World of Warcraft

kids-playing-soldiers

“You fight others all the time for your survival as a separate body-mind, a particular name and form. To live you must destroy. From the moment you were conceived you started a war with your environment – a merciless war of mutual extermination, until death sets you free.”

~Nisargadatta Maharaj

Earth is a war planet, so we can expect that there will be a lot of killing. The human species currently dominating this planet specializes in killing everything they encounter, not the least of which is each other.

Some say that things are going to change, and maybe that change will indeed come someday. We can certainly all work devotedly towards that end. In the meantime, this is still a war planet, so we can expect a lot of killing.

If we go into a jungle, we might find animals chasing and eating each other. We don’t judge them, for they are animals after all. Killing is their main source of nourishment. Only the “higher” primates have developed behavioral characteristics which exceed any mere survival instinct and constitute actual strategic warfare.

In terms of survival, humans do not need to kill to eat. The vast majority could get by perfectly fine on a vegetarian diet, but they kill other animals anyway because they like to eat them, regardless of whether or not the animals offended them.

When it comes to slaughtering each other, humans conceptualize many rationales to justify their blood lust, such as territorial politics, religion, economics, and philosophy. All of that is on the surface, however, because by nature they are still an immature and particularly dangerous predatory species, prone to resolving any conflict by resorting to violence.

When not involved in actual killing, people relax by vicariously watching others being killed in movies and on television. According to one recent study, the average child in America will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders.

Indeed, a big part of early socialization is accustoming the child to warfare. For young males, war toys are provided, enabling the child to imitate the killing viewed in the media (which includes video games, the most popular of which involve multiple killings).

It doesn’t stop there of course. Recent statistics show that there are more firearms than people in America – a country which came into being based on a concerted campaign of genocide of millions of native Americans, and whose growth was fueled by the enslavement of millions of captured and subjugated fellow humans.

Upon entering the educational system, competition (which is a form of warfare) takes primacy, and sets the course for the rest of one’s life, which invariably involves competing for resources. It is called “business”, and extends into every facet of one’s existence.

As part of the societal programing, one is taught who to fear as the designated “bad guy”, and so the enemy can take the form of a competing romantic suitor, a competing sports team, a competing business, a competing ideology, or a competing nation.

The corporate media blare out an unending stream of fear regarding the latest designated enemy, and public opinion dutifully follows with implanted ideas of hatred and desire to violently punish and subdue the appointed villain.

Even human religions, which were ostensibly established to promote moral behavior, peace, and tolerance, frame the spiritual life as a battle perpetually being waged both inwardly and in the celestial realms between God and Satan, or devils (asuras) representing our “bad” thoughts and angels (devas) our “good” ones.

Few stop to realize that all such concepts are mere fantasies of interpretation, whose only reality is that which our conditioned minds have been taught to grant them. Just as when a thief sees a saint and only notices what he might steal from them, so too do humans conditioned to warfare tend to see life through the narrow lens of conflict, typically based on programed prejudices relating to gender, race, age, ideological affiliation, or nationality (to name some of the most common roots of bias).

In any case, war is the established and accepted agenda – the preferred business model — and consequently more time, energy, and resources are devoted to it than anything else. In America, for example, at least 60% of its national budget goes to the military, and yet there are many who are claiming that is not enough.

On any given “news day”, one can find a flood of “fear porn”, detailing the growing threat from this or that competing nation or ideology, and hence requiring even greater sacrifices from the taxpayers to fund the already bloated military-industrial complex.

On the micro, or individual level, most humans are also engaged in a relentless internal war, driven by alternating craving and aversion. This manifests as a prevailing sense of dissatisfaction with one’s thoughts, one’s body, and one’s life.

The alarming epidemic of psychological disorders and subsequent avalanche of pharmaceutical products intended to ameliorate them attest to the fact that this internal conflict exacts a ferocious toll, even to the point of rocketing self-murder statistics.

Indeed, as the wise among us have always counseled: If we wish to change the world, we must first change ourselves, because the war always has its roots within our own hearts and minds.

As immortal light being souls temporarily inhabiting these human animals, we have the chance to use our soul energy to guide them early on to behave properly, develop the desire to seek peaceful solutions to conflict, and most of all, to grow in empathy and compassion. However, some of us just sit back and let the animal run wild, to see what will result.

What has resulted is the world we see today, roiling in aggression, conflict, and blood lust on so many levels. Some say humans are on the verge of self-extinction, just as they have presided over the extinction of more than half of all animal life on the planet in the last 50 years. The mass self-destruction (prompted by greed, hatred, and ignorance) of entire civilizations has happened on other planets, and it could happen on this one too.

Right now, it appears that it could go either way. The group consciousness will decide. If we want to understand how that works, we have but to consider that our current reality has been determined by the group consciousness of the past, and so if we wish to know what will pertain in the future, we need look no further than what the group consciousness is projecting and energizing today.

For example, is the collective consciousness moving towards a mass recognition of our essential oneness, or is it dividing more and more into separate and antagonistic camps that can find no common ground? It’s been said that energy flows where attention goes, and so where is our attention going today, as both individuals and as a species? Is it still fixated in grooves of selfishness, control, and dominance, or can it rise to a new level of united awareness, wisdom, and love? The fate of humanity is about to be determined by such choices being made right now.

 

War Movie In Reverse

Holes close to smooth skin
when the shrapnel flashes out.

The shores of burns recede,
and flames leap with their hot metal
back into the bomb that rises,
whole and air-borne again,
with its gathered blast.

Leading the plane perfectly,
the bomb arcs back slowly
through the open gates
and disappears into the waiting belly.

The bombardier lifts
his peering eye from the sight.

Swallowing its wake,
the plane returns to base
with its countermand mission.

The pilot, irresolute now, faces
his commandant, who marches,
brisk and backward
to the general’s lair.

The general takes back the orders.

But into what deep and good and hidden
recess of the will
go his thoughts of not bombing?”

~ Mark Johnston

sticks and stones

See also:

https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/war-and-peace/

 

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The Talking School

Hollow Discussions

 

It is quite common for people who encounter certain nonduality teachings (like those of Nisargadatta Maharaj, from the Advaita School, or from the Buddhist Schools of Zen and Dzogchen) to find resonance on an intellectual level. After all, once one begins to examine such teachings, they do make a lot of sense, especially if one has already had some exposure to the eastern spiritual traditions, or grown disenchanted with the Abrahamic religious dogmas.

The problem is, as long as the nondual teachings remain on the level of the intellect, they may have some philosophical value, but that is typically as far as it goes. Unless the inquiry penetrates deeper than the realm of mental formations and cuts off the root of all identification and self-positions, it will not ultimately be very transformative, and can even pose as an additional hindrance by fattening the “spiritual ego”.

Indeed, clinging to an intellectual understanding of the emptiness of the self-complex can actually interfere with or impede its direct recognition (or clear seeing), which is something of an altogether different nature. In that regard, one of the strange drawbacks of such intellectual agreement is the tendency observed in so many enthusiasts of the nonduality scene to forgo a commitment to the practice/actualization component.

Experience of the concept, of course, is no substitute for the experience of the reality of the nondual view. Nisargadatta himself spent years plunged into intense self-inquiry and meditation prior to his awakening, but that element is often by-passed by the mind that believes it has the whole thing figured out, based on a bit of reading and internet conversation. Finding those who can talk the talk is increasingly easy, but those who actually walk the walk are still rare.

