Is there anything I can do to become enlightened?

Q. Is there anything I can do to become enlightened?

Tom: Yes, certainly, you can:

  1. Relax – make this a deliberate practice in your life
  2. Listen – Consistently expose your mind to the teachings of a teacher you trust and resonate with. Be with a teacher if possible.
  3. Inquire – Ask questions when they feel like they need to be asked. When the mind is calm and stable, ask yourself ‘Who am I?’.
  4. Relax! (Have faith and be happy) – Don’t worry too much about things as they come and go

Best wishes!

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If enlightenment is unconditioned and causeless, then how can a ‘spiritual practice’ lead you to it?

Q. If enlightenment is unconditioned and causeless, then how can a ‘spiritual practice’ lead you to it, as all practices are in the conditioned realm of cause and effect? I’ve heard teachers (some of whom claim not to be teachers) say that Enlightenment is uncaused: it either happens or it doesn’t, and there is nothing you can do about it because there is no you anyway. Does this sound right to you?

Tom: Hi _____, thanks for your question. It depends how you use the words. I actually think the more radical expression of non-duality that you describe is incredibly potent and hits right at the nub of the matter, but that it is not for everyone, and for many it can also be detrimental, at least initially, as it can lead to a premature hopelessness and despair. I say premature, as later on this may be exactly what is needed to stop the apparent seeker in their tracks and for realisation to beautifully dawn!

Enlightenment is a conditioned event in time

Regarding enlightenment, I would not say that enlightenment is unconditioned or causeless, in fact quite the opposite, but let me first explain what I mean by the word ‘enlightenment’ in this context. Enlightenment, as I use the word, is a phenomena or event that occurs ‘within the dream’, so to speak, in which, figuratively speaking, the dream character realises they are in a dream and that they are a dream. Note that I say figuratively speaking as I am not saying that life is actually a dream, but just using a dream as an imperfect analogy.

There is a before enlightenment and after enlightenment, so it is something that occurs in time. Sure, when enlightenment happens, it is also seen that the enlightenment was always fully present the whole entire time, even when it wasn’t realised, but that is only realised after enlightenment! For me, I don’t even know when exactly my enlightenment happened, as it was a slow burn, and I only realised what had happened sometime afterwards, but even in this example, we can see there was still a before enlightenment and after enlightenment, and in this way enlightenment could still be said to have been an event, albeit one that took place over a longer time-frame.

Prior to enlightenment, Freedom or Wholeness is not realised, even though it was always present. It is this realisation I am referring to here as ‘enlightenment’. So that’s the first thing, to realise that enlightenment is a conditioned phenomenal time-bound event in which ever-present unconditioned Freedom is recognised.

So that’s the first thing, to realise that enlightenment is a conditioned phenomenal time-bound event in which ever-present unconditioned Freedom is recognised. 

All events have (apparent) causes

Once we accept this, then we can start to look to see if there are any proximate causes of enlightenment. As all phenomena (apparently) exist in a world of cause and effect, in which there is the appearance of rule and laws, such as the law of gravity and so forth, we should be able to investigate and see if there are certain factors that can increase the chances of enlightenment happening. If we can find out what these factors are, then perhaps we can increase our own chances of enlightenment, and this is where various spiritual-type practices and activities can come into play.

Isn’t this all just reinforcing the false notion of a ‘me’?

At this point in the conversation, some people counter this by saying that there is nobody here who can do any of this, that there is no ‘I’. Enlightenment either happens or it doesn’t happen, and there is nothing you can do about it because the ‘I’ that thinks it can do something is actually an illusion.

Now this is true. These statements are directly pointing at the heart of the matter, pointing out to the apparent seeker the illusion of separation.

However, does relentlessly pointing this out actually help the apparent seeker break through the veil of illusion? Well, yes, it definitely can. Simple repetitive hammering home the essential point can eventually work, which is why at the start of this response I said that this type of teaching is incredibly potent.

However it is not the only way, and sometimes it is less effective than other ways (and of course sometimes is more effective than other ways too).

