Two Interpretations of the Buddha’s Middle Way (Majjhima Patipada)

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Many people encounter Buddhism through a book, leaflet, documentary or group, and are therefore introduced to the subject through the particular interpretation implicit in those modes of knowledge transference. In the age of the internet, it can be argued that a greater degree of detail is available for the study of Buddhism, but the fact remains that as Buddhist philosophy is a complex subject, generally speaking a new student requires some sort of developmental guidance – or ‘narrowing’ of approach – to make sense of it all. This returns to the issue of entering Buddhism through a single gate of interpretation, and remaining unaware of the broader history and divergent philosophical development of Buddhist thought, or the various and distinct cultures that have become associated with the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia and the world. This insularity is compounded if the Buddhism encountered is being used for nefarious or illegitimate reasons. On the other hand, a misunderstanding of Buddhism can lead to the development of ‘quietism’, whereby an individual uses the excuse of being a ‘Buddhist’ not to get involved in important issues involving the well-being, development or safety of humanity. Even the Buddha interceded in the political milieu of his day, if he thought his personal presence could influence kings toward more humane policies, save human or animal life, or even prevent wars. He used the mediating device of cultivated wisdom as a means to ascertain when to act in the world, and when not to act in the world. This was not an interfering function that he took likely, and he advised many of his followers to sit and meditate for a considerable time so as to generate the wisdom required. Simply following personal prejudices, or current popularist trends was not the Buddha’s ‘middle way’. In essence, the Buddha inwardly followed the path of realising non-self, and of uprooting greed, hatred and delusion. On the outer the plane, the Buddha pursued policies that defused aggressive situations that were not dependent upon the belief of ‘self’ (religious or otherwise), and which advocated non-greed over greed, non-hatred over hatred, and non-delusion over delusion. His approach was that people would not treat one another in a selfish or barbaric manner if they understood the insubstantial and ever changing nature of reality. This approach included the deconstruction of the theistic religious belief system prevalent in his time.

The Buddha’s direction of inner and outer movement was defined as pursuing the ‘middle way’ (majjhima patipada), but within Early and Later Buddhist thought, this term has two distinct (and on the surface, very different) interpretations. The first statement must make it clear that all forms of Buddhism adhere to the teachings contained within the Four Noble Truths, and that within this schematic, the concept of the ‘middle way’, or ‘middle path’ is the directly philosophical consequence of the Buddha’s teachings as recorded in the ‘Fourth Noble Truth’. The full title of this teaching is the ‘Path of the Fourth Noble Truth which Leads to the Cessation of Profound Dissatisfaction’, or in Pali ‘Dukkha Nirodha Gamini Patipade – Ariya Sacca). Herein, the Buddha presents eight guidelines which all Buddhists (both lay and monastic) should follow as a means to create a better life free of suffering. This eight guidelines are:

  1. Right Understanding (Samma Ditthi)
  2. Right Thought (Samma sankappa)
  3. Right Speech (Samma vaca)
  4. Right Action (Samma kammanta)
  5. Right Livelihood (Samma ajiva)
  6. Right Effort (Samma vayama)
  7. Right Mindfulness (Samma sati)
  8. Right Concentration (Samma samadhi)

Together with various other instructions pertaining to thought and action in everyday life, the Buddha prescribed an ethical path of meditation (i.e. mind operation modification), and behaviour modification, primarily through adherence to the numerous rules designed to regulate moral behaviour (i.e. ‘sila’). For a Buddhist monastic, these guidelines were strictly (and literally) followed so that every thought, feeling, emotion and action was fully cognised and experienced in a ‘detached’ (or ‘impersonal’) manner. For the lay-Buddhist, the guidelines were followed in a more flexible manner, but with the emphasis being placed on the maintenance of virtuous thought and action in every situation. All Buddhists, for instance, regardless of status, are expected by the Buddha never to kill, or create the conditions for killing to occur. The same is expected with regards to stealing, inappropriate sexual thoughts and actions, speech motivated by greed, hatred and delusion, and food and drink termed ‘intoxicants’ that cloud the good judgement of the mind. Obviously, the Buddhist monastic follow hundreds of vows, but these five are essential to the entirety of the Buddha’s path, and are indicative of the psycho-physical nature of his moral teaching. For the Buddha, the greater the discipline applied to meditation and moral discipline, the quicker (in theory) a practitioner will escape the wheel of suffering and dissatisfaction. However, despite certain trends of thought found in various lineages of the more conservative extant schools of Buddhism, the Buddha did acknowledge (in the Pali Suttas) that committed lay-people (both male and female) could realise ‘nibbana’ through meditation or moral discipline, or on rare occasions, simply by being in the Buddha’s psychological and physical presence. The main point to take from this is that Buddhist monastic have an advantage in as much as their living situation is geared entirely away from worldly affairs, and completely toward the cessation of profound dissatisfaction and suffering. Although lay-people are at a disadvantage, this does not mean that they should not try, or that they are inherently unable to realise enlightenment. In many ways it is this tolerant attitude of the Buddha (found within Early Buddhism) that permeates Mahayana thinking.

The Mahayana School becomes historically observable around the 1st century CE, and is assumed to be a later development of the Buddha’s thought away from the definitional confines of what is termed ‘Early Buddhism’. Although the suttas of the Pali Canon are later developments out of Early Buddhism, it is logical to assume that much of the former is recorded in the latter. The Mahayana ‘sutras’ – by way of comparison – are written in Sanskrit, but also retain virtually everything that exists within the Pali Canon, despite the fact that various philosophical concepts have been developed beyond the foundational premise as originally laid-down by the Buddha. Having established this fact, it is also true that the ‘original’ premise of the Buddha’s teachings is still recorded in the Mahayana sutras, and have not been ‘expunged’ in an act of eradication. This means that the Buddha is presented as teaching two different but inherently ‘related’ versions of his Dharma – one for beginners, and another for the advanced (this is how the Mahayanists explain the dual nature of their own sutras). Some lineages of the Theravada School (which must never be conflated with the ‘Hinayana’ or ‘Small Vehicle’ movement), hold the viewpoint that the Mahayana School is a distortion of the Buddha’s pristine message, whilst others (such as Ven. Walpola Rahula), are of the opinion that definite philosophical parallels exists between the Pali and Sanskrit texts. This situation is fluid and need not delay us when examining the concept of the ‘middle way’ as conceived within the Pali and the Sanskrit texts. The Theravada School follows the Pali Canon and perceives the ‘middle way’ as an individual, through an act of will, steering his or her mind and body on a psychological and physical course, conducive to reducing and eradicating negative karma-producing habits in the real world. This means maintaining a trajectory that treads a path ‘exactly between the two extremes of everything that exists (i.e. the material universe), and everything that does not exist in an obvious material sense (such as states of mind, emotionality and rarefied levels of conscious development). This may also be interpreted as understanding the world of physical matter as a) existing, but b) being ’empty’ of any permanency or substantiality. To understand this reality requires the development of the mind and its awareness capacity. This includes directly perceiving the fact that within the five aggregates that define an individual, there is no ‘atma’ or ‘soul’, and consequently no link to a theistic entity controlling the world from afar. This means that the Pali term ‘sunna’ means that the existing world (according to the Buddha) is ’empty’ of certain things, and that as a consequence, everything exists in a ‘relative’ or ‘interdependent’ state.

The Mahayana School views the ‘middle way’ primarily through the philosophy of the Madhyamika School (founded by Nagarjuna), which states that the physical world is non-existant and therefore ’empty’ of ALL reality. The world of physical matter is insubstantial, impermanent and ‘non-existing’. This means that the ordinary human assumption of an existing subject-object ‘duality’ is an illusion that must be transcended through a developed mind. In Sanskrit ‘sunya’ (i.e. ’emptiness’) refers to two distinct aspects or realisations. The first is that of experiencing a personal mind free of greed, hared, and delusion, and known not to possess a ‘soul’ or any other ‘permanent’ aspect. This is the enlightenment that the Mahayana School associates with the Hinayana School – as it signifies a ‘personal’ nirvana. The full Mahayana enlightenment requires that a mind empty of personal delusion (i.e. ‘relative enlightenment’) must experience a radical expansion so that its fundamental awareness appears to ‘expand’ and become all-embracing of its environment (or the entirety of existence). Within the Mahayana School, a practitioner must adopt a path that is neither attached to the void, nor hindered by the world of phenomena. This includes the realisation that the material world is ’empty’ of any substantiality, but that ’emptiness’ itself is also ’empty’. In Early Buddhism the Buddha appears to be saying that the world is ‘real’ but ‘insubstantial’, whilst in Later Buddhism the Buddha appears to be saying that although the physical world appears to be ‘real’, in reality it is not. This divergence has happened due to the inclusion in the Mahayana (Sanskrit) Canon of a number of ‘new’ texts which convey this ‘modified’ interpretation, whilst still claiming to be utterances of the historical Buddha. Early Buddhism steers a ‘middle way’ between the existing world and its insubstantiality, whilst Later Buddhism adopts a non-dual position that perceives the physical world as being ’empty’, and that emptiness’ being ’empty’ of any substantiality. The Mahayana School, although containing all the teachings found in the Pali texts, nevertheless seems to be suggesting that whereas Early Buddhists were required to adopt a lifestyle of physical discipline – Later Buddhists could realise enlightenment by assuming a certain philosophical point of view, whilst meditating on the realisation of that view. Chinese Ch’an Master Xu Yun (1840-1959), whilst being an adherent of the Mahayana School, rejected this notion and stated categorically that enlightenment could only be realised if the Vinaya Discipline was strictly followed. This was because he was well-read, and had studied virtually all the Buddha’s teachings over his long-life. As a consequence, he had a developed and mature over-view of the entirety of the Buddha’s path – both Early and Later. Although he acknowledged that enlightenment could happen in an instant, he never negated the importance of behaviour modification as a means for ordinary people to reform their lives and realise enlightenment. From 1931 to 1945, Master Xu Yun witnessed the barbaric behaviour of invading Japanese troops in China, and he associated this barbarism with Japan’s abandonment of the Vinaya Discipline.

