This began as a start of a bookblog – Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree by Ajaan Buddhadasa. In reading the forewords, something I don’t usually do, I learned and then on the first page I began to understand some of the imponderables. I tend to believe in reincarnation, and from all kinds of places I have built up a coherent set of beliefs that satisfy me and give it a sense of completeness. But if someone asks is it true I cannot answer that. It greatly surprised me when Brad said Zen didn’t believe in reincarnation, but that is not my tradition so it didn’t matter. I thought reincarnation was a common thread in Buddhisms. But I told a lie, one that I didn’t know; Buddhism believes in reincarnation. And by Buddhism I mean what the Buddha taught. This is a bit of a “derrr” moment; logically what the Buddha said is Buddhism, I knew the Buddha didn’t answer certain questions yet I did not say reincarnation was not Buddhism.
Is it Buddhism or is it ideology?
Buddhadasa’s Heartwood continues to throw a spanner in all my work. By this question I am not asking whether Buddhism is an ideology because what I want to call Buddhism is provable – explained in a bit. For me with Buddhism there is no faith, no belief – just proof.
In this blog on Santikaro, I discussed a quote (I believe it was from Tan Ajaan that Santikaro was translating) on Spiritual Empirical Science. In other words what we all experience spiritually is repeated and repeatable, hence a good definition of a scientific methodology. In this blog I discussed how the movie about Vedanta bent over backwards to appear as if it is the same as science. As science, the way it is practised now is fundamentally flawed, even Tan Ajaan using such scientific technology risks the appearance of using language to appease fools. His approach is a genuine scientific method – a method of determining knowledge, not science that has eschewed all but the rational. Here is the quote – see for yourself:-
“When we speak of spiritual science, we mean that we must study and learn through our own spiritual experience rather than from scriptures and texts. In Buddhism, we practice spiritual science by observing and investigating dukkha as it actually occurs in our hearts and minds (citta). We search out the causes and conditions of that suffering and learn how to remove them in order to be free of all suffering, misery, and distress. In this way, there is direct spiritual experience of these matters, not mere hypotheses and theories. When we approach Buddhism as spiritual science, we will not have any problems regarding the accuracy of the scriptures, worries about mistakes and inaccuracies that may have crept in over the centuries, or whatever other doubts might arise. These will not trouble us, because we will be able to verify Buddha-Dhamma for ourselves, in our inner spiritual experience.”
This is also in line with what the Buddha said. I take what the Buddha said as meanning:-
there is no faith all is provable.
There is a sutta, the Kalama Sutta that discusses this, but I would prefer to direct you to what Tan Ajaan said. I will go into that article further but for the moment I take as some kind of affirmation of my statement:-
there is no faith all is provable.
I intend to take as Buddhism exactly what the Buddha taught as far as I can know it What Tan Ajaan does is confront this issue head on, I greatly enjoy that. Thailand has a monk-devotion culture, if you are a monk they are generally devoted to you. To me this goes against what the Buddha taught, but let me leave that aside. There is great devotion for Tan Ajaan here, but I heard Santikaro say somewhere that the Thai Buddhist establishment does not accept him in places. Santikaro mooted that it was because Tan Ajaan said that the Buddha did not believe in reincarnation. Because I take that the Buddha did not teach reincarnation then to me reincarnation is an ideology. Further it is an unprovable ideology however intellectually pleasing it is.
The next quote from Heartwood begins to deeply throw the cat amongst the pigeons:-
“And if one understands to the extent of being able to extinguish Dukkha, then that is the ultimate understanding. One knows that, even at this moment, there is no person living; one sees without doubt that there is no self or anything belonging to a self. There is just a feeling of “I” and “mine” arising due to the foolishness whereby one is deluded by the beguiling nature of sense – experience.
“Therefore, there being no one born here, there is no one who dies and is reborn. So, the whole Question of rebirth is utterly foolish and nothing to do with Buddhism at all. “
No self, no time, no kamma, no ideology.
Somewhere Thay has said Nirvana has no concepts, isn’t this the same?
Quench dukkha only, no intellectualising or theorising, no ideologies, only a spiritual science.
What this quote implies for me is mind-blowing. It is not rational, no structure of reason that can make sense of this, yet the more I think about it the more it brings understanding. I need to use Tan Ajaan’s benchmark – quench dukkha, I am beginning to examine it intellectually through the same glasses I thought of kamma. But I don’t think that is what he meant.
And remember Thay said that nirvana had no concepts.
Here is a page discussing the Buddha’s failure to answer certain questions. Look at the compromises the paper is forced to make:-
It is important to note however that the Buddha did give answers to some of these questions to His most intellectually developed disciples after the questioner had left. And in many cases, His explanations are contained in other discourses which show us, who live in an age of greater scientific knowledge, why these questions were not answered by the Buddha just to satisfy the inquisitive minds of the questioners.
“contained in other discourses” – where? I am no scholar, Ajaan Buddhadasa was – he was a slave to the Buddha (literal translation of his name). It is my understanding he didn’t find them. “most intellectually developed” opens the door to esoteric knowledge allowing people to move from the provable spiritual science, you must be special to understand. And the word intellectual creeps in. Is this about intellect? If this is true are you going to understand it through intellect?
“And if one understands to the extent of being able to extinguish Dukkha, then that is the ultimate understanding. One knows that, even at this moment, there is no person living; one sees without doubt that there is no self or anything belonging to a self. There is just a feeling of “I” and “mine” arising due to the foolishness whereby one is deluded by the beguiling nature of sense – experience. ”
Change to a study
This started as a bookblog but then I got sucked into different aspects of Tan Ajaan’s teachings so this has become the Buddhadasa blog. Starting with Heartwood I realised that I was using mental constructs – concepts. Is that wrong? Well it is if there is no verification in meditation, this led me to his discussion on the Kalama sutta. In Heartwood the main construct that has benn slashed was that of reincarnation. This slashing depends on Tan Ajaan’s interpretation of the birth moment discussed throughout the suttas as being Dhamma language as opposed to conventional language (birth from the mother’s womb) – discussed here. To begin to understand these births or mental events I am led to consider Tan Ajaan’s discussion on Dependent Arising (Paticcasamuppada).
Tan Ajaan’s interpretation of the Buddha’s teaching is that we learn to quench suffering, and the danger to suffering is I so I study “danger of I”. And finally there is a document “Essential Points of Ajaan Buddhadasa’s teachings”.
More Buddhadasa stuff here – scroll down to his name Ven Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.
This is so hard. I now find myself entering a real battle with I. I have just looked at that crazy sentence and it just reads lunacy. But it is so fundamental “entering a battle with I”. Sometimes in meditation there is a clarity that there is no I – hence this is the truth, but then when I get involved with daily life there is all the I – including the anger that is contact with the Walking Disaster Area. However real that I feels it is not real, and in the same way as I know there is chi I know that statement is true. However at the moment the I is still string so it keeps giving me doubts. But they are doubts and not the truth – this is the battle with I.
I, as a mental constructor or as I use more disparagingly intellectual, built up a whole construct about reincarnation including my own language of BillThis and BillNext. What was Tan Ajaan’s benchmark? Of course I mean the Buddha’s benchmark that Tan Ajaan used – did it quench suffering? (Thay also uses this benchmark). And the answer to this is that having a construct concerning reincarnation does create suffering because it allows for deferment – I will achieve Nibbana in the next life. Therefore I do not make sufficient effort to achieve Nibbana NOW – I was never good with NOW because of too much intellect. In many places in my blogs there are references to this faith – for that is what it is. The Buddha talked about Right View – 8-fold Path, and this is an article of faith not a right view.
But this brings me in conflict with so many Buddhists. Tibetan is out the window because so much of it is about reincarnation and preparing for death and this meeting – even the religious leader, HHDL, is found by people going round questioning prospective candidates – an entertainment movie about this story for the current HHDL is called “Kundun” – here is a torrent. Brad has never accepted reincarnation, in fact I had marked Zen with a negative because of this. Apparently Tan Ajaan was blackballed by the dogmatoxics of Thailand’s Theravada Buddhism. I am sure a while back if I had known he rejected reincarnation I would have rejected him – despite how much studying him helped me early in retirement.
It must be verifiable. To me this is now so obvious, it was what drew me to Buddhism. I remember Qasim fondly and enjoyed his proselytising conversations, but when he told me he just followed his Sheikh’s rules – no disrepect at all to his Sheikh – I was driven to Buddhism. It is not a set of rules – a dogma, it is all about what you can confirm in meditation – or your equivalent. Let me think about that equivalent. When I was young I would have bells and banjoes occasionally, and these would be moments of proof – of truth. Insights. At that time Tan Ajaan’s Dhamma language for me was “I know”, the word know said in a “knowing way” was a recognition that truth was known. Truth had been verified by insight, by these wierd moments of truth. I have always worked on verification but my intellect has always battled away creating mental constructs. Even back in my “raising from bottom” days in South London there was growing this construct of reincarnation – as if preparing the intellect to divert me when I started meditation and Buddhism seriously. Back in those days my friends, the people who were teaching me, were trying to get me out of the intellectual right and wrong that had been my maths. Intellectually there is no right or wrong, but truth-wise there absolutely is, there is absolute truth. Insight. What they should have been telling me is to get rid of the right and wrong that came with me as baggage of the education system and accept the right and wrong that comes from insight. It must be verifiable.
This battle with I is what Tan Ajaan calls the danger of I. I drew 2 distinctions:- “I want” is a diversion – desire, “the body needs” is life. If I give in to what I wants then I am creating I – the self – atta. The battle with I is atta trying to survive. I remember that for a long time I have personalised intellect as if intellect is fighting insight, but that seemed strange to some. The language of personalisation for intellect? But it is not strange because it is the same as the personalisation of atta. Atta, intellect. sex, they all personalise they are all distractions – lobha, dosa and moha. They want to survive but in doing so they create suffering.
This brings me to the Paticcasamuppada – I don’t get this. I get that desire can create clinging if we attach to it. If I accept getting angry with WDA then I always get angry. Despite the justifications concerning the lies the anger is not good to arise, how do I stop it arising? I cannot stop the lieing so I have to stop the lieing affecting me. Remember she wanted me to be angry with her, and I am letting it happen. She is a particularly nasty piece of work but that is no excuse. This fits somewhere within Paticcasammupada but where I don’t know. MMore importantly how important are all the steps. I seem to remember Dharma Dan thinking the steps are important.
Tired and time to cook lunch.
It was a late lunch – a big lunch (luntea?) and then with the garden it is now early evening. Meditation is difficult as atta is agitated. In fact maintaining a constant discipline of meditation since starting this Buddhadasa study has been difficult. The atta is agitated, very agitated – I hope it’s death throes.
Kamma is difficult. I had seen kamma as part of the mental construct of reincarnation, basically kamma dictates that you have jobs to do in this life and if they aren’t done you do them next time. So where does kamma come in when there is no next life? And what is now difficult to determine with kamma is that all of the monks writing about it will be writing about reincarnation and kamma in connection with it.
Tan Ajaan accepts kamma but I haven’t seen how he justifies it, or rather how he verifies it? Kamma is defined as action but I am not sure what that means. Actions are caused by conditions, I accept that. I’m groping.
We reap what we sow. Now that is kamma that I consider real, life is evidence of that. The anger surrounding WDA is an example of kamma. I am nowhere near what it means, and I do not understand how Tan Ajaan verifies it. Enough rambling.
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NOT moved & moved to Dharma Dan
I decided today that I would re-engage with Dharma Dan – Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. The book has moved so I am going to store it as well, I hope Dan doesn’t mind and a simple request will remove my link. I am not sure the reasons for my decision are the best as my atta is fighting hard. Tan Ajaan has sent my atta fighting for survival but I find Tan Ajaan is also quite close to the teachings. Whilst I attack dogmatoxia, I shamefully do not know enough of the dogma and as such I am unable to interpret the dogma. This of course is laziness – shamefully I must admit that, but the proliferation of dogmatoxism is so tedious. Defintiely a weakness on my part, but I do have an avenue to progress – Dharma Dan, and maybe when my atta is not struggling so much I wiull have the clarity to look at Tan Ajaan more.
6/3/13 NOT moved to Dharma Dan
[p17] The gold standard for reality when doing insight practices is the sensations that make up your reality in that instant.
[p18] I will use this dangerous phrase “the mind” often, or even worse “our mind,” but think to yourself when you read it, “He’s just using conventional language, but really there are just utterly transient mental sensations. Truly, there is no stable entity called “the mind”,
[p19] Given that you know sensations are vibrating, pulsing in and out of reality, and that, for the sake of practice, every sensation is followed directly by a mental impression, you now know exactly what you are looking for.
At the beach I noted these quotes. I also remember a meditation exercise in which you press the two index fingers at once, then you separate the sensations so that you realise that you are not pressing both at once but that the pressing is consecutive instances. I haven’t done this and I have no reason to refute it but this morning in meditation I began thinking why. The following might be unfair as I haven’t finished the book, but he begins with morality but then focuses on meditation and concentration especially emphasising what might be considered as meditation tricks above. This smacks of glamour. With the description of himself as an arahat on his cover there could be arrogance, he notes possible arrogance in his foreword. I need to be more certain of where I am going if I am going to see through these issues. I have learnt to take care, so I am disengaging until I am better equipped.
I have just listened on the bus (to Pattaya to collect the bike) to two talks from Tan Ajaan taken from Liberation Park:-
(Go down the page and click on the link – an audio download will start).
Throughout both these talks Tan Ajaan is trying to establish that the concept of I/atta/self is an illusion. Firstly there are the corporeal elements, he desrcibes 6 of them – earth, air, fire, water, ether and consciousness. Now I have to be careful with this word consciousness as it appears in different places with apparently different meanings.
I don’t actually know what it means here. I tend to think of this consciousness as overaraching everything but then maybe not. No here is a different meaning – I must listen again.
Then we have the senses, and these are significant when thinking about self – hear, see, touch, taste, smell, and a mental sense. I note here that the consciousness and mental sense are perhaps the easiest aspects that allow for the illusion of atta. This mental sense greatly appeals to me. Thoughts come and go, they aren’t mine they are there as part of Nature. This is why I experience thoughts that have nothing to do with me although there are other thoughts that I don’t like but I attract because they are like thoughts that I don’t detach from. But it is the attachment that is giving the sense of self, so experience don’t attach – don’t internalise.
And then he described dependent arising. This is what he listed in Everything is anatta:-
2) Sense object
3) Sense consciousness
4) Contact – sense experience
5) Feeling (mental – vedana) – not emotion
6) Recognition – recognising the feeling and proceed.
7) Volition – intention and motivation
9) Thought – desire leads to thinking about how to get what is wanted.
10) Discursive thought – examination and discernment
This is very different to the steps listed below from the Buddhist dictionary.
In terms of the illusion of atta it is the thinking aspects of this dependent arising that again gives rise to the illusion of self. What we consider as thinking – “I think” – is a natural process of the mental sense, the last two parts of dependent arising are the ones that cause that confusion. He described the processes of analysis, consideration etc as natural processes which arise as a result of the mental sense haveing an event. That makes sense because I don’t really think about the events, the thinking happens so much and I appear not to want them to happen – just mental proliferations that I don’t control. I don’t control them because they are natural rabbiting on and on naturally.
Previously I have accepted the body as not self. For me this has meant that when seeing occurs, it is basically the eye that sees and processes what is being seen, and then at some stage consciousness comes in and attaches to the event of seeing. These stages lead to what is conventionally termed “I see”, but I have perceived it as a process of attachment of consciousness. This then is a hazy land as to the meaning of this attachment. Once attached it is self, therefore let it go. So what is this attachment of consciousness and how does it relate to the experience of the event? There has to be a consciousness of “I see” but when does that consciousness become attachment and therefore self. These are the questions about self that concern me.
Recently in meditation I have been doing the wave stuff seeing the body as an extension of the sea of consciousness. Watch waves disappear back into the sea, there is no self – only the appearance of self – the separate waves. So how does this relate to what Tan Ajaan is saying? I’ve lost the connection. The wave experiences the senses, there appears to be a separate self but there isn’t – it disappears back into the sea where it always was.
So we have the consciousness as one of the corporeal elements, we have mental events occurring as the result of a sense experience, and we have thinking processes arising naturally as part of the event as opposed to them being connected with the self as “I think”. If I can somehow answer these questions I can better see anatta, of course it is hard to see when atta is struggling for you not to see.
One question that arises is these mental proliferations that arise naturally. This means there will always be this mental cacophony, and yet in meditation there is stillness. Now Tan Ajaan says that anapanasati – mindfulness of breathing is the process that will give that control. So I have to go there to see what he says. But I have to listen to those tapes again (and theye were dreary and repetitive in places – sorry TA)to clarify what these consciousness things are, when I listened they made sense as not self but now atta won’t let that through. And I am tired – it is the middle of the night after the stressful but successful bike-collecting day.
I have often heard in macrobiotics that food can raise consciousness. Is it so? Can food lower consciousness as well? If we are to say yes or no, should we also not have a clear understanding of what consciousness is? How would we do that?
This is actually a fascinating question that appeared on Facebook macrobiotic questions but unfortunately the discussion was way too antagonistic so the answer is just for my blog.
On this whole question of consciousness Tan Ajaan has thrown me up in the air. I am still coming to terms with it so I am going to have to resort to Pali – sadly partly in a dogmatic way. To understand consciousness it is necessary to understand that all is subject to Natural Law. Consciousness has nothing to do with self (atta) because there is no atta. Consciousness does not enter atta which is a misconception that I previously had and I suspect a misconception of the asker of the above question.
How do we understand Natural Law in relation to the question of consciousness and then relating to this question?
Well the dogma does clearly describe consciousness and how it arises? Before I describe the arising of paticcasamuppada I want to consider self. All is impermanent and therefore there is no self (anicca therefore anatta). Being no self there is no I, and the use of I is just a convention. I am only beginning to understand this better, but the problem is that it cannot be understood through intellect. Wow intellect has just zapped back at me. I have always been critical of intellect because there is so much intellectual egotism or “selfs” in academia, but intellect has its place in Nature – paticcasamuppada. Can intellect understand? NO but it can help with understanding if we keep self out of it. In fact the intellect is part of the process of understanding, the problem is that the intellect has its own ego process – its own clinging and once self enters the fray there is misunderstanding and ultimately dukkha – the dukkha of ignorance caused by misdirected understanding.
There is no self there is only Natural Law, consciousness does not arise in self (atta) but arises out of causes and conditions that follow Natural Law. Consciousness is not a spirit that comes in and activates the human being as a self, the human being is simply part of unity and appears to arise as a separate entity or self as a result of Nature. But there is no separate self, but there is “mind-body” that arises out of causes and conditions. This sounds semantic or dogma, so the question is not the framework of the dogma but why is it better to see it in this way? And the answer is that self causes dukkha. When we attach to self I, atta, matters. Taking on a life of self self wants to survive and therefore does things to survive. I want. Because the I wants dukkha is created to satisfy that want – desire causes dukkha. But there are the natural needs of the mind-body that arise out of causes and conditions, and this arising being natural does not cause suffering.
For Paticcasamuppada I was going to copy the definition from the Buddhist dictionary, but I felt the definition looked at the Pali and interpreted it in “kamma and reincarnation” terms; I have included the definition at the end because it has the Pali (I have removed some of the English interpretations as I consider them misdirected). Tan Ajaan’s interpretations are so different because he considers the “birth” the Buddha was talking about as temporary events in this life – not reincarnation which is an unverifiable interpretation or set of concepts. I have to listen again and write here how Tan Ajaan describes the stages of dependent arising in this audio – click “everything is anatta” on this page.
