26 Sep 2012

Teaching: As an appendix to last night’s talk, Alan introduces the placebo effect which is clearly a mental that happens and is well-known. However, there is no explanation in modern science for how it works. Applying John Wheeler’s assertion that information is primary and that the universe is an information processing system to the microcosm of one’s mind/body, we can consider mind/body as being derivative from information and as an information processing system. Information can catalyze the specific sequelae seen in the placebo effect. According to Wheeler, we are co-creating our universe by how we measure it and how we make sense of it.

Alan introduces mindfulness of the body according to the Madhyamaka (Middle Way). It is useful to hone in on the Middle Way by identifying the two extremes of 1) nihilism/solicism – the universe comes into existence based on our perception and 2) metaphysical realism – the universe is already out there, waiting to be discovered. Alan introduces close application of mindfulness to the body from the Madhyamaka perspective following verses 78-105 in Ch. 9 of the Bodhicaryavatara. 

Meditation: mindfulness of the body per Shantideva. What do you think is there when you’re not looking? What do you think of as “my body”? Closely apply mindfulness to individual parts from the feet upwards. Do you think the feet are the body, etc...? If you think the body as the whole, then what of amputees? If you think the body has parts, then where is the body that has those parts? How many parts can we remove before we stop having a body? When does a fertilized egg become a human body? When does the human body stop becoming a human body? Neither origination nor cessation exists from ist own side. Rest in the emptiness of your own body.
Q1. If the psyche is individually configured, yet the substrate’s qualities are universal, does everyone have the same experience of the substrate?
Q2. If rigpa is outside the system, can rigpa be considered God eye’s view? Within rigpa, are my choice already made leading to a deterministic universe?

Meditation starts at 48:00

Download (MP3 / 57 MB)



Alan introduces an explanation about the placebo effect which is simply called mental effect that happens and is well-known.

So today there will be no marathon. I will keep much closer to half an hour, but I did say I would deliver something yesterday that I failed to deliver because we simply ran out of time, and that is an explanation for the placebo effect. Of course, whenever I say that I want to kind of gag because just the phrase itself is so misleading! They should simply call it the mental effect. That would be ok: the mental effect.

So imagine there is a mayor of the city and the mayor comes into a bank and he robs the bank! “Give me your money or your life.” And he is the mayor, and everybody knows he is the mayor. “Give me your money!” And then he runs out and then the police come in and they know exactly who did it, but there is no way they could say the mayor did it. But the police find a little old lady in a wheelchair that was across the street from the bank when it was robbed, and she is the primary suspect. After all, she was there. And that is about all you can say of the placebo effect. Everybody knows that it is a mental effect. It is fictitious, faith, believe, desire, trust! Everybody knows that, but he is the mayor. There is no way that a materialist can say that something so intangible as trust, faith and so forth can be responsible for anything, let alone healing the body. So, the placebo, that little sugar tablet, an innocent bystander like that little old lady in a wheelchair,— OK! It is a placebo effect, folks!

(1:53) And you actually find some people calling about the effects of the placebo. It is mind-numbing. I checked it out with some experts, one in Italy and one in America. Do you have any explanation for how does it work? That is, not simply I’ll take this and I’ll feel better. No. I take this for something very specific in the body, and, Lo! And Behold! it actually works. Exactly what you want. Even people taking a placebo, and having their cancer going into remission. Scientists do not know, medical doctors do not know how to make cancer go into remission, otherwise they would never use these awful, brutal techniques likes chemotherapy and radiation. I mean, it is really violence against the body. They would never do that if they can say, “Oh, just take this pill and this will make your cancer go into remission.” If they had a chemical like that they’d just give that to everybody. But no, there are cases where a person take a placebo, a sugar tablet, and the cancer goes into remission, and the scientists do not know how to do that and the person taking the placebo certainly doesn’t know how to do that.

And so the flat out answer of the experts, the Italian and the American – if you hear something different, let me know because I am not here to promote a dogma. I am trying to find out what is true. There is simply no explanation whatsoever in terms of modern biomedicine for how the placebo effect can possibly work. It just shouldn’t work.

(4:25) And if it came out of the blue, the whole medical profession would say that is impossible, that it’s magic, it never happens! Except that it happens so often that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on a regular basis by the pharmaceutical industry to exclude the placebo effect, so they can find out what is the actual effect the chemicals are having.

(4:35) So, materialism offers no explanation whatsoever. To my mind, it is something like the purple catastrophe, black body radiation. It is something in classical mechanics, classical physics that simply should not have been the case. The empirical evidence is there. There is no explanation. It is called black body radiation. It is rather subtle, but it should not have happened and there is no explanation for it in all classical physics, and so they just said well, we will figure it out one day. Well, the man that figured it out is Max Planck, with a totally radical idea and that is: the energy is quantized. And then that opened up a whole revolution in modern physics which still has not finished, because nobody really knows the nature of what it really implies. What is the process of measurement and so forth? So to my mind, the so-called placebo effect is really like the ultraviolet catastrophe for materialism. It happens. Everybody knows that happens. It is extremely expensive to exclude it from clinical trials. That is why we need these double-blind experiments and all of that, but there is no explanation for it at all.

