Yogic Perception, Meditation and Altered States of Consciousness
- Time: 27.-30. Juli 2006
- Venue: Austrian Academy of Sciences
The Physicality and Immanence of Gnosis in rDzogs-chen
Orna Almogi, Universität Hamburg
In most Buddhist systems, gnosis is usually understood as a meditative insight that is acquired on the spiritual path and perfected at the stage of a buddha (buddhabhūmi). With the emergence of the Buddha Nature theory, however, the idea that gnosis already exists in ordinary sentient beings became increasingly prevalent in certain circles. While studying the Madhyamaka controversy surrounding the existence of gnosis at the stage of a buddha, I became interested in how this immanent or ‘ontologised’ gnosis, that is, what is designated ‘gnosis that abides on the [universal] ground’ (gzhi gnas kyi ye shes) or ‘gnosis that illumines from within’ (nang gsal gyi ye shes) as opposed to ‘gnosis that illumines from without’ (phyi gsal gyi ye shes), is conceived in the rDzogs-chen literature of the rNying-ma school of Tibetan Buddhism. The historical development of this idea in and external to the rDzogs-chen system cannot be treated in this paper and will be attempted on another occasion. What I shall attempt here is to discuss the notion of the physicality and immanence of gnosis as found in the writings of the rDzogs-chen scholar Klong-chen-rab-’byams (1308–1364).
Meditation and Contemplation: Late Medieval to Early Modern Europe
Karl Baier, Universität Wien
From the late Medieval period onward, meditative and contemplative practices became increasingly popular among all strata of the literate European Christian society. They took the shape of spiritual movements. Compared to the earlier monastic forms of meditation from which they evolved, the new methods were significantly changed. They now centered around imagination, highly elaborate rhetorical patterns of thinking and the methodical awakening of emotions. On the other hand, contemplative methods which were in use especially within the circles of the so called “New Mysticism” focused on an openness towards and union with God beyond the mediation of images and thoughts. Without rejecting it completely, the protagonists of contemplation soon moved away from the common meditative practice and criticized some of its forms. Whereas meditation fit very well within the official framework of catechesis, preaching and the forms of devotion and prayer, the contemplation movement regularly caused “collateral heresies”, which finally led to the marginalization and even condemnation of contemplative practices.
Psychedelics, Culture, and Consciousness: Some Biocultural Considerations
John Baker, Moorpark College, California
Anthropology views humans as animals whose primary means of adapting to the world is culture. From this standpoint, consciousness may be understood as an evolved capacity of our species that enables us to evaluate our ongoing perceptions of our self and the universe against the backdrop of our prior experiences, the knowledge we have previously acquired, and the multiplicity of our possible futures.
Our need to interact appropriately with the external environment suggests that “normal” consciousness has been subjected to enormous selective pressures throughout hominid evolution. Consequently, our ability to enter into “altered” states of consciousness and derive insights that can contribute to both individual and group well-being raises questions as to what is occurring in such states and what factors affect whether a particular state of consciousness will have beneficial or detrimental effects.
Probably no method of inducing an altered state of consciousness is more ancient or ubiquitous than the ingestion of exogenous substances. Considering some of the contexts in which the most powerful of these exogenous agents—the so-called “psychedelics”—have been used provides insights into the role that cultural training plays in shaping the experience of any altered state.
Empty Thy Mind and Come to Thy Senses: A De-constructive Path to Inner Peace
Michael M. DelMonte, St. Patrick's Hospital, Dublin
Psychotherapy praxis has typically been characterised by confidence in the ability of the rational thinking mind to resolve most forms of psychological distress, e.g. from the use of Freud’s “talking cure” to cognitive therapy’s dialogues and prescriptions. However, there may be times when a very much older approach to resolving human difficulties is useful, namely, the fostering of reflective silence as in meditation practice, with its emphasis on the intuition emergent from the mindfulness and from the “no thought” of the embodied mind in the here and now. The ancient Eastern wisdom traditions, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism for example, with their use of Koans, promotion of compassion and various meditation and yoga exercises may even see the discursive, polarising and grasping mind itself as the main obstacle to be overcome if we are to leave suffering, such as anxiety and depression, behind. This is because the discursive mind mainly builds up knowledge and establishes facts on the basis of objective evidence in order to deal with external reality, whereas the intuitive mind is subjectively nurtured during silence and meditation and thereby focuses more on our internal worlds.
