2009.10.07 - A More Direct Way of Knowing

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    Here is the text of a dialogue held by Piet Hut (in SL: Pema Pera) and Steven Tainer (in SL: Stim Morane), in Second Life on October 7, 2009.


    P: Yesterday we talked about three approaches, which we labeled
       Traditional Training, Key Basics, Play as Being
    P: where Key Basics pointed to your approach to teaching meditation
    S: yes. It's a goofy name, but I don't really mind.
    P: We can change the name at any point, if you like :)
    S: Suchness, for instance, is not "basic" in the sense of being
       elementary, but that's OK
    S: Other "key" points really would be too advanced and so they
       wouldn't be emphasized ... But what is too advanced depends on the
       person, not on some across-the-board judgment on my part
    P: do you have a suggestion for an alternative name, or shall we stick
       with "Key Basics"?
    S: It's OK, I'm not too concerned about names at this point. I'm not
       planning on doing any advertising using that or any other name.
    P: no, it's just an internal handle for us to use, during our
    S: Yes
    P: This labeling was triggered by my questions about the notion
       "ordinary mind"
    S: This is an important and traditional distinction
    S: Ordinary mind vs others
    P: I would like to start with that notion, and then to go really
       slowly, to make sure that we don't gloss over anything
    S: I don't quite know what you have in mind here, no pun intended
    P: for starters, I would have expected something like "we normally use
       our mind in an `ordinary' way but there are other ways in which we
       can use our mind" -- however, that sounds quite different from
       saying "we normally use an`ordinary' mind, but there are other
       minds that we can use". Can you comment on the difference?
    S: in the first case, one would still be using the ordinary mind, and
       taking the results as being important somehow. This doesn't have
       too much mileage.
    S: Just giving the ordinary mind new things to do, new attitudes,
       perspectives, etc., is important for day-to-day matters, perhaps
       ... but spiritually, no.
    S: Am I being clear?
    P: I guess the distinction is on the level of ontology: who are we,
       what does it mean "havinga mind"; what is a "mind"; how many
       "minds" are there .... and partly it must be a matter of choosing a
       terminology, like choosing a coordinate system on a map.
    S: fair enough
    P: what you wrote is clear, in a practice oriented sense
    S: But a spiritual tradition or teaching is not concerned with the
       psychological and ontological schemes that would seem important to
       the ordinary mind
    S: it is concerned with how we "are" in a sense that bears on what we
       are holding on to and identifying with that seems tied to, for
       instance, "samsara".
    S: I am not saying that the ordinary mind is bad, or that we shouldn't
       use it
    S: I'm just saying it's not something that a good teaching should
       encourage people to use more than absolutely necessary, on the way
       to something more refined and direct.
    S: of course this is not a replacement scheme but an uncovering one
    S: what is "absolutely necessary" is itself an issue that I try to
       assess on an individual basis. So people do diff things for diff
       lengths of time in my little groups.
    P: in the spirit of "going slowly" may I ask: would it be okay for you
       to reformulate your sentence about ordinary mind vs. other minds as
       something like "we normally use our mind in an ordinary way,
       missing out on much of what is far more important (deep, profound),
       and we have the option to use our mind in ways that go far beyond
       our ordinary usage" -- or would that be essentially different from
       speaking about several different minds? What puzzles me is the very
       notion of having more than one mind; it gives a sense of
       disconnectedness, of a gap.
    S: there is a difference between stretching the mind to learn new
       things and learning about THAT MIND ITSELF and then relaxing some
       of its central, and problemmatical features, thus uncovering a way
       of knowing that is more appropriate, natural.
    S: the ordinary mind is still within the the dimension of that
       uncovered knowing and is accepted. But it isn't used so much, just
       accepted when it pops up.
    S: there are not two natures here, just one
    P: Sorry, I'm still not clear about the notion of "having two (or
       more) minds" . . . can you say more about that? Is one contained
       in the other?
    P: (ah, our sentences crossed)
    S: there are not really two minds, just a mind and then a (spiritually
