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InvisibleSwami
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Experts
    #2371697 - 02/23/04 01:42 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

Often the phrase (or some variant) will come up to find (and maybe study under) a "real psychic or astrologer", an "authentic shaman or healer", a "genuine Master or Guru".

These same proponents will tell me that it is impossible to scientifically validate these experts; yet I (or another searcher) am somehow supposed to be able to discern their authenticity. The best we can do is to rely on the anecdotes (and possible gullibility: see Jonestown) of previous devotees (or searchers).

Unless there is a method that I am overlooking, why would one set up some stranger as an "expert" on their life? (Let's leave out severe physical illness as a motivating factor for now.)

Footnote: I DO believe in experts in physical fields where study, certification and practice have been observed, such as an electrician.


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Re: Experts [Re: Swami]
    #2371832 - 02/23/04 02:18 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

A spiritual doctor earns a reputation as such either by elaborate deception or through overwhelming authenticity. Typically, the only way to discern between these two is to make an attempt to follow the advice of the proclaimed spiritual doctor. If the advice is consistent, we can begin viewing the advisor as an authentic spiritual guide. If we are not yet satisfied, we can simply continue our investigation until we have discovered for ourselves the qualities of the person we have selected.

This is how Buddhists develop faith in Buddha, the supreme spiritual doctor. Buddhists cultivate faith by taking the practical advice of Buddha and putting it into practice. When the benefits begin to ripen, we develop faith and respect in the good qualities of Buddha, are are then backed by the momentum of that faith as we deepen our spiritual progress. The best kind of faith is a faith which has come as a result of one's own investigation, one's own discoveries.

In this way, it is faith which as at the root of all spiritual realizations and attainments, and should be our main practice as spiritual people. A perpetually skeptical and unwilling heart cannot be open to the benefits of spirituality, because spiritual matters are not matters that can be confirmed by convention. They must be confirmed by direct experience.


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Experts [Re: Ped]
    #2371887 - 02/23/04 02:31 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

Your reply sounds logical, but doesn't really answer the question. If there are 10,000 self-proclaimed gurus in India (or where ever) and only a few (if any!) authentic ones, having a non-skeptical mind and open heart doesn't guarantee anything will come of your search for a Master.

Shunyru Suziki, famed author of the Zen classic "Beginner's Mind", nearly drowned in Tassajara Creek in California. He had felt the fear of death surge through his body. In his own words, a Zen Master should have no fear of death.

As usual, reality and philosophy clash when put to the test.


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Re: Experts [Re: Swami]
    #2371918 - 02/23/04 02:37 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

This should not mean that there is no such thing as an authentic master.

We needn't someone so accomplished to guide us, either. All we need in a qualified spiritual guide is someone with a pure heart, a pure intention, knowledge and experience that exceeds our own, and a willingness on his or her part to be our spiritual guide.

It's been said in Tibet that qualified spiritual guides come only to those whom are prepared to receive them.


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Experts [Re: Ped]
    #2371973 - 02/23/04 02:48 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

All we need in a qualified spiritual guide is someone with a pure heart, a pure intention, knowledge and experience that exceeds our own, and a willingness on his or her part to be our spiritual guide.
And how do we know this? My own spiritual guide, Swami Kriyananda had something going for him to dedicate his life to the Self-Realization Fellowship and found a spiritual community only to be kicked out after 25 years for abusing his position of authority in sexual matters.

It's been said in Tibet that qualified spiritual guides come only to those whom are prepared to receive them.
This is a fantastic example of (pick one):

1. Tautology (circular reasoning).

2. Escape clause.


Here let me try an equally valid one: "It's been said in Swamiland that those who jump off a high cliff and have enough faith will survive unharmed."

This statement can NEVER be disproved and is basically meaningless.


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Re: Experts [Re: Swami]
    #2372297 - 02/23/04 04:02 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

You seem quite determined to view things negatively, and to consider the failed examples of others to be representative of the hopelessness of spiritual life. If this is your view, and you are unwilling or unable to release this view, why should we bother discussing this matter at all?

