We've all heard about Harris' scathing criticisms of religions of all flavor, including Buddhism. In this 2-part talk at You Tube he defends meditation and contemplation and criticizes the atheist community for throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In my atheistic mind this is indeed a step towards re-visioning the great traditions by nourishing the baby while also pulling the plug on the dirty bathwater.

Also of note is that he echoes kennilingus in claiming one must take up the injunction of meditation before one can criticize its phenomenal experience. He does qualify that one can certainly criticize based on reason alone the metaphysical accoutrements of those who have such experiences. Yet the experiences themselves cannot be refuted by reason alone. And that such experience must be translated into postmetaphysical terms shorn of religious dogma to be of pertinent use in today's world.

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well what´s new with that?

these horsemen are getting addict to showing up:

Dennett and his claimed "brightness",

Hitchens and his arrogant unreflected "neoconservatism"

and Dawkins the most "humble" of them his naivety and professor syndrom

they should lperhaps look more closely at their narcissistic need of getting attention

I agree with Mr. Harris yet again. This is why vipassana is the only "Buddhist" meditation I've been able to take up and maintain over the years. Particularly the brand out of Spirit Rock in northern CA, which is still Buddhist in orientation but also allows a more generic approach.  Jack Kornfield is one of the founders and I like his mix of psychotherapeutic methods and western education in his overall presentation. I also very much appreciate how Spirit Rock still operates on dana and has not commercialized (i.e., capitalized for profit) its teachings. Of his writings one of my favorites is this one on the limitations of meditation. An excerpt:

For most people meditation practice doesn’t "do it all." At best, it’s one important piece of a complex path of opening and awakening. In spiritual life I see great importance in bringing attention to our shadow side, those aspects of ourselves and our practice where we have remained unconscious.

 

While I benefited enormously from the training offered in the Thai and Burmese monasteries where I practised, I noticed two striking things. First, there were major areas of difficulty in my life, such as loneliness, intimate relationships, work, childhood wounds, and patterns of fear, that even very deep meditation didn’t touch. Second, among the several dozen Western monks (and lots of Asian meditators) I met during my time in Asia, with a few notable exceptions, most were not helped by meditation in big areas of their lives....the sitting practice itself, with its emphasis on concentration and detachment, often provided a way to hide, a way to actually separate the mind from difficult areas of heart and body.

For beginners, I always recommend a technique called vipassana (Pali, “insight”), which comes from the oldest tradition of Buddhism, the Theravada....The practice of mindfulness is extraordinarily simple to describe, but it is in no sense easy.

 

That’s why it should not be recommended for beginners. My experience is that people quit because it is too hard. BTW vipassana is a misnomer as you can’t practice insight. If you could we would have hundreds of thousands of realized vipassana practitioners.

 

--

 

Kornfield is good but I am not fond of psychologizing the dhamma. I like mine straight up with no chaser.

 

Many western students of the dharma want to go straight to the end and don't see that it is a path of graduated training. So they glossed the Sila and went for the Samadhi hoping for Panna (Insight). Also the lonliness he felt was in part due to his loved ones being an ocean away. The monasteries he was in were created for the societies in which they were made. I doubt the Asian monks were lonely as they were immeresed and surrounded by "their" people i.e. they did not leave their culture in search of.

 

Kennillingus Prime, like Kornfield, also dealt with the topic of psychodynamics in relation to meditation. For example, as far back as BHOE, the section "Buddha and Freud" starting on p. 230. Like Kornfield he acknowledges that psychodynamic insights are not contained in the eastern meditative traditions: "The whole notion of a psychodynamic unconscious, which is really found nowhere else" (232). And without these "western" insights meditation cannot of itself provide an integral enaction.

I also vaguely remember, but cannot find the source at the moment, him talking about how Freud was about the process up to and including the the ego, whereas the east was about the process of then dissolving that ego. The latter doesn't have the wherewithal to see and integrate the unconscious shadows like psychotherapy, hence we get the problems Kornfield sees rampant in meditative communities. And it doesn't appear strictly confined to western students of eastern meditation but the eastern gurus themselves.

Mark Edwards notes the following in "An alternative view of states" part 2:

Almost all pre-modern, traditional transpersonal models of spirituality had very little or no understanding of childhood development, psychopathology or the developmental stages that lead up the personal egoic identity. As such, they are often unaware of any PTF considerations. Hence, when we interpret any traditional models of the transpersonal we need to be very aware that serious category errors are common in the traditional views of sleep, dreams, ASCs, psychotic states, mental illnesses and the infant/child state.

