The Experience of Art

  • Posted by Christina Florkowski on June 21, 2023 at 3:20 am

    I just finished reading a really lovely book – “All the Beauty in the World” – by Patrick Bringley who worked for ten years as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. He makes a wonderful distinction that I want to share here. He writes:

    I am standing in a doorway adjacent to the sculpture court when I overhear teenagers discussing a homework assignment. It seems they’ve been given the following writing prompt: “Did the ancient Greeks really believe in their gods? Explain why you think they did or they didn’t, citing two works of art as evidence.” It is an admirable assignment, and I decide I’ll eavesdrop long enough to learn the students’ verdict.

    After listening for a bit, he worries that they’ll split the difference and say ‘both’ so he offers to help and they eagerly take him up on it.

    I take them over to the head of the so-called Medici Athena, an ancient Roman copy of a now lost masterpiece by the classical sculptor Phidias (the body of this version is lost, too). Together we look at a face that is placid and impassive but not fixed or frozen – a supple, blood-in-the-cheeks vision of what the goddess of wisdom looked like, her beauty all sturdiness and strength. “Athena was the goddess of a special kind of wisdom,” I tell them. “Have you read the Odyssey? You have-perfect. In the Odyssey, Athena shows up every time Odysseus needs a jolt of confidence and inspiration. You know the feeling….

    You’re stumbling around feeling blah and out of nowhere your mood lightens and you have the energy and courage and clarity required to do something that felt impossible moments before. Today we would think that the change came from inside us, but the Greeks didn’t believe that.

    For them, all forces originated in the external world, forces that were powerful and unpredictable and grabbed hold of people’s emotions just like it controlled their fates. Athena was sometimes called the goddess of nearness because of the way she could penetrate and transform minds” – I gesture to the face – “for the better, wouldn’t you say? Look at her awhile. Look at what the Greeks thought wisdom looked like. See if she improves your mood.”

    Perhaps they are patronizing me, but they nod along like I’m making sense and jot sentences in their notebooks as they circle the head.

    (snip)

    Then, saying “Thank you, sir, they depart to find another god–a second marble epiphany – to encounter. Watching them from a distance, I am heartened. Too many visitors think of the Met as a museum of Art History, where the objective is to learn about art rather than from it. Too many suppose there are experts who know all the right answers and it isn’t a layman’s place to dig into objects and extract what meaning they can. The more time I spend in the Met, the more convinced I am it isn’t a museum of art history, not principally. Its interests reach up to the heavens and down into worm-ridden tombs and touch on virtually every aspect of how it feels and what it means to live in the space between. There aren’t experts about that. I believe we take art seriously when we try to discern what, at close quarters, it reveals. I hope those kids will take their assignment seriously, and I think they’ve made a good start.

    Mike Todd replied 11 months, 3 weeks ago 4 Members · 20 Replies
  • 20 Replies
  • Don Salmon

    Member
    June 21, 2023 at 3:31 am

    I absolutely love this – I love the guy overhearing and then engaging them, sparking a sense of wonder – the key to the answer to their question (which is not really an “answer” in the way we usually think of it these days)

    Just one thing – when the guy says the Greeks thought the Gods came to them from the ‘external world” –

    he’s using a modern form of thinking that would have made absolutely no sense to the Greeks.

    Owen Barfield, as usual, has given us one of the most perfect metaphors –

    before modern times, he wrote, the average human being felt the cosmos almost like a cloak which enfolded them, enwrapped them.

    Since the dawn of the modern age, we feel more and more like we’ve somehow been placed in a world mostly alien to us, from which we’ve been estranged.

    When we try to imagine what stories or Gods or whatever meant to people not living in our age, we almost inevitably bring our way of attending to the world into it, without realizing it.

    Krishna Prem, in an essay on symbolism written in the 1920s, said something shocking to our modern ears but actually quite simple once you get it.

    Rather than thinking of Apollo as a myth about the sun, you could almost say the sun – that is, the supposedly “physical” object as our modern eyes perceive it, is a myth about Apollo.

