Thursday, March 13, 2008

Expression versus Repression

From another Jagadish Vasudev, aka Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Q&A:

"Today, in modern life, in the present way of living, people’s emotions are not finding their full expression. That part of the energy, the unexpressed emotion, cannot become something else. Either it has to find an emotional expression or it will turn inward and do funny things within you. That’s why in Western countries there are so many mental problems. It is said that one out of every three Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of two of your best friends, Frederica. If they’re okay then it must be you (laughs). One of the major factors for this is that there is no room for emotional expression. Anything emotional is looked upon as a weakness in those cultures, so it is suppressed. People are emotional, but there is no free expression for their emotion. Ninety percent of the people in the world, or even more, never find full expression for their emotions. They’re afraid of their love, they’re afraid of their grief, they’re afraid of their joys, they are afraid of everything. To laugh loudly is a problem, to cry loudly is a problem; everything is a problem; and they call this ‘modern culture’. I would say this is a restrictive culture, which causes you to behave in a certain way. So if your emotions never find full expression then that energy can turn around and do many damaging things to you."

Expressing of emotions and instinctual behavior obviously have to be controlled. Aggression, Hate, Desire, Lust, Greed, Possessiveness, Insecurity, Suicidal tendencies require intervention in their extreme cases.

A child is fully expressive, because it is a completely instinctual creature, it has no notion of tempering its inner feelings, of the fact that it is making demands on others. It cries loudly when any demand is not met. Most of its demands are physical in nature, but as the child grows into an adult its demands increase in complexity. Psychological, psychic demands enter the picture. At puberty especially, as sexual hormones start their work, its needs extend to the social and sexual realm.

It also learns and finds out that as it grows older, its demands will be satisfied less and less by default. And that crying or having a tantrum over an unmet demand will be looked at less and less favorably.

The fundamental aspect of growing up as a human being is in not expressing one's animal instincts fully, i.e. keeping them in check. If one were to grab the breast of the first woman one finds on the street, to steal the first food item that one sees, to aggressively posture at the first person who passes one close by, one will be put into jail quite hurriedly.

One learns the various social protocols, the various checks and balances, and finds out (by education and direct experience) what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Personal expressions of feelings are still ok, one can cry in solitude, one can be afraid of future and worry about one's career, one can nurture one's kids and be possessive of them, one can suffer from jealousy towards one's spouse, etc.

When the potential expression of an instinct infringes on another's conventional human and legal rights, the expression is either suppressed by oneself (being afraid of the consequences) or by the society and the legal framework. One may want to passionately make love to the neighbor's wife, but if she is unwilling, there is little an average person can do but fantasize, make eye contact, drop a letter in her mailbox, etc. To directly go and rape her would mean that the person has had a breakdown of civility.

This is a definitely sub-optimal situation, where there are opposing forces of animal instincts and civilizational controls. It is a situation of constant thwarting, a lifelong push-and-pull.

Freud gave an apt name to this phenomenon of instincts not getting an unbridled expression in human societies. He named one of his books "Civilization and its discontents." His primary thesis was that civilization does not let humans express their animal selves completely, and the only way a human can avoid the consequent neurosis and inner turmoil is to sublimate his passions in artistic, meaningful or creative endeavors. One may not agree with the solution of sublimation, but the problem of instinctual behavior and the resultant need for its control (whether by oneself or by the community) is standard socio-scientific understanding for more than a 100 years now.

And in the 21st century, one finds spiritual teachers like Mr Jagadish Vasudev exhorting his disciples to let go and "find full expression" for their emotions if they are to avoid the no-doubt horrible consequence that "that energy can turn around and do many damaging things to you."

One must ask him, if you let this "energy" (the animal passions, by another name) loose, in what way is one's behavior then different from that of an animal? In many religions, historically, this righteous expression of passion finds its application in mass-murder of people belonging to other religions. In all cultures, righteous possessiveness versus unchecked lust is kept in balance by the community via the marriage laws.

After all, what is the source of human misery and violence if not the instinctual passions and their expression and repression?

Is expression really the answer? Cathartic outpouring of personal emotion, common in spiritual and therapeutic circles, is no doubt of a different order than no-holds-barred animal-like behavior in public. But one must ask: what is the reason people have to have a cathartic outpouring in order to feel sane again?

Yes, a child is expressive (in this sense, crying, laughing, etc.) to its heart's content. Is becoming the instinctual child again, with a mother or guru to take care of one's life, the best that a state-of-the-art spiritual teacher can come up with?

There is a fourth alternative to repression or expression or sublimation: gradual elimination. Neither repression nor expression nor sublimation obviate the need for further repression or expression or sublimation. Only elimination ends the need to eliminate further.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it not better to understand the emotion, and neither to express it or repress it. This requires not being swept by the emotion and not being swept up by the repressing reflex. This should also dissolve the emotion over time.

harmanjit said...

Yes, investigating and understanding the emotion at a conscious level, and seeing its inner causation, and addressing that, will eliminate it over time.

But elimination is anathema to most people, as emotions are prized. In fact, even suffering is considered ennobling in many ways.

Anonymous said...

I would say that unconsciousness is the real trouble, but currently it is the dominant motif, and it will surely change but could take many millenia, so I would not hold my breath.

There is another interesting aspect, that is there somebody who does this investigation. I am sure this object (ego) is an artifact of the language and we are processes in flux as everything else is in the universe. The investigation and consciousness (of emotions) is set up as a process due to various reasons and the investigation is not really done by a me. Thus the whole body mind process is really being changed by the investigating process. I would say that stress is being eliminated by the investigating process.

harmanjit said...

"I would say that unconsciousness is the real trouble"

No, not just unconsciousness. Consciousness of inner states is an important first step, but what you THEN do is more, if not as, important. Once someone is aware of anger, you can either suppress it, express it, sublimate it, transcend it or ... investigate and eliminate it.

"I am sure this object (ego) is an artifact of the language"

No, it is not just a linguistic construct as in a name given to an abstract concept. The feeling of being a thinker in the head and a feeler in the heart is very real and tangible. In other words, my "being" is a direct experience, and not just a convenient word.

harmanjit said...

"I got the general idea what you were trying to say.i think the concept of expressing or repressing emotions involves ethical conundrums and while it may not be entirely possible to have a clear cut demarcation, emotions are culture specific though the base is universal."

# Do you want to say that a particular expression of emotions (e.g. wailing in a particular way) is culture-specific, but a particular emotion on its own (e.g. grief) is universal? I agree.

"you must have seen ladies egging on each other to dance or sing on a ladies sangeet type of function"

# Similarly people egg each other on to participate/dance/say-a-few-words in a social function in the west as well.

"or seen people wailing on the
death of a loved one??"

#People grieve in different ways in differing cultures, or even in different classes in India for that matter. Some are loudly expressive in their grief, some just cry in solitude. In both cases, the expression is happening, but one expression is a public spectacle, and the other is a private phenomenon. I am not preferring any one over the other.

"what to talk of rape, bound by our our culture, we are not even comfortable expressing joy, even when asked to do so."

# What stops you from expressing joy? That might be just self-consciousness.

"The reason for this according to me is "what will others think"is the guiding principle for most of us"

# True, self-consciousness and the desire to present a dignified facade.

"and moreover we are not fully comfortable with our selves first and foremost."

# I agree. But suppose we *are* fully comfortable. Is the problem of grief solved then? Of course not, only the problem of its unhindered expression has been solved.

"In order to be fully respond to something you have to be fully alive to it first and who can say with confidence that he is?"

