13 Sep 2014
For this meditation Alan reads a passage found on page 136 of Natural Liberation in which Padmasambhava excerpts descriptions from various tantras about the nature of primordial awareness.
After the meditation Alan discusses Freud’s statement in The Future of an Illusion that a view of the universe that doesn’t take into account the role of mental perception is an empty abstraction of no practical interest.
He then proposes a playful approach for how concepts in Buddhist cosmology such as the four continents might be integrated with contradictory scientific evidence without resorting either to fundamentalist denial or opening the gates to all claims and saying they have equal validity from their own perspective.
Meditation starts at 0:55
Olaso. Let’s go directly into meditation. I’ll read a few passages from the tantras that are cited by Padmasambhava. I don’t think they much need any commentary. I’ll just read them. Just let your mind be very still, not trying to figure out anything or reflect upon or analyze, just being totally relaxed. Like as if I’m dropping, or tossing little pebbles into a pool of water, just let the words drop into the pool of your mind and come and settle in the ground of your mind and see what happens. But without expectations, totally relaxed.
[1:00] meditation bell rings
[1:26] In the spirit of loving kindness, wishing yourself well and all other beings well. Settle your body, speech and mind in their natural state.
Transcriptionist note: the following text can be found on page 135 in the book Natural Liberation, Padmasambhava’s Teachings on the Six Bardos.
[3:25] Padmasambhava continues chapter 119 of the Tantra Equal to Space,Which Synthesizes the Definitive Meaning of the Great Perfection states:
This Dharmakaya, free of extremes, is not non existent, but is mindful and sensible.
It is not nihilistic, but is aware and clear.
It is not eternalistic, but is without substance.
It is not dualistic, but is unpaired.
It has no pair.
It is not a unity, but it pervades everything.
[7:12] The text, Self-emergent, Unborn, Natural Luminosity states:
If you know that your reality of this unceasing, immutable awareness, which is primordially present, that is the contemplation of Vajrasattva.
Vajrasattva here is simply a synonym for Samantabhadra
[9:02] And, it continues
Because the reality, the ultimate reality of the mind has no birth or death, it is present without a beginning or an end. Thus, since it is unchanging in the three times, it is insubstantial and pervasive, and it is therefore like space.
[10:43] Free of the extremes of superimposition and denial,
which is to say free of the extremes of our projections, but also our denials, our refusal to see.
Free of the extremes of superimposition and denial, free of existence, without concepts, it is not nonexistent and is free of nihilism.
[12:17] Free of the extremes of existence and nonexistence it is self emergent. As the nature of awareness is without birth and cessation, it is an embodiment of natural luminosity. Immaculate and luminous, it has no outside or inside, so it is the self knowing Dharmakaya.
[13:06] So please continue meditating in the way you see fit. Whether to continue in the Dzogchen meditation or if you wish to go down to more of a foundational level, the awareness of awareness, taking the mind as the path, or mindfulness of breathing, find the method that suits for right now. And let’s spend the rest of the session in silence.
[24:59] bells ring
[26:02] Olaso. So let’s pick up from where we left off yesterday. And I think we’ll pretty well wrap up this stream but you’ll see where it’s going. I think it’s not trivial and I’ll be tackling some problems that I think very people are tackling nowadays. But I’ll start with a quote from Sigmund Freud that I think relates to everything just discussed. He wrote, it was in his book The Future of an Illusion. He wrote it in 1927 and the central theme of the book, he was an atheist his whole life, and the central theme of his book was quite interesting and complex.
In the sense that he felt that religion is really fantasy, it really is superstition, and it just like one thing religion. That it’s kind of an expression of an infantile, infantile kind of spacious kind of sense that it’s come, all the doctrines and so forth are there basically to kind of give us some sense of security in the midst of the unknown, like death for example. But, interesting so that’s not new nothing that, but the interesting point here was that he felt that for humanity for the preservation of civilization, religion is necessary. It’s necessary that human populations accept religion cause he said that if we don’t have religion we’ll just wind up just killing each other. As for you know, for stuff, for if you look ahead for diminishing oil, for diminishing this, diminishing that, the competition will get fiercer and fiercer and fiercer until we’ll kind of kill each other off to the last man. So he gave a very bleak outlook of what humanity would be capable of if we hadn’t, didn’t have religion. And he said religion one of the big things it brings us is morality. And that is that you’ll be punished if you’re bad and you’ll be rewarded if you’re good but only after this life. In other words that keeps you good and persuades you to avoid doing evil until you’re dead. In other words it keeps you good the whole time. Then you can’t report back of course, whether you know it wound up being true. So, so nobody, no whistleblowers. [laughs] You know I find it fascinating because there’s, I mean just no question this a very very intelligent man. I mean still here he is we’re talking about him you know, 90 years later or so. Part of my mind thinks that and part of my mind is, what are you thinking? You know. You’re saying religion is completely nonsense but, believe it everybody. But he said it in the same paragraph, like you expected everybody to become amnesiac, amnesiacs, by the time they got to this. Oh yes, we believe but what did you say, I can’t remember. That it’s all busllshit. Oh, what what, you know. Or is it just the intelligent people, you know like him, that they can handle it, but for the proletariat, the plebeians, the unwashed workers and so forth let them believe it. But we smart people, we don’t believe that rubbish. But you people, you know, not as smart and educated as us. You need to believe this otherwise you’ll kill everybody, but of course it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t make any sense does it? I mean nobody’s that stupid and if the smartest people are telling you that religion are just is just complete nonsense, then you won’t believe it any more. But then if you don’t believe it any more than he’s acting as an agent for the destruction of human civilization because he’s blowing the whistle on it. So, what I said was not brilliant. What I’ve just said here, you don’t need to be very smart to say that, it’s kind of like, gee.
