Pema Rigdzin wrote:Yeshe,
The word visualize refers exclusively to a function of the mental consciousness, which is the only consciousness that can conceptualize. The eye consciousness is utterly non-conceptual and can only inform the mental consciousness with raw visual data by way of the eyes. Only the mental consciousness has the ability to mentally elaborate on this visual data. So, whether we're talking about visual, olfactory, taste, auditory, or tactile experiences in sadhanas, were using the word "visualize" to mean "bring to mind."
Also, when I spoke of "looking nakedly at thoughts," since thoughts don't have any color, size, shape, etc, they can't be seen by the visual consciousness, so to say "looking at them" only means "directing one's attention to them," which can be done because the mental consciousness can observe it's own mental events.
In the end, I think this issue of misunderstanding what is meant by visualizing in the context of a sadhana is a perfect example of the necessity of a relationship with a qualified vajra master. This topic can be a very subtle one and requires the expert input of such a master. Whenever possible, I especially feel that often just being present in the same space, in a one on one interview type situation with the lama when receiving such an explanation can cause a much more nuanced understanding to come about. I don't think it's necessarily due to something mystical because there's something about face to face, one on one communication between humans in general that text or audio recordings often can't convey. There's something about seeing the facial expressions, hand gestures, and just being tuned into the same channel so to speak, that facilitates much more.
I am conversant with the practices and the role of the guru. I am not concerned here with a misunderstanding of the practice, but the reason behind the often extensive descriptions of what we are to 'see', for example in terms of the guru, throne, mandala, body mandala etc. and hardly any guidance on what else we should bring to mind.
The sticking point here is obviously one of vocabulary, and in your post you found it necessary to explain that your words did not mean what most dictionaries accord them. I think the other words you use such as 'bring to mind' or 'directing one's attention' and ' conceptualise' demonstrate that the word 'visualise' is a poor one for the practices. I think you are addressing ingorance of the practice rather than the paucity of vocabulary to describe it.
I've sat with quite a few lamas - the extent to which nuances are conveyed is sometimes dependent on their ability to convey such things in English (or the accuracy of the person translating). Sadly, I don't speak Tibetan, which is why I raised the question of the original Sanskrit and whether the word 'visualisation' may not be the only translation.
Again, on the original topic, I think a possible reason for the absence of description of the non-visual aspects of the 'visualisation' is probably that we are expected to impute them.
It may also be the case that colourful pictures are a good aid to memory. This obviously begins with the deity's body, clothing and ornaments, posture, mudra etc., mandala, retinue and so on.
I'm unsure what you mean by ''the mental consciousness can observe it's own mental events'' as this would seem to imply a duality.
I was reading a history book the other day, and it was clear that 'self-generation' is a relatively recent practice. Prior to that, the 'in front' generation and use of statues was not dissimilar to the Hindu 'darshan' I mentioned, where the contact with the deity is through an imputation of the deity within the statue or image, and the contact was eye-to-eye. I still have a suspicion that this had a part to play in the writing of the sadhanas we now use, but we may never know.
Here is a link to the book I mentioned: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0415 ... sib_rdr_dp
This link leads to a very pertinent exposition on the use of 'visual' and 'visualisation' in the context I was exploring: