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Uncovering or training?

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

Dear friends,

I was reading through old discussions I had had online when I came upon one which had sparked some deep thoughts. It was about the nature of progress in the spiritual path, which is a topic i sometimes return to. I was talking to an acquaintance, who is an advanced student of Dzogchen, and he said that by far the greatest part of progress on the path is through uncovering our own deeper nature and by letting go and dissolving the obstacles that stand in our way.

Now, this does gel with my own experiences, but i have read some things which are not in this vein. For example, there are sutra’s which talk of monks training in such and such a way, there are techniques like metta where you basically train yourself to see the world in a certain way, or the techniques to arouse bodhicitta through vows and motivational affirmations. It seems to be as if we try to condition the mind to do certain things.

How do you see what happens to the mind on the path? Do you think there is a danger of layering conditioning on conditioning and never coming to clarity?

With warm regards,
Kerome

Shoshin

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    How do you see what happens to the mind on the path? Do you think there is a danger of layering conditioning on conditioning and never coming to clarity?

    Good questions. Be interested in others understanding.

    Training is conditioning and overlay BUT it is like an empty glove that may be one day shifted into the very real qualities that arise in the awakening.
    So in a sense training is a glove and awakening is the space and the hand that moves in its placement ...

    ShoshinhowDavid
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited June 23

    The interesting thing about this question is how each new day of practice probably offers a different view of it.

    Today..

    I sometimes think this might be like comparing a training of the mind, with just an unleashing of it from a manipulative leash holder.

    If your primary path of practice is meditation, then that experience of it can be an ever widening awareness into the space being continually vacated by the dissipating substrate of our habituated responses to phenomena.

    A lot of words to describe the simple peeling of an onion.

    Paths of devotion, faith, service and scriptural study often engage in the gilding of those spaces in preparation of occupying them (sometimes looking like a layering of conditioning) and I have some concerns how it might complicate a transition beyond them, but all practices seem to have there own checks and balances to address such complications...and I should probably pay more attention to my own.

    But this is why different chefs have different methods of onion peeling but I trust that the only reason any method persists is because it has eventually resulted in experiences beyond the obscurations of any onion.

    ShoshinlobsterDavid
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited June 23

    Uncovering or training?
    How do you see what happens to the mind on the path?

    Hmm let me 'think'.......

    Thus have I heard, the mind in simple terms is that which knows...( but needs some prompting (practice-training) before it will disclosed some of its knowledge)

    I'm under the impression the "awareness" of what's known becomes more prevalent as the path begins to open out/up...through diligent practice and commitment...

    Do you think there is a danger of layering conditioning on conditioning and never coming to clarity?

    It's possible this could happen if one allows one's thoughts to lead one up the garden path ... We are continually being conditioned to think that we are/there is a thinker doing the thinking...that there is a 'Thinker" (ie, "I" am Thinking) behind the Thought other than Thought itself)...this conditioning so it would seem is "self" generated....force of habit go figure...

    When the intellect ventures into where it does not belong, it becomes lost in its own confusion AKA never coming to clarity

    Thus have I also heard and personally experienced...on more than one occasion...( it still happens, but not as frequent as it did before)....

    ...When the mind becomes charmed by its own thoughts....

    However on the actual path (and not the garden path) awareness working with the mind (or the mind working with awareness...either way) gradually begins to realise that Thought itself is the Thinker and the transformation of using Thought as the 'servant' instead of the 'master'...begins.... Thought being a good servant but terrible master

    The above are just some thoughts compiled by Thought with Awareness's input....and brought to you by the somewhat uncharmed mind...(well "I" like to think that this is the case...but it's not always so ;) )

    Bearing in mind (pun intended) " I am just a thought that thinks it is thinking I am just a thought"

    howlobsteradamcrossleyDavid
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 24

    I think that the wisdom of the awareness is uncovered. That doesn't mean we don't use skillful means and learn about them. For me a great example is the Lojong or 7 points of mindfulness training. This is techniques or skillful means but it also explains how that means is related to bodhicitta / awareness. It's using concepts to dislodge blockages or some sort of word to explain. But you don't want the techniques to then themselves become 'blockages'.