    And of course, who better to end with than William Blake?

    Blake was questioned by a stereotypically phlegmatic Englishman (hey folks, don’t be angry with me – that was Blake’s word), “But surely Mr. Blake, when you look up at the sky you see a roundish golden disc about the size of a guinea?”

    “No, no,” Blake responded. “I see a host of heavenly angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest, Hallelujah.”

    And we fail to understand because we think Blake was being “merely” poetic!

    • Mike Todd

      Member
      June 21, 2023 at 11:21 am

      Hi Don (and Christina),

      Not to detract from the profound insights of Barfield, Prem or Blake, but it’s worth bearing in mind that there are well-established Western and Eastern traditions which recognise that language, and perhaps our conceptual system as a whole, is metaphorical in nature, such that “sun” and “Apollo” are (equally valid) metaphors for something beyond our conception which just is, as the following video exemplifies.

      https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/video/who-is-aware

      Given that we experience a nondual reality most of the time as a duality, and mindful that we ought to revere all that is the sacred – in terms of the immanent (“that which is experienced” and “that which experiences”) and the transcendent (the nonduality beyond these and other dualities) – perhaps the approach most amenable to this is one in which we acknowledge and integrate a variety of metaphorical perspectives as well as the non-conceptual “perspective” tacitly championed in the video. (The unity of division and unity).

      Just my $0.02.

  • Don Salmon

    Member
    June 21, 2023 at 3:33 am

    The Tibetan Buddhists have a practice which may help give this a more visceral feel.

    Imagine you are in a dream, right now. Look at the objects around you – see them as dream objects.

    Feel your body, and recognize it as a dream body. Feel the emotions, thoughts passing through – recognize them as composed of “the stuff dreams are made of.”

    What is it in which the dream objects and dream subject exist?

    What is it, to quote St. Paul, in which the stuff of dreams “lives and moves and has its being?”

    This is most definitely NOT something to”think” about – but to REAL-ize – make as real as possible – so real that you start to question whether in fact you are dreaming or “awake” – or whether you’ve ever been truly awake.

  • Christina Florkowski

    Member
    June 21, 2023 at 4:32 am

    <<we almost inevitably bring our way of attending to the world into it, without realizing it.>>

    Of course. Though there is value in trying – while accepting the folly of the attempt.

    As an example, try to imagine life before numbers.

  • Christina Florkowski

    Member
    June 22, 2023 at 5:24 am

    This speaks to the experience of the actor. It is from Peter Brook’s “Threads of Time.”

    One morning, I came to Paul [Scofield] with what seemed to me an illuminating discovery. “Lear is someone who wants to let go. But whatever he sacrifices, there is always something left to which he is attached. He gives up his kingdom, but still his authority remains. He must yield his authority, but there is still his trust in his daughters. This too must go, as must the protection of a roof over his head, but this is still not enough, as he has preserved his sanity. When his reason is sacrificed, there is still his profound attachment to his beloved Cordelia. And in the pitiless process of stripping away, inevitably she too must be lost. This is the pattern and the tragic action of the play.“ Paul did not react with enthusiasm. He gave a cautious “Mmmm…” Then he said thoughtfully, “That may be true. But I mustn’t think of it, as it can’t help me as an actor. I can’t play negative actions. I can’t show *not* having. I have to find a different way to mobilize my energies, so as to be fully active, moment after moment, even in loss, even in defeat.” At that moment I saw unforgettably the trap of yielding to the intellectual excitement of “having ideas.” One word out of place in the director’s explanations, and without noticing it he can block or hamper the actor’s own creative process. The same is true for the director’s relation to himself. Ideas must appear, they must be expressed, but he too must learn to separate the useful from the useless, the substance from the theory.

    • Mike Todd

      Member
      June 22, 2023 at 7:51 am

      Hi Christina,

      Thanks, that’s a wonderful reminder not to get swept away by the current of one’s thoughts. It reminds me of something Jon Kabat-Zinn said with reference to mindfulness and presencing: “remember to get out of your own way”.

