Friday, May 19, 2017
I recently found a quote with the book 'The Seven Steps To Awakening' (ed. Michael Langford). It contained a quote from the Yoga Vasistha (The Supreme Yoga), an ancient Indian yogic text, that states:
"Consciousness does not truly undergo any modification nor does it become impure."
"Nothing is created in or by cosmic consciousness, for it remains unchanged and unmodified."
I would like to draw attention to the idea of 'pure consciousness', which is spoken about in nondual teachings.
This term does not actually mean that consciousness can be or become 'impure', or that there are two types of consciousness- a mixed, impure consciousness and a pure unadulterated consciousness. It is also not referring to pure in terms of good/bad, morally speaking.
The term is rather a pointer to the idea of consciousness alone. When starting to work with the idea of consciousness (or awareness), a beginning point is often emphasized- to become acquainted with just consciousness, rather than the objects appearing in consciousness. Likewise, the idea is introduced to become more familiar with the subject of experience, rather than objects appearing in and as experience.
This pointer achieves 2 aims- 1) the seeker is led to the discovery that consciousness or awareness must be prior to the appearance and disappearance of objects that arise in one's experience, and 2) consciousness cannot be denied or negated, since the very denial must also appear within consciousness. There is also the added bonus that allows one to become less identified and enchanted with objects, events etc. appearing in one's experience, and more interested in the actual source of such objects and events in one's experience.
Ultimately however, it may be seen and experienced with increasing duration, that consciousness cannot be separated from the objects that appear in experience. Can a border between subject and object be found? Likewise, the search for consciousness is being conducted by consciousness itself, which has no observable characteristics, being self-evident only. The practice of self-enquiry and self-investigation (e.g. "Who am I?") is a practical and useful way to investigate and repeatedly experience this point.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
SELF-ENQUIRY AND MATURITY
The devotee: “It is for that, is it not, that Bhagavan says that the best thing to do is to follow the path of Self-enquiry of ‘Who am I’?”
Bhagavan: “Yes; but in the Vasishtam it is mentioned that Vasishta told Rama that the path of Self-enquiry should not be shown to anyone who is not sufficiently qualified.
In some other books it has been stated that spiritual practices should be done for several births, or for at least twelve years under a Guru.
As people would be scared away if I said that spiritual practices had to be done for several births, I tell them, ‘You have liberation already within you; you have merely to rid yourselves of exterior things that have come upon you’.
Spiritual practices are for that alone. Even so, the Ancients have not said all this for nothing. If a person is told that he is the Godhead, Brahman itself, and that he is already liberated, he may not do any spiritual practices, thinking that he already has that which is required and does not want anything more. That is why these Vedantic matters should not be told to spiritually undeveloped people (anadhikaris); there is no other reason.” And Bhagavan smiled.
- Letters no 158
Friday, April 28, 2017
GURU VACHAKA KOVAI
394 Since pramada, forgetfulness of the Self, is, in truth,
death, for those who are attempting to attain immortality, transcending the death that frightens one and all, it is essential at all times to destroy pramada, the real nature of death, without giving it the slightest scope to survive
There are therefore no rules to the effect that the jnana-vichara performed to know and attain the immortal Self should be practiced only during specific periods.
Muruganar: 'Attempting to attain' here means making uninterrupted effort, with the entire attention focused on the endeavor one has embarked upon, until it takes one to the goal.
Bhagavan: "Destruction of mind alone is tapas. This alone is one's duty. One who is doing his own work will not pay attention to anyone else's work. One should never give room for swerving from the thought of the Self. However many duties one may have, at all the other times not meant for performing duties one must perform only self-enquiry.
While standing, sitting and taking food one can do vichara, can one not? If the mind happens to forget the enquiry 'Who am I?' because of vasanas, when it remembers the enquiry, it should try not to lose hold of the enquiry again.
– Who am I?; an early draft
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
From Michael James' blog "Happiness of Being", on the topic of whether effort is required for self-inquiry and self-attentiveness.
Is effort required, as do assert some traditional paths of awakening (e.g. early Buddhism, traditional Advaita Vedanta etc.), or is no effort required for what is already present, as do assert neo-Advaita teachers and some modern proponents of 'nonduality'?
1. We are always self-aware, but we must make effort to be attentively self-aware
We are always self-aware, because self-awareness is our very nature (what we actually are), so we do not need to make any effort to be self-aware. However, though we are always self-aware, we are generally not attentively self-aware, because most of our attention is taken up with being aware of other things, since we find it more interesting and appealing to be aware of other things than to be attentively aware of ourself alone.