# And what is the way to get that confidence, to be "fully alive to it"?

Anonymous said...

"No, it is not just a linguistic construct as in a name given to an abstract concept. The feeling of being a thinker in the head and a feeler in the heart is very real and tangible. In other words, my "being" is a direct experience, and not just a convenient word."

My being is real when put into words, and thinking only, which are indeed products of language. Otherwise there is no experience of me. There is perception of various events sure. Is it necessary for perception to have a subject (being)?
In fact there is no such thing in the world as an object since everything is a process, our languages stressing on nouns rather than verbs create the impression that objects exist. And when perception occurs thought says there must be a perceiver. But there is no logical reason for there to be a perceiver other than the linguistic one.

Susan said...

Hi Harmanjit, i agree with your arguement against total expression of all emotions but i do not believe that the solution to this problem can be stated in one word or by following one action (elimination as you have mentioned) in all scenarios. by elimination, i beleive you mean, understanding and analysing your emotions, the underlying thoughts behind it and may be the physical reactions caused in the body. by doing so, one can gradually eliminate the emotion all together. let us consider the practical problems in this process. (before that i would like to make this basic assumption that joy, peace, minimizing sorrow and pain, not just at an individual level but an over all level is the only goal for any action).

1. it may take a long time to understand ones emotions and may not be as easy to eliminate it totally as it may sound. infact, considering the fact that not all human beings are at the same level of maturity, it might be rather difficult for most. lets consider lust or sexual urge as an example. a man or a woman will get a strong urge for physical intimacy with the other sex ( or with the same sex in some cases) once he or she reaches puberty. i feel it might be a difficult task to eliminate this emotion by analysis. it might take years of understanding and analysis or it may not happen at all for most people. what is one to do in such a scenario? total expression of it might cause pain, suffering and unhappiness for others and hence may not be the right thing to do. repressing it totally will cause a lot of turmoil and inner conflict within oneself. one can look for an alternative way of expressing it. if possible by expressing this with someone who is willing or by other acceptable means.
similarly, expression of emotions like love, joy, grief may not be such a bad idea in all cases. infact it might be the easiest way to come out of ones inner conflicts for most people.

2. assuming that one is successful in eliminating all emotions by analysis. i.e., there is no joy, no sorrow, no love, no hatred, no other emotion whatsoever. what is left of such a human being except for a package of sensations? how is such a person to make any choice? on what basis would one choose life over death? one can ofcourse agrue that it could be very peaceful being in this state but i am not sure since i do not have any experience of it.

having said all this, i do not completely disagree with the idea of elimination. infact, by personal expereince, i beleive this could be the best solution in many cases. however, i do doubt if this can (and should) be applied consistently in all scenarios.

harmanjit said...

"My being is real when put into words, and thinking only, which are indeed products of language."

Being is a /feeling/, a direct experience (much like the direct experience of beauty), and as such any verbal description of it is secondary. It exists independent of being put into words.

"Otherwise there is no experience of me. There is perception of various events sure. Is it necessary for perception to have a subject (being)?"

Logically, no, a camera doesn't have a me, but experientially I do feel myself to be "me".

"In fact there is no such thing in the world as an object since everything is a process, our languages stressing on nouns rather than verbs create the impression that objects exist."

I am typing on a keyboard, which is an object having temporal consistence for all practical purposes. Unless you want to go into the quantum realm where the mathematical models and probability waves are used to describe phenomena.

On a tangible level: over time, the keyboard was built from smaller components, and it will disintegrate in due time. But during this time, it is an identifiable object. Some objects, like a dense collection of mass (a star) last for billions of years.

"And when perception occurs thought says there must be a perceiver. But there is no logical reason for there to be a perceiver other than the linguistic one. "

We are not talking about whether a perceiver (as in a "I" feeling) is necessary for perception, obviously not. A camera takes a picture of a tree and a visual stimulus, a reaction and a recording happen, but the camera doesn't have an "I". On the other hand, all humans have the distinct experience of being a "me" perceiving a tree, not just the eyes perceiving the tree visually, but a "me" being behind the eyes perceiving the tree.

The question is: do you experience yourself in that sense?

Anonymous said...

"All humans have the distinct experience of being a "me" perceiving a tree, not just the eyes perceiving the tree visually, but a "me" being behind the eyes perceiving the tree."


Humans, have this experience only due to their thought process, otherwise there is perception but no perceiver. One problem is that thought is a part of the perceptual process, and this image of me perceiving is formed in the linguistic thought process. It is deeply habitual, and the habituating factor is language, which has a great power being used day in and day out.

"I am typing on a keyboard, which is an object having temporal consistence for all practical purposes."
If you define the body mind complex as an object, then it has some validity. But then the complex is
an agglomeration of various processes, not all of which are related to perception. There is no fixed center of the complex, much less a perceiving center.


"The question is: do you experience yourself in that sense?"

See the habituating hand of language at work here. The experiencer is presumed a priori in this question.

To answer your question as the emotions can be dissolved through enquiry the psychic self can be dissolved similarly.

harmanjit said...

"Humans, have this experience only due to their thought process, otherwise there is perception but no perceiver."

# Are you claiming that a small baby, whose thought processes and linguistic abilities haven't developed, does not have a rudimentary sense of "self"?

"To answer your question as the emotions can be dissolved through enquiry the psychic self can be dissolved similarly."

# This possibility is why the whole quest! Of course it can be dissolved, and MUST be dissolved, for one (as in the body-mind) to be peaceful and harmless.

But my point is, that the dissolution is required precisely because the illusion of one-self exists as a thinker in the head and a feeler in the heart, and it is not just a illusion due to a certain use of language, but because we have evolved that way. We have transformed the rudimentary sense of self, that even apes have, into a psychical self. And this psychical self is (this is from AF, this is not my direct perception yet), nothing but the animal instincts giving the impression of an "I" as a centered being inside the skull or the heart.

It will dissolve only with the complete elimination of our animal passions (this is also from AF).

Anonymous said...

Even animals do not have a psychic self. In fact they never even pose the question of whether somebody is observing what is being observed, or who is doing the action. Perception comes in reflexes are activated and action is performed. It is the same for humans, but they have a continuous thought process on the side which tells a story: I saw this I decided that , which is not the way things are actually.

harmanjit said...

For how can an illusion of "I" can be very real (not just linguistically, but by its effects), you may want to peruse the following:

http://tinyurl.com/2tru2l

harmanjit said...

And also this:

http://tinyurl.com/2wxy39

(a list of objections related to the illusory self are on the page:

http://tinyurl.com/2t7s3a

Anonymous said...

What you and Mr Richard are missing here is that words are not just labels but the description actually shapes the experience. Repeated conditioning of the objective mode by language makes it feel as it were true (i.e. there is felt to be an I). For example repeated labeling of someone as ugly by everybody would cause that one to be experienced "really" as ugly.

Anonymous said...

And people would say that the word does not come up in my mind. It is really true this guy is ugly I can see it as I see the greenery of the trees.

harmanjit said...

Ok, let me see where your viewpoint, if correct, takes us.

So let's assume, as you say, the "I" is a linguistic construct, a description which shapes our experiencing, ...

My question to you then is: now that you have realized this, are you free from malice and sorrow, the hallmarks of an illusory psychic "I"? Do you (you as in the body which types those responses of yours) experience anger, lust, irritation, loneliness, boredom, fear, anxiety, impatience, passion, euphoria, depression, and any or all of the other passions and emotions and feelings?

