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The source – the knowing nature – is not a self. It is not a self because for it to be a self it would have to be able to possess something, anything, as “mine.” There can be no “me” without “mine.”

Talking about the knowing nature as though it is pure or impure is beside the point. The source is not unlike an innocent bystander which is co-opted through a great confusion that leads to the generation of suffering. Suffering is not uncaused. It is not intrinsic to reality.

Thoughts are powerfully deceptive. They form images which are known via the source, and which confuse themselves as the source. The thoughts think they are the ones who know. And from here it all goes downhill. Confusing that which knows and lasts with that which is incapable of knowing in and of itself, which is also that which is in constant change – birth, aging, illness, and death – they delude themselves into thinking there is a continuity of self from moment to moment of conditioned arising. All this is possible because of the knowing nature and its neutral, unbiased position.

It is the mind’s ability to fabricate that is both its damnation and salvation. When it remains ignorant of its own power, life is hell. When its wakes up to its own power, it can be turned against itself. It can realize all of the pain and suffering it causes itself; how futile the self-preservation-mode really is.

And as the mind becomes less infatuated with itself, it comes to see that the knowing nature need not be subject to this madness. It has been used for suffering when it has the potential to be the home of radical freedom. It is both the means and the end of awakening.

If you want to know a way to figure this out quickly, learn to deceive yourself intentionally! Imagine something you want, and notice how your mind and body respond. Picture something terrible, something you would never want to see happen, and observe what happens to the quality of experience. Then notice how no matter how long you try to sustain either scenario, each will die.

No state lasts forever. It takes too much energy. The mind gets bored and moves on to something else. When it does, pay attention to the way it happens! I thought arises, and the mind delights in the thought, and a new self is born. For example, when meditation becomes difficult, you may think, “Why am I meditating when it’s so painful. This meditation stuff doesn’t even work. I’m going to be happy just being myself and doing the things I like.” This thought let you off the hook. The burden of meditation relieved, you sigh with relief and go about your life, utterly deceived once again… That is, until life is seen for the mess of suffering it can be. Then you will think, “I’m going to meditate and get rid of this suffering!” Then the meditator is reborn, and the enthusiasm and delight return. How tricky, this mind!

When you bring this unconscious process out into the open air of conscious awareness, you can then learn to use it to your advantage. But maybe I’ll save the details for another post

The first step on this path of practice, which is simply a path to here, is recognizing the difference between the knowing nature and that which is known. This distinction won’t always matter. It’s not some absolute truth to cling to. It’s just a step in the right direction. It sucks the power out of illusion by turning it back on itself. This cannot, should not, be under-emphasized. I hope this point is quite clear. If you haven’t made this first step, you’re still stuck in the thorn bushes.

Take the first step.

One of the unique abilities of an awakened individual such as myself is the ability to know the minds of others. I don’t mean that all awakened people can read your thoughts (though, I don’t doubt that some can). What I mean is that I can have a conversation with someone – hell, I can even just overhear a conversation between others – and know after a short time just where they’re as far as proximity to awakening is concerned. Actually, it’s more like knowing just where they’re stuck.

Hearing someone speak is not different from hearing them think. Thinking, after all, is internal speaking. I’m told you can actually see the transition from when a child is somewhat unable to keep their thoughts to themselves, to being able to keep quiet – all while being able to see that their wheels are still turning. Most people don’t share all of the content of their internal speaking, mostly for social reasons (“If I could be arrested for my thoughts, they’d lock me up!”). But their style of speech is the same on the inside as it is on the outside, and the content doesn’t vary that much.

In that regard, I’m not receiving any information that you can’t receive as well. You can hear the same stuff I hear. But, you see, I’ve already unraveled the speech knot. I know, in an excruciatingly intimate way, just how certain kinds of thinking represent certain ways of being “stuck.” I learned to undo them for myself, so I know what someone needs to hear in order to remove the blockage… that is, if they accept the challenge to challenge their sticky thoughts.

The thoughts that keep us tangled in the dream world are basically what we might refer to as common sense. Common sense is particularly nefarious because it gallivants around completely unchallenged for the most part. And the most diabolical form of common sense thinking comes to us as assertions of “I,” of “me,” and of “mine.” In each case, there is an assumption of lack. If “I am” is assumed, then there must be something “I” can keep and hold as “mine.” But nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing at all is belongs to a “me.” But our assumption leads to a tremendous about of unnecessary suffering the expenditure of copious amounts of vital energy. We’re tired, we’re scared, we’re pissed off – all because we think we can actually “have” something.

Do you know what the most common thing people tend to think that they have? It’s insanely tautological; a heap of recursive nonsense. It is this: “I” think “I” have a unique personality. But this personality is who “I” am, from this point of view. “I have an ‘I’, OK! And I need you to respect and appreciate my ‘I’, or I’ll hate you!” Of course, this comes out, in common speech, as, “You need accept, appreciate, and respect ‘me’!”

