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Thread: Enlightenment = good ?

  1. #31
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    I also think that Mr. Brown's post was very nice, but I do have to disagree with a few things. While most english speaking people may have been raised with a dualistic view of life (if coming from a Judeo-Christian background). But the english language is perfectly capable of describing non-dualistic states. The problem is not one of language.

    I am alos a bit confused by your logic. First you are saying that it is a "condition of perception" and I can agree with that. You then go on to say that experience is not a thing and therfore cannot be clearly defined, and I have no problems there. But in your next paragraph you make the orange comparison with the orange as a metaphor for nirvana/enlightnement. The problem here is that an orange is a tangible thing. Not only can an orange be described and measured, but we can even explain the physical process of taste in relation to the physical properties of the orange. If you are saying that a person writing about nirvana/enlightenmnet is describing there experience, than the question is their experience of what? Are they describing their experience of an experience? As you can see this quickly becomes meaningless verbal gymnastics.

    I can accept the arguement that a person chooses to believe in duality (in the face of overwhelming lack of evidence), what I do feel the need to argue is the logical fallacy in trying to argue that the idea of nirvana/enlightenment is not dualistic.
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

  2. #32
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    Mr. Brown, thanks for the insightful post. A few comments follow:

    In general I think people make too much of the limitations regarding words. First, a technical point; it is possible in specific self-referential circumstances for words to embody that which they are also referencing. For example, if I write, "This sentence is grammatically correct", the subject matter is embodied in the sentence itself. So there are at least a few example where words and concepts instantiate the reality spoken of.

    I bring this up not to be picky, but because it impinges on the issue of the nature of the non-dual. From an East Asian Buddhist perspective, the non-dual is that ultimate nature which always exists and is present in all existing things (a Zen story says it is present even in tiles and rocks, and Dogen writes of "Mountains and Rivers Sutra"). Now if the ultimate is present in all existing things, then it would also be present in words, which are also things. Hence it is not immediately clear that words cannot instantiate ultimate nature in a way that is clear and precise. In the same way that other self-referential statements do.

    The irony here is that if one accepts that words are inherently incapable of representing the ultimate, or its realization (Nirvana), then that sets up a duality because now there is at least one category of things, words, which are excluded from the realm of the ultimate. If the ultimate is truly non-dual then it is present in all existing things and since words are existing things that would mean that the ultimate must also be present in words.

    Just a few thoughts/words/concepts for consideration.

    Best wishes,
    Dharmajim

  3. #33
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    Hi Bruce,

    Thank you for your stimulating comments.

    The reason the problem of describing the condition of Enlightenment is a problem of language is because language is inherently dualistic. Language only provides indicators to describe an actual experience. Language is inherently dualistic and can be nothing other than dualistic. The term “dualistic” does not refer only to a condition of two, or a measure of simple opposites, but also the condition of many. Dualism is a simplified term used to describe the many and does not refer only to a comparison of two differing things. Dualism implies not just two, but Many as well.

    If we only have ONE there is no “Other”, there is no subject and object. Once we have Two we have implied the Many. When there is Unity, ONE, the non-dual state, there is nothing available to describe it because it exists in a condition that does not provide for communication. Words are part of the many. It is irrelevant which language is used. All words from all languages are part of “the many” and are therefore part of a dualistic condition of being. Non-dual is a condition where there is no separation between words and therefore no words exist. Non-dual is the state of IS-ness. There is no becoming, no change, no words. Once we have change a dualistic condition exists.

    But change is merely a matter of perception. Let us take a revolving disk and place an ant on it. The disk may have hills and valleys, waterways and buildings. The ant walking upon the disk is experiencing change in his immediately environment on a local level. We as observers from above perceive the disk and the ant as a whole and therefore we do not experience the ants changing environment directly. We observe the movement, but the movement does not affect us in the slightest. We perceive the movement, but are above the movement so the movement (change) affects us as if there was no movement at all. Change occurs only in relation to the ant’s perspective.

