Concerning the “Engaged” and the “Engagers”!

People who speak about “engaging” with any sort of mundane matters, societal or political, do so because they do not experience themselves the reality of the world of viveka, of meditative and attentional isolation, nor understand its benefits or even necessity for substantial progress in Dhamma practice and experience. The subtleties of mental phenomena, happening mostly in a manner that is totally unconscious to the individual, can be translated into a feature of speed, and can even be quantified as such. In other words, unconscious, autonomic, and spontaneous mental existence is not deep or hidden in any existential sense, but only in the sense that its functions occurs with such high speed that the natural human attention is incapable of detecting or keeping up with. The evolutionary benefits of reserving conscious attentional states only to urgent physiological and emotional conditions is self-evident, and the exercise of conscious attention over other secondary functions that could otherwise unfold in an autonomic fashions, relieves the brain of too much toil. Imagine the sorry state of a hippocampus that keeps detecting and redetecting every breath and every heartbeat! But the Buddha taught that liberation is contingent on bringing awareness to precisely every mental inhalation, exhalation, and pulse, that are of any emotional or cognitive substance or significance, much of which also unfolds unconsciously and in an autonomic fashion.

A continual non-stop and thorough training is needed in order to be able to accomplish this, and the disaster is that it is not like learning how to swim or ride a bicycle that you do once and then never unlearn. No: the sharpness, agility, absorption, and penetrating speed of the attention, is a skill that you immediately begin to lose the moment you stop exercising it, just like muscle work for sportspeople or finger dexterity for a flutist or pianist. The training of the attention in this field requires, out of necessity, that the senses are withdrawn from sensorial stimulation, and more powerful in its command over the attention than all other senses, is that of thought and ideation. Exposure not only to societal or political affairs, but even to normal everyday socialisation, even if it was devoid of any particularly dynamic conceptual purport, is alone sufficient to seriously challenge the composure, agility, and momentum of such transcendental introspective attention. And, indeed, not only in the field of meditative renunciate practitioners whose ultimate and most pressing goal is deliverance from all conditioned existence, but even in serious and purposeful sportspeople and musicians, withdrawal from social and sensorial distraction is a given, a necessary condition for such progress as corresponds to their seriousness and purpose, and YES, it is indeed such as make them appear antisocial to the eyes of their friends and relatives, who wish to have them participate in this family gathering and that dinner party, and who fail to understand the value of their sincere inward purpose, or even appreciate the fact that they live devoted to it and that as such it requires their isolation from destructive and harmful distractions. It is not a value-judgement over the miserable nature of these mundane, meaningless, and hopeless mundane distractions, as much as it is simply attending to the necessary needs of the task at hand, and which one willfully, voluntarily, and independently chooses to commit to in earnest and sincerity, and who need at best the help and support, or at least the understanding of those around them.

Look at any successful and accomplished sportsperson or musician, and you will in the majority of cases find the support and encouragement of family and friends behind that success. A sports coach or music teacher will even scold the trainee for having neglected his training by once, just once, compromising the appropriate diet or number of training hours, and at a young age, the parents will be there to ensure that this mishap does not happen again. This is the cost of excellence and success, and such rigour and consistency in training, sustained over a long expanse of time, is what it takes for success to occur. That’s why excellence is excellence, a rare thing, and not just a normalcy that anyone can accomplish. But this difficulty of excellence does not mean that we have to give up on pursuing it, and indeed, in our Buddhist terms, the slightest progress towards excellence is itself a substantial form of transcendence toward ultimate deliverance, with immediate and incomparable benefits that are hard to imagine by those who never experience them themselves. The plebeianisation of excellence, on the other hand, will not make everyone excellent, but will only deform the nature of the very goal and the requirements of its pursuit, even to the point of replacing it with its opposite: withdrawal, renunciation, aloneness, seclusion, disenchantment with the world and everything in it – in a word, saŋvega, become replaced by “engagement!”

This is how we end up with a situation where the serious, purposeful, and sincere practitioner, monastic or lay, whose goal is yet one of freedom from the world, becomes expected to “engage” with it! And instead of support, or at least understanding from others for his devotion to his training, rather he finds scorn and antagonism! We have to ask ourselves: what does it mean, exactly, that even those who are themselves in robes, supposedly themselves renunciates, supposedly even teachers, supposedly father and mother to young dependent practitioners, are themselves the ones who are encouraging the trainees to become “engaged”, not in that which corresponds to the most basic requirements of their training and success, but rather in that which precisely distracts them away from it?

