Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Western occultism and egomaniacs

I’ve been doing quite a bit of study & research in the Western Occultism arena over the last month or so (culmination of a few decades of participation). Beginning with the TS, through Freemasonry, RC, Golden Dawn, Crowley and his Orders (OTO, AA), and later spin offs (Chaos, etc.).

One thing that strikes me as unfortunately tragic is the number of egomaniacs and wiseacring impostors that have come out of this machine of ill-repute.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a time, probably a few decades ago, when I really wanted to believe that Western Occultism, WMT, WET, and similar movements actually led to their self-professed goals of scientific illumination, self-knowledge, and Self-realization (or Godhead). The end result of that via dolorosa though, seems unfailingly to end up with splinter groups upon splinter groups with nothing but people (invariably male) hungry for power, fame and self-aggrandizement.

Lofty founding ideals of freedom and enlightenment soon degenerate into either idle distractions such as divination, ineffectual ritual, and personality worship, or into more virulent forms such as slave labour, group hypnosis, and carrot-stick pyramid structures.

Research the history of almost every Western “occult”, “magical” or “esoteric” Order or movement, and one invariably finds nobodies desperate to become somebodies, rather than the Eastern (or Asian) norm of somebodies becoming peaceful nobodies.
Expelled members sit in dark corners gnashing their teeth and exposing dirt or attempting to start their own pyramid structures, meanwhile the controlling hierarchies white-knuckle their positions and tighten down “the rules”.

I’m not sure if this is a Western psychological trait, or rather to do with those attracted to these groups. There are obvious tell-tale signs involved, such as groups offering 1001 self-improvement promises, instant titles, degrees, future rewards and instant social belonging. In contrast, you might find a Zen group or an Eastern equivalent offering a cushion on the ground with the advice being to try ‘siting down and shutting up’ for an hour. No titles, no candy bag.

In order to save time, dear reader, a very simple test may be applied to any group, Order, or society you are looking to join or invest your hard earned life-force:

'Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.’

Monday, October 28, 2013

Giving up attachment to this life.. and other volitional impossibilities.

From an article in Tricyle:

"Again, an elder was once circumambulating the outer perimeter at Radreng Monastery. Dromtönpa asked him, “O elder, performing circumambulation may be satisfying, but wouldn’t it be better if you practiced the Dharma?”
The elder felt that, instead of performing circumambulations, perhaps it would be more effective if he were to read Mahayana sutras, so he began to read sutras on the temple veranda. Dromtönpa then asked him, “Reading sutras might also be satisfying, but wouldn’t it be better if you practiced the Dharma?”
The elder took this as a sign that, when contrasted with reading sutras, engaging in meditative absorption is more profitable, so he abandoned reading sutras and sat down with his eyes closed. Again, Dromtönpa asked, “Meditating might also be satisfying, but wouldn’t it be better to practice the Dharma instead?”
Failing to think of any other method, the elder asked, “O spiritual mentor, then what kind of Dharma practice would you have me undertake?”
It is said that Drom replied, “O elder, give up this life; give up this life.”
In this way Dromtönpa stated that so long as we fail to forsake attachment to this life, whatever we undertake does not become Dharma practice, for such an act remains within the bounds of the eight mundane concerns. By contrast, if we let go of attachment to this life, we will remain untainted by the eight mundane concerns. Only then will whatever we do become a path to liberation.
Once Potowa asked the spiritual mentor Dromtönpa, “What is the demarcation between Dharma and non-Dharma?”
Dromtönpa replied, “If it is a remedy against affliction, it is Dharma; if not, it is not Dharma. If it is at variance with all worldly people, it is Dharma; if it is in accord with the worldly, it is not Dharma. If its trace is positive, it is Dharma; if not, it is not Dharma.”"

From Wisdom of the Kadam Masters, edited by Thupten Jinpa, © 2013. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., Somerville, MA. www.wisdompubs.org.

'Giving up this life'.. 'letting go of attachment to this life'.. sounds great, except it will necessarily be done by an individual personality, walking around believing that they have given up attachment to life. A new belief is taken on board. A new identity is born.

On the other hand, it may be that this ideal comes about naturally as a by-product of an authentic practice or realization, rather than yet another task for someone to strive at and perform. Relinquishment of sense/thought objects one by one, which constitute "life" as a composite whole, is certainly possible. It can only be done on a moment by moment basis. Effortlessly.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sitting in silence, doing nothing in particular

Sitting in silence, doing nothing in particular

It's nice to take a break sometimes from all the methods, techniques, theories, ideas, conceptual maps, and spiritual pathways we attempt to follow, which ironically are leading back to Nothing.