Most of us form emotional attachments to people, objects and ideas. We may also over-identify with these emotional constructs – especially in the context of idealisation. Self-reflection, as fostered by psychotherapy, mindfulness meditation and the like, may enhance awareness (or mindfulness). This in turn may enable us to dis-identify from dysfunctional ideas, habits, longings and attitudes, and to let go of attachments which no longer serve beneficial purposes. However, detachment may be engaged defensively by some people via meditation and thus increase social isolation. Moreover, escapist introspection may, with some, lead to self-engrossment rather than to genuine social and self awareness with its concomitant healthy relational engagement.
What do haṭhayogins perceive? Dhyāna (meditation), samādhi (enstasy) and the manipulation of mind, senses and sense-organs (manas, citta; indriyas) in selected classical and modern haṭhayoga texts
Elizabeth De Michelis, University of Cambridge
Based on the reading of four classical haṭhayoga texts (Gorakṣa Śataka, Haṭha Pradīpikā, Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā and Śiva Saṃhitā), this paper will analyse and discuss the ways in which haṭhayogins attempt to manipulate and control the mind, senses and sense-organs (manas, citta; indriyas) in order to attain perceptions, powers and states of being different from ordinary, everyday ones.
These classical teachings will then be compared and contrasted with parallel teachings from a selection of modern and contemporary texts, with fieldwork data drawn from modern postural yoga schools and with relevant evidence from historical and anthropological sources.
Physiological correlatives of Dharana and their meaning
Dietrich Ebert, University of Düsseldorf and University of Leipzig
A number of physiological and psychological descriptions have been offered to characterize the particular “altered state of consciousness” elicited by Yoga. This state is commonly called “meditation”, a term that is however not sufficient to reflect the psychological techniques of Yoga like Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, Samyama, etc. A detailed review of the physiological data mentioned above leads to a more sophisticated view of the different mental yogic states. Of them, Dharana seems to have been investigated in most depth and may be compared to other psychological practices such as suggestion, biofeedback or concentrative relaxation. Little is known about the other states of Samyama from a physiological viewpoint. This lack of knowledge might be caused by researchers asking the wrong questions within the framework of physiology. It seems that before posing questions based on the natural sciences, it would be fruitful to have first an understanding of the Indian philosophical background of Yoga. Only in this way may meaningful results be expected. The available data will be presented and discussed in consideration of such an approach.
Transformation of Consciousness through Suffering, Devotion, and Meditation
Dagmar Eigner, Medizinische Universität Wien
Shamans and mediums experience a period of crisis before it is recognized that they are going to be healers. During that time they behave like mad, do not feel good, are extremely poor und unlucky. Family members, friends, and neighbours usually think that they are possessed by evil spirits or are troubled by witches. They torture the persons thinking that they hurt the spirits or witches and make them leave the patients. Sometimes several years pass until deities or tutelary spirits reveal themselves through the persons they have chosen.
After the initial crisis a strong relationship with the spiritual world is established. It is a process of giving more and more room to the deities or tutelary spirits and diminishing the desires and the expression of the own ego. These devotional exercises are carried out in an altered state of consciousness that is gradually changing with growing experience. The practising shamans and mediums have to renew the connection with the spiritual beings through pilgrimages, meditation, and the regular performance of rituals. Having attained a different level of consciousness they can alter their states of mind quickly and without effort during the healing sessions.
Narrations of shamans and mediums in Nepal describe the process of transformation. They disclose the healers’ perceptions of the spiritual world, of their own connection with it, and of personal matters in relation to their work. Furthermore, they try to explain the reasons for the occurrence of illness and the rationale of their healing methods. The narrations also show that healers who have been chosen can never return to their old lives. Their status in the community, their relationships with the people around them, and their sense of identity have changed.
