Thursday, December 13, 2018

Radical Nonduality- Tony Parsons, Jim Newman etc. 1 The good and the bad.


I've been listening to some talks and videos from Tony Parsons, Jim Newman, and lesser acolytes such as Richard Sylvester etc. lately. For some reason these radical non-duality (Neo-Advaita in some people's lexicon) popped up into my awareness.

Overall, I like the simplicity and directness of their approach. I also like their uncompromising attitude towards the duality of self and the non-duality of things as they really are. Just this.

However, there's a couple of ugly flaws in this 'non teaching', which probably serve to deepen confusion in some of their 'non-listeners', as is obvious with a few that have been attending for over 10 years with nothing to show. Obviously, the bodies talking at the front of the room are happy for such a comment, since they do confess that they have nothing to give, teach or impart for the hopeless individuals that attend.

The Good

- Direct, uncompromising teaching in contemporary language
- No cultural baggage
- Humour and laughs included, which is genuine and warm.
- No hope for the seeker, individual or self-improvement junkie
- Returns again and again to 'just this' as the end and reality of everything
- Great communication of how it is seen from 'their' end
- Good explanation of nonduality in simple, understandable terms

The Bad

- Confusing use of some words such as 'awareness'. Tony seems to only refer to this as pointing to self-awareness that arises with the individual. It seems he doesn't want to acknowledge that there's any awareness outside of the individual's self-awareness (ie the individual being aware of itself versus the world as a duality). This seems ridiculous since it implies that the loss of the self/me entails a loss of awareness, or that awareness doesn't exist apart from the individual.. so there's no awareness of objects in the room for instance.

- One sided use of the word 'knowing' and 'know'. To know can mean intellectually know or comprehend concepts, but it can also mean to become aware of, or conscious of as a function. I can know mathematics, but I can also know that there's a screen in front of my face. This knowing or being conscious of isn't the same as amassing conceptual knowledge, it is just a registering in consciousness which requires no effort. However, TP and JN don't acknowledge this use of the word and slap it down at any opportunity. They seem to be equating it only with thinking, conceptualizing.

- The insistence that the individual can do nothing at all and that nobody can do anything to alleviate their cause. This is 99% true, except for the fact that one's actual, undeniable reality can be investigated, looked at, inquired on. That which is already here right now. If the pointer or suggestion arises to investigate one's own apparent consciousness or beingness, isn't this worthy of mentioning, instead of the blanket there's no-one here who can do anything, the individual (you) are in a hopeless situation, so don't bother.. this will either happen or not.

- Vague suggestions of 'this' and 'things' being both unreal and real, with no further explanation on what those words actually mean. This confuses most of the listeners into a dumb silence. By unreal, it seems they are referring to the conceptual story that is built up in the mind, in which the 'me' takes ownership and personal claim for. By real, it seems they are referring to just this "spacious aliveness" present. Again, the word 'awareness' is shunned in place of "spacious aliveness" or "empty fullness".

- Idiotic explanations and poo-pooing of time-tested tools such as self-inquiry, contemplative investigation, or pointers such being 'aware of being aware'. Tony points out that 'being aware of being aware' implies a duality or two awarenesses, and so rubbishes this approach for example as ineffectual. But for the life of me, I can't fathom what is so difficult about looking at the fact that one seems to be aware right now. Or that there can be a movement here and now to become aware of the fact that one IS aware and conscious (versus asleep). Besides Tony's philosophizing, is this anything more dualistic than a guy sitting in front of an audience talking about how the 'me' is an energy contraction in the body? LOL.

- Confusion over the word/concept "I am". I think most people having spent some time within the Nonduality teachings understand the difference between the concept "I am", which equates to a separate entity 'me' that appears temporarily, versus "I am" pointing to the wordless presence in which the concept appears and which appears on waking from sleep- the beingness. For some reason, Tony & friends only acknowledge the conceptual "I am". In one talk he seems to be criticising: "teachers who teach people to be in the "I am" state - (pointing to his head and laughing) I mean most people are in the 'I am' state anyway.." -- This is false. Most people are NOT actually in the "I am" state, but identified with the conceptual "I am" and in the mind identified state of being an individual. If they were only in the 'I am' state they would be residing as just the beingness or existence that's happening now.


