OVERCOMING DANGERS TO THE PATH
Experience Versus Philosophy:
In a lot of New-Age messages and sentiments, it is asserted that we are already perfected, already whole and already complete. We do not wish to affirm or negate what may or may not be in the experience of the reader, but what is most important is to hold the revelation of that perfected state – whatever it is – as an intense desire and aspiration to experience it directly and in a real way, not merely as some intellectual philosophy.
Many stop on the path because they think that if they believe in this sentiment, all is well. But how is this different from the savior-religions of the world? If we were created imperfect solely so something could come save us, what hand do we have in the matter? How do our actions contain any meaning or merit, and why even create us at all? Why not create us in that already-perfect state?
And if we are created in this already-perfected state, why is that not my reality now? I experience many things I have to honestly say seem imperfect to me. What is the discrepancy here? It can only be from within our perception, where we operate when we perceive ourselves and the world.
If we operate from the basis of solely what we observe, what we experience, if we exist honestly within our own experience and ego and live not from fantasies and false imaginings, then we will affirm that we do not know this perfected state; if it is true that we already exist in perfection, then clearly it is concealed from our perception.
Our perception must then contain some deficiency in interpreting the perfect as imperfect, and it is from this perception that we must experience and function in this world. If we were formed differently, we would then function differently, so this seeming contradiction of perception versus reality is what we are experiencing now. However, in our present state we have all the tools we need existing within our current egoic desires to change this perception, actually.
If we see no problem with our egoic state, then the desire for changing ourselves has not fully developed, and more time in the world trying to fulfill egoic desires is required. If, however, we do not stop at the assumption that we are perfect but recognize the deficiencies in how we function currently, we can develop an intense desire from within our current egoic state to change our properties of egoism.
The development of this intention is paramount to one’s spiritual progress; without it, one is dead in the water, figuratively and otherwise. Without the desire to change one’s properties, one is completely opposite to the spiritual world, because one finds complete similarity to the selfish desires of the world they exist in.
We will cover two other problems that inhibit progress on the path, but this fundamental delusion of perception not acknowledging the reality of one’s condition and current state will prevent one from even starting the work.
There is a state of no-work, no-effort, but it takes work and efforts to arrive at that state, actually. As we will discuss in the next section, the habits of valuing one’s Mindstream must be disengaged and cut away gradually and over time in order to disempower it and free oneself from the efforts involved in constantly sustaining it.
Another assumption is that we know something about ourselves, or about the world. But what has been revealed to us about ourselves and this world comes only through the filters of the mind. If something of the world has been revealed, it is so only from the perception of mind, and if something of the mind has been revealed, it is so only from one’s existence in the world.
In other words, we have not seen or revealed one iota of the mind’s essence, much less the world’s, but can see their interdependence and relationship. How do we then know anything whatsoever about the state above ours, what it contains, much less its essence? Avoiding projections of the mind onto what we have yet to experience and working only from within what is real to us and experienced by us is paramount to spiritual progress; there is no growth from outside of this grounded state.
Mind in its natural state is devoid of anything, but in this voidness it creates all manifestations. Removed from reality, the forms of the mind are completely abstract and devoid of meaning, rise and fall like temporary daydreams, and cannot be interpreted into meaningful messages without falling into error.
The world is full of forms of the mind clothed in the material we perceive. Only when forms are associated with matter can we make meaning from them, and then only relative to our current state. This understanding is examined further in the next section.
What is truth? Is telling the truth always true? If you tell a lie in order to save a life, how is that lie not then truth, and a greater kindness than all truths that could be told?
What is kindness? Is kindness always kind? If you are kind to a child when they are doing something dangerous, how could it ever be considered kind? Is not strictness in the interest of preserving the child’s safety a greater kindness and love than all kind words?
What is love? Is love always love? If you love what is right in your mind, even when it is not right or good for others, how could that be called love? If you say you love your brother but hate your neighbor or a stranger, how can you really love either, in fact? How can love contain such discriminations? And yet, the actions of love are never apart from the discernment of wisdom.
What is wisdom? Is wisdom always wise? If, in revealing one’s wisdom, he creates a state of separation between himself and others, so that he is seen as too remote to relate to, how is that not cutting people off from wisdom, and anything but a wise action?
