Blocking Sound

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Blocking Sound

Normally, when using inner spontaneous sound as a meditation support, external sounds are blocked out so that they do not become a distraction to meditation. These inner spontaneous sounds are very faint at first and are noticeable when one can slow the arising of thoughts by not paying attention to them. Traditionally, the use of the hands to close the eyes, ears, and nose, known as the Shanmukhi Mudra, was used; but this mudra is difficult to maintain for any length of time.

Sitting at a low table so that you can Prop your elbows is a partial solution.

Using modern industrial earplugs is recommended instead. I highly recommend 3M E-A-R Ultrafit Earplugs.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Science Advancing
In a 2015 paper titled “Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?” a team of scholars at the National Bureau of Economic Research sought an empirical basis for a remark made by the physicist Max Planck: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

The researchers identified more than 12,000 “elite” scientists from different fields. The criteria for elite status included funding, number of publications, and whether they were members of the National Academies of Science or the Institute of Medicine. Searching obituaries, the team found 452 who had died before retirement. They then looked to see what happened to the fields from which these celebrated scientists had unexpectedly departed, by analyzing publishing patterns.

What they found confirmed the truth of Planck’s maxim. Junior researchers who had worked closely with the elite scientists, authoring papers with them, published less. At the same time, there was a marked increase in papers by newcomers to the field, who were less likely to cite the work of the deceased eminence. The articles by these newcomers were substantive and influential, attracting a high number of citations. They moved the whole field along.

A scientist is part of what the Polish philosopher of science Ludwik Fleck called a “thought collective”: a group of people exchanging ideas in a mutually comprehensible idiom. The group, suggested Fleck, inevitably develops a mind of its own, as the individuals in it converge on a way of communicating, thinking and feeling.

This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error. Of course, such tendencies are precisely what the scientific method was invented to correct for, and over the long run, it does a good job of it. In the long run, however, we’re all dead, quite possibly sooner than we would be…⁠

Retrieved from:

The full research paper is accessible here:

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Dzogchen Refinement of Emptiness

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Dzogchen Refinement
The final attribute of emptiness to be mentioned is a quality peculiar to the Buddhist analysis: responsiveness. It is the third and final denominator in the list of categories or aspects by which emptiness can be defined: essence, nature, responsiveness. It appears anomalous, an attribute rather than a category. The third logical category is function, or manifest function, and the attribute found in its stead is responsiveness and its qualifier is all-pervasive. Viewed as a functional attribute of inner space, total presence, and light, the implication is that the dynamic, the intentionality, the purpose of being is compassion, which is a synonym of responsiveness and demonstrable as the responsive aspect of love. It is this compassion that is coextensive with space, the buddha-heart pervading all beings. Viewed as the potential form or manifestation of emptiness, the implication appears to be that every vibration of body, speech, and mind is a form of compassionate energy, nothing excluded. Consider the distinction between responsiveness and compassion. In Dzogchen, compassion is much more than the virtue of loving-kindness. Nor does the word compassion in the Dzogchen context denote its English etymological meaning, “suffering together” or “empathy,” although both these meanings may be inferred. Essentially, compassion indicates an open and receptive mind responding spontaneously to the exigencies of an ever-changing field of vibration to sustain the optimal awareness that serves self-and-others’ ultimate desire for liberation and well-being. The conventional meaning of compassion denotes the latter, active part of this definition, and, due to the accretions of Christian connotation in the West, response is limited to specifically virtuous activity. Responsiveness defines the origin and cause of selfless activity that can encompass all manner of response. On this nondual Dzogchen path, virtue is the effect, not the cause; the ultimate compassionate response is whatever action optimizes presence — loving-kindness is the automatic function of primal awareness.

Excerpt From: “The Flight of the Garuda,” by Keith Dowman, Wisdom Publications, 2003, pages 37-38

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Exist vs Being vs Real

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Exist vs Being vs Real

In English, what is real is that which exists, and what exists is that which is real. For example, in the unabridged Merriam-Webster dictionary, in the closest definition to our needs here, “real” has the meaning: “actually existing, occurring, or present in fact; having an objective independent existence; relating to, based on, or concerned with individual objectively existent things in the physical world.” 

In the same dictionary “exist” has the meaning: “to have actual or real being, whether material or spiritual; have being in space and time; to continue to be; maintain being.” 

And again in the same dictionary, “being” has the meaning: “the quality or state of existing; material or immaterial existence; something that exists as an actuality or entity in time or space or in idea or matter; conscious or mortal existence.”

