Realization of the subtle, deep subject

There are a strong influence of Buddhist thought in the West, especially about Mindfulness, but there is also some acceptance of non-dualist currents based on Vedanta. Both Buddhism and Vedanta dilute the concept of individual, considering that ultimately there is only a luminous mind without content, a vacuum full of potentiality, or there is only consciousness, respectively. These are the two predominant Oriental tendencies in spiritual, non-religious thought, which is now more heavily weighted in the West. This is probably due to the intellectual rejection that has occurred with respect to traditional religions as an effect, since in this vision, ultimately, there is no personal subject, therefore there can be no God, no soul at all.

Yet, knowing that it is swimming against the current, I must defend here the real existence of a personal subject, more subtle than the psychological personality. And I’m doing it not following beliefs, but for personal experiences, supported by readings of diverse texts, many of them also oriental, in the line of Yoga.

I think evolution tends precisely to engender subjects, or individualities, more and more subtle. Thus, since the original explosion of the “Big Bang” that created the Universe, it went from a kind of “cosmic soup” of undifferentiated radiation, where time and space did not yet have a meaning, to the current complicated aspect, with galaxies , Stars, solar systems and planets, all defined physical entities, individual. After life was created from inanimate matter, undifferentiated, we have another step towards a more defined individuality: each living being is. Later in the history of evolution consciousness appears, when the living being acquires a nervous system sufficiently evolved for it. Consciousness allows the living being to be a subject that observes the exterior, separates it from the environment on a more subtle level, not only has a differentiated physical form, but also has a very simple cognition that separates it more subtly from the environment.

Timeline_evolution_of_life.svg

Evolution of life. From Wikipedia.

But that being does not yet “know” that he is somebody. As the nervous system evolves, the individual mind appears, with an enormous power of separation: the living being catalogs all that observes, sees everything as separate objects: a tree, a cloud, another animal, a prey, and so on. Finally, he comes to perceive himself as separate, with an existence of his own.

In the human species, the evolution of the individual subject continues, generating an increasingly subtle individuality: the individual thinks to himself, becomes a concept, a psychological self, a personality that inhabits a body. By practicing meditation, the subject learns to separate the observer from his thoughts, moving another step in the evolution of more and more subtle individuality: what or who is that “observer” beyond thoughts, and emotions? And when we arrive here is when we find the denial of the individual who defend Buddhism and Vedanta non-duality. The whole course of evolution, of creating a more and more subtle individuality, reaches a point where individuality is simply lost, so they say. But there is another point of view: individuality continues to evolve, it comes to such a subtlety that it may seem that it does not exist, since it has run out of attributes, you can not define it with concepts, because it has transcended them, but still exists. There is still “someone” who experiences, who lives events, but from a nonphysical level, extraordinarily subtle. But not because it is so subtle it is weak: on the contrary, when it is realized, it is extraordinarily stable, it does not affect any external event, it does not depend on anything to be, it is no object, no concept, it is pure subjectivity.

When the person meditates for many years, constantly practicing, but only in the line of development of consciousness itself, expanding it, its development tends to lead to a non-duality, not to identify itself as a being with separate existence, seeing only the whole, the total Being alone. So we become what we develop, and if you work only in this line, you advance only in it and not in others. In the same way, if we meditate on the ultimate nature of the mind, and only in that aspect, we can reach the bottom of the mind, which is pure clarity without objects, and thus we do not develop our subject consciousness.

But we can also work in the line of searching, reflecting and meditating on the subject of all experiences, on the central point of our field of consciousness. Instead of simply expanding our consciousness to the infinite, expanding it, we can also deepen it, bringing it to its center, beyond thoughts and concepts, asking: who is conscious? This is the path of realization of the ultimate subject. And it is not incompatible with others, but complementary: we can, and I think it is the best, to work our conscience in an expansive, broad way, and also to deepen, reaching the bottom, its origin, that punctual focus that is our individuality deeper. In this way our development is complete, and in addition follows the natural course of evolution, which we have already seen tends to create more and more subtle individualities. We will then know that there is only one total Being, but it is also true that we live it through our individuality, which is the natural product of evolution.