2) Sense object
3) Sense consciousness
4) Contact – sense experience
5) Feeling (mental – vedana) – not emotion
6) Recognition – recognising the feeling and proceed.
7) Volition – intention and motivation
9) Thought – desire leads to thinking about how to get what is wanted.
10) Discursive thought – examination and discernment
This is very different to the steps listed below from the Buddhist dictionary.
As part of the Natural process of dependent arising consciousness arises developing other mental attributes including intellectual analysis and understanding. These are natural processes that do not require “I”, this is consciousness – a natural arising.
So to the above question that started this blogentry. Consciousness arises out of contact with the senses – with the body, the causes and conditions of consciousness are the body. Because the quality of food affects the quality of the body there can be no doubt that the quality of food must affect the relationship between the sense and the consciousness. Of course how it does so has to remain a matter of personal introspection. If you are capable of separating the consciousness from the event such as hearing, then it could be argued that consciousness is not affected, but in reality few are able to make that separation. Therefore as an answer to the above question would be that “consciousness as it is experienced would be affected”, clumsy because of the language of the question because it is phrased from a viewpoint of self.
The teachings of Tan Ajaan are wonderful, he is so insightful and incisive. Teachings, dhamma, are not esoteric, they are in plain sight for all to see, the esotericism comes from the interpretation. There are so many interpretations that misdirect we need teachers who redirect on the Path – Tan Ajaan. Tan Ajaan is a slave to the Buddha, he is talking about what the Buddha meant. Somewhere I read that the Buddha predicted that his teachings would die after 5000 years. I suspect what will happen is not that the suttas will disappear but that after 5000 years the interpretations of the suttas will have become so diverse the Buddha’s understanding will have been lost. First we have arguments in Theravada about what the Buddha actually said because there were no recordings. Then we have the arguments concerning the oral testimony, and which oral testimony and council, Tipitaka, Abbhidhamma and so on. So from there we have new sutras that give rise to the division of Theravada and Mahayana, and from within Mahayana we have the diversity of Tibetan and Zen. Thay is Mahayanan yet he seems to have found his roots in Nature. Tan Ajaan says the teachings follow Natural Law, this can be the only benchmark.
1. Avijiแ-paccayแ sankhแrแ: “Through ignorance are conditioned the sankhแras,”
2. Sankhแra-paccayแ vi๑๑แnam: “Through the karma-formations is conditioned consciousness .”
3. Vi๑๑แna-paccayแ nแma-r๚pam: “Through consciousness are conditioned the mental and physical phenomena (nแma-r๚pa),”
4. Nแma-r๚pa-paccayแ salแyatanam: “Through the mental and physical phenomena are conditioned the 6 bases,” i.e. the 5 physical sense-organs, and consciousness as the sixth.
5. Salแyatana-paccayแ phasso: “Through the six bases is conditioned the (sensorial mental) impression.”
6. Phassa-paccayแ vedanแ: “Through the impression is conditioned feeling.”
7. Vedanแ-paccayแ tanhแ: “Through feeling is conditioned craving.”
8. Tanhแ-paccayแ upแdแnam: “Through craving is conditioned clinging.”
9. Upแdแna-paccayแ bhavo:
10. Bhava-paccayแ jแti:
11. Jแti-paccayแ jarแmaranam, etc.:
Nature, One Planet and Path
I need to get a more complete picture of the way that Tan Ajaan describes the Dhamma. To begin this I went to his teachings on the 4 Noble Truths. As an introduction to the 4 Noble Truths he described Nature. Go here, scroll down to The 4 Noble Truths and download the audios (Part 1 and part 2) from “1. Introduction to Understanding the Ariya-Sacca (part 1 | part 2)”.
It is quite clear that for him Nature is so important, as that is also true for me then this helps. He spoke of 4 aspects of Nature:-
This is how I feel after listening to the talks. We must fit in with Nature, not at all difficult for someone who talks of One Planet. Until recently (Paticcasamuppada) I never really spoke of Natural Law but it is something I have tried to follow to a greater or lesser extent. When I first started – after hitting bottom, I followed my Path. This Path was given to me by Nature, it was never something I decided on. Before hitting bottom education and upbringing were fashioning me into the system model. Without realising what was happening I was rejecting this model – I often spoke politically about being against society at the time (society is the wrong word it is the system people in society don’t choose what they do), but the rejection was much more. It was Nature, and I was lucky enough to be open to that Nature and reject the path the system was forcing me on. Many will laugh at my interpretation as after learning a little for 3 years after hitting bottom I became a teacher. And sadly I became part of that system even though I personally knew it was wrong and tried to fight it where I could – see Matriellez for a lo….ng discussion on this. For me the Path was Natural law, and my duty was to follow the Path. Throughout life I have tried to do so and have always measured the quality of my adherence by how happy I was – the results.
So when I am talking about One Planet and Path, Tan Ajaan is talking of Nature – although his understanding is far more.
9/4/13 Amusing eh? Sitting in Siam Paragon waiting for an Indian meal, and I am writing about Nibbana. Last night was the first time I have ever thought Nibbana was possible, thanks to Tan Ajaan. So where did that come from?
Well it begins with anatta, and an attempt brought on by Tan Ajaan to actually come to terms with non-self. It starts with Nature, there is only Nature and no self. When the mind deduces and all that – a certain amount of analysis not proliferation, it is a natural consequence of sense experience – nothing more. It is just how nama-chi-rupa is supposed to respond according to the rules of Nature – paticcasammupada.
Ideation about kamma had got in the way. Kamma was some cosmic force that led to reincarnation through some arbitrary process that I had no proof of. Of course this doesn’t make sense. If it isn’t experience what is it? Kamma is a consequence of a desire to do deeds, it is part of cause and effect. It is a result of desire and action. No desire no result no kamma. And no kamma, no rebirth. This is the crunch because it is this esoteric understanding of rebirth that matters. Rebirth means ego, self. No kamma no self. If somehow actions follow natural law then there is no self desiring, no kammic result, and no rebirth of ego.
All of this is just another way of saying no self leads to Nibbana, sunnata. Nibbana is not some big far off bells and banjoes it is just no self, no suffering, complete compassion Nibbana.
So how do you live? Sila and no kilesa, kilesa comes from desire. Just live morally by following the 8-fold Path, don’t allow the self to create kilesa, and just live naturally. Nothing else. Sila, no self – no kilesa. This is the objective but then how do you get to no self all the time. Determination.
I woke up this morning feeling snug and warm. Recently I had been waking up about 4 or 5 o çlock, and wanting to think about no-self. I have been listening to Buddhadasa’s audio at that time, and he says it is good time for the mind to be empty and good for learning. I am too tired to learn fully then – even though I can’t go back to sleep, and usually fall asleep listening to an audio. Last night I watched TV rubbish very late, and so slept through the 4-5.00 wake-up and learn, and woke later in the morning snug and warm. Not only this I felt a feeling where this snugness reminded me of the drinking days. There were times when the hangover wasn’t too bad, when I woke up, snug and warm, wrapped in the duvet – long before Thailand, and didn’t want to move. Complete apathy. And this morning I knew this was kilesa. Not only had self wasted last night with TV but self had also enjoyed defilement, and the result this morning snugness, warmness, no thinking about non-self – it was all complete atta. This is important. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, but it shows me what kilesa does. I am snug and warm, and am not following the Path. This is kilesa. Sunnata or atta? This is 100% atta.
I remember a conversation with a monk in which he described the desire for nibbana as aspiration. At the time I thought it was semantics but this particular monk knows his dogma so I should have thought. The desire for Nibbana is natural, it is non-self, anatta. If the word to be used is aspire as opposed to desire, I have no problem with that. Continuing the theme of this blogentry I have at last recognised an aspiration for Nibbana, but I am a long way from it especially judging by the last couple of days – as to be expected; recognising it is possible is not a statement by me that I am near it. What is disappointing is that I appear to be fighting the same battles. I have no doubts that my “right view” has improved, but there needs to be change in my lifestyle. That monk did have me right on one thing, my spirituality is also about being comfortable with myself – snugness and maybe smugness. In a way I have no problem with that. Whilst there needs to be continual aspiration, it can’t drive you insane with determination. There needs to be balance. I have seen that balance in the past as a balance between the Path – anatta, and comfort which I now see as self – atta. I resisted asceticism but accepted comfort too much. I have always thought I have not indulged comfort but maybe I have. Now that my “right view” is improving, I need to examine some of these lifestyles that I have accepted.
Top priority I think is changing my day. I live in the country, it should be natural that I go to bed at 9.00pm, getup with a clear mind to meditate, ready for the new day at 6.00am.
Nature woke me early today – at 5.30, it’s good. it is now 8.40, and the chores have been done including checking email and facebook! Getting up early is good. Let’s hope I keep it up.
The snugness (kilesa) had waned a bit this morning but I still saw it. No doubt it stops clarity. It led me to consider sunnata and atta, Tan Ajaan says it is one or the other. What happens during the day? Response to daily life fills up the mind. In my case this means that by the end of the day I just flake out in front of the TV. This is the start of the problem as the self attaches and I can sometimes get sucked in – staying up later. Now in truth the TV is not good, not worthwhile, and even the stuff I get sucked into is not good. It is upadana – clinging. So what is to be done? Sunnata, and where do I get the sunnata from – meditation? My target that I don’t even get near at the moment is 1 hour in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening, I have not sat in the evening in a long time. The evening thing has to be routined, forced. Typically I come in unpack and water the pak (veg/plants). I must force myself to sit after finishing these chores (seriously force as I am physically tired then); then eat – or if I have eaten already sit anyway. When I have forced in the evening it has not felt good then, but it improves the day. So what’s your excuse?
I have just awoken from a slashing nightmare – 4.20am; it was horrific. I should have been shaken, cold and sweaty, all the worst sensations that come from nightmares, but there is none of this – just an equanimous feeling of why haven’t I got those sensations. Let me describe the nightmare as I remember it. There are two phases to the nightmare, both slashing, the second more vivid. They were both victim hostage situations but it is unclear in both situations whether I was the victim or whether I had been working with the victim. In both cases there is some vague situation of victim and police cooperation, and I am unsure whether I was victim or police. In both cases the perp slashed the victim and himself as one. In the second vivid case the victim escaped the perp but still the police watching at a distance couldn’t help and lost surveillance. The scene was a flight, and the victim was caught by the perp. The perp had the victim in a neck hold, and slashed across the body of the victim and himself in one motion. With the victim still in the neck hold, the perp’s elbow protruding, the perp drew the knife across her face and his. In the past such images would have given me cold sweats and shivers and left me almost in a state of shock but the only reaction I had was why wasn’t there a reaction. Is it no self?
I have no doubts at all that this dream is connected with anatta, but I am not sure how. The slashing has to be figurative as I felt no emotion. I was not scared so it had to be a positive experience. I remember the theosophy guy, “The mind is the great slayer of the real”. Doesn’t help. The police watching, there is no crime the ego is being slashed. the perp and the victim slashing together, all personality being destroyed leaving only Nature. Good nightmare based on this interpretation. Sadly daily life has not caught up.
Sloth is one of the 7 deadly sins – gluttony, lust, envy, wrath, pride and envy, and it is not something I thought I had an issue with. But it is a creeping sin, and it is a sin that does have a devestating effect. The problem is my day. For a day to be good it fits in with Nature. Listening to Tan Ajaan’s audios there are the cocks crowing in the morning. He is giving these talks at that time because it is the best time as the mind is empty – paraphrasing. I agree as I have woken a number of times with the mind being challenged then.
Now my day is not a problem because I don’t do enough, that doesn’t matter – I am retired. I am bothered that I am not spiritual enough, and that means meditation. As always there is a need to prioritise meditation, and at the moment it is not sufficient enough priority. And the cause of this is sloth, and what I allow to cause the sloth. I don’t go to bed early enough, and why don’t I? Because of TV. I allow the stuff I watch to relax and wind down at the end of the day shape the next day. This is absolutely stupid.
There is another aspect of sloth, and that is my evening meal. My weight is good so the food I eat is not a problem; the structure of my eating in a day is. I tend to have an early afternoon meal and an evening meal. This is not a healthy way of eating as it is best to have drips and drabs during the day, but my life is already too dominated by food – imposed on me by BigFood. But where sloth comes in is that I eat too much in the evening and then I go to sleep later whilst watching pointless TV. Eat less and make sure I go to bed early so that I can get up on time for morning meditation.
There is another problem with meditation. Once I finish meditation I do study and start chores. Then I prepare for the rest of the day – beach, Trat or teaching. The mind supposedly is emptied at meditation, and it just keeps filling and filling throughout the rest of the day. This contributes to the sloth because as the mind fills the easier the self allows what I am calling my sloth to take over. I need to take time out in the day to meditate. The mind does not have to keep filling and filling, make efforts to be sunnata rather than atta. One such session should be prior to “the rest of the day”. After first meditation do my chores and write my blogs, then meditate before teaching etc.
Structure of no sloth day
5.00 am Meditation
6.00 am Chores and Blog
10.00 am Rest of day – in or out. Try to slot in sunnata time during rest of day.
6.00 pm Rest of day finished – meditate.
Small meal and minimal entertainment
9.00 pm Bed
Addendum:- Good first day, second day completely blew it as my self got disturbed. Sorting out sleep to fit in with this is difficult.
Death is a teacher
I have often thought that death was a teacher, and it is this that has sometimes drawn me to Tibetan. But it has never resonated well with me, the various bardos and things like that. It all seemed too much preparation for death, and of course is heavily influenced by the belief in reincarnation. In Theravada death seems less of a construct, live a good life and death will take care of itself. Whilst Tibetan also says this there is much involved with preparation for death so I have inclined towards Theravada.
But why now do I talk of death as a teacher? And the answer comes in fear of death. I have always been blase about death as if I am not afraid. It’s Nature so why should I be afraid? But it struck me today, I should be afraid because atta will be no more, self has a desire to survive. So where does the fear come from? Atta – self. The delusion of self will definitely disappear with death, the self is not real – Nature.
Where does this death teaching me take me? Death is the death of the self and the self’s fear of death. Get rid of the self and there is no fear – get rid of the delusion. Anatta quite simply means no fear of death, and equally if there is a fear of death then it comes from self. Death as part of Nature teaches me there is no self, and if I am afraid then I have deal with still having self. The methodology of dealing with self – sunnata, being True Nature.
I got into an online discussion about enlightenment, mainly revolving around a writer called Jed McKenna who in his books claimed he was enlightened – he calls his books “The Enlightenment Trilogy” Torrent here . I felt what I read of the first book was fiction and vowed to put it down several times – but continued, I don’t recommend reading them.
The discussion concerned enlightenment, and it is a discussion I have never had before. I see all kinds of people discussing what it means, whether such-and-such etc., and I think how can they know? In this blogentry on Nibbana, as I explained, is the first time I have ever considered Nibbana a possibility; that is probably why I participated in the discussion – as well as the fact that McKenna irritated me – to me he appears a charlatan. My “combatant” said there were many who claimed enlightenment, and in the discussion I asked who, and interestingly Eckhart Tolle had entitled his book “The Power of Now – A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment”. Now I have read Tolle, and consider he is a wise man, but I don’t think he is enlightened. Forgive me if he is, but I would always recommend to anyone to listen to him. Then a good question came up, if someone writes a guide does that mean they consider themselves enlightened? I had assumed the relation is not causal, should it be? Can it be? I taught maths up to A level and don’t consider myself a mathematician, but I do consider that I know sufficient about maths processes that a budding mathematician would be appropriately grounded from my teaching. In the same way I believe that someone can be grounded sufficiently in the Path to be able to present a guide without being enlightened themselves. Please excuse me as I have no wish to offend other religions but the person I consider the most enlightened is the Buddha. I don’t think he ever called himself enlightened, maybe he did, but I am definitely prepared to be guided by him, or by Tan Ajaan’s interpretation. I don’t know whether Tan Ajaan called himself enlightened (I hope not) but he is my nearest role model (at the moment), but he can definitely guide me.
One of the people raised in the discussion was Adyashanti, I have never listened to him before; I’m afraid that my prejudices would not guide me towards a young American with short hair. I listened to :-
and I thought he was spot-on. He defined/described enlightenment as perception without ego, I could imagine Tan Ajaan saying similar. It is anatta, it is the 5 khandas without I. Does the fact that Adyashanti describes it in this way make him enlightened? I don’t think so, does he call himself enlightened? I don’t know.
In the blogentry I entertained the possibility of Nibbana, I was being previous. I would be quite happy to guide someone by saying that enlightenment is 100% non-self – all the time. No I wouldn’t say this but if you pushed me to say something that is what I would say. I don’t know enlightenment so I wouldn’t say it. Adyashanti uses the word “satori”, this is zen terminology. I would claim that I have had such awakenings, and I would claim that far more people have had such experiences without labelling them as such (if I have the meaning correct) but it is not enlightenment. I was pleased to hear Adyashanti say that enlightenment is not 100% satori. I don’t use the grand term satori, but bells and banjoes. When the roof is raised your world is rocked but daily life soon kicks back into gear – bells and banjoes then “normality”; Adyashanti said similar – I liked it.
The discussion and subsequent reflection has left me feeling that I personally cannot achieve enlightenment. No matter how hard I try I don’t feel I can be 100% free of self. Maybe others can, but I am almost 100% certain that anyone who is 100% free of self would never say I am enlightened. What the Nibbana realisation has left me with is a greater understanding of what to do, and that is to keep trying to be 100% free of self, or any one of Tan Ajaan’s aphorisms on upadana, experiencing the 5 khandas without I or mine.
One final small word on differences between people. I am way too analytical, insight is not analytical but all the blogging reflection etc. is. Zen Buddhists have never been my cup of tea because it appears to be all or nothing for them. My analysis doesn’t do that, it plods. I keep doing the practice, then insight happens – I don’t know whether to call insight satori but maybe it is. I keep doing it, then insight. Insights are good but now they are not bells and banjoes, I just keep plodding. I kind of read Zen and get the feeling that it is said plodders such as me cannot get anywhere until they stop plodding. I believe that is wrong, I believe you can plod and get somewhere. Scraping away at the self bit-by-bit, one morcel at a time is OK, I think. But the danger for analyticals such as me is proliferation, boy do I proliferate? It improves but aaggh – I can end up at strange places. But when I get there I know I am doing it. When I read some of the Buddhist discussions and analysis I see proliferation. Paraphrasing Tan Ajaan there is no faith, there is quenching suffering and logic. That’s good enough.
This morning I got an email which compared enlightenment as a miracle cure in the same way as some people seek a miracle cure for health. I am certain there is no miracle cure as it is contrary to nature, drawing the parallel maybe the same could be said of enlightenment. In healing, the maxim “you are what you eat” means that if you put in good food then you have good health – and the converse. With regards to spiritual health there is a similar process, the more you stop clinging to self the happier you will be spiritually. Maybe enlightenment is not to be achieved, maybe it is something unachievable such as perfect health, something that is an absolute but not to be aimed for. This “from-to” approach of enlightenment has never been on my agenda. To begin with alcohol and my Path were intermingled, but my Path was something to follow – not leading somewhere. As such I have never sought the light at the end of the tunnel or some miracle cure. Reading Tan Ajaan sucked me into the possibility, but now I don’t. 100% non-self, cannot. But I can do more. But Nibbana in multiple life-times, that I have definitely eschewed. It’s now or never.
