[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
I am fairly new to buddhism, but I would like to get some (buddhist) opinions on my practice... My background is advaita - Atmananda's teaching. It is basically about examining the direct experience and using logical arguments to collapse objects into thoughts (there is no access to object other than through thought) and thoughts into consciousness:
“If it is never your experience that a thought exists outside of consciousness, then it makes no sense to carry around the notion that it really does exist externally. And because memory is itself another thought, it can’t prove the existence of another thought even within consciousness. One realizes that there’s no evidence that a thought existed other than the present thought. There cannot be two thoughts. If there can’t be two, then it makes no sense that the present thought is actually a thought in the first place. At this point, thought itself dissolves into consciousness.“ – taken from Greg Goode’s site http://heartofnow.com/files/atmananda.html
From what I can tell so far, it eliminates suffering and fear and uncovers bliss. What is your take on that? Is this going the right direction / is there some step further beyond this realisation / how does it fit in your point of view?
Thank you for your comments and suggestions.
If this is your introduction to Buddhism, well, welcome to Buddhism.
Buddhist dialectics shares some formal features with the kind of Advaita moves you outline in your post, but does not always arrive at the same conclusion (famously resolving into emptiness [sunyata] rather than into consciousness, for instance). If you're interested in learning more about this, check out the writings of Nagarjuna.
Apropos of "direct experience" as facing the reality of your everyday situation, though: that's Buddhist meditation right there. You can get some pointers on that here, but if you really want to learn how it's done, you'll need to find a teacher and commit some time and energy in practicing in a systematic way.
Did I miss anything?
Many moons ago I was into advaita / neo-advaita - Sailor Bob, Joan Tollifson, Tony Parsons, Jeff Foster, Adyashanti, Gangaji...etc. It never sat well with me though. They never advocated any type of practice because of their "Everything is perfect as it is" mentality, which ended up having them de-emphasize practice, and having an ethical framework that is quite warped. I think the last great master in the Advaita lineage was Maharaj Nisargadatta....and he advocated meditation practice...in fact one of the practices that Ajahn Chah advocated...to focus on "I Am". However, advocating a means to achieve this state of mind is rarely advocated by any of the neo-advaitists (I think some are now using the label "Direct Path"). And of course, without a practice, I think the ability to attain a state of awakening is improbable....and probably not enough to cope with the suffering we experience on a daily basis.
To answer your questions:
1. Is this going in the right direction?
No, not without a meditation practice with the correct view.
2. Is there some step further beyond this realisation?
Greg Goode is just addressing "thought." I would say from Nagarjuna's perspective, all dharmas are empty of instrinsic nature.
3. How does it fit in your point of view?
Advaita / Neo-advaita really doesn't as they are considered monists / eternalists, and as Professor Paul Williams and others have addressed, advaitists are crypto-Buddhists.
Don't get me wrong, I really liked Nisaragadatta's book "I Am That.", as he emphasized an ethical and moral framework along with meditation. The philosophical view doesn't match up to the Buddhist one though...and in that sense, the enlightenment of an advaitist doesn't correlate to the enlightenment of a Buddhist.
From the perpsective you are coming from, I think you should investigate Dzogchen.
- How foolish you are,
grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
All causes and effects
Are consciousness alone.
And all that this establishes
Abides in consciousness.
On the basis of the Mind Alone,
We should know that outer things do not exist.
On the basis of the method set forth here,
We should know that mind is utterly devoid of self.
Those who ride the chariot of the two approaches,
Who grasp the reins of reasoned thought,
Will thus be adepts of the Mahayana
According to the sense and meaning of the word.
Vishnu, Ishvara, and others do not taste
The cause of the abiding in the measureless.
And also those who are the crowns of all the world
Are thoroughly without a taste of it.
This perfect state, this pure ambrosia,
Alone enjoyed by Buddhas, those Thus Gone,
Who are themselves results of pure compassion,
None but they can taste of it.
Those who have the mind to follow this tradition
Will strongly feel intense compassion
For those who have the mind to trust
To tenets of mistaken teachings.
Those rich in wisdom, who perceive
To what extent all other doctrines lack essential pith,
To that extent will feel intense devotion
For the Buddha, who is their Protector.
(Madhyamakalankara, verses 91-97)
This is from the text called "Adornment of the Middle Way" by Shantarakshita, which addresses how all appearances are only mental in nature, and how consciousness is actually empty. It is available with a commentary by Jamgon Mipham, a 19th century Tibetan master of great renown.
