Monday, December 30, 2013

Seeing the elements and forces play out.

I recently found and interesting exercise from an old Franz Bardon book (Initiation into Hermetics). Most of the time, these old "occult"/"hermetic" type books generally work on the level of manipulation of the five elements and rarely venture beyond this. Sometimes, however, one stumbles upon useful practices, such as this one, enabling one to get a better bird's eye view of how the elements and forces play out within one's individual consciousness.

The aim of the exercise is increased mindfulness around conditioned personality traits that normally play out unconsciously throughout one's waking existence.

The exercise is pretty simple, and relates to noting down (in a private diary) for a few days, all of the seemingly positive and negative traits (ie. personality) one experiences over the time period. Each is then assigned to an elemental quality (ie. fire, water, air, earth). I also added the 'force' dimension (ie. 3 gunas: rajas/activity, tamas/darkness, satva/conscious-harmony).

Some entries might look like:

-    "Quick temper while on the phone today, impatience" (Fire, Rajas)
-    "Resistance to going to bed late at night, knowing it was helpful" (Water, Tamas)
+   "Motivation to wish well for random stranger this morning" (Fire, Satva)
+   "Appreciation for food today during lunch" (Earth, Satva)

There is no effort to change these reactions, but rather develop observation & remembering skills.

There's also no hard-fast rules for assigning the qualities, the aim is more around becoming aware of how the elements and forces play out within one's consciousness during the day.

After a few days, a useful side-exercise would also be to notice the witnessing consciousness within which these elemental forces play out.

(Ride Waite 'Wheel of Fortune' card below, depicting the interplay of elements and forces).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Watch your thoughts, literally.

Most of us have heard the admonition, "Watch your thoughts". It's almost like Yoga101 or Meditation101. Such a simple practice, surely just for beginners and those starting on the path of single pointedness or concentration, right?

Any of these practices (sadhana) taken to the extreme, have the capacity to take an apparent individual "all the way". The reason why spiritual aspirants make little progress is chiefly because they drop one practice in favour of another, or don't stick with a simple practice until.. and beyond until.

Watching or observing thoughts not only introduces the watcher to the realisation that there is a subject/object set-up happening with thoughts (and the subject is totally identified with thought or feeling-thought), but also that ultimately the watcher itself (you and me) is yet another thought!

Nothing can be said ultimately about any practice, since the aim of a practice is to take one beyond the mind, and thus beyond intellectual description and understanding.

One key is enough. Keep going until the (imaginary) door we are trying to unlock opens of its own accord.

Here is an excellent tip from Krishnamurti on the topic:

"Watch what is happening inside you, do not think, but just watch, do not move your eye-balls, just keep them very, very quiet, because there is nothing to see now, you have seen all the things around you, now you are seeing what is happening inside your mind, and to see what is happening inside your mind, you have to be very quiet inside. And when you do this, do you know what happens to you? You become very sensitive, you become very alert to things outside and inside. Then you find out that the outside is the inside, then you find out that the observer is the observed."

- Pg 36, K on education.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tat tvam asi - That thou art.

​The Supreme Word (Mahavakya) or divine mantra "Tat tvam asi" (That thou art; you are That) has been used as a mantra, japa and sadhana since time immemorial within the Hindu traditions (Vedas, Vedanta, Yoga schools etc.)
However, as pointed out by jnani sages (such as Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Sadhu Om and others), it is in fact, not a word to be used as a mantra, japa or yoga practice- much to the chagrin of yoga practitioners caught on the level of dualism (i.e.. 99% of spiritual practitioners).
It is in fact an invitation to investigate and turn one's attention back onto the first person- examining exactly what is this "I"?
Since we cannot completely know "That" in whatever external form it appears (and much less so in the sense of a Divine Godhead!), we are left with only one direction- knowing oneself in the first person, which is "I". We know ourselves intimately on a certain level, and we know that we exist.
If "I am That", what is this "I" that is being pointed to in the scriptures as being Divine in nature (and equal to "That")?
On examination of the "I", the apparent self (ie. you and me as individuals) may discover much, and rather than listing some conclusions here, it would be much more worthwhile for anyone reading this- including the writer- to investigate immediately and find out by direct experience. What is this "I", where does it emanate from? What is it's flavour and feeling? Can it be held for any length of time in awareness?
As a pointer, it would be worth considering that anything observed cannot (by logic) be the observer. Hence observing the physical sense objects such as this body, normally taken as "I", leaves no choice but to accept that the body is not "I". Continued in this way, the inquiry progresses to its ultimate conclusion.
Once and when the ultimate conclusion is reached, in silent observation and direct knowing, then the Mahavakya is clearly understood.


