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. Of course, the whole "you can do nothing!" tip may be a teaching device or aid to 'giving up', which may or may not be useful for some. However, this isn't intimated in any way, but enforced as a belief that the listen either accepts or rejects (since their own person experience won't tally with this, at least not in the beginning stages).

- 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" have no idea about the nature of their existence or "I am" state, being totally absorbed in external objects. Most people are NOT 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, and have little need to attend satsangs etc.


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."



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.

Good:

- 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

Issues:

- 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.