Sunday, October 31, 2010

What are we looking for?

One of the problems for seekers is the fact that they are searching for something (Enlightenment) which they have not clearly defined. What is worse, there are countless teachers talking about Enlightenment who also do not define what they are talking about.

We can assume that in the seeker there is a strong sense of something missing. The strength of this longing validates the seeking. So the seeker is off on the journey seeking enlightenment. However, because that "something" remains undefined, the seeker is subject to looking everywhere and anywhere.

The goal being undefined, leaves the seeker listening to anyone and everyone who claims to know something about the subject. Not knowing what it is, anyone could have it. Anything could be it! The seeker is now subject to any and all pseudo logic and experiential pablum. What is the seeker to do?

First, the seeker must realize that if one does not want to spend forty years looking under every rock, and behind every bush, one needs to have some idea of what the goal is. Some definition of what enlightenment is, needs to be determined. Without a good definition of the destination, it is only a wilderness.

If we begin by noting that the conclusion of the Vedas is that Consciousness is all there is, and that it is non-dual, perhaps we can define these and related terms, and chart a possible path.

If you look at the definitions below, gleaned from on-line dictionaries and shortened, one might begin to be able to define what Enlightenment is. The four words that are fundamental are: knowledge, experience, consciousness, awareness.

Knowledge: The sum or range of what has been or can be perceived, discovered, experienced, or learned.

Experience: Direct personal participation in, or perception of, or observation of, a particular incident, thought or feeling, that can be remembered and its impact known. It may be considered subjective, but not easily dismissed.

Consciousness: The sum total of everything that can be experienced, thought, felt, perceived, conjured, or known.

Awareness: That which allows sense data, however subtle or gross, to be registered as consciousness. That which is aware of everything is Awareness, and everything that can be known or experienced, happens in Awareness. All that is, or can be known, is consciousness, and consciousness appears in Awareness.

Based on these definitions, we may be able to mark a path to enlightenment.

1. If everything is one, then individuality is an appearance.

2. If individuality is an appearance, and I exist, then to know who I am, I must find the source of the appearance.

3. To find the source of appearance I need to get rid of my doubts and prove to myself that consciousness is all there is, and that my body-mind is an appearance only.

4. To prove that consciousness is all there is, I need to analyze all my sensory input, all perceptions, and determine that everything that appears out there, and in here, is in fact, experience only.

5. Once I know that everything is an interpretation only, and that all interpretation is consciousness only, I still need to know where consciousness appears.

6. Consciousness appears in Awareness. Awareness is the ultimate perceiver, for it has no attributes. It is the capability, the capacity, and the potentiality of knowing anything and everything.

7. If anything and everything that has ever been conscious, can become conscious, or will become conscious, appears in Awareness, then that is what I am. As the enlightened have always said, "That thou art."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Ends the Search

Vedanta is said to be the "knowledge that ends the search for knowledge." I have found this to be true. The bottom line of searching is to finally know with certainty who I am. When one finally sees that one can be nothing other than Awareness, what more is there to look for? One can't go any further because Awareness is attribute-less and not an object of experience.

No more questions can be asked. It is the end of the road. A great peace descends. There is no more great itch to scratch. There is also absolute certainty that there is no one who needs saving, and no reason to shout it from the mountain tops.

There is no one here and nothing is really happening, only appearances with mistaken identities. What is said to be obvious by the sages, has always been true. Once the obstacle of ignorance has been removed, with knowledge, understanding arrives. Awareness is the knower, and consciousness is all there is.

The method for removing the obstacles has been around for a long time. It is called Advaita Vedanta. It was recorded, written down by the sages of India, thousands of years ago. It was not hearsay then, and it is not hearsay now. It is not fuzzy logic.

It worked thousands of years ago, and it works today. It is a tried and true method for removing the the ignorance that clouds the minds of apparent persons. When the ignorance is removed, one sees one's true nature as Awareness. It feels natural because it is true.