Dharmakīrti on the Career and Cognition of Yogins
Vincent Eltschinger, IKGA
In my paper, I shall attempt first at reconstructing Dharmakīrti’s notion of a yogin’s career on the basis of the statements one can find scattered throughout his very influential Pramāṇavārttika. I shall then try to draw a coherent picture of both yoga and yogins, from the first insights (prajñā) that take place when still in the stage of an “ordinary person” (pṛthagjana), beset by a false view of self (satkāyadṛṣṭi), to the culmination of yogic endeavour at emancipation (mukti) and/or enlightenment (bodhi). The description aims at presenting the religious conceptions that form the background of Dharmakīrti’s epistemological account of a yogin’s cognition (yogijñāna). In the second part of this paper, I shall adduce a new and somewhat provocative hypothesis concerning the still rather unclear subject of the nature of yogins’ cognition. I shall try to show that the properties Dharmakīrti ascribes to a mystics’ perception (pratyakṣa), viz., vividness (spaṣṭābhatā), non-conceptuality (nirvikalpatā) and reliability ([avi]saṁvāditā), should be taken at face value. To put it in other words, I shall attempt to demonstrate why, though of an admittedly much higher type, the yogins’ perception of the (Buddhist) truths does not differ in any way from ordinary perception.
The Consciousness Disciplines and Knowledge Production: An Epistemological Account
Günther Fleck, Universität Wien
It is argued that there exists a trans-cultural natural trance capacity in every human that renders possible the experience of different states of consciousness and awareness, regardless of whether they are produced spontaneously or voluntarily. These induced altered states of consciousness often show not only dramatic alterations in subjective experiences, but also include from time to time some kind of knowledge, different from our normal day by day knowledge. Since this special kind of knowledge often appears only in altered states of consciousness, one should refer to it as "state-specific knowledge." The so-called consciousness disciplines (e.g., self-hypnosis, different kinds of meditation and yoga) have tried to find ways of systematically entering altered states of consciousness and to use them for gaining new insights and a better understanding of life and the world. In this paper, criticism will be levelled against the still often practised stance of interpreting knowledge produced by altered states of consciousness as trivial and unimportant. Alternatively, an epistemological account regarding knowledge produced by altered states of consciousness as a potentially meaningful resource for human development and personal growth will be presented.
Meditation and Metaphysics: On their correspondence and mutual interaction in South Asian Buddhism.
Eli Franco, Universität Leipzig
It is well known that Buddhism developed a considerable number of original philosophical theories, such as the doctrine that there is no soul (anātmatā), that there is no substance, that all things are momentary (kṣaṇikatva), that all things are empty and unreal (śūnyatā), that nothing exists outside the mind (vijñaptimātratā), and so on. It is equally well known that Buddhism prescribes a large number of meditational practices such as the dhyāna meditation, prajñāpāramitā meditation, and so on. It is less known, however, that practically all metaphysical theories in Buddhism have corresponding meditational practices.
This close correspondence, I will argue, is above all due to two reasons. First, there is the general presupposition in Indian thought of a correspondence theory of truth. If the objects visualized by the yogi are true, they must have a correspondence in reality. In this respect the awareness of yogis is not different from any other awareness, such as sense perception. Second, liberating insight consists in or of a true insight into the real nature of the world, and this insight has to be achieved in meditational trance.
This general observation will be illustrated by several examples, notably, the dhyāna meditation, the ārūpya meditation, the prajñāpāramitā meditation, and (as a counterexample) the pratyutpannabuddhasaṃmukhāvasthitasamādhi in relation to their corresponding cosmological doctrines. In the final part of the paper I will show how the reflection on yogic perception in the Buddhist epistemological tradition and the widely spread belief that yogis can directly perceive past and future objects entailed the supposition that past and future objects exist. This supposition, in its turn, led to further theoretical considerations about the nature of time: Does time exist as an independent entity? If not, how can one account for the difference between past, present and future? How can a future object produce a yogic perception in the present? Prajñākaragupta’s answers to these questions will be briefly presented.
