Afer a short pause the back and forth mentioned in the prior article continued, with some side debate on issues with my approach. Again, edited slightly for context.
As I discussed prior, it depends on what you mean by “ego”, If you mean a personal concept of self, a “me”: that ends with Self Realization. (although aspects may fall away over time). But the individuating principle [Ahamkara] remains. There is still an apparent person here acting in the world. Only now, the ego is not laying claim and saying these are “my” actions and “my” possessions and “my” body.
And yes, it is more than possible to live without a me-concept in the world. It’s actually much easier and better. Less clutter in the mind and emotions, much smoother living, and so forth. Less barrier to being.
Karma and destiny have little relevance to non-duality. They are of the field of action and living a life. Of the apparent person. In those terms, there can be value in understanding the mechanics of the life we’re experiencing. Just as there is value in learning to ride a bike or drive a car. They’re useful in living a life rather than for spiritual growth, although the 2 are related. But they have nothing to do with non-duality. Non-duality is a perspective born of certain stages of spiritual development.
I’ll note again – Self Realization is not non-duality, although many people will say otherwise.
Yes, there are branches of the various traditions. Yoga is a branch of the Vedic traditions. Vedanta is another. I also mentioned Samkhya. and so on. Various traditions tend to emphasize various ways of looking at the process, or at different stages of the process.
Kundalini is part of the energetic process that occurs in the process of awakening. Non-duality comes after that, during a descent. From my perspective, it is interesting to understand the mechanics of how the physiology supports an awakening. Kundalini also explains a few experiences. But for me, kundalini took care of itself. There was nothing required to do it. Those with a more intense kundalini process may find the understanding more valuable but I don’t agree with techniques to “push” it. You can damage your subtle physiology that way.
As another suggests, if you choose a tradition you resonate with, you’ll make better progress than if you try to understand them all. Spiritual traditions span multiple ages, cultures and experiences. They’re much easier to understand when it is the experience.
Agreed. Even within Buddhism itself, the schools have very different perspectives on some points. Given differences in time, language and culture, interpretation becomes further removed from the original experience.
When you then try to compare notes with other traditions, it can get very tricky fast. The Vedas, for example, emphasize Atman, the cosmic Self. Buddhism, more “no self”. These can sound quite different but there are some things that suggest the same underlying process – just a different experience and emphasis.
On the other hand, other things that can sound the same are not, like non-dual stages and the above. Recognizing the basics of the stages does help get what they’re probably talking about. But if the translator you’re reading does not recognize this, the waters get muddier.
So far, I’ve noted 5 different ways the shift of Self Realization is described (plus terminology variations). Some sound like opposites but the differences are actually more in the way we come to it. Same mountain, different routes up. For example, ego death vs ego expanding to become cosmic vs ego surrender. But all are about shifting off the ego.
And yes, I agree that spending time with one tradition and teachings that resonate are the best for growth. Window shopping, cherry picking, or otherwise skimming doesn’t help as much. It is nice to take a comparative course once in a while and get a broader sense of the common journey though.
And yes – understanding based on experience is the only thing that has real value in spiritual terms. And even that has to fall away periodically. (laughs)
It is the curious nature of human development that often we must first empower people as individuals, with a sense of personal control. Only when they are reasonably secure in that do they begin seeking and become willing to let that go.
Yes, most Buddhists recognize what non-dualists would call Self Realization, and they’d call Nirvana. But they don’t recognize the non-dual stages that follow. Zen, Tantra and Vedic traditions are more likely to. The understanding of Oneness is more prominent. But anywhere where there is only concepts about it and not direct experience, misunderstanding creeps in.
And yes, some teachings are more direct, some more incremental. A lot has to do with when the teaching began and how it has adapted to history.
The stages Buddhists describe are in the approach to Self Realization rather than the stages that follow. The 10 Bulls, for example. Although I’ve not studied the original teaching of that, so it may have been adapted to modern understanding. Mostly, I’ve read Buddha’s discourses. There it is obvious he speaks to different stages.
I’d have to look up some of the texts to quote Buddha. I know the Vedic stuff better.
Self Realization and Non-duality are different stages with quite distinct realities. Their approach and what they culture each differs, as does the understanding that will support them. As I commented prior some use the terms differently though. But Nirvana is not Unity.
Yes, concepts are an interesting dance and paradox. But I’ll note – it is not concepts that are the barrier. It is identification with concepts that get in the way of realization. Same with the ego – ego is not the problem – it is identification with ego that is.
When you have a shift in reality, it is very useful to hear something from others who have come before you. Simple pointers and commentary can make the process much smoother and faster. Also, having a broad map of the journey has value just as a map does when travelling. There are many thousands awakening now so it’s very important for them to understand what is unfolding.
However, when one shifts from the reality of one stage to another, our concepts of life must always be reevaluated. Our concepts about a future stage will never meet the reality of the experience. Just like our concepts of Paris will never meet the experience of being there. And the concepts that support our prior reality will never meet the new one. The rules for living in Paris will fail us when we move to Shanghai.
Some teachers reject concepts as barriers but I’ve found it depends on the person. There are many who are happy with simple ideas and ways of working with attention. Others are on a more devotional path. And others have strong minds. For them, culturing better ways of looking at the world and useful ideas can be valuable.
It is the nature of the mind to have concepts. Better to feed it with good ones. If you think you can make it to enlightenment without concepts, you’d be mistaken. Non-dualists are full of people who have concepts about no concepts, for example. That is just as much a barrier as any other concept. Every word on this site is a concept.
I’ve also found that if you satisfy the mind, it is much more willing to let go.
For westerners, it is common that our concepts about enlightenment are the last to fall in awakening. We can respond to that by attempting to avoid what naturally arises. Or by talking about it in a way that will allow someone to see through whatever edifice they have created.
I agree – we don’t get further or closer to something. But the subjective experience is that we do. There are no stages or levels of consciousness. But we experience them.
I can also note that any sense of resistance or denial – even of concepts – is the boundary that is being held. That is the sign of identification. It is not the concepts themselves but our relationship with them to watch for.
It’s also worth noting that there has been considerable emphasis in eastern teachings on the renunciate path for some centuries. I suspect this is because of the cycles of time – it was necessary to withdraw from the darkness of the world to make decent progress. It still dominates many teachings.
However, times change. The vast majority of us are householders. The emphasis for a householder is not renunciation but rather living spirituality in daily life. Not through denial but through enrichment.
Our physiology has its basis in our subtle energy physiology. This has 7 “layers”. It’s a complex subject and many teachers in the field do not have “energetic literacy” or full direct experience of what they’re working with. They’re essentially experimenting on their students. Some encourage flashy experiences rather than connecting to source. Some encourage trying to force or push the energy up rather than letting it unfold naturally. Some recommend practising opening chakras without teaching people how to protect themselves energetically. And so on.
It’s a field with a few quality teachers and a lot of noise. How many times have you heard someone say the heart chakra is green? People I know who have practised kundalini techniques have either had much rougher transitions or had to take a long timeout to heal. Because shakti is the foundation of our mind, body & emotions, it can cause trouble in all areas. It is, quite literally, playing with fire.
That said, I know a kundalini program in the states that is excellent for correcting kundalini issues, like a rise up a secondary channel. While I wouldn’t recommend their ongoing practices (more concentration than effortless), for addressing problems they’re excellent. And their understanding comprehensive.
On the flip side, most people I know who are awake barely noticed their kundalini rise.
Like yoga has come to mean exercise, tantra has come to mean sex for many. Just as you won’t find yoga in many yoga studios, most tantra teachers don’t actually teach tantra. I’m not going to comment on specific traditions I know little about. There is many. I’m just observing some red flags. The understanding should be comprehensive and include ways of verifying by direct experience, without force. If the teacher has taken a few courses they now teach, I’d remain skeptical.
If you’re interested in an overview of the 3 ways kundalini is seen in various traditions and how that relates to the stages of enlightenment, see Understanding Shakti in Awakening.
Just to clarify – there isn’t 10 stages AFTER non-duality but rather some texts describe 10 stages of the development OF non-duality. These are reflected in the 10 mandalas of the Rig Veda. This is also known as Unity into Brahman.
Brahman could be described as the height of non-duality or as a post-non-dual state as it transcends what is being united in the Unity stages.
These stages are after Self Realization, in the literal sense of the term. That is the stage where the ego attachments fall away and one first “realizes” or recognizes oneself to be Atman, the cosmic Self. This is not an experience but a permanent change in being that changes our perspective of the world significantly.
