Nibbana

Discussion in 'Void Experiences' started by dreaming90, May 16, 2013.

  1. dreaming90

    dreaming90 Seeker

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    Is the Buddhist's void (Nibbana) the same phenomenon as the void experienced by many OBEers? 

    When I was younger I used to think that Nibbana was just a sort of Buddhist heaven, but it is apparently nothing more than the absence of sensation.  According to the mind maps put forth by early Buddhists, one can only experience three things: physical sensations, mental sensations, and Nibbana, which is neither physical nor mental sensations.

    Considering the importance of reducing sensory input in order to establish the out of body state, it would seem logical to conclude that Nibbana and Focus 21 are more or less the same thing.  However, this comparison becomes complicated by the fact that Nibbana also includes the absence of a separate perceiver or "watcher."  It can only be known *after* the experience, a bit like waking up from anesthesia perhaps.  On the other hand, when I access Focus 21, I definitely feel that I am an individuated unit of consciousness that is perceiving the experience.

    Basically, Focus 21 seems to be an experience of floating in a Void with spatial depth, whereas Nibbana seems to be a non-experience, almost like a time where one ceases existing.  Yet the importance of sensory reduction stressed by both schools of thought is hard to ignore, and I can't help but wonder if Buddhists and modern OBEer's are really talking about the same thing when it comes to the Void.
     
  2. Fred

    Fred Site Admin Staff Member

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    It's probably the same thing, but I think the Buddhist tradition may be a bit confused about non-existence being a characteristic part of it. I could see how that would happen though with a purely meditative approach where the goal often includes losing sense of self.

    This is actually a lot easier to do than experiencing the void with a complete sense of self, a bit similar to "clicking out" in a focus 10 state. So in some situations, I would probably  consider it to be an underdeveloped or incomplete experience of the void where the person fails to be entirely "be there".

    But it can also refer to something like proto-consciousness, preceding awareness, yet not exactly non-existence either... perhaps the type of consciousness you might expect an inanimate object to have, which I only recently experienced.

    In that case, you are really "there," except there is no "you". It's very similar to the void, but intent, identity and even awareness itself is lacking, so absolutely nothing happens. It's like a non-awarized awareness, if that makes sense.
     
  3. dreaming90

    dreaming90 Seeker

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    The possibility of a "click-out" is an interesting one that I have not yet considered.  In fact, the experience of Nibbana is said to occur after a lot of practice with vipassana meditation, which basically entails investigating and dissolving one's sense of self, as well as the sensations that make up one's reality.  So, with enough practice and momentum, sensate reality and sense-of-self are deconstructed so much that they collapse into the void.  But of course, with no sense of self, it simply manifests as a blissful block of missing time.

    This experience is called a "Fruition" in some circles and there is an interesting chapter devoted to it in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha:

    http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/gue ... 20Fruition

    On a related note, Catholic contemplative Bernadette Roberts reports large chunks of missing time while going through her own no-self experience, though it is unclear whether these are disconuities in space-time ("click outs") or if she just forgot that she existed, which she also reports happening.  The book I'm referring to is The Experience of No-Self for anyone who is interested.

    At any rate, I bring this topic up because usually it is not too difficult to locate Focus 21 in the framework of various contemplative disciplines, e.g. the samadhi of the yogis and the "Cloud of Unknowing" of the Christians, but the idea of "no experience" left me a bit befuddled.
     
  4. dreaming90

    dreaming90 Seeker

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    The notion of proto-consciousness is something I find fascinating, and I have attempted to pursue such an experience for some time now.  Several eastern religions attempt to cultivate this state, I believe it is typically called "primordial awareness."  In Tibetan dream yoga, this state is experienced by remaining conscious during deep sleep, which typically requires years of mental training and several days of sleep deprivation.  :-o

    The Hindu sage Sri Ramana often talked about the "I-thought," which arises after the initial bare sensation.  Remove the I-thought and you are left with proto-consciousness.  He developed a method called self-inquiry in order to do this, where one basically sits and constantly asks "Who am I?"  Zen has a similar practice.  And amazingly, I think Frank Kepple talked about doing this too.

    Unfortunately working with these older practices can be difficult and cumbersome after following Monroe's methods.  It's a bit like showing up at a modern car enthusiast convention and discovering most people still driving Model T Fords.  And I say that with all due respect to those who practice these ancient disciplines.

    I've clearly been reading too many books.
     
  5. Fred

    Fred Site Admin Staff Member

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    That's a good analogy. I think it's important to maintain a critical perspective towards those old models (or any other for that matter), which all too often emphasize years of training and how difficult it all is to accomplish, as well as several spiritual hierarchies that are inferred, rather than directly representing the experience. So it is easy to be impressed.

