enlightenment

What We All Want to Hear

Excerpt from It Begins With Silence: The Art of Mindful Reflection by Stephen Schettini:

March 17, 2013Dozens of self-help books today provide techniques that, their authors claim, work in ten days or even ten minutes. Clearly, their pubishers know the market all too well, for that's exactly what we all want to hear, but they're pandering shamelessly to our most childish fantasies. 

Some of my students have been initially disappointed to learn that I don't breeze through life on a cloud of meditative calm, but my job is to demonstrate that awakening to your full conscious potential is a commitment of body, mind and life. 

Nevertheless, I've learnt, and I teach, that from the day we begin, the meditative lifestyle enhances all we do at work, at home and at leisure. It's sometimes easy and sometimes hard, but nothing's more wonderful than the sense that what we're doing is worthwhile and that your little corner of the world has become a brighter place. 

Be Openness

Excerpt from Instant Enlightenment: Fast, Deep, and Sexy by David Deida:

Go inside yourself as deep as you can. Feel inward, deeper and deeper. Is there an end to how deeply you can feel? If not, keep feeling inwardly until you are certain inward never ends.

All there is inside is a deeper and deeper openness.

Now, feel outwardly as far as you can. Listen to the most distant sounds you can hear, and then listen further, into the openness beyond the furthest sound. Notice the most distant light, and then gaze beyond it, into the endless openness...

Now, simultaneously, feel the openness that goes on and on, both inwardly and outwardly. Really do this, and you will discover that feeling never ends in any direction. The most basic sense of being, of existence, is the openness of feeling in all directions. Being is feeling wide open.

As soon as your feeling stops short of on-and-on, feel whatever you are feeling (a tree or a thought), and feel beyond it. You don't have to stop feeling anything (you can still feel the tree or the thought), but also feel the openness that goes beyond anything. Feel further than you've ever felt before, zillions of miles inwardly, and zillions of miles outwardly, on and on, wide open. 

This is who you are, this wide openness, feeling with no boundaries.

Be openness, feeling on and on, while having sex or during a conversation, and your lover and friends will begin to feel an unbound openness, too. 

Do you have a better way to live your life? The choice is yours. 

Dust to Dust

Franklin Avenue, October 7, 2012

Excerpt from In My Own Way by Alan Watts:

This is all there is;
     the path comes to and end
     among the parsley.

Perhaps I can express this Buddhist fascination for the mystery of nothingness in another way.

If we get rid of all wishful thinking and dubious metaphysical speculations, we can hardly doubt that – at a time not too distant – each one of us will simply cease to be. It won’t be like going into darkness forever, for there will be neither darkness, nor time, nor sense of futility, nor anyone to feel anything about it.

Try as best you can to imagine this, and keep at it. The universe will, supposedly, be going on as usual, but for each individual it will be as if it had never happened at all; and even that is saying too much, because there won’t be anyone for whom it never happened.

Make this prospect as real as possible: the one total certainty. You will be as if you had never existed, which was, however, the way you were before you did exist – and not only you but everything else.

Nevertheless, with such an improbable past, here we are. We begin from nothing and end in nothing. You can say that again. Think it over and over, trying to conceive the fact of coming to never having existed.

After a while you will begin to feel rather weird, as if this very apparent something that you are is firmly and certainly grounded in nothingness, much as your sight seems to emerge from that total blankness behind your eyes.

The weird feeling goes with the fact that you are being introduced to a new common sense, a new logic, in which you are beginning to realize the identity of ku and shiki, void and form.

All of a sudden it will strike you that this nothingness is the most potent, magical, basic, and reliable thing you ever thought of, and that the reason you can’t form the slightest idea of it is that it’s yourself.

But not the self you thought you were.  


See also:

 

 

Not About Positive Emotions

Not About Positive Emotions

"The process of finding the truth may not be a process by which we feel increasingly better and better. It may be a process by which we look at things honestly, sincerely, truthfully, and that may or may not be an easy thing to do."

