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Fundamental Non-discrimination

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Fundamental Non-discrimination
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7/11/08 11:07 PM
Author: Adam_West
Forum: Practical Dharma

Hi all,

I've been lurking on this forum for a while now. I thought I would see what you guys thought about the method of no method found in Chan (Zen), Dzogchen, MahaMudra and Taoism. Just sitting in Fundamental Non-discrimination. Just relaxed, still awareness of what is. Do you guys feel, assuming one is capable of actually achieving it, one can practice this alone and skip structured shamatha and vipassna practice? Do you guys think "just sitting" can take one all the way to enlightenment - the realisation of one's fundamental nature as it is here and now?

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
7/12/08 2:37 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
The method you mention is practiced in conjunction with View, which is differently formulated in traditions you quote, but the method is essentially identical, even when instructions differ. In Theravada, this is practiced as "choiceless awareness". This "non-method" (a tricky term itself pointing to the innate cognizance at the root of experience, instead of something introduced through cultivation) also proceeds through stages of unfolding in practitioners' capacity to maintain natural, uncontrived attention. This process may be used to explore the conventional nature of mind (e.g. what is mind), but only rarely will it result in spontaneous recognition of mind's nature, without specific investigation being undertaken. The first is equivalent to shamatha, and the second to vipashyana. "One method" is a slippery notion. Still, it's quite impossible to reach higher stages of realization WITHOUT recourse to non-meditation. It's not a panacea, however.

Speaking of practical application, naked awareness can give one an initial taste of the nature of mind, especially through pointing out instructions of a qualified teacher. To stabilize this flash of recognition more than one technique is needed, even if it's the non-technique. Thus, the suitability of naked awareness to cover the early and middle stages is rather limited to individuals with a rare predilection. Even for them, though, it will not be sufficient for a mature, integrated wisdom. Combining structured and unstructured approaches seems the way to go.

Also, such practice is not designed to specifically address different obstacles and imbalances that will arise for most if not all. So, in all traditions you mention, we find many other methods along with the non-method. And, again, the View is crucial for less structured (not entirely unstructured) forms of meditative cultivation, as in other cases. Just my two cents, hope it's useful.

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
7/12/08 4:03 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Adam_West

Hello there Hokai!

Let’s take Chan as an example of just sitting. Accepting there are different lineages which place more or less emphasis on one practice method or principle than another, it appears, as I understanding it, silent illumination or just sitting is the primary practice method used. This method is actually considered by them as simultaneously shamatha and vippasana. Insofar as one is silently aware of the whole body as an object of awareness [at the first stage of practice (shamatha)], while one is also aware of silent awareness itself(vipassana). As one progresses in the practice one is said to move into stages of pure awareness so to speak where self-reference or self-concern and identification drops off or is liberated and one may become cognizant of an apparent universe that is simply aware and being.

One of the principal basic assumptions seems to be that if one has sufficient control over one’s mind (vexations and such), thus, having sufficient maturity, one can and should use this method as the primary means to realize that which is already present (one’s original face). That is, as we sit obscurations drop away and we have direct (experiential) insight into the nature of mind. The shamather aspect appears to be there simply to bring about silence or stillness to the(surface) mind, which is one of the principal obscurations to noticing (insight) that which is here and now (subtle mind)[of course no metaphysical duality is assumed].

In Mahamudra, as I understand it, in order to realize the subtle mind, it is said that we drop everything at the level of the discursive-linguistic and volitional mind – including the intension to do so. Otherwise we cannot realize the subtle mind.
In Dzogchen there is cutting through, which is the same practice; but then there is Thogal after that. In any case, would you say more about why one might think more is needed to achieve full realisation?

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
7/12/08 4:03 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Adam_West

Would you say more about “ such practice is not designed to specifically address different obstacles and imbalances that will arise for most if not all.”? My intuition is that if we just let any cognitive phenomenon arise and self-liberate, sooner or later we begin to have flashes of Rigpa - or whatever you choice to call it - as the colored glasses dissolve before our very eyes at which point the true nature of mind becomes apparent. My question is, why MUST we make use of any contrived cognitive practices at all? This all assumes the practitioner has the maturity and discipline to sit fully relaxed, silent and aware, allowing all to pass through him, including the sense of a separate self. If he cannot, he must practice more structured methods.