    It's similar for meditation too. We want to turn towards our experience whatever it might be. We might want a few tricks and techniques to deal with or expand on certain things that come up. But we don't want to end up with nothing but a bag of tricks to rotate through.

    Too much conditioning is like having too many clouds in the sky and forgetting it is the sky. But it is not a problem if you realize the sky is part of the clouds and vice versa.

    personlobsteradamcrossleyDavid
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The Void Veteran

    I don't know.

    Seriously, its a question that I've wondered quite a bit about and I just have to say, who knows?

    The Gelug school of TB focuses on training and that is where I started my Buddhism, I think Theravada also generally follows this path. Personally I've found a greater connection with paths of uncovering though.

    I guess right now I kind of think of training as being the raft, something that can get you there but ultimately needs to be let go of.

    JeffreyadamcrossleyKeromeDavid
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 24

    This article by Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the distinctions between levels of consciousness. It is very concise and short.

    I thought that the 'store consciousness' was related to a sense of conditioning.

    https://www.lionsroar.com/the-four-layers-of-consciousness/?utm_content=buffer13f81&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com/lionsroarbuddhism&utm_campaign=buffer&fbclid=IwAR2Jg_va04BIeMM143lT7PiEnLRZIBmgsOc5zAaT9IntdQJPHytAskc7jw8

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @person said:
    Seriously, its a question that I've wondered quite a bit about and I just have to say, who knows?

    Me too. But we can observe some clues. If you find yourself with more inputs over time, impulses like “I should do this” or “to be a good Buddhist this is it” then you’re acquiring more layers of conditioning and you’re not removing stuff or relying on your native intelligence, but more on learned behaviour.

    The Gelug school of TB focuses on training and that is where I started my Buddhism, I think Theravada also generally follows this path. Personally I've found a greater connection with paths of uncovering though.

    I have as well, which is why I quite like the Dzogchen approach. The idea of uncovering, of a greater reliance on natural intelligence, makes sense to me. Clarity is something that is very appealing as it is also linked to peace, and keeps you from running hither and thither chasing thoughts that memory is popping up in your brain.

    I guess right now I kind of think of training as being the raft, something that can get you there but ultimately needs to be let go of.

    The question is, is it so easy to let go of these old conditionings once you no longer need them? My personal experience is that it takes a long time for an old conditioning to be washed away. It is rare for something to just vanish once I decide I no longer need that behaviour.

    adamcrossleylobster
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The Void Veteran
    edited June 24

    I guess I don't fully trust my natural intelligence. Don't get me wrong, I'm an intuitive person, I do listen to my instincts. Its that I also believe those feelings can be heavily influenced by many cognitive biases. They need to be taught and trained.

    I was listening to someone talk about learning to play poker and she mentioned how skilled pros who have put in thousands of hours can more or less instantly sense the correct move that a newbie like her had to think through and calculate. Or take the story of the firefighter who, while up on the roof of a burning building, had a strong feeling of fear and ordered everyone off the roof. Minutes later it collapsed, upon reflection he realized his feet were getting too warm. Its his experience and training that informed his intuition.

    Having said that I think my sense is that we need to train and then let go of that training to be truly skilled while being spontaneous.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited June 24

    I think we get to the point where we uncover certain truths hidden by conditioning and then start to recondition by abandoning old habits and consciously making commitments to take their place.

    So I guess it's both? Uncover and train how to properly use that which has been uncovered.

    Shoshin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It’s very interesting how children ask questions and understand things, it’s much more direct than us conditioned adults. Perhaps when you uncover enough there is a return to that kind of understanding.

    lobster
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited June 24

    @Kerome said:
    How do you see what happens to the mind on the path? Do you think there is a danger of layering conditioning on conditioning and never coming to clarity?

    Spiritual materialism is just a swapping out of coarse attachments for subtler ones..but for the added complication of having to work through states of self satisfaction where as before you at least had an obvious motivation to challenge the status quo by an experience of self dis satisfaction.

