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The Cosmic Joke – with Kenneth Folk

kenneth folk

Pragmatic dharma teacher Kenneth Folk and host Michael W. Taft look at suffering machines, ways to suspend the necessary conditions for suffering, The Terminator, state chasing, and getting the cosmic joke.

Kenneth Folk is an instructor of meditation who has received worldwide acknowledgement for his innovative approach to secular Buddhist meditation. Learn more about him and his work at Kenneth Folk Dharma.

Books by Thomas Metzinger: Being No One and The Ego Tunnel . 

Listen to a DY podcast with Thomas Metzinger here.

The actual paper we discuss can be found at: Suffering.

Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction and overview
1:52 – Thomas Metzinger, machines and suffering. Can machines think? What if they could suffer? Consciousness, ownership, negative valence (bad feelings), and realness—“CONR”—as necessary conditions for suffering
11:19 – Suspending one CONR condition at a time to prevent suffering
13:37 – Suspending Consciousness, and nirvana as a state of unconsciousness
22:57 – Suspending Ownership through “who am I?” inquiry and other anattā practices that target the sense of ownership
26:32 – Suspending Negative valence through jhāna (and the fragility of this possibility), and going into sensations deeply enough to lose the sense of pleasant and unpleasant
32:25 – Suspending Realness through paying attention to characteristics in continuous flux
34:40 – Is there one right way to be enlightened?
39:07 – The show Westworld (major spoiler alert until 42:57)
44:20 – Affecting multiple CONR categories at once, how this kind of cross-training is helpful
47:27 – Getting the cosmic joke
59:20 – If it’s all a cosmic joke where do CONR interventions come in? What about equanimity?
1:03:35 – Kenneth’s own story about stream entry and equating the cosmic joke with attainment
1:11:21 – The difficulty of engaging with the Zen version of getting the cosmic joke
1:13:09 – Reviewing CONR

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11 thoughts on “The Cosmic Joke – with Kenneth Folk”

  1. This is just brilliant – thanks for this chat. Have come to the same place after lots of meditation and it is quite a funny thing to see: impermanence and the twin illusions of self and free will. Life becomes infinitely more enjoyable rather than striving so hard.

    1. HI Kenneth
      Interesting your post and podcast, Am trying to experience this part of whatever techniques you used, Want to know those, How did you find or arrive at that conclusion. Please let me know on techniques.


  2. Loved this also, thank you so much! After listening, I keep thinking about the ‘living in the world’ part with this understanding of the cosmic joke…as well as other ideas of self as described by Metzinger. When hanging out with friends who are not mindful in the traditional sense, I often observe their cognitive mistakes/misunderstandings or their misunderstanding of my own thoughts that can be described as being based in a mindful/cosmic joke way. Would love to hear an episode or part of an episode regarding the praxis of “living in the world” with others (family, friends, coworkers, etc.) who are not on the same path.

  3. Thank you for your interest in the subject! Gee, not sure. Not familiar with prominent practitioners. I only stumbled upon you via the “You are not so smart” podcast and I’m thankful for that because you are turning me on to so many other thinkers/practitioners via your podcast. When I wrote ‘living in the world’ it reminded me of Heidegger’s ‘being in the world’…perhaps someone who is a philosopher as well as a practitioner but down to earth and engaged? Is that a tall order? 🙂 Though I’m sure Kenneth Folk (or Shinzen Young) would be great. Thanks again.

  4. Love your podcasts because there’s so much info. My browser tabs increase exponentially every time.
    Just relistened to this one. Funny, first time I listened I was like, oh yeah, I totally get the cosmic joke, and when I listened the second time, I was like, yeah, not today. ?

    1. Thanks, Jessica, I’m glad you like the podcast. Feel free to rate it on iTunes if you haven’t already. That would really help.

      RE: The Cosmic Joke — that’s hilarious! Yes, some days we’re just more tuned in than others.

  5. I like how this podcast takes away some of the mystical aspects surrounding Awakening. However, may be it did too good a job on that and now I’m left asking the question “Why bother making Awakening a goal if it’s nothing special?” because it made it sound like nothing changes. If suffering is in-fact lessened, I think that’s a wonderful enough effect. Perhaps that was implicit in the conversation.

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