As is clear in these definitions, “real,” “exist” and “being” are synonymous and are used to define each other in a circular fashion so that they do not have an actual definition that does not include the word or its synonym, and thus we must rely on a contextual intuition for each use of these words, since circular definitions are meaningless. For example, the suggestion that something “spiritual” can exist in the definition of “exist” is completely undermined by the implicit assertion that it is some thing, which the word spiritual directly asserts it is not when it gives the word “spiritual” the meaning “of the nature of spirit rather than material.”

But there are clues that can help us find a useful and well-defined meaning for each of these words.

In the same dictionary, there are two alternate definitions for “real” that can help us: “that which is neither derivative nor dependent; necessarily existent; not contingent” and “that is fundamental, intrinsic, and ultimate.” They do not give these same meanings to “exist,” so we can use them to create an exact definition for both “real” and “exist” so that they are not synonymous. 

Why is this necessary? Because these definitions assume that the world is material only, and thus, what is actual exists and is real because there is nothing other than material existence. But what if that is not the case, as this work argues? 

I realized that “real” has to mean something completely different than “exist” but not as an opposite, rather, something other than exist. What I finally arrived at, after decades of contemplation, is that to be real, something must be non-contingent, necessary, simple, and evidenced:

Non-contingent, means that it cannot depend on anything else. So what is real cannot become, be caused, or be created, for example, and it certainly cannot depend on you experiencing it for its reality. 

Necessary means what it says. What is real must be necessary — like a motor in a car, or a charge in its battery — or nothing works. What is real cannot be an option that one can take or leave, something gaudy, like an old hood ornament, to set our car apart from those of others. 

Simple means it is not a collection of parts; it is not a union of aspects — it is not structured in any way. The reason for this is that if a thing is not simple, then it depends on something else to cause it, or make it, to be, and so it is contingent. Therefore, what is real is necessarily nondual. This does not mean it is one thing, nor any thing at all; and it is certainly not a bunch of things all put together, the way we build a house. Rather, it is that which intrinsically encompasses (i.e., is omninstrinsic to) all things, but which is not any of those particular things.

Evidenced means there must be actual evidence for the assertions that the real is non-contingent, necessary, and simple. “Actual” in the sense I am using it, is a synonym of “exist,” but note that in my case, I am not asserting a direct correlation between “real” and “exist.” I am instead asserting that what exists is necessarily dependent or contingent upon, and thus founded — in some way — upon that which is real, so that the evidence for the real is necessarily that which exists. If what is asserted to be real is not directly evidenced — if it is simply inferred, imagined, hypostatized, or hypothesized, then it is not real.

To exist, in this context, means that the pronoumenon of an imperience is actual. And that is all I am saying, having already seen that the contents of each imperience are ephemeral and certainly lack any intrinsic self-existence — that is, they are not entities.

So, what is real? The real is necessarily none of the existing things that are dependent, contingent, or inferred, imagined, hypostatized, hypothesized, etc., but is evidenced by all of that. The real, which is that about which nothing can be truly said, is the origin of all that exists.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Greta Keller’s Thirty-Year War

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Greta Keller
Keller’s resistance has put her at the core of one of the most rancorous and longest-running controversies in science. “It’s like the Thirty Years’ War,” says Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Impacters’ case-closed confidence belies decades of vicious infighting, with the two sides trading accusations of slander, sabotage, threats, discrimination, spurious data, and attempts to torpedo careers. “I’ve never come across anything that’s been so acrimonious,” Kerr says. “I’m almost speechless because of it.” Keller keeps a running list of insults that other scientists have hurled at her, either behind her back or to her face. She says she’s been called a “bitch” and “the most dangerous woman in the world,” who “should be stoned and burned at the stake.

From: "The Nastiest Feud In Science," The Atlantic magazine, September 2018 issue, retrieved January 22, 2020 at:

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Libet's Delay

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Libets Delay
A period of approximately half a second between a person’s skin being touched and the resulting conscious experience of being touched, although the brain receives the signal and responds to the stimulus with an evoked potential after a little more than a hundredth of a second (15 milliseconds), and a reflex response can occur within about a tenth of a second (100 milliseconds). In research with fully conscious patients during brain surgery under local anesthetic, Libet found a half-second delay between the beginning of continuous electrical stimulation of the exposed somatosensory cortex and the patient’s report of a conscious sensation, such as a tingle in the right hand during electrical stimulation of a point in the left somatosensory cortex… According to Libet, the reason why we do not notice the half-second delay is that our conscious experiences of sensations are antedated to the time of the evoked potentials, creating the illusion that the sensations are almost immediate. Also called the antedating of consciousness, backward referral of sensation, half-second delay in consciousness, or time delay in consciousness.