      I confess – and you may be aware of this from another thread – I get a buzz from intellectualising/ideating. However, I like to believe I stay grounded, because, with respect to what makes an idea useful/substantive, I concur with the view that ideas should foster rather than stymie creativity, or more generally, ideas should enlarge rather than diminish our appreciation. It’s this “widening of the world” that gives me pleasure, rather than the bare act of churning out ideas. There’s also the question of whether one’s ideas may be considered insightful or true, accepting that truth is multifaceted and as easy to grasp as water. With regard to this, I defer direct judgement, instead relying on usefulness (as defined above) as a tentative guide to concordance with reality, additionally coloured by whether or not an idea fruitfully reconciles and helps integrate erstwhile opposing “truths”.

  • Lucy Fleetwood

    Member
    June 22, 2023 at 11:24 am

    What a deeply thoughtful thread. We are conditioned to think we are the owners of our thoughts and feelings, and so much of the challenges we currently face I think are due to this. That Tibetan practice is such a good one for creating some spaciousness around this.

    I remember while I was training as a hypnotherapist, walking along the street one day, feeling some disturbed emotions towards someone and watching as my neural networks fired up. It was like a firework display of thoughts followed instantaneously by feelings. I really saw and experienced that I wasn’t these thoughts or feelings, there was a space in between them and my awareness of this. But this is a very mechanical way of expressing this, I think I like the ancient Greek way better.

    Another time I was sitting by a lake, it was so beautiful and for a moment I wasn’t there, then suddenly I found myself thinking, what’s looking out of my eyes. This was also a very spacious feeling. It is such a shame that the classics were taken out of the education system at the beginning of the 1900’s.

    • Mike Todd

      Member
      June 22, 2023 at 12:35 pm

      Hi Lucy,

      Your experience by the lake sounds very much like an instance of nondual awareness – nondual in the sense of there being no apparent subject-object division. Perhaps you already see it as such.

      The following article, which may seem out of place in a thread such as this, makes clear that instances of nondual awareness (NDA) may sometimes be phenomenally rich and are therefore distinct from minimal phenomenal experience (MPE), which other literatures equate with the paradigmatic NDA experience, so-called “pure awareness”.

      https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02087/full

      The article also highlights that NDA is only conditionally nondual: there is, albeit only in retrospect, a diaphanous reflexivity at play, demonstrated by the simple fact that NDA experiences can be recalled, sometimes vividly, which implicitly acknowledges that “something” had an experience of “something else”, even if the terms subject and object now appear wholly inadequate.

      I believe that “something” and “something else” are none other than The One manifesting to itself as The Many, the cosmos (re)cognising itself – and thereby we see that, as Advaita Vedanta puts it, Atman is Brahman, although at the same time this undermines AV’s view that The Many is a dreamlike illusion to be renounced and transcended. All of this is congruent with Max Velmans’ metaphysic of reflexive monism, which is explored in the following video:

      https://galileocommission.org/max-velmans-experiences-of-a-self-observing-universe/

      The diaphanous reflexivity I mentioned is perhaps put best by Emerson in Nature:

      Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.

      • Don Salmon

        Member
        June 22, 2023 at 12:45 pm

        This is a very interesting point about nonduality I was thinking of bringing up before – but wondering how difficult it would be to talk about.

        Well, I’ll give it a try.

        In his book, “The Matter With Things,” Iain makes a comment about “going beyond both duality and nonduality.”

        He has, in other words, made a duality between duality and non duality.

        But non duality is not one side of a duality.

        Non duality actually does NOT mean

        (a) a pure awareness experience

        or

        (b) the absence of subject and object.

        Nonduality simply means NOT making a duality of subject and object. But even to say that is wrong, because then you’ve set up another duality: (a) making a duality of subject and object; and (b) NOT making a duality of subject and object.

        This is why Zen and Advaita teachers traditionally did not set out definitions. I’m not meaning to be anti intellectual here – in fact, one of the best illustrations of this mistake about nonduality I’ve ever seen is in a highly intellectual book by a Zen teacher, Steve Hagen, who has worked as a science and math researcher, “How the World Can Be the Way It Is.”

