Wednesday, June 25, 2014


‘Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what
had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.’
Alcoholics Anonymous.

‘Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds!’
Bob Marley.

Well, are you in prison? You will probably say, ‘Of course, I’m not,’ unless you actually happen to be reading this post while behind bars. However, I suggest to you that it is highly likely that you are in imprisonment to a greater or lesser extent. Please read on.

If there is a bedrock or foundational idea in Buddhism it is the teaching with respect to dukkha (Pāli; Sanskrit: dukha). Life is said to be characterised by dukkha. Now, this word dukkha is usually translated into English as ‘suffering’ or ‘dissatisfaction,’ but there is no one single English word that is adequate to describe or rather compress all the aspects of the meaning of the word dukkha. For want of a better word, the English word ‘unsatisfactoriness’ comes closest as it arguably includes almost everything which dukkha embraces---things such as, but not limited to, unfulfilled desire, suffering (both physical and mental), distress, dissatisfaction, discomfort, discontent, disquiet, disharmony, pain, sorrow, heartache, affliction, bodily ailments, misery, unhappiness, anguish, angst, anxiety, depression, stress, tension, insecurity, unease, dis-ease, conflict, separation, alienation, frustration, emptiness, and insubstantiality. All these things make for imprisonment.

Unsatisfactoriness is certainly a big part of our lives. This can be demonstrated empirically. For example, get yourself into a comfortable position---and now try staying in that position for any length of time. Sooner or later you will become uncomfortable and will be forced to change your position in order to get comfortable (again). And on it goes. Now think of something joyous and uplifting. Sooner or later a disquieting or otherwise sad thought will enter your consciousness. It will happen every time. All that is satisfactory will become unsatisfactory---sooner or later ... and ordinarily sooner rather than later. One thing about Buddhism---it espouses an empirical, realist psychology. That is one of the reasons I like it.

Now, this is not to say there is no joy in life. Of course, there is joy in life, but it is undeniably true that nothing in life will satisfy us indefinitely---not even joy. Really. Sooner or later, we will always find that something that gave us joy or pleasure no longer does so. We are always searching for something new and fresh---something to relieve some state of unsatisfactoriness in our lives ... at whatever point in time. In time, that new and fresh thing becomes stale, and on it goes. The teaching of dukkha simply affirms that unsatisfactoriness is inescapable and ever-present in our lives in varying degrees from one moment to the next. Here are the written words of Shakyamuni Budhha on the nature of dukkha:

This, bhikkus, is the Noble Truth of Dukkha: birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, sickness is dukkha, death is dukkha. Presence of objects we loathed is dukkha; separation from what we love is dukkha; to not get what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.

Yes, negativity in any way or form is dukkha, or unsatisfactoriness. Being born, aging, sickness, death, separation---all these things are or involve dukkha.

Buddhism would be very depressing if there were no ‘cure’ for dukkha, but that is not the case. However, we must first enquire as to the cause of dukkha, and according to Buddhism the cause is this---upādāna. That Sanskrit and Pāli word literally means ‘fuel.’ Heard the expression, ‘to add fuel for the fire,’ in the sense of making a problem or bad situation worse? Well, the word upādāna is used in Buddhist teachings to mean clinging, grasping, and attachment, and any and all of those things will simply add ‘fuel’ to the ‘fire’ of our lives. In short, clinging, grasping, and attachment (including aversion, being a 'reverse attachment,' but an attachment nevertheless), cause suffering, unsatisfactoriness and bondage of various kinds. Listen to these words of one of the greatest exponents and interpreters of Buddhism in the 20th century (indeed of all time), Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu [pictured above right]:

Wherever there is upādāna, right there is bondage. The bondage may be positive or negative, but both are equally binding. By regarding things and clinging to them as ‘I’ or ‘mine,’ bondage occurs. When bound to something, we get stuck in it, just like being stuck in prison.

All of the Dhamma principles of Buddhism can be summarized as: upādāna is the cause of dukkha, dukkha is born out of upādāna. …

In my counselling work, I teach and use what is called ‘self illusion therapy.’ This form of therapy was developed by a wonderful Australian psychologist Jim Maclaine (now deceased) [pictured left]. He was one of Australia's most experienced and respected drug and alcohol counsellors and addiction psychologists. He worked in that field for some 40 years and he helped literally thousands of alcoholics, other addicts, and persons with obsessional behaviour, to overcome their various addictions and obsessions, using self illusion therapy. I was one of the many persons Jim helped. Self illusion therapy works. I personally can vouch for that fact. 

Self illusion therapy will help you to overcome any and all of your problems---yes, all of them---not just those in the form of addictions. Actually, we are all addicted to something or someone, and generally several things. One of the things we are addicted to in our Western society is the whole notion of ‘self.’ Self is an illusion in a very special sense. When you truly understand what that means, you will be free from the bondage of self in all of its myriad manifestations.

The basic idea is that ‘self cannot change self,’ because ‘self,’ which in any event is simply a mental idea or image in our mind of the person we supposedly are, is the problem and, as William Temple [pictured right] pointed out, ‘no effort of the self can remove the self from the centre of its own endeavour.’ Also, ‘self,’ of which there are literally hundreds in our mind that wax and wane from one moment to the next (although some are quite persistent over time, forming part of our personality) are, as I’ve said, ‘illusory.’ 

