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Thinking about Awakening, Part 1: Biases

I’ve been thinking a lot about Awakening. What is it? How does one get there? What does one “get” from it? Why do I want whatever it is? Are these even the right kinds of questions to be asking?

Greetings, Friendlies!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Awakening. What is it? How does one get there? What does one “get” from it? Why does one Why do I want whatever it is? Are these even the right kinds of questions to be asking?

The first draft of this post was awful. But the reason it was awful was (perhaps) interesting… every idea I tried to pull from my tangled understanding brought along a fist-full of biases. So I’m sitting here, a knotted mess of ideas and biases piled around me. And I think, what if, instead of starting with ideas, what if we start with the biases?

And so, for your amusement(?), I offer a few of the more germane biases caught up in the tangle-o-shannon. Most grateful, as always, for your thoughts.

  1. I believe it is important to examine my ideas and investigate the biases/preferences underlying them. I want to try, as carefully as I can, to hold my understandings/positions/beliefs as provisional.
  2. I am, in general, biased towards postmodern/critical theory flavoured teachings and, in general, biased against what I interpret as more sentimental or consolatory teachings.
  3. I am, in general, biased towards dhamma doors that highlight secular, psychological, biological, or immanent ideas and, in general, biased against dhamma doors that highlight religious, mystical, or transcendent ones.
  4. I am, in general, biased towards scientific and philosophical thought and communication.
  5. That being said, I believe that we are bewitched by language and that understanding the depth and breadth of that bewitching is part of our progress along the path.
  6. Also, I believe that human rationality is not transcendent but is embodied and derived from our biology and the way that biology interacts with its environment.
  7. I believe Awakening (and all these states and all this cultivation) is about human, animal experience; I do not believe it is about the universe… or it is about the universe only so far as it can be experienced through the human animal lens.
  8. That being said, I believe, as Alan Watts often expounded, that people are a natural expression of this universe, that this universe peoples in the same way that an apple tree apples. I believe we are the universe looking back at ourselves.
  9. I believe (what I currently understand about) the Theory of Relativity. And I believe that Rob Burbea’s “Ways of Looking” jives with this understanding.
  10. I believe (what I currently understand about) Paṭiccasamuppāda.
  11. I believe that all phenomena are empty.
  12. I believe that “separate” phenomena/objects/events are not actually separate, but that they are units of thought and language, useful for communicating and useful as maps of experience/reality, but that’s as far as it goes (see # 5 above).
  13. Any time I have seriously thought about rebirth I have not been able to find a way in which it could be useful for answering the question: what is an appropriate response to this situation in this moment. As such, at this time, I am unable to see its relevancy. (But I’m perfectly willing to talk about it with you if talking about it with you, in this moment, seems an appropriate response.)
  14. I believe that Gotama, through a gradual path that included conditions such as temperamental inclination, cultural conditions, extraordinary diligence and effort, had a profound experience that allowed him to understand something about what it is to be a human being. And that this experience/understanding does not jive with “normal” consciousness or “normal” western views of what it is to be a human being.
  15. That being said, I believe that Gotama was not omniscient. And that he and his teachings then were just as conditioned as I and my beliefs are now.
  16. That being said, I believe that most human beings have access to this kind of experience. (To be explicit: I believe Awakening is possible in this lifetime for me and the rest o’ y’all.)

Undoubtedly I am missing something… because… biases. But I also believe sangha is a skillful means of bringing this stuff to light. Much gratitude for any enlightenment you are willing to offer. :)))

With friendliness!

3 replies on “Thinking about Awakening, Part 1: Biases”

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