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“The End of Your World,” by Adyashanti

Enlightenment used to be something of a dirty word in the west, or at least it used to be considered improper to make any claims to be enlightened. People would say this reticence was an “eastern thing” — a sign of how spiritually mature Asia was, because of course you would “just know” that someone was Enlightened. This was always nonsense. Looking at the Buddhist scriptures it’s hard to ignore the Buddha’s “Lion’s Roar” where he declares that he is awakened. There are two entire books of the Buddhist scriptures — the Therigatha and Theragatha — which are entirely composed of verses composed by people declaring that they, too, were Enlightened.

Title: The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment
Author: Adyashanti
Publisher: Sounds True
ISBN: 978-1-59179-779-1
Available from: Sounds True, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store, Amazon.com, and Amazon.com Kindle Store.

So there’s nothing in the original Buddhist tradition that says you should be shy and bashful about your spiritual attainments. (Falsely claiming spiritual attainments is, of course, frowned upon, but that’s an entirely different matter.) So how did this myth arise? I suspect that in many cases western teachers were not saying whether they were enlightened or not because they hoped people would think they were. Often teachers are as bashful about saying that they are not awakened as about saying that they are. How delicious to keep people guessing!

But all that is changing. Western teachers — some of them very impressive individuals — are beginning to “come out” and to proclaim their awakening. They’re also explicitly teaching others how to wake up to reality. Adyashanti is one of those. Initially trained in the Zen tradition, Adya (as he is known) is now something of a post-Buddhist freewheeling non-dualist, having shed his Zen persona along with his ego. As best as I can gather, he doesn’t teach meditation, but instead offers “satsangs” (a term he has borrowed from the Hindu non-dualist tradition) where he simply talks.

He says,

“I’m not the kind of spiritual teacher who has a personal relationship with my students. I come, I teach, we interact when I teach, but I don’t have a retreat center; I don’t have an avenue in which we relate in a casual way.”

The End of Your World is an attempt to help others who may be experiencing awakening, or have experienced it, or have experienced something that they think might be awakening. It’s aimed at those who are confused about what the next step might be, or who are baffled by finding that spiritual awakening actually might bring with it a whole set of problems. The book has an authentic ring to it, and I have no doubt that Adya is in fact enlightened.

Adya has a broad definition of awakening. He includes not only permanent insights, but temporary experiences of non-duality. Thus, experiences that that the Buddhist tradition would emphatically deny are states of true awakening (the fourth jhana, and any of the so-called formless jeans) might be regarded by Adya as experiences of enlightenment. He does acknowledge that “some would say that if an awakening is momentary, it is not a real awakening,” but goes on to dismiss this on the grounds that non-abiding awakening (as he calls it) is on a trajectory toward the real deal. I’m not entirely convinced by this. On the one hand I see it as a kind of “spiritual grade inflation” (great for self-esteem!) but on the other hand I do think that experiences of selfless non-duality are important steps toward awakening and shouldn’t be undervalued.

Adya deals with the fact that awakening can be disorienting, and even painful, because in finding the truth we need to look at things more honestly, and this might be difficult. He says in fact that “in order to awaken, we must break out of the paradigm of always seeking to feel better.” He points out that once the enlightened state begins to manifest, there is a conflict with the remaining ego. Sometimes there is a conflict because they ego is dissolving, and the personality is changing. This presents the problem of coping with change. Sometimes the ego tries to co-opt the enlightened experience. The ego, for example, says “How do I stay in the awakened state?” The awakened state has no need of such questions, of course. Better questions for the ego, Adya points out, would be, “How is it that I’m unenlightening myself? How is it specifically that I’m putting myself back in illusion.” Enlightenment is, clearly a process.

