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Subject and Object: Explorations how we construct meaning and language

26 Feb

Subject and Object: Explorations how we construct meaning and language

 

We experience ourselves and the world as subject and object only through conceptualization and language. This dualism, however, is only mental and not real. Mind produces this subject-object dualism. The subjectivity of our mind affects our perceptions of the world that is held to be objective by natural science.”

Tom Arnold

The entire world of experience is one which is comprised of the polarity between subjectivity and objectivity. […] The subjectivity and objectivity are mutually dependently originated […] the subjective and objective aspects of our experience are in fact the linked “poles” of a single process.’ Susan Hamilton

 

In all psychic life there is subject and object.’ Karl Jaspers

 Mental Structures

Defined in psychology and cognitive science, schemas are mental structures of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world, or a system that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. According to M.A. Arbib & Erdi they are also interdependent in relation to the other ones. Schemas and their network of interconnections, have a proneness to remain constant, even in the face of contradictory information, nevertheless, they do change through the processes of accommodation. Accommodation is the cognitive process of incorporation of new information by revising existing cognitive schemas, perceptions, and understanding. An analogy of this transitional process are the colors of the rainbow. While we can clearly define the primary colors of a rainbow, part of its characteristic is the overlapping colors that merge into one another. Like a rainbow, at each phase of equilibrium or schematic stability, there is a primary ‘color’ while in the transitional spaces, the primary ‘colors’ merge and blend. If the established schema cannot make sense of unfamiliar information, dis-equilibrium is necessary for the transformation or updating of the existing schema (knowledge). Through learning, a new schema network emerges that moderates a person’s new reality or perspective. ‘Each schema enriches and is defined by the others (and may change when a formal linguistic system allows explicit, though partial, definition). Even though processes of schema change may affect only a few schemas at any time, such changes may “cohere” to yield dramatic changes in the overall pattern of mental organization. There is change yet continuity, with many schemas held in common, yet changed because they must now be used in the context of the new network.’ 30 Therefore, we see that transformation is different from learning new skills or facts; it instead disrupts and alters the way our cognitive apparatus knows, interprets and responds. In fact, one’s cognitive development and transformation through the Eightfold Path can be easily construed as intentional ego stage developments involving the advancement through progressively schematic dis-equilibrium/equilibrium to more refined ways of knowing.

Similarly, according to the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, cognitive development and transformation progresses in discoveries or insights, not at a steady rate. A state of disequilibrium occurs when new information cannot be assimilated into existing schemas. Since disequilibrium creates stress, the urge for equilibration then becomes the force that drives the learning process as we seek to de-stress and restore balance by cognitively mastering or letting go of the new challenge (accommodation). We also see this phenomenon described in the Zeigarnik Effect, which is the natural propensity for alleviating the stress created by task incompletion by better recalling of all tasks, hence, giving priority to unfinished projects before finished projects. Through the process of assimilation and the integration of the new information, the newly formed schema remains until the next time an adjustment is required. This process of growth involves a progression of continual shifts of meaning marked by periods of stability and periods of instability, leading to ongoing construct/schemata reconstructions. Stability and harmony are the forces, which move development along. Resulting from either new experiences and/or deliberate interventions, such shifts produce corresponding changes in our viewpoint of the environment, ourselves, and, therefore, how we interact with an increasingly discerned and objective world. In the process of transformation, the previous schema or way of meaning-making is not entirely left behind; this previous way can still become activated as a latent disposition. As Laszlo points out, ‘…all we can say is that the new steady state, if it is dynamically stable, assimilates the disturbance introduced by the destabilizing parameters within an open structure that is likely to be more dynamic and complex than the structure in the previous steady state.’32

