Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Desire and Fulfillment: The only hope for peace? No way!

The supreme exercise in futility is the quest to fulfill desires. By their very nature, desires exclude satisfaction.

Rather daring, wouldn't you say?

The intransigent presupposition (belief) of an independently existing reality outside of human experience, be it nature or “the” universe, gives rise to the compulsion to justify Buddhist, Yogic, Sufi, or other practices by naturalizing them. Science is the practice that ultimately will require justification once these “alien” others are more fully comprehended and incorporated.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Time as Experience: Karma, Accretion, and Change part 1

Frames and full-bodied memory--introductory remarks

Viewing time as the unfolding of experience requires some modifications of what we bring to our usual understanding of “experience.” To gain insight into time as experience, our use of the term “experience” must become radically inclusive of the entire range of each moment of embodied living. In this vision, experience unfolds as frames--perhaps the frames reminiscent of strobe lights or, better, "trails" seen during pharmacological experimentations. Each frame is inclusive of both focal awareness and ambient awareness, i.e., the peripheral visual, olfactory, kinesthetic, tactile, and somatosense to the extent they impacted the frame. Also, and very significantly, the form and aural spatial configuration of that frame. Seen as time (Sanskrit, kshana, Pali: ksana), each moment is a temporal frame inclusive of all the frame contains. Space and time are distinguishable but not separable. So a frame is all-inclusive and not limited to a conceptual memory of an event of any sort. It is the context which the conceptual or cognitive event occurred within. The cognitive memory is an abstraction made in the present from the frame of the past that still abides in the store of living memory that lives, remains, in the present conditioning each "subsequent" frame that is and will be.

Part I: An Elaboration on the Frame

Each moment is filled with some form of objectivity, feeling, perception, consciousness, and meaning content. In addition, each moment may be, and in most instances is, attended by a self-sense, a subject. Frames, when considered from a temporal perspective, are moments. These moment-frames are cumulative. Depictions of fractals are a way to visualize them.

Each kshana or moment-frame becomes on the basis of all the prior ones, despite their differences. If we use the metaphor of geological deposition as in the sediment layers visually apparent in (as) the Grand Canyon, we see that each of the layers takes on the configuration it does from both the prior sediment layers and the conditions laid down from the multitudinous influences of the spatio-temporal context. This is what Buddhists and other Indian philosophical schools refer to as karmic deposits (vasana, samkaras/samkaras). These then form the basis of subsequent deposits. This leads us to a karmic or historical theory of deposition.

All of our acts of body, speech, and mind are conditioned by this process of deposition. As you may observe in the picture of a fractal, each frame follows on the basis of all the other frames. This process has no perceivable beginning when seen in experience--often one arising from meditation or other unconventional perception. Perceptions, thoughts, and memories arise carrying with them all of the relevant factors of past and present in a vectorial movement toward the future. The doctrine of karma states that the processes conditioning all experience have no beginning (an-adi)--but they do have an end. Some might hold that end to be death others hold it to be some sort of release like nirvana.

Part II: Freedom Within the Frames (forthcoming)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Worlding: The Bodily Constitution of Form Part II

Prior to the seemingly late appropriation of things, concepts, forms, and images by the consciousness of or intentional consciousness, the structural organization of visible forms has seemingly always already taken place. This is my rationale for declaring that the body is faster than the mind in prior blog entries. This structural organization, being an as yet unappreciated process of constitution, seemingly earlier than the intentional consciousness can grasp it as things out there separate from a body here, is done in concert with bodily, spatial, and feeling components seldom accessed by most of us. However, with a special attention paid to the subtle feelings of what might be called a subtle body, one can begin to appreciate the dynamics of form-constitution within. This form-generation or -constitution is in sync with and joined to a felt bodily constitution. They arise as an undifferentiated unity seemingly prior to appropriation by thought. In a full appreciation of the feeling-structuring of form, there is no experiential delay in an intentional consciousness grasp of thingness. Intentional consciousness and, what I have referred to as this form constituting ambient, feeling consciousness occur at once. There is no need for the addition of the always already as cautionary device.