 

The Buddha’s Material Mind

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‘The Pali word “chitta” may be translated into the English word “mind”, subject to the proviso that the latter be not understood in the sense of something non-material which is it is usually taken to mean. For “chitta”, according to both the Hindu and Buddhist ways of thinking, is not non-material, but belongs to the side of matter, however rarefied it may be.’

Nikunja Vihari Banerjee, The Dhammapada (Page 95)

Within the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha defines reality as a combination, integration or entanglement of physical environment and mind in all its defined aspects. Notice that the Buddha defines reality as ‘matter’ prior to explaining the different aspects of the developed human mind that interacts (via the senses) with that environment. This ‘bundle’ of reality is usually translated as the ‘five aggregates’ and is always presented in the following manner:

  1. Matter – including living forms (rupa)
  2. Sensations – feelings about the external world received via the senses  (vedana)
  3. Perceptions (samjna)
  4. Thought formations (sankhara)
  5. Consciousness (vijnana)

An ‘aggregate’ is an English translation for the Pali term ‘kkhandha’, which literally means a ‘heap’, ‘gathering’, or ‘collection’ of something that is used in the Buddhist sense to define a distinct category. Matter (rupa), for instance, is used to explain the entire material realm – which includes the living body and its senses. The aggregate of matter is comprised of the four great elements (i.e. solidity, fluidity, heat and motion) and their derivatives, etc, and interestingly is said by the Buddha to include certain types of thoughts, ideas, or conceptions which exist as mind-objects (dharmayatana). This demonstrates straight away that the Buddha considered matter the basis of reality, and the mind to be an important aspect of this material realm. The aggregate of sensation includes all physical and psychological sensations – which may be defined as ‘pleasant’, ‘painful’, or ‘neutral’. The Buddha defined six senses which include the eye (visible sensations), ear (audible sensations), nose (smell sensations), tongue (taste sensations), body (sensing tangible objects), and mind (which senses thoughts, ideas and conceptions). The aggregate of perception distinguishes between physical and psychological stimulus, and identifies the differing material and psychological objects perceived through the six senses. The aggregate of thought formation represents the generation of volitional (or ‘willed’ thought – which is conditioned by the aggregates of matter, sensation and perception prior to its arising. However, as the Buddha does not posit a spirit, consciousness or mind that exists in opposition to the world of matter, the Pali term ‘sankhara’ also refers to anything in existence that is conditioned – including all psychological and physical events – as the five aggregates are used to define the entirety of conditioned existence. The aggregate of consciousness does not recognise an object, it represents only the presence of the awareness of an object. For instance, visual consciousness arises when the eye encounters an object which is blue in colour – but the visual consciousness (which underlies all ability to see with the eyes)  remains ‘unaware’ of the object of or its colour. It is only through the aggregate of perception that the object and its colour are recognised. Seeing does not mean ‘recognising’ and it is the same within Buddhist thinking for the other five senses.

The Buddha recognises ‘six’ senses because he views the mind as a ‘sense-organ’ which perceives ‘thought’ (and presumably emotion). In the contemporary West, however, although five senses are common, there are a number of extant theories advocating a higher number – including more than the Buddha’s six – with neurologists identifying as many as nine, and others as many as twenty-one!  I think the telling point is that the Buddha identifies the mind as being part of the physical body – what might today be termed the brain-mind nexus – and does not at any point state that the mind, as either consciousness or spirit, stands in opposition to a physical world. The Buddha quite clearly identifies the mind as materially derived, whilst also identifying its psychological (or ‘thought-producing’) aspect. In other words, the Buddha appears to be stating that in the natural state, a human mind cannot exist without a human body. All this is stated within the aggregate of matter – from which arise the other four aggregates. Even the Buddha’s use of ‘consciousness’ (vijnana) does not correlate in anyway with modern, Western notions of the term that are ‘idealistic’ in origination, and seem to take on a meaning that combines what the Buddha would refer to as ‘thought formations’ (fourth aggregates), with a notion of an eternal religious ‘soul’ (or ‘atma’) – an idea the Buddha thoroughly rejected. The Buddha perceived an impersonal and integrated world of mind and body that did not contain any notion of an assumed Brahmanic ‘atma’ – or ‘divine spark’. Therefore, for the Buddha, ‘consciousness’ only exists as long as a sense organ is in contact with a sense object – when this sensory contact is broken – the particular form of consciousness in question (i.e. eye or ear, etc) ceases to function. Of course, with a sensory impairment, such as blindness, eye consciousness has ceased to function altogether whilst the individual is alive, but when the physical body ceases to function at the time of death, all sensory consciousness also ceases function (along with the functioning of the other aggregates). This is an important observation, because it also suggests that for the Buddha, the concept of ‘mind’ (as thought formation) also ceases. The Buddha’s description of reality suggests that ‘mind’ only functions within a specific set of conditions, material circumstances, does not pre-exist physical birth, and does not post-exist physical death.

When all this is considered, why do many people assume that the Buddha’s thinking is ‘idealistic’? This is surely an incorrect assumption, premised upon a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the Buddha’s teaching. This category error probably stems from the false belief that the Buddha’s assessment of reality is ‘religious’ in nature, when it is obviously secular and premised upon a rational and empirical assessment of reality by a human mind freed from the historical conditioning of religious thinking. The Buddha rejected (as unsound) any theological notion that an unseen god created the physical universe (and all life in it), and then connected himself in a special manner to each human being through an individual ‘divine spark’. For the Brahmanic system, this  ‘divine spark’ is termed ‘atma’ or ‘breath of life’. Through introspective meditation, the Buddha looked into his psycho-physical interior and stated that no such ‘divine spark’ existed, and that when a person was fully enlightened to the nature of reality, all volitional karma ceased to function (i.e. there is no rebirth in the ultimate state of understanding), and that there were no such entities as ‘unseen’ gods, etc. The Buddha used a remarkably ‘modern’ rationale to ascertain the non-existence of the religiously inspired, immaterial realm. This has been the position of Buddhism ever since, and applies to Brahmanism just as it does to any other theistic religion – be it Islam or Christianity. The Buddha was not a god or a messenger of god – and there was no ‘hidden’ theistic meaning to existence. The Buddha achieved this insight through the meditative (i.e. psychological) exercise of non-identification with thought formation (in the mind to the point of cessation of all thought), and through the act of physical discipline (vinaya) with regards to how he ‘related’ to the material world around him. This led to the permanent state of ‘non-attachment’ to thoughts arising in the mind (and to the state of non-arising of thought), and the rejection (and complete cessation) of desire (in the mind and body) to otherwise attractive phenomena existing in the material environment. For the Buddha, this included a celibate lifestyle, and the exchanging of a ‘personal’ existence for a completely ‘impersonal’ existence. Through disciplining the mind and body, the Buddha discovered an indifferent collectivity to existence that contained no personal desire, and so saw the end of suffering caused by desire – this is the perfected, tranquil and harmonious state of ‘nibbana’ experienced by an individual that no longer exists in the dualistic, deluded or egotistically attached sense.