Of course, the mind, also known as the egoic personality, loves progressive spiritual paths, and all other forms of progression- from New Years resolutions, list making, affirmations, to meditative spiritual pathways. The reason being is that a future is ensured, thus ensuring the survival of the mind or individual personality that we have taken ourselves to be. We now have a reason to continue, a purpose in life, something to aim for, and an identity to live.

Unfortunately, there is no end to progressive paths. Very few, if any people we know or read about don't seem to attain Enlightenment, Buddhahood, Self-Realization, or The Big Mac. This isn't to say that those who do follow arduous paths don't often come across wonderful personal experiences.. new states of consciousness, blissful experiences, and pure clarity. It happens... for a short time. Then back to the path.
Interestingly, those rare people who did seem to attain "The End" in this life, by accident or experimentation, often come across as the simplest of people. They are content to teach or not, and give out the simplest of advice, such as "Be quiet.", "Investigate yourself.", "Be mindful of yourself.", or "Abide in your being-ness".

It's a real treat to be able to set aside 15 minutes, or whatever time one has, and just sit somewhere comfortable, eyes closed, with the intention of having no intention to do anything. Likewise, just sitting in silence, or keeping quiet produces the same effect.

This isn't commonly taught in spiritual schools. How could it be? There would be one class and one instruction taking about 15 minutes. Yet whole movements have grown out of this little seed-like action. The Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) is one such movement, starting in the 17th Century, and still exists today. As one of my own pet favourite groups to visit- anyone from any background can visit a Quaker meeting, and just sit in silence for an hour in the company of others. No instructions, no guiding, no teaching, no advice. Simple, yet profound. I have never come from a meeting where insight didn't manifest in some shape or form.

As individuals though, we have access to all we need to perform this little activity- our own presence and some uninterrupted time. The usual meditative advice applies, being alert and relaxed, upright and in a quiet area. Yet apart from this, the delight of sitting with no instruction, no purpose, and no doing, can really form the seed for profound transformation coming totally from within rather than without.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Following back the "I" to its source

Following back the "I" to its source

There is a fair amount written in nondual literature about following back the sense of "I" or "I Am" to its source. This is particularly prevalent in talks from both Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi.

The idea is that all experience and phenomena now happening (or appearing) on the screen of our waking consciousness, is occurring for an "observer" self, also known as "I". All that we experience happens through the five sense doors (or six senses if "mind" is included, as is done in Buddhism), and is perceived by conscious awareness or "I". The three states normally identified in Advaita- waking, dreaming sleep and deep sleep, also contain awareness, and therefore also "I", albeit the "I" has sunken into the Heart centre during deep sleep, and thus there is no conscious awareness during deep sleep.

This "I" or "I am"-ness, which is our basic nature and only true identity, and matches what others call awareness-only, is always present, and can be intuited during normal waking consciousness right now.  Due to conditioning however, over countless years, we have zero knowledge of awareness-only, perceiving only the objects arising in awareness, rather than just the awareness. Much the same as how we take space totally for granted, seeing only objects, colours, people, and things in our world, rather than the space where they reside. Attachment and aversion arise, and thus suffering and delusion. The fictitious self (or "me") develops and permanently sits on awareness-only, ensuring suffering continues for the apparent individual until death.

Many pointers have been given to overcome this conditioning and sorrowful (though entirely imaginary) situation. The aim of such pointers being to reduce or nullify identification with the false 'self', and with constantly arising and ceasing external phenomena. The more this succeeds, the less suffering is experienced.

One pointer given, as mentioned above, is to follow the sense of "I" back to its source. This sounds a little cryptic at first. Does it mean the "I" thought? Or the sense of "I" when one thinks of "I"? Or just plain and basic waking awareness? Or a sense of one's presence?

A method or pathway that may be helpful is to use a combination of noting (or labelling) objects and sense door arisings (as done in vipassana meditation), and then trace the arising back to "I" in the following way:

< interesting object catches the attention >
- "Seeing.. am I"

< feeling of anger arises >
- "feeling anger .. am I" or "feeling.. am I"

< sound catches the attention >
- "hearing.. am I"

etc. etc. etc.

This serves two purposes:
1) The sense object is clearly noted, identified and defused with one's experience.
2) The experience and experiencer are seen through (and dis-identified) in place of awareness only (or what some teachers mean as "I" or "I am").

There are a few pre-requisites for this to work successfully:
1) Concentration or attention to what is happening right now. Some skill in focusing the attention is mandatory for any work. (Contrary to what the "there is nothing to do!" neo-guru types teach).
2) Ability to note/label an arising with mindfulness. Meditation techniques such as vipassana may help in this regard.
3) Some familiarity with the "observing self" and what this feels like. Experience with self-inquiry, or open awareness practices can help in this regard.