[30:01] Two plus two equals you know. So why did he think that would work? Why did he think that what he was saying made any sense at all? Because if people don’t believe him, then they’ll think he’s complete nonsense, but if they do believe him they’ll wipe out human civilization. Very strange and so I think he needed, I think he needed psychoanalysis. Dr. Freud you have a split personality here, part of you thinks that, you know. But it does remind me of Einstein, and I think we can all agree he was a pretty smart guy. But to say that we have absolutely no free will, but well gosh pretend. And all of the fate of human civilization depends on pretending to believe something you don’t? How does that make any sense at all? Again I think we have this complete fracture in a human being. Where they just don’t talk to each other. Somehow the simplest things don’t get through. That either you’re going to have to reassess your notion of absolute determinism or you’re just going to have to say we’re bound for destruction. Because people will not be morally responsible if they feel they are robots. And again does anybody really believe that? Is there any materialist that says, do away with the entire penal system? Empty all the jails? Don’t punish anybody, because after all you don’t punish computers. You don’t punish robots. You don’t punish your cell phone, they didn’t, they’re not making any choices. You try to repair them if you can but the whole notion of punishment, but who is saying that? Again this fracture, I think that’s what I was struggling with when I was growing up. This, you know, a good, a good family, I was raised in a very good family and I just couldn’t believe some of the core themes of their religion. And then hear, overhear science, lots and lots of facts, but then where in all of science do we find any morality? Any sense of this is virtuous and non virtuous? Biology and biology the words virtue and non virtue have no meaning. It’s survive and procreate, that has meaning. What is conducive to your survival and procreation that means something. Then you can say that’s virtuous, but then that’s not virtuous at all. That’s just going out and killing all the other males and screwing all the females. That means you survive and you procreate but that’s, that’s just savagery. So, it’s a convoluted world here. But Sigmund Freud this very, very brilliant but very interesting and complex individual, he makes a very interesting statement in this same book. He says, the problem of a world constitution, a world view, a picture of how the universe is. It takes no account of the mental apparatus by which we perceive it. In other words a few, pardon me if I’m just being silly here, redundant, but a view of the universe, human, human existence, the whole shabang. A view of the universe that doesn’t take into account the role of mind, consciousness, in nature, in human existence that doesn’t take if that’s, that’s not an integral feature of your understanding of reality as a whole. Such a world constitution that takes no account of the mental apparatus by which we perceive it, is an empty abstraction of no practical interest. Well he’s just described modern science. Because modern science since Galileo was never intended from the beginning, not from from Galileo’s time, not from Newton’s time, not from James Clerk Maxwell’s time. And he was late 19th century and the greatest physicist after Newton, with electromagnetism he was a devout Christian, a Protestant, a Scot. But none of them were presenting physics as this is the whole totality of reality, the whole of reality. They were saying this is our best shot at understanding physical reality. But they were all religious, all of them, they were all Christian, devout, very sincere, you know. I mean Newton spent most of the last 25 years of his life writing theology, not physics. Right. Galileo was raised, trained as a contemplative and James Clerk Maxwell again as I said was a very devout Christian. So they never ever imagined that what they were doing and those, may be the three greatest up to Einstein, and he also was religious in a way. They never thought this would be a whole worldview, but now that’s what it’s become. Physics, and then biology emerging out of physics, and then psychology emerging out of biology. But what we have is for that whole 400 years, all the questions are physical. And you ask a physical question and you get a physical answer. Kind of like, you know, obvious they’re all physical, right.
[34:51] So it really struck me when I was studying cosmology about 20, twenty years ago. I remember reading a book that was by a Harvard cosmologist, relatively short, very well written. He knew his stuff and he gave a complete account of the universe. It was kind of like you know, short history of the universe, but it was a bit more readable perhaps and ah from start to finish 13.7,8 billion years ago and then he just rolled it out right up to the present. The present. And there’s no reference at all to mind or consciousness. It was just nowhere there. It was a history of the entire universe, and mind never even came up, you know. In other words, that is a, shall I read it again, a world constitution that takes no account of the mental apparatus by which we perceive it, the universe. There’s another book that I read called The Discoverers, I’ve cited it quite a few times. Daniel Boorstin, eminent historian, a really extraordinary erudition and he wrote a history a big fat book about 500 pages maybe 600 pages called the Discoverers. And it’s a history of humanity’s discoveries in recorded history the last 5000 years or so. It went back to the ancient Chinese, and the the Indians and the Egyptians and the Greeks and the Romans and the Hebrews and then gradually we say whoa. Now you know that was cool, but then it starts to converge in upon Europe, you know. And then it stays in Europe and then we have the rise of science and then a lot of detail and finally comes to the present moment. But he tried to hit all the big highlights of everything, biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology just everything that humans beings have been discovering, so it’s a pretty ambitious endeavor. Right. And I was reading reading reading very well written very very well researched outstanding scholarship. I have to say very ethnocentric because he kind of left everybody behind as soon as he got to the eurocentric. Like, whatever they are doing like elsewhere whatever, because we found the scientific method, the Europeans found that and so everybody else just kind of fell, fell back into the shadows as soon as the European story started, eurocentric. But as I was reading it, I got curious how, what about the discoveries of the mind? And part of human existence right. What about, you know, where were the big discoveries about nature of mind, consciousness. So I looked in the index, consciousness ok, where are the big discoveries. And it’s not even there. Nowhere cited in the whole book, 600 pages or something like that, no reference to consciousness at all. It I said ok get well mind, give me mind, give me mind. And I looked back there in the index 600 page book, 2 pages, two pages for humanity’s discoveries relevant to the mind. In the last 5000 years, two pages! You know the story yeah? And so boy, two pages I mean how many people did he cram into two pages, just an index of you know [spelling? 38:02] Shaunsa and Shankara and Buddha and Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti and Shantideva and Saint Augustine and who you know how many people can you jam into two pages? You know the history of humanity? All civilizations about the mind and there there only turned out to be two people, that made the most significant discoveries about the nature of the mind in all of human history. And son of a gun, they both turned out to be in the 20th century, and they’re both white guys! Freud and Jung. Nobody else got any mention at all. So that was interesting. I could have sworn the Buddha had something to say about the mind. [laughter] So but if we take that if he’s right, because you know I mean he’s an awfully smart guy and he’s saying, it’s an empty abstraction of no practical interest, he’s just described all of western science. Describing the whole universe and there’s just no description, no explanation of the mind or its role in nature. It’s an empty abstraction. So what he’s saying is that this whole worldview, all our books on cosmology and evolution of life on the planet and everything else. That whole picture you know what we hold in mind that’s where we live, that’s our universe. Billions of light years across, more than 13.8 billion it turns out to be wider than that for various reasons. All, that whole picture is an empty abstraction. And it makes nowhere, it exists nowhere, but in the mind of the person who believes in it. That’s what he’s saying, and in fact, I think he’s right. It exists relevant to your measurements, but your measurements were only physical.
