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Thread: Enlightenment and related matters.

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    Avalon Member tim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Hi guys,

    Just wanted to express my thanks and admiration. I've been following Avalon and Camelot since the early days,
    but it was the quality of the posts I read on spirituality, particularly by Greybeard, Another Bob, Pie'n'eal and Jenci
    that motivated me to join and share. You are a ripe bunch of mangoes, whose intelligence and compassion shine through,
    (metaphorically speaking I suspect at least one of you has "dropped from the tree").

    I look forward to sharing with you all. On topic, I wrote the following maxim shortly after awakening,
    (lol, I realize claiming awakening/enlightenment is a faux pas, I trust you will allow me the paradox
    of expressing as both the wave and the ocean, at least while I appear (to others) to inhabit this form.
    It was Lao Tzu who wrote, those who speak do not know, those who know do not speak, then followed with the rest of
    the Tao Te Ching!

    Minimum awareness, maximum problems
    Maximum awareness, minimum problems
    Total awareness - no problem

    In the "field" of eternal being, ego is a transient phenomena, like all other fleeting phenomena, which asserts it's
    reality by virtue of it's subtlety. You might even say it is a matrix of identity within the dualistic mind, hence the
    fall from grace when we metaphorically ate from the tree of knowledge.

    As Reality, or Self, or Nirvana, or Heaven etc cannot be seen or heard or measured, or adequately described by the mind,
    and only becomes apparent/undisguised with the dissolution of illusory identification ie ego,
    the trick is to disassociate or detach from the thinking mind. Any effort to do so, is by the ego,
    hence the concept of wei wu wei in Taoism and in zazen (just sitting), action through inaction.

    In truth, you never have, and never can, stop being that which you truly are, which is good news, yes?

    The question becomes, can a shadow, ie the ego, eliminate itself? It's like a dirty glass of water,
    any effort you make to push the dirt down to clear the water only stirs it up. Just
    relax and watch/be aware of your thoughts and the mind will settle naturally. Then the clouds
    will clear and it will become apparent that there is only one sky, of undifferentiated pure awareness/being/bliss.

    Hints are found in the essence of all paths, when interpreted correctly. I'll include the following quotes, not to
    proselytize, but to give you guys an insight into my background by way of introduction;

    If thine eye is single/simple, thy whole body will be full of light. - Jesus

    I am that I am -Yahweh/Jehovah

    Be still and know that I am God. - Psalm 46:10

    Foxes have holes and birds have their nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head and rest. - Jesus

    If anyone should say that the Tathagata comes or goes or sits or reclines, he does not understand my meaning. - Buddha

    gone gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all hail! - Buddha

    Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists. - A Course in Miracles

    The real does not die, the unreal never lived. - Nisargadatta

    Tat Tvam Asi, Thou Art That. - Chandogya Upanishad

    Real happiness abides in Self-knowledge alone. All else is fleeting. - Ramana Maharshi

    Where could I go? - Ramana on his deathbed

    The goose is out! - zen koan

    Namaste and Cheers

    tim
    Last edited by tim; 18th March 2012 at 07:03. Reason: factual refinements

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by tim (here)
    In truth, you never have, and never can, stop being that which you truly are, which is good news, yes?
    Welcome, Tim!

    How nice that you've taken a place around the campfire!

    To your point above, YES!


    A campfire story for you:

    A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
    After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."
    The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."


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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the warm welcome, and the story.

    Many (relatively, or, all absolutely) are enlightened, but few become masterful teachers of the unteachable.
    I've known many crack(ed)pots in organized religion, who attempt to manipulate others through fear or guilt,
    but even they have their place in the larger scheme of things. Like the flowers that grew by the side of the road,
    the souls that bloom on this bitter earth, do so largely because of suffering and adversity,


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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    STOP PRETENDING

    By Catherine Ingram



    INNER DIRECTIONS JOURNAL, SPRING 1997

    One day a six-year-old friend said to me, "Pretend you are surrounded by a
    thousand hungry tigers. What would you do?" I visualized the situation as he
    had suggested and, coming up with no viable plan of action, said, "Wow, I don't
    know. What would you do?" And he replied, "I'd stop pretending."

    In many ways, our usual pretending to be' somebody, to prove' something, to
    aggrandize some notion of ourselves is similar to imagining being surrounded
    by a thousand hungry tigers. It is a condition of fright based on an illusion of
    our own creation. As soon as we take ourselves to be a separate agent—a
    somebody—we are more or less in competition with or trying to be protected
    from—other bodies. With the beliefs in "I," "me," and 'mine" come fear and
    craving. It's a package deal. Waking up is the refusal to indulge this nightmare
    any longer, the simple decision to stop pretending. Beyond that, nothing further
    is required. In other words, you need not add anything. You need only to no
    longer entertain thoughts and beliefs that are not true. Then this beauty that
    you are, your true nature, shines through effortlessly and brilliantly.

    A classic metaphor suggests that we observe clouds covering the view of the
    sun. Eventually the clouds pass. The intelligent observer would not assume
    that any thing inherent in the passing of the clouds actually created the sun.
    There would be recognition that the sun had merely been temporarily obscured
    by clouds, but had been there all along. In this same way, our true nature of
    clear presence is, at times, obscured but always shining.

    Yet, if this is so simple, so available, so obvious, how have people
    consistently missed its ongoing realization? Why have people gone to such
    lengths ardently practicing techniques, programs, and religions only to become
    further entrenched in ideology and sometimes even fighting wars to defend
    their "faith"?

    The answer lies in the investment in beliefs. I once interviewed J.
    Krishnamurti, and as I was about to ask him a question beginning with the
    words, "Do you believe...?" he stopped me and said, "I don't believe in
    anything." Most people believe their thoughts, and if they have had a lot of
    thoughts on a given subject over time, there is a long-term investment in the
    belief of those thoughts. The good news is first, that one need not believe one's
    thoughts, and secondly, that there is no loss whatsoever in abandoning the
    long-term investment in what had been believed. On the contrary, without
    belief in habitual thought, there is clear seeing and open potentiality. It is what
    Suzuki Roshi meant when he said, "In the beginner's mind, there are many
    possibilities. In the expert's mind, there are few."

    Beliefs lock us into a set way of perceiving that filters reality through these
    beliefs—like a screen—and conditions our actual experience of life. As one
    believes, so one experiences. If one holds a belief that the world is a dangerous
    place, one experiences danger all around. If one believes oneself to have been
    damaged in childhood, then one experiences life as a victim and feels abused at
    every turn. If one believes that something more is needed for
    happiness—more money, more sex, more power, more notoriety—then that
    person experiences hunger and a sense of lack, no matter what divine showers
    occur.

    These thoughts and concepts all cluster around one central belief—the belief
    in "me." This is the ridgepole for the entire illusory house of pain. With it
    comes an obsession with the related topics of my life, my past, my future, my
    likes and dislikes, my opinions, my needs, my feelings, my worth.

    With this one central belief comes also an enormous and miserable
    workload—the me project, which requires continual feeding and entertainment.
    Because there is an inherent feeling of separation that comes with the belief in
    "me," there is also a perceived need for protection, so there is wariness and
    suspicion of possible threats. Its appetite for experience is driven by an
    unrelenting sense of discomfort and a desire to be at least temporarily
    distracted from the project. To that end there is abuse of all kinds of
    substances, sex, material consumption, and power.

    After working many years on the me project, and finding no lasting
    satisfaction in any of its pursuits of "happiness," some people decide to try a
    different approach, and they direct the project in a search for enlightenment.
    They become spiritual seekers. But, often it is just the same old me project,
    only now with a new spin: "I will become enlightened, and then I will be
    respected, feel better about myself, spend time with spiritual people, get out of
    this pitiful condition I've been living in, and someday maybe have lots of
    followers, sex, and money, to boot."

    I know this well from experience. By the time I was twenty years old, I had
    realized that all the worldly promise for happiness paled in time or worse, grew
    bitter to the taste. For the next two decades I lived a life of spiritual pursuit,
    mostly focusing on Buddhist meditation practice. But, I did so with the hope of
    attaining something someday. I wanted to feel better; to have a sense of
    belonging, to be visionary and wise. Yet, as long as this feeling of "I" is
    around, there is almost no hope of feeling better. Even when I was getting what
    I wanted, there was always the nagging sense that it would soon be gone.
    Anything gained in time may also be lost in time.

    Looking back on the twists and eddies of this life journey, I see that so much
    of what I attempted in my longing for happiness was a way of exhausting all
    possibilities that the world offered, including spiritual pursuit. Neti neti as they
    say in India. Not this, not that. Many years of spiritual endeavor eventually
    ended in disappointment and spiritual disappointment is a most troubling kind
    of despair as there is a sense that there is nowhere else to turn. Of course, this
    is also a potential dawn of realization, for when there is nowhere else to turn,
    one may be forced to recognize that mysterious essence which silently
    permeates one's discontent all along, that supreme peace which is never
    shaken or diminished in all those long wanderings in sorrow or joy.

