By Way of Introduction...

Rashed Arafat, modified 11 Years ago at 7/14/11 2:04 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 7/14/11 2:04 PM

By Way of Introduction...

Posts: 155 Join Date: 7/13/11 Recent Posts
Hey Guys,

I've been reading Daniel's book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha for about a year now, but I didn't start doing the practices that he lays out until several months ago. For the record, I feel I must state that I do not consider myself a "formal" Buddhist. I got into seeking Enlightenment somewhere around 5 - 6 years ago, and began with the teachings of Richard Rose -- -- and Gurdjieff. Although neither of them talked explicitly about the nuts and bolts of meditation, I dug around and settled on a style of meditation that's largely informed by Zazen and Transcendental Meditation (I have interacted with one of the students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who taught me his technique).

In its essence, what I had been doing for the last 5 - 6 years was sitting for a specific duration (ranging from 15 - 50 minutes), once or twice a day, generally with closed eyes, and simply noticing the sense of existing. I did not try to direct my attention anywhere -- the conceptual framework behind the exercise being that it's the idea of basic volition that's a mistake. Things happen entirely on their own, and the sense of a separate 'doer' is what obstructs that Recognition.

However, I have indeed had mantras, which I did not work to invoke, but which simply arose spontaneously. When a mantra would appear, my attention would find it more natural to settle on it as opposed to the "stories" going on in my mind. But likewise, when the mantra would trail off, I'd just let it go, assuming that all I had to do was just "be" with "what was/is" (even if that was "stories").

This technique has been called "effortlessness."

I have also practiced breath-watching (that often dovetailed with my mantra), but wouldn't force myself to stay on the breath -- again, the idea being that trying to force myself/my mind/my attention to 'do' something reinforces the idea that there is anyone to be watching the breath to begin with -- that there's a "controller" within. So, if stories came up during breath-watching, then I wouldn't fight them, but gently wait until my attention naturally found its way back to the breath, etc. "Be with whatever is," essentially (and at the risk of repeating myself).

However, very profound recent suffering (nothing dramatic here -- just a case of a heartbreak among several I've had in my life that just seemed to somehow carry more depth and profundity to it/it was a bigger 'shock' to my ego than the rest) in my life caused me to realize that I am more desperate to find a way out than I had been in the past, and it was around that time that I became serious with Daniel's book (it began to intuitively appeal to me around that time).

I realized that despite me having meditated for several years, I felt very little had changed within me. The quality of my consciousness had largely stayed the same, and whatever 'progress' there was wasn't satisfying enough. Reading his book has made me draw the conclusion that that was because I had never done Concentration/Samatha Practice.

In a nutshell, I just couldn't accept "just sitting with it"/"abiding in it" as being a way out of the pile of emotional shit I was in -- I felt the desperate urge to take responsibility for the cessation of my personal suffering. I needed to act, and not just 'be.' Finding out about Concentration Practice (which the school of Effortlessness totally ignores) made me feel -- and discover -- that meditation can actually lead to an expansion of awareness, and more 'mental power' if you will. I learned that my mind can actually build up resistance to unimportant/irrelevant external stimuli. That with conscious effort, I can go 'deeper' and into a place that is more expansive and 'grounded' than the surface of my mind, where most of the emotional suffering occurs. Conceptually, this was a huge leap forward.

Since it has not been that long that I've really been getting into my Concentration Practice, I cannot speak much about the jhanas. But I definitely feel as though more is changing within myself (and my life) due to Samatha Practice than it ever had with Effortlessness.

My current strategy is to work my ass off (without being masochistic) on the first two Trainings -- Training in Morality and Training in Concentration. Since I still have unresolved 'negative' feelings that dominate my mind a lot of the time, I think it's best for me to gain strong footing in the first two Trainings before I move on to Training in Wisdom/Insight. I do not want to risk plunging into Dark Night territory without first feeling as though I'm reasonably emotionally stable, and able to keep my shit together.

Sorry to ramble on, but the above charts my journey to finding the Path of "Hardcore Dharma." I'm not sure how long I'll stay with this framework, but for now my intellect/intuition is in harmony with the practices outlined -- and the underlying conceptual framework -- in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha.

Also, one last thing I'd like to add is -- in case there is any doubt -- I know well and clear that what I am TRULY looking for is Awakening, and not just emotional relief. Romantic love, for instance, would be very nice, but it will not remove the "existential pang" that I've become so acutely conscious of. Also, from the 'glimpses' I've had into a state of existing without there being a sense of separation, I know that the Answer I long for goes deeper than interpersonal love. In other words, my mind knows the significance of a statement such as "There is only one real task in life, and that is to know the Truth."

Thanks for reading, and since I am determined to continue my Practice, I hope to share with you all in the future!

Gerry T, modified 11 Years ago at 7/14/11 7:50 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 7/14/11 7:50 PM

RE: By Way of Introduction...

Posts: 60 Join Date: 4/4/11 Recent Posts
Thanks for sharing your bit of journey and your aspirations. I too studied and practiced the Gurdjieff methods (though he said there wasn't a 'method'). Did you ever wonder what he meant when he said that you had to realize your own nothingness? I take is as realizing there is no self.
Best Regards,
Rashed Arafat, modified 11 Years ago at 7/14/11 8:55 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 7/14/11 8:55 PM

RE: By Way of Introduction...

Posts: 155 Join Date: 7/13/11 Recent Posts
Hi Gerry,

You're welcome.

I remember reading that as well. For me, Gurdjieff never seemed to directly point at "Awareness"/"No-self." He seemed more bent on getting the message across that once closely observed, we are purely mechanical beings with no actual will of our own.

He did believe in forming individual will, however, with which one could "penetrate" the Absolute, as it were (he talked about man being like a carriage with a cart, a horse, and a driver, and that at the beginning of the Work, one was always missing the driver, meaning the will to act independently, and not just in a purely mechanical manner -- not just re-actively).

I have found some of his concepts to be useful. He is one of the few teachers who I think took into account our full humanity (he talked about the "proper" working of the "Sex Center" as being a wonderful thing, for instance).