The Serpent and the Void: Kundalini and Empty Consciousness in Tantric Yoga
Yohanan Grinshpon, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Kundalini experience and its conceptualization are central themes in tantric yoga. A major tenet in the verbalization pertaining to this experience – rising of the serpent coiled at the base of the spinal cord along the susumna channel – is intense emptiness and consequent possibilities of attention-control and manipulation. The Hathayogapradipika (15th century) elaborates on the relationship of “emptiness” (sunyata) and the Kundalini experience. Exploration of this relationship in tantric yoga (including some metaphysical implications) is my main theme of interest. In addition, I intend to review Gopi Krishna’s (20th century) conceptualization of his Kundalini experience as a relevant evidence with respect to the nature of the Kundalini experience and the human condition.
Altered states of consciousness as structural and functional variations of the cognitive system
Shulamith Kreitler, Tel Aviv University
A new conception of consciousness and altered states of consciousness will be presented. It is grounded in the theory of meaning (Kreitler & Kreitler) which considers cognition as a meaning-dependent and meaning-generating system. Meaning is defined as an input-centered pattern of contents, which is characterized in terms of five kinds of meaning variables. Specific clusters of meaning variables may become prominent at different times, due to factors intrinsic to the system of meaning or extrinsic to it. According to this conception the functioning of the cognitive system depends on the kinds of meaning variables that are prominent at a given time and dominate its structure. The dominant meaning variables modulate the kinds of information available at that time, how they are organized and used, and what the cognitive outputs will be. These cognitive contents and processes affect also perception of reality, the sense of self, emotions, and indirectly behavior too. Accordingly, a state of consciousness can be defined as the state of the cognitive system as a whole functioning in a way determined by the relative salience of specific meaning variables. Thus, many different states of consciousness exist and many more are possible. Examples will be provided of studies describing changes in cognitive and emotional functioning when the cognitive system is dominated by different clusters of meaning variables, such as those representing personal-subjective meaning, or interpersonally-shared meaning or the concrete approach.
Mental Processes, Direct Perception, and [Meditative] Concentration (samādhi / samāpatti) in Classical Sāṃkhya Yoga
Philipp A. Maas, IKGA
Classical Sāṃkhya Yoga as taught in the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (i.e. the Yogasūtra of Patañjali together with its oldest commentary, the so-called Yogabhāṣya) is well known to be a dualistic philosophical system with a strong focus on soteriology. It teaches an ontological dualism of matter (prakṛti) and its products on the one hand, and of an infinite number of Selves (puruṣa) on the other. Matter is unconscious, changeable and active, the Selves are pure consciousness, free from content, unchangeable and inactive. The Selves of unliberated beings are bound to the circle of rebirth and its innate suffering. This bondage is caused by not-knowing (avidyā), which amounts to an erroneous identification of the Self with matter. The mistaken identification is strengthened by unwholesome and weakened by wholesome mental processes (cittavṛtti), but the final liberation can only be gained by realising the ontological difference between the Self and matter. This realisation is achievable for qualified practitioners by means of direct perception in meditative concentration, which includes the perception of the complete ontological inventory of Sāṃkhya Yoga. Yogic perception—viewed from this perspective—is first of all a special case of direct perception, which according to the Pātañjalayogaśāstra is the most important means to gain valid knowledge (pramāṇa). Direct perception is not only regarded as the source of the remaining two recognised means of knowledge (i.e. inference (anumāna) and verbal testimony / authoritative teaching (āgama)), but it is also outside the scope of possible alternations or corrections. On the backdrop of the metaphysical foundations of Sāṃkhya Yoga, this paper will focus on the relationship between ordinary (laukika) and yogic perception and their respective capacities to determine truth.
Seeing in not seeing: the Madhyamaka experience
Anne MacDonald, Universität Wien
The texts of the Madhyamaka school of Indian Buddhism are best known for propounding the emptiness (śūnyatā) of all things of the universe. Even the ultimate state, nirvāṇa, is said to be empty of a superimposed own-being (svabhāva) and thus not to exist in reality. According to Candrakīrti, a seventh-century Madhyamaka scholar, it is, however, mistaken to understand nirvāṇa as a “non-entity” or as “non-existence” (abhāva). Just what, then, is nirvāṇa for the Madhyamaka, both as an ultimate state of affairs and as a subjective experience? The talk will base itself on statements found throughout Candrakīrti’s writings which expose his understanding of the yogi’s goal, that which has to be relinquished to achieve it, and the content of the yogi’s cognition of the ultimate. Investigation of these and further assertions in his works will further serve to clarify his view on the status of the conventional world, especially as seen from the point of view of the successful yogi.