On tautology, escape clauses:

The statement which was dismissed as tautological was constructed as a reference to the symbiotic relationship of pure teacher and pure student, and to the collective karma of the person's in question. The doctrine of Karma, of course, can neither be proven nor disproven, except by investigating the matter independently, as part of one's own spiritual life. Such subtle and intangible elements of existence cannot be discussed within the forum of convention unless either the cause or the effect of the otherwise intangible phenomenon can be displayed before multiple individuals. In the case of karma, and with most spiritual ideas, this cannot presently be achieved.

Take the example of gravity. Gravity is a subtle phenomenon when related to another phenomenon such as a thunderstorm. No one anywhere can directly perceive the cause of gravity. However, we possess the mental faculties to perceive the effects of gravity quite plainly, and to quantify those effects mathmatically. Therefore, gravity -- an otherwise invisible phenomenon -- is adopted by convention and considered to be truth, fact. Animals, who possess lower faculties, cannot comprehend gravity. Regardless, gravity pervades every aspect of an animal's life.

Karma can be spoken of like gravity. At present, we do not posses faculties which enable us to directly perceive the causes or effects of our mental actions, yet karma pervades every aspect of our lives. As human beings, we possess the capacity to develop our mental faculties in such away that allows us to directly perceive the causes and effects of our mental actions, our karma. This of course cannot not be presented on a public forum, because those to whom we would present our findings have not developed the mental faculties to slot such things into the continuum of their existence. If we have directly realized our karmic continuum, any attempt to articulate that to others will be met with ridicule.

Suppose that by some miracle, an animal was born with the ability to train it's mind to apprehend directly the concept of gravity. Any attempt on the part of that animal to communicate his discovery to fellow animals would be unsuccessful. In the same way, if a human being is born with the ability to train his mind to apprehend the most subtle aspects of existence -- and we are all born with this ability, yet rarely exercise it -- that human being may accomplish such and attempt to explain it to others. In the case of Shariputra, who composed the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in 1000 lines, this is probably exactly the case. To most, the sutra is completely meaningless, impossible to understand. To those with training, it is vauge but comprehensible. To those who've reached the second ground of the perfection of wisdom on the profound path of seeing, it is as simple and comprehensible as the alphabet is to us.

The point of all of this is that we cannot progress along a spiritual path unless we are willing to suspend our own judgements, and loosen the arrogance which assumes ourselves to be the pinnacle of understanding. If you accomplish this, please let me know, as I would eagerly become your student.


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InvisibleSclorch
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Re: Experts [Re: Ped]
    #2372370 - 02/23/04 04:17 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

So, it's arrogant to question spiritual authority figures?

Hmm...


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Invisiblehawk
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Re: Experts [Re: Swami]
    #2372389 - 02/23/04 04:22 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

A master or guru seen from the eyes of the a student is his master or guru . It does not mean that he is the master or guru of another. Logic does not apply because the nature of this relationship is subjective. Scientific validation has no place in trying to determine the subjective nature of wisdom. It is something that is experienced and learned in this type of relationship. It is through this experience that the subjective nature of truth is found for the individual.


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Re: Experts [Re: hawk]
    #2372424 - 02/23/04 04:31 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

Very well put.

>> So, it's arrogant to question spiritual authority figures?

It can be considered arrogant to question spiritual figures if our grounds for questioning them has only to do with our unwillingness to entertain ideas which do not immediately fall within the confines of our present understanding.


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Experts [Re: Ped]
    #2372425 - 02/23/04 04:31 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

You seem quite determined to view things negatively,
*sigh* Yet another example in a seemingly endless list. See thread on "Poor Debating Technique". I am searching for what is "real"; not for the way I would like things to be.

...and to consider the failed examples of others to be representative of the hopelessness of spiritual life.
Are the failings of "recognized" spiritual adepts supposed to encourage hopefulness?

The statement which was dismissed as tautological was constructed as a reference to the symbiotic relationship of pure teacher and pure student, and to the collective karma of the person's in question.
Herein lies the problem. The statement (about the student being ready) has EXACTLY the same validity whether karma and spirituality are real or not.

