05 Oct 2012
Teaching pt1: Alan continues with his commentary on the section on mindfulness of feelings in Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices. Regard feelings as feelings which stills cognitive fusion with them. Have great compassion for those who grasp onto joy. Those who do not grasp onto feelings experience true well-being. Whenever you experience pleasant feelings, generate great compassion for all sentient beings who suffer from attachment, and abandon attachment. Whenever you experience painful feelings, generate great compassion for all sentient beings who suffer from hatred, and abandon hatred. Whenever you experience neutral feelings, generate great compassion for all sentient beings who suffer from delusion, and abandon delusion. Experience no attachment to pleasant feelings, no aversion to painful feelings, and no ignorance with regards to neutral feelings. Recognize pleasant feelings as impermanent, painful feelings as unsatisfying, and neutral feelings as peaceful and identityless.
Meditation: mindfulness of feelings as above combined with great compassion. Apply mindfulness to the field of the body and the mind. Observe how sensations in the body and thoughts/images in the mind act as cooperative conditions for feelings. Let awareness be still as you recognize feelings as feelings. When encountering a pleasant feeling, recognize impermeance, unpleasant feeling as unsatisfying, neutral feeling as having no owner and no inherent existence. Weaving together great compassion... Whenever you encounter a pleasant/painful/neutral feeling, arouse great compassion for all those suffering from attachment/hatred/delusion. Repeat the liturgy and visualizations from this morning for each type of feeling.
Teaching pt2: Simply being present with won’t change conventional reality. Conventional reality needs to be challenged with direct realization of emptiness. Only then, can withdrawing or changing conceptual designation alter your reality.
Q1. I have chronic tinitus, and the severity of the whistling is normally correlated to my stress level. Here in retreat, I’m feeling very relaxed, but the whistling is quite loud. Is this being produced by shifts in prana?
Q2. How does the body exist? The bundle of space-energy-matter appears to the substrate consciousness as my body, but without the substrate consciousness, that bundle of space-energy-matter is still there.
Meditation starts at: 30:56
This afternoon we return to the close application of mindfulness to feeling, this time we turn to Shantideva’s other text, he composes as far as I know only two, there’s of course the text we’ve already looked at in terms of the close application of mindfulness to the body, and now we turn to his close application of mindfulness of feelings and after the pretty significant heavy lifting from yesterday, that is if you weren’t intellectually challenged then you’re already realized or not up to it at all, for the rest of us in between, that was pretty heavy lifting. I translated this a few days ago and then reviewing it again, it’s kinda like okay now just sit back and relax a little bit. It’s the same author, but he’s coming in with a very different mood, and so you don’t have to work out quite as hard, I think, but deep, deep. So you’ll see for yourself, let’s just go right to it.
“Regarding the close application of mindfulness to feelings, the Ārya Ratnacūḍa Sūtra states, “Son of good family, to summarize a bodhisattva’s regarding feelings as feelings, by closely applying mindfulness to them, he experiences great compassion for sentient beings who dwell in the feeling of happiness.”
Text: “a bodhisattva’s regarding feelings as feelings”:
In other words it already implies, what immediately springs to mind is the statement by Dudjom Lingpa of the first entry into taking the impure mind as the path, where you clearly distinguish the stillness of your awareness, versus the movements of emotions, thoughts, images, memories and so forth and so on, you see they’re not the same, in other words you’re already getting some breathing space, you’re not just slipping automatically and semi consciously into full- fledged cognitive fusion -
I am thinking this, I am feeling this, in other words I, I, I, I. What are you feeling? I am feeling, feelings as I. I am feeling, experiencing thoughts as I. I am feeling, etc, etc, as I as Mine. That can be overwhelming, it can be overwhelming. I mean here’s the closest implement in hand, but a pretty expensive cell phone, I guess it’s still called a phone, it’s mostly not phone. If it should be damaged, what’s the overwhelming thing that arises in the mind? Oh a cell phone was damaged? I don’t think so. It’s “MY” cell phone was damaged. Something of MINE was damaged, that’s all that really matters, is that it’s MINE. My blade of grass, the door of my room, but that’s what really matters, so we’re experiencing the cell phone as MINE, right, country as mine, anything as mine. And of course for the five skandhas, of course for these four objects of mindfulness. So the first thing is get it straight. Get it straight, just see feelings as feelings, it’s a really good start. So there’s that point, which then suggests that you might do that from the perspective of stillness of awareness; clearly it’s harder than observing simply tactile sensations; it’s harder because the feelings are not appearances arising to you, they are in that subjective mode of experience. You’ve heard that many times by now. So therefore of course, the cognitive fusion is going to be like super-glue, you know, it’s going to be very strong. Nevertheless, this is the hypothesis here, verified so many times over 2600 years that we can actually be aware of feelings without totally being sucked into them.
Then he says:
Text: “by closely applying mindfulness to them, he experiences great compassion for sentient beings who dwell in the feeling of happiness.”
This is from the sutras so once again we can expect, as in the case of Shantideva, Nargajuna and so forth and Dudjom Lingpa, they’re choosing their words carefully.
So, ‘Dwell’ What may we surmise from that? (5:22) Probably attachment, identification, some happy feeling arises, and when a happy feeling arises then we’re perfectly happy to identify with that, when an unhappy feeling or pain arises, we say – oh, let’s practice Buddhism. I’m going to see pain as pain, hello pain over there; happiness – oh come to papa! Come close and stay close, you’re my happiness, I like happiness, pleasure. So we’re perfectly happy to identify our pleasure as permanent, true source of happiness, and MINE. Right? We don’t really want to practice dharma all that much, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a need when things are going well, right? So who was it, it was another great Dzogchen master, the name will come to me in a minute, he said - “sentient beings can handle a lot of adversity and they have a hard time handling felicity”.
We can handle misfortune, well we rise to the occasion and we need to, what other option is there? But when the good times are rolling we have a hard time handling that. We throw dharma to the wind, that was my insurance policy but I’m healthy now and we’re on with it. So there’s a complete asymmetry there, I think in terms of the incentive to practice dharma, when things are going well we don’t need the dharma don’t bug me, I ‘m enjoying this. That’s dwelling in happiness. Among The Four Immeasurables, I want you to weave everything together among the four immeasurables, which is the false facsimile he is referring to? The false facsimile of what? I know Miles knows because he always knows, so Miles gets an A even for being silent; Elizabeth? Yeah, what’s the false facsimile of empathetic joy? Dwelling in happiness.
(7:20) Dwelling in happiness, I live here, I’m one of the fortunate people, I’m one of the happy people, not like most people, I’m really one of the privileged. So he feels compassion. He experiences great compassion – MahaKaruna,
“he experiences great compassion for sentient beings who dwell in the feeling of happiness.” They are just getting fat and comfortable, identifying with that, thinking they own it, thinking it’s theirs. They’re not like those other sentient beings, and so he feels compassion for them. What dimension of suffering is he attending to when he is feeing compassion for those who are dwelling in suffering (Alan meant to say happiness)? Suffering of change, exactly right, it feels good, but then it genuinely is suffering. Okay, so good so far.