This self-negligence or lack of self-attentiveness is what is called pramāda, and it is the root of all our problems, because it is the very nature of the ego and the means by which the ego seems to rise, stand and flourish. Therefore all our efforts should be directed towards being self-attentive and thereby overcoming our pramāda.
~ Michael James
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Sufism 1 - general notes
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
Some basic notes and conclusions in regards to Sufism:
- The Zekr is used initially as a meditation calm-abiding tool. This is how it was introduced to me by a Sheikh of the Order. I was told to concentrate on the sound and also some feeling in the heart, until ‘the heart’ took over the zekr and it became automatic throughout the day. I was told to do this for 15 minutes twice a day ideally.
- The above advice is quite similar to T.M. but less detailed.
- The use of the Zekr is minimised during formal group sittings with sacred music (Samaa’). At this time, it seems more helpful to concentrate on the music itself. This wasn’t discussed in detail though. The group sessions tend to be more emotive. Some Orders practice group sessions that lead to intense states of emotionality, abandonment, mystical experience, etc.- but which are temporary.
- Often a group session will involve use another completely different Zekr, introduced by a sitting Sheikh, which is used by the whole group. The session then shares more of a ‘shamanistic’ flavour than introspective. Trance states often ensue in this form of group practice. It would seem the point of such practices would be to activate higher states of devotion, motivation and possible surrender, which can aid later periods of silent introspection and meditation.
- In some books by JN, it is advised that the in-breath is breathing in ‘the attributes of God’, and the out breath is ‘taking refuge in the essence of God’. This instruction is quite vague, and seems more of a mind exercise, or mindful contemplation which obviously involves thought and conceptual use of the mind. I’m inclined to think that one could not get into a deep jhana / samadhi by using this, but it might serve at quieting the mind provided there is enough interest. There is some chance of behaviour modification as well due to contemplating the more benign attributes of God for a set time.
- The best way (IME), by far, in using the zekr, after the above has been practiced for a while (I personally practiced the above intensely for several years), would be the advice given by SRM to GM- who was himself an adept at mantra yoga. This advice was given after a period of silent contemplation by SRM while sitting in front of GM. The advice given was to watch where the notion of “I” comes from, and to be attentive to the ‘source’ of the mantra sound. In other words, use the mantra to point back to the Self (Godhead). Both the notion of “I”, and the sound of a mantra arise within and as consciousness itself. Consciousness or awareness is thus prior to the apparent arising and falling of the notion of “I”, and mind objects such as a mantra.
- The mantra thus becomes a tool for self-enquiry, which was SRM’s standard practical instruction for those that could not simply ‘be’ or imbibe the direct teaching of Silence.
- The above accords exactly with the aims of Sufism, and all of the mystical poetry written about Sufi love, ‘the drop going back to the ocean’, being consumed in ‘the flame of Love’, etc.
- However, the above is also a key element missing from almost every Sufi school that I have encountered, both orthodox and non-traditional. I was never given the advice that ‘hllA’ or God, was, simply stated, this ever present, conscious awareness that is present here now as one’s ‘I am-ness’ or beingness. This simple truth is stated openly in some teachings, such as Advaita Vedanta, Dzogchen, Zen and Kashmir Shaivism. It would have been extremely guarded though, in Sufism, which was (and still is) open to attack from orthodox religious forces throughout history. As a result, the above truth had to be encoded in poetry, or guarded from master to very few select students. A similar situation ensued for Christian Mystics in the Middle Ages.
- Much of Sufism had to be boxed within the confines of Islamic practice, so as to make it acceptable for existing in its societal homeplace, of which, Islam has had much more of a prominent role than other religious system due to its dual political / governance and religious role. The extent of this adjustment changed throughout history as ruling bodies changed philosophy. This wasn’t an issue however, since many core Islamic practices such as daily prayer (devotional ritual), fasting, pilgrimage, charity, memorizing scripture etc. can serve the ultimate aims of Sufism by preparing the mind for more direct practices (such as self-enquiry, introspection, and radical surrender).
- The standard set of Islamic practices (5 pillars of Islam), and standard teachings on morality (as found in Qur’an and Hadith) are helpful aids towards the ultimate goal of Sufism, provided they are understood rightly and not given to excess, extremes, emotionality, or unskillful action. A master would have been indispensable in this regards- interpreting and advising on standard Islamic teachings in light of the aims of Sufism, rather than the aims of Islamic religious orthodoxy or politico-religious hierarchies.
- The theme of ‘love’ and longing for the ‘beloved’ in Sufism can be translated into the intense desire for liberation, and the desire for an end of suffering for the individual (and the world).
