Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guru Bhakti-Devotion - Revered in the East, Resisted in the West

When I travelled around India during 1996-97, I was amazed at the depth of devotion that the people there have to the different Hindu Gods, i.e., Krishna, Ganesha, etc. This level of devotion was alien to my Western mind. Although I studied and practiced Mahayana Buddhism for almost ten years before my trip to India, my devotion was geared to cognitive interpretation and the mental gymnastics I used to figure out what the Buddhist Sutras meant — particularly the Heart Sutra, the one I spent the most time on.

I trace back this "indoctrination of understanding the mind as being most important tenet in Buddhism" to the first retreat I did. On entering the meditation room, I immediately prostrated myself, which I had always done when I sat down to meditate in front of my own Buddha statue at home. It was only when I looked up that I realized that there was no Buddha statue there. I had prostrated myself out of habit, not out of any genuine devotion, and this was a shocking revelation. Where I had expected a life size statue of the Buddha to be, there was an enormous green flowering plant. Later on, the teacher asked us if we were surprised not to see a statue of the Buddha in a Buddhist meditation room. A few of us nodded our heads.

He went on to explain that meditation is not about worshiping an external symbol but about discovering our own Buddha nature by understanding the nature of mind. That's why there was no Buddha statue there.

In the months and years that followed, this experience had a profound effect on my approach to Buddhism. Knowledge and understanding became much more important than devotion, and yet, whenever I looked at the statue of the Buddha that I had at home, I felt a pull I couldn't describe. I would never have called it devotion, but looking back now I was devoted. And now I see how devotion goes hand in hand with knowledge and understanding. It is a balance to knowledge and understanding. The One without the Other is too one-sided.

In the East, the focus is very much on devotion at the expense of knowledge, discernment, and understanding whilst in the west it is the opposite. Nevertheless, both are one-sided. Devotion is necessary because the ego mind is ready to take any spiritual insight and/or experience and convert it into a ploy for its survival.

Without devotion to a Guru, the ego mind is in charge. This results in students following Gurus who turned out to have feet of clay. How so? These students have no frame of reference outside of their own minds. On the other hand, in those teachers/gurus who have achieved a measure of realization, I have noticed  that devotion to a Guru played a significant part in their process. I am particularly thinking about Mooji's devotion to Papaji, who was a devotee of Ramana Maharshi. I have often written that relying on mind alone, i.e., knowledge and understanding to bring about spiritual awakening is like the thief turning detective to catch itself, the thief. It's never going to happen. Devotion and surrender to a Guru is anathema to the ego mind which is why it is so greatly resisted in the West. In the West, spiritual awakening is all about control and "doing it my way." Relinquishing control to somebody else is the ultimate no-no to the ego mind.

How do I know this? I have seen it in myself. Many years ago, I was a part of a Buddhist group and when its leader turned out to have feet of clay, I vowed to myself that I would never give away my power to anyone which is why I have never formally taken a teacher. Everything I have been graced with up to now has been the result of my own intuition. I have taken courses from Landmark Training and others led by temporary teachers, but have always relied on myself. But I have never been a formal devotee of any teacher, which, for many years, was how I liked it.

Now I am changing. I recognize the all pervasiveness of the ego. As human beings we not only have an ego but we are ego, every thought, feeling, emotion is egoic, and this is hard to accept. This realization has come from deep within me and it has been echoed in the prolific writings of a particular sage who has written that the only way to be free of egoic bondage is to "turn" to him and not to get hung up on trying to understand the contents of the egoic mind. I am now at a stage on this path where this line of thinking makes a lot of sense.

The ego's refusal to die on its own is the reason there's so much emphasis on ego death on the spiritual path. A  sage, like Ramana Maharshi, who put himself through a conscious death, had to surrender to the death process in order for his ego to die and for him to emerge from the ashes of the ego as the Phoenix of Enlightenment — inherently egoless.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

When the Creator and the Created Are One

Above the apex of the pyramid,
On the other side of the mirror,
In the earth beneath the Great Wall of China,
Is a state of being beyond fear.

The instantaneous creation of
The universe far and near
Emanates from the center of Love
Where all is dear.

