Thus I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Benares, in the Deer Park at Isipatana (the Resort of Seers). There he addressed the bhikkhus of the group of five: “Bhikkhus.” — “Venerable sir,” they replied. The Blessed One said this.
“Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.’ And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.’
“Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self…
“Bhikkhus, perception is not-self…
“Bhikkhus, determinations are not-self…
“Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.’ And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.’
“Bhikkhus, how do you conceive it: is form permanent or impermanent?” — “Impermanent, venerable Sir.” — “Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?” — “Painful, venerable Sir.” — “Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this is I, this is my self'”? — “No, venerable sir.”
“Is feeling permanent or impermanent?…
“Is perception permanent or impermanent?…
“Are determinations permanent or impermanent?…
“Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?” — “Impermanent, venerable sir.” — “Now is what is impermanent pleasant or painful?” — “Painful, venerable sir.” — “Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this is I, this is my self'”? — “No, venerable sir.”
“So, bhikkhus any kind of form whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near, must with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: ‘This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.’
“Any kind of feeling whatever…
“Any kind of perception whatever…
“Any kind of determination whatever…
“Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: ‘This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.’
“Bhikkhus, when a noble follower who has heard (the truth) sees thus, he finds estrangement in form, he finds estrangement in feeling, he finds estrangement in perception, he finds estrangement in determinations, he finds estrangement in consciousness.
“When he finds estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, he is liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. He understands: ‘Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.'”
That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were glad, and they approved his words.
Now during this utterance, the hearts of the bhikkhus of the group of five were liberated from taints through clinging no more.
Devananda runs the Essence of Dharma podcast: a show which unites the Vedic and Buddhist Dhamma, for all seekers and finders of the truth. He also runs a fascinating Youtube channel with tons of Dharmic content.
In our episode, we have a free-flowing conversation about, well… Reality!
There is an underlying reality beyond what we normally see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. It is that which allows these five senses to function at all, except we wrongly identify with what is in the “front” of us.
But, it is like a screen. Did you ever watch a fire burning on television? Yes, this is like the ego, which pretends to be fiery-hot, but it’s absolutely cool in reality. The fire on the screen is like the consciousness of the five senses. It seems so ridiculously real, and it has been this way since time immemorial, put down to us by our parents (and their parents) who have been conditioned since time immemorial — and thus, we seem stuck in Samsara.
The wheel of Samsara can be counteracted by setting the wheel of Dhamma in motion!
Whether Buddhist, Dharmi, or otherwise… enjoy the episode and come closer to our essential nature.
Om, Om, AUM. May all beings be happy, free, and peaceful.
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:
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.
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 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.
“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.
Walking meditation has a long tradition, and it isn’t something I just made up right now on the spot — and I thoroughly enjoy this practice, living in a busy city. Walking meditation has always been common in Zen Buddhism and throughout India, with a plethora of practitioners of different religious / spiritual / and traditional backgrounds. It is used to break up long bouts of sitting practice, known as Zazen, or as a practice on its own.
”Anything we do can become meditative, including eating, driving, washing, cleaning the house, and of course, walking. Historically, Buddhist monks in India would make walking an important part of their daily practice, remaining mindful as they walked around performing the daily tasks of life such as fetching water or going to the bathroom, as well as when on the alms round as they begged for food by going from door to door, and as they simply walked from one place to another as they crossed the country. It was natural for them to make the simple act of walking into an opportunity to develop mindfulness and lovingkindness.”
Since everything can be a meditation, theoretically, then we can also turn the simple act of walking from place to place or setting the intention to do this into our days. It becomes very pleasureable just to walk and notice bodily sensations, getting used to being back in our bodies when often our minds are overwhelmed.
It occured to me that I am in the cycle of birth, death, and caffeination. The first two are inevitable, and the second is my choice.
Coffee is like a grounding force inside my consciousness: as black, without sugar, maximum three and minimum one cup per day. It’s an ironically bitter, valuptuous, force that gets us legally high and becomes a staple in the day of multiple days.
We all have at least one idea or perception that we cling to, forcefully, as if it’s our last breath. Like that man who laid down to die with £20 in his hand, hoping he could still spend it.
In this episode, we go over some of the pitfalls of waking up — including why we don’t automatically fall into that state of non-dual awareness we are after.
The episode and my blog, here down below, are different. Here, this blog goes lightly into the deep edge of how the mechanism works to keep us from waking up. My episode goes hand-in-hand, speaking more personally and intuitively about this mechanism, so have your go at both!
As always, here we go…
The mind is a big player in the game of life, and she has been switched on since our birth, creating our physical and mental perceptions, our ideas about life, abstractions, responses to pain and pleasure, and pretty much every other facet of our personality we take for granted. This is the bubble of “me”, and everybody lives in their own; indeed, a person from the UK has mightily different values from somebody residing in the Amazonian jungle! For example, I have had the belief instilled in me that hard work pays off, and we must work hard for our money. Deep inside there somewhere is also the basic belief that if I’m not busy enough, then I’m not worth enough. The first is completely cultural and came from an idea my parents had from their parents whereas the second is personal and family-orientated (meaning that not all people in the UK follow that basic belief). So beliefs and perceptions can range widely from the societal level down to the personal level, and each individual becomes completely unique in their viewpoint of the world and themselves to try to make sense of what is going on their “screen”.
The screen of consciousness is not normally seen as a screen but as a true and accurate projection of what’s taking place. Whether that be sight, sound, emotion, or a recurring situation (potty training your kid, perhaps, or going to the gym like it’s a religion), we believe it’s all real and we’re in control of making the whole thing up.
That’s partially true. We have decided to make it all up, but not from “our self” — but from the standpoint of Awareness itself — which is responsible through all our life changes from birth until death. But we don’t recognise that. When we’re in the thick of it, we carry all our projected baggage and see mostly endless rows of bags: essentially, the construction of the self.
The easiest portion of ourselves to cling to is our body — if we have any doubt we exist, we can rely on our body to confirm that we do. (Deep sleep, comas, and being under aneasthetic cause loss of awareness of the body lead us to believe we don’t exist for a while. Think about that!)
So our brain sort of hallucinates a basic self-image into our consciousness that stays with us for a matter of time — until it changes, eventually. Maybe once we viewed ourselves as a serious person and now we’re a relaxed person. We had a different self-image when we were 16 than when we were 26. It’s all relative and constantly changing, but if we can’t see that that is the case, then we can “get stuck” in ideas about ourselves that no longer serve us. It happens all the time.
But I believe that consciousness is always looking to expand its awareness, capabilities, and smash down limitations of the mental, physical, and spiritual realms; we let go from time to time. It’s just that the ultimate smash-down is the death of the ego itself. And that is not going to happen overnight. So we have to be aware of the fact that there will be limitations and setbacks. This is a natural part of the awakening process, so don’t give up!
Maybe that’s why Buddhists says it might take lifetimes…