The Mind Illuminated archive

Talk: Lecture at the University of West (Aug, 2009)

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Culadasa: [00:00:00] Yes, we can do that

Student: spirits and record. So instead of one, welcome, maybe I should say, cool, welcome or something to that effect. As many of you already know Dr. John Gates is very well-renowned Buddhist practitioner in many different circles, and it is with great delight for me to say that it's agree to come back to give us yet another talk on Buddhism.

Dr. Gates has dedicated almost four decades through meditation practice and had paused neuroscience at universities and this unique that. Brings together the personal experience and extensive scholarly knowledge of the contemplate of traditions of the world. As a result, this teachings style is unparalleled in its clarity, systematicity and pre-funded.

And currently Dr. Gates and his wife Nancy also known as Natasha Nanda are leading a reclusive life in the remote Draco mountains of Arizona. Many of our students, including myself, are poke scene and to become less and less reclusive and more and more available to students who are serious about learning the Dharma.

So without further delay, let me give you a chew on that side, Dr. John Gates.

Culadasa: It's very good to be. I, if I've remained sitting down, can everybody see and hear paint? Good. Okay. Thank you. What I thought that I would like to talk to you about today now, originally I had understood this was going to be the first class of a course entitled Buddhist meditation tradition.

Is that right? Yeah. But and of course the ultimate purpose of all Buddhist meditation traditions is awakening are all kinds of other benefits of meditation. Of course, as we know but from the Buddhist perspective, the primary goal and purpose of meditation is to achieve our own awakening and liberation.

In this lifetime. And so I thought that what I would do today is to share with you some of the thoughts and experiences and things that I have learned about what we have described as the threshold of awakening.



you are

Student: all

Culadasa: white myself in that. You have you have the idea that there is some very significant event that serves as a dramatic turning point. And prior to which we would say somebody as a world, And after which we would say that person is is had an awakened being whether we're speaking of sudden, total enlightenment or the graduated stages as described by the Buddha.

There, there is this distinction between when one is a world link and one becomes an RN.

Student: And

Culadasa: I had, I don't know where I first acquired the concept that this was a singular dramatic recognizable event. But that's what I say. You probably all share the same perception. In the Teravata tradition, it's usually called Maga Paula path and fruition.

And in the Mahayana tradition, it's called the Dutch sauna Marga or the the path of seeing and most of the descriptions as hard to come by as they are fit with this being a very dramatic and singular event. This is also we also find this in other traditions in the various Vedanta traditions.

We could we could do a survey, but there is this tendency to associate the awakening with a very [00:05:00] dramatic identifiable. And so I took this for granted for many years. And certainly if we look at the descriptions in the various texts and comment periods that have come down to us, I'm not referring to the sutures here because actually when we look in the sutures, we don't find this.

But if we look in the other texts, like the Vista duty Marga and the various Mahayana commentaries and descriptions of the great masters, what we find laid out, our systematic series is of practices that evolve through stages through various stages.

Student: And

Culadasa: what they all have in common is there is this arrival at the, at a particular point of my Apollo dot sign up, mark.

Where this transformation takes place. And in terms of the tradition that I was trained in and practiced in my own experiences and the experiences of most other people that I have had occasion to talk with over the years, there was really nothing to ever challenge this perception. But at some point I started to realize that there were people who seemed in every respect to be awakened, according to the definition provided by the Buddha, which we can access through the Suchit, who were not aware of having ever experienced this sort of Darsana and Marga or Maga Paula experiences dramatic transformational extreme.

And this was puzzling to me and many ways,

For two reasons I guess primarily one is that, of course it was at variance with what I understood to be the established doctrine of Buddhism. And the other was that it was difficult to understand how the particular transformation that we're talking about could occur otherwise then in this form of a dramatic realization and intense experience, which led to.

Permanent change in and the way that the mind responds to experience. And so it was very difficult for me to see how could this change come about without that? But nevertheless, more and more over time, I began to be bothered by the fact that there seemed to be people who had all of the attributes of an awakened being, but hadn't had that experience.

So if,

if we go to this sutures and this is always the source, when we're puzzled about the way it is, the way something is presented to us, the way it has arrived to us now, 2,500 years later, the first question was what did the Buddhist say about this? As opposed to all of those teachings and teachers that have come down to a sense, what did the Buddha say?

And as far as I can determine and examining the sutures there is no reference to this sort of Naga Paula event, this abrupt sudden transforming experience of awakening and the sutras. What we do find many references to individuals achieving stream entry becoming awakened and even descriptions of attainment of the higher paths

Student: that

Culadasa: seem to take place in a circumscribed period of time.

There are descriptions that while a person is, was walking. Or hearing a discourse or while that particular incident was taking place while they were doing something, for example one of the Buddhist disciples achieved awakening mile fanning. Yeah. So whereas what's the sutures indicate that there is some period of time over which the change takes place.

There's never any clear and distinct reference to this experience of enlightenment that probably you certainly myself and I think most people in the modern world have come to associate with awakening because they were going to [00:10:00] have a zap. The lightning bolt comes in and the top of the head. And, from that point on everything is changed.

There's no reference to that in this. And so I found this very interesting I found it reassuring because on the one hand, I seem to be discovering something in the world of experience that if the sutures had said that this was part of it, part of the definition of stream entry or awakening was to have a Margaret Paul experience.

Then this would have been a problem because worldly experience was not matching up with the Buddhist doctrine. And the Buddha himself said when that happened, questioned the doctrine, not the experience. The, fortunately it didn't have it didn't, that difficulty was not present. What we do find in the sutras is that awakening is defined according to the elimination of the factors and stream entry, according to the elimination of the first three factors and the third and fourth path by the elimination of the next two and then the next five fetters.

So all 10 are eliminated by the time a person becomes an aha

Student: and

Culadasa: the this is not particularly an particularly ambiguous or difficult to understand a person is a stream. Enterer when they have overcome the attachment to, and the belief in the personal self. And this is probably the most important and significant one of these fetters together with that, they have overcome the attachment to rights rules and rituals as being efficacious in their own.

