Nara's chat

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Nara
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Nara's chat

Postby Nara » Thu Apr 13, 2017 5:33 am

LU is focused guiding for seeing there is no real, inherent 'self' - what do you understand by this?
That life goes on regardless of whether there is a 'self' at all. What I and others name as 'I' is a mistake, an error of perception. It appears to also be something to do with self consciousness. So I guess my understanding is that self is the product of a deluded self consciousness.

What are you looking for at LU?
I have been a member of the Western Buddhist Order for 27 years. During that time I have moved between being very involved with Dharma practice and being on the edges of things, much more of the latter. During my years in the wilderness I have worked in hospice care, caring for the dying. I did this as a way of getting closer to the nature of our existence and in many ways as a replacement for more traditional Dharma practice. I have always had a believe that my sense of self is at best provisional. After talking at length with a friend who has been through the process I have been reading your literature and applying a version of the direct pointing method to my experience and feel I need to commit and see what can be done to find some ease.

What do you expect from a guided conversation?
Someone to assist me in getting to understand where my error lies. Also to meet a friendly and experienced guide to who can help me have this direct experience of the no self that I know to be crucial for an effective spiritual life.

What is your experience in terms of spiritual practices, seeking and inquiry?
At the age of 16 I started with transcendental meditation. After 4 years of involvement and daily meditation I became involved with the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. I quickly moved into a Buddhist community, worked for a Buddhist business and helped run a Buddhist centre. All the while doing what one might expect; meditating, study, devotional practice etc. I was ordained in 1990 and went on to be part of a team setting up a Buddhist centre in the UK. I was drawn to the Dharma primarily through the concept of Sunyata or voidness.
I have subsequently gone through a re-evaluation which has left me positive about my time in the friends but firmly in the world with a job, family etc. I am grateful for the exposure I gained to both the Buddha Dharma but also to beautiful and wise and kind individuals I met there. I have continued to look for understanding in literature, learning and in my work with the dying. The conversations with my friend who has been through LU has re-awakened a curiosity that never went away.

On a scale from 1 to 10, how willing are you to question any currently held beliefs about 'self?:
8

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Xain
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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Xain » Sun Apr 16, 2017 10:13 am

Hello Nara.
Welcome to LU - My name is Xain and I am a guide here.

Although I am not a Buddhist, I have a good understanding of Buddhist terminology including concepts such as dependent arising, emptiness and the ten fetter model - Perhaps you are familiar with these terms also?
What I and others name as 'I' is a mistake, an error of perception. It appears to also be something to do with self consciousness.
Essentially the guidance here at LU breaks the first fetter (wrong view of self) and the second and third fetters also break with the first.
What (in your understanding) is 'self consciousness' as you refer to it here? Are you referring to the fifth skandha?
After talking at length with a friend who has been through the process I have been reading your literature and applying a version of the direct pointing method to my experience and feel I need to commit and see what can be done to find some ease.
Great! Let's go forward together and see what we can find.
Someone to assist me in getting to understand where my error lies. Also to meet a friendly and experienced guide to who can help me have this direct experience of the no self that I know to be crucial for an effective spiritual life.
The majority of this guidance is just an extension of your own self-inquiry but focussed so you can examine potential areas that you've never considered before (how can you see what you cannot see).
One word about 'spiritual life' perhaps. Although we can discuss a progression down a particular path or an attainment within one's spiritual life . . . the very realisation offered here is to realise that there is no inherent self ever attaining anything; There is no REAL SEPARATE 'I' with a spiritual life. For want of a better expression, there is just 'life'.
I was drawn to the Dharma primarily through the concept of Sunyata or voidness.
I am very familiar with it, and also the Heart Sutra.
With your agreement, I will try to assist you in understanding fully that the self is empty.
It lacks inherent existence - It has no real existence 'from it's own side'.
The conversations with my friend who has been through LU has re-awakened a curiosity that never went away.
It is often the way.

Aside from the realisation that there is no real self, what (if anything) do you expect to happen after such a realisation?
Do you have any concerns or fears?

