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Taboo on talking about direct experience?

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran

I’ve noticed very few people talk about their spiritual experiences, things that happen to them on the road to enlightenment. I understand there is some injunction in the vinaya about monks passing on their spiritual achievements to non-monks, but even in western Buddhism among non-monks, it doesn’t seem to get talked about when someone had an experience.

There is obviously the fear of being labelled hallucinatory or psychotic and taken away by men in white coats, but I think that’s the wrong way of looking at it. In most non-western societies people see the value in these experiences, and having knowledge of the ‘other world’ meant you were often marked out for shaman training.

Maybe we western buddhists should get back to that, and share some knowledge as shamans in training.

Shoshin1

Comments

  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran

    Sit on the cushion, 'spiritual experience', up off the cushion. 'spiritual experience'...Nothing special...

    コチシカ
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited August 1

    Yeah but maybe there is something we could learn… aren’t you curious what other people experience, whether it’s the same as you do.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Yeah but maybe there is something we could learn… aren’t you curious what other people experience, whether it’s the same as you do.

    I’ve had a couple of experiences of “Samadhi” while doing walking meditation that were pretty amazing. Only brief but there you go.

    I also had what I can only call “utmost bliss” when I realised the emptiness of the “I” while sitting on the train one night.
    But I’m not sure what telling you can do to help you? We all have different kamma so have different experiences.

    lobsterDavidShoshin1
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Well, I was expressing a sincere desire to be helpful to all those who wished to climb to this level, and a voice said to me “I think we will make your maximum level 20”, and ever since then there have been sporadic voices talking about “ladders”, “taking things”, “conquering”, “hell”, “level sixes”, and question and answer games with various stakes. This has gone on for years.

    It has only stopped recently when I was reading a book by Adyashanti. Suddenly a bout of tinnitus and it is gone. I know he works on energy transmission, and I was following some particular instructions from the book.

    BunksDavidShoshin1
  • コチシカコチシカ Veteran
    edited August 1

    I remember being so calm that one hour became 5 or 10 minutes. That was pretty good samadhi.

    BunksShoshin1lobster
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    One of the first things I posted here was something I wrote in the middle of flipping my lid called the Way of Infinity. It wasn't really all that well recieved if I recall correctly.

    Posting about these kinds of experiences leaves us a bit vulnerable if we in any way cling to them.

    Usually though I find we do speak from personal experience. I know I try to and I notice you often do. Others do as well so maybe I don't really get what you mean.

    When speaking in Sangha it is usually asked that we do so from personal experience and not just parrot theory.

    Shoshin1lobsterJeffrey
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited August 1

    Firstly...

    There is little that one can say about the transcendence of ones ego/identity or selfish self that isn't potentially received by folks who have not yet been there....with avarice or a sense of inadequacy...which is the very antithisis of those experiences.
    From the dualistic perspective, such a recounting is often heard as an underlying confirmation of a self verses other's storyline of delusion to the listeners.
    One of the confirmation markers that teachers use to assess the authenticity of the depth of another's understanding, is the very manifestation of that experience's selflessness that steadfastly keeps the spiritual welfare of others above any tempting recounting about ones own spiritual accomplishments.

    Secondly....
    Such experiences usually occur only when one finally is no longer seeking such things.
    Here, you could posit that such experiences are actually the transcendence that there was ever anyone to receive such things. Here, by talking about such things, are we not actually delaying the living expression of such things.

    コチシカlobsterShoshin1Jeffrey
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran
    edited August 1

    @Kerome said:
    Yeah but maybe there is something we could learn… aren’t you curious what other people experience, whether it’s the same as you do.

    Well, when these 'experiences' happen "I" am not around and if "I" turn up during such an experience, there's a good chance it will dissipate...

    And should I write of the memory of such an experience, it more often than not it becomes somewhat embellished by imagination and no doubt wishful thinking may play apart...

    Hence why..

    Sit on the cushion, 'spiritual experience', up off the cushion. 'spiritual experience'...Nothing special...

    Thus have "I" heard ...Life is an ongoing spiritual experience, if one is open to it...
    For example acts of selfless kindness= Spiritual experience...Feelings of compassion = Spiritual experience ...Empathy=Spiritual experience .... the list goings on and on...these acts bring a sense of satisfaction, and in the long run....it's really nothing special....

    We all at times experience/have experienced this...and no doubt have gained experiential understanding/knowledge from these experiences ...

    howlobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Posting about these kinds of experiences leaves us a bit vulnerable if we in any way cling to them.