Consciousness Phases according to experience with Indian Philosophies
Oded Maimon, Tel Aviv University
We will present a model that contains five phases in the growth and transformation of consciousness. The phases will be discussed in relation to various Indian philosophies and training methods.
The talk integrates (with respect to consciousness) several concepts that are generally categorized separately and independently (starting from Carvāka thru Sāṃkhya-Yoga to Advaita Vedānta and the Tantric Kashmir Śaivism).
Through this integration we see these philosophical concepts as a ladder for personal transformation and enhancement of one’s depth of consciousness (beginning from the general attributes of the basic components, thru meta-physics, to the all-encompassing aspects of life creation and sustenance).
The initial phase starts with a glimpse into the unity of the world, which leaves a strong inner desire to experience more strongly what has been experienced only so very briefly. This is followed by phases of deep self-understanding and altered states of consciousness (seeing new colors, hearing distant sounds, oversensitivity, heightened mental powers, yogic phenomena, etc.). This leads to transcendent experiences and duality. Finally, the concept of a non-divisible and complete sacredness is reached. This phase is discussed in relation (through reflection and flexible projections) to the world and the environment around us.
Mainstream monotheistic religions as well as their esoteric streams (such as Sufism and Kabbalah) will also be discussed and compared.
“Just Like Us, Just Like Now”: The Tactical Implications of the Mīmāṃsā Rejection of Yogic Perception
Lawrence McCrea, Harvard University
Apart from the materialists, the Mīmāṃsakas were the only group of philosophers in premodern India who totally rejected the possibility of supernormal or yogic perception. In this paper I want to explore the tactical importance of this denial of yogic perception in the Mīmāṃsā polemic against their Buddhist and Jain opponents, as well as against “intra-Hindu” rivals such as the Naiyāyikas. The Mīmāṃsā denial of supernormal perception is intimately linked to their argument that only Vedic scripture is a reliable source of knowledge in matters beyond the scope of ordinary human perception. Rival traditions likewise rely upon scripture as an authoritative source of knowledge about supersensory matters, but all derive the validity of their preferred scriptures from the accurate knowledge of their authors: knowledge which they take these authors to have themselves acquired not through scriptural channels, but through direct perceptual awareness. Hence all rely on “yogic perception” (of human sages such as the Buddha and the Jina, or, on the Nyāya view, of God himself) in defending the accuracy of their respective scriptures. It is clear from their arguments that the Mīmāṃsakas’ primary concern in their discussions of supernormal perception is to preclude its use as a means for validating scripture. Kumārilabhaṭṭa, the most articulate and influential Mīmāṃsā critic of yogic perception, offers arguments against the very possibility of yogic perception, but devotes rather more effort to showing that, even if such knowledge were admitted to exist, appeal to it could never serve as a basis for scriptural authenticity. All such defenses of scripture require one to accept at face value some person’s claim to direct perceptual awareness of matters to which ordinary persons such as ourselves have no perceptual access. And, Kumārila argues, there is simply no way one can evaluate any individual’s claim to such knowledge unless one has such knowledge oneself. Hence, on this model of validation, scripture can be held valid only insofar as it is redundant; we can only know it to be accurate when it tells us what we can determine for ourselves by other means. The Mīmāṃsakas take a radically different approach, grounding the authority of Vedic precisely in their purported lack of an author; they take the texts themselves to be eternal and unfalsifiable, in that they speak to matters regarding which mere humans, perceptually limited as they are, could never make any meaningful counterclaim. By stepping outside the authorial model of scriptural validation, the Mīmāṃsakas seek a way of justifying scriptural claims which does not depend on the assumption of special individuals in the past who “saw” what we can now only take on faith. They can claim, commonsensically enough, that the Buddha and other putative “seers” were simply persons like ourselves, and that their sensory capacities were therefore essentially like our own; that, as they say, people anywhere and everywhere are “like persons such as ourselves” (asmadādivat), that people in the past were “like persons nowadays” (adyatanavat), and that it is sheer fantasy to imagine that there are or ever were people capable of perceiving things radically beyond the perceptual capacities of “persons like ourselves”. In doing so, moreover, they ground scriptural validity in features— immemoriality and authorlessness— that their Buddhist and Jain opponents, who both look back to human founders as the sources of their traditions, would not and could not ever claim for their own texts.