    A friend of mine recently remarked (as a play on the old Janis Joplin song)."
    Freedom is just another word for nothing left to choose." If one is fortunate,
    there comes an eventual giving up of the me project altogether—when you've
    played out all your dreams and schemes and found no consolation in any of
    them, when the tired stories about "me," or spiritual attainment, or needing to
    have some particular life experience have no lure and cannot seduce you for
    one moment from your mountain seat of freedom.

    And there you rest effortlessly, no longer looking for love but being love, no
    longer yearning for vision but continually baptized in a mystical vision of
    perfection, no longer trying to live in the present, but knowing that is it is
    impossible to live other than in the eternal stream of now, no longer trying to
    clear your mind but knowing without doubt that nothing—no thought, worry,
    fear, or idea about yourself—has ever stuck to you or ever could.



  7. Link to Post #1585
    Avalon Member tim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by another bob (here)

    Yet, if this is so simple, so available, so obvious, how have people
    consistently missed its ongoing realization? Why have people gone to such
    lengths ardently practicing techniques, programs, and religions only to become
    further entrenched in ideology and sometimes even fighting wars to defend
    their "faith"?

    The following quotes from Sosan's, Hsin Hsin Ming (Book of Nothing), address this succinctly,

    To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind is the greatest of all mistakes.

    The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth.

    Quote Posted by another bob (here)

    A friend of mine recently remarked (as a play on the old Janis Joplin song)."
    Freedom is just another word for nothing left to choose."

    Also from The Book of Nothing,

    The Great Way is not difficult
    for those who have no preferences.
    When love and hate are both absent
    everything becomes clear and undisguised.

    or this, also hinting at freedom from suffering, or the peace that is beyond understanding,
    when we are not bound by beliefs and identifications with forms, either gross or subtle,

    Let go of anger.
    Let go of pride.
    When you are bound by nothing
    You go beyond sorrow. - Buddha, Dhammapada.

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Hi Tim and welcome to Avalon.

    That's a beautiful opening post. I like the quotes from the different texts you use - all saying the same thing

    Quote Posted by tim (here)
    Hi guys,

    On topic, I wrote the following maxim shortly after awakening,
    (lol, I realize claiming awakening/enlightenment is a faux pas, I trust you will allow me the paradox
    of expressing as both the wave and the ocean, at least while I appear (to others) to inhabit this form.
    It was Lao Tzu who wrote, those who speak do not know, those who know do not speak, then followed with
    the Tao Te Ching!
    It's not a faux pas as far as I am concerned. If we didn't have people talking about their awakening and enlightenment, then many of us would be lost.........or worse, stuck where were are, thinking we had reached the destination.

    Jeanette

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by TargeT (here)
    This sounds very much like my "what is my next thought" exersize, asking both (I just tryed the one you offered) just produces silence, kind of a heavy silence; which is where I seem to sit more and more as any time my inner monologue is annoying me I ask it "what is my next thought" and enjoy the quiet
    This is good that the question I suggested produced the silence. It's supposed to do that

    The questions "what is my next thought?" is a question which is moving attention into a future point in time. This is where the mind/ego lives. I would avoid using this question or if it arises, notice it without comment but just leave it.

    Quote
    I guess I am still in "baby steps" on this part as I don't see any benifit of the silence except for the lack of ego distraction; and I'm afraid I like the control I can exert over the inner voice a bit too much as I distain most of its commentary for social programing or fear based reaction, or emotion modivated "thought"; its very attractive to me to silence it, but again I'm not sure of what i gain.. perhaps I just need to work it out a bit more
    The silence is where your true nature is. The silence is where you will find enlightenment.....it's where the ego will eventually dissolve.

    There is nothing in the silence for the mind/ego except its death. Of course it will generate the thought, "I don't see any benefit for this?"
    Notice the thought, don't label or judge it but shift your attention to what is Aware of the thought arising.
    Quote
    thanks for the summary; Cammody had mentioned that ego confrontation was some horribly intense experience that must be aproached cautiously.. I wonder at what he meant by that and have poked & prodded to no avail.

    sounds like I'm "up to speed" on the basic's.. now where's the "more" ?
    I don't know what post you are referring to but as the ego is dismantled in this process there can be some horrible intense experiences. This spiritual path is not for the feint hearted, it takes courage and sincerity but if the inner urge is to merge back with the Source, in the end you find that you cannot stop the process and begin to welcome the burning of everything you are not.

    Jeanette

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Its not a question of confronting ego--- you would not win.
    Transcending is somewhat different.
    Just let it be but dont identify with it.
    Ultimately ego is the illusion/ maya
    Its a separation device.
    Me and the other-- subject and object.
    Enlightenment does not see another.

    Chris
    A charity to help African Children become self sufficient.

    http://www.learningtoolsforselfdevelopment.co.uk/

    Be kind to all life, including your own, no matter what!!

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Illusion of Ego

    by Peter Fenner

    Some spiritual systems hold that the ego is a complete illusion. They suggest that we have been captivated and bewitched by a belief that doesn't correspond to anything real. Some schools of Buddhism, for example, explicitly teach that there is no self or ego. These traditions teach us how to wield the sword of wisdom that cuts through and uproots the ego by seeing that its cries for satisfaction and completeness are but the echoes of a empty ghost.

    In contrast to these traditions, some "unorthodox" traditions such as Zen and Dzogchen have pointed out that all such methods and procedures are predicated on the belief that we have something to gain through our spiritual labor. They observe that continued application of any spiritual method or psychological technique presupposes that we are concerned about ourselves-i.e., self-centered. We simply need to listen to the official stories and anecdotal reports about how rewarding it is to live the spiritual life to discover this. From this perspective, the pursuit of an egoless state only serves to maintain and perpetuate the ego. By rejecting our ego we only give it more power, since we grant it the capacity to control and dominate us. Indeed, trying to alleviate our suffering is the worst thing we could possibly do, since this only feeds the ego's need for comfort and security.

    In general terms there are three ways of relating to the concept of egolessness.

    ABSOLUTE EGOLESSNESS - THE SHOTGUN APPROACH

    At one extreme, the spiritual endeavor is viewed as the total eradication of our ego. Under this interpretation egoism is viewed as the source of all suffering, while egolessness is the source of supreme and permanent happiness. Egolessness becomes the most desirable attainment possible, for it protects us from everything we wish to avoid and grants us unalloyed and permanent peace of mind.

    We find this relationship to egolessness in spiritual movements that pride themselves on their discipline, purity and rigor. Within such traditions we relate to the ego as though it was a real enemy. Though it appears as our friend and savior, it is a wolf in sheep's clothing because it undermines the possibility of salvation with its need for short-term and limited forms of gratification. The only way to achieve liberation from suffering is to permanently eradicate all manifestations and traces of egoism.

    With this attitude we are on a continual search and destroy mission as we attempt to flush out and uproot all thoughts, feelings and actions that are based on the need for self preservation and survival. Everything we do is viewed with suspicion because the ego is cunning, deceptive, and totally untrustworthy. We experience a profound sense of urgency and take on the obligation to practice incessantly. Our ideal is to practice twenty four hours a day because we know that every second we waste makes it more difficult to eradicate the ego. We can't sleep comfortably at night, especially if we are tired, since this is giving into the ego's need for comfort and sustenance.

    The literature we read and the teachers we listen to state the need for constant vigilance and awareness. The task of achieving liberation is extremely difficult, very few people have accomplished it, so we must be absolutely unrelenting in our pursuit of an egoless state. In order to break free from the insidious and vice-like clutches of egoism we must resist every desire and forsake all need for comfort and security. We learn how to be ruthless and uncompromising in detecting and destroying every manifestation and trace of separation and uniqueness. Anything less than this is just a "mickey mouse" approach to spiritual practice. No matter how advanced we are, we can't afford to relax or let down our guard since the slightest trace of egoism can fester and grow anew like a cancerous tumor, suffocating any freedom and peace we have cultivated. In fact, within this school of thinking there is no room for accomplishment, nor for assessing that we have made progress in subduing our ego, since any such thoughts are only created by the ego's need for gratification accorded through success. Such thoughts are a smoke screen created by the ego to counteract the effects of our practice.

    In this approach the ego has infiltrated our entire personality structure. There is nothing we can think, feel or experience that isn't contaminated by our ego. For as long as "we" exist, we are operating from an ego-base. Consequently, the only way to achieve egolessness is to eradicate all sense of personal identity. The task, ultimately, is to kill one's self without suiciding-to die while living.

    Annihilating the ego

    Our capacity to detect and destroy our ego depends on our level of awareness. Mindfulness and awareness are the armor that protect us against the inevitable pain and suffering that self-interest produces. Any lapse in our awareness makes us more vulnerable to the subtle and devious ways in which the ego undermines our search for lasting happiness and peace.

    Meditation, therefore, can become the real battle ground, for it is here, when our awareness is focused and acute, that we can see the pervasive and subtle movements of the ego more clearly. It is also in meditation that we can attack the ego with full force. Armed with awareness we try to nail it down and destroy it with the vast armory of techniques that have been developed in the various spiritual traditions. Or perhaps we try to render the ego impotent in one foul swoop by clearly and dispassionately seeing through its need for pleasure and recognition. Ultimately, we hope to see right through its very need to exist. Hence, within many traditions, the seriousness of our search is measured by the length of time we spend on the cushion or in retreat. If we aren't meditating then we aren't really applying ourselves. We are merely toying with the idea of egolessness rather than uprooting the ego at its very foundations.