(8:16) Text: “He practices, thinking”, so once again this becomes so obvious, that the mindfulness, you know, if there was any shred of doubt, here’s a master – Shantideva, citing one of the great Mahayana sutras, and he’s talking about the close application of mindfulness and while doing so, one practices thinking, in other words there’s no possibility of this being bare attention. Bare attention’s the opening of the door. And then you want to come in with full wisdom, at time contemplating, reflecting, considering, thinking. So mindfulness is such a rich practice. He practices thinking, oh, now this is interesting, I’m going to turn this into a, I’m going to let you unpack this passage from the sutra – okay.
Text: He practices, thinking, ‘One who has no feeling is happy’.
Now I’ve already, you remember I took out my machete and I wacked the translator from Singapore who was translating mental afflictions as emotion, and saying the ideal now is to have no emotions, a terrible, terrible translation. Bad translation because that simply is not the ideal of any school of Buddhism, that the Buddha has no bliss, the Buddha has no happiness, give me a break.
But now he’s saying, it looks like he’s siding with the bad translator, and against me, and you know he wouldn’t do that (laughter) he says – one who has no feeling is happy. Now, considering all that you know from your dharma background and even you know from the first six weeks here, what’s the, I mean obviously we’re going to read it literally, and then it’s foolish, what’s he getting at? One who has no feeling? I know Nichola knows, when he says one who has no feeling is happy, the emphasis probably should be a giveaway. ( Alan asks the students) Exactly right, it can’t be anything else, can it, by a process of elimination, is this literal, okay the achievement of enlightenment means you have no feelings whatsoever, you’re like a zombie, like a robot? That’s impossible, so Yorgen has it right on, by a process of elimination it has to be that emphasis on HAS. One who is not identifying, who is not owning, not owning feelings, that person, because there it is – one who HAS no feeling is happy – what’s happiness? What kind of a mental process is happiness? Is it attention, is it memory, it’s a really simple question. Yes, it’s a feeling, exactly right, it’s a feeling, no sarcasm at all. (10:46)
But there it is, that’s why it’s ridiculous to read this literally. One who has no feeling is happy, which is a feeling, right? So now we know there’s only one way to interpret it.
(11:18) One who releases all grasping onto, a possessiveness, identification, cognitive fusion now with what kind of happiness? Well pretty much if you identify with any kind of happiness that’s going to be a problem, but for the likes of us who aren’t already advanced yogis, what’s the kind of happiness that he’s really going to target –don’t identify, don’t own it, don’t grasp onto it? I’ll answer that one – hedonic pleasure. Things are going well, you’re encountering good fortune, you say good, give me more, I’ll hold onto that, that’s mine and that’s mine; so one who releases that, especially releasing the grasping onto the identification with the ownership of hedonic pleasure, and simply sees it as arising and passing in the space of the mind - that person is happy. What type of happiness is arising? (Alan asks students) When he says that person who has no feeling is happy, what kind of happiness is that? It has to be eudemonia. What else could it be? That you’re going to get some hedonic pleasure from that? It’s not a stimulus. So exactly. Isn’t it lovely to see how the cream is coming to the surface of the milk?
(12:08) You know very nice, good. Otherwise the person who is reading this cold, with no background could say- man this is really stupid, this makes no sense, man, I don’t want to follow this tradition, this is a bummer! This is a bummer tradition – no feelings!
(12:36)And now we see, now that we’re sorting this out, making good sense of it, letting our wisdom rise up to meet his wisdom, right, he continues -
In order to eliminate the feelings of all sentient beings, he regards feelings as feelings by closely applying mindfulness to them. In order to bring an end to the feelings of sentient beings, he dons his armor, but he does not bring an end to his own feelings. Whatever feelings he experiences, he embraces and experiences all those feelings with great compassion. Whenever he experiences pleasant feelings, he realizes great compassion for all sentient beings who indulge in attachment, and he completely abandons all of his own propensities for attachment.
(12:38) “In order to eliminate the feelings of all sentient beings”: (now we know what that means, you know, not damage to the frontal cortex and whip out the left prefrontal context - no more feelings for you - brain damage – not that.)
Alan reading the text again as below and commenting -
In order to eliminate the feelings of all sentient beings he regards feelings as feelings by closely applying mindfulness to them. (It’s almost like a Sherlock Holmes here.)
In order to bring an end to the feelings of sentient beings, he dons his armor, (that is, he is about to get to work) but he does not bring an end to his own feelings.
(Okay, please unpack that Sherlock, and he does -) Whatever feelings he experiences, he embraces and experiences all those feelings with great compassion. Whenever he experiences pleasant feelings, he realizes great compassion for all sentient beings who indulge in attachment, and he completely abandons all of his own propensities for attachment.
There’s a meditation right there; really this is lojong, this is lojong. So when joy arises, you encounter felicity, good fortune and all of that, you allow that feeling to arise, you experience it richly, embrace it in a sense of fully experiencing it, being totally in touch with it – so to speak. But then rather than saying – I feel happy, I feel happy, then you transmute that happiness itself, that feeling of happiness itself, into great compassion for all those who indulge in attachment while at the same time abandoning all propensities for attachment him or herself.
(14:21)Whenever he experiences painful feelings, (so here’s another big Lojong practice coming up, this is the mother of all Lojongs in my understanding that is in the Bodhicharyavatara, I think they’re the template the paradigms of the whole lojong literature of Tibet, Shantideva I believe more than anybody else,) Whenever he experiences painful feelings he realizes great compassion for all sentient beings who indulge in hatred, and he completely abandons all of his own propensities for hatred.
So when suffering arises in body and mind rather than simply resting in his own little tea cup with the big tsunami of – I’m in pain, my mind is miserable, I miserable, I miserable – rather than resting in that, he just lets it go supernova; and his awareness, his attention doesn’t deny his own feelings but it extends out like rings in all directions and realizes great compassion for all sentient beings. That’s what we focused on this morning, having that great resolve that just when one experiences suffering oneself, one doesn’t simply aspire – oh gee may I be free of suffering. I mean some people may leave it there, but the smart person, the wise person goes beyond that; if you’re experiencing suffering - may I be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. And I shall make it so, why couldn’t I be? Might I be and I shall do it! What you think I’m going to wait around for somebody else to do it for me? Could be a long wait.
(16:14) So it’s easy, it’s quite natural for the wise to develop not only an aspiration but an intention, a resolve - I shall free myself from suffering and the causes of suffering, good, but then does he leave it there as if there is some kind of titanium casing that separates him or her from the rest of the world, and of course not.
