November 15, 2005 at 8:45 am #8409
Hi. I have been away from the boards for a long time. Many earth changes in my own family and home. I came across this quote and wondered what your take of it is from a HT perspective. baba
You are a Process
Ultimately, every aspect of your own personal experience can be
seen from a perspective that is completely impersonal. And it is
from that vast universal perspective alone that true liberation
can be found. The impersonal view reveals to us that the
separate-self sense, or ego, is nothing more than an illusion of
uniqueness, created moment by moment through our compulsive
habit of personalizing almost every thought, feeling, and
sensation we have. From the biggest perspective, all human
experience can be seen as being part of a process–an
evolutionary or developmental process that is moving forward in
time. Our own personal experience of that process in all its
many dimensions–inner and outer, gross and subtle–is
ultimately a very small part of an infinite unfolding. Thoughts
and feelings that arise in individual consciousness reflect
emotional and psychological structures or habits that have
slowly developed over hundreds of thousands of years.
If you step back and begin to look more and more objectively, in
light of this greater context we exist within, you will slowly
but surely begin to recognize for yourself the impersonal nature
of all of your own experience. In that recognition, the
personal dimension will suddenly become completely transparent
to you. This insight, even if only temporary, will completely
undercut every belief you have about being a unique,
individuated entity who lives in some separate bubble,
mysteriously isolated from everything else that exists. You are
a process. Dare to face this for yourself, and you will discover
a radical objectivity that liberates you, right now, to
consciously participate in the highest level of that process,
which is the evolution of consciousness itself.
Andrew CohenNovember 15, 2005 at 9:23 pm #8410
I liked it! I had one of these realizations today actually 🙂November 16, 2005 at 2:40 am #8412
It appears to be liberating, but is based on a false premise.
That there is a polarity between an individual living separately in a bubble mysteriously isolated from everything else and the “impersonal” and hence real.
The premise of taoist thinking is that the individual and the impersonal is a continuum, they are not separate. The terms used are ren and fei ren, the human and the non-human, and the boundary between them is considered very thin. The individual is an expression of the collective, but doesn’t separate from it. Rather the individual holds the process of the collective/impersonal within its nature. That is how they communicate with each other, and influence each other.
Cohen’s thinking is fuzzy – he posits that everything is an impersonal process
and that this somehow destroys the uniqueness of our personal experience.
But this position contradicts his basic premise, that everything is evolving, i.e. the impersonal is also in the continuous process of making itself unique.
So our human individual experience of uniqueness is a reflection of this impersonal process, NOT the antithesis of it, or an illusion. You cannot escape the “personall” viewpoint as long as you have a body,, even if you focus on the concept of the impersonal. You can only integrate the two concepts.
Ultimately, Cohen is underming the importance of human individual free will in the process of evolution, typical of certain absolutist schools of eastern thought. I don’t buy it. Its ultimately a word game that creates separation between humans and nature for the sake of getting to some higher controlling space of spiritual authority.
it shows the influence of the indian guru popaji on cohen. Popaji, who claims to be a disciple of Ramana Maharshi (although Ramana’s ashram record keeper denies it), was essentially an advocate of “shen only” or “Spirit is perfect and absolute”, there is nothing to be done to achieve enlightenment but accept some level of perfect, objective, spirit.
It is a philosophy that denies the necessity of transformation – in taoist terms, denies the incomplete nature of the jing which is holding the essence of all form, and that is always in process, both indivudally and collectively as nature.
I recently read the writings of Ramana Maharshi to see if there was any useful insight into the primordial level of consciousness that he laid claim to live in. While he was undoubtedly subjected to a some powerful spiritual experience (involuntarily over taken by it as a teenager), his interpretations of that experience are all driven by classical hindu texts, many of which are absolutist and deny human uniqueness, i.e. jing/essence, or ming, personal destiny. Ramana resolutely refused to answer any questions about why humans are unique, evading it repeatedly with counter questions like “Who is asking that question?”. In short, he didn’t have an answer, other than to claim that transcendence is true, and human reality is illusion. But mere assertion is no proof, nor even an intelligent argument.
