Buddhism, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 45: Non-judgement, The Buddhist Way!


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What is true non-judgement? First of all, it is love at the root of all things. Love for all experience, love for every situation, love for each landscape you find yourself in, and love for your emotions, reactions, and actions. Then there’s love for other people you come into contact with daily.

Other people are not “other” — they are YOU. You created everything you see here on earth and every interpretation, no matter how subtle or gross. So owning them all, including what we call “evil” will help you move past delusisons and unnecessary pain, frustration, and avoidance. There is nothing that is not you. So each time you come in contact again and again, do not hurt yourself.

Secondly, if we still see other people and their behaviour that we dislike or are judgeing, then we can ask ourself if what we assume is actually true. The Buddha and Jesus were great role models for teaching non-judgement; they hung out with harlots, they hung out with regular people, and they hung out with the most high spiritually. It didn’t matter, because they knew that form was not the reality.

Form is simply part of materiality that we should use to express the divine.

We should be expressing Nibbana; Bhakti; Love; Kindness; Understanding; Reflection; Creativity; Flowing; and Foresight. Noble qualities!

If you read the Buddhist suttas or go back to my past 3 episodes, I have uploaded brilliant suttas to begin to understand the Dhamma and the Buddha talks about form and the truth about form.

Om Namo Buddhay and Namaste!

Buddhism, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Interview, Society, Spirituality

Episode 39: On Meditation — Interview with Eric Zimmer


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Meditation is such a vast topic, but Eric and I whittle it down to what it means to him. Firstly, before undertaking a spiritual path, Eric was deeply addicted and involved with various substances. Meditation helped him break away from his afflictive behaviour. Listen above to hear about both our meditation journeys and pick up some advice! Here is a brief article on my views on meditation:

Meditation is ancient.

Scholars trace its findings to 5.000BC in what is now modern-day India based on figurines sitting in the lotus posture with closed eyes. We then have the first written records in 1.500BC in the Vedic literature. For example, the Rig Veda outpours at least three states of meditation that rishis (seers) gave guidance through their own experiences:

  • “Mantric meditation or meditation on the Vedic mantras with concentration,
  • Visual meditation or meditation on a particular deity with illumined thought,
  • Absorption in mind and heart or meditation on illumined insight residing in the mind and the heart.”

And, in the Upanishads, which are much more explicit philosophically and revelatorally, we have the additional mention of:

  • “Samadhi or the experience of the ecstatic state of Brahman was the fourth state of Brahman, which is not mentioned in the Rigveda but described in the Mandukya Upanishad as the Fourth state (turiya)..”

On from this, we have the mention of the terms “Dharana” and “Dhyana” in both Jaina texts and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. According to Pantanjali in his eight limbs of yoga, Dharana precedes Dhyana as a means of reaching Samadhi. Dharana is one-pointed concentration on an object/idea with inevitable associative thoughts on the object. In Dharana, if one is meditating on a cup, one might think of the concept of morning or what the cup could be filled with or the shop the cup came from; the personal ego is still there. In Dhyana, the cup is the cup without associations and the meditator is not aware of him/herself as a personal ego associated with the cup; they become one. Dharana is becoming aware of the thoughts and Dhyana is uninterrupted flow with no sway by the thoughts. Samadhi is the highest form of meditation where the meditator and the cup become one and the same with a state of bliss, because there is no separation and concentration is complete.

Historically, we can see that meditation can encompass spiritual reflection, oral or silent mantra recitation, concentration, Tantra, and Samadhi — which all lead to bliss and peace eventually. This is when the Buddha steps into the picture and gives new additions to meditation: mainly Mindfulness, which can be found in the Satipatthana Sutta, and the Jhanas. Beautifully, the Buddha came to enlightenment through intense reflection under the Bodhi Tree, re-thinking his patterns, behaviour, and life decisions. All styles are valuable.

Living in Vedic society and undertaking at least six years of aescetic practices, the Buddha was quite adept at knowing Vedic philosophy and regularly debated with Brahmans. Thus, some instructions are quite similar and have roots in ancient Dharma.

His meditation instructions range from practices in concentration, to mindfulness, to the Jhanas, to Samadhi, and various instructions in between. Mindfulness, as it is known in popular culture, is not simply paying attention to the present moment nor the breath – though those are the basic foundations. The Sutta includes meditations on the five elements, what are called the cemetery contemplations, the repulsiveness of the body (which is recommended if one is naturally inclined towards worshipping the body as the self), mindfulness on bodily postures, and generally paying attention to the activity one is engaged in.