Now, the use of the word 'illusory' in this context does not mean that these 'selves' don’t exist. It simply means they have no separate, independent, permanent existence apart from the person each one of us is. Indeed, these selves have absolutely no substance or power in and of themselves whatsoever. They are only images---not visual ones by the way---that we feel. Images of our sense of what is are. Some may be true, and some are false. Yes, they are felt images (eg ‘I am little, and less than others’). For more on this subject you may wish to read this post. Now, once a person really understands this idea, they can begin the process known as ‘letting go of self.’ The result? Freedom from bondage. Happiness. Peace of mind. Serenity. Improved relationships. And much, much more. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is true---but letting go of anything---especially ‘self’---is never easy.

Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, in a wonderful little pamphlet (actually, the transcript of a lecture delivered by Buddhadāsa in 1988) entitled The Prison of Life that is worth its weight in gold---it has helped me greatly in my own life---lists these ten things as the several causes of upādāna:

1. Life. Yes, life itself causes upādāna. True, life can be very enjoyable, but the far too many people live merely for the enjoyment of life. What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Well, it sounds great, but if that’s all we do, and if that is our sole aim in life, sooner or later we will become infatuated with and engrossed in life. In time, that will turn out to be a prison.

2. Instincts. We all live under the instincts. These instincts (not just the sexual ones) force us to follow their concerns and needs. Buddhadāsa notes how we all like to show off and brag---our new car, boat, house, clothes, jewelry, etc, etc. These are prisons.

3. Senses. The five senses plus the mind itself (which, in Buddhism, is considered the sixth of the senses [the six āyatana]) become senses without much trouble at all. Yes, these six āyatana are exactly what the word āyatana means, namely, tools or means for communicating with the external world, but the problem is we all end up serving---yes, serving---these senses in order to satisfy them. The result? Imprisonment to the senses.

4. Superstition. Religious people are especially prone to this one, but we are all victims of superstition to some degree or another regardless of whether or not we are religious in any formal sense. Superstition quickly becomes a prison.

5. Sacred institutions. So-called holy, sacred or ‘miraculous’ places, churches, temples, mosques, are prisons, and imprison those who cling to them.

6. Teachers. Adherents of Eastern religions are especially vulnerable to this one, but Western religions have their esteemed teachers, saviours, messiahs, as well. All so-called teachers imprison their disciples and pupils. In any event, they cannot grant you what you really need (that is, salvation, enlightenment, emancipation). At best, they can only point the way, and most of them can’t even do that. Each of us has to be our own teacher and disciple/pupil. We must look within to find the answer to our problems.

7. Holy things. Yes, things such as holy water, sacred relics, and all kinds of sacred things become prisons before you know it.

8. Goodness. We all, except the most evil of people, love good, and teach good to others, but as soon as upādāna gets mixed in with the good, the good becomes a prison. In fact, wherever there is upādāna, you will find a prison.

9. Views. There is a Pāli word for things such as personal thoughts, opinions, views, theories, beliefs, preferences,  interpretations, judgments---diṭṭhi. Yes, the conditioned mind is perhaps the main obstacles to achieving freedom from bondage to self. In order to be truly free we must learn to see things as they really are. We cannot do that when everything we see and experience is filtered through a conditioned mind. Getting rid of all beliefs, and seeing things as they really are, is what this whole blog is about. My mission in life is to get people to give up all their beliefs, and I suggest various ways in which people can do that in order to develop an unconditioned mind. Unless you do this, you will never be free from the bondage of self.

10.  Purity. Yes, purity (or innocence), like goodness, if clung to and ‘worshipped,’ or used for show and competition, soon becomes a prison. Buddhadāsa says this is the ‘highest prison.’

So, what is the answer? How do we get out of prison? The answer is ‘voidness,’ that is, not having any self, living free from self, and void of all ideas and notions of self. You see, when there is upādāna, then ‘I,’ the self (the false self) is born. For example, you May cling to tobacco. You are attached to nicotine. You are addicted. There is upādāna, and a self---one of many, many such selves---is born. ‘I need/want a smoke.’ Get the idea. Every self or ‘I’ in us (eg the ‘I’ that wants to smoke, the ‘I’ that doesn’t like chocolate, etc), every like, every dislike, every strong opinion and bias, is the result of some upādāna.  When there is no upādāna regarding ‘I,’ there is no bondage, and there is freedom from the worst bondage of all---the bondage to self and the false notion of self (attā).

All prisons are gathered in that Pāli word attā. The truth is there is no permanent, separate, independent thing as the ‘self.’ This idea is called anattā, a Pāli word that means ‘no-self’ or, more correctly, ‘not-self.’ Buddhadāsa says, ‘destroy attā, then all the prisons are finished and we won’t build any more of them ever again.’ It has been written, ‘no anattā doctrine, no Buddhism.’ The concept of anattā is bedrock to Buddhism as well as the ‘self illusion therapy’ I employ in my counselling practice. By the way, the teaching of anattā can also be found in all other major religions including Christianity, where Jesus is reported as having said, ‘I can of mine own self do nothing’ [Jn 5:30]. Having said that, self illusion therapy can be used without, and does not depend upon, any religious framework.

The Buddhist teaching of anattā affirms that there is no actual ‘self’ at the centre of our conscious--or even unconscious--awareness. Our so-called consciousness goes through continuous fluctuations from moment to moment. As such, there is nothing to constitute, let alone sustain, a separate, transcendent ‘I’ structure or entity. We ‘die’ and are ‘born’ (or ‘reborn’) from one moment to the next. You are a person---a person among persons---not a ‘self.’