One thing that disappointed me, in a small way, about Adya’s presentation of this process was that there’s no reference to the traditional Buddhist conception of the stages of awakening: stream entry, once-returner, non-returner, arahant. There are, naturally, other ways to approach the process of awakening (even within the Buddhist tradition — and the categories I mentioned are not used in the Zen tradition he is steeped in) but I would have liked to see his take on these stages of enlightenment. However, Adya does things his own way, and uses his own language and images, which is actually rather refreshing. His presentation is lively, and original, and it is engaging because of its being utterly unfettered by traditional language.

The author offers up a fair degree of spiritual autobiography, detailing his “first awakening” at the age of 25, and his “final awakening” at the age of 32, along with the ups and downs that came in between. Sometimes he seems a little coy; he repeatedly mentions his “Zen teacher,” under whom he studied for 14 or 15 years, without once mentioning her name. (I know from other sources that her name is Arvis Joen Justi, and that she was a disciple, although not an appointed Dharma Heir, of Maezumi Roshi. She’s now retired, so perhaps Adya didn’t want a bunch of readers seeking her out so that they could replicate his path). Other times he seems very candid, talking for example about a post-awakening “dysfunctional disaster” of a relationship, although he spares us the details.

As a teacher, Adya strikes me as being very nondogmatic. Teachers of nondualism can be very strong on criticizing the active cultivation of awakening through meditation and other practices. You’re supposed to just “wake up” without all of that malarky (although often those same teachers have done a lot of meditation themselves). Adya is careful not to cling to a position on this. “The truth,” he says, “never lies in any polarized statement or dualistic formulation.” Thus he recognizes that there are times we should push forward with effort, and other times we should “let grace do what only grace can do.”

Whether or not you’re awakened, and whether or not you’re on the Buddhist path, I think you’ll enjoy spending time with this very fresh, creative teacher.

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About Bodhipaksa

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Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author. He founded Wildmind in 2001. Bodhipaksa has published many guided meditation CDs and guided meditation MP3s.

He teaches at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. You can follow Bodhipaksa on Twitter, join him on Facebook, or hang out with him on .

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Comments

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Comment from Tejananda
Time: May 12, 2011, 5:41 pm

Enjoyed this review, but one quibble. You wrote: “Thus, experiences that that the Buddhist tradition would emphatically deny are states of true awakening (the fourth jhana, and any of the so-called formless jeans) might be regarded by Adya as experiences of enlightenment.” I’d question this. The fourth and the formless jhanas do still have a very subtle sense of a ‘subject’ perceiving an ‘object’ (or, you could say, appear as ‘experiences’ – such that there is implicitly an experiencer, ‘me’). I get the impression from Adya’s writings that he’s aware of this distinction and wouldn’t regard jhanas as ‘experiences of enlightenment’ for the very reason that the self-other view is still present. I can’t speak for formless jeans!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 12, 2011, 6:27 pm

Hmm. I did notice a quibble from my inner critic as I was writing those words. But my experience of 4th jhana (limited as it is) is of complete fusion with the object of concentration. There was still an experience of an experiencer, but there was the loss of any sense of separation between me and the thing being experienced. In the ayatanas there’s similarly a non-dual experience that becomes more pronounced as the spatial sense collapses.

Of course I don’t know what Adya would say about this, which is why I wrote that these experiences “might be regarded” by him as enlightenment. Traditionally, though (at least in my understanding), if it’s not permanent it’s not enlightenment. I’m not sure what experiences, outside of 4th jhana and the ayatanas might be nondual but not permanent. Any thoughts?

I believe formless jeans are permanent, at least in my case!

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Comment from Tejananda
Time: May 13, 2011, 2:22 pm

Agreed there’s a complete fusion, but even that sense of a non-separate ‘experiencer’ is enough to make it ‘an experience’ and so not truly non-dual in the insight sense. Unbounded consciousness is also easily taken (and I suspect often mistaken) for nonduality ‘proper’.

