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.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mahasi Noting Technique (Mahasi Sayadaw Vipassana) revisited 2018.

Here are a few notes on my experience of revisiting the Mahasi Sayadaw Noting technique (aka Mahasi Sayadaw style vipassana).

For some reason, I felt like carrying out an all day experiment, using considerable effort to keep noting all day long. The noting or labelling was to take place every second or so, and during all activities. I also did it during a few 20 minute sittings in silence.

Although I was fond of this technique before, it seems to have worn out its usefulness for now. In fact, I found it rather tiresome and effortful, versus the simple self-awareness, nondual type contemplation I'm used to these days.


- Gives some instant focus and withdrawal from discursive thought, analysis etc
- Tunes one into one's environment and the 6 sense doors rapidly
- Makes one ultra sensitive to the senses
- Brings experience back to basic sensations and perceptions, instead of conceptual stories


- Becomes tiresome after long extended periods, especially due to the effort in keeping up the noting after each event
- Becomes mechanical and forced after a while, even when done lightly
- Too clunky to be used on subtle levels of experience
- The noting or labelling can get in the way of direct experience at times
- Focuses and habituates the mind to constantly 'go out' into phenomena, and completely ignores consciousness or awareness itself (subject).
- The mind becomes too tense after long periods
- Can strengthen the ego, false self, by engaging it in this whole project of 'doing' and 'getting somewhere' over time.

The technique has some ardent followers and proponents who say that it can lead to "stream-entry". It seems MS created it a century ago to help 'busy people' get into mindfulness and vipassana easier. It seems to be used in monastic and retreat situations these days mostly. I have read/spoken to/heard both success stories from people using the technique (ie attained to what they think is stream-entry), to dissatisfied students having used it for years (30 years in one case) without delivering 'the goods'.

I have my doubts now about how far the technique can actually take a practitioner. I highly doubt it would lead to the destruction of the false self/ego, and seems never to really lead to a thorough investigation of one's identity and underlying beliefs about experience.. but instead lead one to get into the minutiae of one's environment and senses.

Summary IME- it has it's place and is great for certain situations, and as an auxiliary practice, but is unlikely to deliver hard results in terms of self-realisation and transcending the false "I".

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My existence is like space.

"My existence is like space; though this body speaks like the radio, there is no one inside as a doer.. Some power acts through the jnani's body to perform actions"

(Ramana Maharshi).

This seems to be a more positive approach in describing the state of the self-realized jnani. It points to existence being akin to just space, which is empty, but also aware. Space-like awareness is a term used by some teachers such as Rupert Spira. Further, Ramana points out that there is no doer inside, no controller, but rather the external appearance of a person is closer to being like an impersonal process that is driven by some hidden power. Of course, this is still a dualistic way of looking at things, but closer to the truth. The ‘hidden power’ being just awareness manifesting as itself in a seeming dynamic way.

This quote brings back some memories of when I was performing the L.U. processes of searching intently for some inner entity or “I”, but not finding any, and just resting in that empty but aware space. When we look inside or directly at the mind, it does feel aware and present, but totally empty in essence. Looking outward there are perceptions happening and the world seems to be present. But looking inwards, there is nothing perceivable.

Now looking from the vantage point of that empty, space-like aware self that we already are, things seem to appear clearer than before. This equates with the pointer of actually being the self. Nisargadatta points out to be just the witness. Ramana gives the advice to ‘be as you are’, or just be yourself. Douglas Harding uses the ‘headlessness’ viewpoint. All are pointing towards this looking out from the essential empty awareness that we already are.

Further, Ramana advises elsewhere to ‘deny the ego and scorch it by ignoring it’, of which, one way would be to just remain as the self, or looking from the vantage point of the empty self.

The pointer to ‘rest as awareness’ seems a little off in this perspective, since it seems to imply an ego / I that takes some action to ‘rest’ and a place to go ‘awareness’, which can end up as yet another action journey into conceptual thought. Looking outward from the perspective of just being empty space, or just one’s self (only) that is aware of and illuminating all phenomena in the knowingness of itself, would be a direct way to access all of this.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Trawling through a couple of BATGAP interviews of modern day guru / teachers.- William Meader, Kosi, Amma Shri Karunamayi.