The answer to your problems and mine is this---get rid of self. The key? Self-observation. Watch. Observe. Live with mindful, choiceless awareness of what unfolds as your moment-to-moment experience of life and the person that you are. ‘Tear out the foolishness that creates attā, along with attā itself,’ writes Buddhadāsa, ‘and all the prisons will be gone.’ That is the only way to be relieved of the bondage of self.

Do you think it’s time you left the prison? It’s up to you, you know. The key to unlocking the prison gate is inside you. Look within to find it. You will not find the key anywhere else.








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Thursday, June 19, 2014


Yes, the microcosm is the macrocosm. Let me explain.

Today, Thursday 19 June, many Christian churches around the world are celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi (otherwise called the Thanksgiving for the Holy Communion, the Feast of the Body of Christ, and Corpus Domini). This important feast, originally a local feast before becoming one of the Universal Church, is traditionally kept on the Thursday next after Trinity Sunday, and celebrates the belief of Christ's ongoing and real presence (‘Real Presence’) in the form of the Eucharist. The latter is said to have been instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper on the first Maundy Thursday. In contrast to the sombre atmosphere of Holy Week, Corpus Christi is a joyful celebration of the sacrament of Communion.

Now, I cannot accept any literal interpretation of the doctrine of Transubstantiation—the idea that the bread and the wine used in the sacrament of the Eucharist become, not merely as by a symbol, sign or figure, but also in reality the body and blood of Christ. Yes, that is too much for me to believe. However, the idea of Transubstantiation does mean something very real and wonderful to me. You see, the whole mystery---and that is what it is, a mystery drama. Never forget this---the Christian Church, the 'prolonged Personality' and 'posthumous Self' of Jesus throughout the centuries (albeit all too often a very fallible, errant and sinful version of the Man from Galilee), is first and foremost a mystical church, despite the efforts of many who strive to have it otherwise, and as a mystical church the 'mysteries of Jesus' have not been completed but are still being lived week by week and day by day by those spiritual seekers who participate meaningfully in the liturgy, ritual, ceremonies, and 'myths' of the Church.

To the extent that Jesus can be said to embody the fulness of the Divine---my view is that Jesus reveals to us 'as much God' as we are humanly capable of comprehending---so the wafer of bread in the Eucharist fully embodies the divine life present in matter (yes, matter). However, there is much more to the ceremony than just that. The mystery drama of the Eucharist, under the veil of earthly things such as bread, wine and water, illustrates and dramatizes the essential oneness, wholeness, unity, indivisibility and ultimate indestructibility of all life. Yes, the essential oneness of all life is symbolically represented by, and fully but microcosmically concentrated in, the Sacred Host, Itself a living symbol of the All-ness of Life in the very real sense that all of life and all of time and space can be said to be present, as a special intensification and concentration of Life, within the confines of this otherwise very little wafer of bread. Yes, the sacred Host, this 'heavenly bread,' is a miniature of the ‘Eternal Now.’ In that regard, I am reminded of those wonderful, oft-quoted words of William Blake (from his poem ‘Auguries of Innocence’):

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

The circular shape of the wafer is itself illuminating. In the ancient occult tradition metaphysics was often spoken of as sacred geometry or simply geometry. 'God geometrizes,' it was, and still is, said. Each geometrical shape had a certain metaphysical and esoteric ('inner’) meaning or significance. You could teach the whole of metaphysics by simply teaching geometry. Now, the circle, a most ancient and universal symbol, represents, among other things, life that has no beginning and no end (cf the Gnostic concept of a ‘world serpent’, in the form of a circle, eating its own tail), eternity, infinity, heaven, the universe, the cosmos, perfection, purity, God, Spirit (or 'Life Force'), ultimate oneness, the cycle of existence (human and otherwise), and associated notions of karma and reincarnation. More relevantly, especially in the context of the Holy Eucharist (cf the circular shape of the Sacred Host), the circle, being unbroken in nature, also represents a ‘sacred place.’

Sacred, indeed. If, like me, you accept the idea that all of life is sacred, holy, or divine, then you should have no difficulty at all in accepting the idea that the Host of the Eucharist is sacred, holy, and divine. ‘Spiritually and materially,’ wrote priest and author Geoffrey Hodson, ‘every Host is as a microcosm of the Macrocosm. Blessed indeed is every recipient.’ Microcosmically, each of us is a miniature copy of the universe, and the Eucharist is a sacred mystery drama and pictorial representation of the human soul, which comes forth from God, and which labours and struggles in time and space, in exile from its eternal home, in its pilgrimage and on its way to its ultimate re-union with the divine source from which it came. The Eucharist re-enacts the forever-ongoing 'descent,' so to speak, of Spirit into matter---a veritable Self-sacrifice of life itself (the cosmic 'Word-made-flesh,' and 'Lamb slaim from the foundation of the world' [cf Rev 13:8])---and its eventual 're-ascent' from matter into Spirit again, the idea being that we come from God (the ‘ground of all being’), we belong to God, we are part of God’s Self-Expression, and we are on our way back to God. God is---we are.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. (Richard Nixon used to say those words, heaven forbid.) The bread and the wine on the altar or Communion table are not mere symbols. There is no such thing as a ‘mere symbol.’ By its very nature a symbol can’t be ‘merely’ anything. A symbol---any symbol---if it be a symbol at all, is always a form or representation (’re-presentation’) of what H P Blavatsky referred to as ‘concretized truth.’ A symbol is a sensory, and ordinarily visual, way of discerning and describing some aspect of Truth (Life). More than that, a ‘true’ symbol is a way of helping to bring into the fullness of objective reality the truth of which it is a symbol. Yes, a symbol not only ‘symbolizes’, ‘represents’ or ‘stands for’ something else (the ‘inner reality’), it actually is instrumental in bringing about that reality and, in very truth, is that reality. In the case of spiritual truth, a symbol of God's presence and power also communicates that presence and power through our senses.