And the other thing that they have overcome is the Fetter of doubt. And in terms of. Who is a stream entrant and who is not, if we refer to the sutras, we can apply this standard. Does a person seem to be free of Dell with regard to the Dharma? And I could say more about that and maybe I will.

And secondly, does the person seem to be free of attachment and belief in the efficacy of rights, rules and rituals, but most importantly is the person free of attachment and belief in the reality of some kind of a self existence, personal self or soul, or our oughta. This is, I said, this is the most important time because the path is a whole, the Buddha when asked what he taught suffering and the liberation from.

And when we look at the cause of suffering, the cause of suffering is craving and the form of desire and aversion. And that in turn is rooted and ignorance. Wherever ignorance is pressure is present desire and aversion categorize. What ignorance are you referring to? What the Buddha referred to specifically was ignorance or delusion or confusion or illusion involving the reality of the personal self.

And of course, If we examined closely woven in with this is likewise the illusory ness of our normal perception of the world which another way of describing is emptiness. The ignorance that must be uprooted because it is the very core of the problem that leads to our spattering is ignorance based in failure to understand the emptiness to the cell and further compounded by failure to understand the emptiness of of the objects that are phenomenal experience.

If we're looking for a stream entrant, that would be the thing that we would look for. Does this person seem to be afflicted by the attachment to sell? Does this person seem to be addicted to the two rules and rituals? And does this person manifest any sort of doubt? If we look further in the sutures, the other thing, the other way that we find the stream entry is defined is in terms of the characteristics that a stream entrant manifests.

And there are a variety of these. If I can call some of them up from the top of my head on. Of course, there are those that are directly related to blue removal of the three factors. But the [00:15:00] other things that are mentioned is a manifestation of generosity, which is logical. If a person has acquired some degree of non selfishness and combination with compassion, we expect to see generosity manifest virtue.

Not that the cities are telling us that a stream entrant has pure virtue because they do not. As a matter of fact, the, what the Buddhist says about the virtue of a stream entrant is that if he commits Fe. That, what he does is he quickly recognizes it and quickly makes the appropriate reparations, corrections and so forth.

And so this is what we'd expect to see in a stream entrance. Not that they, that their behavior that their virtue was absolutely perfect. And of course, in Buddhist terms, what is virtue? It's mostly it's in one way or another. It all comes down to not harming. If we see a person who. Still occasionally may engage in activities that are unwholesome or non-virtuous, and that they produce some degree of harm to other beings.

Yet we see that happens rarely, but the person immediately or very quickly recognizes. And as soon as they recognize they do everything they can to make a correction for it, then that person has fulfilled the description and the sutures of the characteristic of a stream. A stream entrant is also said to have no fear of death, no fear at the time of death.

And of course, this makes sense to us too. If for someone who has awakened to had some experience of an ultimate truth, That that has led to the abolition of their attachment to sense of self. Then clearly most of the basis for the normal human fear of death would have been overcome as a result of that.

So that, that's another thing that we would expect to see. I can make reference period upon a thorough beaker he's summarized one full little free book that you might be entering pleaded and called into the stream by Thomas . And he goes through the sutures and extract volt with information and click. Let's see if I can find

any more of these characteristics. I got, he was

Student: trained.


Culadasa: yes. Okay. So there's generosity. Another one is freedom from enthrallment by the five hindrances. Okay. And so I assumed you're all familiar with five hindrances

Last one. What's that? Not all of them, not all of them. Okay. These are you seeing all of these things, a certain amount of overlap. So the first two hindrances are since desire and ill will and then there, there is sloth and torpor, which is maybe better described as resistance laziness lack of motivation.

Then there is agitation due to worry and remorse, and then there is skeptical doubt and we've already seen that streaming has overcome by it since desire and aversion are rooted in the belief, in the ignorant belief, in the personal self, when that has been dealt with. Then although we may still have all sorts of habits of behavior based in desire and aversion they are ruthless so to speak.

This is not saying that the person is free from desire and aversion. That doesn't happen until the third stage of a path when a person become a non returner and has overcome all forms of craving, except for the craving for being

Student: But

Culadasa: without the root desire and aversion don't have the same power.

So we can say that the enthrallment to desire and aversion or sense of desire and ill will. The first two of the of the five hindrances have been significantly diminished. So there's no more enthrallment. Anyway, so that's another one is that there's no enthrallment to the five hindrances. Oh, and this is a very important one, I [00:20:00] think is the, I diminished a tendency for suffering and one of the sutures, the Buddha, he,

Has dirt under his fingernails.

He puts his hands in the dirt and he says, which w because, which is there more of the dirt under my fingernails. Dirt, the makeup, the world, and the answer, right?

He always used these, that there was never any confusion or the point he was trying to get to it. He said that the suffering of a stream entrant was like the dirt under his fingernails where there's the suffering of a world. Lang was like the dirt that made up the entire world though. Another thing that we could expect, I know we'd go along with everything else that we have learned about the stream entrance from the sutures is that the stream entrance would not experience suffering to the same degree that the worldly does.

And. Since suffering is rooted in the ignorance about self nature. And since that has been overcome, we would expect that we would expect a stream internet when he finds himself, when he becomes mindfully aware that there exists a state of suffering and himself, he would also be reminded of the truth that he has learned.

The understanding about the truth of this personal self and his mind would know that there was no genuine basis for that suffering. And so he would be able to give up the internal mental causes of that suffering. And so it's not that a strange entrance is free of suffering because he's not entirely free of craving, but it's that.

The suffering of the stream entrant is greatly diminished. So this is very similar to the the situation of the stream entry with regard to virtue stream entrant is not, does not have perfect or too. And the stream mantra is not completely free of suffering that the stream entrant has the most valuable,

Cognitive basis for being able to recognize the error in both the non-virtuous activity and the suffering, and to let go of those, to engage in the mental process that involves the letting go of the compulsion to Gaye engage in an unvirtuous activity and the perpetuation of a mental state of suffering.

So hopefully I've painted a picture of. The sutras say a stream entrant is, and it doesn't say anything about I Penn enlightenment experience, I've mystical experience. Maybe that's the word we should use, because what we're really talking about here is a dramatic miss SoCo experience. And the suture is don't identify that as being necessary.

