Friday, April 13, 2018

More remarks on free will and karma, but as yet unfinished...

Some adherents to a free will view may not realize all of the necessary assumptions in place making such a view seem plausible. However, keen or vigilant attention paid to experience reveals that an error is in play. Experience rises and falls, by its own momentum, effortlessly--for good or bad. Its source is unknowable, in a strictly experiential sense. Watch very calmly and closely if you are in doubt, for this is precisely what it takes to come to know this to be an accurate description. A self-sense inheres (as a conceit) in the continuum of experience, not as an agent of actions of body, speech, and mind but as an implicit or explicit component of the continuum. This is often called our karma--because it becomes manifest in our experience with an implicit or explicit attending self-sense. The conceit is what we may refer to as the illusion, the mere appearance of Ime, and mine. However, the vigilant attention spoken of here, while intrinsic to experience, is not a self or an agent of actions. This attention makes the bearer of experience and the contents of experience possible.

What arises as experience results from necessarily incarnate past acts, historical, social, familial, and personal. If experience occurred in any other way, change would not be possible. Thus, change for the better, i.e., change in the quality of future experience is indeed possible through acts taken in the present.

No act (karma) of body, speech, and mind is lost. Meaningful experience, fully human experience, unfolds from the past in the present toward the future. Thus, experience is intentional. Actions taken in the present, providing the deposits for the nature of future experience, include the circumstantial elements of each present moment wherein the past is unfolded as the present toward the future. Thus, the deposits left by the action taken in each present circumstance accounts for the novelty of future experience. Thus, innovation is included in the experiential continuum. If one thinks of this in the manner of geological deposition, such as we see in the sedimentary layers of the Grand Canyon, we must take note of, not only the prior layers of sediment conditioning the structure of the newer deposits, but of the causes and conditions of each moment that also lend to the configuration of each new layer of sediment deposited upon the prior layers. All (and I must stress this word) of these prior layers (the past) are also the conditions which remain to configure each new layer as it is deposited. Thus, each present action, inclusive of all of the circumstances conditioning that present action, will also be conditioned by all prior acts deposited and both the present and the past become the causes and conditions of future experience. This makes the novelty and the continuity of experience possible. In effect, the future is in a sense, but not entirely, present in the past. So, our actions in the present do count. However, they are conditioned acts with the possibility of qualitative change made possible by the manner in which each action taken, not by a free agent mind you, establishes the conditions upon which future experience is created.

Continued in the post above this one.

Monday, March 26, 2018

“There are two kinds of suffering: the suffering that leads to more suffering and the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. If you are not willing to face the second kind of suffering, you will surely continue to experiences the first.”
                                                                                                                                     --Ajahn Chah

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

On the Dangers of the Reification of the Process of Attention

A Simple Introduction

A wonderful lesson I took in my early years in college was from one of Ortega y Gasset's* works. It involved the following (crudely) paraphrased example. He asked what the color white was and to what we might apply it knowing full well that many whites existed and we apply the word white to all of them. So, which was the real white? He drew the distinction between the variety of whites we experience and the ideal or concept white we think. While, as far as I can recall, he never applied it to the concept of self; but his lesson in color also applies to the notion of self. We commonly use the words I, me, mine as if they applied in one or another sense to the same self. We also use names (nouns) as if they apply to a self-same person, place. or thing. These usages are fine as long as we have in mind the conventional nature of the application of the concept to the changing experience of what we conventionally call the thing. But, as we know, this is seldom if ever the case. We seldom, if ever, realize that the name is not adequate to the ever-changing experience we have of what we believe the name to refer to. Take the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus's well-known example (and warning), "It is impossible to step twice into the same river." Now, while I have stated this rather simplistically, it works to point to ever more complex issues that often cause us a great deal of confusion and even suffering.

On the Dangers of the Reification of the Process of Attention (unedited but headed in the right direction)

If we are hellbent on using the term “consciousness” for discussions regarding our experience as sentient beings let us be acutely aware of our tendency to regard this term as a thing, entity, or object rather than an activity that lives, that is intensely alive and superbly ephemeral; it is an ephemeron.

All five factors--objectivity, feeling, perception, narratives, and consciousness--of the assemblages are ephemerons, they are alive and as such not things, not cadavers, not objects in a frozen landscape called the world. Experience is living; it is coming and going simultaneously. Birth and death are the movements of time, of experience. Freedom may be viewed as the evanescent awareness of assemblages in their synchroneity.

Craving is the arising of narratives of the death-rendering battle against impermanence.

*Jose Ortega y Gasset, 1886-1955, the great Spanish philosopher that I strongly recommend your attention to at some point in your life.    

This post takes the place of the deleted "Desire and Fulfillment..." post

On the Movement of Experience as Time

We may analyze experience into five basic factors that integrate to form assemblages: (intentional) objects, feelings, perceptions, narratives, and awareness.

The collusion of any them--past, present or future; internal or external; explicit or implicit; common or sublime--is here termed an assemblage.

Assemblages may be seen as an organization of the factors, i.e., both the structure and content of all conventional experience.

These assemblages, for most of us, function as the targets of craving, invariably accompanied by a self-sense.

The factor that organizes the others is narrative. Narrative organizes perception, consciousness (or awareness), objectivity, and feelings (body). Again, the organizations are here called assemblages.

Narratives are, in the linear sense, historically constituted. Their intentional structure and content are formed by a process of deposition, as in geological deposition, wherein the past shapes a present inclusive of circumstantial conditions that also lend to its intentional, future-oriented composition.

All narratives are vectorial. It is helpful to consider the depositional character of narratives as frames that are inclusive of each moment of present circumstances as well as all prior deposits also shaping that present moment as well. (More should and will be said of narratives but we will have to wait for more appropriate time and place--assemblages.)

Assemblages are temporal in two senses: 1.) the sense that they derive from the past in the present toward an intended future, i.e., they are vectorial; 2.) in the sense that they are ephemeral.

Assemblages are evanescent and, in conventional experience, attended by a self-sense, also evanescent.

An assemblage, when with its attendant self-sense, is a necessary condition for attachment, aversion, or indifference to arise. An assemblage is also a necessary condition for the various modalities of self-senses to arise in the forms of I, me, and mine. Identification with, relationship to, and possession of
the assemblages are the general forms of self-sense composition and manifestation.

A self-sense may be said to be the bearer of the craving-assemblages. They are concomitant, in all but a few cases, with dissatisfaction ranging from cravings for continuing pleasure, to aversion, indifference, stress, to extreme suffering--despite the evanescent nature of the self-sense.

This apparent continuity of the self-sense is due to the similar intentional content of the evanescent narratives organizing the factors providing association. This processual movement of similar self-sense bearing narratives is time itself.

Experience is time.*

*As always, the foregoing is subject to modification.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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, samskaras/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.

More remarks on free will and karma, but as yet unfinished...

Some adherents to a free will view may not realize all of the necessary assumptions in place making such a view seem plausible. However, ke...