So last week we talked about fear, working with fear and all sorts of misunderstandings that we have around that emotion.
I had some great feedback afterwards by email and its always useful for me to know whether the way that I am working with a topic makes sense or not. This is particularly useful if you are a teacher of anything - it is called teaching by wise means or Upaya in Buddhism.
You may not have realised but legend has it the Buddha was reluctant to pass on his message to the world after enlightenment, he simply thought that sharing it would be too difficult as it was such a personal journey and everyone learns in very different ways. In fact how it is possible to learn about something as abstract and intangible to the thinking mind as waking up from this very dream of reality?
The photo above sums this up really nicely, even the most devoted to the 'spiritual' path have a foot in both worlds. If not there would be no imagined spiritual path to even entertain us! What a hilarious situation to be in :)
The problem of a 'spiritual path to waking up' is that the thinking mind and attachment to an imagined self are the very predicament we find ourselves in. How can these faculties therefore ever solve the problem of themselves?
So we have to look slyly, out of the corner of our eye so to speak, the teachings aren't an A to B set of instructions - as much as we'd love them to be and most people assume they are - but a hint at the direction we should cast our gaze.
If we head off in the rough direction, the chances are that we wont turn back. We may forget where we are going every now and then as we get sucked back into the world of 'ten thousand things' as the Taoists call it, but if the devotion to the path is strong enough and without desire (theres another tricky thing - desireless devotion) then we will persevere. This desireless devotion to the ever present 'one' or true self, is akin to our idea of Bhakti yoga - devotion to God - except this God isn't personified in any way as we might usually find.
So there is a real trick in how we explore this, because dedicated practices are obviously a paradox in letting go of self, mind and objects that seem to cause us suffering.
To address this paradox, as far as is possible, there are certain non-practices found in many traditions, notably the non-dual paths of Advaita Vedanta, Dzogchen Buddhism, Taoism and Kashmiri Shaiivism. Although they may sometimes begin with an investigation of objects such as the body , their intention is to cut through the illusion of these objects and see the clarity of pure presence that the objects appear within and arise from.
At other times they 'look to' (again a paradox) the only 'non object' that we are aware of...awareness or consciousness itself, the sense that very clearly 'I am'. If we can rest in this state as often as we remember to, we will lose interest in the world of ten thousand things.
If you are interested in this 'Who Am I?' approach then I suggest you read a little around Sri Ramana Maharshi (below) and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Both of whom were very unassuming characters who never attempted to be teachers but for the need of those that wanted to learn. However they shared very clear, direct messages, the latter being the owner of a tobacco shop where he would dispense these :) Michael James is a wonderful English translator of Ramanas teaching and you can find many talks with him on youtube although they aren't for the faint hearted. you will probably hear me on them at times asking very pressing questions too!
I'll be exploring some of these 'non-practices' in a 2 hour long live worksop with my good friends a Movement for Modern Life on Sunday 23rd May @10am the booking link is here if you'd like to join us https://movementformodernlife....