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"No steps" - Nissagardatta

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"No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/20/13 5:18 AM
Is Theravada Buddhism the only system that creates steps? If they are the only system doing this, perhaps they are mistaken?

some quotes from I Am That...

There are no steps to self-realisation. There is nothing gradual about it. It happens suddenly and is irreversible....Just like on sunrise you see things as they are, so on self-realisation you see everything as it is. The world of illusions is left behind. p.331

All three states (waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep) are sleep to me. My waking state is beyond them. As I look at you, you all seem asleep, dreaming up worlds of your own. I am aware, for I imagine nothing. It is not samadhi (peaceful trance state), which is but a kind of sleep. It is just a state of mind unaffected by the mind, free from past and future....To be a person is to be asleep. p.453

Having realised that I am one with, and yet beyond the world, I became free from all desire and fear. I did not reason out that I should be free - I found myself free - unexpectedly, without the least effort. This freedom from desire and fear remained with me since then. Another thing I noticed was that I do not need to make an effort; the deed follows the thought, without delay and friction. I have also found that thoughts become self-fulfilling; things would fall in place smoothly and rightly. The main change was in the mind; it became motionless and silent, responding quickly, but not perpetuating the response. Spontaneity became a way of life, the real became natural and the natural became real. And above all, infinite affection, love, dark and quiet, radiating in all directions, embracing all, making all interesting and beautiful, significant and auspicious. p.269

It ('I am') enables me to become a person when required. Love creates its own necessities, even of becoming a person. p.488

RE: "No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/20/13 11:53 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
Is the Theravadan system the only one that creates steps?

Definitely no. The Tibetans have many maps (5 Paths, some number of Bhumis (often 10, but there are other listings)), there is a Dzog Chen tradition I just heard of 2 days ago with 52, apparently, there are numerous Zen masters who describe various stages of their realization (Chi Nul had 3, some other big Zen guy whose name eludes me at the moment had about 17...).

Then we have the people who just seem to have jumped there instantly. We also have the people who trained very hard in some tradition (e.g. Adyashanti), realized whatever (or not, e.g. Andrew Cohen?: just not sure what to make of that guy...), but then advocated that their followers not train the way they did, but just realize they were already enlightened or that there is nothing to do, or whatever (this later group tends to annoy me the most...).

It is hard not to be inspired by some of the heavy spontaneous realizers, such as Nisargadatta, Poonja-ji and Ramana Maharshi. They tend to be very impressive, and their teachings can be very impressive. I have some of the published works on them and by them and found them compelling and insightful. It is very hard for me personally to doubt that they have profound insight and experienced real transformation.

The problem is that not a lot of their students tend to realize the same things that they did, and sometimes none at all that arrive at the same level of realization and impressiveness, or that we know about.

The issue is that, despite the spontaneous realizers realizing something very impressive, clearly, they had no idea how they did it, and they make the same mistake that we all do: as they didn't see any pattern or causal conditions leading to it, they assume that there are none, and from their current point of view, as everything is clear, spontaneous, etc. it doubly makes sense to them that there is nothing to do and nobody to do it.

The problem is that, for the vast majority of people, the teachings of the immediate, spontaneous realizers don't do it, don't create in them the same thing that they seem to find in the teacher.

Thus, the technique and work based traditions fill in the gap for those who, for whatever reason, don't suddenly and completely pop.

If the do-nothing approach to enlightenment were the cat's meow, then the number of people who would be enlightened would be nearly everyone, as the vast majority of people don't ever pursue enlightenment and spent plenty of time doing nothing.

It would only be those poor schmucks who were unfortunate enough to have found a meditative tradition that involved things like paying attention, cultivating kindness, being moral, trying to really understand sensate reality, and studying the carefully time-tested instructions of traditions thousand of years old that would be unenlightened, as they were working for it, and, were the spontaneous non-dual realizers right, this would be basically the only way NOT to get enlightened.

This is obviously not true, as the vast majority of people I know with serious wisdom did train for it, worked hard, spent thousands of hours on the cushion or whatever, and it unfolded gradually and in stages, many of which are quite predictable, though there are clearly some variants found out there in the wild.

In summary, if by doing nothing you get realized: good for you! You saved yourself a whole lot of trouble. If, on the other hand, you want to work for it, well, that option is there also. Which to bet on? Obviously, that decision you have to make for yourself.

RE: "No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/20/13 11:57 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Is the Theravadan system the only one that creates steps?

Definitely no. The Tibetans have many maps (5 Paths, some number of Bhumis (often 10, but there are other listings)), there is a Dzog Chen tradition I just heard of 2 days ago with 52, apparently, there are numerous Zen masters who describe various stages of their realization (Chi Nul had 3, some other big Zen guy whose name eludes me at the moment had about 17...).

