Apech

Visualisation - any good?

Visualisation - is it any use?  

33 members have voted

  1. 1. Is visualisation a useful tool in meditation or not? Please vote and then post below to give your reasons. Thanks to everyone. (This follows from the Adam Mizner vid discussion thread).

    • Yes, a useful tool in meditation etc.
      16
    • No, it doesn't work.
      3
    • Other
      10
    • Don't know
      4


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16 hours ago, Apech said:

Are we going to discuss mizners confusion of jhana and mahamudra/dzogchen?  Here or in another thread?

 

@Apech

Do you recall approximately where in the interview this was mentioned?

I listened to some but skipped around and must have missed that bit.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, steve said:

 

@Apech

Do you recall approximately where in the interview this was mentioned?

I listened to some but skipped around and must have missed that bit.

 

Curse you @steve on the internet - I had to listen to a lot to find it - 1:42:10 on ... he says dzogchen/mahamudra is day one in the Forest Tradition ie. jhanas. - he goes on to say when prompted to say ngon dro is just some kind of conditioning.

Edited by Apech
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On 3.1.2023 at 3:23 AM, freeform said:

I have, however, used something like visualisation for mental practice - to sharpen the mind, increase mental concentration, work with memory functions etc. That works. 

 

 

How did you work with memory and what where the results?

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1 hour ago, markern said:

 

How did you work with memory and what where the results?


I’ve seen the method I learned described in Wang Li Ping’s book.

 

Basically an issue arises with extended practice in that the personal-emotional (Xin) entanglement with events that happen to you lessens, your memory goes to shit :) 

 

My memory became kinda terrible because there’s no emotional anchor holding it within easy reach if the mind… no juicy (or even subtle) emotion to grasp - so the memories start to slip away…

 

So the practice we do involves creating a sort of ‘photographic’ recall of memories… though involving all senses - not just visual.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Apech said:

Curse you @steve on the internet - I had to listen to a lot to find it - 1:42:10 on ... he says dzogchen/mahamudra is day one in the Forest Tradition ie. jhanas. - he goes on to say when prompted to say ngon dro is just some kind of conditioning.

 

It is a bit ironic, but understandable. Everyone lowers the bar for other traditions: 

 

Spoiler

Jhana.thumb.jpg.a0231b2764100c417cdf3ff346a1d389.jpg

 

Edited by forestofemptiness
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Visualization is a normal human ability, like, e.g., the ability to carry a tune or to brachiate.  Some are less proficient at visualizing, some are even afflicted with aphantasia -- just like some people are tone deaf and some, clumsy.  But it doesn't make the ability either exotic, unnatural, or useless.  Incidentally, whole generations of "experts" used to assert that swimming is not natural for humans and that it's a modern fad.  (I'm not kidding.  Mercifully, this ridiculous "scientifically proven" BS has been debunked by more thorough investigations and by at least some "experts" flipping their natural intelligence from the "off" into the "on" position.  I remember watching my seven-day-old niece swim expertly in a bathtub, unassisted, with a smile of bliss on her face -- which reminds me that official "settled" "science" still maintains that infants can't smile till they are 2 months old -- but don't let me "go there.")  

 

The idea that there's some higher spirituality to be found in being tone deaf, clumsy, unable to swim, unwilling to smile, or refusing to visualize is, to me, somewhat baffling.  I won't swim in a polluted body of water and I won't visualize harmful or idiotic or pointless stuff -- the rest is my oyster.   

  

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, Taomeow said:

Visualization is a normal human ability, like, e.g., the ability to carry a tune or to brachiate.  Some are less proficient at visualizing, some are even afflicted with aphantasia -- just like some people are tone deaf and some, clumsy.  But it doesn't make the ability either exotic, unnatural, or useless.  Incidentally, whole generations of "experts" used to assert that swimming is not natural for humans and that it's a modern fad.  (I'm not kidding.  Mercifully, this ridiculous "scientifically proven" BS has been debunked by more thorough investigations and by at least some "experts" flipping their natural intelligence from the "off" into the "on" position.  I remember watching my seven-day-old niece swim expertly in a bathtub, unassisted, with a smile of bliss on her face -- which reminds me that official "settled" "science" still maintains that infants can't smile till they are 2 months old -- but don't let me "go there.")  