I have just given up with Jed McKenna, does he know what he is talking about – waste of studying time, and I don’t do enough studying.
Plodding against Weakness
I woke up a bit depressed, I had stayed up very late – wasting time. It started interestingly but then I wasted a further 3 hours. Instead of having a good day structure today it was 2.00 am before I tried to sleep, and then the sleep was disturbed by the kilesa.
I was feeling a bit depressed (I use the words “a bit” again to emphasise) as I am happy – what Tibetans call happiness, what is better called peaceful but peaceful doesn’t express the happiness. Weakness. I gave in to self last night, was entertained, and then indulged self further – 2.00 am. I started feeling more depressed, and then realised what was feeling depressed – atta. Self-entertainment created the kilesa, then self indulged, and then the next day self is depressed with the kilesa. But there is no depression unless atta is allowed to feel depressed. Sure there is a bad feeling because of the kilesa – that is Nature, but no depression because of anatta.
So there is still kilesa, because that is Nature. Get on and do stuff, and the kilesa disappears. There is no need for depression that comes from clinging to I.
Then I began considering plodding. This is plodding dealing with the little things. This blog is about dealing with the little things esp. Buddhadasa page. The big things, neocolonialism, corporatocracy, now Syria – who’s next?, they are all suffering; would that I could do anything about all that suffering? Fortunately I don’t get depressed about it, self has never done that to me – thankfully, a continuing process of spreading awareness equanimously is all that can be done. Doing is what matters, and a weakness I have is too much mental proliferation because of my analytical mind. But plodding is doing, and every little bit creates improvement. And therefore quenches suffering.
I began thinking of the 4NT, my view of it needs revising:-
There is suffering.
Clinging to I causes suffering.
Suffering is quenched by not clinging to I.
This is done by following the 8-Fold Path.
My previous words were desire, it is desire but by noting that desire is clinging to I the enemy is pinpointed exactly.
And instead of the 8-Fold Path I eclectically suggest 4 Agreements:-
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make any assumptions.
Always do your best.
I can’t always do my best as I give in to weakness but I keep plodding on if not reducing kilesa at least not getting depressed about it – depression is a delusion. Plodding – doing the best I can.
Fai had dapped – power cut, so I couldn’t lie in bed proliferating about plodding – no aircon. I got up and wrote this blogentry. Just as I finished the electricity came on so I can now go and do with electricity. I reckon I got rid of some of the candida this morning – yooi helped, now to make the kimchee sauce and mix it. ACV, honey and water damaged the candida. A good little thing.
This is the beginning of an exploration of “letting go”, it is not easy.
A friend started on his podcast:-
Letting go is the key to life (look at the podbean and scroll down for this title).
I took from this that he was promoting “letting go” as trust in the universe (I trust in ONE Planet or Nature). This is fine, it was fascinating to hear his difficulty in describing “letting go”. Why have difficulties?
I completely accept Paul’s description of “letting go” as trust in Nature, but is there more to it? I began thinking back to “letting go” stuff I have done. I remember the wonderful night in Nyanga where I followed the teachings of someone on the net (apologies I have forgotten the name). I sat there at night and dug deep into my stomach where I found strong remnants of a relationship that I used to describe as more turbulent than Peyton Place. As I explored inside I grew more and more emotional as I began reliving some of the horrors. After working through that I looked further and found family issues. Altogether it was a deeply fulfilling night of “letting go” of emotional baggage that I had attached along the way. “Letting go” is not just trusting Nature but getting rid of the past that we have internalised. I have used this technique of exploring inside as a means of “letting go” many times since but not with such beneficial results.
So I then ask who internalised this? Previously I have answered this as a personal weakness for internalising emotional problems, but now I don’t. This is not a personal characteristic but a characteristic of self. Self attaches to enhance the illusion of self-importance. My baggage, my emotion, my past. This particular aspect of “letting go” is part of the ongoing survival battle with self. I have now started a technique of “letting go” with the chakras, these are the chakras I work with:-
But the real problem with “letting go” is that everyday there is always new stuff being created that we need to “let go”.
Sleep is part of “letting go” but I am not exactly sure how. When we are asleep, self, I, is not awake. This means there is no consciousness or self-creating stuff that needs to be let go. Consider the paticcasammupada. The senses are aware marginally but there is no consciousness unless there is an emergency. The body rests but there is no I creating stuff that needs to be let go. Maybe even dreams are a means of “letting go”.
And that brings me to meditation. Meditation has always helped whether as the sporadic bells and banjos version of early life or the more disciplined of later life. On occasions in meditation I have consciously let go and it has helped, but in meditation we have the opportunity to realign ourselves with Nature, accept the lack of separation and accept the oneness. The key to meditation is anatta and upadana, no self and the end of clinging to I and mine. This is oneness, ONE Planet.
UG – Natural State
“I discovered for myself and by myself that there is no self to realize — that’s the realization I am talking about. It comes as a shattering blow. It hits you like a thunderbolt. You have invested everything in one basket, self-realization, and, in the end, suddenly you discover that there is no self to discover, no self to realize — and you say to yourself “What the hell have I been doing all my life?!” That blasts you.” This is what UG calls the Natural State, is there a problem with this?
“I don’t give a hoot for a sixth-century-BC Buddha, let alone all the other claimants we have in our midst. They are a bunch of exploiters, thriving on the gullibility of the people. There is no power outside of man. Man has created God out of fear. So the problem is fear and not God.” Can anyone say this?
Exploiters thriving on gullibility, how can anyone say that? I cannot know whether Buddha was enlightened, I have not met him, I have not been inside his head, and I don’t know whether there is enlightenment. Can UG possibly qualify to meet these 3 criteria? Same goes for his condemnation of others.
I don’t know the man but it reads like a niche, an approach of difference. In some ways I can understand that. What are blogs like this about? Different people describing their understandings in the hope that sharing brings understanding for others. UG has done all kinds of stuff in the spiritual world. When I read what he has done I can understand some of his frustration (only some I am not him). He has spent his life searching for enlightenment based on a family of theosophy, student with J (Krishnamurti), and all kinds of stuff that did not give him an answer. Then he discovers for himself that there is no self to realise, that has to be hard.
I understand that that is what the Buddha taught, at least according to Tan Ajaan that is what the Buddha taught. When I listened to Adyashanti – “What is Enlightenment?” Torrent here , he describes perception without ego. Isn’t this OK? It does seem that the search for enlightenment is the problem, and not the teachings. Perception without ego is a short statement but it says an awful lot and I would suggest that it is even harder to do. Anatta (Pali for no self) says a lot but it is hard to do. Upadana (not clinging to I or mine) says a lot but it is hard to do. Where’s the search? Where is the miracle cure?
UG describes a “calamity”, and I think of the various “hitting bottoms” that I have come across – Eckhart Tolle, Neale Donald Walsch, Paul Garrigan, my own …. How different are they? Intensity, mine was not as intense as the others although it felt powerful at the time – upheaval of life. What happened to me? I grew up with a middle-class background, and I was pushed into academia and a life of getting a job. I always remember at uni people asking what their ambition was, and I said I would be happy with a house, a wife and kids – to much ridicule. Of the people there I am probably the only person who has never been anywhere near that. My head was full of constructs and expectations, and they had nothing to do with Nature, the Natural State, anatta. In uni confrontation was never forced, it was easy. I go to work and there there was confrontation. I had to do stuff to earn money that I didn’t want to do. My first job was a bit interesting and the job had a good social life (appealing to my growing alcohol addiction) – even though I never did my job well. Then I went to Sevenoaks which was all about “a house, a wife and kids”, and I just sank lower and lower until in the end I just gave up and blew it out. Hit bottom.
Now that kind of chanelled expectation is nothing compared to the budding UG. He appears to have been forced into a life of expectations and search for enlightenment. He appears to have had his mind filled with so many things and not internalised them. Rejecting all of this he ran away from those expectations, and eventually it all hit him and he had his calamity reaching the Natural State. Yet he describes it all as non-causal, but is that so? I don’t know, I’m not him – not inside his head.
But his is not a life that does not fit the “hitting bottom” pattern – it is just that his is more extreme. Because the conflict in him was more extreme it would seem natural that the hitting bottom would also be more extreme, but the process is the same – isn’t it? The power of his calamity has got to appear far more intense than my limited experience but process-wise how different is it? More importantly how different is it for others?
If he had never picked up a book that discussed anatta, perceiving without ego, or whatever he read, if he had never had 7 years with J, would he have ever learned about no-self? Just because he resisted the internalisation of it for so long does not mean that it was not a consequence of his study in some way.
Doesn’t this all boil down to horses for courses? Tan Ajaan was famed when young and spent his life in Thailand in a monastery, he is lucid about no-self, claims he is a slave to the Buddha and gets his understanding from the suttas. He does not condemn anyone, but talks of truth in all religions. UG has his upbringing and background and condemns. What about others? I know little about what I do write about, I know much less about what I don’t write about, but it just seems to be different strokes. If it is anatta, isnt that enough? Tan Ajaan’s journey appears a lot more peaceful.
Process is important, what is the process? Insight. Somehow inside, all these ideas and belief systems are grappled with, and then eventually out of the other end comes perception without ego. I don’t know Zen koans but isn’t the koan process that concepts confuse the intellect leading to understanding – gateless gates, (pathless paths, truthless truths – I made these up I don’t know koans). Is the process the form of the koan or the process of disengaging the intellectual mind so that the Natural State of Insight comes out? How this happens can be easy or hard? We are all different, yet we are ONE with no-self. Process.
Here is a description of the aftermath of the process by Jack Kornfeld:-
“From Jack Kornfield’s ‘After the Ecstasy, the Laundry’:
It was early in my spiritual life. I had gone to a few meditation classes. Now I was lying quietly, in solitude, resting after so much time thinking, wondering. My mind was in the clearest, most open state. It also felt charged, alive, yet absolutely still as well. I had not known such a balance of alertness and ease was possible. I picked up an old Buddhist text and read a few lines:
I like his title, whatever he had opened up he still has to get back to the laundry. Doing things – good stuff.
I believe in chi. To express it like this is part of a belief system, and it is not a belief system for me. Chi works. Chi exists, there is energy around and there are various techniques that can help people access this energy. This is not a belief as I have experienced it. Western scientists might then try to play word games. If chi is not a belief then it is a fact and we want scientific verification. This is their rules, and they are rules based on a flawed model of separation. There is chi, and every day during exercise my body experiences it. End of story, no scientific verification is necessary. What would be the point of scientific verification? To prove to people it exists, but they still won’t try the practice. Don’t look to science whose agenda is controlled by people not seeking knowledge and not seeking to benefit ONE Planet or humanity. Chi is to be experienced. Whatever form of energy exercise you choose, get on with it, feel it and then tell me or anyone else whether it exists.
The same argument applies to acupuncture. Chinese people use a mixture of eastern and western medicine, they have grown up with both and in general they accept both methodologies. Western people don’t, western science presents chi as non-existent. In the West people often try acupuncture through word-of-mouth recommendation, and word spreads often by surprise that it works. It works is sufficient. I have looked a little into acupuncture theory, and it is based on the notion that energy flows along meridians and if that energy is blocked illness occurs. I have not felt the meridians but I have felt the energy flowing but not throughout my whole body along the meridians. Hence I would need to believe in the meridians. It is a reasonable explanation but I don’t accept beliefs so I don’t believe in meridians. However acupuncture works and that is enough. Strangely enough I was speaking to an acupuncture doctor and asked her about the meridians – she didn’t know, she had learnt that using the needles at particular points effected a healthy change and that was sufficient for her.
The problem for westerners to believe in chi comes from a flawed model of a view of humanity. Observing bodies as separate the western model perceives huamnity as separate entities, and because of this where does the energy fit in? This is not the model that I accept as for me there is ONE Planet, and chi is the energy of that ONE Planet so it is our chi there to be accessed. Is ONE Planet a belief? To some extent it is. I have had various experiences that indicate (British Embassy parlance) there is ONE Planet, but it is not a 100% experience. It is still far too easy for my self to arise and conclude separation, but work continues and understanding ONE Planet increases.
A similar argument applies to chakras, chakras work. Here is an image of the chakra system I use. One example is the meditation that Gary Zukav proposed, that works for me. In Chi Gung I use the Tan Tien (2nd Chakra), Dao Bao (5th Chakra)and Ying Tan (6th Chakra). I have often meditated on the 3rd Chakra to relieve stress, and recently there is much self congregated around the 2nd and 3rd Chakras that I need to let go. I have a different reaction with each chakra but they work to a greater or lesser extent. What about you? What I do not do is believe clairvoyants such as Leadbetter and Olcott. They tell me that I have whirling energy points in my body, and they have built up a whole belief system based upon their own experience of chakras and they expect theosophists to follow this belief system. NO. Do not ask me to believe, there have been too many mistakes in the past based on belief systems.
The chakra system has 7 centres (as far as I can tell), and there are all kinds of wonderful things that can be done with them – if you believe what they tell you and you apply it. Do with that what you will but experience it first. There are people such as Jed McKenna who tell you to throw out belief systems, and he therefore eschews Buddhism, Christianity etc. But what about those aspects of Buddhism that you have experienced? Do you throw that out because you are throwing out the system – the baby with the bathwater? In Buddhism I have noticed a particular problem – mental proliferation. There are plenty of people who talk about “What the Buddha taught”, but then this gets proliferated and changed by so many. Dogma gets reinforced on forums ad infinitum, to such an extent that people have lost track of what was originally said. This problem is far more complicated within Buddhism, because the Buddha is long since dead and his words were not recorded live. Many intellectual arguments are raised concerning the veracity of the verbal transmissions but it is hard to say what the Buddha said. This problem is exascerbated by interpretation. Even if his words were to have been recorded in real time, interpretation would still have led to proliferations. But the solution is within the Kalama sutta, if you don’t beleieve it don’t go for it.
There is comfort aligning oneself with religions, being camp followers of gurus, and so on. People reinforce each other’s beliefs and so on. But with these systems there are real dangers, specifically accepting a communal agreement as truth. Every belief system has to have been started by someone describing and interpreting what they have experienced, in that description one assumes an authenticity that the person has experienced what they are describing. But once it becomes second-hand that authenticity is lost. Even if the “second-hand” person desires to be faithful to the original, they cannot be as the experiences are different.
I want to discuss paticcasamuppada here. In this blogentry, I raised the question of dependent arising, and for me it was important because it helped understand anatta. For there to be no self all functions of what purports to be self have to arise naturally, and paticcasamuppada describes mental actions (amongst others) as arising naturally. In a spirit of honesty I believe in paticcasamuppada but I haven’t experienced it. But that belief means almost nothing because of that lack of experience. It must become part of my practice to try to understand how the different factors arise, and if I cannot understand then I must reject dependent arising – believing without experiencing is meaningless. What is the meaning in believing in reincarnation? In my case I used that belief as procrastination, putting off for the next life what might be able to be done in this.
Nature has given people a tool of authenticity – insight. Through insight we can experience the truth. It is necessary to develop an approach that incorporates insight to work our way through all the proliferations that masquerade as belief systems to pinpoint the issues that matter. Logic and intellect is not sufficient, work on insight.
Awakening – more on how I see UG
*Warning – I have used the term awakening related to my “hitting bottom” experience, in the next blog I have explained why I think this term is inappropriate.*
I am interested in UG’s life, and am continuing reading his book “The Mystique of Enlightenment” downloaded from Holybooks. In truth I am still reading about how he came to his “enlightenment?”, and I have not read what he says about the process. I am interpreting what I read. This is not a good practice because it is distanced from the truth in two ways, what is written about a person is not the person and how I interpret what is written is not the person either. It would be clearer if I use UG-Z to make this distance clear. I am much happier using UG-Z. I don’t know the guy. He claims spiritual leadership, who am I to describe his spirituality? This UG-Z is just my version, effectively a set of characteristics drawn from what little I know of his book and his life – the characteristics UG-Z.
My world was rocked when at 22 I hit the bottom of a bottle and climbed out onto the Path. Once I came out it was a fascinating time, a time of exploration I will never forget. It was particularly good for me because it was the early 70’s, and the western world was still teetering a bit after the questioning that came in with the hippy generation. My Path started in a climate where young people could question – not as I perceive now where young people expect to be straight-jacketed in careers as soon as they leave education. This questioning led me to an Arts Centre where I began Scifi writing – Wai Zandtao, a short trip round Europe where I exlored inside for the first time – in a cottage in Belgium, it was a turbulent time but a time of discovery of the Path and therefore a time of great wonder – and a sense of enjoyment. I consider this hitting bottom at 22 a time of awakening, still having much to learn – as I still do. I was not a person with sila, far from it – for a short while in my later 20’s I measured my enjoyment by promiscuity – having a number of relationships on the go. Fortunately this did not last long, but it was a time of exploring influenced by the drink; after this awakening whilst my Path had started I had not eschewed the drink – that came some 13 years later. Awakening does not imply morality – sila, I still allowed defilements – kilesa, the self was still indulged – not anatta. In no way can this awakening be described as enlightenment – as far as I see the terms? I have not had such a powerful awakening since but I have had powerful experiences and different awakenings such as the current one revolved around the teachings of Buddhadasa – not a turbulent awakening at all but important. I almost used the word “powerful” because in a sense it is powerful as it is revealing much, but it is not the sort of power I associate with awakenings so the word was not used.
This is an article by Brad Warner that presents such discussion clearly:-
“The relationship between wakening and morality all depends upon how you define “awakening.”
A lot of people, especially nowadays, define “awakening” as a kind of experience. Much of what I see in contemporary magazines, books, websites and suchlike does. The spiritual master in question has some kind of profound experience that zaps his consciousness and then he/she goes out to tell the world about it.
There are plenty of examples of this. Genpo Roshi justifies charging folks $50,000 just to hang out next to him based on a profound awakening he had while on a solo retreat in the Mojave Desert some time in the Seventies. Eckhart Tolle claims to have has a grand awakening that enabled him to write a bazillion selling book and charge tens of thousands of dollars for lecture appearances. Shoko Asahara had a massive download from on high that supposedly made him the new Buddha for the modern age. The list goes on and on.
It all goes back to a certain reading of Buddha’s life story. The most common telling of it has Buddha meditating under a tree for 40 days at the end of which he had a deep awakening experience that turned him in one moment from plain old Siddhartha to the legendary Gautama Buddha. Sort of like how Japanese superheroes like Ultraman and Kamen Rider transform in a flash from regular human beings into giant bug-eyed alien monster fighters.
But experiences like that do not necessarily have any direct one-to-one relationship to any kind of moral maturity or sensibility. They’re just experiences. Like getting into a car crash or seeing a UFO or having a near-death experience. There’s no specific moral content to them.
People tend to forget that Siddhartha engaged in various practices and worked hard on himself for decades before his awakening. It happened in an instant. But the ground had been prepared for a lifetime, dozens of lifetimes if you believe those stories. On the other hand, “awakening” of the type that occurs as a sudden peak experience, is just the conscious realization of the underlying ground of all of our experiences. It’s not that something new happens. It’s just that we notice what’s really been going on all along.