The inexistent self of Buddhism, and the trans-personal self

The inexistent self of Buddhism: a brief description

In the Buddha’s Discourse on the Not-self (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.059.mend.html), he stated the reasons for his claim about the non existence of any self. Shortly, Buddha says us we human beings are the result of five aggregates. The impermanence is a key concept of Buddhism doctrine, also used in the Four Noble Truths (see, for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Noble_Truths) for explain the roots of suffering.

Then, the argument of “there is no self” is:

  1. The five components are impermanent.
  2. If there was a self, it would be permanent, and the self has the control over the five components
  3. A person is no more than the five skandhas (this is the exhaustiveness claim).
  4. Therefore there is no self.

The prior argument has, from my point of view, one weak premise: the third; are we sure we are no more than the aggregate of five skandhas?.

And also the second premise contains a weak assumption: the control; we can live a state of consciousness in which we are mere observers, no taking control of the flow of things.  The weakness of this two assumptions, “a person is no more than their aggregates” and “the self are the controller of the aggregates” are two reasons that support an alternative position: there are a permanent self, an “I”, beyond the aggregates, and this “I” is not controlling anything, on the contrary, is a mere observer, untangled from the world.

Let me distinguish two levels of self: the psychological (the personality) and a transcendent one. For me, Buddha refers only to the former. The second self, the transcendent, is the one which we pay attention now.

And “I” that takes no control

We must be able to let things appear in the psyche. For us, this is an art which most people do not know anything. We are usually interfering, helping, correcting or denying, without letting the psychic process is developed in peace“. – Carl Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower, 1962, pg. 93

Jung speaks of a mind that does not interfere or react with the contents of consciousness, an idea that reminds us to the modern definition of Mindfulness: when we simply observe, without interfere, a deeply therapeutic result occurs, a relaxation in the experience of the moment present, and cease trying to control everything. We realize that if we stop fighting for control, the world does not fall apart, and we still are somebody, we accept the conditions of life, and found a new source of satisfaction.

The meditative traditions continue where psychoanalysis ends … we cut the roots of the reaction … That eliminates much suffering. Then you become master of your own mind and experience.” – Daniel Brown, MindScience.

As Buddha said, the liberation of the automatic process of reaction for control things brings us peace and relieve us of a big piece of our suffering; yet when nobody controls anything, we still feel we are somebody. Who we are?

An “I” that is only an observer, not implicated in then world

Despite contact with the material body, O Arjuna, the soul neither does anything nor is entangled. – Bhagavad Gita –

The second Buddha’s weak argument is about a self formed exclusively by the sum of the five aggregates, so is a material “I”. There are many spiritual traditions that claims the contrary, like the classic Hinduism, but nowadays even in the field of Psychology we can find alternative approaches:

Transpersonal Psychology is concerned with the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness. – Lajoie, D. H. & Shapiro, S. I. “Definitions of transpersonal psychology: The first twenty-three years”. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 24, 1992

There are other higher levels of personality which all of us also have, less or more developed: higher affectivity and higher mind. The last is characterized for not be centered on the individual, but on the knowledge itself, we can say: on the truth. Is impersonal, not interested in personal ideas and opinions but in see things as really are.

On the higher affective level there are not personal reactions against external data, instead, the good, the goodness, are perceived as universal facts; when we contemplate a beautiful landscape the sense of harmony and grandiosity is universal, the same for all. All of us have such level, more or less developed.

Conclusion

I think, basing on other traditions, modern Mindfulness meditation, and also on Trans-personal Psychology, that we can live at higher level than our habitual “I”, our individual personality, who, like Buddha states clearly, is only a virtual being, the result of the sum of impermanent aggregates; instead, we can live as a higher “I”, that can retain the sense of be somebody while at the same time is living a whole connection, a trans-personal feeling.