We also find that today, if you if you ask a meditation teacher, how can you tell when somebody has had a genuine Maga Paula experience? When I had a genuine awakening,

The answer that you're going to get may involve the various criteria that teacher has learned in their tradition about the description that the Yogi might provide of their experience.

And this will differ from one tradition to another, but the common answer that they'll all give you is that, but we can't really know for sure until we've watched what happens over the next few years, months, and years, has the person changed and is that change persistent? And if the person has genuinely changed at a very deep level in, in the terms that are described in the Sutra, and if that, if those changes persist, then we know that they're a stream mantra.

So that's, what's really important. So if we go back to the mystical experience, this profound, however, it is, it takes different forms and different traditions, but how our, it happens, we take that. What we discover is that the Maga Paula experience does not define awakening. It's the other way around awakening defines the micropolitan experience.

If you have an experience. It remains in question until we see that, in fact, you've manifest all of the characteristics of an awakened being, and if you manifest those characteristics, then it was a January log Apollo [00:25:00] experience.

Student: So

Culadasa: I, I find this all very interesting. It led me to start collecting stories of awakenings.

This is one thing that you'll find that it's not, there's not too many Buddhists that describe their awakening experiences and publish them, but there are some, and there are many who are non-Buddhist in Buddhism, I think pretty much in all of the traditions there has grown up this. Idea that we should never speak openly about these spiritual attainment.

And this comes from the instructions in the one, I the code of conduct for the monastics and the Buddha what he actually said. He didn't say don't ever talk about your attainments. He said that it was a a major misconduct to claim attainments that you don't have, or to use the claim of attainments for any sort of self gain.

So the Buddha never really said, don't talk about your attainments, but nevertheless, it has been interpreted in that way over the millennia. So there's not a lot of Buddhist accounts of personal accounts of awakening, but there are some, and there are many others. So a number of years ago, I started collecting whatever accounts I could get Buddhist.

And non-Buddhist just to see what sort of patterns would emerge in there. And the first pattern, the large-scale pattern that emerges that emerged for me is I found that there were actually three kinds of description. The first of all, what I did myself is I wouldn't consider a description of an awakening.

Important enough to consider, unless there was enough biographical information about the person subsequently to strongly suggest to me that they did meet the requirements of having overcome the three fetters and manifests the characteristics of a stream entry. And if the is the biographical information that I had was not supported that, then I examined their re-pinning experience.

So out of those, I saw three different kinds. The majority by far are those who had a profound, mystical experience, a dramatic conversion, and that corresponds to the Maga Paula idea, the second group, whereas those who couldn't point to that, or didn't point to that not necessarily. You don't always know what a person didn't tell you, but that their description was rather of something that happened to them over a period of time, much like in the sutras.

And the other thing that was similar between those descriptions and the sutras is that they didn't always take place in a meditation or retreat environment. We think of the enlightenment experience of Margaret Paula. It's something that happens like it's your third month into an intense retreat. And then it happened.

We don't think of it happen as you're getting on a bus or while you're walking down the street. But in fact, these are the descriptions that are in the sutures and these sorts of things are happening. And sure enough, if you look at descriptions of awakening, you'll find like I say they're a minority, but you'll find descriptions that Don't necessarily take place in a meditation environment and don't seem to take place all at once.

He seemed to be the description at least involves a much longer period of time, not some instant or some 15 minutes or something like that, of being embedded in total bliss, but rather a lot occurred over a period of time. And this corresponded with other people that I had met and discussions I'd had, but then there was a third group, which interestingly enough, didn't even describe a day or a week or something like that when their awakening occurred, it seemed to be far more subtle.

And indeed I have met someone like that myself and her description I think is fairly typical that. She gradually realized that she didn't see things that the way that she used to that she didn't react to things the way that she used to, that she didn't see and react to things the way that other people [00:30:00] around her did.

And she began to feel more and more confounded over time by, why is everybody making themselves so miserable? So unnecessarily don't they see don't they understand now. And she came to be aware that she had changed and she could describe the ways in which that she had changed in terms of her perceptions and beliefs.

And it takes an example of this third category where it's not even, I wonder. They blissful realization and understanding and recognition and things like that. But it's, it, there's not even a week or a month that can be pointed to when this happened. So I find this very interesting takes me back to, I originally said that first of all, I had always fought that there had to be a Maga Apollo experience.

And then the other thing was that it only made sense to me of after was because you have an experience of a reality a profound experience of knowing that. The something that is not available to our ordinary consciousness. And that produces a change in a person. I predict it's a change in the way their mind works, but probably also produces a change in the way their brain works.

This is one of the interesting things recently is where you're shown that the human brain exhibits an enormous plasticity and that our meditation practices change the way the brain works. And if you talk to people about their Maga, Paula experiences, one of the things, there is a phrase that probably didn't encounter that much a thousand years ago, but you certainly encounter a lot today, which is that the brain somehow got rewired.

That's what it seems like because the mind just works in a different way. Question is Dan, how can this happen? I can see how this happens in a Maga Paula experience with the mind ceases constructing all of the illusions that were trapped in it. And there is a direct experience of the underlying of the suchness or thusness or Tonga tatagata Tathata the suchness that underlies this then, and that knowledge undermines the way that your mind.

Normally interprets experience and reacts to experience, and it produces the change. If you have an experience of there being no cell. And especially if this is based on a meditation practice in which you've had a lot of insights into the fact of self is not necessary in the way that we think it is and that the self is not really there and the way that we think it is.

And then the mind stops its constructing activities entirely for a period of time, then this reprograms the computer, so to speak because this is completely new information and you can expect that later. That that the results the computer will generate on the, in response to new experience is going to be different than it used to be because there's, there's completely different fundamental basis for interpreting the experience and deciding on the appropriate response.

That's very understandable, but if it's not a conscious experience, it's hard to see how can this happen? How could this happen if you don't have the conscious experience, but knowing the way things really are because the illusion has fallen away. And then at least for myself, while pondering this you may be familiar with the HASI method of what passed on our practice that has become very popular in the terror Bodden tradition.