Thinking and Talking: the shift from Subject to Object

One of the Buddha’s most significant insights was that the self is developed and maintained by a dualist perspective, and this distinction between a subject and object is a cognitively based convention. This duality has two poles (subject/object) with consciousness linking these two aspects together. After all, where there is an object of perception, there is a subject perceiving and it is consciousness that maintains an awareness between them. The subject-object relationship is not just an abstraction but a cognitive experience. Our constructs of the self that are Subject are nonconscious aspects subsumed internally which hold our unquestioned beliefs about the world. One generally cannot name things that are Subject, and we do not usually reflect upon them for that would require us to stand back and make them object. Kegan asserts, ‘We cannot be responsible for, in control of, or reflect upon that which is subject’25 (p. 32). The Object represents the content of one’s knowing, and any insight of the subject (i.e. by a projective psychological test) provides a clue about our underlying cognitive structure or schemata. Even though dualities occur naturally as a function of conceptualization, psychological calcification around them leads to excessive fragmentation of experience.

In Kegan’s discussion of stage transformation, the distinction between Subject and Object is of vital importance. In fact, the aspect of transformation that he is most concerned with involves the movement of essential schematic features from Subject to Object. According to Kegan, the way one progresses from one stage to the next is taking what was once subject and making it object. Therefore, the process of transformation is learning to objectively evaluate what biases or schemata, as ‘colored glasses/lens’, we unconsciously used in the prior order of consciousness. ‘Object’ are those aspects of our cognitive world that we are aware of and can be looked at, related to, reflected upon, engaged, controlled, and connected to something else. Contrarily, on the other side of the subject-object relationship, ‘Subject’, is the aspect of our cognitive world in which we are embedded in, fused with, and identify as our self. Kegan writes, “We have object; we are subject”. Things that are Object in our lives are “those elements of our knowing or organizing that we can reflect on, handle, look at, be responsible for, relate to each other, take control of, internalize, assimilate, or otherwise operate upon”.25 When we identify elements as Object, we become aware that “the element of knowing [when it is Object] is not the whole of us; it is distinct enough from us that we can do something with it”.25 Our worldview can expand and become more complex when we become objective about the subjective and no longer identify them as ‘me’. The disequilibrium and transformation of schematic systems moving from Subject to Object is gradual.  This shift means that what is once a non-conscious ‘lens’ through which we regard the world is instead brought into awareness, analyzed, categorized, and altered. This disequilibrium from Subject to Object of established systems to new equilibriums is what forms the transformation of orders in consciousness.

Therefore, Kegan’s five orders of mind are qualitatively different ways of constructing reality. Each order is a qualitative shift in complexity and meaning-making from the order before it.  Kegan explains that when we move the elements of the earlier meaning-making or schematic system from Subject (where it has dominion over us) to Object (where we have a new sense of qualification over the system itself), we accommodate what we have learned in a previous order. Therefore, with transformation, there is a shift from a habitual and unreflective pattern to a more deliberate and self-reflective pattern, changing the actual form of our understanding of the world. These different compositions of the cognitive apparatus largely determine the intellectual, emotional and behavioural aspects of our functioning.

The knowing disequilibration of our schematic systems by reflection and transformation successfully allows us to update our cognitive apparatus through context change, assumption re-assessment, and by challenging our minds to shift. By amending and revising our suppositions and assumptions, we loosen the static Self position and experience the humbling realization that our perceptions, assumptions, and beliefs are limited, imperfect, subjective and in need of constant mindful evaluation. In fact, also in Buddhist Citta cultivation, the intentional transformation of the subject becoming object is part of the ego transformation and transcendence leading to awakening. ‘Meditation, for example, includes a practice of making subject into object: of simply witnessing our own subjective minds with non-attached equanimity, experiencing our subjective thoughts, emotions, sensations, and impulses as objects in our awareness. With enough training and practice, the spiritual path ultimately leads us to the point of “Absolute Subjectivity”—that point where we are completely “emptied out” and there is no more subject left to be made into object, and all that remains is the effortless and seamless embrace of nondual awareness.’ 33

The Buddha’s transcendence of the Subject and Object

…the world is steeped in the notion of duality. It grasps either this end, or the other end. Hard it is for the world to understand the stance of the arahant couched in the cryptic phrase, neither here nor there nor in between the two”. The worldling is accustomed to grasp either this end or the other end.’