I look forward to hearing from you
Xain ♥

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Nara
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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Nara » Sun Apr 16, 2017 4:55 pm

Dear Xian,
what a delightful response I already feel settled just reading it. You ask a couple of questions following my initial post. You ask what Mean by self consciousness and whether I mean it as understood as the 5th Skandha. I think what I was suggesting is related to the idea of self awareness. We are taught that what distinguishes humans from animals is that not only do we have sensation; hunger, thirst, fear etc but that we know we have them, we are aware of experiencing them. So to what extent is a realisation of 'no self' different from what might be termed animal consciousness. So it was in that area that I mentioned 'self consciousness'.
You very kindly ask me at the end of your response whether I have any concerns or fears about entering the process. I have been aware since contemplating undertaking this journey of a couple of fears as well as what you might describe as doubts. I believe my biggest fear is in relation to my family. Over the past 20 years or so I have been on something of a wide, yet positively disposed, orbit to the order and movement. I have, in traditional Buddhist language, being living the householders life. I am married and have a 13 year old boy. The family have clearly become the centre of my mandala. I am a loving and committed father and husband (obviously flawed as well) and I would be lying if I didn't say that doing any thing that might jeopardise the good thing we have going is a cause of some trepidation.
Connected with the above is a view that by and large I am kind of happy. My nature and conditioning seems to have created a fairly optimistic, friendly sort of character. One which I like. I don't experience life as difficult or particularly painful. And to the degree that I do I feel those 'negative' emotions I am willing to see them as a 'cost' to having time on this earth. Not sure if I am articulating my concern here but I guess it revolves around the fact that I quite like 'me' and what if 'I' miss 'me' once the delusion is broken.
For now my other thought is more of the nature of a doubt. I think I might be able to answer this but I will share it anyway. As I have intimated in my introduction I did spend a good number of years living the a more formal Buddhist life and following a traditional model of Ethics, Samatha meditation and insight/wisdom practices. The classic gradual path. So is this technique a bit too easy? Also is there a relationship between the quality of the realisation and the amount of foundational/conceptual ground work someone has done previously? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the above.
I Started reading books on Hinduism, Buddhism and wisdom traditions at the age of 14 and all I wanted to do was to learn to meditate. I can remember seeing a poster aged 16 for Transcendental meditation at Huddersfield library and feeling unbelievably excited. Whilst my sense of excitement is more that of a 53 year old man I have been feeling a beautiful echo of that boy's thrill since considering starting with LU. So please take my question, doubts and fears in the light of that curiosity.
With much love and respect

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Xain » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:06 am

Hi Nara
what a delightful response I already feel settled just reading it.
That's kind of you, and you are welcome - Just treat this like 'a chat with a new friend who might help me to realise something' if you want to.
So to what extent is a realisation of 'no self' different from what might be termed animal consciousness. So it was in that area that I mentioned 'self consciousness'.
Yes, I understand.
There are two levels on which this operates (we can say). There is a very very deep underlying belief of consciousness that 'I exist' . . . or indeed 'I exist IN SOME WAY'. This is one of the later fetters I believe (perhaps 9 or 10). This is a lot deeper than we'll go here.
What we do in THIS guidance is to examine the belief that 'I am a separate 'thing'', an inherent self.
It is usual to have the belief 'I am this separate body and mind', not just as an idea but as an absolute undeniable truth.
The guidance is to show that it is nothing more than a mental construct - A concept.
Whilst we can talk about 'I' and 'me' on a conversational level (conventional truth), there is no inherent self existing 'of itself' (absolute truth). To see both these sides is to realise that the self is empty, but the latter description (that there is no inherent self) is the most important one. That's the essence of this guidance here.

In another way of describing it, we have the belief that these words and ideas point to real things in experience. This guidance will show you that they do not.
I have, in traditional Buddhist language, being living the householders life. I am married and have a 13 year old boy. The family have clearly become the centre of my mandala. I am a loving and committed father and husband (obviously flawed as well) and I would be lying if I didn't say that doing any thing that might jeopardise the good thing we have going is a cause of some trepidation.
I can reassure you that from both my mental understanding of the subject, and my own experience of 'going through the gate' that none of this will be jeopardised. Life will continue as normal. Essentially nothing will happen in experience . . . it is just that you will realise something . . . something which has always been the case and is actually incredible simple but has been overlooked.