You might have missed the following part of Richard's reply:

"Thus seeing the ‘I’ as false is not sufficient ... there is a ‘me’ lurking in the heart to take over the wheel. Then – and this is for all those intellectuals who fondly imagine that ‘seeing’ something as being false is sufficient – if the ‘me’ in the heart is also seen to be false ... there is still a matter of those pesky instinctive reactions to give lie to their claims of ‘there never was any ego or soul entity’."

Anonymous said...

"Are you free from malice and sorrow, the hallmarks of an illusory psychic "I"?"
#Is really malice and sorrow the hallmark of illusory I. Not as long as the I is coddled. Look at Hugh Hefner, he does not seem so sorrowful, or malicious either.


Emotions can still arise, due to past conditioning. For example if I see a tiger in my room adrenalin would flow giving rise to fright. However harming thoughts and emotions in daily situations are gradually eliminated due to the conscious process being running constantly. Believe me the mind is not malicious, it is bound by reflexive patterns and thus produces harmful emotions and thought patterns, with clarity in vision (due to the conscious process) it does not go along that path.

Mr Richard on the other hand seems to have lost all emotions. So I guess if he were thrown of a cliff he would feel no fear except the exhilaration of free fall (wait exhilaration is an emotion too, or is it?).

harmanjit said...

"Is really malice and sorrow the hallmark of illusory I. Not as long as the I is coddled. Look at Hugh Hefner, he does not seem so sorrowful, or malicious either."

What is our intent anyway? Isn't it to become free from malice and sorrow? If we disregard our disagreement about the ontological status of the "I", what is your primary intent if not to live happily or harmlessly?

As to Hugh Hefner, he is a hedonist through and through, and not at all free from greed and lust, to cite just two examples. Is he really your model of happiness?

"Emotions can still arise, due to past conditioning. For example if I see a tiger in my room adrenalin would flow giving rise to fright."

As adrenaline causes a knee-jerk response, it prevents an intelligent response. It can cause people to kill each other and step over each other (e.g. in a stampede).

"However harming thoughts and emotions in daily situations are gradually eliminated due to the conscious process being running constantly. Believe me the mind is not malicious, it is bound by reflexive patterns and thus produces harmful emotions and thought patterns, with clarity in vision (due to the conscious process) it does not go along that path."

Whether or not it "goes along that path" (i.e. expresses its malice outwardly) or not is secondary. Elimination means the malice and harmful (or their polar opposite) emotions do not arise in the first place. And even if the malice remains in the mind, as it were, others can feel your malicious vibes.

"Mr Richard on the other hand seems to have lost all emotions. So I guess if he were thrown of a cliff he would feel no fear except the exhilaration of free fall (wait exhilaration is an emotion too, or is it?). "

I presume (since you are raising a hypothetical query, I have to presume) a free person would try sensibly to look for a branch or a rock to break his fall, or to look for a water body down below so as to direct one's fall into it. This kind of appraisal will be well-nigh impossible for someone who is numbed from fright. And if he were to be thrown off an aeroplane, where such solutions are not possible, what else can one do but to enjoy and appreciate the sensations (the view) and the fact of being alive fall till one dies?

What would you do if you were thrown from an aeroplane?

Anonymous said...

Whether or not it "goes along that path" (i.e. expresses its malice outwardly)
# You did not read it carefully, I said that the mind does not produce destructive emotions and thought patterns in the first place.

What would you do if you were thrown from an aeroplane?

#Do you really think that I can do something if thrown from an airplane.


Let us be realistic here, if you improve mental clarity does not mean you become a superman. And then again there will be some level of adrenalin that would disable even (His Holiness) Mr Richard, for chemicals do affect everyone's brain. The isssue is of inappropriate emotions and thought patterns in mundane life, and not whether fear is completely eliminated or what happens upon seeing a tiger.

srid said...

The comments being posted in your blog posts gradually confirms my theory on how (imaginative) views "evolve" in the spiritual community. It evolves at a very slow and steady pace, but hard to shatter.

IMO, if you are curious to understand why people still cling to the spiritual ontology of "I" (as a process, as opposed to a thing) you should investigate the works (on Shunyata) of Nagarjuna.

Anonymous said...

Okay let me reiterate the gist of my argument here.

You have consciousness of your body and the cause and effect relationships of various actions performed with it. This consciousness is sufficient to ensure that you do not for example fall while walking or step in a puddle. Similarly a consciousness of the process of the mind is enough to ensure that harmful emotions and thought patterns are eliminated, in almost all circumstances. And the thought pattern of the psychic self is one of the most harmful thought and emotional pattern out there since many other harmful emotional patterns ride piggyback on it.

I was proposing a hypothesis about how the pattern of the psychic self developed and intellectual acceptance of this hypothesis is not enough to dissolve this pattern which requires sustained practice and attention.

On the other hand just as powerful external factors (though very unlikely) can make you fall in a ditch for example, similarly powerful enough external factors will cause an inappropriate reaction in the mind, so one must be realistic about complete elimination of stuff such as fear.

I hope you now have a clearer picture of where I stand

harmanjit said...

"you have consciousness of your body"

# I put it as "the body is self-aware". Your phraseology is accurate as far as most people experience themselves and "their" bodies, but we both agree that is an illusion (though we disagree about the ontology of that illusion).

"This consciousness is sufficient to ensure that you do not for example fall while walking or step in a puddle. Similarly a consciousness of the process of the mind is enough to ensure that harmful emotions and thought patterns are eliminated, in almost all circumstances."

# I am all for incremental elimination. So if you are happy and harmless "almost" all the time, (as in 99.99% of the time) it's indeed a formidable achievement.

However, I have personally seen very self-aware people to wallow in sorrow, compassion, pity, righteous anger, and so on and so forth.

In my understanding, keeping a check on the wayward mind is very different from being physically alert so as to avoid a fall etc.

A self-aware but instinctually driven mind is not far from a controlled mind. Mindfulness helps in living less instinctually, but doesn't eliminate the instincts (as far as I have experienced mindfulness).

What I am after is not having the waywardness (which then needs to be kept in check by alertness) in the first place. Awareness and investigation is a tool to reach that state. Once the elimination happens, one does not need to be alert, on guard, in control, watchful, being mindful, to prevent or preempt a /mental fall/ (as compared to a physical fall in a puddle).

"And the thought pattern of the psychic self is one of the most harmful thought and emotional pattern out there since many other harmful emotional patterns ride piggyback on it."

# May I ask, do you consider some emotional patterns to be beneficial, that you have to say "harmful emotional patterns"? Because, nurturing the good emotions versus the harmful emotions is what humans have been trying to do, and failing at, for thousands of years.

"I was proposing a hypothesis about how the pattern of the psychic self developed and intellectual acceptance of this hypothesis is not enough to dissolve this pattern which requires sustained practice and attention."

# Agreed with the practice part, but I don't agree with your understanding that it is a mere linguistic construct. I think the illusion of "I" is much deeper than just words or thoughts. Otherwise, why DOESNT (as you say) a mere intellectual (at the level of thought or words) acceptance get rid of the "I"?

"external factors (though very unlikely) can make you fall in a ditch for example, similarly powerful enough external factors will cause an inappropriate reaction in the mind, so one must be realistic about complete elimination of stuff such as fear."

# I don't consider the happening of "inappropriate reactions" as inevitable. An intelligent, cognitive response is always, and always, a more sensible option than an instinctual, affective reaction.

To reach a state where one is always acting and responding cognitively instead of affectively is my goal.

What is your goal?

Anonymous said...