I agree that it’s not enlightenment if it’s not permanent, in the sense of irreversible. I think a distinction might be made between integration states (such as the higher jhanas and ‘mundane’ samadhis) which could be … maybe … spoken of as non-dual in their own terms, and the kind of nonduality that arises as the self-view drops away for good.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 13, 2011, 4:46 pm

It’s possible you’re way ahead of me in understanding nonduality and enlightenment states, but unless there’s an absence of consciousness surely there’s still going to be experience, even for an arahant. With stream entry there’s an experience that there is no fixed self. So that’s an awakened state that’s nondual. Beyond that there’s a move to a nondual experience, but it’s an experience (by definition) in which there’s no mental categorization of experiences into inner/outer, self/other. There’s an absence of mental pigeonholing, but not an absence of experience.

I think you’re raising the bar to the point where the kind of awakening you’re talking about becomes impossible to attain.

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Comment from Tejananda
Time: May 14, 2011, 12:51 pm

Ah, maybe my usage is unclear. That’s not what I mean by the way I’ve been using ‘experience’ – i.e. I’m not implying there’s no experience in a sense of ‘nothing at all’ or absence of consciousness. I’m using it in a similar way to how one might use ‘non-doership’ (as in ‘no doer of the deed is found’). In other words, in this way of speaking, deeds ‘happen’ but there is no apprehension of a ‘me’ who is the doer.

Similarly, experiences ‘happen’, the six senses arise, as ever, but there is no apprehension of a ‘me’ who is the experiencer. There is a ‘field’ of arisings, but no location of a ‘me’ within that field. I take this to be what the term ‘dharmadhatu’ is getting at. So it’s just another way of talking about the breakdown of the subject-object divide contingent upon seeing through the self-view.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 19, 2011, 4:32 pm

I’ve gone back and read your earlier comments in the light of your more recent one, and they make more sense to me now.

I think we have different understandings of the words non-dual and non-duality, and possibly of where they fit into a Buddhist scheme of awakening. The experience of there not being a doer, but of there simply being experiences arising and being experienced (without a doer or, for that matter, an experiencer) is something I’ve experienced (taking “I’ve experienced” as just a conventional form of words) but I certainly didn’t think of it as being an enlightenment experience. Actually, you precisely sum up that experience with your phrase, “There is a ‘field’ of arisings, but no location of a ‘me’ within that field.” Perhaps that’s the kind of thing Adya would regard as a temporary enlightenment. But I didn’t regard it as a “non-dual” experience. Seeing through the notion of there being a self underlying my experiences did seem like a permanent awakening, but it also didn’t strike me as non-dual.

I’ve thought of realizing non-duality as being the next step beyond losing a belief in having a self. I have episodic experiences of non-duality that arise through the experience of equanimity, where there’s a complete absence of grasping and aversion within my field of experience, and a collapse of any sense of there being a division of experiences into self-and other. But so far that hasn’t been a permanent experience, so I wouldn’t describe it as a genuine insight, but more of an intimation.

I’ve thought of non-dual insight experiences involving a collapse of any sense of division of experiences into self-and other — but permanently.

Anyway, my confusion (or perhaps one of my confusions) is what, in traditional Buddhist terms, you think would be the kind of temporary non-dual state that Adya accepts as a temporary awakening if it’s not something like the formless ayatanas.

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Comment from Tejananda
Time: May 24, 2011, 5:46 pm

Hmmmm, very interesting areas being explored here. I’m not sure anything definitive can be said. Or rather, I’m pretty sure nothing definitive can be said. One thing is the knowing that the ‘self’ is a mental fabrication – an insight in the sense of a seeing into / seeing through. However, what might be called the ‘basis of imputation’ of the self-view still manifests, namely, samskaras. There are (frequent) times when you could say there is a forgetting – a way of putting this is that the samskaras re-assert themselves in a way that effectively like ‘selfing’. But as soon as it stops, which it naturally does, it’s immediately obvious that there is ‘no-self’, nor any separate ‘other’. I’d be willing to use the term ‘non-dual’ in relation to this. The use of the term is moot, and very much a ‘finger pointing at the moon’.

