Sunday, May 18, 2014

Buddhist "Ideas"

I hope this won't be a rant, but I just saw a program on PBS that got everything possible wrong about enlightenment.  The commentator was personable and obviously interested in Buddhism, but she didn't have a clue.

Should this be a cause for distress?  I don't know. Maybe it's to be expected.  How can you know you don't know the real thing until you experience it?  This is, after all, why there is such a thing as lineage (which I so much appreciate despite my dislike of hierarchy):  people who have been given permission to teach can be trusted to speak from the Truth they have realized. But when people who don't know speak as though they do, then others who listen also get confused.

What did she say wrong?  Pretty much everything. First of all, she kept talking about "Buddha's ideas."  Yes, in a way, anything that is put into words can be called an "idea."  But what Buddha realized is not about thoughts in the head.  In fact, it's about what is not thought.

The commentator at one point says that Buddhism leads us to seek escape from the real world of suffering -- I'm paraphrasing but that was the essence.  This is the whole problem:  when you experience the world you see as the "real" one, then everything you say after that has to be wrong.  

The commentator kept saying that Buddhists believe that you have to do this and that in order to find tranquility or nirvana -- she pretty much equates the two.  And maybe I'll stop here, because really the fundamental problem is that not once did the essential truth come up:  we don't exist.  Until that is known, everything will be seen upside down and backward.

But I remember myself how confused I was when people used to say this to me.  Sometimes I'd even get angry. What do you mean, I don't exist?  Who is this person who is dialoging with you right now if I don't exist??  And it is, actually, very difficult to explain what that means when this psychological self has always seemed so solid, so it's no wonder that the subject wasn't even broached on this show.  But at the same time, this is the raison d'etre for the Teachings.  It's not about following some path in order to get psychological satisfaction of some kind.  It's to realize that we are transparent -- empty -- and it is because we are empty that all of existence finds its home in us. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

When Does Spiritual Dialog Hit the Mark?

A few of us on Facebook have been discussing Oprah's interview with Adyashanti on Easter Sunday.  The main issue resolves around a certain place fairly early in the interview when Oprah has an "ah-ha" moment -- when she realizes the nature of the connection between her and Adya.  Some people think that this realization wasn't as deep as it could have been; others that it was in fact a glimpse of the nondual dimension of consciousness. 

I'm not so interested here in which view is right as in the fact of the disparity of views.  We all watched the same interview and yet every person that commented saw it differently!  On the one hand, maybe this shouldn't be surprising.  It's common to emerge from a satsang thinking it was a wonderful talk only to overhear someone else say it wasn't that good.  Or vice versa.  To speak about the wordless dimension is in itself a kind of contradiction, so it's not surprising that when words are used, people interpret them differently.

The question that's been teasing me, though, is this:  if you watch the interview, it's clear that Adya himself knew exactly what was going on with Oprah, where she was and how she took what he said, even if the audience obviously wasn't so sure.  So how did he know?

I've watched Adya talk with students over the years, and also spoken with him myself numerous times.  It seems that he particularly has a knack for being "with" the student -- being able to comprehend what is meant by the words someone utters about the inexpressible.  He misses the mark only rarely.  I've always wondered how he was able to do that.

Of course, a satsang is different from a TV show.  Without the commercials on Oprah, the show ran only 36 minutes. With interruptions every four or five minutes, I doubt if anyone watching had the opportunity to sink into a deeper state of consciousness .  So we were watching from the outside.  The participants, though, did not experience these commercials:  they had the advantage of spending the time together uninterrupted, the time to move into a place where they really could meet.  And this is where Adya was when he was dialoging with Oprah, and where he is when he dialogs with someone during satsang.  And it is only when we ourselves are in that place that we even have a chance of knowing what the two participants are experiencing together.