Hi. I am an atheist ‘meditationist’. Which means, I don’t follow the Hindu or Buddhist religions per say, though I know a few things about them–Shiva the Destroyer, mainly. I just meditate, which is an empirical technique, not a religion or philosophy. I live in the material world, I think for myself–well, not just for myself, nobody would be that stupid.
But I am interested in that thing they call “Nirvana” that the Buddhists like to talk about all the time(though I don’t normally talk about it)–and that’s why I meditate: to see if IT exists. Like a lot of things, I don’t expect to find out, but I do it anyway.
I don’t wear long flowing saffron dresses, or play the harmonium or sitar or tabla or that incredibly intoxicating bamboo “Maharaja” flute they have, or ride an elephant or try to shake petrified dust out of a clay urn, or chant and read Sanskrit, or shave my head or observe strict veganism(though I used to), or avoid profanity at all costs, or pontificate on the ‘meaning if Life’ all day long, or “send out positive energy”(which, like praying, is rather impossible), or try to talk to Krishna or Vishnu–well, I guess the latter is a Hindu guy anyway, so that wouldn’t work so well if one is a Buddhist.
They say Ganesha is an Elephant God that has a pet rat that “he” rides like “he” himself would normally be ridden, cowboy style sort of–in his own special way. And I am sure somebody somewhere, maybe in a cave, or in a long flowing saffron dress must know why. They’ve got to, we need an explanation! And it’s possible “he” was responsible for the Black Plague in Medieval Europe, but don’t tell Ganesha that, or you will most likely be henceforth walking everywhere and carrying heavy things with your own back. But, because of Ganesha, they have temples for rats–thousands of rats–in India. A lot of tourist money it it. A real live Hindu guy, who has a mint condition Audi I want to buy cheap, told me that–about the rat temples–and then I confirmed it on YouTube. Do what you gotta do, I guess…in the 21st century.
I find that meditation has many positive effects for me, maybe my brain works better–though I’m still somewhat of a moody SOB.
One time, I met Gurumayi. She is really good looking–and classy. I can’t say that it helped much, though I certainly enjoyed gazing into her deep brown, dreamy eyes. And I wouldn’t mind going out with her sometime–even though she’s not a Communist. Maybe she’s too busy…what, with all them “sheeples” and such.
Recently a local Hindu guy opened up a sandwich shop just down the street: he calls it, “New Deli”.
(Ram) Das it.
"I am interested in that thing they call “Nirvana”"
Around here we call it Marijuana. :)
That explains alot. ;)
I don't know if you've read Dr. Rick Strassman's book "DMT: The Spirit Molecule," but he makes a speculation there that what meditation may be is the induction of your body's natural endogenous N,N-DMT. So, the experience of Nirvana is essentially the "mystical experience" which Johns Hopkins is inducing in their volunteers via psilocybin. The reason you may not find anything in your meditative practices today is because we live in a culture which uses various chemicals to bombard our pineal gland which is our natural source of N,N-DMT (Dimethyltryptamine). If you live in the U.S., then you bathe in water that contains fluoride. Fluoride is in the tap water of the U.S., and this chemical actually calcifies the pineal gland. Not to mention other things that suppress our pineal gland like the use of alcohol which is also prevalent in many countries.
So, I'm not sure if this "chemical suppression" is intentional, but it would definitely explain why your meditative practices have been futile. Nowadays, in order to have this experience, you'd have to eat a hefty amount of mushrooms. Psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in the psychedelic mushroom, is converted to psilocin once it passes the blood-brain barrier. Psilocin is structurally very similar to N,N-DMT, a naturally occurring entheogen which your own body makes. This is why psychedelic mushrooms have such a profound effect on consciousness. If you can manage to eat what Terence McKenna called a "heroic dose," lo and behold, you will experience an on-demand Nirvana in which you will return to the baseline of consciousness within 6 to 8 hours.
So, I believe this is why people don't report such experiences anymore these days, because this experience of Nirvana or the "mystical experience" is a natural potential within each one of us, it's simply that it is somehow suppressed. Whether the chemical suppression of the pineal gland is the goal of our government or the illegality of things like DMT and psilocybin preventing people from having such experience, an experience which is essentially our birthright, is what they're keeping from us is a bigger question. Now, in the case of Siddartha Gautama, a prince who lived approximately 500 B.C.E., probably drank unpolluted water, ate untainted food, and had a very healthy pineal gland such that he could access the altered state dubbed "nirvana" naturally. So, if you have a tainted pineal gland, and you want to experience "nirvana," meditation might be a waste of time. Of course, you don't want to break the law and try mushrooms, but a common trend these days to experience this phenomenon of nirvana is to pack up and travel to Peru where the taking of ayahuasca is still legal.
