Thursday, December 17, 2015

Real n not-real focus.

"God did not create a meaningless world." (ACIM Workbook Lesson 14)

This lesson teaches us about what is real and what is not real. We learn this by making the distinction between what has been eternally created and what has been temporarily made by us.
What has been made by us by thought and concept is dependent on conditions. Thus it cannot be real in an eternal sense, and is only a phantom. Conversely what God created is changeless and has always been. 

Once we sort the real from the unreal, we need only concentrate and focus our attention on the real! The unreal will then lose its importance in life and fade into the dream that it always was. The real remains "shining", our foundation, and self-evident as it always has been.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mantra work and Self-Remembering.

If you've done basic mantra work for a while, and have built a decent foundation for "access concentration" (or mindfulness on an object), the next step is to add some Insight practice.

In my experience, I've found mantra work plus the later step of "self-remembering" (or maintaining a steady awareness of one's self doing the mantra work) to be extremely potent.

It also has the benefit of making it virtually impossible to "fall asleep at the wheel", or get lost in imagination, while performing meditative /spiritual practice.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Is "do nothing" really true for you now?

“The more you try to fix it, the more you reinforce the belief that it’s broken.”
Jeff Foster.

Speaking in absolute terms, this may be true.

But is it true for you now? We don't accept things on heresay.

Perhaps there's plenty to do while we're still here identified as seperate individuals. The ego loves to distort these teachings into forms of self-comfort, in the form of "ultimately it's all ok, nothing to do", and thus it continues on its merry way.

The goal can seem far away, but ultimately exists right now. Yet, until we actually investigate things, as they really are (most importantly what we believe ourselves to be), then there is yet apparent work to be done, beliefs to be "fixed", and time set aside to listen to the Truth in silence.

We work together and become as One.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Robert Adams - Silence.

"You must always remember that silence is the greatest teacher. Quietness, silence, total stillness, it is the greatest teacher. Reality shines through where there is silence. If you want to experience reality just keep quiet. That is all you have to do. Shut up. Stop talking. Stop thinking. Stop imagining. Leave it all alone. " Robert Adams - Feb 18, 1993

Sunday, November 15, 2015


From some Fourth Way material.. 

"FURTHER NOTE ON 'I'S -- 'I'S AND LEVELS OF BEING      --  Last time we spoke of different I's in us and how we are not one person but many different persons and how unless we realize this by direct self-observation we can never begin to understand ourselves or other people.  In this connection we spoke of Real 'I' which it is the aim of this Work to reach, in place of having our centre of gravity in Imaginary 'I' that is the source of so much misery and misunderstanding.  Just figure to yourself two Imaginary ‘I’s marrying each other.  The dream-man marries the dream-woman and so on.  All this, of course, can lead nowhere save in romantic novels which usually and wisely end just when the imaginary hero marries the imaginary heroine – obviously a difficult starting-point suggesting difficult situations in the future.  It was also said last time that occasionally, even in ordinary mechanical life, we may experience a momentary trace of Real ‘I’.  As was said, this may happen in cases of extreme fatigue, as in war, when suddenly an access of force comes, or in great danger, also in many strange ways that cannot be classified, but produce the same result.  By contrast, the usual life of sleep that we are immersed in, when we identify with everything outside us, and inside us, has an utterly different taste from those brief, calm but rare moments of touching Real ‘I’, which in the work are called “moments of awakening from sleep” or “moments of Self-Remembering”.  The very undeniable difference in inner taste, in emotional quality, between our ordinary  and these exceptional moments shews us that there is within us some other level of consciousness, some other centre of gravity and some other level of experience --  and clearly a higher level – that we do no customarily know.  Now in this Work, as in all esoteric teaching, it is said that to reach a higher level of ourselves, to make contact with ‘I’s that do not exist, so to speak,  in the basement of the house of our being, efforts on oneself have to be made.  We are told what efforts have to be made very clearly.  For example, to take one line, we are told that a man must observe himself, he must observe that he is not one but many, that he must by practical work destroy the illusion that he has Real ‘I’, he must get to know by observation some of his prominent ‘I’s that hitherto he has mistaken for himself and not identify with them – that is,   not say ‘I’ to them – because what in you you say ‘I’ to chains you to it.  Once you say ‘I’ to any thought or feeling it has power over you.  In hysteria, the victim identifies with every sensational and horrifying thought.  There is no power of self-observation and separation.  It is something like thinking that a snake in the grass is you and so not being able to separate object from subject.  There is a mystery here which goes very deep and cannot be entered into now – safe to say that this Work teaches that mankind is under a definite hypnotic force to keep it asleep and prevent it from waking up.  I will give one hint of this from another esoteric source.  It is said in Issaiah:  “The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes.  (Is. XXIX 10)  And in the New Testament:  “This people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are full of hearing and their eyes they have closed, lest haply they should perceive with their eyes and hear with their ears,  and understand with their heart . . .”  (Matt, XIII 15)  This Work merely says that Man is asleep and that we are born asleep into a world of sleeping people who are kept asleep and spend their time in killing one another.  Now the realization that we are many and not one, that the quality of our Being is characterized by multiplicity instead of unity, belongs to a stage in the journey called “awakening from sleep” which can end in a man being born again – that is, finding and becoming Real ‘I’.  What then undertakes this journey?  Those ‘I’s in a man which have the most understanding.  We come, then, to the idea that our different ‘I’s are not on the same level.  Some ‘I’s are very small in understanding – very mean, very poor, envious and stupid.  Some ‘I’s are bigger, and so on.  When a man begins to hear the Work with both ears, and to observe himself in accordance with its instructions, there gather around Observing ‘I’ all ‘I’s who wish to understand more.  This collection of ‘I’s is on a higher level that the ‘I’s that dealt with everyday life and its affairs.  This collection of  ‘I’s that form round Observing ‘I’ is called Deputy-Steward and if they are strong enough to persist and fight against all these negative and disbelieving ‘I’s that attack them a further stage is called “Steward”.  This is the herald of Real ‘I’.  So we can put them in this way:  Observing ‘I’, Deputy-Steward, Steward, Real ‘I’, in order of ascent.I said last time that one should try to observe and study the history of different ‘I’s in ourselves.  Some people undertake to write their biographies.  But in the autobiographies they always take themselves as one ‘I’, moving through Time.  They should write instead the history of different ‘I’s in them.  Now our most mechanical ‘I’s live in small parts of centres – in the basement of oneself.  They are usually  quite unintelligent and have no understanding.  They belong to the lowest level of our Being.  They take charge of us most of the day, speak through our mouths and call themselves ‘I’.  They are rigid, always saying the same things in the same way.  Towards the end of life it is often noticeable how the better and more understanding ‘I’s in a person get disconnected and there remain only the most petty and tiresome ‘I’s.  This is impossible to understand unless we realize that a person is not one ‘I’, but many ‘I’s, and that these ‘I’s are on different levels, as on the wires on a telegraph-pole.  In this Work one should aim not to go always in company with negative, weak, vain, poor ‘I’s, for they spoil everything, and produce bad, inner states.  It is a common thing that while we have no power of making ourselves happy we have considerable powers of separating from unhappy states once we begin to understand  what self-observation and non-identifying mean.  But all this belongs to awakening from sleep so perhaps it is not so curious in view of that goal.                                     

