to do it. So, if you don’t have confidence, trust, when you’re reading nature or science or scientific American, if you think “oh no, what do they know? What do they know?” Then you are not a scientist, you’re just out. You’re just out. It’s not to say there’s blind faith, but it certainly is faith, trust, confidence. But there’s something more, and there it is, that’s just the way things are. Anybody who’s actually practiced science, studied science, studied the history of science, you know that confidence and trust are all over the place, and it would never have progressed if they didn’t have that kind of faith and confidence. In their predecessors, in their colleagues, but a more interesting point is their own intuition. I’ll just give two examples:
[6:38] It’s Galileo, Galileo was the one who almost single handedly, but that’s a bit of an exaggeration, over through 1800 years of strangulation of the western imagination and empirical sense, thanks to Aristotle who had so many ideas about terrestrial and celestial physics; most of them wrong. The earth is in absolute center, immobile, in the entire universe, the sun, moon, planet and stars are all on these concentric spheres right about, kind of like basically posters, like little stickies, you know. So that’s the universe, he had no real empirical evidence or reasoning, he just said it, and then a big heavy ball goes faster than the little ball, they drop at constant velocity. He said one thing after another that was just based upon extremely crude observations and sloppy reasoning and, but people believed him. Until Galileo came along and found the appropriate technology for actually observing the sun, moons and planets and found - oh! We’ve been wrong for about 1800 years. But the point about Galileo which is so interesting is he was absolutely convinced that Aristotle and whole Ptolemaic system of the earth being in the center, he was utterly convinced they were wrong before he had any evidence; before there was any evidence. Because the Copernicus theory, the mathematical theory, was no better than the old one in terms of making predictions. And so it’s just being debated as philosophical issue: you like the earth center, you like sun center, but either way, tomatoes, tomatoes, you know, they’re equally good. But Galileo was absolutely convinced that Ptolemy going back to Aristotle, was wrong. And then with that conviction he developed his telescope and then years later he came up with empirical evidence, which was the first empirical evidence to show that they were wrong. And then that’s been antiquated ever since. And then he also came up with the technology to run some experiments like balls rolling down a ramp, constant velocity or accelerate? The accelerator, sorry, Aristotle, you know. Big ball, little ball off the Tower of Pisa. Big ball fall faster? No, sorry Aristotle. 1800 years of superstition, by one person finding the appropriate methodology of carefully investigating the phenomena he was seeking to understand, but he believed it before, many of these points he believed before the evidence was there, and his belief in his own intuition then led him to knowledge that became public knowledge and worldwide recipients of that, okay?
[9:01] Give one more example, and finished. Einstein. Beloved Einstein. He came up with the idea of general relativity theory two years after he came up with special relativity, which he wrote in a couple of weeks. 1907 to 1915 then he worked extremely hard, developing a mathematical formula, a formulation and sophisticated scientific theory to express his intuition about general relativity theory. He was moved by faith all along, that it was true. 8 hard years of work. Finally formulated. When it was formulated he was totally convinced it was true even though there was no empirical evidence at all, nothing. Four years later the evidence came, 1919, ok? So was he a bad scientist that just wound up being proven ok? Or was he actually the greatest scientist maybe since Newton? Was Galileo, the father of modern science, both of these driven by confidence and their own intuition? But it wasn’t just faith, it was faith leading to empirical test which then gave rise to knowledge. So that’s how faith works in a nutshell. That’s faith, confidence, trust. Not only in your predecessors, your technology, the people who make your technology, your instruments and so forth, your predecessors, but also to trust in your own intuition, you know. And it’s worked time and time and time again, not just Galileo and Einstein, you know. So, there’s a second type of faith, boy, is that different than, let’s say religious faith, in Christianity and so forth. It’s really really different, right? And now we have faith in Buddhism. I’m sure there are buddhists who have faith, very much like Christians. I am sure that’s true. But that’s not what the buddha encouraged. That’s not what Tsongkhapa or any of the other great adepts, , the great scholars and so forth, they’re saying faith is, certainly has a role, but among the five, they’re called the five faculties, the indriya, which when you cultivate them turn into the five powers, the five bala, there are five of those, mindfulness is in the center. And then you, almost like the center of a seesaw, and then on two sides of the seesaw you have the balancing act. Remember, it’s Mr. Balance Walla talking. It’s balancing intelligence with faith. Prajña, which is your intelligence, and faith, confidence, trust, you must balance those two. And then you must balance all sorts of fascinating, Samadhi with effort, Samadhi with effort, right? That balancing act there. And you cultivate those and then the faculties turn into powers. But the balancing between intelligence and faith, trust, confidence, don’t let your intelligence get carried away and leave all of your trust, faith, confidence behind. It’ll just go off into its own spin you know. Into its own spin, you’ll just be a ‘Smart Aleck’, you know. But if you let your faith outweigh your intelligence, you become dogmatic, closed-minded, rigid, fundamentalist. And then where is the path to enlightenment now? So neither one on its own. Intelligence with no faith, no confidence, “ Oh I don’t trust you, the buddha, Tsongkhapa, Padmasambhava, Nagarjuna.….., oh what do they know, they are pre-scientific, blah, blah, blah. Good, now where are you gonna go?
