dwai

The taboo of enlightenment

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This is an interview of the popular teacher “adyashanti”. I know many people have conflicted opinions about the guy, but I found this interview to be very direct and spot-on vis-a-vis awakening/enlightenment. 
 

https://tricycle.org/magazine/taboo-enlightenment/

 

Quote

Could you say a little more about the difference between mystical experiences and true awakening? 
 

When the personal “I” merges and becomes one with everything, that’s a mystical experience. Or your consciousness expands infinitely, or your kundalini [innate spiritual energy] awakens, or you have a vision of the Buddha or Mother Mary, or you feel totally blissed out and peaceful. Even an ongoing experience of being unified with God or Buddha is just another mystical experience.

But even though they’re the highest, most beautiful states a human being can have, mystical experiences are happening to the dream character you take to be “me”—and this “me” is the one you wake up from. Awakening is the realization that you are the awakeness or lucidity that’s experiencing every moment of the dream, including the so-called spiritual or mystical, without being caught by it. As I said before, awakeness is not an experience, it’s a fact, whereas a mystical experience happens to someone at a particular place and time.

Another way I like to put it is, you’re not the personality or mask, you’re the one that’s always peering through the mask, always awake to every moment of your life without being identified with it. At the same time, you feel deeply intimate with the dream because the dream is known to be an expression of the awakeness itself. At first, of course, the dream may seem to be different from the awakeness. But when awakening completes itself, the awakeness sees that everything that’s perceivable, including this human body, mind, and personality, is an expression of itself. The realization is completely nondual. As the Heart Sutra puts it, form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

 

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I definitely have mixed feelings about Adyashanti. I think a large issue (which many consider a strength) is his lack of grounding in a tradition. Accordingly, while he speaks well (to a point), he doesn't seem able to lead others to the realization he himself has attained (disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with his definition of enlightenment either). He certainly lacks the length and breadth of practical techniques one would typically find in an established tradition, as well as the corpus of doubt settling commentaries. 

 

From the article:

 

Quote

When I looked around at the Buddhist tradition, I realized that the success rate was terrible. People were in it for enlightenment, but very few were actually getting enlightened. If this were a business, I thought, we’d be bankrupt.

 

Of course, the tradition he is talking about is a very particular one: Western Zen. I do not disagree with his assessment. Yet I wonder how he would assess his own success rate, 16 years later, as a teacher. Certainly he has earned a good living, but has he been largely successful in awakening others? It seems he has certainly taught a certain rhetoric that many Adyashanti-inspired teachers mimic. However, these teachers strike me as a bit hollow. 

 

Even with the best teachers, I imagine the success rate is fairly low, due to the various capabilities of students. 

 

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Deeply appreciate Adya...

 

His method and manner of sharing his experiences resonate with my own process almost seamlessly.

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In what you quoted, I had a hard time understanding what he meant.  Is he talking about actual dreams and waking states, or is this an allegory for thought and awareness?  If hes talking allegorically, it doesnt sound like hes really defining reality, which I suppose is good, because each person must do that for themselves.  So what is his technique for coming to know?  

 

Enlightenment is a tricky, stupid business.  I firmly believe that as people go about their lives that they already know, for the most part, but have no evidence that they know.  In order to be convinced that what you are doing and what you understand is actual, we have to have proof.  Success is one way to have that proof.  Mystical revelation is another.  In the end, the person simply has to settle on the fact that they do know, and go about their business.

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2 hours ago, helpfuldemon said:

In what you quoted, I had a hard time understanding what he meant.  Is he talking about actual dreams and waking states, or is this an allegory for thought and awareness?  If hes talking allegorically, it doesnt sound like hes really defining reality, which I suppose is good, because each person must do that for themselves.  So what is his technique for coming to know?  

 

Enlightenment is a tricky, stupid business.  I firmly believe that as people go about their lives that they already know, for the most part, but have no evidence that they know.  In order to be convinced that what you are doing and what you understand is actual, we have to have proof.  Success is one way to have that proof.  Mystical revelation is another.  In the end, the person simply has to settle on the fact that they do know, and go about their business.

He's referring to a distinction between Enlightenment and having mystical experiences which are like enlightenment but may not be permanent. I find more people gravitate towards mystical experiences rather than realization (myself included for a long time in my seeking process). 

 

Mystical experiences occur to a personality/ego. Enlightenment results in the clear and complete knowledge that the personality/ego does not have any intrinsic existence -- it is just a process that appropriates/affixes identification. 