~ Adyashanti

Feeling Slightly Out of It Most of the Time

Feeling Slightly Out of It Most of the Time

"actually, it may be that just being yourself as a human being means feeling slightly out of it most of the time. And that a form of enlightenment is to understand that you'll never feel quite at home in the world and you're not meant to, because your sense of compassion for the rest of creation and for others depends on your understanding of exile — how far a creature, especially a human creature, can feel from true parentage, from their true inheritance, from their true home."

~ David Whyte

Only Listen

Nothing's worth noting that is not seen with fresh eyes.

Bashō

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.

Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakens.

Carl Jung

III A Glimpse of the Ox

The meadowlark sings, sitting on a branch.
Warm sun, light breeze, green willows by the river.
The Ox stands right there; where could he hide?
That splendid head, those stately horns,
what artist could draw their likeness?

If he would only listen to everyday sounds he would get it in a second. As for the senses: it was the cicada that made the ear! The thing itself is there no matter what we do. It is like the salt in water and the binder in paint. Rightly opened, the eye sees no difference between the water and the well.

Max Gimblett / A Glimpse of the Ox, 2005-08 / Sumi Ink, HMP American Handmade Paper

Oxherding is based on the Song-Dynasty Chinese “Oxherding Series,” a Zen Buddhist parable of self-discovery composed of pictures and verse. A contemporary American set of perspectives on this greatly venerated Buddhist text, the exhibition includes six collaborative artist books, a series of 10 sumi ink paintings by Max Gimblett, and 10 poems in Chinese and three English versions translated by Lewis Hyde. (Exhibit runs from Oct. 29, 2011 through Mar. 4, 2012 at the new Graham Gund Gallery on the campus of Kenyon College.)

Beyond the Mind

Excerpts from Emptiness Dancing by Adyashanti:

The mind can’t fathom that there can be a true intelligence, a transcendent intelligence, that isn’t the product and outcome of thought and conceptual understanding. It can’t fathom that there could be wisdom that’s not going to come at you in the form of thoughts, in the form of acquired and accumulated knowledge.

The true spiritual urge or yearning is always and invitation beyond the mind. That’s why it’s always been said that if you go to God, you go naked or you don’t go at all. It’s the same for everybody. You go in free of your accumulated knowledge, or you are forever unable to enter. So an intelligent mind realizes its own limitation, and it’s a beautiful thing when it does.

When you stop holding on to all the knowledge, then you start to enter a different state of being. You start to move into a different dimension. You move into a dimension where experience inside gets very quiet. The mind may still be there chatting in the background, or it might not, but consciousness is no longer bothering itself with the mind. You don’t need to stop it. Your awareness just goes right past that wall of knowledge and moves into a very quiet state…

…Once your conceptual world of knowledge gets put in its rightful place, it is transcended. You see that you are eternal consciousness now appearing as woman or man, this or that character. But like every good actor, you are not what you are appearing as. Everything that exists is consciousness appearing as, or God appearing as, or Self appearing as, or spirit appearing as. The Buddha called it no-self. When that’s seen, you see Unity. There is only God. That’s all there is: God appearing as floor, as a human being, as a wall, as a chair.

No knowledge, no statement of the Truth touches what’s eternal, what you really are. And no statement about how to get there is true either, because what gets one person there doesn’t get another person there. A mind that likes to look for the one truth path cannot find it. Of course, the mind doesn’t like that. “No right path? Nothing that could be said or read that ultimately, in the end, could be true? The most enlightened being can’t speak the Truth?”

No. It’s never been done, and it never will be done. The only thing you can do is to put a pointer on the way that says, “Look that way.” A false spiritual arrow is one that points to the wall and says, “Look this way.” A true arrow is one that points beyond the wall of concepts.