[12:13] Now, well you can just make your own way now because you are on your own. Good luck with that, you know. Because we’ve all been in samsara for how long? So you think, we’ve already tried so many times doing it all on our own, so good luck with that, you know. You are welcome to do it. But you know, have a nice long journey, in circles. And so the Buddhist faith is not the same as kind of western religious faith, but it’s not the faith the same as scientific either. It has something in common, but it’s a different faith, that is Einstein had a lot of faith and confidence in Maxwell. James Clerk Maxwell. He came up with wave equations for electromagnetism he thought they were brilliant. In fact he wanted to move all of physics into field theory. Never succeeded, but so much was his deep respect, his faith in kind of the brilliance of James Clerk Maxwell. Maybe one of the greatest Physicists after Newton. But of course he overthrew Newton, you know. He had a lot of confidence in Newton. You can’t have Einstein without Newton. But then he overthrew Newton. He overthrew Newton, the absolute space, time, matter and energy. He overthrew Newton. So Buddhists following, dedicating, taking refuge, and placing their trust in the buddhist path. We are not out to overthrow Buddha, I mean you can, you can try, or Nagarjuna, Padmasambhava, Tsongkhapa, Milarepa and the list goes on. We are not here to overthrow them, to outsmart them. Because it’s actually not just about discovery, it’s about transformation, liberation, and awakening.
[13:39] Fundamentally this is pragmatic. At its core it’s the Four Noble Truths. So it’s not just look what I discovered. It’s rather through, it’s faith giving rise to discovery, giving rise to transformation, giving rise to liberation. And either you have the confidence that the Buddha and great adepts, since him achieved liberation. They didn’t just make valid discoveries, but actually achieved liberation and awakening. Either you have that confidence or you don’t. If you don’t you’re not a Buddhist. Don’t be sad. You are just not a Buddhist, right? But then I’ve read a number of people recently said: Oh! I have much faith in Buddha, much faith in Buddha, but those Buddhist institutions, they suck. And the Pali Canon, uhhhh, not sure about that, or Mahayana - kind of give me a break, Vajrayana...ohhh you gotta be kidding, but you know the Buddha himself I really like. I know I won’t mention the name but there is one really well known Indian thinker, loved the Buddha but he has no respect at all, you know, for the whole sangha for the last 2500 years and doesn’t really place much credence in the Pali canon, Mahayana canon, Chinese, Tibetan or anything else, no, just Buddha. Who is this Buddha that you know about? Independently of the received Buddhist teachings that, which have been passed on for generations by the sangha. It’s a figment of your imagination, completely. So that’s fine, you concoct a notion of Buddha. And he says: I like Buddha, fine, it’s your own private Buddha because it’s not reliant upon the most authoritative sources we have of what the Buddha actually taught, let alone any kind of confidence in 2500 years of great adepts who’ve actually gained profound realization.