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4 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

I definitely have mixed feelings about Adyashanti. I think a large issue (which many consider a strength) is his lack of grounding in a tradition. Accordingly, while he speaks well (to a point), he doesn't seem able to lead others to the realization he himself has attained (disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with his definition of enlightenment either). He certainly lacks the length and breadth of practical techniques one would typically find in an established tradition, as well as the corpus of doubt settling commentaries. 

I too have similar concerns wrt. "new age" teachers. But not all of them are delusional. There is certainly something to be said even if a teacher only can teach to the under-grad level. The key would be if they recognize that and/or guide their students to more accomplished teachers. 

4 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

 

From the article:

 

 

Of course, the tradition he is talking about is a very particular one: Western Zen. I do not disagree with his assessment. Yet I wonder how he would assess his own success rate, 16 years later, as a teacher. Certainly he has earned a good living, but has he been largely successful in awakening others? It seems he has certainly taught a certain rhetoric that many Adyashanti-inspired teachers mimic. However, these teachers strike me as a bit hollow. 

 

Even with the best teachers, I imagine the success rate is fairly low, due to the various capabilities of students. 

 

I've seen many such on batgap.com. But the kind of dialectic approach (if I get what you're driving at here) taken by the Advaita (& Neo-Advaita) crowd is not really very different from the Upanishadic times. The students still asked the teacher many questions over a period of time -- that is part of the practice (manana, nidhidhyasana to use a vedantic terminology). 

 

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5 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

I definitely have mixed feelings about Adyashanti. I think a large issue (which many consider a strength) is his lack of grounding in a tradition. Accordingly, while he speaks well (to a point), he doesn't seem able to lead others to the realization he himself has attained (disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with his definition of enlightenment either). He certainly lacks the length and breadth of practical techniques one would typically find in an established tradition, as well as the corpus of doubt settling commentaries. 

 

From the article:

 

 

Of course, the tradition he is talking about is a very particular one: Western Zen. I do not disagree with his assessment. Yet I wonder how he would assess his own success rate, 16 years later, as a teacher. Certainly he has earned a good living, but has he been largely successful in awakening others? It seems he has certainly taught a certain rhetoric that many Adyashanti-inspired teachers mimic. However, these teachers strike me as a bit hollow. 

 

Even with the best teachers, I imagine the success rate is fairly low, due to the various capabilities of students. 

 

 

With respect I think you are incorrect on both points, he is grounded in Zen Buddhism, his main teacher was Arvis Joen Justi in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi and studied under many Zen teachers.

 

In terms of bringing others to similar realisation I haven't found many people with a better record, there are dozens of people who publicly teach now who attribute their awakening to his teaching and influence, I could probably dig out a long list, and hundreds more who aren't public.

 

I have personally been on three of his silent retreats and they are some of the most powerful things I have done in my life in my journey so far. 

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I don't have an issue with the dialectic approach. The issue I have is that they fail in my mind to exhibit even a basic fundamental knowledge of the mind or how it works. In many regards, they seem to be pushing a type of popular psychology, and they often rely on well-worn statements or quirks of logic. Often, they have had a passing experience as Adya points out, and then claim enlightenment. This usually comes across when they convey their enlightenment experience. Of course, in the Western nondual world, there is no criteria for enlightenment, so anyone can pretty much claim anything. 

 

Of course, I could be wrong and all these people may be launching into Buddhahood/moksha. But I doubt it. 

 

1 hour ago, dwai said:

I too have similar concerns wrt. "new age" teachers. But not all of them are delusional. There is certainly something to be said even if a teacher only can teach to the under-grad level. The key would be if they recognize that and/or guide their students to more accomplished teachers. 

I've seen many such on batgap.com. But the kind of dialectic approach (if I get what you're driving at here) taken by the Advaita (& Neo-Advaita) crowd is not really very different from the Upanishadic times. The students still asked the teacher many questions over a period of time -- that is part of the practice (manana, nidhidhyasana to use a vedantic terminology). 

 

 

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I am not impressed with Western Zen based primarily on my own experiences. I am not impressed with Taizan Maezumi Roshi. I do judge masters by their conduct. 

 

As I said, anyone can claim anything. You may find hundreds of people who lay claim to enlightenment, but I doubt any of them have even reached the first Bhumi. Again, based on what I've encountered, I don't see the juice. Your mileage may vary, and I hope it does, because I would love nothing more than a large group of Westerners who were leading people to the end of suffering in one lifetime. 