So there it extends out in all directions: “I have that resolve that I must heal myself, this is renunciation of course, I resolve to free myself from suffering and the causes of suffering. Who else is going to it for me? Even the Buddha can’t do it; come over and touch me on the head, I wish I could touch Natu on the head, have all the headaches go away, I’d love to do that, but even if the Buddha were here, I don’t know, I don’t think so, it’s not how it works.
(17:03) Rare occasions, rare occasions, Jesus would heal here and there, the Buddha would heal here and there, it does occur whether there’s special karmic connections, whether strong faith, special pratityasamutpada, then it does happen; but if we didn’t need that, then just come and give mass healings you know, come one come all – heal everybody; no one’s ever done that. Not Jesus, not Buddha, not anybody else.
(17:31) So then finally when all is said and done it comes back to ourselves, we must make the resolve which is renunciation, the spirit of definite emergence – ( Alan gives the Tibetan for the spirit of definite emergence) now I will do everything needed however long it may take to release myself from suffering and its causes; but here this bodhisattava then takes that resolve and then just lets it expand in all directions. So when he or she experiences suffering and expands it out as the field of awareness expands out in all directions and that which had being limited to renunciation now transform into Great Compassion for all beings. And so the experience of suffering itself is transmuted into virtue, otherwise it is just suffering. Suffering is not non virtue, it’s not virtue, it’s just suffering, but when transmuted in that way your very experience of suffering and the motivation that goes with it, transforms into dharma practice, powerful dharma practice, transforms or catalyzes Great Compassion.
So he feels Great Compassion for all sentient beings who indulge in hatred, and he completely abandons all his own propensities for hatred; recognizing of course the connection that hatred, the most virulent of the mental afflictions just naturally cannot help it; it gives rise to blatant suffering so then abandoning propensities for hatred himself. And finally:
Text: Whenever he experiences feelings that are neither pleasant nor painful, he realizes great compassion for all sentient beings who indulge in delusion, and he completely abandons all of his own propensities for delusion.
So there it is, when we’re not really beset with either pleasant feelings or unpleasant, neither good fortune nor misfortune, it’s easy then to just slack off, say – how you doing? Oh okay, no problem, no big deal – so then we just kind of slip into laxity, into dullness, into delusion, and then we just coast. And so therefore compassion for all sentient beings who indulge in delusion. So the Sutra continues -
He does not become attached to pleasant feelings, for he is skilled at vanquishing attachments. He does not become angry [or upset, or resentful, inpatient, hostile, aggressive, there’s a lot of words you could pack in there – he does not become angry] at painful feelings, for he is skilled at vanquishing anger. He also does not become ignorant [or simply unaware] in response to feelings that are neither painful nor pleasant, for he is skilled at vanquishing ignorance [or again unawareness – Ma-rigpa]. Whatever feelings he experiences, he knows them all to be impermanent and experiences them as such. He recognizes (and of course that goes on so many different levels, that is on the coarse level, simply knowing what feeling it is, these catalyst driven, these hedonic pleasures, pains and so forth, knowing that they are arising in dependence upon causes and conditions, in a world of flux. Then on the gross level, knowing whatever is coming up, just knowing – this too is going to pass. So over time it’s going to fade away, it’ll be finished. But then of course when mindfulness is closely applied, even right there while it’s present, then you see it’s not just something stable, static, that’s captured your mind, but rather when you micro investigate it, then you see it’s just a whole bunch of staccato moments. It’s already almost like an ice flow, or like an ice pack – when you don’t look at it then it just looks like it’s solid ice, right, but then when the spring comes we know it breaks into chunks, and so it doesn’t look quite so formidable, just a whole bunch of chunks, starting to thaw. So when one closely applies mindfulness to feelings, then the solidity, the firmness, the immutability of it fades away and then you see – ah, this isn’t quite as horrendous, quite as formidable. As the French would say – not quite so intimidating, because after all it’s just a bunch of staccato moments, so the reification already gets softened. So-Whatever feelings he experiences he knows them to be impermanent and experiences them as such.)
He recognizes and experiences them as unsatisfying. (that is as though experiences themselves are not true sources of genuine happiness). He recognizes and experiences them as identity-less. (so we can read that on the one hand from the Pali Canon, the Shravakayana account, so now this should be familiar, you should be – oh ya, I know what’s coming and kind of relax a little bit. From the Shravakayana account, what does that mean? What does it mean that these feelings arising pleasure, pain, indifference, that they’re identity-less, what does that mean? They have no owner, they’re not a self and they have no owner. Exactly, and then when you slip over into the Madhyamaka, which we were looking at pretty intently yesterday, then what does it mean that feelings have no identity – dakmepa - from Madhyamaka? From the Madhyamaka perspective? Exactly right, they have no phenomenal identity. That’s why as a translator I think it doesn’t make any sense in English to say – phenomenal self – because nobody thinks that a sweater has a self. Not in English anyway, I don’t think in German either, to say it has a self, but does it have an identity, does it have some self- nature? That’s why I say Dak (Tibetan) in that context I say identity rather than self, so it’s phenomenal identitylessness. That feelings of course are not a self, but they are empty of inherent nature, phenomenal identity, exactly right, yes. So that’s the Madhayamaka, the deeper realization that not only do they have no owner, not only are they not a personal self, but they don’t even have any intrinsic identity, independent of conceptual designation. Woa, suddenly the bottom fell out, that’s such a deeper statement, an awesome statement. That if one could realize that then one could say oh, this means you really could be free of those feelings. I mean they don’t even need to arise if you withdraw the conceptual designation; and if they dependent for their very existence on conceptual designation, you’ve just pulled the rug out from beneath them. That’s very empowering.
He recognizes pleasant feelings as impermanent (so it’s interesting that we are seeing here the three marks of existence, that he is going to pair these with the three types of feelings.)
(24:29) So when we have pleasant feelings we want to hold on of course, we want to think – this will last – this relationship will last – this will be the last cell phone that Apple makes, they’ll say – we did perfection this time, the one that Alan Wallace bought, that’s the final say, that’s the ultimate final cell phone, we’ll never make another because that’s the perfect one. That’ll not happen. Not in my lifetime.
So what’s the antidote for that clinging, that grasping that – this is really a keeper, this will really always make me happy, this relationship, this anything – recognizing hey- they’re impermanent. So that’s head on collision to attachment to pleasant feelings.
He recognizes pleasant feelings as impermanent, he recognizes painful feelings as unsatisfying, (by nature Duhkha) and he recognizes feelings that are neither painful nor pleasant as peaceful.