Meditation is like a rung of the ladder on the Buddha’s 8-fold path to reach this ultimate goal. In both the Vedic and Buddhist Dharma, ‘equanimity of mind’ has to be cultivated first by most people until it is permanent. Whether Buddhist or Vedic, meditation’s ultimate goal is either Moksha (Vedic) or Liberation (Buddhist sense). Liberation/Moksha comes after Samadhi and is the end of the suffering mind

First and foremost, as in Vedic history also, the Buddha instructed concentration practices, because he found the mind is prone to wandering and has a life of its own; it does not yet contain peace. As we go along in Buddhist meditative practices, concentration is not so important. What is important is realising self as non-existent, as it is wrong identification that binds us. The more a person meditates, the more spacious one becomes, until the lines of conditioned reality are blurred and separation between self and other – including inanimate objects – disappears.

Most of our lives consist of empty space.

For context, Dzogchen, Advaita, and Vedanta all aim to incorporate practices that are open and spacious in nature. When space is created in the mind, one can begin to see that mind contains everything — including the contracted self or form we have taken to be ourselves all along. Then the mind can be transcended altogether.

What do I mean by this?

Take the body, for instance. We sincerely believe, and this is true for every human being, that we are a body which has had things happen to it in a continuum of time and space. Sometimes we were the doer, and sometimes things just happened to us out of our control. Every human being has to experience this point of view for survival reasons. We think we are the one looking out of our eyes in case there’s danger up ahead or there is some delicious food to eat within our sight. The mind’s job is to keep the body alive by searching, strategising, and planning. With more sophistication of the human species, however, especially as people have evolved into civilisations and societies that are relatively peaceful, survival is no longer such a struggle in the jungle.

In modern and even Vedantic societies (and most likely many societies before them) we are not so desperate to watch our backs all the time. Even so, the ways of the mind are ancient! We still have it in us that we need to struggle to feed our close relatives, make a living, be tribal and form exclusive groups, and worry about the future. This keeps us locked in the body/mind duality… unless there comes an interest spiritual progress.

The body and the mind never cease to function until death, yet, the body and mind believe wrongly that they are in control and thus, they try to prolong life or avoid death. This simply cannot happen – at least not the death part. Human beings can stay stuck in one mental system for an entire lifetime; conversely they can try everything in their creative power to change and manipulate the earth or their own and others’ circumstances – but this is not an antidote for death.

Meditation helps a person see, first-hand, that they are not the workings of the body nor mind, regardless of how fixed or fickle. It helps unlock the door to the vast, empty space that is “another part” of our being. In this space, our body and mind are contained. So, we are much larger than we think! The body and mind are limited, so when they are identified with, this creates a limited experience. This limitation is called a “person” with past, present, future, and innumerable assumptions based on the body/mind already knows or assumes.

Space creates insight. It cannot be any other way. Meditation is a key to putting a stop to Samsaric existence – also known as “the universe’s biggest status quo”.

How can we know what we don’t know, which cannot be answered by the mind?

Why am I here? What is my purpose? Who am I? How do I know God? Are there other beings, such as gods, goddesses, devas, ghosts, and intelligent life forms with material bodies in other places? What happens after death? Are people reborn? Where does consciousness come from?

These are all questions the mind cannot answer. Those who have written books about it or talked about it were either lying (I have to say this for logical conclusion) or have had their own answers through insight. True knowledge is obtained through experience and not reliance on others’ thoughts and feelings without experimentation. We know the sun exists, because we see and feel it everyday – we don’t have to read it in a book, though there are many books about it. So meditation instructions are there to gain insight and make real progress – not to gather what we commonly call “knowledge” in the Western sense. Real knowledge is called “Jnana”, based on our “Buddhi”. “Buddhi” is our wisdom faculty. It is the clear mind, cultivated through meditation and loving-kindness and compassion.

Some beings have the good fortune of coming into existence with a degree of these faculties already in place. For example, this would be a being who is already and naturally kind and non-discriminative towards others. Then there are those who may need to purposefully cultivate the qualities they wish to emanate, and this can be done through knowing the inner mind and reflection. For ideas, these qualities can be: the elimination of fear, consideration of others and their well- being, flexibility of personality, cooperation with circumstances especially out of one’s control, patience, awe, curiosity, wonder, not putting self or other down, humour, energy as opposed to laziness or sloth, and appreciation or gratitude.