(5:30) Moreover, if we go back to a Cartesian model, some immaterial soul or consciousness coming in and getting inserted into, you know, in some extra substance, then there is no explanation there either. How does this soul know how to catalyze anything in the body – “I wish upon a star?” – I mean, there will be no connect, right?

(6:01) But consider what came out of yesterday’s talk. What John Wheeler is suggesting about the whole universe, and that is the entire universe is best understood not as fundamentally composed of space, time, matter and energy, but information being primary, fundamental, and everything else being derivative from information. Then, therefore, with that in mind, the whole universe being regarded as an information processing system in which, again, information is primary.

(6:30) Well considering there is a microcosm and the microcosm is your body/mind system. It is not fundamentally that it is a bunch of cells, electricity, chemical electricity in an extremely complex configuration which the materialists have us believe, and then they have no explanation for the placebo effect. It is not that, nor it is a simply slapping together of totally different substances. Somehow mind and matter come together and nobody figured out how that works, but rather, considering your mind and body system being an information processing system, in other words: information is core and the matter and mind are derivative from the flow of information, mind as such and matter as such being derivative from information considering that possibility then if you tell someone, for example: “John you have this illness. Take this piece of paper and touch your head three times with it, and this will make your headache (or whatever you have) go away.” The placebo effect does not have to be something substantial. It can be, for example, reciting one phrase – and this will cure you in three days. It can be anything, it can be a gesture; it can be anything. But it is the information going in. If your system is fundamentally an information system, I just gave you information and from the inside out, the information will then catalyze exactly those physiological events need to make your headache go away, or any other kind of problem. The placebo works for an enormously wide variety of psychological and physiological problems. If your system, mind and body, is fundamentally an information processing system and not simply matter, then that makes good sense because you are going directly to the core, to information, information being transferred, and from the inside out that information in the system will then work its way out and manifest what is needed to bring about the expected result. And bear in mind, there is a complete symmetry here. The placebo effect occurs when you you say something good is going to happen, you will be healed. It really works. You get over your headache and so forth. But just like karma, it works in both ways.

The placebo effect works in both ways. It is called the placebo effect for good things, like to heal a headache, but it also happens for bad things and then it is called the nocebo effect. There are people, it happens a lot, people diagnose themselves because they do not have any insurance in America and cannot go to a doctor because they cannot afford it. It is so expensive, so what do they do? They go to the public library and get on the internet and try to diagnose themselves, and then they see some symptoms they have and think, oh, yeah, this disease – these are some of my symptoms. I must have that. And then they get the rest of the symptoms of the disease they identified on the web, and they do not have them at all. It is called the nocebo effect, the technical term. You start getting the symptoms you believe you must have because you have the disease you identified on the web. It is so clear this is a matter of conceptual designation. So that actually solves the placebo effect. Not with the Cartesian Dualism not with the Materialistic Monism but understanding that information is primary, or as our Theravada master said yesterday that is a fundamental flow of experience out which then nama rupa are two aspects of the experience out of which mano then differentiate mind and matter and conceptualization classifies them and label and reifies them, so flow of experience, flow of information, but that is fundamental and this is no mystery, no mystery at all.

(10:30) So, we return now to the close application of mindfulness of body, and we are looking from the inside observing the sensations arising, earth, water, fire and air, the visual impressions of the body, the sounds made by the body and so on. You may accept if you wish the working hypotheses: this is that, all of these appearances arising locally that is in your own substrate and we all have our own substrate but of course the body is there when you are not aware of it just as grass grows when nobody is looking.

(11:16) And so it is very helpful now as we are approaching the Middle Way, this is the Madhyamaka, whenever you are approaching any kind of the Middle Way, in practicing shamatha or anything else, from my experience the way to find the Middle Way is to get a very clear bead, a really clear recognition of what are the extremes and then vector in from that, so what are the two extremes? And they are not that difficult. Then at least I know where to look for the Middle Way.

  • Nihilism/Solipsism

As per the summary made by SB Institute’ staff: the universe comes into existence based on our perception.

So what is one extreme: if you are not aware of something that does not exist, in other words: I am about to kill Miles. Are you ready, Miles. It will not hurt. Are you ready? Okay, Miles, he just disappeared.

Okay, when we are not looking, the universe vanishes. It is solipsism, nihilism; that is, the universe depends upon our perceptions. Okay, if you want to believe that, go back to your marijuana and have a nice day. But that is one extreme, it’s nihilism.

