title: Ways of Looking

Back to: Rob Burbea | Emptiness

The only true voyage of discovery would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is - Marcel Proustpoetic

a more philosophical way of saying this would be “epistemiological frames”

Rob Burbea

We participate in the creation of the world at the most fundamental level - Rob Burbea

”We could say that the way of looking in any moment is constructed from the total mix of assumptions, conceptions, reactions, and inclinations, gross and subtle, conscious and unconscious, that are present at that time.

What is the perspective that’s being employed now, and included in that is the relationship with the object that I’m perceiving? […] Wrapped up in that, always in the way of looking is the conceptual framework - Rob Burbea

Most of the times, ways of looking are unconscious, and if we don’t practice with them, our range of ways of looking is very limited.

  • Meditation as an infinite playground of infinite ways of looking at experience
  • Reality is participatory, we co-create it with our ways of looking
  • A “way of looking” includes
    • way of conceiving
    • way of relating to
    • beliefs and assumptions about self, the world etc…

Rob on Emerge


  • We always go about our lives with a frame, view, conception on reality

  • Phenomenological approach - Pay attention to appearances in consciousness

    • Everything else is an assumption on top of that
    • What can I discover in meditation about experiences
  • Mindfulness - Simply watching experiences

    • Stop spinning stories
    • This is often explained as REALITY
    • Rob sees this as another assumption
      • You can develop and play with different ways of looking at perception
      • What happens when you reject/chase experiences?
      • Or when you relax?
      • In mindfulness there’s often still an assumption of a self watching experience (the self is a fabrication)
  • Meditation as an infinite playground of infinite ways of looking at experience

    • We can get skillful at this
    • Some ways of looking create more ease, some more dis-ease
    • Experiment how different ways of looking affect your sense of Self and your sense of the World
  • Some people will accept that there are different ways of looking, but also think that we should eventually come back to “reality” and that there is such thing

  • Emptiness in Buddhism can be interpreted as:

    • All things without exception (including space and time and awareness) is empty of existing independent of the way you look at it
  • Maybe there is an independent reality, maybe there isn’t

WoL & Fabrication

So there’s a spectrum of fabrication, and different ways of looking fabricate more or less, all the way to extremely gross and solid and oppressive, to much, much less fabricated, less fabricated, less fabricated, etc., down into not fabricating at all. What’s fabricated there, as I said, is dukkha, is dis-ease and suffering, but also the sense of self, the sense of object, the sense of world, the sense of time – all of it (from Talks - Eros Unfettered - Opening the Dharma of Desire - Rob Burbea

WoL & Emptiness

Emptiness means that no thing, nothing exists in a way that’s inherent, has what they call inherent existence – in a way that’s independent of the way of looking, independent of the mind that’s looking at it. In other words, it’s the way of looking that makes it a thing and that makes it seem like a separate, independently existing thing. Without the way of looking, and without being fabricated by the way of looking, there is not the appearance of that thing.

The ways of looking are empty, too, but all we have is a range of ways of looking, which we can expand. And those are not realities; those are ways of looking. Those ways of looking also don’t inherently exist. But all we have, all we come to, the freedom that we come to, is there are just ways of looking. Something very beautiful, very radical, very profound in that insight, and extremely far-reaching.

Traditional Dharma’s WoL

Traditional Dharma limits the exploration of ways of looking to:

  • which ways of looking bring more suffering and which ones ease suffering

Non Clinging to Ways of Looking

  • non-clinging in Buddhism not as a way of living, but non-clinging to any one way of looking

Raft Story

The story tells of a traveler building a raft (with great effort) in order to cross a river and get to the other side of the shore, which was safer and more beautiful. Once he managed to get to the other side, no matter how much effort it took him to build the raft, he had to leave it behind. Otherwise, it would become an unnecessary burden.

Similarly, we could think of these different Ways of Looking as different rafts that we can pick up and put down depending on which shore we need to get to. Never forgetting that neither of them is the perfect raft for all situations.

Scott Adams’ Filters of Reality

Scott talks about filters through which we see the world. He encourages people to learn to see reality through as many filters as possible. The more filters you have the more complete picture you can get.

A few examples that he talks about

  • Statistics
  • Science
  • Religion
  • Economics
  • Logic
  • Winners/losers vs. Abundance mindset
  • Mating
  • Simulation Theory

John Vervaeke’s Perspectival knowing

perspectival knowing

David Bohm

the key point – is that this representation is not only present in thought or in imagination, but it fuses with the actual perception or experience. In other words, the representation fuses with the “presentation,” so that what is “presented” (as perception) is already in large part a re-presentation. So it “presents again.” You then get what we might call a “net presentation,” which is the result of the senses, of thought, and possibly some insight. It all comes together in one net presentation. The way you experience something, therefore, depends on how you represent it – or mis-represent it.

Take the example of a forest. It could be represented as a source of lumber, and it would then be presented to a lumberman in that way. To the artist it could be represented as something worth painting. To someone who wants to take a walk, it would be represented as a place he could enjoy himself walking along the path. There are countless representations of the forest, which will present the forest in different ways.

Another example would be a rainbow – everybody sees the same rainbow. There’s a collective representation of the rainbow – we all have a consensus about it. But physics, which looks at things “literally,” says, “No, there is no rainbow. There are a lot of droplets of water, the sun is in back of you and it’s being reflected and refracted off the water and forming colors. In seeing this, each person is forming his own perception of a rainbow. It happens they all look very similar, therefore they all think they’re all looking at the same rainbow.”

More quotes in Book - On Dialogue - David Bohm - Section Ways of Looking


Can we measure what is subjective?

every subjective phenomenon is essentially connected with a single point of view, and it seems inevitable that an objective, physical theory will abandon that point of view

in discovering sound to be, in reality, a wave phenomenon in air or other media, we leave behind one viewpoint to take up another, and the auditory, human or animal viewpoint that we leave behind remains unreduced.

Thomas Nagel - What is it like to be a bat?


Created on: 2021-03-21 Related: Buddhism | Meditation | sense-making