Continuing to explore the themes discussed in our previous episode, Joseph is back with an enlivening discourse on concepts and realities, the root cause of suffering, and how mindfulness connects with free-falling.
In this Dharma Talk soured from April 17th, 1983, Jospeh Goldstein offers clarity and insight into the important distinction between our concepts—our ideas and thoughts about things—and the experience itself. Shining the light of reality onto the shadow of concepts, he helps us spelunk the depths of samsara for what is true and real in this ever-changing universe.
This dharma talk from Joseph was originally published on Dharma Seed
Concepts as Shadows // The Root Cause of Suffering
Opening with Plato’s Parable of the Cave, Joseph highlights the shadow of concepts which we frequently live our life by, and sheds light on how we can begin to live from a place of reality, rather than our ideas and thoughts. From here, Joseph takes us through the various concepts which trap us throughout our daily lives: place, time, past/future, ownership, age, self-image, roles, gender, as well as our concept of ‘I,’ of self, of ego—which he describes as the root cause of suffering.
“We have been conditioned for so long to live in the world of concept, the world of idea, the world of mentality construct—and our attachment to those ideas or concepts are so strong that we’ve begun to take the concept to be the reality.” – Joseph Goldstein
Ram Dass uncovers the roots of our suffering, on Ep. 132 of Here & Now
The Four Ultimate Realities (23:23)
After noting the myriad concepts we confuse for reality, Joseph poses the question: what are the actual realties which we experience? Through this lens, he offers a model from Buddhism’s Abhidharma which outlines the Four Ultimate Realities—the material elements (the physical plane), consciousness (the knowing faculty), mental factors (arising momentary qualities), and nirvana (unconditioned freedom; zero-center).
“If we’re attached to that which is changing, we suffer. It’s like being attached to summer—how do you feel in winter? Not very happy. When we’re attached to that which in its nature changes, we suffer because we’re out of harmony with how things are actually happening.” – Joseph Goldstein
Joseph Goldstein explores Platos Cave & the Four Ultimate Realities, on Ep. 126 of the Insight Hour
Ego & Determinism // Mindfulness & Free-Falling (52:00)
Opening the floor to audience questions, Joseph shares how we treat the concept of ego differently through the varying lenses of eastern spirituality and western psychology. From here, he offers insight into the free will versus determinism contemplation; before discussing the nuances of ownership and ego in navigating life. Continuing on with the stream of questions, he sheds light on mindfulness and synchronicity, feeling and desire, as well as fear and groundlessness.
“There’s not a ground of experience; there’s a ground of relationship to experience. It’s as if you jump out of an airplane, and at first there’s just the exhilaration of free-fall, and you go for the parachute and you realize there is none… Panic, fear, terrified… Until further down the line, you realize there’s no ground.” – Joseph Goldstein
Roshi Joan Halifax & Raghu dive into radical uncertainty, on Ep. 342 of Mindrolling