Given that the Buddha’s theory of mind is purely materialistic (with conscious awareness being a special arrangement of matter due to the evolutionary process as described by the Buddha in the Agganna Sutta), why is Buddhism still often misrepresented as a ‘religion’? Part of the problem is the Buddha’s insistence upon a disciplined ‘Sangha’, or ‘monastic’ community, with even the Buddhist lay-community expected to keep a certain number of moral rules or precepts. This set-up seems very similar to the Christian monastic orders that developed much later, but for the Buddha and his followers, there was no ‘grace of god’ at the end of their path.  Another reason lies in the modern Western habit of interpreting the Buddha’s path as a form of ‘idealism’ (despite all the Buddhist teachings to the contrary), and assuming the Buddha is advocating a type of ‘secular’ god-worship – with him as the physical manifestation of god on earth. Again, this is a grave error of interpretation, and bears no relation to the Buddha’s expressed teachings, even if the different schools of Buddhist interpretation are taken into account. Of course, certain politicised elements of modern Buddhism that ‘sell’ the Dharma to gullible Westerners, propagate the non-Buddhist myth of ‘reincarnation’, when it is clear from the Buddha’s description of the five aggregates that ‘nothing’ pre-exists birth, or post-exists death – certainly nothing pertaining to a ‘personality replete with memories’ that transmigrates from one life-time to another. This is true even if the Buddha’s rather vague explanation of an impersonal ‘rebirth’ is taken into account – a process that only exists in the deluded mind, and ceases with the realisation of complete enlightenment. The concept of reincarnation was probably integrated very late into certain types of Buddhist thought from theistic Brahmanism, and may relate to the ‘prophets’ that frequent the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, etc. Whatever the case, the Buddha denies any divine origin and rejects the concept of theism being of any value to practitioners. Finally, misinterpretations of the ‘Yogacara’ School have had a substantial effect upon Buddhism being mistakenly viewed as ‘idealistic’. The name itself – ‘Yogacara’ – is probably non-Buddhist in origin and translates as ‘yoga practice’, or the ‘structured practice of spiritual discipline’. From a Buddhist perspective, this school is also known as ‘Citta-matra’, or ‘mind only’, and it is this translation that has caused a number of misconceptions to arise (particularly evident in DT Suzuki’s English translation of the Lankavatara Sutra – a sleight of hand used by Suzuki to justify the distorted version of Zen that he followed and propagated in Japan leading-up to WWII – and in the West following Japan’s defeat after WWII)). The point here is easy to clear-up. The founders of the Yogacara School did not disagree with the Buddha, and did not think that the ‘mind’ as defined by the Buddha was ‘permanent’. On the contrary, the founders Asaṅga and Vasubandhu fully agreed that the mind was impermanent and subject to change and dissipation upon physical death. The point they were making, (and which is often missed), is that it is within the mind (i.e. the ‘thought formations’) that the ‘will’ to become enlightened must be propagated and developed, so as to generate the appropriate level of psychological and physical discipline, or commitment to the Buddha’s path. As the Buddha defines the mind as being part of the physical world, and considering he advocates a physical and psychological transformation into a collectively existing and impersonal being, there is nowhere in his teachings any grounds for the Buddha suggesting that ‘only the mind exists’. Mind exists temporarily (as a special arrangement of matter) just as long as a physical body is alive, but as matter (according to the Buddha) is always changing, and its forms are impermanent, so is the capacity of the human mind as defined through the five aggregates. The human mind has the power and capacity to manipulate and develop the material world (i.e. modern science and medicine, etc), but also possesses the ability to navigate an individual Buddhist practitioner from a purely selfish existence and into a selfless collectivity,

Further Reading:

Banerjee, Nikunja, Vihari, The Dhammapada, (2000), Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers

Narada Thera, The Dhammapada – Pali Text and Translation with Brief Notes, (1993), Buddha Educational Foundation

Rahula, Walpola, What the Buddha Taught, (1972), Gordon Fraser

Rahula, Walpola, Zen & The Taming of the Bull – Towards the Definition of Buddhist Thought, (1978), Gordon Fraser

 

Other Dimensions (Out There)

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The main stumbling block with analysing the idea of witnessing another reality, is ensuring that what is experienced, is not a product of the malfunction of the human brain, and its ability to perceive, cognise or interpret. An individual could be suffering from any number of internally generated psychological and physiological conditions, that interfere with the usual process of sensing the material environment. Such divergence away from normal function in the brain (and body), obviously leads to an internally generated view of the physical world, that does not actually exist ‘out there’. If a group of people appear to share a ‘visionary’ experience, it cannot be rejected out of hand, that all concerned are suffering from a perceptual ailment, or that the group is engaging in a ‘cult-like’ activity involving peer pressure, mutual conditioning, and interpretive reinforcement (i.e. a group hallucination). From a scientific perspective, these issues cannot be ignored whilst attempting to establish the theoretical principle of the existence of different planes of reality. Of course, belief systems effect how the world is perceived simply because that is one of their primary functions, but ‘belief’ does not necessarily equate to correct perception or interpretation of reality. Although theoretical physics postulates that other dimensions may exist (i.e. ‘String Theory’ and ‘Quantum Theory’, etc), these realities are mathematical probabilities, and not the product of sensory observation in the usual or mundane sense. In other words, the only manner in which these realities have been understood to exist, is through the use of numbers as cognised by the human brain. This is very different to the structure of religious or spiritual visions of other realities, which always appear to be like this (mundane) reality – but ‘ideal’ in nature. This can be ‘ideally’ good or bad, depending upon belief ad circumstance, but there is no scientific reason why other dimensions should be in anyway ‘familiar’ to human beings and their cognitive sensory array (which has evolved within a particular environment), or even ‘perceptible’ to the human mind in the ordinary sense.

Dharmakaya, Mind Ground, and Void

Empty Mind Ground

Empty Mind Ground

The following terms are interchangeable depending upon circumstance, and the Ch’an masters made use of them in a more or less free-flowing style, but do not let their apparent ‘casual’ approach to Buddhist terminology mislead you as each term possesses a distinct and startling meaning, designed to cause such a ‘shock’ to the deluded system, that it is immediately and radically transformed here and now:

1 Dharmakaya (法身 – Fa Shen), or ‘Truth Body’ represents the pure and unsullied state of reality that although existing within the world, remains entirely unpolluted by it.  It is not ‘created’, nor does it ‘diminish’ in anyway.  It has no shape, and is limitless.  It stands for nirvana within samsara – and its realisation is non-conditioned.  The illusion is that samsara exists independently of nirvana, and that nirvana is somekind of ‘superimposed’ spiritual state over delusion.  This is why Hui Neng says (in the Altar Sutra) that when the six sense-roots are purified of delusion – despite still being in the world, they remain ‘unsullied’ by their daily association.

2) Cittabhumi [心地 – Xin Di), or ‘Mind Ground’ signifies the psychological fabric from which all perception emerges and returns to.  The process of ’emerging’ and ‘passing away’ is a correct to observe – but is an illusion in the over-all scheme of things.  When the mind is confused through identification with dualistic interpretations, no sense of perception can be made as it manifests as a jumbled cascade.  When the surface mind is quietened through meditation or enlightened interaction – its ’empty’ nature can be truly perceived – as if for the first time.  As all is ‘non-substantial’ and free of any independent existence, the jumbled mind appears to be ’empty’ and ‘still’.  This is an important stage of developed awareness.  In reality, however, the empty mind ground is the root of all perception AND non-perception, and so the realisation of ’emptiness’ and ‘stillness’ must also return to it. This is not nihilism or creationism – both are imply another duality that must be pursued to their manifesting root.

3) Sunyata (空 – Kong), or Emptiness’ denotes the reality of things that appear to be ‘substantial’ and ‘independently’ real to the undeveloped mind and its senses.  Emptiness is not ‘nothingness’ and must never be confused with it.  Non-substantiality is not a negation of existence, but rather a clarification of how things actually are in reality.  Therefore, emptiness is also considered ’empty’ of ’emptiness’.  This does not go beyond Nagarjuna’s tetralemma – or ‘four part logic’:

1) All exists.
2) All does not exist.
3) All exists and does not exist.
4) All neither exists nor does not exist.

Nagarjuna – who read virtually all the known Buddhist sutras of his time, deduced that the Buddha was teaching from this philosophical position – which by necessity – has no position.

Being ‘Aware’ of Awareness

Mind, Bead, Touch

Mind, Bead, Touch

Ch’an is essentially working with the psychology of perception and apperception. This is the process of ‘sensing’ data through the six senses (perception), and then through the habit of the conditioned mind – arranging that data into a certain and definite interpretation (apperception) of the world.  This implies that all viewpoints and opinions are the product of conditioning influence in the environment, that produce and sustain (through habit) a certain ‘frequency’ of inner, interpretive existence.  Within his teaching on the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha refers to this habit as ‘mental formations, or ‘thought constructs’.  Regardless of whether the world is viewed as independently existing or not, the human mind will only interpret its presence in a manner conducive to its own historical conditioning.  During this habit forming process, the mind remains ‘unaware’ of the process of conditioning it is experiencing, and cannot see beyond its own limited (and programmed) interpretive horizon.  This narrow perception of reality is taken as being ‘all there is to know’, when in fact the mind remains ignorant of its own predicament.  Ch’an is the method of seeing into and through this limited predicament.  A Ch’an master’s statements and actions seem weird and illogical to the one-sided mind – but make perfect sense to a mind that is functioning in an integrative and all-embracing fashion.  Anyone can be ‘aware’ because it is a natural state – but only a Buddha can be ‘aware’ of the inherent quality of ‘awareness’ itself.

