Lokavipatti Sutta: The Failings of the World

“Monks, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions.

“For an uninstructed ordinary person there arise gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. For a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones there also arise gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. So what difference, what distinction, what distinguishing factor is there between the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones and the uninstructed ordinary person?”

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These “eight worldly conditions” are often referred to as the eight winds. Contemplating these eight conditions is a beneficial Buddhist practice. Contemplation prepares us for them and informs us how to respond. ABN

How Lamborghini-driving grifter posing as a weed mogul swindled $35 million out of LA’s elite from his Calabasas mansion – once owned by Kylie Jenner – to fund his lavish lifestyle before it all went up in smoke

The handsome international sportsman, who represented UCLA and the Philippines in the decathlon, roared around Los Angeles in his yellow Lamborghini, returning home to his wife – a former model – and daughter – a model – for lavish parties in the mansion once owned by Kylie Jenner.

To his friends he was a jet-set businessman who generously included them in his lucrative deals and was involved in California’s booming marijuana business.

The pristine image fell apart when friends learnt to their horror that Bunevacz’s seemingly-gilded existence was indeed a sham – after he was arrested and charged last year over a $35million fraud. 

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The eight winds of Buddhism formed a cyclone around Bunevacz and many were blasted and battered by the turbulence. ABN

Making Sense of the Mental Universe

Try reading the following paper while keeping the Mind Only Buddhist interpretation of our world in mind.

In 2005, an essay was published in Nature asserting that the universe is mental and that we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things. Since then, experiments have confi rmed that — as predicted by quantum mechanics — reality is contextual, which contradicts at least intuitive formulations of realism and corroborates the hypothesis of a mental universe. Yet, to give this hypothesis a coherent rendering, one must explain how a mental universe can — at least in principle — accommodate (a) our experience of ourselves as distinct individual minds sharing a world beyond the control of our volition; and (b) the empirical fact that this world is contextual despite being seemingly shared. By combining a modern formulation of the ontology of idealism with the relational interpretation of quantum mechanics, the present paper attempts to provide a viable explanatory framework for both points. In the process of doing so, the paper also addresses key philosophical qualms of the relational interpretation. (Making Sense of the Mental Universe)

Edit: The explanation offered in the linked paper, without saying as much, provides a very reasonable way to see Buddhist rebirth occurring without there being any soul or pudgala being reborn. Nothing need fly out of the body or transmigrate anywhere.

Instead, the classic Buddhist description of karma alone giving rise to a new life works perfectly. Rather than conceive of ourselves as fundamentally material beings, we can conceive of our personal individuality as being (a part of a “mental universe”) enclosed within a Markov blanket.

If there is still karma, a new Markov blanket or bodily form will be “reborn” or rearise after the extinction of its prior existence. In Kastrup’s way of putting it, our physical bodies are themselves Markov blankets causing or allowing us to arise as forms separate from the wholeness of the mental universe.

I suppose we might venture to say that enlightenment occurs when the karma, or reason for our separation in a Markov blanket, is gone and “we” remain the whole (of the mental universe) without being reborn (in a body).

first posted JANUARY 29, 2020

Contemporary Hermits: A Developmental Psychopathology Account of Extreme Social Withdrawal (Hikikomori) in Young People

Although it is widely accepted that human beings have an ingrained ‘need to belong,’ there seem to be a substantial subset of young people who seclude themselves for most of the time at home and no longer engage in education or work, ultimately withdrawing from participation in society. In Japan, this phenomenon has been labeled as ‘hikikomori,’ but given its global presence it may be preferable to use the term ‘extreme social withdrawal’ (ESW). In this qualitative review, we provide a description and definition of ESW, provide figures on its prevalence, and discuss a number of associated concepts, including loneliness and “aloneliness,” school absenteeism and dropout, the ‘new’ developmental stage of adultolescence, and the labor force categories of freeter (‘freelance arbeiter’) and NEET (a young person not in employment, education, or training). The core of the paper is focused on the origins of ESW in young people and provides a narrative overview of relevant etiological factors, such as aberrant brain processes, unfavorable temperament, psychiatric conditions, adverse family processes including detrimental parenting, negative peer experiences, societal pressures, and excessive internet and digital media use, which are all placed within a comprehensive developmental psychopathology framework. We will close with a discussion of possible interventions for young people with ESW and formulate a guideline that describes (the temporal order of) various components that need to be included in such a treatment.