Bhikkhu Katukurunde Ñāṇananda34

 

While Kegan emphasized schematic stage transformation occurring through primarily new and unintentional life experiences, the Buddha, as well as now psychotherapy, used deliberate interventions to transform, refine, and ‘purify’ the schematic basis of the cognitive apparatus to reach the goal of enlightenment. What distinguishes the Buddha’s program for cognitive transformation from other psychological systems, is the principle of self-transcendence or the cognitive transformation that relinquishes all attempts to establish and attach to identities. The teaching of impermanence and dependent arising along with no self is a prescription for self-transcendence. In Buddhist training, the development and transformation of personality through dis-identification transcends the factors that constitute our perception of duality and the substantiality of existence. However, the transcendence of the self is the most subtle and difficult. While modern Western psychology assumes the primary importance of securing and strengthening the self to yield concrete, pragmatic, and successful life results, for the Buddha, ultimately realizing self-transcendence or non-self, is the successful end of the Path.

In fact, for the proper practice of the Path, transformation and transcendence are equally crucial. Without self-transcendence, the principle of self-transformation can lead to a wiser, happier and more socially astute personality but not the realization of the original mind. Only when these two principles work in harmony and are in balance during development can they bring the end of suffering. The accomplishment of self-transcendence – the relinquishing of all points of grasping and attachment – is through the gradual process of self-transformation in which moral discipline, compassion, and the cultivation of Knowing advances us by stages from our condition of subjective identifications to cognitive ‘emptiness’ and our original mind.

In conventional thinking, both the mutually exclusive either/or and dualism level of thinking are most common. We often function on both levels in which we are either making mutually exclusive distinctions with two possible polar monisms between concepts like right and wrong, hard and soft, or, in dualism, where both aspects of the pole are irreducible and coexist by definitions like subject and object, ‘I’ and ‘Mine’. As Vitaliano cogently states: ‘Dualism is the act of severance, cutting the world into seer and seen, knower and known ….’35 The Buddha taught that people mostly base their perceptions and thinking on duality. People, through the structure of grammar and language, communicate with each other using the significant feature of a subject-object relationship, which carries the implication that there is a thing to grasp and someone who grasps. Under those conditions, we are conditioned to think in terms of getting, attaining and maintaining.

While categories referring to more or less static concepts, which often dualistic pairs, have certain advantages like helping to organize information, removing ambiguity, and facilitating communication, inevitably the differences between the categories become valorized, reified, and given a superior/inferior position. Because of this creation of relative based misperceptions and misconstructions, the world becomes a tangle of names and concepts, with nouns particularly perpetuating the belief, that, as a reality, there is a permanent essence in existence. There is then the predisposition to falsely believe in a substantial self with the justified pursuit of ever-possible egotistic pleasures while ignoring three important characteristics of impermanence, not self, and suffering.

The structure of language and grammar is a mechanism for conducting thought processes which reinforce the perception of permanence as well as facilitates the communication of ideas. After assigning and sanctioning a name to an object, it easily becomes a convention. The Buddha recognized that shared language is crucial for numerous reasons including: mastery of the object world, self-conceptualization, social interaction, and cognitive growth in fields of knowledge. There is also the practical necessity for communication with the subject-object duality, including its categories, comparisons, and I – me – mine designations. Nevertheless, the Buddha also reminds us that language is only a convention with its inherent deceptions as we have seen in the research cited earlier. A. Chah explained, ‘The things of this world are merely conventions of our own making. Having established them, we get lost in them and refuse to let go, giving rise to personal views and opinions. … Now, if we know conventional reality then we’ll know liberation…If we clearly know liberation then we’ll know convention.’36 However, through the reification of these cognitive abstractions, all things are viewed with the emphatic belief that they categorically exist. As a result, our cognitive apparatus also becomes preoccupied with the belief of an abstracted ‘self’, which stands separate from ‘other’. With the illusion of our own permanence, we become fixated on a static identity and existence.