    Language may only be used to “describe” the Enlightened condition because the description is not the thing. I can describe what an orange tastes like but the description is not the thing. If you have never eaten an orange my description will not GIVE you the EXPERIENCE of the taste of an orange. You must eat the orange in order to HAVE the experience. When we measure the orange’s tangible characteristics we are not providing the taste to another person we are only giving them a description of the taste. That is, we are using words to “represent” the experience. We would say, “It sort of tastes LIKE…..” “LIKE” is an indicator, but not a precise form of measure. It is inadequate to GIVE the taste of an orange to another. It only allows the other person to hopefully recognize the taste of an orange when they finally eat one. But even then perhaps what they have just tasted is a tangerine or a tangelo or a lemon or a grapefruit. The recognition of the taste according to the description is subject to error because the description is not the thing and therefore merely only a rudimentary means of indicating the experience. This is why in the old days Zen/Ch’an enlightenment had to be confirmed by another who had already achieved the Enlightened condition of being. There is no other way to confirm you have tasted an orange other to confer with someone who has tasted one for himself. Someone who has never tasted an orange cannot provide you with an accurate assessment since they really don’t know what they are talking about. They have never had the experience. Even if we describe the chemical properties and how they affect my taste buds and list the physiological processes that result in my brain that creates the perception of the taste of an orange, it is still not the ACTUAL taste of an orange. The ACTUAL taste must be directly experienced in order to fully experience it.

    When I use the word “thing” we must understand that it is the context that defines its meaning within the sentence. I may refer to a condition of being as a thing, but it must be seen according to the context as not a “tangible” thing. I cannot indicate what I mean precisely because of the limitation of words. Since words are of the dualistic system I am unable to accurately describe any of this. I may only indicate it in a round-about manner by comparing the experience of the condition of being to what it is LIKE. I must use “THINGS” to describe non-things. When describing the Enlightened state of being at best all we may say is what it is “LIKE” not what it IS. This brings us back to the orange. The orange is a thing used as a metaphor. I cannot say what the taste of an orange IS I can only compare it to other THINGS in hopes that you will recognize the experience of the taste when you have it for yourself.

    This discussion “appears” to be mental gymnastics because of the inadequacy of words to describe actual experiences. If you were to say to me, “Prove to me enlightenment exists!” I would reply to you, “Prove to me that happiness exists!” Happiness is a state of being. Just because you say to me you are happy does not prove to me you are happy. I must take your word for it. We may say that there are measurable physiological indicators that coincide with the condition of happiness, but the indicators are NOT the happiness they are the apparent effects of happiness. Are there not similar indicators that occur according other states of being, but do not necessarily “reflect” the condition of happiness? Notice the word “REFLECT” the indicators are NOT the happiness, but merely signs that happiness MAY be occurring! Regardless I will have no idea what you mean by happy and I may not consider it a valid state of being until I have had the experience myself. When I finally experience the condition of happiness I have the “Ah Hah!” reaction because NOW I know what you meant when you told me you were happy!
    Scott R. Brown

  4. #34
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    Hi Jim,

    Your comments are very thought provoking!

    Since rational argument is of the dualistic system we will “appear” to arrive at logical paradox when utilizing reason to demonstrate or describe the non-dual condition. But once again the description or rational argument is NOT the state of being itself. It is only a representation meant to point us to the experience in order for us to experience it directly for ourselves. Rational argument is inadequate to accurately describe a direct experience. I cannot provide an argument for what an orange tastes like or for what happiness feels like. Experiences are states of being! If you have not tasted an orange or experienced happiness, you cannot know precisely my meaning when I describe them to you and I cannot provide rational argument for their existence. It may only be taken on authority of those who have had the experiences directly. We may only confirm the existence of these conditions of being by searching them out for ourselves and having the experiences directly.

    I agree that logical argument is a subset of the non-dual condition. However I am not convinced the whole is reflected in its entirety within each of its constituent parts, but the parts do point us to the whole. When I say words are inadequate I do not mean to imply that words cannot lead us to an experience of the non-dual condition, but that words do not completely or accurately describe the non-dual condition. This is due to the fact that a description is not the thing itself as I have previously mentioned. Think of a description of any experience at all. The actual experience surpasses the description. A description, rational argument metaphorical representation is only a shadow of the actual experience.

    Hindus do reference the Yoga of Wisdom; this is mentioned in the Bhagavad-Gita. However, any means used to lead us to a direct experience of the non-dual condition is NOT the condition of being itself, but merely a tool used to guide us, point us, to that experience. Methods are the finger pointing the way to the moon, they are not the moon. If we focus primarily on the finger we lose the experience it is meant to indicate. The Moon!
    Scott R. Brown

  5. #35
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    I agree with Scott.

    Yes, words are things, but they are not the things they describe. "Orange" is a noun, it is not an orange.

    If I write that the orange I ate last night -- actually, "oranges"; I had two -- was cold and juicy, tangy yet sweet, someone who had never tasted an orange might not get an impression anything close to what an orange actually tastes like, while someone who had eaten many oranges might say, "Yes. That's exactly what they orange I had last week tasted like."