And about the last hundred years. It is a meditation technique that is designed to bring a person to a very clear awareness of their rising and passing away. And then particularly of the passing away. And most particularly that not only a sensory phenomena pass away, but the co cognitive process that knows the phenomenon [00:35:00] passes away.

So the person discovers the truth of emptiness, and it leads through a series of stages to a Maga Pala experience. And, but in that particular tradition, different than the one that I thought the Maga Paula experience is described as a gap in consciousness for a forgetting. And this puzzled me as well, because.

If a person has even for a few seconds but often 10 or 15 minutes and experienced how dwelling in pure conscious awareness with no subject and no object. And this is what comes from this is the sort of mock Apollo, R Darsana Marga that is described or most of the Mahayana realization practices.

That to me was always very understandable if you have a, an experience and a recollection of the experience, but it's the same problem. What makes the change in a person, if all there was a gap in your consciousness that lasted only a few. And I realized that the difference here we have in the summertime we'll pass in our tradition leads to a Darsana Marga experience that is fully conscious.

As a matter of fact, as far as I'm concerned, and in terms of all the other ways that you can describe it through lightness emptiness non-duality blah, blah, blah. The one thing that stands out about the description of the Darsana Margaret experience is it is fully conscious above anything else that is fully conscious.

And here we have another tradition that says, ah, no, what happens is there's a gap, there's a forgetting.

And of course this is exactly the same problem that we have with somebody who doesn't recall having any kind of experience at all, not even a gap. So I think about this, I think okay. We have a lot of conscious experiences that we don't necessarily remember. So it, so to have a gap in our recollection doesn't necessarily mean that there was a gap in conscious awareness know. So it may be that following certain methods that this accounts for the difference, and there is a difference between these two methods.

So I could see as accounting for this to some degree, perhaps entirely, but contributing in some way in the Sonato with Asana practices. As you, as the practice becomes more refined

Student: the object

Culadasa: of your attention. Of your conscious awareness becomes more and more the mind itself and consciousness itself, not an object, whereas in the Mahasi with Pasa practice, you're watching objects since objects are mental objects are rising and passing away.

So all of the focus is on objects. So one thought I've had is okay. If you're doing a practice that involves. Exclusively attending to the rising and passing away of objects. And that process stops well. There's nothing to remember. So maybe that accounts for it. Whereas if you're doing a practice that causes you to become more and more reflectively aware of consciousness itself, if you're doing a Maha moodra practice where you're focused entirely on the mind and attempting to discern the emptiness of the mind and the nature of appearances arising from the empty mind, your attention is fully focused on not the objects of consciousness, but the process of consciousness or I'm not sure what the right word is.

And so when you arrive at the point of. Stopping of the mine, the sopping of the world. I would not be so surprising that the experience would remain as strongly in recollection as an experience of pure consciousness attended by non-duality and no self, no other, and so on and so forth.

My, my thoughts on this or that one possibility is that maybe everyone has some kind of Maga Paula experience it when they achieve stream entry, it's just a, sometimes it's remembered and sometimes it's not, and that is intellectually satisfying.

But I'm not totally certain, but this is really true [00:40:00] because I'm still.

Suspecting that maybe there are other ways that the specific changes that need to take place can come about. And I think, I'll say this much. I think that the greatest value of all of our Buddhist practices is that they are systematic. And so if they lead you to a Maga Paula experience, you know how you got there and you can immediately repeat it.

And this is called Paula Sava potty or the absorption or the re-experiencing of a fruition. What it actually means is going back to that state of anti-corruption and interruption of the fabricating activities of the mind and experiencing Nirvana again. So if you have a Maga Pala experience, then you can have policies on them.

If you have an experience that was not, or if, sorry, if you have an awakening, there was not arrived at, by a systematic practice, then the problem that you have is that whatever change it produced in that moment, that's all you're going to get, unless you're lucky enough to by accident, stumbled back into that experience again, or else you're going to go.

And I think this does happen. I think people have spontaneous awakenings and I think they go and they find a meditation teacher and they learn how to meditate, just so that they can eventually achieve the policy on a potty that they can repeat that experience and have continued on the path because having become a stream inter there's still a lot of work that needs to be done to become the once returner.

And that's the person who. Having overcome the attachment to the two personality view then begins to work on the desire and aversion that still remain as the compulsive drivers of their behavior. And they greatly reduce that. The once returner is somebody who has greatly reduced the power of desire and aversion to, to direct their behavior.

And then they continue their practice until they completely eliminate craving so that they become a non returner. At this point, they are also liberated from the suffering that inhibit inevitably arrives from craving. The only thing that they have left is they still experience this inherent sense of being.

Self. And this leads to the only vestige of craving that they have now is still the craving for existence whether it'd be an fine material realms or are the immaterial realms. And so this is why they're called a non returner because they don't return to this realm, but they still do have this attachment to existence.

And so until I've lost that, then they will continue. So that's the idea. And then the final stage is when a person completely overcomes the inherent sense of self, the inherent sense. And in here, it's important to understand that self is only definable or discernible with respect to an.

So there is a distinction between self and other, and that's why the fetters that remain for a non returner that must be overcome and becoming, and are hot, are described in the terms that they that they are conceit being one of those. And by that conceit doesn't really mean thinking I'm better than you, although that's conceit.

It's also, it's basically thinking I am separate from you that I am my own distinct self existence. Not thinking that because actually a non-return doesn't think that they know better than that, but they still have the feeling that they are, that they still have the inherent sense of being a separate self.

So I think it is most important on our path to. Cultivate a systematic path to some kind of Maga Paula experience so that we can repeat the Paula aspect of it is this is necessary for our further progress on the path. And if we are so fortunate that we may achieve the awakening to strained entry before we have completed the development of a systematic path, or even without commencing [00:45:00] training and a systematic path, that it's most important that we do take up a systematic path because there was a lot more work left to be done.

Anyway that's my thoughts on the threshold of awakening recently. And I hope you found some of this interesting and useful. So maybe at this point I'd love to hear your comments or questions deaths. So all the Japanese and what would you say the strange country sensei?