    Yes indeed. Clinging is one problem. Another is not all experiences are helpful. We might say that our personal path is a continuity of change. There are recognisable similarities but unless under matured supervision we may get stuck, lost or befuddled. At a certain point we recognise:

    • The useful
    • The shiny useless
    • The mundane/ordinary
    • The faculties
    • The been there, done that

      o:)

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited August 3

    I'm reading a book a second time, After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield, that talks a lot about spiritual experiences and shares those of many people from many traditions including Buddhism. I believe the title refers to such experiences and I read it after my own psychosis or encounter with the dharma (it's hard to tell at times).

    BunkslobsterShoshin1Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Clinging is one problem. Another is not all experiences are helpful. We might say that our personal path is a continuity of change. There are recognisable similarities but unless under matured supervision we may get stuck, lost or befuddled. At a certain point we recognise:

    • The useful
    • The shiny useless
    • The mundane/ordinary
    • The faculties
    • The been there, done that

    But wouldn’t it be better if we had some kind of written guide to the different kinds of experiences and how to recognise them from a Buddhist point of view?

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome

    Few things dissipate spiritual perceptions faster than trying to have some control over them.
    A spiritual perception is simply a falling away or softening of the ego/identity or selfish self. A spiritual practice is the means we develop to allow it them to freely unfold beyond the limitations of what we have habitually clung to, rejected or otherwise ignored.
    The guide to the different kinds of spiritual experiences needs only to say to relate to them meditatively, no differently than you would with any other arising, existing and departing phenomena.

    lobster
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @lobster said:
    Clinging is one problem. Another is not all experiences are helpful. We might say that our personal path is a continuity of change. There are recognisable similarities but unless under matured supervision we may get stuck, lost or befuddled. At a certain point we recognise:

    • The useful
    • The shiny useless
    • The mundane/ordinary
    • The faculties
    • The been there, done that

    But wouldn’t it be better if we had some kind of written guide to the different kinds of experiences and how to recognise them from a Buddhist point of view?

    It could be interesting but the first thought on the train was "Which Buddhist point of view?"

    lobster
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited August 7

    I guess I can share another mustard seed. I am pretty sure I posted about her a couple of times here already but her and others of her kind could be important to understand. I once had a dream that I still am not certain was just a dream where I am looking in the mirror and she is looking back at me.

    I am an African-American woman in my late 20s trying to keep from crying because I'm getting ready to go to a job I am over qualified for and disrespected at. The rent is behind and other bills are due. I am trying to get my 11 year old son ready for school at the same time and I am having a hard time figuring out how to pull myself together because he is knocking at the door and it will break me if he sees me like this.

    And that's it. It really felt like it was me at the time and it sort of made me feel like it was a past life. The thing is, it felt like it was present day.

    Since then I've always had a feeling that re-birth or reincarnation doesn't always happen in a linear fashion and that we have all been or will be this woman living her life right now. As if we are all each others incarnations... Past, present and future.

    Nothing to make a belief out of but just a kind of hunch.

    BunksShoshin1lobster
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited August 7

    That's actually very interesting. My heart goes out to her.

    Davidlobster
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @David said:

    Since then I've always had a feeling that re-birth or reincarnation doesn't always happen in a linear fashion and that we have all been or will be this woman living her life right now. As if we are all each others incarnations... Past, present and future.

    A couple of thoughts about this thread.
    Definitely..

    From the perspective of ego/identity or the selfish self, the concept of a shared karma
    that is continuously unfolding unconstrained by time or space, is a direct threat to any individuals existence.
    With some transcendence of ego/identity or selfish self, what most formally saw as a potential state of chaos is little more than what a long term prisoner faces from the unknown in being released from a cage of their own construction.

    And...

    While direct experience is essential for the teaching of the Dharma, a lack of skillful means often differentiates personal experience from direct experience.

    One of the limitations of speaking from personal experience is inadvertently having those who might follow such teachings, blindly copy forms that are more specific to the speakers particular karmic compositions than the karma mixes that are their own.

    federicaDavidShoshin1lobster
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @David said:
    Since then I've always had a feeling that re-birth or reincarnation doesn't always happen in a linear fashion and that we have all been or will be this woman living her life right now. As if we are all each others incarnations... Past, present and future.

    I recall reading Michael Newton's book Journey of Souls which presents a number of alternative ways the afterlife might solve questions such as "there were 2 billion people in 1927, now there are 7.5 billion, where did all the extra souls come from?" Stuff like multiple bodies for one soul, soul families, all kinds of things. Vaguely interesting although I wasn't really convinced.

    David
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @how said:

    @David said:

    Since then I've always had a feeling that re-birth or reincarnation doesn't always happen in a linear fashion and that we have all been or will be this woman living her life right now. As if we are all each others incarnations... Past, present and future.

