-_sometimes

Ethics of creating immersive video games, from a daoist perspective?

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I very much enjoy immersive video games that make one feel like they've entered an alternate dimension.. they capture the attention, and can be awe-inspiring experiences. As someone currently heading into the software industry, I do find the idea of moving from app development to solve real-world problems, into gaming development - creating beautiful immersive game experiences, to be quite enticing - especially since the introduction of unreal engine 5. However, I am hesitant to do so, primarily because I have had issues with video games and self control, both in the past and ongoing; I'm not sure if this is a challenge I want to force on others through making even better games than exist today that caused me so much trouble, and I also don't know if creating products which ultimately distract and provide an escape from real life for its players is really something I can do with good conscience. 

 

I would be interested to hear your perspectives on this. I know the opinion on video games in this forum is quite divided - some users ardently against them, others very passionate gamers alongside intensive internal practice. Considering that distractions from real life, losing touch with one's body by absorbing attention into screens, high adrenaline experiences, all consume what I consider higher than normal amount of jing, I definitely lie more on the gaming = bad side of the fence. I would love to know about your experiences, and if you think the issue lies not in the games themselves, but the person playing them. Can there be such a thing as mindful consumption of such media?

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I adore being able to project into alternate universes and explore.  Particularly in some of the games that allow for many players to mingle from around the world.

 

When I was crippled for a period of years and am one of the few % who are immune to morphine and most pain relievers, so to deal with the pain, I'd spend time in video landscapes.  Eventually this lead to me becoming a level designer (when I thought I'd never regain the ability to walk, I chose to do in video games, what I thought I'd not be able to keep doing in real life- which was building scenery).

 

My connections in various massive online games led to some life long friendships with folks in far away places like Isreal, Europe, Asia, Russia, South America.  Folks I'd have never met otherwise.

 

I can see where it could interfere in life or become out of balance in some cases... as with anything we enjoy.  But I've always pushed back on the notion that video games are useless.  I've found them to be the opposite.  Creative and connecting.

 

For my son, throughout the pandemic, being locked in our home with just his parents for nearly two years of distance learning and isolation (due to mom being high risk)  I watched him enjoy many hours of connection, being able to hang out with his friends in discord chat, or all playing in the same posse on pc, xbox or ps.  Many of these games require teams to complete their objectives and each team member must have tactical and specialized skills used at certain times in conjunction with others, in order to succeed.  It's impressive to listen to them coordinate.

 

I still penpal with some of the folks I used to raid weekly with in Lord of the Rings online.  And my wife at this moment, is gaming with a small group of 50 somethings in Elder Scrolls Online on our ps4.

 

I've only dipped my toes in the waters of the Oculus I got my son for his birthday a couple years ago... I can only imagine what will develop out of that!

 

I say cheers to you mate.  You found something you love.  And it's a deep and wide venue that you can make a very potent career out of while loving what you do; though watch out for yourself.  I won several awards for my levels made to support games that were released and was recruited by two big companies and almost changed careers. 

 

But thankfully I recovered and returned to making scenery in the real world.  As I explored it and developed a few independent games myself with small teams, I found the work in that field is highly unregulated, un-unionized and have heard many personal stories of how some of these companies treat their contract employees (cough Ubisoft, Blizzard I'm looking at you) are horrifying. 

 

Hopefully that sector organizes for protection and benefits soon.

 

I wish you well and if you keep tabs on yourself, you'll not stray too far out of balance I bet.  Just keep some irons in other pots of interest as well to keep some diversity and remember to switch it up once in a while.

 

I still deeply appreciate advice I heard in my 20's. 

One should have three hobbies at least, in life.

One that makes you money.

One that keeps you healthy.

and one, purely for joy.

 

peace mate, thanks for sharing.

Edited by silent thunder
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I guess it's based on whether you view things that hinder spiritual development to be a negative. If you're spending much of your time playing videos games, because you find them so amazing compared to real life, or because your life sucks and you want an escape - not being able to play them would likely force you to deal with your stuff, because not having an escape means you have to live with yourself. And living with yourself if you're a mess can be so painful you have no choice but to improve.