Even my previous essay, on the Mystique of Freedom, could be misinterpreted to suggest that practice is unnecessary. In fact, no effort can bring about awakening, but paradoxically, in order to realize that, some effort does seem to be required.

As Nisargadatta himself noted: “Unless you make tremendous efforts, you will not be convinced that effort will take you nowhere. The self is so self-confident that unless it is totally discouraged it will not give up. Mere verbal conviction is not enough. Hard facts alone can show the absolute nothingness of the self-image.”

Practices such as Non-dwelling, the Discipline of Silence, and True Meditation (Mindful Awareness) can effectively serve to remove obstructions to Clear Seeing. In that regard, I have used the classic metaphor of a thorn employed to remove a thorn (as an expedient means), and once it has done its job, it too can be discarded.

Even Ramana Maharshi, who is held up as an example of the rare instance when awakening occurred spontaneously, actually spent years in sadhana in seclusion, prior to showing up at Arunachala and beginning teaching.

Consequently, I will offer one good tip from a pretty reliable teacher, Garchen Rinpoche:

“If you were to practice mindful awareness with great diligence for just a month, if you were to recognize even the slightest thought and not allow your mind to wander off into delusion for that time, even in such a short time you would witness great changes. Fierce afflictions would not faze you so much anymore, because you would have gained personal experience in observing the illusory play.”

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The Mystique of Freedom

“In fact if everything arises from pure and total consciousness, then pure and total consciousness has no need of a path to tread to reach itself”

 ~Chogyal Namkhai Norbu

In the vast library cataloguing exceptional human experiences, daunting adventures, and intriguing explorations, the tales of humanity’s search for spiritual liberation are some of the more compelling, and have even formed the basis for most of the world’s religions and philosophies. We all love a good story!

However, as fascinating as the reports may be — these bold testimonies of spiritual heroes and heroines persevering through all manner of adversity to finally attain the pinnacle of human potential, pull the sword from the rock, and ascend blissfully beyond the dreary fate of ordinary mortals — the actual truth is that they are all based on a fundamental case of mistaken identity.

It’s not so much that they have often been seriously “airbrushed” (although that is a regrettable though all too common fate of many of these hagiographies), but rather that they were embarked upon under false pretenses from the beginning. That many of these characters burst out laughing in recognition of that fact at the culmination of their quest does provide a saving grace element to the reports. Let’s examine why.

In reality, nobody goes from being bound to being free, from being lost to being found. There is no mountain to climb, river to cross, or surrender to be done in order to acquire or attain that which we already are and have always been. Free. Nobody has ever been bound, nobody has ever required salvation. Indeed, whatever we try to do to grasp or achieve it actually obstructs its recognition as our natural primordial state.

Despite all hope or idealism to have things be other than they are – better, more agreeable, brighter — there is never going to be any more to who and what we are, than who and what we really are right now. There is nothing about who we really are that has ever needed improvement. Freedom is our native, or default, condition, and it has never changed, nor will it ever. It is not modified by time or experience, is not born, and never dies.

We are always already free, even to the extent that “freedom” itself is just a conceptual designation signifying that which has always been the case from the very no-beginning. What is, simply is. “Is” does not need to become more “is”. Nor is there anything about our primordial nature that needs to be liberated, redeemed, saved, or enlightened, but simply recognized.

The real freedom that is true of us is not a new accomplishment or state to be gained in opposition to bondage. This pristine awake awareness that we are has never been conditioned, nor can it become more aware. It is empty and transparent, yet knowing. Knowing what? Knowing this immediate experience, whatever it may be.

Within that ineffable spaciousness which has no limit and no circumference, thoughts, emotions, memories, sensations, and perceptions appear and vanish as the display of awareness itself, our display, in the same way clouds appear and vanish in the sky. This also includes the sense of self, a projection of mind which mind may in turn mistake as our true identity, even though our true nature is this prior awake awareness.

Whatever appears in the sky does not affect the sky, any more than what is reflected in a mirror affects the mirror. The most profound beauty or the most terrible ugliness are exactly the same to the mirror – mere reflections without substance or endurance. They all comprise what comes and goes, but awareness itself is motionless.

Within the space or embrace of awareness, whatever arises is instantly known, just as what passes before the mirror is instantly reflected in it. The knower of whatever arises is this fundamental awareness. When the sense of a concrete and independent self-entity arises within this space, it is simply the space of awareness manifesting as a momentary, empty formation. Awareness itself is never implicated by its content.

However, emptiness is also form, and so this transient complex of thought energy may begin weaving a narrative – a story composed of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that seem to amount to a substantial “me”. Mind projects this dreamy character and then sets about trying to confirm its existence in the virtual reality realms of infinite experience.

Nevertheless, this “me-complex” can never be truly satisfied, its longing for validation truly quenched, despite all efforts to make it so. After all, it is merely a temporary play of consciousness, like a movie character that seems real, but is actually just the projected light reflecting on a screen.

In Buddhism, this stressful sense of dissatisfaction or un-fulfillment is called “Dukkha”. The Buddha taught that it inevitably arises as a result of a fundamental ignorance regarding who and what we truly are – this sky-like awake awareness. It represents a contraction of the free flow of beingness, a kind of knot-complex entangling life energy in the illusion of insufficiency.

In any case, it is that one, the dissatisfied one, who is forever exploiting the possibilities of experience in the hope of acquiring happiness. However, because such quests inevitably turn out to be in vain (in the sense that all effort at happiness only reinforces the sense of unhappiness), it is also “that one” who may eventually assume the identity of a spiritual seeker, armed with all sorts of schemes and strategies to get enlightened, saved, redeemed, and thoroughly satisfied at last.

As it so happens (and to make a long story short), that seeker is also the very one who disappears in the blaze of true realization. In that unaccountable grace of recognition, awareness suddenly awakens to itself. Of course, this is just a manner of speaking, pointing to the moment in which the subconscious ceases projecting an independent self, along with the dreamy story of “me & mine” which accompanies it.

It is not as if the ego-mind finally triumphs in the attainment of its goal. It is simply that it is seen through and recognized as the illusion it has always been. Upon awakening, the fate of our dream characters is moot. They were only dreams, after all. The seeker does not suddenly awaken. They never will, since they were a fiction all along. Who applauds when the mirage is seen to be a mirage?

In a flash of Realization, the sense of identity has now been reversed, from being the desperate searcher-subject we took ourselves to be, to the recognition of our true nature as the pure and timeless awareness in which that dancing thought-form momentarily arose and then melted away.

It is not as if a definitive key to life has been discovered. The one who would find such a formula has been a fictional creation all along. In reality, there is only life, what is, “this”. It can’t be divided into subject and object, except in the imagination. There is no separate “awareness” that is witnessing experiences.

Even calling it “our nature” is a kind of language trick, since how can “what is” belong to anybody? In that sense, “impersonal” does mean some sort of cold and aloof state of withdrawal from relations, but simply indicates the absence of a personal subject, separated out from experience. There is simply  experience, life, happening to no one.

In reality, nothing has happened, nobody has arrived anywhere. Nor is this a clue for the mind still committed to dilemma, any more than the sound of tides washing onto the shore is a way or a means to something more. The waves wash in, the waves wash out, but the sea remains the sea.

“Pleasure and pain alternate. Happiness is unshakable. What you can seek and find is not the real thing. Find what you have never lost, find the inalienable.”

~Sri Nisargadatta

 

 See also:

https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/the-paradox-of-inherent-perfection/

https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/the-myth-of-enlightenment/

https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/the-end-of-the-seeker/

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The Motive

Your pride in yourself and your wanting,
these steal your energy along the road.

