Over the years I have heard some people say things such as ‘the Buddha was enlightened, but he was not self-realised’ or ‘the Buddha only had an insight into no-self, but he never discovered the Self’. Both of these imply somehow that the Self-Realisation of the Upanishads is somehow of higher status and fundamentally different to the Nirvana of the Buddha, and that the Buddha was not truly enlightened.
I have noticed that usually this view is put forwards either by academics who have analysed various texts but not fully embraced the traditions, or by religious teachers who teach that their way is the best or only way and tend to be attached to their methodology over and above others.
I remember that when I first came across this view I was quite shocked, as it always seemed obvious to me that both Buddhist and Vedic traditions were pointing at the same things in different ways. In fact all the great self-realised masters I had come across also said the same. Impurities naturally, and perhaps inevitably, creep into traditions as without a genuine realisation, the ego co-opts the teachings and slowly slowly dogma and beliefs form. Therefore teachings naturally reinvent themselves in each culture and age, and we can clearly see this if we study the history of the development of both Vedanta and Buddhism. In fact, there has been so much cross-fertilisation between these two traditions, with each tradition borrowing from the others at some point, it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart!
The key thing for me is to realise that there exist various different methods by which the Supreme is approached. And, of course, some say there are no methods (you could say this is the method of directly pointing out what is already fully here). When the method has served its purpose, then why cling to the method? The main issue is for ignorance to be removed, and the various teachings serve various ways of doing this:
There is nothing to realise. There is nothing new to gain…On the other hand a man must lose his ignorance. That is all.
Ramana Maharshi, Talks 104
By the way, in the above quote, I assume that by ‘man’, he means any human. Here is what Ramana said about the Buddha and Self-Realisation:
568. Guru [Ramana] has said that the state of nirvana that was taught by Buddha to be the state in which samsara and suffering are ended is the same as remaining in the supreme state, having discarded all the sheaths.
He reaffirms this in the following verses:
345. The sage Buddha taught this truth; also the great teacher Sankara taught the same; our own Guru [Ramana] also tells us the same; and this is also the essence of the Vedanta.
284. The Buddhas call that the state of right awareness. In it there is neither knowledge nor ignorance. That is the highest state, in which there is nothing, whether sentient or insentient, other than the Self.
So, there you have it: according to Ramana Maharshi, Nirvana = Self-Realization. What’s your view?
What is the ego?
Will you accept my definition or find out for yourself?
Stop, be aware of what is happening:
Notice the content of your thoughts.
Notice the feelings that accompany the thoughts:
Is there tension and stress in a particular thought?
Or is there a freedom,
A space where thought is free to move,
Free to come and go as it pleases?
And what is the ego?
What does it feels like?
What kind of energy does it bring into the physical organism?
Be open to feel this ego:
Get a sense of what it feels like in its many guises.
Relax and let it in.
Notice a cascade of thoughts and feelings:
When they are believed in and invested in,
The egoic thoughts weave an apparently believable story line,
But when seen for what it is,
Inherently empty of any self,
Just empty thoughts coming and going,
With some associated sensations,
And perhaps an interpretive thought accompanying and interpreting what the ‘feelings mean’.
Notice there may be an urge to get out of the ego,
A movement of thought that attempts to end the ego may occur,
And notice that this is simply more of the ego,
More of this activity based on this false sense of self,
Based on this false notion of separation.
When things are seen for what they are,
And allowed to unfold as they are,
And illusion born of thought is no longer believed in,
Relax into Unknowing
What does that mean?
It means to relax, to let go of everything.
What are you left with?
You are left with whatever is.
You are left with this,
No matter how much you let go,
Or you could say:
No matter how much you let go,
This Letting Go,
Is the coming into contact with being.
This is what it means to abide as the ‘I am’.
This is what it means to ‘remember who you are’.
It’s can become obvious that
All perceived things,
Come and go.
The objects of the external world come and go,
Thoughts come and go,
Feelings come and go.
Knowledge comes and goes,
Expericences come and go,
States of consciousness come and go.
The body is a process
Of constant change,
As is everything else.
It too comes and goes.
In this sense independent objects do not exist in of themselves.
All there is is movement,
Constant movement appearing as form,
But no static unchanging form can be found
– Not even for a moment.
This Being/Unknowing is always here.
It can be consciously known when you relax and notice it,
Notice that which is ever present and unchanging in your experience.
When this unchanging essence/being is realised
And understood to always be here,
Undisturbed by comings and goings,
Then we do not need to keep on returning
to the practice of relaxing into unknowing/being.
Instead we can have Faith In Being.
This is Self-Knowledge.
The best teaching is this
The best teaching is that.
Don’t they get it?
Whatever works is best!
All we know are objects. The existence of a subject (eg. the witness or consciousness/awareness) is an inference, a belief.
Some versed in advaita-speak then counter by asking ‘Who/what is it that knows this?’. The problem is that the very question ‘who knows’ is based on the belief that there must be a subject, a knower.
It’s similar to an argument for the existence of God in which people say look at all this marvelous creation, who is the creator? Of course, the assumption is there must be a creator, a subject who creates, and this is a false assumption (ie. it is based on false logic).
Inference does not always work as a way of understanding and knowing things, as it is only as good as the logic that underpins it. We could go on with other examples of this faulty logic in which the notions of a subject is unnecessarily believed in: Who blows the wind? Who quakes the earth? Who grows the trees?
Now strictly speaking, we are not saying there is no subject, just as we are not saying there is no God. We are just saying there is no evidence for either of these, and therefore no need to believe one way or the other in a subject.
What we are left with is ‘what is’ or ‘life’ or ‘experience’. It all just happens. It’s already happening. Everything is a part of IT.
So simple, direct, and already fully known (seen), but in essence it is mysterious and uncapturable by words.
There is a great freedom in seeing this.
Q. So, what happens when you die?
How can you know what happens when you die? No matter how you justify it, no matter how many psychic intuitions or spiritual experiences you have, the truth is that you don’t know for sure what happens after death. This question may perhaps be answered by science in the future, but we are not there yet.
Think of a time when you were utterly convinced something was true, but now you look back and realise how wrong you were. Knowledge also comes and goes. Perspectives change as we grow and mature and experience different things.
Enlightenment is beyond knowledge. Enlightenment does not depend on knowledge or the mind. Unlike knowledge and states of mind, Enlightenment cannot be attained – it is already here.
The above is an extract from the following post: Who cares about freedom?
And the winner for Best Spiritual Practice 2017 is….
I got news for you: there are many ways to THIS.
Some people may need a path, a practice or a teacher, others may not.
The way that worked/is working for you may not be the way for everyone.
At the end of it all, you are right where you began: ‘here’.
But with a difference: now you know.
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