 

I feel like providing people with yet another reason for not being present with themselves, is not really the most ethical thing to do. Video games keep getting more beautiful, awe inspiring, absolutely stunning. It makes distraction seem all the more compelling, even to those not predisposed to such endeavours.

 

That being said, I've only ever played games solo, perhaps the social dynamic makes for a completely different experience, as@silent thunderyou attest to. 

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Nothing wrong with single player video games that spark your creativity though. I will never be a mayor and build my perfect utopia but I can do it in video games. But on the other hand if you are just playing games that bombard you with mindless violence and play that 24/7 it probably won’t be good for you. It’s just like music, some songs will open up your mind to beautiful experiences, others won’t. You can’t paint the whole gaming industry with the same brush. It’s up to you what you do with what’s provided. 

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Buddhists talk about which jobs should be avoided. Generally they tend to avoid jobs that directly cause suffering.

 

Raising animals for slaughter. Trading animals for slaughter. Slaughtering animals/people (at an abattoir or as a hunter or an executioner)… making and selling poisons and weapons… making and selling intoxicants like wine and drugs.

 

I don’t have a full list - this is just off the top of my head. Maybe some members more knowledgeable in Buddhist doctrine would be able to present a full list.

 

Making and selling hammers on the other hand is fine… even though a hammer may be used to kill as well as to build. The causation is mediated by the intent of the user - and is therefore an indirect cause. 
 

For me personally, applying this to your situation would work like this: I would personally avoid working on games that are built to be addictive - gambling games, games that generate revenue from in-game spending etc. I believe these to be intoxicating because they work directly on the dopamine response process to keep you playing and spending. 
 

But most games are fine. Even if they distract one from spiritual pursuits. Let’s face it - almost everything in life is a distraction away from spiritual development. The vast majority of people aren’t interested in that pursuit anyway - so creating some beauty and wonder for people to enjoy and appreciate is a good thing to do in my opinion.

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I can see a programmer who's worried about over-use to have a timer built into the program.  It could be pre-set by the user to give a warning or a couple levels of warning, including a suggestion on a better use of time, after a set amount of play.

 

It's a real worry, excellent games are addictive by design. 

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I think games are spiritual.   What we can do in one life is limited.  Most of the things, careers, professions need a lot of training, efforts, qualifications and so on.   It is difficult to move between professions, going up (or down), taking different posts.  We want to try different things in life, but not invest decades in doing so, and missing all other opportunities.  e.g. I fly planes on PC.  I don't want to be a pilot.  Having a taste of it is good enough, even if it is not very realistic.   I can have a taste of many things in a year.

 

The traditional approach is by reincarnation to learn life experiences.  Isn't it very inefficient and ineffective?

 

 

 

 

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On 14/02/2022 at 12:14 PM, freeform said:

But most games are fine. Even if they distract one from spiritual pursuits

What leads you to think this way?

 

Do you consider the spiritual path to be amoral? Not sure if 'amoral' is the right phrase, but you don't consider movement towards spiritual development to be superior to other ways of being? So that movement in either direction - towards spirituality or away from it, or perhaps not in any particular direction, doesn't really matter?

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Why not create a game which is immersive, transformative at a personal level, and a gateway into spiritual pursuits (potentially)?

It might be very interesting to see how it works out in an AR/VR format.

 

P.S. I've written and published one novel with similar attributes, and am in the process of writing its sequel.

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14 minutes ago, -_sometimes said:

you don't consider movement towards spiritual development to be superior to other ways of being?


No, not at all.

 

27 minutes ago, -_sometimes said:

So that movement in either direction - towards spirituality or away from it, or perhaps not in any particular direction, doesn't really matter?


Movement towards spirituality is inevitable - it’s just a very subtle undercurrent to all expressions of life… some lifetimes look like a move away from spirituality… but as a trend over thousands of lifetimes we’re all returning to the divine. It’s just the scale is beyond our mental comprehension.
 

Some lifetimes we feel the pull of the return stronger - but we can’t judge others for not feeling this pull (because we’ve all had a lifetime or two like that :) )

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21 hours ago, freeform said:

Movement towards spirituality is inevitable - it’s just a very subtle undercurrent to all expressions of life… some lifetimes look like a move away from spirituality… but as a trend over thousands of lifetimes we’re all returning to the divine. It’s just the scale is beyond our mental comprehension.


