04 Oct 2012

Teaching pt1: In buddhist epistemology, valid perception depends on an object, sense faculty, and continuum of consciousness. While the Shravakayana takes all three as real, Madhyamaka asserts their emptiness. Alan continues with verses 93-103 of Ch. 9 of the Bodhicaryavatara which addresses the origination of feelings. In buddhist epistemology, feelings arise from contact, so Shantideva deconstructs contact. If there’s an interval, there can be no actual contact between an object and sense faculty. If there’s no interval, the object and sense faculty would be one. Consciousness is immaterial, so how can it have any contact with a material object? Without contact, how can feelings arise? If the experiencer doesn’t truly exist nor feelings truly exist, why does craving arise when looking at an object? Feelings don’t arise to the mind like objects of perception. Feelings arise together with the mind as a mode of apprehending the object. Mind itself has illusion-like nature, so feelings too lack inherent existence.
Meditation: mindfulness of feelings preceded by mindfulness of the body. 

1) mindfulness of the body. Settle the mind in the stillness of the present moment. Rest in the stillness of awareness by releasing all grasping. From that stillness, let awareness illuminate the space of the body. With naked awareness (no concepts!), observe sensations in the field of the body, and perceive each of the 5 elements via those sensations. 

2) mindfulness of feelings. Can you distinguish between sensations and feelings? Closely apply mindfulness to feeling, and examine its nature. Probe the feelings. Probe the sensations. Now turn awareness on the experiencer. When some insight into empty nature arises, stop investigating, and just rest in that knowing.
Teaching pt2: Geshe Rabten’s advice on dealing with klesas: 1) the best way is to observe them directly, sharply, without entering into cognitive fusion, 2) if that fails, apply other antidotes, and 3) if that fails, move attention away from the object. Fighting klesas is like guerilla warfare.
Q1. How can I increase the resolution of images in the mind? At times, I find it helpful to hold onto blurry images, but this may not be good practice.

Q2. Please elaborate on the 4 types of mindfulness in settling the mind. Are there signposts in awareness of awareness?

Meditation starts at 50:04

Download (MP3 / 50 MB)


Teaching pt1:

Note for the readers:

We have not transcribed the interval between 00 to 5:18 where Alan is talking with the students about the sequence of the retreat for the next days.

(5:18) Now let’s see if we can conclude this very, very dense, very, very sharp and very challenging section on the close application of mindfulness of feelings, by cutting right through to the emptiness of the inherent nature of feelings, so he is not dealing so explicitly with impermanence and all of that, not here. This is now going to the origins of feelings and I must say there is just a very beautiful very smooth transition, a seamlessness between the teachings of the Buddha on the Satipatthana Sutra in a Pali Canon, straight kind of Sharavakayana teachings where metaphysical realism isn’t frequently explicitly challenged, that there’s a real world out there and that the mind is real and the feelings and the five skandhas are real, it does come up, teachings on emptiness are there, but they’re not really highlighted, you have to wait for the Perfection of Wisdom, the Madhyamaka and so forth and then that really gets challenged.

(7:19) But even there in that context where the central theme is impermanence, the nature of dukkha, the nature of not-self, even there of course, and I think you recall this clearly, that in the close application of mindfulness to body, feelings and so forth there is always for every single one this emphasis on - examine the factors of origination. And then you look into phenomena itself, permanent, impermanent, the three marks and then factors of dissolution. Now in the Satipatthana Sutra there’s no suggestion that - since it originates therefore is not really there at all, since it originates it’s pratityasamutpada – it’s arising in dependence upon impersonal causes and conditions, and not including some personal self - that’s coming in there and making them. So that seems to be the strong import or implication or message from examining the factors of origination - that it’s happening by themselves, remember like my rather silly example, my pretending to conduct an orchestra when in fact they are doing fine without me and I’m just having the sense that I am in charge, but really I am actually not doing anything at all, in fact I don’t even exist because I am not on a podium and because I am not a conductor.

(8:16) So here we go now to the factors of originations that Madhyamaka analysis, anthological analysis.
So overall, and this is true for all schools of Buddhism, at least Vaibashika Sauntrantika and most of Madhyamaka, that when we’re dealing with perception, perception of the physical world around us, how does this occur? In dependence upon a tripod, three factors coming in and this is for valid perception.

So ok, I’m perceiving the plaid color of the Graham’s shirt, so for that visual perception to take place, what needs to be there? There needs to be a plaid shirt, okay? That’s for starters, otherwise I am hallucinating. So there is a plaid shirt then I need to have a visual faculty, and since we are in the 21st century, let’s just go right for the visual cortex and not pretend like you know the brain scientists don’t know anything about perception, which is clearly they do know a lot about perception. So we have Graham’s plaid shirt with its colors, we have my visual cortex, and now for the materialist – that’s enough. That’s enough, bring the photons, activate the visual cortex and somehow images are generated. Now how they’re generated how do you get images, colors out of neurons, nobody’s got a clue but they cover it over, again like the kitty covering poop with sand, they don’t have a clue but they say never mind , they are in there, even though they are invisible, so it’s kind of magic, ok, enough of that. So the materialists say that’s it, that’s all there is because after all everything consists of matter and its emergent properties, and the images of colors are simply emergent properties of the brain, ok, now we’re finished with that. This actually makes no sense to me at all and there is no empirical evidence to support it, so why should we talk about it?