Taken from “A Dictionary of Psychology” in the Oxford Reference online: (retrieved 10 November 2021)

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

In vs Within - Meister Eckhart's Explanation of Spiritual Permeation

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes In vs Within Meister Eckharts Explanation of Spiritual Permeation

There is a strong distinction that I make between being in something and being within something. The first means that one thing is contained in another. But the second has a much more profound meaning. Listen to  the 14th Century mystic Meister Eckhart’s Sermon Fourteen(b): “Like A Solid Golden Vessel Adorned With Every Precious Stone,” about this difference between being in something, and being in a spiritual vessel, to get a better understanding of how a substratum is within a natured being.

A master says, if all mediation were gone between me and this wall, I would be on the wall, but not in the wall. It is not thus in spiritual matters, for the one is always in the other: that which embraces is that which is embraced, for it embraces nothing but itself. This is subtle. He who understands it has been preached to enough.

Every vessel has two properties: it receives and it contains. Spiritual vessels are different from physical vessels. The wine is in the cask, the cask is not in the wine. And the wine is not in the cask as it is in the staves, for if it were in the cask as it is in the staves, we could not drink it. With a spiritual vessel it is different. Whatever is received in that is in the vessel and the vessel in it, and it is the vessel itself. Whatever the spiritual vessel receives, is its own nature.

(Taken from: The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, translated and edited by Maurice O'C Walshe, The Crossword Publishing Company, 2009 reissue of 1979, pages 112 & 114 respectively.)

A sæculum is not in a being, it is within the being as the substratum of its ontogenetic actuality — its life force — and its potentiality.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Meditation Support

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Meditation Support

A support for a meditation technique is that phenomenon which is used as the focus of attention during meditation. Meditation always involves a technique for focusing one’s attention on something — even the absence of something — in a particular way. In the case of inner spontaneous sound, the focusing of attention itself gives rise to a particular, shrill, metallic-like squeal that can be used as the focus of one’s attention in a kind of mental feedback phenomenon. 

Focusing one’s attention is very much like holding a stick in place in the middle of a moving stream — the more firmly held in place that stick is, the louder its interference with the free flow of water becomes. The unwavering concentration of our attention has the same effect. Thus, the characteristic inner spontaneous sound of our concentration is inner spontaneous sound’s super power as a meditation support, as it gives immediate feedback on our progress in developing our concentration during meditation.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Mereological Fallacy

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Mereological Fallacy

From a review in Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, published on University of Notre Dame’s Philosophical Reviews website, of Bennett, M.R. and Hacker, P.M.S., Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, 2003, Blackwell Publishing:

In Chapter 3 of Part I – “The Mereological Fallacy in Neuroscience” – Bennett and Hacker set out a critical framework that is the pivot of the book. They argue that for some neuroscientists, the brain does all manner of things: it believes (Crick); interprets (Edelman); knows (Blakemore); poses questions to itself (Young); makes decisions (Damasio); contains symbols (Gregory) and represents information (Marr). Implicit in these assertions is a philosophical mistake, insofar as it unreasonably inflates the conception of the ‘brain’ by assigning to it powers and activities that are normally reserved for sentient beings. It is the degree to which these assertions depart from the norms of linguistic practice that sends up a red flag. The reason for objection is this: it is one thing to suggest on empirical grounds correlations between a subjective, complex whole (say, the activity of deciding and some particular physical part of that capacity, say, neural firings) but there is considerable objection to concluding that the part just is the whole. These claims are not false; rather, they are devoid of sense.

(Taken from: retrieved 8 November 2021) 

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Surangama Sutra

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Surangama Sutra

As a potentially useful text to introduce a perspective student to inner spontaneous sound meditation practices, I have found this Buddhist sutra to be without equal. 