Personality development

Personality: the set of emotional qualities, ways of behaving, etc., that makes a person different from other people. – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/personality

We can distinguish four structure levels on personality: the body as a physical thing, the life-energy level, the emotional-affective level, and the mental level.  Physical body needs the life-energy level, while the external world give them all the necessary stuff for survive. Life-energy level manifest as instinct, physical needs, and is a strong motivation of our personality. Thanks to affective level we feel an attraction towards all we live as good for us, and a rejection toward bad things; this level is like an adjustment with the outside world. Affection comprises feelings and emotions: the last is the immediate reaction, related to something that is happen right now, while the former is a more deep reaction that polarize us toward something we feel as good.

Mental level has some sub-levels: the more extern takes care of the data provided by the senses, and records the data, then, another level process the data producing evaluations, judgments,  behaviors,  etc. The activity of those basic mental levels is the source for the higher level: organic state, judgments, etc, produce a way of valuing the world, a way of thinking, but also the affective level has an important weight. We can see the personality has a hierarchical structure in which the mind is in the higher position, but in the 99,99% of human beings the mind is not the principal, indeed is strongly influenced by the affective and physical levels. The personality shown since now is self-centered, is the personality of an individual separated from the world.

Transcendent personality

Transpersonal Psychology is concerned with the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness. – Lajoie, D. H. & Shapiro, S. I. “Definitions of transpersonal psychology: The first twenty-three years”. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 24, 1992

There are other higher levels of personality which all of us also have, less or more developed: higher affectivity and higher mind. The last is characterized for not be centered on the individual, but on the knowledge itself, we can say: on the truth. Is impersonal, not interested in personal ideas and opinions but in see things as really are. At individual level the ideas are at the service of the individual, at higher mind level is the contrary, the individual is at the service of the truth, the person accepts the true about things, as they are.

On the higher affective level there are not personal reactions against external data, instead, the good, the goodness, are perceived as universal facts; when we contemplate a beautiful landscape the sense of harmony and grandiosity is universal, the same for all. All of us have such level, more or less developed.

The importance of the higher levels

When the person experience a demand on real love, unconditional fair justice, a happy life, etc, all of this demands are related to the higher levels of personality, but we are not aware of it; being unaware of the origin of demand, we try to satisfy it throughout the lower levels of personality, for example, trying to get unconditional real love throughout basic affective level, but the lower levels are strongly unstable, ever changing, oscillating with the external world, with the senses and with our body state, so we can’t have what we want. In some way, we are re-discovering here the first two noble truths of Buddha:

  1. Dukkha (incapable of satisfying): Life in this mundane world, with its craving and clinging to impermanent states and things, is dukkha, unsatisfactory and painful.
  2. Samudaya, the origination of dukkha arises with tanha, “thirst,” craving for and clinging to these impermanent states and things.

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Noble_Truths

When I’m trying to force other persons behave my way, according with my desires, with my ideas of goodness, or any other ideas, I’m trying to do the impossible, because I’m trying to fulfill higher needs with lower instruments, and the law of the low world is change, transformation, impermanence.  The problem here is the person usually don’t develop their awareness of their own higher personality, so he don’t have the instrument needed. What we need is a developed personality, capable of connection with our higher levels.

Ans here we find some wrong ways, too often people fall in them. One wrong way is try to connect higher levels simply because we are not satisfied with our life, without a previous work on our personality. Is not enough having high dreams and aspirations, is also needed to work from low levels up to higher ones. We must remember the whole personality has a hierarchical structure, we can’t deny or forget the lower ones looking for the higher, instead, we need full control of all the levels, and “control” don’t mean inhibition, but mean use it at will. 