It is possible to have this kind of experience without properly preparing oneself for it. Sometimes a severe trauma like an accident or illness can do it. Sometimes drugs can induce it. Some so-called “spiritual” practices are designed just to cause these kinds of experiences to happen. Sometimes nothing seems to induce it. It just sort of happens.
These so-called “awakenings” do contain a sense that we are all intimately connected, that we are all manifestations of the same underlying reality. But the ego can latch onto that and make it something terribly immoral. It can decide that since I am you and you are me and we are all together, it’s fine if I fuck you over or lie to you or cheat you or steal from you because ultimately I am only doing that to myself. And what’s the problem if you do something to yourself?
It’s dangerous to point this kind of stuff out because there is a whole multi-billion dollar industry based on the notion that these kinds of experiences transform ordinary people into spiritual superheroes. But they don’t. Not in and of themselves. Becoming a moral person is a matter of transforming one’s habits of thinking and behavior. That is not easy to do. It takes time. It cannot possibly happen instantaneously no matter what sort of experience one has. An “awakening experience” can often be helpful in making a person more moral because it provides a new way of understanding yourself and others. But it doesn’t necessarily work that way.
This is why it’s very good to have a teacher who can help you through these kinds of experiences. It’s good to interact with someone else, or if you’re really lucky a number of other people, who have gone through these things. When, on the other hand, people have these experiences and then end up surrounded by admirers who want to gobble up the power such an experience confers the results can be disastrous.
So, yeah, the people you meet at a Zen temple ought to be at least decent people. And most of them are. Cases like that of Joshu Sasaki, Genpo Roshi, Eido Shimano and so forth are exceptional. They’re not the rule. You don’t have to be a genius to spot people like that either. It’s always obvious. Just don’t allow yourself to be blinded by fantasies of magic miracle men.
The foregoing is why Soto style Zen training tends to emphasize moral grounding and balance much more than the gaining of “awakening experiences,” so much so that one is often told it’s not important even to have such experiences at all. Dogen says this many times in his writings. Most teachers who followed in his lineage also say this. Which isn’t to say that Soto is good and everything else is evil. It’s just one of the things that really attracts me to the style I have practiced much more than any of the others out there, even though those others often sound a whole lot sexier.”
Reading this raised an interesting question for me concerning the Buddha. Brad refers to the Buddha awakening under the Bodhi Tree, was he enlightened then if he ever was? For the sake of this discussion I assume he was an enligtened being. As Brad says he was grounded before his awakening, and after he was awakened he lived a moral life. I make a further assumption for the sake of argument, in his post-awakened life he lived a life of anatta, and it is this totality that made him enlightened – not just his awakening, but the assumed fact that he lived a life of anatta afterwards. Was the awakening actually part of his enlightenment? For me this places the words awakening and enlightenment in context, and I like Brad’s description that in Soto Zen awakening experiences are not valued. I am also pleased to see that in Soto Zen sila is emphasised as sila esp 4NT is not something I associate with Zen.
So back to UG-Z. His awakening was huge – a world-stopper, he describes it as a calamity. Let’s examine the build-up to UG-Z’s calamity. He was born into an Indian family who expected him to become enlightened for some reason. What those expectations did to UG who knows? He then followed this ego/self for years trying to be what his parents wanted him to be, what might be described as “seeking enlightenment”. This wasn’t a gentle seeking, this was a full-blown commitment to all kinds of spiritual practices, years with J Krishnamurti, and then a progress towards hitting bottom as he rejected all his striving. This led to a period of immorality – in describing his awakening he said “Let’s go to a strip-tease joint, the ‘Folies Bergere’ or the ‘Casino de Paris’. Come on, let us go there for twenty francs.” Not actions of sila. Is it then surprising that when UG-Z did awaken the experience was so deep, so profound, so earth-shattering? He had clung to this parental version, searched for enlightenment, hit bottom, and then had his awakening – calamity. So much bottled up to come out. The UG-Z I characterise went through an aggrandised process of awakening that was exacerbated by parentl pressure and social expectation to such an extent that his self had been blown up out of all proportions and he came down with a bang.
This is upadana – clinging to self. This brings up the question as to whether an awakening is necessary. Suppose someone is brought up living naturally, no self involvement, no expectations, just getting on with it. This ideal does not have any clinging to I – no upadana. This cannot happen in the western world of education where self is educated so vehemently. Conceivably a desert island, an isolated community or some such idyll, but of course primitive communities have their own ego and self-advancement. And the spiritual world with all its seeking – very little chance. Of course there are tremendous works to study, and there are people who have great knowledge but with all the seeking and ego there is only a build-up for a calamatous awakening if it does happen. Reminds me of a recent chat concerning meditation. This person had stopped meditating because there had been no bells and banjoes. I tried to tell her that meditation brought happiness in a gentle and pleasant way in daily life, meditation helped. Not sexy, eh Brad?
Term “awakening” not appropriate
It is not awakening, I cannot continue to use that term any more. What I meant was a form of awakening but that word has associations with the Buddha as the Awakened One, and there is no comparison. The term I am going to use is realising the Path or Path-Realisation, but for me it describes the same (as my original meaning of awakening).
Examining that experience and the way I dealt with it is important in understanding the dangers of self – anatta. At the time I described myself as being on the Path to Self-realisation, and it is important to understand the capitalisation because this is an important “self” trick. I have always considered that the new thing the Buddha offered was the 4NT, I have seen that as his revision of previous practices; but under the guidance of Tan Ajaan what the Buddha was offering was anatta – no self. Now no self means no I or mine, and this is important when considering this Path terminology. Because there is no Self-realisation. Now Hindus or my earlier self would argue that that is not the meaning of Self. Here is how I previously understood it. On the Path we are trying to eschew the ego so that the True Self can come through. This is where it started to get vague, and subject to belief. I believed that this Self was connected to Unity (which I later started calling ONE Planet), it was as if a part of that Unity somehow inhabited this body, Zandtao. It inhabited this body but somehow was not personal, not mine. Yet somehow I was realising this Self by eschewing the ego. It was vague, and I thought I accepted this vagueness because it was part of the paradox that is spiritual understanding. Now I don’t accept this.
Anatta means No self, no I nor mine. Nothing permanent – anicca. Firstly this Self does not carry on through incarnations, this is a consideration of Self I discussed in the first blog of this Buddhadasa page. Because there is no self or Self, we are simply part of Nature or ONE Planet. The easiest analogy I have for this is the sea. I am by the sea writing this so I can describe physically the analogy. It is the time of year when the waves are getting bigger. For the analogy I imagine one of the waves as having a personality. This wave starts swelling out to sea as it starts to undulate; it says “I’m coming look out I’m important look at me”. Then as the wave nears the shore it starts to roll over and says “Look at my lovely white top, I am big and strong. I’m still coming, I’m getting stronger and I’m going to knock you over”. And if I stand in the way it will. The wave is big, menacing and threatening. Then it rolls over crashing down, and then where is it? It has gone, disappeared back into the sea. There never was a separate wave, it was always the sea – the natural action of the sea. All the description of the wave was an illusion, self-aggrandisment. In describing the wave I am describing part of the sea, ascribing it a separate personal nature can easily be recognised as romantic – not a description of reality. The wave as separate is an illusion. So Self and self are illusions. Nature is and Nature does. Nature writes this blog, Nature starts wars, Nature eats food, Nature looks at the sea and describes waves with personalities. This is the Path that Nature does for all.
So how does this relate to what happened to me when I hit bottom? Through repression and miseducation how I was living my life had become distanced from the Path that Nature intended. This process (hitting bottom) that in the last blog I described as awakening is no more than realising the Path. If there had been no self involved that Path would have been an enlightened Path, but it was far from that. Whilst I realised I was on the Path, it was always I ie self. This self described Path-Realisation as Self-realisation so whilst it recognised the need to eschew the ego the self managed to create a haven that it called Self. In other words under this structure there would always be an I – not anatta.
Because of the idealism the self created life for itself, following this Path-realisation was not about upadana – it was not about stopping clinging to self. As a result even after realising the Path I still became a drunk, and still had immoral behaviour such as attempted promiscuity etc. Basically the self rested on its laurels. Through the Path-realising experience happening without any study or practice the next 30 years of my life was living in abeyance, not pro-active, simply living my daily life as a teacher letting life deliver its ups and downs. There was no control except occasionally the Path would assert itself again. The most obvious example of this reassertion was writing. Whenever I wrote – Wai Zandtao page – there would be a centring as I focussed on the writing. I developed a writing approach that would begin late at night, and I would lie awake and feel a presence that I would jokingly call my muse. This was some kind of meditational centring, refinding the Path through writing. In the mid-90s when my home page began I began a process of recollection learning (my half-)life’s lessons, and this brought me closer and closer to Buddhism determining that I was a Buddhist in 2000 and trying to begin meditation on a daily basis. I continue to be a Buddhist to this day but now following Tan Ajaan I recognise that there is much proliferation in what purports to be Buddhism – it might be better to say I live a life of upadana – an anattist?
When I was decribing that hitting bottom as awakening I meant it as a beginning on the Path, on what I then called the Path of Self-realisation – now called Path-Realisation. That is a sort of awakening but with all the connotations it is not an appropriate word to use. Because of the power of the experience I got sucked into a non-active approach to the Path knowing that it would reassert itself. This meant that at times I distanced myself from the Path bouncing back almost involuntarily. There were times I stood up for what was right to the detriment of career etc., I would often say I had no choice.
The obvious conclusion to all of this is the Soto Zen position as described by Brad Warner here:-
…. Soto style Zen training tends to emphasize moral grounding and balance much more than the gaining of “awakening experiences,” so much so that one is often told it’s not important even to have such experiences at all.
in Soto such awakening experiences are not sought and can be ignored. This is the opposite of the spirituality business as pointed out by Brad in the same blog (quoted here). It appears that many “teachers” are working towards these awakenings, moments of Path-Realisation. But they are only the beginning, the beginning of recognising the Path. But it is not implicit within the Path that self be eschewed, this realisation of the need to eschew atta is part of the Path but sadly it was a part that for much of my life I was not fully aware of.
Revisiting Insight and intellect
There have been long battles with intellectuals. This has been partly because of my personal history but mostly because of intellectual ego. For me it is worth considering my personal history again to understand these battles.
My Path-realising experience (awakening?) came soon after I left academia and started in the world of work. It was the first time I had to really discipline myself. During my academic studies I worked very little focussing my studies on exam-cramming. I was the worst sort of student completely lacking in any work ethic or any interest in the work I was doing. I was never top but I had completely bought into academic success requiring of myself finishing in the top ten of the class – and it was the top class. The way my university was structured I did not have to complete ongoing assignments, and the end-of-year exams were all that mattered. This exam-cramming was all that mattered. The only time I can genuinely remember interest in the subject was that I had to do a resit in philosophy, and when I was forced to work on it I enjoyed it. But that was short-lived as I only passed the exam sufficiently to move on to year 2 – if I didn’t study philosophy. In fact I now recall that I applied to uni to do Maths and Philosophy – that is interesting to only just remember that now. The uni I actually went to required I do maths, stats and philosophy in the first year. My natural ability took me through in maths and stats, philosophy you had to read something.
I left uni after 4 years doing an extra year’s diploma in statistics – failing to qualify for a Masters, and started work as an analyst/programmer (employed for statistical ability). Basically the world of work was a disaster waiting to happen. In my first job there were many interesting people working in one of the top computer consultancy firms in the West End. So my time was taken up drinking with these guys, and when they went home to the wife and family drinking with the people who turned up at the bar; at the weekend I played football with the umbrella company’s team. If I was ever going to enjoy the world of work this was the company and the colleagues I would have been successful at. But I was pushed out because I didn’t achieve anything. And that was the beginning of my hitting bottom. I went to Sevenoaks where I perceived the people lacked the life I saw in the London firm. Drink followed drink and lateness ensued with numerous work mistakes. A prank gave the boss the tipping point to sack me, and we were both glad I was leaving. I went home to my parents in a daze in early December, and all I recall is that I moped around the house and Manchester for a month before returning to London with a different attitude. I had learnt to accept the discipline of the world of work. I still had the occasional drink but mostly I followed a life of discipline at work. At this time two important things happened to me. Firstly I began meditation and yoga, and secondly a friend from the London firm introduced me to her arty friends and so I discovered kindred spirits and a budding Wai Zandtao. All I recall of the meditation was what I don’t like about meditation – bells and banjoes (nimitta). I would meditate to look for an experience, and because I was just beginning to realise the Path they came. I don’t remember how long I meditated, maybe 20 minutes or half an hour some days for two or three months, but it was important because by the end of that time I decided to go into care work – the beginning of my being a teacher. About the job at this time I remember little except the work was tedious, I had a boss 2/3 years my elder who enjoyed exerting authority and who was most surprised when I resigned, I had developed the discipline of the world of work something completely lacking in my earlier jobs.
The introduction to arty friends was wonderful and was more long-lived. I found kindred spirits who were equally disillusioned with the system. Apart from encouraging my writing these people also encouraged my insight; at the time I did not know it as insight. I do remember repeated use of the phrase “I know this” where there was a reciprocated understanding of the emphasised “know”. Hours were spent discussing, I haven’t got a clue about what – if I ever finish retyping it the nearest you could understand about where I was is the story Morphon. I loved that Arts Centre and those people. They gave substance to the formative realising of the Path, and over a period of about 6 months that meditation, those people and the Arts Centre had turned my hitting bottom into realising the Path. At that point I was introduced to someone who invited me to Belgium where I stayed for 6 weeks on my own, and that completed my realisation. The British Council in Brussels had a library, and I would pick obscure books on philosophy read a bit and write pages and pages of thoughts that followed from the brief reading. Very similar to this process of blogging, except not putting it online for 2 or 3 people to read. Returning to the UK after a pseudo-arty experience alone in Paris for a few days, I took another care position for a year. At the end of that, consolidation of this realisation was almost complete. I still maintained some contact with the arts scene but I was not a writer. I liked writing, I could write but I was not a writer. The writing was a way of touching the growing insight and expressing what I touched. Much like now. Now in meditation insights come through. I write them down in a notebook, and then I blog them for posterity – OK 2 or3 people. At the end of that year I decided to go round the world, reached the Normandy coast, and lost my money or had it stolen. Returning to the UK I enrolled on a PGCE course and battled for education thereafter.
Thereafter contained many such battles, and almost always ended with the academic being insulting, I tried to keep away from such. However intellectuals are arrogant, their academic conditioning has instilled in them a belief that intellect can answer anything. Now contrast that with my hitting bottom, a significant part of which was a rejection of the arrogance that academia had instilled in me; this was a battle waiting to happen. In truth I was far too emotive about my anti-intellectualism. I bore the words “I know” as a battle-cry that intentionally defied logic. Insight and “I know” were then synonymous – not now, and as such intentionally derided intellectual response. Over the years understanding insight developed, and I can quite clearly state that insight is a property of the Path. Insight started to develop in me when I started to realise the Path. It became a regular occurrence when I practised meditation daily, and is the starting point for most of my blogs – all the spiritual ones.
I have often contrasted insight with intellect, but this has rarely been understood – by me as well. It just seemed that way. Intellectuals trying to discuss with me could not grasp where insight came from. When I would then say that such insight is axiomatic, there would be rationalisations such as “What if Hitler said his thinking was insight?” The very notion that intellect could be a barrier to insight freaked these guys out, they took it as meaning that I was trying to be illogical. Recognising insight as part of Path-realisation and understanding intellect as part of Paticcasamuppada(mental formations) points the way to harmonising the two, and then when Tan Ajaan says there is sunatta or atta it is resolved. Now academia has nothing to do with the Path even though it claims itself to be searching for knowledge, however there are some academics who are on the Path – we all have to earn money to live. An academic’s source of reference is another academic, it is not the Path of Insight. When people such as I stand up and state as axiom insight there can be no academic response. Now intellect is a natural function of the mind as Paticcasamuppada clearly states but what happens with academia is that the self attaches to this intellect making the intellectual self an emblem of self-survival. Insight confronts that claiming validity of its own existence ie insight is enough, something that is rejected completely by the intellecual process of academia. But the issue is not academia or intellect or insight, the problem is self. Self raises the profile of intellect, far beyond its legitimate role within Dependent Arising. Intellect creates proliferation, it creates theory upon theory that is not necessary, and insight or understanding is sufficient. Somewhere Tan Ajaan talks about upadana as not clinging to the 5 khandas – one of which is intellect (mental formations). The ego clinging to intellect, intellectual ego, is the problem. And Tan Ajaan also talks about there only being one state that can exist at any moment – sunnata or atta. Sunnata means void of self, and when we are having an insight – during meditation or otherwise – we are void of self. It is either insight or self, and in academia self has sway – not legitimate intellect but this self masquerading as intellect. It is therefore quite easy to see how a battle between insight and intellect can develop especially given my personal history.
What is most important in considering Path, insight and intellect is the quenching of suffering. At the time of my hitting bottom I was suffering. I had been suffering under repression and academic expectation prior to hitting bottom, and then for a year or two whilst the process was consolidating I was still getting rid of the vestiges of that suffering. Ideally such suffering ought not to occur, but unfortunately we live in a system that has come to use academia as a way of maintaining exploitation.
If people are able to harmonise the Path, their personal growth and ego whilst understanding the natural function of intellect in the mind there is no suffering; a big if. Path-realisation does not have to happen with a bang – hitting bottom, mine or Tolle’s or countless others, a calamity such as UG(-Z). There is no reason to think that Path-realisation cannot occur through meditation or even mindfulness. Insight meditation, introduction here, can introduce people to the Path, from no greater authority than the Buddha himself. There is certainly far less suffering involved, but it requires that there is far less impact from intellectual miseducation. I personally don’t know how possible the Path without conflict is.
Update 22/9/13 – Since writing this blog I have developed an online meditation programme here.
Teaching as Daily Life
Following the review of my early life in discussion on insight and intellect I began thinking of teaching in terms of the Path. There are no doubts in my mind that I was born to be a teacher of children. Soon after my hitting bottom I moved into care work, and then into teaching. I remember the rationale of that decision at the time, care work did nothing to alter the problems it simply mopped up after them. Education could work with children so that their minds maybe could do better. Nothing wrong with that.
Two things stand out from my PGCE year. I had started drinking again during my job in care, that continued throughout the PGCE year. Whilst I took my lectures seriously as I was interested in education, I was greatly attracted to alternative education. I could see that the mainstream had been diverted from what I then considered education to be – education as leading to self-realisation. But alternative education was only for the rich and I couldn’t accept that so when I was qualified I opted for teaching in an Inner City school. This was definitely the right decision for me at the time but it was hard. I retired early, when I was 54, and wrote a book under the name of Matriellez. Through the writing of it I recognised that system education was just indoctrination under a corporate paradigm, and it kind of negated my working life. Had I diverted from the Path? That is really what this blogentry is about, had I diverted from the Path?
For the majority of my first two jobs I was dealing with drink, there is also no doubt that the drink was brought on by stress. So was drink brought on by a failure to follow the Path? The answer to that is yes and no. Self was drinking, I was a born teacher – that is what Path means. Whilst my hitting bottom had managed to eschew the miseducation and repression it had not been sufficient to make me aware of anatta. Self stepped in and despite being on the correct teaching Path managed to manipulate its own indulgence through drink. Fortunately I corrected this when I was 35, and soon after I travelled. My 6 years in Botswana were wonderful years, perhaps not so spiritually. My decision to leave Africa was financial – needing a pension, but in truth I recognised that I could have festered there the rest of my life – life was so good. After that was a series of teaching disasters because I went private. State education had its problems but they were not profiteering, ultimately in private schools the bottom line was profit and not education. In state education the exam factory and publisher control led to a careerism that prevented education but I’m not getting into all that here – check Matriellez. Long before entering the private sector I had accepted that education meant exam passes, and even though I provided those the profiteering in private schools destroyed what could have been an acceptable exam-pass balance. I do not feel our school systems can now be a place for born teachers, their vocation will only be misused; teaching as part of a mindful-consuming community the only way forward for education? Homeschooling?