This is one of the extremes...and that is: the universe needs us perceiving it to exist. In other words atoms do not exist unless you’re perceiving them. (12:47)

Or, for example, and this is a bit tricky, the Higgs Boson and the large hadron supercollider. This was hypothesized a long time ago, the Higgs Boson, the particle that gives every other particle in the universe mass. Does it exist or not? They couldn’t test it. It required such high energies to test. Very expensive to create such a device. The Americans gave up on creating one in Texas. They couldn’t afford it. But the EU put its pennies together and built the [CERN] supercollider. Brilliant science, brilliant scientists, conducted their experiments and beyond reasonable doubt concluded that it exists. Did the Higgs Boson exist before they measured it? What’s the Buddhist answer? Yes. It did. If they went to all that trouble – 6 billion dollars – to discover something they invented, that’s a bad answer. They didn’t just create it. Otherwise there would be no difference between making a discovery and just finding an artifact of your measuring system. They aren’t just making this up as they go.

  • Metaphysical Realism

As per the summary made by SB Institute’ staff: the universe is already out there, waiting to be discovered.

(16:35) The view of the metaphysical realism is the Universe is really and absolutely out there and is simply being discovered and we are trying to represent it with our mathematics theories that illuminate, the mathematic regularity of the loss of the nature but also the existence of particles, waves, cells, galaxies and so forth and so on but it is all out there, it is a done deal and science is here to represent it and we are doing a better job at least to approach to a complete and correct map.

That is the idea of the metaphysical realism that is everything out there is inherently existent by its own nature and we are trying to label it. It is out there and we are just clever enough to be able to measure it, but it is absolutely out there and everything is, that is the metaphysical realism, that is exactly what Madhyamaka is refuting and that is exactly what John Wheeler and the others are refuting as well. For example, Stephen Hawking said no, that is not what is really out there (refuting metaphysical realism – the universe is already out there, waiting to be discovered) and said what is really out there is just an ocean of possibilities, the superposition state, a quantum reality which is all just an ocean, a probability field but no actuality at all if you are asking what is their prior to measurement.

So one extreme is it’s all really out there and we are simply representing it, and the other one is we are just making it up as we go, just as if in a vacuum. So where is the Middle Way here? Now that we found that, you know, we can vector in.

(17:58) Anybody who is interested in philosophy, read the works of a great philosopher, very distinguished, Hilary Putnam*, “The Many Faces of Realism and Realism with a Human Face”, very deep, very clear and very close to Buddha’s Madhyamaka view and do not think he had studied it. (Madhyamaka view) I do not believe so, it is a really quite remarkable philosophy, right?

For one that is reading this session/transcript see below some information about Hilary W. Putnam:

* Hilary Whitehall Putnam (born July 31, 1926) is an American philosopher, mathematician, and computer scientist who has been a central figure in analytic philosophy since the 1960s, especially in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of science.[2] He is known for his willingness to apply an equal degree of scrutiny to his own philosophical positions as to those of others, subjecting each position to rigorous analysis until he exposes its flaws.[3] As a result, he has acquired a reputation for frequently changing his own position.[4] Putnam is currently Cogan University Professor Emeritus atHarvard University.

Source: www.wikipedia.org

(18:15) But in terms of science, this anecdote I told many times about H. H. the Dalai Lama, when he first encountered Anton Zeilinger, and Anton Zeilinger talking about his experiments finding that when you look for the electron or the elementary particles as existent from their own side, that is, already really there, you do not find them because they are not already objectively existent, and he elaborated on this point, but based on experiment not simply being a very brilliant theoretical physicist like Stephen Hawking or John Wheeler. And the Dalai Lama, having heard this he said: how could come to that conclusion without understanding, without knowing Madhyamaka philosophy. And then Anton Zeilinger, that is a wonderful man, open minded as well, of course a brilliant scientist said: what is the Madhyamaka philosophy? Well fancy you should ask! You know, what better person on the planet to ask, please give a nutshell of just the straight goods. What is this Madhyamaka? Boy! Who would be better to ask this? So, His Holiness then gave this quintessential nugget (explanation) of Madhyamaka view, the Middle Way view that avoided these two extremes, nihilism and metaphysical realism. Anton, being this open minded man with a European education, trained in the Classics (school), read philosophy and so forth. He heard the Dalai Lama give a short exposition of Madhyamaka, and then Anton said: how could you come to those conclusions without knowing Quantum Mechanics?

So, these are two brilliant people, each one so well embodied in their own tradition. Anton is just kind of like an icon, really being a superb scientist but also being well versed in western philosophy. He embodied that tradition, and Dalai Lama embodies to my mind the whole bodhisattva ideal, and they come together, and just finding this tremendously complementary.

Alan introduces close application of mindfulness to the body from the Madhyamaka perspective following verses 78-105 in Ch. 9 of the Bodhicaryavatara.

(20:41) So, we are coming to the body. We come to the body, and we have our impressions, of course, but even if we are sound asleep and consciousness has slipped into the substrate, of course, the body is still there. But now that would imply you mean it is really there. It is really there, which means, I mean, is it really there, I mean it is totally there, absolutely there, independently there, right? One lying in bed, it must inherently existent, right? So let’s do this:

(21:09) I am sure you played catch when you were kid. Remember when I was just introducing Sautrantika and saying look Sautrantika is anything that has causal efficacy and exists by its own nature...it does not matter what you call it, does not matter the conceptual framework and start banging my hand in something, the cell phone or something? For showing, look, that is causal efficacy, it is absolutely there, it is real and I can perceive it, right?