They will, she

Student: like that, and then it's a measuring

Culadasa: stick for three minutes. She didn't give a

Student: guide that equivalent about just the

Culadasa: measuring or should they use prevent very sick for those positions while, okay. I am not sufficiently familiar with Zen tradition to really answer that question.

There may be someone else who is, or perhaps Dr. Chu can comment on the first part of that. Although I would say that the same criteria apply. And I think that if we look at that Zen is filled with always lovely stories Zen is the storytelling tradition and there are all these poignant, little quirky stories of of the you, that the students actually achieved awakening because he does some totally outrageous thing.

So her says some totally outrageous thing any anyway, but And I've enjoyed reading those stories, but I haven't really studied the Zen tradition, but the stories that I've read suggest to me that the teacher is looking for, a change in the patterns of mental processing that correspond exactly to overcoming those feathers.

And I'm sure if you follow the person afterwards, you would expect to see the other characteristics stream enter manifest, but I can't answer the rest of your question. Do you have something to add? There

Student: have been quite a few scholar practitioners. Who've done a comparative works between Teravata and secure logical schemes and that of Zen Buddhism.

And what I have to say are really just based on a few of them, this is by no means representative of the Zen tradition as a whole for example the recently deceased vulnerable Shung Yan. I don't know if you're familiar with him, but he's a Taiwanese Chinese teacher. And according to his description once you have obtained the level called , which means that the initial gate is the special terminology in the re tradition, then what do you have essentially gone through is that you have experienced first, this unification where the whole world.

We're and you still experience this subtle, distinct distinction between yourself and the world and all that you've experienced at the stage and see it you've experienced a temporary merging of the two, but then there was still the subtle dichotomy of the two. Then you proceed there on to a still higher level where you experienced the disappearance of both the self and the world.

Then that will be the equivalent of what is called the stream entry in the Theravada tradition. According to setting to make very long story short, you, what you're experiencing is you move from a personal cell. Which is at the level of ordinary welding to that have a greater self through universal cell where you feel as if you're one with a universe.

And this is usually characterized with greater generosity, with a greater capacity, for compassion and so forth, then eventually to no self. And this is what marks off genuine, super mundane and light. There were quite a few different cities, your logical models out there. And this is just one illustration.

Culadasa: All of that I was trying to say then, because

Student: earlier you mentioned that the purpose of all meditation traditions at the weight, and I can send it to post as to what you're saying that the pursuit

Culadasa: of awakening

Student: then is truly essential if you are to achieve the

Culadasa: Stream entry

Student: That's interesting.

Do you notice as we actually ed I guess legally I'm straight

Culadasa: up breath

Student: treat step.

Culadasa: I don't know that they necessarily lead away. And as, as I think, we've seen the interest grow and spread and meditation in this country. And it didn't really start out with people wanting to meditate to waken.

They wanted to meditate to solve personal problems, make their life better, be able to work better in all kinds of things. But as more and more people [00:50:00] began to take out meditation for those reasons more and more people began to discover and become interested in the higher goals. So I don't think it leads away.

I think instead what it does is It offers a, an entry opportunity in, into the past for people that are not at a level yet that they are willing or capable of even contemplating something like an awakening. It's just so I don't, I think it's a very good thing as a matter of fact, and this is a whole different topic and lecture, or if not book, but I, it's very interesting that Buddhism in every culture is presented on a variety of levels is presented on a very.

Simplistic and mythical. And from the point of view of the most refined understanding of the Dharma, you might look at the popular dharmas as they're understood and and propagated in cultures as being just plain faults and nonsense and misleading. But what they are is they're Buddhism presented to people at the level that they can understand and assimilate.

And out of that, a certain proportion of those people are motivated to, to pursue the Dharma path, a more refined level. Probably the majority of the people in the world who are identified as being Buddhist are primarily concerned with. With the reincarnation of the self that they believe they are.

And they believe that by living virtuously and practicing generosity, that they are creating better circumstances for that self that they believe they are to be reincarnated. Yeah. And so from the most sophisticated understanding of the Dharma, we would look at that and say that's a complete misunderstanding and misrepresentation, but on the other hand, it's not a problem because if people begin to practice virtue, and if they began to take some interest in the teachings that they have the potential to grow beyond that, I think the same thing through meditation.

It doesn't matter why you begin to meditate. If you have high blood pressure and begin to meditate, if you actually learn to meditate, there's a very good chance. You're going to start to notice and discover things about your mind that will lead you further. Not necessarily but if the possibility is there.

And so I think, yeah, I don't care what the reason is. As a matter of fact, I think the reason that a lot of young people take up meditation is because the boy or the girl that they're attracted to is already doing it. And that's all right too. That's a great,

that works as well.

If you don't mind save your question, I want to go back to something, what you said, the description there that you gave from the Lyndsey Rinzai tradition, as fascinating, because as a part of my own researches into mystical experiences meditators that I've dealt with, and those that I've read a counselor, I of recognize three kinds of what I call valid mystical experiences that are very common.

And one is what I is. I call it the nondual witness state, where the meditator enters into the state, where they

let me see the whole world as the arising and passing away of appearance and illusion. There is still this sense of there being an observer, who's observing all of this and separate and independent, this pure witness state. And then there's another mystical experience that I described as a unified mystical state and that's where the person there's, they have no sense of self anymore, but they are a part of everything.

They have an experience of oneness with everything and they look at a tree or a mountain and they will say something like, I feel like, it's not me looking at the tree. It's the consciousness. That is the tree. And that's all there is. And there's just this one consciousness. And then there's the third state which I call the the true [00:55:00] nondual mystical.

The pure consciousness experience, which corresponds, I think to them all up. And what amazes me is my categorization of these three kinds of mystical experiences that dualistically unified at the end of the non-dues sound very similar.

Student: So interesting to see that in the Rinzai tradition, the idea of Biogen or the retention of that initial transformative experience is very important.

And this is very reminiscent of the Palouse from a puppy that you were talking about that even after that initial transformative mystical experience, what you need to continue to do. Draw inspiration from the experience and to retain that experience and to be able to reproduce that experience as much as you can.

And so that your that the division into reality is the pennant becomes more deeply ingrained in the person.