But is there more? I don’t go for the idea of a ‘temporary enlightenment’, though I’d have to refresh my memory as to what exactly Adyashanti means by this. I’d probably take it to be an arising of insight, or what people often refer to as an ‘insight experience’. For me, there is a very clear distinction between ‘insight experiences’, however profound, and a ‘seeing through’ which is quite self-evidently irreversible – I sometimes like to use the example of a kid ‘seeing through’ Santa Claus – there can’t be any question of going back to believing in Santa Claus again once he’s been seen through. Similar with seeing through the self-view – it may dress itself up as Santa Claus (sorry, mixing up my metaphors here) by continuing to manifest as samskaras – but no-one is taken in, the samskaras were always not-self anyway, that’s the whole point! There is more, maybe … there are glimpses that no-thing exists. There is the total disappearance of self and world in the moments of ‘fruition’ that Daniel Ingram writes about quite eloquently in ‘Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha’. This happened once, completely out of the blue, some years before I started to identify myself as a Buddhist. Momentary, but completely outside of time and space, as they say. There seems to be a relation between this and another kind of (possible) ‘fruition’ which arises when what Dogen refers to as ‘the backward step’ happens. Both of these can definitely be called ‘non-dual’, at least as far as I’d be concerned, but exactly what place these have in the ‘scheme’ of awakening is another moot point.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 31, 2011, 12:01 pm

“Stream Entry leaves you without a self, but with an ego,” is how I put it. The samskaras are still rolling on, even if they are seen to be quasi-autonomous processes that are “just happening.”

Anyway, if you come across anything Adyashanti’s written that clarifies what an insight state that is temporary might correspond to in Buddhist terms, let me know!

One thing I’ve been curious about for a long time, though, is what precisely happens at the stage of once-returning. OK, so the fourth and fifth fetters are weakened, but what happens to weaken them? How weakened do they have to be for this stage to be reached? The tradition seems to be maddeningly vague about this sort of thing.

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Comment from Tejananda
Time: May 31, 2011, 12:28 pm

When you have time, have a look at these video talks / dialogues by Kenneth Folk, the ‘7 Stages of Enlightenment’, which I thought raised some interesting questions around the fetters vs. 4 paths model of enlightenment. As the title suggests, he’s exploring the possibility that a 7 stage model might be more viable.

http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/videos

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 31, 2011, 12:56 pm

I’ll take a look, thanks.

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Comment from Ed
Time: July 15, 2011, 10:45 am

Wow, what a fascinating conversation.

I having been treading my way along the triratna path for a year or so now. Prior to that I had a great interest in Non dual teachings of people like Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nigardatta Maharaj and some more recent teachers including Adyashanti. In the last couple of months I have become very interested in Kenneths Folks teachings and read Daniel Ingram’s Book.

Prehaps either of you might offer me some advice about reconciling these dharma teaching with Sangharakshitas developmental model.

I had a chat with an order member the other day, who advised me to tread carefully and referred me to S’s talk Alienated Awareness vs Integrated awareness. He also told me that the vipassana practices advocated by Daniel and Kenneth (noting practice), which come from the Burmese tradition should come with substantial mental health warnings and that there were cases of people going insane through there use!

Is non-duality or experience stripped of self or do’er ship the same as alienated awareness??

He also had a rather different take on the emerging trend regarding people discussing attainments and making claims for paths. I sense from the opening of this review this isn’t a universal position.

Im not sure if this is the right place fro this discussion, would greatly appreciate some advice.

many thanks,

Ed

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 16, 2011, 2:21 pm

Hi Ed.

I must say, it depresses and embarrasses me that Order members still recycle that old canard. You might want to ask that Order member why, if vipassana meditation is so harmful to mental health, it’s the basis of mental health programs such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, etc. He may not have an answer because he’s perhaps fonder of trotting out received wisdom than actually reflecting. (OK, I’ll update my list: I’m depressed, embarrassed, and a bit annoyed). This canard is based on a comment that Sangharakshita made a long time ago about certain people who had adopted a “noting” tradition, but who seemed to have got into a pattern of paying more attention to the mental notes (“raising my arm”) than in their actual experience. Given that vipassana is the single most common form of meditation, practice, if this unhelpful habit was widespread we’d expect to see an epidemic of alienated and mentally ill former vipassana practitioners. Since that phenomenon is conspicuously absent, I’d suggest that your order member friend may have to adjust some of the views he’s clinging to.