    In either case, my description of the experience of eating an orange was not the experience itself, but only a (grossly inadequate) attempt to evoke they experience. Language -- even in English, the language with the largest lexicon of all extant languages -- cannot completely describe an experience. It can only give clues that hint at experiences.

    Art is the same. I may photograph the Space Needle, but unless one travels to Seattle and actually goes up in the Space Needle one cannot competely understand what it looks, smells, and feels like.

    And so on. I hope I'm being clear, because words fail me.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

  6. #36
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    Smile

    The reason the problem of describing the condition of Enlightenment is a problem of language is because language is inherently dualistic. Language only provides indicators to describe an actual experience. Language is inherently dualistic and can be nothing other than dualistic. The term “dualistic” does not refer only to a condition of two, or a measure of simple opposites, but also the condition of many. Dualism is a simplified term used to describe the many and does not refer only to a comparison of two differing things. Dualism implies not just two, but Many as well.
    If we only have ONE there is no “Other”, there is no subject and object. Once we have Two we have implied the Many. When there is Unity, ONE, the non-dual state, there is nothing available to describe it because it exists in a condition that does not provide for communication. Words are part of the many. It is irrelevant which language is used. All words from all languages are part of “the many” and are therefore part of a dualistic condition of being. Non-dual is a condition where there is no separation between words and therefore no words exist. Non-dual is the state of IS-ness. There is no becoming, no change, no words. Once we have change a dualistic condition exists.
    So are we talking nondualism here as opposed to monism or pluralism? From what I have read this is usually associated with eastern mysticism. For me it is hard to build a strong arguement from a premise which is founded in the mystic. As I said earlier, I am questioning the validty of the premise, not of the arguements built on that premise.

    But change is merely a matter of perception. Let us take a revolving disk and place an ant on it. The disk may have hills and valleys, waterways and buildings. The ant walking upon the disk is experiencing change in his immediately environment on a local level. We as observers from above perceive the disk and the ant as a whole and therefore we do not experience the ants changing environment directly. We observe the movement, but the movement does not affect us in the slightest. We perceive the movement, but are above the movement so the movement (change) affects us as if there was no movement at all. Change occurs only in relation to the ant’s perspective.
    Sorry but I have to disagree with this statement. It is a pretty well established principle of science that the mere act of observation produces change. Likewise, the ant spinning on the record would change our enviornment. It's all a part of chaos theory. For more on this read:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory)

    Language may only be used to “describe” the Enlightened condition because the description is not the thing. I can describe what an orange tastes like but the description is not the thing. If you have never eaten an orange my description will not GIVE you the EXPERIENCE of the taste of an orange. You must eat the orange in order to HAVE the experience. When we measure the orange’s tangible characteristics we are not providing the taste to another person we are only giving them a description of the taste. That is, we are using words to “represent” the experience. We would say, “It sort of tastes LIKE…..” “LIKE” is an indicator, but not a precise form of measure. It is inadequate to GIVE the taste of an orange to another. It only allows the other person to hopefully recognize the taste of an orange when they finally eat one. But even then perhaps what they have just tasted is a tangerine or a tangelo or a lemon or a grapefruit. The recognition of the taste according to the description is subject to error because the description is not the thing and therefore merely only a rudimentary means of indicating the experience. This is why in the old days Zen/Ch’an enlightenment had to be confirmed by another who had already achieved the Enlightened condition of being. There is no other way to confirm you have tasted an orange other to confer with someone who has tasted one for himself. Someone who has never tasted an orange cannot provide you with an accurate assessment since they really don’t know what they are talking about. They have never had the experience. Even if we describe the chemical properties and how they affect my taste buds and list the physiological processes that result in my brain that creates the perception of the taste of an orange, it is still not the ACTUAL taste of an orange. The ACTUAL taste must be directly experienced in order to fully experience it.

    When I use the word “thing” we must understand that it is the context that defines its meaning within the sentence. I may refer to a condition of being as a thing, but it must be seen according to the context as not a “tangible” thing. I cannot indicate what I mean precisely because of the limitation of words. Since words are of the dualistic system I am unable to accurately describe any of this. I may only indicate it in a round-about manner by comparing the experience of the condition of being to what it is LIKE. I must use “THINGS” to describe non-things. When describing the Enlightened state of being at best all we may say is what it is “LIKE” not what it IS. This brings us back to the orange. The orange is a thing used as a metaphor. I cannot say what the taste of an orange IS I can only compare it to other THINGS in hopes that you will recognize the experience of the taste when you have it for yourself.
    Looking to wikipedia for some help on this I found this: Meaning (linguistic)


    Donald Davidson developed a truth-conditional semantics.

