Sunday, 25 March 2012

Eastern Promise - Part III

This is part III of an answer to the question:  You asked me what I think you are doing.

I think you are going down the same route many Eastern philosophies are.

For part I click here

Where we have argued with spiritual folk in the past, has been on the merits of our status in relation to the main traditions. Now we can start to outline some conceptions and address them.

Of course we would be ignorant to say that seeing no self is the end of our search and we are fully truth realised, or whatever criteria you may think it takes to say we are fully 'enlightened'. 
This is evident, since we are trying to establish a post self framework and we will certainly admit that after seeing no self, the work really begins in coming to terms with your new found freedom.

Learning how to live life again post-self requires facing up to the truth, which seems to be just as important as realising no self. This is because what we have always lacked, was the de-conditioning work that the other traditions such as Buddhism and Advaita have focussed on.

No one has doubted that we have undergone a paradigm shift in the way in which we see the world. I think this can be clearly evidenced by the fact that what we say is consistent, coherent and also dovetails with the insights of all the spiritual traditions perfectly. 

What we say across our blog roll, our clarity of vision and our penetrating insights, would all point to the same thing.

Were there to be an element of untruth about what we had experienced, then there would certainly be chasms of ambiguity in what we were saying and we would have been torn to bloody pieces by our critics. 
Whilst we are exploring the post self world, we do sometimes make mistakes as we explore our new found freedom, however, the core of what we have said is unshakeable, and these critics have more often than not galvanised the strength of this insight, and made us realise the power of this insight.

We can always point to one simple truth every time which is the notion that the self is an illusion.

So are we enlightened by Buddhist and Advaitan standards?

The simple answer is no.

Do we care about becoming enlightened?

The simple answer is no we do not care.

However, if we were to break down our conditioning further, then it maybe that we would be enlightened by their same standards, which are; annihilate your ignorance, and see the self for what it really is. 
The reason we do not fulfil their criteria presently is because we have not removed our conditioning, and have only started to demolish the complexes of hubris that we have accumulated through our lives.

Also, we do not accept the auxiliary metaphysical assumptions that they do. We are peeling the layers of old complexes away still and it is safe to say we still have some questions to ask. 
By Zen and Neo - Advaitan standards though, we certainly seem to conform to their version of 'enlightened'.  

We fully acknowledge that we have not done the de-conditioning work that Buddhist and Advaitan proponents have done in demolishing their accumulated ignorance. The thing is, there is no quick fix for anything. 
It is not a simple case of seeing no self and your ego vanishes. It is a case of measuring everything against the standard of actual reality and not our preconceived notions of what reality is.

That is the most important thing post-self, and this is where your false beliefs and judgements are challenged.

In this respect, we operate backwards to Buddhism and Advaita, where we see the final realisation and then work on our conditioning afterwards.

One thing we have maintained from the very beginning is this one thing.

Nobody has an exclusive monopoly over the truth.

We need to be crystal clear on this aspect. For all that anyone has said detractor or otherwise, nobody can have exclusive access to the truth. Maybe they offer different methodologies to access the truth but truth is universal to anyone who is willing to look in real life.

The truth cannot be hidden by obscure concepts, riddles and systems of worship any more, once it is realised the truth was always there right in front of us the whole time. We have simply found a short cut to seeing this truth, obviously some people are not going to like this fact, particularly when it undermines their religion.

If you were to deliver a very uncharitable analysis of our insight, you could accuse us of discovering a life hack where you are able to:

  • Live a life without being bound tightly to the ego
  • Have the ability to see that your notions of suffering are the result of fantasy
  • Have the ability to dissolve negativity before it arises by measuring it against reality
  • Be free from the need for bolstering a flaky self image and self esteem
  • Be non attached to outcomes and desires
  • Have a degree of serenity and clear insight in to the human condition
  • Live an authentic life in line with your basic drives

If you wanted to give us the most charitable interpretation, then you might say we are 'enlightened'. The reality I think, is somewhere in between these two extremes, because we can draw many parallels between us and the east but we can also openly admit and embrace where we differ. 
You can choose, maybe you are not enlightened but you have the above benefits? Sounds like a worthwhile life hack to me, if that is as uncharitably as you want to interpret it.