--           From “Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky – Volume 3” by Maurice Nicoll.  This talk was given at Great Amwell House, October 4, 1947

Monday, November 9, 2015

Silence, Inquiry, Nisargadatta

What helps is silence. Look at yourself in total silence; do not describe yourself. Look at the being you believe you are and remember – you are not what you see. 'This I am not – what am I?' is the movement of Self-enquiry. There are no other means to liberation, all means delay. Resolutely reject what you are not, till the real Self emerges in its glorious nothingness, it’s 'not-a-thingness.'


-- great summary of self-inquiry/atma vichara.

Monday, September 21, 2015

"You not know your 'I'.." (Gurdjieff)

"You not know your 'I', not one second in all your life. Now I say, and you try. But very difficult. You try to remember to say 'I am' every hour. You not succeed, not important, you try."
(Gurdjieff, Essays & Reflections)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Habit & insight. Nididhyasana.

Post by James Swartz (according to Vedanta) on the notion of why insights into nonduality tend to be short-lived (due to habitual ignorance)- 

Because the ideas that reality is dualistic, the manifest universe (i.e., apparent reality) is real, and that one is the limited person one appears to be are so deeply ingrained in one’s psyche, it takes time and effort to remove its stain. For this reason, one has to continuously dwell on the teachings of Vedanta and apply them to each and every thought, circumstance, encounter, interaction, event, and experience of one’s life. While self-realization may be a “one-off” in that there is a moment when you “see” who you really are, self-actualization (i.e., the full assimilation of that knowledge, which allows one to live as the limitless self within the context of the limited body-mind-sense complex inhabiting an apparent reality characterized by limitation) takes time to establish. This is the third phase known as nididhyasana." (ShiningWorld)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

No such thing as awareness? Awareness just a construct? A new fad in spiritual circles.

I recently saw a re-posting by Scott Kiloby (article below) on challenging the idea that 'awareness' and 'consciousness' are not 'real', but just mere constructs. This thrust is doing the spiritual circuits these days, with a number of teachers coming out in an attempt to challenge the notion that awareness-is-all etc. (which was popular during the last few decades thanks to Neo-Advaita type popularity in spiritual satsang circles).

This idea (that awareness/consciousness is just a construct and not real or the basis of all) has actually been around for a little longer, like 2500 years, in Theravada/classical Buddhism. Some teachers like to think that they're being all innovative etc., in challenging this notion, or getting their readers to challenge the idea that awareness-is-all. Their students then get all cocky and run around the Internet challenging others to 'find awareness' or 'find consciousness' etc.. like it was an item one finds in the pantry.

What I'd like to ask these teachers though is this--> Are you then substituting yet another speculation for the 'awareness-is-all' belief-- ie. that awareness is just an empty construct? Or that reality doesn't consist of just awareness?
Because it certainly seems so. Nowhere on these blogs, posts and rantings, can I find any hint that this idea should be actually investigated via direct, clear, practical means, other than reasoning things out (which gives a temporary ok-ness to one's intellect). These teachers are also entirely missing the point that the 'awareness' teachings that make use of the word 'awareness' ALWAYS imply that awareness is not an object, not findable, etc. etc., and that 'awareness' is a pointer for use with very specific practices that lead to the unshakeable experience of what 'awareness' or 'not-awareness' actually IS. The awareness teachings (with the exception of Neo-Advaita) are not attempting in any way to posit a theory of the universe whereby one goes around sheeping the idea that 'awareness is all' and behaving in certain ways that affirm that belief.

So perhaps teachers that are proudly attempting to blow away the notion of 'awareness' should instead focus their efforts on guiding students (and likely themselves) into using 'awareness' as a practical pointer for self-inquiry, or not using 'awareness' at all, but engaging in other deep contemplative practices (such as Insight, vipassana etc), and thus doing away permanently with their own egoic identifications that lead one to posit the above philosophical nonsense (and also make a profession / living out of 'teaching' others what 'reality' is, an how students can deal with their 'problems' etc. via paid-for seminars and workshops etc.)

This post might appear a little inflammatory, though the point needs emphasising that 1. awareness isn't an object 2. awareness teachings aren't attempting to define a new theory of how the universe operates and is put together 3. awareness teachings make use of very specific practices that lead to results beyond intellectual philosophising, beliefs and speculations.

Scott Kiloby:

What if awareness isn’t real? A recent scientific study found that awareness or consciousness is a construction of the mind like everything else – like the self, our world views, all of it.