All of which supports Harris' theme of the metaphysical interpretations of said traditions, including (and especially) Theravada. I've extensively argued in favor of Madhyamaka as a postmeta advance over Theravada (at least partially, in some ways) in numerous threads in the forum. (Well at least one branch of Madhyamaka, anyway.)

ironically, or maybe not, harris is perhaps the leading spokesperson for mystical empiricism.
Earlier in the thread I questioned Harris' speculation that consciousness could be originary, a more subtle but metaphysical suggestion nonetheless. While he's cleaning up the more obvious metaphysicalities from religion he might still be caught in some of the "higher-level" (to be intentionally ironic) or deeper traps himself.
Xibalba, one could argue that Harris is using a similar approach to Krishnamurti -- denigrating organized religion, mocking (and rationally and verbally deconstructing) superstitious beliefs and "God talk," while at the same time advocating for the transformative power of "meditation" stripped of "traditional" baggage.  What would you say are the main differences between them and their approaches, that you perceive?

I find it somewhat riduculous that the media have lumped Harris in with Dawkins. What, can these people not read? The next to final chapter, "Experiments in Consciousness," in the End of Faith is one of the clearest and best written expositions of mystical empiricism I have read. Consider this tract, with the noticeable echoes of Advaita Vedanta wherein Harris sounds not all that different from Ramana: "The experience of countless contemplatives tells us that consciousness -- being merely the condition in which thought, emotion and even our sense of self arises -- is never really changed by what it knows. That which is aware of joy does not become joyful; that which is aware of sadness does not become sad.... Many spiritual teachings allege that if we can recognize our identity as consciousness itself, as the mere witness of appearances, we will realize that we stand perpetually free from the vicissitudes of experience." p. 206 He concludes the opening section of the chapter thus: "Our spiritual traditions suggest that we have considerable room to change our relationship with the contents of consciousness and thereby to transform our experience of the world. Indeed a vast literature on human spirituality attests to this."

 

In the next subsection, "Consciousness," he states, "Investigating the nature of consciousness directly through sustained introspection is simply another name for spiritual practice." Compare Vivekananda, "Yoga is the science which teaches us how to get these perceptions." (From "The Aim of Raja Yoga.")

 

I could go on, but that is the subject of an upcoming blog post. I will make one note, though, and that is that the conception of consciousness in this chapter, which is clearly indebted to Advaita Vedanta, and apparently Yogachara, is not at all free from metaphysical preconceptions.

kelamuni said:

ironically, or maybe not, harris is perhaps the leading spokesperson for mystical empiricism.

hI Balder

 

Yes I can see  that but his world is not Jiddu´s  because Harris has also an serious and naive bias toward science  as a liberating force. Jiddu has criticized the arorogance, the intolerance and the dangers of the scientific mind, not in its debate with religion which is too easy a match to win but as a an military-industrial power, a destructive entity.

Harris and also Hitchens told extremist and ridiculous statements against muslims, putting all of them in the same bag in othe worrds. They also seem to totally ignore there are people in these countries struggling against the regressive authorities in place.  This spring we have ssen a different picture in arab countries.

 

They are really prejudicial or racists against the palestinian people. They are more of less taking for granted that Israel and the US governements always act rightfully in all matters over there, bypassing the very serious problem of the colonization of occupied territories, the illegal setlements. A tidiculous attitude. I wonder if they are still completely free from their jewish mothers indoctrination and bonding, hahhahha.

 

 

 

 

sorry for the typing mistakes.

 

cheers

xibalba said:

hI Balder

 

Yes I can see  that but his world is not Jiddu´s  because Harris has also an serious and naive bias toward science  as a liberating force. Jiddu has criticized the arorogance, the intolerance and the dangers of the scientific mind, not in its debate with religion which is too easy a match to win but as a an military-industrial power, a destructive entity.

Harris and also Hitchens told extremist and ridiculous statements against muslims, putting all of them in the same bag in othe worrds. They also seem to totally ignore there are people in these countries struggling against the regressive authorities in place.  This spring we have ssen a different picture in arab countries.

 

They are really prejudicial or racists against the palestinian people. They are more of less taking for granted that Israel and the US governements always act rightfully in all matters over there, bypassing the very serious problem of the colonization of occupied territories, the illegal setlements. A tidiculous attitude. I wonder if they are still completely free from their jewish mothers indoctrination and bonding, hahhahha.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of the question of whether Harris is a religious bigot or not, here's a timely piece:  The Same Old New Atheism.

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