    The answer to the question, "What is the meaning of meaning?", is not immediately obvious. One section of philosophy of language tries to answer this very question.

    Geoffrey Leech posited that there are two essentially different types of linguistic meaning: conceptual and associative. For Leech, the conceptual meanings of an expression have to do with the definitions of words themselves, and the features of those definitions. This kind of meaning is treated by using a technique called the semantic feature analysis. The conceptual meaning of an expression inevitably involves both definition (also called "connotation" and "intension" in the literature) and extension (also called "denotation"). The associative meaning of an expression has to do with individual mental understandings of the speaker. They, in turn, can be broken up into six sub-types: connotative, collocative, social, affective, reflected and thematic.[12] (For the full piece go to :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philoso...ure_of_meaning

    This discussion “appears” to be mental gymnastics because of the inadequacy of words to describe actual experiences. If you were to say to me, “Prove to me enlightenment exists!” I would reply to you, “Prove to me that happiness exists!” Happiness is a state of being. Just because you say to me you are happy does not prove to me you are happy. I must take your word for it. We may say that there are measurable physiological indicators that coincide with the condition of happiness, but the indicators are NOT the happiness they are the apparent effects of happiness. Are there not similar indicators that occur according other states of being, but do not necessarily “reflect” the condition of happiness? Notice the word “REFLECT” the indicators are NOT the happiness, but merely signs that happiness MAY be occurring! Regardless I will have no idea what you mean by happy and I may not consider it a valid state of being until I have had the experience myself. When I finally experience the condition of happiness I have the “Ah Hah!” reaction because NOW I know what you meant when you told me you were happy!
    Fair enough

    You all have mde me think a lot about this topic and it is pretty interesting (and very challenging).
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

  7. #37
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    Hi Brian,

    Thank you for your comments. You have made your point very well in my opinion. But then I have an understanding of the principles you are referring to be begin with, LOL!
    _____

    Hi Bruce,

    To be clear on our definitions with each other perhaps it would help to include some definitions in our discussion. I have purloined the following definitions directly from Wikipedia since it seems you are prepared to accept it as a source:

    Monism is the metaphysical and theological view that all is of one essence, principle, substance or energy and that there is one, universal, unified set of laws underlying nature.

    Monism is to be distinguished from dualism, which holds that ultimately there are two kinds of substance, and from pluralism, which holds that ultimately there are many kinds of substance.
    _____

    Mysticism …. is the pursuit of achieving communion or identity with, or conscious awareness of, ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight; and the belief that such experience is an important source of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Traditions may include a belief in the literal existence of realities beyond empirical perception, or a belief that a true human perception of the world transcends logical reasoning or intellectual comprehension. A person delving in these areas may be called a Mystic.

    In many cases, the purpose of mysticism and mystical disciplines such as meditation is to a reach of state of return or re-integration to Godhead. A common theme in mysticism is that the mystic and all of reality are One. The purpose of mystical practices is to achieve that oneness in experience, to transcend limited identity and re-identify with the all that is. The state oneness has many names depending on the mystical system...
    ____

    The term nondual is a literal translation of the Sanskrit term advaita. That is, things remain distinct while not being separate.
    _____

    So are we talking nondualism here as opposed to monism or pluralism? From what I have read this is usually associated with eastern mysticism.

    My inclination is towards non-dual, which could be viewed as the unification of the monistic and pluralistic views. As a background on myself I have strong interests in the principles of Tao and Taoist thought as well as Chinese and Japanese Zen. So my views are strongly influenced by these related world views. I view Yin-Yang as a symbol of the Ultimate Essence, which is referred to by some as Tao, and as an illustration of the non-dual or monistic/pluralistic essence of creation.

    In my view, which is somewhat substantiated by personal experience and mystical literature, Enlightenment involves a mystic component. If one does not experience a mystical component they may be referred to by some as possessing a form of “world system” wisdom, but this could not be considered Enlightened according to the definition I accept. Because to me (and many others) Enlightenment involves a mystical component it cannot be demonstrated, understood or experienced in a complete manner through rational argument. It must be directly experienced/apprehended. Unless one has had the direct experience they are unable to fully comprehend or appreciate it. For this reason I attempt to illustrate the point by using the example of “the tasting an orange”.

    One may read volumes about the taste of an orange. They may understand deeply the chemical substrates and the physiological reactions the create the sensation of the taste of an orange. They may understand philosophically the meaning of meaning, of how humans interpret experiences, of the how our personalities and life experiences influence the interpretation of experiences and how that affects the meaning and value we place on our experiences. BUT if they have not ACTUALLY tasted an orange they have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to how an orange ACTUALLY tastes. This is because the description does not provide us with the taste. It is impossible to formulate an argument that provides the audience with the taste of an orange. Only directly tasting an orange does so!