This latest scientific discovery is not particularly groundbreaking. In fact, postmodern philosophical explorations in the last century have essentially obliterated inherent metaphysical notions like awareness or spirit. They have torn these notions to shreds in so many ways and from so many angles that it is embarrassing in those circles to posit such notions. Whatever we think is pregiven as a reality is exactly not that. It is a construction. This has been dealt with so directly that there are now things like non-metaphysical nonduality and post-metaphysics popping up. Yet, most of the spiritual community is ignorant of what science is currently saying and what these postmodern explorations have uncovered about how our minds conceive – essentially “make up” – everything, even our most profound metaphysical notions. Even though our spiritual circles are slow to see this, we have all already seen it, yet we often turn a blind eye to it. For example, those who follow certain regional traditions and teachings tend to see what those teachings and traditions teach and nothing more. For example, a Buddhist is not going to find Union with Christ. A Christian is not going to realize nirvana. True nature is realized only by those who follow teachings that say that there is a true nature and that this is what you are. I found this out long ago when I would meet with people who had experiences of the dropping away of everything. They didn’t follow any teachings. When I suggested they were seeing their true nature, they looked at me as if I had just said “You are a squirrel.” Even when they began to call their realization “true nature,” they did so by taking that on as a conception, a context for what had been seen. And that’s the mind, through and through.

Awareness gets thrown around as if it is the final realization, as if everything is just awareness. But look around – nothing in the universe is labeling itself awareness. Labeling happens through the mind. And to say that we have to be aware in order to even see a universe is still the mind, for it posits a division between what is aware and what one is aware of. All divisions are of the mind. They are constructions.

The perennial philosophy itself, which is the notion that there is one pregiven reality that we all come to see, regardless of our particular tradition or spiritual view, has been obliterated also. If there is one pregiven reality, why is everyone still arguing about it? Is reality arguing with itself? How would that happen anyway if there is one reality? Why do Buddhists, Advaitists, Scientists and Christians still assert that whatever they are realizing is what everyone else is realizing as one fundamental truth? Could it be that what they are realizing is only what their teachings and traditions make room for? Could it be that the notion of one fundamental truth is just another way the ego wants to be right? If so, that has nothing to do with a pregiven, nonconceptual reality. That is all about self.

Is this the end of metaphysical notions like awareness? I say “no.” It just means it is time for a change in how we view these things (or non-things). Setting up the notion of awareness can be helpful on one’s path to freedom. It provides a way to identify less with thoughts and other arisings that come and go. But inevitably, many land on that conception as a final realization, still dividing the universe in two, between awareness and all that other stuff that comes and goes.

We often hear that all there is, is Oneness. But did you know that many schools of Buddhism do not posit Oneness as a final insight. Instead, they say it is empty too, like everything else. It is a construction.

Wow, this sweeps the proverbial rug out from under us. It calls on us to look at our reality differently – to stop taking the words of spiritual teachings, science and religion on face value. It calls on us to look at our conceptions, no matter what they are and no matter how profound they appear to be.
But isn’t this what freedom is about anyway? Isn’t it about not getting cozy within mental prisons that create more divisions and, instead, letting the fire of freedom burn everything up?

If you are willing and ready to let that fire burn it all up, nothing that is said here will offend you. Instead, it will excite you at the possibility of going deeper then where you are currently landing in your conceptions of reality. If this offends you, and you wish to argue with me, be prepared. I’m not defending a view here. I’m merely inviting you to examine your own. You’d only be arguing with yourself. Apparently, that’s what reality does.

The mind. Seek it.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The "I am" focus.

A lot of people spend years trying to figure out what the "I am" focus is all about. Nisargadatta mentions he spent three years or so focusing on it, and was liberated. Others have talked about it, via self-inquiry, Gurdjieff work, and even through Zen kian use.

It's really nothing more than going back to the idea of focusing on one's apparent personal sense of self, consciousness, wakefulness etc. Just the sense of being awake that happens every morning as opposed to deep sleep or unconsciousness. It's like focusing on the TV screen rather than the images, assuming we were a TV set. 

The practice is very simple. Sticking with it for days, weeks, months and years is the hard part, and VERY few have the tenacity to do so- hence Nisargadatta's insistence that only a few in a hundred thousand (later revised to a few in a million) would really understand it and arrive.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Zen - Zazen (1) - Breath Counting 1

About Susokukan
(A Breath counting Meditation)

  The foundation of Zen practice lies in samadhi and without it, true attainment of the goal will be unrealizable. This truth is applicable not only Zen, but also to anything in the secular world as well. The important standard to cultivate the samadhi power is just this breath-counting meditation.
  Koun-an Roshi practiced breath-counting meditation for at least one hour every day from his days of High School until his death, fulfilling the advice of a famous leader in Sendai.
  Koun-an Roshi wrote that "this very breath counting meditation is the final destination of Zen practice as well as the first step of it," in his book titled "A Guide to Breath counting meditation."
  Students should masticate exactly the extremely heavy meaning involved in this one phrase.

◆ Procedure of Zen Meditation

(1) After finding an adequate place and time, you need a "Futon" (a Japanese cushion to sit on). You need two ordinary flat, thick cushions. First place one cushion on the floor, double the other cushion in two and put it on the former, then seat you on the folded cushion. In the case of the ordinary cross-legged form of sitting, unless you bend your back and lean forward, you may tumble over backwards. The cushion lying under the buttocks will shift the weight of upper half of your body forwards and you can stabilize your whole body. Therefore the height of the second cushion is to be suitably adjusted to each sitter.
zabuton zabuton
  When you feel most stable, the height is just suitable for you. Do not take this matter lightly as the cushion height is decisively important for the right posture in Zazen. It is shown by the fact that most of those who take training in Zazen have their own cushions. Now prepare yourself to feel as if you were a five-storied pagoda (the Gorin-no-To) rising from the cushion. Then swing the upper halves
(2) There are two methods of cross-legged sitting; one is "Kekkafuza" (full-lotus) and the other "Hankafuza (half-lotus). The former is the method in which you draw your right foot on to the left thigh, and then draw up your left foot on to the right thigh. It is the regular posture, but it sometimes gives pain to those who have fat bodies or short legs. In such cases, Hankafuza is acceptable. The Hankafuza posture is formed when you draw up either foot onto the opposite thigh. In this posture, the upper half of your body is apt to lean sideways and you will have to leave the stabilizing job to the foot lying underneath. In either posture, the important point is to make a regular triangle with the three points, the two kneecaps and coccyx. The triangle has a downward slope to the front and, in this posture, when you straighten your spine, the perpendicular line to the floor from the center of gravity of the upper half of the body naturally falls on the center of the triangle thus gives the sense of stability I referred to before. When you do not feel this sense of stability in the Zazen posture, the perpendicular line I mentioned above falls on at the wrong point. If so, you should not hesitate to adjust the height of the cushion under the buttocks. If you fail in this, you will also fail to do Zazen long enough for its effect to be felt.
Kekkafuza seiza

