Choice Experience and dogma

Posted: 25/08/2017 by zandtao in Buddhadasa, Freedom, Insight, Meditation
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Terminology Warning – awakening

I have been re-engaging with Eckhart Tolle, someone who has greatly helped in the past. I like him because of his apparent lack of dogma, and his similarity of early experience as described in Power of Now (see below).

I re-engaged with him because I was examining pain, and in this talk he speaks of his dogma coming from Buddhism. That statement in itself now says little to me because there are many appeals to Buddhism, and as Eckhart also points out the mind has complicated what is Buddhism – sankhara or as Ajaan Buddhadasa says concocting or proliferations.

I am absolutely certain that Eckhart Tolle is talking beyond dogma, but in doing so he creates his own dogma. But the difference with his dogma is that for him it was insight – personal assessment. In other words Eckhart has moved beyond dogma, come up with his own insights, and then applied his own framework to where he has gone. So for him it is Buddhism that is beyond the dogma of Buddhism. Yet for others it is still dogma.

This paradox of the last sentence illustrates that there is a huge problem in all of this, communication – explaining. Once you move beyond dogma, language is a great limitation because language is the métier of dogma – it is the tool of sankhara. The only way that language has meaning beyond dogma is that if the experience is somehow shared.

Below I have copied Eckhart’s experience, and I want to compare. First I want to explain why. These experiences, awakenings connected to jhanas, are so important, and treated as non-existent by the intellectual establishment – by the intellect. I have only just begun to re-celebrate my own experience mainly through consideration of the 5 Gateways movie – if these experiences interest you listen to the people describe their experiences in the movie. Whilst Buddhism talks of these experiences through jhanas there is a sense of belittlement of them possibly because of institutionalism, the dogma of detachment or maybe simply some monks don’t have such experiences. I don’t know.

But these experiences are so important if placed in life’s context.

My experience was not one full-blown awakening as Eckhart describes his and that was primarily because of the booze. Because of the booze I describe my despair as “hitting bottom”. I think I was not suicidal because of the booze but as my “hitting bottom” was diffused over time by the booze, fortunately there was not the same intensity – the same level of despair.

Another difference, maybe, was that my life had not been intense. My early life been totally superficial, just concerned with academia. Everything had been easy. Get up, go to school, play some football. University was just as superficial with drink thrown in. Starting work was the only form of intensity. Studying for exams had been focussed – although not too successful. But there was a real focus for the job, I had to get up go to work and do the stuff they did; I had to have discipline for something that I found meaningless. And as it went on I had to be disciplined to do the work to get money to drink. I didn’t spend my 20s in despair, I drifted around on the surface getting drunk. When I hit bottom it was like I woke up and found an inner life.

But there was another important aspect of intensity for me, after awakening I spent 13 years getting increasingly dependent on alcohol. This diffused the intensity, I even remember thinking at times that getting drunk burnt off excess energy. Coming to terms with the newfound awakening was tempered by increasingly dealing with alcoholism.

This also meant that I was in no way fit to be a spiritual teacher, I could not control my desires – addiction. But over time in this world you cannot live with the intensity, and over time I eschewed the addiction. By then I had accepted the world path of teacher, and in my personal time I occasionally wrote – although that was not frequent. But once I retired I found my own way. Getting rid of the job by writing – Matriellez, then coming to terms with how I should lead life – Treatise, blogging as a means of clearing the mind – Zandtao, Matriellez and Ginsukapaapdee, until I am now writing stories – Wai Zandtao.

His description of experience sounds so exciting:- “Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words “resist nothing,” as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly, there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.”

Experiences occurred for me differently. Hitting bottom was obviously brought on by the booze, and booze, as I suspect all drugs – maybe not marijuana?, prevents these jhanas. Immediately following hitting bottom I ran to my parents – I was 22. As usual at my parents’ house I spent much time walking, and I remember wandering around Manchester looking at suits in a Xmas pub thinking “what is this?” Still coming to terms with what was going on I returned to London, and in my Chiswick bedsit finding these experiences happening regularly. I think I was meditating but they just came in, nothing as shattering as Eckhart but there was presence. (Added next day) Exploring memory makes things clearer. That Chiswick bedsit was far more important than the hazy recollection I have of it. It was not special. I remember cooking on a landing in a loft space, having little room but loving it. Getting up there seems almost to have been a trigger for presence. I was stuck in the cubicle of a job, escaped and wandered up and down Chiswick High Road. Then there was the bedsit. Maybe meditation triggered it, maybe just being there triggered it. Can’t remember, doesn’t matter. It happened. That Chiswick time was Eckhart’s “I spent almost two years sitting on park benches in a state of the most intense joy.”