The older I got there was a feeling each holiday that the distance from where I wanted to be and where I was as a teacher was increasing. First days back were always hard – the older I got I was able to get back into the swing of things but I was always bounced back from a time of holiday peace to the cauldron of whichever school I was in. In the end this distance was so great I retired early with the realisation that mainstream education could never satisfy the born teacher. Having written Matriellez I was left to continue work on Path-realisation, and whilst I do a little in local schools the reality is that born teachers have no place in mainstream education. As Matriellez I need to look at teaching in a community more – Path?
Belief systems and Theravada
In a previous blog I discussed how I was a Buddhist but did not believe in Buddhism. The problem is self, it is the I that believes it is Nature that does – sunatta.
I have long seen problems on the internet forums with Theravada, there is so much “proliferation of mental formations” to use the vernacular. And it comes down to the notion that in Theravada there is almost a stage of believing, it is as if the Buddha gave a methodology of belief that then moves beyond belief. I say “as if” because I don’t know enough about the suttas.
The limited contact I have with Theravada here in Thailand fits that mould. The writers present an approach concerning Paticcasamuppada and khandhas, although as I understand it the Buddha never asked for belief followers believe in this dependent arising. This works to a certain extent even though it lends itself to mental proliferations. The self believes in Paticcasamuppada to begin with although hopefully at some stage it can be seen that this is a natural arising and belief is not necessary – I cannot see this. What is clear to me is that belief helps but the problem is that belief is stuck in self – I believe. And to describe how to move beyond self is difficult yet to explain is easy – anatta.
In Thailand people study Buddhism – Buddha sasana, but is the study what the Buddha was after? OK the Buddha talked about Nibbana, I have no idea what that is except the Buddha according to Tan Ajaan talks about Nibbana as 100% anatta. Study clearly helps but if study is left at the level of belief or intellectual appreciation then it is not anatta – it is not Nature. In Thailand people are taught to accept, accept Thailand, accept the King (personally I think the King is a very positive force in Thailand but to love him when I have never met him?), and accept Buddhism. As Tan Ajaan explains it the Kalama Sutta does not ask for acceptance, it asks for critical questioning and understanding.
Anicca, anatta, and dukkha are known as the three characteristics of Buddhism, for me all else explains and expands on this, helps us to understand this. There is nothing permanent (anicca) so there is no self (anatta) and we are here to help quench suffering – when we live as no self. Before there is 100% no self we can believe and this contributes to quenching suffering; but any self creates suffering so belief is stop-gap. So this leads to the question – if belief is stop-gap can people start with belief and move onto living anatta? This is such a key question, and it can be framed another way “Can we fill the self with what is Nature to such an extent that the self disappears and Nature takes over?” I suggest that this is perhaps the implied objective of the Thai Buddhist establishment (I know very little about the Thai Buddhist establishment), and I wonder whether it can happen. Is it like academia where academics shun the genuine search for knowledge through insight? Is the Theravadan establishment stuck in Sasana to such an extent that anatta is not the genuine objective. It appears to my limited factual knowledge of Thailand that this is what Tan Ajaan was pushing against, and yet the Thai establishment lauds him – look at the . new Suan Mokh in Bangkok
I want to repeat this question:-
Can anatta result from an intellectual approach or from a belief system?
Exploring the khandas
Considering that the last blog ended with the question “Can anatta result from an intellectual approach or from a belief system?”, this blogentry tends to suggest it can as I am examining the Buddhist theory of khandas and how I fit into it.
Khandas are connected to the paticcasamupppada in that consideration of the khandas is trying to use the Buddhas guidance to recognise self. The 5 khandas or aggregates are:-
1) Body – rupa
In this talk Tan Ajaan connects the paticcasamuppada and the khandas – haven’t found it yet.
Somewhere Tan Ajaan said that anatta is about ending upadana to the 5 khandas. What does this mean? This is what I am exploring. The 5 aggregates are natural, that means no self. But self does arise with the khandas when self attaches to them creating an unnatural self. There comes a point when the aggregate ends and attachment by the self begins.
I suspect this is bog-standard Buddha-sasana, however it is not study but some form of internalisation that is required. One of the aspects of self (in me) that I have noticed most strongly is mental proliferation. For me what this means is that self has attached to mental formations, in non-dogma terms my mind tends to wander anywhere. This morning I noticed this particularly, and I realised that part of this was caused by my approach to meditation. I allowed my mind to wander sometimes because I look to where it is going to see what needs to be done. At the same time in vipassana meditation you are gently bringing the mind back to the breath, and this is a process that suggests when mental formations are proliferating the mind can be brought back to natural mental formations.
With regards to the khandas I think my main problem is mental proliferation – sankhara or mental formations. What about the others?
Sanna, I use the translation perception but I am not sure as to perceptions of what. I have seen sanna translated as memories. Memory has a healthy natural function of the “hand in the fire” variety, and by extension life’s lessons as well. In my retirement years I have looked back drawing lessons on my own experience – healthy learning, but I don’t look back for emotional reasons – feeling sad at opportunites missed etc. Releasing self by letting go of past emotions is also very positive, but in general indulging memories is not something I do.
I suspect sanna also includes planning, and I have far more of a problem with that – projected future scenarios proliferate even sometimes with attached emotions.
Vedana – feelings arising into emotions, this I must also deal with. Emotions arise and I can let them go. Mostly I don’t live on the emotion rollercoaster, and I put this down to living alone and meditating. The meditation provides a balance, equanimity but I have not got rid of anger. I have noticed more and more that anger arises over the little things – irritation – when meditation has slipped – is not going so well; on occasions I recognise that at the time. But in this world there is so much justification for political anger – anger at the way the world is.
Not being in a relationship I don’t have the rollercoaster problems associated with “love”. I feel genuine love is compassion, and what becomes accepted as love between two people can include that compassion but is mostly a relationship between selves. This does not negate the legitimacy of having such a relationship it simply places it in context. Love is not seomthing exceptional that Hollywood would have us believe. It is about compassion and compassion does not require a relationship. What can follow from accepting this is that people could accept that their relationship is about living together and work on improving that rather than making demands of an illusive love. If such a working relationship were to occur calling it love is perfectly acceptable so long as it is recognised as love between selves. I do not know how anatta could be achieved in such a situation, attachement to one self is seriously hard for me but to be attached to another?
I don’t fill my life with stuff. Keeping life simple, no demands, no expectations – no family either – means there is less input that causes the rising of the khandas. I have probably withdrawn too much on this – too reclusive – too reusii – it was never my intention but it is what has happened.
How does entertainment fit into the theory of khandas? It is self, it is disruptive.
These are only cursory examinations of the khandas, there is far more to be learnt. Can anatta develop in such a way? I don’t know. I am starting from a certain recognition of anatta, and trying to see where the self comes in and let it go; this is not the same. Much to do on this.
The other morning I woke up full of kilesa, my mind, being full of this self-induced kilesa, started proliferating criticising Chogyam Trungpa, Bhagwan and the like – I had just watched the movie about Chogyam Trungpa (see comment). Strangely enough not during meditation I was able to sit back and see this for the mind proliferating. Being critical is important, but in what way? This is part of “exploring the khandha sankhara” – the mental formation of criticism. So when is criticism not-self? The criticial faculty is there to discern the presence of self, help destroy the self help with the non-attachment of self. Self-criticism.
Does it have a role where I was using it – criticising others? This has been an arrogance that I have had to deal with, as an angry young man I was always too free with the criticism. I can remember horrendous discussions with a friend which always ended in my frustration and losing my temper. Seeing and telling, whether I was right or not, was not the order of the day but my arrogance persisted. Now when I meet him I shut up, I don’t say anything unless asked – and it works in a way we don’t argue and I am frustrated.
And this holding back counsel is an important reason for not proliferating with criticism. Why let your mind wander and criticise someone else? What good can it do? One can never be sure of being correct but even if you are where does it lead you if you can’t say? Frustration – dukkha. If someone is genuinely open to criticism – discerning self, you can maybe help but it is doubtful – they of course have their own critical faculty and if they wanted to use it they would.
I have an arrogance about my Path – someone once called me a “right f—er” when I was younger and being more openly criticial. This is another clear example of realising the Path and yet still being self. It reminds me of the hours I used to spend walking – coast paths etc. On these holidays I would leave the school behind and find somewhere just ot walk. To begin with my mind would be all over the place, criticising, proliferating, and then I would start proper walking, thumb and second finger touching, watching where I put my feet – a bit like walking meditation only I picked it up from Castaneda somewhere. My mind was walking – not proliferating, in Nature we follow our Path.
I was put onto Adyashanti by a friend a while back and spoke about him here. The context in which his name was raised was that of enlightenment. We were discussing whether someone could be enlightened, and my friend said Adyashanti claimed he was. I have started to read Adyashanti’s “Way of Liberation”, and now think he does claim he is enlightened; in describing his book he says “The Way of Liberation is a stripped-down, practical guide to spiritual liberation, sometimes called awakening, enlightenment, self-realization, or simply seeing what is absolutely True. It is impossible to know what words like liberation or enlightenment mean until you realize them for yourself.” This tends to suggest he considers himself enlightened. Maybe I will find a better quote, as I have no wish to misrepresent him. This quote is in the introduction, and it is quite clear that the book is a methodology of the Way to live – a “guide to spiritual liberation, sometimes called awakening, enlightenment, self-realization, or simply seeing what is absolutely True”. Here we have much use of terminology, and it is worth considering these words. I assume here that Adyashanti is seeing these words as equivalent (I hope this is not misrepresenting him). I want to consider these words in terms of “gradations” . I have no idea what being enlightened is. Theoretically I accept that being enlightened is living anatta – 100% no self. I am nowhere near that although by Adyashanti 1 (see below) my aspiration is to be 100% non-self. Are his synonyms (inthe quote from his intro) 100% no-self?
In this blogentry I originally used awakening to describe my own experience and then changed my terminology to “Realising the Path” here. Now my hitting bottom was a sort of awakening, it was a sort of recognition of unity, it was nowhere near “100% non-self”. It was not seeing the Truth for what It is, but was seeing some Truth. It was some sort of awakening and should not be belittled but as Brad says in describing Soto Zen “Soto style Zen training tends to emphasize moral grounding and balance much more than the gaining of “awakening experiences,” so much so that one is often told it’s not important even to have such experiences at all” – here. It appears that Adyashanti does not ignore them but is encouraging people to get them – to me this is not a good approach.
I do however like his methodology, Five Foundations – his “Way of Liberation”:-
1) Clarify your aspiration.
“In a very real sense the Five Foundations are absolutely essential components of the teaching that apply after awakening as much as, if not more than, before it.” [p1 – pdf p15] I really like this before and after approach. “Misinterpretation of a spiritual teaching by the ego is always a significant danger, since the ego’s tendency is to justify whatever points of view it is attached to and invested in.”[p1 – pdf p15] Now I don’t like his use of the term ego here, again I have discussed this – here. In some approaches ego allows for the existence of self, and whilst these traditions allow for ego and Self – Self being non-egoic, I prefer anatta – non-self. The danger of such terminology comes in the phrase Adyashanti uses as synonymous with enlightenment – self-realisation. Self can only realise by disappearing as it doesn’t exist in the first place. How can self realise and disappear at the same time? For me it is better not to consider it as Self but non-self – no I or mine.
But it is good he ascribes his methodology for before and after; this is much like the 8-Fold Path, sila (moral integrity) and kilesa (defilements) – before and after. An enlightened being will have sila and not have kilesa, and this knocks on the head much of the bonking enlightened ones!! Although sila is a religious word (Buddhism) I don’t describe it as morality. Morality is not a set of rules – it tends to be described as such in both religions and culture, as Adyashanti says “It means that morality is no longer rooted in the cultural and religious values designed to rein in and control egoic impulses.” [p2 pdf p16].
He has an important warning for before and after “It can get complicated because it is possible to have some experience of the ultimate nature of Reality while at the same time not being completely free of egoic delusion. This makes for the possible volatile mixture of Reality and illusion simultaneously existing and expressing itself in an unconscious and distorted way. While some of this is to be expected as we are maturing in spirit, there are few things more distorted or dangerous than an ego that thinks it is God.” [p2 pdf p16]
“The Way of Liberation is a means of opening up to grace.” [p19 pdf 33of 70] Is grace insight? This struck me when Adyashanti was describing grace. If we are open to grace then we can see clearly, insight comes. “The realization of Truth and Reality can never be created by the mind; it always comes as a gift of grace” [p27 pdf 41 of 70]. To open ourselves up to grace we follow the 3 Core Practices :-
“The three Core Practices are meditation, inquiry, and contemplation” [p19 pdf 33of 70]. Insight comes to me in meditation when I am studying (non-intellectually) – maybe synonymous with contemplation? – in a process of deep questioning where there are no assumptions – enquiry?
Where is I?
Things have not gone too well the last few days – my weakness. But I’m working at it. As part of today’s meditation I was trying to rest the mind in the heart – something that has worked for me when agitated. As no-self is something big with me at the moment when the mind ws rested I asked “where is I?” Of course there was no answer, it was an affirmation that self is a concoction of mind.
I was also thinking about some of the issues I have, sex is obviously one. I don’t have relationships with women, not because I don’t enjoy sex, but because of all the consequences of the relationship. Because I am unwilling to have casual sex nor prostitutes this leaves me alone – living alone. I began thinking about a woman I enjoyed wrapped around her – it was nice, enjoyable. I was getting sucked in. It made me realise how I cannot rate good or bad – paticcasamuppada, if I do I get sucked in.
4) Contact – sense experience
In these steps is where there was self-indulgence.
That brings me to entertainment. I watch too much TV, and I mostly see it as a pastime but I still value it as good and bad. Some stories I enjoy and it as if I am vicariously living my own story-telling passively. This is no as Nature intended.
I am beginning to see some of the paticcasamuppada and the khandas, but I have to be careful not to push it.
Adyashanti 2 – Meditation
Our minds may believe that we need subtle and complex spiritual teachings to guide us to Reality, but we do not. In fact, the more complex the teaching is, the easier it is for the mind to hide from itself amidst the complexity while imagining that it is advancing toward enlightenment [p18 pdf 32]. This is becoming more and more apparent to me. Anatta as a teaching is very straightforward, to quench suffering you have to live as no-self. As a teaching this is not complex, there is little else you truly need as truth or whatever, but what to do to accomplish this is far from easy. To explain it is far from easy if it is not understood, to tell people what to do is equally difficult. It is this difficulty that leads to mental proliferations. At the same time intellect wants something complex to engage with, and it persuades the self that such complexity is necessary. Anatta is straightforward, there is no need to climb mountains to Shangri-la to search to find a superguru – just get rid of self. If people accept the truth of this then all is well – world peace, no suffering, whatever. But it is too simple. I can say this but I haven’t truly accepted it, I am continually battling with self as it rears its head in survival.
So we get into methodologies such as Adyashanti’s “Way of Liberation”. At the moment I follow Tan Ajaan’s interpretation of Buddhism that includes Paticcasamuppada and khandas, and for me the self attaches to intellect as a mental formation to make proliferations and extensive ideologies etc – self as sankhara. Complexity is the intellect being appropriated by self as sankhara.
This is where Adyashanti’s Core Practices of Meditation, Inquiry and Contemplation come in. He says “you need to find a way of applying the Core Practices that suits your temperament and personal style” [p18 pdf32]. He talks about Grace. His description of Grace is some kind of agent that is just waiting to zap you with truth if you are ready to hear it. This is not a term I use but it seems just like I would describe insight. Now insight for me comes during meditation but it didn’t always do so. Insight came when I was going through a writing process, and I could imagine in my younger days gaining insights during conversation – where the conversation cleared the mind. As Matriellez on education I taught about “finding an insight”, “opening a channel” and some such, this was directed at more able students. But the process is the same outside an education establishment, your mind needs to be clear and focussed – no self, and grace or insight is Nature’s reward.
Quoting “Meditation is neither a means to an end nor something to perfect. Meditation done correctly is an expression of Reality, not a path to it. Meditation done incorrectly is a perfect mirror of how you are resisting the present moment, judging it, or attaching to it. Meditation acts as a perfect mirror, which reflects your relationship with yourself, life, and the present moment. By becoming intimately aware of how you are resisting or attaching to the content of the present moment, and how futile it is to continue to do so, you may discover what it means to truly drop all of your resistance to the present moment” [p20 pdf34]. I don’t react to this. I don’t get it, it rings no bells, but maybe it rings yours – good. Above he says you form your own relationship with meditation, now that rings true. When someone asks me what I do during meditation I can’t give an answer, but meditation is the answer. When I teach it – occasionally, I teach vipassana or anchor insight meditation following the breath, but I don’t practise this. At the moment it is a sort of sunnata anatta combo, trying to detach from self and recognising what Tan Ajaan says that it is either/or – anatta or sunnata. The methodology that rings true for me is that you must meditate, going as far as using this daily meditation as a benchmark for the methodology being Path. Maybe not always? But those who aren’t meditating generally lack clarity.
We are our own guides, that is something I feel. People ask me who my teacher is and I have a muted response. Now I can give a clear answer, Tan Ajaan, but in truth I have had many teachers as many as the books and articles where something has hit home – whose grace has given me an insight. But this requires an honesty and trust in the power of your heart. If something is going wrong in my life it is meditation. If I go into the kitchen and become irritated at all the cooking my diet requires I know it is poor meditation. I lose my keys it is meditation. But that is just my way. And it doesn’t mean I am meditating all the time – far from it, there is never a week in which I meet my quota of 1 hour in the morning and 40 minutes at night. Never – shameful. That’s why I can always blame meditation 🙂
But in truth I don’t know how anyone can work on no self except through meditation but hey maybe. But Adyashanti, I am sorry your explanation doesn’t grab me. pp23-25 (pdf 37-39) is a Q and A. I quite liked this, I would be happy with myself if I gave such answers. Nothing grabbed me, but then what is there to grab? The thing is, if you like it go for it.
Adyashanti3 – Enquiry
It was interesting in Adyashanti2 to bounce off what he described in meditation so I intend to do the same for Enquiry and Contemplation. For me enquiry is so important, although I would tend to call it deep questioning. From the 4 Agreements (no eBook but there is an audiobook) there is the contention that we all are trained to agree to what is custom and practice, but that these agreements are not Truth. Personally I take it further into an understanding that we agree with the Corporate paradigm. If we are trying to determine the Truth of Nature it is necessary not to make any assumptions, so if there are no assumptions then we need to participate in deep questioning. So we could say that the Truth is there, and we just need to ask questions until we can see it – Enquiry.
But it is also interesting to reflect that eclecticism didn’t work for me. Eclecticism meant that I pick’n’mixed but it effectively lacked depth. Then for a long time I focussed on Theravada (not exclusively) getting pulled into more and more dogma until I started with this dogmatoxic approach that happened into Tan Ajaan’s teaching again. For some I would still be considered a believer in Buddhism (Tan Ajaan version) with all the Pali I bandy around. But it is methodology not belief, with Adyashanti’s “Way of Liberation” there is another methodology. But he recognises no self, so because he has seen anatta his methodology has worked for at least one person.