(3)  One of the worst results could be the uncontrollable swaying of your trunk during Zazen due to an unbalanced state of muscles or something of that nature. There have been many schools of so-called Seizaho (Meditative posture), but the reason why most of them have not become popular is the absence of balance in the form of sitting. The right posture as explained above is justified from both physical and physiological viewpoints. If you follow the method strictly, you can sit for a long time without fatigue, and you can, if you want to, even sleep while you are thus sitting, with a support under your chin.

(4)  After the foundation is thus set, you should deal with your hands. You put one hand upon the other, palms up, and let the tips of both thumbs touch each other, and you will look as if you were forming an oval with both hands, when seen from the front. The hands are then placed on the lap with both elbows kept slightly away from the body and with the shoulders kept free from tension. Then you straighten your spine and pull in your chin a little, when you feel that the end of your nose and your navel are lying on the same line perpendicular to the floor.

(5)  When we gaze at anything for a long time, we are apt to become dull in mind. That is why the word Hangan (half opened eyes) has been in use, to warn people not to be excessively watchful. The core of the thing is that you must not shut your eyes. In the beginning, one is likely to think that the shut eyes will help the concentration of mind, but, in fact, you will fall into blunt stillness and will not be able to practice vivid and effective Susokukan. You should keep your mouth closed and breathe naturally through your nostrils. Probably you have heard of deep breathing or abdominal breathing being recommended as of importance. That is another wrong way of instruction. If it is natural for you to breathe deep, long breaths, of course there is no harm in it. However, you should not force your breathing breath, but just breath. Zazen is called the "Pleasant Path to Truth" because you can thereby follow the unfettered flow of nature.

(6)  There is no need to purposely gathering strength in the abdomen. The worst thing to do would be gathering strength in the region of stomach. In spite of all this, we often find books that tell us "to gather the strength of the whole system and concentrate it in the abdomen. " This often repeated saying is grammatically misleading. If the strength were gathered naturally in the abdomen, and only then, you would be sitting in the right way - following nature. In Zazen you need to pay attention to only two things, the right posture mentioned above and Susoku-sammai in the following passages. In the right posture, stability is always there, as is something central.

(7)  When you have secured stability, the right posture is half done, so, you might, in your daily life, try to learn how to get it, wherever you maybe - sitting in a chair, lying in a sick-bed and so on. In this way, you will eventually be able to meditate as you do in Zazen, regardless of the posture you are in. Some Zen-minded people, who, as they belong to the fair sex, do not feel like sitting cross-legged, they may sit square on their legs. In this posture too, however, they are advised to put the second cushion folded to adequate height under the buttocks (between the feet) and keep both knees a bit away from each other for stability. But this is not a normal Zen posture, and those women will also find more comfort in the normal way of sitting, as is observed by Zen nuns. So much will be about your posture in Zazen, and you are now counting your own breaths.

◆ Susokukan (Breath counting meditation)

  The mental attitude before you start Susokukan, should not be that here is a being only a few meters high resting on a little cushion. Have pride that there sits a stately master of the universe on this cushion - with the whole of heaven and earth under your buttocks. Now that you are ready to set to Susokukan, you make a Gassho (by pressing your palms together), do not think about the past, put your hands back into a meditative position and start counting your natural breaths in your mind.
  You put an inhalation together with the following exhalation and count "one (Wa---n)", and keep on counting two (Tu ---) in the same way.
  In more detail, count "Wa--" in the first in-halation and "---n" in the first exhalation, a breath in and out making one. The second breath is "Two --- o"/; the third "Three---e" and so on. When you count the thirteenth, you count in the inhalation "Thir---" and finish in the exhalation "---teen", so with the twentieth, you count "Twen --- " in the inhalation and finish "---tie" in the exhalation. Coming to the one hundredth, you start with "Hund---r" in inhalation and finish with "---red" in exhalation. After one hundred, you count one again and enter the second round of one hundred. The whole thing seems to be so easy that you may say you can have it done straight away. You could be right, were it not for the three requisites, which make Susokukan an outstanding art of self-training. The three important points of doing Susokukan are:

1. Do not miscount your breaths, 
2. Do not let anything else in to your thought, 
3. As soon as you fail in the above two, you restart from number one. 
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Friday, July 17, 2015

Attention focus- narrow and wide.

Attention focus:

- single-pointedness
- one object
- concentration practice
- shamatha, calming
- attention strengthening
- 'self-observation' in parts
- Access concentration
- Jhana

- open awareness
- Insight / vipassana
- Pro
- Flow of impermanent phenomena
- Selfing / Witnessing the "I" construct
- Shikantaza / Just sitting
- 'Self-remembering'
- Awareness teachings, Awareness watching awareness
- Nonduality

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"Experience your Perfect Soul"- compilation of spiritual authors. (Freedom Religion Press)

Experience Your Perfect Soul is a collection of carefully selected powerful quotes by the following seven authors: 1. Joel S. Goldsmith. 2. Eva Bell Werber. 3. William Samuel. 4. Ruby Nelson. 5. Elise Morgan. 6. W. Norman Cooper. 7. Katharine Pedrick.

Just finished reading this little compilation.

Enjoyed this compilation of quotes and readings from some lesser known American transcendentalists / contemporary mystics. Much of the work reads like A Course in Miracles, and points to nondual awareness and self-realization. However, the readings are more for inspiration, and not practical as such (other works by the publishing company are better for practical purposes). This would appeal to those who enjoy Christian mysticism, poetry, and the writings of early 20th Century spiritualists, new thought, etc.