    I have found my own mind to be a less than reliable partner in such endeavors.
    It wasn't until I enforced a demotion of my own mind from its assumed commanding position into a more collegial power sharing relationship with my other sense gates, who as of yet seem to be inherently lacking in personal ambitiousness, that some true transcendence of my conditioned nature became possible.

    lobsterShoshin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited June 24

    @Kerome said:
    It’s very interesting how children ask questions and understand things, it’s much more direct than us conditioned adults. Perhaps when you uncover enough there is a return to that kind of understanding.

    Thus have I heard...

    "In the beginner's (child's) mind there are many possibilities...in the expert's (adult's) mind there are few"

    ~Shunryu Suzuki~

    Alex
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    If you must ask, "Am I progressing?", You are asking the wrong question.
    When you you worry about progressing, you have already stopped. You are always progressing. Are you concerned about in which direction? The "snow" has erased your footsteps. The darkness hides your way. When the light emerges, then you will know.
    Do not sit in the darkness - light your lamp.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Awesome @Lionduck <3

    'Nobody moults without a shell'
    Lobsterian Dharma

    I love the analogies. The eternal flame. No lamp unlit. No darkness or footsteps, snow there ... ;)

    My kind of direction ... B)

    Lionduck
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Well the thing of training makes the assumption that the state of mind contributes to what happens with enlightenment. Does that mean that there is a kind of “enlightenment monitor” looking at the mind all the time? At least with uncovering you can make the assumption that indeed we are already enlightened, and you just uncover certain crucial bits and reveal the enlightened state.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    You mean @Kerome
    the precious jewel is always present?

    “Gem in the Robe” Lotus Sutra

    One evening two old friends are gathered together having a nice party, eating, drinking and telling stories. The two men fall asleep finally after having a grand time together. Early the next morning the guest arises and realizes he needs to get on with his travels. So he finds the robe of his host and sews a priceless gem in the hem of the robe. Upon awakening the next morning the host puts on his robe without realizing there was the gem sewn inside. Over the next few years the host suffers some financial difficulties and really struggles making ends meet. One day the two friend’s paths cross and the guest looks at his old friend in dismay. He says to his friend, “why have you suffered so much. Many years ago I sewed a priceless gem in your robe, why have you not used it to provide for yourself.”
    https://ryusho.org/blog/?p=3419

    There is also the story of on enlightenment finding everyone is enlightened (on some level) Sorry no reference for that. However somebodhi may have experienced it ... o:)

    Kerome
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The Void Veteran
    edited June 25

    Eight Verses of Training the Mind
    Seven points mind training
    Theravada mind training
    Zen mind training

    I wonder how much of uncovering is talking about an end state rather than what we need to live a skillful life. My meditation practice is mostly about observing my habit patterns and letting go over and over. We need to be able to see our patterns in the moment and be able to let go of unskillful ones. How do we know how to do that without practice? How do we know which ones are skillful or not without knowledge?

    In my life I need to be able to act in ways that allow for better outcomes for myself and others. That takes knowledge and skill, things that need to be acquired and practiced.

    Ultimately I think human beings are born with many habits and patterns, like tribalism and sociability, we are crooked timber. I don't think we are blank slates that only need to let go of accumulated socialization. I look at people who seem to be fairly enlightened and they have usually spent the bulk of their lives in pursuit of that goal. Is that something most of us can aspire to?

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited June 25

    But when you let go of your habit patterns over and over, how do you know this behaviour is going to lead to success? There is a famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein, that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again, and expect different results. Perhaps a different method of letting go is required?

    I can certainly see your point that an amount of training is required in some instances though, or at least an amount of skilful learning. Still I find it hard to conceive of a kind of training that would lead to such a different mind state... if I think of university, training the mind mostly develops capability, talent that is already there.

    It also tends to lessen the capacity for original thought. I was watching a docu on Netflix yesterday about a sculptor named Stanislav Szukalski, he never went to art school but some critics dubbed him the “Michaelangelo of the 20th century”. It was worth watching for any aspiring artist.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited June 25

    @person said:
    Eight Verses of Training the Mind
    Seven points mind training
    Theravada mind training
    Zen mind training

    I wonder how much of uncovering is talking about an end state rather than what we need to live a skillful life. My meditation practice is mostly about observing my habit patterns and letting go over and over. We need to be able to see our patterns in the moment and be able to let go of unskillful ones. How do we know how to do that without practice? How do we know which ones are skillful or not without knowledge?

