Tuesday, June 7, 2011


This question sounds trivial or even ridiculous but I understand the underlying frustration. Countless writings, countless teachers, countless philosophies over two thousand years all in the name of enlightenment or insight or our true nature and there is no real consensus as to what we are searching for or even what the terms mean.

One school may speak of individual suffering, another the suffering of others, while others speak of social activism or insight through meditation or chanting and on and on and on. The variations and approaches are endless.

I cannot speak for any school or any individual for that matter since people can search for whatever they wish. And they do under whatever name that suits them. The question can be answered but it may not mean much to you. It will sound vague, even silly, too metaphysical. And that is because your mind operates dualitically, insisting that there must be a subject and object in everything. And it is precisely that conceptual thinking that blocks the insight you desire. Please see my earlier postings where I attempted to unwind the barriers of dualistic thought. Nevertheless, the common theme, the common goal of the most comprehensive and focused mystics, sages, and philosophies, can be expressed in maybe not 50 words or less but, not that many more if you insist. How about the following?

Awareness and reality are identical. Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. Awareness manifests every fact and quality of the entire universe. Absolutely nothing exists independently. Our awareness is an integral component of the universe. We believe that every object in the universe independently possess all the attributes and qualities that make them that object and our eyes see them or our minds think about them. Separately. Actually, those qualities exist only in awareness. Those qualities are awarness. Whether directly experienced or thought about. Has any object ever had a color or an appearance without a mind perceiving it? Colors, appearance, feeling, sound, anything is a mind object, is a manifestation of awareness. So are we saying objects or energy or matter does not exist? Of course not but the way we see and experince those objects is our awareness and our awareness is those abjects, like a universal partneship, where definition and experience are one. So are we also saying that if no awareness exisited, no object, in fact the universe itself would not exist? Of course not. The universe and every object in it would have no appearanc or no qualities or no definition, existing in its unmanifested, undefined nature beyond our perception and understanding. Remember, quantum theorists and others are already saying the deeper down and closer you look, nothing solid or fixed or definable is even there. As one sage put it, an indeterrminable flux. So awarness does not look upon the universe as a separate thing, awareness defines, colors, and manifests all that we know and all that we know is awareness.

Impossible to believe? You already know the old adage that when a tree falls in the forest with no one near by, it makes no sound. Sound requires a mind and awareness. That does not mean there is not a vibration or motion but vibration is sound only when it is heard. What about the room your are in. The objects have form and color and dimension and many other qualities. Turn out the light, and there is nothing. That does not mean there are not objects in there exisitng in some nature with relationships and compnents and structure and movement, but they have no color or appearance or qualities until they are seen. But what is so difficult to get, is that the sound, qualities and appearance do not exist independently within the objects but only within awareness. The sound, qualities and appearance are awareness and awareness is the sound, qualities and appearance. They are identical. They are non dual. Subject is object and object is subject. That is why we can truthfully say every object in the universe as we know it is your awareness and your awareness is every object in the universe as we know them. You cannot have one without the other because they are one, not two. When you separate them, that is dualism and that is how we live our lives.

If you instead live your life from a non dual perspective, everything changes profoundly. It is a gateway to insight and understanding. You are no longer a tiny, vulnerable mind and body gazing upon a vast, nearly infinite universe. You realize that what you are is the universe looking upon itself, experiencing itself, similar in a way that you look upon and experience your own dreams. And from that realization, the beginning of freedom and an end to suffering flows.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Many practitioners believe that the cause of suffering is attachment. Actually, the Buddhist sutras make it clear that the cause of suffering is ignorance. Attachment is clearly one of the afflictive emotions mentioned and some scholars believe that the reference to attachment was a shorthand reference to all of the problematic states of mind.

Although the analysis of ignorance as the cause of suffering is complex, in summary it means ignorance of our true nature, ignorance of the nature of your awareness caused by the distortions of a dualistic perspective.

To put it simply, when you believe all that you are is a mind and body and perhaps even a soul with you "in here" and everything else in the universe "out there", you will be forever locked in the conflict of you versus everything else in the universe as separate from you and that potentially can affect you.

Your dualistic belief in a separate self as the nature of your existence and awareness is the primary ignorance and the cause of suffering.

When you experience and truly know that it is not true, suffering ends. It is not that you do not experience pain or sadness or anger or any other of the countless things that hurt us, it is just that you know them to be just mind objects, arising like all else in your awareness, and that in the universal scheme they are not real. They are fleeting and impermanent, like images on a screen. And in the same way that even the most horrendous image cannot distort a screen upon which it is projected, nothing that arises or happens, absolutely nothing can ever affect what you truly are. Not that feeble bag of skin and bones and brain tissue you think you are, but Emptiness, the knowing, experiential quality of the universe itself that you and every living being is and upon which the universe itself manifests.

So when you encounter a religion or philosophy or way of life designed to lessen or end suffering, ask what it is talking about. If it teaches you how to be a better person or to show compassion to others or to take better care of yourself and the planet, that is wonderful and worthy of your time. But that does not end suffering. That teaches you how to remove or lessen or avoid the events or conditions that hurt you or others or the world and cause pain or the other endless unpleasant emotions or feelings you can experience. Your potential to suffer remains however, waiting for the right event to arise. And they do, endlessly.

Only when you know, only when you learn, only when you finally understand what you really are, will the ignorance be washed away and you will see that suffering, like all else, is not real and cannot reach you.

If this posting is of interest to you, please read the earlier entries regarding emptiness, non duality and no self and particularly "What Are We Really?". All of this may sound too poetic and metaphysical if you do not.

Friday, January 7, 2011


For all but the most dedicated practitioners, the search for enlightenment is often a search for happiness. An end to unhappiness, depression, and all the other maladies that affect us. And perhaps most of all, a quest somehow to survive, to cheat death, to be reborn or move to the next level. Many of us believe we will be somehow endowed with extraordinary powers to rise above the countless challenges of life. And that is what so many religions, philosophies, and programs offer you, ultimate salvation, however expressed or envisioned.

If that is what you seek, find a guru or mystic or religion or program or other sage who claims insights, understandings or perhaps direct links to God greater than your own and offers you whatever makes you feel better. Meditate, contemplate, chant, bow, spin, sing, dance, read, pray, deprive, indulge, whatever. It won't matter. It usually changes nothing.

That is not what we are doing here. That is not what a serious practitioner seeking insight or enlightened awareness is all about. instead, we ask simply what is this and what are we really. No goals, no preconceived notions, no desired ends looking for a justification.

The real question, the real quest, is how do those things you seek and everything else for that matter arise, how do you know them and everything else you will ever experience, how are you even aware of your misery or unhappiness or anything at all. What is the nature of your awareness, the process of your awareness....how does everything that is, including you, even arise? Focus if you want only on what has arisen and an entire universe of detail. There is enough there for countless lifetimes.

Or, as one insightful practitioner put it, " I awakened to know instantly, beyond doubt and beyond description, that the universe and all it's infinite complexity was a stage, a glorious play, and my awareness, the awareness of all beings, was at once the director, the audience and the very stage itself and that outside that theatre, far more awaited."

When you experience that level of insight and awareness, the pain, the suffering, the misery cannot touch you.

Friday, November 5, 2010


In an earlier posting I discussed suffering as a focus of Buddhist practice. One need only refer to the Four Noble Truths as a foundational doctrine for practice. Yet there is another application of the concept of suffering to the development of insight and I believe it is more illuminating.

Ken Wilber explained in several of his works that as your insight develops and you move beyond the Witness, you begin to experience that the only thing that makes sense for you to do is to profoundly care about the suffering of others and help alleviate that suffering. You actually almost begin to tire of witnessing the endless display of mind objects and the insights accompanying them. There are only so many glorious sunsets, peak experiences, and profound glimpses of emptiness to move you, as odd as that may sound. instead, you find yourself developing a profound sense of compassion for others who "don't get it" and see them not as actors in their own roles but as a part of yourself, the big I, and almost feel the pain they are feeling. Your heart breaks for the suffering they are experiencing and you truly want to lessen that pain, and share your insights so that they too may grow beyond it.

This insight is far beyond mere human kindness. It is a measurement of your own experience of your true nature where you recognize how others suffer when they have forgotten or have never known their own. And you also experience in a very real sense, how in emptiness, their suffering is your own.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Enlightenment practice methods can be as diverse as the practitioners. But two principles seem to always apply.

Practice first to quiet the mind. That is essential. If your mind is busy with racing thoughts and emotions, it is unrealistic to expect any progress. This can be done through many methods including meditation, contemplation, chanting, and mindfully engaging in any activity or what is referred to as one pointed attention. What I advise you to be cautious about is engaging in any of these activities, especially meditation, for the purpose of achieving temporary heightened states of consciousness. These can be wonderful and compelling and even temporarily transforming but they are not enlightenment. They are ultimately mind objects like all else. Too many of us meditate to experience these states and then, sometimes smugly, declare ourselves at a higher level of consciousness. That, sadly, is merely boasting by the ego. Remember from the earlier postings, the goal is emptiness, that formless pure awareness, that is most closely experienced in deep dreamless sleep. Again, I call your attention to the earlier postings where these ideas are addressed in detail. Without an understanding of the vocabulary, this can all be easily misunderstood.

