Attacking enlightenment

byElo7mo28th Sep 201844 comments

28


I’m Calling it. An astounding number of community members are currently chasing enlightenment. That is, we are reading books, compiling information and meditating to pull apart the inner landscape of our own minds. The Buddhist, Taoist, Zen, spiritual, mystical, flow state, thing that is in the cluster that forms the enlightenment space. (What? Weird? I know. Why? Read on)

I did what I always do. I chart out alone, read a different book. Integral theory, Sam Harris, Chade Meng Taing, zen in the art of Archery, The Gateless Gate, PNSE - Geoffrey Martin… And then I realised I was not alone. So was S0phia*, Aella, Sarah, Val, Aaron, Nish, Atharva, Colton, and the list goes on.

This is a list of resources I find relevant right now. With more to come:


I suggest start here (https://integrallife.com/four-quadrants/) (with the 4 quadrant concept) and be sufficiently confused to keep researching.

Rationality is very good at staying on the right hand side of the diagram. The classic straw Vulcan is a champion of the right. The “emotional” humans are on the left (specifically upper left). Except that the entirely rational community has mental health problems 3 times higher than the rest of the population. How is is that we can be objective and optimised and directed towards winning and entirely hiding the mental health problems we have?

Well that’s simple. Rational thought streams are on the right of the diagram, and emotional experiences are on the left. True mastery of the nature of reality requires walking the line between the two. Not just living in one and not the other.

Why am I talking about mental health in a post about enlightenment? Enlightenment seems to be this annoyingly balanced thing between other concepts. It’s one that’s particularly hard to point at. It causes works like the smug The tao is silent, and every smiling giggly buddhist to barely be able to contain their laughter when trying to explain why everything is the same but different.

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” - Zen koan

What does that mean you cryptic bastards! If enlightenment is so great then give me some step by step directions to it!


Three caveats:

  1. Every path to enlightenment is slightly different. So even with great instructions, they are bound to be at least a little bit off.
  2. Interior spaces (the left of the diagram) are not easily able to be transmitted. One person’s empirical procedure explains what they did but does not give explicit directions to others. Only the vague map of how they got there. (kind of like chakras and how they can’t be found surgically - duh, thousands of years ago when they were first described, they knew they would not be found surgically but millions of people claim to be able to experience them)
  3. I am rather embarrassed to say that I always classified Buddhism as a religion. After all it has that spiritual, “be nice to others” thing to it. What I didn’t realise was that it’s more like (slightly gibberish) empirical instructions to follow, after which you should find your way up the mountain to enlightenment.

So uhh.. The instructions are something like, meditate while paying attention to a number of key factors (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, no-self). I’d posit the instructions myself but I don’t actually know that I can do that very well compared to the resources above and every other resource out there.

What I can say is this: Be a rationalist and go do some research and run your own experiments.


Top recommendation is Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha 2.


A caveat for the whole enlightenment, spirituality “woo” space. The space is particularly bad at words and defining their terms. I’d say that “they are using words wrong” but actually it’s more like, because describing interior space experiences are a subjective and personal process, each person’s description of interior spaces is going to be self contained and self perpetuating. Code switching is worse than ever. The only way to navigate the alternative spaces is to get really used to building maps to other people’s maps of their territories. I'm doing it and I am finding sense in the gibberish that is weird ass spiritual experiences that other's are having. And it's not scary, bad, dumb or terrible like I thought. I was wrong.


If you want to explore, good luck. Send me a message if you want to connect and talk in private. (see also my recent post https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/dSokCMn63Wu48WX5u/emotional-training-model#eWF39EfwzERciaYQ6)