[15:11] So it’s kind of a package deal. If you have faith in the Buddha, the only way to have faith in the Buddha actually who is a Buddha, is by way of his teachings and the teachings we get by way of the sangha. If you think you can skip the dharma and skip the sangha and just go for the Buddha. Great! You just concocted a little Buddha all on your own. You may as well patent it because it is your baby, you know. But to have faith in the dharma, then that of course implies you have faith that if one practices dharma, one becomes an Arhat or a Buddha. And to practice dharma you must have faith in those who transmitted it. That’s the sangha. If you have faith in the sangha, the same thing, you know. So there it is. Faith, shraddha, confidence, trust in the Buddhist context is not the same as it’s commonly taught in western religions. Not the same as the faith, trust, confidence and science, not the same. But it has the sense of reverence, of devotion, of deep deep [Alan blows out] , life transforming faith that we find in the western religions. That’s definitely there in Buddhism. But also that spirit of empiricism of faith, the eagerness to know, to discover. You for the first time, in your trajectory, it will be your first discoveries, when you discover substrate consciousness you will be the first person in your continuum to have discovered it. When you discover emptiness, you’ll be the first person. When you discover rigpa, you will be the first person. It’s fresh, it’s unprecedented, it’s glory hallelujah. It’s like Eureka! I’ve made a discovery, you know.
[16:46] Like the young Dalai Lama when he was a kid. He inherited, this is so cool, the thing about being a tulku is you gotta inherit not only your parents’ stuff, but your predecessor’s stuff too. So the 14th Dalai Lama got to inherit the 13th Dalai Lama’s stuff, and that included a telescope. So there he was as a kid with his telescope mounted on the roof of the Portala , looking up at the moon, you know. It’s a wonderful story, true story. And he looked up the moon, he’s already had a lot of teaching in Buddhism, Abhidharma and so forth and the Abhidharma notion of the sun, planets and stars. In the Abhidharma, somebody I don’t know exactly who wrote it, said that the moon is a self-illuminating orb, you know, it’s like a light bulb. Here’s this young Dalai Lama, looking through his telescope. He’s looking at the moon and he sees craters. There is no reference to craters in the Buddhist tradition. Moon has craters? I don’t think, not there. But it got worse. The young Dalai Lama, observed continuously with clarity. It’s called Shamatha via telescope. And he saw the shadows cast by the craters. If there are shadows on the moon, it’s not self-illuminating. And 1500 years ago, somebody said in the Buddhist tradition it’s self-illuminating. Can’t be. So he went to his teacher. [Alan whispers a call] I don’t know which one it was, Ling Rinpoche, and said “I made a discovery that contradicts what was said a long, long time ago. I saw shadows on the moon. It’s not self-illuminating. And the teacher said, [I paraphrase], “Cool, cool, you made a discovery, that means the earlier one’s wrong. I mean, it has to be wrong. You’ve just seen, you’ve seen the shadows move. Then it’s not self-illuminating. So therefore, that’s whatever it was, whoever said it long ago, they’re wrong. Uh, now, let’s get back to meditation.”