As for practical advice, the writings mainly point to the need to spend time in silence, alone, and in a state of 'listening' to the soundless voice within. Along with this, there is the advice to stay centred and connected to one's Inner Presence, even when involved in activity (similar to the idea of maintaining mindfulness of one's self throughout the day). There are also some good points on fostering positive attitudes such as 'love', 'praise', and 'gratitude', which can help throughout the day, when not involved in meditative activities.

The parts of the book that I enjoyed the most were Eva Bell Werber, William Samuel, and Ruby Nelson.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mindfulness of posture.

Mindfulness of posture (body, rupa) and the 4 possible postures (standing, walking, sitting, laying), is a very calming and portable practice.

I've been finding it enjoyable even while riding busy and noisy public transport, which makes difficult going for other practices such as using mental objects or even open awareness.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

"Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" (book)

Just finished reading "Mastering The Core Teachings of the Buddha" by Daniel Ingram.. man, was I impressed. I had head DI speak on various podcasts, but hadn't found the time to purchase and read his book.

I could write so much, but will just paste a review I wrote on it.

This book has really fired me up to take another serious look at simple Insight meditation practices (such as Mahasi Sayadaw Noting), and also work on the Concentration Jhanas a little more.

It also confirms much of what I had already concluded related to the absolute uselessness of probably 80% of what is found on the nonduality and modern spirituality circuit- even hardcore would-be teaching schools actually aiming at 'self-realization' or 'enlightenment'.

I'm really looking forward to a Second Edition, and with hopefully a few more practical exercises detailed.

Anyhow, here's some review material:

One of the best contemporary dharma/meditation/spiritual practice books and commentary written in modern times. This book really gets at the core of what Buddhism _should_ be about and focus on with its practices- however, this book could easily apply to any of the major religions or practical spiritual paths aiming at self-transformation and 'enlightenment'. I like the direct advice given, and also the conceptual mappings throughout the book detailing possible stopping places along the spiritual developmental route. This book really strikes at some of the core problems inherent in a lot of spiritual paths, and explains exactly why these paths and people following them just aren't effective in attaining what they set out to achieve.

 If I had any criticism with this book, it would probably be that it needs some more time spent on detailing the actual practices involved in both concentration and insight meditation. Yes, the instructions are given, but even these I find are a little too vague (i.e just focus intensely on sensations being perceived right now and see the three characteristics inherent in them etc. etc.; or find an object and focus on it intensely, and then extent the time period). 

I know the author is working on a Second Edition, so I look forward to that! Overall, great work, and in my Top 5 books.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Beyond the Fourth Way- P. Groves" - review and some notes.

I recently found a book "Beyond the Fourth Way" on the Internet while browsing, and which captured my interest from the description, since it spoke of both Fourth Way, going beyond it, and also some aspects of Swedenborg's teachings.

I was a little disappointed on reading through it twice though. My review of the book, which seems a bit harsh on first sight was:

This rather odd book or compilation was made out of notes that the author amassed during his decades of teaching philosophy and esoteric systems. Apparently it was salvaged and compiled posthumously by some of his students, and relates generally to ideas found in the Fourth Way and Gurdjieff schools, as well as crossing into the author's interests with Swedenborg, theosophy, symbology and other areas. This book is not at all practical, and contains a couple of lines throughout which actually speak about the practices of 'self-remembering'. Nothing is mentioned of 'self-observation', the centres, or other common Fourth Way topics. The lines on 'self-remembering' are vague, and relate to the author's idea that it involves both having an overarching awareness of both internal and external states, but at other points in the book, seems to relate only to having an awareness of the body's inner 'feeling'. Overall, this book may appeal to those with a philosophical bent, or who are interested in theosophical type information and ramblings (such as correspondences between the human body and esoteric symbology, or on the conceptual hierarchies of the 'spirit world' etc.). I would class it as very supplementary for anyone interested in the Fourth Way, and it would serve little purpose apart from informational material (or interesting reading for a rainy day) for those without any actual first-hand experience of 'self-remembering' or Fourth Way practices. I had hoped for more with a title such as "Beyond the Fourth Way", which should have been entitled something like "Discussions on The Fourth Way, Swedenborg, and Ancient Symbology".

The reason that the review was a little harsh was that:

- the ideas on 'self-remembering' were very vague at best, and incorrect at worst. In some instances, it likened self-remembering to 'enlarging the field of consciousness so both inside and outside worlds were grasped together', and then in other places, it was just relaxation and noticing 'a new quality of consciousness inside oneself' was present. Still elsewhere, it was feeling the inside of the body (sensations?).

- the author exhorted the reader again and again to apply self-remembering, resist negative states, the ego etc. etc., but gave no actual means to do this (unless of course this was given in his lectures, but which was not stated). As with most spiritual literature, the author assumes that the common reader even has the capacity 'to do' (as opposed to Gurdjieff's chief claim that "man cannot do" and was but a machine (unless this realization had already set in, and one had started to work on himself/herself in a specific directed way).

- 95% of the book was informational / conceptual material, and had to be taken on a pure faith basis- relating to ideas such as spiritual realms, spiritual functionings of the physical body, the real meanings behind ancient art and architecture, etc. etc.-- which is all well and good, except that it didn't really relate at all with The Fourth Way, or go beyond it. Ouspensky was shot down in a few places throughout, but is actually much more practical and easier to understand in relation to what 'self-remembering' entails. (The author probably latched onto Gurdjieff's worst teachings (in terms of impractical nonsense that probably was aimed at entertaining would-be seekers and those interested in theosophy type discussions), such as the idea of genetic information passing from one generation to another, the enneagram, the Hydrogen-Oxygen-Carbon theory, extracting 'secrets' from ancient art works etc.-- all of which are just distractions away from practicing self-observation and self-remembering)

However, there were a few positive points, and a couple of interesting notes, (for those with the experience to discern:)

* Relaxation and breath awareness is useful, and can lead to a becoming aware of a different state of internal consciousness-- which we would normally experience as 'calm', 'peace' etc. Noting the presence of this 'new' state at different times can help to develop it more often, and also compare it to our normal state of mechanical existence.