Anyway, I’m not familiar enough with Adyashanti, Folk, and Ingram to know whether there’s a significant difference in emphasis with Sangharakshita’s “developmental” model. Traditional Buddhism emphasizes gradual practice combined with sudden insight that manifests in a series of breakthroughs, and Sangharakshita follows that model closely. As far as I’m aware, Adyashanti and Ingram do as well, although I’m not very familiar with their teachings. The more “classic” non-dualist approach is certainly very different, and in a way I wouldn’t even try to reconcile them with the developmental model. I’m not clear that they even work.

I think the trouble with the developmental model is that it can make awakening seem very distant. Actually, reality is right here, right now. We’re just not seeing it. You don’t have a fixed self. You don’t own anything, not even yourself. Everything is changing. These things are obvious if you just look. Keep looking often enough and the penny will drop, and insight arises. An over-emphasis on gradual movement through shamatha and vipashyana can make it seem as if there’s not even any point looking. Impermanence becomes something we talk about rather than actually observe in our experience, and that’s a huge shame.

I’m not clear what the “different take” is one people making claims, but I believe that in many cases people are making claims because they’re experiencing insights. One sign of being overly attached to the developmental model and of seeing awakening as impossibly distant is that any claims to insight will be dismissed out of hand.

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Comment from Ed
Time: July 16, 2011, 4:14 pm

Hi Bodipaksa,

Many thanks for the reply!

Its useful to hear another perspective. I felt it was unlikely that the noting practice could be that dangerous. As far as I am aware many of the IMS teachers in america studied with Burmese teachers, in the tradition of Mahsai Sayadaw, who popularised the method.

My friend told me that in the Triratna order people do not make claims to attainments eg stream entry. He suggested that it was unhelpful and an aspect of monastic tradition that has been carried over. He followed by saying that due to our distinct karma, our journey to stream entry and beyond will be so different as to make any attempt at mapping the territory futile. Therefore making it almost impossible to asses your progress anyway.

Kenneth Folk and Daniel Ingram are presenting the Stages of Insight Map from the visuddhimagga. They say that despite individual differences, people will experience the unfolding of these stages in a very uniform and predictable manner. By truthfully reporting the sensations and feeling they experience during practice, they will be able to, roughly locate their place on the map.

The map is comprised of Nanas and are thought of as ascending levels of consciousness. They are integrated with and include the Jhanas/dhyanas. Kenneths site and Daniels have active forums of people using the noting and other techinques with seemingly positive results i.e. attainment of the paths, stream entry up to 4th pathers, arahats (of with there are several)

In Daniels book there appears to be a different model of insight. As far I can tell S’s method is that meditation and reflection will lead to flashes of insight, like the solving of a complex maths problem. Daniel and Kenneth teach that by stabalising awareness to a fine enough degree, one can actually see the three characteristics directly. As momentary mindfulness increases it becomes like seeing a slowed down film and you see the arising and passing of all phenomena, thus giving rise to insight.

This means that noting method is not at all related to content, basically anything that occupies your attention can be noted. As far as I can see Vipashyna (pail/sanskrit?) practice in the order is more content driven ie 6 elements practice. They state quite vigorously that insight is not psychological eg reflecting that your going to die but experiential, in that you see directly the impermanent nature of experince.

Anyway, I am really keen to find a middle path between the modes of practice, but have found some of the resistance from my friends a little frustrating. As a well respected voice in the order, i think you would provide a great service in exploring some of this material, to see if it offers any value beyond what is currently being taught in the movement.