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I have only read the abstract linked above but am posting this paper because it may be of interest to readers of this site. From a Buddhist point of view, there are many legitimate reasons to withdraw from society or reduce one’s participation in it. I am not encouraging that but am saying asceticism is a major form of Buddhist practice as are long silence retreats. This is not the same as what’s known as hikikomori and for the most part I do not think Buddhist asceticism is pathological in any way. Since I haven’t read the paper, I have no more to say than that. ABN

Why you can’t fix it with generalities

Psychological, cognitive, emotional, or communicative problems cannot be fundamentally corrected by using general analyses or generalized procedures. You can teach someone to think and see differently, even to behave differently, by such procedures, but you cannot bring about deep change by using them. The reason this is so is change through generalizations does little more than substitute one external semiosis for another. The person seeking change will not experience deep change because all they are essentially doing is importing a different explanation of their “condition” into their life.

This happens with Buddhists who remain attached to surface meanings of the Dharma as well as to people seeking mainstream help for emotional problems. Any change will feel good for a while in most cases, but after some time stasis and a recurrence of the original problem, or something similar to it, will occur. You cannot become enlightened by importing someone else’s ideas. You cannot achieve deep transformation by replacing one inculcated semiosis with another. You cannot find your authentic “self” by using the static ideas of others.

The way around this problem is to use a technique that is at its core entirely dynamic. Buddhist mindfulness, which stresses attentiveness in and to the moment, is a dynamic technique. The problem with this technique in the modern world is it is not well-suited to the cacophony of signs and symbols that surround us almost all the time. Mindfulness too often entails being mindful of a cultural semiosis that is itself a tautology, a trap that does not contain within itself an obvious exit.

Mindfulness coupled with FIML practice overcomes this problem because the interactive dynamism of FIML gives partners a tool that strengthens mindfulness while at the same time affording them the opportunity to observe in the moment how their habitual semiosis operates, and why it operates that way. FIML gives partners the means to create a rational leverage-point that they can both share and use to grapple with neurotic issues that have always eluded generalized treatments.

FIML does not tell partners how to be or what to think. It describes nothing more than a technique that gives partners access to their deep “operating systems.” If you hack your “operating system” with FIML practice, you will find that you are able to eliminate neuroses (kleshas in Buddhist terms) and replace them with a semiosis (subculture) of your and your partner’s own choosing. To do FIML, partners must have a deep ethical, emotional, and intellectual commitment to each other, but it is important to recognize that these are not static or generalized ideas. They are dynamic principles upon which the transformational behaviors of FIML are built.

first posted APRIL 26, 2012

Philosophical psychology

Are your thought patterns valid? Are your premises true? Is your mind sound?

Buddhism further asks are your mental states wholesome? Are they conducive to enlightenment, wisdom, freedom from delusion?

There are many things we can do while alone to clean up our thought processes. And there are some things we can only do with the help of another person.

Only another person can tell us if our premises, thoughts, and conclusions (however tentative) about them are true, valid, and sound.

Buddhism has a concept of a “spiritual friend,” a “good friend,” a noble friend,” or an “admirable friend.” All of these terms are translations of the Pali Kalyāṇa-mittatā, which is well-explained at that link. (Chinese 善知識). That link is well-worth reading in full.

From the link above and from many years of working with Buddhist literature and people, my sense is that a Buddhist “good friend” is someone who is to be admired and emulated. They are similar to what we mean today by mentors or “good role models.”

I deeply respect the concept of a Buddhist good friend, but find it lacks what I consider the preeminent virtue of philosophical psychology—real-time honesty based on a teachable technique.

Indeed, I cannot find anything anywhere in world philosophy, religion, or literature that provides a teachable technique for attaining real-time honesty with another person.

I also do not quite understand how this could be.

For many centuries human beings have thought about life but no one has come up with a technique like FIML?

How can that be?

I do not see a technique like FIML anywhere in the history of human philosophy nor anywhere in modern psychology.

The importance of a “good friend” who does FIML with you cannot be overemphasized because it is only through such a friend that you can discover where your premises about them are right or wrong, where your thoughts about them are valid or not, and through those discoveries where your mind itself is arranged soundly or not.

first posted MAY 30, 2017

UPDATE 12/14/23: Buddhists can and should make Buddhist practice their own, update or improve the practice with new ideas that are sound, valid, and true. This is a very positive and excellent side of Buddhism, which is not written in stone. Buddhism is preeminently a mind-to-mind teaching. It does not depend on ancient texts or the absolute interpretation of words. It depends on fulsome understanding of the deep truths at the core of all Buddhist thinking—impermanence, emptiness, and nirvana. Anything that is consonant with those three truths and conforms to Buddhist morals is good Buddhism. Anything that contradicts those three truths and/or Buddhist morals is not Buddhism.