Vedanta is a true science of mind. It has only one goal -- the removal of the mind's ignorance of its true nature. It is proved each time an apparent individual uses the method and finds the Self as undivided Awareness.

Vedanta asks no one to simply believe. It may require some faith in the teacher or the scriptures, but the whole system is based on inquiry. It asks in myriad ways, "Is this true? Is this true? And one has to do the inquiry oneself, to prove it to oneself.

If you want to get a taste of the method, a good source is "Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda," taken by Nitya Tripta. These are the inquiries of students of Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon." It is a free download from a number of sources on the Internet. 

The sages confidently say, "Prove it to yourself. No one can do it for you." Try it. It works.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anxiety and The Racing Mind

I don't worry about being here "now." Whatever is on my mind is here now, whether I am thinking only about what I am typing now, or bringing the past into the present moment, or bringing the future into the present moment. Everything is now. In fact everything is always just this.

It seems to me that when people talk about having trouble being in the now, they are really talking about intrusive thoughts, a racing mind bringing in thoughts about the past or the future. In effect, worry. It is a form of anxiety. I used to have that problem, but I don't any more.

I would advise not to try and directly stop the racing mind. Directly stopping the racing mind is impossible because the racing mind is a result, a symptom of unresolved issues. To stop the racing mind the issues need to be resolved. In other words, the stopping of the racing mind is an indirect result of resolving issues.

What I am trying to point out is that you can spend years trying to stop or control a racing mind and only succeed in wasting a lot of time. The racing thoughts problem isn't going to be stopped by force of will. It is only going to stop when the cause is removed.

In my case I was not looking to stop my racing mind. I was looking to resolve the inordinate mental anguish I was immersed in. At one point I even became aware that my mind was racing because I was trying to outrun my pain - trying to think my way out of it.

If there is an enormous amount of pain, and you try and rationalize your way out of it, your mind is going to race. The racing thoughts are are trying to outrun pain, they are screaming, "You need to resolve this!" Not doing so results in anxiety.

You see, the reality is, you experienced pain, or mental anguish, and somehow you did not fully experience it. It got repressed. You have unfinished business. On a personal level, to get back in touch with reality, the unexperienced pain needs to be felt. It needs to be felt to put you back in touch with your personal reality.

Now, I am all about getting to Impersonal Consciousness or Awareness. But it is going to be difficult to get there, if you have a ton of personal stuff in the way. Consciousness wants to experience everything, and if you have unfelt pain, it is going to insist that you feel it. Consciousness isn't going to avoid anything. It will not let you off the hook.

In my case, I went to a therapist who did Gestalt work. It was done in a group. I primarily worked on my dreams because they spoke the truth of what was going on in me. And what the dreams were symbolizing over and over was the pain.

When I did break through into the pain, it was enormous, and it was terrifying, and yet the experiencing of it allowed it to leave. At first it seemed bottomless, but eventually it cleared itself out. This did take a few years.

What happened when the pain was experienced and let go of? There was nothing left to try and outrun with my mind. I didn't have to try and rationalize my way around it. The result was a quiet mind.

Since then my mind has been extremely quiet. It thinks, but very little, and it doesn't have thoughts coming in unwanted, or having some other agenda, other than whatever task I am presently doing.

At work, whatever I am working on is all that is going on. Away from work, most of my leisure is spent on thinking about, or experiencing non-duality. It is what I want to think about. It is what I am. There are no intrusive thoughts.

If you really want to look at the issue of repressed pain and its relation to a racing, anxious, mind, read the book "The Primal Scream" by Arthur Janov. It made a difference for me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Enlightenment is not a Particular Experience

There is a problem with enlightenment. The problem is that it seems to have a myriad of definitions. If one cannot define it, then how, even after fifty years as a seeker, would one ever know one had achieved it. This shocking thought has probably come to most seekers at some point. Ramesh Balsekar talks about this in one of his videos on youtube.