       preferable) way of knowing that is functionally different from a
       mind ... so I'm calling the latter a more direct way of knowing.
    S: both have the same essence nature
    P: So it would be equally okay to speak about the "ordinary mind" as
       distinct from other mind(s), and to speak about the "ordinary way
       of knowing" as distinct of other ways of knowing of the same mind?
    S: yes, you could do that. I mention the "ordinary mind" because this
       is pretty much exactly what the traditional texts call it.
    S: the situation is complicated because, as I said at various Kira
       programs years ago, these spiritual traditions didn't exist in a
       context where there was "psychology"
    P: in your terms, how many "minds" are there -- just the ordinary mind
       and a different mind, or a whole series of "minds"?
    S: so "ordinary" for spiritual traditions means "tainted"
    P: so two minds, a tainted and a pure one, something mirroring samsara
       vs. nirvana?
    S: there is the samsaric mind, and there is what is beyond it
       ... whether you call the latter a "mind" or not is a topic I'll
    S: the samsaric mind in turn is many diff things for diff creatures,
       but for human beings, it could be said there is one basic type
    S: it is less desirable to talk about a nirvana mind, but some groups
       do use a term like that.
    P: when you suggest that we try to go beyond the ordinary mind, you
       then don't mean to try to use a different mind? Is it more like
       dropping any notion of mind altogether?
    S: no, there is no real "going beyond" because that itself is part of
       the way the ordinary mind thinks, and reaches, and wants ...
    S: it's more a matter of learning, seeing, and relaxing ...
    S: even this relaxing is just seeing, ultimately, hence my emphasis on
       seeing and how this = Suchness
    P: so to sum up, what do you suggest we do with respect to what you
       call the ordinary mind: watch its operation, try to drop it, or
       . . . ?
    S: you cannot drop what is not learned about and then seen fairly
       thoroughly, within an apt (spiritually-oriented) perspective ...
    S: But I'm certainly not saying anyone should do what I'm describing.
    S: I'm just summing up what is traditionally taught and practiced.
    S: This is a long haul.
    P: I am smiling while writing all this, because most of my questions
       are deliberatedly naively posed, to try to help clarify our terms
    S: it is not easy to truly clarify an account on this subject without
       actual, sustained and guided practice.
    P: As you know, we have discussed these points many times, but I want
       to present our readers with a clear and self-contained picture
    P: yes, of course.
    P: We do what we can :)
    S: OK ... :)
    P: and hope that our readers either already have, or soon will, engage
       in the kinds of explorations that will clarify these points
    S: this is what confuses me
    P: how so?
    S: are you really proposing to make PaB now be about a traditional
       training sequence and view?
    P: no, why?
    S: it sounded like you were ...
    P: with "exploration" I meant a PaB like exploration
    S: ah
    S: but this would be quite different from what I'm describing
    P: possibly coupled with more traditional forms of exploration, or Key
       Basic exploration
    P: well, my hope is that PaB explorations will *also* form a way to
       learn more about what you call the ordinary mind
    S: I see ...
    P: To quote from two days ago:
    P: [2009/10/05 8:49] S: a very high-level teaching with the least
       amount of disciplining of the ordinary mind might be expected to be
       the most at risk ...
    S: yes
    P: and I guess that you included PaB in that?
    S: that is for others to decide ... I was speaking generally, and with
       reference to things that have happened in the past, in other
    P: I would like to apply that to PaB, replacing "teaching" by
       "collaborative exploration" or "joint research"
    S: yes
    S: sounds like you're planning a new chapter ...
    P: Play as Being as a very high-level form of "joint research" with a
       minimal amount of disciplining of the ordinary mind, at least at
       the start -- but when the exploration invites such "disciplining",
       then that could be incorporated -- in terms of fine tuning your lab
       tools for a research project, to use that metaphor
    P: Yes, let's continue tomorrow!

    [alas, the next morning my computer crashed, so we couldn't talk; we may have to wait a few weeks before starting up again, since Steven will visit me soon in Princeton, in which case we will talk in person.]

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