Since we began this journey, we have been surprised by the number of people who had never encountered any spiritual teachings in their life, but had already realised the insight of no self, before they had come across us. We were also surprised by the number of people from the spiritual community who were dead against us freeing people, and would rather wallow out contemplating the lilly, while the rest of humanity was left to suffer. 
We were surprised further by the fact they either shrugged their shoulders and admitted that they didn't care, or tried to claim that what we were doing was dangerous and only they had special access to the truth.  

Truth realisation is not confined to spiritual believers any more, it can be realised by anyone who is willing to gather a shred of courage to look and is willing to test their beliefs in the light of reality. 
This is not always pleasant but when people act courageously, they get themselves free by simply looking in real life and applying the light of reality to their belief system. In that sense we are starting an autolysis of sorts, where our misconceptions are demolished by the truth.

Upon seeing no self, there is further to go and the autolysis does not stop, although it becomes a bit more relaxed than scrutinising no self against reality daily, until you 'get it' that there is no self.

Post-self we have to focus on scrutinising our beliefs against reality and see if they hold true. This is a learning curve for everyone, and it is like learning to live all over again within an entirely new paradigm.

That is the post self challenge, and here this aligns us with the traditional conceptions of enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita, in that we have to break down our old conditionings. 
It could well be easier to do when you have already seen the truth of no self, because you have a laser focus on reality that you do not get by simply meditating. Whether our method is more effective in the long run we will have to wait and see, and I would certainly not say meditation does not have its uses.

One thing for sure, we are not trying to annihilate all thought, repress our emotions, nor are we trying to become enlightened in their sense of the word.

We simply see the false self cast in its true light, we see it as the transparent illusion it really is.

In this, we see the truth of no self not as an axiom in which to live our lives by, but as a new paradigm in which to live. This paradigm gives great clarity and a distinctive quality of simply 'being' that was not available to us before we saw this. We clearly see that we had mistakenly believed that we were our thoughts for most of our childhood and adult lives. The realisation is that there is nothing more than simply being. The question what is the point in life? Is already answered for us.

From here we can conclude that whilst certain parallels can be drawn, and some of what the sages say is insightful and prudent, it is evident that we openly do not embrace Eastern methodology and we do not embrace their metaphysical claims.

We do not desire to destroy all our thoughts and emotions, we actually have found a genuine alternative to spiritual enlightenment, that affords you the freedom to be authentic and use reality as the final arbiter of truth, without having to buy in to a formalised methodology and set of metaphysical beliefs that involves ten years of meditating.

It may not be the bells and whistles state you thought it would be, what we are offering is simply the truth. Its not spiritual, its not enlightenment, it is simply something that is universally true, it just seems that there are many parallels we can draw with the Eastern tradition.

Admittedly most people do not care about the truth, they often want to chase an ideal they were falsely sold. Jed Mckenna was bang on the money in that aspect of his book.

Part IV Here

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Eastern Promise - Part II

This is part II of an answer to the question: 
You asked me what I think you are doing.

I think you are going down the same route many Eastern philosophies are.

Having outlined the basics of these schools of thought, we are in a position to look at some parallels and differences. One way in which we differ from these schools of thought is primarily in our methodology.

Where these schools focus on meditation, we undertake an ontological analysis of reality, with the aid of empirical evidence and direct looking in reality to demonstrate the no self insight. In that sense, the groundwork for this core insight can now be industrialised. We have managed to pioneer a methodology in which we can get the core teaching of no self transmitted, without having to resort to a formalised religious or belief system.

We have isolated the kernel of truth from these institutions and have managed to reduce it down to be encapsulated in one core insight which is “NO SELF”. Here we break rank with the Eastern philosophies again, since we see the inherent value of this. We would not say that this is equivalent with the main traditions, but it certainly seems identical to the Neo- Advaitan and Zen conception of enlightenment.  

At no point has anyone successfully argued against us about the merits of this insight. None of our critics have ever shown that we have not genuinely experienced a paradigm shift, nor have they managed to show that 'no self' is invalid in any way. It seems the only arguments people have levelled, is that no self is worthless on its own.

Which to be fair it actually is, if, it is merely held as a belief.