It’s very common to be inspired by a new teaching or program. But as our experience develops, we may come to realize either our approach or the teaching itself is shallow. Or the great teacher turns out to be human. We may come to think of it as a mistake.
This is not because the teaching has changed but because we have grown. It may indeed be time to move on. Or it may be time to let go of our attachments to it, keep what was good and move on.
A common folly in non-duality we’ve been talking about here is realizing our concepts about non-duality are just that – concepts. Not non-duality. It’s a good recognition. Yet if you’re going to study non-duality, you’ll pick those concepts up. Thus my reference to the dance. Getting to know, then letting go of our old relationship with it to open to the next level.
Part of spiritual maturity is in finding our own truth, our own way to describe and relate to it. Which of course evolves with us.
As I’ve mentioned, I recommend an effortless meditation. It puts no attention on kundalini and indeed, the text i mention in the article a couple of times comments that we may not even notice kundalini particularly with such techniques. Some releases here and there but often, that’s about it. Then one day the lights come on.
By contrast, some techniques try to move the energy consciously to push through blockages. It’s difficult to describe this but there is a subtle hazard to damage the energy physiology and it tends to create a rougher route. And not faster. That whole category of force, pushing, and concentration tends to strain rather than relieve the system.
In the west, we’ve developed bad habits of trying to force things. Techniques that encourage that don’t culture the letting go which is key to the larger unfolding.
On the other hand, there are some who have intense kundalini awakenings. In such a case, techniques to manage the changes can be very useful.
Ecstasy is by no means exclusive to Tantra. Again, it will arise naturally when the way is clear. I’ve mentioned bliss and rapture I think already. No pushing needed. They arise as a natural consequence of opening. Some suggest they are our birthright.
Some forms of mental illness relate to a fractured sense of self. But consciousness is never divided, even though it may be experienced as such sometimes. Consciousness is what is observing. The fracturing can be said to take place in the content or objects of experience. When someone is identified with that content, they experience themselves as fractured. Very real to them but it is only an effect of their mode of perception. Who they are is never “broken”. Thus some psychologists seek to help them see it differently.
Some spiritual experiences sound similar to mental illness, but only in their description. True spiritual growth is integrating, not fracturing. However, subjectively when aspects of our dark side are exposed, it can be difficult. But that’s a different thing. Challenging is not madness. I’m also aware of a couple of people who were forced to address their problems due to spiritual growth. But it’s still 2 different things going on. Progress is simply bringing what is unresolved to the surface.
There is book out called Perfect Madness where a woman describes her transition into awakening. It was not madness in the sense a psychologist would use the term but it felt like it to her at the time. This book and Collision with the Infinite illustrate how important it is to understand what is unfolding in an awakening. In both cases, they fought their experiences, making it much more difficult.
BTW – I would not recommend either book as an example of a typical awakening process. These are extreme examples.
In other words, madness is not a step towards Self Realization. But there can be major episodes of purification in the approach for some people. Adyashanti’s book The End of Your World frames this better. He’s worked with hundreds who became Self Realized and speaks directly to some of the challenges that may arise. He has a Zen background.
But again, if you follow the effortless path and learn not to fight it, the process can be much smoother.
You may also enjoy Transcendence, a recent book by a Psychiatrist on the value of samadhi for mental health.
Also keep in mind that personal growth and spiritual growth may be intertwined but they’re not the same thing. You may gain self-confidence by experiencing your true nature, for example. But that’s not really spiritual growth per se.
Tantra is a spiritual practice that westerners associate with sex. That’s right up there with yoga being a form of exercise. But yes, there can be some value in couples learning to have conscious sex and being aware of what is happening energetically. And there is value in stretching exercises. But if the focus is on energy, it’s not really a spiritual practice. It’s an energy physiology practice.
If the practice does not take you to or prepare you for samadhi (connection to source or spirit), it’s not really a spiritual practice.
Yes, Tantra is a tradition that has practices and understanding to support Self Realization. They also recognize Oneness or non-duality beyond that. But I’m no expert on Tantra so can’t suggest much there.
I agree that there is a lot of nonsense out there. But I also know there are a lot of people going through profound transitions that they don’t understand. The books I mentioned in a prior comment exemplify the issues that can come up if there isn’t good understanding.