If you can kill these robbers
and become the servant of everyone,
you’ll meet the Lord in meditation
and see what you used to protect
as just a pile of ashes.

~ Lal Ded

Despite idealistic claims by some teachers that the process is an effortless one, it still seems that it is devilishly difficult for the vast majority of aspirants to actually let go of the programed belief in a separate and independent person, path, and destiny. All subsequent schemes and notions about performing liberating practices, accumulating merit, attaining enlightenment, and so forth are based on that primal case of mistaken identity.

In any case, we obviously cannot think or wish that delusion away, because its very root and origin is fixed in the deep subconscious. What we can do is to continue to reach beyond ourselves by giving love, and simultaneously refrain from investing in ego-mind’s self-absorbed narrative. At some point, the subconscious may simply cease projecting a karmic self, because there is no longer grounds for the existence of such a projection — its fuel supply has been severed due to non-attention.

Until then, it seems that we will persist in fretting about that which turns out to be a mere make-believe character. In the coffee shop adjacent to the theater, seekers will continue to gather after the movie and passionately debate the fate of the fictional movie character, as if he/she were real. Even that can be a playful sort of fun, except that everyone appears so serious. They are all doing sacred sadhana, after all, and that’s no laughing matter!

On the other hand, if we were somehow able to get a bit of perspective on the whole “me-project”, we just might recognize the humor in all of the arduous efforts undertaken to become . . . well . . . what we already are. When we read the anecdotal stories of awakening in the testimonial literature, there is typically a burst of laughter that accompanies direct recognition (often accompanied by some version of a face palm). Ramana Maharshi put it succinctly when he said: “We think that there is something hiding our reality and that it must be destroyed before the reality is gained. It is ridiculous. A day will dawn when you will yourself laugh at your past efforts. That which will be on the day you laugh is also here and now.”

For many of us, one of the chief culprits impeding such a recognition is pride, stubborn spiritual pride. After all, we have spent so much valuable time squirming and nodding at the feet of teachers, we have done the prostrations, read the books, twisted our legs into pretzels, visualized all sorts of super beings, chanted monosyllabic Sanskrit fragments countless times, and purchased all the prescribed mountain climbing gear we have been assured will help in our courageous ascent to the top where spiritual glory awaits us (or so we have been told).

Now someone comes along and suggests that all of that was essentially a humorous pretense, and points out that we are not one step closer to real liberation than we were when we started the whole pious business. Moreover, they claim the reason for that is because the one who was so determined to get free is actually the glitch that has been obstructing the spontaneous realization all along. The realization of what? The realization of that which has never been bound from the beginning, and so has never been in need of fixing! The spiritual comedian Chogyam Trungpa called this whole set-up “the cosmic joke”.

Indeed – how can one not laugh at the absurdity? Well, when we no longer take our foibles seriously, it can provoke a concomitant sense of humility, and humility is the last thing ego-mind wants to get involved with. Why? Humility can be quite uncomfortable to the mind intoxicated with its own importance. That is, humility will not confirm and validate ego-mind’s very existence. In fact, it diminishes its power, weakens its voice, saps attention from the perceived wonderfulness of its self-image, and generally deflates its enthusiasm to acquire all the perks that supposedly come with spiritual attainment. Clearly, ego-mind has no sense of humor, and that is a big clue in itself.

Moreover, who wants to look like a fool? In the view of ego-mind, that is exactly how it would be perceived if all of its mighty efforts at becoming enlightened turned out to be a big diversion — a waste of time. Remember, how we are perceived is typically more important to ego-mind than the reality of who and what we really are. For ego-mind, it truly is all in the perception. The actual reality is conveniently ignored, unless of course it can be employed somehow to bolster the desired perception. It will even pat itself on the back for the brilliant recognition of its own non-existence!

Invariably, the cumulative energy behind this culture’s massive programing and marketing shtick is spawned and nourished by our fundamental concern for how we look, and that is certainly no laughing matter! This is because (in our minds) how we appear is the determinant for how loved and lovable we might be. Hence, here is the heart of it – what we are really seeking. It’s what all of our efforts are devoted to — the supreme and primordial motive – to be attended to, to be loved.

Once that is directly seen, we may be moved to return to the initial inquiry: who or what is so desperately yearning to be loved, confirmed, and cherished that we would jump through all the hoops tossed at us in the spiritual game, just to heal a wound at the heart which is there from our own doing ? Our own doing? Yes, in the process of assuming these human forms, we projected and then reinforced a sense of self and other, despite the reality that consciousness is indivisible.

We created the chasm, in other words, based on a case of mistaken identity – the identity of a separate and independent person believed to be in need of redemption, liberation, love. Certainly, we had a lot of help in the process. After all, the story we have been told from birth by all of the various agents of our socialization is based on being a separate person in a world filled with other separate people, some of whom could give us what we want, and some of whom could threaten our very existence. In any case, we are told that we are on our own. Yikes!

Keep in mind that all of this is related in general terms, and individual motives and experiences may vary, but if we are willing to deeply inspect our own motives, perhaps we can recognize a particular quality at the root of our being: self-interest. The motive of self-interest is in fact the primary one for just about all creatures in this realm. Nor can we simply banish it from our minds, especially if we are unwilling to confront it first, and see what kind of gift is hidden within its appearance.

If we are observant, we might come to see that whatever appears in our lives can be recognized as a gift for us, if we are open to receiving. Nothing is there haphazardly. Even the more difficult challenges and visions are still only temporary phenomena that are reflected in the mirror of mind. We are not what appears and vanishes, and so having faith in that fact, we can proceed.

Upon investigation, we can notice that the sense of self-interest is primal, arising for almost everyone simultaneous with embodiment. Indeed, without it, we would not last long in this realm, and so it can be appreciated as a useful and necessary program in that respect, as long as it serves its proper function. So far, so good.

The complication arises when we mistake the program for our actual identity, because then it threatens to become a tyrannical master, rather than a loyal and helpful servant. Moreover, in doing so, it creates painful contractions in the flow of our interpersonal relationships, even to the extreme of our making war to insure its dominance. Just so, if we survey this world as it is today, with all of its strife and bloodshed, we can see the results of an out-of-control sense of self-interest.

By spending some time turning our attention away from the interests of the identified one – its thoughts, emotions, memories, and perceptions – and instead allowing mind to come to rest in the spaciousness of that awake awareness which is always present, then the natural balance and harmony between the expediency of the transient self-sense and the eternal reality of our native pristine selflessness can eventually be restored.

In the process, the essential emptiness of the self-image may be revealed, thus freeing attention even more from the dilemma of imagined independent embodiment, and simultaneously releasing it to the exquisite enjoyment of pure being. Such liberated energy subsequently transmutes to a fine-burning fuel, freely available for the actualization of life’s inherent potential and evolutionary expansion to infinity.

Now we are no longer looking for love, because we know ourselves as Love itself. When the heart knows itself as it is, bondage and liberation both become moot, humor flows freely, while what remains is what has always been – this miraculous motionless moment that paradoxically goes on forever!

 

“That which you are, your true self, you love it, and whatever you do, you do for your own happiness. To find it, to know it, to cherish it is your basic urge. Since time immemorial you loved yourself, but not wisely. What is wrong is to love yourself stupidly, so as to make yourself suffer. Use your body and mind wisely in the service of the self, that is all.”