If someone asked you how to play tennis, would you say there is nothing you can do to play tennis? That playing tennis will either happen or not happen as the ‘I’ that thinks it can chose to learn to play tennis is an illusion? Or would you perhaps suggest tennis lessons or something similar, as you know that in the (apparent) world of cause and effect, tennis lessons increases the chances of being able to play tennis, even though this is not guaranteed?

Enlightenment is a phenomenon like any other – it has causes and effects

You see, once you have realised that enlightenment is an event like any other, that it occurs following an apparent set of causes and conditions, some of which can be determined and modified, then we can start to see how powerful practices can be along this path.

If we find a set of factors that increases the likelihood of enlightenment occurring, then we can start to put these factors into place, just like the person who wants to play tennis can book themselves onto tennis lessons, buy a decent tennis racket and a good pair of tennis shoes, and learn the rules of the game.

When looking at more traditional teachings, sages in centuries gone past have discovered a variety of these factors that increase the likelihood of enlightenment. I discuss some of them here.

The Grand Illusion

On one hand there is no choice, there is nobody here, and all there is is Freedom – yes – and there is nothing you can do about any of this. On the other hand, there are proximate causes to enlightenment, which, from the point of the (illusory) seeker who has not realised ‘there is nobody here’, can be utilised to their advantage in seeing this.

When it is seen, then it is also seen that all practices are also part of this Grand Illusion, often, at least initially, fuelling the ‘I’ and the suffering that goes alongside it.

See also: Can you teach enlightenment?

 

 

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How to meditate for spiritual enlightenment

buddha side

Meditation can serve many purposes: increased happiness, improved concentration and academic performance, clarity and insight into everyday issues, improved health and sleep, etc. This article’s meditation will likely help with all or most of these, but the end goal is none of the above. The goal here is total freedom, enlightenment, nirvana or moksha (all are used as synonyms here). I have included some Sanskrit words in brackets in case you are interested.

Contemplate this

No object, gross or subtle, can lead to lasting fulfillment.

I recommend you contemplate deeply on this.

For most of us, after a little contemplation, this becomes obvious to us. However,we can go further: if we continue on this contemplation, we can start to realise that even seeking momentary pleasure or momentary fulfillment in objects is a cause of suffering. Subtlely,  we still believe that our fulfillment lies in obtaining contact with the objects of our desire. Subtlely, we are reinforcing the sense of ‘I’ or ‘me’, also known as the ego, and the root cause of suffering is continued.

Contemplate deeply on this.

First, that objects cannot give us lasting fulfillment. Secondly, that getting involved in the world of objects in order to be psychologically fulfilled is already the path of ignorance and suffering.

Similarly, seeking enlightenment or liberation in the world of objects or using an object such as thought as a means of enlightenment is also futile. So, what to do?

‘Look within’

When this is realised at a deeper and deeper level within ourselves, dispassion (vairagya) arises. We ‘turn away’ from worldly objects, meaning we no longer look for happiness in objects.

Remember, that experiences are also objects – they are known to us, they are felt and perceived, and they, like other objects, come and go. Peace, love, oneness – all these can be experienced, and all experiences come and go. Insight into the impermanence of phenomena leads to not clinging to such experiences. This is called ‘turning inwards’ or ‘looking within’.

The role of a formal practice

For most people, I recommend a formal practice of spending as much time as you can each day without engaging with thoughts, whilst still remaining awake and aware (ie. not in trance and not asleep).

Formal practice is useful as ignorance, or taking yourself to be a separate self, is so deeply ingrained, that even when the mind is ordinarily quiet in everyday life, it is still stained with this ignorance that is merely dormant, and so insight does not manifest (unless the seeker is especially ripe/ready). A period everyday of being away from thoughts, upon which ignorance depends, is of a great benefit and can greatly quicken the spiritual search.

Actually doing a formal practice, as opposed to simply talking about silence and so on, is one of the best ways of taking the spiritual quest out of the mind or intellect, and transforming clever concepts into genuine spiritual understanding and insight.

Not doing a spiritual practice is one of the best ways of remaining caught in the clutches of the intellect and ego for years to come. Often the mind will come up with reasons and select teachings that say no practice is required, so beware the tendency of the ego to find a way to perpetuate itself rather than foster its own demise.