    Another forum for destroying our ego occurs in the student-teacher relationship. In the shotgun approach, the ego-ridden student exists in contrast to a totally selfless guru. The egoless guru heightens and intensifies our own petty, egocentric lives. Some teachers openly declare that their only reason for existing is in order to tame their students' egos. By merely being in the presence of the purity and sheer intensity of our guru's egolessness, our ego is revealed in all its disguises as we try to win approval, be acknowledged or receive special treatment. Every attempt to form an ego-based alliance with our egoless teacher is instantaneously mirrored back through the guru's fundamental disinterest or feigned annoyance with what we say and do.

    In this approach to spiritual development, the guru is the sole arbiter of what is selfish and what is selfless. If our guru responds positively to us then our actions are selfless. If our guru challenges or ignores us, this is because our ego is involved. Gurus are ranked in terms of their capacity to decimate their students' egos. Students talk proudly about the wrath of their teachers and how "devastating" their encounters have been.

    The primary discipline is to stay as close to the guru as possible, for as long as possible. We covet the guru's inner circle and follow our teachers across the globe. The success of our practice is measured by our capacity to stay within the white hot heat of the guru's egoless energy as it incinerates our sense of separation and difference.

    Unbridled Egoism and the Futility of Spiritual Practice

    Up to this point we have been describing the shotgun approach in which we are our own worst enemy. Here we lie in wait for the ego and every time it raises its head we attack it-with more meditation, more purification, more ego-destroying encounters with a guru.

    When this extreme way of relating to our ego is pushed to the limit it transforms into the opposite extreme. At some point we clearly see how we are being driven by the promise of a state of bliss and freedom. While we may have been aware of this at an intellectual level, we now experience how the urgency of our need to escape our suffering has drowned out the fact that we relate to egolessness as a prized possession. While we have been fighting worldly desires for fame and fortune we have failed to come to terms with our addiction to the promise of liberation.

    We now see how resisting any desire is simply fulfilling another desire, namely, the desire to protect ourselves from the pain and frustration of unfulfilled needs. In fact, every thought, feeling and physical movement is an expression of our need to maintain our integrity and perpetuate our existence-albeit in a blissful form. For a moment we might think that egolessness is still possible, if only we can keep out of the way of our ego. But the very action of trying to escape or avoid the influence of our ego only confirms and consolidates its existence.

    At this point we can conclude that our ego is so pervasive that it encompasses everything we can possibly do. It has appropriated our entire existence. It is "omnipresent". There is absolutely nothing "we" can do to transcend the influence of our ego because its tentacles distort and pervert everything we do. Every effort to destroy our ego only fortifies it. Spiritual practices are useless and bankrupt because they are based on the need for "personal" benefit and fulfillment. They invariably perpetuate our ego because they are based on our fear of suffering and hope for liberation.

    In fact, spirituality is a lost cause since there is no such thing as an egoless state. Egolessness is a concept invented by the ego to make it feel good. We (i.e. the ego) like to feel good, so we cultivate the belief that we can act selflessly. We comfort ourselves with the thoughts that we can sacrifice our interests for the well being of others. Egolessness, then, is simply a shorthand description for the illusion that we can escape an overarching concern with ourselves.
    This being the case then, we should simply forget about egolessness. We should banish forever the thought that we can act in a selfless manner. In fact, to pursue a selfless existence is to battle against our real nature which is to take care of our needs as best as possible. Desires are an essential part of being human so we should just get on with the job of fulfilling them. Our happiness and suffering have nothing at all to do with the presence or absence of an ego since it is impossible to BE, and to be free of an ego. The pragmatics of this approach dictate only that we act to fulfill our desires. To do otherwise is to distort our humanness in the name of a spiritual fantasy. If an experience of fulfillment depends on wealth and recognition we should just go for these without a second thought or any trace of guilt.

    This way at least we can free up energy to experience life directly and freshly without wasting our time in misguided spiritual activities. We can get on with the business of living without needing to analyze and dissect our own and others' actions for their underlying motivation. If spirituality amounts to anything, it consists simply of being true to our feelings.

    This "new" insight into the futility of spiritual practice can cut two ways. If we interpret our well-intentioned pursuit of egolessness as nothing more than punching ourselves in the face, we end up bruised, resigned and even angry at the people who seem to have validated our battle. We feel short-changed and cheated by the systems that have only increased our desire and sense of incompleteness with their promises of liberation. Alternatively, if we break with the memories and heavy-handed energy of the shotgun approach we can enjoy a temporary experience of release and liberation.

    A spiritually informed version

    The indulgence of our ego can also be validated through a lop-sided reading of the non-dualistic spiritual traditions such as Zen, Taoism, Dzogchen, Tantra and Advaita. We give license to our free-wheeling approach by selectively drawing on the most radical elements of these traditions. We tune into spiritual masters who declare that: "There is nothing to get." "This is it." "There is no ego or egolessness." We expand our libraries to include books which claim that spiritual practices only condition us, and that all spiritual effort is pointless.

    However, no matter what spiritual pedigree we draw on to support our self-justifying beliefs, the bottom-line is that we continue to suffer like everyone else. When our desires are fulfilled we feel satisfied and complete. As new desires emerge, or as existing ones remain unfulfilled, we experience pain, frustration, anger and incompletion. From a spiritual point of view there is nothing for us to do except enjoy or endure our pleasure and pain as we try to structure and control the external factors and internal processes that govern the fulfillment of our desires.

    In fact, our new "authoritative" spiritual sources only prolong our dalliance with a hands-off and dismissive approach to spiritual discipline and practice. When the initial buoyancy that accompanies the promise of a new perspective begins to flatten, we may attempt to regain our "privileged" position by passing magisterial pronouncements on those who still practice. We tend to focus exclusively on the co-dependent aspects of teacher-student relationships and comment on the na•vety of disciples and followers. As the spiritual impotence of our new approach dawns on us, we can become cynical and smug about those who are still stuck in the belief that "there is something to get". We start to make condescending observations about all teachers, systems and practices. As the uncertainty and insecurity about our own approach increases, this can even extend to making facetious comments about the inevitable egoism of saints, spiritual leaders, voluntary aid workers, and philanthropists.

    At some point, though, our cynicism becomes too obvious to ignore and we are forced to acknowledge the fact that unbridled egoism doesn't produce the peace and contentment we seek. We see how the process of "fulfilling our desires" conditions our need for fulfillment and satisfaction. Once one need is fulfilled another follows quickly in its wake. We find ourselves caught in an alternating pattern of feeling "fulfilled" and feeling "needy".

    "Middle Class" EGOLESSNESS

    In between the extremes of absolute egolessness and pervasive egoism lie a whole range of interpretations about what it means to cultivate an egoless existence. All these interpretations share the assumption that there is an egoistic dimension to our personality, but also that we can act in a genuinely selfless manner. The egoistic aspect is responsible for all of our suffering, while the egoless dimension is the source of all authentic satisfaction and fulfillment. The sentiment expressed is that we should be more selfless, less concerned and preoccupied about our own needs and desires. We should let life flow through us without appropriating or avoiding pleasurable and painful experiences. We should be in a way where we neither indulge in, nor reject who we are.

    Followers of this approach view it as the most evolved approach to egolessness because it doesn't fall to the extremes we have been describing. Whilst we don't claim to get it right all the time, we know that this is a superior perspective. People "mature" into this understanding in response to the continuing pain that the distorted approaches fail to alleviate. Here we balance the fact that we are individuals with the understanding that egoism and selfishness cause suffering for ourselves and others.

    In contrast to the shotgun approach, "middle class" egolessness doesn't require the wholesale destruction of our personality. There is no necessary conflict between living in the world and transcending all need for personal security. We can fulfill our own material needs and continue to interact creatively with others, without this being driven by fear or fantasy.

    This being so, the spiritual endeavor takes on the flavor of discovering our own "personal" style of egolessness. Our spiritual life consists of constructing a satisfying story about our way of living life and being in the world. People often acquire a basic story line from one or other of the fashionable spiritual traditions such as Taoism or Buddhism, and then customize this to fit their own particular preferences and inclinations. In this way we create our "preferred"style of egolessness tailored to our own needs and projections. We can also adjust the story line and alter our preferred style as our needs and projections change with time. For some this is a tremendously attractive form of spirituality because it gives very wide latitude for individual expression.

    We produce self-satisfying stories about what it is like to live an egoless existence. We invent elegant and "spiritually correct" stories about how egolessness doesn't mean the obliteration of our individual identities but rather signifies a state in which we are no longer attached to our personal and social identities. We project our models of egolessness onto spiritual teachers. However, here we retain our own autonomy to the extent that we can pass mature and sensible judgements on the contribution of different teachers and traditions, including our own.