Once the mind is looked into for its patterns (karma) and pitfalls, they can be overcome. Meditation is transcendental and trans-rational. Because we are in Samsara, our faculties are not yet used to their full potential. Their full potential is omnipotence and unlimitedness – when this discovery is made, then the body/mind can express its full potential and truest nature. And this is the point of meditation!

Society, Spirituality

Episode 37: Waking Up Isn’t So Easy!

My friend, a true craftsman who has been honing his skills for 20 years, once mentioned to me: “the more you do something, the easier it gets!”. That always stuck in my mind, until a whole podcast episode came tumbling out in the midst of a run through the city and woods.

Take running as a simple example: not only have I been running for the past 5 years religiously as my Sadhana — loyalty and a sense of routine balances out my Vata/Air persona — through major life and emotional changes, but daily, there are factors that add to the conglomeration of making it challenging each and every time. The weather, my sugar levels, sleep the night before, mood, muscular fatigue, shoes, future daily responsibilities, route and the addition or lack of other people, increased expectations, choice of music, and all the rest make it a new experience each day. It’s not any easier; it’s just different.

So, how can it be that the most courageous, difficult, and virtually socialy unacceptable human endeavour in the human kingdom become easier over time? That is: waking up!

Waking up comes with its own challenges and hardships, each to be processed and overcome in its own good time. Don’t give up simply because it didn’t become easier.

Here are some common barriers and experiences on the spiritual path:

Temporary Enlightenment:

As a teenager, I opened up a book after having a psychological break (you know, the world ends with everything when you’re young), and I read the sentence out loud: “We are all One”. With that sentence, I lost my sense of self completely. Tears ran down my face, and I became one with the universe and all my pain and suffering was relieved. After this, I avidly read every book and discarded many concepts I had built up until that point. At 15 years old, I borrowed Indian mantra CD’s from the library, lit candles in my room, and chanted — somehow, I was attracted to spirit, though knowing nothing of Indian culture or tradition, and I certainly didn’t find it outwardly in the small conservative Christian village I lived in, in Wisconsin, USA. Eventually, life took hold and I began focusing on studying and moving abroad to London where even more social conditioning was being spoon-fed to me; then, a second awakening occurred (which I mentioned in other episodes, where I had a non-dual awakening via finding Mooji), yet that didn’t last, either.

Final liberation or awakening, is just that — it is a final stilling of the energies that give rise to the person or human being that has been conditioned to be “small”. Or even to be “big-small”! Even the biggest ego — the richest billionaire with the most confidence who never gives a second thought to enlightenment — has an extremely fragile body that is destined to become sick and to die. This is because we are bound by duality, and when we think the body/mind passes away, then we pass away, too.

It’s totally okay to celebrate your awakening experiences — in fact, they help push you on to the final surpassing of death! But, know that this may come and go for a while until you stabalise.

Spiritual Bypassing:

I’ve done my rounds with this one, too; it can even happen unconsciously. That is, taking hold of spiritual ideas or practices to avoid dealing with issues that you may have from either the past or present. This can range from childhood trauma to using meditation to avoid emotions and thoughts or suppress them. By all means — if you need therapy, get therapy. If you need to meditate, then meditate. In fact, you might notice what has been hiding beneath the surface when you finally sit down to watch your emotions and general mind. A lot can come up during meditation: fear, anxiety, restlessness, and even strange ideas, images, and uncontrollable sobbing or laughter. But don’t stuff your emotions away and pretend something pressing doesn’t exist.

To find out about emotional suppression and release, I recommend Craig Holliday’s video; just make sure you’re alone and in a comfortable place to release and let go:

Taking up the Wrong Practice:

Really, there is no wrong per se, but we know what resonates with us. Don’t take up just any advice, because your friends or family or colleagues or culture believe it is right. Initially, the factor of trying something new or going into unfamiliar territory is necessary. Then, practice, without expecting instant or unchanging results. But, if results never come… if people are demanding your time and your money to convince you of their viewpoint without you doing any work yourself, then be wary. Your practice should carry you, and you should be making decisions about yourself throughout without relying on others.

Western, capitalist, societies are filled with advertising and marketing for everything, and going beyond those messages to get to the grit is necessary. I often say, “If it can be capitalised on, it will.” You can find a course for any type of yoga or meditation or be sold new-age self-help, so just be aware that you should be making your own decisions. We wake up alone, are born alone, go to bed alone, and die alone. So, finding what is resonant should be considered and reflected upon throughout the process.