    In my life I need to be able to act in ways that allow for better outcomes for myself and others. That takes knowledge and skill, things that need to be acquired and practiced.

    Ultimately I think human beings are born with many habits and patterns, like tribalism and sociability, we are crooked timber. I don't think we are blank slates that only need to let go of accumulated socialization. I look at people who seem to be fairly enlightened and they have usually spent the bulk of their lives in pursuit of that goal. Is that something most of us can aspire to?

    I think....
    We are compilations of the momentum of many karmic slivers. The human condition is reflected by our earliest weavings of these slivers into a vessel we call a self. Life as we know it is largely the expression of this earliest of constructions and our continuous efforts at keeping those weavings connected together.
    A practice is just a word to describe how we can stop our clinging to these weavings to allow them to start untangling from each other. As this vessel loses ever increasing amounts of its integrity, and the ephemeral nature of this construct becomes obvious and the underlying selflessness upon which this present expression of self imposed itself, becomes known.

    Becoming the water wherein the dragon swims or the mountain upon which the tiger roams.

    Uncovering is training and training is uncovering. The end state is both an uncovering and this milli-second of skillful living.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Is that something most of us can aspire to?

    That is the question. Do we aspire to it? The great fanatics inspirations lead skilful lives of lockdown/hermit existence/precept binding etc.

    Most of need a few helpful spiritual kicks. For example

    how
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The Void Veteran
    edited June 25

    Max Erdstein from Audio Dharma gave a good talk recently on combining, integrating, these two approaches.

    The audio repeats a couple times so its more like an hour than 1:47.
    https://www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/11546.html?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed:+audiodharma+(Audio+Dharma)&amp;utm_content=FeedBurner

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @lobster said:
    You mean @Kerome
    the precious jewel is always present?

    Om Mani Padma hung What we seek we already are...

    The jewel is already in the lotus...

    Or to put it another way....

    Paradoxically, it takes time to become who we already are

    ~Rick Hanson~ Buddha Brain...

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Join the Train. Love Train. Conditions apply (know conditions) ...
    https://oneminddharma.com/buddhist-teachings/

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It strikes me that if you search the whole of Access To Insight for the word ‘uncovering’ you get six hits, and that includes ‘uncover’. They are mostly articles. While if you search for ‘training’ you get 694 results.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    The other thing that I was thinking about yesterday that touches on this subject is how often old conditioning surfaces. Often a new conditioning doesn’t completely wipe out an old conditioning, and one’s impulses can get muddled.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    My uncle, with whom I sometimes discuss topics from the forum because he is rather into spiritual matters, considers this a question for scholars and learned people. He says, “all I know is sitting and breathing, and experiencing all this as part of an ongoing interplay of events.”

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 28

    To uproot grasping at self, we need to realize wisdom. To realize wisdom, we need merit. Merit releases us from negative emotions, the cause of samsaric suffering, and loosens our grasping at self. As that happens, we glimpse the true nature of our mind. Once we do, we can meditate on the true nature to perfect the realization of wisdom. Until then, we need to make merit.

    There are many ways to make merit. The most comprehensive are the six perfections (paramitas) that Mahayana Buddhism prescribes as the path to enlightenment. They are: giving (generosity), discipline (morality), patience (fearlessness), diligence (eagerness), tranquillity (contemplation), and wisdom.

    The first five perfections, collectively referred to as “skillful means,” are especially for accumulating merit. The sixth, wisdom, involves realizing the true nature of mind, which is wisdom-emptiness.

    The undervaluation of skillful-means practices to develop merit is unfortunate. Their purpose is to refine and transform our mind. Devotion opens our hearts. Compassion dissolves ego. Prayer unites us with our enlightened qualities. Pure perception transforms our awareness. Serving others, especially those who rely on us, is the purpose of dharma. There is no such thing as a buddha who doesn’t help others. So the more we open our hearts to skillful means, the more quickly and surely we reach buddhahood. We should never abandon these practices, for the path of skillful means is perfected in the goal of enlightenment, just as bricks become the finished house.

    ~ Tulku Thondup

    lobster
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