top of page

The transformation of hard-core Tibetan meditation instructions to Sam Harris Waking Up app



click on any image


Here´s one thing I am currently doing: using Claude to reformat the 1981 dissertation by Daniel P Brown into an epub-readable format . The original is a 700+ pages typewriter-printed PDF file, practically impossible to read on the mobile.


So here is a quoted original meditation instruction from the dissertation, in Dan Brown´s own translation. I will show how this Tibetan meditation is transformed into a part of a Sam Harris meditation.


I have pity with the poor secretary who had to type 700 pages of this, without a single typo (and I left out the footnotes!). I know - I typed my own master´s thesis of 300 pages and 400 footnotes like this! Without secretary.


The original text as translated by Daniel P Brown


Reading instruction: the vocabulary used here by Dan Brown tries to capture the original semantics of the Tibetan text. It is not streamlined for readability. The source is "Moonbeams of Mahamudra" a book by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, also known as Dakpo Tashi Namgyal Rinpoche. It's a classic text in Tibetan Buddhism that provides teachings on Mahamudra, an advanced meditation practice in the Kagyu tradition. This book offers instructions and insights into the nature of mind and the path to realization. It's considered an essential text for practitioners interested in deepening their understanding of Mahamudra meditation. There is a great new translation by Elisabeth Callahan (very accessible) . Unfortunately, so far, I have not yet found the equivalent to Dan Brown´s passage (may. add later)

"From the perspective of the Mind in the Samadhi of Clarity and Emptiness as before, in Non-Cognition, look Nakedly, with the Wisdom which Examines Each-and-Every-Event, to what stays Concomitantly [in each event]. First, Examine the tripartite unit (Arising, Staying, and Ceasing) as before. Then, Examine any suitable Cognition that has happened to Move-by-suddenly-coming forth. In both these [temporal organizations], namely the tripartite unit and the [immediate movement, or] cause of Recognition you won't find any Entity, even though Staying Concimitantly in the State [of Emptiness] and the Appearances, which Moves-by-suddenly-coming forth, seem to be different. By Examining both of these as before, what seems to be different-with or without a cause of Recognition, Empty or non-Empty, good or bad--cannot be found to be different. When your style [of meditation] is one of no-difference nor even any distinction, then, you should Examine whether the Staying and Movement are no different because they are the same, or no different because they are different but similar If you think they are the same, Examine whether they are the same during the first, middle and ending [of any discretely arising event]. If different but similar, Examine precisely how they could at all be similar. These are errors which are caused by grasping and taking the Continuum of Staying and Moving as different. Staying and Moving are not taken as dual. All the Various Cognitions that have arisen [as discrete events] and the Mind [which stays upon each of these events] are one and the same. When you Examine accordingly, you experience the One Taste that is called Self-Awareness of Whatever Moving Aspects arise SO that they are not Recognized [as Entities].' You know the Self-Skill of the Mind through the metaphors of water and waves, or the sun and its rays (Bk,Pp.383-384).


Simplification step 1 (AI Claude)


Ok....so here here is a first step simplification by AI


" Here are the meditation instructions simplified:


  1. From the perspective of clear and empty awareness, look nakedly at what remains constant in each experience.

  2. Examine the three phases of arising, staying, and ceasing in each experience.

  3. Then examine any cognition/thought that suddenly arises.

  4. In both the three phases and the arising thoughts, you won't find any solid entity, even though the constant awareness and the arising appearances seem different.

  5. Examine if this apparent difference between constant awareness and arising appearances is real or not. Are they actually the same or different?

  6. If they seem the same, check if they are the same in the beginning, middle and end phases.

  7. If they seem different but similar, examine precisely how they could be similar.

  8. Grasping at the difference between the constant awareness and arising appearances is an error.

  9. Awareness and its contents are not actually dual - they are one undivided experience.

  10. All arising cognitions and the awareness beholding them are the same.

  11. When examining this way, you experience the "one taste" of self-awareness where appearances are known but not reified as solid entities.