Overall, these talks are great value (and freely given), and worth taking the time to enjoy if one is so inclined, but just be wary of some potholes in the road when travelling along.





Friday, November 30, 2018

The Gnani (Jnani) Chapter 15 - I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta. Quotes and commentary.




Maharaj: All is His doing, no doubt. What is it to me, since I want nothing? What can God give me, or take away from me? What is mine is mine and was mine even when God was not. Of course, it is a very tiny little thing, a speck — the sense ‘I am’, the fact of being. This is my own place, nobody gave it to me. The earth is mine; what grows on it is God’s.

God or Ishwara is equated with a principle that exists within the world, phenomena and affects the individual. As such, it appears within the “I am” or self-aware consciousness, wakefulness. This “I am” was not given, but appeared spontaneously when we were around the age of two. Prior to this, there was no self-awareness, no God, no world etc.

M: Without you is there a world? You know all about the world, but about yourself you know nothing. You yourself are the tools of your work, you have no other tools. Why don’t you take care of the tools before you think of the work?

Since the world depends on our self of being, “I am” for its existence, the advice is given to examine and understand one’s own self first. The “I am” here is referred to as the instrument used to perform any work. Understanding the instrument is necessary before attempting to carry out any work. How is this done? By taking the time to notice it, live with it, abide in it, and understand it completely. By understanding it and living with it, ultimately it is seen through as not our true identity. This is an initial step from the object-identified state.

M: Within the prison of your world appears a man who tells you that the world of painful contradictions, which you have created, is neither continuous nor permanent and is based on a misapprehension. He pleads with you to get out of it, by the same way by which you got into it. You got into it by forgetting what you are and you will get out of it by knowing yourself as you are.

M: The gnani is the supreme and also the witness. He is both being and awareness. In relation to consciousness he is awareness. In relation to the universe he is pure being.

The Jnani or Self-realized state is always prior to any manifestation and stands as the primary principle. From the point of view of the world, that state is consciousness or “I am”. From the point of view of consciousness, wakefulness or “I am”, that state is the Absolute or all-inclusive awareness.



Friday, November 16, 2018

Practicing the Presence of God. I AM.



There is a wonderful little practice called "Practicing the Presence of God", as described in an old little booklet by Brother Laurence. 

The practice at first looks dualistic. There is the devotee and there is an external God. The devotee is instructed to think of, talk to, and feel the presence of God all through the day and while in activities.
It is much like bhakti yoga, making a connection with a deity; conceptual at best.

However, the practice works its magic by training the mind to focus on a higher concept (or singular concept) versus distracting thoughts. Further, some feelings of devotion and love are cultivated in the practice towards something other than one's egoic self.

On further investigation, it can be experienced that "practicing the presence of God" becomes more of a "practicing the presence.." or just practicing and feeling presence only. What could this presence be, except that of the "I AM", or beingness. This was pointed out by Nisargadatta. Ramana also pointed out that the Biblical phrase "I am that I Am" was of the highest import.

After a while, practicing the presence becomes an excellent path to abiding as the I AM. Initially, the I AM seems to be either a foreign concept or external to oneself, or else, appears as a localised feeling of body-consciousness. After a while, it is experienced as a much larger, all encompassing field of beingness, which also engulfs the minute individual or egoic self. Further, it comes devotional and loving, and fulfills the injunction to be "affectionate towards this I AM".

Practicing the presence of God -> Practicing the presence of "I Am" = Practicing presence.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Papaji speaks the truth, but the message is often garbled.


Today I was listening to a Papaji talk on YouTube ("Papaji - Wake up from the dream").

There are a few good points in this talk, but also some points that need clearing up due to distortion.

People tend to love Papaji's simple message of - do nothing, no teaching, no method or process, you are already free, it only takes one second in your entire life to realize.

It's no coincidence he had a massive amount of students and 'teachers' stemming from his lineage.

Agreed, there's something freeing about knowing that one is already free, and that it doesn't take much to realize this. "A second of silence" is almost like his motto.

