Sunday, May 24, 2020

Nature of mind- Emptiness.

“The past mind has ceased and disappeared. The future mind has not arisen or appeared. The present mind is very hard to examine. If you analyze and investigate what can be shown through reasonings—that the present mind has no color or shape; that, like space, it does not exist; that it is neither singular nor a plurality; that it does not arise; or that it is naturally luminous—you will realize it does not exist.

If both material and nonmaterial entities are things that have no essence at all and are simply nonexistent, discerning prajñā also does not exist. An analogy is fire: the fire that arises from rubbing two sticks together will burn up the sticks and, when they no longer exist, the fire that consumed them will go out on its own.

Similarly, when prajñā has proven that all phenomena—both specifically characterized and generally characterized—do not exist, that prajñā disappears and is luminosity, which has no essence at all. Thus, everything that could be a flaw (such as dullness or agitation) is cleared away.

At this point, mind does not think about anything, it does not grasp at anything. Mindfulness and attentiveness are cast aside. As long as the enemy, or thief, of characterizing or conceptualizing does not arise, rest mind that way.“

—Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (982–1055), Madhyamakopadeśa

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Breathing, meditation objects and zazen as an extention of presence.

When practicing 'just sitting' or 'breathing', as in seated zazen meditation, the following is helpful:

Practice becoming aware of the breath as if from inside out. The breath and belly (tantien) being an extension of one's being, "I am". In this way, there is no separation of the object (breath, belly) and subject (beingness). 

Normally, we practice watching an object, such as the breath, as if it is a separate object. We practice from the perspective of being the witness of an object. In fact, the witness, object and awareness are all just one, or 'just this' now.

A preliminary may be that of coming to know beingness, I-amness, or one's presence prior to developing concentration or calmness. This is in reverse of the usual order of first focusing on an object and developing calm, and then insight. The reverse approach is the way of the direct path, and paths such as Dzogchen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Approaching Nonduality via dualistic concepts and practices.

I was prompted to write this short post due to some readings and listenings over the last few months.

Briefly stated, I want to present the idea that there can be no approach to non-duality, or the ultimate Truth, except through dualistic concepts, or at least a basic dualistic setup.

There are a number of modern teachers who like to talk about the need for a 'direct, uncompromising pointing' to the ultimate truth. These teachers seem to indicate that their pointing totally removes the need for all practices, concepts, etc. and directly points at the ultimate truth of non-duality, which lies in the direct experience of presence, beingness, aliveness, etc.

Unfortunately, this too is a concept. The dualistic concept of beingness, presence, etc., even the actual felt sense, is still a concept. "Just this! Nobody here!" is still a concept. There is the thought-stream, mind, world etc. and then there's presence, awareness (another concept). Everything is perfect, nothing needs to be done or attained, and yet there's a pointing happening in the appearance. (Another concept). 

There's really no escape from concepts, right from the moment someone or something opens its mouth.

Then there are the time-tested teachings of the sages, which openly espouse dualistic concepts or systems for the apparent seeker to engage with, as a precursor to the direct truth of non-duality. Sometimes the direct truth is presented first (as in dzogchen, and teachings such as practical Advaita Vedanta). At other times it is reserved for a later time in one's 'progressive path', such as in traditional Buddhism, Dhyana, or Sankhya yoga.

Some examples of dualistic concepts that were used by teachers (that I'm familiar with) include:

Purusha/Prakriti (and 3 gunas) - Sankhya yoga

Pure consciousness / the witness - Sri Atmananda

Food body / consciousness - Sri Nisargadatta

ego, I-thought / Self - Sri Ramana Maharshi

mindfulness of the 4 Foundations, samsara / Nibbana - Buddhism (Theravada)

non-conceptual awareness / thought, concepts - contemporary Advaita teachers (e.g. Sailor Bob)

form / emptiness - Mahayana Buddhism

Real / unreal - Sri Sankara

Space, 'headlessness' / the world, universe - Douglas Harding

One important point on the above, is that the conceptual system presented by the teacher must in some way deconstruct itself or provide the means for its own undoing. It is of no use to be stuck in the dualistic concept or hang on to it as such when its work is done. Any valid use of a dualistic concept must contain the seed, as it were, for its own undoing or unfolding that naturally occurs, and thus make way for an understanding of the real state of things (ie. one's own nature being nothing other than non-dual existence+non-existence).

Friday, May 17, 2019

Ramana Maharshi on the topic of "family life" and liberation.

Excellent little dialogue found in "Talks". Direct pointing by the Master himself.

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Talk 524.

Another pilgrim asked: I am a man with a family. Is it possible for
those in a family to get release, and if so how?

M.: Now what is family? Whose family is it? If the answers to these
questions are found the other questions solve themselves.
Tell me: Are you in the family, or is the family in you?

The visitor did not answer. Then Sri Bhagavan’s answer was
continued: Who are you? You include three aspects of life, namely,
the waking, the dream and the sleep states. You were not aware of the
family and their ties in your sleep and so these questions did not arise
then. But now you are aware of the family and their ties and therefore
you seek release. But you are the same person throughout.