I need you to put aside any major expectations of this guidance such as permanent bliss, freedom from mental suffering, living life 'in a new way' or becoming 'a special person'. None of this is what the guidance is about. Any pleasant side-effects like happiness and a nice feeling may happen, but as I say . . . they are side-effects of the dropping away of the sense of separation . . . they are not the end goal.
Not sure if I am articulating my concern here but I guess it revolves around the fact that I quite like 'me' and what if 'I' miss 'me' once the delusion is broken.
Nothing will disappear. The 'me' that you like will continue, but might be viewed in a totally new way - That's all.
For now my other thought is more of the nature of a doubt. I think I might be able to answer this but I will share it anyway. As I have intimated in my introduction I did spend a good number of years living the a more formal Buddhist life and following a traditional model of Ethics, Samatha meditation and insight/wisdom practices. The classic gradual path. So is this technique a bit too easy? Also is there a relationship between the quality of the realisation and the amount of foundational/conceptual ground work someone has done previously? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the above.
Your question is excellent, and is one that only relatively recently I have developed a deeper understanding of.
Following the Dharma on the traditional paths leads to compassion, altruism and all the other positive qualities.
Too easy? Not really - But then some people have no interest in 'insight' and simply want a model to follow . . . or be holding the belief that breaking of the fetters requires years of spiritual practise.
The thing is, this traditional model is based on a self - 'I am doing this', 'I am a person practising compassion' etc
With the realisation on offer here, it is quite likely that altruism and compassion will become entirely spontaneous happenings, simply because (for want of a better expression) you've 'Got out of your own way' . . . the ego based way of operating diminishes and the ethical and compassionate way of living simply 'happens'.
One further word to mention on this subject is that this (seeing 'no self') is only one of a series of realisations. (Breaking the first three fetters of ten). To truly embody what I am describing here may need all the fetters breaking, although the very first fetter (wrong view of self) is considered to be 'the big one'.
Whilst my sense of excitement is more that of a 53 year old man I have been feeling a beautiful echo of that boy's thrill since considering starting with LU. So please take my question, doubts and fears in the light of that curiosity.
This is great to hear!

Oh, incidentally, in order to reply 'in quotes' like I have done, a guide for that process is here:
In short, you highlight the section of text that I have written that you want to quote (drag across it with the mouse pointer), and then you click the little speech-mark button found at the top-right of the block of text.

Xain ♥

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Nara » Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:46 pm

Hi Xian,
many thanks for you reply and for dealing with my fears, concerns and doubts.
I need you to put aside any major expectations of this guidance such as permanent bliss, freedom from mental suffering, living life 'in a new way' or becoming 'a special person'.
Whilst the 14 year old self had a somewhat comic book view of what spiritual attainments would look like; levitating, leaping over mountains etc. The famous Zen quote of 'Before enlightenment chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment chopping wood, carrying water.' Is a far more fitting statement about my expectations as to what the process will be like so I think my expectations are not too over blown.
I can reassure you that from both my mental understanding of the subject, and my own experience of 'going through the gate' that none of this will be jeopardised. Life will continue as normal. Essentially nothing will happen in experience . . . it is just that you will realise something . . . something which has always been the case and is actually incredible simple but has been overlooked.
This is indeed reassuring. I felt a little superficial to admit to, on the one hand my desire for change, whilst confessing to not wanting those changes to be reflected in my lived experience. Yet, I am starting, through our brief conversations and my nascent practice of direct pointing, to see that life will indeed carry on expressing itself and that the notion of a fixed, unchanging self is not needed for that to happen. I have already started to notice that my thinking has started to quieten down and there has been an intensification of perception, particularly of physical sensations.

If you are still willing to perform the role of guide then I would be delighted to continue.

Kind Regards
Nara

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Xain » Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:39 pm

Yet, I am starting, through our brief conversations and my nascent practice of direct pointing, to see that life will indeed carry on expressing itself and that the notion of a fixed, unchanging self is not needed for that to happen
You are right - It isn't needed; Although we could say it is needed in a way as simply a useful reference . . . a 'pointer' or a label.
If you are still willing to perform the role of guide then I would be delighted to continue.
Great!

