Quora Answer: What work has been done on the relationship between meditation and phenomenology?

Oct 18 2014

My teacher Alfonso Verdu did quite a bit of work and wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the relation between phenomenology and meditation, and that is how I got my start in philosophy and its relation to nondual traditions by contemplating his work and the possibilities for extending his work. I recommend his works on Buddhism.

There are a few examples of phenomenological approaches to meditation, but not as many as one would like to see. Phenomenology is rooted more or less in the lifeworld, and in the Indo-European tradition, transitioning from that into nondual traditions is not easy for Westerners interested in Phenomenology. On the other hand Buddhist texts tend to be somewhat dogmatic and we lack phenomenological texts by practicing meditators. Each school sets its own standards and describes that as if it were the only way of apprehending the states that they experience in their meditative experiences. So it turns out that the application of Phenomenology to Meditation is not an easy problem. This in a sense is why we need to understand the Western worldview, i.e. to counter the assumptions that are inherent in the embedding of Phenomenology in a tradition that takes Being for granted. And in fact this is why understanding the meta-levels of Being is so important, because there is a natural phase transition at the fifth meta-level of Being to Existence. And it is in Existence that the other traditions that have developed sophisticated nondual traditions have thrived. So if we do not get out of the illusion of Being into existence we will never understand Taoism, Buddhism, DzogChen, Sufism and other nondual ways. This is the fundamental problem with Westerners fascinated with nondual traditions not having a philosophical understanding of the nature of Being and the relation of Being to Existence. Basically they all get lost misunderstanding in fundamental ways what is meant in the texts of these traditions. There is something crucial lost in translation and no basis for sorting out the illusion from existence proper. It is important to note that those within the tradition are also struggling with the illusion, but they are hampered by not clearly understanding existence through the haze of Being. Buddhism that started off as an Indo-European heresy is the best guide in this regard. But even Buddhism is still infected by Being to some extent and it took DzogChen to cure that infection.

And it should be noted that just because languages do not have Being, i.e. non-indo-european languages, they still have illusion. It is not as if only Being is illusion. But Being is Maya an intensification of illusion. So it is just much harder to start within the Western tradition and to make sense of the phenomenology of existence. The only way I know to do it is to triangulate from the perspectives of multiple nondual traditions and use them as the criteria for understanding the Western Tradition, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Western Orientialism projects itself on these Oriental Traditions and blocks our understanding of them in fundamental ways if we do not make the non-nihilistic distinction between Being and Existence. But those coming in from the outside make a similar mistake in their translation of their nondual way into terms predominant in Western Philosophy.  That is why I think the cutting edge of our tradition is to understand nonduallity within it as it exists already rather than making translations between traditions. As Nagarjuna taught us emptiness is at the core of logic as the discontinuities between the logical operators. Similarly, we can see that there are discontinuities in the Western Scientific tradition which might be called emergent events. The Western tradition is shot through with these discontinuities over which we have no control when they will occur or how. Our tradition is fundamentally fragmented. Understanding that is equivalent to doing what Nagarguna did with logic. Nonduality is there in a fundamental way within the Western tradition, we do not need to go outside our tradition to confront the nondual. That is why I wrote The Fragmentation of Being and the Path Beyond the Void.  The nondual discontinuities are shot through our tradition but it is especially clear when we go up the meta-levels of Being that structure our worldview and encounter existence as emptiness or void at the kernel of the worldview. We don’t have to meditate to see that but merely contemplate the tradition as it is given to us and its meaning. Meaning arises from the void or emptiness that fills the discontinuities inherent in the tradition. Everything within the tradition is like a Geode which is empty at its center and which has filled a void. Our phenomenology should be able to look at existence without being distracted by Being. Our hermeneutics should be able to handle pure meaning that arises from the empty void directly. But we have a long way to go before that is the case.

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