In this talk, Papaji starts of, strangely, by talking about places of pilgrimage, the power there, and how he went around showing people these "special places". This seems a little strange, in light of the fact that his own teacher pointed out that one place was as good as another for reaching Self-Realization, and that one need not venture here or there.. but instead inquire within.

Papaji talks about the world being one's own projection which only 'we' can remove. But if he wants to play the do-nothing game, how can he talk about self-directed action in removing oneself from one's own projection? Either the projection happens spontaneously without a doer or owner involved, or else we have to buy into the doer having the power to remove it. We're back in practice-mode, but trying to 'do nothing'.

Papaji then talks about the next best thing to being convinced of his 'freedom message', and that's to meditate around the clock on 'I am already free', and also (?) to remain in the thought-free state for even a second.

OK great.. not much to do there.. but isn't that a process? Something to do?

So some seeker is convinced they're already free. And then they run around proclaiming that they're free, and we're all free, we just have to realize it (or believe it). They try teaching others. Is there any difference with this and Born-Again Christianity?

Or a seeker sits for a time, and settles into a no-thought, no-mind state. They abide there. They did the "1 second" thing. So now they know they are just consciousness or freedom or silence. But then the vasanas return and they get lost in thought, feelings, context. They lose their belief in freedom, and need another instant Papaji fix, or satsang or sitting. They attend talks for years, but still remain seeking. Is this freedom?

Yes, there's nothing to do and no practice to become what we already are in truth.

No, there's no quick fix in making that realization one's direct and permanent experience, or rather, predominant experience. 

Unlike Papaji says, the Buddha likely never said that "Buddha Nature is in all of you, don't be shy, spend one second on it." Rather, he likely said all things are not-self, and to "strive diligently" for one's own salvation. He didn't say that it takes "just one moment". He also stressed that ethics in one's life are important too while traversing the path.

Neo-Advaita can be helpful in terms of offering direct pointers for the advanced along the path. However, it's a double edge sword, offering lots of yummy fuel for the ego to become spiritualized and falsely self-realized. The ego loves to appropriate any little insight or discovery along the way, and then attempts to re-capture such experiences.

There is indeed much value in the Papaji (TM) practice of "Just one second of no-thinking". Sailor Bob Adamson uses a similar method when he talks about "Pause a thought". One of my own teachers also used this often.

Its value lies in it being a practice that is repeated with minimal effort during one's day, anywhere and anyhow. Just one second of non-thinking or silence allows for a break in the mind-identified state that we find ourselves in habitually each day. One second of no-thought does feel liberating. A new habit is then formed in doing this again and again, because it is peaceful, pleasant, liberating. At some point, one may realize that actually one's true nature IS the peace, silence and liberation that is revealed in the 1 second of no-thought. The practice has then done its job, and the knowledge of one's very nature can take over from that point, guiding the apparent individual back to its source. Lost in thought again? Easy, start from one second.

One of the better Papaji videos related to this point above can be found here and is worth watching:

https://youtu.be/xk237xi72RI
(PAPAJI - Save ONE second for Not thinking Zone)




Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Consciousness from Nama-Rupa and Nama-Rupa from Consciousness - with links in Buddhism, Advaita


Consciousness from Nama-Rupa and Nama-Rupa from Consciousness - with links in Buddhism, Advaita


 

"This must be well grasped: the world hangs on the thread of consciousness:
no consciousness, no world." – Nisargadatta

 

“Enlightenment means nothing more than to be rid of conceptual thinking.
What remains is the noumenal 'I', pure subjectivity without the slightest
touch of objectivity or temporality. But instead of simply being this, we
mistakenly try to get it as an object of experience.” – Ramesh Balsekar

 

“"The thought occurred to me, 'I have attained this path to Awakening, i.e., from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form..’” – Nagara Sutta (Buddha)

 

I have recently been going back to “I”-ness in my contemplations and explorations. This was prompted by some talks I had been listening to. Some random things then fell into place today, related to these topics- “I”, consciousness, name-form, mind-body etc.


Sometimes, it’s as if the teachings are waiting for the exact right time to assert themselves in our apparent journey. Some have called this the workings of the Inner Teacher.