        Here’s an extremely simple illustration of why our minds fall into the same trap again and again when we try to talk about non duality.

        Remember the old cowboy movies in which the good guy wore a white hat and the bad guy wore a black hat?

        You’ve got a duality now. White hat = good; black hat = bad.

        Now, how do you get out of the duality?

        Easy, Hagen says: “no hat.”

        Now, if you look closely, you may see for a split second, you’ve just stepped out of duality, but if you aren’t careful, you’ve just set up a new duality:

        Hat = bad, duality

        No hat = good, nonduality.

        So nearly 2000 years ago, Nagarjuna tried to stun the folks who thought Nirvana (the pure awareness experience) was the goal of Buddhism, by saying “Samsara” (the world of duality) = Nirvana.

        But way, is he saying duality is the same thing as nonduality?

        Yes and no (!). It is the “same” but it’s a “sameness” which the mind cannot comprehend. It’s also not the same, in the way that wearing a hat is not the same as not wearing a hat.

        It’s the sound of one hand clapping.

        • Mike Todd

          Member
          June 22, 2023 at 2:21 pm

          Hi Don,

          In his philosophy Nagarjuna employs a form of logic called dialetheism, which is a type of paraconsistent logic, to which Dr. McGilchrist refers in his books. Dialetheism complements paradox, which is itself a way of pointing at the essentially ineffable. This is relevant with respect to “going beyond both duality and nonduality”, because I believe that, notwithstanding the unavoidable duality (in language) of juxtaposing two perspectives on one thing, Dr. McGilchrist was in fact pointing at the unconditionally nondual which transcends conceptions of duality and nonduality. This is encapsulated in a phrase he sometimes uses: “the unity of division and unity”.

          It’s impossible to reflect the nature of unconditional nonduality in language, because unconditional nonduality is limitless, and language, being composed of words, is inherently limiting: words define; to define is to limit. Language, as a limitation, reflects the inherent limitation that individuation entails: The One/cosmos/Brahman adopts a limited perspective whenever it individuates as one of us, and there is nothing we can do, no experience we can have, that will utterly emancipate us from this ineluctable minded embodiment; only death can do that. But we can contemplate unconditional nonduality, intuit it, so that it becomes in some sense “present” for us, even if it remains tantalisingly out of reach – we can hear its bell echoing on the wind and be moved.

          Given the above, we should allow that any language we use, with respect to unconditional nonduality or anything else, is a concession and will necessitate a duality, i.e. speaking in terms of “this and that” rather than “this is that”; and ultimately what it concedes is that we are inherently limited as a consequence of individuation. Concession, the limits of language and the impossibility of articulating the ineffable – BK eloquently touches on these in the following video, starting at 48:38.

          https://youtu.be/BG31Oz0VWmI

          • Don Salmon

            Member
            June 22, 2023 at 2:32 pm

            Hi Mike:

            Yes, I’ve seen that video and am familiar with the points you raise.

            I just wanted to raise a concern. One can play with words in all kinds of ways. Going beyond duality and nonduality is one way of putting it, which you might say, if you wish in the dialetheistic way, both wrong and right.

            But at some point we have to put the words down and just ‘taste the mango.”

            This is not meant to be anti-intellectual but just being very very very cautious with our concepts.

            Here’s perhaps a sign of my pro-intellectual, pro-complexity bona fides:

            Sri Aurobindo distinguishes 4 levels of knowing beyond the ordinary thinking mind (beyond all that I’m aware of that Iain describes as right hemisphere thought – each level implies that one has both realized and become established in and AS the Self, the Atman, the infinite, all pervading underlying pure Awareness.

            HIGHER MIND: All thought now is occurring with Pure Awareness as substrate. This does not necessarily occur with the initial realization of Pure Awareness. One comes back from the pure awareness state and uses the thinking mind as usual. The higher mind involves a complete transformation of thought – but still as “thought.”