    Above I included another example of this principle, the experience of happiness. We may read a story about someone who is happy. We may find the story relating what the feeling of happiness is LIKE, “My heart soared to the clouds!”, “Colors were more vivid!”, “The world was all peaches and cream!” BUT this only has meaning to the reader if they have ALREADY experienced happiness. If they have not experienced happiness they have no concept of what the writer is intending to communicate. We cannot formulate a rational argument that provides the reader with the experience of happiness. They must have the experience for themselves in order to appreciate and understand it!

    Some forms of knowledge may only be acquired through direct experience. Rational argument is inadequate to the task.
    _____

    For me it is hard to build a strong argument from a premise which is founded in the mystic.

    In my view, all logical arguments have as their basis un-provable assumptions. At some point all arguments may be reduced to assumptions that cannot be demonstrated to exist through reason, therefore we simply choose to accept them because we have found it advantageous to do so. This principle is illustrated rather well using high school geometry.

    Geometry begins with the assumption of the existence of three phenomena: Point, Line and Plane. These are accepted as existent even though they may not be demonstrated using rational argument. From these assumptions postulates are formed and from the postulates theorems are derived. The geometrical principles that we apply in the real world seem to validate for us the truth of the theorems, postulates and assumptions. BUT, the basis of the rational arguments that demonstrate these geometric principles are founded upon the un-provable assumptions, Point, Line and Plane. We could say that these items are accepted upon FAITH, yet seem to demonstrate practical principles that have efficacy within the real world. From the insubstantial comes the substantial and from the substantial comes usefulness!

    Socrates demonstrated pretty much the same thing through his dialectic investigation into the foundation, the “Essence”, of the concepts of Good, Virtue, Truth, etc. He repeatedly demonstrated these ideas have no rational basis. We seem to have some vague concept of what we mean when we accept them as meaningful, but we have no foundation that provides us with a rational argument to demonstrate their validity or existence. Thus we have insubstantial concepts that percolate from who knows where into the world system. They provide humans with meaningful, useful principles, but have no inherent foundation in reason. We accept their existence on faith!

    Therefore, I contend that the condition referred to as Enlightenment/Nirvana cannot be demonstrated to exist through rational argument. It may only be directly experienced and it is this direct experience that provides the validation for its existence. At first one must accept Enlightenment/Nirvana as a possibility based upon the acceptance of authorities that have claimed the direct experience for themselves. Then one must search out the experience independently in order to demonstrate its value for themselves.

    Concerning the ant on a disk metaphor:

    Sorry but I have to disagree with this statement. It is a pretty well established principle of science that the mere act of observation produces change. Likewise, the ant spinning on the record would change our environment. It's all a part of chaos theory.

    First, I was not really happy with this particular metaphor. I found it rather incompletely illustrated the point I was trying to make.

    At any rate, your perspective is limited to the material system. Within a dualistic system change occurs, but from a non-dual perspective change eternally occurs in a manner in which no change occurs at all. This is not simply verbal gymnastics! So as an example let us take Yin-Yang. It is a rotating duality that represents a rhythmic cycle of change through the alternation of opposing yet complimentary principles, but at the same time it is unchanging. While it rotates constantly (changes) it remains eternally the one and unchanging Yin-Yang. It is unchanging in its constant changing. So we could perhaps say, “THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE!” In this statement we find a logical paradox. If change is constant there is no change in the changing of change, because there is no change in the changing of change, change does not occur at all from a larger perspective.

    So, from one perspective change constantly occurs, but from another perspective change does not occur at all

    I too am simulated by this conversation and I thank you and the others for participating!
    Last edited by Scott; 15th December 2006 at 09:45.
    Scott R. Brown

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    Thanks for the well thought out replies Scott. I feel I now have a beeter grasp of what you are trying to get across, especially now that we have been able to agree on some terminology to use. These debates are much more difficult if we are all attaching different meanings to different terms!

    While I get your point about mathematics, ultimately scientific/mathematical theories are subject to proof/disproof, and this is what seperates them from theological debate.

    For now I will content myself with accepting the idea that enlightenment is a mental state effecting a person's perception of he world. I know that to other people it may be more than this, but I don't think that either side of the debate will ever accept the rhetoric of the other.

    Thank you to everyone who took the time and effort to reply to my post and best wishes for your continued journey (whatever that journey may be).
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

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    Thumbs up

    This debate has moved way beyond the point where I can make any useful contribution - but it has been enlightening!