 

The idea that there's some higher spirituality to be found in being tone deaf, clumsy, unable to swim, unwilling to smile, or refusing to visualize is, to me, somewhat baffling.  I won't swim in a polluted body of water and I won't visualize harmful or idiotic or pointless stuff -- the rest is my oyster.   

  

 

If we are referring to what Adam was actually saying

 

His statement was really

 

  • You cannot do energetic work in the required way by playing games of mental gymnastics.
  • Imagining things will bring you no closer to samhadi/jhana
  • In this regard, it is pretty much useless.
  • I mean sure it can develop mental qualities.
  • He even says it has its place.

 

I agree with him on these matter. Lets look at what he actually says

 

 

 

 

Everything he says here seems perfectly in line with what I've been taught (not by Damo)

 

Ive yet to see a decent argument to counter what he is saying though, which is quite interesting.

Edited by Shadow_self
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2 hours ago, Apech said:

 

Curse you @steve on the internet - I had to listen to a lot to find it - 1:42:10 on ... he says dzogchen/mahamudra is day one in the Forest Tradition ie. jhanas. - he goes on to say when prompted to say ngon dro is just some kind of conditioning.

 

Bless you dear @Apech for indulging my laziness!

 

In my experience there is some degree of conditioning present in any prolonged and intensive repetition of human activity and the ngondro is no exception. His error, and that of others looking at the ngondro from the outside, is to not appreciate the effect such a process can have on breaking down the one being conditioned and loosening his/her grasp and sense of primacy. I think that appreciation can only come from direct experience. I'm very interested in your thoughts on this as well. 

 

What can be said about his casual dismissal of dzogchen/mahamudra other than to say that he has little or no understanding of the view, meditation, and conduct of dzogchen/mahamudra? It's arguably more accurate to state that the training of the forest tradition ends with day one of the dzogchen/mahamudra path... but I don't want to start a pissing contest on that point and I think it's somewhat of an unfair and unskillful comparison. It appears to me that his knowledge of the vajrayana and of dzogchen/mahamudra is theoretical or second hand and therefore inherently inaccurate and limited. Once again, I'd love to hear your take on this. I have a lot of respect for your experience, knowledge, and your ability to express both.

 

One of the things I most respect about the masters of meditation and martial arts I've encountered is their resistance to commenting on or judging other individuals' attainment or methods and systems outside their area of expertise. I think it is a sign of wisdom and maturity, not to mention an easy way to avoid looking foolish. Take someone with some expertise in a given field, put them on a public stage, and give them an opportunity to wax poetic on things outside their specific field of expertise; more often than not they will put their foot in their mouth a few times. I think that is a trap that is easy to fall into for folks that are elevated in the public eye. 

 

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Interesting quote from Adam's book:

 

Quote

Instead let your mind rest on that which is unfabricated, the knowing quality which is always there, emptiness. Empty knowing, the nature of the knowing quality, the nature of nibbāna. Empty, pure and clear. Because it is empty, pure and clear, out of that sukha and pīti arise. And it’s not the pleasure which is dependent upon cause and condition, it's only dependent on the unconditioned. And the unconditioned, being free from condition, is permanent. It is the immortal element. The immortal element is emptiness and knowing, the knowing quality, the very essence of consciousness. Empty cognizance. It’s always there. Vipassanā is learning how to see it, learning how to see, learning how to recognize, how to experience that which is lokuttara, that which is beyond the world of the five senses and the citta. Learning how to rest in that, one is completely free from suffering and learns how to find a happiness which is completely reliable. It’s completely reliable because it’s not dependent on cause and condition and it will not fall away. It can be relied upon. It is the other shore.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Let me look into my crystal ball...what's this I see?  Adam Mizner, Freeform, and Shadow_self all do a public about face, each posting videos proclaiming that visualization alone leads to enlightenment.  A gutsy prediction to be sure but I stand behind it.  Seeing is believing.

Edited by liminal_luke
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27 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

Interesting quote from Adam's book:


Didn't know he had a book! Thanks for the quote.

 

I like his directness - each sentence needs a little unpacking to really get… 

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23 minutes ago, steve said:

 

Bless you dear @Apech for indulging my laziness!

 

.......

Once again, I'd love to hear your take on this. I have a lot of respect for your experience, knowledge, and your ability to express both.

