20 Sep 2014

Alan talks about the cultivation of empathetic joy, which among the four immeasurables is the one that is often easily overlooked. However, it is extremely important because it’s not simply about being happy, but about cultivating a feeling of a shared joy. Furthermore, it is the antidote for the near enemy of compassion: depression or despair. So when we are cultivating empathetic joy, it is important to note that we are, of course, not deluding ourselves into thinking that all is good. However, as humans have the tendency to focus on the negative, we are merely balancing that out a bit by focusing our attention on the positive in a positive manner. Thus, we change the “What” and the “How”. After the meditation Alan elaborates on our habit of reifying the past. The meditation we just did serves as a good example: How often has it happened that when you do that meditation, you think of the same three or four events? That shows how extremely selective our memory is and how small a portion of our past we actually remember. On top of that, these three events are of course by far not a real representation of what actually happened - they are a story we tell ourselves of what happened, a story that is true only in relation to our cognitive framework in the present. Thus, we have the capacity of reshaping the way our past influences us in the present. These thoughts then lead Alan to talk about the naturalistic approach of Buddhism. This approach is based on observations, observations that any individual can make. Such observation then shows that mental states have as much causal efficacy as physical objects such as rocks, dogs, etc. So the mind is as real as anything else. What might cause confusion, however, is that often scientific materialists nowadays speak of themselves as naturalists, meaning: “Nature is that which is not supernatural; supernatural is that which is not physical.” However, up to this day no scientist has ever been able to show with empirical evidence what the nature of the correlation between subjective experience and neural processes is! Thus, from that point of view all mental states are supernatural. The problem, however, is not that this has not been proven, but that many scientists, journalists etc. act as if it had been proven, which is not empirical. If you look at quantum mechanics which has not been able to make significant progress in interpreting its own findings, you have to acknowledge that at least they are honest about it and admit not knowing what quantum mechanics implies. Whereas in neuroscience many people cover up the hard-problem simply. This is best illustrated by the placebo effect: the name suggests that the placebo is what does the magic, but this is fundamentally wrong, otherwise one could just tweak the brain - but one can’t because it’s faith that does the trick. Alan then calls for action and requests that today’s science, which is largely dominated by wealth, power and prestige, moves beyond that, moves beyond determinism or the theory of pure chance which gives the individual no motivation to act and no moral responsibility for the actions.

Meditation starts at 18:54

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