Letting go of Liberation

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It usually starts off with a ‘me’ or ‘I’ wanting to be happy.

If ‘I’ meditate ‘I’ will become happy or enlightened. If ‘I’ do the right practices, listen to the right teachers, read the right books, etc…’I’ will become liberated.

Here there is the triad of the ‘I’, the desire, and the desired object (that will bring the desired lasting happiness). All of these three are mental projections. Contemplate on this. Each one of the three: the me-subject, the desire, and desired object, are all mental projections.

Though almost everyone inevitably comes to spirituality and nonduality in this way, a true teaching encourages or facilitates a deep letting go, in which all our concepts of attainment (desired objects) and ‘me’ (conceptual subject) are let go of and ultimately lost.

This is the liberation that we were looking for, and it is never found by the me, and cannot be put into words.

Its depth is profound, as is its superficiality and obviousness. It is always here, as it were, as it is simply everything and all-inclusive.

There is no concept of freedom or bondage here, for both these are projections of the ‘I’, itself a projection. Or, if these concepts are here, they are not clung onto and taken seriously.

We could put it like this:
We start off as ‘I want to be happy/realised/free/enlightened’.
Later on it is seen more like: ‘no-I…only freedom…simply this’.

Now this too is liable to be made into a concept and grasped by the mind.

My advice is to listen and absorb and think about what is written above, so it is understood on a conceptual level initially by the mind. Ask questions if you need to and allow a teacher/teaching to resolve any major doubts (in Sanskrit: sravana and manana or listening and reflecting).

Then, once contemplated and understood, to let go and forget everything. Allow all notions and ideas of self and liberation to fall away. (in Sanskrit: nididhyasana or meditation/actualisation)

Perhaps sit still with a straight back, and after some chanting and simple deep breathing exercises to calm the energies, let go and simply relax. Maybe follow the breath (my preference) or use a mantra to allow the mind to become calm, then let go of these practices too.

Allow thoughts to settle down and do as they please.

Relax. Let go. Breathe. Be happy.

Allow everything to be as it is.

Notice awareness is untouched by everything and is one with everything, and you are that awareness.

Let go of all distinctions.

Notice that which was thought of as being ‘I’ or ‘me’ is actually just empty, objects on a screen, a play of colourful light and shadow, insubstantial.

The body and mind that were formally taken to be you, are just objects arising and not you at all.

Every-thing is like this, empty and formless, a play of awareness.

Don’t make this into a concept, but in letting go, let go of these phrases and allow a deep seeing to arise in its own time by itself.

Insight and clarity will naturally arise, naturally and spontaneously, in the depths of silence. There is no need to believe the teachings. Intend for any realisation to be genuine and not a mere copy of my or someone else’s words.

All insights too are just a play of Oneness, worthless and wonderful, just like everything else. Allow them to come and go in your Light.

In the midst of daily life allow yourself to meet life fully with the insight-intelligence that has been gained. This is just a letting go of the triad of me, desire and desired amidst daily living. (this is still nididhyasana)

Where there are no operative thoughts (in Sanskrit: samadhi), where are you? Where am I? Where is this precious teaching? Where is this bondage? Where is this liberation?

This cannot be put into words, but for some reason, right now, I am moved to express it like this: total peace, only peace, everything is peace, totally unattached yet excluding nothing. The illusory me not in play, plunged into the depths of stillness, one with everything. Pure innocence, total naivety, suffused with natural innate intelligence, natural, raw, ordinary, all-inclusive, no thing and simply this.

Yes, this really cannot be put into words. Re-reading the above paragraph is like reading the poetic rantings of an infatuated dog! Don’t be fooled by poetic sounding verbal expressions, no matter how nice or right they seem. It is all more illusion. Don’t get (too) involved in the poetry and words! They are a breeding ground for ego. Much better to let go of concepts, be still and be happy: allow all illusions and projections to fall away and see for yourself.

In Peace, Love and Light

 

 

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Q: I never get it when you say ‘be still’

Question: Tom, I never get it when you say ‘be still’. In my experience there is a contradiction between ‘Allow things to be as they are: No need to suppress or control.’ and ‘disengaging from thoughts’ because when I cease controlling, my mind just wonders so much. I definitely won’t detach from my thoughts by relaxing or even by any other means.

Tom: Yes, good point. When you set aside time to practice this you will naturally stumble upon that balance between not controlling/allowing and yet not engaging in thoughts. The secret is to practice again and again.

Q: So the technique is to be aware of thoughts but not get engaged? Then when you get caught up in thoughts, just return to watching them?

