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Making Progress vs. Spontaneous Insight... why are opinions so polarized?

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Some people seem to accept that meditative progress is required for insight and ultimately awakening/enlightenment to occur (ie. the majority of the people here, Shinzen Young, Dan Ingram, etc...)

On the other hand, some people seem to claim that enlightenment is available at any point, and sometimes even claim that certain meditative practices (Adyashanti, AF freedom guys, Ramana Marharshi, Eckhart Tolle, Direct Pointing peeps, etc...)

To give just one example Adyashanti, who is one of my favourite meditation teachers, says that:

"Some meditative practices can actually be strengthening the egos grip"

and also advocates be still and self inquiry as the way to enlightenment (which he says can occur in any moment, without strenuous practice).

1. How can such polar opinions exist on one science?

2. How are these two viewpoints unified? (which surely they must be at some point)

I'm no expert in Buddhism, but I think that

1) Don't trust either of those opinions - it's like having tutors in an art school telling you how to make your work i.e. silly. And they contradict each other all the time. But you can know what works for you. Experiment and see what feels right.
2) About ego trip - again, like in art-making - it's very easy to make up a story for yourself about how your progress (or art) is important and you must work and strive for some kind of a result. I dunno. I think it's much easier to sort of let the work do itself. But then again, this because I don't have a habit of trying to discipline myself - so, naturally, I'm trying to justify my view, even though it's simply very lazy. =))

In terms of unifying them... Kurt Vonnegut once said a really cool thing about writing. It was something along the lines of - just write whatever you want and whenever you want, but do write and then your mind will say "ok, so i guess this is what we're doing - i better get used to it"... and then it will become a habit, and then you get better at it, and then you start to understand what it is you're actually doing =))) And progress will happen, and everything will be cool. But it's no rush to get there.

He said another really beautiful thing - “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

So yeah - do it as well as you can because it is a way to make your soul grow =)) And making your soul grow is important - I completely agree that it is the "one fortunate attachment"

They're talking about different concepts of enlightenment. The harder one is a superset of the easier one.

My two vatus on the matter...

1. How can such polar opinions exist on one science?

This is one of those things that's answered by direct experience of what they refer to, it may sound a bit evasive but it's a paradox that resolves itself in that instant and not through purely intellectual understanding.

While I recognize the value of the "spontaneous" approach, my experience so far suggests that it's not likely to be effective for as many people as the, as Kenneth called it, "scaffold" of the "gradual" approach. I understand why Adyashanti would say such a thing, and he's right, but if you stick to bare attentiveness to your immediate sensate experience then you can't go far wrong.

2. How are these two viewpoints unified? (which surely they must be at some point)

It does get to a 'point', which I place in quotes as I don't mean it in the sense of a fixed attainment or goal, where there is literally nothing to be done...the problem with that is that you need to, again paradoxically, learn how to do nothing for effort to become effortless. Willy Wonka[1] sums it up best when he says: "Oh, you can't get out backwards. You've got to go forwards to go back, better press on."

Some people will find use in one approach, others won't and it's down to the individual to see what works best for them.


[1] The 1971 version, the good version. Although the new one wasn't bad, just not as good as seeing Gene Wilder going batshit mental about fizzy lifting drinks though.

Cheers Tommy that's a good response, I think you've got it pretty spot on.

So the safer option is noting, correct?

However perhaps with the idea that if you are striving, you need to note striving and strive less? Or something like that.

Fivebells,

I would not be so sure that the enlightenment attained by Adyashanti is a subset of anything... have you watched the guy's videos?

Svetlana,

I appreciate the sentiment, it's a good rule when it comes to life. However on the other hand, what happens in enlightenment is not a mystery, it's a science. Something real changes in the brain. Therefore there is a definate way to get there, even if the intellectual understanding of that way is impossible. Therefore it seems to make no sense (Do Nothing vs. Note Everything)

We've evolved to have a lot of inherent capabilities such as:

- sphincter control
- language
- walking
- swimming
- bicycling...

However, it is likely only a very small percentage of the population who would naturally have any of these 'latent abilities' arise without someone to point the way.

The state that results after mediation is a naturally evolved capability just the same as the above (in contrast to the "fail-safe" mode of cognition we naturally develop at around 5-6 years old) but needs some type of exercise for about 99% of us. However, since it is a natural state there is a probability that some may get to it by chance.

Of course, I don't know any olympic-level athletes who did not require training to get to their state of accomplishment...

Rich -:
I would not be so sure that the enlightenment attained by Adyashanti is a subset of anything... have you watched the guy's videos?


No. Can you recommend a short one which demonstrates your point?

From what I have read, meditation is not like those things you mention. Because striving, that is actually trying to "see" through suffering, creates complications which make you more blind to the reality. So there is a paradox of not doing but someone still looking and seeing.

Fivebells,

http://www.adyashanti.org/cafedharma/index.php?file=video

The videos are long, but I think by watching 30 seconds you can tell the guy is enlightened. By watching 5 minutes you can tell that he knows exactly what he's talking about.

How can you tell he's enlightened?

RE: Making Progress vs. Spontaneous Insight... why are opinions so polarize
Answer
10/9/12 9:32 AM as a reply to fivebells ..
He consistently makes in depth descriptions of moments of insight and the dropping away of self which fit all the other people who seem to be enlightened, and his knowledge of the "what happens" and the "how to get there" is sufficiently detailed to indicate he's done it.

What other method can you use to decide if anyone is enlightened?

Rich -:
1. How can such polar opinions exist on one science?


Cessation is not an action but, well, cessation of action. From the point of view of cessation, you can't act your way to cessation. This paradox is acknowledged even in the Pali suttas (there's a simile of going to the park somewhere - the park is not the result of you going there), and also in MCTB, in such phrases as "fruition is always a complete surprise".

The ego-trap is where the ego inflates itself on how it's going to act itself to cessation, all by itself. In my experience, practice will become very humbling when carried through. But some personalities may have a hard time with this humbling/humiliating process of getting one's nose rubbed in how limited one's own powers of surrender are.

Rich -:
2. How are these two viewpoints unified? (which surely they must be at some point)


It's not a matter of resolving the paradox within its constraints, because that's not really possible. Within the paradox, there are only positions to take on this or that side. Some positions may be more suitable for some people. The assumption that practice really makes a difference is a powerful one for many people, including myself.

Cessation in the case of the paradox happens when the paradox loses its capacity to ensnare, entangle, fetter the mind.

Until that happens, there are useful analogies and rules of thumb to go by:

"The finger pointing at the moon"

"Awakening happens by accident, but practice makes you more accident-prone"

"Fake it till you make it"

"Surrender is practice, letting go is the fruit"

"Eigtfold path (practice) has to be developed, cessation (fruit) is realized" (from the discourse on setting the Dharma Wheel in motion)

"Gateless Gate"

"Grace vs. Works" (the everlasting Christian doctrinal discussion)

Cheers,
Florian

P.S. basically, what Tommy said so much more succinctly. emoticon

Tommy M:

2. How are these two viewpoints unified? (which surely they must be at some point)

It does get to a 'point', which I place in quotes as I don't mean it in the sense of a fixed attainment or goal, where there is literally nothing to be done...the problem with that is that you need to, again paradoxically, learn how to do nothing for effort to become effortless. Willy Wonka[1] sums it up best when he says: "Oh, you can't get out backwards. You've got to go forwards to go back, better press on."

Some people will find use in one approach, others won't and it's down to the individual to see what works best for them.

[1] The 1971 version, the good version. Although the new one wasn't bad, just not as good as seeing Gene Wilder going batshit mental about fizzy lifting drinks though.



;-)