How a Plumber’s Ego Shaped the Western View of Tibet

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For hundreds of years Tibet had existed as a feudal society dominated by Lamaist Buddhism – an extension of the Mahayana – which eventually developed into its own distinct Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle) movement. As a feudal society defined by a specific set of socio-economic conditions, the majority of the people lived out their lives in abject poverty, and very few possessed the ability to read and write. Becoming a monk or nun was a way for a family to secure clothing, regular food, shelter, and a Buddhist education for their children, even though many of these monastics institutions enforced a strict celibacy (inaccordance with the Buddhist Vinaya discipline), which prevented ordained individuals having children of their own, it is equally true that certain Lamas did marry providing they had not taken full monastic vows, etc. Just like medieval Europe, which was dominated by Christianity – with its burnings, hangings, drownings, and torture of those expected of witchcraft, or heresy, etc. – Tibet had similarly draconian ‘judicial’ punishments designed to deter law braking. One such deterrent involved the eyes of the convicted being ‘gouged’ or ‘scooped’ out with a spoon-like device. The point is that in the West – particularly amongst the white middle class that was taken-in by the Eurocentric teachings of the highly popular Theosophy movement – Tibet has been presented as a mystical place free of any notions of material reality. This ‘theosophicalised’ Tibet is nothing but a myth that has never existed anywhere other than in the imagination of the Christian dominated Western mind. This ethereal Tibet is simply another version of Jesus Christ whose actual existence cannot be proved, and whose return, nevertheless, is still imminent. This misrepresented Tibet ‘shimmers’ in the rarefied air of the Himalayas to such an extent, that even the maniacal Adolf Hitler fell for its myth, and despatched numerous Nazi expeditions to seek out the origin of his equally mythicized ‘Aryan Race’. The problem with this ‘imagined’ Tibet is that it tells us more about the Christianised European mind-set (which desperately seeks out genuine ‘miracles’), than it does about the genuine and real Tibet, its people, its history, its Buddhism, and its culture. As with all racist narratives, the European misrepresentation of Tibet excludes the ‘actual’ and ‘real’ Tibetan people from the narrative of their own history. In this context, Tibet has become nothing but a mythology and a plaything for the Eurocentric imagination. The belief in this misplaced and excluded Tibet has no benefit whatsoever for the real people of Tibet who to no longer appear to exist in the real world.

Cyril Henry Hoskin (1910-1981), a British plumber from Devon, never visited Tibet, had not trained within the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, could not read or Tibetan, and yet he made a very successful career for himself under the assumed name of ‘Tuesday Lobsang Rampa’. From the 1950’s onward, he wrote a number of fictional books that presented an ‘imagined’ and highly ‘mystified’ Tibet, which he (and his publishers) deliberately and deceitfully presented to Western readers as ‘true stories’. His fame led to him being tracked down by a private detective, and exposé news articles being published about his duplicity in UK national newspapers. Despite being unmasked as a fraud, he continued to insist that he was ‘Tuesday Lobsang Rampa’ and that his body was in fact occupied by a reincarnated Tibetan Lama! In the meantime, Hoskin continued to pen ever more outrageous books with bizarre story lines, despite the fact that even His Holiness the Dalai Lama (in 1972) stated that these books were nothing but ‘fiction’ and had no bearing upon the truth of either Tibetan culture or the practice of legitimate Tibetan Buddhism. As his fame grew, Hoskin’s statements became ever more egotistical, disrespectful, and demeaning to his readership. In the back of his book entitled ‘Doctor from Lhasa’ (Corgi 1963 edition), he states:

‘‘Kindness to Publishers’ Department   

Throughout the years since “The Third Eye” first appeared I have had a tremendous amount of mail, and up to the present I have always answered that mail. Now I have to say that I am no longer able to reply to any mail at all unless adequate return postage is enclosed. So please do NOT send letters to my Publisher for forwarding to me because I have asked my Publisher not to forward any letters.

People forget that they pay for a BOOK, and NOT a lifetime of free post-paid advisory service. Publishers are PUBLISHERS – not a letter forwarding service.

I have had letters from all over the world, even from well behind the Iron Curtain, but not one in several thousand people enclose return postage, and the cost is so much that I can no longer undertake replies.

People ask such peculiar things, too. Here are just some: There was a very desperate letter from Australia which reached me when I was in Ireland. The matter was (apparently) truly urgent, so at my own expense, I sent a cable to Australia, and did not even receive a note of thanks.

A certain gentleman in the USA wrote me a letter DEMANDING that I should immediately write a thesis for him and send it by return airmail. He wanted to use it as his thesis to obtain a Doctorate in Oriental Philosophy. Of course he did not enclose any postage; it was merely a somewhat threatening demand!

And Englishman wrote me a very, very haughty letter in the third person, demanding my credentials. And only if they were completely satisfactory to this person would he consider placing himself under my tuition, provided that there would be no charge for it. In other words, I was supposed to be honoured. (I do not think he would like my reply!)

Another one wrote to me and said that if I “and my chums” would come from Tibet and cluster around his bed in the astral at night then he would be able to feel more happy astral travelling.

Other people write to me and ask me everything from high esoteric things (which I can answer if I want to) to how to keep hens and one’s husband! People also consider that they should write to me just whenever they think they should, and then get offensive if I do not reply by return airmail.

I will ask you NOT to bother my Publishers, in fact I have asked them not to send on any letters to me because they are in business as Publishers. For those who really do need an answer (although I do not invite letters) I have an accommodation address. It is:

Dr T. Lobsang Rampa

PO Box & Fort Erie

Ontario

Canada

But, I repeat, I do not guarantee any reply and I assure you there will be NO reply in any case unless adequate return postage is paid.’

This pretentious drivel is supposedly from an ‘ordained’ and highly ‘evolved’ Tibetan Lama who has taken a vow not to handle or possess money of any kind (i.e. gold or silver, etc.). The tone of this piece is highly defensive, whilst making (what is in reality), a call for more funds. Hoskin’s attitude is abusive to his own readership – who have after, all already purchased his books – as he attempts in a disjointed manner, to assert an egotistical control over their habit of daring to contact the person who has written such an impressive and nonsensical myth! In this page and a quarter of pure vitriol, Hoskin reveals the true nature of his thoroughly unevolved, selfish, and poorly educated psyche. Furthermore, by completely misrepresenting Tibetan culture and Tibetan people, (a process which may be considered ‘racist’ in its mimicry), he portrays the ethnic slurs of all Americans being ‘brash’ and all English people being ‘arrogant’. What is more likely the case here, is that due to the bad publicity Hoskin has been suffering due to the negative media coverage, his publishers have distanced themselves from him and are no longer ‘paying’ to forward letters, or covering Hoskin’s expenses incurred through replying to his fan mail. Hoskin does not want the public to know his real situation, (nothing new here), but still wants to receive the adulation his has become accustomed to. His readership now have to foot he bill following the Publisher’s withdrawal of supporting finance, etc. Hoskin has the audacity to package his request for more money from his readership by presenting his case as an ‘affront’ to his dignity should a letter arrive with no return postage.

This man obviously has psychological issues that he diverts into his work through the creative act of fictional writing. In many ways he is a victim of the theosophical misrepresentation of Tibet, its people, and its culture. Not a single word he wrote in any of his books has any bearing whatsoever upon authentic Tibetan culture and does not assist Tibetan people in anyway. Like many in the West today, Hoskin’s Tibet exists only within the imagination that separates the world into a clear ‘good’ and ‘evil’. In this fabrication, the mythical Tibet is unquestionably ‘good’, whilst the equally imagined and misrepresented China is unspeakably ‘evil’. This is how thousands of years of Judeo-Christian mythology affects the imagination of modern, secular Europe. This polluting and misguiding psychological prism must be transcended if Tibet is to be seen yet again as its true self, existing in a real world. Until that time, Tibet will continue to be the plaything of the Western imagination tainted (and misrepresented) by the subtle presence of Judeo-Christian theology.  The simple fact is that ‘Tuesday Lobsang Rampa’ remains completely unknown in either Tibet or China.     

 

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2014.

 

Hinayana and Mahayana Notions of Emptiness

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The philosophical notion of ‘emptiness’ is a core teaching of Buddhism, found within both its Pali and Sanskrit texts (i.e. ‘suttas’ and ‘sutras’, etc.). The doctrine of Buddhism has been historically presented in either a ‘narrow’ (Hinayana), or ‘broad’ (Mahayana) interpretation that has varied in frequency from Buddhist school to Buddhist school. This interpretative paradigm is more often the product of personal opinion, rather than of doctrinal difference, as generally speaking, the Pali suttas contain definite Mahayana implications and tendencies, whilst the Sanskrit sutras thoroughly embrace the narrower Hinayana methodology – even if it is not ‘exalted’ in the commentaries. This obvious mixing of narrow and broad approaches, strongly suggests that the entire body of Buddhist philosophical instructional material, arises from the mind of a single and profoundly ‘aware’ human individual, and that the separation into schools of interpretative difference happened after the passing of this remarkable individual. Each Buddhist school is ‘correct’ in the sense that it advocates a definite teaching that emanated from the Buddha, but is equally limited in the scope of the enlightenment it can deliver to humanity, by the fact that it excludes the possibility of the Buddha’s other (and equally effective) Dharma-doors to freedom from suffering. In this regard, the various Buddhist schools can be viewed as a product of selective specialisation, and treated over-all in a holistic manner that recombines the disparate aspects of the Buddha’s teaching, into one genuine ‘whole’. Specialisation of this kind, has served to develop in an isolated manner, key issues related to Buddhist thought and practice, and are definitely not without their respective merits. The point for a Buddhist aspirant seeking enlightenment, is that a broad awareness of the entirety of Buddhist teaching is preferable, to that of a narrow view that lacks both depth and breadth. As Buddhism is not a ‘religion’ in the monotheistic sense, its followers are advised to avoid the pitfalls of faith-based belief systems, and exclusivity related to practice.