Culadasa: Exactly. Yes. I agree with that. Totally. And that is once again, the whole value of having these kinds of experiences has a result of a systematic practice because otherwise, and many people have these experiences and they're a, a peak experience.

It's something that happened one time in their life. They never forget it changes them in some ways, but they can't go anywhere else with it. It's just, something that once happened to them. So it, that part is very important in any way. I, that digression I'd love to hear your question.

Student: You said you were applying from stories.

How's it, you

Culadasa: defined a genuine state of awakening

Student: outside of the Buddhist tradition. I guess I

it's a genuine awakening

Culadasa: and the verbiage is different. When we look for

Student: missing condition are divided into what the word you were to hide it. It's good. It's at it.

Culadasa: I what I look for is things that I can recognize and actually went, there are descriptions of the the realization of the universal self and the odd way to add onto a tradition, which I read those and say, yup, that's non-dairy.

Pure consciousness. All right. That's the stuff that we're talking about. And, I recognize that the terminology is the same, even in the the theistic traditions the complete dissolution of the self and in the Godhead, those descriptions, they bear the same the same imprint and So that's the kind of thing that I go by in terms of how the descriptions of the experience.

But remember, one of the main things that I'm looking for is two is the permanent changes in the person, no matter what wonderful experience a Sufi or a Saint had, if their life subsequently doesn't seem to reflect the kind of understanding that will be defined as awakening, then I don't think it should be concerned.

Student: If I may, I recall that on one location I overheard a conversation that was going on between you and one of your students who asked to have on his experience verified by you and you post a question. Have you ever since encountered like a life-threatening agitating situation in life and what was her reaction?

And so I think that was that could be used as an

Culadasa: illustration where you mean, yes, it could be great. Yes. And and that's actually you can't just pose a list of questions to say, if they give this answer, no, but you can ask certain kinds of questions and then listen very carefully to the answer and how they give it.

And it can give you pre. Pretty clear idea. And I said, I found the same thing and the writings that I, you know then the descriptions of people's experiences, that there are things that, that that don't fit him as things to do

Student: as a site issue. Many of your students have witnessed how you yourself faced life-threatening situation with complete equanimity,

Culadasa: I suppose. So it just seems like the life's like that.

Student: Yeah.

Culadasa: So yes.

Student: I actually I started that I was.

And the receipt of that

Culadasa: criticism.

Student: , they're saying that after the auction [01:00:00]

Culadasa: is now like with so many things different people can say to target a Garba and mean totally different things by it have different understanding. And since what we're actually referring to to target the carbon means the embryonic Buddha nature within us the but or the potential. Or the rising of the Buddha-nature, but I think if we're talking about the Buddha nature itself, that is the most subtle and refined, therefore, most difficult to discuss in conceptual terms because it's completely beyond the cassette conceptual, and it's not graspable by the mind.

So we're going to expect when people start talking about the ultimate nature of reality the Buddha nature, so on and so forth, we're going to get a lot of different confusing and inconsistent explanations. Personally, I.

Student: If

Culadasa: you take Buddha nature to be synonymous with any and all of the other terms that are applied to the ultimate reality. So therefore Buddha nature encompasses Nirvana. It encompasses the idea of emptiness. It it is non duel. It is non-conceptual, it is beyond the grasper and my grasp and all of these sorts of things.

Let's just boil it down to let's say ultimate truth

Student: now.

Culadasa: Ultimate truth is universally present. There's nothing outside of ultimate truth. So in that sense, by all means at tatagata Garba doctrine is unquestionably true because to paraphrase the cart I am therefore to target a Garba,

even though the I is illusion and the am is it involves the myths of the myth of ontology is I like to call it, If you can understand the illusory Venus of the eye and the mythological nature of the ham than I am therefore, to target a Garba. But if you start saying that the, what was it?

You said that the mountains and the streams are Buddha. You're lost that statement is lost totally. And the ignorant worldly view of the self existence, reality of Buddhist streams and mountains and everything else it's so far from understanding to target a guard, but that it's a clue that you should be very cautious of everything else that is said in the context that comes from.

Student: There's two,

Culadasa: four spot on

that. That is right. Yes. And the trouble is the Buddhism is full of things that people make. And two, and not mine. I saw, the the the Elia vision on everywhere you look, you'll find things in one way. And other people make, and for some kind of a replacement for the self, but they don't want to give up and to target a Garba is really vulnerable to that,

But the thing is helpful in keeping your thinking straight is that. Absolutely anything, any concept that bears within it, a distinction between self and not self and any concept that bears was in it. The D a distinction between exists and does not exist.[01:05:00] It's going to be fallacious. It might not that it might not be useful in a very restricted sense to help understand something or another, because we do pull ourselves up intellectually by our bootstraps.

But ultimately as soon as you get to the point where, I've got it to target a Garba and you've got to target a guard, but we know we're wrong soon as there's two of them, we've got it.

Student: So when there's one, here's a problem

Culadasa: to even where there's one, there's a problem, right?

Yeah. This is the stream entry is about learning to overcome this very fundamental illusion that we have of the cell. And until you've done that, you're really, you're at such a disadvantage, trying to understand any of these things, because your mind is going to keep coming up with just different disguised forms of the same self notion.

And I only thing I can say is on the one hand, be totally on guard against. And all of your studies that that your mind, and perhaps the mind of the person that you're studying is going to be afflicted by this delusion, which is going to make it hard to really grasp what's being talked about.

And secondly, the best thing that you can do for yourself, the best thing that you can do for your philosophical and scholarly studies is to achieve stream entry and get past that attachment to the notion of the essentiality of itself that there's gotta be. There's gotta be a self in here looking out the windows of the eyes and deciding what to do and when to do it.

I just can't conceive of any other way things work. And so everything else flows from that. So the work that you've got to do is to realize that the self is that we imagine we. Is an illusion. And it's important to understand the illusion. Illusion means something appears to be something, but it's not illusion doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

And one of the problems that we have trying to introduce people to Buddhist studies is the first thing that you got learned is that you don't have a cell. Oh, that means I don't exist. No, it doesn't. That doesn't mean awful, but it means that the self that you think you are doesn't exist, that the, that what is there is not the cell that you think it is.

