What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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kmath
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What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by kmath » Wed May 22, 2013 3:05 am

Hello all,

During the course of practice, some people have "mystical experiences" that aren't specifically "Buddhist." I'm talking about experiences of divine union, asral projection, lucid dreaming, colors in mediation, etc. You know I mean, weird stuff.

Do you think they play any role in developing the path? There seem to be two views on this. Some people say no, these experiences tend to be a distraction. Others say yes, these experiences tend to inspire more practice.

What do you think?

Thanks,

kmath :jedi:

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ground
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by ground » Wed May 22, 2013 3:24 am

And what is most mystical is that some people experience this but not that while others never experience this but only that. So it seems that people just experience what they believe in. Isn't that mystical? :sage:

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convivium
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by convivium » Wed May 22, 2013 4:54 am

it's all dhamma
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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kmath
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by kmath » Wed May 22, 2013 5:17 am

I'll put both of you down for: no significant role

:quote:

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Crazy cloud
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by Crazy cloud » Wed May 22, 2013 6:54 am

I'v expirienced that keeping the natural mystic to oneself is the safest way to deal with the magic

Have heard that by babbeling to much about things like that, tends to tighten up oneself, and are also a trigger for coempetition amongst fellowseekers.

:console:
If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters

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manas
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by manas » Wed May 22, 2013 8:02 am

kmath wrote:Hello all,

During the course of practice, some people have "mystical experiences" that aren't specifically "Buddhist." I'm talking about experiences of divine union, asral projection, lucid dreaming, colors in mediation, etc. You know I mean, weird stuff.

Do you think they play any role in developing the path? There seem to be two views on this. Some people say no, these experiences tend to be a distraction. Others say yes, these experiences tend to inspire more practice.

What do you think?

Thanks,

kmath :jedi:
hi kmath

apart from the occasional colour or unitive experience, I've not had much of the phenomena you listed. But despite the simplicity of the phenomena I've generally experienced, I have sometimes experienced in the mind-and-body: joy, rapture, love, amazement, peace...all on a quite humble level thus far, but still I do not feel as though I've missed much by not having had some of the more exotic things that sometimes get reported by meditators.

But I don't see why they would be a problem, so long as one did not end up getting obsessed by them and forgetting the real reason we sit meditation, which is (as I understand it): the bring to completion the four frames of reference, the seven factors for awakening, and clear knowing and release.

:anjali:
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

floating_abu
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by floating_abu » Wed May 22, 2013 8:09 am

Buddhist teachers that I have read generally greatly discourage so called mystical experiences in that they can genuinely be big areas of attachment and misidentification. This is also why guidance under a genuine and long standing practitioner can be helpful, like a parent that can sometimes steer a child away from an upcoming pothole. Of course we still fall, that's life.
In another sense, there can be a lot of seemingly mystical experiences kind of like 'wow really?' and these are usually kept to oneself. Typically this is when some staid practitioners with no experience of anything out of the ordinary might come and attack, or others might get entranced. So again, the advice is keep it to yourself. The objective in Theravada Buddhism as I understand it is not one experience or another, it is truth, and liberation (as in genuine liberation that the Buddha was said to have taught).

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kmath
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by kmath » Wed May 22, 2013 4:47 pm

Thanks everyone for your responses.

A lot of you said to keep this experiences to yourself and don't make too much of them. I kind of expected that's what people would say because that's all I ever hear. But personally I wish teachers would talk about these experiences more. Hearing about them is fun and inspiring, and at times the Dhamma is so dry. I like to think there will be these nuggets of mysticism along the path.

Anyway that's just my two cents.

kmath :jedi:

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reflection
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by reflection » Wed May 22, 2013 5:55 pm

Depends on what you call "mystical". The point of Buddhism is to find the truth and not be mystical about it. But I think some extraordinary exeriencec (not imaginable from an outside perspective) do certainly play a role; nimittas, jhanas, recollection of past lives, and things of that nature. And could one say the realization of egolessness is an experience of the divine? Depends on the definition of divide I think. Some other things don't really play a central role but can occur. Like lucid dreaming certainly exists but I don't see any specific place for it in the path.