I very much look forward to yours and other experienced meditation practitioners’ views on this, as I have no personal teacher, but have been practicing in different traditions for many years, and thus, are somewhat self-guided, intuitively and logically. This is a good way to get beyond dogma but also a good way to get stuck in self-delusive traps for years at a time! ;-)
In kind regards,
Adam.

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
7/12/08 5:28 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Yes, the points you make are fine. And, as far as awakening to the ever-present nature of our mind is concerned, that is, as far as liberating insight in itself is concerned, that may very well be all you need (if that's the path you choose, of course, in the context of those teachings that indeed offer this option). But then, there are several additional dimensions you may want to explore both before and after such an awakening or, more precisely and more probably, series of several awakenings.

These several dimensions have everything to do with how one would interpret and integrate the realization, even when dealing with the self-confirming and unquestionable clarity of full awakening. The first that comes to mind is conceptual understanding (and I have emphasized that before as View) which not only provides a map of the path, but also the basis for a balanced interpretation of that which arises during and after meditation. Everyone has a view, whether or not they work on it, and the view they have can do real damage to an otherwise fine contemplative effort. The ridiculous taboo of intellectual sophistication present among certain practitioners of meditation is so baseless. Of course, when on cushion, shut up and practice.:-) But every single school makes good use of intellectual training, including Zen, Dzogchen and Mahamudra, about which thousands of books have been written through the centuries, most by accomplished practitioners.

The second is development of compassion. Pre-awakening as actual heart-based discipline of opening and embracing, and post-awakening as integration of the liberated awareness into everything one does and feels and thinks and says, so to thoroughly dismantle the dichotomy of sacred and mundane in action.

And the third is developing experience of fullness along with insight into emptiness, without which one may develop a very lopsided awakening. Along with traditional methods, as found in tantric practice...

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
7/12/08 5:49 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
...one may also think of complementary methods, such as qigong and other forms of physical exercise that engage subtle energies. Further on, speaking of fullness, awakening does develop through centuries, at least in the relative domain. And so one will want to have the fullest available expression of this inner awakening not just in an intellect that can coherently express the core of what has been discovered without undue gross distortion, plus broad and flexible enough to accomodate and share that expression with people of different inclinations and levels of sophistication, but also in a body that serves as a vehicle for both pre-awakening and post-awakening activity in accordance with real enlightened motives and not some medieval idea of purity and sainthood. To round up the fullness issue, one would not want to miss the shadow aspects in psychological unraveling (unmapped in traditional teachings), since these tend to become fixed forever when one uses spiritual realization to bypass psychological quirks.

However, going back to your original question: can one really reach awakening by choiceless awareness (by whatever name) alone? Yes, most possibly yes, but with quite unpredictable results, though some may find it preposterous to think awakening can be an unpredictable result, but there you are. The process called awakening (bodhi) is usually pursued in several steps, ordered in a dialectic fashion, so that what's good at one stage is contraindicative before or after. Also, while awakening may be reduced to bare essence as a liberation of awareness from false self-identification, in fact it's a complex process in which we do our best to emancipate the whole potential as far as that doesn't interfere with the path of awakening itself, since those additional dimensions are indeed ornaments of the awakened mind, ultimately inseparable from it. Does this help?

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
7/12/08 11:41 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Great conversation!!!

I don't have a whole lot to add theoretically, as Hokai has laid out quite an elegant, full argument for the View of method-less practice with respect to all the other possibilities on the path. I will however echo one of his points, "that what's good at one stage is contraindicative before or after." I've found, several different times in my practice now, that I will go through periods (days, weeks or months) where I seem to easily be able to practice "choiceless awareness." Everything is able to come and go, the sense of self (even very subtle sense) is seen, intentions to manipulate reality are seen, objects of all sorts simply arise and pass and there isn't much of a sense of trying to do anything. The empty nature of things becomes quite predominant and the past couple of times this has happened there was a sense of being done, of there being nothing left to achieve/do/attain, etc.