The doctrine of Karma, of course, can neither be proven nor disproven, except by investigating the matter independently, as part of one's own spiritual life.
And if after one's investigation a different conclusion is drawn?

Take the example of gravity.
Every single time I drop an apple it falls to the ground.

Karma can be spoken of like gravity.
Not at all. My acts of motoristic compassion have cost me a totalled car, a theft, ruined upholstery, a destroyed alternator and battery and so on. There is no tangible connection to any sins that I may have committed nor has there been any reciprocal balance.

If we have directly realized our karmic continuum, any attempt to articulate that to others will be met with ridicule.
All others or just thick-headed readers? So all discourse and books on Karma are useless then?

To most, the sutra is completely meaningless, impossible to understand. To those with training, it is vauge but comprehensible. To those who've reached the second ground of the perfection of wisdom on the profound path of seeing, it is as simple and comprehensible as the alphabet is to us.
One could make up any story of the world and claim that others who cannot see it are blind simpletons.

The point of all of this is that we cannot progress along a spiritual path unless we are willing to suspend our own judgements, and loosen the arrogance which assumes ourselves to be the pinnacle of understanding.
You are once again making huge (and faulty) assumptions knowing nothing of my history.


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OfflinePedM
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Re: Experts [Re: Swami]
    #2372497 - 02/23/04 04:50 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

>> Are the failings of "recognized" spiritual adepts supposed to encourage hopefulness?

They are viewed however you wish.


>> Herein lies the problem. The statement (about the student being ready) has EXACTLY the same validity whether karma and spirituality are real or not.

The following paragraphs of the post addressed the issue of validity directly.


>> And if after one's investigation a different conclusion is drawn?

If the experience is direct, and the experience of the teacher is not direct, and the conclusion of the student differs from that of the teacher, then the student has surpassed his teacher.


>> Not at all. My acts of motoristic compassion have cost me a totalled car, a theft, ruined upholstery, a destroyed alternator and battery and so on. There is no tangible connection to any sins that I may have committed nor has there been any reciprocal balance.

This cannot be considered an example of Karma. Karma does not function in this way.


>> All others or just thick-headed readers? So all discourse and books on Karma are useless then?

"Thick-headed" is a negative connotation placed upon a neutral statement. Those who have not explored the matter should not be considered "thick-headed". Discourse and books on Karma help us reform our understanding.


> One could make up any story of the world and claim that others who cannot see it are blind simpletons.

Of course this is true. However, if this were true of Shariputra's sutra, it is not likely that the sutra would have persisted 2400 hundred years as an object of reverence to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.


>> I am searching for what is "real"; not for the way I would like things to be.

>> You are once again making huge (and faulty) assumptions knowing nothing of my history.

These comment are taken personally only in dependence upon your decision to view them as such. I am not attempting to compete with you.


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InvisibleSclorch
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Re: Experts [Re: Ped]
    #2372876 - 02/23/04 06:31 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

Quote:

Ped said:
>> So, it's arrogant to question spiritual authority figures?
It can be considered arrogant to question spiritual figures if our grounds for questioning them has only to do with our unwillingness to entertain ideas which do not immediately fall within the confines of our present understanding.



1. You're basically telling me that it is not considered arrogant to question a spiritual authority, but only if the questions have nothing to do with the validity of their teachings? (So, questions must only be of practical content: Where is the offering plate? Can I pay you to screw my girlfriend?)
2. What is the difference between invalidity and an inability to understand?


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Experts [Re: Ped]
    #2372929 - 02/23/04 06:55 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

They are viewed however you wish.
A statement that says nothing. Is that supposed to be Zen-like? Drop the coyness. Why would YOU take the failings of an alleged Master as encouragement of the Truth of the Path?

The following paragraphs of the post addressed the issue of validity directly.
Your discussion merely attempts to address the validity and is far from direct else any reasonably intelligent seeker would agree.