According to the Buddha, when adopting subject-object dualism there is a very close relationship between recognition and communication – in whatever way one perceives, one also speaks about them with the mindset of inherent permanence. Since knowledge and understanding are so often associated with words, concepts, and categories, if one recognizes the name of the thing one is naively assumed to comprehend or know it. The process of reification, however, is not an accomplishment through just learning the abstracted representation (word) with the object. For example, a child is given a rubber toy and told ‘ball’ to teach them the object name. Nevertheless, instinctively, this is to get to really ‘know’ the object. First, they smell it, and then touch it, try to eat it, roll it on the floor, and finally associate the object with an action, i.e. throwing; like they had seen someone do previously. At last, the child understands and recognizes the rubber ball not only by the name but also by other basic factors including: perception, intention, contact, and attention. Therefore, with such comprehensive involvement with objects/words/representations, the mind unequivocally accepts the view that ultimately the world is permanent and substantial. Consequently, we fail to understand that the basis of all of life is a dynamic process of transformation; never understanding the essence of ‘emptiness’ as a truth.

With the Enlightenment experience, the Buddha transcended the subject/object dichotomy, in which there is no experiencer nor thing experienced, and he found only experience. The result of this transformation is self-transcendence – no-self or the original mind.  The self is comprehended in the proper perspective of being a mental representation created through the polarity of a subject and object – ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’.  As Hamilton writes “This is what pure experience is: neither the world nor “I” in it other than experience.”29 Hence, the realm of pure experience is not an ontological category, but the ordinary world of phenomena experienced directly, with no intervening conceptualization. The essence of the middle path is inward peace, which is an existence free of clinging – letting go and not grasping of all identifications (dis-identification).

To illustrate this the Buddha presented a basic pattern representing three types of worldviews: the untaught ordinary person who is obsessed with and craving for the imagined substantial pleasures based in their perceived duality; the practitioner with higher training who is trying to free herself from her unconscious conventional script; and the emancipated one who is completely free from it. Also, non-self does not mean the absence of a functional ego; it means that one is no longer mistakenly identified with that self, the ego, or any of its sub-personalities. As Wei Wu Wei puts it, ‘The seeing of Truth cannot be dualistic (a ‘thing’ seen). It cannot be seen by a see-er, or via a see-er. There can only be a seeing which itself is Truth.’ 37The transcendence of the self is accomplished by cognitive, moral, and wisdom development as described above. It is through dis-identification and determining the truth of the original mind within, that we are able to transcend the world of suffering, attachment, and resistance. The way out is through transformation and transcending.

The Eightfold Path is a gradual development of reconceptualization leading towards the realization of emptiness. However, in trying to find release from the never-ending circle regarding dualism, some philosophical systems resort to finding a remedy through unity or oneness. The Buddha showed that oneness is not the solution. Developing in the Path, we confront the duality, and we grasp that the solution is found in the clinging-free approach of nonidentification – transcending both form and formless. In fact, transcendence of both is the aim; however, some mistakenly call emptiness the ending of existence. Instead, D-T. Suzuki explained, ‘The outside world of form-and-name and the inner world of thought and feeling are both no more than the construction of mind, and when the mind ceases, the weaving-out of a world of particulars is stopped. This stopping is called emptiness or no birth, but it is not the wiping out of existence, it is on the contrary viewing it truthfully unhammered by discriminative categories.’38

Modern psychology emphasizes identification as a largely unconscious process which occurs when an individual takes as his or her own characteristics, demeanors, achievements, or other identifying traits of other people or groups. However, differently, the Buddha’s use of identification (tammayatà) is more inclusive, subtle and establishes the fabrication and concoction of identity as all mental content. C.I. Lewis wrote, ‘The ‘world’ of experience is not given in experience: it is constructed by thought from the data of sense.’39

Through our attachment or aversion to our perceptions (the way we think about or understand someone or something), we are continually acting and reacting, never resting in repose. As these reactions become habitual and automatic, we become subservient to our cravings for or aversion against. Even though our cognitive representations are merely conventions that we adapt and employ, once we become well immersed in them, we become lost in them and we strongly resist relinquishing them, giving rise to personal biases and grand assumptions. ‘In whatever egotistic terms they think of an object, it becomes that. And therein, verily, lies its falseness, the puerile deceptive phenomenon that it is.S N v. 916.