~Sri Nisargadatta

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True Meditation: Recognizing Basic Sanity

“There is no need of training. Awareness is always with you. The same attention that you give to the outer, you turn to the inner. No new, or special kind of awareness is needed. What you need is to be aware of being aware. Don’t be misled by the simplicity of the advice. Very few are those who have the courage to trust the innocent and the simple.”

~Nisargadatta Maharaj

extendedmind

In most esoteric systems and consciousness therapies, meditation is a goal-oriented process that may involve any number of strategic techniques directed at a positive and beneficial modification of the meditator’s state and condition, from the gross level that seeks material acquisition, skills enhancement, and physical life extension, to the mental plane where the attainment of unusual powers (siddhis) and fascinating transcendental experiences are sought, and ultimately to the fulfillment of an ideal of enlightenment, peace, and bliss at the so-called “spiritual” stage.

Regardless of the particular system to which one ascribes, some form of meditation is typically considered a prerequisite practice, both to calm the mind, and then to direct it towards the achievement of some desirable personal outcome, whether that be an awakening insight, a pleasant and unusual bodily sensation, a glimpse into other levels of consciousness, or simply a temporary state of heightened clarity that could prove advantageous in the realm of business competition.

business meditation

In the spiritual arena, there are innumerable texts composed by teachers and masters extolling the virtues of this or that method of meditation, with elaborate instructions for various beginner, intermediate, and expert levels of application. Moreover, one will also find detailed critiques of one particular sect’s meditation practices in comparison to another sect’s methods, in terms of efficacy and potency, and general efficiency in the attainment of the goals set forth by the umbrella religious/spiritual system.

Much of that competitive aspect is simply the usual human vanity expressed as “my way is better than your way”, played out in the religious arena. At its extreme, such attitudes predictably lead to religious conflicts and the type of sectarian strife so sadly evident both today and throughout history.

A number of examples (though thankfully mostly non-violent) of competing meditation programs could be found within Buddhism, with its various schools and sub-sects. For instance, in the school called Zen (Chan) Buddhism, which is known primarily as a meditation sect, one can find several diverse methods, each championed by its own sub-sect, and each typically going to elaborate lengths to differentiate itself from the others, as well as from other Buddhist “vehicles”.

One Zen sub-sect (Rinzai) favors the use of koans, or challenging and seemingly irrational enigmas drawn from classical “cases”, which the teacher provides for the aspirant to work with, in order to break through their mental rigidity and stimulate some trans-rational insight experience. Another Zen school (Soto), will instead focus on following or counting breaths, or else will employ a “just sitting” technique, derived from an earlier process called “silent illumination”, which involves observing one’s thoughts without any gaining idea, and which regards the assumption of the posture itself (a rather formal yogic position) as a manifestation itself of the very enlightenment that the Rinzai school is seeking to obtain via their koan program. Occasionally, another sub-sect might arise that seeks to combine the two techniques.

MtBaldy Zendo

Within Hinduism, there are even more variations on the meditation theme, which may include breath control, sound attenuation, mantras and magical incantations, numerous yogic postures and manipulation of subtle bodily energies, objects of concentrated contemplation and visualization, prayers and supplications to deities, and more advanced explorations of subtle and mystical realms achieved via mind control and various austerities, the potent intervention of a guru or spiritual preceptor, and numerous other approaches.

Regardless of the strategy, scheme, or method, the one common foundation of nearly all meditation programs at the very outset is the assumption of the inherently substantial reality of the meditator – the subject, or person (even if the eventual goal is to transcend that illusory identity). The proposition is to transform that person from a deluded being into an awakened one, from a suffering, bound, and conflicted individual into a free, peaceful, and happy one.

Essentially, all meditation programs are based on a desire to have things be other than they are, different and more agreeable. All of the many supports, such as special meditation environments, special clothing and accessories (such as incense, bells, statues, pictures, and prescribed cushions), special diets and exercises, select groups and teaching aids, and various elaborate rituals and trappings, are enthusiastically employed to dress the stage with the props believed necessary or conducive to accomplishing the purposes of the particular meditation of choice. All in all, it can become a rather elaborate affair, and more often than not, such props can actually get in the way of the very liberation being sought after, primarily by confirming the solidity of the aspirant and necessity of their ritual tools.

In contrast, true meditation begins with the recognition of the two-fold emptiness of both self and phenomena, the direct realization that subjects and objects exist purely by virtue of conceptual designation. Upon their arising, all thoughts, self-images, memories, beliefs, sensations, emotions and perceptions are revealed in true meditation as impermanent and empty of substance, like holographic phantasms. There is no requirement for some special costume or ritual in true meditation, nor any strategic plan for self-transformation and personal ascendance. The one who would accomplish any of that is recognized as an imaginative figment of a fictional story right from the beginning.

In fact, true meditation is actually non-meditation, since it has nothing to accomplish, and hence requires no effort geared towards a change of state or attainment of something extra. Nothing has to be developed, fixed, or resolved, but only recognized. It adds nothing to nor subtracts anything from experience. It simply consists of being aware of being aware, or directly noticing mind’s true nature – our native awake awareness that is self-existing and spontaneously present, open and spacious, lucid and transparent.

Nisargadatta Maharaj put it this way:

“To be aware is to be awake. Unaware means asleep. You are aware anyhow, you need not try to be. What you need is to be aware of being aware. Be aware deliberately and consciously, broaden and deepen the field of awareness. You are always conscious of the mind, but you are not aware of yourself as being conscious.

The mind produces thoughts ceaselessly, even when you do not look at them. When you know what is going on in your mind, you call it consciousness. This is your waking state — your consciousness shifts from sensation to sensation, from perception to perception, from idea to idea, in endless succession. Then comes awareness, the direct insight into the whole of consciousness, the totality of the mind. The mind is like a river, flowing ceaselessly in the bed of the body; you identify yourself for a moment with some particular ripple and call it: ‘my thought’. All you are conscious of is your mind; awareness is the cognisance of consciousness as a whole.”

When left unrecognized, the thinking, concept-forming, and interpretive activity of dualistic mind arises, and a continuously existing “person” is first fabricated and then taken to be who and what we are. Once we recognize this basic awareness, however, the passing parade of thoughts loses its power to seduce us into a trance of identification with a habitual state of craving and aversion — the same trance which in turn creates the illusion of a separate and enduring self — and so simply dissolves. In such recognition, any emotions, thoughts, preferences, perceptions of good and bad, and so forth are naturally released without effort. As the western teacher Adyashanti wrote: “When you rest in quietness and your image of yourself fades, and your image of the world fades, and your ideas of others fade, what’s left? A brightness, a radiant emptiness that is simply what you are.”

light being

In true meditation, there is a clear knowing space in which thoughts arise, linger, and disappear. Once noticed, true meditation is simply relaxing into that space of silent knowingness, the transparent awake awareness between thoughts, rather than pursuing and then identifying with any thought. In the recognition of this subtle awareness, or in the knowing of that which is knowing, there is a complete absence of any conceptualizing, memory association, or anticipation. By relaxing into the pure empty clarity of this knowing awareness again and again, true meditation eventually becomes stabilized.

As the great Tibetan yogi Milarepa noted: “In the gap between former and later thoughts non-conceptual wisdom shines continuously.” A thousand years later, the contemporary master Anam Thubten echoes: “Notice that there is a gap between each thought. Notice that there is a space between the place where the last thought came to an end and the next one hasn’t arrived yet. In this space there is no “I” or “me.” That’s it.”