So, when it comes to the Sacrament of the Altar, which as I see it is the sublimest myth known to humanity, we have powerful archetypal symbols that not only commemorate in symbol the metaphysical and spiritual ideas to which I have made reference, they enable all who participate in the ceremony with sincerity, right intention, and purpose to actually take part, both interiorly and exteriorly, in that sacred mystery drama ('self-same sacrifice,' in the words of one Christian liturgy) that is going on all the time wherever there is life. Not only that, but we have a powerful ritual that (to borrow from one Christian liturgy) serves to 'perpetuate within the limitations of time and space ... the enduring sacrifice by which the world is nourished and sustained.'

I still have a lot of problems with many aspects of Christianity, or at least 'Churchianity.' Indeed, many conventional Christians would regard almost all that I’ve written in this post as clear and unambiguous evidence of that fact. So be it. I am a freethinker or I am nothing. I will, however, say this much: the Divine Presence I encounter mystically in the consecrated Host is not only the Jesus of both my childhood and my adulthood mediated by means of the creative power of the Spirit of Life, revealed knowledge as well as imaginative mystic reflection, but also the Cosmic Christ, that is, that aspect (for want of a better word) of God which created all things, upholds, sustains, and nourishes all created things, is in all things as all things, pervades and permeates all things yet is not consumed or constrained by all things, and whose very Real Presence in and to me is nearer to me than hands and feet, for it dwells in my very own heart. In other words, the Christ who ‘fills the universe in all its parts’ (Eph 1:23). 

You see, in the consecrated wafer is all of life---past, present and future---and that includes the man who once walked this earth known as Jesus of Nazareth, whose wonderful Personality and Power is mediated to us, as well as the indwelling Presence and ‘substance’ (or 'essence') of all persons and all created things. In and by means of the Eucharist, and under the veil of the simple earthly things used in the ritual, I feel an intuitive connectedness, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually, with all of life. To this wonderful, mysterious Self-revelation and experience of Life itself, I can only say, with deep humility and thankfulness, ‘My Lord and my God’ (Jn 20:28).

Here’s something else. The Eucharist is a powerful transformative ritual. You see, we are the bread and the wine. The bread (cf flesh) may be said to represent our terrestrial, mortal life, whilst the wine (cf blood) signifies our spiritual life. Conjointly, both represent or signify our lower and higher natures respectively. So, we should place upon the paten all our joys and sorrows along with all our hopes, fears, negativity, and disappointments---everything, in fact. We can also place upon the paten all those we love and for whom we care. And that drop of water added to the wine and cast into the chalice---that, too, represents us, indeed every moment of our lives as well as the lives and sufferings of others whom we love and for whom we care. Yes, we offer ourselves so that we can be consecrated, that is, transformed into new and better people. Of course, it is not magic. We need to die to our old, tired, false selves in order to be resurrected into our True Self, the latter being the very best person we can be. That requires, among other things, self-surrender … on a daily basis. Fulton J Sheen, in his inimitably beautiful manner of writing, has written:

We must not think of the offering of the bread and wine as independent of ourselves; rather the bread and wine are symbols of our presence on the altar ...

We are, therefore, present at each and every Mass under the appearance of bread and wine; we are not passive spectators, as we might be in watching a spectacle in a theatre …

We who are assisting in the Mass, together with all creation, offer ourselves as bruised grain and crushed grapes that we may die to that which is lower to become one with the tremendous Lover. ...

Death---and resurrection into newness of life. Such is the Power of this tremendous divine Power, and we can be channels, inlets, and outlets of this great Power. Now, what is God? What is the Divine? Well, for me the Divine is both a Presence and a Power--in fact, the only Presence and Power---that which animates, sustains, and nourishes all things, and in which we live, and move, and have our being. This Divine Presence and Power---the so-called 'bread from heaven'---must for the most part be experienced by means, and under the veil, of earthly things, the latter including our minds and their workings. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, from the Tantum ergo,  'Faith, our outward sense befriending, / Makes the inward vision clear.' As Presence, the Divine is the indwelling life of all the peoples of the earth. As Power, the Divine is an indwelling force for good, that is capable of transforming broken human lifes. 

In all respects, the Divine is the creative, dynamic, and transformative principle of life and love---in particular, suffering love---that forever gives of itself to itself so as to enable life to continue and grow. It is the power that brings peace, works for unity and wholeness, forgives, cleanses, heals, revitalizes, refreshes, renews, and recreates. It is the principle of oneness, wholeness, and holiness. It is 'the peace that passeth understanding' (cf Phil 4:7). There is nothing in the world quite like it, and the great mystery drama of the Eucharist is a living symbol and regular re-presentation of this Divine Power and Presence. Indeed, it's all of life.

Yes, the microcosm is the macrocosm. The One, which forever becomes the many, and the many are one. And so it is.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Now, in a sense the question, ‘What type of meditation is best?’ is a silly one. ‘Best’ for what? The question implies that meditation has some inbuilt purpose. If so, then meditation is only a means to an end. The truth is this---meditation is both the means and the end. Sadly, there is a deep tendency in all of us to look for purpose everywhere. For example, we ask, ‘What is the purpose of life?’ Well, friends, there is no purpose or meaning to life. Life just is. The important thing is to give your life purpose and meaning.