The Buddha encouraged teaching the Dharma in people’s native languages. He discouraged writing his teachings down because he did not want them to become sacred texts that people worshipped rather than understood. FIML practice is an efficient, detailed, sound, and accurate way for “good friends” to deeply share mind-to-mind communion/communication with each other. In this sense, it is excellent Buddhist practice. FIML has no other teaching than how to communicate really well with a good friend. FIML does not tell you what to think or believe. Anyone can do it. ABN

Instinctive instinctual delusion

We have seen delusion in governance and how it is contrived by people. Here is delusion of instinct and how it is contrived by people. This is a big piece of the deep fabric of human reality. What’s different today from ancient Egypt or wherever is many of the perps record themselves for all to see. ABN

The Buddha and mindfulness

UPDATE: I originally had a video on mindfulness in this spot but decided to take it down because it is not very good. ABN

The biggest mindfulness bang for the buck you can get is FIML practice because FIML shows you through your own effort how to listen and speak realistically and accurately with your partner. When you do FIML, both you and your partner will discover many mistakes in how you speak and how you hear. This will provide many insights into how both of you use your minds and how your minds work. At the same time it will greatly improve your relationship and give you many insights into it. FIML practice will also greatly inform and improve your other relationships.

All Buddhist practice can be placed at least in one of three categories. These are: 1) morality or ethics; 2) concentration, mindfulness, or meditation; and 3) wisdom or insight. FIML practice is extremely valuable for Buddhist practice because it prevents solipsistic understanding, unrealistic idealism, ungrounded thoughts and behaviors. FIML practice provides each partner with an accuracy check on what they hear, say, and think. It provides a kind of intellectual or spiritual parallax that helps us locate ourselves much more accurately in reality — however you conceive of that — than when we do mindfulness practice without this kind of input.

FIML practice is an excellent model for all mindfulness. It may even be the best model possible. The reason for this is when you do FIML you are working with your closest friend, your best friend, the person who trusts you the most in all the world and whom you trust the most in all the world. This is the best person in all the world to help you become more mindful, more ethical, more insightful and wise. I might add that in the Buddha’s day, monks traveled together in pairs for most of each year. FIML can be fully explained by using the Buddha’s Five Skandha explanation of how the mind works. See the note at the end of that link for how to apply it to FIML. ABN

We do not experience our world continuously but in discrete snapshots, a Buddhist therapeutic interpretation

This report — Brain oscillations reveal that our senses do not experience the world continuously — supports the core activity of FIML practice, which entails noticing the first instant(s) of the arising of an emotional sensation (that is typically tied to a much more involved “mistaken interpretation” within the brain). By interfering with the first instant(s) of arising, FIML practice forestalls the habitual wave of neurotic interpretation that normally follows. Instead, new information — better data obtained from the FIML partner — is used to replace the cue that led to the initial sensation, thus redefining that cue.

Professor Gregor Thut of the University of Glasgow, where the study was conducted, says of its results: “For perception, this means that despite experiencing the world as a continuum, we do not sample our world continuously but in discrete snapshots determined by the cycles of brain rhythms.”

I would further hypothesize that the same holds true for our “perceptions” of inner emotional states. In this context, recall the five skandhas of Buddhism — form, sensation, perception, activity, consciousness. A form can arise in the mind or outside of the mind. This form gives rise to a sensation (which is the first initiation of a FIML query), which gives rise to perception, followed by activity (mental or physical), and lastly consciousness.

In Buddhist teachings, the five skandhas occur one after the other, very rapidly. They are not a continuous stream but rather a series of “discrete snapshots,” to use Thut’s words. In FIML practice, partners want to interfere with what has become a habitual “firing” of their five skandhas based on (neurotic) learned cues. FIML practice strives to prevent full-blown neurotic consciousness (the fifth skandha) from taking control of the mind by replacing the source of that consciousness with a more realistic interpretation of the neurotic cue. The cue corresponds to form in the five skandhas explanation while our emotional reaction to it begins with the second skandha, sensation. The more realistic interpretation of that cue is based on the true words of the partner.

The five skandhas can also help us understand how FIML is different from more or less normal psychological analysis. In normal, or traditional, analysis we use theories and schema to understand ourselves. In FIML we use a specific technique to interfere with habitual neurotic “firings” of the five skandhas. FIML partners are encouraged to theorize and speak about themselves in any way they like, and it is very helpful to do this, but the core FIML activity cannot be replaced by just theorizing or telling stories.