I also feel that the clarity these teachers offer regarding, attainements, and maps charting progress, does offer, for someone like myself, a great pull as despite my searching I have yet to find such clarity with regards to these specific topics in Sanghrakshitas teachings.

I would also note that they miss much of the richness and depth that Sangharakshita communicates of the Dharma. They offer the path of meditation whereas Sangharakshita’e teachings seem to apply to all spheres of life.

many thanks,

Ed

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Comment from Tejananda
Time: July 16, 2011, 4:39 pm

I thoroughly agree with Bodhipaksa’s comments above. Daniel Ingram and Kenneth Folk offer similar traditional developmental models, although this is not exactly the same as the developmental model that Sangharakshita has mainly outlined. However, the main teachigs of both Sangharakshita and Folk / Ingram come mainly out of the Pali tradition and both embody the same Dhamma principles. Hence, it’s quite possible to gain perspectives from the writings and teachings of Folk & Ingram that illuminate aspects of Sangharakshita’s approach, and vice-versa.

Adyashanti trained in and emerges from the Zen tradition but tends to a more ‘universalistic’ approach to expressing his insight / awakening, using language from Buddhist, Advaita and Christian sources to convey the nature of waking up, i.e. bodhi. This *could* be confusing to the extent that the reader is coming at these teachings in a mainly conceptual way without some degree of ‘heart sense’ (or perfect vision) as to what they are really pointing to. They are quite simply pointing to the heart of the Dharma.

“He also had a rather different take on the emerging trend regarding people discussing attainments and making claims for paths. I sense from the opening of this review this isn’t a universal position.” It’s quite clear from Daniel Ingram’s book that it isn’t a universal position in Theravada Buddhism either – hence talk about the ‘mushroom factor’ and so on. There are undoubtedly many in the Buddhist world who’d look askance at what Ingram, Folk and co. are doing. They have a coherent rationale for what they are doing, and so people can take their choice! However, unfortunately (in my opinion) there has been such a history of caution and suspicion around the whole issue of insight meditation and the arising of insight in our context that it’s fairly predictable that some will find the so-called ‘making of claims’ about attainments unacceptable. Fortunately, though, I think this culture of suspicion around insight is changing. And people are ‘making claims’ (I wish there was a less implicitly perjorative way of expressing this)! Which is not such a bad thing as in my view, there are quite a few people in our sangha whose practice has reached a depth where claims could certainly be made – whether they actually make them publicly or not!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 16, 2011, 4:50 pm

Hi, Ed.

Certainly some people in Triratna don’t like the idea of making claims of stream entry, but others have done so. The notion that reticence about claims to attainment is “an aspect of monastic tradition that has been carried over” is rather bogus, as any perusal of the Pali canon will reveal. After all the Buddha wasn’t shy about proclaiming his own attainments, and there are two full sections of the Khuddhaka Nikaya (the Therigatha and Theragatha) devoted to claims of awakening. I suspect the reticence is more to do with the views of those who are not awakened than of those who are: if you’re not awakened it’s more convenient to have the awakened keep quiet about because then you don’t have to consider their claims seriously (which is hard work, of course, given the uncertainties involved), and it’s also possible to hint that you may yourself be awakened by saying “of course, we don’t talk about such things.” [Added later: this is me at m most cynical! I think there's a healthy aspect regarding reticence, given the possibility of self-delusion, mental illness, etc.]

For the record, I had a clear experience of the first three fetters breaking and I’m not shy about saying it, although I don’t make that claim a centerpiece of my life or teaching. After all, others are not generally in a position to assess the validity of such claims.