I've been getting some BATGAP emails of late with notifications of teacher interviews. I actually really like BATGAP for the sole reason that it gives everyone (globally) a change to listen to modern, living teachers and spiritual guru types. These interviews are usually suggested by devotees or students, and some of the teachers have a decent following.

I estimate that probably one in ten teachers interviewed is actually a bona-fide awakened teacher with something to impart. The rest are likely charismatic people who have been either beguiled by their own imagination in believing they're somebody special, or who knowingly have taken up the guru game because they think they have something to teach.

A couple of recent duds seemed to have come through.

William Meader, although a nice enough seeming guy, seems to be off on another planet. He speaks about Atlantis, cosmic plans for the existence of humanity, and what he thinks 'esotericism' really is. Unfortunately, the theorising gets so dense, that even students of the Theosophical Society would have a tough time getting through his material. He offers workshops and global tours, undoubtedly for those who want to theorise and know how the universe works both exoterically and esoterically. Needless to say, there seems to be next to nothing pointing in the direction of actually knowing oneself (or what must be prior to the appearance of the universe in our own awareness) before getting into interesting esoteric laws of the universe.

Kosi is coming from an Advaita Vedanta background. It sounds like she's onto a good thing at times, and does advocate tackling the vasanas (tendencies) and darker side of human nature, besides pointing out what enquiry is and also our own true nature. Unfortunately, she seems to have hitched her wagon to some visionary (imaginary?) experiences that she believes she has experienced over time, from apparitions of Ramana Maharshi to Jesus Christ. (This, despite Ramana Maharshi himself discouraging visions, hallucinations and mystical phenomena by followers due to their distraction from the actual work of self-inquiry).
She then goes on to paste pictures of Ramana all over her website, as if it is some sort of endorsement of lineage. Her other 'lineage' seems to be a spiritual female teacher Amma Shri Karunamayi. Kosi credits her with some prophetical birth and being a global avatar. On listening to a couple of her interviews though, it seems she's a pretty run of the mill Indian spiritual teacher, and espouses the usual "service", "karma yoga" and community practices, further caling her devotees "her babies" and "children". I'm skeptical of what, if anything is being offered by her teachings, besides a figure-head for some devotional practice.

I'm probably too crusty in my old age.. but I'd like to give out a reminder "buyer beware" when jumping into the guru / teacher scene. DYOR.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Ramana Maharshi speaking of the simplicity of self-realization in all.

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Talk 469.

Yogi Ramiah asked: A master is approached by an aspirant for
enlightenment. The master says that Brahman has no qualities, nor
stain, nor movement, etc. Does he not then speak as an individual?
How can the aspirant’s ignorance be wiped off unless the master speaks
thus? Do the words of the master as an individual amount to Truth?

M.: To whom should the master speak? Whom does he instruct? Does
he see anyone different from the Self?

D.: But the disciple is asking the master for elucidation.

M.: True, but does the master see him as different? The ignorance of the
disciple lies in not knowing that all are Self-realised. Can anyone exist
apart from the Self? The master simply points out that the ignorance
lies there and therefore does not stand apart as an individual.
What is Realisation? Is it to see God with four hands, bearing
conch, wheel, club, etc.? Even if God should appear in that form,
how is the disciple’s ignorance wiped out? The truth must be eternal
realisation. The direct perception is ever-present Experience. God
Himself is known as directly perceived. It does not mean that He
appears before the devotee as said above. Unless the Realisation
be eternal it cannot serve any useful purpose. Can the appearance
with four hands be eternal realisation? It is phenomenal and illusory.
There must be a seer. The seer alone is real and eternal.
Let God appear as the light of a million suns: Is it pratyaksha?
To see it, the eyes, the mind, etc. are necessary. It is indirect knowledge,
whereas the seer is direct experience. The seer alone is pratyaksha.
All other perceptions are only secondary knowledge. The present
super-imposition of the body as ‘I’ is so deep-rooted, that the vision
before the eyes is considered pratyaksha but not the seer himself.
No one wants realisation because there is no one who is not realised.
Can anyone say that he is not already realised or that he is apart from
the Self? No. Evidently all are realised. What makes him unhappy is
the desire to exercise extraordinary powers. He knows that he cannot
do so. Therefore he wants God to appear before him, confer all His
powers on the devotee, and keep Himself in the background. In short,
God should abdicate His powers in favour of the man.