And now I like to do this: we will just play catch with this, so now watch here. (you hear a sound: Alan is banging his hand in something) Clear? There is nothing up my sleeve. Okay, you are ready, Miles? I am throwing to you. Okay? Ready? (Alan threw the object to Miles and he caught and you may hear the sound that it makes.) Uah, that was cool! Did you see or not see an inherently existent eyeglass case flying through the air? That is, if we all died and all of us are complete, you know, it will still be flying through the air I mean I threw it and we all died and it is still [flying] and flopped and lies into his lifeless corpse, but right (banging the case again) it is got absolutely there whatever you call it, whatever color you have to see, but (banging the case again), it has to be something absolute there. I mean, I threw it across the room, right? And does not that prove metaphysical realism? We all saw it, and it is in his hands. You heard the sound of my hand. Does it not have absolutely there, independently of conceptual designation? Are not the Sautrantrika right, and has causal effects unlike the fact this is mine, but that does not do anything at all, that is just whatever, we agreed (Alan is talking about the concept of ownership) but we do not need agree on this you can think this is made of jelly and I throw it, it is not made of jelly (banging the case again) you discovered, no it is solid, right? So does not that this disprove Madhyamaka and prove Sautrantika and my answer is:

(22:47) Imagine right now that you are dreaming, a thought experiment, and the case is touching my hand – some object that produces a noise and there is also the sensation. It is the earth element, that you can hear the sound and feel the sensation in the dream, because you are dreaming. Now imagine that you are lucid. It still will be the same. You are still hearing the sounds and feeling the sensations of earth element, you are hearing and feeling causality and that is causality making the sound you expected, causality is all working, but in a dream is there anything here, from its own side? No, is zero, and yet it still makes the noise and so forth and so on. So that should make us pause. That we are fooled in a dream, lucid and non-lucid dream, we are totally fooled. You think that you are touching an object. Even when you are lucid in a dream it still looks that way, that is why even if you realize emptiness it still appears as they are inherently existent, appears that they are here from their own side. So, likewise, with the body.

(24:38) Now we come to the body of matter in the universe that frankly on whole we care most about and our reification is so intense because it is not like, say, John, here is my glasses and now it is yours and he takes the glasses so that is easy with eye glasses, computers, clothing and so forth. But if I say John you have a pretty body there, younger than mine. Would you like to change? I will give you mine and you give yours. That we cannot do, right, even if we want to. This is the one body of matter in the universe we are really stuck with it, and it seems to be really there, I mean absolutely there.

So let see what Shantideva have to say about that.

(25:39) This is from the Buddha’s Bodhicaryāvatāra, a translation that my wife and I did. I have translated from the Tibetan. We are going to the 9 chapter and we are going to verse 78. I translated just those verses 78 to 105 of Chapter 9. Those are the verses in Shantideva’s wisdom chapter of “A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life” that directly address the Four Applications of Mindfulness from Madhyamaka’s perspective. So now we are going to the big leagues. We did the classical approach, the Sautrantrika, we did the Theravada, we did the Pali Canon, and now we are going to the Perfection of Wisdom, because that is where in the Indo-Tibetan Tradition, in the Sanskrit, a text is attributed to the Buddha on the Four Close Applications of Mindfulness.

(27:48) So now this is the Madhyamaka’s close applications of mindfulness, close applications of mindfulness always means with discerning intelligence with wisdom and you are not just practicing bare attention. Confining yourself in bare attention is not the Pali Canon, it is not Theravada, it is not anything else, only late twenty-first century Buddhism that has been popularized. Now we are brightening up and bringing now all the way to the Madhyamaka level, so let’s read:

(28:36) What is the nature of this body as we closely attend to, this body that is there when we are not perceiving it?

The question here is, alright, the appearances arising in the substrate and are not inherently existent and are not really there. They are appearing at the space of the alaya that is already empty. Okay, case closed. It is kind of obvious and a lot of neuroscientists would accept that, you know. The appearances, they do not travel through space and so forth. But again there is a body, the body came from the egg and sperm of your parents. It has a history to it, and eats food, is made of molecules, is located in physical space, so when you are not looking, what is there when we are not looking? Because when we are looking we have all these appearances arising in our substrate but there is something there when we are not looking, what is that? That is the question scientists have being asking at least four hundred years, what is there when we are not looking, and they are assuming there is an absolute perspective, “God’s perspective.”

(29:31) It is very interesting with Stephen Hawking, his own evolution, about twenty five years ago he wrote his best seller, “A Brief History of Time”, big best seller and of course he is an outstanding scientist, but he left open at that time, he was still hoping that would be a grand unified theory, the union of Genuine Relativity and Quantum Mechanics – never been done — and it would be one theory that counts for everything. And everything would have its place, everything would fit and so at that time when he wrote that he said: you know there is a possibility of God, a singular God who created the whole, triggered the big bang and all of that, so we will have both these together. There is maybe a God, there is maybe a role for that, and we are aspiring for a grand and unified theory, one theory that covers everything.

