Comments on “About the author”


Contacting you

Anreal Perception's picture

Hey i just sent you an email entitled "Buddha Brats" from my personal account as opposed to the Microsoft option... hope you still receive it.

And by the way, thank you for such a greatly informative and entertaining site.



I'm glad you like the site!

I just got your email -- thank you very much. I've had only a minute to look at what you sent, but it looks intriguing. I'm going to a retreat at Aro Ling this weekend and another next week, and have to get a bunch of stuff done first, so unfortunately I probably won't have time to reply for some time -- but I certainly will read your draft carefully and will reply when I can.



Buddha Brats

Anreal Perception's picture

Absolutely no problem at all :)

Since time is an illusion anyway, don't change a thing ;)

be seeing you around then, enjoy.

Waking up with vampires?

Matthew O'Connell's picture

'Buddhism for Vampires began as a joke, over on my Approaching Aro site. I was writing about the hijacking of Buddhism by New Age space cadets, psychotherapists, politically-correct self-righteous bigots, and “nice” people who fear the real world and want to play make-believe instead.'

Posting this on the wrong page, but never mind that, wanted to say that the above is very, very good. I abandoned organised Buddhism thirteen years back due to being thoroughly annoyed by all 'the nice but dim' folk who had no clue as to what was going on with this Buddhism business. Playing make believe really was the way of Buddhist things back then, or at least the realms I found myself: no thell exactly, perhaps a weird sort of cotton wool god realm? I found a personal teacher last year and am back on track. Love to see there are intelligent folks out there asking important questions in the Buddhist sphere. Keep up the good work. I shall follow your writings, and thanks. Would love to see more work ont he history of non-monastic Buddhism.

Cotton-wool god realm

Yes, I'm afraid that's an insightful description of much of current Western Buddhism!

On the history of non-monastic Buddhism: have you seen Ngakpa Update? I co-write it. We've both been too busy to update it recently, but we've posted some summaries of the history, plus reviews of current academic research. Coauthor Ögyen Dorje is planning a long article on Antonio Terrone's work, which is really exciting.

Glad you've found a teacher—that makes all the difference!

You are working within your

Gary 's picture

You are working within your ego, ur inclination is to seek fame. U are light years away fr realising your true self. You may think you hv acquired a lot of knowledge as u claim but it is NOT about KNOWLEDGE. WHen u r truly realised, knowledge will CEASE to matter.

reincarnation & eternalism

Doug's picture

As a scientist I'm sure you have noticed there is no scientific basis for reincarnation.
As an engineer I'm sure you have noticed that it's a form of eternalism.
As a businessman I'm sure you have noticed that it has always been an important tool for selling merit.

Do you think Buddhism can survive without selling this archaic contradiction?

Buddhism without rebirth

Sure! There have been versions of Buddhism that drop rebirth for well over a century. Some are mainstream, both in the West and in Asia. For many brands of modern Buddhism, belief or disbelief in rebirth is pretty much an individual choice, which has no great significance for the practice.

On Magic...

Luitha's picture

Hi David,

I'm an apprentice in the Aro gTer tradition, and I'm loving all of your blogs :) So much food for thought here, for someone who also likes to mix reading with practice, and who's quite far from the sangha geographically.

I just have one small suggestion, hope you don't mind.... I've noticed that when the topic of magic and 'supernatural phenomena' come up as part of the history of Tantra, you dismiss them out of hand (I've lost the page I was going to use as reference, but it was on Buddhism for vampires talking about the history of Tantra as an aggressive magical tool for the elite).

I understand that you're attempting to approach these topics from a rational perspective, which works for Westerners. However, I would like to point out that you can't know that these phenomena don't or didn't happen - only that you haven't experienced them.

This is seems like a subtle distinction, but as someone who has experienced 'supernatural phenomena' of the kind discussed in those texts, it seems to me that by dismissing these topics you're attempting to remove them from your presentation of Buddhism, as cultural considerations that no longer apply.

In my experience, this isn't always helpful - while these topics may not be PC in modern buddhism, they are and have been a real part of many practitioner's experiences. When you dismiss them as though there's no doubt as to their un-truth, you also make it harder for those who do experience them to work with their experiences.

You also make it more likely that these teachings & resources will eventually be cut out of Buddhism, which would be a loss, practically and inspirationally.

It would be a very simple shift for you to describe these phenomena as outside your experience, rather than simply as impossible... but possibly a valuable shift to make. Of course, you may have very good reasons for publicly refuting these phenomena, in which case consider my comment withdrawn :)

Thanks for your time,

On magic

Hi Luitha,

I'm glad you are enjoying the blogs!

I'm not sure which page you have in mind. As far as I can remember, I have never advocated a non-magical worldview over a magical one on any of my Buddhist sites. I do hold a non-magical worldview myself, and am upfront about that; but I'm not interested in arguing for it, or against magical beliefs.