 

I guess we'll see. If his students start going into thukdam, I may have to amend my opinion, but until then...

 

32 minutes ago, Jetsun said:

 

With respect I think you are incorrect on both points, he is grounded in Zen Buddhism, his main teacher was Arvis Joen Justi in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi and studied under many Zen teachers.

 

In terms of bringing others to similar realisation I haven't found many people with a better record, there are dozens of people who publicly teach now who attribute their awakening to his teaching and influence, I could probably dig out a long list, and hundreds more who aren't public.

 

I have personally been on three of his silent retreats and they are some of the most powerful things I have done in my life in my journey so far. 

 

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Posted (edited)

enlightenment can not be gained, for if it could be gained then it could also be lost, which is something that is true for all THINGS and or experiences,  (including gaining a certain knowledge of things which is still not enough) The Self realizes the Self so to speak by revealing grace and not by, as or through the limited power of any-thing which it is not.  So what is a soul to do, ask a very rare true guru which is a whole another story... 

 

Edited by old3bob
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3 hours ago, dwai said:

 

Mystical experiences occur to a personality/ego. Enlightenment results in the clear and complete knowledge that the personality/ego does not have any intrinsic existence -- it is just a process that appropriates/affixes identification. 

And so that is your definition of enlightenment, and I wonder... where does this lead?  Some could say that it leads a person to doing anything they like, for none of it is them.  The opposite might be true; a person might not find any attachment to anything and so do nothing.  I believe that this state brings a clarity to our environment, and the understanding of what matters, and the fact that people are snared within a set of ideas and wants, which I think is the actual true condition of life.  From this vantage point, one should be able to help navigate the world and its needs/desires.

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I think the idolization of teachers usually come from liking the teachers energy or personality rather than actual results.

 

If you measure where people are in terms of quietness of mind, and nondual awareness then numbers will tell you something else I would presume.

 

I have idolized teachers in the past, but when I look on actual results then it was a combination of things that paid off.

 

I listened to a call where Adyashanti had students calling in and I could hear confusion because people didn't know what to look for and Adyashanti couldn't correct them. It was more of a making people feel good call it seemed from my perspective.

 

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On 7/28/2020 at 1:22 AM, old3bob said:

enlightenment can not be gained, for if it could be gained then it could also be lost, which is something that is true for all THINGS and or experiences,  (including gaining a certain knowledge of things which is still not enough) The Self realizes the Self so to speak by revealing grace and not by, as or through the limited power of any-thing which it is not.  So what is a soul to do, ask a very rare true guru which is a whole another story... 

 

 

Not sure about this... If it can not be gained, nor can be lost... what the heck are we all doing here? I think it would be fair to say that there just might be a possibility that enlightenment in our discussion can be any new perception gained. If a completely new perception is gained, lots of its intensiveness is due to novelty, which could explain why people experience it as "the next step".

 

The novelty of any new perception also increases awareness (at least has the potential). With that increased awareness you might notice things (patterns, relations, source, etc) which in your previous perception became so 'daily life' that you missed them.

 

But @old3bob, do agree about the grace part etc.

 

In the end, I do say enlightenment is something to be gained, as to how can we end up without it? If this would not be the case, why would we search for it, talk about it, and figure it is "the best thing". The only reason why I can think of it is labeled as such "it can not be gained" is because of the grace part. Well, I can think of one more and that is because it is the place where the individual disperses. As then basically the individual gains nothing as it releases itself and  (for the sake of keeping it a sentence:) the individual coming to the non-individual part experiences that the non-individual part always has this experience.

 

The individual (or experience of the individual) has definitely lost enlightenment the moment the individual breaks free in any form from the wholeness. Lost means, not able to find it, right? I mean, you can lose your keys in your pocket, yet have them but not knowing where they are.

 

Also, it might just be helpful to realize we are putting labels on it as it is in our nature to do so. Although the label might never capture it, at least we are honest to see that anything we say about it is our own interpretation and we can not escape putting a label on it, even when we say "can not be gained" / "can not be labeled" our whole conveying is with labels.

 

@old3bob just using your post to follow up and add to the discussion. :) Thanks.

 

Normally I would refrain from discussing this subject as there comes a part where all discussing just vaporizes in "non-duality, non-individualism, non-ego, illusions, etc" and there is nothing to really discuss anymore. That is where I feel an individual should return and say: "well okay... where is the tea?".