            ILLUMINED MIND: One no longer thinks in the same way (the identification with the thought process has gone long before). There are flashes of illumination – perhaps remotely like the insights that occurred to Einstein as he was performing his ‘thought experiment’ of riding on a beam of light, only Einstein showed, in his conversations with Tagore, that he understood little if anything about the Self.

            INTUITIVE MIND: This is a seeing SO different from our ordinary way of thinking that it is very difficult to put in words. In fact, I’ll leave it there. Sri Aurobindo adds the “overmind” – which he says has been realized by perhaps a handful of yogis over the millennia.

            And the core of his teaching is what he refers to as Mahat, or Gnosis (not the gnosis of Plotinus or the ancient mystics), the “Supramental consciousness.” The less said about this, Sri Aurobindo warns us, the better. He has a few chapters about it in The Life Divine, but warns at the start (something his followers tend to ignore almost altogether) that the mind cannot understand anything of it – not even the Overmind, much less our LH OR RH)

            I’ve always found if I can’t say something in a way the average 13 year old can understand, I probably don’t understand it.

            Now, as a 45+ year reader of Sri Aurobindo (and writer about Sri Aurobindo), who wrote what is probably the most intellectually complex literature on spirituality in the past 150 years, I don’t think I can be said to be anti intellectual. But Sri Aurobindo also pointed out fundamental errors in virtually the entire world of spirituality, East and West, since the Vedic age over 3000 years ago.

            So given that so many of us have been misunderstanding (at least potentially) nonduality and spirituality in general for millennia, I always find it helpful to take great care when I put these things into words.

            I often like to refer to walking in nature, talking with a dear friend, playing basketball, in moments where things happen spontaneously, as a way of pointing to the Presence of God, the surrender to Her Will, the sense of all pervading Silence, Stillness, Spaciousness, etc. Sometimes that can be a lot more powerful than getting overly complex.

            I’ll close again by saying once again, I LOVE intellectual discussion. I just like it to be cautiously balanced with simple everyday language, childlike if possible. I guess I should add, I got a LOT of pushback on this from my friends in the Sri Aurobindo community, most of whom feel whatever can be said in 5 one-syllable words can be much better said in 82 5-8 syllable words!

            I like both, you know, Nondualism and all that good stuff:>))

            • Mike Todd

              Member
              June 22, 2023 at 3:56 pm

              Hi Don,

              Yes.

              At some point we need to “put the words down”; and Sri Aurobindo uses terminology and ideas that Dr. McGilchrist doesn’t. But here’s the thing: we’re all beginners and we never stop being beginners; in order to learn how to “ride the bike” (while eating a mango) it’s almost always necessary to bolt on some “stabilisers”. There are many different manufacturers of stabilisers, but they all have the same goal in mind – to stop the rider from falling off so that they can get a feel for what it’s like to ride, and then after enough practice they can “put the stabilisers down” and ride free. But then of course, since riders are perennial beginners, there never comes a point where the stabilisers can be finally thrown in the trash. Riders, at least those who acknowledge the perennial novitiate, cycle back and forth between riding with stabilisers and riding free, and they may come to recognise that each adds something to the experience of the other.

              Dr. McGilchrist, BK, Sri Aurobindo – they all manufacture stabilisers. You might prefer one brand over others, maybe one brand especially suits the way you like to ride. You get the picture.

              Dr. McGilchrist has pointed out a few times (e.g. in the discussion with Rupert Read), with respect to the explicative nature and reserved scope of his books, that he wrote them with a particular target audience in mind. He manufactured stabilisers for LH riders, essentially. He isn’t unaware that he might have written more or differently. And it’s clear from the range of guests he’s engaged with that he isn’t shy of promoting alternative manufacturers.

              A more explicit way of putting it is: conceptual frameworks (which includes scientific, philosophical and spiritual explorations) are stabilisers. HH Dalai Lama, as much as he is a spiritual leader, continues to practice riding with the aid of Buddhist scriptures as well as contemporary scientific and philosophical texts. And of course, being an utter novice, I do the same sort of thing with the aid of Eastern and Western scriptures, philosophical and scientific texts, poetry, music, art – some pretty cool stabilisers, all told.