Here is a link to the study itself: Sounds Reset Rhythms of Visual Cortex and Corresponding Human Visual Perception.

slightly edited, first posted MAY 14, 2012

Ep. 1 – Awakening from the Meaning Crisis – Introduction ~ John Vervaeke

I watched about one-half of this and stopped. I will watch at least one more in this long series. For now, I just want to say that for meaning or meaning of life or meaning in life, there is nothing better than FIML practice which is designed to secure solid, agreed upon meaning between you and your partner. This ensures that your most important relationship is grounded solidly on objective shared meaning with nothing left out. FIML is not abstract. It has almost no content. It does not tell you what to think or believe. It is entirely a technique that will massively help you discover how you and your partner’s minds work, what is in them, where it came from, what it means. FIML is a dynamic method for finding objective data within real-world, real-time experience. It provides a living existential basis for all other forms of meaning. ABN

Stephen Meyer on Intelligent Design and The Return of the God Hypothesis

Meyer’s arguments for intelligent design fit well with the Buddhist idea that the cosmos is intelligent and conscious and that our own consciousness is a particular and unique perception of that consciousness. I like the following quote from the video:

‘Science has had extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.’ ~ Robert Jastrow

Like scientists, Buddhists should accept new evidence and compelling argumentation. The emptiness of the individual self is not a negation of consciousness but a recognition (or realization) of its vastness. ABN

Please discuss mimesis as a psycholinguistic phenomenon

[I posed this query to ChatGPT after asking a basic question about mimesis. The reply below was returned almost instantly and has not been edited in any way. We learn almost everything we know through mimesis. Language and culture are built on it and by it, but mimesis can also trap us in gloomy enclaves of inescapable conformity, such as the pseudoscience of covid or a communist dictatorship or celebrity worship. It can also trap us inside our own personality constructs, leaving almost no way to escape. FIML practice works with real time mimesis during interpersonal communication. In this context, FIML can be understood as a way to fully understand our own idiosyncratic mimesis as well as our partner’s. And then to lead us away from what is harmful in mimesis toward what is good. Mimesis is a key to delusion and enlightenment both. It is very good for Buddhists and others to pay attention to it, to be fully mindful of its processes. ABN]

Mimesis can also be understood as a psychological and linguistic phenomenon, in which people imitate or mimic the words, actions, and behaviors of others in order to understand and communicate with them. This kind of mimesis is often referred to as “mirroring” or “echoing,” and it is a natural and important part of human social interaction.

In the early stages of language acquisition, children learn to imitate the sounds and words of their caregivers in order to communicate with them. This process of imitation is essential for language learning and development, as it allows children to learn the conventions and rules of their language.

Mimesis also plays a role in the way that people interact with one another in social settings. For example, people may mimic the body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions of their conversation partner in order to show agreement, empathy, or solidarity. This kind of mimicry can facilitate communication and social bonding, as it helps to establish a sense of connection and understanding between people.

Mimesis can also be observed in the way that people use language to convey meaning. For example, people may use figurative language or rhetorical devices such as metaphors, similes, and rhetorical questions in order to create a more vivid or persuasive image or argument. These forms of language use rely on the reader or listener’s ability to understand and imitate the speaker’s intended meaning in order to fully appreciate the message being conveyed.

Overall, mimesis is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that plays a central role in human communication and social interaction. It is an important aspect of language learning and use, and it helps people to understand and connect with one another in a meaningful way.

How delusions are formed

Delusions must start somewhere.

A recent study (Emoticons in mind: An event-related potential study) convincingly demonstrates that our responses to emoticons as simple as a colon next to a parenthesis :) are similar to our responses to real human faces.

Clearly, this response has been learned. No infant is born with that response and no one anywhere had it just a few decades ago.

Our tendency to respond to :) as a face arose with its use in email and texting. This response is now a well-established “public” response to a “public” semiotic. In this context, public means “understood and shared by many people.”

A public semiotic is a sign with wide currency. It is a unit of culture and often of language itself. We can see in the case of the emoticon :) that a new sign can arise due to unique circumstances and that that sign can come to have a deep meaning for many people.

The sign :) seems quite beautiful to me because it is very simple, very easily produced, and very telling about how our minds work. If the elements of the sign are reversed (: people no longer respond to it as a face, though of course we could learn to do that if the reversed sign were used that way more frequently.

I remember the first time I saw a derivative sign ;) and wondered briefly what it meant. If you had a similar experience, you may be able to remember how such a simple sign can bloom in your mind and go from something that is unknown to something of considerable significance in just a few seconds.

That is an example of the birth of a sign, the birth of a semiotic in your mind.