[18:51] So, it’s neither fish nor fowl. Faith in the buddhist tradition. It has the depth, I’m going to say - the beauty, the transformative quality that we find in the western religions, something really quite sublime, but it also has a sharpness, the spirit of empiricism, the yearning, the passion to know. That its, characteristic signs. And whatever the truth is, won’t need to know it. Now that’s it. It’s not to just prove what Buddha said, it’s a passion to know. Because really, it’s not proving somebody else to be true that makes you free. It’s knowing what is true that makes you free, right? Not simply cooperating some belief system. And so, something in between. So we have these five indriyas, final points, then we will jump in, we have these five indriyas, these five faculties that we already born with and then through cultivation they can become powers. So intelligence can become a power, right ? Clearly, wow, I mean really big time, it can become a power if you really cultivate it. Samadhi, oh my goodness, I talked about relativistic psychology yesterday. Samadhi can be a power, a natural power that is awesome, awesome. One of the bodhisattva precepts is don’t use it wrongly. Don’t use your Samadhi to destroy villages. I’ve kept that precept very very carefully.[laugher] Not one, you can’t blame me for any destruction. I am, not me. And so yes, an awesome power, just like a laser you have the flashlight, not big power turned the laser, turn the indriya, the faculty of a flashlight into the power of a laser, you got something pretty serious there, Star wars and all that kind of business, you know. And so, there are faculties that can be cultivated, become powers, Samadhi, mindfulness, effort, intelligence, but there is also power of faith. Power of our faith, it can be cultivated and become a power. Placebo effect. What a ridiculous name, I don’t know, every time I say it I gag, because it’s of course exactly not an effect of a placebo, I mean it’s precisely not an effect of a placebo, it’s an effect of your own mind, your faith, your confidence, your aspiration, your expectation. And it works sometimes what looks like miracles in the body and that’s a scientifically established fact. The pharmaceutical industry always wants to sweep that aside because they can’t sell it. They can’t sell it. But the head of research and development for one of the major pharmaceutical firms, is a friend of mine, and he said statistically speaking one half of benefit you get from pharmaceutical drugs across the board is from not placebo effect, : your faith. Your faith, that’s what it really is, your faith, your expectation, your belief, your confidence in the doctor, the hospital, the degrees, the medication, the research behind it, and so forth. That’s what’s doing it. That’s a power, and that’s when it’s not even, that’s when it’s only an indriya. That’s only a faculty gig because you don’t train to have placebo effect.
[21:56] You’ve already got that, but could you take that power of healing? Could you take that indriya? That indriya, that faculty of healing, of faith? Could you develop it? As you can develop Samadhi and mindfulness, intelligence? You can develop those. Could you not also develop faith from a faculty into a power? Faith moves mountains, right? Well, that absolutely plays a role in buddhism. So the short response here, after being long, is that people come to buddhism with varying degrees of faith. Some is simply very open-minded. Some they come in, they just hear the first word of dharma and they have a lot of faith. Some people very easily move into devotional practices and they love it. Others feel very hesitant about devotional practices, don’t resonate with it that much, you know. So it’s just there. People are different, some are tall, some are short, some have more faith, some have less faith when they come in. Some are more intelligent, less intelligent, some have better Samadhi, some poor. So, let’s just be relaxed with that and not say one size fits all, if you don’t have a lot of faith then get the hell out, you know. Because you have to do preliminary practices, or you have to meditate Lam Rim, which requires faith from the get go.. You can’t practice Lam Rim meditation, how are you gonna practice Lam Rim meditation with no faith? You’re going to meditate on precious human rebirth and you don’t believe in reincarnation? What are you going to do with that? Like hitting your head with a hammer. If you have faith, great; if you don’t what it is? Brainwashing. That’s not the Buddhist path. I mean, I so much love the Buddhadharma , but I wouldn’t if it were brainwashing. I’d throw it out with the other kind of brainwashing. So there it is, so I am gonna add a little segment after we do the recitation, for those of faith, might be beneficial. But the final point there is simply, faith is a faculty we all have to varying degrees and people who think they have no faith simply haven’t recognized where their faith is placed. We all have faith in something. None of us live simply in accordance with what we know. We all have beliefs that we have not collaborated. So some people have faith in Aristotle, they did for 1800 years until ..whoops. Oh by the way, the whole notion of the mind is simply a function of the body? You guessed it. Thank you Aristotle. And he said it with no compelling empirical evidence or reasoning. He just said it. And when the body dies the brain just vanishes. Excuse me, the mind just vanishes. So where did the modern materialist notion of mind come from? Some empirical evidence? Some great breakthroughs? Some discovery in the 20th century? No, it comes from Aristotle.[laughter] And by the way, his notion of brain - it’s a cooling system. It’s basically a refrigerator. It cools down the blood, and that’s why human beings are more intelligent than animals. Because the brain is a cooling system, it cools down the blood so we’re not so hot headed. I think his theory of mind is just as good as his theory of brain and both based on the same amount of evidence. So Galileo liberated us from Aristotelian physics by carefully investigating terrestrial and celestial phenomena with the appropriate technology. I was about to say and this person liberated us from Aristotelian mind science, but nobody has. We’re still stuck with Aristotle in the 21st century because there is no scientific discovery that’s ever collaborated his notion.. It’s just a belief. Just as much a belief as the earth is the center of the universe, absolutely still. So we should really you know, thank Aristotle for the biggest delusions about the physical world as well as the biggest delusions about the mental world. That have gained common currency. I am sure there are people who are literally insane that have come up with crazier ideas. But he was extremely intelligent and came up with just a lot just groundless speculations, which is fine, it’s a free country, but boy let’s never complate that with science. And if you want to have faith in Aristotle? Lots of luck, you know, really. But we all have faith, it’s a matter of simply who do we have our faith in? So, simple choice, Aristotle or Buddha. That’s a good choice. Make your own choice. Now let’s just practice. [26:15]
Transcriptionist note: The Seven Line Prayer and Mantras (in Tibetan and English) and Guru Rinpoche Mantras (in Sanskrit) are written below.