- The themes of ecstasy, and love-bliss in Sufism can be translated as peace-bliss (Ananda) and the feeling of loving-kindness.
- The themes of drunkenness and sobriety can be translated as relating to the bliss of egoic loss (or the loss of subject-object), and the gaining of equanimity of mind, respectively.
- All of the above are expedient means towards the end goal of Sufism, which is the permanent transcendence and disidentification of ego / personality / “me” / subject-object experience (fanaa’) and permanent abidance as the Absolute only (baqaa’).
Finished reading "On Having No Head" (Douglas Harding)
I love Douglas Harding's work, as it presents a simple, direct way of looking that really does bypass much of the 'hard work' spiritual practices that usually end up short-circuiting people's attempts at liberation. DH had a nondual experience in no less an impressive environment than the Himalayas.. however, he doesn't leave his experience there, but rather attempted (throughout his whole life) to translate the experience into workable steps that anyone could experiment with and gain similar result.
Re: On Having No Head
Quite a revolutionary book at the time, DH sets the scene for a new perspective which is deceptively simple, but also delivers to goods in terms of getting a taste for a more unified perspective on life (literally). He introduces the idea of 'having no head' and the implications for directly experiencing this notion, which may (or may not) lead to the same sort of 'thing' that much of the Zen pointing literature aims at. This book is brief, and more of an introduction into DH's 'Headless Way'. Some of the later books tackle the idea and practice much more in depth. Still, this short book is worth the read, and if the reader can grasp what is being pointed at, and actually put it into practice, then a new way of seeing is definitely possible. One of the most direct (and unique) methods within the nondual literature set.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
It is related of Ibn el-Arabi that people said to him:
“Your circle is composed mainly of beggars, husband-men and artisans. Can you not find people of intellect who will follow you, so that perhaps more authoritative notice might be taken of your teachings?”
“The Day of Calamity will be infinitely nearer when I have influential men and scholars singing my praises; for without any doubt they will be doing so for their own sake and not for the sake of our work!”
- From Wisdom of the Idiots by Idres Shah.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
A few notes on the Sedona Method.
My first introduction to Sedona Method was about 15 years ago. I took both courses by Hale and Larry. Although I found it momentarily helpful, I had doubts about whether I was 'doing it right', and also found that my mind often used it in order to seek out non-existent issues and 'release' on them, rather than just be at peace in the moment. The courses, which are self-led, are excellent and both parties have done a great job in delivering the content.
Through some random events, I had been led to the idea of 'releasing' via another avenue. In particular, a Buddhist teacher was recommending 'releasing' and 'letting go', 'relaxing' etc. when performing meditation on an object and after having been distracted.
While I liked the instructions offered, I kept thinking that there may be another way. This reminded me of my previous attempts at the Sedona Method, which is an indepth course on the whole topic of releasing.
I was able to find a nice audio workshop on iTunes by one Sedona Method teacher (KISS - Stephen Seretan) whom I had not been acquainted with before, and went through 6 sessions on the CD. It was actually very good. SS presents Sedona Method as he learned it in the 80s, and in a simplified version, which is likely very close to what Lester Levenson taught.
Lester Levenson is a whole other topic. A total enigma, and like most guru teachers that founded orgs, a lot of myth seems to have been built up around him as well as truths. Some of the more far out claims seem to be around him being a 'Master' in some kind of lineage with 'all the masters' who appear to be mostly from Indian background- ie. Yogananda, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna etc. etc. -- likely also due to the groups floating around the US at that time. Other lineages aren't mentioned much. Further, lots of weirdness about Lester seems to be accepted, such as he could sleep just a few hours a night, even less, maybe 30 minutes, and be OK. He was financially self-sufficient. He healed himself from life threatening illnesses when given 3 weeks to live. etc. etc.
I have to say, Lester's own recordings (which there are plenty) are excellent in themselves, and one can see the group progression from the recordings in the 60's up until the 80's. A LOT can be gained without even doing Sedona, but just listening to Lester's own audio recordings, where he covers many topics, but always around the central idea of happiness, freedom and the task at hand (as he saw it) which was to release on tendencies, and return back to the nature state of beingness and love.
A discovery for me- was that Lester actually seemed to attain Self-Realization from self-inquiry and inquiry on the nature of love (and performing heart-type practices which would be similar to Metta meditation) .. NOT using his Sedona Method. The standard gist is that he healed himself via releasing, and overcame his physical-mental issues this way. If one listens to Lester's talks in the 60s, they are very Advaita Vedanta flavoured. They are mostly talking about standard ideas in Advaita Vedanta (and early Buddhism), with some minor talk about living in the world, manifesting 'ones desires' etc.. which has always been the rage in the US since Mentalism took hold in the early 20th Century.