This is why I talk about it as a dance. Our concepts we hold on to can indeed be a barrier to Realization. Learning to hold them lightly is good. But at the same time, those same concepts can be immeasurably helpful to people in the midst of the transitions. If they don’t understand what is unfolding, that can ALSO be a barrier to progress. I’ve seen it both ways.
They want what they know deep within is already there. But it remains illusive.
I agree that many use the “world as an illusion” as an excuse and denial of what they don’t want. That denial becomes a barrier to a deeper unfolding.
I don’t agree with the later sentence: “We ourselves are responsible for the (dual) situation we are in, and we are capable to end this situation.” This suggests the ego is responsible for itself and can end the ego. This is one of the subtle traps late in a spiritual journey. The ego wanting to control the process and putting up the story of being in charge. It even uses memories of spiritual experiences to fake being spirit.
This internal conflict of ego with itself serves to distract us from seeing through it.
The personal self never awakens and has no hand in it. Awakening happens when the Self wakes up to Itself through this apparent form. In the light of that recognition, the ego identification is seen through and ends.
Interestingly, not even Atman manages its own awakening. It is Brahman itself. Many call this grace.
If by “scent of Happiness”, you mean that passing light wave of inner happiness without cause that arises unbidden – that is a little taste of what is called bliss or ananda.
We could say the surface of who we are within is a lively field. When we cross that field of fine vibration going into and out of samadhi, we can have a fuller wave of bliss. But as it is of the very nature of who we are, it can show up in our life here and there in little samples. In the awe of nature, great music, being in the zone in sports, and so forth.
When the physiology finds a moment to be settled, even if we’re in intense activity, the openness comes and the wave arises.
What specifically works for this or that person varies some. The Vedic tradition talks about the different Yogas or paths – through devotion, activity, intellect, and so forth, for example.
As another observes, there is 2 aspects to the path or process. One is what connects us to source. (or makes us more conscious, etc) The other is what clears the baggage that gets in the way of living that.
For the first, it’s a daily practice. Noticing what is here, meditation, and so forth. Just remember the dying the cloth principle. Touch source, then back into activity. Too much of either is not great. You don’t want to turn into a space cadet from overdoing practice. You want to integrate it.
Katie’s The Work is a good one. One teacher describes energy medicine, energy psychology and energy spirituality as the three types of practices one can use to help clean things up.
What principles you specifically need to follow are for you to find. These are the things you get results from culturing. Gratitude, for example, was a big doorway for me. Effortless came with the practice but some find noticing that much more closely really helps. Acting but not forcing. Working with what is here. And on and on.
You’ve mentioned Tantra a few times. In a devotional practice, the Vedas speak of devotion to teacher, devotion to God and devotion to ones mate [upaguru] as possible paths that way. Recognition of the divine in another [Namaste] can be a profound way to grow that in your life.
There are no quick and easy answers. It’s a process and a grand journey. What tools will you need on your path? That’s part of your journey of discovery too.
Actually, you have been on that path since the beginning of your existence. It is in the nature of life itself. However, it does become more potent when you are engaging the process consciously. We’re always at the beginning. 😉
Time isn’t really a non-dual subject. In oneness, there isn’t even “now” as that is still relative to time. Even eternity is relative to time. What is one is beyond all space and time yet contains it.
There are however quite a few different ways time can be experienced. Time is an effect of the process of experience so as we change how we experience ourselves & the world, our perception of time changes. You give an example of an athlete where the focus of attention is intense. In such situations, time tend tends to expand (slow). Age and our metabolic rate change the apparent speed of time too. There is living in the moment or now. There is all past and future in the present. There is time like an infinite space our attention is moving through. There is all time (eternity) and timelessness. And so on. Just different ways of experiencing how we are experiencing.
Essentially, we experience the flow of time because our awareness is localized and experiencing a series of discrete apparent moments.
Self Realization is easier to understand this way. At that stage, we experience ourselves as eternal being in an eternal now or presence. Creation unfolds before us through time and space but we are not that, nor are we “in” it. We simply observe it, like going to a movie.
In a non-dual stage like Unity, even creation is part of the eternal now. Thus time could be said to be unfolding within us and out of us. But in both these stages there are variations in depth that can shift our relationship with time. For example, the ever-present moment vs all past and future in the eternal present.