Perceiving God and Becoming Like Him: Yogic Perception and Its Implications in the Tradition of Pāñcarātra
Marion Rastelli, IKGA
A follower of Pāñcarātra, a Hindu tradition that worships Viṣṇu as the Supreme God, aims at two religious goals, namely, worldly pleasure (bhukti, bhoga) and liberation (mukti, mokṣa) from transmigration. The main means for reaching these goals is the ritual worship of Viṣṇu. In these rituals, yogic techniques are often applied. However, Yoga can also be independently practised as means for reaching these goals in addition to the rituals.
The paper will primarily deal with Yoga as an autonomous practice. The Pāñcarātra texts mainly describe two Yogic methods, the “Yoga with eight constituents” (aṣṭāṅgayoga) and the “resorption Yoga” (layayoga). Both methods may lead to the perception of the object of meditation, which is most often Viṣṇu or a deity subordinate to Him.
However, this perception of God is not the ultimate goal of the practice of Yoga. The culmination of the perception of God is the practitioner’s identification with Him, becoming like Him, or, as the texts literally say, “consisting of Him” (tanmaya). I will discuss in detail what “consisting of God” signifies for the yogin. Further I will show that yogic perception is not the only way to reach this state, but that it can also be reached by other means, yogic and non-yogic. The common features of all these means show us the nature of yogic perception in Pāñcarātra very clearly.
Shamans and Transformation
Diana Riboli, Panteio University, Athens
Altered states of consciousness (ASC) are one of the most studied topics in shamanism. However, what scholars refer to simply as a “trance” or ASC is probably a much more complex cultural and sociological issue. Physical manifestations during shamanic trance states appear to be almost always the same, but what puzzled me during my fieldwork in Nepal among the Chepang ethnic group (1991-1999), was that not all altered states of consciousness during a shamanic séance were felt and experienced by shamans, patients and the attending public in the same manner. There are trance states during which shamans embody supernatural beings or ancestral spirits – defined in one of my earlier works as “incorporatory” trances – and trance states during which the shaman’s soul is understood to travel in other cosmic zones. I defined the latter group as “trances of movement”. As already indicated, physical manifestations of both types of trance can be very similar: the shaman’s body jerks and trembles, he/she begins to sweat profusely, experiencing sensorial detachment. In both instances, some form of journey is undertaken. However, in the first case the journey is undertaken by the supernatural being toward the shaman, whereas in the second case, it is the shaman’s soul that moves to the supernatural world.
Beside these typologies of ASC, which mostly occur during shamanic séances open to the public, there are more personal and secret altered states of consciousness experienced by shamans who are able to transform themselves into other forms, mainly animal. I called this third typology “trances of transformation”. Shamanic transformation and shape-shifting has been documented and is well known worldwide, despite the fact that not much specific research has been conducted on the subject. This is probably one of the most difficult fields to explore, as – as far as we know – the majority of shamans need to be alone in order to leave their human form. Quite often the shamans’ faculty to transform themselves is linked with something like a mythological ‘golden age’ when all shamans were extremely powerful and sometimes even supposedly lived side by side with deities and supernatural beings.
In my paper I will try to analyse all the different aspects of what I have defined ‘trances of transformation’, with different examples from Asia to South America, and a special focus on Nepal, where I conducted fieldwork over nine years and Malaysia where I am presently conducting field work among the Semang-Negrito (Batek and Jahai ethnic groups).
Psychotherapy and altered states of consciousness: Which scientific concept is helpful?
Urs Rüegg, Universität Wien
As a doctor I am conditioned to use therapeutically what has been proven as being effective (eclecticism). As a psychotherapist I am conditioned to critically question my emotional condition in regard to counter transference during the therapeutic process. Financial pressure in the health service calls for scientific evidence and economic efficiency.
I often work with altered states of consciousness which are methodically induced by the so-called “sound-guided trance”. I include meditation into therapy and I use a “contemplative” way of dialogue.