Experience, in the above sense, arises as frame-moments (kshanas*). Thought grasps this only as a static reality out there due to its seeming lateness in arriving on the scene as knowing. Hence a dualistic rendering of the prior union into subject and object is one outcome. Each moment of this body-form generation may be called the ambient frame that provides the backdrop for perception by intentional consciousness. Most commonly, the union dimension of experience is perceived as a world out there that awaits our presence as embodied subjects encountering this objectively independent environment full of either physical objects or meaningful others.

There is so much more to be said of this that it overwhelms me. I am forced to stop and calm myself prior to continuing.

*"Concept And Measurement Of Time In Vedas". 2015. Sanskriti - Indian Culture. Accessed January 19 2018.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

In the mirror, what goes in never fully comes out--where is free will?

One might assume that the experience of consciously willing an action and the causation of the action by the person's conscious mind are the same thing. As it turns out, however, they are entirely distinct, and the tendency to confuse them is the source of the illusion of conscious will....*

The existence of free will, libertarian or otherwise, derives from an assumption and is formulated in theory. Through a rather straightforward examination of experience, one can readily observe that free will bears little relation to what is observed. For several moments of quiet attention sit comfortably and observe the movement of thought. Now, without looking for anything in particular, simply observe how thoughts arise without any effort on our parts to think them. They simply arise of their own accord, not ours. The voluntarism is not ours. If it was truly ours or accurately ours, we would be thinking of the thought before the thought arose. This would lead to an infinite regress. Not only is the observation that thoughts arise of their own accord accurate, but if they are said to be willed into being it would fly in the face of logic. To speak in loyalty to experience, we are obliged to say that thoughts arise of their own accord and there is no intentional directedness of thought by the infamous and illusory free will.

Now we take our observations to another aspect of thought, its intentional structure. Thoughts are purposive. At bottom, even the simplest of thoughts such as "Oh!" or "if" are intentional. Thought and language, even visual thought images, presuppose a type of thinker and a listener. They are aimed at; they are intended for; they are meaningful for; finally, they are derivative--something will shall discuss in time. If there is no thinker how does the experience of a thinker arise? What are the necessary conditions for this? Well, one condition, already discussed, is the thought itself, i.e., the intention. We can say, in analysis or parsing, that thought is inherently intentional, meaningful, processual (evanescent), vibratory, and felt. Of course not all of these aspects of thought are present to us all at once. This is an analytical observation and is real only upon observation or, as some would have it, reflection. Now, keeping in mind that what we observe and analyze is another narrative (allegedly) about thought, this analysis is strictly for the purpose of aiding in, or pointing to, or imagining a useful tool for observation; and this observation must point back to the realization that thought occurs without a thinker and there is no need for positing either free will or will as such. What types of thoughts occur will usually be determined by either perceived circumstances or by their association with other thoughts. (Much more needs to be said about this but this is not the time or place.) In point of experiential fact, thoughts do not exist at all. As we live them they do not present as thoughts. Thoughts, as lived, appear in the dynamic context of circumstances. Thoughts are situational. They present as meaning. This is a purely phenomenological approach, being as accurate as possible with the tools of observation we have, narratives.

We have offered a brief discussion of one of the conditions necessary for the arising of a self-sense. Another condition for the appearance or condition of a self-sense is a living context. Thought appears to be autogenous, self-arising. There is no agent thinking or directing thought. However, the fact that it is arising implies that it arises in someplace. There must be a womb in which thought appears. There must be some sort of feeling/context for living meaning to arise within. If we can be said to "hear" thoughts, we must hear them in a silence. To hear is simultaneously to hear silence. We often overlook the necessity of the context of thought's appearance. If we hear thoughts, or see thought-images, they must arise within. But within what? Try it, close your eyes and watch thoughts arise. Are they not arising within? What is this "within"? The within is a living, breathing, no-thing. Yet, it is alive! It lives as a within. The within in which life takes place. We hear within its silence; we taste within its tastelessness (We cannot taste the tongue.); we speak to its silence; we touch within its touchless; it is odor within the odorless; and we think in its open receptivity. This openness is another of the necessary conditions for the arising of a self-sense. Its receptivity appears to thought as an implicit listener, the one to whom the thought is implicitly directed. The openness within simultaneously functions, in its hiddenness, as the thinker of thoughts. It is the feeling of thought production that abides or dwells providing one basis for a confusion or fusion of body and thought as a self-sense. The within is mistakenly taken to be, at once, both the whom thought is directed to and the one who thinks the thoughts. This mistaken assumption is made possible by both the feeling of thought production and the openness to and from which thought takes place. This openness is not inert. It lives! It provides us with the support of thought and feelings. Without it thoughts, sensations, and feelings could not become experience. This living openness makes experience possible.