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in the context of "things"  enlightenment or the Self (per Vedic teachings) can not be gained since It is not a thing...yet sees through all things and knows beyond regular knowing that it is not a thing.  Btw. I believe chapter 43 of T.T.C.'s saying along the lines of "only Nothing (or I'd say no-thing) can enter into no space" echos that.  Terms like Nothing, emptiness and illusions used in eastern teachings are often problematic for trying to get a workable handle on, "what the heck are we doing here".  Yet Dharma teachings are workable handles, "rafts" or the "next step" if you will (and so to speak) but the Self needs no raft or steps while particular beings do,  also the Self can never "break away" from the Self.   I'm not a qualified teacher, just an old blue collar working stiff living in the world, but I'd suggest study of the Upanishads if you haven't already looked there?  Thanks for the feedback; and lastly the big WHY is something the mind wants to know but me thinks that too is like a Chinese finger trap - as it sounds like you have also alluded to...

 

Spirit unto Spirit and Love unto Love  is free of finger traps...

 

Edited by old3bob
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If enlightenment is the experience of no self, or nothing, I dont believe we can live in that fully, but perhaps partially.  We are ever in our selves, but we can view the world from no self, or from not self, and witness and experience life in a different point of view.  Still, we are ever within our bodies, and so no self is impossible.

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then again we are not really our bodies or even our minds, which are things.  And if one really wants to blow their (apparent) mind (which is really THE mind) then as a student mix parts of no-self (Buddhist) with Self (Hinduism) and cross your fingers for a good result.

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1 hour ago, helpfuldemon said:

If enlightenment is the experience of no self, or nothing, I dont believe we can live in that fully, but perhaps partially.  We are ever in our selves, but we can view the world from no self, or from not self, and witness and experience life in a different point of view.  Still, we are ever within our bodies, and so no self is impossible.

excuse me, I may be wrong, but that is neither the buddhism or hindu view regardless of which inner sect of these traditions we view from.

 

Take buddhist view of 8 consciousnesses. The 5 senses science too has identified are grouped together. The 6th is the earthly mind we're all familiar with. This 6th, mind, is always there with the 5 senses but still it is beyond them, capable of things far beyond their animal level of perception, consciousness or LIFE. Similarly there are highers 'mind', simply degrees of consciousness that make up our 'structure'.

 

When people say no self, they say this earthly stuff is not a self, it's not permanent and it's empty. You can see it change entirely from one moment to the other. Like emotions. They're shape is like water, shapeless. As such if a salesman sells you water and tell you to cup your hands to receive it because he's selling the cups separately then you know there is self / business there and must seek a proper guide /shop.

 

This means that yes, even sages have a body with limitations or problems like us. They dream. They get horny and have wild sex. They get angry or disgusted or disappointed with their close friends, even their own children! They do need exercise their bodies and minds and nurture them else they get health problems, start forgetting perhaps.....Sagehood is 'above', another organ of function entirely and that immortal is and was always thus it is IMMORTAL. This whole universe will collapse one day with it's astral and etheric and etc, etc.

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48 minutes ago, old3bob said:

then again we are not really our bodies or even our minds, which are things.  And if one really wants to blow their (apparent) mind (which is really THE mind) then as a student mix parts of no-self (Buddhist) with Self (Hinduism) and cross your fingers for a good result.

Hindus have a "no-self" too. That which is discarded via negativa (neti-neti) is the "no-self". It so turns out, that (and anyone can verify for themselves) that all those aspects we normally consider as being the "Self" are simply ideas and rise from memory. Heck, without relying on memory we can't even tell if we are male or female, or even what species we belong to, or whether we even have a body or not. @old3bob you already know this...posting just to keep the discussion rolling.  You've made some great points!! 

 

 

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As someone that has had to watch as his mind got devoured and polluted, I realize that our minds are a fabrication, material, and subject to material laws.  Though I believe that the source of mind might be infinite, I have realized that when the body is gone, and the mind has stopped, what we really are is the ability to perceive in whatever vehicle we possess.  I have wondered if this spec of ourselves that animates is immortal, that perhaps it moves from vehicle to vehicle, but have decided that this is too optimistic and unverifiable.  So what is left is this life, in all its mortal glory, and what we choose to experience.  From this light, selflessness is an undesirable condition.  While it is true that the more self you possess, and the less opportunity you posses cause suffering, it seems illogical to deny ones self from finding joy and pleasure in life.