This is interesting to me, since there is a similar idea in Buddhism, but it is also different. There are a couple of versions actually that I could compare to your description. It's all scriptural/intellectual on my part, probably just the exoteric level of understanding too, not any lineage teaching passed on in person, or from experience, but I thought I'd bring them up anyway.

The first one that comes to mind is from Buddhist cosmology found chiefly in the Pali suttas, but I believe it's also mostly shared in the Mahayana traditions. There are some variations on it, but the basic idea is that at the 'cosmos' for lack of a better word, there are various 'destructions' that take place, but at the same time, beings move up in the various realms, until ultimately they arrive at the Bṛhatphala realms, which are linked with the fourth Jhana. This realm and up are never 'destroyed'. This sounds a lot to me like what you're talking about, as the idea is that beings will always turn toward spiritual practice and move from the realms of Desire towards the most refined realms of Form and Formlessness, sooner or later.

Relevant suttas for these ideas in the Pali canon: Saleyyaka, Agganna, Maha-sihanada, Jhana, Cakkavatti and probably others...

But the difference I see is that the most refined realms of Form and Formlessness are not considered as the end goal or maximum potential of spiritual practice. After the process of creation restarts 'beings' again move away from there to begin a new cycle of creation and so on. So does this even qualify as spiritual practice? Is the 'goal' of spiritual practice re-convergence with the Source or is there something more? Many possible questions come to mind along these lines... Probably a very intellectual approach, this is not something frequently on my mind these days if at all, since it's not where I am anyway, but I'm curious what you think or what your tradition's/teacher's perspective is, if you'd be willing to share.

The second similar question is that of the attainment of the Arahant. In the Mahayana traditions, as far as I know, it is usually said that the Arahant enters Nirodha on death, which is outside of the realms of Desire, Form and Formlessness. They spend X amount of time here (what does this even mean lol :D ) - and then they are roused by Buddhas to enter creation again and complete the path to full Buddhahood. I guess the similarity I see is return to some kind of totally transcendent state, then re-entry for further practice... for something beyond that? This one might be the least similar idea.

The third one I vaguely remember reading from the Bön/Vajrayana tradition, can't remember which one exactly, or what this is from, but someone was explaining that even Buddhas are 'recycled' :D at the end of the cosmos and then re-enter for the creation the new world cycle. This one is directly at odds with Theravada accounts. I might be wrong but the Tibetan traditions are often a bit loose with the term 'buddha', so as to apply it to beings whose attainments is clearly not equal to the idea of a Perfect Buddha, so it means something more like spiritually very advanced being. People more familiar with these traditions feel free to chime in.

Might be a bit off topic, but something that peaked my curiosity anytime this was brought up in the past. At the very least it's interesting to note all the different interpretations and accounts from traditions, questions that maybe even 'God' doesn't know the answer to...:ph34r:

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18 hours ago, Piyadasi said:

There are some variations on it, but the basic idea is that at the 'cosmos' for lack of a better word, there are various 'destructions' that take place, but at the same time, beings move up in the various realms, until ultimately they arrive at the Bṛhatphala realms, which are linked with the fourth Jhana. This realm and up are never 'destroyed'. This sounds a lot to me like what you're talking about, as the idea is that beings will always turn toward spiritual practice and move from the realms of Desire towards the most refined realms of Form and Formlessness, sooner or later.


Yeah this is an aspect of ‘the return’ that many Daoist texts talk about (it is several layers of meaning of course).

 

Consciousness has a tendency towards returning to source… kinda like the opposite of entropy.

 

This tendency is subtle and it moves at a scale that’s unfathomable - kinda how the continents move around on the surface of our planet.

 

At the lower levels of consciousness this tendency is least evident… as a plant or a worm or a rabbit there’s no direct pull in that lifetime - but over thousands, or tens of thousands of lifetimes this pull gains momentum.

 

At first life is almost random - you’re randomly moving towards and away from source - bouncing around and affected by the different environmental factors of the realm of consciousness you’re part of.

 

There is a point, however, where you ‘enter the stream’… which happens around the 4th Jhanna as you’ve said.