Now, maybe two years ago now, he published his book I think is called “The Grand Design” and he shifted on both accounts. He gives up the notion that there would be a grand unified theory and he gives up the notion that there could be a God, one God that created the one universe because he is taking Quantum Mechanics really seriously now. As I explained yesterday, what we have are these multiverses: a different system of measurements and the conceptual framework and the universe rises relative to that, which is truly relative to that; another system of measurements, set of questions, conceptual framework – another universe rises relative to that, and another and another and another... So, no one universe, no one grand theory that brings all together. In another words, it is all relative, ontological relativity in which there is no place for God because we are co-creating our universe and we are cultivating multiple ones with each system of measurements and conceptual framework to make sense of the information. So that is a big shift – much closer to Buddhism.

Because Buddhism has been saying all along there is no outside creator. there is one phrase which is from the abhidharma that is very easy to memorize: In Tibetan: jigten la la le leh jung: the multiple worlds arise from karma. I want to elaborate on that but it would take the whole hour, but the multiple worlds and the karma is playing a role in arousing, generating the appearances and we in the present moment are making measurements and making sense of it in which case in that regard we are co-creators both ways, because there is a karma from past life but also activities in this life but the types of measurements, in other words what you are attending to with your six senses, what you are attending to with your instruments of technology, what you are attending to and how do you make sense of it, how are you attending to it, right? It is big, important, not just attending to it, but how are you attending to it. And so in dependence upon that, reality rises up to meet you, but it is reality you co-create both in long term in terms of karma, that is clearly the Buddhist belief. I am not saying it’s not true, actually believe, but what we can see empirically and what John Wheeler is getting at: it is how we co-creating right here and now by the measurements we are performing now and the way we make sense of that information, so that is an interesting point.

(33:17) Back to the body. So, the question is then: what is there when we are not looking? Scientists have being working on metaphysical realism based in the Bible for the first three hundred years of science. Now it’s no longer based in the Bible but there’s still a lot of inertia. I mean, most scientists, most physicists I think are still metaphysical realists, they are really out there, especially the experimentalists feeling, you know, there must be already out there, and so metaphysical realists are simply discovering what is absolutely out there.

(33:45) But we come back to Buddhism:

When we are not perceiving the body what is there? And how do we talk about that, that it does exist even when we are not looking at it? Without being following in the other extreme that is inherently, absolutely objective by its own inherent nature? Okay, finding in Shantideva.

So we are trying to identify what is the nature of this body as we closely apply mindfulness to it with discerning intelligence and some of the working hypotheses that are coming from Madhyamaka view, so he starts and this is ever so familiar refrain finding in a Pali Canon itself in the Buddha’s discourse on the four applications of mindfulness, namely the body, something very similar to what I am about to read.

Instructions for one that is reading the transcripts where Alan Wallace is using a text as a reference: you will see that he usually read the text part by part and add some comments to explain the themes. In this transcript and others his comments are coming after the text but in some transcripts his comments are inserted in the text between the marks […]. That is the way it goes.

78. The body is not the feet, the calves, nor the thighs. Nor is the body the hips, the abdomen, the back, the chest, or the arms.

(34:30) The body is... conceive of it, I mean, you do conceive of it. I do not need to tell you how, you already have a conception of body, your body, so hold that in mind. That body that you are quite persuaded is really there when you are not looking, nobody is looking whatever, is really there in physical space, made of atoms, they are physical, they are material and it is there, hold that: this is classical Tsongakhapa. Think of the body, that real body, hold it in mind and now as you are holding it in mind like a specimen in a test tube, now let’s investigate. Okay, what is the nature of this body that is there when you are not looking?

Well for starters, the body is not the feet. I think we do not have to debate that one. Otherwise for a start, Miles would have two bodies. This is not fair. So, a foot is not a body. We are talking about human body here, right? The body is not the feet, for starters. Okay, good start! Not the calves, the hips, the thighs...

Alan finished to read text 78 and began to read text 79.

79. It is not the hands, the sides of the torso, or the armpits, nor is it characterized by the shoulders. Nor is the body the neck or the head. Then what here is the body?

So from the feet to the head, we look all the parts. That pretty well covered it, and none of those parts are the body.

Then what here is the body?

(36:27) That is, if there is something here that is truly the body inherently by its own nature really there, independent not only of perception but independent of conceptualization, what here is the body? Because when we think of the body as we are reifying it, the body is one entity and has a lot of characteristics, some bodies are tall some are fat, skinny, or short, with hair, without hair, female and male bodies with some certain qualities and so forth. There is a body, has a lot of qualities but it is one entity and it is quite discrete. You can see its borders, you put it in deep space and say, yeah, it is a body. The contours are very clear, and seems that is absolutely there like the eye glasses case that is travelling through space all by itself. So what is that one thing because you think you have one body that is for sure you do not think that you have two bodies or more? So what here is the body? It should be identical to something you can actually identify.