D.: It is all right for mahatmas like Sri Bhagavan to speak out so plainly.
Because the Truth does not swerve from you, you consider it easy for
all others. Nevertheless, the common folk have a real difficulty.

M.: Then does anyone say that he is not the Self?

D.: I meant to say that no one else has the courage to put things
straight like Maharshi.

M.: Where is the courage in saying things as they are?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Does a 'perennial philosophy' actually exist?

Some comments by Michael James on the existence of a 'perennial philosophy':


2. The view that all views are one is due to lack of vivēka

F: I think my outlook is fundamentally Zen, but I still worship Bhagavan. I’m more open to a perennial philosophy, so I see it basically everywhere, despite the (apparently) diverse iterations. I think it’s everywhere.

M: Perennial philosophy of the type that Aldous Huxley wrote about is a huge generalisation, in which most non-materialist metaphysics can find a place, particularly (but not only) the more monistic or non-dualistic ones. Viewed superficially, there are many similarities [between the religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions of various cultures], as found by Huxley, but if one goes deeper there are also many significant differences.

Take vēdānta, for example, which Huxley considered to be the archetype of perennial philosophy. It is considered to be one view (darśana), but there are so many interpretations of it, dvaita, viśiṣṭādvaita and advaita, among which there are so many fundamental points of disagreement.

Even advaita is not a single view, because there are so many interpretations of it. Many professed advaitins, for example, do not accept dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda [the contention that perception is causally antecedent to creation (in other words, that creation is a consequence of perception), though they actually occur simultaneously, as in a dream], which according to what Bhagavan taught us is the cornerstone of advaita philosophy.

[My friend later suggested I was mistaken in writing this, because ‘Bhagavan’s teaching is ajata’, to which I replied: Though Bhagavan said that the ultimate truth is ajāta, he clarified that his actual teaching is only dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda (also known as vivarta vāda, the contention that everything [both the perceiver and the perceived] is just a false appearance), as you can see from verses 83 and 100 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai. Ajāta is not suitable for teaching, because in the state of ajāta there is no one in need of any teaching or to put any teaching into practice. Teaching is necessary only because we have risen as this ego (the perceiver) and consequently perceive the world (the phenomena perceived), so the most beneficial teaching is to say that all this is just a false appearance, which appears only in the view of the ego, so we should investigate the ego in order to see that it does not actually exist. Only by applying dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda in practice can we arrive at ajāta.]

Even among Bhagavan’s followers there are so many interpretations of his teachings.

If we want to see uniformity we cannot go deep into anything. If we want to go deep, we have to give up the idea that all views are one. In order to go deep in any spiritual path, particularly the path of jñāna [knowledge or awareness], vivēka (distinguishing differences and judging what is true or real) is absolutely essential.

When you say your outlook is fundamentally Zen, what do you mean by ‘Zen’? I do not know much about Zen, but I expect there are many different interpretations or understandings of it, as there are of advaita.

Therefore rather than just giving our view a label, we need to consider each point of difference and judge for ourself what is correct in each case. And we each have to consider whether our views on various points are consistent and coherent, which is something that is lacking in most people’s views, because they haven’t considered their views deeply or critically enough.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Body sensations and the sensation of the body as a gateway.

I bring up the idea of using the body's sensations and the overall sensation of the body (minus thought) as a gateway into beingness.

There are many teachings that reference body sensations. They are helpful in order to start from somewhere.

I also find that it's not so much about focusing or concentrating on the body sensation(s), but rather releasing tension through body sensations, and relaxing via body sensation.. then it becomes effortless, otherwise it builds up tension instead.

This is the path of letting go, surrender, or bhakti yoga. It's also the path of the Tao and going with nature.