    Thanks everyone for some fascinating posts - please keep them coming.
    Cheers,

    Mike
    No-Kan-Do

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    Hi Bruce,

    Thank you for sharing your comments as well! Following are few more comments regarding your last post:

    The Enlightenment experience is subject to the same demonstration of proof that applies to scientific and mathematical theories. Scientific findings are validated through repeated experimentation. This also follows for Enlightenment experience. Just as an orange must be personally tasted in order for the taste to be demonstrated, so it is with Enlightenment experience. “The proof is in the pudding”, so to speak! Direct experience is the form of experimentation that demonstrates the Truths gained by Enlightenment experience.

    For a principle to be a Truth it must be demonstrated to be so through actual experience. In many cases it is validated through direct experience. Until we have the direct experience we may accept the teachings and guidance of those who are generally accepted as having had the direct experience for themselves. That is, we trust authority until we are able to have the experience directly for ourselves. We do this exact thing on a daily basis with all sorts of mundane beliefs about our daily reality. I accept that the medications my doctor prescribes for me will work NOT because I have experimentally demonstrated them to be effective for myself, but because I accept my doctor’s authority on the subject. My doctor in turn accepts the authority of the FDA approval system that accepts the authority of the paperwork submitted by the pharmaceutical companies which they presume to be accurate representations of the experimental program the pharmaceutical companies claim to have completed. In essence the whole system is based upon faith of the claims of others based upon a presumed accurate and effective scientific protocol. This process is no different than the one that occurs with Enlightenment experience. We accept the authority and guidance of those who are the presumed experts until we have direct validation through personal experience.

    I am not sure what you mean when you implied other people consider Enlightenment experience as being something other than a mental state that affects ones basic perception of reality. It seems that this is exactly what Enlightenment experience is! I don’t know how it could be anything else.

    By the way I do not believe it is necessary to adhere to any particular religious tradition in order to have Enlightenment experience, but as I have repeatedly indicated one must directly taste the orange to understand what an orange tastes like.
    Scott R. Brown

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    For a principle to be a Truth it must be demonstrated to be so through actual experience. In many cases it is validated through direct experience. Until we have the direct experience we may accept the teachings and guidance of those who are generally accepted as having had the direct experience for themselves. That is, we trust authority until we are able to have the experience directly for ourselves. We do this exact thing on a daily basis with all sorts of mundane beliefs about our daily reality. I accept that the medications my doctor prescribes for me will work NOT because I have experimentally demonstrated them to be effective for myself, but because I accept my doctor’s authority on the subject. My doctor in turn accepts the authority of the FDA approval system that accepts the authority of the paperwork submitted by the pharmaceutical companies which they presume to be accurate representations of the experimental program the pharmaceutical companies claim to have completed. In essence the whole system is based upon faith of the claims of others based upon a presumed accurate and effective scientific protocol. This process is no different than the one that occurs with Enlightenment experience. We accept the authority and guidance of those who are the presumed experts until we have direct validation through personal experience.
    Hi Scott,
    I appreciate your post, but I have to disagree with the reasoning in this arguement. You are equating experience with evidence. The scientific system relies on evidence not experience. Unfortunately, experience is one of our least reliable forms of proof. Experience may qualify a "truth", but it can never quantify it. The efficacy of the medication your doctor prescribes has been physically tested (and quantified). Scientific protocol is not merely accepting the authority of the experts! Scientific authorities are challenged and proved wrong all of the time!

    While I think that your intentions are good, you are using the same type of faulty logic that the religious right does when trying to get creationism in the classroom. To quote Isaac Asimov, "When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is sperical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

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    Hi Bruce,

    I agree with you the evidenced that confirms Enlightenment experience is subjective evidence and subjective evidence may “at times” be considered scientifically unreliable for various reasons.

    However:

    1) Fire is not experienced as hot because a measuring devise (thermometer) says so. We consider fire hot because it is “experienced” as hot by a mind. Fire provides an “experience” of heat for a few reasons. One is due to its relationship to what is not hot. In our mind this relationship is a subjective experience even though temperature that may ALSO be measured through instrumentation. What is important is that while hot is a phenomenon that is “experienced” by the mind and “measured” by instruments the measurement is NOT the experience! I may experience a weather condition as hot regardless of whether another person has the same experience with identical weather conditions. My experience is not invalid just because it cannot be demonstrated as occurring using a measuring devise or another person’s experience! My experience is valid because it is my experience and it is measured by me using my mind, a phenomena that measures according to its own criteria. We call this “own criteria” subjectivity. Subjectivity is real. It occurs. We cannot measure it directly. We measure it indirectly not by using instrumentation, but by comparing our subjective experience with another’s subjective experience.