I suppose that’s all a teacher is – methodology. Teaching is teaching, you have to do it. When you do it you establish a relationship between yourself and the student, and then your methodology moves out of textbooks and into real life. In my maths teaching I might well have been described as board and chalk by some of the pipsqueaks who regurgitated the latest buzzword teaching approach imposed on them, but my methodology recognised what worked for me and what had worked with the students in the past. A spiritual teacher can only do that, use their own methodology and teaching practice to hone in on the best approach. I will never know this of course as I am no such meditation teacher.
“The sacred dimension is not something that you can know through words and ideas any more than you can learn what an apple pie tastes like by eating the recipe. The modern age has forgotten that facts and information, for all their usefulness, are not the same as truth or wisdom, and certainly not the same as direct experience. We have lost touch with the intuitive wisdom born of silence and stillness “[p25 pdf39]. Excellent, this reminds me of something I just wrote concerning the intellectual proliferation that has become a significant part of much Buddhism. By my use of the word seeing I mean direct experience.
“To hold a question inwardly in silent and patient waiting is an art rarely mastered these days.” [p26 pdf40]. This sounds like an excellent meditation. I have never done it with a specific question but I have done it with problems. On occasions there are discussions that arise, I read them(occasionally it is verbal), but the response is not immediate; in fact oftentimes it is best that the response is not immediate as immediacy can give an emotional reaction – and misunderstanding. Through holding the discussion in meditation the emotional reaction disappears (not always), and you can see through to the best way to respond. I would guess that Adyashanti would call this a process of grace – I call it insight. Recently I have considered much to do with Ajaan Buddhadasa (see Tan Ajaan). As with this (“Way of Liberation”) sometimes I would read and then respond. But other times I woke up, listened to his anchor talks – maybe sleep again, and then in meditation an understanding would come. This is sort of holding a question. To me it is focussing on something, and as the mind calms during meditation insight comes in to see the solution – grace? This reminds me of what I have heard of koans. What is the sound of one hand clapping? I have never worked with koans so this is theory. We sit with the question which makes no intellectual sense so that any time we want to solve the question through intellect we cannot. In the end the answer is grace? This is a methodology but in truth I am speaking from complete ignorance of the process, but I do see that deep enquiry in meditation (or otherwise) can silence the intellect – the chattering mind – and give a meaningful solution.
“Inquiry is not in any sense anti-intellectual or anti-rational; it is trans-rational. That is, it has the power to take you beyond both the conceptual mind as well as conditioned egocentric thinking. Although rooted in stillness, inquiry is the dynamic counterpoint to True Meditation. Meditation is soft, allowing surrender, while inquiry demands bold and fearless questioning [p26 pdf40]. I show my anti-intellectualism here but I mean the same. An answer of Truth can be obtained through insight and developed by intellect but it cannot be obtained by intellect. Such enquiry is beyond intellect or “trans-rational“. Is deep questioning “bold and fearless“?
“The underlying drives of the ego are to feel better and to survive. But inquiry belongs entirely to the realm of the soul, that dimension of being born of stillness and light that seeks Truth for its own sake“[p26 pdf40]. Here I would use the word insight rather than soul as soul has too many connotations of transmigration and reincarnation. But the first sentence interests me, “the drives of the ego are to feel better and survive“. Now I have repeatedly considered the drive of self as survival, but to feel better? That is so interesting. This brings into mind issues of enjoyment and entertainment that are conflicting with my anatta. With regards to Paticcasamuppada and vedana Tan Ajaan talks about not allowing the feeling of good and bad to occur at contact. Connecting the two self wants to feel better, and if we have good arising this is the same as feeling better ie self. What happens with entertainment? Typically at the end of the day I have finished chores and am tired – but not tired for going to bed. Habitually I turn on the TV – a habit that started at work where I would be fatigued and needed to rest (not sleep) before eating and marking. With the TV on after work I would actually relax the busy mind and sleep, now what happens? My chattering mind is engaged, but do I feel better? Yes and no. No because what I do during the day is better, but I feel better from the fatigue. Do I enjoy the TV? No, but I do become immersed in it and often want to see what happens. Desire – self. Not sure what this does about reducing the entertainment (TV) but it is good questioning. And it was started with the drive of self as feeling better. Yes there is a conclusion. When I am fatigued don’t turn on the tv. Calm the mind and take in sunnata, then it is not self which is directing but Nature. This feels true but am I up to doing it at the end of the day?
Since studying Tan Ajaan I have described the objective as anatta, and the methodology as paticcasammupada – dependent arising, upadana – not clinging to I or mine, or looking at the khandas and determining what is Natural and what is self. None of this is the way because whenever you describe you limit.
But why do we describe? To learn and to help others, there needs to be description – teachings. But these teachings are only indications of the truth. I like the word “indicate” here, but let me describe its usage. I came across the word with the British Embassy. I needed a letter of proof of address. I took a bill with my address on, rental agreement, passport and so on. They accepted that what was written gave my true address, and then they wrote a letter that said they had seen evidence that “indicated” where my address was. Now the banks and finance institutions knew what the word “indicate” meant (that the Embassy were covering their backs by not being definitive); it was a usage, an understanding. When you describe no-self and the methodology, it is not the actual way – it is an indication.
Another analogy came to me this morning – surprisingly not in meditation. At Houston they prepare rockets to go into space. There is much preparation but the preparation itself is not lift-off. But without the preparation there is no lift-off. At launch the stanchions fall away as the fuel ignites and there is lift-off. Is there lift-off without preparation? Is there lift-off without fuel? Of course not, but is the preparation and fuel necessary? Stupid question.
Nature provides the fuel, it is Nature to lift off. But without the preparation this cannot happen. The rocket is built with sila and the avoidance of kilesa. The rocket is prepared with paticcasamuppada, detaching from khandas, upadana does not cling to I and mine, the supports fall away and there is lift-off.
I am currently discussing Adyashanti – bouncing off his approach. His “Way of Liberation” is his preparation. Nature provides the fuel (that might be his use of the word grace), and as all the supports of his “Way” fall away there is lift-off.
By this lift-off I do not mean enlightenment, nor do I mean there is only one lift-off. But the lift-off is an awakening from a dream (not the awakening), it is awareness that comes from escaping delusion, but it is fuelled by Nature. But if there is no preparation there is no lift-off. However how this preparation becomes lift-off is not always clear to see. I have also recently considered UG’s story. He claims there was no connection between all the studies he did, and his eventual “catastrophe” to use his word. I question that, but of course I don’t know him. There was no immediacy. At Houston there is preparation, it is scientific. Preparation with the fuel gives lift-off, these are decisions controlled by “Houston”. But life is not so easy to understand. The preparation is needed but there might not be an immediate lift-off. The lift-off might not be a rocket but it might be all the small minor discoveries or lift-offs that culminated in the rocket taking off. These processes are different for different people, but the preparation is needed for the process to start.
In my own case my first realisation of the Path did not come through study or adherence to Buddhism, it came out from hitting bottom based on years of an enforced unnatural upbringing and too much alcohol. But it was a lift-off, some of the delusion did fall away. We do not know about this preparation, this preparation does not have a logic, it does not have a sequence. But it is necessary, whichever way (methodology) you choose.
Adyashanti4 – contemplation
Adyashanti4 – Contemplation [pp31 -36 pdfs 45-50]
For Adyashanti contemplation is a process of holding a phrase, “understanding” or koan in silence or stillness and seeing what comes from it. It is interesting to note that as with vipassana meditation, if the mind wanders away he gently bring it back. He then lists a whole series of contemplations, none of which I have tried, but all of which I would agree would bring understanding through contemplation.
Why haven’t I tried them then? Because I have my own methodology that might be described as “meditation, study and blogging guided by insight”. No-one reads these blogs so why do them? Simple, it has become my methodology of contemplation. I retired knowing that the distance between my Path and teaching was widening, and it wasn’t sufficient to close the gap during vacation. Fortunately materially I was able to retire early, albeit living relatively cheaply. Thinking back I can’t remember how the full methodology started. My writing started with Matriellez to kind of eschew the stress of teaching from me, I suppose at some stage thoughts and insights concerning education came during meditation and I would write them.
The more spiritual aspect of my development began with a blog called Nature Insights, so at this stage the meditation and blogging scenario had become a habit. It matters not what book I started reading – it could be checked in the Nature Insights blog, I suppose any book would have done it. One book, one article, one email or forum comment, all brought insight in meditation that led to a blog. There was no decision process happening with regards to what was to be read, no planned course, in fact I can remember on occasion sitting in meditation asking what book to read, the most recent of this meditation asking led to the Tan Ajaan as meditation answered “Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree” by Tan Ajaan. There is so much good stuff out there, just begin where you choose – sit in meditation and choose.
Just one word of warning if this process appeals to you, do NOT choose a book where there is some doubt as to spiritual veracity. During my studies I have given warnings and I am going to list them here, but please do NOT study them. Why? Quite simply I cannot explain exactly. In lift-off I described the need for preparation, and that eventually preparation connects with the fuel of Nature to give lift-off. This process cannot be explained exactly. Let’s take the analogy of lift-off here. Suppose the bolts on the stanchions are not tight, suppose the circuits used are not top quality, suppose any part of the preparation is faulty, what can happen? At worst death, less scary lift-off issues. Prepare properly.
Different traditions have different methodologies, some discuss axioms. Most religions have a moral code, and I begin there. Sila – moral integrity, without morality there are risk in preparing the Path. What are those risks? I don’t know. Sila is the Way of Nature, anything that is not sila is self or ego. Do we know what is self or ego? I don’t. Ego, maybe, self not sure. What about kilesa? These are not right. Imagine a mechanic saying this doesn’t feel right. Kilesa doesn’t feel right, at the moment I can’t find a place for kilesa in the lift-off analogy but sila and no kilesa are platforms. If there isn’t sila and there are kilesa, how does this affect lift-off? I just don’t know, but why take the risk when with good preparation there is no risk?
I stopped “A Course in Miracles”, why – there was some good stuff in it. Because it did not encourage humility – think you are God and perform miracles. Ego is a major block on the Path, why study something that is prone to ego problems.
Castaneda gave me great help when I was young. I began studying him again and stopped. At one stage his books asked me to start believing in something that I could not be certain of. I was asked to take a leap of faith, but this was not a leap of faith in a tradition – it was a leap of faith in a man who had a drink problem. It was also a leap of faith in books whose adherence to Toltec wisdom was in doubt. Why take the risk?
I studied Sogyal “Rinpoche” for a while, his book “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” is eminently readable. But the man takes advantages of vulnerable women – as far as I can judge, Is that something I want to do? Certainly not. Why take the risk? If you want to study Tibetan, what’s wrong with HHDL – the leader?
Osho is another person I don’t recommend you go near. I discussed in detail Bhagwan (42 and 43 as well) why I don’t trust him. First in the talk I discussed he was ostentatious, is the Path ostentatious? When he was younger – the Bhagwan, his approach I deride as “bonking for enlightenment”. Does that sound like the Path? There was much fraud and many claims of exploitation surrounding his ashrams. He was famed for a fleet of Rollers, does that have anything to do with the Path? Can people discern when he is discussing the Truth or not? He couldn’t so can you? Why take the risk when there are so many reputable teachers?
K – Jiddu Krishnamurti – not UG. I have to again ask why take the risk? Of my hitlist he is one I am least worried about, primarily because he had no doctrine or dogma. He just kept asking questions, asking you not to hold anything in your contents of consciousness. This is a contemplative study akin to Adyashanti. But would you trust a man who could sleep with a close friend’s wife? So even with K please be very careful.
But what about the other teachings? It gets so difficult. People who follow belief systems, can they be trusted? In Buddhism there is all the excessive proliferations of “what the Buddha taught”, do we believe them? No, believe nothing. Keep asking questions. Maybe when you ask questions you can get something from the people on my hitlist, but why take the risk?
But in the end it is not the teachings but your own guide, your personal questioning that provides the link to the Truth. Your questioning is where the strength is, but if in doubt stick with tradition whilst you are questioning, a tradition that helps develop insight, has sila and avoids kilesa.
For many years I have described intellect functioning with a survival instinct, and it is this need for survival that I have often seen in people – often showing itself with a complete lack of taste. Why do people get offended when I say you cannot understand through intellect, that there must be insight for understanding? Whilst I am convinced that is the truth, it is my view and if someone wants to disagree that is their prerogative. So why the anger? I have always put it down to intellect having a survival instinct.
I have now begin to understand more about why there is this survival instinct. In the document Anatta and Rebirth Tan Ajaan describes how self develops from instinct, I cannot precis it (and definitely cannot describe it better) so here is a long quote:-
“The feeling there is an atta (self developing) “happens because the instincts feel or sense that there is a self in life. This happens by itself and is a survival mechanism that we can find in all organisms. But please understand that instinctual knowledge is not correct. It still lacks vijja (correct knowledge); avijja (ignorance) remains. Thus, experiences that follow the instincts exclusively belong to avijja. They cause us to feel that there is a self, which is a most important awareness in living. We can see that it is necessary for survival. Life bases itself on the aim that needs to be a self. Instincts are the cause of feeling that there’s a self, although it isn’t correct.
Now, on the second level of the development of atta, avijja increases and the sense of self builds. For example, the infant is born at first with a basic feeling of self, a natural, instinctual feeling. But then the infant is totally surrounded by all kinds of things which are good and bad, agreeable and disagreeable, positive and negative. As there is increasing experience of pleasure and pain, the instinctual sense of self grows stronger and develops preferences. Because the child does not have enough understanding to know better, avijja increases and the feeling of self is confirmed and consolidated. This self is strengthened by ignorance. This is the second matter.
On the third level of this development of self, of atta, there is the cultural teaching, the knowledge passed along by parents and teachers, that there is atta, that we have selves. This is the cultural conditioning every child increasingly receives from parents, teachers and other cultural elements. Even in religious teaching, when the religion holds there is an atta, the existence of atta is taught more and more. From all this instruction, the child strengthens the belief in self until it becomes a deep conviction. In the third stage, through all the cultural conditioning of parents, teachers and religions, the belief in self becomes firmly rooted.”
Then as an adult this self gets to its highest form:-
“The feeling that one is a self occurs naturally and instinctually. Hence, people say “self.” Then, they develop theories and promulgate teachings of a higher self – one more special, or more profound, than the usual daily self. Through this process of teaching and educating, the belief in self develops into the highest self: an eternal soul. This kind of belief and teaching was, and remains, quite common. When the Buddha appeared, however, he taught the opposite: that all these things are anatta (not-self). The primitives who long ago lived in forests and caves believed there is atta. They also believed in spirits, powers, and ghosts, which were taken to be selves, also. This common belief occurs easily in the human mind. Thus, there happened the teaching of atta, then there appeared the ceremonies, rituals, and rites in relation to all those spirits, angels, demons, and things. As civilization develops further, the beliefs about self and spirits also develop, as do the corresponding ceremonies and rituals. The highest, most fully developed version of such beliefs occurred in India during the era of the Upanishads, which taught att? as it is believed today: that there is a self – a fundamental basis or reality – in living things, which is successively reincarnated, which is slowly purified through this long succession of births until it finishes in eternity. This is the most highly developed theory of the primitive belief in self. This is how the highest atta must be taught.”
This description gives an incredible understanding of why it is not so difficult to understand the emotional reactions that comes from some intellectuals and other aspects of mental clinging. Their clinging to intellect is still functioning at the instinctual level, so when that intellectual “understanding” is threatened the instinct is to lash out. I have often felt this lashing-out, and now I feel that I have a better understanding of it.
Whenever self is threatened the instinct is to lash out. This can happen on a personal level so if our learning (of the truth) begins to threaten the existence of self, there is a lashing-out mechanism in process. Effectively there is an ongoing battle between anatta and atta, Path and self, insight and intellect, Truth and ignorance. Examine my hitting bottom in terms of instinct. Born with the instinct to survive my upbringing led me into accepting the dream (social conventions), but this acceptance was always superficial and on the intellectual level, my home environment did not encourage a deeper acceptance. This intellectual acceptance continued through to my early 20s where personal survival in the world of work had been secured by the appropriation of academic qualifications; I had gained entry passes into the world of earning as a maths teacher.
Once I entered the world of work – initially as a computer programmer, I was forced to discipline myself; my academic qualifications had come with little discipline. But this discipline was to accept the dream – the world of work, it was not discipline to learn the Truth. At this stage the dream world dominated by intellectual acceptance was holding sway but the discipline required for the world of work that held no meaning for me became harder and harder. In the end there came hitting bottom, and as I came out the other side Compassion (Truth) held sway. As I have described here this was only the beginning of life on the Path (recognising the Path), but it could also be described as the beginning of waking from the dream – the dream of self that was created by instinct. It could also be described as the beginning of recognising anatta, insight and Truth.
My life following this could also be described as seeking anatta, trying to replace instinct with insight, or following the Path. Recognising anatta (from the teachings of Tan Ajaan) has been an important part of this process. It might eclectically be described that permanent self and anatta are the same, previously I might well have said the same (to me). But once self is recognised as the problem then one begins to ask questions of self. One of my adversaries in the insight-intellect battle once said to me that I was too critical of academia not recognising the importance of intellectual tools. I have always said that we need these tools but we have to know their place. Using the methodology of Buddhism, khandas and paticcasamuppada, one can begin to see that some intellect is natural – part of sankhara, but clinging to it is part of the instinct of self. Recognising anatta has taught me to look for self, and that process of looking has helped me discern self in the khandas.
The dream our collective selves has created is so horrendous so as part of the instinct to survive self seeks escape through forms of addiction. At the minimal level there is the addiction to entertainment. We accept the dream, and as part of that acceptance we escape by seeking entertainment – a way of feeling good. Once entertainment has become accepted as a means of escape we become addicted seeking entertainment any time the dream becomes difficult. However more dangerously there are other forms of this approach, and that is escape through drugs such as alcohol and marijuana or harder drugs such as cocaine, heroine or derivatives. Some would argue to legalise marijuana as it is not as harmful as alcohol, but be clear marijuana still falls into the category of escape. All of these escapes do not question the self, are not anatta, and as such do not quench suffering.
How is the pain body connected to this? The selves have created in this world suffering, there is so much suffering going on because of the prevailing corporatocracy – the 1% and their control of the world of politics. At the same time in a sense the 4NT defines the world as a place of suffering, can it ever not be so? So even if I am not internalising pain I am trying to avoid suffering, this is akin to the pain body?
As already described entertainment (watching tv) is escapism – a way of avoiding suffering. It began for me as a child where my home life was centred around the tv. At university and as a young man I moved away from the tv, and during my alcohol years life was quite full with teaching whilst drinking – and tv was an escape during the hangover and lost days. Throughout my alcohol years I continued to learn despite growing an increasing dependence on the drug. Once kicked addiction sought another escape. To begin with this escape lay in a burn-out dedication to politics, but once my health had been affected by the burn-out I realised I could do little more than the demanding job of teaching. Soon the fatigue led to an addiction to the tv so for nearly 15 years of the later stage of teaching escape via tv addiction was the norm whilst my colleagues escaped through earning money for retirement, alcohol and parties.