  • Christina Florkowski

    Member
    June 23, 2023 at 2:55 am

    Back to the topic. A number of years ago, Lawrence Weschler wrote a book based on his conversations with the artist Robert Irwin titled, “Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees.” In the chapter ‘Art and Science,’ Irwin is invited to work with Ed Wortz, who at the time was head of the lab working on environmental control systems for NASA’s manned space flights at the Garret Aerospace Corporation. For the sake of brevity, I must pass over the circumstances that brought them and the artist James Turrell together to study perception in an anechoic chamber at UCLA, but that is what Irwin is speaking about in this excerpt.

    “After I’d sat in there for six hours, for instance, and then got up and walked back home down the same street I’d come in on, the trees were still trees and the street was still a street, and the houses were still house, but the world did not look the same; it was very, very noticeably altered.”

    (snip)

    “We’d speculated that the difference came from one’s having been isolated in total deprivation of audio or visual input. For one thing, what happened is that these two senses changed their thresholds. In other words, there is a certain way you look and see and listen every day, but when you are suddenly cut off from the world of sight and sound for six or eight hours and then return to it, there occurs a change in the acuity of the mechanism. In addition, there may be a shift in sense dependence. That is, when you’re in a space having no visual or audio input, which are the two primary senses, you tend to begin to take in more information through the other senses. You start spending more time making a tactile read, building your world in that black, soundless space with information from those other senses, so that when you come out, that shift simply persists for a while, it continues to be honored, and you take in different degrees of information. And we all know that the complexity out there is…we might as well say infinite…”

    (snip)

    “For a few hours after you came out,” Irwin continues, “you really did become more energy conscious, not just that leaves move, but that everything has an aura, that nothing is wholly static, that color itself emanates a kind of energy. You noted each individual leaf, each individual tree. You picked up things which you normally blocked out. I think what happens is that in our ordinary lives, we move through the world with a strong expectation-fit ratio which we use as much to block out information as to gather it in – and for good reason, most of the time; we block out information that is not critical to our activity. Otherwise we might well be immobilized. But after a while, you know, you do that repeatedly day after day after day, and the world begins to take on a fairly uniform look. So that what the anechoic chamber was helping us to see was the extreme complexity and richness of our sense mechanism and how little of it we use most of the time. We edit from it severely, in time to see only what we expect to see. “

    • Mike Todd

      Member
      June 23, 2023 at 5:55 am

      Hi Christina,

      I apologise for digressing. It’s a bad habit I notice only in retrospect. I need to get out of my own way more often.

      The quotes you shared are themselves enormously rich, with profound implications reminiscent of those of Mary’s Room. But philosophy aside, the implied injunction is clear: pay attention to the way you pay attention. Is it your view that, in lieu of an anechoic chamber, works of art (in whichever medium) may also serve as vehicles for revivifying the world? By which I mean, can works of art enable us to see things differently, not merely cognitively, which I think is a given, but also perceptually? And would that mean works of art were, in effect, psychedelics?

      • Christina Florkowski

        Member
        June 23, 2023 at 7:50 pm

        No apology needed @thaumasmus . The tree has many branches. My interest happens to be the occasions that open experience.

        • Mike Todd

          Member
          June 24, 2023 at 3:21 am

          Thanks, Christina.

          Occasions that open experience – widen the world? – I imagine that’s an interest many here share.

  • Christina Florkowski

    Member
    June 25, 2023 at 3:13 am

    Here is David Hockney’s response to a drawing by Rembrandt. “The Single Greatest Drawing Ever Made,” he declared flatly. “I defy you to show me a better one.”

    I’d like to hear how others read this. For me, it dances between right and left attention. The details of the marks of the reed pen and the appreciation of the relationships and care evoked by those marks.