* What we are aiming at is to experience ourself as the 'ABSOLUTE' (or rather I would term 'pure awareness' or nondual awareness), which is the goal of SELF-remembering (author's spelling).

* There is a description on p35 of the use of Sufi meditation / mantra use, and this is an excellent description (for those with experience in using mantras), of using a mantra and directing it at different body parts, or over the whole body, and using parts as a 'sounding board' in order to experience a more global awareness, and also in order to lessen the hold of the 'ego' or 'nafs'.

* It is of great help (towards self-remembering) to practice 'sensing' or 'feeling' oneself from the inside of the physical body- which really means sensations, and return to this practice as often as possible throughout the day. This can initially be done as a formal sitting practice (meditation), and later extended to other times.

* It is a useful practice to be simultaneously aware of one's internal state and the external objects that are appearing in one's awareness. The author states that this 'knife's edge" is key to the gaining of a 'third state' that surpasses both. (Again details on this are minimal).

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mindfulness of Death (Part I)

Mindfulness of Death (One of the 10 Recollections)

I've recently been reading a book on Theravada Buddhism ("The Experience of Samadhi" by R.Shankman), which details some core differences in the practice of Concentration, Jhanas (and Mindfulness) taken in both the Pali Suttras and the Commentaries (Vissudhimagga). It is really a good book and recommended reading for some in depth analysis on the nuances around developing concentration and subsequent entry into the Jhanas.

Some attention is given to the use of 40 objects that may be meditated upon as gateways into deep concentration (access level concentration and beyond into the Jhanas).

One particular object was the recollection of 'death', which may only lead to 'access concentration', due to its complex nature, but has been nonetheless extremely interesting and useful for me over the last few days, and really has delivered the goods (ie producing access concentration levels immediately on recollecting the nature and object of personal 'death').

I may write more on this over the coming days.

In the meantime, here's some notes on the 40 objects for contemplation, and also on the 10 Recollections (from the Vissudhimagga and suttas):

Ten recollections (things to contemplate, pursue, and develop):
1. Recollection of the Buddha
2. Recollection of the Dhamma
3. Recollection of the Sangha
4. Recollection of virtue
5. Recollection of generosity
6. Recollection of devas
7. Mindfulness of in and out breathing
8. Mindfulness of death
9. Mindfulness of immersed in the body
10. Recollection of stilling
(from Anguttara Nikaya 1.287)

Mindfulness of Death  

§41. "Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect... that 'I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death'? There are beings who are intoxicated with a (typical) living person's intoxication with life. Because of that intoxication with life, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body... in speech... and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that living person's intoxication with life will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker...

"Now, a disciple of the noble ones considers this: 'I am not the only one subject to death, who has not gone beyond death. To the extent that there are beings — past and future, passing away and re-arising — all beings are subject to death, have not gone beyond death.' When he/she often reflects on this, the (factors of the) path take birth. He/she sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it. As he/she sticks with that path, develops it and cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the latent tendencies destroyed."

— AN 5.57

Forty meditation subjects

Of the forty objects meditated upon as kammatthana, the first ten are 'things that one can behold directly', 'kasina', or 'a whole':
(1) earth, (2) water, (3) fire, (4) air, wind, (5) blue, green, (6) yellow, (7) red, (8) white, (9) enclosed space, (10) bright light.

The next ten are objects of repulsion (asubha):
(1) swollen corpse, (2) discolored, bluish, corpse, (3) festering corpse, (4) fissured corpse, (5) gnawed corpse, (6,7) dismembered, or hacked and scattered, corpse, (8) bleeding corpse, (9) worm-eaten corpse, (10) skeleton.

Ten are recollections (anussati):

First three recollections are of the virtues of the Three Jewels:
(1) Buddha
(2) Dharma
(3) Sangha
Next three are recollections of the virtues of:
(4) morality (Śīla)
(5) liberality (cāga)
(6) the wholesome attributes of Devas
Recollections of:
(7) the body (kāya)
(8) death (see Upajjhatthana Sutta)
(9) the breath (prāna) or breathing (ānāpāna)
(10) peace (see Nibbana).

Four are stations of Brahma (Brahma-vihara):
(1) unconditional kindness and goodwill (mettā)
(2) compassion (karuna)
(3) sympathetic joy over another's success (mudita)
(4) evenmindedness, equanimity (upekkha)

Four are formless states (four arūpajhānas):
(1) infinite space
(2) infinite consciousness
(3) infinite nothingness
(4) neither perception nor non-perception.
One is of perception of disgust of food (aharepatikulasanna).

The last is analysis of the four elements (catudhatuvavatthana): earth (pathavi), water (apo), fire (tejo), air (vayo).

Of these, due to their complexity, eight recollections (excluding the recollection of the Body (kāyagatāsati) and of Breathing (ānāpānassati)), the perception of disgust of food and the analysis of the four elements only lead to access concentration (upacara samadhi).

Absorption in the first jhana can be realized by mindfulness on the ten kinds of foulness and mindfulness of the body. However, these meditations cannot go beyond the first jhana due to their involving applied thought (vitaka) which is absent from the higher jhanas.

Absorption in the first three jhanas can be realized by contemplating the first three brahma-viharas. However, these meditations cannot aid in attaining the fourth jhana due to the pleasant feelings associated with them. Conversely, once the fourth jhana is induced, the fourth brahma-vihara (equanimity) arises.

Due to the simplicity of subject matter, all four jhanas can be induced through mindfulness of breathing and the ten kasinas.

Meditation subjects and temperaments
All of the aforementioned meditation subjects can suppress the Five Hindrances, thus allowing one to fruitfully pursue wisdom. In addition, anyone can productively apply specific meditation subjects as antidotes, such as meditating on foulness to counteract lust or on the breath to abandon discursive thought.