The evidence of no self can be demonstrated empirically very easily, even David Hume worked out that we cannot experience the self as far back as 1748. Julian Baggini, Derek Parfit are among notable modern philosophers who all believe the self is an illusion. They are not wrong in their reasoning in any way, but this is the point where we hit a brick wall of understanding. At this point there is a difference between simply believing and knowing this issue.

How do we illustrate this difference simply?

I decide to question my belief that the moon is made of rock. NASA has demonstrated reams of empirical evidence, to the point where we genuinely believe the moon is made of rock, and is not made of cheese.

However, this is a priori knowledge (The knowledge is independent of our experience).

We have not been to the moon to experience what it is like there, so we have had to form a concept about the composition of the moon from the available evidence presented to us.

Whilst the empirical evidence we have seen is posteriori (obtained from actual experience), this has only informed us with a belief about whether the moon is made of rock.

If we went to the moon in a rocket, I could still potentially encounter a giant piece of cheddar. All we have to rely on is the empirical evidence that we have encountered, and we have no guarantees that what NASA says is actually true, without resting on our belief about the moon. It maybe that NASA is secretly stockpiling crackers and red wine.

Until we can obtain our own knowledge about the moon by actually visiting it, we can never have any more than a belief about the composition of the moon. It may be well founded but we cannot guarantee the truth of our belief, without visiting the moon.

Consequently, anyone who merely only believes there is no self, is no better off than someone on earth making a priori conspiracy theories about the moon. Whilst we can assert that no matter how unlikely it is that this is true, we can never know for sure without seeing it first hand.

In that sense philosophers and spiritual folk who simply change their belief about the self accomplish absolutely nothing, and feel they are in a well placed position to question the idea of no self and argue about its merits. It is the same as me placing a box on the desk in front of someone and telling them to look inside. Instead they decide to lecture us and tell us about the contents of the box, whilst all the time ignoring the box they could open right in front of their eyes.

Yet, they will claim they are a rational person by imagining what is inside the box, and claiming that they do not need to look because they already know. There is no arguing with these folk quite simply, but it is worth remembering that looking inside the box rather than arguing about its contents requires courage. We do not mean super human courage, just a desire to face up to the truth whatever it may be.

In dealing with the no self insight, we find ourselves constantly trying to reiterate that the belief that the self is an illusion is utterly useless.
Only by obtaining an experiential encounter of no self, can we say anything about its value. This is where people miss the point, they often say “self is an illusion” is old news.

Yes it is old news.

Like 500 years BC old news.

The truth is, believing this news is absolutely worthless unless it is experientially validated. This is the point we constantly make about resting on assumptions and this is what any of the people who question the value of no self consistently fail to grasp in any capacity. This is simply because they are trying to understand a new paradigm, with the same tired conceptual distinctions. It really is as simple as that, it will never be grasped by conceptualising it from an old paradigm of thinking.

Most of the tired arguments levelled at us by the philosophical community have taken this form. Unfortunately neither side can win this argument, since language is merely representative of reality.

Language is not sufficient to convey experience, linguistic analyses teach us nothing new and our experience of reality cannot be captured by language.

Advocates of the spiritual community have levelled similar arguments too. In particular, one guy who slated us from his blog ages ago, claimed that no self could be realised over the course of a weekend Buddhist retreat. 
It actually could be, if, the people were engaged in looking at no self, and not trying merely trying to understand 'no self'.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of what happens in a weekend Buddhist retreat. If one was to follow Buddhism eventually the self would be seen as false and no self would be realised. 
But as you know full well these people are stuck meditating for perhaps ten years or so. You get told at the start there is no self at the start and to develop the insight in to it, but they do not tell you to look because they want disciples. Seekers actually get stuck in the whole Buddhism lifestyle and take on misguided moral postures and metaphysical beliefs such as karma.

Essentially, Buddhism is just one way of arriving at the same conclusion there is no self, and the work over this time scale has been to break down the layers of ego, or get de-conditioned from their patterns of thinking that are based in ignorance. 
This aspect is a good thing. The core truth is not at fault here or anything, it is simply the Buddhist chooses another set of beliefs, to replace his original faulty ones, whilst breaking down the foundations of the false self. That is what really happens.