However, I have personally seen very self-aware people to wallow in sorrow, compassion, pity, righteous anger, and so on and so forth.

# That is because the awareness is still very embryonic. They cannot see that the mind itself produces these emotions of self-pity sorrow etc and then struggles to find a solution. If they acquire awareness they would stop this pointless struggle. Of course there is no I which will see the above, but the mental process will perceive its activity clearly.

In my understanding, keeping a check on the wayward mind is very different from being physically alert so as to avoid a fall etc.
# Actually the mind is also physical, thoughts and emotions are mediated by reflexes(strong habits) and the pain/pleasure. Rather than focusing exclusively on the thought's verbal content, its emotional and physical associations must be uncovered.

Agreed with the practice part, but I don't agree with your understanding that it is a mere linguistic construct. I think the illusion of "I" is much deeper than just words or thoughts. Otherwise, why DOESNT (as you say) a mere intellectual (at the level of thought or words) acceptance get rid of the "I"?

# Actually to say something is only linguistic is a fallacy let us not create barriers where there are none, thoughts emotions and habits are wired together as one system. My hypothesis is based on the fact that mind repeatedly produces thoughts and these thoughts are based on language and the existence of I is tacit in these thoughts thus deep conditioning around the I is in the thoughts and reaffirmed by other minds. In an adult the I has acquired lots and lots of emotional associations.
If you follow the path of logic and enquiry to uncover the basis of the human condition, the main stumbling block will be the "I" since it is tacit in the whole language/emotional system.

I think the intellectual realization does not get rid of it because the intellectuals do not pierce the tacit "I", they just do it as an exercise in verbal jugglery. If they are serious about living truthfully intellectual realization would also dissolve it sooner or later.


What is your goal?

# My goal is to live sanely in an insane world.

Anonymous said...

May I ask, do you consider some emotional patterns to be beneficial, that you have to say "harmful emotional patterns"? Because, nurturing the good emotions versus the harmful emotions is what humans have been trying to do, and failing at, for thousands of years.

#Yes of course there are patterns which are beneficial, like for example the experience of great beauty or joy. Then again if there is awareness of these patterns there is no a vain struggle to keep it permanently.

harmanjit said...

Hi Susan,

"1. it may take a long time to understand ones emotions and may not be as easy to eliminate it totally as it may sound. infact, considering the fact that not all human beings are at the same level of maturity, it might be rather difficult for most."

# For them, expression or suppression or sublimation or transcendence is what has been prescribed since ages, and that prescription is still available if they do not, for whatever reason, want to or are able to take stock of and use the new discoveries in this field.

"lets consider lust or sexual urge as an example. a man or a woman will get a strong urge for physical intimacy with the other sex ( or with the same sex in some cases) once he or she reaches puberty. i feel it might be a difficult task to eliminate this emotion by analysis."

# It requires not just hard work, but great intent. In that sense, yes, it is difficult.

"it might take years of understanding and analysis or it may not happen at all for most people.
what is one to do in such a scenario?"

# Till elimination happens, expression/suppression/sublimation/transcendence will obviously have to be there. But if one understands that these are stop-gap solutions, one will not settle down in one of these as a life-pattern.

"total expression of it might cause pain, suffering and unhappiness for others and hence may not be the right thing to do. repressing it totally will cause a lot of turmoil and inner conflict within oneself. one can look for an alternative way of expressing it. if possible by expressing this with someone who is willing or by other acceptable means."

# Sure, that's what normal humans do anyway.

"similarly, expression of emotions like love, joy, grief may not be such a bad idea in all cases. infact it might be the easiest way to come out of ones inner conflicts for most people."

# That's what humans are doing anyway. But that's not all that is possible, now is it? Even very suave spiritual teachers are not talking about elimination. And why not? Just to have mass appeal? I can understand that elimination takes time, does that mean one settles down with the tried-and-failed solutions? In what way then one is doing anything differently?

"2. assuming that one is successful in eliminating all emotions by analysis. i.e., there is no joy, no sorrow, no love, no hatred, no other emotion whatsoever. what is left of such a human being except for a package of sensations?"

# You might want to go through the following:

http://tinyurl.com/2egep8
http://tinyurl.com/28w2pa

"how is such a person to make any choice?"

# Freely, of course, based on circumstances and one's predilections.

"on what basis would one choose life over death?"

# Because it is an eminently enjoyable and sensible choice? After all, what is the point of eliminating all malice and sorrow if not then to enjoy life freely?

"one can ofcourse agrue that it could be very peaceful being in this state but i am not sure since i do not have any experience of it."

# Let's take things slowly. Absence of anger is a great state, right? Absence of lust is marvelous, correct? Absence of greed is liberating, non? Absence of emotional manipulation is great, eh? Isn't that peace and joy, in the absence of all these, worthwhile? If so, isn't it worthwhile to work towards fully eliminating them? It is a scary prospect to be sure, but that can also be considered a thrill and a challenge!

harmanjit said...

"Yes of course there are patterns which are beneficial, like for example the experience of great beauty or joy. Then again if there is awareness of these patterns there is no a vain struggle to keep it permanently."

# A feeling of joy or happiness or beauty is not to be sneezed at, but if we are to go really far out, we should question if these good feelings destroy the unmediated perception of the world and if they an aspect of the feeling-self. Thought can exist without the thinker, but feelings cannot exist without a feeling-self, and good feelings cannot be sustained while bad feelings are eliminated. Have you met anyone who only has good feelings but doesn't experience any sadness or anger?

I do get the impression that you subscribe to some aspects of Buddhist thought. The notion of the self being a construct, and of awareness and non-attachment are distinct signs. Am I correct in my assessment?

# However, I have personally seen very self-aware people to wallow in sorrow, compassion, pity, righteous anger, and so on and so forth.

"That is because the awareness is still very embryonic. They cannot see that the mind itself produces these emotions of self-pity sorrow etc and then struggles to find a solution. If they acquire awareness they would stop this pointless struggle. Of course there is no I which will see the above, but the mental process will perceive its activity clearly."

# Well, I did say "very self-aware", didn't I? You haven't met them but you are proclaiming that their awareness is embryonic. May I ask: if even the Buddha is showing compassion (which is a sadness-tinged emotion) then whose awareness is non-embryonic enough? My whole point is that awareness on its own can only dissolve the emotion at that moment, for it to be eliminated for future, investigation into one's conditioning, instincts and structure of oneself has to happen.

Also, do you see that you are yourself agreeing that "mind itself" produces these emotions? Earlier you said mind is not malicious. A human being is BORN with a malicious and sorrowful mind.

"My hypothesis is based on the fact that"

# If I may partition your sentence for clarity:

"a. mind repeatedly produces thoughts"

# The human brain has events such as thoughts as well as moods as well as feelings as well as emotions as well as passions and so on.

"b. and these thoughts are based on language"

# Language is necessary to conceive and express thoughts, yes.

"c. and the existence of I is tacit in these thoughts"

# Not so, there is a thinker, an illusory entity, a psychic "I", which exists prior to any thought happening. It exists even in deep meditation and silence, where there is no thought, only the pure being, the silent witness. To repeat: It is not just a linguistic construct, it is deeply wired in our brain at birth.

"d. thus deep conditioning around the I is in the thoughts and reaffirmed by other minds."

# Not so, the existence of a psychic I is PRIOR to social and linguistic conditioning.

"In an adult the I has acquired lots and lots of emotional associations."

# The existence of a psychic I is PRIOR to emotional associations. It is what makes emotional associations possible in the first place.