I certainly work on the assumption that “despite individual differences, people will experience the unfolding of these stages in a very uniform and predictable manner.” That’s, I think, implicit in Sangharakshita’s presentation of the Dharma as well. He’s stressed stream entry as an attainable goal (although some of his followers have gone out of their way to make it seem unattainable!) and he’s described it in traditional terms. His description relies more heavily on the teaching of the ten fetters than on the ñanas, though. I must look into that aspect of the dhamma more deeply! My own experience was uniform and predicable, but in an unpredictable way. By that I mean that I recognized what was happening, but no description of the process had ever quite prepared me for it. Afterward, reading Ayya Khema’s description of the breaking of the first three fetters (in Who Is Myself) I could see she was speaking from experience, but even there I thought that she’d not done anything like an adequate job of describing the import of the breaking of the third fetter (sīlabbata-parāmāsa), which is primarily an experience of the immediacy of impermanence and not-self. It actually took me a while to figure out which part of my experience corresponded to the breaking of that fetter, because all the descriptions I’d read seemed subtle misleading.

I’d also fully agree that, as you put it, ” insight is not psychological (eg reflecting that you’re going to die) but experiential, in that you see directly the impermanent nature of experience. Psychological insights are very important, but they’re not Insight.

I’d agree with the lack of specificity in Sangharakshita’s teaching regarding the stages of insight. He’s been mainly concerned, I think, to help people set up the conditions for insight to arise, but less concerned about what to do thereafter. And actually I think there’s a lot of validity in that. Not many people are (to the best of my knowledge) even remotely ready for insight. Most people have a huge amount of work to do in terms of developing mindfulness, positive emotion, compassion, and an ethical approach to life before any kind of real insight is possible for them.

Anyway, you bring up some fascinating questions. I’m going to have to look more closely at the teachers you mention, but at the moment I’m just unbelievably busy and any deeper exploration is going to have to wait for a few months, at least.

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Comment from Tejananda
Time: July 16, 2011, 4:51 pm

Just a point re your second post there, Ed – there’s quite a strong emphasis on Mindfulness / Satipatthana practice in Sangharakshita’s teaching and this represents a strand that has more in common with Folk / Ingram. We’ve been teaching mindfulness / satipatthana retreats here at Vajraloka since goodness knows when and although we’re not incorporating elements from the Burmese approach that are prominent in Folk / Ingram’s teaching, e.g. noting and the 16 nanas, there’s much that is covering similar ground to that which Sangharakshita has covered. At the same time, I know Order members who are exploring the nanas and finding that this framework illuminates their practice greatly. I have to some extent in my own practice – it takes a while to make the connections, experientially, but the results, so far, have been quite interesting and helpful.

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Comment from Ed
Time: July 16, 2011, 6:39 pm

Many thanks for the replies.

Bohipaksa, what you say regarding setting up a positive foundation for insight, rings true to my own experience. I basically switched from mindfulness of breathing and metta to noting practice almost overnight following reading and listening to KF’s teachings. In retrospect I think this was a bit hasty.

To be honest, I got cold feet about developing insight. The model stages of insight model includes a point of no return, The arising and passing away (4th nana). Once this is crossed, according to the map you enter into the Dark night nanas, as surely as thunder follows lightning. These difficult stages are said to be a result of accessing unstable levels of conciousness and dont really become fully resolved until stream entry. This is how its described anyway. I started to feel a little apprehensive about this.

KF stresses mindfulnesss as a tool to disembed from expreince:

‘If you can see it, it isnt you. If you can see enough things that arent you, youll become enlightened.’

So the noting functions as a tool to systematically see clearly and disembedd from increasingly subtle levels of identification. I think I was making progress. Its a very powerful method and very easy to apply off the cushion. However it was making me feel a bit odd, or even a bit unsettled. I remembered Sanghrakshitas teaching that its best to become a healthy happy person first. Whereas the KF message, is more like………nothing will satisfy you like 4th path, so just get it done…….feel disturbed, note it. feel excited, note it. Feel bored, note it and so on.

I have decided to go back to Mindfulness and Metta. However, i have noticed that the noting does build up the mindfulness muscles in ways these methods don’t, just purely from the fact that all the hindrances, distractions can be noted and thus not break the chain as can happen with focusing on breathing. Also the criteria changes slightly from staying with the breath to clearly seeing what arises, thus you can have a ‘good’ mediation even when your all over the place. Also employing all four foundations of mindfulness on the cushion really helped me become aware of subtle levels of craving and aversion (and all the resulting chatter) in clear way. Much of this just bubbled under the surface before.