[39:50] So if we really taking John Wheeler and and Zeilinger and Stephen Hawking seriously, then there is one view of reality. But it’s reality as it arises relative to a whole bunch of physical measurements, but no introspective measurements whatsoever. They never come up, ever. Right. So that’s an interesting idea. That our whole notion of the universe in modernity, 2014 is an empty abstraction that exists only in the minds of those who conceive it. But we see that there’s this breath of fresh air. It’s very recent so I’m so glad I lived in this era. Because boy if I was trying to teach dharma in the late 19th century, boy that would be hard, cause the science was absolutely materialistic, absolutely metaphysical realism, absolutely mechanical, man how would you, how did you have any dialogue at all? You know, where as we’ve seen this is all quite recent from Brookner, Zeilinger, John Wheeler, Stephen Hawking and thank goodness they’re brilliant, they’re world class, you know. If they were just some little twerps on the side then it wouldn’t matter, but they’re bringing in, as you well know to slightly bit of repetition, information is primary. We are living in an information age. Why don’t we take that seriously? And that the role of the observer/participant is absolutely fundamental to the whole universe or multiverses. But then what’s the nature of the observer participant? There on hangs the tail right? As in the measurement problem. You need to have a measurement, but what’s required for measurement, don’t you need to have a measurer, don’t you need somebody to have somebody who gets some information? I mean really, are these two pieces of paper measuring each other? Or if a leaf falls from a tree and comes on the ground do they just measure the ground? It bumped into it, didn’t measure, there’s no information right, it just bumped into it, right. So if there’s no consciousness, you just have things bumping into each other, right. So what’s the nature of that observer participant? And there’s just been no movement there at all. As I said yesterday and pardon me for being a bit redundant but there’s just been no movement. Any more than there has been movement for the last 90 years on the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. They just, there’s just no movement, and I had that again from a top physicist that I spoke with just a few days ago. They just don’t know how to move. Cause they have, they’re just not trained to have any insight into the nature of the mind and its role in nature or the nature of consciousness. So they’re stuck, they’re really stuck and even if they went over to the neuroscience department whose gonna help them there? They go to the psych department, whose going to help them there? You know there is no scientific theory of the mind body relationship cause none of them are testable. Whole bunch of hypothesis, but they’re just that, they’re simply hypothesis. And so it looks like they really need to step outside of their discipline and maybe frankly there is no other discipline in science that’s shedding any light, you know, helping them get out of that rut. It seems like you really have to step out of science. Cause they’re not getting any answers within the parameters of science as we know it today. You have to [sneeze] step outside or just sit there idling with no answer. Just like where science is right now with the placebo effect. Everybody knows it exists, and yet it just doesn’t make any sense, it’s just unintelligible within a materialistic framework, so what’d they do? Stop asking the question. That’s because you can’t answer the question within that paradigm. You have to jump out of that paradigm and then look, look see what you see. So what does Freud, what does Freud have to say about that. He said: No, our science is not an illusion. What would be an illusion would be to think that we might obtain elsewhere that which science can not give us. So now he’s identified himself as an advocate of scientism. Not merely a scientific materialist which he was, but, scientism says what religious fundamentalists all over the world have been saying forever. We are the only way. There are Buddhists who say that, Gelugpas who say that. Oh you Nyingmapas, you Kagyupas, you don’t quite cut it especially the Nyingmapas, you really woolly thinkers, wooly thinkers, wooly wooly you know. We gelugpas who are sharp, yep. So there are those that say that. And I’m sure there are Jews that think, no no we are, we are the chosen people. Then there are Christians say, whole lots of them who say we have the only way and then Muslims no we are the only way. We’ve been hearing that a lot. I mean forever. But now he’s doing the same and science has the only way and if you don’t find an answer well just tough luck, don’t look outside. Ok well, happily we don’t have to follow his instructions.
[44:50] So now I want to go to really tackling a tough problem and I want us just to have fun. I’ve not seen anybody else tackle this and I wouldn’t be tackling it now if we hadn’t spent a couple of days on this brilliant and genius and quite possibly true theory, of this quantum cosmology, which I have described which I have tried to explain over the last couple of days. This was triggered by a very good friend of mine, and I who, I well, I"ll just leave it that. A good friend of mine who is very knowledgeable of Theravada Buddhism very very knowledgeable and has been a scholar and a practitioner for a very long time. And has a lot of faith, a lot of confidence, a lot of trust in the Pali canon and the Buddha’s words. It’s kind of like he’s rock solid whatever happens. He has found his home, his refuge and I have too. So yeah I’m not going to find some evidence now, that’s oh, now I give up Buddha, it’s not going to happen. Ahm maybe I’ll just be regarded as stupid by everybody, everybody in the world but you know, that’s the way I’m going to die, now I’m kind of like I’ve dropped my anchor, here’s where I stand. Cause I’ve been, I’ve been you know, I’ve been fishing in these waters for 44 years. If, if there is something out there that’s going to completely knock me off my Buddhist rocker I think I would have found out by now. So you know, I’m an old, an old old fool I’m just not moving. So I have a lot of confidence and it’s born by decades of study, practice, questioning, and so forth it was never blind faith. But here’s what my friend brought to my attention and he’s a Theravada Buddhist, very knowledgeable, lot of faith and here’s what he describes. So hold on to your seat. But, in a way, it’s familiar, but let’s see what you/we do with this one. Buddha’s description of the universe, he writes, appears to be and this is Buddha as recorded in the Pali canon. The Buddha’s description of the universe appears to be fundamentally incompatible with that of modern physics and astronomy. For example in the Anguttara-nikaya ] The Buddha gives, and I have the specific uh citation here, The Buddha gives a description of the universe in which there is no mention that the moon is particular to planet earth and that other planets have their own moons. It assumes that each world system, yea, each world system, you know, with its various continents, four. Each world system, or it’s called it a loca yea, each inhabited world, it assumes, that each inhabited world which in terms of modern astronomy may be equivalent to a planet inhabited by sentient beings or even a solar system, a galaxy. Each one has one sun and one moon. So every planet, I mean that’s the obvious, if you’re going to find a correlation in modern physics it’d be planet, but he’s saying every planet, every inhabited planet has one sun and one moon. Are you getting nervous yet? Right, but I love the Buddha, why would he say something like that? Each world system has Mount Sineru or Mount Meru oh oh it’s getting worse eh [laughter], each world system has Mount Sineru at its center, surrounded by the same four continents described by the Buddha in 5th century bce. Every planet has a Mount Meru in the center and then four continents uh oh [gulps] and if you just and I, I didn’t give it here, but it’s so easy to find the description of these so called four continents or four world sectors, they’re detailed. Really detailed, the shape of each of them, how long people live, what kind of people there are there, uh there’s a lot of detail you know, and it would be so, it would make everybody so relaxed if it just was some other Buddhist speculative mumbo jumbo guy, you know, well distanced from the Buddha. He just started dreaming this up by himself you know, people do that, but it’s there in the Pali canon, the Buddha said it, what do we do? These four continents you know and they’re surrounded by a great ocean. One, of them is Uttarakuru northern continent, northern continent. Of course Indiaish, Indiaish is a southern continent Jambudvipa right Tibet is there, India, Nepal, Mongolia, up to Russia. And for Tibetans you know until very recently they took all of this literally, I mean there’s no competition.