It is important to realise that the Hinayana movement does not necessarily equate with the modern Theravada School – as this school follows the Pali Suttas to the letter and has produced many fine modern thinkers such as Buddhadasa, Nyanaponika and Walpola Rahula, etc. – and that even within the general Mahayana movement, many adherents of such schools apply their Dharma practice within a very narrow and self-centred criterion. Therefore, the philosophical terms ‘Hinayana’ and ‘Mahayana’ refer to the ‘narrow’ or ‘broad’ interpretation of exactly the same doctrine espoused by the historical Buddha, and do not, in and of themselves, refer to ‘separate’ Buddhist schools that disagree on doctrine. Hinayanists and Mahayanists follow exactly the same Dharma teachings, and there is no moral implication ascribed to either term, as both terms can be said to have their own inherent positive and negative aspects. Having established this understanding, an examination of the notion of the term ‘emptiness’ as interpreted through both these perspectives can now be undertaken.

Etymology Key: The Pali term for ‘empty’ is ‘sunna’, whilst the Sanskrit term for ‘empty’ is ‘sunya’. The Pali term for ‘emptiness’ is ‘sunnata’, whilst the Sanskrit term for ‘emptiness’ is ‘sunyata’. Within Devanagari Sanskrit, the term ‘sunyata’ is written as ‘शून्यता’. The etymology of this term is interesting as its root is from ‘svi’, which means to ‘swell’ and ‘expand’ thus creating a hollow space. It has been noted that the word ‘Brahman’ is premised upon the root ‘brmh’, which also carries the meaning of to swell and expand. In the ontological sense, sunyata is an emptiness that is not ‘nihilistic’. This is because the concept of sunya (or ‘empty’) is considered to be ‘full’. This is similar to the experience of pregnancy, whereby a hollow develops that is full of the growing child – although in the context of sunyata – the emptiness is full of nothing inparticular. This is why the Buddha is said to be seated within the profound state of ‘Sunya-sattva’, or ‘Empty principle’. As emptiness is full of nothing in particular, in theory it is freed to be full of anything without limit. Emptiness is a realisable state of mind, body and environment that is synonymous with Nirvana (cessation of burning desire), Paramartha-sat (Supreme Reality) and Tattva (Reality). In its axiological sense, sunyata implies that all physical things are without substantiality. This is the enlightened view of phenomena. When in the ignorant state, however, the human mind thinks that everything in the world has an innate existence, and is attached to this misconception. When used in its soteriological sense, sunyata signifies ‘freedom’ from delusion through the development of enlightened wisdom (prajna). This ‘empty wisdom’ sees through the veil of delusion and perceives reality free of any obscuring dualism. Sunyata is not nihilism, and is not an end in itself – as emptiness is ‘empty’ of emptiness. The realisation of sunyata is the realisation of unlimited prajna.

Hinayana Interpretation of Emptiness

The Hinayana perspective views the different aspects of the physical world (i.e. dharmas) as being ‘real’ and ‘substantial’ entities that exist independently outside the mind and body of the observer. This is to say that the material constituents of the physical world are not ‘empty’ of ‘substantiality’, but are considered ‘real’ in and of themselves. Enlightenment for the Hinayanists revolves around the uprooting of the false notion of ‘self’ that is implicit within the mind and body. The mind is emptied’ of any notion of ‘self’, just as greed, hatred, and delusion are uprooted through appropriate and effective Dharma-training. Generally speaking this training is entirely monastic in nature and excludes lay-people from its practice. It is the human mind (and body) that is ‘empty’ of any notions of a permanent, independent, and substantial ‘self’. This is the Hinayanist realisation of ‘non-self’ (pudgala-nairatmya), which is synonymous with the achievement of the state of ‘cessation’, or ‘Nirvana’. This is inaccordance with the highest aim of the Hinayanist ideal, which is that of the attainment of Arhatship. For the Hinayanist, the enlightened state is ‘empty’ of self, and that this direct realisation is enough to attain freedom from suffering.

Mahayanist Interpretation of Emptiness

The highest ideal of the Mahayana perspective is that of the ‘Bodhisattva Vehicle’ (Bodhisattayana). This follows the notion of the achievement of universal enlightenment that includes the guidance of all beings into this state. It is presented as ‘superior’ to that of the attainment of Arhatship, which is also referred to as the ‘Sravakayana’ (Disciple Vehicle), and the ‘Pratyekabuddhayana’ (Solitary Buddha). The Mahayana agrees that the achievement of the state of Nirvana is dependent upon the realisation of the ‘emptiness’ of self (pudgala-nairatmya), but argues that a further attainment is also required if the state of complete Nirvana is to be attained. This other attainment is the realisation of the ‘emptiness’ of physical matter (dharma-nairatmya). Within the teaching on the ‘Chain of Dependent Origination’ (Pratītyasamutpāda), the Hinayanist believes that the mind and body interacts with a physical environment that is ‘real’, but the Mahayana view is that all that exists (samskrta) and does not exist (asamskrta) is brought about by conditionality, is relative, thoroughly empty, and has no substantiality from start to finish. The term ‘dharma’ is used to here to refer to the entirety of physical things that appear to exist in the universe, and should not be confused with the term ‘Dharma’, which is used to refer to the teachings of the historical Buddha. For the Mahayanist, the removal of ‘klesa’ (or ‘defilements’) from the mind is an important process, but whereas the Hinayanist believes that this alone leads to Nirvana, the Mahayanist asserts that another achievement is required, namely that of the attainment of true knowledge. For the Mahayanist to achieve enlightenment, not only must the ‘veil of defilement’ (klesavarana) be removed from the mind, but also that of the ‘veil that obscures true knowledge’ (jneyavarana).

Conclusion

The notion of ‘emptiness’ is found both within the Pali and Sanskrit Buddhist texts and associated commentaries, and must be viewed from two distinct perspectives that represent ‘relative’ (empirical) reality, and ‘absolute’ reality:

1) Empirical Reality (parabhava): From the Mahayana perspective all phenomena is termed ‘svabhava-sunya’ or ‘empty of any substantiality’, whilst from the Hinayana view, empirical reality is ‘substantial’.

2) Absolute Reality (svabhava): Absolute reality for the Mahayanist is termed ‘prapanca-sunya’, or a reality ‘empty’ of verbal expression, thought constructs, and duality. The Hinayanists believe that enlightenment can be verbalised and juxtaposed with an existent outer world.

Through the work of Nagarjuna, the Mahayana movement developed the interpretation that physical matter is ‘empty’ of any substantiality. This is due to Nagarjuna applying his tetra lemma (catuskoti) formula to the assessment of the ‘Chain of Dependent Origination’ (Pratītyasamutpāda), and logically proving that just as the true enlightened state has no-self associated with it; then it is also equally true that physical matter has no substantiality associated with it. Everything is dependent upon everything else, conditioned by everything else, and contingent upon everything else. This being the case, nothing in existence can contain an independent and substantial essence – as the Hinayanists assert. Nagarjuna states:

‘There is no real production; there is only manifestation of a thing contingent on causes and conditions. It is this conditioned co-production that we designate as sunyata.’ (The Conceptions of Buddhist Nirvana: By Theodore Stcherbatsky – Page 38)

As there is no ‘causal’ relationship between entities, but only a mutual dependence, physical things cannot be logically accepted as having a separate and distinct ‘substantiality’. For Nagarjuna, the very idea of a system of ‘causation’ that involves ‘substantiality’ is nothing more than a ‘projection’ upon reality that emanates from a deluded mind. What is interesting is that Nagarjuna is not creating a ‘new’ Buddhism, but is rather creating the conditions for a better understanding of the original Buddhism. His tetra lemma, although unique and ingenious in its construct, is nevertheless only the re-stating of the Buddha’s own wisdom. If this is indeed the case, then Nagarjuna has proved that the Hinayanist position is not so much a dispute surrounding the correct interpretation of the Dharma, but is in reality a product of a limited or incorrect understanding of what the Buddha originally taught, propounded by some of his early followers. This has far-reaching implications for the ongoing interpretation of the history of Buddhism, and has the potential to shine a fresh light on the controversial subject matters of schisms, breakaway groups, heretical teachings, and true followers of the Dharma. It is not an exaggeration to state that the Buddha’s teaching rises and falls upon a correct interpretation of the concept of Dharma – and that this correct interpretation is in essence determined by the right understanding (and realisation) of the notion of ‘sunyata’, or ‘emptiness’.

 

 

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2014.