Some pointers before we begin:

> Be completely honest with me, and yourself.
> Most of the guidance I will ask you what you can FIND, not what you THINK might be going on.
If you find yourself analysing or thinking what the correct answer is, you are not answering from what you can find.
> The more determined you are to see this through, the more likely you are to achieve it.
> Put aside all non-dual beliefs, spiritual, religious, scientific and medical knowledge. Approach this whole thing as simply as possible from basic principles.
> Please try to reply at least once per day - This maintains a momentum in the guiding which is important. If you know you won't be able to reply for a few days, just let me know beforehand - It's Ok.

Ready to go?

Xain ♥

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Nara » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:44 pm

I have read all your pointers with regards to the 'how to' and I am ready to start and I will engage with this, in the manner that you suggest.
Nara

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Xain » Mon Apr 17, 2017 4:13 pm

Ok, let's begin by getting established what we are referring to when talk about 'I' or 'myself'.

As mentioned in the last reply (and I won't harp on about this) but the guidance isn't about fancy non-dual beliefs or spiritual stuff - This is very much 'grass roots' level - A really simple basic level of who or what you believe you are.

For example, do you truly believe that right now you are a person looking at a screen and reading words off it?
As simple as that. No fancy stuff. Does that ring true for you?

Perhaps 'I' refers to the body - The body is doing the seeing . . . the body is hearing sounds around it . . . the body is feeling the chair or seat that it is sat in. The body performs the sensing of the outside world.
Perhaps 'I' refers to a controller over the body. 'I move my arms', 'I move my hands when typing'.
Perhaps 'I' chooses and decides - 'I chose to begin guidance at LU', 'I will be deciding what to type in a reply to you'.
Perhaps 'I' thinks and experiences those thoughts - 'I am thinking what to say', 'I had an idea yesterday', 'Right now I am seeing an object in my imagination'.

Those are a few pointers which I believe most people would agree with. Maybe they ring true for you?
What do you think? Feel free to elaborate on any aspect if you need to.

Xain ♥

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Nara » Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:08 pm

OK.
For example, do you truly believe that right now you are a person looking at a screen and reading words off it?
As simple as that. No fancy stuff. Does that ring true for you?
I feel myself to be something familiar and to the extent that I identify with it it feels feel convenient. In other words in order to wander around and remember things and relate to others, remaining recognisable seems helpful. But I struggle to hold anything particularly solid that seems beyond change, that I could call 'self'. Like each experience of 'myself' is simply conditioned by the previous one and so feels like a continuity. This experience has been a growing one for me over the past 5 years or so. I haven't particularly done much to attend to it. In fact at times I have actively tried to push it away and convince myself that there is something more solid underneath this more provisional experience.
There is also a moment before thought that I have wondered if that is self. I cannot catch this moment but it feels like a propulsive force, a spark if you will. And although I can sense it, it is impossible to grasp.
Perhaps 'I' chooses and decides - 'I chose to begin guidance at LU', 'I will be deciding what to type in a reply to you'.
Certainly it is in choosing or exerting will that I can have the strongest sense of 'self'.
Perhaps 'I' refers to the body - The body is doing the seeing . . . the body is hearing sounds around it . . . the body is feeling the chair or seat that it is sat in. The body performs the sensing of the outside world.
I have been trying to use bodily sensation over the past couple of weeks in particular to see if I can see the 'self'. In many ways it is the easiest for me to see that there is no fixed self. The passing nature of sensation as well as the ageing nature of my body provides relatively clear signals of a lack of fixedness.
Today I have felt unwell, nauseated and shivery. 'I' don't particularly want to feel like this. To my mind this is another way in which the 'self' does not seem to reside in the body. I wouldn't choose this experience.
So I guess these are some immediate descriptions of how I understand my experience of 'I' or 'self'.
Nara

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Xain » Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:43 pm

I feel myself to be something familiar and to the extent that I identify with it it feels feel convenient. In other words in order to wander around and remember things and relate to others, remaining recognisable seems helpful. But I struggle to hold anything particularly solid that seems beyond change, that I could call 'self'. Like each experience of 'myself' is simply conditioned by the previous one and so feels like a continuity. This experience has been a growing one for me over the past 5 years or so. I haven't particularly done much to attend to it. In fact at times I have actively tried to push it away and convince myself that there is something more solid underneath this more provisional experience.
There is also a moment before thought that I have wondered if that is self. I cannot catch this moment but it feels like a propulsive force, a spark if you will. And although I can sense it, it is impossible to grasp.
Ok, but . . . well . . . perhaps give me just a yes or no.
Do you truly believe that there in no inherent self here right now looking at these words on a screen?
Give me your honest yes or no answer. (That's really all I want right now).