[49:26] Mount Meru in the center, the four continents, the Tibetans lived there, they knew India was to the south and China there, Mongolia, Russia up there and and then in the 19 mid 19th -20th century around the time of World War II or so, they started to have some actual access to outsiders, and they heard about England and Japan and America and people actually came from those places. Yeah, you could actually see them and like that. And so one of my dear friends, he taught me Tibetan more than 40 years ago. He said, during that time, like just around the second world war, Tibetans when they’re trying to take in this new information, because all they had before was Mount Meru and the four continents and they’re on the southern continent. Right, but then they got these countries coming up so they way they did it was quite graphic. They said ok, we here in Tibet, we are in the center, we’re the nose. And then up above us is Mongolia and Russia. And down below us is India. And then over here is England and over there is Japan, and America is someplace else. [laughter] That was the world you know. And there’s a friend of mine whose mother this was about 15-20 years ago, Tibetan came from Amdo way way back in Amdo in the wild boonies, remote, you know, Montana of Tibet. And his mother, was a very simple very devout, pious Tibetan nomad woman, which which was pretty much isolated from all of modernity. I mean she’s had no contact and her son was a globetrotter, all over the place. So he came back from his international travels and met up with his beloved mama and he was talking about the countries he’d visited and she asked him, tell me my dear son, where are where are they located with respect to Mount Meru? [laughter] Hard to answer, you know [laughs]. But this Uttarakuru the northern continent, it’s an interesting one. When I was in Dharamsala about 1973 or so, my Tibetan language teacher at that time was a monk Tenzin [sounds like Tenle?] he was in the astro medical center where they studied traditional Tibetan medicine, but also astrology, they’re hand in hand, and he was the official astronomer. There were two of them, and they were the ones that would write the ephemeris for each year. It was a lot of calculations, lots and lots and lots of arithmetic. They spent all year writing up the ephemeris, you know, where the position of the stars and the planets and so forth. uh the astrological calendar, a full time job, and they did two of them. And they had no computers or anything. So if one made a mistake the other one would catch it, they would do it independently and then cross check and then they’d clean up any discrepancies and then they would come out with the official edition. So, but what’s interesting about this, this is really is medieval astrology, astronomy. Was that like the astronomer’s prior to Galileo, the astrologers, like them they could predict solar and lunar eclipses, quite accurately, you know, And so it was back about, I don’t remember the exact year, but something like 72 very close to that. Then [?spelling 52:52 Tenzin Tenle] told me that, that a full solar eclipse was predicted on a particular day, but he told me, we won’t be able to see it here in Jambudvipa in the southern continent. We won’t be able to see it here, we’ll be able to see it only in the northern continent. Or the northern world sector. I thought well I see well what was kind of cool was my brother in law, my sister’s husband, my older sister’s husband is a solar physicist from UCLA, really smart guy and he’s studying the sun. And so I was in intermittent contact with my sister, her husband and it turned out that he as a solar physicist was going to Connecticut on the east coast of the United States to witness a full solar eclipse. On the day that was predicted by [?spelling 53:47 Tenzin Tenle] with his medieval calculations. And you would see that eclipse in North America but you wouldn’t see it in India, the timing would be off. I thought, that’s really interesting and I thought, wow, is there some way of actually making sense of this, that isn’t silly?
[54:11] Because I don’t really need to make sense of this. I don’t really need the four continents and Mount Meru in my life, you know. I’ve got the four noble truths, I’ve got my hands full. You know, but these keep on cropping up from the Pali canon and they run through everywhere right when you’re offering the mandala right. There it is and what are you offering. You’re offering Mount Meru, the four continents and all the trimmings. And so I wondered could obviously it’s not, obviously no how do you say, no photograph from one of the orbiting satellites is going to be photographing Mount Meru, no expedition will take you up, you know, the sides of Mount Meru. But I wonder whether they could be just musing and this is just for fun right. But trying to make sense of something that almost everybody simply avoids. Either avoids or they just turn their back on science and say I don’t want to hear about it, [Tibetan 55:08] it’s really there, it’s inherently existently there. Or they say one more awful religious creation myth. Oh man, we’ve got six days, we’ve got the Mayans, we’ve got the Aztecs, we’ve got the everybody got and now, oh the Buddhists had to do one too. Ok out with that, you know, planet earth good and chunky, we know where we are, we’ve all seen the photographs, we know what the planet Earth looks like, and there’s really good science behind it. Right, so we can either be substantialists or we can be Nihilists, right. [laughs] So I was just playfully wondering I mean and I just feel no existential crunch about this at all. But I thought might they be in the same space, but like on a different band width. That is could this so called northern continent be in the space of North America and then you would just say, if you take the earth like an orange and break it into four pieces, then you would have well, that whole sector from Russia right down to the tip of India, down you know to the south, there is the southern world sector and then slip over to the left and there you would have Europe and down to Africa there’d be the western and go over to the far side, you’d have North and South America the Northern, and then basically the Pacific the Pacific region including Australia, the Hawaiian Islands and so forth [inhale] being the final area and that the polar axis would be spatially and rising up above there, where Mount Meru or Seneru would be. Just wondered. Just wondered, but what is interesting here is that, it’s not only that the Buddha said these four exist but he, but also, there’s an account again from the Pali canon and I’ll read it. Once there was a famine in the area where the Buddha and his community of monks stayed and the monks could not obtain sufficient food. Moggallana, among all the disciples of the Buddha, one with incredible psychic abilities, unbelievable. Only the Buddha topped him. Moggallana proposed to the Buddha that he open by his magical power a rood, a road to the northern world sector of Uttarakuru ] so that the monks could go there for alms. He said you know the sangha is starving here, why don’t I just create a warp field by the power of my samadhi and I’ll just transport them all over to the northern which has lots of crops. It’s really very, very you know luxur lots and lots of food why don’t I just see, you know, captain you know of the Star Trek you know whatever. I’ll just create this warp field and I’ll, I’ll put them in the teleporter and I’ll [sound] and they’ll be in Santa Barbara. Or you know I mean Santa Barbara was pretty nice before the people came, it’s not bad now, but you know some place with really good crops and then they’ll all chow down and kind of hang out there until the famine’s over and then I’ll go [sound] and bring them back to India. He proposed this to the Buddha. And the Buddha didn’t say, are you out of your freaking mind, that was just a big story you know. He didn’t, he didn’t, he didn’t say but that was the mythical part of what I was saying. Didn’t I tell you [laughing] that was the mythical part, I was just joking. No Moggallana was saying I’ll do that for you if you like. I’ll, you know, so they could eat well. The Buddha rejected this suggestion, rejected this suggestion but all survived the famine unharmed even without such supernormal devices. I just find that interesting you know that, back then they were taking this really seriously. But what he didn’t say, he didn’t have some shipbuilder come to him or some captain saying I’ve got a ship out here on the West Coast and I’ll sail off to the northern continent for you. If you want to bring some some of your matey’s on board I’ll sail off to the northern continent and we’ll be fine. Why I’m speaking in a ridiculously quasi Irish accent I’m not quite sure, matey, but that’s the way it is. [laughing] That didn’t happen, nobody spoke about marching there or taking a boat there. No there’s no references anywhere of somebody coming from the southern continent and with a good trek or a fast horse, or a ship, or a spaceship or anything like that. Getting to another one. The only one that suggested how to get there was the guy with psychic powers.
[59:39] So might they exist but the only way to access them would be to expand the bandwidth of your mental awareness such that for example you could see the form realm and then maybe from a more, from a different cognitive frame of reference and powered by samadhi which Moggallana had in spades. I mean he was terrific at it. Might then multiple world systems that are in the same space but like a different frequency, might that be the case? And the answer of course is, I don’t know. But it’s widely believed in Buddhism and many many other contemplative traditions, shamanic traditions and so forth, that all you have to do is walk outside and look at the spirit houses. They have the local spirit houses, those are the little ones and then the really nice ones, those are for the devas, the upper class, you know the aristocracy of the spirits. But the more worker bees, they have the smaller ones and they’re all over the place, all over the place, and they’re taking them pretty seriously, this is not a country of idiots. They consider that there are people who see these and it will be to your good advantage if you put out little offerings you’ll find them here right at the front entrance right and this is not a fool’s paradise this is you know Phuket, and what they’re saying is, there are myriad beings here that are inhabiting the same place that we are spatially, but you wouldn’t be able to see them unless you were one of these advanced beings.