The Seven Line Prayer and Mantras
HUNG ORGYEN YUL GYI NUP JANG TSAM HUNG
In the northwest frontier of Oddiyana,
PEMA GE SAR DONG PO LA
In the heart of a lotus
YAM TSEN CHOG GI NGÖ DRUP NYEY
Sits the one renowned as Padmasambhava,
PEMA JUNG NEY ZHEY SU DRAK
Who achieved the wondrous supreme siddhi,
KHOR DU KHAN DRO MANG PÖ KOR
And is surrounded by a host of many dakinis.
KYED KYI JE SU DAK DRUP KYI
Following in your footsteps, I devote myself to practice.
JIN GYI LAP CHIR SHEK SU SÖL
Please come forth and bestow your blessings.
GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
Guru Rinpoche Mantras
OM āḥ hūṃ VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI hūṃ
Oṃ āḥ hūṃ Vajra Guru Padma Tötreng Tsäl vajra
SAmayajaḥ siddhi phala hūṃ
[30:58] Now continue to hold, to the best of your ability, this visualization of Padmasambhava on this painting in front of you, as if you are actually there, or with the faith that it, in a very meaningful way, actually is. And then take the four empowerments, imagining a white syllable OM on the crown of his head, from the syllable emerge rays of white light striking the crown of your own head. Filling the whole body with the white light receiving the vase empowerment, purifying the body. Imagine rays of red light emerging from the Ah at his throat, the throat chakra striking your throat, purifying the speech, all obscurations, negative imprints of speech—the wisdom empowerment, the secret empowerment. Then blue light, the rays of blue light emerging from the hum syllable at his heart, striking your own heart, purifying all obscurations of the mind, receiving the wisdom gnosis empowerment. And then from the red [fee? Please check] syllable at his navel, red light again emerging, striking your own navel chakra. Simultaneously purifying negative imprints and obscurations of body, speech and mind and receiving the word empowerment. Then imagine Padmasambhava, his mind indivisible from that of Samantabhadra, indivisible with the mind of your own guru. Imagine Padmasambhava with invitation, coming to the crown of your head. Instantaneously facing in the same direction as yourself and then blissfully melting into light, coming down to the heart, emerging indivisibly with your own body, speech and mind, and rest there for just a moment. And from that vantage point, your awareness resting in stillness in its own natural clarity, in its own place, indivisible from the mind of Padmasambhava. Samantabhadra. And then let’s seamlessly move into the main practice— the mindfulness of breathing, and let’s do so in silence. If you’d like to switch the positions now it’s the time to do so .
[59:31] Olaso. So before we part, I wanted to give a brief footnote. Those of you who know me quite well you know when I mean brief it means no more than an hour or two. [laughter]. A footnote to all of your comments, uh this really quite humorous idea although he took it really seriously that the brain is actually a cooling system, cools down the blood, of course there’s no evidence for that, whatsoever. But there’s no doubt that Aristotle’s extremely smart and had a very vivid imagination. But why would he say something like that and why would it be taken seriously for centuries after him. I mean that has just has no basis in reality whatsoever. No, it’s a good reason. I mean the people following him were not also, they’re also not unintelligent. That’s not the issue. And there was a good reason and here it is. The Greeks, then the Romans, then the Christians regarded it as the taboo to open up the body, to open it up and to do an autopsy or something like that. It was taboo. Don’t look inside. They all have their ideological reasons for it, but that was big taboo, right? And so only centuries later, when that taboo was lifted in the Eurocentric civilization they can actually look it up and say - is it colder in there than elsewhere? I mean that would be a good indicator, if you go to the refrigerator in your house, it is colder there than everywhere else right? So if the brain is a cooling system that should be colder, you know, but, so centuries later, the taboo is lifted and they learned the actual function of the heart—the pump. And that was what Aristotle thought was the base for mind, got one wrong too.