Sit in a comfortable position with your back upright. This is so you don’t fall asleep and are able to maintain a serene stability of mind for an extended period of time. Having a practice in the same place and the same time of day can be a useful aid to this, as the mind becomes trained to become quiet at that time and place over time.

‘But I don’t like to meditate’

Meditation is not for everyone, and my writings are tips for you to take on board and apply to your life as you feel is best. If you don’t like meditation, then I would recommend you try some other kind of formal practice, be it chanting, yoga or mindfulness, as you see fit. Over time the idea is that these practices will calm your mind, and purify and balance your energies and you will start to be naturally drawn to a more contemplative peaceful (sattvic) practice.

‘I want to meditate but my mind is too busy’

If you feel drawn to meditation, but your mind is too noisy, then, like the example above, I would try some preliminary practices first, such as light exercise, hatha (physical) yoga, chanting or breathing exercises. Try meditation immediately after one or more of these preliminary practices and your mind should be considerably quieter.

Follow your heart and intuition and do what you feel drawn to. Allow this to be your practice as long as it feel right for you. There are no strict rules and better to follow your own genuine path (swadharma) rather than someone else’s if it doesn’t feel right.

A method of meditation

  1. Prior to meditation, start by chanting for 3-5 minutes. This cleanses the energetic system and allows for a deeper and more awake meditation.
  2. Take your time to settle down and allow the mind to become calm. I find that spending 2-3 minutes allowing myself to sit with my eyes open and take in my surroundings is helpful in transitioning between being engaged with the world to meditation.
  3. Also take time to feel the body, allowing each part of the body to be experienced, and also allow each part of the body to relax. Pay particular attention to the forehead, jaw, and shoulders, where a lot of tension is often held. If you can, energetically allow the sense of you to drop down into your chest and belly area and feel relaxed.
  4. Allow the mind to become relaxed. Take up the attitude that everything is welcome here, and allow everything to come and go. Sensations, sounds, thoughts, all can come and go. Accept what is. Allow your mind to become light, carefree and happy. Happy acceptance is the general aim, not to be a state of mind that is forced, but to be allowed to arise.
  5. Now start to withdraw your  mind. Use an anchor if required: this can be a mantra (a sound that is repeated, such as ‘Om’, which can be repeated for example on every outbreath), an object (either real external object, or better still, a visualised object), or the breath. As the meditation progresses the anchor should become gradually more subtle, so I often start with counting my breaths, then I let go of counting and just stay with the breath, then I just stay with the feeling of peace and happiness for as long as I feel until I am ready for the next step:
  6. By now the mind should be relatively quiet and also stable in that quietude. There are several options of what you can do here, and as everyone is different, the exact method will vary from person to person. Essentially, notice that even peace and quietude are subtle objects. Either let them go or be aware of them whilst simultaneously knowing they are not you and that you and ‘your bliss’ do not depend on them. Here we are getting in touch with that which is not an object, that which is ever present, that which does not come and go, that which is the nature of presence-awareness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda), that which is the essence of who you are (atman), or pure subjectivity (drik). This process of separating the perceiver/subject (drik) from that which is perceived/objects (drisya) is technically known as discrimination (viveka), or discernment.
  7. Follow your intuition. The key is to not focus on objects, not to engage with the world of objects, not to identify with the body-mind and to also question this notion of ‘I’. You can rest in I AM and eventually you will see that this I AM is also an object that appears to the ‘real I’ which is not an object. This is the approach from the ‘sat‘ (being) aspect of sat-chit-ananda (reality) Or you can let yourself be aware of awareness, that which is not an object, that which you are, and allow the brightness of awareness to vividly shine and outshine all objects, consuming all objects in its dazzling light. This is the approach from the ‘chit‘ (consciousness-awareness) aspect of reality. Or you can bathe in the happiness that arises when there is no concern for objects and deriving happiness from the myriad phenomena that rise and fall – thus approaching reality from its ‘ananda’ (blissful/happiness) aspect. A fourth method is to ask ‘Who am I’, and search for the root of the ‘I thought’, as prescribed by Ramana Maharshi, and allow this to take you to the Source, which is none other than reality itself, and abide there until all tendencies to identify as a separate ‘I’ or ‘me’ are rooted out. See here for more details on this.
  8. Note that while it is important not to ultimately get caught up in feelings of bliss and peace, or get similarly locked into a trance state, it can be of benefit to linger here for a while. Why? Because it feels good and it is purifying. The effects of lingering in peace eventually do wear off, but they still have some provisional purifying effect and have value in countering negative tendencies and bad habits/psychological states we may be prone to entering into. Eventually, when the time is right, we can let go of peace and bliss too, but no rush is needed in all this. All in good time. ‘Good things come to those who wait.’
  9. Be happy, relax, do not cling, have faith