The Pali commentaries further provide guidelines for suggesting meditation subjects based on one's general temperament:
Greedy: the ten foulness meditations; or, body contemplation.
Hating: the four brahma-viharas; or, the four color kasinas.
Deluded: mindfulness of breath.
Faithful: the first six recollections.
Intelligent: recollection of death or peace; the perception of disgust of food; or, the analysis of the four elements.
Speculative: mindfulness of breath.
The six non-color kasinas and the four formless states are suitable for all temperaments.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Something to keep in mind with Self-observation, and the need for Self-Remembering also.

I've been doing some extensive reading on the topic of Self-Observation- with respect to the teachings of Nicoll, R.Nottingham, Ouspensky, Colin etc.

These teachings on self-observation place it at the 'top' of the 'to do' list in terms of Work (Fourth Way) practices and activities. In fact, these teachings teach that it is pretty much all that should be done for a number of years, at least until the 'Observing-I' has been strengthened to some degree, and a large number of observations or 'photographs' have been stored, which describe the 'machine' at work. To aid in this, reminders may be set up (such as new habits), which can help us remember to perform this primary aim. No attempt should be made to change or judge what is observed, or to modify the machine's behaviour in any way.

As a result of the above, the idea is that our mechanical habits and nature would slowly be fully made conscious and of itself transform into a more intentional nature, a "Real-I" having been formed in us. Our real Self becoming more apparent, as opposed to what it is buried under.

These schools, in particular Nicoll, and R.Nottingham, assert that Self-Remembering shouldn't be attempted at all, and that it is rather an exalted and rare state, which may occur here and there, as a result of repeated Self-observation.


This is all well and good, and I tend to agree with the above. Self-observation is of importance at the start of any practice in 'knowing-oneself', and as a foundation for Self-Remembering. A certain degree of concentration or attention power is needed. And Self-observation can be safely carried out for a good length of time, starting with external observations on the physical body, and tending to internal (psychological) observations of our emotional states etc.

However, there is a slight danger here, and an omission that these above teachings tend to leave out- and which history seems to attest- to their own detriment.
And that is that an over-emphasis on 'self-observation' can easily lead to 'self-absorption' related to one's internal states, external habits, and external reactions. This is especially so, if one omits completely the practice of Self-Remembering.

The student can so easily get lost in 'self-observation' precisely because it is not-Self, and in fact, all of these observations are completely external to WHAT one really IS.
As a result, one could spend years observing the machine and its parts, and still not be any closer to a direct encounter with one's Self (ie. Self-remembering) or the 'big picture' (ie nondual awareness), apart from some vague feeling or random encounter. One could at best remain self-absorbed in an endless practice focusing on phenomenal objects- a practice which has reached its full potential- or at worst go completely insane (which actually happened to more than a few Fourth Way students and teachers tragically).

This is why the 'Direct Pointing' teachings such as those on Self-inquiry (Ramana Maharshi), or the Direct Path (Sri Atmananda) or other direct pointing methods such as Zen, or Mahamudra etc.,  are so valuable at a certain stage in the path (and yet are often given after a certain time spent in fruitful practice). These direct pointing applications offer the possibility of an encounter with what is beyond or at the origin of the merely external (phenomenal), and onto That which is actually doing the observing. Since the 'Observer' is already present, it does not need to be built (contrary to most Fourth Way teachings). Further, the original Fourth Way teachings, and Gurdjieff in particular, often mentioned explicitly that Self-remembering needed to be done in conjunction with Self-observation- otherwise, self-observation would largely be useless (this fact is often ignored in the above stream).

Therefore it is of big importance to actually learn to practice, and fit in, some work on direct self-attentiveness (Self-Remembering, or Self-inquiry etc.), along with one's practice of the observation of one's 'not-self' characteristics (ie. done during self-observation, vipassana, noting, mindfulness, etc.).


Friday, May 1, 2015

Self Observation- RN

"First of all, there is something to be learned about negativity and its power over us that you can verify in your recent experience. It does not matter how often you find yourself in sleep, only that you recognize it. The principal exercise is uncritical self-observation. Forget about transforming. Self-observation is your aim. Fill your environment and your schedule with reminding factors to observe yourself.

Your repeated efforts at self-observation will build a Work memory that will in turn remind you to do the Work.

All anyone can do for a very long time is practice self-observation. Observing negativity is one of the most informative ways to gain understanding about oneself and about the nature of sleep. You can use the feeling of negativity to remind yourself to observe: How are you negative? What is the source of your negativity? Anger, pain, fear? Make a practice of observing your negativity and separating some observing I's from it. Don't identify with it, become passive to it. If it continues to take place, let it but try not to give it your attention."

- Rebecca Nottingham.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A, B and C Influences.

A, B and C Influences


"The 4th Way Work classifies the forces working on man into A, B and C influences. 
A influences are mechanical and random in nature, they seek to keep man occupied with the external world. They can be pictured as vectors of random magnitude and direction which all in the end add up to the zero vector. This is how A influences keep man in his place while providing a lot of random, transient motion. To take a physics analogy, this is like thermal motion of molecules. A influences are the normal realm of man and as long as man seeks no esoteric development these can be good and favorable. 

A influences are influences or force vectors created within life itself. Influences such as race, nation, country, family, profession, entertainment, current ideas, customs and so on create A influences. These are the first variety of influences by which man is surrounded. These influences are distributed almost equally over all the surface of the cycle of life. Their effects are radiated outwardly and these effects are inversely proportional to the square of the distance, much like the way in which radiant energy is propagated. Any man is influenced by those influences that directly surround him. He is pulled every instant in this way or that way depending on the way they act on him at any moment within his spatial region. These A influences that surround him, all point in different directions creating a force vector nullification that is comparable to the electrical neutrality of large bodies, whereby no matter how intense the local electrostatic fields surrounding the atoms may be, there is always a space-distributed compensation that makes the whole body perfectly neutral. Those who live strictly by A influences are what Gurdjieff refers to as "nullities.' This is your "average man" in life. 

B influences are vectors that are thrown into the field of A influences but these have a conscious source and a consistent direction. B influences do not cancel each other out and systematically recognizing and following these may lead man to the beginning of esoteric work.