(10:18) So the Buddha said no, that’s not at all sufficient, there needs to be also a continuum of consciousness. So there is the tripod, you need the object, you need the sensory organ and then a continuum of consciousness that gets configured, it’s a nice term, gets configured by what types of photons, again the 21st century, what kind of photons are coming in? And how is your visual cortex doing, is it a sound, is it damaged and so forth? Are you hallucinating? Have you taken drugs and so forth and so on? So these factors then are configuring the type of perception that arises, because you have a visual cortex therefore mental perception, because all the five sensory modes of consciousness emerge from mental consciousness, right? Then visual consciousness arises in dependence upon the visual cortex and it gets specifically figured, I’m seeing plaid, I am seeing Patrice’s baby blue color of her shawl and so forth, but so the three, the three together, a flow of consciousness which does not come from the brain, comes from the preceding flow of consciousness, the outside object and the various sensory organs or faculties, clear?

(11:26) So that in Madhyamaka, Prasangika Madhyamaka which Shantideva is embracing, they accept that, that’s standard classic Buddhist psychology or epistemology call what you will, not being challenged conventionally speaking, but now he’s saying, of course he is doing a Madhyamaka anthological analysis - is this really true, inherently, independently of conceptual designation? So for that then we turn to factors of origination but now in a very different way than you’ll find in the Abhidarma in the Pali, the Pali Canon, the Theravada, the Theravada doesn’t touch this at all, they are just happy with metaphysical realism, well not Shantideva. So here we go, so this will be challenging you might want to just rest a little bit, ok? Don’t work too hard, this is all in podcast, later, mañana, mañana, ok?

This is really calling for our best approximation of perfection of intelligence, this is not easy, ok? But I’ll try to make it as clear as I can so at least there is something here for you to work with.

So he says:

93. If there is an interval between a sense-faculty and its object, where is the contact between the two? If there is no interval, they would be identical. In that case, what would be in contact with what?

Alan’s comments:

(12:28) “If there is an interval”. Now the assumption here is – we’re assuming what we brought to the table is - but everything is real after all, I mean there is a real plaid shirt there and I really do have a visual cortex, absolutely inherently there. The neuroscientists discovered it and then there is real consciousness and the three come together and there we are. And so assuming metaphysical realism, assuming inherent existence of all three factors – that’s our baseline and then if it makes no sense on that baseline then the baseline is no good, clear? Ok. Now let’s go:

(13:11) “If there is an interval between a sense-faculty and its object, where is the contact between the two?”

(13:15) So the object, what’s the object? Okay, the plaid shirt, and I’ve got a visual cortex over here, so if there is some, and if there is an interval, if there is absolutely, now everything is absolutely here, if there is absolutely empty space between Graham’s shirt and my visual cortex then I’ll never see a shirt, we may as well be in different galaxies, because how’s there going to be any contact? They are absolutely separate. If there is an interval, there‘s no contact.

(13:47) Now bear in mind, where he is going with this? Is the feeling, vedhana, arises in dependence upon contact? So in dependence upon contact then feeling arises, classical Buddhist psychology. But now Graham’s shirt is away over here, away over there, 4 meters away and my visual cortex is hidden inside my skull, well how are they ever going to get together? I’ll never perceive anything. Well, let’s bring this into the 21st Century, we have that solved. Photons are being absorbed and emitted by Graham’s shirt and so therefore the photons come and strike the retina, so they strike the retina. Now let’s just make this a little simpler because clearly the eyeballs are also part of the visual mechanism, we can’t say that the sensory organism is only the visual cortex otherwise you can have no eyes and you can still see. So let’s just make this a little simpler philosophically speaking, not pretending to over simplify neuro physiologically, which is very complex.

(14:44) Now a photon’s coming in, photons are coming in, from the shirt and they are striking my retina, let’s say the visual organ starts there, I think it’s a reasonable way to talk, starts there, right at the retina, where is the first contact, ok? Photon comes in, it’s making contact with the molecules in my retina, but now let’s assume those photons are inherently real and let’s assume that the molecules or atoms in my retina are inherently real, okay so we’ve got inherently real little be-be’s of energy coming in and striking an inherently real atom, let’s just take it photon by photon and atom by atom. So a photon’s coming in and smacking an atom in my retina, Ok? And let’s assume that the photon is inherently real, absolutely real and the atom that is just being struck by the photon is also absolutely inherently real. If that’s the case then if there is a, now we go to Shantideva , we are leaping from the 8th century to the 21st which is a bit of a dance but I think I’m being true to Shantideva in the 21st century. So now photons coming in so now we say this is where the contact is, not that his plaid shirt has to strike my eyeball. That would be awkward, I can’t see until you smack me in the eyeball. So where’s the actual contact? Now in 21st century, where’s the actual contact? Photons striking atom – that’s where the real contact is, right? And then everything else after that -electrochemical sequence events, starting with the retina culminating in the visual cortex, that’s detail. Incredibly complex and important detail, for the neurophysiologist, for us, ontologically, because we are not trying to do neurophysiology here, we are trying to find out what’s real and what’s not real. Where’s the contact? The contact is, that is with something outside it’s the photon striking the retina. It’s striking an atom or a molecule in the retina. Now we ask - when that contact happens, photon is just struck, contact is made, if there’s an interval between the atom in my retina, if there’s an interval between that atom and the photon that’s just struck it, if there is still an interval, empty space - then there’s no contact. If there’s still, if it gets really close and then says, just stops and says, I’m not touching you, if it doesn’t actually touch, then you may as well be a million miles away. Because if you’ve not contacted, if you’ve not actually touched, the photon hasn’t actually touched the atom in my eyeball, then it doesn’t even matter if it came so close, it’s called a swing and a hit. No, a swing and a miss, missed it by that much, nevertheless, any baseball player knows if you’ve missed the ball by one inch or 3 feet, it’s still a swing and a miss.

