Friday, October 21, 2016

About Conceit - Spiritual Pride

When I hear “I have been 40 years on a path”, “I have been meditating for 35 years”, “I sat in satsangs for 25 years”,  In most cases it does not evoke in me a feeling of reverence and respect, what one, who exclaims, probably secretly expect.

I have been seeking intensely for 15 years prior to waking up, first through Gurgieff way, and then through Vipassana meditation, and how long it took for me to let go of every wrong expectation, ideas and beliefs, and finally let it all go, don’t bring pride of being a special, in a contrary, I feel like a fool. 

The path with all it’s twists and turns seems so clear now: why I turn this way, why I went this direction.  For me every turn and every backroad was absolutely necessary to let go of those beliefs. Something needed to be seeing and cleared, and the only way that I saw at that moment was exactly the way I took.

If someone took 40 years to walk the path, it was absolutely necessary for them to take 40 years, and if someone walked the path in no time at all, it is just right for them. No pride should be attached to the years walked on the path. What to be proud of? Of 15 years crawling on backroads in a mud of the mind’s constructed bullshit?

Buddhist believe that one of the 10 fetters, translated as the chains that keeps us bound to this plane of existence and force to be reborn, is conceit - the spiritual pride. I was guilty myself of it, so I can write about it in a clear way for others not to fall into this trap, and if you happened to fall, look at it in a new perspective.

I have very much respect for the path and anyone who walks on it for long time, for anyone who crawls and grinds every obstacle to the dust, before proceeding further. I have just the same respect for anyone who walks, skipping and whistling joyfully with a flower in their hair, gently caressed by the wind.  Just like I have respect for 20 y.o or 60 y.o - respect for the being itself, for life, not how long and in what way one particularly lived. Everyone will live their share of life in their unique way, and every life has a deepest respect.

My 15 years serving my time on the path didn’t make me any better, maybe it imprinted in me more pride that I had to deal with later.  I noticed how I perceived myself as a “hard core” meditator, who sat hundreds hours in meditation, if not 1000 or more. I didn’t count, but it is easy to count, since I was so consistent for years in my daily 2 hours meditation and sat particular number of retreats each of 12-14 hours meditation a day.  At some point I meditated around the clock, in any state, walking or sleeping. I don't want to count, what’s the point?  What's difference it makes now, when I know that from the seeking on the path to enlightenment it can only take one breath? I can only laugh at myself for being so stubborn in my ways, and laugh at the whole notion of the path.

In fact, when I finally let go of seeking, it was a time when I was in a retreat meditating around the clock. Luckily, at that particular retreat I had a little book of a the nine century zen master Huang Po, who relentlessly was telling me on every page:  “Let go of the conceptual thought, and the Enlightenment is there”. He was saying nothing about meditating for half a century. He was repeating again and again on almost every page that Enlightenment is a sudden event.  So one of those days I gave up. All and Everything. And then I laughed innerly in so much freedom! What a fool! What a beautiful fool! What an amazing hide and seek game it is! Why is to be proud for going through the game 15, 25, 40 years instead of seeing the way out of the game in 2 clear turns!  This along can cure the conceit fetter of being overly proud of your “serving the time”!

People find stories from the path so fascinating - mind likes to be entertained. The more epic story - the more attention you can get. I remember watching one of the teachers on “Buddha at a Gas Pump” website, it took him the whole interview to go through his story, clearly he was himself fascinated by it. He also sounded as he recited it numerous times, it was polished to every detail to produce a strong impression on the listener, the seeker. The whole story screamed: “I am very special!”, almost “I am a chosen one!”.  I was disappointed to spend nearly 2 hours listening to the story that easily could evoke doubt, one of the the other fetters/chains, if that wouldn’t be completely eliminated by my own knowing of reality by that time.  Only in his second interview he started to lay out his understanding and suggested practices to achieve it, projecting the authority of the almost only one who knows the right path. I thought it was very misleading set of interviews, though I understand that for every teacher there is a student, and vice versa.  In my early years of integration I did many mistakes, and gave some interviews in the times when I should kept my mouth shut and look further. I can just smile at the whole game of waking up and the whole game of wrapping the mind around what comes after that. Hold on to the rails and have a joyful ride! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The value of a gradual spiritual path

Enlightenment is a sudden, spontaneous event. It can happen in any moment to anyone. Then why most people who experience this event are long term seekers on the path? 

In nowadays it is very popular to say that practice is unnecessary, the path to Enlightenment is not gradual, but sudden, and this alone leaves many of us totally confused in relation to our practice. 

I want to say some words to point the value of a spiritual practice, the gradual path, in regards to Enlightenment.

1. Traditional spiritual path always includes ethics, morality in the foundation. Though it has nothing to do with enlightenment, the ethics must be laid out firmly before the mind wakes up to it’s nature. It will be effortless for awaken one to operate within the ethical framework that established already.  And those who skip the sila (in Pali for ethics, morality) - may find themselves fall into unhealthy habits, attachments, indulge in destructive behaviors.

