Episode 198 :: Gary Weber :: Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening

| April 27, 2014 | 8 Comments

gary_weber

Gary Weber

Gary Weber joins us to speak about Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening.

Awakening. It’s one of the top three bugaboos traditional Buddhism has when trying to find resonance with a contemporary, often Western meditator. But as is often the case, what we mean may open doors to Buddhism where only walls existed before. And that’s the challenge, contextualizing the dhamma while not losing the essence. Problem is, essence is as interpretive with Buddhism as it is with other religions. So what does Awakening mean to you?

Gary Weber has been a scientist, military officer, senior executive in industry and academia, and is the author of the book Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening. He has practiced Zen meditation, yoga, and philosophy for more than thirty-five years. In 1998, after over 20 thousand hours of various contemplative practices, his thoughts stopped (or very nearly so).

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Breakfast Assam.

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Music for This Episode Courtesy of Rodrigo Rodriguez

The music heard in the middle of this podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez. You can visit his website to hear more of his music, get the full discography, and view his upcoming tour dates.

Category: The Secular Buddhist Podcast

Ted Meissner

About the Author ()

Ted Meissner is the Executive Director of the Secular Buddhist Association, host of the SBA's official podcast The Secular Buddhist, and is on the Advisory Board for the Spiritual Naturalist Society. His background is in the Zen and Theravada traditions, he is a regular speaker on interfaith panel discussions, and is interested in examining the evolution of contemplative practice in contemporary culture.

Comments (8)

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  1. Steve F says:

    Thank you for the very interesting podcast. Does Mr Weber’s book offer advice about how one can go about living more-or-less “awakened” while still being able to carry out one’s “normal” life with obligations to work, family, etc? This is a concept I am having difficulty understanding: how to embrace awakening and mindfulness while still being a good manager, husband, father, etc.

    • Carl H Carl H says:

      Hi Steve, Bringing our practice into our daily lives is a universal struggle. Don’t make it too complicated. I find this quote helpful-

      “Every situation gives us the opportunity to embrace it with clarity, with understanding, to let go of our habitual reactivity, our dogmatic beliefs, our desires, our fears, to open up to a still, quiet, transparent space in which we somehow come to rest, even for a moment, and from that space, which is not conditioned by grasping, we can respond.”

      —Stephen Batchelor

    • Gary Weber Gary Weber says:

      Hi Steve F.

      Yes, there is much in the book on how “normal” life continues w/work, family, etc. you can look @ my bio on my website to get a sense of that, as it lists “before” and “after”. i found that being “awakened” w/o a self-referential narrative, fears and desires, actually enhanced my performance as “manager, husband, father, etc.”

      The relationships change, but IME, they are much richer, open, and more “useful” for “others” if one can operate from a still, present, NOW, space. It is like “mindfulness” without a “doer”, agenda, expectation or pre-existing story line.

      i have several youTube videos on the subject, “Spiritual practice w/partner, wife, family as Zen masters”, “Self-inquiry practices on a busy schedule”, and “Higher functioning w/o thoughts”.

      Trust this is useful.

      stillness

  2. Carl H Carl H says:

    Thanks for the interesting interview. I did find two of his points problematic. First, was the idea of certifying awakening, which is a totally subjective experience that cannot be adequately related. Along with this is the notion that the ones doing the certifying were themselves certified going back to the time of Lin Chi. Second, was his seemed implication that the object of meditation was to stop thinking. Letting go of attachment to thoughts is one thing, to having no thoughts for a time is another, to have a goal of not thinking might be seen as mindless.

  3. Gary Weber Gary Weber says:

    Hi Carl H. On point 1. While awakening is a totally subjective experience, the rigor that can be brought to it by folk who are themselves the product of a rigorously applied approach by others who are widely regarded as “awakened”, is much reliable than one’s own personal impression of whether they are awakened. Many folk declare themselves awakened but w/o some validation by validated others, there is fertile ground for self-deception.

    i encourage folk to get involved w/the many study programs for meditation and awakening; i participated in and collaborated w/the extensive research @ Yale on experienced meditators and have been in several others. Some necessary, but perhaps not yet completely sufficient, indicators have developed that are well-researched.

    On 2. having no thoughts as the goal of meditation, i have a blogpost “Who Else Believes ‘no thoughts’ is the goal of meditation” @ http://happinessbeyondthought.blogspot.com/2013/11/who-else-believes-no-thoughts-is-goal.html. While it may not be a goal in some parts of Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism, it is widely accepted in many other traditions, arguably the most consistent goal.

    To clarify, “no thoughts” means means on “problematic thoughts”, the seemingly endless, self-referential, emotionally-charged, internal narrative; this can be dramatically modified and even stopped. your planning, problem solving, and analytical “thoughts” will be retained and actually enhanced functionally.

    Trust this is useful.

    Stillness

    • Carl H Carl H says:

      Thanks Gary, I appreciate your thoughtful reply, but my two issues remain. How is it possible to validate another’s experience. It’s one thing for a teacher to grant a student a certain level of understanding, it’s another to proclaim someone “awakened.” It’s a better term than enlightened but it is still framed as some privileged “state” as opposed to a conditional experience of some level of insight. I personally find the concept discomfiting. As far as “no thoughts” actually meaning “no problematic thoughts,” that changes everything. Working with letting the chattering mind settle into stillness can be a highly beneficial practice. But you continue to use “no thoughts” which means no thoughts. 15 of the 21 attributions you cite in your blog post in recommending “no thought” as the goal of meditation are non-Buddhists. These would only seem relevant to a Perennialist view of meditation experience and not a Buddhist one. In my reading of the Nikayas I have not come across the teaching of “no thought” meditation as an end goal. Indeed, this practice has been a point of controversy from at least the time of the Chan masters in China, with some strongly condemning the practice as being a cause of “meditation sickness.” It still seems to me that the practice of no thought can be a valuable meditation technique but that setting it up as an end goal is problematic.

  4. David S says:

    Thanks Gary for sharing your experiences. I learn so much from hearing of other’s experiences and yours intrigues me. There is a group laying out a map of their experiences at the dharma overground. One part is labeled the Dark Night. Are you familiar with this, or this group’s map? It seems to me that their map may not cover everyone’s experiences because I assume that with all the differing practices that these lead to differing results. Any thoughts on this? Do you think Zen and Theravadan vipassana lead to differing experiences? The descriptions seem different to me. I wouldn’t be surprised given that we’re talking of having shaped mental habits using different techniques to alter our subjective experience.

    I was wondering too about your description of having a no-thought experience which you seem to be saying permanently altered your daily experience. Is it that in the primary experience you indeed had no thoughts occurring, and in the following daily experience it was more reserved to the area of the ‘self’?

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