Other wrong way is try to live the higher throughout the lower levels; for example, body-building, the cult of the body, a narcissist activity throughout the person want to experience plenitude. Or the sexual obsess, a very often type of person nowadays, who are thinking and talking about it constantly, trying to experience fullness throughout the life-energy body level. The previous two are living their higher demands throughout vegetative functions of the body. And also there are such persons who want to live romantic lives, or passionate romances, going between heartbreakings. And of course, there are the mental oriented persons, trying to realize themselves throughout their own ideas about truth, not looking for the truth, but closed on their personal ideas of truth; some of people in this group have so closed mind that are able to attack, even kill, other persons not agree with them.

Hope all this stuff show clearly the importance of develop a integrated, solid personality, with all the levels well developed. The body, the energy, the affective level integrated with a stable mental level, stabilized thanks to the higher levels, because higher levels are intrinsically stable, not subject to oscillations. The developed personality also has a personal life, managing personal circumstances, but at the same time is independent of them, because the higher levels give him a strength, a solidity, and a permanent inner peace. When we live all the levels in such equilibrated way, we become more aware of ourselves, because our self awareness develops throughout the operation of such levels, lower and higher. Then, we really can talk about self-realization, when the person discover their identity working from higher up to lower planes of personality, which is an instrument of expression.

beautiful_sunset_trees_pretty_clouds_road_hd-wallpaper-800px

Long way to heaven

 

A Touch of Zen wisdom

In this post I transcribe some quotes uttered by the Zen master Berta Meneses in a lecture, including a personal brief comment.

An antidote for desire is freedom.

Since desire binds us to the objects of desire, making us dependent on them, so not free.

We don’t need solve our problems, we need dissolve them.

The “problems” really are generated in our mind in response to events that we do not like, so we oppose to the reality; relaxing mind these problems-ideas become dissolved, as a block of salt in water.

Let it be, let it go.

Let the One who dwells within us to express, let it be, and at the same time, let the existence elapses, flow, let it pass in front of us, watching.

It is necessary to conduct a “drain” of the unconscious.

The unconscious mind is accumulating experiences that have not been fully lived, have not been assimilated, either by conscious rejection, either by inability to grasp their meaning. We need to drop things, clearing all this accumulation we have in the back room.

Be centered in action: between the external stimulus and our response to the stimulus we must insert a brief space, and fill that space of awareness, presence.

For our responses to stimuli from the outside world no longer be automatic, for we do not behave like automatons, we must train in notice the short space of time between the stimulus and response, and once there, be present at that moment. Thus, the answer will be given progressively more and more aware, will be more authentic, less conditioned.

Let’s talk, say things from the depths, from our center.

This is an example of be centered in action: action in this case is talking. Before speaking, in the earlier time, we are fully present, then our speech will arise from our center and be inspired, energized. Our speech is often uprooted, far from our being.

The teacher-student dialogue is a dialogue heart to heart, no one is” superior “to another.

A true spiritual teacher does not purport to be superior to anyone, because this attitude is typical of the ego, which the teacher is free. What the teacher really wants in the dialogue with the disciple is to help him raise consciousness to more subtle levels, trying to convey an experience, something the teacher is already living.

A koan is nor a riddle, nor a paradox; It is an approach that uses opposites we have to transcend, looking at them from a higher level of consciousness, seeing, feeling that “nothing” that is the matrix of all that exists. The koan is not answered, the koan creates an experience.

It is common in the West go wrong with the concept of koan, interpreting it as a riddle for which must be found answer. Is not that. It is an invitation to transcend our conventional mind.

Zen aims to embody the essence, the Self,  in the world.

Zen is not a means to “escape” from this phenomenal world going to a more subtle, but on the contrary, connects the two worlds, allowing higher levels of consciousness manifest here and now.

Who are we really? Thrills, mental states, personality?

Emotional mind and rational mind

Science has known for some time that the emotions are brewing often beyond the control of the conscious mind, in the area of ​​the brain called the amygdala, a kind of independent “emotional brain”.

