Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Approaching Nonduality via dualistic concepts and practices.

I was prompted to write this short post due to some readings and listenings over the last few months.

Briefly stated, I want to present the idea that there can be no approach to non-duality, or the ultimate Truth, except through dualistic concepts, or at least a basic dualistic setup.

There are a number of modern teachers who like to talk about the need for a 'direct, uncompromising pointing' to the ultimate truth. These teachers seem to indicate that their pointing totally removes the need for all practices, concepts, etc. and directly points at the ultimate truth of non-duality, which lies in the direct experience of presence, beingness, aliveness, etc.

Unfortunately, this too is a concept. The dualistic concept of beingness, presence, etc., even the actual felt sense, is still a concept. "Just this! Nobody here!" is still a concept. There is the thought-stream, mind, world etc. and then there's presence, awareness (another concept). Everything is perfect, nothing needs to be done or attained, and yet there's a pointing happening in the appearance. (Another concept). 

There's really no escape from concepts, right from the moment someone or something opens its mouth.

Then there are the time-tested teachings of the sages, which openly espouse dualistic concepts or systems for the apparent seeker to engage with, as a precursor to the direct truth of non-duality. Sometimes the direct truth is presented first (as in dzogchen, and teachings such as practical Advaita Vedanta). At other times it is reserved for a later time in one's 'progressive path', such as in traditional Buddhism, Dhyana, or Sankhya yoga.

Some examples of dualistic concepts that were used by teachers (that I'm familiar with) include:

Purusha/Prakriti (and 3 gunas) - Sankhya yoga

Pure consciousness / the witness - Sri Atmananda

Food body / consciousness - Sri Nisargadatta

ego, I-thought / Self - Sri Ramana Maharshi

mindfulness of the 4 Foundations, samsara / Nibbana - Buddhism (Theravada)

non-conceptual awareness / thought, concepts - contemporary Advaita teachers (e.g. Sailor Bob)

form / emptiness - Mahayana Buddhism

Real / unreal - Sri Sankara

Space, 'headlessness' / the world, universe - Douglas Harding

One important point on the above, is that the conceptual system presented by the teacher must in some way deconstruct itself or provide the means for its own undoing. It is of no use to be stuck in the dualistic concept or hang on to it as such when its work is done. Any valid use of a dualistic concept must contain the seed, as it were, for its own undoing or unfolding that naturally occurs, and thus make way for an understanding of the real state of things (ie. one's own nature being nothing other than non-dual existence+non-existence).

Friday, May 17, 2019

Ramana Maharshi on the topic of "family life" and liberation.

Excellent little dialogue found in "Talks". Direct pointing by the Master himself.

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Talk 524.

Another pilgrim asked: I am a man with a family. Is it possible for
those in a family to get release, and if so how?

M.: Now what is family? Whose family is it? If the answers to these
questions are found the other questions solve themselves.
Tell me: Are you in the family, or is the family in you?

The visitor did not answer. Then Sri Bhagavan’s answer was
continued: Who are you? You include three aspects of life, namely,
the waking, the dream and the sleep states. You were not aware of the
family and their ties in your sleep and so these questions did not arise
then. But now you are aware of the family and their ties and therefore
you seek release. But you are the same person throughout.

D.: Because I now feel that I am in the family it is right that I should
seek release.
M.: You are right. But consider and say: Are you in the family or is
the family in you?
Another visitor interposed: What is family?
M.: That’s it. It must be known.
D.: There is my wife and there are also my children. They are
dependent on me. That is the family.
M.: Do the members of the family bind your mind? Or do you bind
yourself to them? Do they come and say to you “We form your
family. Be with us”? Or do you consider them as your family and
that you are bound to them?
D.: I consider them as my family and feel bound to them.
M.: Quite so. Because you think that so-and-so is your wife and so-and-so
are your children you also think that you are bound to them.
These thoughts are yours. They owe their very existence to you.
You can entertain these thoughts or relinquish them. The former
is bondage and the latter is release.

D.: It is not quite clear to me.
M.: You must exist in order that you may think. You may think these
thoughts or other thoughts. The thoughts change but not you. Let
go the passing thoughts and hold on to the unchanging Self. The
thoughts form your bondage. If they are given up, there is release.
The bondage is not external. So no external remedy need be sought
for release. It is within your competence to think and thus to get
bound or to cease thinking and thus be free.
D.: But it is not easy to remain without thinking.
M.: You need not cease thinking. Only think of the root of the thoughts;
seek it and find it. The Self shines by itself. When that is found the
thoughts cease of their own accord. That is freedom from bondage.