    A quiet self-righteousness

    We grow into earnest and well-intentioned spiritual seekers who weave complex and meaningful stories about our own "process" and "development". These stories serve two purposes. First, they allow us to assess that we have made some progress towards achieving egolessness. They provide a framework against which we can confirm that we are basically on the right track. They confirm that some of our actions are more egoless than others. In doing so, our model of egolessness "partially validates" our present identity. However, in only giving partial validity to our identity, our stories also provide the opportunity for further improvement and refinement of our experience of egolessness. Our story creates scope and reason for more meditation, more study, and more intimate encounters with our gurus.

    This model of egolessness fuels a sense of on-going involvement and achievement. We keep ourselves active and busy reflecting on whether we are being driven by our ego or motivated by a more spacious and accommodating way of being. We search our souls in order to determine our real motivation for work, relationships, meditation, etc., etc. We check ourselves when our egos get the best of us, commend ourselves when we operate from a less grasping space, and then censure ourselves again when we notice that our commendation reveals our egos have "caught us out yet again."
    In this approach we are "good citizens" because we make a genuine contribution to society and humanity. We aren't "out there" trying to save the whole universe. We aren't trying to draw attention to ourselves through major sacrificical or philanthrophic deeds. Rather we are "quiet contributors" who regularly, as a matter of course, extend ourselves to help those around us until this becomes just part of our natural way of being. We are tolerant and accommodating, but also firm and forthright when this is the "skillful" persona to present.

    Boutique egolessness

    At its most leisurely extreme, this "mature" approach to egolessness takes on the characteristics of a recreational activity. As our suffering decreases and autonomy grows, we develop a more sophisticated and cultured experience of egolessness. We become refined, well-educated seekers who have the time and independence to pick up or leave a psychological or spiritual practice as we wish. We give the impression that "making a retreat" or vacationing in Bahamas are equally enjoyable for us. We fraternize with our teachers, supporting them materially in return for their friendly attention and approval. We speak casually to others about conversations with our teachers as though they are close friends or confidants.

    We know that our understanding of egolessness is fundamentally the right one. It isn't contaminated by crass feelings of self-righteousness and superiority. The tendencies and proclivities being described here simply don't apply to us. We can see how other people might think like that, but we are "tuned into" such pitfalls and traps. Whatever might be described here, we are basically aware of it already.

    Does the Ego exist?

    Up to this point we have described various orientations and approaches to our relationship with our ego. However, the question still remains, is this whole exercise of either trying to enjoy or destroy our ego, a reality or an illusion? Are we dealing with something real when we are rejecting, or indulging, our ego? Or, are we simply complicating our lives by thinking that we can function in a more, or less, egotistical way. Translating this to a more immediate level, we may ask ourselves: "Has this essay described genuine alternatives in terms of how we can experience ourselves, or is it just another facile expression of a perennial and pointless preoccupation with our identity, that ultimately takes us nowhere?"

    Clearly there are two options. The ego either exists, or it doesn't.

    If the ego exists, then we are deluding ourselves and distorting reality if we think that it doesn't exist. Furthermore, if we actually cultivate a belief that it doesn't exist when it does, we place ourselves at great risk, given that the ego is said to be our worst enemy. It would be like harboring the enemy within our own ranks and not knowing about it. So if it exists, it exists and there is nothing more we need to do than clearly acknowledge and appreciate its existence.

    On the other hand, if the ego doesn't exist then there is no need to suppress it, destroy it, or in any way avoid it. It is counterproductive to give it even one more thought since this only fuels the fantasy that it could, or does exist. To worry about its influence and impact on our lives merely perpetuates the misbelief that it exists. It would be like announcing our wedding and inviting the guests on the basis of an encounter with a partner in last night's dream. Any action to enhance or destroy the ego would merely perpetuate the fantasy that it exists. Like a dream we can just let it be there, knowing that it is has no reality and is incapable of producing real pleasure or pain.

    So, either way, whether the ego does or doesn't exist, we don't really need to complicate our lives by trying to ignore or enhance this thing called "an ego". While the simplicity of this insight might be temporarily refreshing, it seems that our need to escape from, or maintain, our identity can quickly overpower a lighter and more accommodating relationship with ourselves.

    Is the Ego an illusion?

    Hence, at this point many seekers perpetuate their struggle by claiming that our problems stem, not from the fact that the ego is real, but from the fact that we think it is real. In other words, they believe that the ego is an illusion. It seems to exist, but in reality it doesn't. In fact, this belief is consciously taught and cultivated in many spiritual traditions and treatises.

    Unfortunately, whilst this move seems helpful, in fact it solves nothing. It is a tranquilizing belief in that it grants us some intellectual comfort to the problem we have been grappling with. Thus, of the many seekers who question the reality of the ego, only a few go on to question the truth of their belief that we "only think it is real." In fact, the idea that the ego is an illusion merely "relocates" the same problem that we have just shied away from, since the question now is: does this "illusory ego" exist, or not? In other words, is the illusion which causes our problems, real or unreal?

    If it's a "fact" that the ego doesn't exist, even though we think it does, then we are deluding ourselves if we think that we don't think it exists. We shouldn't think the thought, or entertain the belief that the ego is unreal, because whilst it is unreal, in fact we think it is real. We should just continue to think that something that doesn't exist, does exist. To do otherwise, is to deny the reality that "the ego is just an illusion."

    On the other hand, if we are mistaken in thinking that "the ego is just an illusion", then we shouldn't take this belief seriously. We shouldn't worry ourselves with the fact that we are deluded in thinking that our ego is real, because this "fact" is in fact a falsehood. Our delusion is just an illusion.

    At this point there are three obvious directions in which to move:

    Perhaps we find the above way of looking at the problem way too intellectual, and hence irrelevant. We feel more at home if we have a "solid" problem that we can confront in a meaningful and palpable way. If so we might well be inclined to reactivate the belief that the ego exists and is the cause of all our suffering. This way we can get down to some practical work. We can get back to our practice, and perpetuate our existence through the methods described in the shotgun approach. Then at least we "know" what we are doing.

    Alternatively, we might think that it is regressive and crude to revert to the belief that our ego does exist and hence must be destroyed at all costs. Obviously, what is needed is a more "subtle understanding" of the nature of our ego. Clearly, when we say "we only think the ego is real", this doesn't mean that we in fact believe that it is real. The reality is that we don't really believe that we believe that the ego is an illusion. The belief that the ego is an illusion, is itself an illusion. Of course, if we are serious seekers, we then need to determine if the belief that "the belief that the ego is an illusion", is an illusion or a reality. If, it is real, we shouldn't deny this reality. If, it is unreal, we don't need to worry about it, etc., etc., etc. If we have the leisure and training we can perpetuate this type of inquiry indefinitely. We can keep ourselves occupied and entertained for an eternity trying to find the ego that neither exists nor doesn't exist.

    Finally, we might figure that this whole exercise, especially the intellectual wankery that we have just read, about "not believing what we believe, etc...", is just a joke. In fact, this essay is crazy and ridiculous!! We just want out. If this is what the spiritual path is about then they can have it. The most sensible thing to do is to forget all this stuff about egolessness, and just get back to enjoying ourselves, in whatever way we wish.
    As you are no doubt aware, your resonance with any of these three responses says something about your attraction and aversion to the three ways of relating to the ego that we have been describing. I'll leave it to you to work out if you are predisposed to actively suppress your ego, indulge your immediate desires, or find the middle ground.

    Peter Fenner

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    Avalon Member tim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by Jenci (here)
    It's not a faux pas as far as I am concerned. If we didn't have people talking about their awakening and enlightenment, then many of us would be lost.........or worse, stuck where were are, thinking we had reached the destination.

    Jeanette
    Hi Jeanette,

    Thanks for the nice welcome, and kind words.

    It is true that in this age of information (and disinformation) there are many who make the claim
    prematurely or mistakenly, and mislead others. Learning to discriminate real from false teachers is all part of the "outer" journey.
    Just as in the "inner" journey we learn to discriminate between pure eternal awareness (Self/Heaven/Nirvana/Tao/Pu) and illusory transient consciousness (mind/thoughts/ego/duality). Of course, ultimately, samsara is nirvana, this is the pu or "uncarved block" of Taoism,

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism#Wu_wei

    Pu (simplified Chinese: 朴; traditional Chinese: 樸; pinyin: pǔ, pú; Wade–Giles: p'u; lit. "uncut wood") is translated "uncarved block", "unhewn log", or "simplicity". It is a metaphor for the state of wu wei (無爲) and the principle of jian (儉).[54] It represents a passive state of receptiveness. Pu is a symbol for a state of pure potential and perception without prejudice. In this state, Taoists believe everything is seen as it is, without preconceptions or illusion.[55]

    Pu is usually seen as keeping oneself in the primordial state of tao.[56] It is believed to be the true nature of the mind, unburdened by knowledge or experiences.[57] In the state of pu, there is no right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. There is only pure experience, or awareness, free from learned labels and definitions. It is this state of being that is the goal of following wu wei.