I recommend listening to many of Lester's talks (satsangs), which are available on the Internet. His earlier talks are excellent, and present an easy to understand explanation of Advaita Vedanta, and the basic philosophy underlying most Eastern / Indian systems. There is also a pdf floating around which was taken from the transcripts of "Keys to the Ultimate Freedom"- a book written by Lester, now out of print, but thankfully transcribed into a pdf for posterity.
Returning to Sedona, it appears at that Lester didn't invent the Sedona Method until the 70s. The first cut of the course seems to have included only one question, and was quite simple in steering all desires/arisings into the 3 main categories (wanting control, approval, security) and directly asking 'Could you release that wanting ...?'. Later versions of the course added new questions, and came up with different ways for releasing. Hale's course, which is the legit 'Sedona Method' with rights, has about 5 ways to release currently, and probably has the most comprehensive course on the subject. Larry's course is a bit simpler, and tends to use the body and feeling tone as a platform to release directly. Larry is also a bit of a character and quite abrupt in his presentation, which can suit some people.
From the above ideas about Lester, the thought kept coming to me 'But why not go for self-inquiry then, if that was what Lester did originally? And also what he did to 'heal' himself'?' Then a piece of information came through one of the recordings that apparently Lester himself had said it was the highest form, but people weren't ready for it, or had too much garbage present to do it. -- I have to disagree with this a little.. It was Ramana Maharshi's view that anyone could do self-inquiry, and although some preliminaries might be necessary first, such as establishing decent concentration, in the end the actual practice would take care of things. The other major avenue that took Lester to freedom was in doing love/heart practices. One of the audios goes into much detail related to how Lester looked at all of his life events, and meditated on feeling love towards the people, events etc. rather than the need to be loved. Through these intense heart-practices he seems to have entered into the Jhanas (it seems obvious he was going through rapture, energy, tranquility etc.), and most likely attained Stream-Entry via this means (aided by some self-inquiry).
Back to my own recent experience. I used the questions again for several weeks while regularly making use of the Sedona Method in daily life, and in meditation sessions. I had used the method about 15 years back quite intensely, and done all available courses properly. This time, I performed the method very regularly, as I always do with my 'experiments', and as 24x7 as possible.
In the end, I found the repeated questions to be too tedious in the end and had the tendency to place one back 'in their head' rather than release and be restored to beingness/presence. Further, the mind seems to latch onto the idea of continued 'seeking out' further disturbances to release (ie digging up the ground when not necessary).. most of the time, there are no active disturbances operating in the mind. The other ways of using Sedona which don't make use of the 3 Questions may get around this issue. Just welcoming present feelings, for instance, seems a lighter method.
After a few weeks however, the method did work more seamlessly in the background, and aided in spontaneous releasings when tension, or emotional hiccups became obvious. This is likely the intended outcome, rather than conscious interventions where the mind needs to analyse a situation before releasing.
I do find that placing all arisings (disturbances, hinderances) under the 3 Wants, to be a nice trick and helpful. I am not convinced that if one just keeps releasing that eventually they will 'Go Free' (one of the common tenets in the system). Desires / tendencies seem to be endless, unless one gets to the root cause (being the 'I'-thought according to RM, or the ignorance that has created the sense of a separate self (Buddhism)). There doesn't seem to be too many who have been using Sedona for a while who proclaim that they have 'gone free', with the exception of Lester, who himself 'went free' via another route (intense heart-practices + self-inquiry). Incidentally, the only other person I can find who 'went free' via the SM seems to be Pamela Wilson.
I find the Sedona Method to be a valuable tool, and very very helpful for some. Others might find it a bit ho-hum, and take to other forms of releasing (such as through loving-kindness practice, forgiveness, surrender, and many, many other possible forms of release/acceptance). The system is definately worth checking out.
"Keep quiet, undisturbed, and the wisdom and the power will come on their own. You need not hanker. Wait in silence of the heart and mind. It is very easy to be quiet, but willingness is rare. You people want to become supermen overnight."
"A quiet mind is all you need. All else will happen rightly once your mind is quiet."
"The only way you will ever awaken is through silence, not through analyzation of facts. Not by sorting out good and bad, but through simple silence, letting go. Letting go of all thoughts, all the hurts, all the dogmas and concepts. Letting go of these things daily. Whichever method suits you use it."
- Robert Adams
"Simply keep quiet. Do not do anything and it will happen. Abandon even the intention to get something in the next moment. Do not even make the distinction between "this moment" and "the next moment". Then something will happen instantaneously."