Another way of speaking about this is the use of a metaphor, the mirror. The mirror has a long and varied history of use in philosophy. However, each of these usages is somewhat different and ours will be no exception.

We may begin by likening the openness discussed above to a mirror. The mirror lives as a reflecting whatever is revealed to it. It is indifferent to the content of the presentations and is untouched by them. No matter what is presented to the mirror, it remains untouched, unmoved, indifferent. What thought captures are the images in the mirror. Thought is not what is presented to the mirror. What appears in the mirror is experience. What is seen in the mirror is thought or imagery. Thought is always one step behind what is presented. What is presented is anonymous, selfless. What is reflected is self-laden. We believe what we see in the mirror is what was presented to the mirror. But how would we ever know that? How do we know that what is presented in the mirror is exactly what is presented to us in the mirror? How would we verify that? We even believe, without thinking it, that our reflection in the mirror is what everyone will see when they see us. Sure we could get some consensus about the forms and colors in the mirror leading us to believe that others see what we see in the mirror. But when others look at us do they see only naked form and color? No, they see a face full of significances that each of us carries to various forms and colors. The face is the basis of historical, cultural, ethnic, social, and personal significances that each person brings to faces. A face is so much more than mere form and color. Our friend sees our face one way and our mother sees an entirely different face. Form and color pale in comparison to the richness that a face exhibits in ordinary perception. This same inclusion of significances is intrinsic to what everyone perceives at all times. We see through fully human eyes, not physical eyes. Perception is a human process, not a biological one. We must not let human perception be reduced to a purely natural process.

In the mirror, what goes in never comes out. 

In our mirror metaphor, experience is what goes into the mirror. We may also say that what is alive enters the mirror. The use of the mirror is alleged to bring experience to the activity of cognition--in the everyday use of the term. However, this bringing may be equated with desire (craving). In almost every case, we intentionally come to a mirror to see what is in it, only occasionally to clean it. More often than not we come with the expectation to perceive something in the mirror. That expectation is desire. That desire to "see ourselves"* (or something else, e.g., a blemish) in the mirror" Expectation is at work and therefore history, the history that functions as a subsoil of beliefs--a matrix of cultural/neurological accretions the origin of which is not present to thought--that frame the expectation to see ourselves in the mirror. (I cannot even tell this story without that matrix.) I mention "neurological" because all perception and cognition bears feeling. "Neurological" provides somewhat of a concession to the language of biology. Now, what goes into the mirror in our metaphor is likened to the concept of experience. The desire intrinsic to thought in its function as expectation may be likened to all thought. All thinking is intentional and as such is desire-laden. "Desire (Skt.kama) came upon that one in the beginning; that was the first seed of mind."**

The mirror metaphor may also point to the reductive nature of thought. When arriving at the mirror, carrying desire, what is anticipated is reductive. Usually, we do not perceive the wall behind us and much of what is present is ignored. Our perception reduces the wholeness of experience to the frame of expectation. Our expectations--configured by past human acts of body, speech, and mind--reduce experience to their own configurations. Experience, reduced by desire-laden intentions, suffers necessary reductions of space, time, feelings, thoughts, etc. It is no wonder that we fail to appreciate and be grateful for the everyday experience of our so-called "ordinary" lives.

Much more requires saying for this story. I will return to it soon. I welcome any thoughts you may have to assist in its completion. Thank you for reading and reflecting on it. You have my gratitude.


1. Daniel M. Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2002), 3.

*Notice, we don't say, "I want to see my reflection in the mirror."