"If you follow the path of logic and enquiry to uncover the basis of the human condition, the main stumbling block will be the "I" since it is tacit in the whole language/emotional system."

# I agree till the /since/ word. The "I" is not just tacit in the "whole language/emotional system" but existing prior to it, and expressing itself in emotions and thoughts.

"I think the intellectual realization does not get rid of it because the intellectuals do not pierce the tacit "I", they just do it as an exercise in verbal jugglery."

# Ok, so how does one pierce the "tacit I", according to you?

"If they are serious about living truthfully intellectual realization would also dissolve it sooner or later."

# Are you saying it based on your own experience, hearsay, or deductively? Have you seen it dissolved in anyone, including yourself?

Anonymous said...

Yes I am finished with the illusion of the self.

#We should question if these good feelings destroy the unmediated perception of the world
##You are correct that feelings of happiness as well as sadness alter the perception of the world, but positive states can produce lots of energy and well being (health). If there is awareness of their effect on distorting perception there is an overall benefit from these.


#A human being is BORN with a malicious and sorrowful mind.
##How dark and pessimistic are your views. In an infant you see a malicious mind? Clearly you heap your darkness onto the poor baby. The mind produces the destructive emotions due to its habits which have formed due to social conditioning, and is not malicious by its very nature.

#May I ask: if even the Buddha is showing compassion (which is a sadness-tinged emotion)

I think by compassion it means helping others like altruism and not wallowing in sadness. Though do not ask me to defend him I am also finished with Buddhism a long time ago. My light is my own, Buddhism and other ism's (like you r own Actualism) are of no use to me. Whatever I wish to know is revealed through my own perception and logic.

harmanjit said...

"Yes I am finished with the illusion of the self."

# So there is no longer, and never can be, any sadness or irritation or anger or lust or fear or greed in you?

"How dark and pessimistic are your views. In an infant you see a malicious mind?"

# A fact is neither dark nor pessimistic, it is just a fact. Of course an infant is born with the full range of instincts: desire, malice, loneliness, fear, attachment, etc. I find it surprising that you disagree with it. If you wish to examine this further, do visit http://tinyurl.com/29yoml

"Clearly you heap your darkness onto the poor baby. The mind produces the destructive emotions due to its habits which have formed due to social conditioning, and is not malicious by its very nature."

# Sorry but you are wrong. A child is born with the full package of survival instincts. Do you think lust, which starts manifesting at puberty, is a social conditioning? Do you think a child's manipulative tactics to gain attention of parents a social conditioning? Do you think a child's possessiveness of its toys a social conditioning? Do you think a child's jealousy of other kids and its siblings a social conditioning? Do you think a child's bonding with its mother and its distress in her absence a social conditioning? I can go on. May I ask: have you ever been with a child for a few weeks? Have you seen the child cry when its desire was not fulfilled? Have you seen the child sulking when it is not able to have its way? Have you seen the child manipulate you to get a toffee?

"I think by compassion it means helping others like altruism and not wallowing in sadness."

# I think you have no direct experience of compassion. Compassion is to have common pathos, to share the suffering of others, to shed tears for the suffering humanity. It happens very tangibly in the spiritual inclined people.

"My light is my own, Buddhism and other ism's (like you r own Actualism) are of no use to me. Whatever I wish to know is revealed through my own perception and logic."

# On the other hand, I greatly value the shared experiences of the seekers who have gone before me. One can stand on the shoulders of giants, and not make the same mistakes again. These are marvelous times, when one can study the seeking of happiness in human cultures far and wide, and reflect on it, and understand oneself better through all this exposure. Why do you demean this sharing of experiences? Buddha's contribution, though limited, is an immensely valuable addition to human understanding.

For example, our sharing of our views here in this blog, isn't this part of our life experience, which may reveal some aspects of humanity to us? Why are you here, if you only wish to gain understanding by your "own perception and logic"? Do you mean the only way to achieve clarity is solitary contemplation?

If not, then the experiences of various people who have gone before us, and whose body of work may be called Buddhism or Actualism, is of immense value... At least to me. I don't kid myself that I have become free of suffering after having gone through the writing of another human being, but that sharing of one's mistakes and searches is eminently worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

So there is no longer, and never can be, any sadness or irritation or anger or lust or fear or greed in you?

#There is not now but there may arise all these. But what has that to do with the self? The difference is that the average duration of any of these will be very short than in a person with the self intact, and one who does not have the knowledge of the mental phenomenon I have gained through observation.

#A fact is neither dark nor pessimistic, it is just a fact. Of course an infant is born with the full range of instincts: desire, malice, loneliness, fear, attachment, etc.

Every phenomenon depend on many factors, one of them is genetic. In fact according to me for humans their socio-linguistic memes override much of the genes. Thus all people in a particular environment tend to think and behave very much alike and think it is the normal behavior. You can see this in any congregration of humans: universities, cults, villages, special groups etc. My point is that ideas and behaviors have a life of their own and they use the individual for their perpetuation.

Do you mean the only way to achieve clarity is solitary contemplation?

#Not contemplation, but observation. Not solitary but during the whole day as much as possible. The words of others are a real hindrance and nuisance. It is not like science where you can test the hypothesis objectively and then stand on the shoulders of giants as it were. Many of the giants are "hucksters".

harmanjit said...

"There is not now but there may arise all these. But what has that to do with the self?"

# It has everything to do with sorrow and malice, the eradication of which is our central quest and since you yourself say that "I" is the obstacle, your statement that the "I" has already been seen to be an illusion contradicts your above statement. So then what, according to you, is the source of all these emotions and passions arising in the future, if not the instinctual self?

"The difference is that the average duration of any of these will be very short than in a person with the self intact, and one who does not have the knowledge of the mental phenomenon I have gained through observation."

# Hmmm... So you haven't eliminated the stuff, only attenuated the duration of your distressful states? Frankly, you sound like "The self is no more, but suffering still exists" crowd.

"Every phenomenon depend on many factors, one of them is genetic. In fact according to me for humans their socio-linguistic memes override much of the genes."

# I disagree. Humans are instinctually driven, and the expression of their instinctual behavior is regulated by socio-legal conventions. Language has actually very little to do with the sorrow and malice, and its control, in a human being.

"Thus all people in a particular environment tend to think and behave very much alike and think it is the normal behavior. You can see this in any congregration of humans: universities, cults, villages, special groups etc. My point is that ideas and behaviors have a life of their own and they use the individual for their perpetuation."

# Humans throughout earth have a common biological genetic make-up and their behavior is remarkably similar at the fundamental level: fear, aggression, nurture and desire. They share these traits with their biological ancestors (the various ape species). The socio-cultural differences are superficial.

And memes having a life of their own is a fashionable creed first started by Richard Dawkins. Memes are not alive, they are a concept. It will be more accurate to say that ideas and behaviors persist beyond a single individual due to communication and media. Do you think, for example, that a ritual has a life of its own? Of course not, that is a silly use of the word "life". The acting of the ritual or the thinking of the idea persists in minds across generations due to the neuronal memory (in a single person) and due to communication (in a group).

"Not contemplation, but observation. Not solitary but during the whole day as much as possible. The words of others are a real hindrance and nuisance."

# Including this conversation? I'm serious.

"It is not like science where you can test the hypothesis objectively and then stand on the shoulders of giants as it were."

# It is indeed a scientific process to rid oneself of malice and sorrow. Albeit, it is not just theoretical, it also involves a lot of practice. What others words' can teach us (in parallel with our own investigations and confirming their words) is the process by which suffering happens, and the understanding of how we must (or must not) practice.