Stagnation with Practice:

When we stagnate, we stop believing that we’re on the right path. “Things should be happening!” we say. Yes and no. In one sense, things are always happening. Moods, thoughts, changing places in space, people coming and going, situations, bodily changes… but we want big things to happen. Big things do happen, but often they are in between lots and lots of micro-movements. What can also happen is that movement seems to be too slow which leads to doubt…

Doubt:

Doubt can be helpful or a hindrance, depending on the situation. The Buddha pointed out that doubt is one of the five hindrances, in fact.

When is doubt helpful? If we’re in our car and doubt that we’re going in the right direction, then that is good, because it gets us going in the right direction. Similarly, if our intuition or conscience gives us a strong message of doubt about a particular person or place, perhaps, like “don’t walk through that park at night!” — then that is good doubt.

Phillip Mofitt describes bad doubt better than I can:

“Doubt presents many faces, some of which are quite subtle. You may experience it as nonspecific anxiety, as if there is something you have forgotten to do or have done incorrectly. Doubt may be felt, yet unrecognized, as exaggerated or everpresent distress over a decision you have to make, or a vague sense that you have failed or that life isn’t as you thought it would be.

These subtle symptoms reflect the dilemma of modern life: the absence of feeling grounded in something greater than your own ego structure. It is for this reason that doubt is both an existential challenge and a spiritual hindrance.

The Buddha taught that doubt is one of five hindrances that arise in the mind, clouding your judgment, limiting your ability to act, and causing great emotional disquiet. The first is sensual desire of any sort; the second is aversion to a person, situation, or something about yourself. The third, sloth and torpor, is the inability to initiate action, while the fourth, restlessness, is just the opposite – the mind is so restless and anxious with worry that it cannot settle down. The fifth hindrance is doubt. I sometimes call doubt the mother of all hindrances because when it is in control of your mind, there is not enough energy to engage. You find you have no heart for facing difficulties.”

When we have a goal or aim that we know we should be striving for that will change us for the better, often this negative doubt creeps in to tell us “we can’t change”. We doubt our abilities or the courage to see a particular situation through. If we are practicing, say, Zazen meditation and become frustrated or impatient, then we might doubt that it is helpful or useful as a means to reach the goal.

Here’s the kicker: no process is perfect. Whether you’ve done something once or a thousand times, there will be ease and there will be bumps. But, persist.

Use the knowledge of the above of what could get in the way.

On the positive side, use the forces of knowing what is right for you and nobody else, step back and reflect on the macro and micro movements in your progress, change if you feel positive doubt, and don’t forget to be gentle with yourself when frustrating moments arise.

 

Interview, Psychedelics, Plant Medicines, Entheogens, Society, Spirituality

Episode 35: Psychedelic Integration — Interview with Greg Lawrence


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This is Greg Lawrence, a psychedelic integration specialist based in LA, California.

He works with his clients to prepare them and integrate them with plant medicines, experienced extensively with: Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Bufo/5-MeO-DMT, NN-DMT, Kambo, Iboga, Sananga and Psilocybin/magic mushrooms.

Listen to our conversation to hear about psychedelic care and a professional perspective on psychedelics and the mind.

Visit Greg at www.psychedelicintegrationspecialist.com

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A word about the mind…

The mind

is the most fascinating place to pay attention to — because it’s the only real reliable tool we have on experiencing “the world”. The fact is, the world “out there” is really the world “in here”. How do you know you exist, right here, right now and that all that you’ve been through, as a human being, up until this point, is genuine and reliable? Because you’ve experienced it, and you’re sure about it!

That’s why it’s positive to be healthily skeptical when others, whether that be friends or authority figures, tell you what they think is true. Why is this? Because most people never deeply explore their own minds or pay enough attention to what the mind is doing or is capable of and thus pick up all their information and beliefs/preferences/paths/notions of the world from others by copying, mimicking, and blindly trusting the status quo of the society that one is in. For example: our western society believes in material science at the moment, based on the progression of the people we admire from our recent past and the European Renaissance: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Benjamin Franklin, Niels Bohr, and so on. They have made the “big list”, and so the information they present is the most accessible to our consciousness. Our societies contain hundreds of thousands of scientists, many of them unrecognised but still working away — so what makes these guys right and correct? Science is just another game to interpret reality, just like modern spirituality (and every other major category of pursuits, by the way) because it creates experts that rise and fall, giving information away to societies, when new discoveries are made. Life is constantly being updated. Why? Because of the inevitable human experience of the mind! So, if you experience that the sun comes up everyday and you see/know that — trust it. But there’s a point where you have to say “I don’t know” if there are other solar systems, or that the Milky Way is actually this-sort-of-shape, because “I don’t have access to a telescope” and “I certainly haven’t been there!”. Overall, your experience will let you know what is true, and over time, your mind’s projections, outsourcing, and all the second-hand-truth you accumulate from other people will become obvious to you.