One thing that really jumped out today, which I had not seen in years of reading the Buddhist Pali suttas, was a Sutta detailing the Links of Dependent Origination in a unique kind of way. The way it was presented, tallies perfectly with how some modern teachers, such as Nisargadatta, present their model of consciousness to/from mind-body. This model can be of use conceptually in helping to disidentify consciousness from the primary attachment of the conceptual body-mind. In reality, the body-mind (materiality-mentality) is nothing other than consciousness (according to Advaita), however, as a conceptual label and perceived external object, it has been included with consciousness to form the “I” thought-feeling complex.


The Pali suttas usually talk about the 12 links in Dependent Origination in the following flow: Ignorance – Formations – Consciousness – Name/Form – 6 Sense Media – Contact – Feeling tone – Craving – Clinging/Habitual Tendency – Becoming/Sustenance – Birth – Death/Aging/Stress.


However, in the Nagara Sutta (SN 12.65) the following can be found:


"Then the thought occurred to me, 'Aging & death exist when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there aging & death?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Aging & death exist when birth exists. From birth as a requisite condition comes aging & death.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Birth exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition comes birth?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Birth exists when becoming exists. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth... 'Name-&-form exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there name-&-form?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Name-&-form exists when consciousness exists. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Consciousness exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition comes consciousness?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Consciousness exists when name-&-form exists. From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.'



"Then the thought occurred to me, 'This consciousness turns back at name-&-form, and goes no farther. It is to this extent that there is birth, aging, death, falling away, & re-arising, i.e., from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media... Thus is the origination of this entire mass of stress. Origination, origination.' Vision arose, clear knowing arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before.”

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.065.than.html



It is very interesting that the Sutta ends the links with consciousness not going further back, and turning around back into Name-Form.



From one point of view, this almost mirrors Nisargadatta’s unique teaching on consciousness. Nisargadatta has a similar view on consciousness, which is actually closer to the Buddhist meaning of consciousness, than the usual Advaita meaning of consciousness (which equates with awareness and thus Brahman, Absolute etc.). Nisargadatta’s view of consciousness is that it is infinite in its ability to manifest, but ultimately temporary and conditional (depending on the body, prana, prakruti for its manifestation or appearance). It also requires a subject to be present by definition, and thus allow for its own self-recognition.



In this regard, Nisargadatta’s view of consciousness is that it must depend on Name/Form in the form of sattva guna, and the material body. Paradoxically, the material body, prana and Name/Form can only be known when consciousness is present. Thus the description in the Nagara Sutta also acknowledges that consciousness arises in dependence on Name/Form and that Name/Form arises in dependence on consciousness.



This is an important point to ponder over, since this bi-directional acknowledgement must be encountered during any thorough investigation into consciousness, or the “I-am”ness. This is normally done in self-inquiry (in Advaita), or during vipassana or insight practices (in Buddhism). Just settling on one outcome, such as consciousness arising from the body or past formations, or alternatively the body/Name-Form arising from consciousness is only finding half of the story.




Tuesday, October 30, 2018

This isn't a feeling or conceptual understanding. Advaita.



I was watching a live stream of Wayne Liquorman on YouTube.



It is good that he offers live, free streamings of his satsangs for anyone to watch. He makes a lot of good points in his satsangs as well, especially for questioners present- such as bringing back experience to one's own personal experience (rather than some objective experience or the teacher's experience.



There were a lot of different questions coming up in the satsang. Some asked about a 'flat feeling' that they have after having discovered these 'teachings'. Another asked about whether to do or not to do sadhana (spiritual practice). And another asked about whether this teaching is a mechanism for 'growth' or more understanding.





Wayne Liquorman was a student of Ramesh Balsekar, and thus his spin on things is generally Neo-Advaita and non-practice apart from seeing the absence of doership or the 'me' entity. This generally involves no practice, no path, and the understanding that all things happen spontaneously only, there's no doer or anything to actually do, and that the understanding of this 'truth' of how things are-- essentially one substance playing out, leads to freedom.





It is interesting that Wayne actually has very little to say or contribute in his satsangs. He mostly just repeats the question, adds a little philosophy, and settles down the questioner into a kind of acceptance of the situation. That's pretty much about it. A fair amount of silence and some smiles.





"The question is what is playing out in your doing more or not doing more?"