Having said all that, when you boil things down there are two basic types or kinds of meditation, namely, mindfulness and concentration meditation of which there are a few sub-types including mantra meditation and object-focused meditation.

The practice of concentration meditation, where you focus and fix your attention on some single object (physical or mental) single mindedly and without interruption until the mind eventually enters a deep, trance-like stillness, can lead to some positive results such as calmness and peace as well as beneficial physiological changes in the body such as a reduction in blood pressure. However, most of the beneficial effects of concentration meditation are fairly short-term and short-lived even when (and if) that trance-like stillness is achieved. 

The Indian spiritual teacher, international speaker and author J. Krishnamurti [pictured left] was quite dismissive of concentration meditation. This is what he had to say about a commonly practised form of concentration meditation known as mantra meditation (where you repeat some mantra over and over to yourself):

The other method [mantra meditation] gives you a certain word and tells you that if you go on repeating it you will have some extraordinary transcendental experience. This is sheer nonsense. It is a form of self-hypnosis. By repeating Amen or Om or Coca-Cola indefinitely you will obviously have-a certain experience because by repetition the mind becomes quiet. It is a well known phenomenon which has been practised for thousands of years in India---Mantra Yoga it is called. By repetition you can induce the mind to be gentle and soft but it is still a petty, shoddy, little mind. You might as well put a piece of stick you have picked up in the garden on the mantelpiece and give it a flower every day. In a month you will be worshipping it and not to put a flower in front of it will become a sin.

Krishnamurti went on to say:

Meditation demands an astonishingly alert mind; meditation is the understanding of the totality of life in which every form of fragmentation has ceased. Meditation is not control of thought, for when thought is controlled it breeds conflict in the mind, but when you understand the structure and origin of thought, which we have already been into, then thought will not interfere. That very understanding of the structure of thinking is its own discipline which is meditation.

Perhaps Krishnamurti was a bit too hard on concentration meditation and in particular mantra meditation. He saw it as 'utterly mechanical' and something for 'the frustrated, narrow, shallow mind, the conditioned mind.' However, many people find it helpful. Me? I don’t. Concentration meditation of whatever form is just another attachment, and it actually strengthens attachment because it relies almost entirely upon the use of one's conditioned mind and constant repetition. There is far too much focus on one thought or object. That is not a good thing. I like to get rid of attachments. (I’ve had quite a considerable number of them in my lifetime, and all they ever gave me was suffering.) You need to know this---concentration meditation doesn't lead to freedom from suffering, for where there is attachment, there is suffering. Also, concentration meditation does not provide you with any insight nor does it lead to wisdom in any deep sense (or at all for that matter). Did you get that? Concentration meditation will not give you any perspective on yourself. It throws no light on the basic problems of our lives---namely, our innate selfishness. The latter is the result of too much self-absorption. If anything, concentration results in more self-absorption, but you wouldn’t know because you’re too busy focusing your damn attention on some silly candle or statue or mantra. Not my cup of tea.

On the other hand, the practice of mindfulness (or insight meditation as it is also known) does lead to wisdom and insight. The essence of mindfulness is non-attached (note: not attached, but rather detached) objective and choiceless awareness of what is actually present from one moment to the next. The expression choiceless awareness means awareness without discrimination, judgment, interpretation, or analysis. Anything, absolutely anything, can and ought to be made the subject of your awareness. The great thing about mindfulness is that you can ‘do’ it all day long. It’s not something you do for just 20 minutes in the morning or evening although that is highly recommended as well. Mindfulness is simply ... living mindfully. All the activities of daily life can and ought to be the objects of mindfulness, that is, your awareness: occurrences outside of you as well your own bodily actions and sensations, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and mental images of all kinds. Nothing is ignored or suppressed when it comes to awareness---not even awareness itself.

As I’ve said so many times on this blog, in the practice of mindfulness you simply observe and note what is happening by way of occurrence both inside of you and outside of you. You then let go of the objects of your awareness---one by one---as they variously and severally appear and pass away. Unlike concentration meditation you do not keep your mind fixed on one thing exclusively. Although some concentration is needed for the practice of mindfulness, it is only at the level of momentary concentration (‘bare attention’). This concentration is just enough attention to ‘wake up’ and stay awake and alert, open, and curious to the action of the present moment from one moment to the next. The concentration required is absolutely nothing like the type and depth of concentration required for the practice of concentration meditation. The essence of mindfulness is captured in these wonderful words from Saraha’s Treasury of Songs

Look and listen, touch and eat,
Smell, wander, sit and stand,
Renounce the vanity of discussion,
Abandon thought and be not moved from singleness.

The regular practice of mindfulness enables you to see your mind and to ‘view’ its contents. Yes, you come to look and see. You no longer seek to control or subjugate the mind as in concentration meditation. You no longer try to quieten the mind. I have said this before but it’s so important I will say it again----if you want to make spiritual progress, stop trying. The secret is letting go, but first you must let be, that is, let things be exactly as they are (at least for the time being). True contentment and peace of mind, and real spiritual growth, comes from subtraction and not addition.