D.: Yes. I understand it now. I have learnt it now. Is a Guru necessary?
M.: So long as you consider yourself as an individual, a Guru is
necessary to show to you that you are not bound by limitations
and that your nature is to be free from limitations.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The idea of 'enlightenment'.

A quote from Sri Nisargadatta ('I Am That'):

"The idea of enlightenment is of utmost importance. Just to know that
there is such possibility, changes one's entire outlook. It acts like a
burning match in a heap of saw dust. All the great teachers did nothing
else. A spark of truth can burn up a mountain of lies. The opposite is
also true. The sun of truth remains hidden behind the cloud of
self-identification with the body."


Some spiritual teachers seek to destroy the image or false idea of 'enlightenment', and thus give the antidote of 'non-existent enlightenment'. That is to say, they negate the possibility and existence of enlightenment, and explain it as a non-event, a concept and something that does not exist.

This can serve for those who have conceptual images of enlightenment that pertain to an individual attaining something extra on top of what the individual already is.

Unfortunately, non-existent enlightenment also becomes a belief, in that the individual then takes it that there is nothing other than the self-identified state of being an individual, and 'suffering' is a part of life etc. Nihilism and other philosophies often follow. Other solutions to this problem are then inadvertently sought after.

In contrast, Sri Nisargadatta explains that the idea of 'enlightenment' is very important. For the self-identified individual, this idea becomes a beacon of light in that it provides a 'way out'  from suffering, limitation, and the mess that one inevitably finds oneself in as an individual in the world. Seeking may then happen, or not, but a shift occurs with the introduction of this idea. Of course, further down the track, this idea will need to be dropped, as it will become an obstacle in itself. But initially, this idea must be taken up, as the first step or first instant of a new direction away from the same beaten path that the conditioned individual has held for time immemorial.

As the individual comes to know itself as an image, and identified consciousness becomes purified from the habit of identifying with external objects and confusion, then it can be seen that there is nothing to attain apart from What is obviously apparent and existent, and has been so for all eternity. Until then, the idea of 'enlightenment' has an important place in the world of the individual for those who identify as an individual.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Is spiritual practice needed (if the world is just a dream?) - question.

Some comments from Michael James on the question of why spiritual practice, or reflection is even needed (or anything) when "the world is just a dream, and the dreamer can't actually do anything"-- a common Neo-Advaita idea.

In this comment, the questioner puts forth the idea that it would be a mistake to even consider the world to be a dream, since the person or dreamer can't do anything.


MJ: “If that is your view [that it is a mistake to try to consider the world to be a dream], how would you explain what Bhagavan teaches us in the final sentence of the seventeenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, namely: ‘பிரபஞ்சத்தை ஒரு சொப்பனத்தைப்போ லெண்ணிக்கொள்ள வேண்டும்’ (pirapañcattai oru soppaṉattai-p-pōl eṇṇi-k-koḷḷa vēṇḍum), ‘It is necessary to consider the world like a dream’?”

Your central argument seems to be, ‘it is a mistake to try to see the world as a dream because it is ridiculous for the dreamer to “try” because that very attempt is part of the dream too’, but by that logic it would be a mistake for us to do any spiritual practice, including self-investigation and self-surrender, because whatever spiritual practice we may do is a part of whatever dream we are currently experiencing. The reason Bhagavan advised us to practise self-investigation and self-surrender is that they are the only means by which we can wake up not only from this dream but from the underlying sleep of self-ignorance, in which all dreams occur.

According to Bhagavan any state in which we are aware of anything other than ourself is just a dream, so we can practise self-investigation and self-surrender only in a dream, but that does not mean that it is a mistake for us to try to practise them. Quite the contrary, it would be a mistake for us not to try to practise them, because if we do not try to do so how can we wake up from this sleep of self-ignorance? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Is there a place for Kundalini and "Kindalini awakenings" in the nondual teachings?

Q: Is there a place for Kundalini and "kundalini awakenings" in the nondual teachings?

A: No, not really.

The question of "kundalini" and "kundalini awakenings" often comes up with newcomers entering the nondual teachings, and especially those who may have encountered Hatha yoga, New Age teachings, and spiritual schools that arose in the 20th Century (e.g. Theosophy, Spiritualism, Western Occultism etc.)

There are scores of modern spiritual teachers who are still espousing much nonsense about kundalini, "raising consciousness", and the role of kundalini as a necessity in one's "spiritual progress".

Unfortunately, most of this is rubbish, and often dangerous, based on superficial readings of Patanjali, or misinformed teachings and bad translations of texts that entered the mainstream in the early 20th Century.