(and once again we come back to that theme that the door to eudemonic well-being, to genuine happiness is not by finding something that gives you hedonic pleasure, and then trying to really pursue it and nail it down and pin it. Because that’s not going to work, certainly not by pursuing unhappiness or pain, that doesn’t make any sense, but rather by attending to something neutral like the sensations of the breath; neither pleasant or unpleasant by nature, but attending there without attachment without grasping or aversion and the mind calming, coming to equilibrium, and then finding – I’m still attending to the breath, but now pleasant feelings are arising, pleasant feelings are arising. I just received an email from one student who’s now in retreat, full time retreat, she said I’m just repeatedly experiencing a sukha fest. And sometimes tears come to my eyes, just because so much happiness is arising. Is it because she dropped me as a teaching and found another kind of meditative object that really makes you happy? Maybe but she didn’t tell me about that one. I think it’s continuing right along with the same practice we’ve been doing here, it’s shamatha, mindfulness of breathing, same old same old, but now so much joy arising, even bringing tears to the eyes. Of course that makes me very happy, she experiences happiness I think Mudita – so it spreads. It means some really happy virus is going via the internet. She may be really happy – oh she’s doing so well, it makes me so happy! Another one I received mail from just a few days ago, she’s achieved stage 7, stabilized on stage 7 and then on to shamatha – so happy! Stable, solid, happy, speaking of the ambrosia of the dharma, ah. That makes me happy, really. Another one struggling – well that’s what I’m here for. When they’re there they don’t need me anymore, I just want to go Yay Team Shamatha! Nothing much for me to do then, but other one struggling then, another one just recently struggling with so much noise, very dedicated, very sincere, full time retreat, so much noise in the environment, and he said is this a conducive environment? He gave a whole list of all the noise coming in. I said, well it’s a safe bet that’s not optimal. So there, for starters, but then that’s where a spiritual friend comes in, if there’s something you can do about it why be unhappy, and if there’s nothing you can do about it why be unhappy? So I asked him, is this tolerable, because he’s been there for some months? Then carry on, why be unhappy about it? It’s trucks going by what you going to do? And so if it’s tolerable then what I suggested to him, to share the obvious, is when you find emotional responses or cognitive responses, thoughts coming up – doggone why the motor cycle? Why’re they having a party? Why are they sawing down the trees, why are the trucks making so much noise? When you see the conceptualization, the rumination coming up, when you see some unhappy feeling, some frustration, some irritation arising, so beyond unhappy feeing to anger arising, good! This is called settling the mind in its natural state practice. You see that come up what do you do? Let your awareness be still, observe the comings and goings of thoughts, emotions and mental afflictions without cognitive fusion, and take it as grist for the mill. Transform this into your practice if it’s tolerable and if it’s not tolerable, okay here are two email addresses you can check out for places to go; but either way, deal with it, and if there’s nothing you can do about it, why be upset? And if there is something you can do about it, why be upset? Gosh who said that? Shantideva. So there it is – he recognizes feelings that are neither painful nor pleasant as peaceful; so right there, sensations at the tip of your nose of the breath, neutral. But then what arises as you’re attending to that something neutral, likewise awareness of awareness, not by nature blissful immediately, slowly, yeah; but when you’re attending to something neutral and you’re doing so, but with the equipoise, with the balance, without falling into excitation or laxity, when you’re doing so, then okay, it’s peaceful. And now again, I’m just weaving everything like a weaver; it’s peaceful, that’s the first thing the Buddha said about mindfulness of breathing. You remember? (30:18) When cultivated and developed it’s peaceful. That’s kinda nice, not blissful, not enjoyable, this is okay; and then continue right in that groove, you’ve just opened the door of peaceful, continue right there. Continue refining your mind and it becomes sublime. Continue and it becomes an ambrosial dwelling, continue and every unwholesome thought and mental affliction is dispersed on the spot.
So it actually transforms the mind away from unwholesome and afflicted tendencies, into the wholesome. Powerful stuff!
But it’s an inside job, all from the inside. So that’s why he is saying here, these feelings that are neither pleasant nor painful – peaceful. Thus we will end here,
Thus, whatever is pleasant is impermanent, whatever is painful is unsatisfying, and whatever is neither pleasant nor painful is identity-less.
And I think we’ll stop there, there’s just a little bit more for tomorrow, but I’d like to have more time for a bit of discussion. So with that, let’s go to the meditation.
(32:37) Once again let your very entrance into the practice be an expression of compassion for yourself, you’re opening the door to alleviating suffering and its cause as you settle your body, speech and mind in the natural states and calm the rumination for a little while with mindfulness of breathing.
(36:10) And with the clear light of awareness closely apply mindfulness to the field of the body and the field of the mind, noting the sensations that arise - earth, water, fire and air that arise within the space of the body and the thoughts, the images, the appearances that arise within the space of the mind.
And now observe how these somatic and mental appearances act as cooperative conditions contributing to the emergence of feelings, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral, they don’t turn into the feelings, they’re not substantial causes, but where they are not there - the feelings would not arise, they contribute to them without transforming into them, closely apply mindfulness to the causal relationship between these appearances in the body and mind and the feelings that arise in response to them.
And then as in the same spirit of letting your awareness be still while observing the motions of the mind - as in settling the mind in its natural state, to the best of your ability let your awareness be still, as you recognize feelings as feelings, arising in the space of the body and within the space of the mind, simply recognize them for what they are.
If pleasant feelings arise recognize them as impermanent, and if painful or unpleasant feelings arise simply recognize them for what they are, the unpleasant as unpleasant but to the best of your ability without cognitive fusion, without being sucked in, fused with feelings; and see if you can identify feelings that are neither pleasant nor unpleasant and recognize them as having no owner, having no inherent nature of their own.
(43:41) Then exactly following the counsel of Shantideva - let’s weave this practice together with the one from this morning on great compassion exactly as Shantideva advises; when pleasant feelings arise in the body or mind then expand the field of your awareness beyond your own personal feelings the ones you directly experience, expand the field of awareness to embrace all beings around you with great compassion for all of those who are caught up in attachment, craving, greed . Why couldn’t all sentient beings be free from suffering and its causes? May they be free, may I free them and may I be blessed by the gurus and the Buddha’s to enable me to do so.
And you may as we did this morning breathe in the light of these blessing coming in from all sides, and breathe out the light of compassion - may each one be free of attachment.
As unpleasant or painful feelings arise in the body and mind, recognize them as such, feelings as feelings, expand the field of your awareness to embrace all those around you with great compassion, with the aspiration and the resolve - may each one be free of anger, of hatred, of aggression, hostility.
And moving boldly into the realm of possibility with each out breath, as you breathe out this field of light of great compassion, imagine those around you being freed of suffering and especially the underlying cause of hatred and anger, imagine they’re experiencing such freedom here and now.
And finally for all those who experience feelings that are neither pleasant nor unpleasant, arouse great compassion with the aspiration and resolve - may we all be free of ignorance and delusion. Breathe in the light of blessings and with each out breath imagine suffering and its underlying cause, the most fundamental causes of suffering - ignorance and delusion, being dispelled and imagine freedom.