With every inward glance, we can notice that awake aware quality that is both empty and knowing, while remaining totally unaffected by any thoughts. True meditation is just staying with this recognition. It does not require studious analysis nor complex and progressive cultivation. Rather, it is merely a matter of recognizing our own mind nature — this very wakefulness of natural knowing that is self-existing and spontaneously present. Regardless of whatever thought forms arise in the mind, the essence does not change but remains a fresh, basic state of naturalness, which can be neither improved or corrupted by the play of consciousness.

In true meditation, attention merely shifts from its chronic obsession with mental fabrications and emotional moods to the natural state of changeless aware knowingness and silent presence. It is an effortless noticing, or as the Dzogchen teacher Mingyur Rinpoche notes:

“It is easy to recognize it. You just have to drop thinking and it is right there. There is not a lot to be done. You do not have to do this and that and the other. It is like the example of trying to touch space with your finger. To touch space, you do not have to move your finger at all, do you—it is already touching space, isn’t it?”

“It is as though your eyes are looking backwards instead of forwards as they usually do. You are looking out with your eyes but are looking back at the same time. Do not try too hard with this though, otherwise you will really make a big mistake. You just sort of look back at your mind and say, ‘Who am I? Where am I? What is this?’ When you do that, do you see the thing that is thinking? That is enough!”

In the parlance of Tibetan Dzogchen (Great Perfection) teachings, this state of true meditation is called “rigpa”. A contemporary master, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, says of it:

“What is this non-meditation? How do we meditate without meditating? Whatever situation mind is in, whether there are discursive thoughts of good, bad, clean, unclean, and so on, if you drop all of these so that you are without even a whisker of the conceptual activity of mind, the nature of mind will shine forth as non-stopped clarity and that is called self-arising rigpa. This does not need to be created or produced or purchased; when you let mind itself, just as it is, shine forth and stay in that, that is called self-arising rigpa. Someone who meditates using logical processes could never meditate on this, could never realize it.

To do this, you need to reverse your outwardly-directed attention inward and look hither towards the mind. This way of looking hither towards the mind means to rest self-settled in unhindered clarity. Having released all the bindings of passion, aggression, pride, and so on, abide in the state of this self-arising rigpa of non-stopped clarity, crystal clarity, like the sun shining in the sky. Not being caught by this and that but resting in the non-stopped clarity of whatever there is occurring in mind is called self-arising rigpa.”

“In fact, rigpa is coming all the time. It is always there so there is nothing to do. There is no meditation to do because it is there all the time. There is no need of mantra, no need to do anything in particular, no need to visualize something; it is just there.”

This natural state of thought-free wakefulness is the mind’s ever-present background and true nature, but for most of us it is obscured and so remains unappreciated, due to our compounded fixations with self and phenomena which produce the vicious cycle of grasping and avoiding that is our usual experience. However, if we then fabricate some project to remove the mind’s obscuration, we just move further away from true meditation, which is not at all about removing or improving or any of the busy work normally associated with spiritual practices, such as conventional meditation. Rather, attention is simply shifted to the knowing awareness in which the various thoughts and emotions are appearing, which immediately releases them from any binding quality. Mind need not be altered in any way. It does not require any addition or subtraction. It is fine just as it is.

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Traditionally, aspirants deemed ready are introduced to rigpa through certain face-to-face “pointing out instructions” with their teacher. The contemporary western Dzogchen teacher Jackson Peterson shared an example of this direct introduction to rigpa from the “Yeshe Lama” by Jigme Lingpa:

“Do not contrive or elaborate the awareness of this very moment. Allow it to be just as it is. This is not established as existing, not existing, or having a direction. It does not discern between emptiness and appearances and does not have the characteristics of nihilism and eternalism. Within this state where nothing exists, it is unnecessary to exert effort through view or mediation. The great primordial liberation is not like being released from bondage. It is natural radiance uncontrived by the intellect, wisdom unsullied by concepts.

The nature of phenomena, not tainted by the view and meditation, is evenness without placement …without premeditation. It is clarity without characteristics and vastness not lost to uniformity. Although all sentient beings have never been separate from their own indwelling wisdom even for an instant, by failing to recognize this, it becomes like a natural flow of water solidifying into ice. With the inner grasping mind as the root cause and outer objective clinging as the contributing circumstance, beings wander in samsara indefinitely. Now, with the guru’s oral instructions, at the moment of encountering awareness–without any mental constructions– rest in the way things truly are, without wavering from or meditating on anything. This fully reveals the core wisdom intent of the primordial Buddha.”

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Thus, in true meditation, nothing is in need of renunciation or transformation. It is simply remaining present as this nondual awareness, the mind’s true nature, just as it is, without resort to schemes or strategies of some other, future attainment. It includes the realization that there is no difference between this moment now and supreme enlightenment. There is nothing beyond this basic state of wakefulness, nothing to grasp or avoid. This is why it is said that our ordinary mind, just as it is, is perfect and complete.

This very mind has always been fully awake, it is merely that we have not been clearly seeing our thoughts, emotions, and perceptions as they are, but instead have been adding conditional fantasies of interpretation to whatever arises, which have clouded our view and led to confusion. However, if we are able to recognize the true nature of the thought as soon as it arises, and leave it alone without pursuing it, then whatever thoughts arise all automatically self-liberate without effort or fuss. In this way, from the point of view of awake awareness, we recognize the innate purity and emptiness of whatever arises, without assigning any praise or blame, or indulging any motive to have things be other than they are.

“Buddhahood — the discovery of the Dharmakaya — is nothing other than the uncontrived and unadulterated essence of Awareness becoming evident. And because awareness is present in everyone without transition or change, I advise you to rest in the spontaneous presence of your uncontrived Awareness.”

~Longchenpa

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(A deep bow of gratitude to Jackson Peterson, who generously provided the Dzogchen quotations)

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Science and Spirituality

science spirit

“Only when each one of us feels the truth, appreciates the truth, accepts the truth, and is ready to follow the truth, will it work. When someone puts himself outside of the truth in order to study the truth, he won’t know what to do when something happens to him.”

~Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

There is a terrific amount of fresh and exciting activity these days revolving around the increasing connections and bridges being forged and mutually fruitful exchanges being made between the latest developments in the scientific field (such as in quantum physics, neuroscience, psychology, and of course in various consciousness studies) and the world of spirituality.

Some have even suggested that the scientific method, if followed without premature bias, will result in the discovery of the Truth with a capital “T”. Indeed, a good case could be made that awakened beings such as the Buddha were actually very scientific in the process and development of their brilliant and inspiring insights, and left behind scientific means and methods to achieve self-knowledge, happiness, and freedom from suffering.

Certainly, intellectual knowledge (which is the domain and goal of science) can be incredibly useful for the evolutionary advancement and betterment of the species (although it is also capable of being employed for destructive purposes, as has been sadly proven again and again in human history).

However, can even the highest of human concepts ever amount to truly liberating knowledge? Furthermore, can liberation ever be the result of some skilfully applied method, which could in turn be duplicated under laboratory conditions and be universally applicable?

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The great Masters who have addressed the matter are unanimous in claiming that genuine Liberation is beyond the causal process of strategic effort altogether. Nor can it be achieved through a contrived mindfulness, which only leads back to thoughts and concepts.

The nondual sage Ramana Maharshi indicated as much when he said: “All that you need do is find the origin of mind and abide there. Your efforts can extend only thus far. Then the Beyond will take care of itself. You are helpless there. No effort can reach it.