[1:01:01] Um, so it was only when the taboo was lifted, that people actually started to understand the nature of the brain. A fascinating little snippet that is not commonly known and I only learned it from an insider is that - No.1 common knowledge, as this whole trajectory of history moves forward up to Descartes, 17th century. Um moving into a very mechanistic, very materialistic, largely materialistic worldview, but nevertheless, the role for the mind that is immaterial, how do you connect this immaterial realm of the mind with the material world of matter bumping into yourself, mechanistic view. And Descartes came with the idea, again with no basis in reality at all, it was just you know, philosophers do this. They just think, you know, I thought it, I think it is true. And what was Descartes’ cool idea? The pineal gland- the pineal gland is a little receiver transmitter right inside your head, right in the interior of the head, and that’s the transmitter, that receives signals from the immaterial mind, sends them to the body and sends impulses of the body off to the immaterial mind. It’s a little magical transceiver right there, in the middle, inside the brain. Very cute idea. I mean total rubbish. But it had to have something, otherwise these you’d have these two independent realms that have no contacts. So that was the only point of contact. And that’s for the holy spirit to get through and prayers and everything. Pineal glands really important, right. So that’s common knowledge. I’ll tell you what’s not common knowledge. One of my late friends, a wonderful man, a man by the name of Robert Levenson, was one of the pioneers of modern cognitive neuroscience, something of a, he’s a big big name, he died some years ago. But we became good friends by way of The Mind and Life Institute because he attended the very first meeting back in 1987, he organised the second one in 1989 that was written up in a book called The Consciousness of the Crossroads. Robert Levenson told me that in modern brain science, where of course there’s no taboos with looking in is the brain at all, right? It’s free open territory. He said in modern neuroscience, called neuroscience, and this is what he told me, I have not checked this out for myself but he’s really you know, he’s an authority for his own discipline, , he said that the pineal gland was one of the last areas to be studied scientifically. They said the frontal cortex, the brainstem and so forth, but kind of like, you know, and then finally ok, oh it’s not. So now it’s just one more gland. So, taboos, thou shalt not look into, keeps you blind, right?
[1:03:27] Well, the modern scientific tradition has never been any good at introspection. The modern philosophical tradition just taken folk introspection, they have never developed it into anything rigorous. I mean zero, just no progress. For the whole history of us in philosophy. If we take the history of modern philosophy going back to Descartes. If you look for philosophers, have they made some developments, some real methods for refining attention, metacognition, ability to observe your own mind? The answer is I mean, zero progress. None. And of course that’s true for the rest of the sciences, they wouldn’t do it. And so neither the scientists, nor the philosophers have made any progress, at all. I mean really, zero, in terms of refining attention skills and introspection in particular. It was used in a very amateurish, folk psychological kind of way from making 1875 to 1910 but they never developed in a sophisticated fashion. Never developed attention skills. Never developed introspective skills. They just kind of use what they have already, which was exactly what Aristotle had. No better than Aristotle’s and they tried that out for 35 years as I mentioned, from 1875 to 1910. Of course it didn’t work. Didn’t work any better than Aristotelian physics because it’s not sophisticated; it’s not rigorous, it’s not reliable. Ordinary introspection. And Freud knew that, so many people know that. We edit out, we censor, we destroy, we project, all kinds of stuff. It’s rubbish. Undeveloped, unsophisticated attention skills and introspection. And so they tried it, didn’t work, but instead of taking something that was not working well and trying to make it work better, from 1910, John Watson, they just threw it out altogether. And he said- we’llno longer talk about subjective experience and we will never use introspection. If you try to use introspection, we will kick you out because that is not scientific.
