Archive for October, 2010

Out of the transcendent comes the critique on all actions arising from a limited interest.
October 18, 2010

Volume 11 Nr. 16

Advaita Post 11-16

It is what it is – what does that mean?

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Brahmabindu Upanishad

The mind, they say, is two-fold,
either impure or pure;
impure when it is attached to desires;
pure, when it is free from desires.

The mind therefore is the cause
of our bondage and liberation;
of bondage when it is attached to objects,
of liberation when free of them.

Because an object-less mind
is a condition for liberation,
one who aspires after it,
should free his mind from objects.

Whoever locks up the mind in the heart
is free from attachment to the sensory world
and reaching freedom from the mind
he rises up into the highest.

Keep the mind under control so long
until it is absorbed in the heart.
This is knowledge, this is liberation,
the rest is useless book-learning.

Neither through thinking nor not thinking,
thinking and not thinking together,
does one attain Brahman,
free from every attachment.

— From the Brahmabindu Upanishad

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Spirituality and Society

The relationship between spirituality and human society still keeps people busy. It appeared so recently, as there has been a fierce and extensive debate in organized Buddhism (BUN, BOS). Some readers of the Advaita Post have sent in texts about it, including selections from Elseviers Weekblad July 24, 2010, and also some questions. The content of the emails that were written in response is as follows.

Yes, when there is institutionalization in a spiritual tradition, you receive darkness in the looking glass. Take a look at the Catholic Church, the Protestant church(es), and now also the Buddhist church. None of the founders ever had the grounding of a church and social compartmentalization (political parties, schools, etc.) in mind. This also applies to the very great teachers from these traditions. At times, I have thought otherwise – “still, it performs a good function … “- but history shows that on a large scale it always goes wrong. Spirituality is primarily something in a vertical dimension and, if all goes well, secondarily it works itself through horizontally into society. With enlightenment, there is no difference between those dimensions, but when you, without having achieved the highest spirituality, use spirituality for social activities, things go wrong. Things go wrong, because ego elements simply damage spirituality, even when people have the best intentions. Christian organizations are full of such experiences. Even if a person confesses his sins at the beginning of a gathering and claims to hold the “word of God” as a guiding principle, general human interests and ideas always come to the fore. The highest spirituality is simply too large, too subtle and too valuable to be used by an individual-‘I’ in his limited world. The spirituality that they use has, by definition, little to do with the highest. When both are brought together, the different levels become mixed. Thus, spirituality is reduced and the ego-actions receive an unjustified high status. This leads not only to confusion, but also to suffering.

The only possibility then is a willingness to let yourself be guided as much as possible by what you see as valuable from spirituality for society, such as minimizing the ego and group centrism. To the extent that you are not completely free of such centrism yourself, there should be a great reluctance to offer it as a basis for social organization and with that an appeal to the highest spirituality. Such a spiritual maxim can never be used as a social force against other forces. If you try, it’s a travesty. So, let it be shown to what extent it is possible to be “the salted salting the earth”, going into spirituality without pride. It will be possible in the degree to which the highest spirituality is realized. The primary orientation should remain towards that spirituality so long as that realization has not yet occurred. The effect upon society of what has already been realized, is automatic and has nothing to do with ego actions.

Finally there is the issue of segregation, the organization of society according to beliefs. Through this separations are created and strengthened: us against the others. That can be understandable in a period where one community is seen to be in a process of emancipation, but sociological data has little to do with real spirituality. Within it, the main point still remains of seeing through separations as fictitious and leading to suffering.

What is transcendent in relation to social practice must be binding for that practice. From out of that transcendent comes the critique on all actions arising from a limited interest. There is constant criticism, when self-interests are at play and bosses are busy with power. From the transcendent comes the requirement of the surrender of the ‘I’-person. There is always that requirement, even as social events continue. Only through surrender does a space arise in which no separations are created any more.

The above mentioned insights are the reason why Advaita Vedanta has hardly created any institutions. Yes, there are the Shankaracharya monasteries and orders, but they are a marginal phenomenon and an imitation of the Buddhist institutions. Since it is about That which precedes every culture and every society, That can never be used as a legitimization for social organizations and conditions. Let’s keep it that way.

This is my sphere of infinite relaxed consciousness.
October 3, 2010

Volume 11 No 15

Advaita Post 11-15

Almost beyond the limit.

 [The original caption, “Schier voorbij het einde”, is a play on words where “Schier” means “almost” but also refers to Schiermonnikoog where Douwe holds retreats and where this picture was taken.]

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Text Satsang

From a talk in Gouda on May 12, 2010

Self Meditation, Part 4. The coinciding of relaxation and wakefulness

Visitor:I would like to hear more about the relationship between concentration and relaxation. There is wakefulness and I associate that with a rational focus.  If that’s not there, I become sleepy, which is certainly pleasant. But neither one brings me very much.

Douwe: That you have gotten to know these situations is positive. But you also need to look further. We are talking now about another area of self-being which you discover when you relax and consciously withdraw into yourself. You have slowly recognized that the situation on the mental level is a very limited state, “I think this” and “I think that”. It has strong limitations, because you can only think about very specific things. But when you withdraw further into yourself as consciousness, you notice very quickly that you bypass the mental. You notice it only because you can already be aware of the mental processes with their limitations and errors. This indicates that you are already at a higher level of insight. The turning into yourself of self-meditation, let’s call it: the vertical development, then continues further towards a waking consciousness that is free of the limitations of thought.

Does it matter whether I relax first?

The wakefulness will be there as a relaxation. In the “I think” and “I perceive everything” there is a pattern of tension and structures. The transition towards wakefulness means a relaxation from these patterns of tension. Through that you don’t have to sink into an unconscious sleep. You can just remain alert, while the relaxation arises.

That’s the main thing. With relaxation the temptation to fall asleep is very great.

Yes, that’s the case for people who persist in taking the rational-mental situation for granted, and otherwise know only sleep.

Just start from your mental approach in which you are aware of your surroundings and yourself. Confirm that there is a great presence of mind. Within it you notice that you become more aware, as you relax into it and clarity of mind remains. In relaxation all kinds of restrictions on your consciousness disappear. So, as you release the tension of observation and rational thought, you notice that your consciousness opens in all directions, horizontally as well as vertically. A very wide view arises, a higher insight. There is, again also through relaxation, a higher intensity of awareness.

 Could it also be that you can taste it? I taste it as a kind of sweetness, very intense …  Actually it can’t be defined.

Yes, you can taste it; you can touch it. That intensity has a sensuous concreteness. It can be a taste, but also a touch, a very clear sight of the flickering light of diamonds and a hearing of the sound of crystal bells. It varies. But the being-experience must be that concrete, because otherwise due to its vagueness it will not be completely worked through, and you notice that it easily disappears. So let yourself relax there and stay with yourself as awareness, remaining aware of the quality of the clarity of your consciousness. You rediscover yourself there as freedom and openness.

When I tumble into sleep it’s actually an escape, while in clarity I see the rational attention evaporate.

The clear space becomes infinitely large. The shapes and qualities dissolve more and more within it. It becomes more empty. The things that still arise are like clouds that are just there and then dissolve. Where do they dissolve? In the space of your own pure being-awareness. The consciousness becomes purer to the extent that it is less imbued with restrictive qualities. In Tibetan Buddhism this pure consciousness is called rigpa. Then it is indicated by the blue sky. But, you are that. So it’s not about looking at the blue sky. No, you yourself are the open sphere where a little cloud may appear occasionally. This purity of self-consciousness has no concentration anywhere. Every limited form of ‘I’ is absorbed into this Great. You will confirm that yourself, from yourself as consciousness. Then you let that image go, because every image can easily become an obstacle. The image of blue sky that you make a representation of and say, “Now I know what my original mind is”. No, be careful about that kind of image. See for yourself and recognize: this is my sphere of relaxed infinite consciousness, about which I can say nothing other than that it is openness, infinite and without separations.

A hearty greeting to all,

Douwe Tiemersma