To free ourselves from our self-inflicted dependences, biases, and ignorance, we must dis-identify and non-attach. By understanding that the belief in a substantial and inert self is imaginary, we develop a more mature and flexible relationship with our internal and external world. In fact, certain schools of psychology and psychotherapy, as we have seen in numerous examples in earlier chapters, recognize the possibility and significance of psychological dis-identification to create cognitive transformation through the objectification of the subjective (self). Nevertheless, even at the end of thorough psychological introspection there still prevails an ego (self) identified as the agent or mover behind the sum total of sense experience – ‘I experience therefore I am’. This conception of the ‘I’ as a CEO managing the operations of the mind/body is deemed an incontrovertible fact. However, the Buddha goes beyond the illusion of the necessity of a subjective ego as an agent. The Buddha said, ‘Let him completely cut off the root of concepts tinged with the prolific tendency, namely, the notion – ‘I am the thinker.’ Whatever inward cravings there be, let him train himself to subdue them, being always mindful.’ (S T v.916) To do this, he emphasizes that the experience of the subject/object duality has the third component of consciousness.

In fact, with the ego transformation development and resulting dis-identification of all mental content through the analysis of the two poles (subject/object) and the middle (consciousness), the final aim of eradication of the root of greed, lust, and hatred is achieved. As a rule, consciousness takes hold of objects on either side of the poles: (subject) __consciousness__(object). However, we usually ignore the middle or mindfulness because of habituation, impulsivity, and reflex grasping for the poles content by our craving or aversion which results in suffering.  Therefore, through our desires and volition, we are continually moving toward or away from whichever polarity we are inclined to in the now. When one believes everything exists in truth and fact, even though it is possible for one to remain neutral, usually one craves or rejects all that arises in awareness. In fact, this is the nature of craving and aversion; it continuously bends and moves one forward or away from the poles. Differently, the noble practitioner of the middle way, because of her insight and understanding of the arising, ceasing and insubstantiality of everything, let’s go of all through non-grasping. In other words, instead of reacting impulsively and reflexively to the perpetual stimuli, we mindfully and knowingly observe our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with calm equanimity, free from all worries and vexations and respond with reflection and wholeness.

Non-attachment is accomplished through non-conceiving or dis-identification. Consciousness becomes devoid of the nature of grasping for any object since it finds no object worthy of craving or grasping after. ‘Bhikkhu, ‘I am’ is a conceiving; ‘I am this’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving; I shall be possessed of form’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be formless’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be non-percipient’ is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a tumour, conceiving is a barb. By overcoming all conceiving, bhikkhu, one is called a sage at peace.’ (M.N. 140.31) Nibbāna literally means “cool” or “to extinguish”, and it is a cognitive state where suffering has been “extinguished”; the flames of desire have been cooled.  It is to be free from those bonds that entwine and trap us. It is a state of profound peace, contentment and wisdom that comes by eliminating the foolish attachment to the pain or pleasure in impermanent (transitory) objects. Through the mode of mindfulness, insight and wisdom of the middle path, one transcends the subject/object duality. The ‘extinction of craving’ through non-attachment is a full-fledged synonym of nibbāna.

 

Actualizing our Human Potential

30 Dec

Actualizing our Human Potential

We live our lives in relationship; we have a choice to live in dependence, independence, or interdependence.” Stephen R. Corey6

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself’ Abraham Maslow7

Everyone seeks natural wellbeing, peace, and harmony, which is inherent in all of us. However, often it seems impossible for us to know how to develop and be peaceful and harmonious with our self, as well as, with the people and world around us. Indeed, when we normally crave for having something or reject what is contrary to our preferences and desires, we start generating heightened tension and negativity in our mind and easily become agitated. The common result is stress, anxiety, disappointments, conflict, and even depression. In fact, personal peace and harmony cannot co-exist with such a negative state of mind and emotion. So, we ask ourselves, how can I not react heedlessly to things I crave or do not like? How can I remain in my natural potential of ease, happiness, goodwill, and wisdom and not create heightened tension? The answer is in the teachings of the Buddha.