In summary

Contemplate how all objects, gross and subtle, cannot lead to enlightenment complete, and rest in your true nature, devoid of objects and full of peace and bliss.

Establish a daily practice and do not allow reasoning from the ego to convince you otherwise. Note how the the ego may resist this. The ego is prone to selecting teachings that lead to its continuance rather than its demise.

Use preliminary techniques relating to the world, body and mind as suits your disposition and take your time. Use an anchor if required, and eventually allow this to give way to a deeper silence in which you are fully awake and aware. There is no rush and this should be enjoyable and relaxing rather than hard work.

Play the long game rather than strive for short term gains. Relax.

Allow yourself to feel any phenomena – notice they are not the essence of you, the subject. Locate the sense of ‘me’, and notice this too is an object. Rest in that ‘placeless place’ where no objects are.

Trust your intuition and be careful not to fall asleep or get (too) caught up in experiences including peace and bliss.

Best wishes to you, practice, practice, practice, and please get in touch if you feel I can be of assistance

🙏

 

 

Many ways to Freedom

There are many ways that can lead an apparent individual person to freedom, a freedom that is already totally here and present and yet not always recognised or acknowledged.  There is the method of direct pointing, the path or understanding or knowledge, the path of devotion or surrender or love, the path of mindfulness, or through meditation. These are just some of the many ways, and eventually they all converge and are seen to be the same One Path (if taught correctly).

There are paths that require no belief and no faith, and others that are faith based. Some paths delve into the esoteric whereas others do not venture away from normal, direct, everyday experience. Some ways rely heavily on words, concepts and thought, (which are hopefully later dismantled) and others transmit  the teachings non-verbally.  Some (most) paths initially seem to reinforce the sense of a separate ‘I’ whereas others vehemently deny this appearance of separation from the outset.

There are countless other adjuncts that can also be useful, such as prayer, chanting, physical exercises and other ritualistic and more formal practices.

Or perhaps none of the above are required.

My view is that all these teachings and paths (including those that deny any teaching, path or way) can often play a valuable role in the journey of a seeker, and the exact shape of a seekers path varies considerably and is ultimately unique. However there are some general trends that generally apply, and understanding these tends to quicken the path as well as make it considerably easier. I summarise these trends in this article here.

In today’s spiritual market place, many teachings are available and the seeker can often find themselves somewhat confused and disillusioned with the teaching, teacher or path that was meant to lead them home, but for some reason didn’t live up to expectation. Many teachers only teach in the way that worked for them, and sometimes they denigrate other ways that are, superficially at least, contrary to what worked for them.

When I was seeking, my journey lead me to explore quite a lot of spiritual teachings, both traditional and non-traditional, and I began to see how they all potentially fitted together. I especially explored Yoga, Vedanta and Buddhist teachings, and have been studying each of these teachings for over 20 years now. My sense is this understanding of how this realisation can be shared in a number of different ways is particularly valuable in a world of plurality where seekers come from many different backgrounds with many different experiences and there are many seemingly contradictory teachings on offer. The result is the seeker is often left in confusion and perhaps even disillusionment about how to go forwards, and there is often a sense of isolation as how best to proceed.

