Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Musings on the Road to Nowhere

My feeling is that as long as I am alive then I need a healthy sense of ‘I’. Much of what I have spoken of in this blog about my learnings and experiences in India relates to dissolving and transcending the sense of ‘I’, or ego identification as a seemingly separate, autonomous individual, but as written in the last posting, I now feel that the situation is somewhat more of a balance between the sense of being an individual and that of simply Being.

In the fullness of time, if even that sense of individuality is permanently consumed in some ascension to a higher experience of reality then so be it. I don’t even know if that is possible but the testimony of some of the greats, like Ramana Maharishi, seems to indicate that something like that is indeed the case. However, unless we are established in the same experience, then we can only have a very limited idea of what Ramana’s experience of reality actually was based upon our own limited frame of reference.

Even Ramana said that the sense of ‘I’ is still there as long as the body persists but that in the case of a Gnani (a liberated one) then it is like the shell of a burned rope, it looks the same but it no longer has any power to bind. Certainly, in the practical operation of the ashram Ramana demonstrated that he had a clear sense of right and wrong with many reports of his stepping in and reprimanding the management staff when he became aware of any favoritism or unjust policy being practiced. Not in any sense of his assuming some dogmatic or moralistic positionality but in the sense of a natural impeccability in upholding the equality and inter-relatedness of all life.

This question of behaviour in relation to Liberation is an interesting one. Some take the view that Liberation means that ones behaviour should be beyond reproach (in other words a transformation or divinisation of the human personality) while others take the view that Liberation simply means that we are no longer attached to and identified with the personality (which may continue to partake in all kinds of behaviour which some would judge as being decidedly ‘unspiritual’).

As with many things, perhaps the truth of the matter is not easily grasped by the rational mind and we should be wary of indulging in any tendency towards sanctimony or arrogance in this regard, prematurely thinking that we know when all we may have is a cherished or convenient opinion rather than any actual real Knowledge, or alternatively falling prey to a state of confusion.

There certainly seem to have been many reported cases, as in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, where the sometimes bizarre and even violent behaviour of a Master has appeared to result in the sudden enlightenment of a disciple. Equally there are many cases where one considered as such has appeared to abuse their position usually in some controversy involving sex, money, intoxicants and power. Indeed one could say that sex, money and power are the greatest intoxicants of them all.

So, bringing it back to the common experience, I know for myself that I seem to be living this life and making choices based upon my current level of understanding, realised potentials and limitations (unrealised potentials and natural boundaries). I also know that as my view of the world becomes more fluid, my understanding of life grows and my shortcomings are transformed into strengths (e.g. stubborn-ness into tenacity, anxiety into alertness) then I appear to be able to make better choices and to live a more satisfying and adventurous life.

So there seems to be a process of participative and even proactive evolution taking place based upon ones life experiences and how one consciously responds to them (the alternative being to remain entrenched in unconscious reactivity and thereby compounding ones ignorance). This process of evolution and living of life seems to necessitate an ‘I’ who experiences and interacts with life and at the same time the process of evolution seems to be accelerated by the ability to observe oneself objectively.

To be able to observe oneself in the sense of self-reflection upon ones thoughts, emotions, feelings and actions, but also in the sense of simply Being. That is in having an experiential and stable sense of the ground of Being, unconditioned by any identification with being this or that; simply to Be; the fundamental and underlying sense of existing which is inherently conscious and peaceful.

It would appear that these two aspects are complimentary. That the more we come to know, accept, transform and liberate ourselves as an individual then the more we naturally come to rest in the ground of Being. Simultaneously, the more we cultivate the natural resting in, and as, the ground of Being then the more our existence and growth as an individual seems to go more smoothly. If we appear to tip too far to one side, neglecting the other, then we may be temporarily out of balance with our self because surely if we are all inseparable units of the one life then there can be no separation or conflict between who we truely are at our core and how we express ourselves in life.

Then it becomes a case of gradual refinement and sudden transformations until one day, sometime in the Now, we become at-one with ourselves and come to realise that in reaching the supposed goal on the path to nowhere, it was indeed the journey which was and continues to be most significant.

"We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place as if for the first time."

T.S. Elliot

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On Being and Becoming

While I was in India I was largely exposed to teachings and teachers which propound that the individual is not real and neither are others or the world at large. All of these are considered to be an illusionary appearance in Consciousness which alone is the sole reality.

That human suffering is born of the mistaken notion that 'I' exist and that the solution to suffering is to Realize that in fact 'I' do not exist, rather only Being or Pure Awareness exists, that that is our true nature and all else is merely an inconsequential movie projection which will run its own predetermined course.

While I have certainly had several experiences during my spiritual career of seemingly going beyond the problematic functioning of the 'normal' mind, try as I may I have never been able to make this a permanent solution and have always had to contend with a rather unpleasant and bumpy return to 'reality'.