(Gratitude to SA, RM, SO, and the SG)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Witnessing - tips from Osho

Witnessing and awareness

Nice compilation of tips and notes on "witnessing" and meditation taken from Osho (Rajneesh) talks.

More quotes on Witnessing  from his later talks in 1985:

What is your way of meditation?

"My way of meditation is very simple. There are one hundred and twelve methods of meditation. Out of all of those I have chosen the most simple - the most easily done. I call it witnessing.
The moment you witness something you become separate from it, you are the witness, the thing becomes an object - the witnessed.
If you are walking on the road, and you are also witnessing that you are walking - not going along just like a robot, mechanical, everyday habit, the road is known, the legs know it, you can even walk with closed eyes. But walking with absolute alertness every step, every fall of a leaf, every ray of the sun, every bird flying in front of you, fully alert... slowly, slowly, you become aware that you are not the body that is walking, you are something inside which is witnessing.
Once you have witnessed your body, you have got the knack of the method. Then you start witnessing your thoughts - sitting silently, just watching the rush of thoughts, not interfering, not saying, "This is good. This is bad." Not justifying, not appreciating, no judgment... non-judgmental witnessing, just like the mirror. Anybody passes by, the mirror reflects it; that's all, it makes no comment.
Strangely enough, when you stop making comments on the thoughts, they begin to stop; your comments keep them alive. Once you are simply a mirrorlike witness, thoughts disappear, and you become aware of a deeper layer, of emotions, moods, which are very subtle. You are not even aware many times that you are sad. You are often not aware of what your emotional state is - it is very deep, there is a thick layer of thoughts. When thoughts have stopped, then you become aware of a very subtle breeze - and there is a great joy to see it pass. The method remains the same - you remain a witness without judgment.
First body, second mind, third heart. And the fourth happens on its own.
I call my way the fourth way because after the third you cannot do anything. Once your emotions and moods disappear, suddenly there is a quantum leap - the witness has nothing to witness anymore. It comes home. It witnesses itself. It becomes both the seer and the seen, the object and the subject, and for the first time you have unity. This experience of absolute organic unity of your consciousness has been called by different names - moksha, nirvana, liberation, enlightenment, illumination. Whatever word you choose makes no difference. But this is the ultimate peak, this is the ultimate goal of human life.
So my method is very simple. You need not even sit to do it. You can do it anywhere - walking on the street, sitting in the bus, sitting in the plane, eating, even sleeping. When you are going to sleep you don't fall asleep suddenly, it takes a few minutes; just watch how the sleep comes in. Slowly, slowly, you will see sleep coming in, and as your witnessing becomes deeper there comes a moment when you can see that the whole night you are asleep yet still alert.
I have tried almost all one hundred and twelve methods. That list is exhaustive, there is no possibility of adding a single method more. You can make a method of combinations, but those one hundred and twelve are exhaustive.

Out of them all I have chosen witnessing, because most of them are based on this in different ways."

(Osho - The Last Testament, vol. 4 #15), transcript, 1985

Friday, November 22, 2013

Apple juice mindfulness

A few days ago I was boarding a plane from Singapore to Penang island, and noticed that my seat was next to a Theravada (Buddhist) monk in his 40's. He was wearing the traditional brown robe and was already seated.

Although interested in making a connection, I withheld conversation for most of the trip. At the end of the trip I discovered he was a Burmese monk (in the Mahasi tradition) headed for a meditation centre in Penang.

During the trip we were served a snack/drink, and we both chose apple juice as a beverage. Theravada monks due to their vows, do not eat solid food after midday, hence he only took a cup of apple juice. Myself not being particularly fond of airplane food also took the same.

I took about five minutes or so to finish the drink with some minor noting of its taste and color. However, I received a direct, silent teaching in mindfulness from the monk in becoming aware that he took around 20 minutes to finish the small cup. Each sip was savoured completely, mindfully, and slowly, no doubt attending to the sense perceptions such as taste etc., while drinking.

The event left a lasting impression on my consciousness and memory. No big deal, but it does show that mindfulness in action (when done with a high degree of awareness and intent) can and does impact those around us and in ways not always recognized.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Satsang with Ed Muzika (in the Robert Adams - Ramana lineage). Notes on Shaivism, Shakti, Bhakti & Beyond.

