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Spiritual Literature - To Read Or Not To Read

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While posting on the 'Taoism criticisms of zen' thread, I realized how distracted I (and probably lots of others) can get.

The sheer volume of spiritual/religious literature available at the click of a mouse is staggering. Often I've found myself drifting from one teaching and practice to another.

If only I could just do the practice.

I think the constant reading of spiritual literature can get in the way and can actually hinder progress.

I mentioned how difficult I thought shikantaza zazen is. Maybe that's because I should only practice, and not philosophize about it so much. After all, that's what you're supposed to do.

Drop everything, let go, do nothing, wu-wei.

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Yes, it's funny you should write this because I was just thinking about that when I was writing my last post on that thread. It's probably why I like Suzuki so much as I also spend too much time reading in comparison to practice.

 

This year I've had to really try and focus on doing a little bit each day of things like Zazen and Bruce Frantzis' stuff although I'm still way out balance in comparison to how much I read.

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There's a time to read and learn and a time realize to realize its all bull shit and only practice matters, then a time to go back to reading & learning.

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What are some of the methods members here use to balance, for those of you who are more book taught than instructor/master lead?

 

What I found helpful in the past is trying to do something every day even if it's just for a minute.

 

Also, self hypnosis, especially when you're drifting off to sleep, can be quite useful for programming yourself to do things. It's something I haven't done in a while, but this thread reminded me about it and I've started doing it again.

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Spiritual literature has its uses but I think you have to know its limitations, most of the great masters wouldn't write down their teaching themselves for a reason because everyone is unique and requires individual instruction for their own lives, which is why you can find many Buddhists sutras which contradict as the Buddha would give individual advice using skillful means. So if you take some spiritual literature too seriously you might end up trying to take another persons medicine for your own situation and as they say one man's medicine is another man's poison.

 

In Buddhism they say it is very important to realise which sutras are talking relative truth and which are talking about ultimate truth, which can be applied to all religion and spiritual material, as some paths might be made up completely from relative truth so to you they might be completely worthless or even harmful to your life. Then you have to question your ability to actually perceive whether something is talking about the ultimate or relative.

 

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Readers like to read others buy the DVDs some like us read and post online too. No shortage of spirituality texts to dip into but reading isn't cultivating and vice versa. Disciplined cultivation times bring positive results. There are enough hours in every day for constructive balance between work, study and cultivation with still some space remaining for socialising which is essential. Taoism needs to be part corporate [enacted with and amongst other real flesh and bone Taoists] in order for us to enjoy the fullest benefits possible.

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As long as you are complimenting your reading with real life daliy practice (meditation, chi-gung...etc) then i think its ok. If your just reading and not practicing then you might as well be a hamster spinning your wheel and you will not make any "progress".

 

-My 2 cents, Peace

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Cool, thanks. I have, since June, kept my Five Tibetans praxis as a daily thing and that has helped me a lot. It only takes about fifteen minutes, so I never really have any excuse to skip it. :D

 

If you are doing 15 minutes a day of your practice you're doing better than I am at the moment :P

 

With regard to the self hypnosis, do you primarily focus on using affirmations just before falling asleep, or do you have a different method that you have found to be more effective? I'm very interested in methods of "self programming".

 

I'm not the best person to be answering questions on techniques about self hypnosis but I'm happy to tell you what I do :)

 

To answer your question, yes the core of it is like affirmations as I'm much better with language than visualisations although working with hypnagogic states (as I'm sure you know) really aids visualisation (I've done a fair few journeys in that state).

 

I basically start meditating on my breath (I find my nose easier to focus when I'm lying down). Then I start tensing and relaxing different muscles starting with my head down to my feet (and thinking things like 'now I relax my x' when I breathe out and relax a particular muscle). Then I do a countdown from 10 to 1 visualising myself in a lift going down.

 

Finally I get onto the affirmations but it's more than that for me (unless I've misunderstood the term). You can do all sorts of things. I start off by thinking things like 'with every breath I take, I relax twice as much' and 'every time I do self-hypnosis it becomes twice as effective'. Then I get onto the core of the self-hypnosis with things like 'every day I do x minutes of zazen'. I guess if you can visualise yourself doing the practice it might be more effective. I'm not sure. I might try it out at some point.

 

If I'm still awake, I don't bother counting back up from 1 to 10 etc I just do more meditating until I fall asleep.

 

Here is a link for the kind of thing I'm talking about:

 

http://www.wikihow.c...m-Self-Hypnosis

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hmmm my practice time seemed to explode once the shaking started to kick in...after Trauma release exercises or spontaneous shaking, alternatively stillness movement is pretty cool.

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Most of what I've read has been of little help.

Some of what I've read has been an acknowledgement of progress I've made through practice.

A few things I've read have really had a profound influence - these latter authors have somehow connected with me and helped me to understand that I need to practice, rather than read. However, they also gave me some guidance regarding what direction to take that practice.

The two that had that effect the most are Jiddu Krishnamurti and Anthony Demello.

My teacher (meditation and martial arts) has always pushed the practice over reading.

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Mostly stuff I have read is about me getting agreement from stuff I have read. But I'm frickin blessed to have such a library before me. I wonder what practice was before people wrote it down. It would seem (from the writing hahaha) it was orally-based. Memory-based. The more funner would be if none of the writing down or the speaking and remembering actually played any role at all in 'spirituality'. Then we'd be onto something serious IMO.