The key points are to look nakedly without grasping, see awareness and its contents as non-dual, and recognize the empty, cognizant nature without solidifying any appearances. "


Simplification step 2 (again Claude)


For the real dummies like me, the next simplification:


"Here are the meditation instructions simplified even further:


  1. Rest in clear, empty awareness.

  2. Look at what remains constant in every experience.

  3. Examine the phases of arising, staying, and ceasing of thoughts/perceptions.

  4. Neither thoughts/perceptions nor the empty awareness watching them are truly separate solid things.

  5. Don't grasp at any apparent difference between awareness and its contents.

  6. Awareness and its contents are inseparable, not two different things.

  7. All thoughts/perceptions and the awareness beholding them are one seamless experience.

  8. Recognize this unified, cognizant empty nature without solidifying any part of the experience.

The essence is to rest in non-grasping empty awareness that is inseparable from its contents, without reifying any part of the experience into a solid entity. "


So, the key point is that awareness and its contents are inseparable. -


A Dan Brown text from ca 2020


In 2020s Dan Brown meditations, it sounds like this:


"As you notice each appearance, sensations, sounds, thoughts, see if you can observe that they're not separate from consciousness. It's not that consciousness is the space in which objects appear merely. It's also the condition of their appearance, the very substance of it."


Dan Brown then goes on to use the metaphor of ocean and waves to illustrate this point:


"The analogy that's often used is to the ocean and its waves. The waves are objects of a kind. But they're inseparable from the water itself. They're an expression of it. So too with anything you can observe in consciousness."


Tibetan meditation as "Ocean and Wave" meditation by Sam Harris


And here is an equivalent "Ocean and Wave" meditation by Sam Harris (the entire meditation from the Waking Up app).


Reading instructions: Sam Harris speaks rhythmically on the outbreath. The line breaks represent the in-breath. The @ denote longer pauses of varying length to give space for the listener to process internally what is being said, ie, form a clear mental representation instead of rushing it. The line breaks are very intentional: this way, many statement son the outbreath can - for example - be read as an "embedded command" . This is actually a technique from hypnosis. Example: "keep your visual field engaged", "keep your eyes open now". Or, the individual components of sensory inputs are clearly marked one by one: "sensations. sounds. thoughts". This way, one can first feel sensations for a while, then sounds, and then only thoughts. Otherwise, the switching between sensory systems would be too fast. Also, Sam Harris uses a hypnotic language technique by connecting particles such as "and", or "as". This smoothes the transitions between sentences, or slowly introduces statements. I have marked the reference to the above passage in bold

Okay, just sit comfortably


and you can close your eyes


or open them.


If your eyes are closed,


keep your visual field engaged.


And just settle into the weight of your body.


Feel it resting in space.


Feel its heaviness.


Sensations of pressure,


temperature.


And notice that all of that


is a kind of energy.


And become aware of the sensations


associated with breathing.


@


And notice sounds.


@


Simply recognize that


consciousness is the condition


in which all of these things appear.


And they appear spontaneously,


you're not doing


any of this.


@


So, it's true to say that


when you're meditating,


you are doing


nothing.


You are ceasing to do the things


that keep you distracted.


Lost in thought,


unaware of what's appearing


in each moment.


@@@


Again, if your eyes happen to be closed,


still be aware of your visual field.


@


Whatever is appearing there,


is also an expression


of consciousness.


@@@


And, as you notice each


appearance,


sensations,


sounds,


thoughts,


see if you can observe that


they're not separate


from consciousness.


It's not that consciousness


is the space


in which objects appear, merely.


It's also the condition of their appearance,


the very substance of it.


The analogy that's something used


is to the ocean and its waves,


they are objects of kind.


But they are inseparable


from the water itself,


an expression of it.


So too, with anything you can observe


in consciousness.


@@@


In the final minute of the session,


keep your eyes open now.


Keep your eyes very wide


and gently look


for what's looking,


look for the center of consciousness.


@@@


Well, I hope you're beginning to touch the sense that meditation is truly continuous with other moments in your day. There really is nothing, thatsc you're doing here, that requires a separation. There's no artifice. You're simply being aware of the flow of conscious experience, and you can do that anywhere. It's not to say that formal sessions of practice aren't different, especially in the beginning. This really is a training, but you're training so that you can do this same thing, elsewhere or rather cease to do the thing that is preventing you from being mindful in the first place.


References


Brown, D. P. (1981). Mahamudra Meditation-Stages and Contemporary Cognitive Psychology (Dissertation). https://tinyurl.com/3hm5wh8c

This dissertation is a free download. It is a massive, highly technical volume that nevertheless gives an unparalleled insight into the education of a yogi.It draws on the knowledge of cognitive science as of the late 1970s, so it is not the newest in this regard.As compensation, Daniel P Brown gives some insight into the experiments with trichoscopy to which he still referred in his retreats in 2021.


The University of Chicago library entry:

Original URL of PDF:



Namgyal, T. D. (2019). Moonbeams of Mahamudra (Tsadra). In E. Callahan (Trans.), No Title. Snow Lion. https://www.amazon.de/dp/1559394803/

Comentários


A thought on...

bottom of page