Can you not DIRECTLY address the fact that my statement on tautology still holds true whether or not there is a mysterious link between student and teacher or student and sincerity?

If the experience is direct, and the experience of the teacher is not direct, and the conclusion of the student differs from that of the teacher, then the student has surpassed his teacher.
Puh-lease. Buddhism is about clarity, not double-thinkian obsfucation. I have come to a different conclusion than you, which you have already opined that I was negative for doing so, but now you say I just might be a Master.

This cannot be considered an example of Karma.
Reaping what you sow is suddenly NOT karma?

Karma does not function in this way.
A function is a relationship such as in cause and effect which cannot be determined. Karma has no predictory power. If I do A; then B,C,D...Z could happen; hence no correlation.

Discourse and books on Karma help us reform our understanding.
Wait! You just said [about karma] "...any attempt to articulate that to others will be met with ridicule." I don't get it. Can it or can it NOT be articulated?

Of course this is true.
I only speak the truth.

However, if this were true of Shariputra's sutra, it is not likely that the sutra would have persisted 2400 hundred years as an object of reverence to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.
Mere opinion not based on any precedent. Thousands of nonsensical traditions have persisted that are based purely on superstition and myth.

These comment are taken personally only in dependence upon your decision to view them as such.
Saying, "You are..." is a personal statement no matter if I take offense or not.


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Experts [Re: hawk]
    #2372952 - 02/23/04 07:01 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

A master or guru seen from the eyes of the a student is his master or guru.
Scientific validation has no place in trying to determine the subjective nature of wisdom. It is something that is experienced and learned in this type of relationship. It is through this experience that the subjective nature of truth is found for the individual.


Very nice. How does this tie in with the CHOOSING of a potential teacher? If there is NO WAY to validate and all is subjective, then why not pick a person at random and then beg them to let you sit at their feet?


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Invisiblehawk
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Re: Experts [Re: Swami]
    #2373439 - 02/23/04 09:58 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

That would be one option. I think emotion and empathy come into play, also personal connections and what one is searching for would also play a part in choosing someone. I often think the concept of being ready is more about personal discovery, ie (when you are ready to have sex, when you are ready to experiment with mind altering drugs) these things are similar to the idea of readiness or openness that everyone has experienced. I believe that everyone you meet in life has something to teach you, it is just leaving your ego and personal bias behind in order to learn. These concepts all kind of dance around the question because the only one who knows is the person who is searching, and what is available, I guess it depends on the personal ability of the individual to produce syncronistic events, every body has the potential one only needs to develop it.


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Experts [Re: hawk]
    #2373975 - 02/24/04 12:41 AM (12 years, 9 months ago)

I believe that everyone you meet in life has something to teach you...

And I believe that oranges are pretty tasty. What does this (or the rest of your post) have to do with CHOOSING a metaphysical EXPERT?


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Re: Experts [Re: Swami]
    #2375785 - 02/25/04 12:33 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

I wouldn't take the failings of a supposed spiritual master as an indication that his path is true and complete. Though, I wouldn't swing to the other extreme and conclude that all paths are false and misleading. Personally, as a Tibetan Buddhist, I see a great number of flaws in the Dalai Lama and his actions. This doesn't mean that I dismiss him and the entire Gelugpa school as misguided.

When entering a spiritual path, the student will not have prior knowledge of the validity of what he is being taught, especially if the instructions are guiding him to a supramundane ground. If the student is not able to suspend his own judgements until he can gain a direct and entirely personal experience, the student will not be motivated to engage in the practices which are designed to create the conditions for a direct experience to take place. Instead, he will spend all of his time criticizing his teacher and his faults, bogged down by skepticism.

