Alan Wallace Live from Phuket!
Summary: Welcome! This is now an archive page for Dr. Alan Wallace’s teachings from the Spring 2010 Shamatha Retreat in the wonderful Phuket International Academy Mind Centre!This podcast feed was 100% created and updated by us (his students here in Phuket) so we can share Alan’s diamond-sharp teachings! This podcast was created live every day during the retreat in 2010. We will still maintain this site because the teachings are timeless. For more information, please contact the great people at firstname.lastname@example.org !
This morning Alan promptly warned us that he was feeling a little bit feisty, which resulted in a great historical introduction with examples of how subjective experience has been mistreated and eventually completely disregarded by scientists and philosophers. It includes some fun quotes like this one from John B. Watson in 1913, "The time has come when psychology must discard all references to consciousness," and moreover "belief in consciousness is attributed to superstition and magic." It can be clearly seen how this "virus" of scientific materialism just erodes common sense and sadly is becoming more and more prominent. Aaaanyways, after the spot-on introduction we move into the first practice of Awareness of Awareness of this cycle, observing the limpid luminosity of our very existant consciousness, thereby going against the grain of the entire 20th century! The outro contains some more goodies about the terrible damage that the ideological dogma of materialism regarding concioiusness is doing, and calls for contemplatives of the world to unite. And as you could have expected, we are back to sky photos for Awareness of Awareness, this one taken by Sara!
Today as the title suggests we combined Compassion and Loving kindness into a practice of Tonglen. Furthermore, we incorporated the four modes of enlightened acvitity, using each one where needed, and in the visualization we let the light or energy sent out with the breath take the form of whatever is actually needed in the situation (not just necessary a generic light of compassion/loving kindness) and tinted it with the respective enlightened acvitity color. Whew! After the mostly silent practice, we went into a diverse Q&A session which got very interesting and set the stage for tomorrow's talk on death, the bardo, and dream yoga. Among the topics for the Q&A are the length of sessions and how to manage it for the greatest benefit, the great question of "Time," specifically the relative qualities of time and how they can and do manifest daily in our Shamatha practice. Of course this also gave Alan the chance to go into the explanation of time in the substrate conciousness, and in the innate mind of clear light. And to top things off, Alan went cosmic for a few minutes into the mainstream science theory of frozen time which arises from quantum cosmology (applying the Schrödinger equation to the entire universe). Then Alan answered a question/analysis about the Dalai Lama's next reincarnation possibilities, and the last 20 minutes of the podcast were the start of an answer about the bardo, which will continue tomorrow. Enjoy (along with this beautiful photo from Sara!)
In this morning's introduction, Alan talks about how the mind is very capable of healing itself, and how the purpose of settling the mind in its natural state is to observe it vividly while not doing things that will prevent the mind from healing. He also talks about talk therapy and medicine, highlighting how they are can be crucial in some cases as a preamble to meditating. Afterwards we have the practice, consisting of a short introduction and then silence. Enjoy! This picture of our Mind Centre's "san phra phum" is courtesy of Sara!
This is a short followup (I promise! It’s actually less than 15 minutes) clearing up some points from the previous episode. I took two fragments from the next day and mashed them together for this podcast. It is absolutely necessary to listen to Part 1 before listening to this. In this first fragment B. Alan Wallace briefly returns to the topic of information flow, meaning-to-meaning communication (instead of achieving means through chemicals and brain correlates), and relates this to the placebo effect, specifically to how it is a blatant example of the mind’s capacity to heal itself and heal the body although modern science prefers to wrap itself up in tight conundrums and knots rather than accept this fact. Then I cut to another fragment from the afternoon session in which B. Alan Wallace clears up some more points about the stream of name and flow and the mind-body problem. He details the hypothesis of the flow of consciousness (information), energy, and space as existence before the mind and body duality. In less than 5 minutes! And to end this two-part podcast with an encouraging, defiant, educated, and exciting bang, Alan goes back to the history of Galileo. He shows how Galileo achieved authority in physics and ended up taking a “piece of the pie” from the church, simply because he really observed phenomena directly and this gave him the authority to be right, rather than believe people who make claims without really investigating the phenomenon which they claim absolute authority of. This is what needs to happen in the mind sciences. As was said in Part 1, observing through physical means and asking physical questions will lead to physical answers. The mind is obviously not physical. This means that the authority over the science of the mind should be not in the hands of scientific materialists, it should be in the hands of professional, highly trained contemplatives who have been studying this field for millennia. Just as Galileo claimed authority in the physical sciences from the Catholic Church, so must contemplatives claim authority from the “Church Scientific” in regards to the domain of the mind. This scientific materialism is extending its domain way beyond what they know about, and reducing everything to biological mechanisms simply won’t provide answers. So, let them contribute with their immensely valuable biological information about the brain, and let the real experts of the mind come in and contribute with their millennia-old knowledge of the mind. Galileo did it, now it’s our turn to do it if we really want to advance scientifically in the study of the mind. Biology won’t cut it anymore. The image used on the web and on the podcast file is the HUBBLE ULTRA DEEP FIELD. , the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind. Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team.