80. If this body partially exists in all of these and its parts exist in their parts, where does it stand by itself?

Does this body partially exist in all of these parts, and its parts exist in their parts? That is, the hand exists in the fingers and the fingers exists in the knuckles and the knuckles exist you know, right down to the elementary particle level. If the body partially exists, my body is partly in my forearm, my body is partially here and then the forearm partially exists in the skin, in the bone and so forth. Where does the body stand by itself if the part exists in each of the parts? Where is this entity that partially exists here and partially exists there, where does it exist? If you say just part of it exists here well then where it exist the entirely, the real thing, the one thing the body? He is leaving us these questions to investigate.

81. If the body were located in its entirety in the hands and other limbs, there would be just as many bodies as there are hands and so forth.

(38:12) If the body were located in its entirety in the hands and others limbs so there would be as many bodies as there are hands and limbs so then we would have four bodies. Obviously, okay, that is not going to work.

82. The body is neither inside nor outside. How can the body be in the hands and other limbs? It is not separate from the hands and the like. How, then, can it be found at all?

(38:33) The body is neither inside nor outside, if you say the body is inside I mean you have two bodies, the body and the body inside the body. If you say the body is outside the parts then where is it?

So you look inside you do not see a body you see the liver, the internal organs and all of that, you do not see a body in there, you do not find the body anywhere else. So the body is neither inside nor outside. So how can the body be in the hands and other limbs? I mean what more to the hands is there apart from the hand. Is there something else in there? Oh, yeah there is a body in there, too, or there are parts of the body in there too, oh no it is the hand and a hand is a hand and it is called the hand, it is not called the body, it is not separate from the hands and the like.

If you try as a thought experiment, as in the practice of Chod, chopping up the body, starting with the hands. No, you might want to hold off there. You might need them for a while! Start with the legs, chop them off, then the abdomen, etc, then throw them in all different directions. You’ve gotten rid of the parts, you should be left with only the body that was not the parts.

(40:53) If you say that the body is partially in the hands why are you saying that? What is this body that is partially there? Then he says: thus, the body does not exist.

83. Thus, the body does not exist. However, on account of delusion, there is the impression of the body with regard to the hands and the like, because of their specific configuration, just as there is the impression of a person with regard to a pillar, as the shape of a scarecrow gives the impression of a person.

What is he getting at here?

(40:58) We are holding onto, I mean, it is a curious point in Buddhism, we’re all born as metaphysical realists and we have to learn not to be, but you are born with that, it is native, you are born with it, I mean, of reifying everything you touch, reifying your emotions, reifying your body in the universe, your mama and everything else, that is an innate act of delusion and we are born with it.

And so when we say, and pretty much when the scientist says or anybody else says, something exists, for example, Galileo looking in the telescope and says: there are moons around Jupiter. What he is saying, you would say, as a metaphysical realist, he is saying: look, they are already there before I looked which means that they are absolutely there. Whether you call them moons or dwarf planets, they are absolutely inherently out there. We are born with that, and likewise with the body. So this is a very deeply ingrained.

(41:54) So, for the metaphysical realist, if you are equating existence with real existence, inherent existence, which is pretty much what we do, then if you demonstrate that something is not inherently existent the answer will be then you mean it is not there because if it was there, it would be inherently existent that is what I mean to exist is really there I mean it is really there waiting to be discovered from its own side that is what means to exist it’s really there.

This, the fact that these eyeglasses are mine it is just a convention we all know that but the eyeglasses that is either really there or it is just not there at all. For the metaphysical realist it is an equation of true existence with apparent existence.

(42:37) So then he (Shantideva) is just kind of following that line: ok, this is what you believe the body does not [exist] and this is unlike Tsongkhapa and a lot of very refined thinkers of the Madhyamaka view, he (Shantideva) does not put any qualifier here.

Shantideva says: thus, then the body does not exist. What he is saying of course is that the body does not inherently exist but he does not say that. He says: the body does not exist. If you think existence means absolute existence then the body does not exist. It looks like he is following into nihilism, but of course it is Madhyamaka he is not doing that. Well, it happens a lot in modernity:

That is not real! (Have you heard that one before?) That is not real, it is only in your mind. Right? If it is real, it would be really there, independently of your mind, but if it is just in your mind, then it is not real. Take that to an extreme: all of your subjective experience is not real, only the brain is real, and that is called limited materialism, and there are people who are not insane who believe in that and actually get awards for believing in that. It is quite remarkable!

Reading text 83 again:

You are lucid in a dream and somebody comes to you and they are giving every appearance of not being lucid, and asks: this eyeglasses case you are holding in your hand – is it there? (and you are lucid, and they are asking you... (and they are not lucid) What would be your answer if you are lucid? No, there is an appearance, this is an appearance (banging the eyeglasses case, that is an appearance of tactile sensations, this is an appearance, it’s called blue, and making noise it is an appearance and appearance is totally empty) so you say there is no eyeglasses because I am not here and you are not here with respect to emptiness, nothing is there, with respect to emptiness the body does not exist. When you are lucid you see, no, it is really not there however on account of delusion, that is being non-lucid, there is the impression of the body with regards to the hands and the like because of their specific configuration (you say that is the body), just as there is the impression of a person with regard to a pillar, like a person in the shape of a scarecrow. There is no “person” there.