    A couple of thoughts about this thread.
    Definitely..

    From the perspective of ego/identity or the selfish self, the concept of a shared karma
    that is continuously unfolding unconstrained by time or space, is a direct threat to any individuals existence.

    I used to feel that way and in a way it both exhilarated and frightened me. But it doesn't feel like a threat to this individual at all anymore now that I try to see it with the Insight of Interbeing. This individual is not made any less by knowing I cannot be held indefinitely. At least it doesn't feel that way. It just feels like this individual is not all that I am which in turn sounds illogical in a way and freeing in another.

    With some transcendence of ego/identity or selfish self, what most formally saw as a potential state of chaos is little more than what a long term prisoner faces from the unknown in being released from a cage of their own construction.

    And still... There is work to be done. Rivers must once again be known as rivers and mountains must once again be known as mountains because there is still much suffering and even as I know I am not limited by this individual, I still have much work to do with it and am not even sure what to do yet. I do not want to waste this chance.

    I changed my livelihood and am able to relieve some suffering but it isn't directly affecting the causes of suffering so I only help with the aftermath. I feel like I should have a livelihood that helps with the climate or steering youth into helpful professions but I am 48 and started smartening up a bit late.

    I still feel impatient and I still get flashes of anger because of my lack of understanding of the causes of my impatience. I only just recently realised my impatience is the biggest cause of my anger so I know I have a ways to go before I am able to be very useful.

    Sorry about the rant. It takes me a few times reading over @How's posts to digest. That's one of the things I both like and sometimes dred about your wisdom.

    lobster
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited August 7

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:
    Since then I've always had a feeling that re-birth or reincarnation doesn't always happen in a linear fashion and that we have all been or will be this woman living her life right now. As if we are all each others incarnations... Past, present and future.

    I recall reading Michael Newton's book Journey of Souls which presents a number of alternative ways the afterlife might solve questions such as "there were 2 billion people in 1927, now there are 7.5 billion, where did all the extra souls come from?" Stuff like multiple bodies for one soul, soul families, all kinds of things. Vaguely interesting although I wasn't really convinced.

    How many insects are there that may be reborn as human? How many other planets with life in the universe?

    There are many unanswerable ways to ponder and they all lead to conjecture if we attach to any future outcome. That being said (lol), without clinging or tricking myself into thinking this one is any different because I could obviously be wrong, mathematically, a whole can be divided infinitely. It makes me think of the force behind fractals whether in nature or like the Mandelbrot Set. Or grapes growing. Anything unfolding, really.

    And it makes me think of how Thay says that if we look deeply enough into any one thing, we can clearly see everything and Interbeing.

    Anyways, I am unsure if I am making sense and feel a bit exposed. So yeah.

    lobster
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran

    @David said:
    And it makes me think of how Thay says that if we look deeply enough into any one thing, we can clearly see everything and Interbeing.

    I'm reminded of ...

    "The most essential method which includes all other methods is to behold the Mind...The Mind is the root from which all things grow...If one can understand the MInd...Everything else is included"

    ~Bodhidharma~

    lobsterBunksDavid
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran
    edited August 9

    @David said:
    I guess I can share another mustard seed. I am pretty sure I posted about her a couple of times here already but her and others of her kind could be important to understand. I once had a dream that I still am not certain was just a dream where I am looking in the mirror and she is looking back at me.

    I am an African-American woman in my late 20s trying to keep from crying because I'm getting ready to go to a job I am over qualified for and disrespected at. The rent is behind and other bills are due. I am trying to get my 11 year old son ready for school at the same time and I am having a hard time figuring out how to pull myself together because he is knocking at the door and it will break me if he sees me like this.

    And that's it. It really felt like it was me at the time and it sort of made me feel like it was a past life. The thing is, it felt like it was present day.

    Since then I've always had a feeling that re-birth or reincarnation doesn't always happen in a linear fashion and that we have all been or will be this woman living her life right now. As if we are all each others incarnations... Past, present and future.

    Nothing to make a belief out of but just a kind of hunch.

    SOME OF WHAT FOLLOWS MAY BE SLIGHTLY EMBELLISHED (force of habit when "I'm" involved)

    I have similar experiences/ glimpses of past and present lives (more often than not during cushion time) of where there's a sense of self other than the familiar sense of self present, which is experiencing the familiar sense of self's experience of now, whilst this "I" (the familiar sense of self) is experiencing/glimpsing theirs...

    These experiences are mostly present day experiences, but on very rare occasions from the not so distant past...

    I've never really had what one would call a past life experience or out of body experience in the sense of hundreds or thousands of years ago or watching my physical self from a distance...