Ch’an Buddhist Practice: Giving Up Sleep

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Many Ch’an masters, such as Ben Huan and Fo Yuan, talk of the inherent dangers for the mind whilst in the sleeping state.  This is because all kinds of hellish states can be accessed when the body is dormant, but the mind remains active.  Sleep in this context is not defined as a necessary means of resting the mind and body, but rather is viewed as an enhanced state of delusion.  Whatever the medical relevance of sleep on the material plane, the fact remains that it is part of a daily cycle that involves, on the one hand, a lack of physical interaction, whilst on the other actually freeing the unenlightened mind to explore its own complex nature, creating as it does so the illusions of bodily comfort.  When the mind is freed from the requirement to interact with the physical environment, it can enter the realm of dreams and nightmares.  The taints of greed, hatred, and delusion still remain in the dreaming state, but freed from the obvious physical limitations of the body, these taints enlarge, strengthen and distort perception to an ever greater extent. 

Sleep is usually considered essential for a human-being to survive, but many of those who engage in the practice of meditative absorption, arrive at a point of awareness where sleep, waking consciousness, and the state of unconsciousness, all appear contextually to manifest with a broader conscious presence.  This realised context represents a developed insight that perceives things as arising solely within consciousness, and not the product of a dualistic system that presents a separate body functioning alongside of an isolated mind.  Conscious awareness spreads through all the states of being without exception.  This wave of insight restores reality to the mind and allows experiences to be perceived as they actually are.  Sleep becomes like the flickering of the eyes, with all the bodily sensations associated with it, understood to be merely conditioned psycho-physical responses.  Whatever apparent ‘pleasure’ is generated within the sleeping activity, the fact remains that by its very nature, an equal amount of ‘displeasure’ is also routinely produced. 

Within the sleeping state there is a reduced physical awareness where the mind becomes overly absorbed in its own presence.  Freed from physical limitations it is able to indulge, enlarge and over-emphasis the taints of greed, hatred, and delusion to an unlimited extent.  Such ‘dreaming’ can have the strength to over-flow into everyday consciousness, but even if this is not obvious to the practitioner, the fact remains that whilst control is applied to the mind during waking hours, at night, whilst sleeping, the mind is free to do as it pleases.  The good work of focusing the mind through the gong an or hua tou Ch’an methods is undone by a sleeping mind that roams freely.  This is why the awareness generated within Ch’an meditative practice must be extended through the sleeping and unconscious states of mind, and not remain merely a product of the waking mind.  If this limited situation is allowed to persist, then for half the day the mind remains in a state of untrained, self-indulgence, and all the good effort is wasted.  Giving-up sleep is not necessarily not sleeping, although this is possible with practice, but is rather the ability of the Ch’an practitioner to remain equally aware in the ‘waking’, ‘sleeping’, and ‘unconscious’ states of being.  This means that the focus upon the pristine Mind Ground is not lost when there is a transition from one conscious state of being to another, and that this includes the moving from one bodily existence to the next – all of which occurs only within the mind.       

Peace in the Dharma

Working With The Mind.