As for some instant practical advice, you may take a look at this Dzogchen teaching: Discovering the True Nature of Mind
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?
2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.
3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.
4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.
1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
All in the Assembly became aware that their minds pervaded the ten directions and that they could see everything throughout space in all ten directions as clearly as one might see an object such as a leaf in the palm of one's hand. They saw that all things in all worlds are the wondrous, fundamental, enlightened, luminous mind that understands, and that this mind, pure, all-pervading, and perfect, contains the entire universe. They looked back upon their own bodies born of their parents and saw them to be like minute particles of dust drifting about everywhere in the air, arising and perishing, or like solitary bubbles floating on vast, calm seas, appearing and then vanishing without a trace. They fully understood that the fundamental, wondrous mind is everlasting and does not perish.
--Shakyamuni Buddha as recorded in the Surangama Sutra (2009 Buddhist Translation Society translation, p. 135).
There are many ways to understand "consciousness" in Buddhism, in no small part because there are many forms in which consciousness arises and takes form. The one described above underlies them all, so to speak.
Curious? We got more where that came from...
Yes, neo-advaita does not advocate practice. I read Sailor Bob and from what I understand, the main argument is that with practice there almost always comes an expectation of some kind of future time attainment and the thing is that time ultimately does not exist (past is memory and future is expectation or some such thing). Therefore looking into future is futile, you should instead examine your direct experience in the present moment, since you are already what you are (hence the direct path). Only problem is the identification with something you are not. Also that's why there’s not a mention of enlightenment or awakening, nor looking for something other than what is already here now. Yes, they say that everything is perfect, but you should not blindly believe it. If there is suffering, that always means "I suffer", so investigate the "I", who has the problem. Little bit of logic based on present evidence and examination of direct experience shows that there is not (and never could be) a "me" person, just a bunch of perceptions appearing and disappeareing in awareness. Going further, even these perceptions are shown to be no other than awareness itself. In seeing that - you recognize yourself as the present awareness, or cognizing emptiness, as Sailor Bob puts it. Basically the goal is to gain a full conviction (using logic and investigation) that you are the awareness and all else is the appearance of it. If some problem remains, find the root belief behind it (time, causation, separate me or you) and deconstruct it by logic. I take the whole neo-advaita just as a very practical way to get rid of suffering...
Anyway, I guess I will start with Nagarjuna and I definitely should get more deeply into the philosophy of things, since I have no idea what monist is
I should have mentioned one other thing (sorry for having so much to say in your thread, but you've posed an interesting question and you're eager to learn so I'm trying to be helpful.)
It's good for you to read Nagarjuna. It's slow going, not unlike reading Aristotle, so take your time with it but definitely go for it.
I'd say it would be more useful for you to find a Buddhist teacher that you can have a conversation with, someone you can really learn from. Books are fantastic but this is a teaching and a practice that people generally get from listening and from doing it. You "see" emptiness, you don't "think" it so much.
There are online courses available if you're interested in getting some guidance through your study before you head out into the world in search of a teacher. I can recommend this one because it's good, it's free, and I know the teacher who runs it personally; there are others around that may also be helpful to you.
I hope this helps. Keep the questions coming as you study, sometimes discussion boards like this one can give you some direction too.
the view is very different... you still have much inroad to make... the Hindu view is that of a solid Higher self or I-amness or a beingness, whereas Buddhism goes further and dissolves even that sense of presence or beingness through insight and/or analysis...
Present thought (or the sense of presentness / presence) still possesses an eternal Witness or atman or Godhead or Subject whichever you call it, but Buddhist view does not admit any solid witness or I. So in present thought, there is still a sense of someone who is thinking, or aware of present thought. In Buddhism, we regard this as formless shamatha, it is still based on dualistic fixation and not yet vipassana/insight meditation, and definitely not yet reaching nondual awareness.
The sense of a witness has to be dissolved in a direct insight usually called non-self / anatta. Then the progression through more and more subtle levels of seemingly non-dual experiences but with an experienced teacher, you will find subtle traces of clinging and effort, which are actually a mark of duality. Then ultimately the realisation of the non-duality of awareness/luminosity/appearances and emptiness.
Many people reach somewhere and think that is full realisation, no more to go... that is a frequent pitfall. Another pitfall is to mistake the byproducts of insight as the insight itself. Bliss, clarity and non-thought are not the realisation. It is simply an experience which will come and go.
I am afraid i may not be doing a good job of describing it. you should have a good teacher to guide you. Liberation can't be done from forums or books. Needs guidance.
If you're still around... how's it going with the studies and the practice?
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