And release all aspirations, let your awareness come to rest in utter stillness, illuminating the space of the body and mind but without entering into these spaces or fusing with their contents, and rest in that pure luminosity of your own awareness, unmoving, free of grasping, free of concepts and conceptual designation.
Simply being present with won’t change conventional reality. Conventional reality needs to be challenged with direct realization of emptiness. Only then, can withdrawing or changing conceptual designation alter your reality.
Teaching 2 - So there are a few questions here, but I’d just like to make a brief review, of a very central point in this Madhyamaka mode pertaining to feelings but everything else. This whole role of conceptual designation, I mentioned before that long before the Buddha appeared in India, the technology of Samadhi was already very, very highly developed, extremely sophisticated and my strong sense is, as a scholar of Buddhist studies that I think it was un-replicated anywhere else on the globe. The Mayans the Chinese, the Greeks and so forth, I don’t think anybody did it, I think that that was one of the major contributions, of the contemplative heritage of civilization in India. And so they had developed by way of these very profound technologies of Samadhi of so withdrawing the attention away from the whole dharmadhatu, this whole desire realm, all sensory experiences; drawing it entirely into the realm of the mind and then even in the realm of the mind, drawing it out of the desire realm, into the form realm, well then there’s no pain, there’s no blatant suffering at all of any kind. And then even beyond that into the formless realm, where even beyond pleasure, just into equanimity, they got very good at that and of course conflated that or mistook that for Moksha – liberation, because it certainly felt like liberation, it certainly felt like freedom from all hedonic pleasure and pain. And even for that matter any pleasure of any kind, or pain of any kind, when they go into deep equanimity, but of course then there’s a problem when’s the Samadhi going to be over. And so useful, but not the solution. Now this statement I’ve made a couple of times now could very easily be taken simply literally and then be grossly mistaken. And that is – if phenomena depend for their very existence upon the conceptual designation, then I propose if you withdraw the conceptual designation, that is if the Arya Bodhisattva, the one who has gained realization of emptiness withdraws the conceptual designation, then that phenomena can vanish for him. Gen La Rimpa told me when I was living with him back in 1988, as a person who had spent years and years meditating on emptiness, he said – when you go into emptiness, gain realization of emptiness, and it’s non conceptual, the conceptualization really just goes flat. And for you, even though you are not withdrawing into some form realm, or formless realm, even without that profound withdrawal into the face of Samadhi, just by the power of your insight, the insight and that release of all conceptual designation and conceptualization altogether, the world vanishes for you. It vanishes, because for you, you being in the center of your mandala it no longer arises because it does take that conceptual designation.
(59:21) But now let’s imagine a person without such realization, just practicing open presence, you know, no Buddhist view, none of that mumbo jumbo, as some people like to refer to it – that is any aspect of Buddhism they either don’t understand or don’t accept. And so just going into open presence, never mind all that other stuff, let’s just sit in Samadhi, who needs that? Let’s just practice open presence and make the mind go really quiet. So as far as you can tell – just no thoughts arising at all. Is anything vanishing? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Feelings, tactile sensations, feelings of all kinds, the mind is quiet, you may have a sense that you’re withdrawing conceptual designation, all it is, is they’ve just gone quiet, nothing’s vanishing and of course the world around you hasn’t changed in any way, not the world you’re experiencing. Because the reification is still there, the reification hasn’t even been challenged, right? So there’s really no movement, you’re not moving toward enlightenment, you’re not moving away from enlightenment, you’re taking a respite. And sometimes a respite is really nice. Like taking a nice hot bath when you’re feeling tired or a bit stiff. It doesn’t heal you from anything, it doesn’t make you sicker, it’s just a nice hot bath and there’s a time for that, so I’m not against open presence. We should just never I think, exaggerate what it is, it is simply that. So simply being quiet and withdrawing conceptual designation as much as one can doesn’t bring about any radical shift in view of reality let alone the reality you’re experiencing.
(01:01:14) Let alone, and now I’ll say something really silly but I’m going to say it anyway, let alone without realization of emptiness, if someone looks at someone like say, Betty Rose, okay that’s Betty Rose, she’s simply a conceptual designation, she has only a nominal existence, alright, Betty Rose – brace yourself, no longer Betty Rose – hmmm Michelle Pfeiffer! - it didn’t work! ( laughter) Michelle Pfeiffer again, simply conceptually designating, simply relabeling, well then we’re right back to how many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a dog. Now what’s the right answer? ( Alan asks students) Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg. And so merely designating something with no realization of emptiness is just kind of nothing at all, it’s just word games, that’s all.
But now let’s take the example of a person, coming back to my all- time favorite metaphor or analogy – you know where I’m going – dreams! So let’s imagine you’re in the midst of a non - lucid dream –which means you’re reifying everything – you think this is who you really are – and these are real people around you and this is real environment and this is all happening to you, reifying everything, that’s what goes along with being non-lucid in a dream; and then you just remember a little snippet from Madhyamaka, - phenomena arise in dependence upon conceptual designation – and you’re standing out in the middle of the road and you see a big truck coming right down on you and you’re non-lucid, and you think - it’s a cloud, it’s a cloud, it’s a cloud – oh that hurt!
(1:02:50) If you’re not lucid and you conceptually designate a Mac truck as a cloud or as a rainbow, it doesn’t work because you haven’t seen the emptiness of the Mac truck coming toward you. So you’re just throwing little paper wads at it, a little label here and a little label there – please be a rainbow, please, rainbow, rainbow, rainbow, Oooh, and then you’re road kill.
So if you’re not lucid, you have no freedom. Withdraw conceptual designation you have no freedom, you’re just sitting there not thinking. Change the conceptual designation, that’s not freedom, you’ve just given another label for something you’ve already reified.
But now if you’re lucid, if you’re lucid, you know you’re dreaming, and since you know you’re dreaming you know there is no Mac truck, no 18 wheeler coming towards you, then as it’s bearing down, you have a real chance.
And some of you, one of you recently told me – oh getting really good at transformation, transformed something I can’t remember what- transformed it into a lion. But then you don’t want to transform something into a lion and have it eat you. So transformed it into a happy lion and in fact it worked and the lion smiled.
Cool. If you’re going to create a very large carnivore in your dream, make it a happy one who’s got a full tummy.
