Friday, December 6, 2019

Amoda Maa - Meditation

 To meditate .. or not to meditate? Is a dedicated meditation practice the only road to enlightenment .. or is the direct route of recognizing “what is already free” a better way? Should all effort be put into achieving a higher state of consciousness .. or is it best to simply let go of any effort to do anything at all?

If I discipline myself to meditate, should I sit (preferably cross-legged) once a day … or is it twice or maybe three times? And should I watch my breath … or is it my thoughts or my sensations? Maybe I should chant in Sanskrit … or Hindi or Japanese? Maybe I should repeat the sacred sound of OM from my heart … or is my belly a better place? Maybe I should send loving thoughts on every out-breath .. or visualize golden light from my third eye? Maybe I should try to focus on the gaps between thoughts … or maybe I should just try to stop thinking all together?

And if I make no effort, how do I awaken? Isn’t there something I need to do? How do I transcend thinking? How do I shift into an awakened state? Maybe if I read enough books or listen to enough spiritual teachers, I will get it?

To meditate .. or not to meditate? The question is a conundrum to the mind that seeks satisfaction. The mind seeks a definitive answer, as if this would bring an end to mind’s unease. The personhood seeks certainty, as if the certainty of “spiritual progress” would bestow a badge of worthiness or specialness.

But the question of meditation cannot be answered by the mind. It can only be realized when silence has become the bedrock of your life. This silence is not about closing the doors, turning off the phone and lighting some candles. Nor is it to do with trying to get rid of your thoughts .. or imagining the perfect sanctuary of peace.

This silence happens when you stop giving attention to the narratives that wrap themselves around your experience of reality. This silence happens when you turn towards tenderness every time an unwanted feeling enters your inner landscape. This silence happens when you have surrendered all resistance to what is. This silence happens when you are no longer the center of your universe, when you have become without a center and the whole universe is in you. Without resistance, there is no inner conflict, no inner division, no outside and no inside, no barrier and no boundary.

When you know your true nature as silence, there is no need to do meditation .. you ARE meditation.
True meditation is a state of being. It is your natural open state. In your natural open state, there is nothing to move away from and nothing to move towards. You are simply and irrevocably here. There is no longer a question .. because in silence all questions fall away.

So, it’s not about whether you meditate or not. It’s about whether you can fall into the silence that is always here prior to your ideas of what meditation is or what it can give you or where it can take you. Whether you sit in deep stillness or whether you are doing something in the world, this silence is always here .. it is in you as being-ness. Being-ness does not need to do meditation .. it IS meditation.

I am often asked whether I meditate or not .. and I sort of shake my head, unable to give a definitive answer. Did I used to do meditation? Yes. Until meditation swallowed me up and all that was left was silence. Now the whole of life is meditation, without doing a practice, without trying to get anywhere, without trying to change anything. Now .. I AM meditation.

So, perhaps it is wise to ask a different question .. how can I meet myself and meet the world as silence? Perhaps this question will turn the mind around from its horizontal searching into the verticality of being that is always here. And then you will discover what true meditation is.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Pir Elias Amidon - So Close … Closer Than Breath

So Close

From the Tibetan Shangpa Kagyu tradition comes this exquisite riddle:

It’s so close you can’t see it.
It’s so profound you can’t fathom it.
It’s so simple you can’t believe it.
It’s so good you can’t accept it.

What is it?

The wonderful thing about this riddle is that it’s compounded of paradox — pure positivity (so close, so profound, so simple, so good) and pure negativity (you can’t see it, you can’t fathom it, you can’t believe it, you can’t accept it). It’s saying that no matter how we look for, or what we call, this “it,” it escapes the looking and the telling.

In most texts these lines are not referred to as a riddle, but are given the whimsical title: “the four faults of awareness.” But if we think “awareness” is the answer to the riddle, we’ve missed the point. To say “awareness” is to make a conceptual conclusion, and whatever this “it” is, it’s neither bounded like a conclusion nor objective like a concept. Yes, the lines are referring to awareness, but do we really get what that is, beyond the idea that the word “awareness” represents? The beauty of the riddle is that it forces us to the edge of language and then pushes us off.

Although these four lines certainly cannot be improved, I’d like to offer a few thoughts here in the hopes they may help, in some small way, with that push.

It’s so close you can’t see it

One way to enter the mystery of this line is to imagine space. Space is close and invisible too. It’s extraordinary, isn’t it, that we can have a sense of space without being able to see or feel it? Our bodies move through space and though space doesn’t separate to let us by, we feel no resistance — it goes right through us. Whatever our riddle is referring to is that close.