Tom: Yes. But no need to watch the thoughts… See here for more: How to meditate for spiritual enlightenment

CONSUMED BY LOVE 

   

Relax,
And be still.

No need to force it,
Just let it come naturally.

Be still.

Allow yourself to disengage from thoughts
and simply rest in being.

Allow things to be as they are:
No need to suppress or control.

Be still.

Allow yourself to naturally detach from thoughts,
So they don’t stick to you.
Your breathing becomes easy:
This is the natural state.

Allow happiness-love to arise,
Sometimes gently,
Sometimes with force.

Be still. Allow love.

This happiness-love is what you truly are.
This loving-aware-presence is you.

In stillness, be this, be love.

It is not that you are feeling love-happiness:
You are love-happiness,
That is you,
And all arises in you,
as you.

All arises in Love,
as Love.

Be love, be love.

Allow the false identity to slip away:
It is just a bundle of thought-energy,
An energetic wisp.

Seen for what it is,
the little ‘me’ is subsumed into Love,
Consumed by Love

Consumed by Love,
Where is the room for ‘you’ and ‘me’?
Where is the room for ‘here’ and ‘there’?

And as you dissolve in Love,
Love, in its own way and time, takes you beyond itself,
And yet all there is is Love.

   

Zen: an especially excellent teaching and a most essential shortcut

Branch light

The following is a letter written by the Chinese Master Yuanwu (1063-1135), It can be found in the excellent collection ‘Zen Letters’ translated by Thomas Cleary where it is entitled ‘Bringing Out the Family Treasure’.

I hope you don’t mind that I have interspersed my comments in red italics:

If you want to attain Intimacy, the first thing is, don’t seek it. If you attain through seeking, you have already fallen into interpretive understanding.

Yuanwu gets straight into it here, directly pointing out that the desire for Intimacy, or Enlightenment, itself is a barrier to it. Seeking will only yield a conceptual understanding. It is implied here that conceptual understanding is clearly not what is being aimed at.

This is especially true because this great treasury extends through all times, clearly evident, empty and bright.  Since time without beginning it has been your own basic root: you depend on its power entirely in all your actions.

What you are looking for has always been here (‘extends through all times’), is already shining (‘bright’), and is of no enduring substance (’empty’). It is the essence of you and is the power that manifests both you and your life.

You will only pass through to freedom when you cease and desist to the point that not even a single thought is born.  Then you penetrate through without falling into sense and matter and without dwelling in conceptualizations and mental images.

Yuanwu is stating we should be still. Not as something to do, but as something to stop doing (‘cease and desist’) until thoughts no longer occur. Using this method we do not fall into the traps of attachment to form, belief and dogma. What will this method eventually yield? Let us find out:

When you absolutely transcend these, then the whole world does not hide it.  Everywhere everything becomes its Great Function, and every single thing flows forth from your own breast.  The ancients called this bringing out the family treasure. Once this is attained, it is attained forever.  How could it ever be used up?

Here the fundamental insight has been recognised. Through being still, the bottom of the bucket has fallen out, and the Fundamental Essence has been recognised as being one with everything everywhere, and non-different to yourself.

Just be wary that your investigation does not rest on a firm footing, and that you will not be able to penetrate through to realization.  You must bravely cut off all entanglements, so there is not the slightest dependence or reliance. Relinquish your body and give up your life and directly accept the suchness that faces you; there is no other.

This is a warning to ensure that there is not the slightest trace of dogma, belief or attachment to conceptual views. Even after the fundamental insight has been attained, all entanglements or addictive desires are to be relinquished. We are to surrender totally, giving up our life’s dreams and ego-based desires in the process.

Then even if a thousand sages came forth it wouldn’t change you at all. Leaving it to the flow at all times, eating food and wearing clothes, you nurture the embryo of sagehood to maturity, not keeping to intellectual understanding.

Let go, let things be, let things come as they come, let things go as they go. Importantly Yuanwu hints that with the fundamental realisation already attained, it is merely the ’embryo’ of wisdom that has been obtained. It then takes time for this realisation to ripen to ‘maturity’, as the habitual tendencies to identify with the body and thoughts are gradually uprooted. This is explained in further detail in Yuanwu’s other letters, see here for example.

Isn’t this an especially excellent teaching and a most essential shortcut?

Isn’t it just!

Life’s purpose

robert adams ramana maharshi

The following is by Robert Adams:

…you have not come to this earth to struggle, to fight, to become anything, to hurt anyone, to be hurt, you are here merely to be. Not to be this or to be that just to be. You allow this beingness to function properly when you get yourself out the way, that is your thoughts, your preconceived ideas.