Springing off from what you said . . .
'Relate to others' . . . what is the 'you' in relation to 'others' in your current belief?
Other bodies in comparison with 'you' which is 'this body here'?
You said 'Simply conditioned by the previous one' - Sorry, I don't understand this. Are you referring to rebirth in some way?

I think you are over-analysing all this. I just want your simple honest beliefs at the moment.

You said 'Catch something before thoughts' . . .
There is an 'I' performing a function of trying to catch something? Yes?
There is an I thinking? And an 'I' examining the experience before the thoughts arise?
Today I have felt unwell, nauseated and shivery. 'I' don't particularly want to feel like this. To my mind this is another way in which the 'self' does not seem to reside in the body
But you say 'I have felt unwell' . . . so there is a 'you' there feeling. What is the 'you' feeling unwell?
The body?

Xain ♥

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Nara » Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:56 pm

Do you truly believe that there in no inherent self here right now looking at these words on a screen?
Yes that is what I believe. I am just not sure that I live in accordance with that view.
'Relate to others' . . . what is the 'you' in relation to 'others' in your current belief?
A provisional, convenient sense of 'me'.
You said 'Simply conditioned by the previous one' - Sorry, I don't understand this. Are you referring to rebirth in some way?
No, not really anything to do with rebirth (I don't know that I believe in rebirth to be honest). I was suggesting that each momentary experience of 'myself' is conditioning the next and so 'I' have a sense of continuity. I wonder whether this continuity is what I think of as self.
You said 'Catch something before thoughts' . . .
There is an 'I' performing a function of trying to catch something? Yes?
There is an I thinking? And an 'I' examining the experience before the thoughts arise?
I appreciate that this is a bit abstract on my part. Although I am genuinely trying to share with you my experience of 'self'. When challenged to look to my experience this what I find. I am sorry that I cannot explain that more clearly I don't think.
But you say 'I have felt unwell' . . . so there is a 'you' there feeling. What is the 'you' feeling unwell?
The body?
Yes the body is the thing that is unwell although my mood is also affected, I have been feeling a bit miserable and fed up.
I hear what you say about the over analysis. I will try and keep it as simple as I can.

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Xain » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:05 pm

Do you truly believe that there in no inherent self here right now looking at these words on a screen?
Yes that is what I believe. I am just not sure that I live in accordance with that view.
Good. Ok, that's one we don't need to examine. The 'I' or 'body' that is 'seeing'.
I am just not sure that I live in accordance with that view.
What 'I' is living in accordance with a view?
What does the word point to?
I was suggesting that each momentary experience of 'myself' is conditioning the next
So there is an 'I' that is experiencing . . . and has individual moments of experiencing. Yes?
This is not 'seeing', as you've already mentioned there is no 'I' or 'body' seeing.
The other senses then?
Yes the body is the thing that is unwell although my mood is also affected
So the body feels the feeling of being unwell - Is that right?
It is a feeling IN or OF the body?

Xain ♥

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Nara » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:29 pm

What 'I' is living in accordance with a view?
What does the word point to?
Xian thank you for todays guidance. I feel the need to reflect on these last set of questions otherwise I fear there would send a response that is poorly considered. Take care
Love
Nara

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Xain » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:40 pm

OK. That's fine.
Please remember that none of this needs deep intellectual reasoning.
Just answer what you honestly believe right now.

Generally people believe 'I am this body' and 'This body experiences the outside world'.
But you must answer from your own current beliefs of course.

Xain ♥

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Re: Nara's chat

Postby Nara » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:59 pm

Hi Xian, sure thing, I think I am just tired and under par so I'm off for an early night. Sleep well.


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