B influences differ from A influences because they are CONSCIOUS in their origin and have been created consciously OUTSIDE life by conscious people for a definite purpose. These influences are the "soul" of any culture and they are embodied in the form of religious systems and teachings, philosophical doctrines, art, etc. They are inserted into life for a definite purpose but although these influences are conscious in their origin they begin to act mechanically when they mix within the general vortex of life. Eventually 'B' influences will be transformed into 'A' influences after they merge together within this general vortex. 

In some people there is a discriminatory power within them that allows them to discriminate between these two kinds of influences and they discern from this that there are certain influences that come from a source that is outside the mainstream of life. This person remembers them and FEELS them together and they begin to form a certain whole, a certain kind of magnetic "presence" within that person. This person may not be sure exactly what this feeling is and they cannot really give themselves a clear account of what these feelings necessarily mean but the end result is that they collect within this person and they form a MAGNETIC CENTER, and if the conditions are right, this magnetic center leads them to search for someone who knows the way and is connected to the source of these 'B' influences, that is, they seek a person or teacher who is connected to an esoteric center that stands outside the general laws of life. 

It is from this source that the person sets on the WAY. The moment when the person looking for the way meets someone who knows the way then this contact is called the FIRST THRESHOLD or FIRST STEP. From this first threshold the STAIRWAY begins. Between 'life' and the 'way' lies the 'stairway.' 

C influences are only found within the Work and can only be received in personal interaction with a conscious being. Receiving C influences requires a certain level of personal sensitization and receptivity. Failing this, C influences work like B influences. 
C influences come from the SOURCE, that is, from an esoteric Center that is located outside of life. When they directly act on someone with a newly developing magnetic center THROUGH a teacher who is directly connected to the source then these influences are called C influences. From this connection the person's magnetic center will grow and will lead them to escape the dominion of the Law of chance and enter into the domain of consciousness. 

The magnetic center is the organ the seeker gradually develops for discerning between A and B influences. External criteria cannot generally be used for distinguishing between A and B influences. A influences can closely mimic and parallel B influences. For example, such an influence may speak of the personal gain to be had in the Work, may preach humility while secretly priding oneself on one's great purity etc. Such influences generally involve a degree of dishonesty or deceit or service to self. The points may be arbitrarily subtle and no fixed checklist can be adequate. Discernment is a skill that eventually may become a part of one's being."

See General LawLaw of Accident., PerspicacityThird ForceThresholds.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"The Work begins with dividing one's attention. If you have had no experience in this practice, try the following: While being aware of your external experience become concurrently aware of your inner state. This internal awareness is the beginning of self-observation. Self-observation is the foundation effort in this process, its value cannot be overestimated, and all development proceeds from that point. You must intentionally turn a portion of your attention inward in order to observe yourself. It is essential not to judge or criticize what one observes in oneself. These emotions will distort what one observes and inhibit progress."

- Rebecca Nottingham. Self-observation in the Fourth Way.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Self-Remembering, Ouspensky in The Fourth Way 1957.

"Self-remembering is an attempt to be aware of yourself. Self-observation is always directed at some definite function: either you observe your thoughts, or movements, or emotions, or sensations. It must have a definite object which you observe in yourself. Self-remembering does not divide you, you must remember the whole, it is simply the feeling of ‘I,’ of your own person." (1957, p. 107)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Investigation can only be into the non-self. (Ramana Maharshi)

A clarifying point for those engaged in self-inquiry:

"There is no investigation into the Atman. Investigation can only be into the non-self." (Sri Ramana Maharshi) Talk 78.

Q.: How to find the Atman?

M.: There is no investigation into the Atman. The investigation can only be into the non-self.
Elimination of the non-self is alone possible. The Self being always self evident will shine forth of itself.
The Self is called by different names - Atman, God, Kundalini, mantra, etc. Hold any one of them and the Self becomes manifest. God is no other than the Self.. (Talk 78; September 1935)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Concentration and mindfulness.

"Off the cushion, hours can pass as we sit rapt by movies, cat videos, Angry Birds, and the Kardashians. Every once in a while, these lazy afternoons happen to the best of us. But by bringing together concentration and mindfulness, we’re less likely to indulge in such passive activities and more likely to remain alert when taking part in active ones."
- Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

Friday, April 10, 2015

Man cannot do.

This was a question from someone online, actually they went on to justify why the idea 'Man cannot do' (Gurdjieff, Ouspensky) was just an excuse to do nothing etc. and that we should all involve ourselves in 'self effort'.

Q: 'Isn't the idea "Man cannot do" an excuse to do nothing? Aren't we told to struggle for self-effort, and to involve ourselves in 'conscious labour and intentional suffering'?'

A: "Man cannot do" is a necessary starting point, IMV. Equally dangerous is the illusion that we can all 'fix ourselves' and the 'world', we just need the right conditions or right time or motivation. We think we already have all the answers and know 'what to do'. Governments work on this principle. And as a result, nothing is done or fixed, but just happens reactively. Direct and clear observation of things as-they-are actually confirms this, and interestingly opens the way for new approaches to be possible, which otherwise would have never appeared.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Gratitude- S.N.

The Prayer of Gratitude

After awakening, there's an overwhelming moment-to-moment feeling of gratitude, which is very akin to prayer. Each breath is a deep "Ahhh!" of profound gratitude for the experience of such oneness with Source -- relief that the conflict and confusion are now over and one can relax into no more doing, just being, and reveling in this deliverance that deepens the understanding daily. 

This gratitude of which I speak does not mean that the "me" is so fortunate as to have won this universal lottery of awakening. 

No, there's no "me" home now to enjoy anything. There is just awareness that the "I," as in "I Am That," is the "I" of Consciousness at rest and Consciousness in appearance, and they are one and the same Source. 

In Pearl Vision, the only prayer worthwhile and meaningful is the prayer of gratitude, singing out in joy at the awesome diversity of the One in the many. 

~ Satyam Nadeen, in:From Onions to Pearls