First of all, my piece here is mainly a satirization of a few idiotic Hindu/Buddhist beliefs and their respective clergy practices.
Second, sure, there are chemicals in the brain that apparently get effected by meditation, but there aren't a whole lot of people researching that subject, but I trust your chemical there as being as good as any. I dont really have a horse in that race.
Third, I, and many others, do derive benefit from meditation in a number of ways, but I'm nowhere near the "Nirvana" state as far as I can tell. But, there are still reports of various "gurus" who are "in it" and they are quite persuasive empirical descriptions and involve far more than just chemical soup, and drug enhanced states.
Well, this is precisely my point. That the "persuasive empirical descriptions" are one and the same with the so-called "drug-induced state." You see, because you produce these chemicals naturally. So, what I was attempting to explain to you was that even in the case of meditating without the aid of any drugs taken, the body can naturally release its own endogenous entheogens. One of the most powerful psychedelics is already part of your natural neurochemistry, and that is N,N-DMT. Whether you'd like to admit it or not, that still doesn't erase the fact that your brain is a chemical engine, that consciousness itself rests on a chemical foundation that is your natural neurochemistry. However, let me be clear, I am in no way attempting to reduce "nirvana" to brain chemistry. I believe brain chemistry is simply one side of the coin. The other side of the coin, I believe, does involve these "persuasive empirical descriptions" as you noted.
I got no probs w that. I guess my general feeling re brain chemistry is "so what?". The brain is always doing chemistry.
While it is true that the brain is "always doing chemistry," what these studies and speculations I'm referring to are highlighting is a very specific sort of chemistry the brain has the potential of doing that is unlike any other experience we're familiar with. This is why most people don't experience what Buddhists might call "nirvana" or what Johns Hopkins University is referring to as a "mystical experience." It's a chemistry which most people; theists, atheists, and even yourself; have not experienced. And so meditation is one path to induce this state while the use of entheogens is another path to the same goal.
Lots of people think that the use of entheogens is a "short-cut" or is somehow "cheating." I entirely disagree. It's one thing to spend years and years studying eastern philosophy and practicing meditation. In a way, the study of eastern philosophy is a kind of preparation for interpreting the experience of "nirvana." It's a kind of psychic jiu-jitsu or mental armor so that when it finally happens, you will not approach it in fear. On the other hand, psychedelics, while they have the potential to launch you into the very same altered state, it is in no way easier to have that experience. Because usually a significant dose of a particular psychedelic is required to induce a mystical experience, and the experience itself can be quite challenging, indeed. It's definitely no walk in the park, and so people who don't know what they're getting themselves into and who don't have a background in eastern philosophy are left to themselves to figure out what happened to them. You see, Gautama didn't just have this awakening happen, and he automatically knew how to construe it. No, instead he had the rich philosophy of Hinduism to help him elucidate his experience, and so he therefore founded Buddhism.
So, when you say "so what?", the "so what?" is that this experience which Buddhists refer to as "nirvana" is defined by a very particular altered state of consciousness which exhibits a neurochemistry that is unique to this phenomenon in consciousness, and which a majority of people on this planet have not experienced, and in fact, don't even realize exists. The Buddha once said, "The amount of people who have been enlightened can be counted on the fingers of one hand." That figure is not to be taken literally, but to give you an idea of how rare this occurrence is when it comes about naturally.
That is a very good take. The 'gurus' that I have studied tend to say that Nirvana is far beyond temporary, drug induced psychedelic highs. And it is a deepening process of, for lack of better terminology, 'more informed consciousness' over decades of practice, that grows, like a tree grows from a seed, and doesn't have an endpoint, per say. I think. the concept of 'dharma', therefore, is valid.
From what little I know of neuroscience, is that they have barely begun to understand human consciousness in biochemical terms.
But my point is, it' s not just about brain chemistry being brain chemistry, it's about the progressive change in human intentionality and therefore activity in the world that results thru practice
I agree. I mean, meditation experiences or psychedelic experience are simply, by themselves, just experiences. It's what you bring back from those experiences and make practical in the natural world/universe/multiverse that we share which makes it all worthwhile and advances the quality of life for anyone in which your ripples come in contact with, which can be potentially everyone.