(17:55) So if there’s an interval, now we are back to Shantideva, we’ve just gone now time machine, 21st century back to 8th century, and here we go. If there is an interval between the sense faculty, my retina and its object, the photon, where is the contact between the two? Well there isn’t one. If there is no interval, so he is doing this purely logically, if there is no interval between the photon coming in and the atom that it strikes, like the ball coming into a catchers net, if there is no interval they would be identical. They would be identical and of course we have to think about this conceptually, if that photon comes in and there is no interval and it actually merges with the atom, then you say the atom got a little bit bigger. But there are no longer two things, they merged, if they touched, now there is like there is one thing, in which case that would be a problem. If there is no interval they would be identical and in that case what would be contact with what? Because there’s not two things being in contact there’s actually one thing. They merged into like two pieces of jelly that are going right into each other and there’s no contact there’s one large piece of jelly. So there is one anthological analysis. And again, I am not even remotely suggesting that by having read this through once you are going to realize emptiness or you are going to find it’s absolutely compelling and you don’t have to think about it again. The idea here is that we sow seeds – that you at your leisure, at your own time can return to and investigate with greater depth. What I would say with very great confidence is that this is not trivial, if it doesn’t make sense the first time you pass through consider that maybe there is more to it than you got at first glance. I am not saying that it is therefore absolutely true and you have to believe it, I am not going there but this one, this takes some wise rumination, ok? Now again:

94. One atom cannot penetrate another, because it is without empty space and is of the same size as the other. When there is no penetration, there is no mingling; and when there is no mingling, there is no contact.

(19:53) “One atom cannot penetrate another”. Think about again the classical atom whether is Democrities, whether it’s Vaibhashika, one atom cannot penetrate another, because it is without empty space. So think here, if we think of 21st century, think of not the whole atom or the electron going on which is almost all space, go on to the nucleus. Right there with the proton, the neutron, where the quarks are. So, that will be the closest that we get to in terms of modern particle physics. I am not in any way of course suggesting that Shantideva knew about quarks and so forth, but in the atomic theory that was prevalent that he is critiquing in his time in the 7th 8th century, one atom cannot penetrate another because it is without empty space, it is packed, it’s dense, it’s spherical, it’s homogenous, it’s a baby billiard ball, a tiny, tiny billiard ball. Because this atom is without space and is of the same size as the other. So very Democrities. (20:11) A whole bunch of teeny, teeny billiard balls and they do not interpenetrate. When there is no penetration, there is no mingling, that would make sense, and when there is no mingling, there is no contact. If they are not touching then they aren’t touching, so if they’re touching they’d have to be one but they don’t mingle, they don’t mingle, in another words, neither way in terms of assuming inherent existence, it makes no sense that you have causal interaction if they don’t touch, but if they do touch then they’re one thing, which means they are not touching, they’re one thing. There is the analysis.

95. How, indeed, can there be contact with something that has no parts? If partlessness can be observed when there is contact, demonstrate this.

(21:28) How, indeed, can there be contact with something that has no parts? So that one, there’s your Madhyamaka koan for the day. How can there be contact with something that has no parts? I mean no front part, I mean the front of the atom and the back of the atom, and the sides, the ten cardinal directions and so forth, a sphere even when you say, no that’s just one billiard ball, that’s one thing, yeah, does it have a front and a back? Then it has two parts. So if something really had no parts and there is that theory and among various atomic theories in Buddhism and in India at this time, that the most fundamental basic constituents of physical reality consist of partless particles, they are absolutely there but that they have no parts, no components, just one tiny homogenous little piece of grit, but then how would you ever have any contact with that? So how indeed can there be contact with something that has no parts? And the implication of course - contact would be impossible.