All the scientist (or any of us for that matter) can really do is to discover and then discard that which is not true. The mind can be employed to eliminate certain barriers to realization, but it cannot be used to grasp itself. Truth itself cannot be seen, because it is always what is seeing. Awareness can never be an object to itself. What is perceived cannot perceive.

Moreover, as the sage Nisargadata Maharaj noted: “Any knowledge of any kind that you think you have can only be in the consciousness. Whatever happens in consciousness is purely imaginary, a hallucination. How can the consciousness which came later give you any knowledge about that state which exists prior to consciousness’ arrival?”

phenomena

Having some intellectual insight into truth is not at all the same as its direct realization. It is merely a faint and shadowy reflection, and not the great relief that comes with the genuine awakening that penetrates to the very cells. Relying on mind and intellect alone for an accurate model of reality (much less its living experience) is like trying to eat a painting of a cake on paper.

A good example of the coincidence of Science and Spirituality is demonstrated by the most recent findings/theories of quantum mechanics, which posit that there is no objective and independently existing universe outside of our observations and interpretations. Despite its apparent solidity, the universe is at heart a phantasm, a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram. Moreover, if the apparent separateness of subatomic particles is illusory, it means that at a deeper level of reality all things in the universe are infinitely interconnected. In a holographic universe, even time and space need no longer be viewed as fundamentals.

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This revelation is consistent with the Buddhist teachings of Madhyamaka (Middle Way), which also propose that that there is no objective reality independent of our mentally fabricated interpretations on perception, or conceptual designations, and that all phenomena arise interdependently (Pratītyasamutpāda).

In both cases, we may find such information challenging, or refreshing, or even revelatory, but does such knowledge alone have the power to free the hearer or knower from their own self-fixations and emotional contractions, or their habitual confusion over personal identity? Indeed, does any conceptual proposition have the power to bring about the cessation of suffering that follows each one of us like our shadow, and liberate us into the direct realization of our true nature?

Nisargadatta’s own guru, Siddharameshwar Maharaj, made a very salient point about true awakening: “When you have actually seen that you are not, there is no necessity of a means and an end. You have seen that you are not existent. There is a confirmed realization from top to bottom in the whole body, that ‘you’ are not there.” In other words, if awakening is real, and not just the accumulation of more conceptual insights, it must impact the total being, the “whole body”.

This point was echoed by Nisargadatta when he noted: “What you hear must enter you like an arrow and hit something deep within you. There must be an internal reaction; without the reaction, what you hear won’t do you any good. You should know it when the arrow reaches its mark.”

Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

Any truth discovered as a result of intellectual analysis will likely still remain in the realm of knowledge, which is why many methods, whether scientific or spiritual, may bring one to the threshold, but none can carry one across. When does abstract knowledge become living wisdom? For that, something more is needed, something the intellect cannot comprehend, because it is that in which the intellect itself arises and dissolves.

As the great Kashmiri poetess Lalla once hinted: “Meditation and self-discipline are not all that’s needed, nor even a deep longing to go through the door of freedom. You may dissolve in contemplation, as salt does in water, but there’s something more that must happen.”

To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence that is subject to specific principles of reasoning. However, most of the world’s great wisdom systems are in agreement that “enlightenment” is intellectually incomprehensible; it cannot be understood or attained through conceptual knowledge, because it escapes all categories of thought, and so transcends all philosophical or scientific theories and propositions that are dependent on rational standardization, statistical analysis, and verifiable hypotheses.

beyond the mind

Simply stated, the human brain does not understand how to process memories outside of the physical world. Our brain constructs memories by associating information with that which it already knows. Since it typically does not know what it is like to be a brain within an alternate or expanded reality, it has nothing to which it can associate information coming from the spirit state, and therefore it does not know how to translate or interpret it into language accessible by the brain.

There is a way of bringing such information into our awareness, but it involves bypassing the human brain by resonating at the higher frequency ranges which access “Quantum Intelligence”. In order to do so, we must first let go of our fixated identification with human consciousness, with all of its filters and conceptual designations, which obstruct our intuitive connection with Spirit.

Going Beyond

There is certainly no doubt that a wise and appropriate integration of science and spirituality can lead to a better understanding of how human beings think and behave in both the micro as well as the macro context. However, true spirituality moves in the very opposite direction from science at a particularly critical juncture, in which relying solely on intellectual knowledge itself is seen and recognized to be an impediment, an obscuration holding the aspirant back from the necessary surrender of beliefs and concepts that is the prerequisite for any real spiritual breakthrough.

In other words, it is not by knowing, but by unknowing, that the ground is prepared for the emergence of transformative insights into one’s fundamental nature and identity. As opposed to the scientific paradigm of knowledge acquisition, the path of spiritual transcendence is more about releasing all mental fabrications, rather than perpetually gathering facts and constructing more concept models.

Again, Nisargadatta addresses this point: “While I am talking about knowledge that is beyond the phenomenal world, you are trying to understand through worldly concept and words. If you continue in the realm of intellect you will become entangled and lost in more and more concepts. It is not possible for you to acquire knowledge, you are knowledge. You are what you are seeking.”

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Although with brain imaging techniques, science now has the tools to evaluate what happens in the brain during certain religious experiences, such as prayer and meditation, it cannot extrapolate that data and subsequently arrive at a prescription for removing cognitive and emotional fixations, much less the achievement of spiritual liberation. No fine tuning of neurotransmitters will ever result in awakening. For that, a special form of wisdom which directly realizes the essential emptiness of both self and phenomena must first arise, and that will not happen merely by manipulating brain scan data and attempting to form a hypotheses for the methodical acquisition of such insight.

http://www.npr.org/2010/12/15/132078267/neurotheology-where-religion-and-science-collide

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/how-does-prayer-meditation-affect-brain-activity_n_1974621.html

With the benefit of the aforementioned brain imaging technology, scientists can now determine to some extent that so-called “spiritual emotions” and unity experiences occur when certain portions of the brain are either stimulated or else relaxed. However, although the body and the mind are interrelated, they are not the same. The mind is not the brain, and the brain is not the mind. The brain is physical, whereas the mind is formless. The mind is not contained in the brain, regardless of the speculative assertions of the scientific materialists. There is nothing within the body that can be identified as being “our mind”.

We are so accustomed to think of ourselves as bodies having consciousness that it has become a real challenge to accept consciousness as having bodies. Nevertheless, a key spiritual insight consists of the direct realization that bodily existence is but a state of mind, a movement in consciousness. True scientists of the mind turn attention back to its silent source. They practice being aware of being aware, seeking the source of consciousness, until they are able to withdraw beyond consciousness altogether. No instruments will take us there. In the process, even the sense of “us” and “there” are recognized as mere transparent conceptual designations. It all must be discarded — even the wish for truth — so that truth at last can reveal itself as the spontaneously evident presence of awake awareness.

awake

Taking the inquiry to the next step, one might even argue that our purpose in incarnating in these human forms is not so much to find “Truth” (which is our actual nature, prior to, in the midst of, and after these temporary forms dissolve back to the elements). Rather, we are here more for the purposes of understanding and then transcending all the chronic poisons that tend to obscure our original innocence, such as greed, envy, hatred, pride, and ignorance. In the process, we learn how to “do the right thing” in every situation we encounter, and live a life of natural integrity. “The Truth” in its more universal or absolute sense is not really any of our business, as long as we are addicted to the false in the habitual way we live and relate in this realm.