2. Practicing concentration in any form trains the mind to single pointedness, so in the moment of sudden enlightenment mind is able to hold the view for longer period, giving more time for the brain re-wire, dropping karmic imprints.

3. Practicing inquiry has a tremendous benefit. Seems like we go for years with “Who am I?” question, or similar, or a perpetual prayer with just a little benefit of calming the mind, but at the ripe moment, the self-churning question will be a catalyst to a spontaneous enlightenment. It is very important to keep the question, your burning question alive, at some moment the only what will remain - is a question itself, and it will be answered in the state of enlightenment.

It is true that Enlightenment is a Grace, a Revelation, and it dawn on us not for our efforts or attainments. There are no guarantees, but there is always a possibility.  

Until then, keep your practice and question alive!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


I am not a native English language speaker, and I don’t take words as labels for granted. I feel, resonate with words. From all the words like “greed”, “attachment”, “holding to”, sound of “grasping” feels right for the action of holding on to something when the life asks us strongly for releasing the grip. 

How do we know we are grasping? Because it doesn’t really feel good. It feels like effort, it feels like tension, it feels like control, like fear to loose something. And so

we tighten the grip.

Until it really hurts, and we forced to soften.

Then we see the gift of awareness and equanimity.

We are aware of grasping, and we fall into equanimity of letting go in any way it happens.

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

for lighting up,

for releasing tension,

for softening,

for letting fear arise and pass,

and becoming freer.

One more breath came in and out unobstructed.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fascination with experience

How many times we have heard from someone, returning from a retreat or a quest, that this was the most profound experience of their life, that they know now?  I was a friend of many who were involved in a different spiritual circles, from meditation to shamanic, and I witnessed “The Return” many times. My own experience of years in retreats and many of my friends that I knew closely, only deepened my understanding of impermanence.

Impermanence is a Buddhist term, “anicca” in ancient language Sanskrit. It defines the material world in which we live and us, as a part of it, as ever changing. Seems like we all know about it, right?  Some of us keep throwing “Impermanence” word so often these days, it became a part of our life, just like “meditation”, “transformation”, or “awakening”.  We think we know what impermanence is, until we go to the next retreat or have next experience, next “journey”. Then we return all blissed out and absolutely sure that this is it, this is how we will be from now on.

I don’t want to be a party pooper, I often feel like I don’t know what to say when I am told the next story of being “Avatar”, “The Light”, having “total heart opening” and “complete transformation”. Actually I do know what I want to say, but I also know it will not work at the moment for the one who is in blissed out state, so I smile. I usually smile and continue to listen to the journey of the mind that took someone to be an Avatar, The Light, or Egyptian Goddess (these are only a few examples of the experiences I got to hear). I know that experiences of this sort are amazing grand show of the human mind, and surely, they transform to the certain degree the old brain patterns, but I also know that with time the experience fades, and the life continues. As we were coming back from the retreat together, my teacher from Gurgieff Way with a smirk in his eyes, once said: “Isn’t it life comes on us like a ton of bricks?”

I don’t want to underestimate the value of such experiences, it is definitely an opening, a new understanding, a new beginning. But I also don’t want to overemphasize it and add even more to the fascination. Fascination is a mind state in itself, and it is also impermanent, as any of the mind states. Fascination is a wonderful wondrous state, and can be very pleasurable, especially for someone who was absolutely sure of the world that he lives in as a certain material structure. I support fascination of the human mind, what I can’t support is the belief that any of the mind states, be as open and vast as space of consciousness itself or the opposite of it, are permanent. 

Even if I want to participate in the joy of others celebrating “enlightenment”, as they perceive the mind journey to be, I can’t really set aside the understanding of impermanence. I want to say that enlightenment is deep understanding/knowing of the impermanence of the apparent world phenomena, even in the transcendental experiences, and at the same time knowing the nature of the mind as boundless and beyond the transitory experiences. No wonder human life is duality that needs not to be rejected, but realized intimately. At this moment mind knows its true nature, and in the next moment mind is contracted to it's usual human busyness. Some experiences perceived by us to be a mystical, superhuman, transcending, but they too, come to an end, and we find ourselves back to very human, as we call it “mundane” states. 

So what the heck we are seeking then? If the wisdom of experience can’t stay here forever, if we come back to ourselves in the body and mind of one who lives here in this town, goes to work every day, and has a husband/wife and two kids, what to do? How to reconcile the Avatar and the wife, a mother? The Light and the Joe, the accountant, the plumber, or a doctor?

If we really study Impermanence, by the way of meditation, contemplation, or even life long observation, we will see that it is something that permeates every experience, so it is an ethereal fabric from which every experience is weaved, be that an experience of day to day life, or transcendent experience. The very base of any experience is Impermanence, and to learn that, notice it, and wonder on the  impermanence itself is more reliable and gratifying then the fascination with the transcendent mind states. They sooner or later change, leaving us in the restless state of wanting and longing for something more then it is present at this very moment, and it is in itself is the source of human suffering.