This leads to a variety of effects; to physical ones such as relaxation, reduction of pain, appearance of pain, perception of warmth or cold, inner peace, unrest or even panic. Psychologically I can observe the whole spectre of emotions. Often patients experience visual and – in addition to the used sound – acoustical sensations, as well as physical experiences. There is often a “holistic” experience of a mystical na-ture, which has a deep impact. Sometimes the experiences during the sound-treatment cannot be consciously remembered.
Mostly my own condition and state of mind also change during the described therapy, as well as the ways of getting in contact with the patient and the atmosphere of the common space.
In the course of therapy, which can often last for years, positive psychosocial devel-opment, physical recovery, stabilisation of the personality and healing are taking place without the patients making a direct and subjective connection to the experi-ences of altered states of consciousness. At the same time, the latter – as well as the “contemplative” way of dialogue – are most appreciated.
Is there a epistemological concept from which this method could be deduced? And how can we explain theoretically and methodically what is happening during therapy?
Neither the concept of the orthodox school of medicine nor the classical psycho-social one of illness and therapy are helpful in understanding the patients’ “holistic” reaction. More useful are explications of a religious-philosophical and shamanistic nature. Ethnological findings from cultures exploring similar sounds and rhythms also suggest themselves.
The traditional scientific categories of “right” and “wrong”, “true” and “not true” fail. The differentiation usually asked for in psychotherapy is undermined massively on an inner and intuitive level, whereas the outward behaviour remains absolutely correct.
All this calls for additional intellectual parameters. For example I have learned to neglect terms such as “but”, the conjunctive and causal explanations. “Accompaniment” is more accurate than “treatment”, “not knowing” is more helpful than expert knowledge, abstention of verbalization is often more consistent than verbal connotation or interpretation.
As an auxiliary construction I use a concept which is based on the thoughts of the evolutionist Ken Wilber. I will give a brief outline of this concept and on how the different forms of perceiving and not perceiving find their place therein.
Between God’s cognition and normal perception: Yogic Perception according to the later tradition of the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta
Marcus Schmücker, IKGA
A question about yogic perception that the later post-Rāmānuja philosophical tradition of the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta attempted to answer is: How is it possible to have a perception that does not rely on the senses (indriyādyanapekṣa), but which nevertheless cognizes an object?
In this tradition, yogic cognition is often mentioned and is an accepted topic, but it is dealt with in various ways: Whereas Veṅkaṭanātha (13th century) often mentions the characteristics of a yogin (e.g. Tattvamuktākalāpa IV 36-38), and treats them briefly in his later philosophical treatises, the earlier scholar Meghanādārisūri (12th century) offers a longer discussion about yogins’ perception in the 11th chapter of his Nayadyumaṇi, the Pramāṇanirūpaṇa. In distinguishing this type of perception from normal sense-dependent perception on the one hand and God’s and the eternal being’s (nityamukta) cognition on the other hand, he tries to classify the yogins’ extrasensory cognition on the background of his own philosophical presuppositions. I will try to work out the basis of Meghanādārisūri’s concept of perception starting from his general definition of perception, which includes the particular sensory-independent perception of a yogin (yogipratyakṣa) and normal perception (ayogipratyakṣa), as well as his remarks about God’s cognitive relations to the world.
“Infinity in All Directions”
John Taber, University of New Mexico, U.S.A.