The Buddha’s original teachings are not a theistic doctrine divinely revealed to Siddhartha, the Buddha to be, as he meditated under a tree, as some might think. Nor do they constitute only a philosophy. Rather, the Buddha’s teachings foreshadowed modern psychology in many ways and are profound and unique in the history of humankind. This book will not only show important connections between the Buddha’s teachings and psychology, but aid in the psychological and emotional well-being and, ultimately, the enlightenment of the readers of this book. Through the teaching of the Buddha, we can eliminate the ignorance that causes us to act unwholesomely which creates unhappiness and suffering. The teachings are a system for self-transcendence by purposely transforming self-knowledge to understand the reality of our true nature. By doing so we learn to act in accordance with this reality, resulting in our leading a productive, harmonious life of wellbeing and contentment.

Buddhism shares with modern psychology a strong belief in our ability as human beings to transcend our historical patterns and fully actualize our special human potential. This optimistic approach is central in Buddhist teaching, which “aims at producing a state of perfect mental health, equilibrium and tranquility” [8] In fact, the Buddha has long been described as the peerless physician (bhisakko) and unrivaled healer. In the Four Noble Truths, like a physician, he first diagnosed the dis-ease of suffering (dukkha); next he discovered the cause of the illness (craving or misplaced desire, ignorance) that prevents us from attaining our fullest potential of well-being; then he discovered the cure (enlightenment), and lastly prescribed the remedy -The Eightfold Path. His focus of investigation was, “Both formerly & now, it is only dukkha that I describe, and the cessation of dukkha.”SN 22.86.

Dukkha, often translated as suffering, has no single English word that adequately captures the full depth, range, and subtlety of the general emotional pain that it describes. Its translation includes many negative mental/emotional states such as dis-ease, uncertainty, alienation, irritation, dejection, worry, despair, fear, stress, anguish, and anxiety. The teachings that the Buddha proclaimed, known as the Dhamma, are a powerful therapy and method of treatment for the gradual transformation of our cognitive apparatus to cure the deep dissatisfaction of dukkha that normally afflicts us all. The Buddha’s treatment purposely develops and cultivates a peaceful mind based on a daily ethical practice; a mind firmly concentrated and calm; mindfulness which easily discerns the arising and disappearing of what is wholesome or not and the purification of the mind through the elimination of mental defilements. The tranquil, natural, wise, and fully conscious mental state created by advancing through the transformation and purification of our mind is metaphorically referred to as an inner refuge or sanctuary which is always accessible to us. The Buddha provided a comprehensive plan to transform and transcend the ignorance that creates the dis-ease of cravings of desires, aversions, and obsessions in our life, thereby, liberating our innate potential for inner peace, happiness, well-being, compassion, knowing, and wisdom – our true natural and original mind.

A transformative cognitive process attains the Original Mind. While our current mental and physical state is strongly determined by the automatic habits created by our past thoughts and actions, our future development is firmly established through our thoughts and actions in the present moment. To progress, simply making resolutions to change, however, is not enough. So long as unwholesome habits remain in the non-conscious, eventually they will express themselves, no matter how earnest the resolutions we have promised. It is essential, therefore, that we bring a knowing awareness to the conditioned reactions of our Citta or mind/heart, which then gives us the opportunity to intervene and alter our previous conditioning. This book will explore numerous proven interventions to do that.

The Buddha’s Way to Awakening is a sequential cognitive cultivation process (Bhavana), with each step smoothly transitioning to the next. In addition, accompanying each successive level of cognitive transformation, are refined positive emotions including bliss, equanimity, and compassion. The suttas affirm that the attainment of the final state of Nibbāna is by means of development: “He should train himself towards Nibbāna” – SN 10.62. The attainment of Nibbāna is the insightful transformation of one ego state to another until, finally, “He (the Arahant) understands.” Indeed, the Sanskrit word ‘Buddha’ literally means one who has awakened. One awakens and leaves behind the distorted reality when one develops insight and understands the truth behind suffering. Awakening was the final radical insightful cognitive transformation that created the Buddha’s understanding of undistorted actuality. Once understood, it fosters new wellbeing of living and will not be forgotten.