**Rg Veda: 10:129:4

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Intention and Desire: Two Sides of the Coin

On Intentionality and Desire

All thought, all cognition, is intentional. Desire is present in the movement of intentionality. Craving (tanha/trsna) inheres in intentionality. In fact, craving or thirst, accounts for the movement of intention. The movement of thought, in a purely humanized observation, is the movement of desire. Desire and the content of intention are two sides of the same coin. Even the very dynamic of thought is intentional and therefore desire laden.Intention is the meaningful movement of thought. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Glance

The tree!
Where is everything else 
and where am I?
Making the tree possible,

Monday, September 18, 2017

A meditation on the limits of thinking--continues

There is no thinker of thoughts, despite the experiential fact (for most of us at times) that there seems to be. Thoughts think the thinker. In point of fact, there is no such thing as a thought. Thoughts are conceptual entities, available only upon abstraction. Paradoxically, they exist only in thought! We can say the same about consciousness. In a sense, thoughts and consciousness are products of being thought (about). So, it is fair to say that we are not thinking about anything when we think about thoughts or consciousness. (This speaks to the inadequacy, or perhaps error, of translating/interpreting the Sanskrit cit as "consciousness.")

The "contents of experience" at any given moment are, simply, what is the case, or what there is. Once the force of history has enacted experience, in the present toward the future, we live the contents of our experience. Thoughts often occur when we attempt to capture what has already happened--when we reflect. However, are we "reflecting" on anything but the contents of thought or consciousness? What exactly does "reflection" mean? Our reflections are reflections on the very contents of the selfsame reflection. Reflections do not reflect anything.

The thinker is the experiential fact of selfhood, a knowing-feeling. The feeling and knowing of our self-sense are inseparable in the occurring of selfhood. However, they are distinguishable analytically. Selfhood is a qualitative and evanescent occurring. The qualitative aspects of selfhood inhere in what is not self. We have at our disposal various schemas for such categorization, e.g., form (objectivity), feeling, perception, consciousness, historically generated intentional structures for narrative content that are sedimented as habitual acts of thoughts, words, and deeds (karma). These five constitute the structure and meaning of experience. They were formed by desire, without a perceivable beginning, and they are maintained by desire or an, often unnoticed, epistemological craving. This craving results from their impermanence (or evanescence) in association with the narrative tropes of having, owning, possessing, identifying with, and being.

So, brahmin, when there is the element of endeavoring, endeavoring beings are clearly discerned; of such beings, this is the self-doer, this, the other-doer. I have not, brahmin, seen or heard such a doctrine, such a view as yours. How, indeed, could one — moving forward by himself, moving back by himself — say ‘There is no self-doer, there is no other-doer’? (1.) (from the Attakārī Sutta: The Self-Doer)

In these words of the Buddha, he is said to have acknowledged that some sort of self-sense is present in experience. He does not commit to a metaphysics of self, but--on my interpretation--only a phenomenal sense of self as the agent, the "one who endeavors." He is speaking, in this dialogue, to a Brahmin priest who came to the Buddha with a doctrine of "no-self" that was clearly naive. He denied the existence of a self with an all-encompassing sweep of abstraction. He presents a theory that simply negates self. The Buddha points the Brahmin back to his own experience. "...endeavoring beings are clearly discerned." Metaphysics is not the issue here. We do indeed experience self, in all of our endeavors, our intended actions. This will have a great bearing on the manner in which the Buddha will instruct his students. I mention this here to pave the way for my future ruminations on experience and the minimization of suffering.

I mentioned above that self inheres in what is not self. Given that selfhood--for the purposes of our discussions--is strictly phenomenal, we intend to discuss self as it appears. Its appearance is in the form of feelings and narratives. Feelings authenticate its reality and narratives shape the manner of its appearance. If we leave aside the feelings associated with self, it would appear almost as literature and not life. If we lose the narrative clothing of self, feelings would be inchoate and selfless. Self always appears with circumstances, whether they be empirical or conceptual. Form, feelings, perception, consciousness, and historical determinations constitute the building blocks of the narrative, providing these "stories" with structure and meaning.