 There was an emotional brain before a rational one. – David Goleman, Emotional Intelligence pg. 16


It is then possible that, given a situation, or a choice we have to do, happen that our rational brain does not like the election of the emotional brain; Who will follow? who are we? From the moment that someone observes two “tips” or different impulses, emotional and rational, and must decide who to let go, the logical answer seems to be: we are not any of them, nor the rational mind and the emotional. Instead, we are “someone” who is carried away by them. In our present state of evolution as a human species, not yet have a clear understanding of who we are beyond the mind, so sometimes we identify with the emotional decisions, sometimes rational; how are you two do not always coincide, often behave and feel like “divided”.

And who is that somebody beyond the mind?

He manifests itself as a parallel stream of consciousness, which looms above or beside what is happening rather than being immersed and lost in it.. David Goleman, Emotional Intelligence pg 47

According to Goleman, we are (or can be) independent from what happens in our environment and in our mind consciousness. This distance gives us a new identity, we no longer feel “divided” between emotional identity and rational. A surprising statement, but not new, very old indeed; It had already been enunciated thousands years ago in various spiritual traditions. For example, if Buddha were among us, could have told Goleman: “I told you so” (though probably would not).

Who we think we are?

A king heard the sound of a lute and was delighted for him, so he ordered them to bring that sound. The servants brought him the lute, not the sound, and had to explain to the king that the sound has no independent existence, but is created by the separate ropes, box and arch elements acting simultaneously. Just as the king can not find the sound of the lute, we can not find our self. – Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya


Usually we get confused with our personality, which is created dynamically, moment by moment, by the simultaneous action of the body, perceptions, emotional reactions, rational thoughts based on the memory of past experiences, and giving unity to all this racket, the awareness. As the lute, personality does not exist independently of its factors.

Mindfulness meditation

We must be able to let things appear in the psyche. For us, this is an art which most people do not know anything. We usually interfering, helping, correcting or denying, without letting the psychic process is developed in peace“. Carl Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower, 1962, pg. 93


It seems that Jung speaks of a mind that does not interfere or react with the contents of consciousness, an idea that reminds us to the modern definition of Mindfulness: when we simply observe, without interfere, a deeply therapeutic result occurs, a relaxation in the experience of the moment present, and cease trying to control everything. We realize that if we stop fighting for control, the world does not fall apart, we accept the conditions of life, and found a new source of satisfaction.

7-key-elements-of-mindfulness

Elements defining Mindfulness meditation, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn

Using awareness that does not interfere, do not destroy our ego, rather learn to “see through it” because we do not take it so seriously, we get a “self-liberation”. Meditation allows us free attention, makes us able to reject or at least weaken all the compulsive, automatic, reactions to stimuli, that if we get carried away by  them, could harming others and / or ourselves.

The meditative traditions continue where psychoanalysis ends … we cut the roots of the reaction … That eliminates much suffering. Then you become master of your own mind and experience.” – Daniel Brown, MindScience: An East West Dialogue, Boston, Wisdom Publications, 1991, pg. 101.

The importance of identifying emotions when they occur

Of course, one thing is detachedly observe our mind while meditating in a place specially chosen for this, with nothing and no one to disturb us, surrounded by peace, and quite another to observe without interfering what happens when we are in action and things do not go as we had planned. For example, one of the most powerful emotions is anger; comes to us as a reaction to something we do not like, it may be an injustice, someone inappropriately treat us according to our view, or just something that happens and hurts us. It is dangerous because it captures us a lot of energy, which aims to fight, fight, destroy what has disturbed us. In addition,

Anger and fear are the two emotions that impulse demand a more urgent response. Given these two emotions there is an eagerness to act.” – Rafael Bisquerra, The Universe of Emotions, pg. 79

This impatience to act can lead to perform harmful actions; even if we have spent years meditating, the big amount of energy captured by the emotion and the speed with which it acts can take the control. How to achieve being a master in regulating such emotion? Every time that happens to us once last episode, we must review the events, and realize retrospectively that have been dominated by anger. Over time, our appreciation of this emotion improve until there will come a day when we are so fast that we do not catch  by surprise, recognize it when it comes in; then we will be able to get carried away by it, if we deem appropriate, or pass up, in other words, we are free to act as best we may seem, we will not be conditioned.