That is, the seeming reality of a mind which, at least to me, seemed more prone to living in fear and depression than most. This phenomenon at least partly explains my strong and long standing pull towards meditation as a possible solution or escape from such a situation. That meditation is a form of escapism is an accustation that I have long resisted, however in so far as it is aimed at escaping the confines of a painful mind to an apparently higher and more pleasant reality then it is true.

So during my long anticipated journey to India I naturally tried my best to meditate or 'Be' my way to a hoped for Nirvana. A final dissolution of the painful ego-mind and a new birth as a ................. I don't know what, but certainly one who had gone beyond and perhaps might be able to share that with others.

While it is true that in India I had many insights, experiences and periods of inner peacefulness; and while it is also true that over the years the contrast between my highs and my lows seem to be leveling out; never-the-less, upon my return to Australia six months ago I was faced with a familiar and urgent crisis.

That is the crisis of daily living. Of having to somehow find my place and my way in the conventional, practical world which has always seemed to be a very difficult challenge for me.

Where will I live? What will I do? What is my place in society? These are the issues which engendered in me a great deal of fear, confusion and hopelessness and which, so often in my life, have lead into extended periods of collapse and inertia.

To be confronted with such intense insecurity is not much fun and generally I have sought ways to numb myself against the pain. In my case that wasn't so much alcohol and drugs but the seemingly more mundane avenues of mega-doses of T.V., food, sleep and isolation.

This time I got out of that phase relatively quickly and notwithstanding an unexpected and very painful swelling on the tailbone, by September had managed to set myself up with a stable place to live and regular work as a night-time taxi driver.

Now that my situation and state of mind are relatively balanced and healthy, then rather than merely enduring this period of earning money until I can get back to India, I am actually somewhat enjoying myself and continuing my spiritual journey even here in the midst of ordinary life.

So, to return to the title theme of 'Being and Becoming', while on the surface my journey to India was primarily about Being, behind that was also the motivation that if i could only 'do' Being well enough and intensly enough then I might finally transcend the mind and become something or someone. In my life in the West the social pressure is very much about first becoming someone or something in society and then one might 'achieve' Being happy.

Since in my earlier years I apparently squandered several good opportunities for education and career advancement in favour of pursuing my ideals of spiritual freedom, and since now, by my mid-thirties, I have apparently still not really made anything of my life in a worldly sense then I have often had to struggle with poor self-esteem and harsh self-criticism during times when my mind was caught up in the dream of conventional society.

Of course, the real issue was not whether or not I had a career but rather a deep and fundamental sense of crushing fear and inadequacy which was plaguing and tormenting me. I hasten to add that most people probably also suffer from some kind of inferiority/superiority complex which will manifest in different ways and to differing degrees of intensity.

So, taking all of that into consideration, one can perhaps see the problem. On the one hand I was trying to meditate my way to no-mind, no-person, I am the Self; and on the other repeatedly being confronted with a mind full of personal pain which just would not go away and stay away.

Couple that with a deep and abiding confusion and conflict as to whether I am actually a person or not and with no stable frame of reference, then you can see why burying myself in the T.V. and avoiding both myself and the world was an appealing option!

So what has changed? Well, essentially I have come to accept the apparent contradiction that I am similtaneously both a person and not a person. As Pure Being I am already whole and complete and as an individual I have a need to grow, evolve and to meet my challenges in life.

I am both the silent non-involved witness to the process of change and I am the process of change itself. Neither caught up in the endless cycle of only becoming, nor in the staticity of only Being. Stradling both, I can move forward whilst remaining ever the same.

By resolving the conflict between Being and becoming I can take responsibility for uplifting my state of mind and functionality in life whilst remaining anchored within the ever-present stillness and freedom of Being.

Advaita philosophy and quantum physics may tell us that the physical world has no substantial reality independent of our mental contruct of it, but rather than dismiss it as an illusion I accept that it does have a practical reality within the context of living life and I embrace the possibilities for growth and experience that it offers.

For me the immediately relevant illusion is in the mistaken perceptions that I make every day. All of the false interpretations, assumptions and expectations that I project onto all of my experiences and which have their basis in the subconscious conditioning of my mind.

It is this burden of psychological and emotional wounds that almost all of us unconsciously carry around with us which generate so much suffering in life by clouding all of our perceptions and conditioning all of our behaviours. The good news is that it seems to be within our power to overcome and transform these shortcomings allowing us to develop into our true and fullest potential.

This life and individual existence may very well be a dream of sorts in the grand scheme of things, but then why not embrace the challenge and enjoy an adventurous and wonderful dream rather than suffering a nightmare of torment, mediocrity, boredom and denial?

That's what I think anyway........................