Found some time to sit in "virtual satsang" with a recent posting by Ed Muzika (Edji). The satsang (around 40 minutes) covers a wide range of topics and seems specifically aimed at his current batch of students. This is a good thing, since any teaching needs to be immediately relevant for the students in question. On the other hand, remote viewers watching this are likely to wonder why EM's focus has switched to a more dualistic type instruction, emphasising the individual and "his/her" energy and doings in the world. I must admit I was pondering this initially, though by the end of the satsang felt more resonance with EM's message and the way he is going about it.

(Blog post here:
(Satsang posted here:

He makes note that his teachings (or focus) have changed recently, and I am assuming this to be more of a focus on the Love / bhakti aspect, and also the energetic (Shakti) aspect of the teachings, rather than the previous focus on the Absolute and changeless (which Robert Adams & Ramana emphasized).

One thing of note is the wide coverage of ideas in this satsang, from Shaivism's focus on the Divine through manifest energy in the world (Shakti), back to the emphasis on the Absolute and Beyond (in Robert Adams' teachings). There is little "practical" advice given in this particular satsang, though those acquainted with the methods of Ramana, Robert Adams, and Ed Muzika himself (via his site), would probably have little need for practical advice during a satsang and are more in need of allaying their psychological doubts about where they are headed currently "in life". A few laughs were had around the discussion on people's "big problems" in life (mainly employment related).

Overall, I enjoyed this satsang, and am particularly grateful for the work Ed Muzika is doing in continuing to being out details on Robert Adams' life, teachings and experiences. I believe Robert Adams to have been one of those hidden gems or guiding lights of the 20th Century which is just too beautiful (and helpful) to be kept under a lampshade or forgotten or lost in Copyright void. Without Ed Muzika's work on the Internet, it is doubtful I would have ever known about the existence of Robert Adams, who has had an influence on my own realization.

Three points that I'd like to leave here related to the above:

  • The focus of energy & phenomena manifesting THROUGH the apparent individual (as the Absolute Itself) is very much a teaching in Shaivism, and can be experienced right now provided an individual has a grasp on WHERE the energy (Shakti) is coming from (ie. the SELF)-- which can be achieved via different means-- self-inquiry being Ramana/Robert Adams' favourite. This Shaivism type offering isn't spoken about much in the Ramana lineage, though Ramana was just as much a Shaivite as a "Vedantin" (of which 90% of people seem to have questionably equated him).
  • The divine Love / bhakti aspect flows naturally as a result of the above. 
  • Not everyone is ready for the "leave the world behind" focus required for resting as the Absolute. EM notes this could take a while (i.e. several lifetimes). While I don't completely agree with this, he does have a point in shifting the focus onto it being OK if an individual choses to follow the energetic path of Shakti, or the devotional path of Love. Often seekers convince themselves that there is 'one right way' to go about Self-realization, and trying to emulate a teacher (such as Ramana) falsely shifting themselves into a kind of detached "other world" state, only to be dragged back kicking and screaming. EM rightly straightens out this notion.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On consciousness. An Outline of Abhinavagupta’s soteriology in the Mālinīvijayavārttika (paper).

On consciousness. An Outline of Abhinavagupta’s soteriology in the Mālinīvijayavārttika, 2

By Xicoténcatl Martinez-Ruiz, Lancaster University UK, Religious Studies Department.
London, April 2008

The purpose of this paper is to analyse how Abhinavagupta’s concept of
consciousness plays a central role to articulate both, the theoretical congruence and
the plausibility of Trika śaiva soteriological project; as it is expressed in
Abhinavagupta’s works. In the most general sense I use the word soteriology in this
context as the path or liberative method to the highest goal in life and the sudden
arousal of the highest goodness called liberation (mokṣa). This method and its goal
stand for “the benefit of humanity” (jana),3 without restriction of caste or gender.

A few "first steps" for someone new to spiritual awakening.

I found this article on a website by Tom Stine. These eight tips are probably worth more than a whole bookstore filled with metaphysical and spiritual books. Since they are so common sense and clear, I've reposted here.

Just basic common sense tips. These tips also highlight where 90% of spiritual aspirants get lost, or fool themselves into believing they are doing work when in fact nothing is being done besides "armchair spirituality", conditioned thinking and talking.