That being said, as the practice progressed invariably a new stage or cycle would unfold and I'd find myself unable to rest in this same quality of attention. Suddenly a more structured practice (noting, using the body as a primary object, scanning the body, etc.) became essential to continue clear investigation in the face of the new, and often difficult territory. My sense now is that this is a natural process of the unfolding of insight (at many different stages), and that anytime there is a clinging, craving, identification with anything (including effortless, method-less practice) then we need to use whatever tools we have to see it for what it is.

While it would be nice if one practice (or one method-less practice) could take us all the way there, I think that's a bit of a spiritual pipe-dream for most folks and really an oversimplification of the View which Hokai so eloquently championed. I guess what I'm trying to say is that simple is nice, but not always effective.

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
7/12/08 5:47 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hello Adam,

Thank you for adding this topic to the forum. I am most familiar with Shikantaza meditation, but have recently begun to integrate structured vipassana methods to my practice. I was a bit uneasy about mixing methods, but I'm learning from this thread that it may be good for me to use different methods at different stages.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Jackson

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
11/12/08 1:43 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: PemaDorje

Hello to Dharma Underground
Great Adam..the practices you mention are of deep intrest in my work. (subjective rant follows)
My thoughts flow through my mind from horizion to horizon like great fractal stratus energy waves penetrating and surrounding the represented objects of my "outer awareness" including body. And In my meditative experience that pure clear conciousness LOVES to be penetrated. Bliss arrives through that constant act of penetration. Awarness of the clear state arrives to me through the indirect realization the what my awarness penetrates is awarness as well. Nothing can exist outside of your awareness and everythings existence depends on that awareness. The univese is in fact a Simulacra, a model that has no existence outside of your own neurons. The shift in perspective of ones pure conciouseness being ravaged by the "slings and arrows", to realizing that this ocean of clear bliss LOVES to be penetrated and stimulated really helps me to understand why I'm so helpless to avoid stimulus. Because on some level it's pure bliss.

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
11/13/08 2:18 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Adam, from my experience I would say that it isn't possible to get all the way to enlightenment with just sitting.

I used just sitting for a big chunk of my life and I would characterize that time as being well spent and very theraputic. I would see my mind's reactivity and by simply witnessing it, time and time again, the intensity would be greatly reduced or eliminated. Bigger insights would happen on their own, so it did feel like it could take me all the way.

But in retrospect, I think I was ignoring ways in which my so-called progress really wasn't progressing. There was probably a perfect time for me to seek out a teacher and pursue a more structured practice... but that time passed me by and I wound up stagnating for several years.

The antidote to the downsides of using non-discrimination is acutal discrimination, like the use of more active meditations like noting practice.

In the absence of a guiding teacher, it's worth experimenting with both approaches.

Hope this helps!

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
11/13/08 7:12 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
A bit on sychronicity, I came across this today:

"The practice of watching the mind, one of the universal methods of meditation, is the first step in transcending our habitual and unconscious identification with arising thoughts. Through this method we strengthen the position of the observer, creating a stable counterforce to the continuous stream of thoughts invading our consciousness. The observer is the aspect of the ego responsible for bringing integrity to the functioning of our mind and linking us with the essence of our innate subjectivity. By watching arising thoughts, yet remaining uninvolved, we create a space in our intelligence to disidentify from our own subconsciousness instead of just thinking mechanically. However, though this approach is beneficial, it cannot bring us to the true state of meditation. It is a technique that serves only as a preparation for becoming more conscious, and at some stage must be transcended. Self-observation or detached watching cannot take us beyond the mental realm, because the watcher himself is a faculty of the very mind he watches. It is only when the observer links himself to the essence of awareness that he can gain the necessary depth and solidity to move out of the vicious circle of thinking, identifying, observing, disidentifying and thinking again. "

http://www.anaditeaching.com/teachingmed1.htm

RE: Fundamental Non-discrimination
Answer
11/22/08 3:39 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I just want to thank everyone on this thread for completely blowing my mind! I am truly grateful. I particularly appreciated the comments regarding tantra (Do people like this resource: http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/x/nav/n.html_94726721.html ?) and post-awakening practice. There are many technical terms I'm unfamiliar with, having practiced in mostly a Western tradition, but I will have great fun exploding. I also appreciated the comments about the need to transcend the sense of an observer at advanced stages and wondered if that correlated with concentration states (jhana practice - the formless realms that demand non-dual awareness). I wish I had something to contribute on the level of what I just read! Bravo!