One of the ironies of the classical Indian discussion of yogic perception is that, while the Yoga tradition (e.g., the Yogasūtrabhāṣya) seems to regard yogic perception as a pramāṇa unto itself that does not stand in need of any extrinsic justification, philosophers of other schools, especially the Buddhists, felt compelled, in part due to skepticism about yogic perception expressed by the Mīmāṃsakas, to resort to inferential argument in establishing its possibility. In this talk I shall survey some of the more interesting strategies followed in doing so. Of particular interest is the tenth-century Nyāya philosopher Bhāsarvajña’s definition of perception in terms of “immediate experience,” which avoids the difficulties posed for yogic perception by the standard Nyāya definition of perception as a cognition that, in part, arises from the contact of sense faculty and object. Mīmāṃsā philosophers (especially Kumārila and Maṇḍanamiśra) objected to yogic perception on the grounds that, insofar as it allegedly apprehends objects existing in the past and the future (also objects far away or obscured), it cannot arise from sense faculty—object contact. (Bhāsarvajña appears to have been influenced in his thinking about perception by the Buddhist philosopher Prajñākaragupta, whose fascinating views will be discussed at this conference by Prof. Franco.) Another widely employed strategy was to note that there are varying abilities of perception – cats can see in the dark, vultures can see objects very far away – and any capacity that admits of degrees is capable of being cultivated to an infinite extent. This argument, advanced by certain Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika authors, was adapted by the Buddhist Śāntarakṣita in proving the Buddha’s omniscience. The later Buddhist author Ratnakīrti, however, shifted emphasis to the (still related) idea that intense, sustained meditation (bhāvanā) enables the mind, as opposed to the external senses, to apprehend that which is not immediately present in time and space. In general, we find the Buddhists in particular appealing to the unknown possibilities of experience: how can we deny something just because we’ve never observed it? (Cf. Prof. McCrea’s treatment of the Mīmāṃsā position.) The world is vast; who’s to say that there are any limits to what humans can do? And so forth. The Jainas, finally, had certain distinctive arguments of their own. I shall also draw parallels between this Indian debate and one that took place in ancient China between the Taoists and Confucians regarding the existence of the Taoist sage possessed of immortality and other supernormal abilities, as recorded, for example, in the Nei P’ien of Ko Hung.
Mindfulness and psychotherapy: The revival of Indian meditative traditions within modern psychology, psychotherapy, & medicine
Renaud van Quekelberghe, Universität Koblenz-Landau
“Buddha´s medicine” for emotional and behavioral suffering is now slowly entering into some areas of modern medicine, psychology, and psychotherapy. There are at least four main stages during this slow introduction of buddhistic and other Eastern meditative traditions into modern medicine and psychotherapy:
- Classical psychiatry & psychoanalysis;
- C.G. Jung and the neo-Freudian psychoanalysis;
- (cognitive) Behavior therapy;
- Transpersonal psychology and psychotherapy.
During the last decade, several empirical studies have shown the clinical relevance and efficacy of some meditative techniques and models. Jon Kabat-Zinn`s approach (mindfulness based stress reduction, MBST) is taken as a particularly successful example for this new development. Along with other modern therapeutic approaches, I would like to consider the implementation of vipassana-, zen- or yoga- traditions within modern medicine and psychology not as a short living movement, but rather as the beginning of a long lasting and deepening education of “mindfulness” within postmodern societies. In this context, I explain the relevance of the Bodhisattva-ideal for the training of “wise and mindful healers”. Finally, I give a short description of a vision regarding a postmodern Nālandā as worldwide spread “wisdom research centers” focussing on meditative, holistic medicine, contemplative psychotherapy, spiritual guidance and world peace research.
A Relativity Theory of the Purity and Validity of Perception in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism
Dorji Wangchuk, Universität Hamburg
This paper seeks to examine an Indo-Tibetan Buddhist theory that does not presuppose a solely anthropocentric view of knowledge, but considers the entire perceptual spectrum conceivable from a Buddhist point of view and takes the mundane and supramundane, or impure and pure dimensions of knowledge into account. Tibetan scholars, for example, faced an ontological and epistemological dilemma when interpreting the idea, already found in Indian Buddhism, that the sentient beings of the six realms perceive water differently. Some of the questions that Tibetan scholars asked were whether what is known to humans as ‘water’ in fact exists as water, whether the human perception of water is a valid cognition, and whether it might be possible that ‘water’ is not water after all, but rather pus, as it is perceived by hungry ghosts (preta: yi dwags); nectar, as it is perceived by gods; a goddess, as it is perceived by yogins; or still something else. They also pondered over questions such as whether there is a common object of perception, and if so, what it would be, and if each sentient being of the six realms perceives it differently, which perception is valid. The scholars from the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism who reflected upon these questions (in varying degrees) came to varying conclusions. In this paper, I shall focus on the notion of the purity and validity of perception and closely related issues that can be traced in Indian Buddhist sources and show how these have been exploited and employed by certain Tibetan scholars.