    For those who like myself were raised on Winnie the Pooh stories, a wonderful introduction to Taoism is the book - The Tao of Pooh

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tao_of_Pooh

    I used to be a combination of Owl, Rabbit, Eeyore and of course Christopher Robbin, but now I'm just Pooh!

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  18. Link to Post #1591
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by tim (here)
    Of course, ultimately, samsara is nirvana, this is the pu or "uncarved block" of Taoism
    Hiya Tim!

    Thanks for that!

    If I may, without leaning towards any sectarianism, I'd like to point out that the Taoist realization alluded to above is not necessarily complete, in that we can go even further. In fact, there are two more stages that have been documented by Realizers through the ages.

    In order to illustrate this, I would offer a good elaboration of the famous 10 Oxherding Pictures of Zen, with a good commentary by Chogyam Trungpa. The Taoist realization would probably be considered the level of the 8th woodblock pictogram, or at best the 9th, but does not yet encompass the return to the marketplace, where realization is put to the test of living in the world as an ordinary being, without any trace or "stink" of enlightenment or the sublime but aloof transcendence evidenced in the Taoist realization.

    Furthemore, although this level may be the best we can do so far, my sense is that there is so much further to go. Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen, once noted that Shakyamuni Buddha himself was "only half-way there", and so things are actually pretty open-ended in that respect.

    Once beyond even the limitation of form, we can recognize that what seemed a profound realization while in 3D land, is actually just child's play, and there is so much more, infinitely more . . .

    http://www.shambhala.org/dharma/ctr/...ing/index.html

    (just click on "the Search for the Bull" to begin the slide presentation)


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    Scotland Avalon Member greybeard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by another bob (here)
    Quote Posted by tim (here)
    Of course, ultimately, samsara is nirvana, this is the pu or "uncarved block" of Taoism
    Hiya Tim!

    Thanks for that!

    If I may, without leaning towards any sectarianism, I'd like to point out that the Taoist realization alluded to above is not necessarily complete, in that we can go even further. In fact, there are two more stages that have been documented by Realizers through the ages.

    In order to illustrate this, I would offer a good elaboration of the famous 10 Oxherding Pictures of Zen, with a good commentary by Chogyam Trungpa. The Taoist realization would probably be considered the level of the 8th woodblock pictogram, or at best the 9th, but does not yet encompass the return to the marketplace, where realization is put to the test of living in the world as an ordinary being, without any trace or "stink" of enlightenment or the sublime but aloof transcendence evidenced in the Taoist realization.

    Furthemore, although this level may be the best we can do so far, my sense is that there is so much further to go. Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen, once noted that Shakyamuni Buddha himself was "only half-way there", and so things are actually pretty open-ended in that respect.

    Once beyond even the limitation of form, we can recognize that what seemed a profound realization while in 3D land, is actually just child's play, and there is so much more, infinitely more . . .

    http://www.shambhala.org/dharma/ctr/...ing/index.html

    (just click on "the Search for the Bull" to begin the slide presentation)

    Think I said this before but its worth repeating.
    Dr Hawkins said that because of the heavy density of this planet the body can only accept a certain level of the energy of enlightenment.
    Kundalini awakening would seem to replace the normal nervous system Nadi?
    So that a higher level of consciousness is possible but even then enlightenment here is seen as kindergarten.
    Hawkins claimed that through 7 years in virtual isolation after the initial enlightenment his "level" of enlightenment moved on till eventually the final door opened.
    He said only God walks through that door in the final death of the ego.
    Seems this is the only death that we face and initially it is a terrifying thing till the death is complete.
    Then there is non location.
    Im not doing justice to his explanation--- that just my limited understanding of what he wrote.
    He also said all levels of enlightenment seem complete and unless it is the destiny of the "sage" to advance that is it for this earthly manifestation.

    Chris
    Last edited by greybeard; 18th March 2012 at 11:46.
    A charity to help African Children become self sufficient.

    http://www.learningtoolsforselfdevelopment.co.uk/

    Be kind to all life, including your own, no matter what!!

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by greybeard (here)
    He said only God walks through that door in the final death of the ego.


    Interview with Bernadette Roberts

    by Stephan Bodian (www.stephanbodian.org).

    http://www.spiritualteachers.org/b_r..._interview.htm


    In this exclusive interview with Stephan Bodian, (published in the Nov/Dec 1986 issue of YOGA JOURNAL), author Bernadette Roberts describes the path of the Christian contemplative after the experience of oneness with God.
    Bernadette Roberts is the author of two extraordinary books on the Christian contemplative journey, The Experience of No-Self (Shambhala, 1982) and The Path to No-Self (Shambala, 1985). A cloistered nun for nine years, Roberts reports that she returned to the world after experiencing the "unitive state", the state of oneness with God, in order to share what she had learned and to take on the problems and experience of others.

    In the years that followed she completed a graduate degree in education, married, raised four children, and taught at the pre-school, high school, and junior college levels; at the same time she continued her contemplative practice. Then, quite unexpectedly, some 20 years after leaving the convent, Roberts reportedly experienced the dropping away of the unitive state itself and came upon what she calls "the experience of no-self" - an experience for which the Christian literature, she says, gave her no clear road maps or guideposts. Her books, which combine fascinating chronicles of her own experiences with detailed maps of the contemplative terrain, and her attempt to provide such guideposts for those who might follow after her.

    Now 55, and once again living in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, Roberts characterizes herself as a "bag lady" whose sister and brother in law are "keeping her off the streets". "I came into this world with nothing," she writes, "and I leave with nothing. But in between I lived fully - had all the experiences, stretched the limits, and took one too many chances".

    When I approached her for an interview, Roberts was reluctant at first, protesting that others who had tried had distorted her meaning, and that nothing had come of it in the end. Instead of a live interview, she suggested, why not send her a list of questions to which she would respond in writing, thereby eliminating all possibility for misunderstanding. As a result, I never got to meet Bernadette Roberts face to face - but her answers to my questions, which are as carefully crafted and as deeply considered as her books, are a remarkable testament to the power of contemplation.



    Stephan: Could you talk briefly about the first three stages of the Christian contemplative life as you experienced them - in particular, what you (and others) have called the unitive state?
    Bernadette: Strictly speaking, the terms "purgative", "illuminative", and "unitive" (often used of the contemplative path) do not refer to discrete stages, but to a way of travel where "letting go", "insight", and "union", define the major experiences of the journey. To illustrate the continuum, authors come up with various stages, depending on the criteria they are using. St.Teresa, for example, divided the path into seven stages or "mansions". But I don't think we should get locked into any stage theory: it is always someone else's retrospective view of his or her own journey, which may not include our own experiences or insights. Our obligation is to be true to our own insights, our own inner light.

    My view of what some authors call the "unitive stage" is that it begins with the Dark Night of the Spirit, or the onset of the transformational process - when the larva enters the cocoon, so to speak. Up to this point, we are actively reforming ourselves, doing what we can to bring about an abiding union with the divine. But at a certain point, when we have done all we can, the divine steps in and takes over. The transforming process is a divine undoing and redoing that culminates in what is called the state of "transforming union" or "mystical marriage", considered to be the definitive state for the Christian contemplative.

    In experience, the onset of this process is the descent of the cloud of unknowing, which, because his former light had gone out and left him in darkness, the contemplative initially interprets as the divine gone into hiding. In modern terms, the descent of the cloud is actually the falling away of the ego-center, which leaves us looking into a dark hole, a void or empty space in ourselves. Without the veil of the ego-center, we do not recognize the divine; it is not as we thought it should be. Seeing the divine, eye to eye is a reality that shatters our expectations of light and bliss. From here on we must feel our way in the dark, and the special eye that allows us to see in the dark opens up at this time. So here begins our journey to the true center, the bottom-most, innermost "point" in ourselves where our life and being runs into divine life and being - the point at which all existence comes together.

    This center can be compared to a coin: on the near side is our self, on the far side is the divine. One side is not the other side, yet we cannot separate the two sides. If we tried to do so, we would either end up with another side, or the whole coin would collapse, leaving no center at all - no self and no divine. We call this a state of oneness or union because the single center has two sides, without which there would be nothing to be one, united, or non-dual. Such, at least, is the experiential reality of the state of transforming union, the state of oneness.

    How did you discover the further stage, which you call the experience of no-self?

    That occurred unexpectedly some 25 years after the transforming process. The divine center - the coin, or "true self" - suddenly disappeared, and without center or circumference there is no self, and no divine. Our subjective life of experience is over - the passage is finished. I had never heard of such a possibility or happening.

    Obviously there is far more to the elusive experience we call self than just the ego. The paradox of our passage is that we really do not know what self or consciousness is, so long as we are living it, or are it. The true nature of self can only be fully disclosed when it is gone, when there is no self. One outcome, then, of the no-self experience is the disclosure of the true nature of self or consciousness. As it turns out, self is the entire system of consciousness, from the unconscious to God-consciousness, the entire dimension of human knowledge and feeling-experience. Because the terms "self" and "consciousness" express the same experiences (nothing can be said of one that cannot be said of the other), they are only definable in the terms of "experience". Every other definition is conjecture and speculation. No-self, then, means no-consciousness. If this is shocking to some people, it is only because they do not know the true nature of consciousness. Sometimes we get so caught up in the content of consciousness, we forget that consciousness is also a somatic function of the physical body, and, like every such function, it is not eternal. Perhaps we would do better searching for the divine in our bodies than amid the content and experience of consciousness.