If partlessness can be observed where there is contact, if it’s really true that atoms are partless and they do have contact, he says, demonstrate it! Then he goes right to empirical evidence, show me the evidence. (23:16) So it would be interesting to say have a Madhyamaka philosopher and a person who really know their atomic physics, elementary particle physics, inside and out it would be quite interesting. I don’t think we’d have that level of dialogue with His Holiness and the various physicists because it’s two and a half hours presentation, discussion so you have to move on, but it would be interesting to see well okay, let’s bring in a professional, I am not even remotely a professional of atomic physics, so I think what I am saying is true, but I’d have to stop quickly because I don’t know much more than I am saying right now. But if we brought in a person who really knows okay what’s the nature of particles and what’s the role of fields here, I know a little bit about it, what makes for the density of my forehead, it’s the electromagnetic bonds or fields holding the atoms together, correct? Yeah. But now, what’s a field, what exactly is a field, and how do fields, if we are going to regard fields as inherently real, if they are really there, objectively there, they’re simply being observed, and if the fields are inherently real and the particles are inherently real, how do they interact? And if a particle of matter has gravity, when gravity works by inverse square law, the closer you are by squares, then the power exerted goes up by squares. But wouldn’t this imply then, that as you got closer and closer, coming into the gravitational field of the particle that when you got infinitely close, the force exerted on it would be infinitely great? And how does that make any sense? That when you get extremely close with the gravitational field - the numbers kind of blow up. So that’s what I have heard. And this is a serious question, I have an under graduate degree here but I try to be careful, that I don’t just go off into la-la land. What I have understood here is this is why people like Einstein, recognizing these difficulties, because he was a metaphysical realist - it’s out there, independent of consciousness, that can’t be debated. That if we are going to take the atoms, the elementary particles, as inherently real, and the fields as inherently real, they took fields very, very seriously, then you have this real problem, of how do they interface? So that would be a very high level conference someday, to have people who know relativity theory, elementary particle physics and Madhyamaka Philosophy, and just get them together to talk, that would be interesting.

(26:19) Here we go back, back to Shantideva:

Bear in mind this all about feelings but he’s looking now in the factors of origination. Why do I have a neutral feeling really because I am not really attracted to or repelled by, by Graham’s shirt, it’s a shirt, I feel I think quite even about it, quite neutral, I don’t crave it or fell yuck. Some feeling’s arising in dependence upon my contact, my visual awareness of it, but now exactly how does that feeling arise? All of Buddhist psychology says it arises in dependence upon contact, but if there is no inherently real contact then we’ve got a problem. How do you have an inherently real feeling arising in an absence of inherently real contact - if there is no real contact then you are not going to have anything resulting from no real contact. That is - nothing inherently real.

That’s now, that’s his analysis, just in terms of our feelings about the world, what’s happening in the physical world and very much what’s happening in our bodies, that also the visual, sound, smell and taste, all of that, is that where is it possible for there to be any real contact with an absolutely real physical world out there composed of atoms somehow interacting with the absolutely real atoms that constitute our visual sensory faculty? It looks like a problem, now one might want to spend months or years on that problem, to really get some clarity, some certainty, but he’s laid it out in little nuggets. But now he’s going to raise another issue that has been tormenting Western Philosophers and cognitive scientists for some time now and that is:

96. It is impossible for consciousness, which has no form, to have contact; nor is it possible for a composite, because it is not a truly existent thing, as investigated earlier.

If consciousness is immaterial and it’s really hard to conclude it is material, if it were you should be able to measure it for heaven sakes, and nobody can measure it, they all know that, and it has no physical properties, there is no location, no mass, no momentum, no electrical charge, I mean none whatsoever and you can’t measure it, so all of those are pointing to consciousness is immaterial. But then if it’s immaterial, it has no physical attributes whatsoever, and that’s what Descartes believed, then how can something that’s utterly immaterial, absolutely non -physical, how can it have any causal interaction, how can it be influenced, touched by the molecules in your sensory faculties, visual cortex, retina, auditory whatever? How can there be any contact? It just seems like a categorical impossibility.

(28:25) And so what does he say? It is impossible for consciousness, which has no form and by no form here he really means has no physical attributes, he’s not just saying it has no shape and color, consciousness has no physical attributes at all, that is the Buddhist position, it is impossible for consciousness, which has no form, to have contact with the physical. Oh, oh, but it kind of makes sense, and people have been saying this for a long time and it’s a major, major reason why the great majority of the people in the cognitive sciences are saying - “we just can’t deal with it”. Therefore, consciousness, in some slippery, tricky, strange way has to be equivalent to something that we can understand, that we can measure because if it’s something, if it’s really there, this would be a smart cognitive scientist who is just trying to make sense of things but of course it’s coming out of the materialist framework because that’s all they were educated in. If consciousness really is immaterial, has no physical attributes, then it couldn’t possibly influence the brain and the brain couldn’t influence it, how would the molecules in the brain influence something non- physical? It doesn’t make any sense and how could something non- physical influence the brain? Mass, energy, it just doesn’t make any sense. So therefore even, since that really just makes no sense, therefore consciousness, all states of consciousness, all mental states must be physical, they must be equivalent to something is physical, otherwise they can’t be participated in, there can’t be any causal interrelationship between states of consciousness and the brain, so you see. So I made a misstatment yesterday, I thought maybe I wouldn’t mention it, but maybe I must. I might mention sometimes words just kind of flow out of the mouth, when I said I really do just get bored debating materialism, because it just makes no sense at all, and the other really makes an awful lot of sense and gives you protocol, strategies for putting the theories to the test. And none of the materialist views, philosophies, or theories and so forth of consciousness, not one of them can be put to the test. Not one. They can’t validate or repudiate, so why call that science? When none of them can be tested, they just – oh no, mind is the brain, the brain is what the mind does, etc, etc. So I said, in my exasperation and that brings out my mental afflictions – oh sometimes it’s dealing with mentally backward kindergarteners; that’s not accurate. Let alone being a poor choice of words, it’s also not accurate, it is not fair and it’s disrespectful. There are people who are really locked into the materialist framework, they are not backward, they are not foolish, they are not low IQ, hey, these are intelligent people, but they remind me more, I’d say, don’t recognize the limits of their own methodologies and their theories. That’s very different and I think that’s fair. I don’t think they recognize the limits of their own methodologies or their own theories which just have no way of wrapping themselves around nonphysical phenomena of any kind whatsoever. So they remind me more of, rather than some kind of mentally backward kindergartener, reminds me more of my beloved, dearly beloved grandson who is 7. We are in the car about a year ago, driving along in the fast lane on the freeway, and my adorable little grandson said – I can run as fast as this car. I said, Troy, this means you can run about as fast as a cheetah, and he knows his animal kingdom, Troy, you really can’t run as fast as a cheetah. Yes I can, grandpa, yes I can. Troy looked up as the road’s going by, and said yes I can grandpa, I really can. Now how long does this wind up being an interesting debate? It’s kinda like just give him a hug and a kiss and say let’s talk about something else, and that’s what I feel with the closed minded neuroscientist and others who are absolutely locked into, and can’t see any option other than scientific materialism. I think that much more benign would be - give them a hug and a kiss and let’s stop talking, and find somebody with an open mind, then we can open dialogue all afresh. So my apologies for misspoken word yesterday, but I think cocky kindergarteners would be a more accurate analogy. That’s a couple of steps up from what I said yesterday.