"Many of the giants are "hucksters"."

# I have enough confidence in my discrimination to distinguish between phoneys, parrots, suave liars and authentic accounts. For example, even when starting out on my quest, I never even considered Prabhupada, Asaram, Sai baba etc. as even worthy of my time. I started with Zen Buddhism, the Buddha, moved to Krishnamurti, studied Nanak and Nisargadatta, went to Ramana's Ashram, and to a Vedantic teacher in central India who had dedicated his life to "truth" and finally my search took me to Actualism. I never fell for a second-rate teacher or a huckster. It is all rather simple. One doesn't stop reading good books because there are so many bad books.

harmanjit said...

BTW, your talk about memes makes me ask: Is this born of your own "observation and logic" or has it, at its basis some words of Dawkins or another evolutionary biologist?

Anonymous said...

So then what, according to you, is the source of all these emotions and passions arising in the future, if not the instinctual self?
# It is simply cause and effect, even without the self experience happens. Your argument is like saying that if you have no self then the experience of extreme discomfort cannot arise in searing heat.


And memes having a life of their own is a fashionable creed first started by Richard Dawkins.
# I only use his terminology and have hardly read his works. That ideas have life of their own can be seen clearly in the world. Consider Capitalism, Marriage, Family, these are ideas with lifetimes and powers much greater than an individual

I have enough confidence in my discrimination to distinguish between phoneys, parrots, suave liars and authentic accounts
# But you seem to have an unconscious need to be totally relaint on a guru, consider your years in the vedantic guy's ashram and your current acceptance of Richard wholesale. My observation and logic informs me that he is on one huge ego trip.

harmanjit said...

"It is simply cause and effect, even without the self experience happens. Your argument is like saying that if you have no self then the experience of extreme discomfort cannot arise in searing heat."

# We are not talking of physical pain, which is needed to avoid bodily harm (e.g. when we accidently touch a very hot object). We are talking of inner suffering (malice and sorrow) which is unnecessary if enough intelligence has been developed to live sensibly. Do you see the difference? If not, I have no further interest in this conversation. I am not here to have a discussion with you if even this basic stuff is unclear to you.

"I only use his terminology and have hardly read his works."

# Have not read or read a little?

"That ideas have life of their own can be seen clearly in the world. Consider Capitalism, Marriage, Family, these are ideas with lifetimes and powers much greater than an individual"

# As this is a digressive topic, shall we leave it for the moment, with mutual consent?

"But you seem to have an unconscious need to be totally reliant on a guru, consider your years in the vedantic guy's ashram and your current acceptance of Richard wholesale."

# Let us not start assuming about each other's unconscious needs. I have not accepted Richard's words wholesale, I am too old for that kind of folly now. Do read my latest blog post on where I still doubt him. I have doubted him from the start but slowly seen a lot of sense in his words. If you have read my memoirs, you will know that I was unable to follow my vedantic teacher precisely because I could not surrender my intelligence to him.

"My observation and logic informs me that he is on one huge ego trip."

# That's your perception, so I have nothing to say against it, except to urge you to reconsider. BTW, I will ask again, if others' words are a nuisance to you, why are you continuing to have this conversation?

Anonymous said...

We are not talking of physical pain, which is needed to avoid bodily harm (e.g. when we accidently touch a very hot object). We are talking of inner suffering (malice and sorrow) which is unnecessary if enough intelligence has been developed to live sensibly. Do you see the difference? If not, I have no further interest in this conversation. I am not here to have a discussion with you if even this basic stuff is unclear to you.

# What I was saying is that if conditions for their arising occur then certain perceptions will occur, regardless of the utility you put on the states. For example if I realize that a psychopath is hiding in my closet at night I would experience fear. This is analogous to the case of discomfort arises in searing heat, in fact I would deduce something was damaged if it were not the case. I would appreciate if you did not put the whole of human feeling spectrum into the basket "malice and sorrow".
#I will ask again, if others' words are a nuisance to you, why are you continuing to have this conversation?
Now you are twisting my words. Others words are a nuisance and a hindrance if you want to learn about the self and the mind. I am having this conversation as I have some free time on my hands and I am evidently deriving pleasure from the argument.

harmanjit said...

"What I was saying is that if conditions for their arising occur then certain perceptions will occur, regardless of the utility you put on the states."

# Fear is not a perception. The external event's observation is the perception which then triggers the instinctual response. I consider instinctual responses as always, and always, inferior to an intelligent response. Do you agree to this?

There are no conditions, by definition of the word elimination, which, after elimination of the fear instinct, can cause fear. Or do you believe that elimination of fear is impossible? I am not talking about evasive action, which is born of intelligence and cognition to avoid harm, but of the freeze-flight-fight instinctual response of fear.

"For example if I realize that a psychopath is hiding in my closet at night I would experience fear."

# And would that fear help you do something intelligent about the situation or would it make you do something silly (such as vomit out of fear, or start screaming, or break into a cold sweat and start crying)?

"This is analogous to the case of discomfort arises in searing heat, in fact I would deduce something was damaged if it were not the case."

# Are you saying that you regard the absence of fear as a damaged state (as in a reprehensible state) rather than a desirable state?

"I would appreciate if you did not put the whole of human feeling spectrum into the basket "malice and sorrow"."

# Hmmm... I use malice and sorrow as they are the prime examples of harmful emotions. Should we call it then the spectrum of human feelings (or SHF)?

#I will ask again, if others' words are a nuisance to you, why are you continuing to have this conversation?

"Now you are twisting my words. Others words are a nuisance and a hindrance if you want to learn about the self and the mind. I am having this conversation as I have some free time on my hands and I am evidently deriving pleasure from the argument."

# So you have nothing to learn from this conversation and are just disseminating to a student, just curious? I am having fun as well, but my primary motive is to share our notions of freedom and sorrow and to learn something from another human being, if possible. If this is just, note just, a pleasant pastime to you, I would rather talk about these issues to someone who is sincerely /interested/ (or rather, vitally interested) in the subject, to enable a /meaningful/ exchange of ideas (and not just to have fun).

Anonymous said...

Fear is not a perception. The external event's observation is the perception which then triggers the instinctual response. I consider instinctual responses as always, and always, inferior to an intelligent response. Do you agree to this?
#I would say that fear is a process, rather than a instinctual response. It involves various sensations. I would define an instinctual response as something that is done through a much faster processing channel, than thinking. For example a tennis player when responding to his opponent's serve is responding instinctively rather than by thinking which invalidates your hypothesis.


There are no conditions, by definition of the word elimination, which, after elimination of the fear instinct, can cause fear. Or do you believe that elimination of fear is impossible? I am not talking about evasive action, which is born of intelligence and cognition to avoid harm, but of the freeze-flight-fight instinctual response of fear.
#It is not necessary that fear have a freeze/flight/fight response. Once triggered it can develop in various ways. You are describing what happens when the fear running on its own overtakes the whole body/mind system, with greater awareness fear arises but never takes over the system. I think it can be eliminated completely, but why would you want to eliminate it, fear can also provide enjoyment say in a well crafted psychological thriller, or say an amusement park or extreme sports. No thanks I would rather keep it in control rather than trying to throw it all away. It is like spices, a little bit makes the dish exciting whereas the full blown effect is decidedly harmful. So yes I regard the absence of fear as a damaged state.
Though I agree that fear has not much function (other than the exotic experience) in the modern world and plays havoc in combination with unconsciousness.

And would that fear help you do something intelligent about the situation or would it make you do something silly.