However, there is an endemic belief within Tibetan Buddhist Scholarship that this sutra is not authentic. In January of 2020, I became aware of a high lama in the Tibetan Nyingma Lineage—Khenpo Sodargye of the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in the Larung valley of Sichuan, China—who had started teaching the Surangama Sutra there in September, 2019. On the Larung Gar website, while introducing the Surangama Sutra, they point out that "For over one thousand years, the Surangama Sutra has been held in great esteem in the Mahayana Buddhism, especially in Zen Buddhism."  The question of authenticity according to Khenpo Sodargye, is one raised by baseless assertions that have taken hold within the field of Buddhist scholarship. He points out: 

But I know nowadays that there are different kinds of opinions about this particular sutra, including opinions from different scholars in the West and the East; but I think when people have this discrimination towards this sutra, maybe they have a very biased idea, and their bias did not come from their wisdom, it comes from other people’s opinions, so it is a rather common idea that is circulated among the academics that is not based on factual matters.

Transcribed from Khenpo Sodargye’s first 2019 teaching on Surangama Sutra found at timemark 12:25 here: The Surangama Sutra 01.

For more information on this matter, please see "Is the Surangama Sutra Authentic?" in Tranquillity's Secret.  To learn about why the Surangama Sutra can be so useful to study, please see “Why the Surangama Sutra is Important.” And to read the detailed rebuttal of the slanderous beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism scholars, please see “The Complete Instructions for the Practice of the Buddha's Secret Path.”

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

The Impossible Paradox Of Thinking A Thought

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Paradox of Thought

We Are Not Conscious Of The Process Of Birthing A Thought. How Then Could They Be The Product Of A Constructive Process?

In order for us to originate our thoughts we would have to know what we were attempting to “say” in each momentary thought, but that would require that we know each thought before we think it, resulting in an insurmountable paradox.

Going deeper, in order to arrive at what the thought should actually be, we would have to perform an analysis based on the current state of our thought process, and what it is we want to express next, in order to structure the thought correctly so that it coherently moves our thinking towards some goal. 

To do this analysis, we would have to engage in a process of analysis about the present state of our thinking — where we are so far in thinking about some subject, or 'going over' some event, or composing something in words, be it prose or poetry — in order to know how to proceed from the current state of our thinking, to our desired direction or next step in our thinking. And each step of this process would itself become another recursive process of thinking, on and on infinitely — falling into an infinite regress that never completes — so that it would be impossible for us ever to think anything at all! 

That is, if we actually originate our thoughts in this way.

Some might say, “Oh yes, but all of that is handled by the subconscious, and only the finalized thought rises to the surface of our mind.” To which I would repeat the above concerns. The fact that we are not conscious of the process of birthing a thought does not overcome the impossibility of our birthing any thought whatsoever, consciously or unconsciously, if it is the product of a constructive process. Pushing the problem behind the curtain of an 'unconscious' cognitive process in the brain is the equivalent of sweeping dust under a rug—it’s still there, and the impossibility of thinking a thought before you think it is still not overcome.

The limitation here is that both the conscious mind and the subconscious mind are seen to inhabit the physical organ of the brain. This limits the mind to a processual unfolding of lawful physical activity of the brain — yes, even if it is quantum physical activity. And it is the process that is the paradox here. No such process is possible (i.e., could result in a successful outcome) because it paradoxically asserts the implicit knowing of the contents of a thought before it is thought.

And for those that wish to escape this cul-de-sac by relying upon quantum physical indeterminacy as the cause of spontaneity, I would respond that this is not an answer to the problem of how thoughts can arise if they are the outcome of a process, it’s just an attempt to push the problem out of sight. After all, indeterminacy is only to be found at the level of quanta, not thoughts arising in our mind.

Some more clever person might say, “Yes, but, that is why we have intuition! These thoughts arise whole from our minds.” And with that I wholeheartedly agree. All thoughts are intuited whole. But that is not an explanation for how they arise, that is merely recognizing the truth of the fact that thoughts appear spontaneously in our minds, already complete, coherently carrying our thinking in the direction that we are interested in going, without explaining how that can actually occur in any way.

And one further point to make my meaning clear: The presence of neurological correlates of thinking, i.e., brain activity, only proves causation in a materialist setting that limits explanations to only one possible answer.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Vajrahumkara Mudra

Tranquillitys Secret Footnotes Vajrahumkara Mudra

The Vajrahumkara hand mudra, also called the “Om Sound Gesture,” takes form by the crossing of the right wrist over the left wrist at the breast. The right hand wrist crosses over the left wrist, palms facing inwards towards the chest at the level of the heart, symbolizing the union of method and wisdom. “Vajra” indicates the responsive naturing of the world, implying endless Creativity and Potency (in the sense of containing the embryonic Wisdom that manifests all forms of being), as Great Responsiveness. “Hum” is the originating uncaused vibration that reflects this activity.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།