A most essential question
What convergence is there between the journey of the ascetic Tibetan yogi Milarepa and that of the little-known great French mystic of the Seventeenth Century, Madame Guyon ? between Ramana Maharshi and the famous sufi Al-Hallaj ? What is the common denominator between these extraordinary beings who, in such apparently dissimilar ways, climbed the rungs leading to the ultimate realization ? Is it not a question of the greatest importance, to conjecture about what is essential and what is of incidental value, about what is truly the core of a practice and what relates to a cultural context and epoch ?
« It seems to me that we have ultimately to go beyond all forms of thought – even beyond the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, etc. All these belong to the world of « signs » — manifestations of God in human thought — but God himself, Truth itself, is beyond all forms of thoughts. All meditation should lead into silence, into the world of « non-duality », when all the differences – and conflicts – in this world are transcended – not that they are simply annuled, but that they are taken up into a deeper unity of being in which all conflicts are resolved – rather like colours being absorbed into pure white light, which contains all the colours but resolves their differences. »
« A vision of reality common to all the great religious traditions of both East and West is only realised when we pass beyond the external forms of religion and encounter the hidden depth in each religion, the mystical tradition which is at the heart of all genuine religion. As long as we remain on the level of external religion with its dualities of time and space, of subject and object, of good and evil, of truth and error, of God and Man, we shall never overcome the conflicts of religion or even of politics. It is only in the mystical tradition of each religion that we can rise above the dualities, neither confusing the opposites, nor separating them, but recognizing the mystery of the transcendent non-dual Reality, in which alone the answer to all problems can be found. »
« Advaita is an insight which transcends logic ; it is beyond all dualities of every kind. The rational mind is limited by his dualistic thought and is within those limits, but advaita is an insight beyond reason and logic ; it is pure awareness, pure light. I am using rational dualistic langage, but I am trying to point an experience which transcends thought. I feel it is this experience of avdaita with all its paradox which we have to seek as the very goal of life. »
Bede Griffith – from “Beyond the Darkness”
When we sit down to meditate, we are trying to transcend our everyday
consciousness, the consciousness used to transact ordinary business,
the one used in the world’s marketplace as we go shopping, bring up our
children, work in an office or in our business, clean the house, check
our bank statements, and all the rest of daily living. That kind of
consciousness is known to everyone, and without it we can’t function. It
is our survival consciousness, and we need it for that. It cannot reach
far enough or deep enough into the Buddha’s teachings, because these
are unique and profound; our everyday consciousness is neither unique
nor profound, just utilitarian.
In order to attain the kind of consciousness that is capable of going deeply enough into the teachings to make them our own and thereby change our whole inner view, we need a mind with the ability to remove itself from the ordinary thinking process. Attaining this sort of mind is only possible through meditation. There is no other way.
Meditation is therefore a means, and not an end in itself. It is a means to change the mind’s capacity in such a way that it can perceive entirely different realities from the ones we are used to. The recognition that meditation is a tool is important, because it is often wrongly considered to be an end in itself.
In Pali, meditation is called bhavana,”mind training” to be used for honing the mind until it becomes such a sharp tool that it cuts through everyday realities.
When the Iron Eagle Flies p. 15
How to be whole in what I do? We always want to get rid of something. Each moment can become a moment of practice — The street can be a cloister — the subway, the cooking, all must become practice. We have no time, don’t let a moment pass without working spiritually.
No reveries, no conversations, no tracing out of the meaning of phantasies, contain this now, which belongs to a higher order of consciousness. The time-man in us does not know now. He is always preparing something in the future, or busy with what happened in the past. He is always wondering what to do, what to say, what to wear, what to eat, etc. He anticipates; and we, following him, come to the expected moment, and lo, he is already elsewhere, planning further ahead. This is becoming— where nothing ever is.