However, the main point is not to long for these things, because the main teaching is to let go of craving. So I would say they do play a role but shouldn't be the source of inspiration to practice. That source should be the realization of suffering, and the resulting faith in the teachings.

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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by retrofuturist » Wed May 22, 2013 11:45 pm

Greetings,
kmath wrote:A lot of you said to keep this experiences to yourself and don't make too much of them. I kind of expected that's what people would say because that's all I ever hear. But personally I wish teachers would talk about these experiences more. Hearing about them is fun and inspiring, and at times the Dhamma is so dry. I like to think there will be these nuggets of mysticism along the path.
Maybe you should become a Vajrayanist then?

Alternatively, what is the underlying reason for wanting to hear about them? Remember that the path is geared towards the cessation of dukkha, and that craving is the cause of dukkha. Is your inclination expressed here giving rise to craving (and thus, dukkha) or to the alleviation of it? Only you can answer that...

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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daverupa
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by daverupa » Wed May 22, 2013 11:59 pm

kmath wrote:at times the Dhamma is so dry
Would you like to expand on this?
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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ground
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by ground » Thu May 23, 2013 5:15 am

kmath wrote:... But personally I wish teachers would talk about these experiences more. Hearing about them is fun and inspiring, and at times the Dhamma is so dry.
Maybe you should try Mahayana and its sutras. At times very colourful and at times great fun :sage:

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kmath
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by kmath » Thu May 23, 2013 5:46 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Alternatively, what is the underlying reason for wanting to hear about them? Remember that the path is geared towards the cessation of dukkha, and that craving is the cause of dukkha. Is your inclination expressed here giving rise to craving (and thus, dukkha) or to the alleviation of it? Only you can answer that...

Metta,
Retro. :)
I want to hear about these experiences because it's a lot more interesting than another talk on breath mediation, or contemplating the characteristics or some other esoteric topic that doesn't inspire me to practice. :zzz:

Hearing about "out there" experiences reminds me of the awesome possibilities that can come through spiritual cultivation, even if they're not directly related to liberation.

Do I think this inclination gives rise to dukkha? It definitely gives rise to some frustration, sure. But it doesn't mean the desire itself is unfounded or that it doesn't tell me something important.

:anjali:
Last edited by kmath on Thu May 23, 2013 6:08 am, edited 2 times in total.

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kmath
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by kmath » Thu May 23, 2013 6:02 am

daverupa wrote:
kmath wrote:at times the Dhamma is so dry
Would you like to expand on this?
Sure. I find many of the contemplations (elements, body parts, khandas, impermanence) somewhat interesting initially but pretty soon they lose their spark. My mind just sort of says: so what? This is no fun.

The more devotional practices are refreshing but tend to fall short for me as well. For example, recollecting the Buddha tends to bring up more fear than anything else lol. I guess I'm projecting onto him, but the point is I don't feel this great love for the Buddha that gets me going. Do you know what I mean?

Cultivating bhrama viharas is another way to bring some emotion to practice. The only issue with those mediations is that they feel a bit contrived. Sure I want some feeling, but I'm just going to "send this person metta?" It just doesn't feel natural.

I think some of these views come from my Christian background. I always assume a religious path must include a great deal of service to others, which is not at all emphasized in Buddhism. That service can bring quite a bit of joy and fulfillment to the heart, and not having it contributes the the dryness I experience with Buddhism.

:heart:
Last edited by kmath on Thu May 23, 2013 6:15 am, edited 2 times in total.

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kmath
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Re: What role do "mystical experiences" play in practice?

Post by kmath » Thu May 23, 2013 6:04 am

ground wrote:
kmath wrote:... But personally I wish teachers would talk about these experiences more. Hearing about them is fun and inspiring, and at times the Dhamma is so dry.
Maybe you should try Mahayana and its sutras. At times very colourful and at times great fun :sage:
Perhaps I will. Thanks ground!

:clap:

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