    How does one move from "transforming union" to the experience of no-self? What is the path like?

    We can only see a path in retrospect. Once we come to the state of oneness, we can go no further with the inward journey. The divine center is the innermost "point", beyond which we cannot go at this time. Having reached this point, the movement of our journey turns around and begins to move outward - the center is expanding outward.

    To see how this works, imagine self, or consciousness, as a circular piece of paper. The initial center is the ego, the particular energy we call "will" or volitional faculty, which can either be turned outward, toward itself, or inward, toward the divine ground, which underlies the center of the paper. When, from our side of consciousness, we can do no more to reach this ground, the divine takes the initiative and breaks through the center, shattering the ego like an arrow shot through the center of being. The result is a dark hole in ourselves and the feeling of terrible void and emptiness. This breakthrough demands a restructuring or change of consciousness, and this change is the true nature of the transforming process. Although this transformation culminates in true human maturity, it is not man's final state. The whole purpose of oneness is to move us on to a more final state.

    To understand what happens next, we have to keep cutting larger holes in the paper, expanding the center until only the barest rim or circumference remains. One more expansion of the divine center, and the boundaries of consciousness or self fall away. From this illustration we can see how the ultimate fulfillment of consciousness, or self, is no-consciousness, or no-self. The path from oneness to no-oneness is an egoless one and is therefore devoid of ego-satisfaction. Despite the unchanging center of peace and joy, the events of life may not be peaceful or joyful at all. With no ego-gratification at the center and no divine joy on the surface, this part of the journey is not easy. Heroic acts of selflessness are required to come to the end of self, acts comparable to cutting ever-larger holes in the paper - acts, that is, that bring no return to the self whatsoever.

    The major temptation to be overcome in this period is the temptation to fall for one of the subtle but powerful archetypes of the collective consciousness. As I see it, in the transforming process we only come to terms with the archetypes of the personal unconscious; the archetypes of the collective consciousness are reserved for individuals in the state of oneness, because those archetypes are powers or energies of that state. Jung felt that these archetypes were unlimited; but in fact, there is only one true archetype, and that archetype is self. What is unlimited are the various masks or roles self is tempted to play in the state of oneness - savior, prophet, healer, martyr, Mother Earth, you name it. They are all temptations to seize power for ourselves, to think ourselves to be whatever the mask or role may be. In the state of oneness, both Christ and Buddha were tempted in this manner, but they held to the "ground" that they knew to be devoid of all such energies. This ground is a "stillpoint", not a moving energy-point. Unmasking these energies, seeing them as ruses of the self, is the particular task to be accomplished or hurdle to be overcome in the state of oneness. We cannot come to the ending of self until we have finally seen through these archetypes and can no longer be moved by any of them.

    So the path from oneness to no-oneness is a life that is choicelessly devoid of ego-satisfaction; a life of unmasking the energies of self and all the divine roles it is tempted to play. It is hard to call this life a "path", yet it is the only way to get to the end of our journey.

    In the 'Experience of No-Self' you talk at great length about your experience of the dropping away or loss of self. Could you briefly describe this experience and the events that led up to it. I was particularly struck by your statement "I realized I no longer had a 'within' at all". For so many of us, the spiritual life is experienced as an "inner life" - yet the great saints and sages have talked about going beyond any sense of inwardness.

    Your observation strikes me as particularly astute; most people miss the point. You have actually put your finger on the key factor that distinguishes between the state of oneness and the state of no-oneness, between self and no-self. So long as self remains, there will always be a "center". Few people realize that not only is the center responsible for their interior experiences of energy, emotion, and feeling, but also, underlying these, the center is our continuous, mysterious experience of "life" and "being". Because this experience is more pervasive than our other experiences, we may not think of "life" and "being" as an interior experience. Even in the state of oneness, we tend to forget that our experience of "being" originates in the divine center, where it is one with divine life and being. We have become so used to living from this center that we feel no need to remember it, to mentally focus on it, look within, or even think about it. Despite this fact, however, the center remains; it is the epicenter of our experience of life and being, which gives rise to our experiential energies and various feelings.

    If this center suddenly dissolves and disappears, the experiences of life, being, energy, feeling and so on come to an end, because there is no "within" any more. And without a "within", there is no subjective, psychological, or spiritual life remaining - no experience of life at all. Our subjective life is over and done with. But now, without center and circumference, where is the divine?

    To get hold of this situation, imagine consciousness as a balloon filled with, and suspended in divine air. The balloon experiences the divine as immanent, "in" itself, as well as transcendent, beyond or outside itself. This is the experience of the divine in ourselves and ourselves in the divine; in the state of oneness, Christ is often seen as the balloon (ourselves), completing this trinitarian experience. But what makes this whole experience possible - the divine as both immanent and transcendent - is obviously the balloon, ie, consciousness or self. Consciousness sets up the divisions of within and without, spirit and matter, body and soul, immanent and transcendent; in fact, consciousness is responsible for every division we know of.

    But what if we pop the balloon - or better, cause it to vanish like a bubble that leaves no residue. All that remains is divine air. There is no divine in anything, there is no divine transcendence or beyond anything, nor is the divine anything. We cannot point to anything or anyone and say, "This or that is divine". So the divine is all - all but consciousness or self, which created the division in the first place.

    As long as consciousness remains however, it does not hide the divine, nor is it ever separated from it. In Christian terms, the divine known to consciousness and experienced by it as immanent and transcendent is called God; the divine as it exists prior to consciousness and after consciousness is gone is called Godhead.

    Obviously, what accounts for the difference between God and Godhead is the balloon or bubble - self or consciousness. As long as any subjective self remains, a center remains; and so, too, does the sense of interiority.

    You mention that, with the loss of the personal self, the personal God drops away as well. Is the personal God, then, a transitional figure in our search for ultimate loss of self.

    Sometimes we forget that we cannot put our finger on any thing or any experience that is not transitional. Since consciousness, self, or subject is the human faculty for experiencing the divine, every such experience is personally subjective; thus in my view, "personal God" is any subjective experience of the divine. Without a personal, subjective self, we could not even speak of an impersonal, no-subjective God; one is just relative to the other. Before consciousness or self existed, however, the divine was neither personal nor impersonal, subjective nor non-subjective - and so the divine remains when self or consciousness has dropped away.

    Consciousness by its very nature tends to make the divine into its own image and likeness; the only problem is, the divine has no image or likeness. Hence consciousness, of itself, cannot truly apprehend the divine. Christians (Catholics especially) are often blamed for being the great image makers, yet their images are so obviously naive and easy to see through, we often miss the more subtle, formless images by which consciousness fashions the divine. For example, because the divine is a subjective experience, we think the divine is a subject; because we experience the divine through the faculties of consciousness, will, and intellect, we think the divine is equally consciousness, will and intellect; because we experience ourselves as a being or entity, we experience the divine as a being or entity; because we judge others, we think the divine judges others; and so on. Carrying a holy card in our pockets is tame compared to the formless notions we carry around in our minds; it is easy to let go of an image, but almost impossible to uproot our intellectual convictions based on the experiences of consciousness. Still, if we actually knew the unbridgeable chasm that lies between the true nature of consciousness or self and the true nature of the divine, we would despair of ever making the journey. So consciousness is the marvelous divine invention by which human beings make the journey in subjective companionship with the divine; and, like every divine invention, it works. Consciousness both hides the chasm and bridges it - and when we have crossed over, of course, we do not need the bridge any more.

    So it doesn't matter that we start out on our journey with our holy cards, gongs and bells, sacred books and religious feelings. All of it should lead to growth and transformation, the ultimate surrender of our images and concepts, and a life of selfless giving. When there is nothing left to surrender, nothing left to give, only then can we come to the end of the passage - the ending of consciousness and its personally subjective God. One glimpse of the Godhead, and no one would want God back.

    How does the path to no-self in the Christian contemplative tradition differ from the path as laid out in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions?

    I think it may be too late for me to ever have a good understanding of how other religions make this passage. If you are not surrendering your whole being, your very consciousness, to a loved and trusted personal God, then what are you surrendering it to? Or why surrender it at all? Loss of ego, loss of self, is just a by-product of this surrender; it is not the true goal, not an end in itself. Perhaps this is also the view of Mahayana Buddhism, where the goal is to save all sentient beings from suffering, and where loss of ego, loss of self, is seen as a means to a greater end. This view is very much in keeping with the Christian desire to save all souls. As I see it, without a personal God, the Buddhist must have a much stronger faith in the "unconditioned and unbegotten" than is required of the Christian contemplative, who experiences the passage as a divine doing, and in no way a self-doing.