Consider this:

All your ups and the downs….
And your good and bad moods…
And your beautiful material items, like flowers, incense, and food…
And opinions, values, and emotions…
Every idea and interpretation…
Each bodily movement and sensation…
Every dream at night…
Aspiration, goal, intuition…
Thought, emotion…
Unfortunate or fortunate event…
Spiritual connection with God…
And even the weather, other people, rooms, natural landscapes and nature…
Is all an aspects and projections of your mind! You created this. Literally. Every other mind in the world also helped create this. The entire world is just made up of mind(s). The world could not exist without you. Or me. Or Joe who helped build the Eiffel Tower. Or Nancy the nurse who helped save Joe at the hospital when he fell off the Eiffel Tower.

So, it’s up to you from here to decide whether or not there is any separation between anything or anybody and if the world is really “out there” or “in here”.

Even more, when you realise that the mind/consciousness is the greatest mystery of all time and that all the things you have assumed were “out there” (such as your friends, family, boss, animals, and even the roof over your head) are actually of your own creation, then you begin to appreciate and value the way you see and experience the world to a greater degree. Thus, a lack of separation between yourself, people, and objects begins to form and you can say, “yes, this is all me!” So, hatred, anger, and delusion can be overcome, eventually, because there are no other people and no external circumstances. They are all you.

There comes a time in human evolution, with maturity, that we can choose to take psychedelics and entheogenic plants to have a look at our own consciousness and its experiential power and capabilities. This can be for many reasons, some of which include:

Healing or getting unstuck
Seeing new perspectives in the material and non-material world
Self-discovery and playful fun
Career advancement for creativity/inspiration

Psychedelics can answer questions like:

What emotions have been covered up, due to trauma and past experiences?
What new shapes, colours, or ideas have been hiding from our baseline awareness?
What is spirituality and what is God?
What is consciousness itself?
Are there different dimensions, beings, and worlds than we are used to?

Working with a small group of trusted people or a guide is advised when taking psychedelics/plant medicines. Your judgment and discretion must always come first when engaging with such substances, because they alter awareness and consciousness and are ultimately life-changing and can have lasting effects for weeks to years in duration.

Om namah Shivaya, may all beings be happy, may all beings be free, and may all beings lose their relative selves and become one with consciousness. Om.

Buddhism, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Interview, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 29: What is Advaita Vedanta? — Interview with Swamini Brahmaprajnananda


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As Swamini’s guru most eloquently put it: ‘In psychology there is no solution to the human problem. In Vedanta, there is no problem.’

Swamini was classically trained as a modern psychologist and moved her consciousness forward, based on the limits she saw within this framework. Thus, she trained under her Advaita Vedanta guru and master, H.H. Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji — renowned as the best teacher of his time until his death in 2015.

Advaita Vedanta is an ancient body of wisdom which has two functions: to realise God/Brahman fully and to live day-to-day life well. Advaita aims to realise non-duality and also relies on the Vedic Upanishads as core guides to truth and realisation. Thus, we see these two functions in action: direct recognition of God and also living a wise life.

As a follower of Advaita Zen (also called neo-Advaita), I have gained a deep intellectual understanding of non-duality, the formless, emptiness, and being. However, the experience or manifestation of these has been few and far between, leading me on a more gradual approach to enlightenment via the Buddhist path — because I found that I was still suffering, or experiencing dukkha (dissatisfaction) in my everyday life.

As a seer of this, Swamini points out to us what neo-Advaita lacks in terms of longevity for the awakener, which my direct experience has also taught me. She elaborates on these points in our episode with ease and grace:

1. Neo-Advaita lacks lineage, gurus, and disciples
2. Simple reliance upon the Netti-Netti method (Not-this, Not-this)
3. Based on the individual human being only, without a larger context
4. De-emphasis on the importance of a guru, prepatory practices, and maturity of the student/seeker
5. No scriptural basis, as scriptures point out ‘what cannot be figured out by my own perception or logic alone’

We also go over Hinduism in relation to Advaita and whether Buddhism and Advaita share the exact meaning in the face of spiritual awakening, where I believe that they do and Swamini believes they do not… unless we interpret the Buddhist Dharma in the correct way

Listen, enjoy, and send your questions to me at curiousbodhi@zoho.com and find Swamini at www.discoveratma.com and on The River of Wisdom Podcast.