Materialism, in its many forms, is closely associated with logic as developed within the Western tradition.  In many ways its manipulation of the material world has been perceived as superior to religious thinking, and the advancements in science and medicine appears very much to prove this point.  Materialism (and its associative logic) is very useful for humanity’s development.  Although very much presented as ‘anti-religious’, this stance is simply a matter of philosophical bias re-enforced through a very narrow view of the world.  Materialism is not, and should not be the enemy of the spiritual world.  The dichotomy between material and spiritual existence is simply the product of mind play.  Indeed, when freed from the shackles of this partial view, materialism becomes very much a useful tool in the spiritual arsenal.  Materialism, that is a logic that manipulates matter in the service of humanity, is the hard-edge of spiritual endeavour.  This type of materialism should not be confused with the strictures of pure greed, as this (grasping at matter) is the enemy of both a clear logic and an effective spirituality.  The immediacy of the present moment is most apparent through the senses and the mind itself, which may also be considered a distinct sensory organ – in as much as it senses thoughts, but more than this, this organ or attribute creates the very essence of perception itself and a lack of this ability would render the other senses inoperable.  Perception is not merely an individual exercise, but is rather an attribute of the entire human species, and any life form that thinks, feels, understands and reacts to its environment in any imaginable manner.  Perception is a universal activity.  Ordinary consciousness perceives a world that everyone more or less agrees is there in principle, even if the definition of what is perceived is open to debate.  Perception and interpretative diversity occur hand in hand.  This being the case, an agreed universality is not equate with a lack of choice or freedom, on the contrary, it ensures both because the perceiving mind contains no real boundaries that would prevent the scope of its imaginations, brilliance and achievements.  Reality is more than it appears to the bare senses – although this kind of reality is functional and remains the reality understood by science and transcended by conventional religions.  True reality is beyond this ordinary reality, but it also includes ordinary reality.  In the ordinary mind a thin veil separates the perception of what lays ‘other there’.  When this flimsy veil is pushed apart, many worlds unite and integrate into a giant, functioning whole free of ignorance and limiting understanding.  The material world can be reasonably understood because it is limited by the senses to the perception.  Material logic, itself very clever and creative is nevertheless only one-side of the universe.  It understands what is in front of it, and does this with a great accuracy (or ignorance) depending upon circumstance.  The material world offers many great treasures and is something to be cherished and cultivated.  However, it can be immeasurable enhance by seeing clearly the worlds that lay just beyond its manifestation.  It is only through the mind that these other present worlds are perceived.  Many worlds exist ‘here and now’, but are filtered out by a limited the intellect operating in conjunction with the usual five senses.  It does its job – nothing more.  When the mind is ‘opened’ through receiving the correct or requisite stimulus, an entire multiplicity becomes apparent.  It is as real as an object on the material plane.  The other planes are not limited to this plane – the plane that is most often the most evident to the senses, but represent a broadness of vision that sees more than what is directly in front of it at any one time.  Although religion is often viewed as a collection of imaginations, this judgement should be encouraged and embraced, as it states a blatant truth.  Imagination is a real world that enters this world – reflecting a certain truth that lies just beyond the horizon.  Imagination demonstrates to a humanity that is perceptually ‘stuck’ within the material plane that the worlds that lies beyond the trap are free, malleable and are able to enter into this world to modify and transform it for the better.  Nothing is certain because reality in its absolute scope outgrows the words used to describe it.  Each plane – and there are many – can interact with one another without hindrance or friction.  The rules of the material plane are torn asunder to reveal a three dimensional web that links everything together in a highly communal and yet completely private manner.  Perception of the obvious, material realm grounds the perceiver and serves to focus energy in the correct direction.  Material form is not an error, it is the springboard from which all human spiritual work progresses.  Humanity can not exist without the material world from which it manifests.  Indeed, the word ‘material’ derives from the Latin ‘mater’, which literally translates as ‘mother’.  Humanity is comprised of matter which originates from the world it inhabits.  The world of matter has to be spiritualised away from its most limited interpretation, and expanded into other dimensions and planes.  Technology in the present can explore outer space, and look into micro space – revealing surprising visions as it does so, but as of yet, this kind of travel is spiritually limited.  Space travel is in its infancy, although electron-microscopes can see a world of quite wonderful import.  One day this kind of space travel may well develop into the external exploration of other dimensions, including travelling in time.  However, every human being possesses the ability to travel unhindered in space and time using the mind as the conduit.  This is not the rather limited space and time travel very much en vogue through the medium of science fiction – which oddly remains very one-dimensional in scope, but rather the travel associated with non-linear space and time.  The mind consciousness permeates all of space, through all of time, but does not just exist through these attributes – the mind exists beyond space and time.  From the world of matter the mind can be developed to see this reality, but it takes time and discipline.  The mind must be gathered together and its collected energy – i.e. concentration – needs to be used in the breaking through of the obscuring veil.  The ancient Indians (and others) knew this very well.  Yoga of the mind, whatever the method, is designed to dissolve the barrier that isolates this material plane from the other planes that exist all around.  Great works of art, literature, philosophy and science often reach into another realm and bring something back from the observation experience.  Great work of this type allow the observer to see something of the ‘transcendent’ in the work itself, and the human creator as a kind of transmitter of heightened awareness.  Such work need not exist in these established forms, but exist in any activity within the human world including such apparent mundane interactions as smiling or waving at others, as well as reacting with silence, when silence is the best response.  Human greatness is not the domain of the rich or socially powerful, but the property of any person who decides to exercise it.  This immediacy of greatness is accessible through the power of the human mind.  Negative emotion keeps humanity anchored on this plane.  This suffering however, can be used as a positive force to move beyond the trap of painful materialism.  Being trapped in the material world is to be trapped in a world of limited perception.  The suffering can be immense; this is true, and the pain unbearable.  It is also true that this intense experience has often led to the greatest of spiritual breakthroughs.  Whilst immersed in the most terrible of human suffering, simply let go of this plane.  Do not hold on to that which causes so much suffering, transform its perception and change its existence.  Despair is a matter of the mind thinking that what it thinks and feels in relation to the material plane, is independently ‘real’.  If the physical or emotional pain becomes so intense, the attachment to the physical world will break quite naturally.  The point is not to allow distress and suffering to dictate the spacious capacity of the mind.  Suffering is very important – it will set the mind free into a universe of unlimited possibilities.  The material plane allows for an exploration of existence (through the mind) that contemporary science is only beginning to tentatively comprehend.  Everything is interconnected and nothing is excluded.  Even within the most densest of matter perception, the mind contains the imperative to move toward that which is higher.  In reality, the higher and lower are not mutually exclusive, but instead representative of an integrative whole.  Existence continues because it can not be limited to starting and finishing.  The universe (or multiverse) functions beyond its own definition, which is limited to the measurement of the material world.  This kind of measurement, although useful to build a technologically sophisticated world, is unable to be applied to an existent reality that does not conform to such a specific criterion.  For the mind to see into the other realms and experience the essence of multiplicity, the surface thoughts and feelings must first be ‘stilled’.  Yogic knowledge can be used to achieve this result.  This is a science peculiar to the mind and the product of thousands of years of ‘looking within’.  Yoga consists of pathways derived from the internal mapping of the mind’s terrain.  From this knowledge the right direction of travel is ascertained and applied.  Understanding the physical world is achieved through the mind – it too is a kind of siddhi – or yogic power.  It is very powerful attribute.  Inner yoga, although often lacking obvious power on the physical plane, particularly in its initial stages, nevertheless has the potential to develop into siddhis that go beyond the simple measuring and manipulation of physical matter.  Universal awareness can be quantified, but it can be experienced.  All that can be realistically claimed about this experience Is that it is not limited to the observation of the physical plane, but all yoga begins with the physical plane and then diversifies into various distinct pathways.  In this sense, even transcendental yogic pathways begin by measuring matter, working out how the body should be situated and the kind of existence it should need.  This is physical measurement in the service of inner yoga; it sets the outer world in order so that the inner journey can be undertaken.  In this model the outer world is left behind as the inner journey begins.  With conventional science, however, the outer world is the subject of measurement and observation, with the attention remaining solely upon external phenomena.  This is the yoga of the external world and is limited in explorational scope.  For the yogic method to be successful the outer world must be brought into a natural order and the attention diverted from externals toward the inner terrain that is to be travelled.  The ordinary mind is the access point to untold worlds.  More than this, however, but this kind of exploration does require a rocket-type landing on a new planet.  Rather the fabric of existence – which is beyond conventional time and space – is entwined with conscious awareness itself, free from self-limitation and imbued with an expansive perception that is objectless because it includes all things simultaneously.   The paranormal and the supernatural is the ordinary human mind trapped on the material plane that is receiving inklings of what lies beyond its confinement.  Unusual phenomena on this plane, tends to be an echo from another dimension.  In reality all planes contain the content of one another – even the human material plane, but materialist philosophy and education tends to serve as a filter that blinds the perceiver from seeing the interconnectedness and over-lapping nature of existence.  Occasionally the forces of interaction build to such an extent that the filter is momentarily lifted and an unusual experience is had.  This includes all kinds of phenomena such as ghosts, UFO’s, strange creatures, fairies and every other odd manifestation that can be imagined.  The multiplicity of creation, however, is not set on rigid form.  Forms can be created and changed through the mind itself with the correct training.  This is not to say that this is an obvious power within the material plane as the group manifestation on this plane solidly coalesces around the immovable and the changeless.  Although things do change on the material plane, the change itself is slow in nature, giving the existential impression of permanency – the point of this permanency is that it can be measured and its change predicted and therefore controlled.  The emphasis upon the material plane is to not go beyond the apparent realism of the world as conveyed through the senses.  All religions are correct and equally incorrect.  There is no right or wrong, only that which is appropriate according to the context of need.  Although categories of preferred behaviour, opinions and thought can be devised, their nature remains purely arbitrary even though many spend their lives adhering to their strictures.  Moving in all directions at once renders all categories obsolete.   Creativity is awareness without the constraint of arbitrary barriers either generated within the mind itself, or existent within the environment.  One way or another, it always comes back to the mind and its ability to create and manipulate conscious and physical matter.  Magic, in its most ordinary manifestation, is a distant memory of a plane where the magical is quite real and by and large not that extraordinary – that which is common loses its appeal to that part of the mind that revels in the extraordinary.  On the human material plane, the intellect has created a world obsessed with matter.  When viewed from another plane, this obsession with matter is seen as quite astounding, as is the science created from it.  Being attached to matter is the defining aspect of this plane, and is viewed as being of an extraordinary nature – the ordinary here is perceived as the extraordinary, over there.  The multiverse of existence is both relative and absolute with no contradiction existing in any place.  This does not make logical sense in a material world, although the cutting edge of science, such as quantum physics for instance, is beginning to reveal a different world to that directly perceived by the senses, and Mandlebrot’s Set reveals that within this diversity without end, there exists an ever replicating pattern.  This pattern is stationary and yet continuously moving.  It holds its shape eternally, but is continuously changing.  The human mind is a doorway that is able to create and destroy what it connects together.  This is not a violent act, but rather indicative of a process of a continuous movement that is still, or a stillness that never stops moving.  Even this material plane with its apparent solidity and predictable behaviour is a manifestation of the mind itself.  It is not an illusion, nor is it real.  Language and concept break down when the mind reaches beyond its innate conditioning.  What is seen (or perceived) is reported through the limitation of human language, which is itself the product of living within a material world.  It is not designed to formulate concepts that lay beyond its normal cognitive reach.  This explains why advanced science, insightful philosophy and transcendental religion appear to be expressing truth in a nonsense language that appears incomplete and often irrational.  To explain that which lies just beyond the senses stretches conventional language to its limit.  Logic dictates that such descriptions can not be soundly provided and that to stay true to the originating perception, the descriptions provided must be open ended – as if the open end in the logic is in fact a map pointing the way toward the truth.  The material plane assumes a completeness and totality for itself that is blatantly not true.  The logic based upon the observation and measurement of matter, likewise also assumes a completeness that is incorrect from the position of the multiverse.  Of course, closed systems of logic are complete within their respective operational boundaries, but this completeness is highly localised and not indicative in any way of a possession of higher knowledge or wisdom.  