You see, what you need is already there, within you, in abundance. Get rid of a few things---things such as judgmentalism, condemnation, and analysis, as well as all forms of self-absorption and self-centredness---and you will find what is already there. You do not have to ‘work’ for it in the sense of concentrating hard on some damn object. What is needed is to dis-identify and dis-relate the mind … with an effortless and gentle kind of effort … the effort of non-effort, it’s been called. Yes, let go of all attachments. Concentration is just another form of attachment, and more attachment will just keep you in the prison-house longer. Don’t be bound by anything---not even meditation.

I love these other words from Krishnamurti. He was talking about mindfulness---even though he didn't actually use the word ‘mindfulness’---when he said the following:

You are not analyzing, criticizing, judging ... you are listening, are you not? Your mind is in a state where the thought process is not active, but is very alert. Yes? And that alertness is not of time, is it? You are merely being alert, passively receptive, and yet fully aware; and it is only in this state that there is understanding. Surely, when the mind is agitated, questioning, worrying, dissecting, analyzing, there is no understanding. And when there is the intensity to understand, the mind is obviously tranquil.

Did you hear that? He said, ‘it is only in this state [that is, mindfulness] that there is understanding … [a]nd when there is the intensity to understand, the mind is obviously tranquil.’

Yes, awareness in the form of observation---and especially self-observation---leads to self-knowledge, insight, and wisdom … as well as real, lasting calmness, peace, equanimity, and serenity. Who could ask for anything more?

Note. The 'Keep Calm and Aum' image is courtesy of All rights reserved.


Thursday, June 5, 2014


Ring bells! Blow trumpets! This is the 300th post on my blog.

I want to thank all those who have read my posts either regularly or intermittently. My only reason for blogging is to say something which may prove insightful and eye-opening to others. Well, that’s the main reason. To tell you the truth, there are also occasions when I just like to get certain things of my chest.

I have given some thought to what should be the subject-matter of this 300th post of mine, and this is what I’ve decided upon. I want to list, and discuss ever so briefly, the major themes which have been the central focus of my blog since it began in October 2010. Here they are ... in no particular order.

Theme No. 1: There is a single way of being

There is only one way of being, namely, that of occurrence in space-time. There is only one order or level of reality. All things exist on that order or level---on the same plane of observability. So, forget all about the so-called ‘supernatural.’ If it exists, it is perfectly natural. A single logic applies to all things, for all things exist in the same ‘level’ or plane of existence and observability. Not all things are one in any overall monistic sense, but every thing has some relations with some other things. There is no entity which is wholly independent of all other entities. Each 'thing' is a cause of at least one other 'thing' as well as being the effect of some other 'thing,' so every thing is explainable by reference to one or more other things. Thus, all talk of the supposed need for some 'first cause' is, well, unspeakable nonsense. Empty words. There can be no contrivance of a ‘universe’ or totality of things, because the contriver would have to be included in the totality of things. There was no first cause---and absolutely no need for one.

Theme No. 2: Truth is a moment-to-moment experience

Truth, also known as life, reality, and God, is a moment-to-moment experience. Truth is dynamic, not static. Truth is not found in any belief, doctrine, or dogma. Truth is something ‘real.’ It is not a matter of opinion. The truth or falsity of any statement or proposition always a question of---is it so? Truth is indeed a ‘pathless land,’ as J. Krishnamurti told us. There is no ‘way’ or ‘path’ to truth, and none is needed. Truth is the way. Truth is the path. Whether we know it or not, we are always in direct and immediate with reality. Direct, knowing perception of truth takes place when there is choiceless awareness of life as it really is. The so-called ‘Path’ is simply the livingness of life from one moment to the next. It leads nowhere that is not already fully present here-and-now. It is, however, everywhere.

We can only know the truth when we live mindfully, that is, with ‘bare attention’ to, and ‘choiceless awareness’ of, the action of the present moment from one such moment to the next. No person, no matter how wise or holy, is the embodiment of truth or can 'give' you truth. No one, and no group or organization, has a monopoly on the truth. No so-called ‘holy book’ contains the truth, although most such books contain some very good advice---provided they are sensibly interpreted and applied in the light of reason and sound scholarship.

Theme No. 3: Enlightenment is not a ‘thing’ at all

Enlightenment, also known as salvation, is actually a ‘no-thing.’ It is not a ‘thing’ at all. It can be found, but never searched for. If you seek it, you will miss it. You must be your own ‘saviour and lord,’ that is, your own teacher and pupil. Enlightenment occurs when we---wake up! You are ‘saved’ when you no longer engage in conditioned thinking, when you stop trying to control things and others, and when you start to live spontaneously---free from all cravings, 'sticky' attachments and aversions.

What must you do to be renewed in your mind? Well, it is not so much what you must do, rather it is a matter of ceasing to do a number of things that stand in the way of mental health. Here are a few things to avoid: judging and criticizing others, holding on to anger, resentments and ill-will as well as illusions of all kinds, not letting the past stay in the past, living mechanically as opposed to mindfully, not being satisfied and content with your lot, imitating and copying others, seeking sense-gratification, and so on. There is nothing more important than the health of your mind and your body. Make it a daily---indeed, a moment-to-moment---concern of yours ... without becoming self-obsessed in the process.

Are you seeking ‘ultimate reality’? God? Then look for it in yourself ... in the presence of each moment ... from moment to moment. Live with choiceless awareness. That means you no longer choose what you will be aware of. Whatever happens, whatever ‘comes’ into, or is, your consciousness---sorrow, joy, love, hatred, wakefulness, drowsiness, anger, affection, and so forth---of that be aware. Always remain curious, letting your awareness take note of what is going on ... in and outside of your mind. Get up close to whatever is passing through your mind, and investigate whatever arises ... with detachment and acceptance ... without judgment, condemnation or evaluation ... and without resistance or trying to control what is happening. 