I humbly offer you what I have learnt in order to facilitate your Jouney Back To Your-Self, to the Here/Now, in order to recognise this Freedom that already is here. My plea is that you approach what I have to offer with kindness and an open heart, be willing to look beyond the words I use and be open to what they may be pointing to, and also to be open to the non-verbal aspects of the teaching and transmission. This plea is not for my sake, but I think you will find that this open kindheartedness is a major key in unlocking the door which is always open, but apparently hides what is already fully present.

In ages gone by, as well as today, this perennial teaching has been expressed in a multiplicity of ways, and paradoxically, the most accurate verbal expression is not always the most conducive for a genuine and full transmission to occur. In fact I have found that in many cases that when a genuine realisation have been achieved, it often leads to a unique way of talking about and expressing this, a way that is not simply a parroting of myself or any other teacher, but a unique expression due to the unique body-mind it is being expressed through.

I express this Freedom in different ways at different times, and if you decide to spend time with this expression that occurs through me, I hope you will see how there is no real difference in these expressions. Seeing unity amidst this apparent diversity will surely go a long way to improving mutual respect and understanding between individuals and traditions, as well as allow the teachings to reach those whom it may not ordinarily reach.  We can also be aware of how not all teachings are equal, how some teachings are limited and even sometimes dangerous, and when certain teachings will be more effective in given circumstances.

If you feel I can be of any benefit to you, please contact me or attend one of my meetings

With best wishes

Tom

 

 

 

FACEBOOK LIVE Satsang this Thursday 8pm (UK time)

So following last week’s Facebook live event I’ve decided to hold another one this week:

When: This Thursday 7th December 2017 at 8pm (UK Time)
Where: just click on my facebook page at the time above. You can find it here: www.facebook.com/tomdas.nd

You can ask questions by posting comments in the comments bar. I hope to see you then!

With love

Tom

Here’s the link to my previous Facebook Live video last week, enjoy!

How to have peace and a challenging job?

Q. Hi Tom, thank you so much for sharing your experiences through your blog. It’s very helpful. In my journey I have learned a lot from the folks you have read Ramana Maharshi, Kirshnamurti, etc. I have experienced the sense of oneness almost like a peaceful black hole, and this feeling is now always accessible to me, although the strength of it varies. This access has changed how I experience life and a lot of suffering has diminished.

However I have a pretty intense, stressful leadership job and I find that my reactions to some people that I think are not being effective in my jobs is just as intense as it used to be before I found this state. I find myself suffering in navigating these situations, but I have to address these types of problems as a natural part of my job responsibilities.

Is there some guidance you can share that might nudge me to navigate this differently? I really suffer every time I confront this situation, and I have found myself making good decisions but causing pain to both myself and the people who are impacted by this decision. I know you are busy, but anything you can nudge me on would be helpful. I want to stay in the world and be effective in whatever role I am playing at the time, but want to not cause suffering to me or others in my path.

 

Tom: Thank you for your kind words and sorry it has taken me some time to respond. It’s great that your suffering has reduced and that you have instant access to that state of peace whenever you need to take shelter there.

I think I understand what you mean by the situation you face at work. As you know, I also have a job and family life and am in some ways very much in the world.

With these kinds of issues, there is no one fixed solution that works for everyone. I can give you some suggestions, but it is for you to experiment and find what works for you.

My recommendation is to start the day with a sense of gratitude, perhaps even a formal ‘giving thanks’ meditation session/puja in the morning to start the day.

Thereafter try to love everything that happens to you. This sadhana is described here in more detail: Start the day with love, fill the day with love, end the day with love

Thanks again for writing to me, best wishes and let me know how it all goes 🙏🏾

Satsang at the Druids Head Pub, Kingston upon Thames, London

kingston football london druids head

I’m lucky enough to hold satsang at an amazing venue – The Druids Head.

The room we meet in is about 300 years old and is often visited by historical tour groups to observe its original features, including a poem scratched on a glass cabinet panel by Jerome K Jerome.

Below is a picture from 1846 of an annual ‘Foot Ball’ match that used to be played every shrove Tuesday just outside the Druids head in the Ancient Market Place, Kingston upon Thames.