Best wishes,


Meaningness and (non-?)meditation

Harriet's picture

To my delight a friend sent me the link to your Meaningness pages, which I am lapping up.
My friend likes what you say there but is appalled (that's hardly an exaggeration) to see the photo of you sitting in the cross-legged posture he equates with gullibility, fads, "flying spaghetti monsters" and "silliness".
I suggested to him that much of what you write is informed not only by Buddhist philosophy (= thinking) but probably also by your experiences during periods spent in that "silly posture" and what you have seen of the workings of your own mind (so to speak) during such periods.
Am I right? Can you say something about the connection if any between meditation and philosophical conclusions?
Thank you

Naturalistic meditation and philosophical insight

Hi, Harriet, glad you are enjoying this!

I guess I'm slightly surprised by your friend's reaction. This was common and justified ten or twenty years ago, but not so much now.

Meditation has been completely "naturalized," meaning stripped of all supernatural silliness. It's very widely practiced in Silicon Valley and in the organized rationalist community (which is founded on anti-supernaturalism, in large part). There's hundreds of scientific journal articles that purport to demonstrate the benefits of meditation empirically, and in some cases to explain how and why it works. [I am somewhat dubious about this research, but it's published in reputable journals, and seems to be no worse than the average medical science.]

You are right that there is a close connection between my experience of meditation and what I write in a non-Buddhist context. The style of meditation I practice is meant to give experiences of "emptiness and form" (more-or-less what I call "nebulosity and pattern") and to help one understand the relationship between them.

If you are interested, there's a free email course that teaches this method at .

The Enlightenment Paradox

Amir Baer's picture

Dear David,

I came across your blog a few weeks ago and it has completely shifted my perspective on Buddhism and my own path, for that I am very grateful - thank you for your clear, honest and profound writings.

Your blog made me see clearly that I was trying to practice Buddhism using very general, imprecise and often contradicting lessons from various teachers from various traditions, some not actually Buddhist. At once I understood that this path is much much more complex than I had originally understood it to be and that in fact there is no one path, but many different paths, with different stages, suitable for different people.

Upon coming to this understanding I moved on to an "approaching" phase where I am now looking for the right "flavor" of Buddhism for me. I also tried speaking about this to other people who practice in my community and it seems like most of them are content with the general "mindfulness" and "kindness" speak and are not really interested in pursuing the path as far as experiencing the illusion of self or emptiness for example (if I understand correctly and these are in fact stages which can be achieved). So in that sense I find myself somewhat stuck and alone, not sure which tradition/lineage in my country (Israel) would be suitable for such a "serious" pursuit.

I also feel stuck with a question that seems to me be very trivial but I cannot find any satisfying answer to, I hoping you could share your view on this -
Enlightenment being the goal of the Dharma and very specifically being referred to as something attainable, how come it seems like no one is enlightened? I haven't found any high-ranking monk in Zen, Tibetan Buddhism or any other school that says he is enlightened. The Dalai Lama explicitly said in an interview that he is not enlightened and he has practicing for years and was taught by and received transmissions from the best teachers, so what "chance" do I have? Is he lying? Is he really enlightened but does not consider himself to be? (because the experience is non-dual but the term implies duality?) Was Buddha the only truly enlightened one by some miracle and since then everyone has just been hoping that maybe they will be as lucky? Is enlightenment like aiming for the stars in the sense that you never get there but it keeps you going and the journey nice?

I can't find or think of any answer to make sense of all of this. I would love to hear your view.
Thanks again,

Finding a specific path

Hi Amir,

Yes, this is a difficult and confusing phase for everyone. There's much less general guidance available than would be ideal. Mostly every spiritual/religious/psychological system just promotes itself, and neutral explanations are rare. I wish there were more "if you want this, go there; if you are that sort of person, try this approach."

I don't know anything about what alternatives are available where you are, so unfortunately I can't give specific suggestions there.

"Enlightenment" may not be a helpful word. Different flavors of Buddhism (and other systems) seem to use it to mean quite different things. Many of those things almost certainly don't exist. (See my "Epistemology and Enlightenment" about this.)

Within Buddhism, there's an official rule that monks aren't allowed to say they are enlightened, even if they are. It's a serious offense, punished by expulsion from the monastery. However, it's pretty common for Buddhists to say that someone else (usually the head of their sect) is enlightened.

There are plenty of non-Buddhist teachers who claim to be enlightened, plus some non-monastic Buddhists (who are not subject to the rule).

I would tend to suggest ignoring the question of "enlightenment," because it's so ill-defined. Instead, consider more specifically what you'd like to discover in meditation. Experiences of no-self and emptiness are definitely real and achievable by ordinary people, with no more than a few years' practice of an hour a day and occasional longer retreats.

Thank you

Amir Baer's picture

Thank you David, a wonderful answer which has already helped me move forward (I clicked on the linked post and found myself binge reading across your blogs, again).
I couldn't find any way to contact you outside of this platform - would it be possible to get in touch with you privately? Do you provide private consultation as well? :)
Forgive me for being direct but it seems like your knowledge and experience could save me a lot of time and energy in pursuing the wrong directions and at the moment I can't seem to find anyone else I could say that about.

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