The great nondual teacher Jean Klein says it’s our “nearest.” So near it has no distance to travel to get any nearer. Sufis prize “nearness to God” and mean the same thing. “I am closer to thee than thy jugular vein,” it says in the Quran. In this case the words “close” and “near” are not about location or distance — they refer to identity, being so close to it we are it.

And so it is with our awareness. Can we find anything nearer to us than awareness? It’s so close we can’t see it, just like the eye cannot see the eye. Awareness is not seeable, though it is self-evident. And though the analogy of awareness being “like space” may be helpful, unlike our sense of space, awareness cannot be measured.

It’s so profound you can’t fathom it

This line drops the bottom out. It says we simply cannot understand what this is. To say it’s “awareness” doesn’t take us very far, since no one has ever fathomed awareness. Mystics have continually pointed out that awareness is the ground of all being, and now physicists are beginning to discover the same thing. But to say this is not to fathom it — it simply provides another mysterious description. This that we’re speaking of cannot be fathomed. It is a mystery and will remain that way because it cannot be focused into an object that our minds can surround. Mysterium profundum! The Divine Unknown.

To the extent we can admit this, humility graces our being. Our drive to understand, our insistence on possessing this profundity with our intellects… relaxes. The mind surrenders, making way for something we might call devotion or gratitude or praise or love.

It’s so simple you can’t believe it

What it is is so simple that it can’t provide any kind of story or concept for us to believe in. Every word we use passes right through it. Plotinus calls it “the One,” that which is uncompounded, that has no predicate, the absolutely simple first principle of all. Buddhists call it emptiness. Sufis call it the void of pure potential.

Does its primal simplicity mean we cannot experience it? We can, but not as an experience. In order to open to this non-experience we must ourselves become simple. We must become transparent to ourselves.

In the uncertain light of single, certain truth,
Equal in living changingness to the light
In which I meet you, in which we sit at rest,
For a moment in the central of our being,
the vivid transparence that you bring is peace.

— Wallace Stevens, from “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”

Becoming transparent is not so difficult as it sounds, since our true nature is already transparent. It is the transparence of pure presence — or as some call it, presence-awareness. If we try to picture pure presence, we can’t. If we try to fathom it, we can’t. If we try to believe in it, we miss it — it’s simpler than anything we can approach through belief.

And yet it’s here, the simple pure presence of being, vividly immanent every moment in how everything appears, while at the same time transcending every appearance, every moment.

It’s so good you can’t accept it

This final line may be the most mysterious of all. We might think that if something is really good we could easily accept it, but the goodness this line points to is beyond the capacity of our acceptance. We cannot contain it — our “cup runneth over.”

We have come to believe that this reality we’re in is a tough place. We’re threatened by illness, violence and death. Everything that we have will one day be taken away. How could the truth be something so good that it both holds and supersedes our pain and grief? The stubbornness of that question is one reason why we can’t accept this that is “so good.”

As in the preceding lines, “accepting it” hits the same limits that seeing, believing, and fathoming run into. As long as we think there is something we have to do — seeing, believing, fathoming, or accepting — we will miss what this is about.

This that is so good pervades all being. It is the pure love-generosity that is so close, so profound, so simple we can’t surround it with our usual ways of knowing and feeling. As Rumi advises, “Close these eyes to open the other. Let the center brighten your sight.”

Thanks to stillnes sspeaks


Monday, December 2, 2019

Shitou Xiqian - Sandōkai

The Sandōkai (Chinese: 參同契; pinyin: Cāntóngqì) is a poem by the eighth Chinese Zen ancestor Shitou Xiqian (Sekito Kisen, 700–790) and a fundamental text of the Sōtō school of Zen, chanted daily in temples throughout the world. 

 The Mind of the Great Sage of India
Flowed unseen from west to east.
And kept true to the source -- a clear stream unsullied.
By variables of wit and dullness:
The true way has no patriarch of south or north.
Born, we clutch at things
And later compound our delusion by following ideals.
Each sense gate and its object:
Dependence and nondependence --
Entering together into mutual relations
And yet standing apart in their own uniqueness.
Component things differing deeply in form and feel,
The voices -- soft and harsh in inherent isolation.
High and middle are words matching the darkness,
And light separates the murky phrase from the pure.
The characteristics of the four elements draw together
Like a child returning to its mother.
The heat of fire, the moving wind,
The water, wet, and the solid earth;
Eyes to see, sounds to hear, and smells --
The sour and salty taste on the tongue.
But in each related thing,
As leaves grow from roots,
End and beginning return to the source.
"High" and "low" are used respectively:
Within light there is darkness,
But you cannot explain it by one-sided darkness alone;
Within darkness there is light,
But you cannot understand it only by one-sided light.
Light and darkness go with each other
Like the sequence of steps in walking.
All things have inherent potentiality:
Both function and rest reside within.
With the actual comes the ideal
Like a box and its lid;
With the ideal comes the actual
Like two arrows meeting in mid-air.
Understand the basic truth from these words
And do not set up your own standards.
In sense experience, if you do not know the basic truth,
How can you find the right path no matter how much you walk?
As you walk further the distinction between near and far disappears,
And if you become lost, obstructing mountains and rivers arise.
This I offer to the seekers of truth: Waste no time.

 The Big Deal About Absolute Versus Relative

Essentially, Sekito’s Sandokai deals with an issue of paramount importance in Zen: the relationship between the relative and absolute dimensions of reality. As I’ve already discussed at length in my episodes on Dogen’s Genjokoan and on the Heart Sutra, absolute and relative are terms that describe two profoundly different aspects of reality – the relative aspect, in which everything is defined by difference and particularity, and the absolute aspect, in which everything is part of a seamless whole. Both aspects are simultaneously true, even though they may appear contradictory, just as a finger is a thing unto itself, defined by its separateness from other fingers, but is also simply part of a hand.

The relationship between relative and absolute is a huge preoccupation of Zen. Why? Well, frankly, it’s also a preoccupation of many other spiritual traditions. To see this, all you have to do is look for the dualities about which people get very worked up: Divine (or Ineffable) versus human, pure versus impure, transcendent versus mundane, separate versus (re)united with God, ideal versus actual. This duality is so pervasive and recurring, ancient Chan masters adopted a special term for each side: Ji (or Shih) is the concrete, phenomenal (relative) aspect of existence, while Ri (or Li) is the absolute or ultimate aspect of existence.

The relationship between absolute and relative isn’t just a topic for philosophical debate, it’s something we human beings care about a great deal. We get a sense there’s a whole lot more to life than our ordinary, limited, self-centered perception of it. When meditating, praying, listening to wonderful music, hiking in the wilderness, or just drinking a cup of tea, we may perceive how everything is precious just as it is, how there’s order in the universe, how God is within, how all human beings are fundamentally the same and therefore naturally inclined to compassion, or how nothing is inherently separate from anything else. Oh, how inspiring and glorious! And then the moment passes and we’re back in the world of good and bad, right and wrong, dirty houses, afflictive emotions, passionate disagreements, and traffic jams – not to mention injustice, war, and environmental destruction. How are we supposed to reconcile these two aspects of reality? For many of us, the absolute aspect seems preferable but frustratingly elusive, setting up a sad tension in our spiritual lives.

The main teaching in Zen, therefore, emphasizes how the relative and absolute aspects of reality aren’t really separate. It’s not that our transcendent moments are glimpses into some kind of alternative reality where everything is great, and the rest of our life is an annoying interlude of imperfection. The absolute has no existence whatsoever apart from the relative, and vice versa. These two aspects are just the same reality perceived at different levels. Real enlightenment or awakening means not just having an experience of the absolute – although that’s important – it means comprehending how the two aspects of reality relate to each other. When we truly understand the identity – or the equivalence, congruence, or accord – of the absolute and relative dimensions of reality, we avoid getting overly identified with either one. This is very important: If we’re over-identified with the relative, we miss the absolute or perceive it as distant, elusive, inherently separate, or superior. We may feel trapped in a frustrating or hopeless mundane existence, unable to avail ourselves of the solace provided by a larger perspective. On the other hand, if we’re over-identified with the absolute, we lose touch with real life and fall into the delusion that our enlightenment’s complete when, in fact, it’s only partial. Giving priority to all things transcendent, we may reject everyday life or find it unnecessary to respond to the world with compassion or work to relieve real-life suffering.

True awakening, from a Zen point of view, requires us to learn from first-hand experience how to integrate our experience of the absolute and relative aspects of reality. This is actually very difficult – much more difficult than simply having an insight into the literal reality of the absolute. Our minds are naturally inclined toward dualism, and integration of the absolute and relative is only possible when we leap beyond dualism and wrestle directly with the multi-dimensional reality of life.

continue reading HERE