As for gurus saying "nirvana" is beyond being/non-being. Perhaps as an abstraction in what nirvana represents, that may be true. However, if we had a guru who was also a neuroscientist, regarding the experience of nirvana itself, he/she might say that the you cannot have the chemical without the experience or the experience without the chemical. They go together like yin and yang in such a way that one cannot exist without the other.
I've been wanting to have this have this type of conversation with someone informed on the subject, so I appreciate it.
Again, as to the brain chemistry, I repeat "so what"? Does a musician or audience ultimately care about on notes written on a page? No, they care about the music. Not a perfect analogy, but you get my drift. While one is corporal, the brain is always doing chemistry and I would add that the neuroscience of meditation is in the extreme infant stages AND can and do n-scientists EVER deduce the entire n-chemistry at ant one time during any " one process". Also, what about other simultaneous chemistry of other organs, say, hormones of the adrenal glands? Well, this, as an aside, points to the general weakness of modern medical analyses as it is, for lack of a better term, "in holistic", therefore they usually require a bevy of docs to "treat" a patient and it can and frequently does get ugly--just ask anybody, especially senior citizens. And that is, in part, why yours truly dropped out of med school back in the day--well, yours truly likes to think he is rational and has ethics and is not greedy.
But I stray... I really have little interest in brain chemistry regarding any activity of life. Do I care about it while playing basketball or writing a satirical PC such as this OP or playing drums? Nope. To the extent that they can maybe help people with " bad chemistry" with "good chemistry" intervention, I'm OK with it, but I usually run the other way when I see a doctor, almost as fast as when I see a clergyman.
More interesting to me are the various empirical reports of practitioners of meditation, especially the " self realized" ones. In particular, one Eknath Easwaran(RIP), was my all time fav "guru", who categorically said that we are not our thoughts or our bodies by are "spirit" inhabiting said bodies and minds and this is an area that Sam Harris has raised to question as well. But if one applies logic an observation and dismisses God(s), then that dismisses spirits and souls as well, so this is a logical hang up point for me. Easwaran, like all of them, has problems with relying on and quoting other various " saints" re God, which are also logically fallacious. Even Lao Tsu referred to the "Divine Mother" as the "original Creator", who " created the Tao", etc. But even the concept of the "Tao" has problems with it, as exemplified by contradictions between, say, Chinese and Japanese's Taoism(s): one says, for e.g., a hill is yin, while the other say it's "yang", etc., and in the final " balance", like brain chemistry, who really gives a crap? One can NEVER completely access the "yin and yang" of one's entire environment at any one time anyway--it's delusional to think one can.
So, what one is left with, is the FACT that one wonders if there is anything at all further profound to experience in life. One has a curiosity, and, more importantly, a sense of yearning, of discovery. Others, thru the ages, have claimed, empirically, that thru meditation, one CAN actually experience this profound thing or state or transformation of mind and being--and this is why I meditate.
Besides, it's harmless. ;)
Well, I tried to edit this last post, but WiFi glich and it timed out, and I'm doing this stuff mostly on a smart phone, but hopefully its readable.
Chinese and Japanese's Taoism(s): one says, for e.g., a hill is yin, while the other say it's "yang", etc., and in the final " balance", like brain chemistry, who really gives a crap? One can NEVER completely access the "yin and yang" of one's entire environment at any one time anyway--it's delusional to think one can.
To the text highlighted in bold, I'm going to whole-heartedly disagree. I think that's the entire point of eastern philosophy; in Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc. That there is a fundamental underlying experience of what Hindus refer to as "non-duality." It is where all so-called contradictions are laid to rest. And when you repeat again, "So, what?" for the second time, all you've demonstrated is that you've missed my point. I'm not referring to brain chemistry to emphasize it over all else, like only discussing the notes in music rather than the experience of said music or thinking about neurochemistry while engaging an activity like basketball.
I'm also a fan of Eknath Easwaran, he's not my favorite, but he's definitely one of 'em. He advocated the Perennial philosophy which is this perspective on religion which views all the world's religions arising out of the foundational mystical experience. All I was emphasizing is that this so-called state of "nirvana" is one characterized by a specific type of neurochemistry that may be being suppressed today, so if you practice a diet of drinking fluoride-ridden tap water and other tainted meat and dairy bought at your local grocery store, then your involvement with meditation as it currently stands will not yield much results.