D.: Because I now feel that I am in the family it is right that I should
seek release.
M.: You are right. But consider and say: Are you in the family or is
the family in you?
Another visitor interposed: What is family?
M.: That’s it. It must be known.
D.: There is my wife and there are also my children. They are
dependent on me. That is the family.
M.: Do the members of the family bind your mind? Or do you bind
yourself to them? Do they come and say to you “We form your
family. Be with us”? Or do you consider them as your family and
that you are bound to them?
D.: I consider them as my family and feel bound to them.
M.: Quite so. Because you think that so-and-so is your wife and so-and-so
are your children you also think that you are bound to them.
These thoughts are yours. They owe their very existence to you.
You can entertain these thoughts or relinquish them. The former
is bondage and the latter is release.

D.: It is not quite clear to me.
M.: You must exist in order that you may think. You may think these
thoughts or other thoughts. The thoughts change but not you. Let
go the passing thoughts and hold on to the unchanging Self. The
thoughts form your bondage. If they are given up, there is release.
The bondage is not external. So no external remedy need be sought
for release. It is within your competence to think and thus to get
bound or to cease thinking and thus be free.
D.: But it is not easy to remain without thinking.
M.: You need not cease thinking. Only think of the root of the thoughts;
seek it and find it. The Self shines by itself. When that is found the
thoughts cease of their own accord. That is freedom from bondage.

D.: Yes. I understand it now. I have learnt it now. Is a Guru necessary?
M.: So long as you consider yourself as an individual, a Guru is
necessary to show to you that you are not bound by limitations
and that your nature is to be free from limitations.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The idea of 'enlightenment'.

A quote from Sri Nisargadatta ('I Am That'):

"The idea of enlightenment is of utmost importance. Just to know that
there is such possibility, changes one's entire outlook. It acts like a
burning match in a heap of saw dust. All the great teachers did nothing
else. A spark of truth can burn up a mountain of lies. The opposite is
also true. The sun of truth remains hidden behind the cloud of
self-identification with the body."


Some spiritual teachers seek to destroy the image or false idea of 'enlightenment', and thus give the antidote of 'non-existent enlightenment'. That is to say, they negate the possibility and existence of enlightenment, and explain it as a non-event, a concept and something that does not exist.

This can serve for those who have conceptual images of enlightenment that pertain to an individual attaining something extra on top of what the individual already is.

Unfortunately, non-existent enlightenment also becomes a belief, in that the individual then takes it that there is nothing other than the self-identified state of being an individual, and 'suffering' is a part of life etc. Nihilism and other philosophies often follow. Other solutions to this problem are then inadvertently sought after.

In contrast, Sri Nisargadatta explains that the idea of 'enlightenment' is very important. For the self-identified individual, this idea becomes a beacon of light in that it provides a 'way out'  from suffering, limitation, and the mess that one inevitably finds oneself in as an individual in the world. Seeking may then happen, or not, but a shift occurs with the introduction of this idea. Of course, further down the track, this idea will need to be dropped, as it will become an obstacle in itself. But initially, this idea must be taken up, as the first step or first instant of a new direction away from the same beaten path that the conditioned individual has held for time immemorial.

As the individual comes to know itself as an image, and identified consciousness becomes purified from the habit of identifying with external objects and confusion, then it can be seen that there is nothing to attain apart from What is obviously apparent and existent, and has been so for all eternity. Until then, the idea of 'enlightenment' has an important place in the world of the individual for those who identify as an individual.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Is spiritual practice needed (if the world is just a dream?) - question.

Some comments from Michael James on the question of why spiritual practice, or reflection is even needed (or anything) when "the world is just a dream, and the dreamer can't actually do anything"-- a common Neo-Advaita idea.

In this comment, the questioner puts forth the idea that it would be a mistake to even consider the world to be a dream, since the person or dreamer can't do anything.


MJ: “If that is your view [that it is a mistake to try to consider the world to be a dream], how would you explain what Bhagavan teaches us in the final sentence of the seventeenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, namely: ‘பிரபஞ்சத்தை ஒரு சொப்பனத்தைப்போ லெண்ணிக்கொள்ள வேண்டும்’ (pirapañcattai oru soppaṉattai-p-pōl eṇṇi-k-koḷḷa vēṇḍum), ‘It is necessary to consider the world like a dream’?”

Your central argument seems to be, ‘it is a mistake to try to see the world as a dream because it is ridiculous for the dreamer to “try” because that very attempt is part of the dream too’, but by that logic it would be a mistake for us to do any spiritual practice, including self-investigation and self-surrender, because whatever spiritual practice we may do is a part of whatever dream we are currently experiencing. The reason Bhagavan advised us to practise self-investigation and self-surrender is that they are the only means by which we can wake up not only from this dream but from the underlying sleep of self-ignorance, in which all dreams occur.

According to Bhagavan any state in which we are aware of anything other than ourself is just a dream, so we can practise self-investigation and self-surrender only in a dream, but that does not mean that it is a mistake for us to try to practise them. Quite the contrary, it would be a mistake for us not to try to practise them, because if we do not try to do so how can we wake up from this sleep of self-ignorance?