So we meet regularly on Thursdays at 7pm, the next meeting is this week. Please do come along if you feel inclined to. Register at this link to join:

www.meetup.com/Non-duality-Kingston-London

Best wishes

Tom

My awakening does not last. Why?

A flash of insight alone is not enough for most. It results in an ‘awakening’ that may stick around for a while, but eventually it flickers, coming and going, switching ‘on and off’ and causing its own suffering.

In order for the insight/enlightenment to become stable, a process to weaken and remove the habitual tendency to identify as a ‘self’ is usually required.

And even that may not be enough. Even the book reading and understanding of the path may not suffice. Why? Because the mind is ridden with ignorance, this sense of ‘me’, it often trips itself up unknowingly, despite its best efforts, perpetuating suffering for many years to come.

Hence the potential importance of a teacher who embodies the teaching. Here doubts and methods can often be cleared up in a flash (or maybe a fizzle!).

My next satsang/meeting is in Kingston upon Thames, UK tomorrow (Thursday) 7pm. Please come along if it feels right for you. See link below for how to join.

The week after will be an ONLINE meeting which is open to people who live both in the UK and elsewhere. Details are on the same link.

Wishing you peace 🙏❤️

https://www.meetup.com/Non-duality-Kingston-London/

Manifesting awakening in everyday life: purification and insight

buddha leaf

Question: In my experience, waking up is a preliminary step. The real work happens in manifesting that awakening in everyday life, and that is the most difficult part. Otherwise, there is a disconnect between the awakened state and everyday experience. What do you think?

Tom: In my experience it depends on the way awakening happens. I think what you call awakening, I call insight. What you call manifesting in everyday life, I call purification post-insight. Insight refers to seeing through the illusion of separation and doership and no longer believing happiness lies in gross or subtle objects. Purification refers to a process in which the habitual tendencies that are based on ignorance (ie. a lack of insight or belief in separation and seeking to derive happiness from objects) are let go of and removed.

The essential insight(s), once realised, doesn’t change, but the habitual thought patterns, behaviours and felt levels of suffering do change, and they change gradually over time for most people. Insight is like seeing something that is already here but was overlooked. It can occur like a flash, and when seen, it is realised that things were always this way but it just wasn’t acknowledged or understood to be so.

Purification is different. It is a process, one that takes time as the body-mind catches up with the insight. Purification can occur both prior to and after insight, but is generally only able to be complete once insight has occurred. In Vedanta this process is what is usually meant by the Sanskrit term nididhyansana.

However, purification is not necessarily the most difficult part – that varies from individual to individual, depending on how purified their minds were prior to insight occurring and the context of the awakening. For some it can be a very natural unfolding of the insight that occurs by itself and without prompting. For others it can be quite a difficult process in which a more formalised sadhana has to be continued in order to weed out the vasanas/habitual tendencies that are based on the root ignorance of separation and looking for happiness is objects.

This purification can also be seen as a process by which morality is instilled into the body-mind and through which ethical behaviour manifests. When the egoic I-centred tendencies fall away or are rooted out by post-insight sadhana, then what results is a naturally more ethical body-mind entity.

Either way, I do acknowledge this post-insight process is an important part of the spiritual path, and without it, in my view, the awakening/enlightenment is not complete.

Gently ushered home

Maple leaf on stones

When the body is loose and relaxed,
When it is fed nutritiously,
When movement is fluid, safe and dynamic,
Physical wellbeing tends to manifest.

When the mind is relaxed and alert,
Not fighting this way and that,
Not straining and thirsting after temporary sense pleasures,
Not indulging in stories of self,
Not judging others as being better or worse,
Seeing things factually as they are,
Happiness manifests.

When happiness and wellbeing manifest,
We become receptive to that-which-is,
We become sensitive to life and its play,
And intelligence is enhanced.

And so life shifts,
From side to side,
Bobbing us up and down,

Mysteriously,
Intelligently,
Lovingly,
Nurturing us in the ways we need,
(not necessarily in the ways we want),

And life,
In its every action and happening,
Is gently ushering us home.
(Where else were we?)