Enjoy (and thanks to Tom Stine for writing these).

Tom Stine: 8 “First Steps” for Someone New (or Old) to Spiritual Awakening

* Start sitting. As I often say, you probably can’t sit too much. I’m far less interested in what you do while sitting, more interested in that you spend time sitting often. However, I think it safe to say that fantasizing and planning your day are not the best uses of your time. Rather, spend time doing absolutely nothing. You are not trying to still your mind, you are not trying to focus on breathing or a thousand other meditation techniques. You are just sitting still, maybe noticing what is here, what is now, what is your current experience. There are no mental tricks or games or practices. Just sitting and being. That’s really enough. Maybe try doing some sitting, allowing everything to simply be, for 15 minutes every day.

* A little bit each day, put your attention on awareness. (Many ways for doing this)

* Find a teacher or two or three, and pay attention to their teachings. Don’t try to precisely comprehend it all, but instead allow the teachings to “soak in.” You don’t need to become a follower of these teachers, take them as your “gurus” or send them all your money. But having someone (or several someones) to guide you along the way can be very, very helpful.

* Read a wide variety of spiritual books. These books can be very helpful. Don’t try to find “the answers” in those books. Rather, allow them to move you and guide you, not satisfy your minds desire to figure out everything.

* Make-up your own damn mind about what’s what in the spiritual world. Don’t believe a single word any teacher says, any books says, nothing(!), unless it really resonates with you. You don’t need to be an out and out skeptic. But don’t take anyone’s word for it. So what if Swami Salami says that enlightenment is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Is it? Do you know that? How about sitting with it and seeing what arises in you?

* Attend a few satsangs. Satsang means “talk or gathering about truth,” and attending, - watching or listening to one can be extremely helpful. If you don’t live near a teacher with whom you resonate, then watch satsang online (and no, that isn’t just a plug for online live satsang with yours truly). There are a number of teachers doing satsang and posting videos online. YouTube has more videos on spiritual awakening than you could ever hope to watch. For those of you who live in Hooterville like I do, the Internet is a veritable godsend.

* Recognize one very important truth about spiritual awakening and spirituality in general: most of what passes for spirituality is not going to help you in the slightest. I know that sounds extremely critical, but I don’t intend it to be. The issue at hand is really simple: what is going to help you the most on your journey? That’s all the matters. And the crazy part is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” path or approach that works for everyone. In a very real sense, you have to discover the unique path that is for you and you alone. And so the obvious realization: most of what’s out there just isn’t going to work. That’s why I keep encouraging you to…

* Sit some more. Really. I know I am making a big deal about sitting, both in this article, during satsang, and in the Shortcuts, but it really can’t be over-emphasized. It is a rare person who sits too much. If you will notice, most of the teachers and gurus out there, as well as most historical “enlightened” folks, did a lot of sitting. It’s about seeing how the mind/ego ticks. Most people won’t see through it without some time getting familiar with it. Sitting is the best way to do that. Remember, how is less important than actually doing it.

(Original article here:

As I understand from his website, Tom seems to have finished posting new material on his website, and has gone offline since then for various reasons. However, there is still some very worthwhile material on the site which I would highly recommend for reading.


Saturday, November 9, 2013


Taken from a Zen temple evening chant:

(Pointed out in Tricycle magazine, Fall 2013).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Life begings with Awakening- by John Bernie.

Found this short, beautiful piece in my inbox today. John speaks from an ever fresh experience of This.

Life Begins with Awakening

Awakening — the direct experience of our true nature — may be just a brief glimpse at first, a little taste of infinity; or it may persist longer, as a kind of luscious steeping in awareness; or there may be some more permanent shift. There are so many different ways awakening can unfold. Prior to that initial glimpse, that first realization, explanations and translations seem to be necessary. Models, roadmaps, guides, all can be very beneficial. But after realization, explanations are unnecessary. Because now you see clearly that everything is mirroring the truth; everything is teaching; everything is guiding. Guidance is automatically available.

The realization, however fleeting, that you are this — that this infinite awareness is what you fundamentally are — is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the path simultaneously. At that moment, awareness and understanding shift radically. When the truth is really revealed, everything changes. You begin to find the mind becoming incredibly malleable, flexible. No longer caught in the constrictions of paradigmatic thinking, you’re no longer enslaved by your beliefs, or anyone else’s beliefs either. You’re free of all that.

