Friday, April 12, 2013

"The being is the nought and the nought is the being..." -- Azriel of Gerona, Kabbala mystic

"Form is emptiness; emptiness is form" -- Heart Sutra (Buddhist) 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


There are so many ways to go about breaking down the illusion of duality, but they're all primarily about deeply investigating experience. It's crucial that we be willing to let go of any deeply-held beliefs -- indeed, beliefs (often expressed unknowingly through ingrained habits) are all that's stopping us from seeing the truth clearly.

This also means that any teaching which helps us see things clearly can safely be discarded once things are seen clearly. The words never contained the truth. It is the seeing that matters.

With that in mind, here's one path someone could follow:

1) Change your perspective of the world. Instead of the world being made of things existing out there, see it as experiences happening in here.

If you're astute, you will have noticed three changes happening at once:

Things => Experiences
Existing => Happening
Out there => In here

If you're honest with yourself, you'll admit that you can never be sure that you've seen a thing. You've had the visual experience of a thing, for sure, but such experiences take place in dreams, too. Nothing about the visual (or tactile, or combined) experience of a thing can give you certainty about the supposed thing's existence. All you can be sure of is that the experience of that thing seems to be happening. And where do all experiences happen? In the mind, of course, not "out there" in the world.

Now keep in mind this doesn't mean that you should completely change your behavior in relationship to seeming things. The experience of kicking the visual experience of a rock will almost certainly result in the experience of pain! Such is often the case in nighttime dreams, too.

In fact, one way to think of this step is by treating the world as a dream. After all, you don't know that it's not a dream. And dreams can have rules, too.

2) Notice that there is no "in here."

What? We just got done seeing that all things are happening "in here"! Everything happens in the mind; in experience.

Well, if everything (that is, all experience) is happening "in here," then what's happening "out there"? There's nothing left to happen out there! In fact, where is this "out there" of which you speak? If you think you've found an experience happening "out there," check and see if what really just happened was that you experienced the thought of something happening out there. Is the thought of something the same thing as that thing? Of course not.

If that paragraph was confusing, go back and re-read it with the recognition you have from step 1: "thing" and "experience" are completely interchangeable. If no experience is happening "out there," then nothing is happening "out there." The experience of something happening "out there" is itself happening inside experience -- that is, "in here."

But if there's no outside to a thing, then what sense does it make for there to be an inside? To draw a parallel: if the universe contains everything, then it doesn't make sense to conceive of an "outside" to the universe. The entire notion of inside and outside doesn't make sense. So it is with experience. If it's all happening "in here," then the idea "in here" is extraneous.

3) See that "an experience" exists only as long as it is being experienced.

Pick a sound. That is, the experience of a sound. Did it happen to somebody? What was that experience-of-a-sound doing before anyone came along and experienced it? Was it sitting somewhere, waiting to be experienced? Or did it simply not exist in any meaningful sense before it was experienced? I think you'll agree that an experience is a non-entity until it is experienced. If not, go find an experience that isn't being experienced and tell me in what sense it is an experience.

4) Try to find who or what it is that is doing the experiencing.

Pick a sound again. Is there someone doing the experiencing of a sound? By the time it can be properly called an experience, we saw that it was already being experienced. Once this is so, does anyone need to come along and do anything? No.

You might argue that by this point, something is already doing the experiencing. Okay, what is this thing? Can you draw me a picture of it? What color is it? Or is there just this vague sense that there must be something there, doing the experiencing, even if we can't see it? Doesn't this sound an awful lot like the argument that there must be a God, since there "must be" something that created all this?

If you say it is the brain doing the experiencing, investigate that some more. Is it your experience that there's a brain over here, an experience over there, and the first is somehow doing the second? Or is that just another thought? If you had a long dream where our heads were filled with jelly beans, and in it, neuroscientists "proved" that jelly beans cause experience, wouldn't you be just as convinced of that fact? Did anyone ever really witness jelly beans having experiences? What about brains?

(Filling out the details for the rest could take a while, but I'll do it if anyone is interested.)

5) If nobody is doing experiencing, is anyone doing actions? Or are actions just experiences (of something being done, and a thought saying "I'm doing this")?

6) Where are experiences happening?

7) What are experiences made of?

After doing all this, what are you left with? The world is made up of experiences, which themselves are located nowhere and made of nothing. They're not happening to anyone, nor are they caused by anyone. Any thoughts denying any of the above are just more experiences, and any objection to that is itself an experience, ...