Ok, this is what a lot of you have been waiting for, and with very good reason! Get your thinking hats on, turn off your phones, get a nice cup of tea, clear your schedule, and bring forth your scientific aspect. In this podcast episode, B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D., will be delving into topics such as the nature of information, mind and matter as a derivative of information, the placebo effect, its connection to the flow of experience/information in relation to human existence, and oh, why not: quantum cosmology (just to name a few). This is the main episode, and I will add a second episode with two semi-short followups from the next day. I will not do any paraphrasing of information here, but I will try to list a few of the topics that come up in each part. Keep in mind that I will only list the main topics (not the topics in between topics), and perhaps not even all of them. This superanswer stems out of a question from Noah, who asked Alan to clarify a point from a previous day in which he mentioned that the information stored in his computer was “above and beyond” just a complex configuration of chemicals and electricity. The question asks for an explanation of the term “information” and how it can be causally efficacious. This part starts with a synopsis on the elegant Buddhist hypothesis of human existence as a flow of experience and information, before the division of mind and body. Then, we go into a discussion of the nature of information, followed by a well-supported rejection of assuming the categorical error “subjective experience arises from the brain” which predominates in modern science, leading to the so called “hard problem of consciousness,” which Alan then briefly discusses. This is followed by a very sharp analysis of the placebo effect in relation to human existence as a flow of experience and information, and why 50 years of modern science have failed to explain how it works. As we approach the end of the podcast, Alan shows how much of the modern scientific research on the mind has been hindered because of the fact that if you ask physical questions, you are going to get physical answers. Observing with physical instruments will lead to physical phenomena. To end majestically, Alan uses an example from Stephen Hawkins in order to relate this to the whole cosmos. Stephen Hawkins said (about the big bang and the current cosmological theory), something along the lines of “That story is based on the type of questions you were posing, and all of the questions you were posing were physical questions based on physical measurements.” A macrocosmic projection of the last 400 years in the development of science. I will stop my attempt at paraphrasing here, in order to let you listen to the end of this last part without my measly commentary. I will just say (you know me by now) that it was the most mind-blowing of all of the information we have received thus far. The image used on the web and on the podcast file is the HUBBLE ULTRA DEEP FIELD. , the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind. Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team.
In this request by Nick W, Alan breaks down the Four Immeasurables in an extremely clear synopsis of how they interrelate, their faux facsimiles (which may look very similar but they work in the opposite direction), and how to clearly distinguish them. Alan ends with a beautiful and remarkably accurate metaphor of a charriot pulled by four great steeds, in which he illustrates how the Four Immeasurables work together and help balance each other. Alan's talent in compiling so much knowledge and explaining it so clearly makes this a great short episode for anyone, new or experienced in the topic of the Four Immeasurables! The picture is very much related to (and embodies) the topic.
Today we came back to the meditative cultivation of Compassion (to use the correct phrase) and had an introduction directly related to the practice in order to have less words interjected afterwards. The introduction also talks about the three levels of suffering: blatant suffering, suffering of change, and suffering of conditioned existence. After the succinct practice Alan gave yet another add-on to the bonus that will go out on Sunday. I will add it to the Sunday podcast but I left it here anyway. There is also an assorted Q&A session including posture, information, mundane questions (such as where to find Dharma books for kids) and more deep, religious questions (such as dream teachings), and the buddhist perspective of sleep paralysis. Oh, and lest I forget: Alan recites some Simon & Garfunkel.(I sure know how to market these podcasts don’t I!) Enjoy! (along with this photo from our talented photographer Daniela).
Today we practiced settling the mind in its natural state with an emphasis on observing the background, the "stage" of the mind. As Alan mentions, this acts as a whetstone (knife-sharpening stone) for our vividness, increasing the resolution and sharpness of our mind. The mind can also be viewed in HD! The outro was unexpected and mind-blowing. It will be part of Sunday's bonus but I won't cut it out, it came out very spontaneously and it will leave you longing for it to be Sunday. Some of you might recognize the picture of Galileo’s telescope... It is relevant both for the analogy of sharpening what we perceive and for the outro of this podcast!
Alan gives an introduction on what we actually meditate on when "meditating on the 4I." That is to say, the object of the meditations is always sentient beings. In today's powerful practice, we work on separating the person from the mental affliction, which goes hand in hand with eliminating our sense of contempt towards the person (even if the acts themselves are truly deplorable). Alan mentioned it was one of the more turbulent practices, because the above can be challenging! This practice is designed to overcome that delusion. Afterwards we had a great question from Noah, our resident asker of juicy questions, about information. It will be up this Sunday along with a great explanation on the Four Immeasurables which is long overdue!