So then what? What’s next? You don’t know! From the awakened perspective, each moment is a new discovery. It’s all brand new, always brand new, right now. There’s no anticipation, no expectation. There’s just radiant aliveness, this vibrancy of being, and in that we recognize our deep interconnectedness with all things.

It’s fantastic to discover who you truly are. And the amazing thing is that that revelation keeps on happening, over and over. As one teacher of mine said when she was in her 90s, “I’m always learning new things and becoming more sensitive.” That’s the freshness, the innocence of pure consciousness — always learning new things and becoming more sensitive, and totally, totally okay with being human. You may have heard me say that the path begins with awakening, but truly, life begins with awakening.

(John Bernie, Clear Water Sangha)

Life as The Matrix.

Life is LITERALLY like the movie "The Matrix" (less the sci fi plot). We are LITERALLY living in a dream existence including our own concept of "me". It seems red & blue pills of "awakening" are scattered here and there very sparingly. 

Somehow by chance we learn of the dream and our dream identity, via taking a pill (Non-dual knowledge, all other knowledge and practices only reinforce the dream).

Until then, The Matrix movie keeps running on repeat over aeons of imagined time.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

AUM as a contemplative practice.

Today I began reading Gaudapada's Karika on the Mandukya Upanishad, with commentary by Adi Shankara. This book is really a double commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad. I've had this book in the drawer for some time, but found the chance to devote some time to it this week.

Although the language was archaic, and contained much Sanskrit, I was deeply impressed with the clarity which both Gaudapada and Shankara explained the chief tenets of Advaita Vedanta, through commentary on the Upanishadic text. There is also a presentation of the original Upanishad in terms of Advaita Vedanta philosophy.

One thing that particularly took my interest was the detailed explanation of the sacred syllable "AUM". Some commentary was given on its importance etc., and a break down of the three letters A, U, M, with meanings (akin to the three states of consciousness, three universal forces, and other three-combinations).

There was advice given at one point on meditating on the syllables A-U-M in turn (or 'by quarters'), or separately, and how they relate to external (gross), internal (subtle, dream) and pure consciousness realms.

In my opinion, it would seem that AUM may be used (and has indeed been used) as a portal into "consciousness only" via:

1. Use of AUM as a concentration practice via attention on the sound
2. Mindfulness of the sound first vocally, then silently (as per mantra yoga)
3. Following the sound to it's finish into silence and/or resting in the gap before the next sound.
4. Ultimately resting in the silence, and moving to "I-am-ness" or consciousness only (as a natural progression).
(5) Natural unactioned transition to Turiya (4th State).

This would be of particular usefulness to auditory-sensitive practitioners.


Gaudapada Karika Explanation
AUM should be known quarter by quarter. There is no doubt that the quarters are the same as the letters. Having understood AUM quarter by quarter, one should not think of anything else. 
The mind should be concentrated on Aum. Aum is the fearless Brahman. He who is always absorbed in Aum knows no fear whatever.
Aum is verily the Lower Brahman. It is also stated to be the Higher Brahman. Aum is beginningless and unique. There is nothing outside it. It is unrelated to any effect and is immutable.
Aum is, indeed, the beginning, middle, and end of all things. He who has realized Aum as immutable immediately attains the Supreme Reality.
Know Aum to be Isvara, ever present in the hearts of all. The calm soul, contemplating Aum as all-pervading, does not grieve.
One who knows Aum, which is soundless and also endowed with infinite sounds, which is all good and the negation of duality, is a real sage, and none other. (GK 1.24-29)

Commentary by Shankaracharya
Those who have realized Brahman, the Highest Reality, merge the self in Turiya because they have transcended the notion of cause and effect, which inheres in the third quarter of Atman. They are not born again; for they have realized their identity with the causeless Turiya. The illusory snake which has merged in the rope as a result of discrimination between the snake and the rope, does not reappear. Students of dull or mediocre mind who have renounced the world and are endowed with spiritual virtues should meditate on the common features of the sounds of AUM and the quarters of Atman, as explained before. Thus, proceeding step by step, they ultimately realize Turiya, devoid of any state or sound, and attain the Highest Goal.

Swami Sivananda, The Divine Life Society, India, 1992, pp94-99.
OM consists of three letters: 'A', 'U' and 'M'. It signifies the three periods of time, the three states of consciousness, the entire existence. 'A' is the waking state or Virat and Visva. 'U' is the dreaming state of Hiranyagarbha and Taijasa. 'M' is the sleeping state or Isvara and Prajna. Study the Mandukyopanishad in detail in order to understand the meaning of OM.