[1:01:13] Who, basically right now like if we take this may not be a bad analogy like if we’re radio receivers and transmitters we’re working only within this bandwidth, you know. The the just like the electromagnetic spectrum of light we’re only seeing this one, we don’t see infrared, we don’t see ultraviolet, we see this one right, but other creatures will see more or likewise with sonar and sound, so maybe that’s for visual. But what we’re talking about here is mental perception and mental perception if we’re operating out of ordinary human mental perception maybe once again, it’s like a bandwidth. That’s what any ordinary person can see. But if you broaden that by samadhi, then maybe you can see multiple bandwidths and you can actually see pretas, you can see people in the bardo and so forth and so on. And if you increase the bandwidth you might see all of these interpenetrating in the same space and maybe from that perspective you can actually see Uttarakuru. It wouldn’t be in India, maybe you if you were there, you can go off to North America and see whether there are people there that actually fit the detailed description the Buddha gave of the inhabitants of Uttarakuru may be? Interesting to find out. I don’t think I’m going to devote myself to that but because I’m old you know and I just have to keep keep close to what I think is most important. But there’s more to this as my friend brought to my attention. The early canonical texts speak of past Buddha’s. So we have Buddha Shakyamuni, before him, Buddha Kasyapa, and going back, the Buddha that was fourth in the series, Maitreya will be the 5th one. Long time in the future. So they speak of past Buddhas, three of whom are said to have lived in in northern India in the very same region where Gautama lived and taught. We’re talking about Buddhas who lived millions of years ago, not within recorded history, not even close, way way back. But in India where Gautama lived and taught their life spans were remarkably long well that’s kind of an understatement. Kakusandha had a lifespan of 40,000 years. These are human beings.Konagamana] of 30,000 years, so Kakusandha being the first in that series of one thousand Buddhas, Buddha Shakyamuni being the 4th. The first one, Kakusandha 40,000 years, the golden era. The next one Konagamana 30,000 years, Kassapa I just mentioned, when the life span human lifespan was 20,000 years and our Buddha Gautama, who arose in our world at a time of spiritual , spiritual degeneration lived for only 80 years, so this is the kind of sine wave of life span that goes way and it’s was going from 40,000 30,000 20,000 way down to 80 and will continue down to 10 years that will be the average human lifespan. It will hit rock bottom there and then it will start coming up. There will be this big sine, sine wave and eventually it will be 80 thousand years and then it will continue. That’s time. [cough] For the clear statement of this see the Digha Nikaya] sutta number 14. So now we have time, we have a history of history, of our planet, of our world system, of whatever this is. And this is a point where you’re saying but that just doesn’t map on at all, at all. There’s just, it’s kind of like looking at North America and trying to see it in the shape of Uttarakuru ] and that’s where I just, I almost burst up with laughter you know like this is not going to work out if you try to map using the same grid and then kind of just it just doesn’t work, at all. The last I checked I’m definitely not an inhabitant of Uttarakuru. You look at their qualities, they have no ego. [laughter] I’m not one of those.
[1:05:14] They have no sense of possession, no sense of personal personal possessions on in particular. I do, my precious. But this history, what’s up with that? 40,000 30,000 20,000 and they’re all coming back to the same area of India. We’re talking about millions of years ago. So okay so we’ve got Gautama dodging the dinosaurs on his way to go to Bodh Gaya to sit under the Bodhi tree. And fortunately there were no Tyrannosaurus Rex’s around [chuckling] to just go [sound]. you know there it just doesn’t map at all. And who of us seriously can doubt that there were dinosaurs. They just discovered a big, a new one and it’s the biggest one in recorded the biggest one they ever found. You don’t hear of any of those you know in the Pali canon and whether it was okay for monks to eat dinosaur meat, doesn’t come up. [laughs] So the easiest thing is throttle back and say, you know, this is part of folklore that made its way into the Buddha and maybe a lot of people believed it and the Buddha was just passing on the folklore except there’s no evidence for that. It’s nice, it’s such an easy kind of thing, but there’s no evidence for that at all, the Buddha said you know this is the way it is. And then Moggallana is saying you want me to take your monks there. That’s not folklore, he was making a proposal, would you like me to put them in the teleporter and zap them over there? And all schools of Buddhism have this same image of history of this oscillating sine wave of life span and 40,000 it’s the same, it’s everywhere it’s Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and so forth. So again we can just say this just doesn’t concern me, you know, or we can be fundamentalists and say well then I, then I no longer believe what are your creation, what are you creationists saying? That God planted those bones just to trick people? Ok karma. Karma, karma planted those bones, there were no dinosaurs, it’s a karmic trick, you know. And but you sound you just start sounding really silly, really quickly, you know. So I have no choice in the matter but I really, I just have to believe in dinosaurs. I have to believe in geology I mean what am I going to do? I’m not going to take a hammer to my head and knock out my frontal cortex. And yet I too have faith in the Buddha, but now my friend asked me what, cause he asked me my advice. He said, you know, this is not going to rock my faith in the Buddha, but these are just incompatible. Our notion of this planet but also galaxies, the notion that now we know there’s about one planet for every star in the universe on average. The notion each has one star, one, one moon and one Sun. There isn’t an astronomer alive that would believe that. They would say why on earth are you coming up with that? you know, it’s incompatible, right. And there’s not a geologist or evolutionary biologist or anybody else in the whole scientific community that’s going to say yeah, millions of years ago there were people, people. I mean we’ve only been around for 200 thousand years, according to some pretty good evidence yeah like that. So he said what do you think, Alan? What’s the way out of this predicament? And in the Theravada, as I’ve mentioned before, metaphysical realism rocks. Metaphysical realism there’s a real universe, as my friend said, I just believe there’s something that really happened, it’s really out there, there’s a real world very much like what Einstein believed. I just read his conversation with Rabindranath Tagore, just read it, delightful. And Einstein’s comment, he is a very strong metaphysical realist. There is a real universe out there and we are mapping on to it. There’s one universe that follows orderly laws and that’s what we’re mapping metaphysical realist. And so, and so are the Theravada Buddhists.
[1:09:26] They include mind, so that’s a big step in the right direction. Mind is part of the universe, but is there a physical universe out there, that something really happened it really happened for this long and so forth. Yeah, they do believe that. So what are you going to do if you’re a Theravada Buddhist and you take everything the Buddha said literally, literally. It’s literally true because it’s describing the real objectively existent physical universe out there when it comes to these continents and all of that business. And history, what are you going to do when you’re also aware of 20th century physics, that is just fundamentally incompatible. Right. What are you going to do? And my answer is, my answer was, you’re stuck, [laughs], you’re screwed sorry but there’s just no way, because there’s just no way you can believe both if you’re a metaphysical realist. There’s just there’s no way it’s going to work out any more than the creationist if you saw this [ridiculous], opinion alert! This ridiculous movie called what, Noah? They had dinosaurs on the ark. I mean they had dinosaurs on the ark! I mean they’re trying to accommodate the fundamentalist Christians and accommodate the scientists, didn’t they do a marvelous job, dinosaurs on the ark you know about 6000 years ago. [laughter] So I thought that well they had well it marketed very well but the creationists said well [laughing] at least there’s an ark [laughing] so, that’s not going to work out, so either something’s gotta give and I think any well educated 20, 21st century person has said it’s not going to be science cause all you have is somebody saying it. The Bible is saying it or the Buddha is saying it or ok Moggallana, whatever.