1."Attakārī Sutta: The Self-Doer". 2017. Accesstoinsight.Org. Accessed September 18 2017.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Power of Repetition--suggestion for cognitive scientists

Neuroscience must take a penetrating look at the power of habit. What I mean by that is the "selection" processes involved in what we call "choice" are weighted by quantity. How many times has an action, or associated action, been repeated? This may be mapped or perhaps even quantified and it might lead to a theory of habit or a repetitive execution model of selection.

As always, there is no perceivable beginning to this process, only an end to certain habits via their being drained of attention by oppositive habits or a type of non-judgmental witnessing. It is attention, of consciousness, feelings, perception, forms, and history-laden fabrications to various intentional formations that determine their "place in line," their strength. It is attention to these formations or fabrications and both the quality and quantity of attention that determine the "weight" of habits.

Of course, this suggestion leaves the topic of physical causality out. However, we may venture another suggestion here. If these history-laden habits have physical properties that would be seen by many cognitive scientists as causal, then the locus of historical sediment in the brain would also be responsible for the structuring of experience. While I am not concerned in this blog to locate causality in either consciousness or the brain, I am suggesting that this analysis may be a fruitful path to follow for cognitive science. Also, please forgive me for not knowing whether this has already been a serious path of inquiry, I simply have not come across it in my limited research into the brain sciences.

I hope to continue writing more on this topic in future blogs. It involves the notions of free will and determinism as well as a phenomenology of decisions and choice. Stay tuned, please.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Craving and Imposition, edited somewhat

For always, more to follow.

What's perceived as reality is, more often than not, the imposition of history on the present toward a future dictated by the past--in word intentionality. That which holds history to that which is seen is an existential thirst, what we may provisionally term desire. This desire is born of habit to provide sanctuary, i.e., spatial/temporal location and security of being, for selfhood. Take the example finding a bag of paper currency, dollars. One look at that bag of money is all it would take for most of us to perceive it as valuable. "Wow, a bag of money!" Yet, if I took say a fifty-dollar bill out of the bag and placed it on a table and asked you to look at it as its form alone, I doubt that many of us would be able to do so without some effort to abstract the notion of money-value from it and see its shape, probably a rectangle. (I have yet to come across any triangular or circular paper money.) It would be with a quick glance that the dollar bill would be perceived as valuable. One would certainly not have to look, then detect it as money, then posit it as valuable. There would be an immediate, i.e., non-mediated, perception of the bill as valuable money. Only one glance! So, let's take the glance as indicating our conceptual model or paradigm for the manner in which most perception works. Therefore, our experience includes our perception of the form money, our consciousness of it as money, our feeling of perhaps "elation" in finding that what we see is money, the role history (past acts of interpretation) plays in the perception (Let's call this fabrication.), and the perception itself. Now, we have "isolated" no less than five co-implicated components or factors of the glance. How does a self-sense fit into this? All five of those co-implicated (complicated) factors will have taken place in our example as being a personal experience, an experience that "I have." Our conventional, usual experience of objects, the glance, wears the clothing of a narrative. The experience of the bag of currency or the fifty-dollar bill is experienced with an attending sense of self, an I or me. You can observe this for yourself. (No pun intended.). Simply take note of the experience of almost anything and you will see quite plainly that it feels as though you are the one seeing, feeling, tasting, touching or hearing what occurs. In this case, finding the money is certainly a good feeling. This may lead to the desire to keep the money. "I have it now and it feels good; it will feel better if I keep it." "It will feel even better if it's mine." "Boy, what I can do with this money." That initial good feeling is, as we have already intuited, a process. We feel, an active feeling, that finding the money is a feeling we can surely live with. The fleeting nature of feelings is, at some level, apparent. We want to hang on to them by keeping the money, perhaps even knowing that it does not belong to us, but it could. We crave to continue feeling the feelings we feel now and into the future. Desire has taken root in the form of present and future narratives. Now, consider that our desire is rooted not only in the narrative, but in the form, perception, feelings, consciousness, and fabrications that are at play in our example. Recall that these five components are co-implicated. They are inseparably linked together to provide us with experience. Of course, we have abstracted them conceptually, from our experience. They are certainly abstractions. However, these abstract concepts may prove useful for a more inclusive analysis of experience as well as a means to overcome the often burdensome weight of our desires that are bound to them. It was the narratives of history, the meaning making fabrications, that provided us with the defined object, the money. History (karma), personal, social, and cultural provided us with the significances or fabrications that are inseparably linked to our feelings and (possible) desire to keep the money. We liked what we saw, the feelings it gave us and the potential extending of those feelings into a hypothetical future. We could be rich! So, we have ensured the continuity of a group of historical determinations for future incarnations. Our repeating of historical determinations, our karma or acts, have ensured our future is full of similar desires.
This same perceptual process applies to all conventional perception. Desire or craving results from repetition and only repetition. Repetition determines what inheres in the seen, felt, tasted, touched, smelled, and conceived. How does this relate to a self?