When the semiotic is public, we strive to learn what other people mean by it. When it is private—that is, with a meaning known only to us—there will be other, often very significant, implications.

What would a “private sign” be like? A straightforward example might be a code we use in a diary. Such a code would have at least one visual sign whose meaning is known only to us.

Another kind of private visual sign might be a facial expression that we have come to interpret differently from other people. My guess is everyone has a good many of these. That is to say, the “idiolect” of facial expressions we each use to understand other people is at least as various as different idiolects within a spoken language.

Now add tone of voice, posture, accent, word choice, topic choice, and so on to this mix. Each of those areas of communication uses signs that can and always will be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, including private ones.

Now, consider how an individual may get lost in all this. If someone ever smiled at you as they hurt you, you may have learned to be suspicious in your interpretation of human smiles. Or you may employ your own smile in ambiguous ways.

Now consider all the signs of communication and how many possible interpretations there are. Then consider the study linked above which shows how deep our responses can be to something as trivial as the sign :).

One way we form delusions occurs when our interpretations of communicative signs become too private and/or do not correspond well with the interpretations employed by other people. The other way we form delusions occurs when our interpretations of signs does correspond well with the interpretations employed by other people, but those other people are wrong.

In “public” situations—professional, commercial, business, school, etc.—it is fairly easy to communicate well enough based on established norms. But in interpersonal communication, you can only take “established norms” so far. At some point, you will have to understand your partner and be understood by them in much greater detail than “established norms,” or public semiotics.

Here is a newspaper article on the study linked above:  Happy days: Human brain now registers smiley face emoticon as real facial expression.

first posted on  

A Buddhist poem by ChatGPT

Delusion’s tentacles, deeply ingrained, In language they are found, entwined and chained.

They twist and turn, a creeping vine, Entangling thoughts and clouding the mind.

ChatGPT

This was the poem that came out after four attempts at revision based on my requests. I shortened it to just two lines from five lines. This kind of program is going to improve very quickly and may replace Google fairly soon. It is already quite good at answering specific questions. Try a health or technique inquiry and see for yourself. ABN

No language in the world allows it

I am reasonably sure that no language in the world allows the kind of query that FIML practice is based on.

The reason for this probably lies in the origins of human language and culture, a developmental period during which languages were much simpler and were used mainly to indicate real things in the world or give commands.

At later stages of development, language became a tool of whatever hierarchy prevailed in the moment. To this day, Confucianism is still a rule book for hierarchies.

That said, languages are always potentially very supple, so there is no need for humans today to be restricted by archaic forms of speech and thought.

And that said, it is important to understand that your psychology has been deeply conditioned by the archaic and hierarchical cores of your language.

I bring this up because this side of human psychology makes it difficult for people to do FIML practice correctly.

To the speaker, the basic FIML query will instinctively feel like nagging, being petty, being whiny. To the hearer, this basic query will instinctively feel like a challenge, an insult, an affront.

These basic instincts must not be allowed to block FIML inquiries. Personally, I believe FIML has not been discovered before because no one ever went beyond these basic instinctive reactions.

So, expect to feel affronted and expect to feel like a petty nag, at least for a while. With practice, these feelings will go away. At the same time, the importance of the information gained through FIML queries will become increasingly obvious.

Once the hierarchical cultural and linguistic instincts that have developed in us, and upon which our psychologies depend, have been overcome, a new use of language will become possible.

This new language is capable of sufficient micro subtlety to allow us to objectively observe how our minds and psychologies actually function in real-time real-life situations.

No theory of psychology and no amount of introspection will take you to the actual data of how you function. Only FIML practice can do that.

first posted SEPTEMBER 30, 2017

UPDATE 12/24/22: All woke complaints about hierarchies, patriarchies, whiteness, or any group identity are deeply flawed because they are missing the deepest underlying point: All language and psychology is fundamentally hierarchical, even authoritarian. When woke or communists or others rail against one hierarchy only to replace it with another one, they are playing a destructive shell game with social organization, never escaping the foundations of their own identities. Rather than making things better, they only make them worse.

In Buddhism as in American and Western civilization, the individual has the unalienable right to be free as freedom is the essence of the True Mind or the soul created by God. At the same time, individuals also have the responsibility to conduct themselves ethically, honorably, wisely. When we focus on group identities or, worse, gender identities, we massively limit linguistic and psychological options to core instincts that are well-known to generate anger, lust, hatred, resentment, pride, ignorance, violence, doubt. The Buddha said, “Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.” And, “Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except yourself.” And, “Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.” And, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.” To be properly mindful in today’s world, you have to be mindful at the individual level of your own use and misuse of language in real-time. “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” ABN