We must come to our senses to begin to feel now. We can only feel now by checking this time-man, who thinks of existence in his own way. Now enters us with a sense of something greater than passing-time. Now contains all time, all the life, and the aeon of the life. Now is the sense of higher space. It is not the decisions of the man in time that count here, for they do not spring from now. All decisions that belong to the life in time, to success, to business, comfort, are about ‘tomorrow’. All decisions about the right thing to do, about how to act, are about tomorrow. It is only -what is done in now that counts, and this is a decision always about oneself and with oneself, even although its effect may touch other people’s lives ‘tomorrow’. Now is spiritual. It is a state of the spirit, when it is above the stream of time-associations.
Spiritual values have nothing to do with time. They are not in time, and their growth is not a matter of time. To retain the impress of their truth we must fight with time, with every notion that they belong to time, and that the passage of days will increase them. For then it will be easy for us to think it is too late, to make the favourite excuse of passing-time.
The feeling of now is the feeling of certainty. In now
passing-time halts. And in this halting of time one’s understanding has
power over one. One knows, sees, feels in oneself, apart from all outer
things; and above all, one is. This is the state of faith, as I believe
was originally meant—the certain knowledge of something above
passing-time. Faith is now.
What the time-man understands about faith is something quite different. Faith has to do with that which is alone in oneself and unknown to anyone else. ‘Every visible state, every temporal, every pragmatic approach to faith, is, in the end, the negation of faith’ (Karl Barth). All insight, all revelation, all illumination, all love, all that is “genuine, all that is real, lies in now—and in the attempt to create how we approach the inner precincts, the holiest part of life. For in time all things are seeking completion, but in now all things are complete.
So we must understand that what we call the present moment is not now, for the present moment is on the horizontal line of time, and now is vertical to this and incommensurable with it.
“I myself never expected to survive and become a teacher, for my determination to transcend samsara was much stronger than my concern for staying alive. All my efforts in all circumstances were directed toward a goal beyond life. I never allowed regrets about losing my life to distract me from my purpose. The desire to maintain my course on the path to liberation kept me under constant pressure and directed my every move. I resolved that if my body could not withstand the pressure, I would just have to die. I had already died so many countless times in the past that I was fed up with dying anyway. But were I to live, I desired only to realize the same Dhamma that the Buddha had attained. I had no wish to achieve anything else, for I had had enough of every other type of accomplishment. At that time, my overriding desire was to avoid rebirth and being trapped once more in the cycle of birth and death.
“The effort that I put forth to attain Dhamma can be compared to a turbine, rotating non-stop, or to a ‘Wheel of Dhamma’ whirling ceaselessly day and night as it cuts its way through every last vestige of the kilesas. Only at sleep did I allow myself a temporary respite from this rigorous practice. As soon as I woke up, I was back at work, using mindfulness, wisdom, faith, and diligence to root out and destroy those persistent kilesas that still remained. I persevered in that pitched battle with the kilesas until mindfulness, wisdom, faith and diligence had utterly destroyed them all. Only then could I ﬁnally relax. From that moment on, I knew for certain that the kilesas had been vanquished – categorically, never to return and cause trouble again. But the body, not having disintegrated along with the kilesas, remained alive.
“This is something you should all think about carefully. Do you want to advance fearlessly in the face of death, and strive diligently to leave behind the misery that’s been such a painful burden on your hearts for so long? Or do you want to persist in your regrets about having to die, and so be reborn into this miserable condition again? Hurry up and think about it! Don’t allow yourselves to become trapped by dukkha, wasting this opportunity – you’ll regret it for a long time to come.
“The battleﬁeld for conquering the kilesas exists within each individual who practices with wisdom, faith, and perseverance as weapons for ﬁghting his way to freedom. It is very counterproductive to believe that you have plenty of time left since you’re still young and in good health. Practicing monks should decisively reject such thinking. It is the heart alone that engenders all misjudgment and all wisdom, so you should not focus your attention outside of yourself. Since they are constantly active, pay close attention to your actions, speech, and thoughts to determine the kind of results they produce. Are they producing Dhamma, which is an antidote to the poisons of apathy and self-indulgence; or are they producing a tonic that nourishes the delusions that cause dukkha, giving them strength to extend the cycle of existence indeﬁnitely? Whatever they are, the results of your actions, speech, and thoughts should be thoroughly examined in every detail; or else, you’ll encounter nothing but failure and never rise above the pain and misery that haunt this world.”