Most seekers start out reading about enlightenment, trying to understand. There is a lot of literature that talks about experience, especially the Western mystical literature. The experience of the Saints describes a variety of mystical experiences in the pursuit of God.

Seekers read these accounts with avid interest. The experiences seem out of this world, way beyond normal, and seekers may unconsciously take in the belief that enlightenment requires one to have this type of experience. Worse yet, the seeker may take on the belief that this type of experience is enlightenment.

Sooner or later, the dedicated seeker is likely to have one or more of this type of experience. These are very powerful, and often carry an authority that is beyond words. The power of such an experience is utterly meaningful, and has the feel of the absolute.

Then the experience, however wonderful and ecstatic  passes, and one is dropped back into one's normal state.
Dropping back into one's normal state after an ecstatic experience of Oneness is not fun. It feels like one has lost one's most precious friend, lost the most meaningful experience one has ever had.

This loss may even lead to depression, because after the experience has gone, the normal state of the world seems barren, like a desert, a no man's land. This is a problem.

The problem with these experiences is largely due to their power. They are so powerful and meaningful that one is easily convinced that "This is it. This is enlightenment. This is what I have been looking for. This is what I have to keep to be enlightened." And so the experiencer is off in hot pursuit of regaining the experience.

But what if such experiences are not enlightenment? What if this is just an experience, although a powerful one, and not enlightenment? What if enlightenment is not an experience? What if the experience is just a message, a special message, designed to wake you up to something more permanent?

Experiences come and go, no matter how mundane or high and out of this world. Doesn't enlightenment have to be something more permanent than a state, an experience? Realization is a waking up to Reality, and Reality is unchanging. What do we do then, with an experience that is mystical, beatific, ecstatic beyond words?

The only thing we can do is examine it. What is the message of such an experience? Obviously it is a message that points to something deeper, more permanent. So we need to ask questions. We need to know what the experience means. What might it be pointing to?

We could ask, "Who did this experience come to?" Now we are back into "Self Inquiry." A good place to be, as this self
inquiry is a method expounded by the sages. Self inquiry is also not a search for experience, but for knowledge and understanding.

By the time a seeker is having mystical experiences of this nature, it is likely that they have also discovered that we are not who we thought we were. Perhaps we have even read that we are consciousness, and that life is actually impersonal. If we apply this knowledge to our mystical ecstatic epiphanies, we can go deeper yet.

As all experiences come and go, this ecstatic experience is like all others, a pointer, not the Reality, because Reality is unchanging. If the experience then, is not enlightenment, and we need deeper understanding, what do we use?

This is where the mind comes in. On examination, we can come to some conclusions. Since experience comes and goes, it can't be enlightenment. So what doesn't come and go? Awareness doesn't come and go. Where is awareness? Everywhere. I have awareness. My teacher has awareness. My dog and cat have awareness. Awareness never changes. Awareness is real.

One plus one equals two, no matter what experience you are having. Awareness is, no matter what experience you are having. It is the background of all your experience. You are Awareness whether you know it or not. But when you know it, it is knowledge you can count on.

Considering the unreality of experience, and considering the fact that you exist and are aware, it is apparent that enlightenment is the knowledge that one is Awareness. Of course this is not just an intellectual knowledge, but a deep and abiding knowledge, an understanding that includes one's whole effort: experiences, thinking, intuition and heart.

If one knows that one is Awareness, with conviction, on direct observation, including all one's experience, all one's thinking, and all one's heart, then one's knowledge is firm. This understanding is enlightenment. Understanding is all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Background of Vedanta

A person has many varied experiences in a day, yet somehow one still knows, I am me. One may feel happy or sad, thoughtful or anxious, the states come and go. Experiencing all these different states, one might think the person would feel discontinuous, but that doesn't appear to happen. One still considers oneself an individual.

How is it that one doesn't loose oneself? The inference is that there is something stable behind the individual, something ongoing, something real. The unchanging background of awareness is what Vedantins call it. And the One who knows this is called "Realized."