Then we have the people who just seem to have jumped there instantly. We also have the people who trained very hard in some tradition (e.g. Adyashanti), realized whatever (or not, e.g. Andrew Cohen?: just not sure what to make of that guy...), but then advocated that their followers not train the way they did, but just realize they were already enlightened or that there is nothing to do, or whatever (this later group tends to annoy me the most...).

It is hard not to be inspired by some of the heavy spontaneous realizers, such as Nisargadatta, Poonja-ji and Ramana Maharshi. They tend to be very impressive, and their teachings can be very impressive. I have some of the published works on them and by them and found them compelling and insightful. It is very hard for me personally to doubt that they have profound insight and experienced real transformation.
I like what you said there. Just a few comments... with regards to Advaita, there is a difference between traditional Advaita and neo-Advaita. Traditional Advaita is where sadhanas are being emphasized, including primarily the practice of atma vichara or self-inquiry which leads to self-realization. This is taught by Ramana Maharshi as the main method of practice. This is also taught by Adyashanti, who teaches primarily 1) self-inquiry and 2) sitting meditation (http://www.amazon.com/True-Meditation-Discover-Freedom-Awareness/dp/1591794676/ref=pd_sim_sbs_dmusic_a_1) as self-inquiry led to Adyashanti's awakening as well. For myself I also practiced self-inquiry and it has led to some important realization. For Nisargadatta, he practiced "holding on to the sense of I AM" as instructed by his guru for two years until he had self-realization, then in latter years he also speak about the "nothingness" which transcends or stands prior to the "I AM", etc. He basically guides students to "I AM realization" first, then when students got there, he guides them beyond it into "nothingness" (clear indication of some form of 'stages'). He also advise people to do those practices including "holding on to I AM", self-inquiry, and so on. Then there are some (traditional) Advaitins like Michael Langford that even advise people to meditate at least, minimum, 2 hours per day and says that he sits 12 hours a day on most days for two years before self-realization practicing 'awareness watching awareness'. Thats kind of extreme and I don't think that much sitting commitment is necessary for realization but I believe Michael will have very stable experience and samadhi apart from realization.

It is particularly the Neo-Advaitins like Tony Parsons that emphasize the whole "no practice" "no meditation" thing... and this is criticized by many traditional Advaitins.

Dzogchen's Thodgal path has four visions, 1st two visions are pre-bhumi stage (although by then one has already recognized the unconditioned clarity aspect of rigpa, as distinguished from realization of rigpa in full), 3rd vision is where emptiness is realized and corresponds between 1st to 7th bhumi, fourth vision is 8th~16th bhumi (info source: Loppon Namdrol/Malcolm Smith, who is asked to teach Dzogchen by Kunzang Dechen Lingpa who is a 'fully awakened Buddha who accomplished four visions' Dzogchen teacher). Fourth vision is where you attain the goal of Dzogchen: attainment of rainbow body. What is rainbow body? Malcolm explains: "KDL went though all four visions to the end. He told me this personally. Not only me, but others. He did realize rainbow body. Rainbow body, in Dzogchen, does not mean that your body disappears. This is a huge misconception....it is stupidly simple -- once you reach the end of the fourth vision, everything is a display of the five lights, as it is put in the classical text earth, rocks, mountains and cliffs vanish and instead one sees only the five pure lights.....In other words, rainbow body in essence is actually a realization...." - http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/rainbow-body-and-thusnesss-advise.html

Of course, from another perspective, Dzogchen also say things like "There are many meanings to the term "non-gradual path". The most important of which is, if one understands the state of one's natural primordial condition, all the 13 Bhumis of Bodhisattva, whatever 7 stages of enlightenment, 4 or 5 of this and that etc are subsumed. The relative manifestation of each of the divisions, stages etc may not be apparent, however. Yet, that understanding, the ultimate, encompasses all. That is the most important meaning of in Dzogchen of being non-gradual. The analogy of the eagle in an egg is always given to signal that once a practitioner breaks free of the shell of the physical body, it will fly - meaning will manifest the complete potential of a realised being beyong the considerations of 13 bhumis etc etc." (Cheh Goh, SMS teacher in Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche tradition) Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche also teaches about the four visions because it is central to Dzogchen teachings.

Practically speaking, almost all Dzogchen practitioners go through those stages however. There is the understanding based on "spontaneous perfection" yet there is no denying of 'maps' or 'stages' in Dzogchen teachings. The same also applies to Zen, generally, where the five ranks of Tozan and ten oxherding pictures, etc are taught. In other Tibetan traditions, there are other maps as well, such as the four yogas of Mahamudra, 13 bhumis, etc.

RE: "No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/21/13 8:53 PM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
Thanks Daniel, Eterrnal.