[1:05:16] So they dominated western academic psychology for 50 years, 1910 to 1960 or so. No introspection, don’t develop it, don’t use it, and don’t even talk about it and don’t talk about what you can observe introspectively either. Talk about scientific stuff, that’s behavior, that you can measure, it’s real, it’s physical. I have a very hard time being respectful towards that. That’s like a new branch of astronomy coming up and saying - never look at stars. Because it’s illusory, what you see is just images created in your substrate. And why would that give any information about what’s out in deep space? Because your substrate,, I mean it’s your substrate. And all you are seeing through the telescope is just images arising in your own substrate. So just stop it, you know. I can see a rationale there. But wouldn’t that be too bad? If people believe in the substrate, and all they need is arise in the substrate, therefore shut down astronomy. Wouldn’t that be too bad? I think it will be really too bad. And so 50 years of domination by this from metacognitive dementia called behavioral psychology. And I just cannot be respectful to it. I cannot be respectful for racism for many many attitudes that people adopt. I am sure there are racists who are in many many respects, who are very good people. But the racism sucks, right? And there’s no problem being deprecatory towards that. So here we are. And then we have then the 1960’s so we have the rise of cognitive psychology. They had no more use for introspection than the behaviourists had, , it doesn’t even show up. It doesn’t even get an honorable mention. And they have no word for mental perception. They don’t look into the mind either.
[1:06:52] A friend of mine, either he still is or was the chair of a psychology department at a major research university in the United States, the chair, should imply some influence right? He is also a Zen Buddhist. And he tried to introduce into the curriculum that the undergraduate students should actually be trained to actually observe mental events, you know. He was the chair, he got shut down. Shut down by the faculty, said no way Jose. Sorry for all the Mexican and Spanish, I don’t how Jose got in there, but you know. No way, we will not allow that. We will not have our undergraduates, we will not have our students practicing introspection or training into, oh heavens Betsy, , that is unscientific. They shut him down. And I asked them why? Ideological reasons: taboo. They say taboo. That’s what it is. And then we have the last 20 years, 30 years of domination by neuroscience. They have as much use for introspection as the cognitive psychologists, as have the behaviorist, they also going nowhere, making no progress whatsoever, because it’s not their job. They are supposed to look the brain, they do that very well. But are they using introspection to really carefully examine the mental correlates to what they are examining well, using instruments of technology? Are they finding some equal, some parody, some sophistication? With the wonderful technology for studying the brain, are they getting curious, maybe we should develop something comparably sophisticated for finding out what these brains eventually are correlated to.. Should we do that? No, why don’t we just say the mind is the brain and then we don’t have to. Oh, what was your justification for saying that? None. How about Aristotle? So introspection is still taboo. Looking into mind directly is as taboo now as looking in the body was taboo during the time of Aristotle. I mean you don’t look, you don’t learn. So this is a big deal. I wrote a whole book on this called The Taboo of Subjectivity. It’s all about that and I can tell you, it’s a bestseller. [ laughter] Why is everybody laughing? It’s a bestseller for about a hundred people per year. I mean they bought it. I am still getting the revenue. I just rake it in, like 100 dollars, 200 dollars a year, man. I am living high on the hawk, you know. People don’t like to be shown especially with reasoning and evidence that they are delusional. They really don’t like it. So the taboo holds. It’s still there. Let’s burn down the city walls, right? [1:09:37] Let’s burn down the city walls. Burn it. This is not helping anybody, to have taboos that you’re not allowed to look into your own mind, you shouldn’t do so vigorously. You shouldn’t make discoveries that are corroborated, replicated by others. That we should pluck out one of our eyes and look at the world only objectively. And then see a flat world, with no role for mind and no role for us. Let’s burn down the city walls. Viva la revolucion. [ laugher] Ten minutes late. So everybody who has interviews today, please come 15 minutes late. Ok? Good, so in fact just exactly one session later. So instead of 10 o’clock, people come 10:20 etc. Enjoy your day.
Transcribed by Kaye Yuan
Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Final Edition by Cheri Langston