 

This is almost as if your soul falls into a river who’s current is much stronger and will inevitably lead you towards source within the next few lifetimes.

 

Entering the stream can be either blissful or highly traumatic. Aspects of what you thought of as yourself will be shed - and this will seem either like a movement towards ultimate freedom or a movement towards ultimate annihilation (depending on who you are).

 

18 hours ago, Piyadasi said:

The third one I vaguely remember reading from the Bön/Vajrayana tradition, can't remember which one exactly, or what this is from, but someone was explaining that even Buddhas are 'recycled' :D at the end of the cosmos and then re-enter for the creation the new world cycle.


Yeah - even the deities can be subject to rebirth. In fact having achieved the earlier Jhannas one will not have the normal rebirth cycle - they will be in the higher realms for a long time between death and rebirth - but rebirth is inevitable at some point.

 

In mythical stories you’ll read of a ‘second coming’ of some highly developed individual - this is a hint that though they’ve reached high levels, they’ll still need to be reincarnated at some point or other.

 

As far as I understand the highest level of immortality or Buddhahood means your karma is complete and you no longer have a need to reincarnate (but can - if you want).

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20 hours ago, freeform said:

Entering the stream can be either blissful or highly traumatic. Aspects of what you thought of as yourself will be shed - and this will seem either like a movement towards ultimate freedom or a movement towards ultimate annihilation (depending on who you are).


If it is highly traumatic is it because some foundation is missing or is it a matter of something else?
 

20 hours ago, freeform said:

As far as I understand the highest level of immortality or Buddhahood means your karma is complete and you no longer have a need to reincarnate (but can - if you want).


Am I to understand correctly that full reintegration with the source would be the level of Zhenren? If yes, is immortality/buddhahood beyond (or perhaps different to) re-integration with the source?

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1 hour ago, Piyadasi said:

If it is highly traumatic is it because some foundation is missing or is it a matter of something else?


Yeah - means something’s gone wrong at some point.

 

1 hour ago, Piyadasi said:

Am I to understand correctly that full reintegration with the source would be the level of Zhenren? If yes, is immortality/buddhahood beyond (or perhaps different to) re-integration with the source?


No - beyond Zhenren as far as I understand - Heavenly Immortal.

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My experience working in the Tibetan schools (primarily Nyingma) and Soto Zen is that the jhanas can be very difficult for many, but fortunately are not any precursor to stream entry. They are states, not permanent realizations of any kind, and thus not really "attainments" or prerequisites that lead to awakening. They are an opportunity to get a feel for what the emptiness/dependent origination of stream entry is all about. The ability to freely go up and down the jhanas is one sign that stream entry has been attained, but not the most reliable one, since stream entry without jhana practice is entirely possible. Nirodha Samapati is also a state, though very different from the previous states. I am aware of a few meditators who can get there, but have never met one in person. 

 

I agree that there is a pull toward the source. The dharmakaya is the source of all phenomena, is Wisdom/emptiness itself, and it is everywhere, the fabric of what all of this is, inseparable from what "we" are. It is constantly pointing out the obscurations that stop us from being aligned with it and awakened to its true nature. 

 

Awakening can be traumatic when there isn't some preparation or background in a tradition. Shifting a worldview to a non-dual understanding means letting go of a lot of preconceived ideas and personal cosmology and identity, and realizing that both have always been delusions. 

 

Enlightenment is freedom AND annihilation. Truly, NO-ONE is every enlightened. 

 

Quote

"There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity." - Shunryu Suzuki

 

Stream enterers usually complete the standard 4 path model from Stream Enterer to Arhat in approximately 10 years. This would traditionally be time in a monastery or a cave, though that isn't always readily available anymore.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_awakening

 

Buddhas are immortal, but it is because they understand that nothing has ever been born or died. The story of a "self", and cosmology of a life story - all of your stories are just thoughts, and your thoughts are always happening NOW. The awareness that we are is empty of time, space, or self.