[1:11:18] You know, but what if? I’m just having fun here, I’m not trying to persuade you of something. There’s no Agenda. Whether you’ll achieve enlightenment in this lifetime does not hinge upon your believing what I’m about to say. Whether you have a fortunate rebirth does not, is not contingent upon your believing as you’re dying, I do believe in the four continents. [laughs] That’s not going to help you, don’t worry. [laugh] you know, it’ll be really okay but in the Theravada Buddhist tradition what the Buddha said is true and the world is really as it is, and that’s it. So I think they’re just stuck. They’re just stuck. I just see, I see there’s no hope, I just, they’re stuck. As soon as you move into Mahayana, the theme of hermeneutics comes up, and hermeneutics is a whole discipline of interpretation and specifically as we have in Christianity, Judaism and so much in Western biblical or religious scholarship, that’s my field religious scholar. Hermeneutics is a big big topic and that’s let’s take it with Mahayana Buddhism. We have the teachings of the Buddha and the first turning of the wheel of Dharma which is basically Pali canon.
The second turning of the wheel of Dharma where Buddha is you know, it’s the the perfection of wisdom, it’s Bodhisattvas, it’s it’s it’s Vultures peak in Rajgir where there are millions of beings assembled. Millions of beings, Devas and Bodhisattvas and nagas and all kinds of beings and I’ve been there. It’s a hill, you might fit a couple hundred people on it but millions? It’s not going to happen. But of course this is perfection of wisdom where the Buddha taught perfection of wisdom, that nothing has inherent nature, including Vultures Peak. So as His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, the only way you can make sense of that is from the perspective of the perfection of wisdom. You can’t hold onto inherently existent Vultures Peak and then somehow cram you know hundreds of thousands of bodhisattvas and so forth onto it. I mean no telephone booth is that big, there’s just not enough space, you know. But then you have the teachings on Chittamatra where the Buddha is speaking of really, the whole universe being mind only. But then he has other teachings that contradict that. And so as soon as you move into Mahayana, you have the first, second, third turning of the wheel of Dharma and there’s just definitely if you’re reading everything literally there’s just incompatibilities and inconsistencies all over the place, and everybody knows that. And so the theme is then, what do you take literally among the Buddha’s teachings? Are there higher and lower teachings? Are some simply expedient means to help you along the way, but don’t stop, don’t get stalled there, right. And so that’s a big discipline. Tsongkhapa, yeah Tsongkhapa wrote a brilliant treatise on this theme. I memorized 90 pages of it. That was hard, all on hermeneutics. How do we determine what to take literally and what is interpretive, it’s allegorical, it’s mythological it’s an expedient means but it’s not the way things are. You know. And then there’s Kalachakra, the Kalachakra Tantra. And the Kalachakra Tantra of course, embedded in Vajrayana which means it’s embedded in the teachings of Buddha nature, embedded in the teachings of the middle way and the perfection of wisdom. Where nothing has inherent nature, not space, not matter and not time, they’re all relative to perspective, relative to conceptual designation. Relative to a system of measurement, relative to a conceptual framework and none of them, none of them have any existence independent. So in the Kalachakra, there’s a book by Jamgon Kongtrul I think, it’s a very good book. It’s Buddhist cosmology and he gives it from the Abhidhamma perspective, basic Buddhism.
[1:15:10] And then Kalachakra perspective and I think there’s also a Dzogchen perspective, Dzogchen yeah, it’s quite interesting exercise in hermeneutics big time right. And, but what it says, what it says in the Kalachakra when you’re describing the phenomenal world planets, stars, Sun, Moon, bodies etcetera what scientists study. What the Kalachakra Tantra says is, there is no description of the universe that is true, inherently true, you got it right, the right picture, not the Dzogchen view, not the Maha, not the Mahamudra, or the Vajrayana, or Kalachakra, or Sutrayana or Abhidhamma, none of them are literally true, none of them describe the universe as it is, as it is. They’re all describing from different perspectives they all have their validity but only with respect to a perspective. But out there emptiness, emptiness it’s all a story, true within the context, relative to, but as a story. So could it be a really good question came up and if I don’t finish tonight I’ll be able to finish very quickly on Monday because it’s pretty much of a wrap up here. If we take this seriously, now well okay and now do we say okay for the Christians and lo behold those creationists were right. There is a 7000 year old universe just not from our perspective, but from their perspective. And now some guy who has taken just too much LSD comes up and says the universe emerged from mushrooms, yesterday. That’s his reality and remember [inhales] that’s my reality dude remember [laughs] that’s my reality, pass the joint, because we all have our realities man, and so don’t bug me man, it’s groovy, it’s really like wow. [laughing] So now it’s just a free for all, whatever bullshit you want to come up with. You just say it’s true for me, you know, whatever the astrophysicist says if that turns you on dude in your seven billion dollar Hadrian super collider, Higgs boson. If that’s what does it for you dude you know. [laughter] I like marijuana myself and it’s cheaper [laughing] you know, are we down to that? That any description of the phenomenal universe is just like whatever you say it is? Or is there something in between and now of course it’s flat out solipsism, flat out solipsism truth is just whatever you say it is, that’s solipsism. Or metaphysical realism, whew, now we got some concrete world but even in physics that’s a lot of problems even in physics even in biology. As E. L. Wilson says, if you’re assuming that now how do you take your your theories, how do you measure, how do you map them, how do you compare them to what’s really there? Because every time you make a measurement, you have to have something relative to your measurement, so what are you going to do? Between a rock and an empty place. [laughs] Well I think there’s time it, there, it’s called the middle way, the middle way. Tsongkhapa does it as well as anybody I’ve ever seen. Let me see if I can fetch it, it’s rather simple, very deep, and I think I can be concise and I think I might even finish in 10 minutes. I hope I put it here. Pretty sure, Oh yeah here it is. This is from his lamrim chenmo, Tsongkhapa, he is like a, like a Newton for Tibetan Buddhism. I mean the man was an off the charts genius as well as being a great Bodhisattva as well as being a great contemplative adept. He was quite extraordinary. He intimidates me and I have his collected works 18, how could anybody know that much? And then he had, you know, he had special tutoring, Tsongkhapa, not only did he train with the finest scholars and adepts of his era, but when he had questions he just asked Manjushri, they’d have question and answer sessions. Man, I would like that. So Tsongkhapa writes: how does one determine whether something exists conventionally? Conventionally means you know, in our phenomenal world we’re not talking about emptiness here, we’re talking about, are there ghosts in the room? We’re not talking about ultimate reality here, but you know, but all those local spirits, do they exist or not? How do we determine that? Just within our phenomenal world, does it exist or not? How do we determine that and then he answers, in three short nuclear weapons. He says, we assert that something exists conventionally, that is relatively, if it is known to a conventional consciousness. How do we know, how do we know anything? How do I know that I have a pair of eyeglasses here. How do I know? I know it because my visual apparatus is working well, I can see it. And my tactile is working perfectly well as well, I can feel it. And so I know, right I know it, I know I’m not deluded, I’m not hallucinating I have not taken LSD recently etcetera. And yet so I know it because I’ve seen it. Are there other things that I know by inference, by solid sound reasoning, by cogent logic, inference of causes based on effects, and so forth right. And so we know things by means of inference and by means of direct perception.
