18 Apr 2016

Alan begins by reminding us that in yesterday’s afternoon session we took a roundabout approach of settling the mind in its natural state by first concentrating on the visual, then the auditory and the tactile domains before venturing into the domain of the sixth sense, the space of the mind. Today we will again “walk around the block”, as Alan says, however, not empirically but conceptually. Alan begins by referring once again to the passage of Karma Chagme’s text on shamatha, listing the various extrasensory abilities that can be acquired by a person who has achieved the fourth dhyana, even without realising emptiness. How is it possible that a person who is a metaphysical realist can develop such siddhis? - asks Alan. If, as materialists contend, all is physical, then the account of Karma Chagme is not true. But if one takes the materialist assumption then the so called “placebo effect” (which is in fact a mental effect, the effect of the mind) should not be possible, either. It should be just as impossible as the siddhis. Materialists have no explanation for it whatsoever. Alan calls people who hold such views “flat-minded”. But you can be a metaphysical realist and not be flat-minded - he remarks. To explain how siddhis are possible, Alan turns to two famous Western thinkers: Carl Jung (psychoanalyst) and Wolfgang Pauli (physicist). In their correspondence they explored the mind and body relationship and sought to explain how the mind (which is not physical) interacts with the physical domain. The hypothesis they posited is one of “unus mundus” - an underlying unitary domain of archetypes from which everything emerges. So what we experience - both mental and physical - are displays of this archetypal domain. Alan notes that Wolfgang Pauli was actually so apprehensive of the opinion of his fellow physicists that he allowed for the publication of his correspondence with Carl Jung only after his death. But the theory they proposed was not new. In fact, in Western philosophy, it goes as far back as Pythagoras who also posited the existence of an underlying reality - expressed in mathematical terms - from which the known reality emerges. Pythagoras - Alan reminds us - himself displayed various siddhis and claimed to remember 20 past lives. It is very plausible that Pythagoras learned samadhi from Hindu yogis during his travel to Egypt. Alan hypothesizes that Pythagoras could have reached higher states of samadhi and in this way accessed the form realm which he then described in mathematical terms. The idea of an underlying mathematical reality was also embraced by Plato and passed on through many lineages. The problem for Jung and Pauli was that they had no way of testing their hypothesis. But the Buddhists do. In Buddhism the desire realm arises from the form realm which in turn emerges from the formless realm and one may explore these realms empirically. Alan mentions the concept of “nimittas” which are “signs”, archetypal quintessences existing in the form realm, which one can access through samadhi. There are also the ten “kasinas” (earth, water, fire, air, four colours and space and light) which are objects of advanced dhyana practices described in detail by Buddhaghosa. If one learns how to master these kasinas one may, for example, superimpose the archetype of earth element from the form realm on the water element in our desire realm and in this way walk on water. Hence, by mastering the power of samadhi one can superimpose the archetypes in the form realm on this world to perform the siddhis described in Karma Chagme’s text. This is the explanation. Everything in this world is a projection of the form realm. This is what Alan calls “special theory of ontological relativity”. However, Alan asks an important question: If all elements have archetypal forms - what about the mind? What is the sign of the mind? It is that out of which our mind emerges and manifests itself in the desire realm: the substrate consciousness. All appearances are displays of the substrate consciousness. And one can access it by achieving shamatha. Alan now quotes the Buddha, saying that all phenomena are preceded by the mind. By comprehending the mind all phenomena can be comprehended. When the mind is under control, everything is under control. This sounds like the basis for developing siddhis - comments Alan. And concludes: it is good to learn to master all the kasinas, to undergo all those difficult and time-consuming practices described by Buddhaghosa. But there is a faster way. Dzogchen. So before the meditation Alan appeals: Don’t get distracted - achieve shamatha and realise substrate consciousness! Don’t get distracted - cut through! Don’t get distracted - become a Buddha in this lifetime!

The meditation is on Settling the Mind in its Natural State.

After the meditation Alan reminds us of the central importance of maintaining continuity of stillness in post-meditation. Avoid cognitive fusion with whatever arises. Avoid the projection of “I” and “mine”. We are seeking to become lucid in our waking state. In a dream, if one is lucid, it is obvious that everything emerges and dissolves back into the substrate consciousness. This can be empirically tested. In an analogous way, all appearances in the waking reality arise from the substrate. So in-between sessions we should maintain this way of viewing reality. Especially in our encounters with other people it is important to keep in mind that whatever we perceive is not separate from us - it is always a “you-me” version, never the person as he or she really is.

The meditation starts at 27:20

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