If I see a form (such as love) clothed in an action occurring in the biological sense, then I can recognize, acknowledge and connect with its expression to the degree that it exists within me (is revealed). However, when I imagine some category called ‘love’ devoid of anything existing in the present moment, this is called abstraction and is a misleading delusion and impediment to one’s path through life and towards spirituality. We see in the above examples how abstract notions of things transform into their opposite when we do not consider them relative to experiences and situations; i.e. as forms clothed in matter.
In order to avoid fallacies of abstractions, delusional concepts and fantastical imaginings of the mind, if you can see clearly through the abstraction of any and all concepts, you will witness that devoid of any concrete substance, form or situation, they will always lack the clarity necessary to contain meaning or refer to anything real. In themselves, such abstract categories don’t exist, in fact. Where is truth, until it is heard? Where is kindness, until it is felt? Where is love, until it is shared? Where is wisdom, until it is acted upon?
We can neither say such things exist, nor don’t exist. But because they are not perceived, I say they aren’t manifest and don’t exist to me, and when they are perceived, I can testify to their manifestation and existence. To the degree that my own inner attributes match the form I see in the world, I can recognize it instantly.
This type of recognition is free from mind-discrimination; it is not an intellectual comparison from what I think is right or wrong. Rather, it is clearly and instantly recognized and felt, intuitively and without language needed to describe or label it. Without the concepts of ‘truth’ or ‘love’, etc., the forms that we call by names can still be experienced clear as day.
When we operate with abstractions in our mind, we are very prone to error. Detached from reality and floating aimlessly in Mindstream, we find all forms of delusions completely removed from the matter at hand.
If we operate with what we witness, purifying the mind of distractions and abstractions via the practice of seeing through all illusion and desiring only peerless clarity and more penetrating truth, then that clarity will dawn in vastness and make itself available and real to you as life itself. Truth will take off Her clothes and dance vividly naked before you.
All these things, the totality of experience, whether perceived as actions and objects outside of ourselves, or conjured from within the images in the mind, occurs only in the mind. There is no knowledge of what is outside of the mind; everything that exists to us exists only in the mind. To point to an object perceived as external is to point to a mental object and form projected onto the material; describe the material to me devoid of the form you perceive.
You only know matter as it is clothed in form, and form as it enclothes matter; since describing matter devoid of form is clearly not possible, and describing form devoid of matter only creates error, do you now begin to believe me and the countless Sages when it is said both the internal and external world you experience is all contained within your mind, and that nothing you experience whatsoever exists outside of the mind?
Concepts and values in themselves are worthless; morals and ethics existing as abstract categories are stuffy elitist delusions, devoid of any real meaning without an application to a particular moment and situation. Removed from an occurrence in and relationship with reality, such concepts become demons and maras (illusory influences) to torment and mislead the minds of the dim-willed but well-meaning. A single degree off the mark is an impending shipwreck a hundred miles down the course.
All these mental perturbations will lead one astray. At best, you arrive at a wasted life; at worst, it induces psychosis and worse sufferings – self-inflicted, because of the habitual entertainment and empowerment of mental abstractions, illusory forms and concepts devoid of inherent meaning, and because they have a temporary existence not grounded in anything real whatsoever.
Energy flows where the attention goes; our attention continually sustains and empowers Mindstream. So avoid abstractions by ceasing to put emphasis and one’s focus on the abstractions of the mind; the Mindstream exists only referentially to an observer, an experiencer, where the act of observation validates its existence for us. Delving into the contents of the mind, drifting away in it, going to war with it, or trying to run from it, are all actions consisting in themselves of Mindstream. These sorts of actions towards mind contents clearly do not lead one out of the maze; why persist in them further?
We do not mean to cease using the mind as the tool that it is when it is necessary, but that it is not necessary to be involved and entangled with the process; to stop valuing what it has to offer, to recognize the completeness of its insufficiency to provide meaning, and to disengage completely from habitually following the Mindstream in its rampant and chaotic course of perpetual nonsense.
For example, if I need to plan a meal, I use the mind to plan a meal. Like any tool, when I am through, I put it away. But for most, the mind is not like this. Day and night we are constantly engaged with the mind’s contents. The mind will run perpetually with its nonsense; why stay constantly affixed towards it? Drop the whole matter entirely. Do not try to think or not think; simply do not think about not thinking at all. See completely through.