When the racing, distracted mind is finally restrained a bit, then practice throughout your day by constantly reminding yourself of the screen metaphor and see everything you experience, including your thoughts, as projections on your screen of awareness. Every object, person, thought, emotion, feeling, all arising on that screen, that stage of awareness. Some practitioners have used a video camera metaphor as if their life is being filmed and recorded. It sounds artificial, even silly to some, but it gently moves you toward what the Buddhists call the Witness, which really is what we are talking about. You begin to experience the realization that you are not just that mind and body that has consumed your awareness from your earliest moments. You start to truly feel that you are instead that formless awareness in which all objects, even your mind and body, are arising. This practice method begins to break our compulsion with subject and object. It allows you to step back and experience much needed detachment. Try it in everything you do. It can even be enjoyable.

Please also review my earlier posting where I describing the specific steps ton achieving insight. You should instantly see how the two practice methods above fuel that process.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


We have all heard the mystics and sages speak of the stages of being. It is often presented as gross, subtle, causal, non dual and One Taste. Gross is your ordinary waking state. Subtle is intense thought and dream states. Causal is often referred to as deep dreamless sleep. They will also say that the causal state of deep dreamless sleep is most like your true nature. How can that be? You are not aware of anything in dreamless sleep. Some would say you are unconscious, dead to the world.

But that is exactly the point. Why is a state where there is nothing, no mind objects whatsoever, not even self awareness not as valid or representative of you as when you are thinking or feeling or perceiving? A third of your life is spent in such a state. Surely you would not argue that you literally die when you fall into deep dreamless sleep and are suddenly reborn when you awaken.

Instead, such a state represents what you truly are before the infinite mind objects project themselves. This is the state like the metaphor of the screen. Where all the images of consciousness and awareness will be projected. You are not dead in dreamless sleep. You are instead your true nature, quiet and still now, but waiting to manifest the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feelings and thoughts of the entire universe to be projected on your awareness. You are not those objects any more than a screen is what is projected upon it. You are the screen, quiet, immovable, and unaffected by the projection.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We have all heard the mystics and sages say that our most difficult times can be our most productive in terms of spiritual growth and insight. Probably, most of us don't buy it and consider such advice as a rationalization meant only to soften the blow of whatever ails us. But if instead we were to express such advice in the more practical terms of Contemporary Enlightenment as defined in the preceding postings of this website, it may have a very different meaning.

Consider this for example. The Buddha did not select suffering as the foundation for his message because his sole purpose was to fix or cure the events causing suffering as we know it. He could have selected emptiness, selflessness, non-duality, conceptual thought and other approaches. He selected the emphasis on suffering as a foundation for his teachings because everyone suffers and everyone wants suffering to stop. And when you are suffering, you may be more focused and committed and open to whatever will make it stop. The suffering the Buddha spoke of was much broader than the pain of a disease or the loss of a loved one. He spoke in terms of the dissatisfaction and unhappiness of the human experience, however it manifests. The exact nature of the suffering and the events causing it do not matter.

He essentially said you suffer, whatever the cause, because you are not awake and do not understand your true nature. When you do finally understand it, it is not that the event at issue stops, but there simply is no suffering. Like all else, it is simply an illusion, with no effect whatsoever upon what you truly are. This is not esoteric dharma babble. It is a fact.

If you believe yourself only to be a body encompassing a mind that perceives through its senses and thinks through its brain, then anything that tears at that body or causes unpleasant thoughts will hurt you. But, as explained in the dozen or so prior postings, if you know yourself to be more, that your awareness is emptiness itself, the "screen" upon which the suchness of the universe arises, then pain, pleasure, thoughts, feelings, and everything else for that matter, are just objects, arising and falling in your awareness, images projected on the screen of awareness, never affecting or changing that screen.

But wait you say. When I am sick, I hurt. When a loved one dies, I suffer. Of course you do but which "you" are we talking about, which you are you really? If you are only that mind and body, you do indeed suffer. But if you know, truly know that your awareness is so much greater, is the very "reflective ability of the universe" itself (using a term from an earlier posting), that from which everything there is or can ever be arises, whatever you thought could hurt you cannot. It cannot hurt you because it arises within what your true nature truly is, an image, a projection on the screen of emptiness.

Why is this so hard to get, so hard to believe, so seemingly impractical yet so many of us believe in religious and spiritual imagery and mythology which is far more fantastic? Read the last two postings where this is addressed directly. It is precisely growing beyond these barriers that is the goal of spiritual growth and insight.

So when you hurt, just hurt. When you dance, just dance. When you see a child, just see her. When you suffer, let its unpleasantness remind you of what you truly are, let it awaken you and know that the suffering is just a mind object like everything else. And remember, that it cannot touch what you really are.