This is possible, I mean this is clearly possible, it happened just very recently to somebody here, but this is just the first major phase of dream yoga, is that once you become lucid and you stabilize it, then frolic, start having fun, fun vipashyana – that’s not an oxymoron. Fun vipashyana within the dream to explore the nature of the dream reality through transformation and emanation. So if it’s a crocodile transform it into a puppy, if it’s a great big Mac truck about to kill you, transform it into a flock of butterflies. And find oh – since I’ve realized that they’re not there from their own side, therefore if I think and I designate – it’s a flock of butterflies, lo and behold the Mac truck breaks apart and you’re like that movie, transformers where it suddenly just transforms into something else. From a truck to butterflies, that’s a big transformation. If, and only if you’ve realized that there’s nothing there from its own side, in other words there’s nothing really there that you have to get your hands out and start twisting around manipulating – lots of luck transforming a truck into a butterfly. But if there’s nothing there from its own side, power of conceptual designation you really can, you really can change the dream as you wish. And I strongly suspect that the culmination of that phase of dream yoga, because it comes in multiple phases, that phase of transformation and emanation, comes when you have so thoroughly investigated all manner of objective and subjective phenomena that your own presence in the dream, how you appear in the dream, when you have so thoroughly investigated it, really like a scientist, you become a dream scientist, or like Stephen LaBerge calls it – a Nironaut, an Astronaut of dreams (1:05:39) that when you’ve so thoroughly explored it, not by applying ontological analysis to it, but by actually getting in there and transforming things; when you’ve so thoroughly explored it by working it with that you simply know, you come to a kind of a comprehensive certainty, there’s nothing here I can’t change including dissolving the whole thing into substrate. That’s one of the easier things to do, just dissolve the whole dream, into the sheer vacuity, back into the hollow deck, with the electricity turned off, just dissolve the whole dream back into the sheer vacuity of the substrate; you know you can do that, but you also know within the dream that you can transform it as you wish. When you know that, that there’s nothing there that’s too gnarly; you might have tried to walk through a wall in the beginning and you couldn’t do it, you get stuck halfway through that happens a lot or you have to walk through backwards, you get very clever, but when you really get good at it, and some people I’ve taught have gotten very good at it. They couldn’t at the start they got stuck and bounce off, even though they’re lucid, but then you just keep on experimenting and then just finding – I know it’s a wall and I’m just walking through the wall and they walk through it, casually, eyes open.
Let alone walking on water, etc, etc. When you’ve done that, congratulations, you’ve just passed first grade in dream yoga and you’re ready to go onto more interesting things, yet.
So for people who have a knack, some people do, some people are gifted in music, mathematics and so forth, some people are just naturally gifted in lucid dreaming, in dream yoga. If we look to the teachings of Padmasambhava, in the book Natural Liberation – where he discusses six bardos, one of the bardos is the bardo of dreaming. The bardo of lucid dreaming, and any one of the six bardos, including being alive as a human being, simply being alive and practicing shamatha vipashyana, but one of the six bardos is of course the dreaming state and what he is suggesting is that any one of the six bardos can be your launching pad to gain realization of rigpa and become enlightened.
(1:07:49) So back in 1992 when we had a really quite a marvelous Mind and Life Institute meeting on sleeping, dreaming and dying, we invited and unfortunately it was in India, so the communication wasn’t all that great, but we learned about one yogi up in Shimla, in Northern India who was just so naturally gifted and became expert in dream yoga, that he would spend as much time as he could, day and night, sleeping. If he could possibly get a nap, like - am I a little bit tired, ah maybe, let’s try - he would always be looking for the opportunity to take a nap because that was his best platform for practicing Shamatha, vipashyana who knows, stage of generation, who knows what. So for some people that can actually be your primary vehicle for gaining really profound insight. So one little segue related to that, I know one person who was listening by podcast, he’s gotten really keenly interested in hypnotism, self -hypnosis and so forth, and it’s an area I’ve never seen any, maybe some of you have, I’ve never seen really some really thorough, well informed research done on the relationship of hypnosis and the power of hypnosis, for overcoming nicotine addiction or just having fun you know. Going into the deep state of hypnotism, where you can be really creative. But I’ve never seen really any well informed, comparative study done of hypnosis versus let’s say – Buddhist meditation as in shamatha and vipashyana I’ve never seen that. One day I imagine it will happen because it’s a juicy topic for research. But here’s a true statement, and this relates to, maybe I should take a vow, I will not call it the Placebo effect, I will call it the Mind effect, then nobody will know what I’m talking about. That effect that people call, erroneously, placebo. But there it is, by believing that some very specific events take place, and again, it’s so interesting, so mind boggling, that you have Parkinson’s Disease and you actually believe this will work, that it effects the nerve fibers affected by Parkinson’s, that’s just astonishing, right?
(1:09:46) The power of suggestion. So we have lucid dreams, we have hypnosis, and we have placebo effect, all tapping into something that has to be similar. So what might be going on, especially in the most interesting dimension of hypnosis and in my understanding it’s called the Somnambulistic state, some people and apparently a professional hypnotist, like for example a performer, I was just told this by a person who really knows about this field, I think he himself is a hypnotist, told me that a really accomplished hypnotist performer who really does this a lot, can just go like this to an audience, and just by gazing around can recognize just who is likely to be most suggestive, and then – can we have a volunteer from the audience, for example you young lady – and generally does a very good job of inviting somebody who’s never been hypnotized, but just by intuitively taking them in, getting them on stage, and within a matter of minutes inducing the somnambulistic state of hypnotism which is really deep under and it happens within a matter of minutes. Most people are not that suggestible, some are and a real professional has a good chance of identifying who’s who without just trial and error, trial and error. I saw this once just on television, where the hypnotist did exactly that, brought somebody up, young black guy, and very quickly brought him into this very deep trance. Now I might have mentioned this before, it’s just performance, but it’s interesting, that he gave the suggestion – you’re now a kangaroo, very happy kangaroo, and this young stud you know, strong young guy, he gets this happy little smile like a kid, and he puts his hands up, and then we see him hopping around the stadium, around the auditorium, and he really kind of like looked like a kangaroo.
(1:11:59) Then he comes back up on the stage and slowly, slowly, or whenever the hypnotist wishes, brings him out. But you know, biting into an onion and being told it tastes like an apple, and it does for you, it completely over-rides, I mean that’s done frequently. You’d think – no way – you’ve made contact with contact with onion, doesn’t taste good, but for you it tastes just like, it’s the spitting image of an apple. Total over-ride by the power of suggestion, by the power of conceptual designation.
Now to be hypnotized does not mean that you’ve realized emptiness of course, otherwise we’d just do that, but my strong intimation, my strong intuition, or hunch is that by going deeply into Samadhi, bearing in mind you can develop various paranormal abilities just by shamatha without realizing it, by to some extent, at least for your own personal experience, you can transform that experience by being deeply hypnotized, my strong suspicion is in these cases as in hypnosis or as in a lucid dream, that your awareness is hovering near the substrate. It’s not locked into its completely frozen pattern of solidly reifying everything. It’s softened up, again the ice flow has broken up into chunkiness, it’s more like slush, and then that slush as you’re like somewhere in between ordinary coarse absolutely reified, frozen mind, and the more fluid, plasma state of the substrate consciousness, you’re somewhere in between but in that context then you can actually start to modify (1:13:34) your own personal reality, in ways that ordinary people up on the surface, cannot. And people with deep realization of emptiness or within the confined reality of a lucid dream, can, dramatically. So it’s a very interesting area. Okay, enough of that. I hope that was useful.