Transformation, Interbeing and No-Self

The empirical reality, which we access through our six senses, consists of a never-ending, ever-fluctuating field of vibrational activity. There is no inherent permanence, not only in anything that we experience, think, or are but also in existence. The Buddha and modern science say that all existence is in flux, it is only vibration. Everything that exists is in motion, vibrates, and transforms. The Buddhist doctrine of Annicca, or universal transformation, describes this perspective. Numerous recent scientific discoveries confirm what the Buddha taught more than 2500 years ago. Michael Talbot suggests, ‘Even the world we know may not be composed of objects. We may only be sensing mechanisms moving through a vibration dance of frequencies.’ 9. Renowned physicist Nikola Tesla reportedly observed, ‘If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.’ Also, biochemist Mae-Wan Ho wrote, ‘One comes to the startling conclusion that the coherent organism is a macroscopic quantum object, it has a macroscopic wave-function that is always evolving, always changing as it entangles its environment. This wave-function is the unique, significant form of the organism. In the quantum coherent state the organism is maximally sensitive and can best respond to opportunities and cope with all contingencies. It is source of the organism’s remarkable flexibility, resilience and creativity’ 10.

There is a growing consensus in Western thought and science that field-based relationships are fundamental, a condition described by the Buddha as dependent co-arising, or interbeing. We can understand our world and ourselves more deeply if we think in terms of dynamic patterns of relationships rather than of reified essences or entities. Ryuei Michael McCormick also explains this in a descriptive manner: ‘So nothing exists as a static, isolated entity. Everything arises and ceases depending on causes and conditions which themselves arise due to causes and conditions. There is no ultimate ground or primordial cause, but a network of causes and conditions. This undercuts the view of metaphysical selfhood, fixed entity, or substance underlying the constant change which is life.11 We gain the necessary insight to realize Anattā (no-self) through effort, self-responsibility and ego transformation through the cultivation provided by the practices of the Eightfold Path.

Of all our preconceptions about ourselves, the most basic and what we each give the highest importance to is the self. Even though the Buddha has shown how our common belief of the self is a misunderstanding, nevertheless we dedicate our lives to seeking its fulfillment, considering that as the way to happiness. For most of us, the thought of living in a different way seems unnatural or even impossible. As long as we are compelled by the illusion of an inherent self, we remain driven by our wants, fears, and identities, alienated and in opposition to the world and from understanding the interbeing of life. By awakening and emerging from this ignorance and obsession of self, we truly find release from bondage, enabling us to step forth unencumbered into the world, to be open and compassionate to life, to others, and to find real wellbeing. With this release, we understand that what we call ‘self’ is, in fact, merely an ephemeral abstraction, a script in constant change. This is right understanding. The Buddha said, ‘Right Understanding comes first’. Since the Buddha’s precept of ‘no self’ is radically different from basic beliefs of the Western culture, we need to have right understanding to trust and correctly follow the Eightfold Path.

With a similar perspective to Annica, modern science views humans as homeostatic, coherent, dynamic organisms which exist and constantly interact and transform in a field of the intricate web of life. However, we misinterpret our aware agency (the capacity of exerting influence) and mistakenly create the cognitively abstracted representation of an ‘I’ as our permanent self. In fact, since the ‘I’ is a cognitively created abstraction, a concept, and a narrative, the entity we call our self is only a character in the constantly evolving mentally devised story of our life. It is also helpful to understand, as S.B. Klein wrote, that the self-narrative is platformed or supported by one’s memory 12. The memory of our emotional, cognitive and behavioral tendencies created through repeated past reactions and experiences, conceives a perceived continuity of a participant, which becomes petrified as a continual identity – a static entity. Through the Buddha’s remedy of the Eightfold Path, we replace the dis-ease generated by our conviction of being a static, afflicted, and isolated self, with a refined understanding of the dynamic interconnectedness and impermanence of all experience.