Now in retirement I am dedicated to my Path. Of course meditation is the priority but I do not sit 24/7. I do a bit of teaching, swimming whilst spending pleasant days at the beach – even wet days, and going through the meditation, insight and blogging process I described here. But then I go home and in the evening resort to escapism, but escapism from what? And there is no answer. I am not escaping from anything, I am following the pattern of escapism that I have followed all my life – addiction to watching tv.
I rejected this notion of pain body when the issue of violence was connected to the watching of tv. Should the pain body be rejected? In some ways maybe so, but as I don’t know how Tolle has described this “pain body” – it could become another academic exercise to clarify this rejection. But eclectically I am going to look at how I can accept it. Pain is important in that it is part of suffering, and the fundamental approach of Buddhism is to quench suffering. Now suffering can be internalised so that could be a derivation of pain body but in a comment to the blog “where is I?” I described that I had been through a process of removing internalised pain – whether I have removed it all has to be an ongoing question. This is quenching the suffering that I carried with me. But sadly for me that has not been the end of the addiction as watching tv too much is still an issue.
So I have discussed a number of ways that self tries to escape its own dream – whilst maintaining that dream? Is there another approach? Anatta. Reject the dream that the selves have created. Find the truth that is not self, escape the dream by awakening from it, and find the happiness that comes from being in harmony with Nature’s dictates.
Looking at kamma
Looking into Kamma there is a danger of being dragged back into the mental proliferations that is Theravada online. Kamma and the study of it is a natural process. Firstly there is the authoritative work that I must study, this is Tan Ajaan’s Kamma and Rebirth andPaticcasammupada – I am too ignorant to study the suttas. And then there are the helpful explanations that in themselves become dogma for me until I understand and can peel away the dogma to reveal the Truth. And then there is the helpful explanations from people who haven’t discerned the Truth and for whom the mental proliferations substitute for the Truth as they only understand on the intellectual level (superficial level). Getting through all of this to whatever limited sense of Truth I actually attain is hard.
When I bought into reincarnation Kamma and Rebirth were interconnected. Once it became clear to me that rebirth was part of these mental proliferations or concoctions, then I accepted Tan Ajaan’s interpretation that rebirth was the temporary rebirth of self in this lifetime. Anicca – nothing is permanent, so what I perceive as self is continually changing and is being continually reborn. What is causing this rebirth – upadana – clinging. Tracing back from this rebirth that is continually changing we have the continuously changing causes. So we ask where do these causes come from? Paticcasammupada explains this. So in dependent arising we make a choice and the results of this choice are actions. Now there is a tendency for these choices and actions to repeat themselves, and that can be understood from their arising repeatedly. We make a choice (let’s suppose for pleasant consequences), actions follow (enjoyment), because we like the enjoyment we want the actions to happen again (clinging) so we make the choice again. This is dependent arising. But it is also kamma because kamma is action based on choice and causes. And this Kamma produces rebirth because the self clings to the actions ie Kamma and Rebirth.
But there is anatta so this process is not written in stone, we have a choice. And again we can look to paticcasammupada. At the point of contact choice comes in. We can choose based on positive feelings or negative feelings, both of which have actions that can lead to clinging and rebirth of self. Or we can have neutral feelings, and follow the actions based on that neutrality. With that neutrality there is no desire to cling and no rebirth.
But in Truth I don’t fully understand this as I don’t do it.
On a global level there is Gaia. Gaia has its Kamma, Inelia Benz and David Icke, and there are consequences that follow from Gaia’s choices. This is Nature. If there is anatta then individually the choices we make are part of Nature’s harmony, and the actions that are part of those consequences belong to Gaia harmoniously – naturally. With anatta Gaia’s Kamma produces action that remain unattached in Gaia, but if there is clinging those actions create the rebirth of self in individuals.
So it appears that Gaia, anatta, kamma and rebirth are all connected.
At the point of contact discussed above I described positive negative and neutral. If we choose enjoyment then we cling to the results of that enjoyment repeatng it again by the law of kamma. If we choose negative actions for whatever reason we create another pattern that kamma makes, that leads to clinging based on the negative choice, so I suggested we choose neutral but as I said “in Truth I don’t fully understand this as I don’t do it”. Of course it can’t be left there. How can we choose neutral? How do we recognise neutral? Is neutral a good description? Once you begin with these questions then certain things show as an answer. You choose neutral by not choosing either positive or negative. How do we recognise positive or negative? By seeing the repeated kammic patterns that we cling to. So if we recognise such a pattern then we must go back to the point of contact and not choose it. For me now such a problem is tv-watching. As explained before this grew out of tiredness at work and a need to escape – basically following a pattern of behaviour learnt as a child. Whilst there is still tiredness there is no need to escape as my life is going well. Resting from tiredness is appropriate but then I get sucked in to the escapism and basically couch out – wasting time. I need to make a decision to choose not to waste time after resting.
But this choice is also important in other ways. What patterns do I follow? Blogging is one such pattern. I get sucked into an understanding scenario – most recently kamma, Inelia Benz and David Icke. Trying to understand these things is a mental challenge that I am attracted to, and whilst being attracted to them I forgot about anatta, yet recognising that I am attaching to atta is more important than removing the mental ignorance of the above. I have to continually be aware of these patterns of behaviour, and begin to make choices that don’t follow these patterns.
I am reading the 5th agreement:-
It starts with revisiting the 4 agreements:-
Be impeccable with the word.
Don’t make any assumptions.
Don’t take anything personally.
Always do the best you can.
This revisiting for me confirms how helpful these 4 Agreements are. When I was reading about the dream we create that the Toltecs call the Human Form I realised that what creates the dream is the self, if there is no self there is no dream. I began to think about the connections between anatta and the 4 Agreements, and all I could see was magga, the 8-Fold Path, an equivalence I have previously used.
How do the 4 Agreements relate to the khandas?
Rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana. Can’t see any relation. This is OK. The 4 Agreements are one methodology as is Paticcasammupada. Where do they concur? Maybe the 5th with Idapaccayata – the Law of Nature?
[p59] If we have this awareness (that we are creating the dream – ), I think we can recover the power over everything that we believe and never lose control over our own creation. Once we can see that we are the one who creates the structure of our beliefs, this helps us to recover faith in ourselves. When we have faith in ourselves instead of the belief system, we have no doubt where that power comes from, and we start to dismantle the structure. This is not enough. In the same way that we can accept the doctrine of anatta, we can also accept that our complete belief system, or complete ideatestructure (infrastructure of ideas), is a dream. Accepting that it is a dream is not enough, we need to find a methodology for getting out of the dream – destroying the ideatestructure that forms the dream. This quote suggests that we need faith in ourselves but what does that mean? This faith is open to all kinds of misinterpretation – what is ourselves? This is the same vagueness that leads to acceptance of a higher self, a higher self that Tan Ajaan recognised as a creation developed from accepting the dream that instinct has already created. This Toltec approach needs a methodology that more clearly leads to an understanding of “faith in ourselves”.
[p59] Once the structure of our belief system is no longer there, we become very flexible. We can create anything we want to create; we can do anything we want to do. We can invest our faith in anything we want to believe. It’s our choice. If we no longer believe in all that we know that makes us suffer, then just like magic, our suffering disappears. And we don’t need a lot of thinking; we need action. It’s action that is going to make the difference. Here also is the danger of the vagueness, the same danger of higher self, the danger of “A Course in Miracles”; this is still the danger of self – albeit a more rarified form. It is not what we create, it is what Nature creates for us – Idapaccayata. It is not “faith in ourselves” that is needed but an acceptance that Nature is who we are. But it is action that is needed, action in accord with Nature, following the Law of Nature – Idapaccayata. I conceive of this as being some form of ant, the ant is not an individual even though it has a separate body, the ant just does as is required by all the ants to bring the food (a worm?) on home. We, all our separate bodies, must perform the actions Nature defines for us. How do we recognise the actions that Nature has decreed? By being anatta. This discussion on kamma looked at contact, contact as being Nature, good or bad feeling. If we allow ourselves to be clinging to the good or bad feeling then we create self or kamma leading to self leading to suffering (paticcasammupada), if we recognise Nature in contact then there is no kamma – no dream. How do we recognise Nature? By not accepting the feelings of good and bad that create self – that create the dream. Beginning to read the next section on “always doing your best” the focus is on practice – EXACTLY.
Always do your best
[p62] The dream of your life is made by thousands of little dreams that are dynamic. Dreams are born, they grow, and they die, which means they’re always transforming. But usually they’re transforming without your awareness. Once you are aware that you’re dreaming, you recover your power to change the dream whenever you choose. When you discover that you have the power to create a dream of heaven, you want to change your dream, and the Four Agreements are the perfect tool for that. This is anicca, everything is impermanent, always changing. From one moment to the next we change, but usually we are not aware of such changes. We accept that change without being aware. Whilst I am typing all the elements of nama-rupa change but we are not conscious of those changes. Our subconscious makes the changes as routine. Whilst sitting here I type. I am not conscious of the changes that happen with my arse because I don’t want to make a conscious change to where my arse is sitting, unless my arse makes me conscious that it is uncomfortable and then it tells me and I move it. As far as I understand it this is what paticcasammupada says. Consider this law of dependent arising further. All the different elements of nama-rupa are continually changing as is their nature. If I am driving I concentrate on driving and the eyes focus the ears pay attention. I don’t tell the eyes and ears what to do it is their nature to do what is best for driving. Eyes see the traffic and if I need to be aware of something it comes to my attention (vinnana) and I act accordingly. Most of this is not conscious, but it happens. We improve our driving by increasing our attention, by noting possible dangers, and paying attention to those dangers as well. If we know there is a particular likelihood of children running out at a school then by paying attention to the school our senses look and listen, paying attention for the possibility. We don’t consciously tell the eyes and ears to process all the sights and sounds, we simply pay attention to the school and nature does the rest. But this is why it s important to concentrate when driving, be driving. If we are one with the driving then all the senses are focussed in that favour, and are therefore likely to react better if there is an emergency.
So how we pay attention affects what happens around us, we agree to what is happening around us. We usually grow up to accept that the government is for the people. This is what they tell us in schools, our parents tend to support that as parents tend to prefer the status quo so that they can focus on bringing up their children well. But the “government is for the people” is an assumption. What happens when we question that assumption? Gradually we negate all the agreements we made concerning this. We might begin with a notion of democracy, so then we ask is the government democratic? Our schools tell us it is democratic because we have the electoral process so we begin by agreeing with that. But then we ask is electoral democracy truly democratic? Our country takes us to war in Iraq despite the evident disagreement with the people. So this means that electoral democracy is not working for the people as this is not the agreement the people wanted. Since western governments clearly knew what the people agreed with concerning the invasion of Iraq then the conclusion is that the elected representatives did not follow the agreement of the people. So who did the elected representatives follow? The people who wanted war, the Military Industrial Complex. Who wanted us to think that the government was for the people, the Corporatocracy, this democratic agreement is not truth but what we agree to.
So what do we do? We look at the truth, and we agree with the truth. This agreement needs continually reinforcing because all our institutions have already accepted this agreement that government is for the people. We have to understand that if we do not question what we receive concerning government we will start to agree again that government is for the people.
We make another reasonable assumption that the “food we buy” is food, and by food I mean nutritional sustenance our bodies need. But in general our bodies are becoming more obese and prone to disease. Whilst there are other factors at work we can conclude that our food does not provide us with the sustenance. So if the “food we buy” does not provide sustenance we have to question the assumption and ask why. Then we start to ask who makes our food, and we begin to see that the corporations are making food for their profits and not to sell to us to provide sustenance. Once we have questioned this assumption then we need to be continually aware when purchasing food that the “food we buy” is not providing sustenance, and then we must seek that sustenance in what we purchase. This is not easy because our institutions have not questioned whether foods provide sustenance because our government is not for the people but for the corporatocracy.
So with even our most basic assumptions we have made inappropriate agreements, and to make appropriate choices in life we need to be continually questioning these assumptions. Then as we continue with that questioning the assumptions that we previously agreed with become recognised as lies, agreements made for the purpose of others – the corporatocracy, and this recognition becomes our agreement and the longer we have this new agreement the more it becomes automatic. Our conditioning gives nama-rupa these agreements, and then we gradually question until we no longer accept these lies as agreement – we no longer accept the dream. Once we develop a position of constantly questioning assumptions and agreements it becomes part of our consciousness to ask questions. We ask external questions about assumptions we make about society, but then we also begin to ask questions about the assumptions we make concerning ourselves. And those questions lead to the ultimate anatta. We agree that there is self, self wants to survive and it makes the agreements with society that we now see create the dream of assumptions. Our selves agree with what is received – the dream, and by doing so there is no questioning because once questioning begins then eventually we ask the ultimate question “is there a self?” “why do we agree there is a self?”
I think this can be examined by considering a concept called the “collective self”, but I want to describe my usage of the term first because as usual with such terms assuming the meaning will lead to a misunderstanding. By the collective self I mean the dream, the sum of all the dreams that we subscibe to, the toal of the ideas that we create, all the ideas that combine to form the ideatestructure. However this collection of ideas or dreams tend to have a common core, you might say that each idea within the dream has an agreement index based on how popular the idea is. In such a way the dreams with the highest indices might form the collective dream that would be accepted as the “collective self”. In this description there are some unwritten assumptions that are worth considering. Primarily I am connecting self with ideas, and for many this would not be acceptable. Consider our own individual ideatestructure. These ideas are ideas that our individual selves have attached to, one such set might be the set of ideas that come under the generic “Buddhism”. So individual Buddhists will subscribe to a set of ideas of Buddhism, and then when all the ideas of the Buddhists are collected together these ideas will be the “collective self” of Buddhism. When this is considered it is so interesting to examine assumptions, is it correct to say that Buddhism is the common denominator or ideatestructure of all the idea sets of Buddhists? Most Buddhists would disagree with that, probably describing a Buddhist as being someone who follows the teachings of Gautama Buddha. But is what is known as the teachings of the Buddha commonly accepted and of course that then opens a can of worms. Suffice it to say that the collective self of Buddhism is confused.
And if we can say the collective self of Buddhism is confused what can we say about the collective self in general?
Another assumption here is worth considering, basically I have almost equated ideas and self. Is this reasonable? This of course is opening up the question of anatta. Individually what is the difference between ourselves and the mental processes that lead to the collection of ideas that we believe in. Some would argue that such a difference might be the higher self. As I subscribe to anatta I say there is no difference. The mental processes that lead to the ideas and belief in belief systems are natural processes, once such ideas are recognised we accept them through clinging and such ideas become part of our selves. Letting go of such clinging, letting go of the belief structures – ideatestructures, begins to isolate what is seen as self. Clinging to the collective self is the first activity of self following the instinct to survive, and this clinging is part of accepting education, parental upbringing and peer pressure. Therefore the first steps in removing this clinging to the collective self is to question all the assumptions of education, parental upbringing and peer pressure.
As I have described the collective self is the dream, so then it opens the question when is the self not the dream? A typical answer would be when it is the higher self, but then why cling to the assumption that there is a self of any description? I would say that such clinging is the survival instinct but to say that there has to be recognition that there are natural functions such as the 5 khandas – rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana. Nature has many functions, far too many for an individual to comprehend. Buddhism describes the khandas as such functions because it tries to say that what has been agreed as the function of self can be described as natural functions. It is fairly easy to say that the functions of rupa are natural. Why? Because we haven’t got a clue how our eye functions. We look we see, it is natural; does the self see? I say not I say the eye sees, the mind thinks, and to complete the full natural picture the elements of earth wind fire and water compose, vedana feels, sanna perceives, sankhara ideates and vinnana applies consciousness whenever it is necessary for us to make conscious what the natural process has come up with. But you don’t have to use those words. Buddhism uses them because Buddhism likes to get into details and in anatta is investigating an area that is little charted elsewhere. Compare this with the phrase “faith in ourselves” discussed above. Once you get into detail you open up another can of worms. In this case is it appropriate to describe all the functions of nature in man as the 5 khandas? A huge intellectual Pandora’s box that can easily become a diversion.
Perhaps this also is a diversion from the dream but the relationship between dream and self is worth considering.
What maintains this desire for the dream as in the collective self ? Kamma and fear. Let’s begin with instinct, this is Nature’s way of surviving. Perfectly reasonable to begin with. Before the mind has grown baby and the early child need to survive. Once the mind is functioning such instinct could fall way. But it doesn’t. Firstly it doesn’t because the instincts themselves wish to survive – this is kammic. There would not be much chance of survival if we all went around trying to suckle, so the instinct changes. One such obvious instinct is sex. Fundamentally this instinct is procreational but in our society it has developed a life far beyond that. Why? It is the kamma of instinct that society has accepted. In this description I am using kamma as the addictive volitional force described here. The kamma of the sex instinct is to survive, other instincts such as suckling fall away but in a society pre-occupied with sex kamma maintains the instinct.
But we are also afraid of being different, perhaps this is the unity principle working against us. We are ONE, ONEness has its own kamma so we cling to the instinct that is the collective self. This fear is the fear of being different, fear of not being in the unity.
Anatta and Adyashanti
Is anatta Buddhism?
It took Tan Ajaan to make me realise that anatta is fundamental to Buddhism. I have talked on numerous forums and read books, and whilst recognising the three characteristics of Buddhism – anatta, anicca and dukkha – I had not properly internalised them. As such I had not appreciated the “dangers of I”; how far do I appreciate them now?
What happens when I think of Buddhism and anatta? I see all the mental proliferations of Theravada, I see Mahayana focussing on different sutras, I see Tibetan proliferating with all its ritual and revisionist writers, and Zen rejecting the lot getting stuck on obscure koans and paradoxes. I’ve offended everyone here, and I don’t mean it – these descriptions are an overview, a stereotyped generalisation. Now I want to look to see anatta similarities throughout Buddhism, and I began with Adyashanti.
I have previously looked at Adyashanti, and liked his methodology – discussed here (1, 2, 3 and 4), so I began with him. I downloaded this podcast (1hr 30mins) on the shape-shifting self. Now Adyashanti is Zen, and he begins his talk (0 – 19m20s) making his anatta position clear. During his talk (19m55s – 22m45s) there is an interesting section on the discussion of sudden vs gradual awakening. Q&A begins at 47 mins, and some of his answers are quite interesting.
But his response to the second guy, Ted, rattled my cage. Listen to this. The first thing I hear is the suffering in Ted’s voice, his voice is totally quivering. He says he is depressed. He says he has emptied out hopefully leading to Nirvana, but instead he is empty and depressed. In summary I think Adyashanti is saying it is the me that is depressed, don’t attach to the me. But what rattled my cage was “where is the compassion?” This guy is strung out, and Adyshanti continues with his line. Would there be a compassionate way to deal with Ted? But then I remember Brad talking about his sesshin’s as being spiritual rather than psychological, and that he avoided counselling. I don’t know but Adyashanti did not sound compassionate.
21/7/13 – The above is not enough concerning Ted. Before I can comment I need to make 2 provisos – I should have made them before the last paragraph. I don’t know Ted, I am only judging by this clip. I don’t know Adyashanti and his methodology either, maybe he has heard such depression before and seen positive outcomes.