Reading text 84:

84. As long as a collection of conditions lasts, cooperative conditions, the body appears like a person. Likewise, as long as it lasts with regard to the hands and the like, the body continues to be seen in them.

(45:40) As long as the collections of conditions lasts, these cooperative conditions, the body appears like a person, but how long is that, how many parts do you need for that still be a body here? Ok, a thought experiment again: oops! I just lost my two hands, Oops, lost both of my arms and so forth. How many parts can you lose and still say there is a body here?

I will give you a really touching example:

Not many years ago I was watching the news and there was a big fire in California in the mountains and somebody’s house was burned down I mean absolutely burn down and there was just the stone chimney left and everything else was just ashes, and the owner came back and then said: Oh, my house is really damaged. They looked at him and said: “my house?!” How much of this would have to be destroyed? Do we need to take away the chimney? Do you need to take away the rocks, the soot? When are you going to release the conceptual designation: “my house is severely damaged?” Most people just see a pile of stones and you are still designating that as a severely damaged house which is definitely worth repairing! But for him that was a house and he was not wrong. It is a house as soon as you say that is a house, and it is not a house as soon as you say it is not a house.

We will continue reading the verses tomorrow, but we start with the body, the close application of mindfulness to the body and now we are going to meditation. Try to turn this into meditation and not just a head trip something you know some intellectual curiosity for entertainment and go into the body and closely apply mindfulness on the body but now not with just the bare sensations. As Elizabeth said you go in there and what you are finding is space when it is bare attention but then do you still think you have a liver, spleen, and a backbone, knees and so forth and so on even when you go there? So let’s jump in and see if we can turn it into meditation.


(48:49) In the beginning of Shantideva’s presentation of the same material in his other text, “the compendium of practices”, there is a line missing in this text and that line is “having made one’s mind serviceable in that way, now one begins to attend to the body.” having made the mind serviceable in that way: he is referring to the preceding chapter that is all about shamatha. So now even if you do not achieve shamatha in a couple of minutes, you do your best to approximate and make the mind serviceable by settling body, speech and mind in the natural state, bringing forth the qualities of relaxation, stillness and vividness – getting the rumination to calm down with mindfulness of breathing.

(52:00) Now we return to this insider’s view of this one body of matter, one physical entity that we can view from the inside and the outside. We can observe other people’s bodies. If you are a medical doctor you may observe the internal organs, a neurophysiologist can look the individual neurons. We can look at the body from outside and we can look at from the inside. We have a three dimensional view. For all other objects we look only from the outside so let’s take advantage of this privilege perspective of attending closely applying mindfulness to the body from the outside in and inside out. And as we do so as we attend to this physical entity which is so intimately familiar, it is so strongly identified, bring to mind now: what do you think is there when you are not looking because clearly something is there even if you fainted, you’re comatose, even if you die, your body is in a grave there is something there, there is one body in that casket, but now it is alive bring to mind what is your sense. What comes to mind when you think “my body” the real one that is composed of atoms, made of matter; occupies physical space, what comes to mind?

(54:09) Now using your intelligence and your imagination, imagine Shantideva just guides us. Closely apply your mindfulness to the individual parts of your body starting with the feet. When you focus there, do you think, yes, I found my body, this is it, or are the feet just the feet?

We are now practicing the close applications of mindfulness to the body as the Buddha himself taught in the Satipatthana Sutta part by part. As Shantideva guides us, go from the bottom to the top, do it deliberately, consciously using your powers of imagination. You know your body has these parts, bones, flesh, blood, veins... Move right through from the feet to calves. Have you found the body? ...to the thighs... is this the body? Compare your notion of the body. What do you think your body is? And now compare that to the thighs.... Have you found the body?

(56:19) Hips, your abdomen, is it the body? Its intestines, which are large, small, your stomach, your liver and so on? Your chest with the skin covering, the blood, veins, the heart, the flesh... is it the body? One arm, the upper arm, the hands... have you found the body yet? Your back from the hips up to the base of the neck – is that a body, is that your body? The neck... and then the whole head, is that a body or it is just a head? It is very easy to conclude, none of those parts are the body. of course not. The body is the whole. it is the whole configuration, the whole kit, the whole system. that is my body. One body having many parts, it is the entire. But now there is this such thing the headless body? could you imagine that your body has no head? Would you call that a headless body? There are people with no leg we do not say they have no body, double amputees. No arms they can still be a body, cannot they? There is a corpse with all vital organs taken out, as in an autopsy, that is the body without the internal organs. So exactly how much need to be there for you to say yes that is a body?