 

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Video games will be used for addictive purposes, no doubt.  But then again so will chocolate chip cookies, and yet most bakers aren't wringing their flour-covered hands worrying about the ethics of icing.  The problem of addiction is a bit like whack-a-mole; it won't be solved by the elimination of any one potential addictive activity; those prevented from playing with their X-boxes or whatever will simply have sex or go to a casino or buy way too many pairs of shoes.  Rather than attempting to curtail the addictive possibilities available to others, I believe our ethical energy is better spent examining our own behavior.  Let's all ask ourselves that most pesky of questions: what is my addiction?  It could be anything.  The point is to have an honest hard look at our own lives and figure out if there's anything we habitually do to numb ourselves out and avoid pain.  If we can get really honest and learn to sit with the uncomfortable parts of life, the benefits will ripple our from our own psyches to those we love.  We will be better spouses, better parents, better friends.  So go ahead and make that engaging videogame, just lay off the heroin, OK?  The world will be a better place for your efforts.

Edited by liminal_luke
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17 hours ago, stirling said:

jhanas can be very difficult for many, but fortunately are not any precursor to stream entry. They are states, not permanent realizations of any kind, and thus not really "attainments" or prerequisites that lead to awakening.


Different traditions work differently - and the Jhannas are interpreted completely differently from one tradition to the next.

 

From the traditions I’ve come across the Jhannas are both meditative states and attainments - in that to ‘attain’ the Jhanna certain permanent transformations occur. These are transformations that are both on the level of consciousness and physical/physiological transformations. Commonly one enters the Jhanna state maaaany times, over a long period of time before one attains that level of Jhanna.

 

What Jhanna means seems quite flexible. The people I’ve come across consider the Jhannas almost impossible to attain. For instance there are only a handful of people on earth at this time who have achieved anything above the 4th Jhanna. Each individual that has attained 4th Jhanna and above is known because they start to resonate within a certain realm that is interconnected. Curiously it’s not only Buddhists that achieve these - there are Daoists, Hindus and Christians too - though they might not call it Jhanna - they’ve attained it.

 

If you read the account of some people online though, they seem to enter and move through all the Jhannas after a weekend workshop.

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7 hours ago, freeform said:


Different traditions work differently - and the Jhannas are interpreted completely differently from one tradition to the next.

 

From the traditions I’ve come across the Jhannas are both meditative states and attainments - in that to ‘attain’ the Jhanna certain permanent transformations occur. These are transformations that are both on the level of consciousness and physical/physiological transformations. Commonly one enters the Jhanna state maaaany times, over a long period of time before one attains that level of Jhanna.

 

What Jhanna means seems quite flexible. The people I’ve come across consider the Jhannas almost impossible to attain. For instance there are only a handful of people on earth at this time who have achieved anything above the 4th Jhanna. Each individual that has attained 4th Jhanna and above is known because they start to resonate within a certain realm that is interconnected. Curiously it’s not only Buddhists that achieve these - there are Daoists, Hindus and Christians too - though they might not call it Jhanna - they’ve attained it.

 

If you read the account of some people online though, they seem to enter and move through all the Jhannas after a weekend workshop.

Hi ! 

 

Are people who have attained (in the way you spoke about  ) the 4th Jhannas or higher in the public? 

 

All the best 

Michael 

Edited by MIchael80
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10 hours ago, freeform said:


Different traditions work differently - and the Jhannas are interpreted completely differently from one tradition to the next.


From the traditions I’ve come across the Jhannas are both meditative states and attainments - in that to ‘attain’ the Jhanna certain permanent transformations occur. These are transformations that are both on the level of consciousness and physical/physiological transformations. Commonly one enters the Jhanna state maaaany times, over a long period of time before one attains that level of Jhanna.

 

Interesting. I'm not familiar with them coming attached with any permanent change. What transformations are said to occur, and in what traditions? 

 

Quote

The people I’ve come across consider the Jhannas almost impossible to attain. For instance there are only a handful of people on earth at this time who have achieved anything above the 4th Jhanna. Each individual that has attained 4th Jhanna and above is known because they start to resonate within a certain realm that is interconnected. Curiously it’s not only Buddhists that achieve these - there are Daoists, Hindus and Christians too - though they might not call it Jhanna - they’ve attained it.


I'm not sure what attain would mean in this instance, but I myself have attempted 1-4 of the Buddhist jhanas with eventual success, and may have popped into the 5th. I have met a number of people who can do all 8 and  one who can get nirodha samapatti, which is fairly rare. First jhana, at least in the Buddhist tradition, is possible for most experienced meditators, I'd say.