I’m not advocating disrespect and rejection. If you think so, you’re missing the point. The point is that the assumption that one’s personality is somehow who they are, and that it needs to be defended, and that they can be damaged when someone says something bad about it, or doesn’t go along with its desires… that’s spiritual pathology. And this is what I hear all the time, day to day, in any social encounter I find myself in. It comes out in external speech.

There’s not need to try and throw a big bucket of freezing cold truth in the face of someone who holds some nutty common sense personality-view. That kind of act is very oppositional, and I question the motives of anyone who think it’s their job to cut down someone’s ego. The desire to cut anything down is itself an act of ego. It’s better to believe you have a self and be kind than to delude yourself into some kind of no-self-view (which is really a self-view in disguise), and then go around trying to castrate the selves of those around you. Again, not the point.

I find it much more practical to meet someone where they are at. Instead of throwing a whole new system of concepts their way, I like to keep things closer to home. For example, I was introduced to a friend of a friend last weekend. In getting to know him, I found out that he studied political science in college. The topic of political affiliation came up, and he said to me, “You know, it’s best not to associate with any ’ism’ or party or anything like that.” This statement is reasonable enough. A lot of people get stuck in their “isms,” (e.g. Marxism, Libertarianism, Progressivism, Conservatism, etc.) and are therefore too tightly affiliated with a particular group or teaching. But I knew from the way he said it that, although he had detached from needing to have a label- an “ism,” – he was stuck in the land of no-label, to the point of being turned-off or repulsed by the very idea of having an “ism” of his own. And yet, holding tightly to his position of no-position is precisely what isolates him, what keeps him separate and partial and divided. So, I said to him, “Yeah. So, do you think there’s an ‘ism’ that could be applied to those of us who hate ‘isms’?” At that moment I could see his wheels turning, just like the above description of the child. He said, “Uh, I don’t know. I guess there could be!” We had a good laugh about it, and then our conversation moved on to other things. You may not be able to recognize the significance of this, or maybe you can. But, by participating in this seemingly insignificant exchange of ideas, this guy got one step closer to the waking up.

And at the risk of sounding like a cheesy infomercial, SO CAN YOU! Most people are not awake, because most people do not practice. Those who practice well, and practice all the way to the end, wake up. You can consider the “knowing the minds of others” ability a nice perk after a job well done.

There’s a simple reason why it’s difficult for the unawakened to comprehend what awakening is like. The reason is that they are using the contrived mind to conceptualize awakening, and awakening is inherently trans-conceptual.

How so? As I mentioned before in a post on suffering, and in another post after that, before we awaken we are identified with the movements of the contrived mind. It moves toward this, and it moves away from this, and it clouds itself to ignore this other thing. The mind divides experience up into this over here, and that over there. It’s the source of the perception that ‘I’ exist separately from ‘you.’ All of this delusional nonsense is conjured up in the contrived mind, and has no basis in reality.

Waking up is about seeing this process clearly enough, by whatever means, in order to release one’s identification with the mind. At times this awakening results in a stilling of the movements of mind, but not in a lasting way. The mind does what it does, on its own. There’s no “I” or “you” in the mix, whatsoever. Seeing glimpses of reality as it really is results in longer glimpses, and then longer glimpses, until what used to be just a glimpse becomes an abiding experience.

When I endorse practice which lead to the recognition of the source, I do so knowing that realizing this new viewpoint results in decreased identification with the contrived mind. Ultimately, that’s the point – to see things as they really are. The results are beneficial enough for folks like me to dedicate our time to pointing out the way.

This is also why teachers like the mythical Jed McKenna teach techniques like spiritual autolysis, in which one simply tries to write something they know is true; something that can’t be refuted. In doing so, the futility of the contrived mind’s take on reality is exposed. This is not a practice I have engaged in to any significant degree. Though, I can say that keeping a record of my practice and reflecting on various insights was a major part of the awakening process.

Looking back through my journals, I can see the times when I thought I was 100% sure about something being true, only to completely change my mind not even a week later. Bringing awareness to this process helped me get out of my head.

So, why not put some of this into practice and see for yourself?

If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won’t see the Buddha. As long you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you’ll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. […] To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature. Whoever sees his nature is a Buddha. If you don’t see your nature, invoking Buddhas, reciting sutras, making offerings and keeping precepts are all useless.

Bodhidharma, from the Bloodstream Sermon

Remember the clear light, the pure clear white light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns, the original nature of your own mind. The natural state of the universe unmanifest. Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature, it is home.

From The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Awakening isn’t something you can just figure out. It isn’t born out of rational inquiry. For this reason, I think the number one thing that gets in the way of awakening is the over-identification with the rational mind.