The use of enclosed (local) logic systems to explain the entirety of what exists outside of itself – is itself an error in philosophical speculation.  Rigid thought patterns are reflective of the rigid material forms that they measure.  The multiverse is neither rigid nor flexible and it can not be assessed or limited to a set of binary opposites, or conceptual dichotomies.  Patterns spread outward and inward beyond cycles of prediction and understanding based upon specific intellectual markers.  If the mind is made ‘blank’ through meditation, it simply reflects the neutral nature of banal matter.  This is becoming the matter of the material world as held in the materialist vision of reality.  It is a vision that has no expansion and which has made non-perception its ultimate aim only to realise that to perceive ‘blankness’ is still an act of perception.  This is not enlightenment but rather endarkenment.  The mind is placed in an isolating stupor and can not see beyond even this closed world.  In a very real sense this is a form nihilism, but even this is really real.  The yogic method, if it is to be effective has to take the mind beyond the limitation of its imprisoning conditioning.  The error is to conform so totally to the limitations of the material world that even the latitude usually inherent within its condition is abandoned as delusion.  Matter stares at itself for no reason, performing no function.  This is the betrayal of spirituality.  Ordinary human freedom is the ability to stare at matter in an unquestioning manner, and presume a certain freedom in doing so.  The so-called free mind within this context moves its attention from one superficial material form to another, but never sees the essence of total matter itself.  Limiting the mind’s attention to the essence of matter is to face a blank wall of unexpression.  This is an illusion within an illusion.  Matter reduced to its varying appearance, or its unvarying essence, is the act of compounding error upon error.  Although the mind can be used in this manner it is not true yoga, if yoga is defined as a system or method for breaking free of perceptual limitation.  Staring at the essence of matter is to fall into a tiger trap, only realise that there is no tiger, or trap.  The notion of ‘god’ within this context is simply the product a vague perception that there may be something beyond the material world.  God becomes the apparent immensity of matter – as if matter were all pervasive – whilst at the same time exiting upon the brink of transcendence without ever making the transition to some thing different and more obviously and directly fulfilling.  God and matter become identical through a promise of transcendence that can never be achieved.  Matter, on the material human plane is conceived in such away – by the unenlightened mind – so as to make it appear as if it is a broad expanse of solidness, without end or any other property.  Modern physics has demonstrated that matter does not really exist in this manner, but only appears to exist as it does due to the limitation of human perception in general, which is facilitated through the senses and support a priori by the intellect.  It is true that the intellect has developed insight into the nature of matter beyond that of ordinary awareness, but this is not, as yet considered common knowledge, or a mode of vision readily accessible to the masses.  The general human consensus is that the physical world is solid – possibly for the needs of survival – but this viewpoint actually creates the situation where survival is required.  This is not to say that danger does not exist, but rather that whatever danger there is, is invariably the result of conditions created in the mind, acted out through the body and manifest in the environment.  The inability to perceive this reality leads to a situation whereby physical occurrences appear to be happening ‘outside’ of the mind and body that is actually experiencing them.  Often the response to being trapped in a material world is a religious contrivance based upon the perception of the totality of matter as being the manifestation of a superior, all-embracing being that possesses power beyond that of the ordinary human, and as a consequence is able to perform actions of an uncommon nature.  The point here is not that this is not possible, but rather that an attachment to the entirety of matter is not the true representation of the spiritual.  Spiritual power of all kinds does exist – but it exists beyond the material boundary that is created by the human mind and solidified through human thinking patterns and cultural practice.  This can best be summed-up by the concept of ‘ritual’.  This is the practice of rites that is believed to contain an inherent power over the physical world, but in reality is the actual codified act of the worship of physical matter.  The divine is promised through the repetition of exact and correct procedure, but the fact that transcendence is never actualised is used as a ‘proof’ that the ritual itself is powerful.  It is so powerful, that the benefits acquired through its practice become too subtle for the ordinary perception to behold.  Only the keepers of the ritual – the priests – are able to truly ‘see’ the positive effects of the ritual, even though no proof exists to prove their assertions.  Human beings lock their minds into generational habits of limitation and oppression.  No one single being can perceive the multiverse on the behalf of others.  Those with true vision can inspire and point the way, but are unable to transfer their personal expansive vision to another as an act of blind faith.  Yogic pathways can be devised to bring human beings into ‘vision’, but each individual must make the effort themselves so that might become free from years of conditioning.  As the inner existence and the outer existence is essentially the same thing, it is true that conditions on the outer plane can make the inner journey either easier or harder.  Although easier is preferable for humanity, the reality is that the trap of matter – regardless of its hue – has to be transcended regardless of the condition of the outer world.  Some times a severe or despicable outer climate can serve as the stimulus for the practice of the most effective inner yoga; after all, many yogic practitioners voluntarily take on an austere physical life style full of pain and suffering.  It is the nature of a contrivance that it will change – this instability is linked to suffering as situations that are liked eventually disappear, and situations that would rather not be experienced, manifest.  Breaking through the barrier of material imprisonment is to break through the barrier of suffering.  The multiverse is wondrous by default.  Everything takes it proper place within human perception, free from bias and misunderstanding.  Things are not what they seem because they are more than what they seem.  The world of matter is more or less misrepresented by a limited mind-set shared by all.  Material limitation is the lowest common denominator.  The human plane may appear to be a closed off environment but this is merely a product of a distorted perception.  This conspires to create the separation between this plane that weighs down existence and prevents expansive awareness, and the multiverse of continuous and ongoing multiplicity of three dimensional perceptions.  What is out there is ‘here’ in the present, clean and pure.  It is a matter of psychological and spiritual maturity – which is in reality an adjustment of frequency.  Energy through perception and awareness dictates the world as it presents itself to the senses – change the frequency and the perception changes accordingly.  Humanity is in complete control of the world it inhabits, regardless of the nature of that world or the circumstance the individual happens to exist within.  All can be transformed by an act of will.  Wealth is not the possession of material objects, it is the possession of expansive insight, and this is why it is referred to as ‘noble’ (or ‘ariyan’ in Sanskrit)   The entity that is the human will, mediates the frequency of the mind’s perception and effects how the world is perceived and conceived.  The mind does not create out of nothing, the multitude of physical objects existent within the physical multiverse.  The physical objects themselves are not objects existing externally to the mind that perceives them, but are rather psychological or mental constructs.  The multitude of objects existing in the multiverse are actually ideas of psychic substance misinterpreted as physical objects comprised of independent matter and existing on a plane separate from the mind that is aware of their presence.  This concretised vision of a separate and distinct world existing independently from the mind that perceives it is the basis of the materialist vision of the world, and the root cause dissatisfaction amongst human beings who may sense that things are not really what they are made to appear to be.  The material world is in fact half of the human psyche alienated from itself; cut off completely to such an extent that the other half  of the psyche believes itself to be separate and distinct from the half it has lost direct implicit contact with, and views what it perceives from the other (alienated) half as appearing some where else, but not within the conscious fabric.  The conscious mind knows no bounds and exists and non-exists equally, and in all directions without limit.  Time and space are products of the alienated psyche that appears as the material world.  Whole conscious existence is often judged in principle from the alienated half of the psyche.  It is this limited viewpoint – that weighs and measures phenomena – that can not fully appreciate its own predicament as this would be the equivalent of admitting that the material world, and the logic predicated upon it, is in perpetual error irrespective of how clever this kind of logic appears to be.  The alienated half of the psyche that forms the material human plane assumes its own existential superiority – here and now.  It does not assume that it is methodologically inadequate, but rather is of the opinion that any direct knowledge it lacks can be acquired over time through experimentation – or the manipulation of matter.  Awareness of reality being mind produced is reduced to an incomplete assessment based upon the material imperative and dismissed as illogical or inadequate.  Limited material knowledge, regardless of how clever it can be is designed to retain humanity in a one-sided existence that favours the idea that the material plane is all there is or all that is ‘knowable’.  Transcendence of the barrier re-instates the total awareness of the complete mind.  This is a multiversal mind able to manifest anything any where.  By way of contrast, the intellectual mind in its normal (limited) state is only able to build ideas around sensory input – that is to say that without sensing an apparently ‘real’ external world existing separate to its self, it can not create structures or situations other than those of ‘interpretation’ more commonly called ‘ideas’ about things.  The intellect reflects disparate facts and is able to organise these facts into a pattern that appears ‘correct’ and ‘logical’.  This is the practice of reshuffling sensory data into patterns or categorisations of acknowledged order.  This can be a powerful method but it falls short of the total mind experience which expansive and beyond objectification.  The alienated mind can not know its true essence without first being developed beyond its limited base through yoga and direct experience.  When total consciousness is achieved and the full scope of existence comprehended and integrated within, the intellect, as a very small but powerful part of the entire psyche can still be used to assess and categorise, but this time it does not conspire to limit the human awareness merely to the parameters of its own awareness.  The link between the illusions of a permanent, external world is broken so as to allow the consciousness to fully deploy.  In reality consciousness has always been expansive but it is human awareness in relation to it, that has made it appear as if it is limited in scope.  When the limitation is dissolved and made redundant, the false barrier preventing consciousness from being experienced as whole is removed.  Expansive awareness is the normal condition of existence, whilst the human delusion of a material plane is merely an aberration, a temporary obscuration that in its delusiveness appear to be eternal and for all time.  Yoga – whatever method this may allude to – is a means not of creating a state in the present that did not originally exist in the past, but rather is a method of medicine that removes the disease.  This process removes the surface defilement within perception and in so doing creates the condition whereby total consciousness can be directly perceived beyond the old dichotomy of subject – object.  Words are of course, a purely arbitrary representation of the multiverse.  Letters are strung together to make words – already a pattern is forming.  Sentences are comprised of strings of words, and depending upon the placement of those words within the sentence, meaning is created within the sentence that is dependent upon the existence of a decoding ability existing within the mind of those who encounter these sentences.  An assumed meaning may not be transferable within a sentence if those encountering the particular string of words are unable to decode or interpret them accordingly.  Many meanings may be present within the mind of the creator of the sentence, as well as within the mind of the perceiver, reality is often a moveable standard perceived as permanent and a product of an agreed definition of what reality could be.  This definition is often the product of those who possess social power, and is inflicted upon those who do not possess the social power to prevent such a definition.  Although reality can be honestly expressed through human language, its experience has nothing to do with the language used to express it.  Language is a reflection of experience, and a person does not have to be literate to experience the totality of the multiverse.  Intellectualism is a formula written on paper – it has nothing to do with what lies beyond itself.  The important point is that absolutely any one is able to directly access their true nature regardless of their physical or psychological state.  Conventional notions of respectability are of no spiritual use whatsoever.  Looking within and looking without end eventually in the same place, but this place is not, and can not be defined by time, space or circumstance.  Humanity exists primarily within prism of perspective that enhances the trap in one way (science), and diminishes perspective in another (multiversism).  There is a way through the middle of this quandary with the answer of complete awareness enveloping all that it underlies.   Mysticism is the term the intellect uses to describe the aspect of it that is alienated.   In reality, the multiverse is a mystery but only in the sense that its true nature is knowable here and now – not by the ignoring of the intellect (by some how bypassing it with theological constructs), but rather by fully activating and engaging the intellect beyond the limitation of the personality and hindrances implicit in cultural milieus.  Personal identity must not be allowed to interfere in the dynamic process of conscious expansion – personality disorders are crinkles in the psychic substance that need ironing by whichever method is the most appropriate.  Personality, although interesting, does not ultimately matter.  Personal psychology can be the product of innate tendencies or a product of the environment (i.e. the world of matter).  This kind of psychology is an inner imprint of an outer limitation that is philosophically incorrect in as much as it does not represent the highest position of truth.  Although others can assist in the ironing out process, the personal mind should also be took control of by the owner.  The personality must be carefully led through the mine field of material constructs and patterns of behaviour and thought.  It must be gently disentangled beyond its own limitation so that its very nature is re-defined and its old self correctly dissolved into a greater entity.  The inherent power of the intellect can assist or hinder this most crucial of enterprises.

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