Q1. I have chronic tinnitus, and the severity of the whistling is normally correlated to my stress level. Here in retreat, I’m feeling very relaxed, but the whistling is quite loud. Is this being produced by shifts in prana?
A- Okay, you’re not at all the first person to report this, no qualms, no question that you’re practicing incorrectly because I have heard this many, many times. Oh stop doing this you shouldn’t be having tinnitus symptoms during meditation, especially the fact, and this is the giveaway – bear this in mind two weeks from now when we’re all gone, - if certain somatic experiences, psychological experiences, Nyam, if these arise in your meditation, but they arise mostly, most prevently most frequently when you’re deeply relaxed, when the mind is quiet, relaxed, composed, collected, and that’s when they come up, almost a sure sign, this is a Nyam and not a dangerous signal, not an oh oh look out you’re doing something wrong. It’s the ones that come out when you’re tighter, when you’re pushing, when you’re stressed, when you’re a bit unhappy, and then you’re getting Nyam, you’re getting a headache, whatever it may be, okay that’s most certainly because you’re pushing too hard. But if it’s coming out of relaxation then assume – this can’t be harmful. Really, the body would have to be crazy to start harming you because you’re so relaxed and mellow. ( 1:16:05)
It doesn’t make any sense, so the question is do I know of or can I conceive of a correlation between this change and the prana, which maybe currently sorts itself out? You’ve named it, you’ve gotten the symptoms and the diagnosis as I understand it, and that is - when we are deeply relaxed, especially in the supine position, that total melt-down, that releasing, that breathe really flowing in its natural rhythm, the mind getting quieter, ruminations subsiding, quite a few people, well if they had tinnitus, would experience it more loudly. But moreover many people who have no tinnitus at all, they will start hearing some strong sounds in their head, it seems to be located in their head, very, very common. And then as soon as they stop meditating it’s gone. They don’t get tinnitus as a result of meditating, I’ve never heard of anybody getting physical disorders of tinnitus because of practicing shamatha correctly. I’ve never heard it happen, so it wouldn’t make much sense if it did, otherwise all the great yogis would be saying – what, what, I can’t hear you over the roar. So I think you’ve diagnosed it already, that is – when you’re really there, relaxed, when the prana starts to flow, the blockages start to break apart, and what I call the auditory correlate of some kind of fresh flowing, of movements of the prana is very internally generated sounds, and if you already have tinnitus it will probably manifest that way, because that’s kind of a pattern. Even if not, a high pitched whistling sound, a roaring sound, they’re coming up, but the nature of the Nyam, they’re transient. Now something I don’t know, and maybe it will be found out over the next five years or so, are people who have tinnitus, when then apply themselves to shamatha, and not just for eight weeks, but who then really go for it, might it get to the underlying root of the tinnitus, and might the tinnitus itself, since nobody has any treatment for it, that’s my understanding, it’s a symptom with no treatment, and no really clear understanding of the cause, otherwise they’d zap the cause; might a really deep shamatha, with a really deep, a sorting out, the free flowing prana that comes incrementally and then big time in the practice and achievement of shamatha, might that dispel tinnitus? The answer is I don’t know, good to find out.
(0:1:18:49)Question 2 – Just want to check if my understanding is getting any clearer. How does the body exist? What we meditate on.
For me, as a specific composition of particles, space energy, or space energy matter, all of the above, that when it appears to substrate consciousness is called body, it only exists as appearances of the body, with, from the perspective of a substrate consciousness; without substrate consciousness it still is there, that is it exists as a composition of particles, molecules, or smallest building blocks – whatever they may be.
Response – That’s exactly right. So I’m glad you expressed this and put it in such a nice concise way, because when you fall deep asleep, or you pass out, just go unconscious – there’s some relief there. If you have physical distress, arthritis, headaches, physical injury, whatever, it’s one of the sweetnesses of deep sleep, you just don’t have any experience of your body at all. It’s a little bit of time out, that can be very welcome, but does that make your body heal in anyway? Not really, except for getting a good night’s sleep as part of the nourishment we need; but it does make all the appearances of the body – earth, water, fire, air, and the feelings arising in the body – vanish. That can be a nice respite, but that happening, all the appearances dissolving into the substrate, does that have any impact, or any bearing or any relevance to the body lying in bed made out of molecules?
(1:20:14) Clearly not, clearly not; but having said that, then it would be very easy, and it’s something you’ve not suggested, but it would be very easy in conclusion to say - aha, I got it, so all the appearances of earth, water, fire, air, they are arising in the substrate, they exist only relative perception because if you are not perceiving them, they are not there, right?
So that’s all relative, those appearances of the body, like the appearances of colors and shapes and the appearances of sounds, smells and taste, all of those arise from and dissolve back into the substrate – they’re all empty of inherent nature, because there’s nothing to them, inherently from their own side, they’re just appearances, arising in the substrate, dissolving into the substrate, so I think I’ve realized emptiness, but in the meantime of course the body really exists. Now you didn’t say that, but it would be very easy to conclude that. In other words the emptiness pertains only to dreams, only to the substrate, but meanwhile – and we start throwing things back and forth – meanwhile, hey there’s something really there, namely the molecules; and that’s exactly what’s being challenged in Madhayamaka.
So the Madhayamaka is saying here, the Madhayamaka-Prasangika is saying – is the body there when you’re not perceiving it?
How about if nobody is perceiving it? You’re alone in your room, nobody else is looking at your body, you’re in deep sleep; so now let’s just say, let alone omniscient Buddhism and all that, let’s just kind of keep it within our world; neither you or anybody else that we know of is perceiving your body, and you’re deep asleep, is your body still there?
From the Madhayamaka perspective?
The answer is yeah, of course, you’re getting older, when you wake up in the morning you’re a little bit older than when you went to sleep. How would you get older if your body wasn’t incrementally getting older, hour by hour as it’s laying there in bed? Or likewise, you can go to sleep with let’s say a muffin you put it on your bedside table, you didn’t eat it, and so as you fall asleep, neither you nor anybody else is perceiving the muffin, but when you wake up it’s dryer than it was when you put it on the night stand when you went to sleep. So what was that? Magic? The muffin went into non- existence and then just was reborn as a dry muffin? So it makes no sense, so it sounds right there so far, this is what I already believed, that okay the taste of the muffin isn’t there when nobody is tasting it, but the muffin’s there, my body’s there. So what we have so far is a refutation of naïve realism - that the appearances, the colors, the tastes, the tactile sensations, the appearances themselves are already out there and we’re simply picking them up. To believe that is naïve realism. Well, that’s refuted of course, but now the Madhyamaka is refuting metaphysical realism – it’s not saying that things are not there when you are not perceiving them. But then we ask, and we’ve done this before so or just has to be a brief run-through – we ask – so what comes to mind, to your mind when we think, we say – your body, for example?