After that initial Chiswick “reward” they settled down but have been there for much of my life. Usually they occurred late at night in bed, and suddenly this experience would well up inside me and expand. There was no light for me but it was almost like the air itself was visibly vibrating. I remember the Summer I wrote Kirramura, and I spent the days waiting for the late night where I would go to bed, lie down and just wait for “the guys” to come …. and then I wrote. It was as if such experiences were a bottleneck, they would build up and then wait for a chance to come out – a time when I was quiet or meditating. Now they are less because I am old and meditate regularly. I discussed experiences and Buddhism generally here.

Recently I heard of someone watching 5 Gateways and crying because she had something similar. I was unable to follow up. It made me realise that there is a need to celebrate such experiences because in this world such spiritual matters are belittled by academics, and such people are marginalised not celebrated.

Such great joy!!

“I had become a spiritual teacher.” During Chiswick I started writing – Martin Smoothchatter. It was a time when Arts Centre people were so important as they ratified my experience. The cubicle was never for me, and after a couple of months I started taking Mongol kids out on a Saturday morning, I had found a meaning. This compassion turned to child care and then teaching.

And why are these experiences connected with dogma. They are not, because such experience does not happen if all there is is dogma. Dogma is the refuge of the academic mind. Of its nature dogma creates restrictions, belief in a dogma or not. And if there is restriction there is no experience. This is an experience of genuine freedom, and that only occurs if what we are doing is opening doors. By the way institutions cling to dogma, there are not doors opening.

So Eckhart explains his despair, his experience and his expanding consciousness offering his insights. And he says choose to do this without going through pain and despair. Can we choose to do this without despair? Ajaan Buddhadasa did – I think he just grew up being wise and grew older getting wiser, but others? Is there a choice without pain and despair? I hope so.

    This is copied from the introduction of “The Power of Now”.

The Origin Of This Book
I have little use for the past and rarely think about it; however, I would briefly like to tell you how I came to be a spiritual teacher and how this book came into existence. Until my thirtieth year, I lived in a state of almost continuous anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression. It feels now as if I am talking about some past lifetime or somebody else’s life.
One night not long after my twenty-ninth birthday, I woke up in the early hours with a feeling of absolute dread. I had woken up with such a feeling many times before, but this time it was more intense than it had ever been. The silence of the night, the vague outlines of the furniture in the dark room, the distant noise of a passing train – everything felt so alien, so hostile, and so utterly meaningless that it created in me a deep loathing of the world. The most loathsome thing of all, however, was my own existence. What was the point in continuing to live with this burden of misery? Why carry on with this continuous struggle? I could feel that a deep longing for annihilation, for nonexistence, was now becoming much stronger than the instinctive desire to continue to live.
“I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. `Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the `I’ and the `self’ that `I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”
I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words “resist nothing,” as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly, there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.
I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like. I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light than we realize. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, an empty bottle, marveling at the beauty and aliveness of it all.
That day I walked around the city in utter amazement at the miracle of life on earth, as if I had just been born into this world.
For the next five months, I lived in a state of uninterrupted deep peace and bliss. After that, it diminished somewhat in intensity, or perhaps it just seemed to because it became my natural state. I could still function in the world, although I realized that nothing I ever did could possibly add anything to what I already had.
I knew, of course, that something profoundly significant had happened to me, but I didn’t understand it at all. It wasn’t until several years later, after I had read spiritual texts and spent time with spiritual teachers, that I realized that what everybody was looking for had already happened to me. I understood that the intense pressure of suffering that night must have forced my consciousness to withdraw from its identification with the unhappy and deeply fearful self, which is ultimately a fiction of the mind. This withdrawal must have been so complete that this false, suffering self immediately collapsed, just as if a plug had been pulled out of an inflatable toy. What was left then was my true nature as the ever-present I am: consciousness in its pure state prior to identification with form. Later I also learned to go into that inner timeless and deathless realm that I had originally perceived as a void and remain fully conscious. I dwelt in states of such indescribable bliss and sacredness that even the original experience I just described pales in comparison. A time came when, for a while, I was left with nothing on the physical plane. I had no relationships, no job, no home, no socially defined identity. I spent almost two years sitting on park benches in a state of the most intense joy.
But even the most beautiful experiences come and go. More fundamental, perhaps, than any experience is the undercurrent of peace that has never left me since then. Sometimes it is very strong, almost palpable, and others can feel it too. At other times, it is somewhere in the background, like a distant melody.
Later, people would occasionally come up to me and say: “I want what you have. Can you give it to me, or show me how to get it?” And I would say: “You have it already. You just can’t feel it because your mind is malting too much noise.” That answer later grew into the book that you are holding in your hands.
Before I knew it, I had an external identity again. I had become a spiritual teacher.” Power of Now Intro.

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.

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  1. […] Choice Experience and dogma […]

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