Theme No. 4: Belief systems distort the truth

Beliefs of all kinds are an impenetrable barrier to truth. We are in direct and immediate contact with truth but beliefs are like a brick wall between us and things-as-they-really are. Eschew beliefs. Bugger beliefs. You don't need them. See things-as-they-really-are. ‘If you want to know and understand, don't believe,’ said Gautama Buddha. He was right. Belief systems distort the truth and our moment-to-moment perception, knowledge and understanding of it. Beliefs are thought coverings or veils. They are also like those distorting lenses or mirrors that you find in many carnivals and amusement or fun parks. Either way, they do not reveal reality, indeed they distort reality. How? Well, they prevent us from knowing and experiencing things as they really are in all their directnessimmediacy and uninterruptedness.

All belief is conditioning, but knowledge is experiential. We need to safely 'navigate' our way through life, but beliefs actually stand in the way and hold us back. What we really need is knowledge and understanding. There is so much we can know that, well, there is simply no need to believe anything at all. In any event, the very act of formulating a 'belief' causes an otherwise present reality to die away, because the very nature of a belief is a mental construct based on an already past reality. That is, by the time a particular belief has been formulated, the reality upon which that belief is purportedly based is no longer a present reality. It is now the past. Beliefs lock us into the past. Beliefs imprison. They do not liberate. They are chains that bind us. Set yourself free---today! Give up your beliefs---yes, all of them!

Theme 5: Self can’t change self

How can ‘I’ change ‘me’? Both have no reality in themselves. Both are brought about through thought. There is no actual ‘self’ at the centre of our conscious---or even unconscious---awareness. The ‘self’ does not exist---at least not exist in the sense of possessing a separate, independent, unchangeable, material existence of its own. What you are is a person-among-persons. You are not the hundreds and thousands of ‘I's’ and 'me's' (likes, dislikes, beliefs, opinions, attachments, cravings, and so on) that your mind generates from one moment to the next. These 'selves' are ‘false selves.’ They are illusory, being no more than mere images in your mind. They are not who you really are. Indeed, almost all of our problems and difficulties arise because we mistakenly believe that those ‘I's’ and ‘me's’ are us, the person each of us is. You are a person, that is, an ontological entity that takes form and shape as a dynamic human body-mind system. Yes, a person, which is not identical with a body or a mind or even an embodied mind. A person---something which is not reducible to any more basic kind of entities. A person among persons. Something which is identical with nothing other than a person. In order to fully function as an integrated person, we need to undergo a process of personalization, that is, we must move from a sense of self to a sense of being. Only then will the dual nature of our being (body and mind) function in a unified as opposed to a dualistic manner. Only then will we be truly alive.

So-called ‘consciousness’---not an entity in its own right but a dynamic, ever-changing process---emerges when the mind and the body cohere. The physical body is essential for the emergence of the mental, but having said that, the body and the mind are not separate. Mind ‘extends’ into the body, and the body also ‘extends’ into the mind. Also, our consciousness goes through continuous fluctuations from one moment to the next. As such, there is nothing to constitute, let alone sustain, a separate, transcendent ‘I’ structure or entity. We ‘die’ and are ‘born’ (or ‘reborn’) from one moment to the next. In short, there is no ‘self.’ It is an illusion.

The bottom line? Self can't change self, but the person that you are is a power-not-oneself. Yes, you, the person, can change---totally and fully---provided you really want change more than anything else and are prepared to go to any length to get it. The power-not-oneself may takes various forms (eg God, Jesus, Buddha, or the person that you are). It doesn't really matter what you call this power. It simply needs to be 'not-self.' Why? Because self has no power, and is no power. End of story.

This metaphysical and psychological principle is the cornerstone of all psychological and spiritual healing.

Theme No. 6: Only an inner psychological mutation can ‘save’ you

Self-observation leads to self-knowledge and insight. A complete, inner psychological transformation can happen instantaneously or incrementally. In either case, the experience can be ‘revolutionary.’ This revolutionary change in you is one which you bring about yourself. It is not something that others can do for you. Only you can effect this change within yourself, and it is a change which affects the conscious mind as well as the unconscious. The change comes from finding a way of living where you ‘come into reality.’ It is an awakening, that is, you wake up and then learn to stay awake. This revolutionary change in you can only happen when you want it more than anything else. Yes, so great is the power of change that if you want it---that is, really want it---you will have it! But first you must see the ‘danger’ inherent in the way you’re living now. Revolutionary change produces freedom---freedom from fear, greed, envy, jealousy, dependency. But remember---only you, the person that you are, can set you free.

Theme No. 7: Acceptance of what is, is the only way to live

Acceptance is the answer to all our problems. ‘On the acknowledgement of what is there is the cessation of all conflict,’ said J. Krishnamurti. Let go of all expectations. However, before you can let go, you must let be. The latter is an act of acceptance---and a choice. Receive each event or happening in your life with a mind-set which neither likes nor dislikes. This is sometimes referred to as having an 'equal' mind. ‘Reality is a question of realizing how real the world is already,’ wrote Allen Ginsberg. Life is hard at the best of times, and bad things often happen to good people. There is no sensible explanation for this. It is one of life’s mysteries. Forget about what others think of you. They don’t even need to think of you at all. What others think of you is none of your business. Others will react to you as they will. Accept yourself, the person that you are. 