 

One of the things I most respect about the masters of meditation and martial arts I've encountered is their resistance to commenting on or judging other individuals' attainment or methods and systems outside their area of expertise. I think it is a sign of wisdom and maturity, not to mention an easy way to avoid looking foolish. Take someone with some expertise in a given field, put them on a public stage, and give them an opportunity to wax poetic on things outside their specific field of expertise; more often than not they will put their foot in their mouth a few times. I think that is a trap that is easy to fall into for folks that are elevated in the public eye. 

 

 

@steve,

 

I don't know much about Dzogchen so I'll stick to my practice which is mahamudra.

 

First from a technical point of view the Mahayana school which is related to jhanas is Zen.  As you know dhyana - jhana - ch'an - zen are all the same word in variously Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Japanese.  The schools which emphasise this tend to be about 'just sitting' as in zazen.  I think it is very easy to confuse this with 'resting in the natural state' of mahamudra/dzogchen.  I don't blame Adam for making this mistake because he's not alone in this.  Funnily enough it was a common criticism of mahamudra by dzogchenis that mahamudra was just Ch'an because they objected to Gampopa's development of sutra mahamudra amongst other things.  Sakya Pandita said Kagyu monks spent hours praying fervently to their guru and weeping ... and then when it came to meditation just fell asleep!  Anyway that is an aside.

 

When I first started ngon dro years ago ... I went to see the Lama and said when do I start mahamudra meditation - and he said 'you already have'.  So I can say with certainty that although ngon dro translates as 'preliminary practice' actually it isn't like stepping stones.  You begin with the mahamudra approach and work on it from there.  Even more so I know that dzogchen begins with pointing out instructions.  So Adam is wrong to say that you study for 12 years and then do it - it's not like that at all.

 

As regards jhanas - when Gampopa first met his root guru Milarepa he demonstrated his ability to remain in absorbtion for hours/days (he was already an advanced practitioner) and Milarepa said he was just wasting his time and introduced him to his teachings.  Gampopa himself in the Jewelled Ornament of Liberation described dhyanic nirvana as 'just a rest'.  A rest form samsara.  I realise these are just tales from long ago but these are the teachings I have received.

 

As regards Adam Mizner - I can say that I agreed with at least 80% that he said.  I very much liked the 'just be kind' don't imagine being kind part - that was spot on.  He is accomplished in his own field.  He's entitled to his views of course but I know from my own experience that the martial arts - nei dan route is very different to the tantric Buddhism route.  Reading across requires care and there are many pit falls.

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10 hours ago, blue eyed snake said:

anybody here that can explain the terms samadhi and jhana here in simple English words?

Jhana is simply the pali word for dhyana, which is meditation proper in the Hindu yogic tradition and considered the 7th limb of ashtanga yoga. Samadhi, the 8th limb, is when the subject and object merge/object disappears as a consequence of repeated dhyana. When there is a objective seed present in the absorption, it is called savikalpa samadhi, when there is no object present, it is called nirvikalpa samadhi.

 

I think a lot of unnecessary importance is being given to words of two practitioners who happen to have become popular due to their flashy personalities. While they have some attainment, they are, in my humble opinion not at a level where their words need to be studied as gospel truth :) 


I also know these guys are provocateurs par excellence, and they’re riling folks with their vitriol. Those who have experience know enough to not be swayed by controversial statements. 

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5 minutes ago, dwai said:

I also know these guys are provocateurs par excellence, and they’re riling folks with their vitriol.

 

What better way to generate buzz in our social media culture? 

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Though I am a novice on the path, based  on my readings, practice and exposure to teachers in multiple self cultivation traditions, here are my subjective experiences/conclusions that I hope are relevant to the discussion topic.