It is useful to contemplate Nature as the impersonal flow of the Tao process, – that is the very essence of many taoist meditations on the primordial – but why make human experience separate from that? It is not necessary to sacrifice one for the other. They unfold simultaneously; the primordial is the ground of the personal.
Tao gives birth to Heaven and Earth, which give birth to Humanity.
That is Lao Tzu’s view: where is the illusion in it? Human reality is a grandchild of the Tao.
MichaelNovember 16, 2005 at 4:38 am #8414
I’d agree that we make our own world and then live in it. but isn’t that the beauty of it all?November 16, 2005 at 6:37 am #8416
The Tibetant buddhist mahamudra approach (as I understand it) is that a view somewhat like this but with much technical tweaking (for anyone interested see The Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamptso) can be used to overcome problematic tendencies–i.e., it can be used as an alchemical device to purify kleshas (dualistic, me versus the world, emotionally tinted hang-ups), but in conjunction with the stable ability to ‘rest in the nature of mind’ (from a mahamudra practice perspective) as a living, intelligent, creative, inner sun (the yogically experienced Tao), which experience one can return to, as the true ‘refuge’, between purification forays, or klesha hunting sessions, or just sipping tea. See Mahamudra: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation for a quantum physics-like textbook on the topic (the second meatier half contains a summary of the first half’s painfully detailed shamata insructions).
But that’s all; from a buddhist tantric perspective it (using a view somewhat but importantly different from this to effect purifying change) is a meditational device, not an endpoint (which defies true process thinking in fact) or a ‘final’ realisation. It might constitute part of what may be crossing a threshold of ‘liberation’ from certain problematic aspects of living in the world, but is still just part of the opera of ongoing evolution. Uniqueness is only illusion-LIKE, in the that it is a process with no fixed points, but it is still, nevertheless, uniqueness, but perhaps a less hemmed in uniqueness (making it more likely to be even more dynamically unique : ) ).
In Tibetan buddhist tradition there is warning of a possibility of becoming a kind of false or disadvantageous ‘arhat’ or enlightened being if one goes too far using certain kinds of philosophical views in intense meditation–one can flatten out the deep ancestral and reincarnational memory, otherwise known as throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and become a kind of zen experiment gone wrong. I’m afraid I think that someone known as U.G. Krishnamurti (not J. Krishnamurti) is such an arhat (people falling into such yogic cul de sacs were more common in the past, when such experimentation was more common, and so it got recorded). I’m not saying Cohen is one such person or on his way to becoming one even–I don’t know much about him–just mentioning it as part of the depth of the topic.
It would be interesting to know the full context of the quote; it might appear different in that light.
SimonNovember 16, 2005 at 1:26 pm #8418
“From the biggest perspective, all human
experience can be seen as being part of a process–an
evolutionary or developmental process that is moving forward in
First of all, the premise that we are all part of a movement forward in time is not anything more “objective”, but just as illusory as the identification of the ego with the content of consciousness.
Secondly, only by building a healthy and defined sense of self and embracing our singular, unique existence can there be room for transcendence of the self. The memories and personal experiences of our past are not “objectively” meaningful to anyoone other than ourselves, and only this embrace of our uniqueness can create a connection to something beyond the ego.
Thirdly, we are in a way isolated and alone. Cultivation rests on the foundation of resting in this unique, isolated existence, and thus makes the dissolving of these boundries possible.
hNovember 16, 2005 at 10:10 pm #8420
Excellent, very succinct. I vote you to replace Cohen.
mNovember 18, 2005 at 6:15 pm #8422
Just another note from one of the Buddhist crossover practitioners.