(32:56) Back to Shantideva: it is impossible for consciousness, which has no form, to have contact; nor is it possible for a composite, because it is not a truly existent thing, as investigated earlier.

He is saying it is not possible for composites to have contact. This is like a series of Zen koans, it’s so concise, so dense, so high density, so it needs a little bit of unpacking not a whole lot, we are coming to end here. A composite, now there are two types of composites, one is a composite within space like a mob, let’s say a mob of a thousand people. We speak of a mob, the mob is doing this, this mob mentality that arises that doesn’t happen when the people are all scattered, but they all get together and this is standard psychology - that the mob acts as a unit, the mob goes here, the mob goes there and there is mob mentality almost like a zeitgeist for that mob, then it acts in different ways, that none of the individuals would.

(34:11) What Shantideva is getting at here is, ok, he’s not denying that mobs exist, he is not denying that composites exist, what he is denying is that mobs inherently exist. That they inherently existent just like your body is a mob, it’s a whole bunch of parts and the body as a whole as the mob as a whole, does a whole bunch of things that an individual hand can’t do, molecules can’t do, blood cells can’t do, the individual can’t do but the mob can. But then he says, as he did before, look for the body. Do you find this inherently existent real body in any of the individual parts, in any collection of the parts, apart from the parts? And through that parts whole analysis – there’s no such thing as an inherently existent aggregate of all the components of the body. It does not exist - therefore your body doesn’t exist, inherently. A mob doesn’t inherently exist. If you see a mob coming, you see them coming towards you, when do you have contact with the mob? Okay, let’s imagine you’re a mob, you kinda are, and Chodron’s leading the pack, those fiery militant nuns you know? So the whole mob is just coming toward me, they’ve just had it with all of my attacks on scientific materialism, because actually they all really like scientific materialism, they just can’t agree with the Shamatha, and so the mob comes with their pitch forks and tar and feathers and so forth, and Chodron is leading the pack, growling, and so she is the first one that gets to me, and she pokes me with a pitch fork – stop attacking scientific materialism many of my friends are scientific materialists - she pokes me! So I’ve got the tip, the sharp edge of the mob, it’s Chodron and she is holding a pitch fork, but wait a minute, a pitch fork isn’t a mob, and Chodron is not a mob, so I haven’t gotten the mob yet, but then they bring on the real heavies, after Chodron, she’s a nun. The heavy is Natu, have you seen her biceps recently? Don’t mess with Natu, she looks frail, I know she is not. So after Chodron has not been able to break me down, they bring on Natu, and she comes in and says – okay buster, now you have to deal with me - and there it is, there is Natu coming in, but I still haven’t met a mob. She is just Natu. Then we bring in Chitra, and she works me over, but I still haven’t met the mob, and then after her they bring Will, and he looks like Mr. Clean, and he works me over, but I still haven’t met the mob. You see I never meet the mob. The mob is never met, not from any side, not from the inside, not from the outside, you never meet the mob because a mob is conceptual designation.

(37:41) So what he is saying is - when you are dealing with a composite of things existing at the same time in space, there is no contact, not between inherently existent composites. And likewise sequences, series, a series also, again as when talking to Nato, those five minute sessions, when have you ever have a five minute session? Not now, not now, not now, not now, not now, not now - that can go on forever and you’ve never had a five minute session, it never happens, not at any time, right? So there’s no such thing as a five minutes session, not really, it’s something that we conceptually designate upon looking at a clock, right? An atomic clock, digital clock, whatever you like. So that’s what he’s saying - whether you have a sequence in time or whether you have an aggregate in space, if they are inherently existent there is never any time when they can contact, they cannot causally interact, they can’t touch each other, inherently existent, conventionally of course, ok, moving on. And now we go to verse 97:

97. Thus, when there is no contact, how can feeling arise? What is the reason for this exertion? Who could be harmed by what?