People who speak about “engaging” with any sort of mundane matters, societal or political, do so because they do not experience themselves any spiritual success, or any progress toward such success. They do not know of the incomparable bliss of renunciation and of attentional isolation. They are thirsty and have no access to the cool stream, because it runs further, up and beyond, from the low station in which they abide. They are the plebeianisers of Dhamma! Those who thus speak and thus act are not sons and daughters of Buddha, at least not of the same Buddha that you and I follow and revere. Those who thus speak and act do not have footing in Theravada; at least not in its Asian present home. Those who thus speak and act are made of the world, driven by the world, and are not going anywhere beyond the world.

Adoration to Buddha, Teacher and Revealer, to his transcendental, emancipatory Dhamma, and to the Sangha that keeps his message and upholds his way, above and higher than all else that is in this morbid existence. Adoration.

Well-being (Bhavanirodha)

It can be narrowed down to an attentional state. The capacity to find interest in or to attend to any sensorial experience, so long, it involves a degree or another of stimulation. This is the definition of well-being in mundane terms; the mundane samādhi if you will. It takes only the absence of excessive degrees of socioeconomic stressors to thereby find wellness in ones being. This is the condition of the primitive and ancient human I believe; and was precisely the condition out of which their incomparable sharp intuition and wisdom regarding further, transcendental questions, were based. It seems that it is through their general mundane well-being that they finally stepped further, beyond, into the spiritual and transcendental, and finally realised a further mode of transcendental wellbeing: contact and connection with the beyond. That transcendental well-being can be narrowed down to attentional states too, and also those of finding interest and being able to maintain attention, yet, with experiences that are not only unstimulating, but further, ones which gradually wean the consciousness of its innermost, ingrained, primordial and hopeless desire for self-stimulation, precisely, bhavanirodha.

Viveka Always!

… in fact,
wisdom is not necessarily inherent in the pursuit of wisdom!
And the only reason one pursues wisdom is that,
one
is yet to have it.
What is inherent in the pursuit of wisdom, then,
is precisely the absence of wisdom!
It is a paradox.
But it is immediately resolved
knowing that wisdom is not a thing to be acquired,
but rather a process of gradual transformation,
precisely,
of gradual vanishing!

That aside,
what will be found to be inherent
in both,
the enjoyment of wisdom and the pursuit of it,
is aloneness.
And should there be other features
inherent in the experience of wisdom;
aloneness is the most visible,
the most solid,
the most necessary,
the most inescapable!

Through the great mount of seclusion,
it was once said,
lies the path to wisdom.
But also,
there is no going back,
no going down,
from the intemperate,
non-mild,
inhospitable,
icy,
peaks.

Ariyo

No freedom, no certitude, surpasses that experienced by one who is willing to die facing what he must face in order to accomplish what he must accomplish. No hardship can erode his resolve, no setback or weakness can bring about self-contempt in his eyes, and no fault can taint the sublimity and heroism of his heart.

Noble, is he who not only dares death, but can no longer bear life, except by submitting to the fate that is upon him; precisely, to transcend not only the animal, but also the human, that is bounding him to this morbid earth; to rise above the station even of gods, oblivious in their blissful power; to free himself totally from all chains of existence, every atom of it, and to deliver the last bit of his presence, from the shackles of suffering and subservience to nature and life.

Noble, is he who is to conquer death and to amount to eternity, not by inscribing himself in the memory of progeny, but by himself alone, through his very inward being, in this very life, in this very moment, and so long he still exists.

On “needing” … needing ‘anything’!

There is not a creature whose life is not afflicted by need. And why does my hands tremble and tremor now, had it been not for my severe malnutrition; the weariness of the muscles of my arms having carried an alms bowl full of rice across the village! The body alone, needs. Death and decay is constantly upon it. It feeds, only to avoid death. The bitter taste of decay and repugnant smell of decomposition, is in the chewed food. Then it trembles. It cannot sustain itself. But it brings the mind down. It is the consciousness that faints. The psyche will not die; it never does – but it is reborn. Alas.

What one needs is what one suffers. Nothing is freer, nothing is purer, than needlessness. Freedom and cleanliness together are in the situation of needlessness, total and complete. Imagine him who is thus free and clean; he is one who has no needs anymore. It is so, because this is how the world gets you; it finds what you need, what you ‘think’ you cannot live without, and then enslave you with it. And what is the “world”? It is “others”, those who have what you need; those who can and do give it to you – whatever it is, whomever they are.  They know that you need, they know that you will suffer without having what you need, they know that they can hurt you by denying you of it, they know that you fear losing it, they know that you fear losing them, they know that you fear them. This whole world and everything in it is governed in this way. This is what needing begets; the opposite of freedom and purity: fear.

