Recently, Tom Stine posted a quote on Buddha’s teachings. He did not state his own position on the quote and did not open comments. In discussion on prior posts there, we’ve discussed if this is the highest perspective. But positions change as awareness does. (laughs)
“Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of a Soul, Self or Atman. According to the teachings of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems. It is the source of all troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.”
—- What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula
I have several things to say about this as it points to what I consider one of the most important ideas to overcome. But first I’d like to place the discussion in context. Siddhartha Buddha or Gautama was clearly a great teacher who had a profound awakening. His teachings became today’s Buddhism, although they were not written until some 400 years after his passing.
What is not clear is if the teachings of today have been misunderstood or if Buddha’s awakening was a very clear and complete Sat Chit Ananda. The teachings of virtually every teacher have experienced some form of distortion so this could certainly be an element.
Sat Chit Ananda is what I usually call the complete form of Self realization, although it’s a poor term in this context. Cosmic consciousness (CC) is another. I am certainly not an expert in Buddhism but the teachings sound like a form of CC. In CC, the ego has been lost and the silence regained. In this case, the silence is not seen as Self but rather no-self. Some teachers have suggested Buddha achieved a high state of realization but that only Vedanta, Zen and Tantra speak of full unity.
Even within the Vedas, there is much that does not explore full unfoldment outside of Vedanta or the “end of the Veda”. Vedanta includes the Upanishads and such sayings as “I am That, Thou art That, All This is That.” As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this in some ways describes the typical process of discovery as well. CC is the first phrase, although Buddha would not use “I am”. 😉
Back to the quote. First thing is that “the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief” that produces suffering and evil. I fully agree. This is how I define the small or ego self.
However, this is not the same as Soul, Self or Atman and does not make them nonexistent, simply unseen. To understand this, first we need to look at definitions. Sometimes Atman is indeed translated as soul. But soul is not ego. I think it is better understood that soul is the spark of divinity within. The battery that powers life. Atman is what might be called the supreme or universal soul. And Brahman, the one.
People experience the localized soul visually as a bright golden and white light, as a wave on the ocean of being, and as a collapsing point of infinity.
Thus, part of the evolutionary process is typically the discovery of one’s soul or spiritual self, then one’s Soul becomes seen as Atman or universal. Then Atman becomes seen as none other than Brahman. These discoveries are related to but may or may not happen with awakenings.
As I talked about in Neti Neti, it is a perfectly valid experience to see the world as an illusion, lose the ego self and settle into the “void” or “no-self”, the not me. The small self has been seen through. However, in this perspective, the inner silence or Brahman has not been seen as Self. The small self has not dissolved into Self but rather has simply ended.
For people with an effortless meditation where they have experienced inner silence regularly, I would guess they are less likely to see the silence as void or no-self long term. But everyone’s journey is unique.
The trouble with seeing no-self as the ultimate experience is that it leaves out the best ‘parts’. The entire field of divinity is missing. I understand Buddhism also rejects God realization although I have seen some forms of Buddhism display various portraits of the heavens. But without the awakened heart, this still leaves one within creation, within the dream of God. We may have transcended the dream of the individual but not the last Maya. And we remain with only an inner unity, outside the unity of Self and the world.
On the other hand, there will undoubtedly be people who step straight past this and thus have no sign-posts to relate to this outlook. Awakening is after all without rules. This may be the exception the Buddha followed.
From a typical awakening perspective, cosmic consciousness is the kindergarten of what is possible. If we spend a precious human life in the local joy of awakening, we will miss the potential of bringing the world into that joy. This is why I harp on the point. The journey is about awakening everything, not a me.
Also, I cannot begin to emphasize how much more profound being is than “just” absolute bliss. (laughs)
It’s unimportant if you agree or understand any of this. What is important is that you allow for the possibility that awakening is not an event but a process. The awakening of the soul is profoundly important, felt throughout being. But it is a graduation into the kindergarten of reality. We should not stop looking or stop moving into the depths of being.
The deeper we go, the more profound it is for everything.
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