The reason skepticism plays a role in this scenario is because the student wishes not to follow incorrect paths and be lead to erroneous conclusions. He is quite correct in this wish. If a student puts his faith in respect in a spiritual leader, and that spiritual leader exposes himself as inauthentic, then the student is volnerable to a deep crisis of faith, a sort of spiritual dejection. It is natural that a potential student would wish to avoid this outcome. However, it is not possible to verify the absolute authenticity of the teacher and his instructions until there is faith and respect invested in the teacher, and a willingness to put his instructions into sincere practice. So these two wishes, the wish to enter a spiritual path and the wish to avoid being led astray by inauthentic teachers, create a binding situation for the student. The student wishes not to invest faith and respect because he does not know the teacher's authenticity and the validity of his instructions, yet neither the teacher's authenticity or the validity of his instructions can be known until faith and respect are invested.

There are two extremes which can be followed when approaching this type of bind. One extreme is for the student to remain completely detached from his teacher because of his skepticism. If this is the approach of the student, he will not internalize any of the teacher's instructions, and his path will be unsuccessful. The other extreme is for the student to throw his skepticism out the window and absorb whatever he is told as being absolutely factual, subscribing to a sort of willful naiivity. If this is the approach of the student, he will not develop a personalized understanding of the teacher's instructions, and his path will be unsuccessful. The middle ground is to engage in practice faithfully, withholding judgements or premature conclusions, but always remaining alert and skeptical. A qualified student must always question his teacher.

A brief explanation of Karma:

Karma can indeed be condensed into the statement "You reap what you sow". However, karma cannot be examplified simply by citing favourable actions and favourable effects involving specific circumstances. Our karma pervades each subtle aspect of our experience, all the way down to our preferences in colours and smells. Every sound that we experience is impacted by the effects of our karma, every sight, our sense of touch, our thoughts. Even the habits and tendancies which we brought with us from birth are expressions of our karma.

Every element of our experience is the ripening of what we've sown in the past. We commit countless mental actions with each passing instant, and each of these is like a seed planted in our mental continuum. When the causes and conditions assemble for that seed to ripen, it will flourish, and we will experience it's effects. Every element of our experience is the ripening of our karma in this way. Everything that see is absolutely pervaded by our own past and present mental actions. A polite action in traffic may manifest a week later as an apology from a friend who wronged us in the past, or it may not manifest until we are ninty-five years old and receive a compliment from our nurse at the old-folks home. Or, it may manifest as a moment of appreciation for something beautiful in our lives. It is impossible to relate one action to one effect. In this way, karma is an extremely subtle aspect of our experience, and cannot be directly examplified even by accomplished practitioners.

Books about karma may point in this direction, or they may not. There are many individuals who might immediately dismiss such literature as nonsense. Though, the karma for literature about karma and other spiritual ideas is beginning ripen in the West, and many minds are beginning to open to these types of ideas. Because they are open, people purchase a book, read it, and as a result they deepen their understanding. However, the understanding gained through a text is not direct experience.

If a practitioner gains direct and perfect experience of his karmic continuum, he has gained quite a profound experience indeed. To those whose minds are shut to the notion of karma, any explanation of this highly realized being will be met with ridicule or dismissal. It is the same type of scenario Jesus, a highly realized being, found himself caught in two thousand years ago. Here was a man claiming direct affiliation with God, offering teachings that differ from the surrounding culture's understanding of God. Although many disciples heard what he said and became his devoted followers, he was crucified over this dissonance.

To clarify,

Texts about such esoteric topics are absolutely valid if their readers are able to maintain a balanced view. Though, such esoteric topics cannot be directly realized through adopting an understanding of a text. A direct experience of such esoteric views differs from that of the view, opinions, and speculations of the author of a text, and the two may not agree. Both speculative literature and the words of highly realized inviduals are applicable and have a valid place in the scheme of things. Both of these enable practitioners and help them shape an understanding.


>> Saying, "You are..." is a personal statement no matter if I take offense or not.

I understand that this type of phrasing can be invasive, and apologize.


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Invisiblehawk
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Re: Experts [Re: Swami]
    #2375800 - 02/25/04 12:38 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

Wow, I thought you would go after me for the synchronistic events idea, oh well you never can tell which way a donkey will kick.  :razz:


Edited by hawk (02/25/04 12:40 PM)


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Experts [Re: hawk]
    #2376019 - 02/25/04 02:06 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

No one "went after" you. :stoned:


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