Talks by Rob Burbea
Links to talks
Questioning Awakening (Talk 1)
- Questioning the underlying assumptions that we don’t even know we have
- Are We really Free to Inquire or Are We Blinded by Assumptions we Don’t know we Have?
Changes in idea of Enlightenment in Buddhism Today
- In modern Dharma the term awakening has kind of disappeared
- The meaning of the term has been lowered
- It tends to mean “being in the world without selfing”
- Without thinking of oneself as a separate self
- Without papancha
- Rigidity of the idea
- Everyone’s story of reaching awakening is the same (“and then I stopped trying and I realized there was no self”)
Different Dharma “Packages” (may overlap)
- Goal: live in the present, live fully (maybe kindness)
- Existentialist Dharma
- Realizing existential limits of existence
- Accepting that we are impermanent, fragile beings in a world that appears meaningless
- Human seen as a biological machine
- Practice is a way to optimize the functioning of that machine
All these views (
]]) are popular and common because in line with
- None of them are hard to understand or explain
- Not much is needed in terms of meditative skill
- There’s nothing to do
Samadhi is not an option as it involves “doing”
- Other packaged goals
- You are awareness
- Everything is empty
Buddha’s Third Noble Truth and Re-defining Dharma
- The Buddha’s goal involved not being reborn in the cycle of rebirth
- Today we don’t talk about it and try to push it to the side
- Liberation is open to be re-defined
- So are all the other noble truths
- The way we re-define those will affect the whole package of our Dharma
Goals in the Path
- Assumptions that are not deeply investigated
- Focus on simplicity (why?)
- Why are we practicing?
- The usual point is to reduce suffering
- Once that is done, then what?
- Isn’t there some kind of beauty that attracts us to practice?
- Each teacher doesn’t only talk about the end of suffering, they all have their own ethos
Goals in Spiritual Practice
- Some people like having them, it gives a sense of nobility
- For others, goals are only related to the ego
- If someone practices with mindfulness, how different will their results be from someone who practices emptiness?
- Are we free to inquire into freedom, or do we have to accept the “package” of freedom we receive?
- Are there different kinds of freedom?
- Is freedom ever-expanding (break the box you’re in and find there’s another box, and keep expanding)?
Questioning the Mindfulness Goal
- Goal: live in the present, live fully (maybe kindness)
- This is not just a Dharma view
- Bungee jumping people also want to live to the fullest
- Do we dare to ask why we have that goal?
- Is this what the Buddha taught? NOT AT ALL
- We may or may not care about that
- Is it because we think that’s what’s real?
- Other cultures in the past never cared about living life to the fullest
- What do we even mean by life?
We assume we can strip off our beliefs and experience reality as it really is
- There are so many assumptions that we don’t realize
Our Modernist Worldview has impregnated the Dharma with its assumptions and views
- Even Hollywood affected our culture and also the Dharma
- What if we drop the assumption of what is reality?
- Can we separate mindfulness as a strategy from mindfulness as a religion (affected by modernist worldview)?
- Is Reducing Suffering Enough?
- Is it enough for the soul and psyche?
- What happens to eros and passion?
What Is Real?
- Our assumptions about what is real (
]]) affect the way we see everything
- They keep delivering the same experiences, the same dukkha
- They shape the way we see ourselves, our world etc…
- Is it what is material, what is commonly agreed upon?
- If that’s what we agree on, we’ll embrace mindfulness but deny imagination
- Is psychotherapy “true”?
- How can we expose the assumptions or ideas we have?
Buddhism Beyond Modernism (Talk 2)
Our Unconscious Ideas
- The conscious and subconscious ideas we have impact and circumscribed our perception of
- The Dharma
- Our Life
We are always affected by unconscious ideas
- We literally change what we hear to fit into our ideas
- part of inquiry is to open up
- Our interpretation of what’s happening often creates what’s happening
- There are no facts, there are only interpretations
Are we really free to inquire?
]]</span>: The Dominant Culture
- Universe as impersonal phenomenon reduceable to laws of physics
- We can now see things objectively, indipendently
- Man is the higher intelligence, rationality and empiricism are elevated
- Emotion, Eros, Soul are considered as irrelevant
- We try to reduce everything to neuroscience
There are different ways of looking available to us which unfold different existences
- Multiple views, multiple frameworks
- God help us from singleness of vision
- I cannot claim that truth is singular
- we can entertain different ideas without needing to arrive at a final truth
- What is our fantasy of liberation?
