Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
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.
I like this from the interview:
"People who have done a lot of meditation practice, who know what it’s like to concentrate deeply on an object like the breath, often develop a misconception that the truth is somewhere deep within. But non-duality is not deep. It’s right on the surface. This is another way the window analogy works well: Your reflection is not far away. You just need to know where to look for it. It’s not a matter of going deeper and deeper into subtlety until your face finally reveals itself. It is literally right before your eyes in every moment. When you turn attention upon itself and look for the thinker of your thoughts, the absence of any center to consciousness can be glimpsed immediately. It can’t be found by going deeper. To go deep—into the breath or any other phenomenon you can notice—is to start looking out the window at the trees."
See for e.g. Harris' Q&A at this link:
Nicholas Phillips @zenmindz Is Vipassana different from Dzogchen? I find Vipassana often includes duality, and Dzogchen is non-dual.
Yes. The main difference is that you can start practicing vipassana from wherever you are—it’s a technique that anyone can learn. Dzogchen requires that you be able to recognize the intrinsic selflessness of consciousness (i.e. that you cut through the illusion that there is a thinker of your thoughts and an inner experiencer of your experience). So you can’t start Dzogchen until you can observe that consciousness, prior to thought, doesn’t feel like “I”—and the practice is nothing other than noticing this, again and again. I think vipassana is the perfect preliminary practice for Dzogchen.
Also see this recent Harris article. There is some other good stuff therein to be noted later, but on Dzogchen:
"The practice of Dzogchen requires that one be able to experience the intrinsic selflessness of awareness in every moment (that is, when one is not otherwise distracted by thought)—which is to say that for a Dzogchen meditator, mindfulness must be synonymous with dispelling the illusion of the self. Rather than teach a technique of meditation—such as paying close attention to one’s breathing—a Dzogchen master must precipitate an insight on the basis of which a student can thereafter practice a form of awareness that is unencumbered by subject/object dualism. Thus, it is often said that, in Dzogchen, one 'takes the goal as the path,' because the freedom from self that one might otherwise seek is the very thing that one practices. The goal of Dzogchen, if one can call it such, is to grow increasingly familiar with this way of being in the world."
My ultra was more along the lines of , 'on the far side of'. I do like the new prefix's even if they make spirituality sound like a paint store! lol
I think I would fall into the Dennett camp on this one. Whether Vipassana, Dzogchen, etc., these are experiences of the human mind and may not necessarily tell us anything about the greater mysteries of existence on the universal scale. This is not to say that I don't appreciate the efficacy of these practices; just , imo, it's time to detangle them from religious tradition.
"The goal of Dzogchen, if one can call it such, is to grow increasingly familiar with this way of being in the world."
Yes, often in little sips throughout the day.
Andrew, in that last article Harris discusses how he maintains his atheism while still practicing with traditional Dzogchen teachers. He claims he's eliminated the metaphsyical stuff from said traditions but part of this thread is on how he maintains some of their metaphysical premises nonetheless.
It may be best not to talk to Sam unless Dan is in the room! lol The article you linked has Sam sounding quite religious! Or one might say he even sounds like Kenny there:) I will no longer use the word metaphysical as I think it creates too many of what I might call false dichotomies. If you were to ask me based solely on two choices about which way of life I would choose to live-- the choices being a life based on the worlds religious tradition, and one based on secular humanism with its concomitant rational Carl Sagan like view; I would choose the latter, given only the two choices. But even that is tricky as the environmental consequences of modernity could be catastrophic; whereas, potentially, warring feudal mythologically minded civilizations probably wouldn't have been able to destroy everything.
Hey Edward, at the risk of offending philosophy departments everywhere, I shall clarify that it is only metaphysical as a synonym for supernatural that I am tired of. Sam makes sweeping statements about the universal nature of reality in that article which I disagree strongly with ( as does Dennett). Can we consider the ADD brain here for a moment? That brain is like a locomotive on crack; it's not slowing down for anything except sleep. Think of a pinball machine on speed; ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. That brain has an almost impossible task when it comes to meditation. And I hope I in no way being am being disrespectful to people with ADD. It's a nasty , debilitating condition. Where is the soteriological efficacy here? If one is unable to meditate then there is no understanding the nature of reality? Just endless suffering? Again, I know, for some people, meditation is extremely effective on multiple levels. It's simply the religious universalism of the kind made by Sam here, Kenny, too, that I find problematic.
One of the purposes of the phrase METAPHYSICS OF ADJACENCY is to eliminate the need to take a side about "metaphysics". Clearly there are some metaphysical issues that are problematic (ranging from unproven supernatural claims to the very subtle assertion that "things" are what I think they are!). And just as clearly some kind of quasi-metaphysical structure remains active in all thinkers. The issue is not whether to embrace this word or not. The issue is simply that we must specify a difference between, in general, people who make unproven assertions about the invisible nature of reality and those who observe that all claims are approximations.
Approximation, proximity or "adjacency" provides the contextual element which distinguishes good metaphysics from bad metaphysics... irregardless of what we feel like calling it.
There is no fuzzy feeling behind the paraphysics suggestion. Metaphsyics of adjacency is a rather long expression that has to qualify itself as a type of metaphysics. Paraphysics says the same thing in one word, given that one of the meanings of the prefix para is adjacency. It's economical, precise, concise and innovative. I'll keep it, regardless of how you feel about it.
Exactly. Whatever we feel like calling it simply has to convey simultaneously the validity and critical alternative to conventional notions of metaphysics. MOA declares itself very clearly but paraphysics has the virtue of "fewer letters". Paraphysics is a great word for people who have already migrated beyond the question -- metaphysics or not? But such people are often at risk of a recidivism which leads them back in circles as to whether they should embrace or not embrace metaphysics. MOA is a good bridge or reminder in such cases. It is not pertinent when such reminding is already constant and need only be concisely represented.
s for the similarity to pataphysics... it may be idiosyncratically endearing while at the same time treating on the quicksand of surrealistic phantasy.
I like it when you engage in polemics from your high horse. It's good to see you get your hooves dirty. That is, it behooves you. ;)