 

Anyway, these days I figure any writing, art, speaking, anything that screws about with my ideas about things is a decent form of 'spiritual' stuff.

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Thanks for the answer, that's definitely helpful. I have been doing some work lately using attention to focus blood flow to different parts of the body. The technique was covered in one of the books I am reading by an author I have had good results with. Most recently I have been running a bit on empty though, and I have found that this method tends to put me almost straight into unconsciousness when I focus on my skull. When I am better caught up on sleep it renders me into a deeply relaxed state. I guess it is time to start catching up on sleep again so I can experiment some with what you have described.

 

Cool, I hope you get some mileage out of it :)

 

What was the author you've been having good results with?

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Stop eating for 2 months and see how you go with it. It will screw up many things but after the ordeal you might come back...different. Is there a need to buy a book or things like this? :D

 

Most likely G:-) But the Taoist stuff I read said that fasting was a bad idea unless for very specific issues;-)

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Said it before. Never ever recommend fasting to another person. None of us know if it might be harmful to them. For example someone on medication,with diabetis known or unknown or a recovering anorexic.

Anyone thinking of fasting needs to take qualified medical advice first.

It isn't to be recommended and to do so is actually against the law in some jurisdictions.

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2 months of eating nothing? That is purely life threatening.

 

AFAIK, fasting is not recommended by those in the know (dieticians). They recommend getting nutrition. ^_^

 

As for spiritual literature...keep reading, keep practicing.

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Haha, Yeah it's like how you switch from one hobby to another. The thing is you need discipline. You need discipline to stick to one practice and seek out others who do the same stuff or more teachings on it. When it comes to spiritual literature, you need to be very detached. I find myself reading a book and arguing with it yet I don't much knowledge of the subject at hand lol. So I sit back and say to myself, relax man just read and absorb the information. I contemplate on the information of course but when I argue with something I have no background research on, I scold myself and start to keep reading.

 

So sum this up, study, practice, and reflect. Remain rigid in your practice. But allow lee way when it comes to your belief. You'll find that the accusations you made yesterday is now stupid compared to what you know today.

 

A lot of the time we move around our hobbies and practices is because we don't have others who can help us out and support us. It's like trying to quit alcohol when everyone you know drinks. It'll take discipline to quit and stay that way. You see what I mean.

 

Also, a lot of spiritual stuff nowadays is full of misconception and misinterpretation. That's why you gotta learn how to get to the good stuff. A good way is to look up books mentioned in lectures. I found some great books that Terence Mckenna mentions. Also when you find really good books, look at the bibliography and see if you can get those books. You see what I mean. I never paid attention to bibliography until I started writing research papers and realized how much I could get from the paper's sources.

Edited by malikshreds

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I quite enjoy practical books. Just reading the martial artist champ Nigel Sutton's 'Searching for the Way' about how he came to TaiChi through injury plus stories about the masters he has studied with in china and Malaysia.

Spiritual books as such leave me a bit bored usually. Everybody seems to have their own idea and many imply that their way is somehow the 'right' way but when you reflect on it they are saying much the same as the next guy with slightly different emphases on certain practices. Dalai Lama cured me once and for all of ever wanting to read a Tibetan focus book. His 'Kalachakra Initiation' has to be the biggest crock of sh*te ever foisted onto the reading public. Brought me round to seeing the PRCs viewpoint when it comes to Tibetan issues.

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I quite enjoy practical books. Just reading the martial artist champ Nigel Sutton's 'Searching for the Way' about how he came to TaiChi through injury plus stories about the masters he has studied with in china and Malaysia.

Spiritual books as such leave me a bit bored usually. Everybody seems to have their own idea and many imply that their way is somehow the 'right' way but when you reflect on it they are saying much the same as the next guy with slightly different emphases on certain practices. Dalai Lama cured me once and for all of ever wanting to read a Tibetan focus book. His 'Kalachakra Initiation' has to be the biggest crock of sh*te ever foisted onto the reading public. Brought me round to seeing the PRCs viewpoint when it comes to Tibetan issues.

 

Lol. I think it depends on what interests you. I have a deep interest in history and science. So I could spend all day reading about science and history. Of course, I read pretty fast so that helps me get through it and absorb it.

I know what you mean. It seems like new books are like crap compared to essays by writers of older centuries. A lot of new books repeat the same stuff of the older books they just try to sell it off as new. It's like reading a fiction book that has the same plot as The Lord Of The Rings.

Edited by malikshreds

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Israel Regardie is the author. His method of presentation makes the subject matter exceptionally clear. I have been repeatedly impressed with this about his writing style, but even more so in his later works. The book I was referring to in particular was Healing Energy, Prayer & Relaxation. I stopped midway through to work with some of the techniques presented before advancing, but so far I am really happy with it. :D

 

That's interesting. I've come across him before, and he looks an interesting figure, but I've never actually read anything by him.

 

I was about to say I'll have to add him to the list and then I remembered I was trying to read less not more :P

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Brought me round to seeing the PRCs viewpoint when it comes to Tibetan issues.

 

Whatever you think about Tibetan Buddhism, it doesn't defend the invasion, destroying, imprisonment and murder of the country and it's people. The PRC was responsible for nearly wiping out 2000+ years of culture, both in it's own country and of others.

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