When you keep the mind still, perfectly still and calm then you will always find that you are in the right place going through those experiences that are necessary for your unfoldment and your fulfillment.

“…you will always find that you are in the right place going through those experiences that are necessary for your unfoldment and your fulfillment”

Do not worry about the future or the past. Do not concern yourself with events in the present. Just be! Be the Self that you are. You will be satisfied. Everything will be okay.

“Be the Self that you are….
Everything will be okay”

There is nothing that wants to hurt you, cause you pain or give you any problems. It is only because you keep thinking continuously, constantly that you have this belief that somebody wants to hurt you, cause you problems, upset you.

There is only one. There are not two or three. There is only one Self and you are that

Does Karma really exist?

Robert Adams Advaita

The following is by Robert Adams:

Does Karma really exist? I know that you can say, “No it doesn’t.” But as long as you believe that you are a body and mind, as long as you feel the world to be real, you cannot fool yourself. Do not lie to yourself. If the world perturbs you, if people bother you, if things annoy you, if you are reacting to conditions this means that you believe you are a body going through these experiences. And as long as you are going through experiences you are in karma. You are experiencing the karma that put you here as a body. It is only  when you have realized the self that there is no karma.

Therefore do not go around telling people that there is no karma, it will give them license to do anything they like. Feeling there is no retribution, there is no effect for their deeds. This is not true as long as you believe you are a body. For there are laws of the universe that respond to your actions. Karma means action. And as long as you believe you are the actor you will have to experience the results of the karma.

So in this particular life you are experiencing the results of not only the karma of this experience but of previous lives. Previous lives also come into effect whenever you believe you are the body.

There are only two ways to destroy the karma.

One is to inquire, “To whom the karma comes? Who is experiencing this karma?”

And the other way is to surrender completely to God. Totally surrender your life to God. God is within you as you. You therefore surrender everything to the self. Thy will be done. You begin to see that as long as you have God to surrender to, you need not worry, you need not fear. Everything will be alright.

Was Ramana Maharshi’s self-realistion final and complete when he was a teenager?

I recently got into an online conversation with someone about whether or not Ramana’s realisation when he was 16 years old (often written as being in his 17th year) was final, or if his realisation evolved and matured in the subsequent years in which he spent much time in silence.

I think I read an article, I think by David Godman, some years ago on this which from memory stated that Ramana was insistent that his realisation was final and complete when he was a boy, and that unusually no sadhana (spiritual practice) was required for him. I’ve tried to find the article and I think this is it:

http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/more-on-bhagavans-death-experience.html

Below are some quotes from it and the link to the article. I want to add that while I quite enjoy learning more about Bhagavan Ramana, in a way all of this discussion can be a detour from the essence of the teaching, so apologies if this kind of minutiae is not that interesting to you. Now, with that said, here are some quotes from the above mentioned article:

‘In answer to a question once put by D. S. Sarma, Bhagavan definitely said that in his case, there was no special sadhana, at any rate in this life, leading to Self-realisation, but that in his 17th year, while he was still a student at Madurai, enlightenment, jnana, came to him, suddenly, in the course of a few minutes, not as a result of laboured ratiocination but as a sudden flash of intuition, and that that jnana has remained with him ever since.’
(My Recollections, p. 135, by Devaraja Mudaliar)

Here Ramana says his vasanas (likes and dislikes) were removed as a teenager (removal of the vasanas implies a full enlightenment):

‘When I lay down with limbs outstretched and mentally enacted the death scene and realised that the body would be taken and cremated and yet I would live, some force, call it atmic power or anything else, rose within me and took possession of me. With that, I was reborn and I became a new man. I became indifferent to everything afterwards, having neither likes nor dislikes.’ (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 22nd November 1945)

From David Godman, who states his sadhana was over in that single ‘death experience’ when he was 16 years old:

‘When he [Ramana] went to Arunachala, it was not because he was spiritually incomplete in any way. His sadhana was over at the end of the death-experience.’

Some further quotes from Ramana Maharshi:

‘In the vision of death, though all the senses were benumbed, the aham sphurana (Self-awareness) was clearly evident, and so I realised that it was that awareness that we call “I”, and not the body. This Self-awareness never decays. It is unrelated to anything. It is Self-luminous. Even if this body is burnt, it will not be affected. Hence, I realised on that very day so clearly that that was “I”.’

(Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 22nd November, 1945)

‘They say I gained realisation in twenty-eight minutes, or half an hour. How can they say that? It took just a moment. But why even a moment? Where is the question of time at all?’ I then asked Bhagavan if there was ever any change in his realisation after his experience in Madurai. He said ‘No. If there is a change, it is not realisation.’

As recorded by Balaram Reddy in My Reminiscences. p. 75

Zen: sudden vs gradual enlightenment

yuanwu letters

In his letters, Yaunwu write some of the most the nuanced of zen/chan teachings we have. Regarding realisation, he writes about its sudden nature:

Without setting up stages, they abruptly transcend to realize this essence alone.  Since before the time when nothing existed, this essence has been ever still and unmoved, determining the basis of all conscious beings.  It permeates all times and is beyond all thought.  It is beyond holy and ordinary and transcends all knowledge and views.  It has never fluctuated or wavered:  it is there, pure and naked and full of life.  All beings, both animate and inanimate, have it complete within them.

However, Yuanwu also writes about a gradual process, a gradual path:

In general, genuine Zen teachers set forth their teachings only after observing their learners’ situation and potential. Real teachers smelt and refine their students hundreds and thousands of times. Whenever the learner has any biased attachments or feelings of doubt, the teacher resolves them and breaks through them and causes the learner to penetrate through to the depths and let go of everything, so that the learner can realize equanimity and peace while in action. Real teachers transform learners so that they reach the stage where one cannot be broken, like a leather bag that can withstand any impact.

Only after this does the Zen teacher let the transformed student go forth to deal with people and help them. This is no small matter. If the student is incomplete in any respect, then the model is not right, and the unripe student comes out all uneven and full of excesses and deficiencies, and appears ridiculous to real adepts.

Yuanwu then goes on to describe the training required to be a zen teacher:

Therefore, in order to teach the Dharma, the ancient worthies worked for completeness and correctness, and clarity in all facets. This means inwardly having one’s own practice as pure as ice and jade, and outwardly having a complete and well-rounded mastery of techniques, a perspicacious view of all concious beings and skill in interchange.

When such adepts met with potential learners, they examined each and every point in terms of the Fundamental. When the learners finally did understand, then the teachers employed techniques to polish and refine them. It was like tranferring the water from one vessel into another vessel, with the utmost care not to spill a drop.

Here, in another letter Yuanwu also writes of the refining process required before someone can teach zen:

Ever since ancient times, it is only those who are able to bear the repsonsibility of being a vessel of the Great Dharma who have been able to undertake the role of a Zen teacher and stand like a wall a mile high. These people have been tempered and refined in the blast furnace of the teachers of the Source, taking shape under the impact of their hammers and tongs, until they become real and true from beginning to end. Otherwise, they do not appear in the world as teachers. If they do appear, they are sure to startle the crowd and move the people. Because their own realization and acceptance of the responsibility of communicating Truth was not hasty and haphazard, when they passed it on to others they were not rushed or careless.

We all know the classic examples. Mater Rang staying with the Sixth Patriarcdh at Caoqi for eight years. Mazu at Guanyin Temple. Deshan and Longtan. Yangshan and Guishan. Linji and Huangbo. In every case it took at least ten or twenty years of close association between teacher and pupil before the pupil was fully prepared to become a teacher himself.

That is why, with the genuine Zen teachers, every word and every phrase, every act and every state resonated with the music of gold and jade.

Virtually no one in the latter generations has been able to see into what they were doing. You will only be able to see where they were really at when you achieve transcendental realization and reach the stage that all the enlightened ones share in common.

I recall this story from olden times. Mazu asked Xitang, “Have you ever read the scriptural teachings?” Xitang said, “Are the scriptual teachings any different?” Mazu asked, “If you haven’t read the scriptures, how will you be able to explain for people in various ways?” Xitang said, “I must care for my own sickness – how could I dare try to help other people?” Mazu said, “In your later years, you are sure to rise to greatness in the world.” And that’s the way it turned out later.

Hopefully you will see how, whilst an initial breakthrough or realision is to all intensive purposes instantaneous, the rooting out of ignorance takes time, it takes time for the mind to become purified by that realisation and to fully manifest the heart of enlightenment. Yuanwu talks about this more explicitly here. I have written two articles here about the relationship between the gradual and sudden paths here and here.

Ramana Maharshi: was the Buddha self-realised?

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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 loose 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:

Ramana Maharshi, according to verse 568 of the Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad, states that the Buddha’s Nirvana is the same as the Self-Realisation that Ramana speaks of:

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?

 

 

 

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