This isn’t a psychological effect but again, an effect of the process of perception. It is an aspect of the mechanics of consciousness itself, deeper than psychology.
Living in the moment does not require mindlessness, which is how some interpret terms like “no-mind”. No-mind, to me, is being unattached to the mind and the mind being relatively settled rather than agitated. Mind is no longer the centre of our being and self, it is no longer dominant in our experience. But just as we continue to have a body and emotions, we continue to have thoughts.
Thus, it is not remotely difficult to act in the world. In fact, it is much easier. There is far less “noise” within, so we’re able to pick up intuitive prompts, a sense of trends in consciousness, and not be plagued by past fears and such. We’re able to act more efficiently and directly and get results much faster. In fact, getting results is a good sign of spiritual progress. Integrated spirit brings effective action. (of course there can be transitional phases that can disrupt this some.)
And yes, more than possible. With Self Realization, action continues but we observe it rather than being caught up in it. A friend of mine has a family, a large custom-built home, a summer home and has 6 businesses on the go. One is known internationally. Last year, in the middle of all this, he had his Unity shift. And spoke at the Science and Nonduality conference soon after.
We work as we always have. Life continues through a kind of momentum. (laughs) There is a common idea that you have to withdraw from the world to make spiritual progress but in fact if that is not your dharma, it will not be effective. Most of us are householders. And most of the Vedas were cognized by married men and women. Married life is NOT a barrier. Otherwise spiritual progress would doom the species and sex wouldn’t be pleasurable.
Enlightenment is about spiritual awakening. It’s not so much about who we are in the world. If we’re aligned to our purpose, what unfolds in the world won’t change much though it will get smoother and more fun. If we’re out of alignment, we may see some course corrections happen in the process. Nothing we have to work out – it will simply arise through opportunities and intuitive nudges.
Remember – you can’t tell if someone is awake from surface things. They may smile or laugh a lot more but their life can be pretty ordinary. I know a shoe salesman, a bus driver, and a clerk who are Self Realized.
Perhaps that will help clarify. There are a lot of lame ideas floating around on these subjects.
Keep in mind this is not something you “do”. If the awareness/witness is lively, it is something we can favour with our attention. But when we make it something we do, it’s just the me playing at being cosmic.
Cosmic Self or awareness is always present. We can notice it or not. We can allow it or not. But awakening or Self Realization is when we shift from noticing it to being it. Self wakes up to Itself through an apparent person. This doesn’t happen from doing. Nor does it happen even from the Self Itself. It is driven from beyond even being. Thus, people say it is grace.
That said, some practices do help us become more “prone” to waking. They open and clean the vessel, we could say.
When we’re open and relaxed, it is much easier to allow and to notice awareness. When we’re in a more reactive place and the mind or emotions are resisting, those are the places we’re more caught, where more attachment exists. This is normal and it varies by person. You may also notice more of your karma/ drama shows up in those places too.
Most people are smooth and successful in certain areas of their life and more challenged in others. This is not to be confused with skills and orientation. An ideas-driven person may have fewer people skills, for example. Thus, they may struggle to learn how to be in a relationship. But someone who is more caught here may have good people skills but a tendency to get caught up in dramas around relationships. Two different drivers.
The witness or observer will develop naturally without being cultured. But samadhi will encourage its growth. As we become more present, the dynamics become more conscious. The key then is not to get into a new struggle with the old struggle but rather to culture that letting go.
The reason the dramas/ struggles come up is due to unresolved energy/emotions. When we learn to allow things to be as they are, we’ll find the energy will surge up and find resolution. Then that struggle/ drama will resolve to some degree. Like peeling an onion, it may seem like never-ending layers but over time, the load lightens and life gets smoother. Plus, we’re resolving not building as we’ve been for so long.
It’s also worth noting that past development of sattva and atman are sustained. Essentially, we pick up where we left off in this life. Hence, some seem to progress quickly and others more slowly. Depends on what we have to resolve and how clear we are already.
The simple fact that so many are awakening in this lifetime tells us how far along many are. And how supportive that is of others on the path.
Well – it’s not quite “THAT is making without me” exactly. More That is making through me. And later, when I am That, cosmic being is making through this apparent form.