    Actually, I met up with Buddhism only at the end of my journey, after the no-self experience. Since I knew that this experience was not articulated in our contemplative literature, I went to the library to see is it could be found in the Eastern Religions. It did not take me long to realize that I would not find it in the Hindu tradition, where, as I see it, the final state is equivalent to the Christian experience of oneness or transforming union. If a Hindu had what I call the no-self experience, it would be the sudden, unexpected disappearance of the Atman-Brahman, the divine Self in the "cave of the heart", and the disappearance of the cave as well. It would be the ending of God-consciousness, or transcendental consciousness - that seemingly bottomless experience of "being", "consciousness", and "bliss" that articulates the state of oneness. To regard this ending as the falling away of the ego is a grave error; ego must fall away before the state of oneness can be realized. The no-self experience is the falling away of this previously realized transcendent state.

    Initially, when I looked into Buddhism, I did not find the experience of no-self there either; yet I intuited that it had to be there. The falling away of the ego is common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, it would not account for the fact that Buddhism became a separate religion, nor would it account for the Buddhist's insistence on no eternal Self - be it divine, individual or the two in one. I felt that the key difference between these two religions was the no-self experience, the falling away of the true Self, Atman-Brahman.

    Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless state of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond. Unless we clearly distinguish between these two very different experiences, we only confuse them, with the inevitable result that the true no-self experience becomes lost. If we think the falling away of the ego, with its ensuing transformation and oneness, is the no-self experience, then what shall we call the much further experience when this egoless oneness falls away? In actual experience there is only one thing to call it, the "no-self experience"; it lends itself to no other possible articulation. Initially I gave up looking for this experience in the Buddhist literature.

    Four years later, however, I came across two lines attributed to Buddha describing his enlightenment experience. Referring to self as a house, he said, "All thy rafters are broken now, the ridgepole is destroyed". And there it was - the disappearance of the center, the ridgepole; without it, there can be no house, no self. When I read these lines, it was as if an arrow launched at the beginning of time had suddenly hit a bulls-eye. It was a remarkable find. These lines are not a piece of philosophy, but an experiential account, and without the experiential account we really have nothing to go on. In the same verse he says, "Again a house thou shall not build", clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a "true center", a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.

    As a Christian, I saw the no-self experience as the true nature of Christ's death, the movement beyond even his oneness with the divine, the movement from God to Godhead. Though not articulated in contemplative literature, Christ dramatized this experience on the cross for all ages to see and ponder. Where Buddha described the experience, Christ manifested it without words; yet they both make the same statement and reveal the same truth - that ultimately, eternal life is beyond self or consciousness. After one has seen it manifested or heard it said, the only thing left is to experience it.

    You mention in 'The Path to No-Self' that the unitive state is the "true state in which God intended every person to live his mature years". Yet so few of us ever achieve this unitive state. What is it about the way we live right now that prevents us from doing so? Do you think it is our preoccupation with material success, technology, and personal accomplishment?

    First of all, I think there are more people in the state of oneness than we realize. For everyone we hear about there are thousands we will never hear about. Believing this state to be a rare achievement can be an impediment in itself. Unfortunately, those who write about it have a way of making it sound more extraordinary and blissful that it commonly is, and so false expectations are another impediment - we keep waiting and looking for an experience or state that never comes.

    But if I had to put my finger on the primary obstacle, I would say it is having wrong views of the journey. Paradoxical though it may seem, the passage through consciousness or self moves contrary to self, rubs it the wrong way - and in the end, will even rub it out. Because this passage goes against the grain of self, it is, therefore, a path of suffering. Both Christ and Buddha saw the passage as one of suffering, and basically found identical ways out. What they discovered and revealed to us was that each of us has within himself or herself a "stillpoint" - comparable, perhaps to the eye of a cyclone, a spot or center of calm, imperturbability, and non-movement. Buddha articulated this central eye in negative terms as "emptiness" or "void", a refuge from the swirling cyclone of endless suffering. Christ articulated the eye in more positive terms as the "Kingdom of God" or the "Spirit within", a place of refuge and salvation from a suffering self. For both of them, the easy out was first to find that stillpoint and then, by attaching ourselves to it, by becoming one with it, to find a stabilizing, balanced anchor in our lives. After that, the cyclone is gradually drawn into the eye, and the suffering self comes to an end. And when there is no longer a cyclone, there is also no longer an eye.

    So the storms, crises, and sufferings of life are a way of finding the eye. When everything is going our way, we do not see the eye, and we feel no need to find it. But when everything is going against us, then we find the eye. So the avoidance of suffering and the desire to have everything go our own way runs contrary to the whole movement of our journey; it is all a wrong view. With the right view, however, one should be able to come to the state of oneness in six or seven years - years not merely of suffering, but years of enlightenment, for right suffering is the essence of enlightenment.

    Because self is everyone's experience underlying all culture, I do not regard cultural wrong views as an excuse for not searching out right views. After all, each person's passage is his or her own; there is no such thing as a collective passage.

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    Sweden Avalon Member jorr lundstrom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Once upon the time I was sitting in an inn, doing nothing.
    Through the open door came a cat. It sat down beside its
    bowl, where it used to get milk, looking straight forward.
    The woman who attended the inn, started speaking to the
    cat, took the bowl, filled it with milk and put it beside the
    cat. The cat looked at the bowl and went out through the
    door.
    Cats are exellent teachers. LOL

    All is well


    Jorr
    We are free, have always been. LOL

    There is no sharing.

    Im responible for wot I say, not wot you understand

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by jorr lundstrom (here)
    Once upon the time I was sitting in an inn, doing nothing.
    Through the open door came a cat. It sat down beside its
    bowl, where it used to get milk, looking straight forward.
    The woman who attended the inn, started speaking to the
    cat, took the bowl, filled it with milk and put it beside the
    cat. The cat looked at the bowl and went out through the
    door.
    Cats are exellent teachers. LOL

    All is well


    Jorr

    Indeed it is!


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    Avalon Member tim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by another bob (here)
    Quote Posted by tim (here)
    Of course, ultimately, samsara is nirvana, this is the pu or "uncarved block" of Taoism
    Hiya Tim!

    Thanks for that!

    If I may, without leaning towards any sectarianism, I'd like to point out that the Taoist realization alluded to above is not necessarily complete, in that we can go even further. In fact, there are two more stages that have been documented by Realizers through the ages.

    In order to illustrate this, I would offer a good elaboration of the famous 10 Oxherding Pictures of Zen, with a good commentary by Chogyam Trungpa. The Taoist realization would probably be considered the level of the 8th woodblock pictogram, or at best the 9th, but does not yet encompass the return to the marketplace, where realization is put to the test of living in the world as an ordinary being, without any trace or "stink" of enlightenment or the sublime but aloof transcendence evidenced in the Taoist realization.

    Furthemore, although this level may be the best we can do so far, my sense is that there is so much further to go. Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen, once noted that Shakyamuni Buddha himself was "only half-way there", and so things are actually pretty open-ended in that respect.

    Once beyond even the limitation of form, we can recognize that what seemed a profound realization while in 3D land, is actually just child's play, and there is so much more, infinitely more . . .

    http://www.shambhala.org/dharma/ctr/...ing/index.html

    (just click on "the Search for the Bull" to begin the slide presentation)

    Hi Bob,

    You're most welcome.

    One of the joys of awakening, if you will permit me to speak relatively ( as in the absolute sense, I have not since nor ever uttered a single word ),
    is to revisit the writings of awakened ones, from the perspective of actuality, as opposed to cognitive or intellectual interpretation.
    Such was the case in my revisiting the ten bulls and I thank you for that.

    To cut to the chase, as it were, let's look at Chögyam Trungpa's interpretion of the 10th bull illustration by Tomikichiro Tokuriki, which you seem to imply
    is two stages beyond the Taoist state of Pu, "the uncarved block"

    In the World

    Nirmanakaya is the fully awakened state of being in the world. Its action is like the moon reflecting in a hundred bowls of water. The moon has no desire to reflect, but that is its nature. This state is dealing with the earth with ultimate simplicity, transcending following the example of anyone. It is the state of "total flop" or "old dog". You destroy whatever needs to be destroyed, you subdue whatever needs to to subdued, and you care for whatever needs your care.


    Now compare the definition of Pu,

    Pu is translated "uncarved block", "unhewn log", or "simplicity". It is a metaphor for the state of wu wei (無爲) and the principle of jian (儉).[54] It represents a passive state of receptiveness. Pu is a symbol for a state of pure potential and perception without prejudice. In this state, Taoists believe everything is seen as it is, without preconceptions or illusion.[55]

    Pu is usually seen as keeping oneself in the primordial state of tao.[56] It is believed to be the true nature of the mind, unburdened by knowledge or experiences.[57] In the state of pu, there is no right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. There is only pure experience, or awareness, free from learned labels and definitions. It is this state of being that is the goal of following wu wei.


    and as you introduced Dogen into the matter, let's also compare what he is reported to have written in Fukan Zazengi;

    "Zazen is not "step-by-step meditation". Rather it is simply the easy and pleasant practice of a Buddha, the realization of the Buddha's Wisdom. The Truth appears, there being no delusion. If you understand this, you are completely free, like a dragon that has obtained water or a tiger that reclines on a mountain. The supreme Law will then appear of itself, and you will be free of weariness and confusion."