The more clearly this is seen, the less struggling there is against it. And the less struggling there is, the less suffering there is. What is suffering, after all, than struggling?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reconciling, cont'd

In the last post, Maharshi talked about a point after which it is impossible to make effort. Presumably this is a point at which one is abiding deeply in rigpa. Meanwhile, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche has this to say:
In the beginning, when we start this training, the master will say, “Look into your mind! Look into your mind!” This watchfulness is necessary until you are used to it. Once that has happened you don’t need to look here or there. You have caught the ‘scent’ of the nature of mind. At that point, you do not need to struggle; the nature of mind is naturally awake.
So the question is: is there a specific point after which inversion should be abandoned? Is it just after one's first glimpse of rigpa? Or can both inversion and non-meditation be employed further?

Only one way to find out :)

Reconciling approaches

I have a new challenge. I've reconciled (in my own mind, anyway) the instructions of Mahamudra, pieces of Taoism, Zen, and modern-day Advaita. At their pinnacle is formless practice: do nothing, and everything is done. There can be no object of meditation, no matter how subtle, because any act of meditating is conceptual and effortful. Of course, at the pinnacle, there can be no meditating because there is no meditator, but most instructions suggest getting there via non-meditation.

On the other hand, I think that Ramana Maharshi (a 20th century Advaitin) and Heshang Moheyan (an 8th century Chan monk) are both realized beings, and they have a very different idea of what to do. Moheyan's teachings may have been banished from Tibet, but Longchenpa and Jigme Lingpa hold him in high regard. Jigme Lingpa says:
During the debate, Kamalaśīla asked what was the cause of saṃsāra by the symbolic action of whirling his staff around his head. [Hashang] answered that it was the apprehender and apprehended by the symbolic action of shaking his robe out twice. It is undeniable that such a teacher was of the sharpest faculties. If the non-recollection and non-mentation entail the offense of rejecting the wisdom of differentiating analysis, then the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras of [the Buddha] also entail this fault. Therefore, what the view of Hashang actually was can be known by a perfect buddha, and no one else.
 So what was his teaching? From what we can gather (not much of his teachings remain):
Moheyan held that all thought (thinking and ideation) prevented enlightenment.
To rid oneself of all conceptions, one must practice meditation, trance, and contemplating the mind: “To turn the light [of the mind] towards the mind’s source, that is contemplating the mind.”
Maharshi says:
If one then enquires `Who am I?', the mind will turn back to its source [the Self] and the thought which had risen will also subside. By repeatedly practising thus, the power of the mind to abide in its source increases. ...
As and when thoughts rise, one should annihilate all of them through enquiry then and there in their very place of origin.
With my current limited abilities, turning the mind toward its source and keeping it there is still an act of meditation. It feels very different than practicing non-meditation, in which experience is not manipulated in any way. Maybe the key to the conundrum lies in this bit:
Question: And so rejection of thoughts is not necessary?
Ramana Maharshi:  No. It may be necessary for a time or for some. You fancy that there is no end if one goes on rejecting every thought when it rises. It is not true, there is an end. If you are vigilant and make a stern effort to reject every thought when it rises you will soon find that you are going deeper and deeper into your own inner self. At that level it is not necessary to make an effort to reject thoughts.

Question: Then it is possible to be without effort, without strain?
Ramana Maharshi:  Not only that, it is impossible for you to make an effort beyond a certain extent.
So both non-meditation practice (I think of this as "fake it til you make it non-doing") and self-enquiry lead to true non-doing. The question is, how does one decide which to practice? Actually, come to think of it... zomg... Alan Wallace teaches a method from Padmasambhava, in which one inverts the attention back toward the source, and then releases it, periodically. The point of this practice? To break through to rigpa!
Withdrawing from all appearances and really focusing with effort, invert your awareness on being aware. Utterly relaxing, release your awareness into space with no object. Invert on your sense of being the meditator, the agent doing the inversion. Invert on your sense of being the observer or subject experiencing your own awareness, and observe closely. ...
In other words, Padmasambhava is suggesting cycling between the Maharshi/Moheyan approach and the classic "just rest" approach.

Welp, that's my epiphany for the day.

Edit: actually, it occurs to me that Adyashanti has said something similar before. He advocates non-doing as well as introspection. I'll have to go back and re-listen to his True Meditation series. That really nailed it.

Living the dream

We're so busy trying to "live the dream" that we fail to notice: we are living in a dream! It's true. Maybe not in the way Beyonce means it, but still.