Sunday, 10 June 2012
There seems to be some restlessness in the "nondual community", if it can even be referred to in that way, with some teachers who are insightful to a degree that does not tolerate the seeker or teacher enlightened only to the degree of glimpses. Dig around in traditional Eastern enlightenment practices such as Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Jainism (part of Hinduism), and, of course, the darling of the Western interpretation, Advaita Vedanta (again, part of Hinduism). One will find that various stages of enlightenment are named and described. Arahant (Buddhism), Turiya or Nirvikalpa (Hinduism) or Reaching the Source (Zen Buddhism) are usually what is described as the "highest" level. Both self and teacher are forgotten, not just Oneness is apprehended, but the nothinginess that is what truly is (hence the title of this blog). Most of these traditions describe reaching the last stage as Nirvana, a concept at least a little familiar to the West. (Note that this last stage in Zen is not the final stage; after it comes Returning to the Marketplace.) The restlessness seems to be impatience with teacher/seekers at some "earlier stage" that are presenting themselves in an annoying fashion at Nonduality meetings as further along than they are, suffering from delusions of grandeur, or as egoless when ego is evident.
I gather this is de rigueur for seekers, "jumping the gun" in this way. Some seekers apparently get a big glimpse and immediately start to teach with little foundation for it. There's a lot of lovey-doveyness around, which is probably stage two or three of most of these traditional practices, where the illusion of subject/object has been noted, and the awakening human is infatuated with the Oneness of it all. I suppose I describe the absolute Source (or whatever) with the blog title phrase: "nothing exists, despite appearances." This is simply the phraseology that seemed closest at the time. It's a poor description, as they all must be, concepts never being what they describe. It all seems to unfold just as it must. This includes some teachers' impatience with the Advaita circus, and desire for only those who realise what stage they're at (thus displaying a little humility) to ask for their help.
There is little difference, if any, between meeting the realised sage that seems to transfer some kind of energetic awakening by his mere presence (the purported goal of satsang) and a nice chat with the guy you meet by chance on a walk to the shops. There is no importance to attending a nonduality gathering and ascertaining which teachers/speakers are frauds, what stage everyone is at, whether one person is further along than someone else, who's in it for the money, who's in it for the fame, who's in it for the glory, or who's in it to try and help (most of them). It makes absolutely no difference whether there actually ARE stages of enlightenment or not. All of these things are fascinating stories and judgements, but that's all they are. Each and every apparent experience, or lack of experience, or shoe-tying incident, or bodily elevation to Nirvana are entirely equal, worthy, valid and ultimately non-existent, if we're operating on the premise that reality is illusory. This includes superseding reality in some nifty beyond-beyondness way. It includes even the lack of an experience, and complete return to the Source. No matter how important our mind with its love of hierarchy makes it, or how hard we work for these magnificent achievements, everything that is or isn't is the same thing (or lack of "thing"). Nobody (or no non-person) is doing any "better" than anyone "else".
What I notice at these Nonduality gatherings is a lot of sufferers that need reassurance, teachers that are doing the best they can at whatever stage they may (or may not) be at, and a fair few seekers who are neglecting friends, children, long-tolerant spouses, their education, their bills, etc. for this dream of True Beyondness and the Absolute Best way to Be, or not Be. I couldn't say what stage I'm at. Probably either completely stage one, if that, totally ego-enmeshed and deluded, or a full Bodhisattva who has been to Nirvana, done that, and chooses to remain human in order to help others. Or something in between. It doesn't matter one whit which one it is, or isn't. They are all the same thing.
I keep saying "favourite movie" but this time it's really, really true. I first saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on a long plane ride, and ended up watching it three or four times. Brilliant premise - there exists a company that can wipe certain persons from your memory. Clementine decides to do this with Joel, her ex-boyfriend, and Joel follows suit in a fit of pique. However, mid-procedure, Joel decides he doesn't want to forget Clementine and does his best to hide her memory as they are busy wiping her out. (Spoilers follow!) In the end, they find out about each other and the procedure, after having met again, after the memory wipes, by chance. They know why the relationship didn't work out. But they don't care. They decide to go through it all again. This is the scene where they decide to do this, and the whole film is the most glorious celebration of the value of getting things wrong. Watch the film, if you haven't - it's also satisfying to see Jim Carrey in a non-gurning role.
Thursday, 7 June 2012
Nondual perception is this perception. There is no other perception. You are already there, you are already that, this is it, etc. etc. Maybe the thoughts coming up and what they are saying about This is what you are mistaking for This, although those thoughts are also seamlessly This. There will be many people who write about this stuff - me included, occasionally - who recommend methods for clearing the thoughts up, or for not believing the thoughts. The thoughts come. Just try to stop them. But just as the images of the film happen on the still screen, the still screen is there no matter what nonsensical plot twists and turns unfold on it. You don't even particularly have to tune out the movie and sense only the screen. It's there. No matter what. You can believe it, or not. It's there.
Nobody believes that this ordinary, everyday perception is what Enlightened Life is. It must be more special, more perfect, more blissful, more loving, certainly with fewer thoughts and even less judgement. Whatever reality seems to be, and whatever thought judges and interprets it as, is yet another face of love, or of God, or of the Absolute. It just is. It's doesn't get any better or worse than what it is. What it is, is miraculous, by virtue of its mere existence. Sometimes this seems more obvious than at other times. All times are one. All states and interpretations are equal. All acts, happenings, feelings, sensations and thoughts are love, playing the duality game so that they may be manifest; so that they may be something, rather than nothing. Perhaps it is problematic to have certain expectations, and narrow definitions of what life must be like. On the other hand, perhaps suffering due to these expectations and definitions are exactly what must be. If it is, it must be. Often, those who have the memory of suffering would not trade it for anything. It seems precious, and is often seen as the story of a springboard. Suffering, then redemption. Hard work, then rest. However, it doesn't matter what the story seems to be or how it is retold with hindsight. All stories are told now.
While waiting for enlightenment, if you don't believe enlightenment is already the case, perhaps it's a good idea to do the best possible job you can do, however that is defined at the time, with the task in hand - whatever it seems to be. If it seems to be bridging the gap between "me over here" and "you over there," don't be afraid to judge that noble.
Ah, the task in hand. Phil Connors gets ample time to explore several tasks as he relives the same day over and over in the classic film Groundhog Day. There are many estimates as to how long Phil relived February 2nd: anything from 8 to 50 years, with 10,000 years mentioned on one site! A representative estimate is here. I always thought it was interesting that Phil managed to achieve intimacy in his relationships without the usual facility of memory and continuity (on everybody else's part anyway). Maybe it takes time to learn to play the piano, but perhaps bridging that imagined gap between people is always already done. Working on a relationship in time is also worthy. Both are possible.