Posts Tagged ‘initiation’

Sentient beings give rise to buddhas

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Observing the rising and falling of thoughts and the rising and falling of feeling is central to my practice. It has a number of benefits. Firstly, it gives insight into the space between thoughts. I’ve been calling that awareness of late. It strikes me that this is the “essence of mind” that Hui Neng talks about. Secondly, it demonstrates the impermanence of thoughts, points of view and of feelings. And that leads to the fourth point, which is that the whole realm of appearances is unsatisfactory. Fifthly, it develops a kind of spaciousness in one’s psyche.

In a way this post proceeds on from “The second initiation.” Seeing feelings arise, eventually gives the ability to intercept them and examine how that feeling will move into craving, into clinging, into becoming, into birth and into suffering; even if you’re watching it happen in real time. Seeing from your own experience that feelings lead to suffering is a vital key.

Also of interest to this post is how the senses lead to contact and in turn lead to feeling for me is such an exquisite part of the dharma.

“What we have to do is to purify our mind so that the six vijnanas (types of consciousness), in passing through the six gates (sense organs) will neither be defiled by nor attached to the six sense-objects. When our mind works freely without any hindrance, and is at liberty to ‘come’ or to ‘go’, we attain Samadhi of Prajna, or liberation. Such a state is called the function of ‘thoughtlessness’. But to refrain from thinking of anything, so that all thoughts are suppressed, is to be Dharma-ridden, and this is an erroneous view.”
Hui Neng

The point of all of this is: if you don’t see the flow of suffering, you won’t know how to stop it. Once you see how it all works for yourself, you want to stop it. Why should you suffer any more? And you want to enter fully into that awareness you’ve discovered.

The technique is that you can be simply aware, you can intercept thoughts and you can intercept feelings. There is lots of room for practice.

“Sentient beings who sow the seeds of enlightenment In the field of causation will reap the fruit of Buddhahood.”

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The Second Initiation

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

In Just what is an arhat? I talked a little about the fifth initiation. Western occultism’s second initiation is said to be the same as the Buddhist stage of stream winner. I think it would be kind of interesting to explore this. So let’s do it.

A stream winner, or srotapanna in Sanskrit and sotapanna in Pali, is someone who has entered the stream, of the buddhist eightfold noble path that leads to the end of suffering. Such a being has tasted nirvana and thus knows the truth of buddha’s teaching. He has more than likely achieved this through meditation.

Importantly, because they have tasted nirvana, they have no more doubt. But this is also because meditation has enabled them to penetrate into form and see that there is no self there. This maybe requires some explanation. Traditionally a Buddhist sees the personality as composed of the five aggregates:-form, sensation, perception, mental formations, consciousness. But there is an approach nearer to our culture that does the job just as well.

In the neo-Darwin school, we are nothing more than a mechanism for the survival of our genes. Acquisition whether that’s of things, or personal characteristics is nothing than to ensure the survival of the genes. Richard Dawkins called them the selfish gene. In other words what you think of as your identity has nothing to do with you whatsoever, your identity is nothing other than a strategy by your genes to ensure that they will reproduce. Money, power, and social status are mechanisms through which your selfish genes compete. This gives rise to what you think, feel and experience. Almost all people find this very difficult to accept. But this denial too is nothing other than part of the strategy of the genes.  To see evidence of this you need look no further than a breed of dog or cat.  Why?  Because whole breeds share personalities.  Your personality is not in fact yours.  It’s merely an expression of your genes.

There’s hope. Meditate enough and you will discover that your awareness lies as a substrate beneath thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, which are fluid. Your awareness lies beneath your personality even. And of course you see the impermanence of these thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. In a sense your genes have captured your awareness, but identifying with them will only lead to suffering for the simple reason that they vanish soon enough and your clinging to them lead to misery. So, it’s awareness that’s interesting and has interestingly enough been there all the time. It’s just that we’ve failed to pay due attention to it. Disidentify the awareness from its content and you will be free.

This view that all form is empty of self is only one part of the understanding. Another part is the interconnectedness of all things. This is not as new age as it might otherwise sound. It is in part an understanding that we have been making a huge mistake by reifying, i.e. creating things. Ask yourself this, when is a tree no longer a seed and then a tree? A tree is really one huge process. Moreover it doesn’t stand in isolation. It depends on the rain, the soil, the sun, the wind, other plants, animals, etc. etc. etc. Everything as much as there are things is interdependent. That we see things as separate is nothing other than a convenient fiction.

So our disciple gets the point and decides to move from identification with form and a separative view to identification with awareness and a holistic interdependent view, realizing that he his not the contents of the awareness, realizing that the contents of awareness are without any self, realizing that everything is interconnected and puts the truth into practice and renounces all separate and form identity.

So how does this match with the western occultism’s view? The alignment isn’t as complete as you might wish, but it’s revealing nevertheless. It centers around the purification of the emotional nature.

In the west this initiation is sometimes called the initiation of the Baptism. Christ was said to have taken the second initiation when John the Baptist submerged Jesus into the stream. At the second initiation the disciple has purified his emotional nature and is ready to be born again into the kingdom of heaven.

The normal human identity is rooted in the emotional nature. Few are the people with a true mental identification, which is why the second initiation is much more difficult than the other for most people. To give up identification with the emotional nature is to give up most of the sense of one’s self. It helps to know that emotions arise as a result of wrong view. That identification with thoughts is another wrong view, is to the western occultist a matter of the third initiation, and a mater for another post.

There is a slight mismatch between the Western occultist’s view point and a Buddhist’s. In one view the disciple has given up identity and doubt, to the other he has given up desire. But as we saw the root of identity for most is in the emotional nature.

At the second initiation the disciple has struck a major blow at the sense of I, such that all that’s left are some habits. Buddha was very clear about that.

Buddha then asked, “What do you think, Subhuti, does one who has entered the stream which flows to Enlightenment, say ‘I have entered the stream’?”

“No, Buddha”, Subhuti replied. “A true disciple entering the stream would not think of themselves as a separate person that could be entering anything. Only that disciple who does not differentiate themselves from others, who has no regard for name, shape, sound, odor, taste, touch or for any quality can truly be called a disciple who has entered the stream.”

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Just what is an arhat

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Arhat, or Arahant in Pali, is a term you hear a lot in Buddhism. Someone who has achieved liberation. But what does it actually mean? Well the etymology is ambigous. The traditional school reports arhat as meaning: one who is worthy. But apparently, recent research suggests that it is cognate with sanskrit Arihan: one who kills or destroys enemies. The Tibetan translation of Arhat – dgra bcom pa – means: one who has destroyed the foes of afflictions.
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