Stop looking for the supposed ‘purpose’ of human existence. There is no intrinsic, built-in purpose or underlying meaning to life. Things just are. Things do not change; we change. Things go wrong because we are wrong. However, your life can be extremely meaningful if you give it meaning. The best way of doing that is to start living mindfully. Start living with a purposively open mind---and, most importantly, a mind that is curious and receptive to whatever is happening in your moment-to-moment experience of daily life. After all, is it not self-evident that it helps to be purposefully alert, receptive, and attentive to what is going on in and about us? Go about your daily, everyday life with your eyes wide open and your mind open, curious and engaged. Got that? Then please never forget it---and pass the word around.

Theme No. 8: Live in the eternal now

Well, there is a state of mind or consciousness that is timeless in the sense of being beyond time. This timeless state is more than a state of mind for in a very real sense it is a state of ‘no-mind’ or ‘no-mindedness.’ The mind dwells on nothing, stops on nothing. It just is. The mind has even gone beyond awareness---that is, awareness of ‘things’ as such---although there is an awareness of awareness itself. It is the self-knowing mind out of which all things came, that which fashioned and brought matter into existence. It still does. The mind that is aware that it is aware is the self-knowing, creative mind. It observes, explores, but never stays or stops. Some call this ‘Presence’ the eternal now, and that is not a bad turn of phrase at all.

Time is a scale we have created to ‘divide’ the occurrence of happenings into so-called past, present, and future. At best it is not a thing in itself (like a flower or a bus is a thing) but rather a medium in which all things exist and have their being. Space and time---they're really one---are largely 'tools' of the mind, with time in particular being a most ‘relative’ construct. The truth is we live both in time and eternity. We are ‘in’ (that is, immersed) in eternity right now. In a sense, we live out our existence in both time and eternity. For the most part, the difference lies in the quality of life being experienced by us. For example, when we are anxiously waiting for the expected occurrence of some future event we are existing---note, I didn’t say living---in time. When we are bound up in attachments and addictions we are also existing in time. But when we are truly and fully present in the Now, then we are living---yes, living---in eternity. Wow! What a difference there is!

Life is ceaseless movement and constant flux even though in and of itself life is timeless andspaceless and unchanging. Unchanging, yet forever changing. Nothing moves yet nothing stands still. What a paradox! Everything---and I mean every thing---is contained within ‘the now.’ All time is total and complete---that is, has its fulfilment---in the now. There is an eternal quality about the now, for the now is forever new. What we somewhat ambiguously call ‘the present’ is simply that content---occurrences, both internal and external, in space-time---which presents itself before us in consciousness in and as the now. The eternal now is that ‘present’---yes, it's a problematic word---which is forever renewing and re-presenting itself in and as each new moment. This eternity supersedes time itself. In other words, there is a ‘present’ beyond the ‘present,’ but if you try to 'chase' the next present you will fail. Everything is---here now! Life is eternal, and we are in eternity now. Few people know that. Few people are truly alive. Are you truly alive? Few are, you know.

Theme No. 9: Life is consciousness

If quantum mechanics has shown us anything---and it has shown us plenty---it has shown that consciousness or mind is fundamental, eternal and all-creative. That which we call mass, together with what we refer to as matter, is derivative, being constructed wholly from the interactions between massless---yes, that’s right, massless---elementary particles. Those massless elementary particles constitute the ‘innerness’ of all physical things, even so-called inert matter. I am not referring to some supposedly omnipotent creator God prior to and 'above' time, whatever that word 'above' means in this context (which is nothing in fact). Quantum mechanics appears to provide no support for any such hypothesis or religious belief, but it does provide enormous support for the proposition that mind or consciousness is both fundamental and all-pervasive, that is, that mind or consciousness constitutes the fundamental undifferentiated nature of reality. What emerges from that quantum field depends to a very large degree upon---consciousness! Yes, mind or consciousness is primary and fundamental, the creator and governor of matter. Consciousness is an essential quality or characteristic—if not the defining one---of the quantum field … at least in potentiality.

There is an eternal motion---the Now---of which each of us is a part, that never stops … not even for a nanosecond. Each of us, at the quantum level, is a frequency of consciousness, and there is something very timeless yet veridical about that. The timeless in one person is the timeless in every other person and thing. It was ‘there’ even before the beginning of time, it was ‘there’ when it scattered the stars into space, and it will be ‘there’ long after you and I have ceased to exist as conscious centres of life’s self-awareness.

What does all this mean for you? Well, a number of things, but perhaps the most important one is this---the quality of your life is to a very large extent determined by your state of consciousness, that is, your thinking. Renew your mind. Renew your thinking. No amount of positive thinking will change hard facts, but nothing is to be gained by negative thinking.

Theme No. 10: Get your mind off yourself

Get your mind off yourself. Set yourself---that is, the person that you are---free from all your false selves. You need to be taken out of yourself. Detach mentally from your ‘selves’ by living mindfully. Most of our problems and difficulties occur because we are self-absorbed, self-centred, and self-obsessed. One of the best ways of moving from a sense of self to a sense of non-self (being), is to help other people. Lose yourself in others. Experience a ‘Copernican revolution.’ The world does not revolve around you. Selfishness is the essential problem of your life---and mine. Love is the solution.

So, dear readers, go forth and live mindfully. Think less of yourself, and more of others. Give your life meaning by living meaningfully … from one moment to the next. Angels---if there are any (which I strongly doubt)---can do no better.

The photos in this post (other than the '300' image)
were taken by the author while on trips to Japan.