(38:35) Thus, when there is no contact, how can feeling arise? Because the Buddha’s core theory is feelings arises in dependence upon contact. I see Mile’s shirt and I see it and I either find pleasure, displeasure or neutral feeling arises. But relative to, how do you feel about his shirt? But I don’t feel anything about the shirt if I have no contact with the shirt. I say what shirt?

But that’s what he’s saying – if there’s no real contact, how can real feeling arise in dependence upon something that never took place, inherently? Never doubting that it takes place conventionally.

(39:10) And then he moves on even deeper (verse 98 below), so what about the experiencer? Now just think about the conversation we’ve had multiple times now, the person who is informed, the transfer of information and that about which you are getting information, take one away and the two vanish, right? We have been through it repeatedly. Well how about feeling? If there’s nothing that you are feeling for which you have feeling - I feel great about his cool T-shirt - if there is no inherently existent T-shirt with which I have some inherently real contact, then there’s no inherently existing feeling that arises in dependence upon that. But how about a feeler if there’s no inherently existence feeler experiencing a feeling, then there is no real feeling because feeling can’t hover there all by itself without somebody experiencing it. And so if there is no one to experience feeling, and if feeling does not exist, that is if neither of these is inherently existent, one to experience the feeling and the feeling itself, then after understanding this situation, why oh craving are you not shattered?

98. If there is no one to experience feeling and if feeling does not exist, then after understanding this situation, why, o craving, are you not shattered?

(40:13) Because craving is for those objects that makes us feel happy. We crave people sexually or personally or socially, intellectually, aesthetically, for so many reasons. People can be our object of craving and everything else can. But then if there’s no real contact with that object that you crave, if there’s no inherent existing feeling and if there is no inherent existing experience of the feeling, then why are you getting caught up in a completely deluded state of craving that which isn’t really there in the first place? And it is so similar. I come back to my favorite metaphor -

If you are in the midst of a lucid dream, if weren’t lucid of course you crave everything in a non- lucid dream, oh, look at that beautiful woman, oh, look at that great car, whatever it is, just as in the day time in a non- lucid dream you think -oh –if I don’t get that I am going to be miserable! I am going to kill myself if I don’t get that! I really want that so much. You know? Like people in a waking state. But if you’re lucid and you’re still craving oh, I want that car over there, you’re crazy! You are lucid but come on get real here, you know there is no car there from its own side so if there is any happiness to be found it’s not in contact with that because it’s not even really there at all, only within the context of the dream do we say - is there a car over there? You say yeah, that’s what I was dreaming.

(41:53) So: “why, o craving, are you not shattered?”

The point here as the His Holiness Dalai Lama pointed out , is that this whole array of mental afflictions that is the derivative ones, all stemming from ignorance and delusion, delusion being reification of course grasping to true existence, but the entire bandwidth of craving and hostility, and all derivative mental afflictions, and it’s like 84.000 when you get the full bandwidth, all of these arise, stem from, they are derivative from this fundamental misapprehension of reality, of reification, grasping onto inherent existence of the subject, of the object and the absolute bifurcation or duality of the subject and object, all mental afflictions arise from that.

So what he is getting at here is if you can nuke, if you can completely destroy that one fundamental tap root of delusion of reifying subject, object and the duality of subject and object, then all of the derivative mental afflictions they’re gone, they cannot arise.

(42:50) And then H. H. Dalai Lama pointed out in his commentary - now conversely there’re all kinds of antidotes for craving, but they may leave your delusion pretty much untouched. A whole big chapter earlier on, on patience, antidoting anger, hatred, hostility, resentment, but they leave the tap root untouched. So all, for jealousy, for pride, and so many other things , this great pharmacopeia, this great array of medicines from the Buddhist tradition for antidoting so many, many mental afflictions, but those that are specifically designed to antidote the derivative mental afflictions don’t touch the root. I am going to say this very briefly, let alone if you have a drug that only treats the symptoms, that doesn’t even treat the root of any mental affliction, only treats the symptoms of whatever and maybe most of that’s placebo and then there’s the side effects. So that is why my passion arises so strongly, but even when they work in a way, and I know they are necessary, pain killers are sometimes necessary, I know these are necessary, but in a way let it be necessary only so that we can get to the point that we can move beyond them to start actually healing people, ok? That is not too dramatic is it? I’m not slipping into hyperbole or being melodramatic. Just use the drugs when you really, really need them but let’s get beyond them as soon as we can because they’ll never heal anything, when we’re talking about mental disease. Antibiotics? You betya. They can actually heal something they clear out the infection, hallelujah, that heals something. But mental disease I don’t think there’s a single psycho pharmaceutical drug that heals any psychological disease at all, which then shows the lie that all psychological problems are simply neuro physiological problems, that’s a lie, said so many times that many people now believe it but it’s only because it’s said so many times, like parrots chattering in a jungle

(44:49) Coming back here to the deep medicine, antidote delusion all the other mental afflictions vanish, including craving. You, craving, derivative of delusion, why are you not shattered?

So we are almost concluding here:

99. The mind that has a dreamlike and illusion-like nature sees and touches. Since feeling arises together with the mind, it is not perceived by the mind.

The mind that has a dreamlike and illusion-like nature sees and touches. So conventionally speaking, relatively speaking, the mind sees the color of Graham’s shirt, it touches the computer screen.