The only real solution to suffering is cultivating the Citta by knowing, dis-identifying, and transforming our cognitive apparatus. This is accomplished by a profound change in lifestyle through various direct behavioral interventions and a regular Bhavana practice. While meditation is the best-known tool of this practice, ethical and virtuous behavior is also necessary. A restrained and orderly mind is expressed through the proper application of moral virtue in everyday life. By consequence, this natural mind is associated with a calm mind, as well as a compassionate and prosocial motivation. Compassion is the feeling of concern for oneself’s and another sentient being’s suffering, which is accompanied by the motivation to help. The follower of the Eightfold Path establishes together all facets of the path: the practice of sīla (ethics or morality), samādhi (concentration), and paññā (wisdom).  There is a stable unification when the natural mind, the calm established mind, and the knowing mind are together as one. Each of the three aspects supports the others like the three legs of a tripod.

Enlightenment of Awakening

17 Dec

When our actions are based on empathy and compassion we naturally want ourselves and all other sentient beings to be well, happy and free from suffering. This intention of goodwill to all men, women, and creatures is based on the natural state of being without ignorance. This natural state of mind and emotions can be accomplished through the gradual and progressive transformation of dis-identification and non-attachment to the pragmatic, relative yet necessary conceptual world. After transcending the attachments and identifications to conceptualization and objectification and the duality of the subject/object, one can and will continue to participate with others in the construction and origination of these images and stories while, at the same time, knowing that it is all a sort of magic show, thereby, give up the attachments, dogma, and identifications with the stories and characters that are created in our minds. This is the Enlightenment of Awakening to seeing things as they are. This is understanding the non-substantiality of all forms.

What Is your Newest Book About?

9 Jun

Since I first posted about the publication of my newest Book- The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations, I have had numerous inquirers asking about the content of the book. I thought the quickest look at the book contents would be to list the Table of Contents. Good reading!

The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations

Contents

Preface…xi

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Chapter 2 Self/No-Self 7

Chapter 3 Self as Construction 23

Chapter 4 The Human Being as a Collective, Unified Unit 35

Chapter 5 Awakening and Enlightenment: Psychological Transformation and Transcendence 61

Chapter 6 Enlightenment: Reality, Actuality and Transcendence 73

Chapter 7 Knowing and Not Knowing – What is Possible? 81

Chapter 8 The General Doctrine of the Law of Dependent Co-arising 99

Chapter 9 Kamma 109

Chapter 10 Sense of Agency 119

Chapter 11 Agency Labelled as Self 129

Chapter 12 Dividing Existence – Duality 143

Chapter 13 Language Construction of Duality 163

Chapter 14 Identification 181

Chapter 15 The Buddha’s Compassion 197

Chapter 16 Memory 207

Chapter 17 The Unconscious 227

Chapter 18 Habits 243

Chapter 19 Cognitive Biases 253

Chapter 20 Meta-cognition and Mindfulness 267

Chapter 21 Automatic Influences on our Actions and Perceptions 277

Chapter 22 Organisms as Coherent Embedded Systems 299

Chapter 23 Happiness 379

Chapter 24 The World without a ‘Self’ 391

Chapter 25 Closing Thoughts 405

Appendix A Explanation of the effects of stress on the different systems of the human body 411

Appendix B Special experiences 415

About the Author

Rodger R. Ricketts, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher. He has been studying Buddhism for over thirty years, both as part of his own personal quest and also in the application its principles as a therapeutic tool in psychotherapy. He has written three books exploring the foundation of the Buddha’s Teaching in psychology. Rodger has given numerous presentations at wellness and professional psychological conferences on the topics of cognitive psychology, mindfulness and wellbeing. Rodger continues his study of both science and Buddhism, and maintains a regular meditation practice.

What are necessary conditions for a democracy?

9 Jul

What are necessary conditions for a democracy?.