Good notes here:

A few notes from the International Journal of Yoga:

Among many symbols used, Om is one of the fundamental symbols used in the yoga tradition.


Om is the name or symbol of God (Ishwara, Brahman).[2] Om covers the whole threefold experience of man. It is the combination of three letters, namely, A, U, and M.[3] “A” represents the physical plane. “U” represents the mental and astral plane, the world of intelligent spirits, and all heavens. “M” represents the whole deep-sleep state, which is unknown even in our wakeful state.[3] This concept has been well described in various Indian scriptures. In Mandukya Upanishad, it has been described that Om is the syllable of the past, the present, and the future.[4] From the original sound, Om, all things become manifest as its extension embodiments.[4]

The analogy in Mundaka Upanishad describes that Om is the bow; the soul is the arrow; and Brahman is the target. The target is attained by an unerring man. One should become one with the target just like an arrow. This is to become one with the imperishable by eliminating the ideas of the body, ego, prana, hence being the self with nothing less than union with the absolute.[5]

Svetasvatara Upanishad describes that Om is like the fire which though potentially present in firewood is not seen until two sticks are rubbed against each other. The self is like that fire; it is realized by constant awareness of the sacred syllable Om. Let the body be the stick that is rubbed and Om be the stick that is rubbed against. Then the real nature is realized which is hidden within, just as fire in a sense hidden in the wood.[6]

Atharva Sikha Upanishad (Translation by Shri P. R. Ramachander)
Section - 2
 2.1 The pranava (the sound of Om) makes all the souls to bow before it. It is the one and only one which has to be meditated upon as the four Vedas and the birth place of all devas. One who meditates like that goes away from all sorrows and fears and gets the power to protect all others who approach him. It is because of this meditation only that Lord Vishnu who is spread every where, wins over all others. It is because Lord Brahma controlled all his organs and meditated upon it, he attained the position of the creator. Even Lord Vishnu , parks his mind in the sound (Om) of the place of Paramathma (ultimate soul) and meditates upon Eeshana, who is most proper to be worshipped. All this is only proper in case of Eeshana. 
 2.2 Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra are creating all beings, all organs and all karanas. They are also capable of controlling them. But Lord Shiva exists in between them like sky and is permanently stable. 
 2.3 It is advised that the five gods Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Ishwara and Shiva should be worshipped in the form of pranava [Aa+Uu+Ma+sound+Bindu(full stop)]. 
 2.4 Even if for one second, if one can stay and meditate on these, he gets more results than that of performing one hundred fire sacrifices. With the full understanding and knowledge, one should only meditate on paramashiva, which would give rise to all benefits. It is definite that, by sacrificing all other things, the twice born, should learn and understand this and he would get rid of the suffering of living in the womb and attain salvation.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Adyashanti book worth reading- "The Way of Liberation"

I'm not one to recommend any of the big "spiritual" players in the marketplace. In fact, I usually discourage people from aligning with ANY of the big players in "the biz". Chiefly because it's just too easy for someone starting out to form yet another self-identity aligned to some popular guru that has a habit of dispensing beautiful platitudes and not much else. You know the sayings .. "be yourself.. ", "just rest in your present being and allow things to happen.. ", "Is this the truth? What's the truth of your being.. " etc. etc. etc. Followers end up being hooked on attending meetings, buying products and the needy cycle continues until a new guru is found. The big payers passively endorse this behaviour. Only a few in the past, such as good old UG Krishnamurti had the courage to slap people away when it was required for their own good.

HOWEVER, I was very impressed with a short and practical book which I found via, written by Adyashanti, and in a most practical and useable format. He's combined a few core areas into a book (and possibly a workable system) and labeled it "The Way of Liberation". It basically details a few ethical foundations, followed by some core practices in open awareness / silent meditation and basic self-inquiry. There's also a contemplative practice using some exampe phrases (which I didn't particularly find too appealing, though one could substitute one's own favourites). Some guidelines are also given at the end for starting up a "study group".

Apart from being free for download, it could provide a very helpful means for someone attempting to break into contemplative practice, and is written in easy to understand language.

Of course, it's just a start, and doesn't aim at explaining any of the subtle nuances underlying nondual teachings (in which the author is normally classed, and which will probably necessitate the purchasing of more products for clarification), though it is as good a practical starting place as other similar works out there.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Food and physical diet

A few thoughts on food and diet

I'd like to address a few points on food, physical diet and its relationship to spiritual practice and life in general.