The idea of being a separate individual is the ego-concept that is false. There is no me, nor is there a “without”. We’re all in this together.
We can certainly have tastes of awakening, then return to our old ways. But a taste is no more like an actual awakening than being “king for a day” has the full weight of actually being the king. Awakening is a complete change in our sense of who we are and is permanent. That affects our entire sense of reality.
Many are strongly motivated by such tastes but I should mention again that the taste is not it. I was speaking with a friend yesterday whose husband is still seeking the return of an experience he had many years ago. He thinks that experience was “it”. But it was an experience. It was NOT a change in being so was not it. The experience will Never return. Experiences are by nature transitory. He’s heard all this and agrees but is still identified with the experience… Ironically, that identification is his greatest barrier to it.
Now, having said this, I can add that there is what Adyashanti calls abiding and non-abiding awakening. In both cases, the key shift has happened. But in the second case, the shift wasn’t deep and clear enough yet and the mind has come back to overshadow the shift for a time. It’s fairly common to have a bit of back and forth after the shift until a bit more baggage has cleared and the change is established. But over time, the clarity will return and it will be abiding and never lost.
Some teachers will not consider a non-abiding awakening as true yet. And to some extent, if it’s not lived, it’s not yet it. But I know several cases where it’s very clear the shift has happened but it’s taken some time for it to be established for the person. When someone awakens nearby, you know it because it is the same Self awakening to Itself through someone else. But then you may see them uncertain for a while. But you know clarity will come.
hmm – the reactive mode itself is not the karma. Karma is action or energy and impersonal. The karma is in the mechanics underlying the drama but the drama itself is personal. Resistance (potential energy) is ours but is a flag for the presence of karma. Karma itself often brings us a blind spot as well. When we’re inside reaction, we don’t see the larger process underway and are caught by it.
When we detach, karma itself continues but not the drama. We simply observe it. Our physical and energy bodies are in the field of energy/karma and remain there. What changes is:
– we detach from our dramas
– we thus stop producing more karma
– we more easily resolve existing karma
– samadhi roasts what is said to be the mountains of karmic backlog.
The “sprouted seeds” or momentum of karma continue though so, even awake, we continue to live a life that unfolds. But not fighting it, it is much smoother. It is more an adventure than a struggle of pain.
These are big subjects…
Psychology we could say is the study of mind and emotions, our personal inner dynamics. Consciousness is what experiences those things. In a sense, consciousness is the container and thoughts and emotions are the contents or objects of experience. But because we experience them inside and see them as personal and mine, we confuse the contents with the container.
In another sense, they are of the same. Consciousness is the ocean and thoughts and feelings are the waves on that ocean. This is not metaphoric but part of the mechanics and can actually be seen and heard at fine levels, those levels that correspond to quantum mechanics in Physics. The first is experienced subjectively, the second measured in the objects of the world. But they’re the same thing. The Vedas call that level Ritam Bhara Pragyan.
However, it’s not quite accurate to say the unified field is consciousness. It’s more correct to say it’s subjective equivalent is mind, the lively inner surface of self-aware consciousness.
Yes, we can say enlightenment happens through Grace or through Brahman. Not Atman. But people understand grace better.
Prayer is a big subject with many types, like meditation. Is it a prayer of surrender, for example, or a prayer of request?
No – that’s one of the biggest myths about Enlightenment – that everyone becomes a guru. Most don’t. Most don’t have teaching skills. For many it’s highly personal and something they rarely talk about. A friend of mine does a weekly interview show with the awake. After a few dozen shows, he ran out of people who were not teachers who were comfortable talking about it publicly and could describe it well. It takes time to find language to describe it and it takes practice to communicate it. Most of his interviewees since have been teachers in some form. Of the dozens I know who have woken, only a few will teach and even there, most just with people close to them.
Fully awake teachers are still a rare bird, even among gurus with their shingles out.
Some of those on a journey are motivated to support others or share their own path. Some gather at satsangs or around teachers. Or in online forums or blogs. As the awakening progresses, some desire to be around others awake as it amplifies the effect. Thus, we can expect to see more spiritual communities arise with a different flavour.
We’re still in the early days of this process. Frankly, what’s coming will blow the doors off most people’s ideas about reality and human potential.