"That's a response I've heard about a thousand times.."





"What is it that's responsible for what you do or don't do?"





One questioner talks about depression and how this whole teaching leaves her in a flat kind of place. Wayne's response is that he's heard that a lot.. but there's no magic fix.





I found myself a little reactive to this.



IME if someone is talking about having the legit understanding of this teaching, and having realised the Self (or not-self).. then that should blow away any concept or perception about reality being some kind of perceived flat-land of barren emotion or void. It was so obvious that the questioner was living out a concept of what they felt to be the 'teaching' (due to Wayne/Ramesh's view on non-doership). Of course, having such a belief and concept DOES lead to a barren and depressing state of things for the ego identified mind. But this isn't the real deal. Reality isn’t a barren state of void, but a living expansive state of energy. Wayne isn't doing any one a service by sticking to his absolutist view of how things really are, and that the questioner needs to just accept things etc. according to 'how things are'.





I find some Neo-Advaita teachers to actually be doing a disservice to would-be seekers. If they really believed in the no-doer thing, what possible benefit would having satsangs give, versus going to the pub to play darts, or better having a satsang with a group of trees in the park? "Oh, but it's just happening"..



I recall an interview a while back with Jeff Foster on some Nonduality show. He was going on about the same thing, whereby he discovered these wonderful teachings and views on reality, then plunged into a year or so of depression and feeling like it was all an empty void.. this 'enlightenment' that he had found. Unfortunately, Jeff published a truck load of material, and people also bought into the ideas presented, and that Jeff Foster actually knew something (which he admitted was nothing, and just an 'extraordinary absence'). Jeff since moved on, and away from Nonduality into psychology and love relationships, as Neo’s sometimes do.



Seekers would well in carefully selecting a teacher that understands their current predicament, and can apply the teachings to suit their context and situation, with the aim of alleviating suffering and delusion, rather than fostering new belief systems. Teachers that teach on an absolute level are often not well suited to beginners or those starting out on the path, especially with psychological issues they're grappling with. A more practical, life-focused teaching would suit. However, some advanced seekers actually do very well with the Neo-Advaita type teaching and need much less practical guidance in furthering their understanding and undoing of self-efforting.



Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Silavant Sutta. Attending to the five clinging-aggregates as a way to insight, freedom from self-identification.

This little sutta is an excellent summary of one approach in investigating each of the 5 aggregrates, and in seeing through their (false) identification as one's self. It also demonstrates the use of appropriate attention leading to the realization of freedom (right effort).


This can also be considered a meeting point with Vipassana, Self-Inquiry (Atma-Vichara), and Neti-Neti.. all methods aiming at the same goal of clearing the habitual tendency to identify self with external objects.






Silavant Sutta: Virtuous (SN 22.122    )

translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu


On one occasion Ven. Sariputta & Ven. Maha Kotthita were staying near Varanasi in the Deer Park at Isipatana. Then Ven. Maha Kotthita, emerging from seclusion in the late afternoon, went to Ven. Sariputta and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side.


As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Sariputta, "Sariputta my friend, which things should a virtuous monk attend to in an appropriate way?"


"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Which five? Form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate. A virtuous monk should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. For it is possible that a virtuous monk, attending in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant... not-self, would realize the fruit of stream-entry."


"Then which things should a monk who has attained stream-entry attend to in an appropriate way?"
"A monk who has attained stream-entry should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. For it is possible that a monk who has attained stream-entry, attending in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant... not-self, would realize the fruit of once-returning."


"Then which things should a monk who has attained once-returning attend to in an appropriate way?"
"A monk who has attained once-returning should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. For it is possible that a monk who has attained once-returning, attending in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant... not-self, would realize the fruit of non-returning."


"Then which things should a monk who has attained non-returning attend to in an appropriate way?"
"A monk who has attained non-returning should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. For it is possible that a monk who has attained non-returning, attending in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant... not-self, would realize the fruit of arahantship."


"Then which things should an arahant attend to in an appropriate way?"
"An arahant should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Although, for an arahant, there is nothing further to do, and nothing to add to what has been done, still these things — when developed & pursued — lead both to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now and to mindfulness & alertness."