The body has all these parts, but where exactly is that body that has the parts? And part by part, how many can you take away until the very notion of the body that has the parts vanishes into thin air and you say, ah, there is no body there. Sometimes when a person’s body is cremated and the ashes put in a jar, then we say “this is the person’s body. we are going to bury it now, or spread this person over the sea.” Is that your body even being in this present configuration? What about an incinerated body? What a body decomposed in the tumult for years and decades, don’t you still say that person’s body is lying there in the grave? let’s place some flowers to show our respect. Or it maybe it is just the powder and bones. Is that a body?

(1:03:16) A mother’s egg, the ovum, is that a human body? How about the sperm all by itself? How about the sperm that is inserted into the ovum is that now a human body? Where did it come from? or it is just the ovum and the sperm and now they are unified and we say a new entity has come into existence? There is or it is just the ovum and the sperm. Where did this body come from? Do you think that is a body or that is just simply a fertilized egg, not a human body, it is just a fertilized egg. Is it very different?

And now imagine. Thanks to modern technology, we’ve seen a lot of images of the process of embryonic development in the womb. When do you say, oh, that is a human body! And why then, why not a day before, why not a week before that the body really comes into existence in some point? If so where does it come from, from outside? or did something that was not the body suddenly become a body, objectively from its own side? How does that happen?

As you hold in mind your sense of a real body, a real human body objectively inherently existent, that is really there from its own side, consider from the time of the sperm heading towards the egg and their union is there a time when that body objectively and inherently comes into existence? That something that wasn’t a human body suddenly becomes a real human body? There is a total emptiness of the objective origination of that body, there is no time in which it objectively came into existence. And likewise from the time that a living human body becomes a dead human body which gradually decomposes, there is no point in time when an objectively existent human body, a dead one ceases to exist, a point which you can say there is no longer a body there. There is no moment in time, objectively speaking. The cessation of the body is empty, it never takes place. The origination of the body is empty: it never takes place, and now that which is without origination and without cessation: it does not exist.

It does exist only as a matter of convention, as in a dream, it appears, it is causally efficacious, the body. Things happens to it and it influences others things as in a dream, but it is not really there from its own side, for it never came into existence and never goes out of existence. Rest in the emptiness of your own body, nowhere to be found from its own side not really there.

O lasso. Interesting questions to answer in the last 15 minutes...

Q1. If the psyche is individually configured, yet the substrate’s qualities are universal, does everyone have the same experience of the substrate?

Yes and no. The yes part is snowflakes are individual, but if you melt them they are just water, much like every other drop of water. Your psyche, absolutely unique. Trademarked! But when your psyche, coarse mind melts into the substrate consciousness, you experience bliss, luminosity, non-conceptuality. Not female, etc

Individuals, however, may gravitate to one quality or more over the others: Non-conceptuality, serenity, bliss, or luminosity, biased by their karma. This is the continuum brought from your past lives, experienced with your subtle mind, massively configured! From Asanga, when you are resting there, achieved shamatha, in the subtle continuum of mental activity, the alaya, the substrate...is this totally non-conceptual? No. little thoughts may bubble up. No excitation, … Physics analogy: this is not zero degrees Kelvin. The thoughts that arise are your thoughts, nobody else’s.

Sutrayana path...totally non-conceptual. Two arya bodhisattvas, are they both having the same experience? Explicitly, it’s totally non-conceptual. When you come out of it, can you say anything about it? No. Implicitly, is there a difference on any level. Yes. 1st through the 8th bhumi, you are realizing emptiness with the subtle mind. But yours is not the same as another’s. Explicitly, the mind you realize it with is the same, but implicitly the subtle mind is not identical in the two persons.

OK. Two people become vidyadharas. Direct non-mediated experience of Rigpa. Total non-duality. Rigpa realizing Rigpa. Out of time. You are beyond the configuration of your subtle mind. Beyond conceptual frameworks. Is one person’s experience of Rigpa different from another’s. I don’t see how it could be. Mahayana perspective...following death, is one’s experience different from another’s? How could it be? The continuum of their 5 skandas are dissolved, but they (persons) have not become non-existent.

Q2. If rigpa is outside the system, can rigpa be considered God eye’s view? Within rigpa, are my choice already made leading to a deterministic universe?

It all depends on how you define God. There’s a wide variety. Mind in the Balance explores this. The last great one I’ve studied was from the 15th century, Nicholas of Cusa. The experience looks a lot like Dzogchen. There experience looks like Rigpa to me! So that’s an open question. Good book: The History of God by Karen Armstrong, outstanding scholar. Abrahamic tradition, OT, NT, Apostolic tradition... Might one say that’s a “god’s eye view” yes, you’ve just defined God as Rigpa. Words do not suffice. We’re venturing into a realm where the nature of pristine awareness cannot be captured in words. The fish of Rigpa will not be caught in the net of concepts. It transcends all conceptual constructs, existence and non-existence, birth and death. It is neither one nor many. Neither the same, nor different. When it comes to Rigpa, all words have a purely instrumental function, just to lead us to a direct non-conceptual experience of Rigpa. How does something outside of space and time affect that which is inside space and time? Shantideva: make your mind serviceable. Can we know Rigpa? Yes.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Brian Malone

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


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