Some esoteric systems delineate "food" into three categories, being physical foodstuffs (ie. plants, meat etc.), air or breath, and impressions or vibrations. For the purposes of this article, we will consider just physical food for now.

For most people in Western society, and now increasingly in the East, it seems that diet, foodstuffs, and "how to eat" has become a big deal. This is even more so for those trying to engage in a spiritual practice, or generally increase their health in order to perform whatever aims they've decided for in life.

In regards to one's aims in life, this will depend almost fully on one's prior conditioning, current situation, and automatic factors being played out in one's life. By very small chance though, it may be that an individual catches a glimpse of something "else" in life, or the idea that perhaps not everything is truly as it appears, and thus the inclination to awaken from deep hypnosis arises. This can also be caused by suffering, and a general feeling of dissatisfaction with life, but not always. Some individuals just feel that "something isn't right here", and that there may be another way to exist besides following the automatic processes one finds oneself involved in from sunrise to sunset each day.

However, returning to diet. Compounding the confusion around diet, besides centuries of writings about what is "good", and what is "bad" in terms of health in mind and body, is also the fact that our modern day foodstuffs are being altered drastically, in comparison to just a century ago.

In terms of physical health, there's no hiding the fact that the less processed, more natural, and closer to nature the foodstuff is (ie. actual plants, vegetables, fruits, and non-modified animal products), then the better assimilated it will be for our physical bodies and state of health. Continuing from this idea then, it may seem logical that diets such as the paleo diet, SCD, 'caveman diet', and other such diets which our ancestors in physical form ate prior to a few thousand years ago, would best match the body's biological needs. I say logic, since the human body has been around for more than a few thousand years, likely through evolution of around 100,000 years. In contrast, the agricultural revolution took place only a few thousand years ago via the Middle East through Asia, whereby grains, farming and mass production of specific foods for the masses began to be utilized.

It is thus that my own experiences regarding diet have weighed heavily in favour of the paleo/caveman diet in terms of physical (body and mental) health and even in terms of performing psycho-spiritual activities. I also noticed some interesting occurrences such as the natural extinction of certain cravings for sugar, caffeine, energy-boosters, and processed foods, which had been a large part of my eating before, and which diminished without any effort on my part while on such a diet or way of eating.

This is in contrast to so much writing in the spiritual area however, that recommends vegetarianism, veganism, grains, fruits, dairy products and other such "sattvic" or calming type foods. The aim here being that the primary activity for a spiritual seeker being contemplation, meditation and calm, tranquil living giving rise to insight (and eventual freedom) can be aided by dietary considerations such as these. There is also the issue of ethics that rates high on most spiritual seekers' lists. Further, this line of thinking originated in India under certain religious/cultural conditions. It most definitely suits a very specific type of individual in terms of time and place.

I set aside ethics and morality for the moment, since an artificially imposed ethical system is yet another trap for the spiritual seeker, attempting to add more strength to an identity already overloaded with features. Further, most imposed ethical systems in human society have dismally failed over the centuries, resulting in little more than a set of "good"/"bad" actions that people miserably attempt to adhere to, or possibly on a few days throughout the year. This is in contrast to a naturally arising and authentic sense of ethics that may come about through no effort on the individual's part, once alignment has been attained with basic Nature.

Provided that an individual then, is on a natural evolutionary-fit diet, it would seem that the considerations of diet are then put on a secondary level of importance.

In summary, I'd like to propose that diet, which is important for maintaining the food-body, should be taken care of as an initial step on any spiritual path. Without the physical body/mind functioning at workable levels, little progress can be made in the higher arenas of psycho-spiritual development. Experiences and results may easily be distorted coming from a malfunctioning machine. However, once this has been attended to, diet should be a secondary consideration at best, and the primary focus of one's intention to awaken, and for self-inquiry should then take a front-seat necessary for the importance and urgency of the work. Externals such as diet, environmental considerations, clothes, physical aids (e.g. amulets, objects etc.), all should be relegated to the "minimal consideration" table. The practices of intention, concentration, insight, and self-inquiry vastly eclipse any benefits or results coming from secondary external objects or considerations. In other words, don't become a vegetarian in order to become spiritual- start with your intention, begin the practice, and see what happens.

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.

'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.