[1:21:00] And with that of course I know that I have dreams, I know that I have emotions, I know that I have thoughts, I know that they are causally efficacious. If the scientists can’t figure that out well then you know, get a mind. But I know it because I can directly perceive it. That’s it right and so number one, to somebody who’s not, not insane sane people see things that are not there right but somebody who’s not sane if you see it, or if you logically infer it okay well that’s a good start somebody has to know it. So we can ask, does anybody know? Does anybody know that God created human beings on the sixth day after doing everything else for the first 5? Does anybody know? Did anybody see it, anybody logically infer it, because, just because it’s written some place, that’s not enough. I can write that you know there are Easter bunnies all over Thanyapura, everywhere, that doesn’t make the Easter bunnies. So the mere fact that somebody wrote it down that’s just not going to do it, right. And whether it’s in the Pali canon or whether it’s in the Jewish Bible. Somebody wrote it down, big deal. Does anybody know it? Does anybody, did anybody back then know it? Did they have some way of knowing it back then in ] the early Jewish era, did they did they develop some deep samadhi and then see it by means of, again here’s yogic perception. If you have yogic perception according to Buddhism and other contemplative traditions, you can know things not just with ordinary mental perception, ordinary inferences and sense perception you can know things by yogic perception. And there’s a wide variety of these and they’ll tell you exactly how to develop them. Buddhaghosa in the Visuddhimagga] tells you exactly how to develop these. It’s a lot of hard work, it’s developing the jhanas.
[1:22:38] And so, but did anybody see them? And now we’re really giving you know, being very generous here by means of yogic perception, mental perception, sensory perception or inference did anybody, nobody, nobody, nobody?. Ok then we’re going to put it in the limbo category. We’re not going to say it does exist or it doesn’t exist. We’re going to say, does not compute. We have no reason to assert it so we won’t right now say it doesn’t exist but just like go figure. So that’s the first thing, it needs to be known by somebody now or in the past. And then no other conventional valid cognition contradicts it being so known. So we can have a person who doesn’t know that somebody put some datura or jimson weed into his brownie, and datura makes you hallucinate. But unlike LSD, mescaline and so forth you don’t know you don’t know you’re hallucinating. In other words you become psychotic and you’re hallucinating big time but you’ve completely become deranged and you’re taking everything to be real and so you could see Easter bunnies all over the room and you would say I see them, I see them, you know. Now happily the datura wears off. I know somebody who actually took it and he said it was awful. You really are temporarily psychotic. Cause you do not know and that you’re, you don’t know what’s going to come up and you have no idea that it’s not real. It sounds really awful, one guy took it that I met just recently. But then it wears off and then once it’s worn off maybe you’re seeing ok why not take this silly example. You’re seeing Easter bunnies everywhere, but then you you see now the drugs worn off and you’re looking for all those Easter bunnies, aha I could have sworn they existed because I didn’t know I had taken, that somebody had slipped some datura into my brownie, but now I see there are no Easter bunnies. Therefore the valid cognition I have now, because I know the datura wore off, now this contradicts my perception that Easter bunnies were everywhere when I had datura. And there are many many other cases of that. The belief in the ether was universal in the latter part of the 19th century. Einstein believed in it, even created the first science project he did was how to measure the ether, a medium a luminiferous ether, a medium that permeates all of space, it’s a subtle material medium that actually ripples when light waves go through it.
[1:25:02] Everybody believed in it. Lord Kelvin said in, what was it, in 19, 1891 you know Nobel laureate big shot, big big physicist. He said if there’s one thing of which we are more certain than anything else, and that is the real substantial existence of the luminiferous ether. Four years early, earlier, 1887 Michelson and Morley proved that it didn’t exist. Four years earlier! [laughs] They did it in America, you know we Americans, kind of primitive. But then Einstein comes up with his theory and then just after a while whoops it doesn’t exist. Everybody thought it had to, because they couldn’t imagine how light could operate without there being such an ether or absolute space, time, matter, energy everybody believed it. Absolute space, absolute, absolutely out there until Einstein. Well you believed it, but you’re wrong, you’re all wrong. I, one guy with a pencil and a paper, I’m sure you’re wrong. Now there’s experiments that are coming out of my theory put them into gear and see what happens. Whoops, everybody since Newton was wrong, and a lot people before Newton. So this is how science has progressed for the last four hundred years. You take your best shot like my friend Robert Livingston that said, well half of what we believe about the brain is false we just don’t know which half. Well, that’s what science is for. You have a whole bunch of assumptions what’s the function of glial cells etcetera etcetera etcetera. And then you keep on doing research ah, that was a mistake, and science progresses because you have better technology, better instruments, more precise analysis, better mathematics, perhaps and that’s how it works. We grow up and we outgrow earlier delusions like you’re my soul, soulmate says the 16 year old, you know, to the girl that he’s just fallen in love with. We’ll be forever together don’t you, will you be my steady forever because I’ll love you forever, ever and ever and ever. And 6 months later well, reboot on that one, you know. So then we shift reality right. So we do that as we grow up and science has been doing it spectacularly for 400 years. This is why scientists now virtually never say this is an immutable fact. The savvy ones, they say this is our best shot for the time being. But it is in principle open that’s science at its best. So there’s a second one this is Tsongkhapa writing in the 14th 15th century. No other valid cognition contradicts it being so known, and finally reason that accurately analyzes the reality of whether something inherently exists does not contradict it. So now he’s going for the depths and that is he’s going to Madhyamaka and he said ontological analysis, reasoning that probes into how things exist ultimately are they really there from their own side or are they not? And comes to the conclusion that they are empty of inherent nature that that which is considered to be the supreme reasoning, the optimal, the ultimate reasoning that penetrates through to the ultimate mode of existence of phenomena as being empty of inherent nature that whatever you observe in the phenomenal world can’t contradict that. In other words you can’t bring in something, oh we just discovered an inherently existent black hole or inherently existent dark matter. Sorry that’s already been refuted by ontological analysis, that’s not going to wash, right. So none of that was stupid which is to say you just can’t make up anything because if you say, I believe in Easter bunnies all over the place then somebody’s going to say well we don’t and have you checked your brownies recently, you know. So he concludes we hold that anything that fails to meet these three criteria as non-existent, if somebody hasn’t seen it, known it someway and if it’s not contradicted by another one that’s better, right.