An Open-Ended Series of Provisional Breakthroughs

From Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch:

free-play The literature on creativity is full of tales of breakthrough experiences. These moments come when you let go of some impediment or fears, and boom—in whooshes the muse. You feel clarity, power, freedom, as something unforeseeable jumps out of you. The literature of Zen, on which I have drawn heavily because of its deep penetration of the breakthrough experience, abounds with accounts of kensho and satori—moments of illumination and moments of total change of heart. There come points in your life when you simply kick the door open. But there is no ultimate breakthrough; what we find in the development of a creative life is an open-ended series of provisional breakthroughs. In this journey there is no endpoint, because it is the journey into the soul.

In my own life, music taught me to listen, not just to sound but to who I am. I discovered the relevance of our many mystical or esoteric traditions to the practical life of art making. “Mysticism” does not refer to cloudy belief systems or to hocus-pocus; it refers to direct and personal spiritual experience, as distinct from organized religion in which one is expected to believe secondhand experiences passed on in sacred books or by teachers or authorities. It is the mystics who bring creativity into religion. The mystic or visionary attitude expands and concretizes art, science, and daily life as well. Do I believe what “the Man” tells me, or am I going to try things out for myself and see what’s really true for me?

Creativity is a harmony of opposite tensions, as in lila or divine play. As we ride through the flux of our own creative processes, we hold onto both poles. If we let go of play, our work becomes ponderous and stiff. If we let go of the sacred, our work loses its connection to the ground on which we live.

Knowledge of the creative process cannot substitute for creativity, but it can save us from giving up on creativity when the challenges seem too intimidating and free play seems blocked. If we know that our inevitable setbacks and frustrations are phases of the natural cycle of creative processes, if we know that our obstacles can become our ornaments, we can persevere and bring our desires to fruition. Such perseverance can be a real test, but there are ways through, there are guideposts. And the struggle, which is guaranteed to take a lifetime, is worth it. It is a struggle that generates incredible pleasure and joy. Every attempt we make is imperfect; yet each one of those imperfect attempts is an occasion for a delight unlike anything else on earth.

 

Wider and Deeper

“In Zen literature the word intimacy is often used as a synonym for enlightenment. In the classical Zen enlightenment stories, a monk or a nun is reduced simultaneously to tears and laughter as he or she suddenly recognizes that nothing in this world is separate, that each and every thing, including one’s own self, is nothing but the whole, and that the whole is nothing but the self. What are such stories telling us if not that love is much wider and deeper than an emotion? Love is the fruition of, the true shape of, one’s self and all that is.”

~ Norman Fischer, from Taking Our Places

A Very Organic Process

"There are all kinds of stories and myths that have arisen about this. Most of them are nonsense.  And it became ever more apparent to me, as I worked my way up through this system, that I was not becoming a superman and I wasn’t becoming a saint and my morality was not becoming perfected.  And what was happening here was a very organic process that I’ve more recently come to think of as what I call a physio-energetic process.  There is some energy that arises in the body and can be developed in stages.  And that’s what’s happening.  All of the stuff, all of the stories that we layer on to that, that if you reach this stage, you’re going to act a certain way or you’re going to be incapable of committing various immoral acts, that’s just fantasy island...I’ve completely given up on the notion that you’re going to develop to the point of being incapable of lying, for example, or of being incapable of anger or lust."

~ Kenneth Folk, in conversation with Vince Horn, "Ordinary People Can Get Enlightened," Buddhist Geeks Podcast (Episode 156)

Experiencing Light

Excerpt from Coming Home: The Experience of Enlightenment in Sacred Traditions by Lex Hixon:

Imagine you are wandering through a vast cathedral. Countless stain-glass windows, radiant in the darkness, represent the modes of worship and ways of understanding that humanity has evolved throughout its history. Some windows picture divine presence through personal forms or attributes, and seekers worship these windows with devotion. Other seekers, preferring the way of wisdom, contemplate stained-glass windows that present nothing personal, simply esoteric patterns evoking primal harmony and unity. Devotion and wisdom are alternate ways to enlightenment. Some sacred traditions interweave both ways.