#Neither, for intelligent action there is intelligence that will do something intelligent. Consciousness will ensure that fear is felt and that it subsides naturally without taking over the system.




Should we call it then the spectrum of human feelings
#Well as I notice these feelings having quite different effects I would like to discuss them separately and not oversimplify by using one word.

So you have nothing to learn from this conversation and are just disseminating to a student, just curious?
I am having fun as well, but my primary motive is to share our notions of freedom and sorrow and to learn something from another human being, if possible.
If this is just, note just, a pleasant pastime to you, I would rather talk about these issues to someone who is sincerely /interested/ (or rather, vitally interested) in the subject, to enable a /meaningful/ exchange of ideas (and not just to have fun).
#I find the exchange to be meaningful. It is a rare opportunity to talk to somebody serious about these problems.

I am trying to 100% truthfully describe my state to you and in the process observing myself, refining my thoughts and bringing them in alignment with the reality of my state.

harmanjit said...

"I would say that fear is a process, rather than a instinctual response."

# Well, that is your interpretation. Scientists agree that fear is an emotional response which leads to certain events happening in the body,e.g.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear#Characteristics

"It involves various sensations. I would define an instinctual response as something that is done through a much faster processing channel, than thinking. For example a tennis player when responding to his opponent's serve is responding instinctively rather than by thinking which invalidates your hypothesis."

# Automatic response (based on cognition, which happens through the neo-cortex) is different from an instinctual response (which happens through the limbic system).

Perhaps this might be of help:

"There are three ways of experiencing the world of people, things and events: 1. sensate (senses); 2. cerebral (thoughts); 3. affective (feelings). The feelings include both the affectionate and desirable emotions/passions (those that are loving and trusting) and hostile and invidious emotions/passions (those that are hateful and fearful)."

# There are no conditions, by definition of the word elimination, which, after elimination of the fear instinct, can cause fear. Or do you believe that elimination of fear is impossible? I am not talking about evasive action, which is born of intelligence and cognition to avoid harm, but of the freeze-flight-fight instinctual response of fear.

"It is not necessary that fear have a freeze/flight/fight response. Once triggered it can develop in various ways. You are describing what happens when the fear running on its own overtakes the whole body/mind system, with greater awareness fear arises but never takes over the system. I think it can be eliminated completely, but why would you want to eliminate it, fear can also provide enjoyment say in a well crafted psychological thriller, or say an amusement park or extreme sports. No thanks I would rather keep it in control rather than trying to throw it all away."

# So you are not in favor of elimination, but of keeping the instincts in control. Thanks for the frank admission.

"It is like spices, a little bit makes the dish exciting whereas the full blown effect is decidedly harmful. So yes I regard the absence of fear as a damaged state.
Though I agree that fear has not much function (other than the exotic experience) in the modern world and plays havoc in combination with unconsciousness."

# So your goal is a heightened consciousness, which can recognize and control fear and not let it overwhelm the body/mind. And the reason you want to keep the instincts (including fear) intact is to have an interesting life of mild-to-moderate ups-and-downs (a spicy life). Am I correct?

"Consciousness will ensure that fear is felt and that it subsides naturally without taking over the system."

# I regard a fearful state as a insalubrious state, a reprehensible state, a disagreeable state, a state which is distressful and agitative, a state which sustains the instinctual self (I know you disagree with this one), and a state, whose possibility along with other states in the SHF, keep the human condition of sorrow/malice/loneliness going. I am not one to settle for a controlled suffering, I am for the elimination of suffering. People have been trying to control their "bad" sides for thousands of years, through awareness, moral codes, injunctions, fear of punishment, etc. and it has never worked. Normal people become animal-like when push comes to shove.

"I find the exchange to be meaningful. It is a rare opportunity to talk to somebody serious about these problems."

# Then I suggest you re-consider your evaluation of another's words as of no use and a nuisance. Whether it is me (who is on a journey), or an authority in the field (Richard or the Buddha), why disparage their writings/interactions by saying that they are of no use, and moreover, a nuisance? I regard as extremely valuable the words of the Buddha (whom I couldn't talk to), and Richard (whom I have been very fortunate to interact with), for just two examples. As well as this interaction. They have made me reflect on so much and made me question so much in the way I perceived the world.

"I am trying to 100% truthfully describe my state to you and in the process observing myself, refining my thoughts and bringing them in alignment with the reality of my state."

# Fair enough. Would you like to communicate over email? My email addr is harmanjit at gmail dot com.

Jack said...

Hi Harman. Have just been reflecting on the conversation on your blog, particularly Anonymous' position that s/he'd rather control than eliminate feelings because s/he thinks that even negative emotions can make life spicier -- the implication being that having no feelings at all would make life bland. Anonymous is wrong about the latter, no doubt about it. But I wonder if you might also be wrong in assuming that the mere capacity for feeling is inherently problematic.

In reaction to actualism, I have sometimes wondered whether feelings can be rendered harmless by some sort of shift in perspective/understanding, as the other Buddhist guy wrote about last time around. I obviously haven't realised such a thing in my life as an ongoing condition, and am not actively seeking it -- but would not rule out the possibility in principle. Mulling it over made me think of this rather obvious -- and apropos -- analogy.

Consider watching a movie. Presumably you can greatly enjoy a film that moves you to tears of sorrow, or thrills you with fear, triumph, beauty, heroism, or whatever the film evokes. (Better than a film that evokes no feeling at all!).

Doesn't this demonstrate that feelings (even bad feelings -- grief, sorrow, fear, etc) can in principle be rendered harmless (even beneficial, and welcome) -- or at least not-suffering -- by a shift in perspective? Doesn't it show that it's possible, in principle, to retain a full suite of powerful emotions that can add depth and richness to experience, yet have them present no problem to yourself or to the person sitting next to you on the couch ... simply because a certain shift in perspective has rendered the feelings no longer relevant in a personal way ...?

Not that I'd try to talk anyone out of elimination ... it just seems to me (and experience *does* bear this out) that "having bad feelings" is not necessarily identical to "suffering", and maybe the harmful quality of suffering is caused by something that is upstream (or downstream?) from the feelings, eg. a certain mis-{perception/conception} of one's role in the situation (or of one's "true nature", or whatever).

Anyway, just a thought...

Cheers,
Jack.

harmanjit said...

Have just been reflecting on the conversation on your blog, particularly Anonymous' position that s/he'd rather control than eliminate feelings because s/he thinks that even negative emotions can make life spicier -- the implication being that having no feelings at all would make life bland. Anonymous is wrong about the latter, no doubt about it.

"But I wonder if you might also be wrong in assuming that the mere capacity for feeling is inherently problematic."

# If the capacity remains, then feelings will come up. If feelings come up, then affective responses cloud the unmediated perception of the sensual world, and /can/ make one unhappy or harmful (to a greater or lesser degree). I am not very sure at present if the feeling capacity is the same as the "psychic I" (That is one of the doubts expressed about actualism in my latest blog post), i.e. can feelings remain without the feeler, just as thoughts can remain without the thinker. Maybe, but then our job is not finished as our "job" is to finish off the good/bad feeling pairs, and the extinction of the self is currently (as in AF) considered to be simultaneous with the elimination of good/bad feelings.

"In reaction to actualism, I have sometimes wondered whether feelings can be rendered harmless by some sort of shift in perspective/understanding, as the other Buddhist guy wrote about last time around. I obviously haven't realised such a thing in my life as an ongoing condition, and am not actively seeking it -- but would not rule out the possibility in principle."