(1:23:31) What’s there when neither you nor anybody else is looking at it? Apart from the appearances that arise in your substrate, that need consciousness to arise at all; what’s there? Well that’s the question that scientists have been asking for at least 400 years, I mean the whole of modern science is based upon, going back to Descartes and Galileo, what does God see? When we’re asleep, or when we are not here, or for the first five days of creation when we weren’t here, what was God seeing? He was seeing the whole of nature without us, and then he just added us as a really important footnote. But the whole thing was already a done deal, so by the literal reading of the Genesis account, the world is absolutely real, and how it is real is by the way God views it. But then we go back alright, to what comes to mind, molecules, and this is where Shantideva was going – what is your body made of? He doesn’t say appearances and tactile sensations, he doesn’t do that in Bodhicharvatara, he didn’t go there, he went to what is your body made of when nobody is looking at it? Liver, spleen, lungs, skin, bones, tissue, blood, etc etc, he went through a standard list that any physician or any person performing an autopsy would say – okay, that person’s not aware of his body anymore, but here’s the liver, here’s the lungs, and so forth and so on. So he went through that list, and shows that none of those are the body, and then he goes right down very quickly, he was a very quick study, he goes right down to the molecular level, atomic level. And you say now that’s what’s really there, isn’t it? When nobody is perceiving it, the atomic level?
(1:25:12)And he’s saying – this too does not exist by its own inherent nature. So put it this way, perceptual phenomena do not exist independently of the perception of them. So no vision – no colors. Those phenomena that we can see as objects bearing attributes, like a liver, like a human body, like an elementary particle, like a galaxy, those phenomena that we conceive of, that we objectify, and that we define as having certain attributes; we go back to the whole and the parts; those phenomena that we conceive, that we objectify or subjectify – me – my mind- my feelings –those phenomena that we conceptually designate, as –my body that is there when nobody is perceiving it – does not exist independently of the conceptual designation of it.
So you may not be perceiving it, but the very presence of that body, with its contours, with its properties, it holding certain attributes, parts and components; the existence of that body does not exist independently of the conceptual designation of it.
Now do you have to conceptually designate it? No, of course not, when you are in deep sleep you’re not conceptually designating anything. But your body is there, present within a whole field, a conceptual framework, shared by everybody around you. And that conceptual framework is in place. So this is something where eight weeks may not be enough to gain a really clear understanding let alone gain a realization of it. But I think if you come back, come back anyway you like, come back through the Buddhism door of Madhayamaka, come back I think as an avenue, come back to John Wheeler and his saying our very categories of matter and energy, that which the body is made out of, right, matter and energy, occurring in space; John Wheeler is saying our very categories of matter and energy are ones that do not exist independently of information. They are derived from information, they are conceived, they are created, they are constructed. We don’t just observe matter and energy, what we pick up is information. Whether you are working with an electron microscope, whatever it may be, an x-ray, whatever it may be, what you’re actually getting is information and information consists of appearances. The appearances are not physical, information is not physical. Based upon the information and our making sense of the information, then we conceive of – body, matter, energy, molecules, atoms, electromagnetic fields, and so forth and so on, and they do exist when nobody is looking, but they don’t exist independently of the conceptual designation of them, they don’t exist independently of the conceptual framework, in which they’re conceived.
(1:28:01) Now the fascinating thing, and there’s so many fascinating things about this, but one of them is that when we conceptually designate something it works retroactively, and the example I gave was – it was something like 1910 or so, give or take a few years, that the particle that we call an electron was defined, it became embedded in the scientific understanding of elementary particles, it’s a very tiny particle, one basic unit of negative charge, they got the empirical evidence for it, it was conceived, they got the empirical evidence, and so now that’s been part of our physicist, atomic physicist, our elementary physicist’s working vocabulary and conceptual framework ever since. So let’s say it was 1910. Now electrons move through a copper wire, you get electricity coming, and so on and so forth, so it’s very much embedded in and makes sense and electrons are there, I will say, electrons are there even when we’re not looking; when nobody is perceiving them, when nobody is measuring them, but electrons are there, right? Okay now let’s go into a time machine and ask, okay but 1890, so now we are just put you in a time machine, and I come up and ask you – do electrons exist? And you say – I don’t know what you’re talking about, what’s an electron? Their neither exist or non- exist. It’s a question that has no meaning because that term doesn’t have any referent, it’s just sound, it’s like bla-bla, right. But from 1910 on, and it’s pretty close to that date, from 1910 on there’s now a broad consensus, an agreement among those who are taken as authorities for very good reason, that electrons do exist; they were discovered in 1910 and from that conceptual framework which persists to this day, because we still believe and have good empirical evidence for the existence of electrons. That from that cognitive frame of reference for electrons, that began in 1910 and continues now more than a century later, from this cognitive frame of reference, electrons have been around since very shortly after the big bang, long before 1910, and if all of humanity were obliterated by some asteroid, wiping us all off the planet, if you ask a physicist when the asteroid is about to come in and terminate all human life at least on our planet, “physicist, will electrons be here when we are all dead?” The answer is yes, they will be, they will be from our cognitive frame of reference, which is about, by the way, to vanish, from our perspective. So that’s it, they work in the future, from that pool, from that cognitive frame of reference, electrons have existed since shortly after the big bang, they’ll exist until whatever happens, the big whimper, or the big crunch, one of the two. But then if it shifts, because we have good empirical evidence that it exists, it’s not just a whimsy or fantasy, good empirical evidence, I would say there’s good inferential evidence, knowledge that electrons exist based upon compelling evidence, it’s not just a guess; but then again if we go to the woman who discovers strawberry fields, for which the then this new improved, much more encompassing, much better, like quantum mechanics, relativity theory is better than classical physics, it explains everything there but it explains things that classical physics does not. So therefore the scientific revolution took place, well, if another revolution took place in physics, where now the whole notion of elementary particles is antiquated, because we have a much better theory that accounts for things that the earlier theory could not explain, this one does, and it’s accepted; because there is strong empirical evidence for this unified field theory, from that perspective, starting in the year 2020, with this hypothetical woman, from that perspective, electrons have never existed, and they never will exist. So they did exist, but in dependence upon and only relative to a cognitive framework of reference. So that’s why I call it ontological relativity. They do exist, they exist when you’re not looking, but they do not exist independently of the cognitive frame of reference, in which they are conceived.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti & Cheri Langston
Revised by Cheri Langston
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti