Awaken the World

“The truth that transcends the intellect will not be seen by means of the intellect. The point of non-action will not be reached by means of deliberate action. If you want to achieve the point of non-action transcending thought, sever the root of mind itself and rest in naked awareness!”

 Meditation and self inquiry are actually two aspects of one path to Samadhi. In quantum physics light is seen as both wave and particle, depending on whether the observer is present. Similarly reality becomes more wave-like when the observer starts to merge into the observed in meditation. One experiences oneself as a free flow of sensation or inner energy as the observer merges with the observed. Or more precisely, there is actually no merging that happens but rather the illusion of separation falls away, or a higher (timeless) perspective is realized. This falling away can  happen in progressive stages of meditative absorption, or awakening can happen in an instant. In Zen they say that at first a mountain appears to be a mountain. Then as one goes deeper it becomes clear that a mountain is no longer a mountain. Then upon realizing the final truth, a mountain is once again a mountain. When we observe gross physical reality single-pointedly without reaction, the wavelike ocean of prana is revealed. If we continue our inquiry, both solid form and wavelike energy are realized as identical to awareness itself. The mountain is once again a mountain, identical in every way to when you started. Yet in the final realization the mountain is not something separate from awareness; you are that.

   If a meditator oscillates between gross material reality, and pranic or subtle states of consciousness, it is still a game within duality. In this game one might learn how to let go of gross physical reality, experiencing subtle inner energy which becomes free from running in conditioned patterns. On the flip side, the subtle energy state can change to gross reality again. One can experience one or the other, but not both simultaneously. In the double slit experiment in quantum physics we cannot observe the photon as a wave and particle simultaneously. For this to happen the observer would have to be both present and not present at the same time, which makes no sense from a time-bound linear perspective. Yet this is exactly what happens in Samadhi; the rigid time-bound observer disappears or lets go of its perpetual seeking of one state or another, and one awakens as the timeless awareness present everywhere and nowhere. The seer, the seeing and the seen are realized as one. The photon particle, wave and observer are realized as one.

   “Like the sun behind the clouds, one’s true nature is always shining but is obscured by the clouds of mind.”  

   Whether we call our practice meditation or self inquiry, we begin in a state of dualistic separation and perceive a particle-like world of things which is generated by the limited mind. We observe a body made up of discrete parts upon which sensation, feeling, thought and phenomena arises, and our experience of life and self is filtered through this reducing valve. If we stay with whatever meditation object we are using (whether it is the breath, sensations, or awareness itself), not reacting to any sensation or phenomena that arises, then the process of jhana or meditative absorption continues until either one stops meditating, or the observer and observed are realized as one. The mind, which is always changing and becoming, always in motion, merges with or is revealed as pure awareness, which does not move or change. The dimension of stillness is not elsewhere, but inherent within and identical to mind.

   Any meditation technique being employed is part of the conditioned mind, or part of the self structure and must eventually dissolve into non-doing. We always begin any practice (consciously or unconsciously) by working to dissolve the illusion of the limited self, otherwise we would already be in Samadhi and there would be no practice. We sever the root of the illusion by letting everything be as it is, without manipulating reality in any way, or responding to illusion. This takes both discipline to remain present with and penetrate into what is, and a capacity for inner surrender or non-resistance to what is as the practice unfolds at deeper and deeper levels. The ancient practices of tranquility and insight, samatha and vipassana, when seen from the perspective of the perennial teaching, are fundamental to all meditation techniques that serve to strip away identification with the self structure. Samatha can be practiced simultaneously with vipassana, and like two wings of a bird these two aspects of meditation, if in balance, carry one to Samadhi.

   One gains deeper levels of meditative absorption when one is able to meditate/inquire for longer periods of time without reaction, without identifying with the phenomena that arises, remaining in an equanimous and tranquil state of presence. One perceives subtler and subtler sensory phenomena, subtler energies, until the senses become clear and transparent, flowing freely with prana, and the mind becomes purified of unconscious habit patterns, which are preferences of one sensation over another. In this way the illusion of the limited self loses its power and the clouds of the mind dissipate, revealing primordial awareness which was always already present.

Meditating for a day on the meaning of the true
nature of things brings greater spiritual benefits than
hearing and examining the Dharma for many aeons.”

~The Mahosnisa-sutra

  One can spend decades meditating using a conditioned technique and never realize one’s true nature if the self inquiry component is missing. If one is clinging to a meditation technique then the technique itself becomes a tether to the known. On the other hand if we only do self inquiry to reveal our true nature, the conditioned self structure will likely not be purified to its depths, because it is difficult/unlikely to reach the deepest sankaras without doing long periods of meditation. One might temporarily have awakening experiences as a result of self inquiry, but if the human vessel has not been purified at the root then the old conditioned patterns will return. Like a weed that has been cut only at the top, one’s delusion will grow back again. When either self inquiry or meditation is practiced deeply touching the root of craving and aversion, then each encompasses the other. When meditation and self inquiry become inseparably one, that is the practice that leads to Samadhi and liberating realization.

  Some meditation systems (Buddhist, Yogic, Taoist) emphasize techniques such as observing the breath, and bringing awareness to bodily sensations, inner energy or thoughts.  Others such as the nondual or self inquiry traditions (such as Vedanta, Dzogchen, Zen and Mahamudra) emphasize letting go of all conditioned techniques and resting as awareness itself.  So which doorway to use?

Both doorways lead to the one Samadhi.

  The great illusion within duality is that there are in fact two doorways, when the truth is that meditation and self inquiry are two ends of one continuum. The continuum is the human experience through time, from consciousness identified on the gross physical level, to the subtle aspects of energy and mind, to causal awareness. Most people don’t do either meditation or self inquiry deeply enough or long enough to realize them as one (to realize Samadhi). If you practice long enough, there is a process of meditative absorption or “jhana” that happens, as the meditator merges with the meditation object. The word jhana is the same word as “dhyana” in sanskrit, which the 7th limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. It is the same word as “Zen” and “Chan” within those traditions which are named for it. The Buddha describes his night of enlightenment:

“Tireless energy was aroused in me and unrelenting mindfulness was established, my body was tranquil and untroubled, my mind concentrated and unified. Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered upon and abided in the first jhana . . . the second jhana . . . the third jhana . . . and the fourth jhana.” ~The Samannaphala Sutta

  When the alchemy of jhana happens the technique falls away as you lose yourself into the meditation object and move from an experience of gross reality to experiencing the pranic field and subtle layers of maya or self, to realizing the causal emptiness of consciousness which is inseparable from the other layers. If you are able to remain non-reactive to any state that unfolds, then you will be in the optimal state for the pranic field or Buddha-mind to self-awaken and for the great reality to be revealed. Similarly if you inquire deeply enough into the Self, the hidden sankaras/ samskaras (unconscious conditioned habit patterns) will start to rise from the depths, and the self structure has the opportunity to be purified of them by remaining equanimous with what is without resistance.

If you are looking for guidance in this process, the Samadhi meditation series (available for free) starts with techniques and then gradually moves toward less and less doing, until one reaches the still point where there is simply presence of the immanent Self or selfless-self. “Still point” is not the right description, but rather it is more of a dynamic stillness or pregnant emptiness; a non-dual plenum that transcends opposites. One comes to a place of pure choiceless awareness, the ground of one’s being, or natural state unmediated by a limited self. Even while one is practicing a technique, one can be aware of WHO or WHAT is practicing. For example if you are abiding with the breath it is possible to be simultaneously aware of awareness. The mind’s limited attention or first attention can be on the wide or narrow breath, and like the focal lens of a camera it can be narrow or wide, and one can point it or change the location within the sensory field that it is focused on. There is simultaneously an awareness that is simply aware of its own being, inseparable from these changeable qualities of limited attention; an awareness that does not change or have any quality whatsoever. This absolute awareness is not a mental activity, not a separating or discriminating of phenomena into “things”, but could be described as the space in which mental activity arises. Yet the word space is not right because there is no location; it is a space/emptiness/stillness or center that is everywhere and nowhere. Absolute awareness is what is simply aware without any object, while the mind’s attention is always aware of some thing. You can be attentive to the breath using the mind, and be simultaneously aware of who or what is watching the breath. The seer, the seeing, and the seen are recognized as one.

Practice both meditation and self inquiry simultaneously until you realize them to be one.


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