 

Quote

If you read the account of some people online though, they seem to enter and move through all the Jhannas after a weekend workshop.

 

It's worth checking out Leigh Brassington's great book on the jhanas (from a Buddhist perspective). He is widely known as a foremost teacher on the jhanas and is a popular teacher/expert at many jhana retreats for a variety different Buddhist traditions:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Right-Concentration-Practical-Guide-Jhanas/dp/1611802695

 

You can even try his 1st jhana instructions for yourself for free:

 

http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm

 

 

While I am thinking of it, I'll mention that Leigh also has a fantastic FREE book on Dependent Origination/Emptiness:

 

http://sodapi.leighb.com

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15 hours ago, stirling said:

Interesting. I'm not familiar with them coming attached with any permanent change. What transformations are said to occur, and in what traditions? 


The specifics of what transformation occurs are kept quiet because often they are used as a test to see if the Jhanna has been attained. 
 

What happens on a mechanistic level is that the locus of your consciousness shifts from one ‘body’ to another… from the physical to the energetic body for instance - or from energetic to astral - or from astral to causal etc. This is the more ‘tantric’ understanding of what happens ‘under the hood’.

 

The changes are usually physical and physiological in nature… some of the signs are ‘super normal’ - things like light or other qi-based effects and things that wouldn’t be considered physically possible.

 

What traditions? My training in the Jhannas comes from my teacher in Burma and some info comes from a couple of friends in a Chan lineage in Asia. And of course my Daoist teacher - though he talks about it from a different perspective.

 

15 hours ago, stirling said:

I'm not sure what attain would mean in this instance, but I myself have attempted 1-4 of the Buddhist jhanas with eventual success, and may have popped into the 5th. I have met a number of people who can do all 8 and  one who can get nirodha samapatti, which is fairly rare. First jhana, at least in the Buddhist tradition, is possible for most experienced meditators, I'd say.


Yeah - this is the common understanding - and what I’ve come across most of the time until I was introduced to a couple of closed door lineages in Asia.

 

When you say ‘Buddhist tradition’ - the reality of this is that as a tradition, it’s extremely varied when seen first hand in the east. There is no one ‘Buddhist tradition’…

 

The starkest difference is in what is open to the public and what is kept behind closed doors. 
 

Even then - things are very segregated. As I’m not a renunciate, my teacher withholds certain things from my training even though he’s accepted me as a disciple.
 

From what I’ve fathomed - there are open door teachings on Jhannas and there are closed door teachings on the Jhannas - and they’re very different.

 

15 hours ago, stirling said:

You can even try his 1st jhana instructions for yourself for free:


Thanks. I’m due to finally meet back with my Buddhist teacher in Burma this year (though it might have to wait a bit longer). My next test is to sit in stillness for 72hrs… and if I don’t manage it then he’ll most likely stop teaching me - which is when I might be in the market for a new meditation teacher 😅

Edited by freeform
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18 hours ago, MIchael80 said:

Hi ! 

 

Are people who have attained (in the way you spoke about  ) the 4th Jhannas or higher in the public? 

 

All the best 

Michael 


Yeah - it’s a shame because I had no idea my teacher could do this when the conversation came up - I only asked about the couple of public teachers I know and the Dalia Lama - and none of them have achieved 4th + . 
 

If there are specific teachers, all I need is a name, location and sometimes a photo.

 

I can ask about Leigh Brassington :)

 

(before people start messaging me with lots of people to check - I will only ask about maybe three. My teacher is a quiet and stern dude and I don’t want to annoy him with ‘teacher top trumps’.)
 

Usually entering and attaining Jhanna is only ever achieved at a lengthy retreat… sometimes the transformation period after attainment means that the person is not functional for a few months to several years. 
 

For instance at the juncture between attaining the 4th and entering the 5th there’s usually a long retreat where the meditator is sat in a kind of suspended animation for weeks, months even years. (No food, no sleep, no obvious body processes like breathing or heart beating apparently)
 

They have specific huts for this. Usually that master’s disciples need to watch over the master’s body during that period.