Ajahn Mun was Ajahn Chah’s teacher
Like an iceberg whose biggest and most important part remains submerged and hidden from sight, the human being’s most essential aspect lies mysteriously veiled beneath the mists of his illusory ordinary self. And, because the desires and clamors of this perceptible little self are so noisy, he is impelled to notice only this small part of himself, totally unaware of the majesty of his Supreme Nature concealed behind all this wild uproar in him. To arrive at perceiving the huge and vital part of an iceberg covered from view, it is necessary to make the effort of plunging into the waters that surround the small exposed fragment.
Enlightenment reveals how little and insignificant is the visible aspect of the human being, but attaining enlightenment is not easy. Not only does it demand much patient struggle from the seeker but also, and above all, a profound and sustained sincerity.
Edward Salim Michael, The Law of attention
Subhuti asked: “Is perfect
wisdom beyond thinking? Is it unimaginable and totally unique but
nevertheless reaching the unreachable and attaining the unattainable?”
The Buddha replied: “Yes, Subhuti, it is exactly so. And why is perfect wisdom beyond thinking? It is because all its points of reference cannot be thought about but can be apprehended. One is the disappearance of the self-conscious person into pure presence. Another is the simple awakening to reality. Another is the knowing of the essenceless essence of all things in the world. And another is luminous knowledge that knows without a knower. None of these points can sustain ordinary thought because they are not objects or subjects. They can’t be imagined or touched or approached in any way by any ordinary mode of conciousness, therefore, they are beyond thinking.
Whatever their creed or race, and no matter where they happen to be, when a group of people are assembled together, listening to the sublime harmonies and wonderful orchestral “colors” of a great symphonic work secretly imparting to them an ineffable truth through expressions of elevated sentiments, the minds, thoughts, and feelings of all are then united in one silent communion. At that exalted hour, words have lost all their meaning.
Edward Salim Michael The Law of Attention chap 41
A total absence of worldly pride and arrogance, harmlessness, a candid soul, a tolerant, long-suffering and benignant heart, purity of mind and body, tranquil firmness and steadfastness, self-control and a masterful government of the lower nature and the heart’s worship given to the Teacher.
A firm removal of the natural being’s attraction to the objects of the senses, a radical freedom from egoism. absence of clinging to the attachment and absorption of family and home, a keen perception of the defective nature of the ordinary life of physical man with its aimless and painful subjection to birth and death and disease and age, a constant equalness to all pleasant or unpleasant happenings.
A meditative mind turned towards solitude and away from the vain noise of crowds and the assemblies of men, a philosophic perception of the true sense and large principles of existence, a tranquil continuity of inner spiritual knowledge and light, the Yoga of an unswerving devotion, love of God, the heart’s deep and constant adoration of the universal and eternal Presence; that is declared to be the knowledge; all against it is ignorance.
The essential condition for the attainment of this supreme goal is the complete absence of the ego-sense. Self-control and self-discipline are the means. Yoga also signifies union with and absorption in the immortal Reality. A steady, persevering, and concentrated effort and struggle alone can lead the aspirant to the realization of the Godhead. So long as man is hankering after the pleasures of the senses, his progress on the path is slow and erratic. He must be undaunted in his endeavor and determined in his purpose. He must leave no stone unturned to subdue and eventually eradicate the impure passions of his heart and mind. A purified and enlightened bud-dhi can alone entitle the sadhaha to enter the kingdom of eternity.
Yoga is not a thing to be merely talked about, read in books, and heard through others. Yoga is for practice in life.
Swami Ramdas – Presence of Ram