    I'm not quite sure who these other selves are , their gender identity, where they are from or what language they speak...Just the sense of the familiar self being elsewhere ...well I guess they are all ME 😎...having a body swapping experience so to speak...

    During these glimpses brief moments in time and space , the familiar sense of self has learnt to generates a sense of shared well being.......

    These experiences normally occur when I am tired and awareness's attention starts to venture elsewhere for brief moments in time & space...I guess one could say a dreamlike state...

    Perhaps it's just all in the mind ... :):)

    (Edited by Moderator)

    lobsterDavid
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Not everyone can be or imagine being or empathise with others being.
    In vajrayana we are overwhelmed and trained into being Buddha, according to our ability.

    So as a Buddha, I can only speak The Truth.

    Which Buddha?
    Every One Buddha!

  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I’ve noticed very few people talk about their spiritual experiences, things that happen to them on the road to enlightenment. I understand there is some injunction in the vinaya about monks passing on their spiritual achievements to non-monks, but even in western Buddhism among non-monks, it doesn’t seem to get talked about when someone had an experience.

    There is obviously the fear of being labelled hallucinatory or psychotic and taken away by men in white coats, but I think that’s the wrong way of looking at it. In most non-western societies people see the value in these experiences, and having knowledge of the ‘other world’ meant you were often marked out for shaman training.

    Maybe we western buddhists should get back to that, and share some knowledge as shamans in training.

    It seems to me, that sharing one's spiritual experiences/awakenings with someone who has not yet had such an experience tends to feed both giver and receivers egoic self. It gives the listener something to grasp at - a shiny new goal; and gives the teller attention and admiration that are not capable of diminishing the ego.

    That said, I shared an experience here that I had back in November. I am dealing with the fallout from that experience now...and have been for some time now. I was feeling overwhelmed - I wish it hadn't be so, but it was...then I started reading, "The End of Your World" by Adyashanti two days ago. It has brought me all the way back. Hearing someone share their direct experience using descriptions that are almost identical twins to my own has been validating, comforting, and grounding. Hearing that it's pretty much suppose to suck right now - if I'm doing the work, appears to be exactly what I needed to hear. Anywho...here's an example of those descriptions I was talking about:

    Just because you’ve got your foot in the front door doesn’t mean you have turned the lights on; it doesn’t mean you have learned how to navigate in that different world that you’ve awakened to. Adyashanti p. 10

    In the interim, with feet planted firmly in two realities, I feel as if I am being torn apart by shearing forces while enveloped in a divine bliss. yagr's journal 12/03/2020

    OR

    When you [awaken], it actually destroys your world. It destroys your whole sense of self, and it’s meant to. You come to see that everything you think you know about yourself, everything you think you know about the world, is based on assumptions, beliefs, and opinions – things you believe because you were taught or told that they were true. Until we start to see these perceptions for what they really are, consciousness will be imprisoned within the dream state. Adyashanti .13

    The cell door is ajar. I have found my first tastes of freedom deliciously intoxicating, but have also found that I am profoundly institutionalized. Imprisoned for a half century or more by my thoughts, habits and beliefs – every step I face is deeper into an uncharted wilderness where the past casts long shadows obscuring my present. yagr's journal 4/7/2021

    Anyway, so my point is, that I sincerely understand the value of someone sharing their direct experience, but I think in many cases it has the potential to cause much more harm than good.

    Bunkslobster
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    I am always a little perplexed by the fact that monastics are not allowed to share their personal attainments but the Buddha did?

    I hear comments like "An Arhat will never tell you they're an Arhat".

    Go figure.....

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited August 11

    @Bunks said:
    I am always a little perplexed by the fact that monastics are not allowed to share their personal attainments but the Buddha did?

    I hear comments like "An Arhat will never tell you they're an Arhat".

    Go figure.....

    Me too, lol.

    Buddha told people he was awake but he also told us in the Kessamutti Sutta to use the fruit of a teachers actions to determine whether their understanding is true or not.

    "Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wheel008.html

    I'm think their actions speak as to whether or not they are arhats more than their words. Maybe that's what they mean.

    lobster
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited August 11

    @Bunks said:
    I am always a little perplexed by the fact that monastics are not allowed to share their personal attainments but the Buddha did?

    Yes exactly. I think in the Buddha’s time it made sense, because you’d want to avoid muddying the water and creating debates between people who were supposed to be enlightened… or creating “achievement games” by unenlightened monks, who might take one grand vision and build on it to create an even grander vision, all made by hearsay. Maybe that still holds. But even then it is strange that the Buddha’s experiences are richly detailed.

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