In fact, it could be argued that the dense vibrational frequency at which we as humans resonate allows little if any possibility of expanding to the point where it can access the higher levels of consciousness. That is, as long as we are anchored to the human body-mind organism, we are simply not fitted for the appreciation or apprehension of the ever more subtle realities in the greater spectrum of consciousness beyond our current receptive capacity. A device with a hundred volt capacity simply cannot handle a million. It would incinerate the device. This is also why many near death experiencers report the sensation of “dumbing down”, upon return to the physical bio-vehicle.

In any case, there is no question that progress in our scientific understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit shows enduring promise. The rapid advancements we are witnessing today in the evolution of the quality of our shared information data base can help speed our emergence as a species from the superstition-shrouded dark ages (which is sadly still entrenched in many parts of the world, particularly as a result of fundamentalist religious provincialism).

sticks and stones

All knowledge is welcomed, but we also must recognize that knowledge does not equal wisdom, although the two can certainly go hand in hand. Indeed, there may come a time in our group evolution where any distinction between science and spirituality will have long ago been rendered obsolete in a new golden Age of Enlightenment, and what remains will only be the conscious process of Recognition that is equally accessible to all.

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“Of all the hard facts of science, I know of none more solid and fundamental than the fact that if you inhibit thought (and persevere) you come at length to a region of consciousness below or behind thought, and different from ordinary thought in its nature and character — a consciousness of quasi-universal quality, and a realization of an altogether vaster self than that to which we are accustomed. And since the ordinary consciousness, with which we are concerned in ordinary life, is before all things founded on the little local self, and is in fact self-conscious in the little local sense, it follows that to pass out of that is to die to the ordinary self and the ordinary world.

It is to die in the ordinary sense, but in another sense, it is to wake up and find that the “I,” one’s real, most intimate self, pervades the universe and all other beings — that the mountains and the sea and the stars are a part of one’s body and that one’s soul is in touch with the souls of all creatures…..

So great, so splendid is this experience, that it may be said that all minor questions and doubts fall away in face of it; and certain it is that in thousands and thousands of cases the fact of its having come even once to a man has completely evolutionized his subsequent life and outlook on the world.”

~Edward Carpenter
The Drama of Love & Death, 1912

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See also:

https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/joy-of-unknowing/

https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/beyond-the-language-of-seeking-and-knowing/

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Like Burglars

A monk asked Ryuge,
“What did old Masters attain when they entered the ultimate stage?”
“They were like burglars, sneaking into a vacant house.”
Ryuge replied.

When most aspirants embark upon one of the so-called “spiritual” paths, it is usually with some expectation that they will ultimately be rewarded with a higher, expanded state of consciousness, a more profound view, a greater sense of peace and joy, perhaps some special powers derived from various yogic exercises, a more attractive personal magnetism, a more open loving heart and sharper intellect, certainly a cessation of doubt, boredom, and suffering, and even the “Answer” – some knowledge and solution to all of one’s questions about life, such as why we are here, what are we supposed to be doing, and so forth.

In other words, when we take on some prescribed method (usually based on someone else’s recommendation, such as a Guru), it is part of a scheme or strategy to attain whatever it is we believe we are lacking in order to feel happy and complete. We enter the spiritual marketplace and attempt to purchase the right ticket to the destination we imagine will grant us what we think we want.

Indeed, that is how most of us were programmed or conditioned to approach life in general — as if it is a problem to be solved, if only we are capable of assembling the right combination of ingredients and persist in our efforts to accomplish the task. Naturally, in transferring that attitude to spiritual practice, it is assumed that there will be some sort of causal relationship between personal efforts and the eventual obtainment of wisdom, or realization.

Personal fortitude and courage, clear attention, focused determination, perseverance, positive attitude, willingness to endure pain and tribulation for the sake of the goal, and many other virtues have been listed as prerequisites for gaining the prize at the end of the race. We’ve been told (and so believe) that the proper application of mind, will, and energy will result in our ultimate personal victory, granting us the cherished fruits we projected would await us at the finish line, or at top of the mountain, or on the other shore.

What a shocking revelation then, when it is directly recognized that the belief in the reality of this person who is supposedly on some grand journey towards enlightenment has actually been one of the chief factors which have been obscuring true liberation. All along, there has been nothing to grasp and nobody to grasp anything! The person, the method, and the goal have been nothing but concepts, and when concepts are seen for what they are – empty mental constructs – then all of the imaginary stories generated by the mind (including those revolving around an inherent self and self-existing objects) lose their sense of substantiality.

As Vivekananda, the foremost disciple of the great nineteenth century sage Ramakrishna, wrote: “Space, time, causation are all delusions. It is your disease that you think you are bound and will be free. You are the Unchangeable. Talk not. Sit down and let all things melt away — they are but dreams. There is no differentiation, no distinction; it is all superstition.”

In that clear recognition, all such fictions of self-achievement are naturally liberated, like dream images that vanish upon awakening. Indeed, any sense of bondage can only exist as an investment in a thought object. For example, when we first awaken in the morning, there is typically no thought about who and what we are — there is only immediate awareness. That state of “not knowing” is our actual default condition, in which neither liberation nor bondage notions even apply. Habitually, however, we start right in compulsively projecting all sorts of thought energy in the form of conceptual designations, which in turn comprise our sense of self, and hence our reality.

Essentially, the real freedom is always naturally present prior to any such conceptual designations. If we could see directly that all of our complaints, ideals, hopes and fears, and even our very self-sense, hinge on a thin thread of thought, then we can sit back and let the whole house of cards collapse on its own. For example, when we see that we have been pinching ourselves, we just stop doing that. It is not really any more complicated than that, although for most of us, we tend to complicate the matter, and so there are all sorts of teachings directed at getting us to stop tearing at our own flesh, so to speak, and get out of our own way.

The problem arises when we project our preconceptions onto these teachings, imagining that they reify an independent and enduring self in need of being instructed. By doing so, we fail to recognize that the teachings themselves are also our own projections. We projected a state of bondage, then projected a “Way” to free ourselves from that imaginary sense of imprisonment, and finally we projected a pleasing result or triumphant outcome for following such schemes.

It is all rather comical, except that we take our projections seriously, and so suffer the ensuing dramas, accompanied by all sorts of hopes and fears which further complicate the matter. We bought the train ticket to Nirvana, and are reluctant to discard it, even though we suspect that we might be traveling around in circles. As Nisargadatta Maharaj noted: “The man in the train travels from place to place, but the man off the train goes nowhere, for he is not bound for a destination. He has nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing to become. Those who make plans will be born to carry them out. Those who make no plans need not be born. All you have to do is to abandon all memories and expectations. Just keep yourself ready in utter nakedness and nothingness.”

The entangling confusion that seems to beset most aspirants can be traced back to the belief that we are the doer – the busy pilgrim on the way to glory — when in fact that self-sense will begin to collapse upon thorough investigation. Upon inspection, it is revealed to be nothing more than a bundle of thoughts and memories mistaken to represent our actual identity.