If you cease giving Mindstream your energy through engagement with and entertaining it, then you cease giving it your energy through your attention and it loses strength and vanishes as an apparition. This disengagement is like breaking any habit; it takes time and is a progressive process. When one is free from empowering Mindstream and abstractions, completely liberated from distractions, delusions and entertainment of illusory forms, one is clear, pure, empty and yet full; without obscurations, how can the truth not be known?
The Heart of the Matter:
Without an intense and burning desire to achieve something in this world, how can that thing possibly be achieved? The same is true for spirituality. Do not assume the Buddha, or the Gnostics, or any other tradition meant for us to cut off our desires; on the contrary, desire is the basis of what we are, how we live. It is only necessary to cultivate a desire in the correct direction, with the right intention; that in itself transforms our egoic desires into altruistic ones, and elevates us to a spiritual degree.
How so? If you and I share a common interest, then we are close concerning that interest. With what we share together, we feel close, and with what interests oppose, we feel distant. It is no different in the spirit. In our egoic sense of self, we feel as though we are high, and place ourself above and before others. But because that is opposite to the spiritual state above ours, we are actually very low. What we have made to be high, we must bring to be low; then everything is in its appropriate place, we perceive correctly, and can make a motion upwards.
If we assume ourselves to already be perfect, exalted, whole and complete, what changes could be made? We don’t possess the power to change our egoic desires from within our current state, but if the realization of our egoic nature exists, it is sufficient to awaken in us the desire to change, to view our nature as deficient and our state as low.
Then, we crave the desire to change; this is right intention. The strength of this desire is what elevates us toward the spirit; we are close or distant to spirituality by our fervor or lack of desire to change. My intention to change is for myself and is thus egoic, but within it is also an altruistic intention for everything and everyone else, because if I change my properties, my influence upon the world and upon others changes and brings benefit, as well.
Instead of relating in egoic terms, I relate in altruistic terms. Instead of being selfish just for this body and this life, my selfishness expands to everything and everyone around me. I am selfish for my brother – I want him to be happy! I am selfish for strangers – I desire them to be joyous and free from suffering.
Notice that the nature of my desire has not changed – it is still the same form of selfishness – but now it is increased and pointed towards a much larger picture than simply myself; thus we can call it altruistic. It is not selfless, because it still includes me in its degree of desiring, but it is more similar to the state above this egoic world, where there is a degree of sharing an intention regarding others’ internal states and well-being.
Note also that this is not an intellectual exercise or some dry philosophy, but a very real experience from within the core of our being. Deep within us is this aspect, like a seed, ready to germinate. If we can reach deep within and beyond our egoic desires to touch this one desire to change our state, and cling to that no matter what, always desiring more and more similarity to the altruistic, this is sufficient to elevate us in spirituality.
There is no coercion in spirituality; the changes in our desires cannot be forced, but must come as a natural result of our wanting it. The only ‘cutting off’ here with regards to desire means that in the beginning, all my focus and attention is towards this one desire for fundamental change. This results in completely devaluing all my other desires until they ‘die off’ to me; I no longer genuinely wish to engage in them, and only seek and find fulfillment in desiring the upper state of spirituality. Until I attain this change in my state, I am unable to work from within my existing egoic desires, and so I should cease empowering them by engaging in and trying to fulfill them.
Just as with the habit of empowering Mindstream, which in the beginning must be cut and disengaged in, until I acquire a change allowing me to use my desires for an intention coming from the state above my current one of total egoism, I should wholly focus and point this desire to change my properties like a laser beam to what is felt but not seen.
Spirituality is not coercing yourself to be nice towards others, to pray or forcibly restrict your desires, or to dream, imagine or refer to ‘spiritual people’ and then imitate what we think it must mean to be spiritual. Spirituality means fundamental change to directly experience a state beyond the biological, egoic self. The result of being kind, compassionate, loving, etc. are the most wonderful side-effects; just as discussed, we should not confuse outer appearances for inner states, but work wholly within what is available to us in order to reveal spirituality within ourselves.
When we disengage the Mindstream and it begins to lose its power, when we point our desire to change so that our other desires begin to fade away, we create fundamental change within ourselves. We begin to ‘hack’ our current system of egoism and something ‘cracks’, birthing a new state for us. This is spirituality; we have used the pitfalls of false perception and philosophy, Mindstream and egoism against themselves. Our potential downfall has become the dissolution of the obstacles themselves, and now that we have attained our first taste of spirituality, we can begin the spiritual work.
“What you’re seeking is where you’re seeking from…”