The sense of I-am-ness rises and falls on desire.

We find ourselves on the effect end of desire. Desire or more commonly "craving", has already found its assignations prior to our "personal" incarnations of it. The actions--in thought, word, and deed--of prior births, including our own biographical narrative, have already seen to desire's multifarious costumes. We are normally, existentially situated on the created side, what we might call the "effect" side of this causal process. No origin is perceivable, it is beginningless. However, it does have, for some of us, an end.

What we may provisionally term "unsatisfactory" imputations of desire (or craving), i.e., those whose unfolding effects either are or result in some level of suffering, result in feelings that are pleasurable, in some sense painful, or neutral. We will consider experience so configured to be "afflicted." One may scoff at the idea that our so-called pleasurable experiences are afflicted. However, when we reflect on this conception of the pleasurable, we may readily understand that pleasurable experiences almost always sediment a pleasure memory that, by its very transience, seeks more of itself. For example, when tasting a delicious ice cream cone, the experience of taste--for all but few of us--demands continuity. To elaborate, the movement of tasting is evanescent, i.e., as it is coming into experience, is it simultaneously disappearing from experience. This impermanence, when coupled with a narrative of "I-tasting" or "This sure is good" (clinging)--an autobiographically flavored narrative--will entail some degree of wanting more. Consider the result if the ice cream cone is dropped. Or, consider if we are down to our last bite. Many of us would feel wanting, if not for more now, more in the future. This is, in itself, unsatisfactory experience, a lack or vacuity (?) is born. Craving may be seen to consist in lack.

As a great man once said, "the nature of becoming is origination and cessation." To realize this in direct experience is to "see" beyond craving.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Some speculations about the "hard problem"

If physicalism is to be defended, the phenomenological features must themselves be given a physical account. But when we examine their subjective character it: seems that such a result is impossible. The reason is that every subjective phenomenon is essentially connected with a single point of view, and it seems inevitable that an objective, physical theory will abandon that point of view. (1.)

This quotation is from a very popular paper by the philosopher Thomas Nagel entitled "What is it Like to be a Bat." (See footnote 1.) For those not familiar with philosophy jargon, physicalism (see quote) is the view that everything is, at bottom, physical. In more technical language, everything supervenes on the physical. An opposite perspective would be idealism. Idealism states that everything is mental; or everything is, at bottom, mental or mind. So, all things supervene on the mind. For science, everything supervenes on the physical. Science, not as method but in its metaphysical outlook is physicalistic. In scientific thought, consciousness or subjective experience is supervened by the physical. Consciousness is said, therefore, to be grounded in physical processes, i.e., consciousness is the result of neural processes. 

When Nagel says that "the phenomenological features must themselves be given a physical account" he states the view that most neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, analytic philosophers of mind, and many philosophers hold. The phenomenological features are the subjective contents of consciousness. Hence, Nagel discusses what it must be like to be a bat--the bat's subjective experience of being a bat. 

Digest this and I'll be back for more. 

1. Nagel, Thomas. "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" The Philosophical Review 83, no. 4 (1974): 435-50. doi:10.2307/2183914.

Desire and Fulfillment: The only hope for peace? No way!

The supreme exercise in futility is the quest to fulfill desires. By their very nature, desires exclude satisfaction.