Unless one is studying traditional Hatha Yoga, under a qualified and experienced teacher one-to-one, it would be well advised to leave aside completely the practices of pranayama, forced breathing, chakra work, and anything related to 'awakening the kundalini'. Sadly, there have been many who have not heeded such advice, or have been misled by 'well-intentioned teachers paving the road to hell', and who have ended up with permanent damage to their body-mind.

Back to the question.

The reason that there is no place for 'kundalini' or 'kundalini work' in the nondual teachings is that kundalini work and its related energy activities are nothing more than an arising, a temporary happening, that occurs in the body-mind as a result of the interplay of the 5 elements and 3 gunas. Consciousness as the mind-body identified individual has an experience, which it thinks is important, and thus builds up new experiences based on the belief that it has somehow progressed or changed into a better version of itself. This energy, of which, the individual believes it can manipulate, does give rise to temporary psycho-physical changes in the body-mind. Further, the ego-initiated effort of manipulating such energies in the body-mind strengthens the ego's belief in its own autonomy-- which is not helpful in bringing about its apparent end. 

Since the individual and the body-mind are ultimately an appearance in the nondual field of awareness, their import is the same as per the results attained from activities such as jogging, climbing a mountain, swimming underwater, fasting, and other such actions that the individual thinks it can perform to change its apparent reality-- all of which have zero effect on the nondual situation as it is appearing here and now-- which is actually perfect, not in need of change, and whole.

Some sages, such as Sri Nisargadatta, have said that the jnani has no interest at all in Kundalini, since the jnani is completely beyond and prior to such activity. Knowing this directly, where is the need for any particular experience? Others, such as Sri Ramana Maharshi, have commented that the activity of self-inquiry would actually achieve the same result as any 'kundalini' experience, with the difference that any result would happen of its own accord, without the involvement of the ego, and in a naturally unfolding (and smoother fashion). "My own experience" here, has verified both of these comments. It was reported by some that Gurdjieff equated the experiences of kundalini with his literary invention of the 'Kundabuffer' and its maleficent effects on people (due to wrong use).

In summary, if a teacher starts talking about kundalini, and kundalini awakenings, then one should run in the other direction.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The ultimate cause for addictions and overcoming addictions

I happened to come across a video on YouTube entitled "Overcoming Addiction - The Root Cause of Every Addiction". It was about 40 minutes long, and the presenter is a skilled speaker who is coming from a self-improvement type background.

The main points in the video were that addictions can manifest in a variety of ways, but in fact all addictions really are the same thing and come from a root cause. That root cause (in the author's view) was the fear or desire to escape feelings of emptiness and the fear of 'doing nothing'. One of his main tests was whether someone could sit in an empty room for a period of time and do nothing, as it were, but sit in emptiness, quietly doing nothing.

There is some merit to this argument, and the fear of a perceived emptiness on the part of the individual is very common and probably universal. One of the seeming causes for incessant seeking, on behalf of the individual self, does seem to be a fear of emptiness, void, etc. which is remedied by action, external objects, etc.

However, there is more to seeking and the root cause of all addictions.

That "more" that the author of the video failed to identify is none other than the individual or sense of self. The root cause of any addiction must be the individual or person for whom the addiction appears. Craving arises for an individual. If craving and addictive feelings arise for nobody, then they also pass away as per any other arising phenomena.

This the real root cause of any addiction must be the individual or self for whom it appears. "Me" in other words. I have no addictions or cravings when in deep sleep. I had no addictions prior to birth, or the appearance of this waking state.

Many people can sit in a room and do nothing for a length of time. All periods of peace last for some time, and then a period of turmoil, craving, etc. may also appear and last for some time. Learning to sit and do nothing is certainly useful and may calm the body and mind, enabling one to carry on with life's activities in a more efficient, calmer way. However, these changing mind states are temporary and not permanent.

To gain a permanent solution, the root cause, being the sense of being an individual self, must be looked at. For whom do these cravings, happening right now, arise? To me. And who am I? What is this 'me' feeling?

I am 'here', and this 'me' feeling is there. I am here, and these craving feelings are there. The 'me', individual self-ing, and feelings all arise in this space of empty knowing spontaneously. But am I these feelings, and am I this sense of being?

By investigating directly into this sense of being, sense of being a 'self' that has cravings and addictions that are appearing now (or not), we may come to understand directly whether or not we are affected or attached to these feelings directly. We come to understand who or what we are, by directly looking at who or what is now experiencing feelings, cravings, lack of cravings etc.

"No self, no problems" the saying goes. Solve the riddle of the self that has the addictions, and the addictions no longer have anywhere to stand. This may not be a "quick fix" and may take time for the understanding to settle, but the solution will be of a lasting nature, unlike quick fixes that the sense of 'self' takes on, and which are of a temporary nature.