Daniel, by "no steps" I mean no phases or stages to pass through, not "no work" as such (Eternal has pointed out also). Nisagardatta, Ramana and Adya all teach meditation techniques to work at. But none of these guys mentions stages such as Reobervation. Why is that? Also, why do those other systems have such varying descriptions and number of stages? Hard questions I guess. I tend to think that when everyone disagrees on a topic, there's an essential element of understanding missing. Could it be they are creating these stages with their minds? That's my gut feel.

Regarding the "no work" approaches, I don't really believe there is no work involved. Even when someone says "you're already enlightened!" I think that kind of phrase is supposed to be taken as an object of contemplation, similar to the "I am". I think that's what the intention is with such statements - working on them like koans, attempting to find the deeper, experiential meaning.

I don't think I could commit to a 'stage' system when there is such strongly opposing ideas about how and when such stages occur (not that anyone cares I'm just saying). Either one of the systems is right and the others wrong, or they are all wrong. Or if they are all 'correct' then the mind must be involved, obscuring what's really going on.

Having done a lot of things the hard, longhand way in my life, I am now on the look out for short cuts and newer, faster, neater, more truthful approaches.

RE: "No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/21/13 11:07 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
C C C:

Daniel, by "no steps" I mean no phases or stages to pass through, not "no work" as such (Eternal has pointed out also). Nisagardatta, Ramana and Adya all teach meditation techniques to work at. But none of these guys mentions stages such as Reobervation. [And neither did the Buddha!] Why is that?

Because they weren't working with instruction under a Mahasi Sayadaw inspired methodology. The stages talked about in the Mahasi method of training are meant to assist the practitioner to be able to recognize their own progress on the path they have chosen to tread. It's like seeing a signpost which tells the practitioner that he's on the right path, that he hasn't wandered off the road, so to speak. The stages are like landmarks which help direct the yogi along the way.

C C C:

Also, why do those other systems have such varying descriptions and number of stages? Hard questions I guess. I tend to think that when everyone disagrees on a topic, there's an essential element of understanding missing. Could it be they are creating these stages with their minds? That's my gut feel.

Well your gut is partially right and partially wrong. You have to realize the context in which Mahasi created his method of practice in order to appreciate why he recommended what he recommended and to whom he recommended it.

What he was working with was endeavoring to teach laymen (and women) a method they could use to gain insight without having to go through the hours of intense practice to master dhyana meditation. It can be very difficult to live a householder's life and still find the time necessary to become an expert at dhyana meditation, much less watching the movements of the mind in real time! His "dry insight" method of training was his answer to this need that he saw in the people he was working with. That doesn't necessarily mean that there was an essential element of understanding missing.

C C C:

Regarding the "no work" approaches, I don't really believe there is no work involved. Even when someone says "you're already enlightened!" I think that kind of phrase is supposed to be taken as an object of contemplation, similar to the "I am". I think that's what the intention is with such statements - working on them like koans, attempting to find the deeper, experiential meaning.

Good for you. That is a very wise approach. Never take anything for granted. Make it prove its merits under your watchful eye.

C C C:

Having done a lot of things the hard, longhand way in my life, I am now on the look out for short cuts and newer, faster, neater, more truthful approaches.

That is all fine and good as far as it goes. However, you would be wise to be very careful with what you accept as being "newer, faster, neater, more truthful approaches" as you could very well set yourself up for a delusive trip big time! Exercise caution if you have any doubts, is all I'm saying.

It is a fallacy to look for "short cuts and . . ." I used to think the same way. And almost fell into a trap that would have kept me deluded into thinking I had achieved the goal. It's a good thing I kept working and looking until I discovered the fallacy in my view, and found the confirmation I was looking for in what Gotama taught.

RE: "No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/21/13 11:38 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:

Because they weren't working with instruction under a Mahasi Sayadaw inspired methodology. The stages talked about in the Mahasi method of training are meant to assist the practitioner to be able to recognize their own progress on the path they have chosen to tread. It's like seeing a signpost which tells the practitioner that he's on the right path, that he hasn't wandered off the road, so to speak. The stages are like landmarks which help direct the yogi along the way.



Thanks Ian,

Are you saying Mahasi recognized stages that others such as Nisa, Ramana and Adya missed, or didn't care to mention?

RE: "No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/22/13 12:28 AM as a reply to This Good Self.
C C C:

Thanks Ian,

Are you saying Mahasi recognized stages that others such as Nisa, Ramana and Adya missed, or didn't care to mention?

No. I'm saying that Mahasi based his methodology on the methodology that the Buddha taught. Nisa, Ramana, and Adya did not. They seem to be looking for the "short cut."