The whole argument is circular and cannot be answered in the logic of our normal concepts. People have been debating for many years about this topic. A succinct Buddhist teaching called the four incomplete/wrong views is worth note. It states basically:
1) Eternalism is not correct in itself
2) Nihilism is not correct in itself
3) Both nihilism and eternalism are not correct
4) It is not true that neither nihilism nor eternalism are not correct
This knocks out most of the logical options if you chew on it. Historically the buddha (Shakyamuni) would not answer questions of ‘Is there a God, is the self immortal, do I have free will etc,’ but would rather teach a simple meditation technique and say that those answers could only be known by direct experience (beyond the conceptual mind.) This is not to say that the conceptual mind is not useful,because it does help us function in the world and appreciate the apparent reality of diversity. It is also useful to have a basic conceptual framework that helps one integrate non-conceptual realizations of direct experience into one’s everyday life. I’ve met more than one yogi (and been one at times) that has had direct experiences that I have not been able to integrate due to a lack of prepatory work on the relative level.
On the flip side, this work on the relative level can help one have the integrity, coherence, and concentration that is needed to penetrate the depths of the mysteries. Single-pointed concentration does mean to have the entireity of one’s being/energies focused on an object or line of inquiry (and that is quite an accomplishment.) Most often realizations come in cycles of deepening as one dissolves dissociative boundaries or fragments, and at the same time becomes more coherently integrated. The mahayana buddhist ideal is something refered to as the union of samsara and nirvana, or otherwise the union of the two truths- relative and ultimate. The path of cultivating either of these realizations depends on the teacher, student and the school.
Since the true nature of reality is beyond our concepts, to understand the true nature we can only use the concepts to go beyond themselves or to help translate principles symbolically into the realm of the intellect. Using them in the relative world for manipulation of forces is a different discussion.
Some traditions use debate such as the one occuring on the forum as a process of realtization much like a Koan in which the line of inquiry circles around until finally it undoes itself to reveal an insight beyond logic. Another approach is to hold a ‘beginner’s mind’ in which a fresh, open, unassuming awareness is brought to each moment of experience in the understanding that in letting go of conceptual expectations or experiences a truth beyond them may be experienced. In my opinion, structure is necessary for most folks and is often dependent on one’s purpose. In using a model though, I also feel that it is useful to be aware of what model you are operating in, know it’s limitations, and it’s strengths (uses.) In that exploration it is useful to explore the apparent extremes of the model, much like exploring the polarities of yin and yang in order to know that which lies beyond them.
Individual vs. universal process is another one of these polarities. Both of these perspective have their merits and can be logically dismantled. Exploring both cna give a glimmer of a truth that might lie in the paradox though. Well, that’s a lot of verbage without saying much:)
PemaNovember 19, 2005 at 11:35 am #8424
Here’s a gem for you:
Nagarjuna’s Philosophy (or The Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra) by K. Venkata Ramanan. It is the little known Nagarjuna’s commentary on the Prajnaparamita. I should say, as the translator points out, that the case for the author being Nagarjuna himself is not airtight, just very good. The only surviving version was in Chinese, which Ramanan translated (having received his education in India, England, and China). Much better than the Karika; he discusses the whole path very organically, very brilliantly, from a human perspective, rather than just being logical judo throws performed against his opponents.
Interesting for me was his ardent insistence that ‘sunyata’ is a conceptual system (‘prapanca’), one which he of course expounds with tremendous virtuosity; he never lets the reader lose track of this, of the fact of the living inner sun–so, very like dzogchen, or shentong.
He also places great emphasis on a certain theme involving the idea of ‘non-exclusiveness’ or ‘non-exclusivity’, which theme he brings out or uses in various ways, kind of like ‘the thread of continuity’: tantra.
A quote to illustrate:
“The absolute is that which transcends all determinations and yet does not exclude anyting determinate, and therefore is itself undeniable”.
This is a typical buddhist flourish, but for him it flows into dynamic intelligent action, into not accumulating dogma, into allowing space for variation, for different views, to be there, it being the conceptual finger pointing at the moon, helping the mind uncover and stay in tune with the intelligence of the inner sun–i.e., it is a meditation instruction, wei wu wei.
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