And for the people, there is a million need: needing pleasure, excitement, stimulation, and companionship; this is at the core. And so there is a million fear: fearing pain, boredom, restlessness, and loneliness; this too is at the core.

But they say: a “bhikkhu”, that is, a “mendicant”, a “son of Buddha”, one who has “gone forth”; gone forth where?!

The body won’t sustain the mind without nutriments and oxygen circulating continuously in the blood stream. Otherwise the consciousness faints. It really faints; I know that for certain! So the problem is not one of pain; pain is welcome; pain is a servant of the noble heart. But for the consciousness to live one and to be used for the sake of transcending its own conditioned existence, the body needs food and safety. So there is also safety: that it is not bleeding, that it is not seriously ill and exhausted, that it is healthy, at least enough, for the task at hand and which is now, Lo, the only one which gives any meaning and value and purpose of life.  If we add to this that going about naked is likely to expose one to manifold forms of violence, then there is need also for clothes to cover the body.

Food, physical safety, and clothes; narrowing it all down to three needs, offers a glimpse at freedom and cleanliness, yet involves also a great deal of fear. For food, perhaps comes about more easily, but not so with clothes, and certainly hardly with safety! There are many reasons for this: the “people” are not benevolent or malevolent; they are all conditioned; and nothing stimulates the impulse of cruelty and violence more than the appearance of weakness and helplessness! Men abuse women, women abuse children, children abuse animals, and all abuse the lone, wandering, silent mendicant! [Despite of the tremendous power residing within his heart, invisible, unseen to others]. A bare skeleton walking about is a ghost that scares people to death; but a skeleton covered with but a tiny sheet of flesh and fabric; that is a fragile human, one which provokes either reverence, or cruelty.

Then there is need and needing, and the suffering, enslavement, servitude, fear, and self-contempt, of need and needing. And I long to needlessness; I long to the freedom and cleanliness of needlessness; I long yet to more aloneness, more seclusion, more poverty, more relinquishment, and more renunciation. This is the right way, this is the fateful way. I long to go forth, even after having gone forth! I long to live the going forth, more fully, more earnestly, more deeply; this is the right way, this is the fateful way. For pain is welcome; pain is a servant of the noble heart.

No Faith in “Idea”

“There is global warming or there is not. There is social justice or there is not. There is a mundane form of freedom or there is not. God exists or he does not. Etc.”

Certitude over ideas, any ideas and all ideas, is a sign of the absence of wisdom rather than its abundance! If one was to place one’s faith in that only which is certain, then let one develop certitude over experiences, such which prove a point, whatever it may be, beyond the slightest doubt:

“Water extinguish fire. Summer comes after spring. Trees offer shade”

And so on; from the simplest, and gradually, not toward the more complex, but toward the more subtle:

“Samadhi is thus. Self-awareness is thus. A sense of conscience is thus.  Motivation and effort are thus. Deliverance is thus.”

Here, as experience develops, as certitude develops, as faith grows, and wisdom matures. They all evolve together dependent on each other – all starting from: experience.

The difference is huge and is readily seen: certitude over ideas gives rise to a rigid wisdom; a wisdom that knows ideas and asserts them as either true or false, once and for all, all or nothing. And even as it evolves, it must ditch the ex-truths, and replace them now with new ones.

Certitude over experiences gives rise to a malleable and continually evolving wisdom; a wisdom that observes experiences without having to declare any judgement about them, but only evaluates their origination, conditionality, impact and effect – thereby transcending their functioning through awareness.

The difference is further huge and is readily seen: certitude over ideas retains the psyche in the realm of Death, even as it exercises its ideation and conceptualisation over transcendental matters; it conditions the psyche to remain itself mundane and temporal, because exercising the attention in ideation is nothing but a natural, mundane, non-transcendent exercise.

Certitude over experiences on the other hand requires the psyche to withdraw from its habit of ideation – a malignant, deeply rooted human habit! Without any effort beyond the sustaining of attention over strictly what is experienced without identifying with it, the result is something of a transcendental nature that, precisely, words and ideas can no longer describe.

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Bhavanirodha (Pāli verse & pictures!)


Na hi bhavena bhavāni samūhanati

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Nibbidena ca virāgena ca nirujjhati

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AntoVass’ekadivasaņ (One day during the Rains)

___________________________________
I take a walk
Pleasant and calm and slow
Across the open fields
Then I return
To my cozy
Homely
Hermitage
That overlooks those pleasant
Calm and empty fields.
I just take a walk
And I come back;
No moral lesson is learned,
No samadhi is enjoyed,
And no gnosis is reached.
Only,
The robes are washed
And there is no hurry
For them to dry
As I huddle myself
With my cozy
Homely
Hermitage.