    2) There are scientific protocols that possess a strong observational component, Anthropology, Psychology, Animal behavior studies to name just a few. What is considered important to record and what is even actually noticed by the observer is subjectively determined!

    3) All empirical scientific protocols involve observation and ALL observation involves subjectivity. You have previously stated, “It is a pretty well established principle of science that the mere act of observation produces change.”

    If the mere act of observation causes change then ALL scientific experiments and conclusions are influenced by the subjective perspective of the observer (scientist). The determination of what to record when observing a phenomenon is a subjective act. Further, what we actually perceive is determined by subjective conditions. We will consider some things we observe as significant and some things insignificant based upon our subjective perspective. Some data may not even be noticed due to subjective conditions.

    We cannot have our cake and eat it too! If observation causes change then observation affects the results of experimental protocols and the conclusions arrived at are equally subject to subjective influences regardless of whether they include measurement (quantification) with instruments or not! Even the reading of an instrument involves a subjective component. How can this subjective influence be measured? We accept subjectivity exists, but we cannot measure it using instrumentation. How is this different from Enlightenment experience? We know it exists, but we cannot measure it using instrumentation!

    Validation of a scientific result is determined by whether the result can be duplicated. Repeatable results are used to increase the probability the conclusion is True. Enlightenment experience follows this protocol. It has been repeated numerous times by individuals from every culture and religious tradition. Many of these experiences have been recorded and the records provide very similar reports. This may be considered observational science. Variation may be attributed to variance in literacy, ability to express thoughts and cultural and religious perspective.

    Enlightenment experiences cannot be quantified using measuring devices. However, the physical effects may be measured using instrumentation just as the effects of happiness and anger may be measured using instrumentation. Behavioral changes may be directly observed and contrasted with former behaviors as well.

    4) Dreams seem real when we experience them, but are considered unreal when we wake. The feelings we experience during a dream are created by a seemingly unreal event because the event is accepted as real. The same thing occurs when we watch a movie. We experience feelings that are created by unreal events that occur on the screen. The feelings are real even though the causative agent is pretend. In regards to dreams, the instrumental measurement of our physical reactions will not reveal to the researcher the actual events occurring within the dream; they only measure the physical effects of the experience. So an EEG may measure my brain waves demonstrating a dream to be occurring, but it will not reveal to the researcher the contents of the dream. Does this demonstrate the dream does not occur? No it does not! The instrumental measurement only reveals the effects of the dream on our body not the content of the dream. The experience is real for the individual having the dream regardless of whether the dream occurred in what we commonly refer to as the “real” world.

    5) What determines whether an event is real or not? Direct experience is the measure! A dream is real because it is a real event (meaning it is an ACTUAL experience) creating measurable effects regardless of whether the events and objects of the dream may be measured using instrumentation. The value (quality) of the experience is determined by the individual. If the individual gains a personal benefit from their experience then it is considered good, if the person experiences detrimental effects then it may be considered bad, but the experience is considered REAL because it created REAL effects/results.
    Scott R. Brown

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    Hi Scott,
    Gosh, I'm kind of at a loss here. I appreciate the time and thought that you have put into your replies to my post, and your ideas have been stimulating for me. But I don't think will ever be able to see eye to eye. I'm afraid that for me, you are definitions are so broad as to be meaningless. And while your arguements are sound, they all work from a premise that is not subject to disproof, and that invalidates your entire arguement, no matter how well constructed. To qoute from the amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in the Edwards v. Aguillard case by 72 Nobel laureates, 17 state academies of science, and seven other sientific organizations:

    "Science is devoted to formulating and testing naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. It is a process for systematically collecting and recording data about the physical world, then catagorizing and studying the collected data in an effort to infer the principles of nature that best explain the observed phenomena...An explanatory principle is not to be confused with the data it seeks to explain...An explanatory principle that by its nature cannot be tested is outside the realm of science."
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

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    Hi Bruce,

    There may be some misunderstanding here. I am not attempting to give descriptions of how Enlightenment experience may be demonstrated using empirical scientific protocol. My last post was meant to illustrate that subjectivity is present within all scientific endeavors because it is inherently present as a core characteristic of the mind, therefore to discard direct experience based upon the notion that it is merely subjective is not a valid disproof of anything. The scientists you have cited have an expertise in the empirical scientific method and not with Enlightenment experiences. They have no authority to address that with which they have no understanding or expertise.