  • As a general rule I think the more the mind is involved in self cultivation practice in the sense of expectations and strategies/intents the more of a barrier there is to overcome to experience its fruits.
  • using listening/passive awareness makes the life force energy move for me and I am pretty sure I have seen it in others as well - not ephemerally but physical, bodily movement
  • for me listening seems to quiet the mind or it could be that to listen one needs to quiet the mind  - regardless it’s importance has been emphasized to me by multiple teachers from different traditions
  • seems that visualization means different things to different people - some people use it to describe or anticipate a feeling/sensation, for others it means creating a visual picture in the mind - I think the two usages are different in application 
  • I believe visualization (visual picture in the mind) is a useful tool in certain instances in training the mind  (example  sports performance) I have not had much luck using it in my own development practices - could be I have a limited capability in this area or it could be that visualizing a picture in the mind  requires more intention than just listening. 
  • a number of traditions seem to have “methods” at some level that are essentially without  intent  (ie that are naturally arising after some preliminary work) - generally they seem to be viewed as more advanced than ones using strategies, efforts and intents, these same traditions also have many methods using strategies and intention
  • my experience to date  is that with methods using intent, the intent is more for priming the pump and the fruits arise when you start to back off the intent  - less is usually more - there can also be a price to pay for imposition on the body/mind of intent (mea culpa on that)
  • I have seen intent filled methods associated with multiple traditions that appear to be based on reverse engineering of naturally arising cultivation fruits - not sure whether this is a good idea or a bad idea but I think it’s a good question to ask
  • my understanding of the usage of the term “meditation” from multiple traditions/teachers  is as a naturally arising outcome  based on precursor efforts and conditions - more of a happening and less of a doing 
  • teachers across traditions  I have had generally regard behavioral, physical and energetic work as key  parts of these precursor efforts and conditions. 
  • i spent  my whole professional career doing a job that was essentially to help manage the desired and the undesired behavior in people in a large scale corporate setting in many different countries - so my advice - trust but verify - and expect some surprises
  • One doesn’t have to like the teacher or agree all the time particularly on things outside the practice, there can still be benefits from the relationship particularly if one uses discernment
  • for all the talk of the importance of lineage , the initiated teachers I have had all seem to have some experience outside their lineage that seems useful 

I am just sharing my experience based on where I am. I am sure others have different experiences that are equally true to them and are likely more advanced than me. Given that change is inevitable i am sure my experience will too as I change. My hope is that by sharing my experience that someone might benefit in some small way. I’d also like to thank others who I have learned from  on this site through their postings. 

 

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23 minutes ago, dwai said:

I think a lot of unnecessary importance is being given to words of two practitioners who happen to have become popular due to their flashy personalities. While they have some attainment, they are, in my humble opinion not at a level where their words need to be studied as gospel truth :) 

 

Are you aware of the extent of either Adams or Damo's attainment?  Genuine question

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42 minutes ago, dwai said:


I also know these guys are provocateurs par excellence

 

I wanted to see Adam's tai chi so I looked him up and came across a video of him practicing.  Rather than post the video without muscial accompaniment (my preference), or with a tranquil soundtrack (2nd choice), Adam choose a jazzy version of "Blue Moon."

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2 hours ago, Shadow_self said:

 

Are you aware of the extent of either Adams or Damo's attainment?  Genuine question

I can tell :) 

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49 minutes ago, dwai said:

I can tell :) 

Provocateur par excellence!

🤣

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Posted (edited)

Kinda lost interest when it became clear Mizner attempted to sway opinion by associating (indifferentiating) two very distinct modes... that of imagination and fantasy, and that of visualisation. Or maybe he carelessly assumed a certain audience disposition to aid his cause, or lack of one. If he was meticulous and exercised his awareness in a broader sense, this debate may not even have taken wing.

 

He also made the fundamental error of failing to address that resting in meditation is a core aspiration of all contemplative traditions. Maybe it was a convenience. Thru such an omission, whether intentional or not, he avoids having to explain what resting in meditation means to contemplatives, what's involved, and what the fruits will be. 

 

So we end having a debate between ones initiated in one or the other contemplative traditions, against ones who, like Mizner, assume that contemplation means exercising the imagination. See where it gets bothersome, and even cumbersome? 

 

He should read up on some of Plotinus' works. Plotinus regards the highest contemplation was to experience the vision of God. This is a profound statement. Probably beyond Mizner's scope. 