    But often, while perhaps not always easy to establish or reach, these are not really exalted or transcendent states of consciousness in my opinion. Of course, when you believe loss of self is the ultimate, then this might be difficult to realize or see. The idea that these are "higher states" is often inferred based on the idea that the self should be destroyed, or the celebration of "stillness" and all that, but there is nothing in the experience itself to suggest that they are.

    I posted the following a while ago in the mod forum, which seems pretty much the same as Nibbana...but really just representing the level of awareness of a stone as far as I can tell and not particularly "advanced" in human terms (although very interesting). A shamanistic interpretation might be more interesting in this regard in terms of its connection to nature and where even inanimate objects have some form of consciousness.

    My wife is interested in stones and crystals, although it's been a few years, but without me knowing it, she put a stone under her pillow last night, which for some reason ended up on my side.

    I did not know this until the next day, but the experience that night was of very much like merging with the consciousness of a stone, in this case "tektite", which probably made it even more alien (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tektite). It was really wild, and I am still trying to find the words, but I jotted down some preliminary notes today ...

    "I was inside a black void of nothingness with only the slightest flicker of consciousness - a state of dormancy and oblivion. Not like the usual void I am used too, but something quite different – a different space and state of consciousness. I could have been there for infinity, and yet be none the wiser. It was as close to non-existence I am able to imagine. Yet, it was not death either. There was some sort sense of existence there, even though there are none of the usual markers to identify it. There was no sense of being in the normal sense of the word, no sense of self, history, thought, emotion or reflection. It felt like a proto-conscious state preceding any form of ordinary consciousness as we are used to as humans, or even animals. Time did not exist there. Perhaps it was something like one would expect a deep comatose state. There was barely any awareness or at least nothing what we ordinarily consider awareness to consist of. Yet the state could be remembered when the ability to access my own history returned. Words to describe it still fail me, however. It was such a deep, deep state of nothingness, from any sort of human perspective. It was peaceful in its silence perhaps, but only until some sort of semblance of my identity returned, and it started to feel like a prison, with me struggling to regain my normal sense of self.... "
     
  6. novice

    novice Navigator Staff Member

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    I think Buddhism got quite a lot 'right' in terms of describing experiences. I remember many years ago being pulled through several white tunnels. A guide was calling to me to hurry up and I was heading towards him. After I exited the third or fourth tunnel, I was pulled towards him. He was there with another person and we were all seated as if in a grassy park. Of course, visually there was nothing there and we were essentially just sitting in space, but it wasn't black or dark. It just was. I knew I had been here many times before, but this was the first time I was highly lucid. I asked him what this place was called. He looked at me as if that was an odd question and that I should know the answer. He said it's called the bardo. I had never heard of that term before. After the experience the next day, I did some research on the word. It turns out that the bardo is what buddhists refer to as the 'in-between' state:

    From wikipedia:  "Originally, bardo referred only to the period between one life and the next, and this is still its normal meaning when it is mentioned without any qualification."

    I have never studied buddhism and only read a few of the buddhist precepts, but this concept and this word was not in any of my readings. I find it interesting that I would be given a name I had never heard of only to find it perfectly describe what I experienced by many others, namely buddhists.
     
  7. dreaming90

    dreaming90 Seeker

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    Fred, your description of this state of consciousness is almost identical to the early phases of Eben Alexander's NDE that he recorded in Proof of Heaven.  He, too, reported being in a state of primordial consciousness where awareness was dim and time seemed non-existent.  He slowly regained his sense-of-self and he began regarding the state as uncomfortable and alien, where he then "flew" towards a light towards "higher planes." 

    As for what your experience could have been in terms of Buddhism, I suspect it could have been any number of things.  It could have been one of the formless jhanas, either "Nothingness" or "Neither Perception Nor Yet Non-Perception." 

    http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/gue ... th%20Jhana

    http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/gue ... th%20Jhana

    Perhaps it was rigpa, the primordial awareness cultivated in the Tibetan tradition.

    In any case, may I recommend a clear quartz crystal for your next round of rock-merging?  :)
     
  8. dreaming90

    dreaming90 Seeker

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    Yes, the six bardos are a major part of Tibetan Buddhism, specifically the practice of Dzogchen.  Other Buddhist schools believe in moment-to-moment rebirth with no afterlife experience.

    Buddhism is certainly one of the more sophisticated religious disciplines IMO.  The Buddha laid out a map of altered states, found no reason to deduce the existence of an Abrahamic God, and encouraged his followers to rely on personal experience.  Very much like Monroe in some respects. 
     
  9. Fred

    Fred Site Admin Staff Member

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    Hi Dreaming,

    Yes, the thought actually passed my mind, that it was similar, as I found his descriptions on that state the most interesting part of his book, so I remembered. I think it's fair to say that it comes close to what we expect a comatose type of awareness to be. It ain't much, but it's not death either.