Since feeling arises together with the mind, so awareness and feeling, bearing in mind feelings is a mode of apprehending, I am visually perceiving Graham’s shirt and simultaneously, in my visual perception there is the coloration of my visual perception, the coloration of that, is the feeling. My visual experience of your shirt is actually here a neutral feeling, find something – hmm, I actually like Burgundy a lot, so I look at Chodron’s robes, I see yeah, I do like Burgundy, beautiful color of wine but better , color of Sangha, and so I attend to Burgundy color and I like that color. And so my pleasure of attending to the Burgundy color of Chodron’s robes is right there, it’s right in the midst of awareness, it’s not something that comes and arises and meet awareness, it’s in the very flavor, the flavoring of awareness itself. That is what he is saying here:

“Since feeling arises together with the mind, it is not perceived by the mind”. My visual perception doesn’t perceive feeling, it’s fused with feeling, my mental perception of my mother, I’m thinking it’s not a mental perception, but my mental awareness right now by way of concepts of course of my mother, also has feelings that goes, the appearance of my mother appears to me, my feeling about my mother is not something that appears to me as an object, it’s in my mode of apprehending my mother. That being in the case:

“Since feeling arises together with the mind, it is not perceived by the mind”. It is not simply an object of the mind. We’ve looked at that earlier. What happens earlier is remembered, but not experienced by what arises later.

100. What happens earlier is remembered but not experienced by what arises later. Ifsdoes not experience itself, nor is it experienced by something else.

If by experience we mean something in real time. In real time I observe the images arising in my mind, I mentally observe with mental consciousness I observe the images of my mother, of bananas, etc, etc that’s called- I’m experiencing it, I see it, I know it, it’s in real time. But when I know my means of knowing feelings is never like that, my knowing of the feeling is never simultaneous with it, my knowing of feeling is always a recollection of a feeling that just went by. So he is drawing a distinction between experience - in real time and remembering something that just went by maybe fifteen milliseconds minutes ago. So it does not experience itself, feeling does not experience itself, feeling experiences the color of Graham’s shirt , it’s together right there with the perception of Graham’s shirt. So feeling doesn’t experience itself nor is it experienced, that is in real time, by something else. So, once again, it’s not really there - something that you experience and perceive.

Final on, finish and get to meditation:

101. There is no one who experiences feeling. Hence, in reality, there is no feeling. Thus, in this identity less bundle, who can be hurt by it?

“There is no one who experiences feeling.’ Now you know perfectly well he is talking about – ultimate, inherently – feeling. There is no one who experiences feeling. And now we are right back to that triad. The informant, the information, the informato. There is no inherently real experiencer of the feeling. If there is, show it, demonstrate it. Where is this inherently existent subject - that is the experiencer of feeling? He said - not to be found. If there is no, all within this context of inherent existence, if there is no one experiencing it, hence in reality, there is no feeling”. And he said, in reality, if there is no inherently existent experiencer of the feeling, then there is no inherently existent feeling, itself. If one vanishes the other two vanish. – Thus in this identity-less bundle, in this triad of the object, the feeling and the experiencer of the feeling, identitylessness , means not only personal identity, but each one identityless in the sense of being devoid of inherent identity. Inherent nature, no inherent nature in the contacted object, no inherent nature in the contact, no inherent nature in the feeling, no inherent nature in the experiencer of the feeling, if it’s all empty. In this identity-less bundle, who can be hurt by it? Who can be hurt by feelings? Phew, that should keep you busy for a few years.

Short exposition, Shantideva. Let’s take a break and meditate.


Meditation: mindfulness of feelings preceded by mindfulness of the body.

(51:04) It’s time to let the body settle, relax, still and clear. And relax deeply and fully, thoroughly with every out breath releasing it to the last iota, until the next breath flows in effortlessly, given without being taken.

And settle your mind at ease, give it a break from the future and the past, settle in stillness in the present moment.

Rest in the stillness of your own awareness, let it hold in its own ground, not by effort, not by straining, but by releasing all grasping and letting your awareness rest in a mode of knowing that was already there when it was not clothed in all other kinds of knowing, and that is the very knowing of being aware, rest in that knowing, awareness holding its own ground.

And from this vantage point of stillness let your awareness illuminate the space of the body, which after all is simply a derivative of space, a sub space of the space of awareness, a configured space emerging from the alaya, the substrate, illuminate the space of your body.

Let your awareness be as free of concept as possible, allow the best approximation of a naked awareness without conceptual elaboration, and observe the arising of sensations within this field of the body. You contact these earth elements, the water, fire and air by way of the sensations, tactilely perceived, and in dependence upon the contact arises feeling, an affective mode of apprehending the sensations; see if you can distinguish between the sensations which themselves are empty of feeling, feelings does not lay in the object, in the appearances, see if you can distinguish between the sensations that arise to meet you as appearances and the feelings that arise in response to them, catalyzed by them, in other words examine the factors of origination of feelings arising in the body.

Closely examine by applying mindfulness to the feeling itself, even if it’s by way of recollection, nevertheless closely recall the feeling that has just arisen and examine its nature.