Reason is all about consistency. If you have a set of ideas, and they fit together in a consistent way, one may describe this “fitting together” as a reasonable conclusion. This is the very basis of many of the classical arguments for the existence of God (the capital “G” is usually very important to supporters of such arguments). Take Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument, for example. He stated that (1) every finite thing has a cause, and that (2) a causal chain cannot be of infinite length. Therefore, (3) a first cause – or unmoved mover – must exist. This unmoved mover is, supposedly, God.

It makes sense, right? If everything is caused, what caused the first cause? Based on the information provided in the argument (*make note of this*), the rational conclusion is that there must have been an uncaused causer.

But there is one serious flaw in any sort of rational argument such as this one. There is a presupposition here in regards to nature of reason itself. In order for this kind of argument to be true, we not only have to decide whether enough information was provided to support the conclusion. But, if we are thorough and honest, we also have to admit the possibility that reasoning act itself may be flawed. In fact, we are so caught up in our thoughts most of the time that we don’t even notice the truth. The truth is glaringly obvious – that is, if you can but stop looking for it through the lens of reason.

Reason is very much like a genie in a bottle. It bends toward the will of its master, and the master is always flawed. How so? The master is flawed because there is no master. Reason is flawed because there is no stable, consistent, separate self who reasons.

Awakening is not about crafting a strong, cohesive argument for a non-dual worldview. It’s not the opposite of this, either. No – awakening is more about blasting out of the mind. If the mind is to be used for anything at all on the path of awakening, it will have to be used as a weapon against itself (most effectively through self-enquiry; a subject for another post).

On the path of awakening, it’s against your best interests to spend too much time toiling over whether the truth you’re discovering makes rational sense. Let go of the mind. See past it. See throught it. Let it collapse, and see – or rather, be – what remains.

Sam

The number one question I get from people who hear that I’m awakened is, “Do you still suffer?” Of course, this questions is inspired by the First Noble Truth of the Buddha, which is dukkha. The word dukkha is almost always translated as suffering, which many truly awakened folks have found to be a bit misleading. For most people, it is nearly impossible to separate suffering from pain, anguish, the so-called “negative” emotions, etc. But any truly awakened person with a shred of personal integrity will tell you that they still feel pain, still experience negative emotions, and that anguish may still arise.

Still others try to translate dukkha as “unsatisfactoriness,” but that doesn’t really fit the bill, either. There are plenty of things that I find unsatisfactory, and my awakening doesn’t diminish in the slightest in light of this fact. What, then, is this suffering stuff all about?

It’s quite simple, actually. All we have to do is first look at what old Buddha said was the cause of suffering, and then describe the experience of the awakened and non-awakened individual.

The Buddha as depicted in the Pali suttas (the oldest teachings ascribed to the Buddha) describes the cause of suffering as “craving” in his Second Noble Truth. However, he later elaborates on this and says that the causes of suffering are greed, aversion, and delusion. These causes are generally seen as things that can be cleared away from the mind, thus relieving suffering. However, I think it’s more accurate to describe these processes as nothing more than the activities of the conditioned mind itself.

You see, human beings (and perhaps all other beings) generally mature into a state of identification with the conditioned mind. This mind is none other than the processes of grasping, averting, and ignoring, any and all experiences that arise to meet it (to use crude, unscientific language). When we are identified with these processes – when we understand them to comprise a single entity called “I” or “me” – we are bound to their movements. This is a rather turbulent state of affairs, don’t you think? Constantly moving towards, moving away, or blocking-out experience is quite the existential run-around. This state of affairs, as well as the corresponding cognitive friction, is what the Buddha meant – and any other awakened person means – when the word dukkha is used.

It is possible to concentrate on a single point of reference, and to fix the mind into a state of stability, which temporarily halts the state of affairs called dukkha. But, being temporary, the state will not last, and suffering will commence once more. This is why it’s not enough to calm the mind. One must leap clear of this mind all together. That is, one must awaken out of the mind, so that its movements are no trouble at all.

Imagine for a moment that someone has given you a soft clay figurine and said, “This is you.” Now, let’s say your cat comes along and takes a bite out of the figurine’s left arm. If you believe that you are this figurine, you’ll panic! You’ll scream! “No! You’ve injured my body! This just isn’t fair! I hate you, Fluffy!” But this is ridiculous, isn’t it? You know that you’re not a clay figurine. What’s even more ridiculous is that you believe that you are your mind.

That’s what this awakening business is all about. It’s not about stabilizing your conditioned mind – it’s about no longer identifying with it. Any technology of awakening you practice should have this dis-identification as its sole aim. See the mind for what it is, and then let go. Freeing yourself from the processes of the mind (NOT stopping or purifying them) is the end of dukkha.

Until next time,
Sam