    It does seem baffling that these experiences occur in a wide variety of circumstances, and yet they are often interpreted so differently as to their meaning with any particular larger framework.

    I like how you are aware of so many simultaneously, which is the way to go I think - to be able to capture the essence of experience regardless and yet aware of what each particular model may or may not have to offer.

    As far as experimenting with stones, I would like to do so more, but the spontaneous nature of the experience did make it a lot more fun (and convincing!)

    MT
     
  10. dreaming90

    dreaming90 Seeker

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    Yes, this whole astral projection business has led me to do quite a lot of reading over the past couple years.  I found myself in a sort of existential dilemma-- who am I?  What is consciousness?  Is this a consensus reality or do I exist in my own sphere of reality?  This led to a lot of spiritual seeking, which began a frustrating cycle of finding a wisdom tradition, being happy to finally have "gotten it," finding something I didn't like about said tradition, finding another tradition, etc.  This went on for two years before I finally realized that I could only rely on my personal experience, and in this regard I was on my own.

    The good news is, I have a number of perspectives on any given issue.  The bad news is, I now know reality is much more complicated than I would like it to be.

    While on the subject of stones, clear quartz has been associated with "psychic powers" and astral traveling for a long time.  Some new age shops actually sell sleep masks with a crystal sewn in right above the third eye.  I haven't worked with any crystals myself but there is a lot of anecdotal stuff out there that makes me wonder if it's worth a shot. 
     
  11. CFTraveler

    CFTraveler Navigator Staff Member

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    I just had to comment on this, because I find it a little [not a good word but I won't say it]
    Of course not. The people of Abraham deduced an Abrahamic God.I Don't know how one experience can translate to another. Different cultures, different context.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
  12. dreaming90

    dreaming90 Seeker

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    CF,

    You are right, that term probably wasn't the most appropriate. It would have been better to say something like "supreme Creator, because the Buddha talked about impermanent gods but never God with a big G.

    In Theravada, the Void is considered ultimate reality, whereas God is considered ultimate reality in the monotheistic religions of the middle east. Though the distinction gets blurry with the Christian mystics who refer to the darkness of Gods presence, God as a Great Silence, etc
     
  13. Ryche

    Ryche Wanderer

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    Hello, first post on this forum. I was struck by a comment made by the OP. It appears that this thread has slipped into a kind of "forum bardo", so let me see if I can give it a rebirth.

    The experience of the void is... 'unitary' (for the lack of a better word) insofar as the state of mind is free from all inputs, both sensory and mental. The question naturally arises as to how one knows that one has experienced the void. As dreaming90 said, you can only know after the experience because 'knowing' requires a subject and object. Therefore, unlike unconscious sleep (which is also devoid of inputs) the experience of the void leaves a memory trace. I suspect that the 'conscious sleep' state described in the Dzogchen Yoga of Sleep will similarly leave a memory.

    Given the descriptions of the void, I have experienced this a number of times; the first time when I was fairly young (about 7 or 8 years old). I subsequently, and sadly, lost that ability as it was not an accepted state of mind in Western culture, only to rediscover it later when studying Tibetan Buddhism, specifically Dzogchen. The experiences are often fleeting (or seemingly so) but the longest such experience came about by accident as I fainted one night. Perhaps everyone goes through this experience when regaining consciousness but they do not recognise it and do not dwell upon it, passing through it very quickly, somewhat like the bardo states pre and post sleep. I, on the other hand, recognised it as "home" and stayed there.

    To emphasize the lack of self in the void, it was very apparent to me when my mentation eventually kicked in. I was still in the void, but with an added voice - this distinction is made in the buddhist literature as different subtle states of rigpa (or nirvana). My first thought was whether I had died! I still had no sensory inputs, no body, no feeling of space. The notion of time is interesting in that the void itself is timeless but the 'void plus self' state has a notion of time in relation to the sequence of thoughts.

    I'm aware that this post has the potential to be a whole article! I did write on this some years ago, so if anybody is interested please read it here:
    http://www.aakom.com/2015/08/brain-crash-brain-reboot-jill-bolte.html
    The article was originally written in 2010 but have just reposted it so that I can add some recent insights.

    Just to add an afterthought. I did eventually reconnect with my senses but this took an act of will and was also an interesting experience as I could feel the whole nervous system slowly (at biological speed) reaching out to all peripherals. This also lends weight to the idea that our normal sense of self is intimately related to our whole nervous system, not just the brain, but that our sense of the 'primordial base' or rigpa is very much associated with the brain. Whether that kind of consciousness can be separated from the physical brain is something that awaits further research, both personal and scientific. More to say but I'll stop now!!
     
    Szaxx and Karin like this.

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