Keep in mind that there is often anger episodes of low intensity, which can easily be overlooked. Do you feel tense? angry? ?impatient? peevish? I feeling disaffection? All these states can be related to the more or less disguised anger. It is important to be aware of any negative emotional state, learning to recognize and label: “I recognize that I am impatient … my mind is impatient … my current mental state is impatient …”.

 Making brief moments of mindfulness during the day

Another possibility to train attention for the action is to brief regular breaks from what we are doing and in that brief moment, may be only a few seconds to give full attention, can be our body, our emotions at that moment or thoughts. There are even various mobile apps that can help us; for example, there is a free app reminding us to stop a few seconds, and it does so with the beautiful sound of a Tibetan bowl: Mindfulness Bell.

mindfulness-bell

Searching for lasting happiness

A short story about where happiness really is. This story come to my mind after the reading of this nice writing.

I.

Once upon a time a guy with a dream, a common dream: to be happy.

He had had a broken family, so his mainly aim was to have a nice one.

He married and he worked hard for it, taking care about his formed family.

But things gone wrong again, his wife changed, she didn’t be the same person who married with him, she became an egoistic, selfish person.

Gradually he forgot his dream, he became centered in his job and hobbies, searching there the lost happiness.

 

II.

But one day, a new workmate came; she was shy but passionate, kind and clever, a hard worker, and so pretty. With time, he noticed that he liked her. And that guy came to think: maybe is not too late for me, maybe God decided to give me a second chance, maybe my happiness is in front of me, waiting. But in these time he didn’t know the special customs and culture of the girl, a very conservative ones: divorce are considered almost a curse for her whole family. To marry with a divorced guy was not a choice.

With time, he came absolutely be in love with her; she noticed it, and, despite she felt strong attraction too, she strove for keep the distance, even pretending to ignore him. So there were days of proximity followed by others of restraining, due to her beliefs.

 

III.

Eventually she gave the solution to get rid of her own pain: she look for an acceptable boyfriend in Facebook, somebody of her same culture, somebody that was able to be accepted for her family, switching a guy for another more convenient. And at the same time, moving our protagonist to the “friend zone”, even asking him their opinion about her new boyfriend! Obviously, this could be a good fix for her, but a destructive one for him. But, she deserves to achieve her dream, right? So is OK for her.

 

IV.

Nothing is more hard, I think, that to show somebody with hungry of happiness a door to heaven, and when the guy wants over all the things to cross it, to close the door and lock it.

So our guy lost twice their chance. This last was specially destructive. He became depressed. Then, he started to search for help. Mistrusting doctors and their drugs, he started to do meditation, and read a lot about Buddhism and their promise about the end of suffering.

 One day, while he was reading about awareness, it happened: he felt like a flow within, a dissolving sensation. From this day, all their desires died. He desires nothing at all. Their old hobbies didn’t give him pleasure. Their work became a huge routine, no more. He felt died, finished, but in peace. He desired no more the beloved girl. So he felt finished but free.

With time, the girl let the job, and our guy never see her again, except occasionally in Facebook, in the friend zone of course. She wanted to invite him to her wedding, but of course he didn’t go.

 

V.

Our protagonist felt in peace but sad, is not a desirable state. He kept up the meditation daily sessions and the spiritual readings, and eventually he discovered that Love always had been with him, within himself. But his mind was convinced he must search for love in the world, an unsuccessful way. He experienced some moments of bliss, inner happiness, unconditional. He explored the Metta Buddhist way and the Bodhisattva way. And he feel love for all beings. Good!

But happiness was not permanent: it goes and went. Then he discovered there are still another work for to do: clean the frustations in the subconscious, the old unsuccessful desires was there yet.

 At last, one day he made the decision: he want to be happy, he deserve it, and he will work for it. No more waiting for somebody that open it for him. The door of heaven was locked, nobody will open it for him, he, himself, must open it. This is their only desire now.

Imatge