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 talks, 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.

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. 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. Is this freedom?

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

No, there's no quick fix in making that realization one's direct and permanent 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". 

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.



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.



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. 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 kind of shocking that Wayne actually has very little to say or contribute in his satsangs. He mostly just repeats the question, adds a little do-nothing go-nowhere philosophy, and settles down the questioner into a dumb kind of acceptance of the situation. That's pretty much about it. Add some smiles and a few jokes.





"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.





What?!





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 these types of 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".. Well, creation, albeit Maya and a projection, usually has a practical purpose for its manifestations on the phenomenal plane.. and Neo-Advaita satsangs have zero practical purpose evidently, apart from philosophy value.





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.





Would-be seekers would do much better 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.

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."



Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Three types of Craving (Buddhism) and relation to Advaita Vedanta - some personal observations.









 Some personal observations on approaches in Early Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta towards the elimination of craving, suffering.

 I was recently reading some material from Thanissaro Bikkhu related to the three types of craving, as seen in early Buddhism.
 The three types of Craving can be identified as craving for sensuality in general (ie objects in contact with the senses- usually in a pleasurable way), craving for "becoming" and craving for "not-becoming".



 We are all familiar with craving for sensuality and objects deemed as nice, good, pleasurable etc. as they come in contact with the 6 sense media and are then labelled and remembered (perception).



 These components form a part of the 12 links of dependent origination elsewhere detailed in early Buddhism. The links in particular that are 'hit' above are name+form, 6 sense media, contact, feeling tone (like, dislike, neutral), craving, clinging and becoming.



 In regards to the other two types of craving, which are "becoming" and "not becoming", it is interesting that TB explains "becoming" in terms of desires and perceptions that form one's "sense of who they are in a particular world of experience". This sense of who one is, isn't fixed, and is changing along with the world of experience at a particular moment.



 Craving for "becoming" and "not becoming", then seem to be very closely tied to the sense of being a subject, an individual self, with a perceived separate existence tied to memory, perception, etc. This autonomous 'self' is challenged in Buddhism, under the teaching that everything existing (phenomenal) is "not self" (Anatta) and "impermanent" (Anicca) and thus suffering/sorrow/stress (Dukkha). (The 3 Marks of Existence).



 Craving itself forms an integral part of the 12 links of Dependent Origination, and is dealt with extensively in most Buddhist schools using a variety of means (and no-means) to manage. Early Buddhist schools chiefly focused on the practices of Mindfulness and Concentration (along with Ethics) in order to deal with craving and becoming (which lead to suffering and stress). Later developments in Buddhism (Mahayana and Vajrayana) used a variety of means which had no link to the Buddha's historical teachings, but were nonetheless also efficient (or in some cases more efficient for certain students) in giving the same end.



 Moving to Advaita Vedanta we can see a similar focus on the "Becoming" aspect of the 12 links. In fact, the primary focus of many Advaita schools seems to be directly on hitting the "Becoming" aspect (as in challenging the existence and perception of a separate, subjective self). Self-Inquiry is one such practice that concentrates on this aspect. A secondary focus is also involved in demonstrating and experiencing the illusory, temporary and unsatisfactory nature of the world and existence (Maya). In regards to the craving for "Becoming", it is interesting to note that Nisargadatta spends considerable time in some of his lectures talking about 'Self-Love', which is the natural desire for conditioned consciousness (wakefulness) to perpetuate itself and experience itself through objects. This outgoing nature of consciousness serves as bondage for the apparent individual, which itself is consciousness misidentified or lost in delusion (Maya).



 We can also find a primary focus in some Advaita Vedanta schools on the aspect of "Consciousness"- which both forms a part of the 12 links (prior to Name/Form), and also one of the 5 Clinging Aggregates (skandas) in Buddhism. (This focus is also shared by some Mahayana schools such as the Mind-Only school (Cittamattra) and several Zen sects). These Advaita schools used methods to directly experience or come to know bare "consciousness", its nature and its source, and thus nip the bud of Feeling, Craving, Becoming before they manifest as problematic further down the 12 Links track. Further, "Consciousness" itself was both explored in terms of being both subject/object (ie nondual), and in some schools, finite or temporary itself (as an imposition on the un-manifest Absolute). Early Buddhism was largely silent on these matters (ie consciousness vs Absolute or Ultimate Self), since discussing alternative views were not deemed to be conductive to a direct means to ending stress, and all too often (especially in historical India, and probably also now with digital media!) led to conjecturing and adherence to philosophical sects, which although interesting, was not helpful.



 So overall, we can find many similarities between the practical methods of both Early Buddhism and later practical focus points in Advaita Vedanta, which both aim at the understanding and managing of stress, suffering and delusion.



Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The important of a teacher vs just practicing a teaching or system





One who sees sees who sees, sees who doesn't.
One who doesn't see doesn't see who sees or who doesn't.
- Poems of the Elders


In this post, I wanted to point out the advantage of being attracted to a teacher and following a teaching, versus the action of just following a teaching or instruction via a tradition, books, etc.


If I could point to the top 5 actions which seem to have rocketed my 'progress' on the spiritual path, then this would be one such top action.


Essentially, this entails finding and falling in love with a teacher, and then falling in love with the teaching or tradition that such a teacher hails from. Initially, it may include much seeking, trying out new methods and systems, and also listening to many different teachers.
In the end, it consists of narrowing down the search to one, two or possibly three teachers, and then following just one teacher for a set length of time. This could range from a week to years. There is no swapping or changing during this time period. The maximum benefit is extracted for the set time.


A good indicator for this is an involuntary attraction towards a teacher and the system or teaching. There are also signs of progress quite quickly once practice is undertaken. A real teaching and teacher will produce definite effects in the student, rather than just increasing the student's imagination, mind wandering and egoic interest (false teachers).
There isn't much effort in having to follow the bona-fide teacher or teaching, and one is naturally drawn to keep imbibing the teaching daily and during spare moments. Eventually, there is no need of books, reminders etc., as the teacher/teaching has been imbibed totally and made a part of the student. If this does fall away at some point, there will be little or no impetus to continue the path with the teacher.


Contrary to what some say, in this day and age, and with all of our electronic media, it is totally possible to find and follow a teacher (personality) through YouTube, videos, books and media etc. Although the closer one can come in contact with the teacher, such as voice, image, etc., the more effective will be the transmission. The teacher may be dead or alive. The personality of the teacher is initially attractive, and although it is an illusion ultimately, it has a definite purpose for those who are identified as personalities themselves. The teaching should unravel this later on and unrobe the teacher for what they are-- an expression of the Absolute only, sans any personality or exterior.


The above has many advantages over blindly following a teaching, dogma or system. In the event of not having found a teacher, the sincere yearning and desire for liberation is a key factor in first being led to a teacher or effective teaching.