 

After attaining the 3rd Jhanna usually the meditator is also asked to take a retreat because they begin to affect people around them profoundly (resulting in mental breakdowns for most people). They also produce various light based phenomena around them which can get them in trouble.

 

So it can certainly be troublesome to be in society at this stage of one’s practice.


Generally it’s only ever the Daoists at this level that return to society - people from most other traditions tend to go into isolation or monastic life. From what I understand - there are not many Daoists at this level though.

Edited by freeform
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10 hours ago, freeform said:


The specifics of what transformation occurs are kept quiet because often they are used as a test to see if the Jhanna has been attained. 

What happens on a mechanistic level is that the locus of your consciousness shifts from one ‘body’ to another… from the physical to the energetic body for instance - or from energetic to astral - or from astral to causal etc. This is the more ‘tantric’ understanding of what happens ‘under the hood’.

 

The changes are usually physical and physiological in nature… some of the signs are ‘super normal’ - things like light or other qi-based effects and things that wouldn’t be considered physically possible.

 

Sounds very Vajrayana. I have encountered some practices like that in the Nyingma and Bön lineages (my early teachers were Tibetan) but other visualization practices were recommended for me. What would these practices be intended to accomplish?

 

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From what I’ve fathomed - there are open door teachings on Jhannas and there are closed door teachings on the Jhannas - and they’re very different.

 

My experience is that there are certainly teachings given by teachers personally, sometimes invented on the spot, that won't make it into books and require a certain level of insight. 

 

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Thanks. I’m due to finally meet back with my Buddhist teacher in Burma this year (though it might have to wait a bit longer). My next test is to sit in stillness for 72hrs… and if I don’t manage it then he’ll most likely stop teaching me - which is when I might be in the market for a new meditation teacher 😅

 

I'm guessing you don't mean all at once. There are definitely teachers of shamatha that require that sort of sitting to confirm your skill level. I'm good for a couple of hours, but everybody needs to eat and defecate occasionally. 

 

Bows.

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9 hours ago, freeform said:


Yeah - it’s a shame because I had no idea my teacher could do this when the conversation came up - I only asked about the couple of public teachers I know and the Dalia Lama - and none of them have achieved 4th +

 

I think almost any arhat can do at least 4th jhana. I haven't met one that can't. You don't have to be an arhat to do them, however. Your teacher is most likely an arhat. My experience is that some people are just naturally good at absorptions. Completing the four path model creates a number of variations in skill set. 

 

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Usually entering and attaining Jhanna is only ever achieved at a lengthy retreat… sometimes the transformation period after attainment means that the person is not functional for a few months to several years. 

 

See... this sounds much more like stream entry to me. Usually the period after stream entry makes "people' strange for as many as ten years - some more strange than others. 

 

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For instance at the juncture between attaining the 4th and entering the 5th there’s usually a long retreat where the meditator is sat in a kind of suspended animation for weeks, months even years. (No food, no sleep, no obvious body processes like breathing or heart beating apparently)

 

Definitely Nirodha Samapatti. I think there are very few that can do this. 

 

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Generally it’s only ever the Daoists at this level that return to society - people from most other traditions tend to go into isolation or monastic life. From what I understand - there are not many Daoists at this level though.

 

It would be interesting to differentiate what this level this might be. Are we talking about stream entry... arhatship... enlightenment... something else?

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14 hours ago, freeform said:

 

I can ask about Leigh Brassington :)

 

(before people start messaging me with lots of people to check - I will only ask about maybe three. My teacher is a quiet and stern dude and I don’t want to annoy him with ‘teacher top trumps’.)
 

A more useful question IMO is which teachers have experienced the actual meditative state of any particular jhana.  What you define as "attaining" jhana is so incredibly hard that there is honestly very little chance any publicly teaching Westerner Buddhist teachers have done it, even those like Brassington that specialize in jhana.  If they even know such an attainment exists they don't talk about it.  It's not in the original Suttas (they only talk about the meditative states), for instance, so they would have to be in a lineage that teaches it to even know about it. 

 

But knowing, "Even though this teacher hasn't 'attained' nth jhana, they are at least accessing the corresponding meditative state regularly, and their method for doing so is sound", now that is a useful thing to know. 

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