As the person remains himself, or herself, despite the constant changes, just so, consciousness itself remains one, despite having the experience of billions of different bodies. Not only is this similar to the person's sense of retaining individuality, it is the same thing, for the background of all persons, that which provides the background, is Consciousness itself.

Vedanta establishes that there is no difference between an individual having various passing feelings and thoughts, and consciousness having the experience of billions of bodies. The person passes in an out of feelings and thoughts, and Consciousness knows the passing in and out of experience, of all the bodies.

The experience of the individual, and the experience of Consciousness are One and the same. The only difference is that the individual feels that his body-mind owns the consciousness, whereas, in fact, the individual is only a focal point in consciousness. The mistaken identity is simply ignorance. To "realize," is simply to see through the ignorance.

Body-mind states come and go, yet the person knows himself as one. Consciousness experiences the coming and going of bodies, yet knows itself as One. The coming and going of body-minds does not split consciousness into the many. There is only One in many forms. Realize that and be free.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Common Awareness

I am aware of seeing through these eyes and viewing objects. I am aware of thinking about the objects I see. But who or what is looking out of these eyes?

I did not create this body I am looking out from. Neither did I create this mind that seems to possess this body. This being the case, this body-mind is an object - not a personal self.

If this body-mind is an object, who, or what, is looking out these eyes? Who or what is taking in the scenery? Who or what is experiencing this particular body-mind?

Since I did not create this body-mind, calling it "myself," is rather immodest, a taking of liberties. No object in the universe is known to be uncreated. It appears that this body-mind must be an object of that which created it. I can acknowledge this much, but who then, is here?

For that which created me to be here, looking out of my eyes, it must be something subtler than this body. If it can be inside of this body, and look out my eyes, it must be something formless, yet aware.  

I can neither see nor touch what is here looking out, yet it is definitely here. That subject is what I have always been looking for, even when I didn't know what I was looking for.

What is looking out my eyes, your eyes, all eyes? We can all agree we have a common Source. So whatever is present behind our eyes, must be common to us all.

What is common to us all: humans, animals, and all of life? Nothing but Awareness, the Grand Subject, the Great I, playing on its own stage.

I am That. You are That. All is That. Nothing personal. Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Knowledge is Power

A simple story of lights in the office where I work is a good example of ignorance.

Most mornings when I get to the office the lights in my area are on. Some mornings, they are not. It turns out that a few people know how to turn the lights on and the rest are ignorant of it. Until that person comes in, and I don't know who they are, we sit in the dark.

Typically, when the lights are out, we wait for someone to come in who knows how to turn the lights on. Usually it's just a few minutes, then miraculously, the lights come on.

One morning, I sat in the dark for a long time. I could see my monitor, but not the keyboard. I happened to go by the desk of someone close by, also sitting in the dark. I asked him, "Do you know who knows how to turn on the lights?"

"Sure," He answered, "I know how to do it."  As he got up to go do it, I said, "Perhaps I should follow you and see how you do it?" I followed him around the corner and a few feet down the hall where there was a light switch. He flicked the switch, and on came the lights.

"Funny," I said, "I have passed by that switch hundreds of times and never noticed it. Knowledge is power, isn't it?" He answered, "Yes," with a big grin.

Enlightenment is a lot like this. Awareness is familiar, it is close, we live and breathe within it, but we don't know it is there. Meister Eckhart gave us a clue when he said, "The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me."

Awareness is staring us in the face, 24/7, and staring back at us as well, 24/7. We just don't notice it. We don't even know to look!

Assuming that the darkness is noticed, and that there is earnestness to find the light, all we need is correct knowledge and the willingness to look. Knowledge opens the door to the fact that Awareness is what we are, not something we have. The right pointers and an open mind bring understanding.

Years can be spent looking with Awareness at Awareness, for enlightenment, without knowing that we are what we are looking for. Without recognition, we can be it, and not know it. Knowledge awakens us to what we have always been, but overlooked.

Thank God for the teacher that can point at the knowledge, because he knows where it is.