And you've you have this perception. It must you need something like that. So as soon as you take away the self you've got to, I've got to substitute out something else. There's got to be something else to fill the gap because how else could things work? And that's the problem that you have to get past.

That's the thing that we're trying to get beyond.

What are the steps to doing that? Okay. First what you do in meditation there's many different ways that you can use meditation to achieve that, but all of them involve achieving the focus and the clarity of awareness so that you can begin to examine things in a way that will lead you to that understanding.

So any meditation practice must do that. And any meditation practice that isn't leading to. To the kind of focus that we call concentration and the very high level of mindful awareness that you need to see things isn't going to help you, but then the other real value of meditation, as you sit down in a quiet place, you close your eyes, you've reduced a lot of the noise and disturbance or distraction, and you can begin to examine what's actually taking place.

And of course the two things that ourself seems to do that is that our ourself seems to be the experiencer. Everything happens to me. And the other thing is that the self is the doer. I decide whether to scratch my nose. And so you focus on those two, you've examined your experience to see if there is really an experiencer and in the seeing, is there a seer and the hearing is there you're and you don't take a quick [01:10:00] glance at it and assume, the answer you keep looking.

And when you start to have understanding, you keep looking some more until it starts to come clear, but even more powerful, I think for most people is to look at the doer. You think you're, you think you're the Dewar and you think you're deciding what to do. So really pay attention to that. And then you start to realize that you're not the doer.

But maybe I'm the intender though behind the doing. And then you start watching the intentions and then you'll see that the intentions arise and they don't need the self at all. And if you watch really carefully, you'll find that the self is not continuously present, but there's a lot of experiencing, seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking where there's no self there.

And there's a lot of contending leading to doing where there is the self there. And once you get clear at that, you might start catching the self arising and appropriating the experience or appropriating the intention to itself. Ah, I'm seeing God, I've decided I'm doing. And that is when you start to see that.

And it starts to become clear that the seeing and the doing okay. Rising out of the five aggregates. Another really valuable thing to do is to really learn to understand what this five aggregates business is all about. And that's not easy to do because there are not too many good and accurate descriptions of the five aggregates out there.

But if you if you study a number of different descriptions of the five aggregates what w what one writer failed to tell you another writer might, and it might become clear to you. You're familiar with the five aggregates and you're not oh, okay. Maybe a lot of you are it's I'll just tell you briefly it's the tool that the Buddha provided.

He's first reference to it is in the very first teaching that he gave the turning of the wheel of the Dharma, a description of a four noble truths and his explanation of the first truth, which is the truth of Duka is that this, these five aggregates to which we claim our dude trap. So then in his second teaching, which happens to be on the subject of not self, he introduced the five aggregates sin and somewhat more detailed, but it was a theme that came up again over and over again for 45 years.

The idea here is the Buddha said, here's a tool for you to explore this idea of on not. No of there being no self or soul, the way you perceive it to be and individual consist of Rupa or form. And of course there's a lot of depth. You can go into that. The, at the Mo the simplest and least useful interpretation of that is, oh, body.

Yes. Ruba as body. It goes much beyond that. Secondly, there are feelings of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral that are a part of every experience that we have. And more, most importantly is that there are two kinds of pleasant and two kinds of unpleasant. There is the pleasant and unpleasant that arises from From the physical and then there's pleasant and unpleasant.

That is that arises from the metal. So th the second of the 500, your goods is feeling. The third is perception that and the fourth is mental formations and the fifth is consciousness. Now, when consciousness takes an object and the objects are Rupa, any of the six kinds of sense objects are Rupa.

When consciousness takes an object, there is a perception, right? You hear something, and there is a perception. You hear a sound while you're meditating, and you say, oh, bird, oh, dog bargaining. That's the perception. Where does the bird or the dog come from when you're sitting there in the room with your eyes closed and.[01:15:00]

Vibrations in the air, make your eardrums vibrate. Where does the dog and the bird come yet has mental formations, metal formations are all of your previous experience. All of everything that you have experienced, everything you've thought about everything that you've done, all of your reactions, the emotions associated with, ah, and the intentions behind it.

They're all they make up the metal formations and they are going to generate a perception in any given moment. What you have been your entire life that you were born is these five pagar yet the form aggregate the feeling aggregate perceptions aggregates. When that what formations are aggregate in the consciousness aggregate and the consciousness.

There's six kinds of consciousness corresponding to the five physical senses and the mindsets and.

From the time you were born as consciousnesses rose and took their objects, accompanied by feelings, mental formations were created. And when that happened, subsequently the mental formations that were already created, played apart and producing perception. So it is in this aggregate of mental formations that our personality characteristics are to be found.

Student: Yeah,

Culadasa: how does the feeling deal itself? I'm not sure that a feeling does feel itself a feeling is just that quality of pleasantness or unpleasantness.

Student: Yeah.

Culadasa: When they become the object of consciousness. Yeah.

Yes. Brent.

Student: Okay.

Culadasa: If I understand you correctly, what you're asking about is the process of examining the five aggregates. Okay. So if you examine the five aggregates and you take feelings as the object of consciousness and then conscious of feelings is associated with feeling, then that would be feeling itself.

Is that sort of the idea,

the subjective part of the experience? Yes. What we do all of the time is consciousness takes feelings as an object. And this is. This is a folding in on itself because the consciousness can't take mental formations as an object perceptions as an object feelings as an object and sensations, which are truly what Rupa is as an object.

Most of the time we don't, most of the time we have the subjective experience of a feeling but we don't take it as a direct object of consciousness. Rather the feeling is just one of the accompanying mental concomitant of our experience of the moment, but we can take the feeling as an object of consciousness.

Now, if we, and we do this in meditation, if you meditate on the five aggregates part of the process, or if you follow the what's called the or the applications of mindful awareness, part of that practice. Is to take your feed, the feelings themselves out, just pleasantness and unpleasantness as an object of consciousness.

Now you're not, it's not a problem. We do it. Logically you may say how can the feelings feel themselves? They're not really consciousness is taking the feeling as object. That's an act of perception.