Wherever the mind is concentrated,
There God is found for sure;
The Tao, the Way, the Buddha path,
The Christhood in azure.

When subject and object are all the same,
When sense and sensor merge,
When star clusters are everything,
When the perceived is also the urge,

Then reality reveals its essence,
Time and space disappear,
All conscious conceptual creation
Vanishes into thin air.

This stupor ecstatic, this cosmic vapor
That permeates the fields
Of all awareness, all reality,
Lasts until heaven finally yields.

Then the Earth looms large and rushes up,

As gravity returns to feel
Life's struggles, conflicts, and challenges,
Suddenly again real.

This moment of nirvana,
This orgasmic zeal,
Recreates the vessel of the soul,
Adds psychic sense to wield.

When Love and Truth merge into One,
When Will and Body kneel,
God's ecstatic presence is
All the perceivers feel.

And though the meditator tries,
No undoing can congeal;
The changes made are permanent,
No going back is real.

This change of mind, heart, soul, and body
Flows with a synchronistic keel;
The journeyer must then submit
To a life of dreams that heal.    

      ~Neil Bethell Sinclair

This poem is about the experience of Nirvikalpa samadhi. If you've undergone it, you'll recognize it. As I was writing it, I felt a voice speak through me.

Neil Bethell Sinclair grew up in Southern California in the 1960s. At sixteen, his family relocated to the Redwoods north of San Francisco during the heyday of the hippie movement.

After spending the summer of 1973 working in Yosemite Natl. Park, he attended UC Berkeley in the fall as a freshman. Through a series of accidents of circumstances, he wound up living in a fraternity briefly where, during a Halloween Party he underwent a neurological transformation that he came later to understand as the full activation of the Kundalini.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Human Evolution and the Dark Night of the Soul

What if the whole direction of the human mind is to leave the ego behind like a chrysalis, like a larval phase of the evolution of the human being within a lifetime? The ego in this scenario acts like a protective layer to blunt the penetration of external energy into the self.

When Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is within…”, this is what he meant. He was saying — just as Gopi Krishna said so many times — that human evolution in this lifetime is not just a possibility, but a mandate. He and all the great prophets sought to teach this truth to their followers and the whole world.

Gopi Krishna
Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man

In this scenario, the ego deflects criticism and judgment as a protective defense mechanism. All the standard brand psychologies apply, except that when the idea of personal evolution is included, it creates a whole new perspective on the ego and related topics. In this scenario the dark night of the soul is a necessary phase in which the now ready individual can enter the next step in evolution, the arousal of the kundalini. The ego is shed like a carapace, and the butterfly emerges, so to speak.

False spirituality overidentifies with this evolving phase. Because the individual desires to go through this stage of spiritual evolution, this is a conundrum, since the overidentification with one’s goal of spiritual evolution is an attachment of the ego, not a letting go. Thus while the ego can be dismissed through service, prayer, and meditation; seeking self-aggrandizement and adulation, along with self-mutilation and self-abnegation, are  manifestations of egocentric desire.

The great tragedies in human history – Hitler, Stalin, and all the great megalomaniacs and their wars – are caused by the conflict between the desire to take the next step in human evolution and the fear of letting go of the ego and its trappings. Egocentrism and egomaniacs are trapped in a world of ego attachment that creates human misery in this life. The lives of the mystics are about teaching this essential truth: the non-attachment to material things, exemplified by the lives of the prophets expresses it deeply.

Add the 27 years that Nelson Mandela spent in jail to the list of those who shed the attractions of desire and found their truth. The funerals of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mandela show how much world leaders appreciate the sacrifice made to teach this lesson. I draw from this a nonjudgmental understanding of the failings of others. Their confusion and desires, and their ignorance of the real PATH TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH has been and remains the cause of so much suffering, as Gautama said.

manifestations of egocentric desire
The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution
PD Ouspensky’s The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution is another expression of this idea. When the ego disintegrates and the kundalini is aroused, it is the beginning of a new phase of personal evolution. Gopi Krishna encouraged the development of a science around the kundalini awakening process. He believed it would be of tremendous value to those searching for spiritual truth. The whole world could benefit from the spontaneous unleashing of creative genius and spirituality.