Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Danger of Vipassana


  • Please log in to reply
1 reply to this topic

#1 rahula

rahula

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 4 posts

Posted 02 November 2010 - 02:57 PM

Hi,

How should we respond to this criticism?

Thanks a lot in advance,
Rahula

-----------

Elizabeth Hillstrom points out in her book Testing the Spirits that instead of being glimpses of the impermanent nature of things, the experiences that accompany Buddhist contemplation on the mental states can be explained as misperceptions of the surrounding reality due to imposing on the senses and mind an abnormal way of functioning:

As meditators passively watch their own mental states come and go without trying to control them, these begin to fluctuate more and more rapidly and unpredictably. After a while this chaotic activity creates the strong impression that the mental events are springing into life on their own, from some separate source, rather than the observer's own mind. As meditators persist with this practice, they also notice that there is a definite separation between the mental events being observed and the mind that is doing the observing. As meditation progresses still further, both the mental events and the observing mind begin to seem alien and impersonal, as if they do not really belong to the observer. At about this point the meditator's sense of "self" becomes confused and weakened, and finally it disappears entirely for brief periods of time. This experience of dissolution strongly reinforces the Buddhist notion that there actually is no such thing as an "I" or "myself" - that such concepts are actually false constructions of the mind.

At still deeper levels, meditators eventually reach a stage in which their awareness of events and the events themselves seem inextricably bound together and the whole scene churns in a wild state of flux. Ideas, images and thoughts seem to appear and then dissolve into nothingness with great rapidity. At this point every aspect of mental life (and the physical world itself) seems impermanent, transitory and alien, and disturbed meditators desperately want it all to stop. Relief finally comes when meditators break through Nirvana, a state in which all awareness of physical and mental phenomena ceases, at least for a short time. Reaching this stage ostensibly produces permanent changes in consciousness. Inner processes are set in motion which fill the meditator with equanimity and bliss. These presumably destroy defiling mental states like self-interest, ambition, greed and hatred, and ensure advanced placement in the next life. When interpreted through Eastern lenses, these experiences strongly reinforce the Buddhist belief that the physical universe, our concepts of self and even our inner mental life are only illusions.

(Elizabeth Hillstrom, Testing the Spirits, IVP, 1995, p. 114-15)

#2 mike

mike

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 38 posts

Posted 04 November 2010 - 12:21 AM

Hi Rahula,

Your question doesn't seem to me quite so simple as it did at first glance.

Do you take this as a serious criticism of the teachings as recorded in the Paali texts?

It strikes me more as a very speculative (and very credulous: "...Relief finally comes when meditators break through Nirvana..."?!) criticism of "vipassana meditation" as described in very modern, reductionistic, popular books on the subject, deeply confused with a vague idea of "Buddhist" mysticism--whatever that might be.

You know, there really are sects out there--or cults, if you like--that do push a program not entirely unlike what she describes. If the author has read the claims of such "teachers" and actually believed them, no wonder she found them alarming.

Personally, I don't see this as an 'attack' on the Dhamma at all--more a case of the blind having been badly misled by the blind.

Best Wishes,

mike

QUOTE(rahula @ Nov 2 2010, 07:57 AM) View Post

Hi,

How should we respond to this criticism?

Thanks a lot in advance,
Rahula

-----------

Elizabeth Hillstrom points out in her book Testing the Spirits that instead of being glimpses of the impermanent nature of things, the experiences that accompany Buddhist contemplation on the mental states can be explained as misperceptions of the surrounding reality due to imposing on the senses and mind an abnormal way of functioning:

As meditators passively watch their own mental states come and go without trying to control them, these begin to fluctuate more and more rapidly and unpredictably. After a while this chaotic activity creates the strong impression that the mental events are springing into life on their own, from some separate source, rather than the observer's own mind. As meditators persist with this practice, they also notice that there is a definite separation between the mental events being observed and the mind that is doing the observing. As meditation progresses still further, both the mental events and the observing mind begin to seem alien and impersonal, as if they do not really belong to the observer. At about this point the meditator's sense of "self" becomes confused and weakened, and finally it disappears entirely for brief periods of time. This experience of dissolution strongly reinforces the Buddhist notion that there actually is no such thing as an "I" or "myself" - that such concepts are actually false constructions of the mind.

At still deeper levels, meditators eventually reach a stage in which their awareness of events and the events themselves seem inextricably bound together and the whole scene churns in a wild state of flux. Ideas, images and thoughts seem to appear and then dissolve into nothingness with great rapidity. At this point every aspect of mental life (and the physical world itself) seems impermanent, transitory and alien, and disturbed meditators desperately want it all to stop. Relief finally comes when meditators break through Nirvana, a state in which all awareness of physical and mental phenomena ceases, at least for a short time. Reaching this stage ostensibly produces permanent changes in consciousness. Inner processes are set in motion which fill the meditator with equanimity and bliss. These presumably destroy defiling mental states like self-interest, ambition, greed and hatred, and ensure advanced placement in the next life. When interpreted through Eastern lenses, these experiences strongly reinforce the Buddhist belief that the physical universe, our concepts of self and even our inner mental life are only illusions.

(Elizabeth Hillstrom, Testing the Spirits, IVP, 1995, p. 114-15)