    Now, respectfully, all three statements, in my view, may be considered as eloquent descriptions pointing to the same state.
    While I may take issue from the absolute perspective , with regard to the comments of Chogyam , in as much as
    it is not the "Moon's" (undefiled, non-dual, dare I say it, uncarved awareness) nature to reflect, but rather the dualistic mind, which is itself
    unreal, that gives rise to the illusion of separate or unreal reflections.

    Hence in my view, Chogyam's interpretation is not as skillful as say, Dogen's or more particularly the Heart and Diamond sutra's.

    Now as to your "sense" that their is so much further to go, am I correct that by sense you mean the sixth sense, ie cognitive function?

    Regarding your assertion that Dogen once noted that Buddha was "only half way there" do you have a link, I would enjoy seeing the context of the statement.
    My experience has been that zen masters are not bound by rationality or logic, and that it is indeed the purpose of koan's to "fracture" the rational mind
    in which the ego takes refuge. They therefore say one thing to one person, and totally the opposite to another, according to the need. Still, such a statement
    seems odd, given Dogen's comments quoted above.

    My own perspective of the "stink" of enlightenment, is as follows. The emphasis in zen is on awakening ie satori or kensho rather than accumulation of
    spiritual knowledge. Hence a pundit or a scholar or a priest, who asserts spiritual authority without having actualised the teaching may be what is referred to.
    The fragrance of no-mind in truly enlightened beings, sometimes referred to as a a halo (christian) or buddhafield (buddhist), is that which is transmitted without words,
    and is often felt as a palpable energy field which assists those in close proximity (ie satsang) to still their own minds and taste the nectar of realisation.

    A good example of this "stink" is Jesus (actualised) questioning the Jewish teacher Nicodemus in John 3:1-21.

    I have heard that three men once came to Siddhartha, one asserted God existed, which he eloquently refuted.
    The second asserted God did not exist, which he eloquently refuted.
    The third admitted to not knowing, Buddha invited this one to practice in his Sangha for one year after which he
    agreed to answer any questions he had. Of course after a year of Vipassana, questions were meaningless.

    Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven - Jesus

    Any fool can complicate things, the trick is to simplify - zen saying

    Namaste,
    tim
    Last edited by tim; 19th March 2012 at 04:23. Reason: grammar

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Hiya Tim!

    Some great considerations! As I mentioned, I like to avoid dogmatic positions, preferring to leave things open-ended for mutual inquiry. To respond to your question regarding my "sense" that there is so much further to go, I am not referring to my sixth sense, so to speak, but from a recognition gleaned both by myself and a number of other near death experiencers, in which human philosophy systems were instantly recognized as equivalent to the way we might watch children's interactions.

    Regarding the Dogen quote, I do not have a link per se, it was shared with me as I recall by one of my first Zen teachers, Suzuki Roshi.

    Now, regarding the impressions mentioned vis a vis Taoist realization, you might find the following link illuminating. One of my favorite Buddhist masters was Han Shan Te-Ch-ing, who, out of all the Buddhist masters I've encountered (most of whom regarded Taoism as an incomplete system), was actually very favorably disposed to it.

    http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-JOCP/jc26921.htm

    Note, however, that he did make this conclusion:

    In Han-shan's judgment, Taoism is more advanced than Confucianism, for it deals with the seventh consciousness by means of the eight consciousness, the store-house consciousness (aalaya-vij~naana). He regards the eighth consciousness as equivalent to the Taoist teaching of the subtle truth of emptiness (hsu-wu miao-tao).[r] In other words, Taoism has solved the problem of life and death, but fails to go beyond the store-house consciousness to the Mind, and mistakes the subtle truth of emptiness as the Mind itself. According to Han-shan, Buddhism alone can penetrate the veil of the eighth consciousness. This is because the Buddhist 'cessation and concentration' is superior to those of the other religions in breaking the ignorance of self-attachment.


    After some consideration over the years in examining both systems, I feel sympathetic with that assessment, although remember that we are only moving in the conceptual realm, and the proof is in the pudding. By that I mean of course that the demonstration of any level of attainment is to be found in how we behave in the midst of relations and life. I do love both systems, and so to be true to that love, I leave them both behind, and walk on with both hands empty and free.

    Thanks for thoughtful consideration, Tim!


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    United States Avalon Member NancyV's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Quote Posted by another bob (here)
    Hiya Tim!

    Some great considerations! As I mentioned, I like to avoid dogmatic positions, preferring to leave things open-ended for mutual inquiry. To respond to your question regarding my "sense" that there is so much further to go, I am not referring to my sixth sense, so to speak, but from a recognition gleaned both by myself and a number of other near death experiencers, in which human philosophy systems were instantly recognized as equivalent to the way we might watch children's interactions.

    Regarding the Dogen quote, I do not have a link per se, it was shared with me as I recall by one of my first Zen teachers, Suzuki Roshi.

    Now, regarding the impressions mentioned vis a vis Taoist realization, you might find the following link illuminating. One of my favorite Buddhist masters was Han Shan Te-Ch-ing, who, out of all the Buddhist masters I've encountered (most of whom regarded Taoism as an incomplete system), was actually very favorably disposed to it.

    http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-JOCP/jc26921.htm

    Note, however, that he did make this conclusion:

    In Han-shan's judgment, Taoism is more advanced than Confucianism, for it deals with the seventh consciousness by means of the eight consciousness, the store-house consciousness (aalaya-vij~naana). He regards the eighth consciousness as equivalent to the Taoist teaching of the subtle truth of emptiness (hsu-wu miao-tao).[r] In other words, Taoism has solved the problem of life and death, but fails to go beyond the store-house consciousness to the Mind, and mistakes the subtle truth of emptiness as the Mind itself. According to Han-shan, Buddhism alone can penetrate the veil of the eighth consciousness. This is because the Buddhist 'cessation and concentration' is superior to those of the other religions in breaking the ignorance of self-attachment.


    After some consideration over the years in examining both systems, I feel sympathetic with that assessment, although remember that we are only moving in the conceptual realm, and the proof is in the pudding. By that I mean of course that the demonstration of any level of attainment is to be found in how we behave in the midst of relations and life. I do love both systems, and so to be true to that love, I leave them both behind, and walk on with both hands empty and free.

    Thanks for thoughtful consideration, Tim!

    How funny! Just a short while ago today I had a call from an old Tai Chi teacher/friend of mine. We talked for two hours about this exact subject and said the same thing about Taoism vs Confucianism. We also touched on Buddhism. We agreed they all have wonderful parts within the practices and philosophies... and that Taoism is more advanced than Confucianism. We have both happily left behind all beliefs while retaining fond memories of philosophies we've studied and practiced along the way. We always have a lot of laughs about how much fun and how freeing it is to know nothing. Knowing nothing leaves room for enjoying everything.

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    Avalon Member tim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Hi Bob,

    You're most welcome, and thanks for the further clarification on your "sense" of greater things to come. It is ironic to compare the simplicity I referred to above, and evident in the meditative practices of Zazen, Vicharya and Vipassana to the convoluted wanderings of the mind in talking about en light en men t, found in Jnana Yoga, Buddhism and philosophy. But that is the illusion of the mind and the 10,000 things. Still, as Jorr mentioned earlier, all is well.

    "By that I mean of course that the demonstration of any level of attainment is to be found in how we behave in the midst of relations and life"

    This however is not "my" direct experience. Now the body/mind is just another appearance, there is no doer, although to others still so identified, I may appear to destroy, or subdue, or care for, or post .

    Ramesh Balsekar, a disciple of Nisargadatta whom I'm sure you've come across describes this beautifully. (As of course Krishna does to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita)
    One practices action with no regard for results, just another way to remove the ego.

    Thanks for the Han Shan link. Just to be clear, I have no attachment to any religion or system, be it Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, Advaitin, Hindu, Islam etc.
    I gravitated more to the practice than the doctrines and scriptures, finding what worked best for my particular mindset/ego.

    To be a Buddha
    one must overcome the obstacle of Buddhism
    To be a Christ
    one must overcome the obstacle of Christianity

    Cheers,
    tim
    Last edited by tim; 19th March 2012 at 07:57.

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    Default Re: Enlightenment and related matters.

    Keeping it simple.
    When the personal self disappears into the mists of time (past and future) enlightenment is present/revealed.

    Ego/self requires concepts/mind set/conditioning/belief systems in order to judge, compare, be separate.
    Without the reference point of past experience or a hoped for event in the future. there can be no ego.
    That scares people.
    How will I function? is the question.
    Life goes on exactly as before but the thought that I am the doer has gone.
    Everything is now seen as fresh and alive.

    Ramesh Balsekar was very clear on this.
    He said in essence.
    The biggest obstacle to enlightenment is the thought that there is an individual doer.
    The ego claims authorship of everything.
    Events happen deeds are done but there is no individual doer there off.
    The totality bring everything about.

    Chis
    Last edited by greybeard; 19th March 2012 at 11:46.
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    Be kind to all life, including your own, no matter what!!

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