St. John of the Divine What occurs as we contemplate these cathedral windows? We are really experiencing light, diffused through complicated contexts that have been created, individually and communally, by visionary artisans. And we cannot step outside this cathedral, which is human thinking, because we must depend on some personal and cultural medium. We cannot articulate any experience, even to ourselves, without some process of thinking. This is not imprisonment but simply the nature of light or reality, which expresses itself as experience only through some particular medium.

Each window of devotion or wisdom translates the same radiance of ultimate consciousness by means of personal figures or symbolic patterns unique to itself. Through dedicated contemplation of even a single window, we can attune to light, or reality, and eventually realize that our intrinsic nature is the light. Once realizing the universal cathedral to be flooded with the conscious light of our true nature, once enlightenment has dawned, we are at home everywhere. We have been freed from the competition between worldviews, by understanding the essential equality of all windows of contemplation and the harmony between the ways of wisdom and of devotion. Everywhere in this vast cathedral, through all possible languages and images, we now recognize the light, or consciousness, which we are, which all beings are, which Being is.

Rose Window of The Cathedral Of St. John The Divine Contemplative thinking is not confined to certain fields such as religion, art, or philosophy but flourishes subtly throughout every culture, often obscurely among small circles or secretly within the inner life of individuals who may or may not be aware of any mystical tradition. This ever-deepening way of contemplation, which follows devotion and wisdom to their source, is perhaps the most precious human possibility. The holy person, or shaman, in every culture—poet, musician, saint, warrior—is revered for the powerful touch that awakens and sustains deep thinking and its sense of discovery, freedom, and harmony. The figure of the shaman is a sacrament through which all members of the culture without exception can enter the mood of contemplation.

The Full Flowering of Humanity

Coming Home “Enlightenment is the awakening to our primal harmony or, in another mystical language, to our rootedness in the Divine. From Enlightenment radiate the insight, compassion, and power needed to resolve individual and collective human problems as they continue to rise endlessly. Enlightenment is not a magical transcendence of the human condition but the full flowering of humanity, disclosing unity and equilibrium at the heart of the love and suffering we call life.

All existence is revealed to the Enlightened human being as a seamless whole, as Divine Life. Some taste of this Enlightenment which consciously touches the Ultimate is possible for each of us. It need not be deferred to any future existence in heaven or on earth.

Enlightenment is the secret essence of our consciousness, and the gradual revelation of this essence is the process of spiritual growth in which everyone is involved.”

~ Lex Hixon, from Coming Home: The Experience of Enlightenment in Sacred Traditions

Enjoy the Process

Excerpt from “Enlightenment 2.0,” a Buddhist Geeks conversation with Ben Goertzel and host Vince Horn:

I think that the idea underlying that story (Enlightenment 2.0) really came out of something that I worry about in my personal life just thinking about my own personal future. When I think about “What would I want in the future if superhuman Artificial Intelligence (AI) became possible?”

Wall-E ...I really think that the human brain architecture is limiting. So that I think if you could change your brain into a different kind of information processing system, you could achieve just better states of mind. You could feel enlightened all the time, while doing great science, while having sensory gratification, and it could be way beyond what humans can experience.

So that leads to the question of, okay, if I had the ability to change myself into some profoundly better kind of mind, would I do it all at once? Would I just flick a switch and say “Okay, change from Ben into a super mind?” Well, I wouldn't really want to do that, because that would be just too much like killing Ben, and just replacing him with the super mind. So, I get the idea that maybe I'd like to improve myself by, say twenty percent per year. So I could enjoy the process, and feel myself becoming more and more intelligent, more and more enlightened, broader and broader, and better and better.