Student: Probably what,

Culadasa: what is going to happen is if you can see if your mind moves [01:20:00] so very quickly, if you can see your feelings clearly that may result in very quickly after that a.

Conceptual experience of being pleased with being able to do that. And that does it, if you're examining a painful experience and then you're feeling pleased at being able to see the unpleasantness separate from the sensation, that doesn't mean the satisfaction you get is the feeling itself.

It's actually a feeling arising independently in a second act of cognition. You called NYSE the pain, or the painful experience. You refine that cognition and you NYSE the unpleasantness of it separate from the sensation itself. And then, and separate from that comes the feeling of being pleased with yourself for having done that.

I don't know if that's helping you to in this or not. Don't get caught in the logical, analysis. They will. How can you do this? Just do it.

Student: So if I may respond to Tiana's earlier question this semester, the university is actually offering course on Buddhist psychology and which way we oh, that's wonderful.

And I saw I should be looking forward to your attending.

It has an undergraduate component. It has both the undergraduate and the graduate component and it has no prerequisites. And so this is a class where we discuss five aggregates and all these definitely you could see that. You could definitely do that. And I was thinking about how can you miss that?

Oh, I'm looking forward to having you in the class. And also the other thing, another possible step we might take in order to help us experience what was describing earlier. And that would be to attend one of Chula, thousands of meditation retreats, by the way, I think in a couple of day or so chill.

It also, we'll be leading a retreat here site,

Culadasa: I'm sorry, starting this afternoon. I'm

Student: sorry. Yeah, from my understanding is that there, there is still a few vacancies and yes, there, there are. And also in the meantime, we are organizing the meditation camp. That's going to be led by chill dancer.

And the event is still in the process of getting approved by the university. But in all likelihood, if things go smoothly, then we'll have the meditation camp sometime

Culadasa: in November. Yeah. It will be the First weekend that is fully in November not the one that starts on the 31st, Friday, the 31st.

So I think it's the sixth, seventh and 8th of November. That's the weekend that we're looking at. It'll be a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, teaching where a

Student: real

Culadasa: we'll introduce meditation techniques and the answer Dharma applications at the same time physics on

Student: would guarantee of winning stream entry.

Culadasa: Absolutely. But did you want that in this lifetime or, it's like an extended warranty. Do you want it in this lifetime? That's you're going to have to work harder. It's worth it.

Student: Yes, I

Culadasa: hope Christian regarding your response to choose talking about the when you're getting a stagey and we help, we may walk into maintain the state.

Student: But

Culadasa: How came home?

Like my experience I have Tom's get into the wedding and she was says you're in vacation, but then that's it.

And then it never got there again, but hustle, how can I

Student: works to maintain that experience?

Culadasa: So first of all, don't become attached to unification experience. To have had a unification experience is to have learned something very important. It is, it produces a shift in perspective. And if you are able to experience that on other occasions, it will further reinforce that particular shift and perspective, but it's not necessary that you ever have the unification experience.

Again, what you want to have is the complete non dual experience that brings you to stream entry. And so there is a danger in becoming attached to a meditation experiences and mystical experiences and spending a lot of time and effort trying to reproduce them. If you have arrived at that through a particular meditation practice and you continue to practice [01:25:00] them the way, same way, the, there is of course, a much greater probability that the experience will be repeated, but don't chase it and stay.

If you have arrived at it and a meditation practice continue to practice that originally chaining created the conditions for it. And if it's repeated again fine, but if it's not continue the practice because a systematic practice will ultimately lead you to the far more important mystical experience.

Yeah. That's certainly part of my question, but the x-ray created

Student: like a dancer to say that said Sonya

He said he told me about that that

Culadasa: that then you'd say he got to walking now they got to be walking

Student: through. To maintain.

Culadasa: That right. Maintain that state, the label that you put your

Student: estimate. If I understand them correctly, I think what, was saying was that once you have the realization of now sell, then what you were, what you want to do is even as you are living in ordinary worldly conditions, you try to make whatever lessons you have acquire from the realization relevant in that

Culadasa: everyday segment.

Yes. Abs absolutely. That's very good that this has come up yet. The most important thing, when you do meditation practice and you have insights, at any level of insight, it is important to after. Try to bring the understanding and to into your overall understanding and every part of your life.

So if you have a no self experience, but then you're out in the world, you no longer have the no self experience, but you have the recollection of what you learned from that. So you can keep reminding yourself when you find yourself feeling very real and substantial. You can remind yourself of the experience that you had and what you learned from it.

As a matter of fact, back to my original topic and theorizing about that as accumulates as you as insights that came relate if you keep applying those insights to your experience over and over again, that may be one of the ways that we can become a stream entrant without having sudden shocking experience of the Maga Paula, as the trigger for that, because the essence of what seems to happen is a mind functions in such a way that it generates the concept of self and the concept of an independently existing, external world, and the parts of the mind that do that operate at a non-conscious level.

And they're programmed to do it that way. What we're doing is we're reprogramming them so we can reprogram them all at once, or we can reprogram them gradually over time. Insights that you have even intellectual level of understanding that the more intellectual level of understanding of non-self and emptiness that you have, if you can keep applying that to your experience, your ordinary, everyday experience, until it becomes more and more the way you understand things, then it's going to change the way your mind responds to things.

You're going to start responding from a worldview of emptiness rather than responding from a worldview of independently, just existing objects. And likewise, a worldview of non-self rather than a worldview of a cherished self that lies at the center of all of this experience. So it is very important for any kind of insight, any kind of understanding that you have to actualize that and daily.

As much as you can. I think that is a extremely important part of a path. There's many different interpretations of what the Sutra that is called the Sutra or the four applications of mindfulness teaching is about. But personally, and I think I could defend this really strongly I guess just about anybody that Sutra is about insight in daily life.

It's not really primarily about meditation it in the beginning gets about meditation, but the vast majority of the four apps all of the last three applications and the majority of the first application are things that you [01:30:00] can do and should do. And every waking moment. So how have I saturated you?

I've certainly enjoyed this. I always enjoy these talks and I enjoyed your questions are wonderful. And I'm sorry if I didn't answer your question quite as well as you wanted, but I thank you very

Student: much.

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