If something is inherently real, the more penetratingly you examine it, investigate it, probe it, the more inherently real it will appear. Whereas in contrast, if something is not inherently real the more deeply penetratingly you probe into its nature, its very absence of inherent nature becomes more and more evident - so probe as deeply as you can into the sensations that are the object of feelings, the feelings themselves which are a way of experiencing those sensations. Does either one withstand this type of anthological probe, this penetration to the core?

And then turn your awareness inwards upon the experiencer, the one who suffers, the one who enjoys, the one who experiences the feelings, can you identify yourself? Are you really there in and of yourself?

And when some insight arises into the empty nature of the object, the experience of the object and the one who experiences, then for little while stop investigating and just rest quietly in that insight, in that awareness, that space like emptiness.

Teaching pt2:


Geshe Rabten’s advice on dealing with kleshas: 1) the best way is to observe them directly, sharply, without entering into cognitive fusion, 2) if that fails, apply other antidotes, and 3) if that fails, move attention away from the object. Fighting kleshas is like guerilla warfare.

Alan’s teachings:
Many years ago, in the 1970’s I remember receiving some very quintessential advice from Geshe Rabten, a revered teacher, referring to how to deal with mental afflictions, angry, craving whatever and he said, when they arise, if you can, he gave this as, my impression was this was the optimal – when the mental afflictions arise, observe them. Just go right into them. They arise, like – you want to fight? And the answer is – yeah! I am going to face you right on, give me your best shot! But you look right at him, it comes up like hey I am angry, want to fight? I want to punch your lights out, give it your best shot. Bam, right back at ya. Investigate, probe, do not identify, do not enter into cognitive fusion. Face it down. Bam, right head on. If you are up to it, he said that’s the best. You shatter it, mental afflictions do not withstand that type of sharp penetrating investigation, they don’t. He said on occasion you may not be able to do that, sometimes they are just too strong, in which case okay now you have this whole pharmacopeia, here we have whole array of remedies – consider it this way, consider it this way, consider it this way, so we bring in, bring in loving kindness, bring all the troops, the one on one didn’t work out too well, backup, here comes the cavalry. So bring in the other methods and hopefully that can do the work, there are all kinds. Those of you who study Buddhism well know there’s a lot. So many remedies for mental afflictions.

And he said, sometimes enemy is too strong despite, that is just in this context, your ability to implement the remedy just isn’t strong enough, they’re too strong, they are overwhelming you, they are climbing over the walls, they are going to capture the king.. You have to look at it, you have to look at it realistically, and say – I am not up to every battle, I can’t win every battle, and if this is a battle I could win by staring it down it made me road kill, then I tried to apply antidotes and all my antidotes got smashed, then he said, okay in that case, what to do - get your mind off of it. Head for the hills, get your mind away from it, whatever you are angry about, think about something else. Whatever you craving, think about something else, whatever you are feeling, angry, jealousy and so forth, change the channel, get off of it, you’re not going to win it, they’re demolishing you, don’t stay there, get your attention elsewhere, including and he didn’t quite say this but it was a message, watching a sitcom on television, you know, better that than just getting beaten up by mental afflictions. So it’s silly, so it has no really big significance that won’t lead to enlightenment, at least it’s not dragging you into the lower realms, or whatever, hopefully. Just watch something innocent. Direct your attention, make a cup of tea, go get a snack, jog, something else, but get your attention off of it.

When I think of Geshe Rabten I think of a Kharpo warrior who never fought in any battle with guns, he was tough, he was really tough, but tough in a really good sense, a Dharma warrior. So he knew, when do you advance, when do you retreat. Okay? That was some of Geshe Rabten’s core advice.

Then I will turn core advice from a person for whom I feel mostly compassion – but I would never want him as my guru, except for one phrase, because he was a master of something, he was a master of guerilla warfare, he was really, really, really good. And that was Mao Se Tong. So no he is not my guru but even from the minds of people who are heavily, heavily deluded, and he was, words of wisdom can emerge for what they are good at and he was good at guerrilla warfare, I mean he won after all, and his little two liner, which is good advice, good strategy – he said – when the enemy advances, I retreat. When the enemy retreats, I advance. And that is – when you are outnumbered, if you’ve got an army of 50,000 and you meet an army of 5,000, then wipe them out in a conquest, but if you’ve got an army of 5,000 guerilla warriors and you’re meeting a well- trained army of 50,000, and you are 5,000, that’s not going to work out well. If you do a head-on collision you are going to get wiped out, probably to the man, so with that 50,000 troupe , when they start advancing, head to the hills. Dissolve back into the woodwork, make yourself invisible so they are looking and don’t know where you have gone, make yourself invisible, withdraw, and then when they say okay, we can’t find them, and they withdraw and they are sitting around eating their bacon and eggs, then box their ears, come in and then attack, come in and then attack and chop them off limb by limb. In that way a war of attrition, you are not going to knock them out with one big battle, not when it is 5,000 vs 50,000, but nibble them off a hundred here, a thousand there and 1500 there, just keep on doing that and 50,000 turns into 25 turns into 20 turns into 5 turns out to 2, when it’s 2000 you still have 5,000 so you just go and wipe them out. So that is how you win guerilla warfare, we have to fight guerilla warfare, unless you are an arya bodhisattva, unless you are already a very accomplished practitioner, we have to be smarter than our mental afflictions, and when they advance we need to retreat, and when they retreat, we need to advance.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Cheri Langston

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


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