    I agree that a principle is not necessarily a Truth merely because someone believes it to be so, but also something is not necessarily an un-Truth just because it cannot be empirically validated. As an example: Light in the infrared spectrum exists whether there are means to measure it or not. If I was able to perceive light in the infrared spectrum, and others could not, I would have no way of proving to others that I could in fact see in the infrared. But if I could demonstrate to others through a specific method that infrared exists, say with an infrared camera, they would have validation based upon their direct experience. So it is with Enlightenment experience. There are those who have claimed the experience for themselves and these people have provided protocols that provide each individual with a means to test the conclusion for themselves. If an individual took the time to practice a prescribed method they would receive validation of the principles cited as Truths. One could say the method prescribed by mystics IS the scientific experiment and the direct experience IS the proof then. If we refuse to perform the experiment can we fairly state their Truth is not valid? To be reasonable it would seem we must perform the experiment prior to passing judgment. Otherwise we are citing traditional scientific belief that perhaps does not apply to this specific field of study. It seems arrogant to the point of folly to presume that the empirical scientific method may apply to every field of study.

    The question then becomes, “How is one to determine which subjective experiences communicate a Truth about reality and which do not?” My answer is, the same way we validate empirical Truths, by collating and evaluating the available evidence and testing if for ourselves through the actual personal practice of a prescribed method until a conclusion is reached. The available evidence for Enlightenment experience is ample through first hand reports as well as descriptions of methods to acquire the experience directly for oneself. All it requires is to make the effort to follow the methods and then patience. The path to acquiring any form of knowledge requires these same things; the difference is, when investigating Enlightenment experience the subject is also the object. This appears to be at variance with the empirical scientific method; however it is only the ignorance of some empirical scientists that do not recognize this condition exists with all forms of scientific investigation.

    I agree that Enlightenment experience IS beyond the scope of empirical experimentation. No individual who has claimed the experience for themselves has ever stated it was within the scope of empirical experimentation.

    As I have repeatedly commented Enlightenment experience belongs in the realm of direct experience. Enlightenment experience is not measurable using instrumentation. It is beyond discursive thought. Once one attempts to even reflect on the experience the experience is diminished. Careful introspection will reveal this to occur with all experiences. This is because the memory of an experience is NOT the experience either. Only the experience is the experience. Discursive thought dwells in the realm of recollection, not the realm of NOW! Experience occurs NOW!

    Because we tend to think according to the discursive method we do not consider there is any other form of thought available to us. Enlightenment experience transcends discursive thought. Discursive thought requires a subject and an object as does empirical science. Enlightenment experience reveals that the subject IS the object and the object IS the subject. The difference between subject and object is merely a matter of perception. Subject and object are artificially contrived for the purpose of divine play. Without Two or more there is only ONE. With only ONE there is no other and there is no creativity. The system (Tao) requires there to be apparent others in order for there to be play. In other words, the system requires someone to play with; therefore it artificially divides itself and pretends to forget it is itself divided in order to have someone to play with. The act of remembering phenomena are artificially separated and the realization and direct perception that all seemingly separate phenomena are actually different aspects of ONE IS the Enlightenment experience. This knowledge cannot be taught, but it may be learned. It cannot be directly communicated to another, but it may be directly experienced. It cannot be empirically demonstrated because reason is but a minor function of the system. The system uses reason, but reason is not the foundation, the essence, of the system. Minds that are only able to function using reason cannot perceive this knowledge because for reason to function it must dwell in the system of division, in parts, not in the Whole. One must transcend discursive thought in order to have the direct experience. Discursive thought is a major impediment to Enlightenment experience.
    Scott R. Brown

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    I understand what you are saying. One of the big challenges here is that you are using examples from the physical world (i.e. light,fire) to make your points about the metaphysical, and that is where your arguements break down. I undersatnd that you are using these examples to try to reach me, because "language fails" when trying to describe something like enlightenment. But what you are trying to do is to say that if I accept arguement A from science, then I must accept arguement B from metaphysics! But in this case A does not equal B!

    The other problem is that you are trying to "reverse engineer" an explanation for a conclusion that you have already drawn. Again, I believe that this is not a rational approach.

    As far as comparing the evidence, from what people experience, we don't have the necessary controls from the existing evidence that you would have in a proper psychological study (like double blind testing). I am not suprised at the idea that experiences with sensory deprivation (for example zazen) produces similar results with dissimilar people. The other problem is that no one seeks enlightenment in a vacuum. I would expect that people have similar experiences because they have been taught to have that experience!
    Best regards,
    Bruce Mitchell

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