Even then, such a collapse is not really the result of our doing, although the investigation itself will serve to some extent to remove impediments to clear seeing. However, that belief and conviction in a personal self goes deeper than the conscious mind’s constructs. In that regard, the contemporary Dzogchen teacher Jackson Peterson makes a salient point regarding the futility of self-improvement strategies when he notes:

“The subconscious mind is what is projecting your identity and sense of who you are. “You” have no control over that because “you” are just a puppet projection of past memories, conditioning, and self-images. . . Practice or effort has no influence on whether the subconscious ceases projecting the self-identity. The one who is “practicing” is this puppet. The subconscious is just having the little dream puppet busy practicing with effort or without effort. The key is getting the subconscious to cease creating the “me self”. And “you” can’t do that because that “you” is what the subconscious is projecting: a “you” trying to get rid of a “me”. It’s all puppet activity directed 100% by the subconscious. For many different reasons, the subconscious suddenly stops projecting a personal self. In that moment there is only emptiness knowing itself. Once the puppet disappears, there is no one left. There is just vast conscious aware space with no history, issues, or identity. That is what a Buddha is.”

He later adds:

“The problem is the subconscious is projecting a “you” that has no control of the projector. However the projector is also a receiver of all kinds of information, like perceptions, words, concepts and wisdom. If the receiver aspect processes particular information about the projection of the self being a mistake, it can sometimes immediately shut down. Exposing the mind/receiver to the “Emptiness Teachings” regarding the emptiness of the me-self, a sudden cessation can happen.

Consequently, rather than desperately trying to calm the mind and achieve some idealistic transformation of the imaginary character we have previously assumed ourselves to be, we can instead stop investing energy and attention in that conceptual construct. To this end, expedient practices such as non-dwelling, silence, and true inquiry can be employed like a thorn to remove another thorn. Once that initial thorn of the self-contraction is removed, then the practices too can be discarded.

When interest in and attention to arising thoughts is subsequently refused, the mind can relax and settle naturally. In this way, the seen becomes just the seen, the heard is just the heard, the sensation of being-ness is just that, without the gratuitous superimposition of fantasies of interpretation on perception. What is realized is that there was never anything in need of salvation, redemption, or enhancement. As the great Tibetan Adept Longchenpa taught:

“Since all phenomena are timelessly free, nothing need be done to free them anew through realization. Even the thought that freedom comes about through direct introduction is deluded. One strives to free this essence from whatever binds it, but nothing need be done to free it, for unobstructed Awareness, which has never existed as anything whatsoever, does not entail any duality of something to be realized and someone to realize it. There is equalness because nothing is improved by realization or worsened by it’s absence, so there is no need for any adventitious realization. And because there never has existed anything to realize — for the ultimate nature of phenomena is beyond ordinary consciousness — to speak of realization on even the relative level is nothing but deluded. What can be shown at this point is the transcendence of view and meditation, in which nothing need be done regarding realization, nothing need be directly introduced, and no state of meditation need be cultivated. So there is the expression ‘it is irrelevant whether or not one has realization’.”

That being so, is this the end of the whole matter — the realization that a phantom has been chasing an illusion in a dream? In some respects, the matter itself has been a simple case of mistaken identity, and yet, there is still this appearance, this apparent self, and the apparent world, filled with living and breathing sentience of life, a limitless energy wildly and sublimely manifesting as everybody and everything. Ramana Maharshi noted that this need not be a contradiction – that the “I” sees through the illusion of “I” and yet still remains as “I”. In fact, it is only at this stage of recognition that the Play of True Love can fully be appreciated in all of its bewildering and heart-breaking wonder, for the Awakened Mind is a Mind of Love.

True love is simple, primordial, and naturally selfless. It is only complicated by the superimposition of the “me and mine” story. Indeed, unless the emptiness of self and world is directly seen, love will always be burdened with conditions, precluding the possibility of selfless compassion. However, unless such awakened compassion is subsequently embodied in the way we now behave and relate, then the recognition of two-fold emptiness has not fulfilled its potential.

The danger at this stage is that we may remain fixated and aloof in a dreamy emptiness and yet imagine that we have accomplished our purpose in being born, when in fact we have barely begun to really manifest the living light. We may have just exchanged one prison for a more subtle one, and one perhaps even harder to transcend.

Those who have managed to see though the trap of clinging to emptiness and so proceed ever deeper into the revelation may come to realize that even the direct experience and recognition of the two-fold emptiness of self and phenomena does not necessarily resolve an emotional contraction at the heart. This is also why we hear, for example, of prominent teachers who display obvious signs of profound insight into the fundamental nature of things, and yet still find themselves involved in plentiful and disturbing scandals stemming from an inability to resolve emotional/sexual knots at their core.

The law of Love will not permit partial surrender. There is a natural progression, an evolutionary blossoming possible, if one stays true to the call of Love. To do so, everything, including all prior visions and gifts of spirit, must be let go, released – this, in spite of the fact that surrender is not something that can be done. One can’t surrender, but only remove that which stands in the way of selflessness. And that impediment is most often characterized by a reluctance to immerse oneself, nakedly and vulnerably, in the mystery of Love, for the sake of Love alone. Again, quoting Ramana: “Only if one attains the height of Love will liberation be attained.”

True Love is always present as the open and transparent spaciousness of selfless awake awareness in the midst of all life. It cannot even be defined in opposition to bondage. It is as free in bondage as it is in liberation. It is liberation even from liberation. Though all positions are position in mind, Love has no position. It has no opposite. It will always exceed any effort to contain it, because it is prior to the mind that would try to grasp it.

Without Love there is no Truth. Without Truth there is no Love. Love transcends any sense of its own absence — that core story of separation and contraction from Itself, which is infinitely modified as the forms of our chronic suffering and dissatisfaction, and the ensuing cycle of craving and aversion. Strangely, fear of such love is the only fear greater than fear of death, because it demands that we die into life with arms wide open.

This Love, this intimate connection with all beings and life itself, transcends and yet lives within the opposites, the paradoxes, of experience and perception. In order to maintain the image of being a separate self, and perpetuate the “me and mine story”, we must disconnect from Love, even though that which would do so is eventually consumed by Love. The totality of the universal manifestation is being lived by Love, is in fact nothing but an expression of Love, beyond the boundaries of any human comprehension.

Indeed, the old masters who realized the so-called “ultimate stage” may have been like burglars sneaking into the vacant house of self and world, but that house itself is located in the embrace of Love, surrounded and ever permeated by perfume of Love. To stop at the mere vacancy of the house alone is to miss the view from the open windows. That view is the view of Love, looking out of every pair of eyes, and recognizing only Itself, the bliss and the terror, the beauty and the ugliness, the light and dark of Itself, the conditional as well as the unconditional, for truly, there is only Love, and that which has yet to recognize Itself as Love in the magnificent starry Play of Love.

Q: Is not all suffering self-created?

Nisargadatta Maharaj: Yes, as long as there is a separate self to create it. In the end you know that there is no sin, no guilt, no retribution, only life in its endless transformations. With the dissolution of the personal ‘I’ personal suffering disappears. What remains is the great sadness of compassion, the horror of the unnecessary pain.

Q: Is there anything unnecessary in the scheme of things?

M: Nothing is necessary, nothing is inevitable. Habit and passion blind and mislead. Compassionate awareness heals and redeems. There is nothing we can do, we can only let things happen according to their nature.

Q: Do you advocate complete passivity?

M: Clarity and charity is action. Love is not lazy and clarity directs. You need not worry about action, look after your mind and heart. Stupidity and selfishness are the only evil.

Q: In love there must be duality, the lover and the beloved.

M: In love there is not the one even, how can there be two? Love is the refusal to separate, to make distinctions. Before you can think of unity, you must first create duality. When you truly love, you do not say, ‘I love you'; where there is mentation, there is duality. Without love, and will inspired by love, nothing can be done. Affectionate awareness is the crucial factor that brings Reality into focus.

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