Edited by C T
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Posted (edited)

There are two sources of image generation, one from the brain and one from the third eye
What comes from the brain is a kind of thought, which is useless, whether it is distracting thoughts or visualization, it is useless
What comes from the third eye is the real phenomenon in the practice world

The same mandala comes from visualization, which is acquired consciousness
And the mandala from the third eye is the inner scene of the second stage of yangsheng

It is difficult for a beginner without any level, or a person who has practiced wrongly, to judge whether it comes from the brain or the third eye

 

 

影像的產生有兩個來源,一個來自於大腦,一個來自於第三眼
來自於大腦的是念頭的一種,沒有甚麼用處,不管是雜念,或者是觀想,都是毫無用處的
來自於第三眼的才是真正的修行界現象

同樣的曼陀羅來自於觀想是後天意識用力
而來自於第三眼的曼陀羅則是第二階段陽生的內景

一個沒有任何程度的初學者,或者練錯的人,是很難判斷是來自於大腦或者是第三眼
 

It is difficult for people who use visualization to imagine that people who use Wuwei can practice from the Northern Lights to the sun, stars, moon, mandala, and even real people. These interior scenes all appear in the porch(Xiuan Goung)

 

使用觀想的人很難想像,使用無為的人可以從北極光,練到陽光,星星,月亮,甚至真人,這些內景都是出現在玄關之內

 

According to the Miscellaneous Agama Sutra, the four jhanas and eight samadhis are actually only four jhanas and two samadhis

The characteristic of Zen is that the void has not yet been opened
The characteristic of samadhi is to open the void

The characteristic of opening the void is the second stage of yangsheng, which is the inner view of the third eye

Enter the void state from the mandala

 

根據雜阿含經,而四禪八定其實只有四禪兩定

禪的特徵是還沒有打開虛空
定的特徵就是打開虛空

打開虛空的特徵就是二階段陽生,也就是第三眼的內景

從曼陀羅就開始進入虛空狀態

 

If your practice has not entered the second stage of yangsheng, you have not produced a mandala, then you do not know what is called samadhi

 

如果你的修練是沒有進入二階段陽生,你沒有產生曼陀羅,那你是不知道甚麼叫做定的

 

The mandala is the void that first appeared, and only when the void is created will the mandala appear
Probably the earliest mandala was just a bunch of small circles, or like a broken TV snowflake, or like a ceiling fan spinning

 

曼陀羅是最初出現的虛空,只有產生虛空才會出現曼陀羅
可能最早期的曼陀羅只有一堆小圓形,或者像壞掉的電視機雪花,或者像是天花板的吊扇在旋轉

 

While late mandala may appear hexagonal, great circle, square, triangle and so on

 

而晚期的曼陀羅可能會出現六角形,大圓形,正方形,三角形等等

 

In the third stage of yangsheng, the state of emptiness is already the deepest mystery in the scriptures

到了第三階段的陽生,虛空狀態已經是經典當中最深的奧秘了

 

No matter how mysterious it is, the first black liver light is the opening of the entrance

If you don't even have the original black liver light, and you are practicing entirely by imagination, then you are really on a very wrong path

 

不管再怎麼神秘,最初的烏肝光,就是玄關的開啟

如果你連最初的烏肝光都沒有,完全是靠著想像在修練,那你真的走上非常錯誤的道路了

 

Edited by awaken
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4 hours ago, steve said:

 

What better way to generate buzz in our social media culture? 

Oh come now, this isn't so recent or unique to others' paths as that - what dwai described aptly describes Vajrayana's self identity. Vajrayana has been positioning itself as the highest path for a good thousand years, cavalierly setting up and knocking down straw man ideas about "sutra" Buddhism. And it generated a lot of buzz.

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5 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

Interesting quote from Adam's book:

Perhaps Mahamudra and Dzogchen practitioners will see why he finds common ground between those practices and what he practices, given that quote? But the major (very major indeed) difference that I can discern is the fact that he is saying to completely absorb into this empty clarity, whereas Mahamudra and Dzogchen emphasize seeing it as nondual from it's objects, what Mizner calls "thinking you know water when you have only tasted it mixed with milk."

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Posted (edited)

I saw Mizner as dismissing visualization for developing "internal skill", something with a very technical meaning, while also allowing for it's effectiveness as mind training (which he divides into something potentially useful and something that conditions you to propagate dogma).

 

As far as internal skill is concerned, seeing as some Tibetans have it (rainbow body being an extreme example), the question is, did the ones who have developed actually internal skill do so relying entirely on visualization, or was it a type of training wheels that they eventually discarded?

 

The other point I want to mention, which I actually think the most salient with regard to the role of visualization in Vajrayana, is that Vajrayana is geneologically a path of sorcery.  And even @freeformhas said that visualization is important and powerful for such paths. I am genuinely mystified by this not being discussed when talking about the role of visualization in Vajrayana. Perhaps because this origin has been edited out in presentations to Westerners.

Edited by Creation
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