Cylon (Battlestar Gallactica) …You think of phase transitions in physics. You have water, and you boil the water, and then it changes from a liquid into a gas, just like that. It's not like it's half liquid and half gas, right? I mean, it's like the liquid is dead, and then there's a gas.

That was the kind of theme underlining this story. There was this super-intelligent AI that people had created. The super intelligent AI, after it solved the petty little problems of world peace, and hunger, and energy for everyone, and so forth, that super-human AI set itself thinking about “Okay, how can we get rid of suffering, fundamentally?” How can we make a mind that really has a positive experience all the time, and will spread good through the world rather than spreading suffering through the world.

Then the conclusion it comes to is it is possible to have such a mind, but human beings can never grow into that, and that it, given the way that it was constructed by the humans, could never grow into that either.

So, the conclusion this AI comes to is there probably are well-structured, benevolent super minds in the universe, and in order to be sure the universe is kept peaceful and happy for them, we should all just get rid of ourselves, because we're just fundamentally screwed up, and can't even ever continuously evolve into something that's benevolently structured.

Which I don't really believe, but I think it's an interesting idea, and I wouldn't say it's impossible.

Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright (Terminator Salvation)

[So] is the AI a lunatic or does it have some profound insight that we can't appreciate? Which is a problem we're going to have broadly when we create minds better than ourselves.

Just like when my dog wants to go do something and I stop him, right? Maybe it's just because my motivational system is different than his. Like I don't care about the same things as he does. I'm not that interested in going to romp in the field like he is, and I'm just bossing him around based on my boring motivational structure.  On the other hand, sometimes I really have an insight he doesn't have, and I'm really right. He shouldn't go play in the highway, no matter how much fun it looks like.  The dog can't know, and similarly, when we have a super-human AI, we really won't be able to know. We'll have to make a gut feel decision whether to trust it or not.

Forgetting and Remembering the Self

Quotes from Zen master Mitsunen (Lou Nordstrom) excerpted from “Enlightenment Therapy,” by Chip Brown, The New York Times Magazine (April 26, 2009):

Illustration by Shout“The Zen experience of forgetting the self was very natural to me…I had already been engaged in forgetting and abandoning the self in my childhood, which was filled with the fear of how unreal things seemed. But that forgetting was pathological. I always had some deeper sense that I wasn’t really there, that my life and my marriages didn’t seem real. In therapy with Jeffrey [Rubin] I began to realize this feeling of invisibility wasn’t just a peculiar experience but was maybe the central theme of my life. It was connected to my having ‘ability’ as a Zen student and to my being able to have a precocious enlightenment experience. In a sense it was as if Zen chose me rather than that I chose Zen.”

“One of the most important insights I got from therapy with Jeffrey is that subconsciously I want the depth of my suffering to be witnessed by someone. I want to be seen for what a strange fellow I am. As a young guy I got off on the sense of being different. There was some arrogance and elitism in it. The positive spin of the surreal nature of my childhood was that there must have been some special destiny for me. To give up tenure, to become a monk, I embraced an aggrandized narrative. What Jeffrey has done is indicate that forgetting the self is not a constructive approach. What one needs to do from a psychoanalytic perspective is remember the self.”

“As a boy I consciously constructed this idea that I’m in a situation that makes no sense whatsoever. The only meaning I can glean from it is that there may be some kind of completely different life in store for me. There will be a compensation. I am owed.”

“This abandoned life of mine is like the abandoned boy, and I am the mother I never had who returns to claim that life and embrace it. It is a source of great pathos to reflect that without the therapy experience I might have died without having been reunited with my life! And in that sense, without having truly lived.”

Zero and One

Shinzen Young talks about zero and one as the two main paradigms used to describe the path of enlightenment. He then talks about having a complete experience of feel, image, and talk—or the subjective self—and experiencing ordinariness as extraordinary, and experiencing the extraordinary as ordinary. Filmed in Santa Barbara in January 2009.