    “Look at the speed, the way he wields that reed pen, drawing very fast, with gestures that are masterly, virtuoso, calling attention not to themselves but rather to the very tender subject at hand, a family teaching its youngest member to walk. Look, for instance at those whisking marks on the head and shoulders of the girl in the center, the older sister, probably made with the other side of the pen, which let you know that she is craning, turning anxiously to look at the baby’s face to make sure he’s okay. Or how the mother, on the other side, holds him up in a slightly different, more experienced manner. the astonishing double profile of her face, to either side of the mark. the evident roughness of the material of her dress: how this is decidedly not satin. The face of the baby: how even though you can’t see it, you can tell he is beaming. this mountain of figures, and then, to balance it all, the passing milkmaid, how you can feel the weight of the bucket she carries in the extension of her opposite arm. Look at the speed, the sheer mastery.”

  • Lucy Fleetwood

    Member
    June 26, 2023 at 10:52 am

    This is such a fascinating read and opens my mind in different directions. How the senses attend seems to be the focus. And yet the conversation about duality and non-duality also interesting. I reflect through my own experiences. Before finding a teacher and following the Buddhist pathway (Tibetan), I had spacious and alternate experiences, and some I would have expressed as non-dual or with a wider use of the senses.

    The Buddhist wisdom teachings on emptiness, that need to be not just reflected upon, but accompanied with practices that can lead to a realisation of the teaching, beyond elaboration, have the potential to take you beyond all the concepts. The view is that samsara and nirvana are one, but our vision is obscured, our Buddha nature (a term describing the unelaborated nature of reality) is here right now, we just don’t experience it.

    The two pathways, hinyana and mahayana take people to different places. The hinyana for those who wish to practice for themselves, can take people so far, but not all the way, because they retain a subtle sense of duality. The mahayana can take people all the way, because within the wisdom teaching and practices, this perception of something solid that exists (even if it is just an atom that flows into different states/things) is not there.

    The process of practicing can lead to a wider use of the senses, but ultimately, the senses are also part of the dreamlike illusion. The true nature of things is viewed as something that cannot be elaborated.

    I’m not sure if any of this is of any value to the thread! But I felt drawn to join in.

    • Don Salmon

      Member
      June 26, 2023 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Lucy, I don’t want to take us too far afield from the main topic.

      But just a couple of things:

      Here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?<wbr>v=BG31Oz0VWmI&t=13s – idealist philosopher Bernardo Kastrup and Advaita Vedantin Swami Sarvapriyananda discuss the relationship between idealism and Vedanta. At about 55′, Swami makes a claim that ultimately, Buddhism and Vedanta are pointing to the same thing, but because we tend to take abstract concepts literally, we get confused. Also, perhaps of interest to folks here, at about 48′ or so, Bernardo takes us through a history of how the very confused philosophy of materialism took root, also due simply to confusion about language.

      Finally, I would say, if you want a world-class Tibetan Buddhist take on the underlying commonality not only of Buddhism and Vedanta, but all major world religions – along with excellent brief guided meditations to help you see this experientially – I’d strongly recommend Alan Wallace’s “Mind in the Balance.”

    • Mike Todd

      Member
      June 26, 2023 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Lucy,

      At the risk of further departure from “occasions that open experience”, and as a complement to the information Don generously shared, I recommend Prof. Max Velmans’ series of videos on reflexive monism:

      https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSmLGjJrqQas0pcp-KI-CgRuklGOSkh7O

      Don’t be dissuaded by how technical “reflexive monism” may sound; Prof. Velmans’ view is no more or less than a nondual description of reality, with particular emphasis on the role of consciousness, albeit not consciousness as it is typically understood in the West. His view also includes an exploration of the conscious and preconscious self/Self, and its implications for free will, as well as serving as a wonderful synthesis of other nondual descriptions of reality, such as Buddhism post-Nagarjuna, philosophical Daoism, and both Advaita and Aurobindo’s Integral Vedanta, whilst also incorporating insights into brain and mind from contemporary neuroscience and the whole gamut of Western psychology.

      The wonderful B. Alan Wallace, whom Don mentioned, also appears in a few of Prof. Velmans’ videos. I heartily recommend another book of his, The Attention Revolution, which served as my own gateway to daily meditation.

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