This morning's introduction was about our sense of control and possession of our bodies, our minds, and "our" thoughts. We often believe that our thoughts are actually ours, when we can't even control them. In the following meditation, we go into the headquarters (or heartquarters!) of our own mind and release control of everything except our awareness of it. Another great local photo from Daniela!
Today we had a very deep practice on Compassion. The introduction contains great examples as always in order to turn our minds towards the cultivation of compassion, to make real the suffering of others and to unveil our innate compassion, with the boldness, courage, and vision to realize what is happening, attend to the world of possibility, and aspire "may there be freedom." This will leave us poised for action and ready to come out of meditation and do some good in the world. The outro talks about the peril of classifying ourselves as "not a loving person" or "not a compassionate person." Being more reserved does not mean being less compassionate. Alan talks about the obscurations that these feelings bring, and how to peel off the crusts and reveal the compassion that we do not get from anyone, not even from the meditation, because it's already there. The meditation just blows the dust of our eyes. You may notice that this podcast is quite short. Unfortunately my poor laptop was expecting to be on retreat as well, little did it know what awaited it! Today it had an electrical affliction and the hard drive refused to continue recording. I have fixed it, but unfortunately this podcast was cut short. Not to worry, the themes covered will probably come up again very soon, and if you are still longing (I won't say craving) for more then: Alan is happy to announce that the videos are now available from the “Science and Buddhism” colloquium at the University of Oxford, sponsored by the Physiology Department and the Oriental Institute of the University of Oxford, the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, and the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, March, 2010. The videos are accessible here: http://www.voicesfromoxford.org/B-S-Introduction.html The videos are on a menu to the right and they can be downloaded! The picture used is that of Avalokiteśvara so that all sentient beings (and my laptop!) may be free of suffering!
This morning we practiced Settling the Mind by coming in through the senses with the phrase "In the perceived, let there be only the perceived" as a preparation for observing the mind. After a short introduction on the practice in which we touched briefly on the very interesting fact that the appearances that we see are not of a material nature in themselves. Anyway, enjoy the practice! On a side note, Alan is happy to announce that the videos are now available from the “Science and Buddhism” colloquium at the University of Oxford, sponsored by the Physiology Department and the Oriental Institute of the University of Oxford, the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, and the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, March, 2010. The videos are accessible here: http://www.voicesfromoxford.org/B-S-Introduction.html The videos are on a menu to the right and they can be downloaded!
In this episode, we keep working more deeply with the Four Immeasurables. As always we have our introduction which includes an answer by HH. Dalai Lama from a Mind and Life conference saying that what moves us or motivates us to do anything at all is caring. Alan then breaks this down and shows how all of the 4I stem from this basic caring, and also shows how they are deeply entangled together. For example, empathetic joy is "built-into" compassion, as it arises when the suffering is alleviated. After the meditation, we go into an open mic Q&A session which has several questions focused on Awareness of Awareness, and then Ilse shares an experience which spurs Alan into talking about conciousness in the bardo. The last 60 seconds (literally) are a brilliant explanation of "information" and how it only stored/retrieved/exists with reference to the person storing it or accessing it. A computer analogy was obviously present and then related with conciousness in the bardo and from life to life. This local photo is from Rosa!
This morning we had a brief followup on the concept of the loss of the sense of self. Afterwards we went directly into the practice, which you may notice was quite silent apart from the initial sets of instructions. This time it's about going deeper and using our own faculties of mindfulness and introspection without Alan reminding us to do so. This also means fewer words from me (compared to my essays from yesterday)! So back to the cushion I go! Enjoy!
Ah, the Ngöndro (preliminary) practices. If you ask how many you have to do (without the proper context and preparation), you will probably be sorry to hear the answer: 100,000. Of ALL OF THEM. With these good-humored words and other examples, Alan reproaches the "how much do I gotta do" approach to the preliminaries and sets off on a very enlightening explanation of the very valid reasons for the preliminaries and the context in which they are immensely beneficial and meaningful. He also points out when they are not yet of most benefit (especially to us modern people or to people just starting in the path of Dharma) and explains why. In the end, Alan gives a short, concise, and brilliant personal answer (based on how the Buddha taught his disciples) to the preliminaries of Shamatha which left us all tremendously inspired. I won't ruin and pollute the surprise of what his answer is so it will suffice to say that if you have doubts, problems, and/or restlessness about the preliminaries or want to clear any misconceptions, this podcast is definitely for you. And if you really know the preliminaries and perhaps have even completed them, Alan's final points are still extremely valuable to anyone and can bring a rich, meaningful, and powerful drive to the practice. For those interested, the picture is from a thangka of the Dudjom Tersar Ngöndro.