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10 minutes ago, helpfuldemon said:

As someone that has had to watch as his mind got devoured and polluted, I realize that our minds are a fabrication, material, and subject to material laws.  Though I believe that the source of mind might be infinite, I have realized that when the body is gone, and the mind has stopped, what we really are is the ability to perceive in whatever vehicle we possess.  I have wondered if this spec of ourselves that animates is immortal, that perhaps it moves from vehicle to vehicle, but have decided that this is too optimistic and unverifiable

What we are is awareness. And have you ever known awareness to disappear? One might be inclined to say, "In deep sleep, there is no awareness"!

 

To that, my response would be, "Not at all. In deep sleep we are still very much aware...only there are no objects to become aware of." 

Quote

So what is left is this life, in all its mortal glory, and what we choose to experience.  From this light, selflessness is an undesirable condition.  While it is true that the more self you possess, and the less opportunity you posses cause suffering, it seems illogical to deny ones self from finding joy and pleasure in life.

Let's explore that a bit further.

  • What is it that makes you think that being selfish will lessen the suffering?
  • Also, how does one go about finding joy and pleasure in life?
  • What do joy and pleasure even mean to you?

 

Edited by dwai
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We are nothing if not beings that consume and feel.  Selfishness is the act of doing these things, and brings us comfort and delight.  Consumption is endless, and as I said, if you are low on opportunity or resources you might find yourself suffering from the absence of getting what you want.  The alternative to this, in selflessness, is to not desire, or to not take pleasure in what you are doing.  How do you go about finding joy and pleasure in life?  There are many ways.  Certainly we have no guarantee that our efforts will produce what we desire, but in the act of accomplishing them, and learning how to accomplish, there is pleasure- the bonus being that it produces what you desire.  

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8 minutes ago, helpfuldemon said:

We are nothing if not beings that consume and feel.  Selfishness is the act of doing these things, and brings us comfort and delight.  Consumption is endless, and as I said, if you are low on opportunity or resources you might find yourself suffering from the absence of getting what you want.  The alternative to this, in selflessness, is to not desire, or to not take pleasure in what you are doing.  How do you go about finding joy and pleasure in life?  There are many ways.  Certainly we have no guarantee that our efforts will produce what we desire, but in the act of accomplishing them, and learning how to accomplish, there is pleasure- the bonus being that it produces what you desire.  

If you contemplate over suffering, it’s root cause is resistance to change. The resistance to change rises from constantly clinging to that which is pleasurable and trying to avert that which is painful. 
 

With that in mind, why should one go about selfishly seeking pleasures in life? You know that no thing lasts forever.  So whatever gives you pleasure now can become a source of suffering later. What is pleasurable can become painful, depending on a few factors. 

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Who are you? You are Shiva, you are not.

Awareness is not you. While experiencing certain mystical experiences, it feels like you are awareness, but it is not ultimate. This feeling keeps fluctuating after a certain period of time.

 

Desire is not you. The more you keep fulfilling your desires, the more it keeps you bound into the inverted views, which people consider normal.

 

Contentment is what eliminates suffering. This doesn't mean that you go in a forest and live on timber and roots to make yourself look content. It means that whatever you do with your body and mind in this world, it is simply for the fun of it. You are not bound by the end results. They will not, in any way fulfill your desires.

 

If desires persist, the external decides your thoughts, emotions. You have become a slave to everything.

If desired are eliminated, there is no one to experience suffering.

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46 minutes ago, dwai said:

If you contemplate over suffering, it’s root cause is resistance to change. The resistance to change rises from constantly clinging to that which is pleasurable and trying to avert that which is painful. 
 

With that in mind, why should one go about selfishly seeking pleasures in life? You know that no thing lasts forever.  So whatever gives you pleasure now can become a source of suffering later. What is pleasurable can become painful, depending on a few factors. 

And so the alternative is to not want?  And what is that like for you?  Is it cowardly to reject desire and responsibility?  What is the idealic life with your method?  Does it provide for a better society and civilization?  Is it enjoyable, or is that just the point, that it shouldnt be?  Is it worth living?  What has value from your perspective?  

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56 minutes ago, dwai said:

If you contemplate over suffering, it’s root cause is resistance to change. The resistance to change rises from constantly clinging to that which is pleasurable and trying to avert that which is painful. 

Change comes from people wanting and doing

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