TZ is the Ted from the clip, and nothing else – because of my lack of sufficient knowledge comments concerning the relationship between Ted and Adyashanti are not really appropriate. TZ sounds blocked and it sounds as if TZ has driven himself into a corner of depression. But the Path is fun, one measure of how well you are following the Path is the general feeling of happiness, not the feeling of happiness that comes from enjoying an event but a deeper happiness that is basically spiritual; some call this happiness “peace”. TZ is not happy so he is not on his Path. There are many approaches, methodologies, why doesn’t he follow another one? Why wasn’t he advised to find another methodology so that he could be happy? Maybe TZ could never be happy but his approach around Adyashanti’s methodology was not a happy one.
Back to the point, this Zen guy sees anatta; I have just mentioned Brad and he never talks of anatta. Zen’s a maybe anatta??
Anatta and Soto Zen
On this Soto Zen site, true self is discussed – see quote below. The conditioned self includes many discrepancies and impurities. This is the self that Buddhism found unacceptable, noting that all things have no selfhood. It means that there is no fixed substance anywhere and no reason to cling to it. To postulate such a substance is the ordinary view. I would view this as a form of anatta, but then the description introduces Buddha-Nature:-
Buddha-nature is the ground for becoming the Buddha: it is the Religiositat of humanity and the true humanity. Faith in Buddha-nature provides the basis for enlightenment and the ultimate ground of human dignity.
It then says that Dogen took the Buddha-Nature approach further with discussion of different types of Buddha-Nature.
I assess that the Buddha-Nature is no-self, but do not have the understanding of Buddha-Nature or anatta to defend that view.
Rikushozan, who taught the philosophy of One Mind, said: The cosmos is my mind. My mind is the cosmos. In the depth of minds we recognize the cosmic spirit that breaks out of narrow consciousness and works naturally. We cannot doubt that the self is a thinking reed.
The self, as we ordinarily know it, is where time and space cross. In the West the conditioned self is usually accepted as it appears from the standpoint of Being. The conditioned and instinctive come with it. In the East, with its emphasis on non-Being, the conditioned self tends to be downgraded. The East would awaken to the natural and purify the instinctive.
The conditioned self includes many discrepancies and impurities. This is the self that Buddhism found unacceptable, noting that all things have no selfhood. It means that there is no fixed substance anywhere and no reason to cling to it. To postulate such a substance is the ordinary view.
The unifying element in this stream of consciousness is provisionally called the self. There is no soul without this body. Truth emerges when we can empty ourselves while observing things. To observe without dogmatic bias lies at the base of the scientific spirit. Science can flourish only so far as it stays clear of narrow dogmas, and strive for systems free from contradictions.
The idea that all things have no selfhood was supported by the Buddhist teachings of mutual dependence and impermanence. It ripened into the ideas of Buddhahood in the Mahanirvana Sutra and of the Tathagata-garba in the Srimala Sutra.
In Hinayana Buddhism, Sarvastivadin considered the mind as stained from the standpoint of realism, while Mahasanghika considered it pure from the standpoint of idealism. Mahasanghika returned to Mahayana Buddhism.
Mahayana Buddhism is a progressive movement that tries to return to the basic spirit of the Buddha in accord with the age. Mahayana scriptures see the mind of man as essentially pure. This is especially true in the Mahanirvana Sutra, which teaches that all beings have Buddha-nature and points to the inherent Buddha mind in everyone.
Buddha-nature is the ground for becoming the Buddha: it is the Religiositat of humanity and the true humanity. Faith in Buddha- nature provides the basis for enlightenment and the ultimate ground of human dignity.
In the Srimala Sutra the term used is the Tathagata-garba. It means the womb enclosing the Tathagata. All beings are said to be wrapped in the deep mind-wisdom of the Tathagata. This is called shosozo (enveloping storehouse). The mind-wisdom of the Tathagata is covered by the delusions and desires of all being. This is called ompuzo (hidden storehouse). Many Buddhists generally consider the latter as Buddha-nature. Actually the former seems closer to the truth.
Buddha-nature is the true self that manifests itself when we lose ordinary selfhood. It is the inherent self (Eigenes Selbst) of existential philosophy. To penetrate to the true self is to gain enlightenment (Satori).
In Zen some schools emphasize Satori, and others give it less weight. The Rinzai School is an example of the former; the Soto School, an example of the latter. Rinzai Zen courts Satori by reflecting on the Koan during zazen. Soto Zen does not set Satori and practice apart; it considers them self-identical. The former is convenient for the beginner, but one misstep can turn it into a gradualist sort of Zen. Soto Zen is suited for more experienced Zen trainees. But here again, a misstep can lead easily to a form of naturalism.
Dogen, who transmitted Soto-Zen to Japan, deepened the Buddha- nature concept in his essay on the subject. He did not accept the usual interpretation of the passage in the Mahanirvana sutra: All beings inherently have Buddha-nature. He read it: All beings are Buddha- nature. Dogen thus made Buddha-nature the ground of all existences and the origin of all values. All existences, he said, are the self-expression of Buddha-nature.
From this basic standpoint, Dogen extensively discussed the ideas of u-bussho (Buddha-nature as Being), mu-bussho (Buddha-nature as non- Being), ku-bussho (Buddha-nature as emptiness), setsu-bussho (Buddha-nature as expression), mujo-bussho (Buddha-nature as impermanence), and gyo-bussho (Buddha-nature as practice).
U-bussho considers all existences as Buddha-nature. Mu-bussho is the ground of form. Ku-bussho is the Buddha-nature transcending both Being and non-Being. Setsu-bussho takes all things in themselves as self-expressions of Buddha-nature. Mujo-bussho is the ever-flowing development of Buddha-nature itself. Gyo-bussho is the bodily practice of Buddha-nature.
Here is a paper on “Buddhism and No-self”, I don’t subscribe to what is said. It appears to be saying that no-self is not possible. Whilst it is a site that is dedicated to Dogen Sangha, it appears to be the work of one person – Dogen Sangha UK is a group of Buddhist practitioners established in Bristol in 1999 by Michael and Yoko Luetchford, who practiced and studied Buddhism in Japan for more than 20 years with Nishijima Roshi. The downloads page are written by one man. Whether he is an authority or not I don’t know, but his article appears to contradict the first site I quoted from.
This look at anatta and soto zen is not conclusive, the question that arises concerns the connection between the terms Buddha-Nature and Anatta (no-self).
Anatta and Tibetans
There’s much Tibetan out there, and I intend to focus on HHDL as a kind of common denominator of what is mainstream Tibetan.
“With regard to selflessness, it is necessary to know what “self” is — to identify the self that does not exist. Then one can understand its opposite, selflessness. Selflessness is not a case of something that existed in the past becoming non-existent; rather, this sort of “self” is something that never did exist. What is needed is to identify as non-existent something that always was nonexistent, for due to not having made such identification, we are drawn into the afflictive emotions of desire and hatred as well as all the problems these bring.”
I like this, it is something I have mentioned it when Tan Ajaan looking at kamma. Look at where there is ego and clinging, and trace it back to the initial feeling and hopefully act naturally. So this is a good start on Tibetan but I am not convinced.
Below is quoted an interview with HHDL where he discusses self:-
Self is “sentient being, a combination of consciousness and body”, but there is no permanent self – atman.
“Aagaard: When we search for the actual person, we find that he is neither the body nor the mind and that there is no third person existing as separate from body and mind.
This is what I was trying to get at in blogentry “Where is I?”
In summary of the rest there is a relative “I”, but ultimately is there? This ultimate reality I have taken to call Nature – with no self.
“Moti Lai Pandit: Can we use at all the term the self? When I reach Buddhahood, who is actually receiving salvation?
Dalai Lama: Self. Buddhists do not accept Atman.* Self. That does not mean for the Buddhist denying oneself. If you deny yourself, that means that without yourself there is no base for other selves. In order to have existing others, there must be oneself.
Pandit: What is the self?
Pandit: In its impersonal sense or in the individual sense?
Aagaard: When we search for the actual person, we find that he is neither the body nor the mind and that there is no third person existing as separate from body and mind.
Aagaard: What is the result of that perspective, because you speak as if you don’t have any difficulty of knowing where the person, the self, is.
Dalai Lama: But you see, I can very easily describe myself as a Tibetan, as a human being. In this moment, without investigation, there is quite enough evidence to justify saying “I”. Because, you see, the I exists only on the relative level. So we should not investigate. Now, if we go to investigate the physical body and the consciousness, there is something wrong. They don’t meet. The real under component seems to be I, myself. But if we investigate which is the real under component, then we can find no answer, no “I”. If I go to investigate my physical body, I say this is my hand, these are my legs, this is my head. But none of those individual parts is the whole that we call the physical body. All of those parts belong to the whole body but they are under it as well.
Aagaard: Could the I not be the combination of the two?
Aagaard: Why not? The I could be the combination that cannot be reduced further. In the interplay, the I comes into existence as a historic reality. I think that would be the Western understanding of the personality.
Dalai Lama: Now, here you see, is a question of consciousness. Mind, consciousness is a very very subtle energy, a type of energy. But consciousness itself has no color, no form, no body. Only just pure knowing.
Aagaard: Without anyone knowing.
Dalai Lama: Yes, something like that. After you meditate on it many years, you can relax.
Aagaard: There comes my question. If you meditate on the supposition that there is no I, will the person then be able to continue to keep the I together?
Dalai Lama: Oh yes, of course.
Aagaard: That is our problem, because it does not always so happen.
Dalai Lama: Here we must make clear two different levels of truth. In Buddhism, you see, there is one relative level and then the ultimate level. On the relative, conventional level, things seem interdependent through cause and effect. In ultimate truth, however, there is no interdependent identity. That is the whole argument of the law, including the human being, human body, human consciousness. Or the ultimate reality itself.
Note: *Atman is the Sanskrit word for breath, universal soul, Supreme Spirit.”
In this excerpt from one of HHDL’s books he looks at Nagarjuna and “Beyond No Self”. In the excerpt HHDL states that:-
“Buddhist philosophical schools therefore all agree that an independent self, separate from the body and mind, cannot be found.” HHDL is saying all Buddhists agree that there is no self. (I presume he means all schools, Theravadan, Mahayanan and Tibetan – maybe not). The following however I personally do not subscribe to:-
“Given their shared acceptance of existence across lifetimes, all Buddhist philosophical schools rule out the continuum of the body as constituting the continuity of the person.” Nagarjuna comes up with a concocted “convergence” to explain rebirth, something one has to have faith in!!!
Above are 3 different sources which indicate that HHDL subscribes to some form of anatta, the purpose of this blogentry.
Is anatta possible?
This monk impressed me (excerpt from Amongst White Clouds). Yet he was so self-deprecating. I look at his striving for no-self, and have to ask “can it be?”
Can Nirvana be?
Online there was a discussion about sankhara – I call sankhara mental formations, it is one of the 5 khandas. The discussion concerned whether there were sankhara without self. I began thinking about this this morning in meditation, and it is an excellent koan; at least I think so.
My deliberations didn’t get very far, but they began like this. The objective, purpose in life, is to quench suffering, and the cause of suffering is atta, hence the need for anatta. So the question is whether there is any I in sankhara. Now I forms when there is clinging to any one of the khandas, online the thread asked whether sankharas can exist without I. My first answer to this was yes, because of anatta. If anatta is possible that means that nama-rupa (5 khandas) can exist “driven by” sunatta alone, according to Nature without self. I recalled the meditation that led to the blog “Where is I?”. In this meditation there was an insight in which the mind was one-pointed and there was no self, it was an insight that was a carrot for me that Tan Ajaan was right about anatta. But the dog could see me meditating so the body (rupa) existed. As nama-rupa (5 khandas) is one entity and each khanda cannot exist independently that left me thinking that sankhara could exist independent of I.
But then I examined that insight again. With the mind being one-pointed then by the same logic nama-rupa should have been one-pointed. I am positing that there was rupa (the dog told me), therefore there was not one-pointedness as I had clung to rupa. So maybe if there had been one-pointedness there might not have been any rupa giving the conclusion that sankhara could not exist independent of I. This left me with no conclusion so I kept asking. And the answer was that there was no conclusion, this question of sankhara was a koan – an endless question in which there needs much deliberation to determine the relationship between anatta and the khandas. I remember Tan Ajaan saying somewhere that anatta was concerned with not clinging to the khandas, it is probably worth quoting him if I can find it.
This online thread was called Dhamma 101. The anti-intellect in me wants to deride this. Of course this is not highly intricate and proliferated abhidhamma, it is about understanding sankhara. And understanding sankhara was, for me, predicated on quenching suffering through being anatta. This is not 101. 101 is simple, it is the words. Perhaps as you advance further the mind proliferates into many more diverse concepts, but as it goes further it comes back to the simple anatta. So it is not 101. The more I study the harder the simple things appear.
Lies and Beliefs
“Can you see the consequences of believing yourself? Believing yourself is one of the worst things you can do because you’ve been telling yourself lies your whole life, and if you believe all those lies, that’s why your dream isn’t a pleasant dream. If you believe what you tell yourself, you may use all those symbols that you learned to hurt yourself. Your personal dream may even be pure hell because believing in lies is how you create your own hell. If you’re suffering, it’s not because anybody is making you suffer; it’s because you obey the tyrant that’s ruling your head. When the tyrant obeys you, when there’s no longer a judge or a victim in your mind, you won’t be suffering any longer.”[p71] The Fifth Agreement
One of the biggest problems on the Path is humility because the Path shows itself in a personal way heightening self-importance. Throughout life in general people are taught and seek agreement. Once the Path breaks through, then enquiry leads to breaking these system agreements, but often these agreements are replaced by other agreements.
The usual source of such agreements is some counter-culture guru or teacher, and one example,
But the beliefs and lie that we personallysubject ourselves to are not just simply the beliefs and lies that society subjects us to through education and conditioning. Nor are they simply the beliefs and lies that counter-culture presents us with, they are any beliefs and lies that we hold to. This is a major damger on the Path.
Now the Path has major strength, it needs to have. Once the Path teaches you to doubt all the agreements you have been conditioned with, then there is a great possibility for conflict. This often starts with the family. Now the family tends to be a conservative structure. Whatever parents believe for themselves they don’t want to teach their children to be in conflict with society as there is a lot of hurt that way. There is also a tendency for parents to want their children to learn tools that will help them survive in society. Because so many people do not follow the Path, such social skills are often agreements that the Path conflicts with. And so your first source of conflict is your parents. Equally as children grow at some stage intuitively children reject what happens in society as what happens is so far from the Path. This rejection has different strengths in different people. In my own case I never voiced this rejection either socially or with my parents. Beginning in the sixth form but more at university this rejection voiced itself politically but I can only remember such awareness leading to arguments with my father. For most of that time my awareness resided in the bottom of a bottle.
Once the Path did rear its head, my rejection reared itself as anger against repression – repression at home and repression in society. Fortunately this anger was greatly subsumed by the circle of friends I developed at the time – through the Arts Centre, with whom I was able to discover more about myself and about the society I lived in. But I was still an angry young man, and I lived with and displayed that anger throughout my life.
This anger I felt justified with as it was deeply felt and was based on my Path conflicting with society. I often considered obnoxious aggressive behaviour was acceptable because I was right. Quite simply my Path was at the beginning stages, and I hadn’t developed compassion and insight. One idea I held to was that I was on the Path. Believing I was on the Path I didn’t question enough my behaviour allowing myself to be a drunk, to varying degrees, whilst “on the Path” for 12 years. Throughout that time my lack of questioning of my behaviour allowed itself to manifest as drunkenness, as my ego clung to the notion that I was on the Path so such behaviour didn’t matter. My ego was clinging to an idea, the idea that I was on the Path.
On reflection I was on the Path to a certain extent but my clinging led to a complacency my ego exploited – allowing me to be a drunk.
How can someone be a drunk on the Path? This can only be understood by understanding the relationship between Path, mind and ego. For me there came a point at which I realised I was on the Path, the realisation hit me and that was it. This is not some intellectual assessment based on reading the right dogma, or some other such mental trickery it is a realisation – often traumatic. The problem with discussing the Path is attempting to describe it. You know you are on the Path, it is a deep realisation, but other than this realisation there is no other way of describing it. And what makes this difficulty so much worse are the myriads of people who falsely claim they are on the Path, whether by misplaced desire or deceptive intention. Belief is a significant factor in this. Belief is intellectual. One’s faith is a set of ideas. I believe in the bible is just a statement that you accept the ideas and words that are written in the bible. Many people’s faiths come from a collective agreement in these ideas, and with these agreements come certain compelling forces – we must believe because everyone else does, we must believe because the priest tells us to, we must believe because good people believe, we believe and we get collective strength, we believe and we don’t have to question any more. For the majority of people a religion is the set of ideas that are agreed to and adhered to through these compelling forces. But for some this faith is more, it is the Path – aaggh I don’t know. It’s quite simple, I don’t know. I can read Eckhart Tolle or Neal Donald Walsch, and assuming that it is not fiction can know they are on the Path because the description of their experience is so similar. Of course I could be deluding myself.
The monk I read the most does not talk of the Path in this way, but to me he has stepped out of dogma and onto the Path. It feels real to me but again I could be deluding myself. How many religious people are on the Path? Like the monk I study, maybe some are. Saul on the road to Damascus became Saint Paul, born-again Christians occur, but how many of these have found a set of beliefs they adhere to passionately, and how many are on the Path. By their practice very few born-again are, they just sound like they want to be.
But what is this Path about and what is its relationship to mind? And the answer is Unity – Oneness. We grow in a world where we are educated to be separate. We are educated to see the individual self as the most important – I always saw education as self-realisation. This self is also a set of ideas that we believe in. We believe we should do this, we believe this is important, that is important, and the
The mind is a tool, and this tool can be used to increase our happiness by working in Unity with Nature, or we can use that tool to create separation by allowing the process of ego to identify with ideas of self or ideas as belief. If we identify with ideas that means there is an other, a duality, those that identify with the ideas and those that don’t. Then there is the degree to which we identify with these ideas. These are my ideas, you must believe my ideas, if you don’t believe my ideas there is something wrong. Sometimes these ideas are concerning money and power, and when that money and power work alongside the ideas of self then we have those with power and those without. And we can have war if the ego and the false motivations are strong enough.
But fundamentally it stems from ideas, ideas that separate, ideas that we cling to and forget that the Path of Unity is all that matters.
The problem of ideas is so seductive to the ego especially if those ideas are your “own”. Even more difficult these ideas can be formed as a consequence of being on the Path. Because it is the Path we know the ideas to be truth. But they are not truth, they are a temporary manifestation of the Path. The Path must formulate ideas in order to communicate, but once formed they are ideas. If they are held to as belief, no matter who has said them, they become divisive.
I used to hold this idea, I used to believe this, they are to a lesser or greater extent the problem. The Path is the Path is the Truth. As soon as we talk of something that we have learned from the Path, then it is an idea. Many ideas continue to be true through a long period of time such as our world is run by the corporatocracy, the 1%, for their own benefit. But in the end that is only an idea that will change.
As soon as we cling to an idea we restrict, both ourselves and others. Hey, that’s a good idea. Go with it, enjoy the idea, and move on the Path. Don’t cling, don’t hold on to the memory, don’t try to be the memory. Be fluid. Hold no agreements, just move on. As I am writing this it is true, but once written it is not true. You are reading this – maybe someone is, if this rings a bit true to you think about it, evaluate it, use your insight, does this hold true for you now? I hope so. But then forget it, and if the idea comes up again, ask the same question is this true now? It is not true always, no idea is. The Path is and understanding on the Path is gained through Insight and not through intellect, a tool of the mind.
Let go of the ideas.