What I'm saying is that Gotama had a reason for teaching things the way he taught them. That becomes apparent to anyone who reads, contemplates, and follows the discourses. I doubt he would have approved of what Nisa, Ramana, and Adya teach. But I suppose you'll just have to find that out for yourself in your own way. Be careful.

Read Daniel's reply once again, starting from the third paragraph on down. He is spot on with his analysis!

(Parenthetically: Andrew Cohen – the founder of What is Enlightenment? magazine, the last time I paid any attention to him and his activities there (which was several years ago, so I don't know if he has changed since then) – is (or was at the time I was observing his activities as corroborated by his employees) suffering under a form of ego maniacism. I know this because I used to train under one; so I know what I'm talking about. This is not something that anyone should ever want to undergo; yet, having undergone such abuse, it becomes very easy for one to spot another such person. The lessons don't fade that quickly.)

RE: "No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/22/13 7:59 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:

Then we have the people who just seem to have jumped there instantly. We also have the people who trained very hard in some tradition (e.g. Adyashanti), realized whatever (or not, e.g. Andrew Cohen?: just not sure what to make of that guy...), but then advocated that their followers not train the way they did, but just realize they were already enlightened or that there is nothing to do, or whatever (this later group tends to annoy me the most...).

It is hard not to be inspired by some of the heavy spontaneous realizers, such as Nisargadatta, Poonja-ji and Ramana Maharshi. They tend to be very impressive, and their teachings can be very impressive. I have some of the published works on them and by them and found them compelling and insightful. It is very hard for me personally to doubt that they have profound insight and experienced real transformation.

The problem is that not a lot of their students tend to realize the same things that they did, and sometimes none at all that arrive at the same level of realization and impressiveness, or that we know about.

The issue is that, despite the spontaneous realizers realizing something very impressive, clearly, they had no idea how they did it, and they make the same mistake that we all do: as they didn't see any pattern or causal conditions leading to it, they assume that there are none, and from their current point of view, as everything is clear, spontaneous, etc. it doubly makes sense to them that there is nothing to do and nobody to do it.

The problem is that, for the vast majority of people, the teachings of the immediate, spontaneous realizers don't do it, don't create in them the same thing that they seem to find in the teacher.

Thus, the technique and work based traditions fill in the gap for those who, for whatever reason, don't suddenly and completely pop.

If the do-nothing approach to enlightenment were the cat's meow, then the number of people who would be enlightened would be nearly everyone, as the vast majority of people don't ever pursue enlightenment and spent plenty of time doing nothing.

It would only be those poor schmucks who were unfortunate enough to have found a meditative tradition that involved things like paying attention, cultivating kindness, being moral, trying to really understand sensate reality, and studying the carefully time-tested instructions of traditions thousand of years old that would be unenlightened, as they were working for it, and, were the spontaneous non-dual realizers right, this would be basically the only way NOT to get enlightened.

This is obviously not true, as the vast majority of people I know with serious wisdom did train for it, worked hard, spent thousands of hours on the cushion or whatever, and it unfolded gradually and in stages, many of which are quite predictable, though there are clearly some variants found out there in the wild.

In summary, if by doing nothing you get realized: good for you! You saved yourself a whole lot of trouble. If, on the other hand, you want to work for it, well, that option is there also. Which to bet on? Obviously, that decision you have to make for yourself.


Something like this explanation should go directly to MCTB2. Seems like a good addition to the "you're already there schools"-chapter.

RE: "No steps" - Nissagardatta
Answer
4/22/13 1:21 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
Mystics of all traditions have described stages to the awakening model. Many of them are pretty close to a 5 stage model like the one describe by Evelyn Underhill in "Mysticism": Awakening, Purgation, Illumination, Dark night, Union. Here's a quick intro if anyone wants to match that with the stages and ├▒anas: http://www.csulb.edu/~plowentr/underhill.htm

The Sufis have a more complex map of maybe 7 stages but like Underhill's map it still is a high level map as opposed to the details you find in the stages of insight. Different Sufi teachers (just like teachers in other traditions) have described the path in more detail. Here's a great example of a map combined with instructions all wrapped up in a poem: http://murshidsam.org/Documents/Poems/Long%20Poems/Karuna_Yoga_Gita.pdf (note: despite the very Buddhist/Hindu inspired language the path described is Sufi).

Even Adyashanti speaks of the three phases of awakening: http://lovebliss.eu/Satsangs/17_Adyashanti_3_phases.htm as a high-level map and I'm willing to bet he's got a much more details map in his head that he refers to (consciously or not) when working with students and guiding them on their own path.

Are those maps mistaken? Absolutely! No map is ever the territory. You can trace the path on the map day and night but you'll never get "there". On the other hand, maps are helpful guides when one is lost, a great support in difficult stages when one is ready to give it all up, and a reminder that countless other beings have travelled this way, made it all the way through, and were not all that different from you when they started.