[1:29:03] It’s really subtle. And what he doesn’t say but I know from WIlliam James is, it’s 6:01, I’ll finish quite quickly here because I’m almost finished. But, William James brings in something quite brilliant. It’s from the later 19th century philosophy, I think is really smart. And that is what Tsongkhapa has laid out here, is an epistemic criteria by way of knowing what exists or not. But of course it’s entangled with what you’re knowing, the the knower, right. And how confident are you that your knowing mechanism, your eyes your mind or what have you is working properly, right. So he just gave us the epistemic criteria. Somebody must know it and it mustn’t be contradicted by somebody who knows better. Right. But there’s also the pragmatic. And William James among his many hats was a great pragmatist. And he said, If it works it exists. If it works it exists. If you’ve got a laser, if you’re trying to build a laser and then you build something or it can cut through metal and it’s light, that’s a laser. You were successful.
[1:30:16] You have a true method for developing a laser. If it works, is this, is this medicine, is this a good medicine for hepatitis A? Some funky herbs with 35 ingredients, that some Tibetans created. Is that true or false? Is that medicine effective medicine for hepatitis A? It’s a yes or no question. Well, you can analyze those 35 herbs and so forth in that compound until the cows come home and you won’t know. How would you possibly know it’s 35 ingredients. It’s just flowers and herbs and this and that and the other thing. You have to be like me, have hepatitis three times. The first time was bad, the second time was near death and first, third time was really near death and be saved each time. And the last time or the last two times really obvious. Took the medicine, bam the next day. The last time I was dying, dying, dying took the medicine, getting well, getting well, it was a V. ] It was so obvious. So is that medicine effective for Hepatitis A? Well yeah, and back then we had hippies from all over, all over India. When they get hepatitis they’d migrate to Dharamsala to get Yeshe’s medicine. Because western medicine had nothing for it at that time. They’d come there, you know. And so the pragmatic, is an assertion true, well try it out. Is it possible, is it possible that there is something called the substrate consciousness? Does that exist or not? Well you can debate about it forever, but how you going to win a debate or lose a debate by debating about it? Go to a neuroscientist say what do you think neuroscientist, does shamatha exist? substrate consciousness? Can’t even give you a clue, how could they possibly know. Ask your gardener. Well, practice shamatha, and see whether it works, you know. So there’s that pragmatic element. And Buddhism fundamentally boils down to there’s a reality of suffering. Source of suffering, cessation and the path. Is the path true or not? Is the path true or not? Does there exist a path to the cessation of suffering and its causes? Is there a path that gives rise to Buddhahood itself? Is there a path that gives rise to rainbow body, where your body dissolves into the energy of primordial consciousness. Is there a path to that? Does that exist or not? Well, how do you know whether anybody’s seen it? If you meet an arhat how do you know it’s an arhat? If you meet a Buddha, you know they don’t all have ushnishas and so forth they appear in all different kind of ways. How do you know? Only one way, see whether it works. It’s pragmatic. Now that’s not independent of the epistemic because all the way along you’re using your intelligence. Do you perceive or do you not perceive? Is your, is your earlier observation negated by a more advanced one, a more sophisticated one. One brief quote by, very brief quote from William James and we’re finished. But he’s trying to introduce into the matrix of scientific methodology, introspection, he tried. He failed. He had, he had no idea how to develop attention skills. And he had no idea how to refine introspection. And neither did anybody else, back then. Not in Europe, and none of them traveled to India, or China or Southeast Asia, or Tibet, or Mongolia or Sri Lanka and so forth where it was just everywhere, you know, throw a rock. They didn’t, they were ethnocentric. And William James had some very very prejudicial notions about, the orient. They’re just like, full of bullshit you know. It was one of his limitations. But he was trying, but when it came to the mind he wanted to understand subjective experience. He’d say come indirectly by way of behavior, indirectly by way of brain studies but guy you have to bite the bullet and look at it for heaven’s sake. Like all other branches of science look at the phenomena you’re trying to understand. I mean come on, it’s common sense here but we have to be good at it. So he’s trying to introduce introspection and here’s what he says about it.
[1:34:15] Introspection is difficult and fallible. That is even when you’re observing your own mind you can make misperceptions, draw false conclusions and don’t think just because you’ve observed introspectively somehow that’s going to be right or infallible. But introspection is difficult and fallible. But then he says and the difficulty is simply that of all observation of whatever kind. So again for astronomy, botany, zoology any observation it’s not unique to introspection, it’s every observation has this difficulty built in. That they’re fallible right, well what do you do with the fallibility? Right. The only safeguard is in the final consensus of our farther knowledge, farther in this context just means later. You review the earlier observations, the earlier measurements, the earlier conclusions, scientific papers and so forth. Keep on reviewing the earlier ones, you’re rechecking, rechecking, rechecking and then making advances. The only safeguard is in the final consensus of our further or later knowledge about the thing in question. Later views correcting earlier ones. Until at last the harmony of a consistent system is reached. And that’s when you write you chemistry textbook, biology textbook, geology textbook, astronomy textbook, botany, zoology, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. There’s consensual knowledge that you have ok we still have a cutting edge, there are, how do you say ah there’s disagreement, there’s debate here on this on the cutting edge of it but this much we know. Here we’re solid, right. And now here’s the fringe and we keep on trying to extend the area of consensus but it’s always coming back later and reviewing reassessing the earlier, right. So can you see Tsongkhapa, Tsongkhapa and William James saying the same thing? Isn’t that kind of cool? And there’s your middle way. But you see you have no absolute criterion, I mean it’s ok but what does God say? I mean just I’m really we’re really having a hard time here in quantum mechanics. God would you help us out here. Silence. Okay, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha you’re really, Buddha tell what’s the absolute perspective you know, you’re what’s the absolute and the Buddha says I’m seeing multiple worlds. [laughs] Which one do you want, which one are you referring to? [laughs] Now he’s speaking with an American Indian accent that’s terrible. [laughter] See you can’t call on the Buddha cause a lot of things are you have to interpret, but they’re not to be taken literally. Hard to call on God. Can’t call on nature. Edward L Wilson, a great metaphysical realist, you can’t call on nature, where are you going to find it? Hello nature send us a message. Have a vision of nature. So you have no absolute yardstick, no absolute criterion so you just bootstrap your way through. Within your own mandela, as a community of physicists, as a community of yogis, as a single yogi, you just keep on bootstrapping your way through, pragmatically and epistemically. And you know it’s working if you’re mental afflictions are subsiding, a sense of genuine happiness is arising, virtues are arising, insights are arising. And you’d be pretty confident when you achieve rainbow body. That you did something right. Wasn’t that fun? That was the idea. Right. So there we are, I’m finished. No more notes. I might have say something to say on Monday, but I’ll have to meditate a lot to see what else comes up, cause I don’t know, I don’t know what I’ll be saying. But that’s it. Enjoy your weekend and I will see you Monday morning.
Transcribed by KrissKringle Sprinkle
Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Final edition by Cheri Langston.