# So let's carry on being as harmless and happy as possible, and keep investigating and being attentive towards our inner processes, and see where it takes us. That's my current position.

"Consider watching a movie. Presumably you can greatly enjoy a film that moves you to tears of sorrow, or thrills you with fear, triumph, beauty, heroism, or whatever the film evokes. (Better than a film that evokes no feeling at all!)."

# I agree. But the very fact that emotions are so pleasurable (the good feelings, the heroic and valiant feelings, the adrenaline rush of aggressive and scary feelings, and the bitter-sweet feelings of compassion) make me take pause. Isn't their very potency for nourishing the self, their pleasure and liveliness the reason people cannot give up their anger, their possessiveness over their spouse, their lustful hankering after a woman (even though these are miserable states)? After all, why can't one even /want to/ give up a miserable state? I have talked to many people, and they regard anger and adrenaline as a very lively spice in life, they regard a marriage as null and void without feelings of jealousy, you know the drill...

I think films and books provide a simulation of real life emotions. Yes, the simulation is lively, pleasurable and quite harmless (we come out and go home and go to sleep), but just because violence on screen thrills, or a parent losing a child in a film brings tears in me, or a lustful episode makes me aroused, does not blind me to the harm of it occurring in real life. It is all out there, and we know what it does when done for real.

"Doesn't this demonstrate that feelings (even bad feelings -- grief, sorrow, fear, etc) can in principle be rendered harmless (even beneficial, and welcome) -- or at least not-suffering -- by a shift in perspective?"

# No, I fail to see how. A simulation is harmless precisely because it is a simulation. But we can't remain in a simulation all our life. We have to be authentic outside the cinema hall, and then the misery will be authentic as well, and not just a thrill-ride.

"Doesn't it show that it's possible, in principle, to retain a full suite of powerful emotions that can add depth and richness to experience, yet have them present no problem to yourself or to the person sitting next to you on the couch ... simply because a certain shift in perspective has rendered the feelings no longer relevant in a personal way ...?"

# Voila, and we have become dissociated spectators of life! We see the world as a film then. That IS the spiritual solution Jack, be a witness, it's all a play of perception, there is no real suffering, you are pure awareness! How could you fail to see that?

"Not that I'd try to talk anyone out of elimination ... it just seems to me (and experience *does* bear this out) that "having bad feelings" is not necessarily identical to "suffering", and maybe the harmful quality of suffering is caused by something that is upstream (or downstream?) from the feelings, eg. a certain mis-{perception/conception} of one's role in the situation (or of one's "true nature", or whatever)."

# So is there a mild form of anger that is better than an unconditional regard? A mild form of jealousy that is better than a free intimacy? A mild form of aggression that is better than benevolence? A mild form of lust that is better than a full sensual enjoyment of the act of sex?

A shift in perspective so as to not see suffering in suffering is what is usually called "delusion" and "denial" in other words. :-)

Jack said...

# Harman, I tried to send this earlier but seems to have disappeared. Sorry if it later shows up twice!

HARMAN: Voila, and we have become dissociated spectators of life! We see the world as a film then. That IS the spiritual solution Jack, be a witness, it's all a play of perception, there is no real suffering, you are pure awareness! How could you fail to see that?

# Hey, I don't fail to see it, and for the record, I'm not advocating it either. All I'm saying is that a full suite of feelings -- including 'bad' ones -- may be present without it being identical to suffering, and without it causing others to suffer. IOW, 'bad' feelings aren't identical to suffering. So -- key point -- whatever turns bad feelings into suffering is either upstream or downstream from the feelings themselves. (The movie spectator example proves this, does it not? The usually-bad feelings are present, but no suffering?)

Again for the record, I'm not denying that suffering is real, and I'm not advocating transcendence (or delusion, or denial, or whatever) over elimination ... just looking into the possibility that feelings may be rendered harmless by a cognitive (or other experiential) shift of some sort. (Not *necessarily* delusional).

A "dissociated spectator" is indeed one way of describing someone who is no longer passionately involved in the usual activities of self-assertion / self-defence. There are less pejorative ways of looking it though, and possibly different forms of it. E.g., if the "passionately involved entity" (normal state of affairs) is not considered the gold standard of reality, then non-belief in it, and not acting upon it, need not -- in itself -- be considered "denial" or "delusion". (Sure, if it's replaced by an alternative construct that has no foundation in reality -- then the "delusion" tag is justified).

HARMAN: So is there a mild form of anger that is better than an unconditional regard? A mild form of jealousy that is better than a free intimacy? A mild form of aggression that is better than benevolence? A mild form of lust that is better than a full sensual enjoyment of the act of sex?

# Anonymous might be saying that, I dunno ... but I am not.

HARMAN: A shift in perspective so as to not see suffering in suffering is what is usually called "delusion" and "denial" in other words. :-)

# Surely this would not apply to *any* cognitive shift that renders a feeling non-problematic?

Cheers,
Jack.

Jack said...

HARMAN: That IS the spiritual solution Jack, be a witness, it's all a play of perception, there is no real suffering, you are pure awareness!

# Also, I don't think the notion that you are "pure awareness" is necessarily a delusory construct. (I know there are delusory forms of it, and they're very common, but that doesn't mean all should be tarred with the same brush). For example, do you see delusion in the following?

From one perspective I am an object, this living human body. From another perspective, I am this body's experience of itself and the universe. In this latter sense, I am subjectivity. (Not a 'subject', but subjectivity itself). As such, I am not the body (an object), but neither do I exist/occur without the body.

Cheers,
Jack.

MeTa said...

Jack, should we continue this discussion on the actualfreedom yahoo group? That is easier. blog comments is not really suited for long conversations.

I have mailed you my responses to your comments. Let me know if you want to pursue the thread person-to-person or in the AF group.

Anonymous said...

Jack
In reaction to actualism, I have sometimes wondered whether feelings can be rendered harmless by some sort of shift in perspective/understanding,
#Indeed if the self if gone then feelings are rendered harmless, the self is the one that amplifies feelings beyond measure.

the implication being that having no feelings at all would make life bland.

No not true my state is mostly without feeling and even without feeling and without self there is a beautiful and clear perception of the world. Not at all bland. But feelings are the ocassional spice that enhance it.

Harman
Voila, and we have become dissociated spectators of life! We see the world as a film then. That IS the spiritual solution Jack, be a witness, it's all a play of perception, there is no real suffering, you are pure awareness! How could you fail to see that?
#No I am not pure awareness since I do not exist. Awareness is a part of the body mind field. You are just imputing a false position to me.

harmanjit said...

The discussion between Jack and myself is now continuing on the actualfreedom yahoo group:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/actualfreedom/

Anonymous said...

Why not discuss it over the Google group, the three of us I am not a big fan of yahoo groups,

pankaj said...

wow..this debate is enough to make your brains ooze out of the ears. my disconnected comments:-

"I am sure this object (ego) is an artifact of the language"

the "me" is more a construct of memory than language. i read something by bertrand russell when he reduced "i think therefore i am" to "something exists" (he could do away with the "me"). whenever we think of "me" it is always with reference to something which lies outside of me (or contents of perception)(how i acted in such and such situation, how i relate to such and such person etc) and this material is always picked out from the memory. suppose we were to imagine ourselves as pure perception (no body) in an empty vaccum of space (no other objects)the idea of "me" would never emerge.

i read very interesting essays by jung on a subject close to the current debate, the context for the essays being the madness of WW2. do read "essays on contemperory events" if ever you get the chance.piercing and passionate to say the least.