Compassion: Investigating a Hypothesis about the Very Root of Suffering (and the importance of not taking Dharma out of context)
Summary: This afternoon Alan started by pointing out the modern tendency of being very harsh and strict with ourselves, and the need for Compassion. He then proceeds by diving down to the very root of suffering, considering the hypothesis that all mental afflictions stem from the grasping and reification of "self" as separate, autonomous, and self-existant. He aludes to the Vajra essence, showing how the symmetry of the substrate is broken and the sense of "self" coagulates and differentiates itself from the space, followed by the arising of appearances also as "other" and finally as the mind activates it conceptually imputes objects from those appearances we directly see. Using a few other examples, we see that it is pretty evident that all suffering comes from the reification and grasping of self, me and mine. The only thing left for us to do is investigate this hypothesis, bringing wisdom and compassion together into practice. After the meditation, we have a brief comment by Alan about the Vajra Essence (Dudjom Lingpa) and the relative "simplicity" of the path, followed by some interesting questions from Malcolm. He built on on an earlier question about being a Bodhisattva without knowing it, now extending it to "Is it possible for a Sotāpanna (stream enterer) to be one with out knowing it." Alan said yes, but then really unpacked the question, focusing on the importance of not taking things out of context. He highlights his skepticism of many modern ways in which people are practicing Dharma, and talks a little about debunking false claims of realization. He also talks about how these new Dharma experiments can cause you to fool yourself into thinking you have genuine realization, uniquely combining a story from the suttas with Mark Twain. Along the explanation he comes upon the debate of "momentary Samadhi" being enough for Vipassana practice and the problems with this allegation, pointing to the following debate: http://www.mahasi.org.mm/discourse/E24/E24ch01.htm There is also a part where Alan speaks about a connection between Mahayana and Christianity, and Elizabeth explains how the Christian Saint Josaphat is actually a mistranslation of Arhat, and reveals the fact the The Buddha was actually canonized! She says there is an article on her website, which is here: http://buddhist-christian.org/ Well, I think this description has gotten out of hand with the length. So I'll leave you with this still from David Cherniack, representing the distortion that occurs when taking Dharma out of context!