I have no doubt now that I would benefit from more metta practice. I am going to work on my base for a bit. I have also started reading The rainbow road and am on the brink of becoming a mitra. I was starting to feel that these interests were alienating me from my local sangha, and I was struggling to tie the two systems together.

You have both helped in that regard. Also im glad that these idea are percolating into the order. Personally I find it inspiring and encouraging to know that people in the order are making progress and getting it done.

Tejananda – I hope to get up to Vajraloka one day. I might be doing a mindfulness retreat at Padmaloka this September, all being well. As you say its similar ground, but just different maps.

Bodhipaksa – thanks for taking the time to reply. When you do get the time to investigate this material, I would be really interested to know what you make of it all.

Many thanks,

Ed

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Comment from Chris Beal
Time: October 2, 2011, 3:05 pm

There didn’t seem to be anyone in this dialog who is or was a student of Adya, so I thought I’d add my two cents worth. I met him in 2000, so it’s been eleven years now. (In fact, I went to hear him last night.) I am deeply grateful for his teaching and feel I have a good grasp of it. If anyone has a question, I would be glad to give it a go, although, of course, I don’t claim to speak for him.

I didn’t read all of this dialog because it moved more and more away from Adya and his thought, but one thing that seemed to be skipped over is that, as Adya has said repeatedly, NO ONE GETS ENLIGHTENED. That is, the One knows itself as the One — and, while a person still has an individual personality, the post-awakening person also realizes that this personality is not a separate self. (Does this make sense? It does in experience but it’s difficult to articulate.)

Also, there seems to be some confusion in the discussion here about whether enlightenment can be a temporary experience. I have been thinking about this a lot. The realization itself is outside time — eternal — but I don’t know anyone alive who lives permanently outside time. What happens is that once time is seen as relative — that one’s mind creates it — one’s perspective changes. The change in perspective is “permanent,” if you will, although the realization may have just been a moment when the self dropped away. In my experience, each time it drops away, the realization goes a little deeper.

I am very happy to find your blog. Actually, I just wrote a novel on the theme of enlightenment and was looking to find other novels on the same theme. Is there a way to sort your reviews between fiction and non-fiction?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 2, 2011, 3:14 pm

Hi, Chris.

Thanks for writing. You’re right, that none of us are practicing with Adya. If we were, I guess we could just ask him. (I suppose we could do that anyway, but so far I haven’t been inspired to make the effort).

I get what you’re saying about “no one gets enlightened.” Enlightenment is a seeing through of the self, although there is no ownership of the seeing, and the realization is that the self was never owned anyway — it’s just that the delusion had existed that there was this thing called the self that owned itself.

I don’t know, of couse, if what you say about the “temporary experience” of Enlightenment is what Adya is talking about. In Buddhism there’s no concept, as far as I’m aware, of temporary enlightenment. Certainly, a realization has a deep impact when it arises, and then there’s a kind of habituation. Is that what Adya means? I just don’t know.

I’m afraid our book reviews aren’t categorized into fiction and non-fiction. We’ve only reviewed a handful of fiction books over the years — perhaps three, at a guess.

All the best with your novel!

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Comment from Chris Beal
Time: October 8, 2011, 12:14 am

Yes, I agree — there is no such concept as “temporary enlightenment” in Buddhism, and I have never heard Adya use the term. What I was referring to is what Adya would call “awakening” and what is called “satori” in Zen. In other Buddhist sects, it’s called something else. Whatever it’s called, it’s well-documented. See, for example, the descriptions of the experience of several practitioners in the back of Phillip Kapleau’s book, “The Three Pillars of Zen.” There’s also the classic, “A Glimpse of Nothingness” by Janwillem van de Wetering. These are a couple of sources that occur to me but I know there are lots more. These descriptions are much better than I can do and may clear up any confusion my description unintentionally caused!

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