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Interest - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2022.10.16



Sam Harris

Whatever that tension, that frustration feels like, it too is a perfectly fit object of awareness. Become interested in it as an appearance.

I have selected this quote for the term "interest".


In Mahamudra/DzogChen, interest has a special significance. It is one of those terms, that have a different significance depending on the stage or type of meditation.


  • For concentration meditation, it is positive factor that facilitates learning

  • For insight meditation, interest can become a hindrance. Now, an attitude of "holy disinterest" is more useful to take a non-dual view.



Interest as a positive factor in concentration meditation

It is one of the mental states that the meditation teacher has to generate in the student in order for them to take up and stay with meditation.


The term interest is taken from perceptual psychology. It is first in a series of five mental factors that make an object certain (yul nges lnga). These five factors are seen along a continuum of intensity, where interest is the first in the continuum. ...Interest is defined as a mental factor that gets involved with an object so as to highlight its particular qualities. It sets the foundation for further exploration of the object. (Brown & Thurman, 2006, p. 88)

The full list of factors is

  • interest

  • admiration

  • respect

  • admiration-respect, and finally,

  • faith.


Admiration and respect belong to the teacher-student relationship of guru-yoga.


Scope of interest can be wide or small

Like attention, interest can have different scope:


Micro-interest in concentration-meditation (getting familiar with)

During concentration meditation, the scope of interest is the meditation-object (the "intended object"). The focus will be more staying and more complete, the more interest the meditator can develop in the most tiny characteristics of the object. E.g. one can become interested in exactly how the in-breath feels at the tip of the nose at the very moment when the in-breath starts. This is sometimes also called "becoming familiar with".


One can also "become interested in the physiology of emotions" (see 2022.10.14)


Macro-interest in Buddhism/meditation/awakening

Here, the scope of interest is the entire process of becoming a meditator (and, in Tibetan Buddhism) awakening.



Dis-Interest in Insight meditation


Here is the problem with interest in non-dual meditation types: it presupposes and strengthens the sense of a Self, an "I", that is over here and interested in that object over there. It stands in the way of seeing space, it is a hindrance for the "mind view".


That´s why Rob Burbea sais:

Through an attitude of holy disinterest, less entranced by and entangled in the particulars of phenomena, a perception of awareness as a vast and clear space in which all appearances are contained may naturally begin to emerge. (Burbea, 2015, p. 192)


Resources


Brown, D. P., & Thurman, R. (2006). Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahamudra Tradition (Annotated). Wisdom Publications.


Burbea, R. (2015). Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising (English Edition). Hermes Amāra. https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00SI7PQD8

This book is praised by Michael Taft, one of the best contemporary teachers, in is "Best meditation books of 2020"


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