- Calm sage, simple, no question, no concepts
- could there be other fantasies?
In Praise of Restlessness (Talk 3)
Different Archetypes On Homelessness
- The Buddha also advocated for a certain homelessness
- Renunciation of everything, including his own home
- There’s no much talk of monasteries
- Homelessness of the seeker in search of truth
- Common archetype in some Dharma Circles
- The fugitive, running away, not seeking
- Hermes’ Homelessness
- The road is home
- Not settling down to one view
- Not literal
- Some spiritual seekers going to India didn’t really leave their preconceptions
- You can be in the same physical place, but constantly questioning and shattering
Different Restlessness Ideas
- The hindrance (agitation)
PRACTICING WITH RESTLESSNESS
- Give the mind permission (to watch tv etc…)
- Watch the restlessness slowly defuse and turn to calmness
- We acquire a taste for calmness
- When lots of energy opens up in the being with practice
Endless seeking (Hermetic Style)
- Hermes doesn’t believe this or that, he opens to multiplicity
- Shattering structures and building new ones
- Capacity to stay steady when you feel restless
- With a degree of physical discomfort
- With a creative project
- With work situations, global problems
Awakening is open-ended, it never ends (Hermetic Style)
- Doesn’t mean that there is no goal
The goal is important only as an idea, the essential thing is the work that brings us towards the goal.
- Role of the teacher: Communicate a restlessness, different roads to try
Dharma as Science, Religion or Art?
- Quest for truth
- Science looks at the future for truth
- Religion looks to the past
- Traditional Dharma falls here (Pali Canon etc…)
- Art is not that concerned with truth
Desire has its place in all Science, Religion and Art
- Even if it brings some Dukkha
- It’s ok, it’s even beautiful
- We are what we yearn, what we reach for
- In science there’s a sense of endless desire for truth
- Traditional Dharma’s strong focus on renunciation and dukkha removed the space for desire
- May have reduced the possibility for art in the Dharma scene
- Idea of awakened life, being purged of eros
- But even the Buddha doesn’t say we should stop our search
- Makes desire ok
]] is part of all of them too
- Scientists see everything in nature as beautiful
- Religions are imbued with beauty tied to the idea of God and Heaven, and we see it in their heart
- Art, needless to say
- Some beauty is imbued in Dharma as well (even though it’s marketed as just reduction of suffering)
- We may not even be aware of it
- The beauty of the kindness, or appreciation of Nature
- Not possible to have it available all the time, but we can access it more
- Freedom (from suffering, ignorance)
- What are the limits we set to our freedoms?
- Evolutionary biology would say there’s a limit to how free our behavior can be
Dharma as Art
Wonder, Amazement, Beauty
- We could see Dharma as art, and make beauty an important part of it
- Not the art of peace, calmness or freedom, just Art
- Then reducing suffering becomes less important
- Is it possible that we want to be enchanted?
- Sense of life would be liberated by the malleability of vision of the artist
Different ways of looking open up different cosmoses
- Heaven becomes a possibility
- Not a question of believing or pretending
- There is no single truth, no concretely existing reality
- Dharma as a Myths to live by
- Primacy of fantasy and mythos
- Seeing life as art
Consequences of Seeing Dharma as Art
- Practice and perception become creative
- It could become improvisation or not, playful
- It is inexaustible, no limit to reach
- Not wholly describable
- Not religious
- Not looking backward for truth or authority
- We recognize past masters in art, but we look forward
- Not like science
- Not attempting to reach one single truth
- Cosmos as having a multiplicity of meanings and interpretations
- Opening up to knowing the cosmos poetically
- Poet knows his poem is his creation, not a fact
- Metaphors in poetry not meant to be true in one sense, but they have an aspect of truthfulness, but also beauty (e.g. heart as a garden, you don’t go look for grass)
- Not about reducing suffering
- Not only about my daily life
- They also have their own dimension
- It may spill over into everyday life or not
- Art is for art sake
- Beyond any definition anyone could make up
- Cannot be boxed in
- Four Noble Truths talk about liberation from reincarnation
- They are now just a skeleton
- They can be a framework for understanding the world and self as empty
- Opens up possibilities
- Including the possibility of not reducing suffering
- Today the common idea of awakening is that of someone who’s always in the present
- After some liberation is achieved, that idea doesn’t even sound that amazingly attractive
- Don’t we want some enchantment?
- A life of non-clinging doesn’t make sense