I am sure a few people will question me here, but there again, it will probably be people who have never even been to a real Buddhist retreat, and witnessed first hand the formalisations and money orientation of the temples. 
If you have lived in a Buddhist country, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. The beliefs the Buddhists adopt are very questionable and we will scrutinise this in the second half of the question related to Nirvana.

Where we have argued with spiritual folk in the past, has been on the merits of our status in relation to the main traditions. Now we can start to outline some conceptions and address them.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Eastern Promise - Part I

Hi all, I have been very busy of late plunging in to the mysteries of consciousness. Of course, its all pretty weird and strange, there seems to be no answer to be found in analyses but I have learned a lot and hope fully this should translate in to some useful discussions soon. I have written a few blog pieces but I feel they are incomplete, so have neglected to post up any works in progress.

However, I am going to run a mini series of replies from questions that were posed to me by a critic. I had never really applied my own analysis to such questions, Ruthless Truth had previously provided the stock responses, but I believe these are pertinent questions that have never been fully addressed.

You asked me what I think you are doing.

I think you are going down the same route many Eastern philosophies are. You are trying to reach Nirvana by rejecting the 'I'. If this is indeed a faulty assumption on my part, then I am more than willing to be corrected.

Lets break this question in half. First of all I shall consider the Eastern route and see if I can draw any parallels and difference with what we are doing. I shall talk about the idea of nirvana and where we stand in relation to this concept, in next weeks article.

So lets begin by stating on the record we are not going down the same route as Eastern philosophies are. We have consistently denied this right from the start, since we do not follow with their metaphysical assumptions and dogma.

However, there are some striking parallels which we can draw and take a look at. In the beginning we believed that Ciaran had cracked enlightenment and whilst this was not the full picture, what he had discovered was undoubtedly the core component of enlightenment. 
It has been stated before that what we termed 'liberation' at the time was equivalent to enlightenment. It is worth asking in what ways is it equivalent? Let us first consider the teachings of the main schools of enlightenment.

Advaitans don't particularly like Neo – Advaitans, because they have stripped out all the scripture, in order to transmit the message to people in a rapid time scale. For those who don't know what Advaita is, there is plenty of info on the web but it is basically the Hindu brand of enlightenment. Advaitans have a hostility to Neo - Advaitans, I mean lets face it, you would be a little miffed if you had realised that someone had got enlightened in a short amount of time and it took you fifteen years to do the same. 

Here we have a little bickering war in the spiritual community where Advaitans seem to think they have an exclusive right to call themselves enlightened. I will not doubt that what they say is untrue yet, but we will appraise this claim in next weeks article.

The traditional conception of enlightenment in Advaita is to break down your conditioning which they call 'ignorance'. This ignorance merely translates as false beliefs and bad conditioning, of which we have been subject to. 
Once you have removed your ignorance, you are worthy to know the final truth which is basically what we call 'true self'. This is why you tend to have spiritual people banging on about an eternal self, and proponents of certain Indian philosophies who deny the no self idea.

There are a few ways of looking at this glaring contradiction. Basically the word self is taken to mean a variety of things, so we can construe whichever definition we fancy at the time. This however, is a simple category mistake due to generalised terminology, where accuracy has long been neglected. 
 We will highlight this thoroughly in due course but for now, we can simply say 'no self' as our terminology construes it, means in Advaitan circles there is a distinction between the false self and true self. (In next weeks article, these conceptions will be fully scrutinised).

This 'true self' then, is actually equivalent to 'no self' but with a different name. Whilst the Advaitans may have worked on the deprogramming of conditioning for a longer time, basically they have the same insight in to the self as Neo – Advaitans. Our Neo - Advaitan folk then, have not had the benefit of breaking down their conditioning, as their Advaitan chums have.

When we look at Buddhism, they recognise Buddha nature as our true being, and their doctrine is of 'anatta', or simply 'not self'. What they do is take the concept of no self (Anatta), and systematically chip away at their beliefs via the eightfold path and the noble truths of the Buddhist doctrine. Whilst there are various sects of Buddhism, the overall aim is to completely annihilate the false self.

This is achieved by meditating on various truths and over time, slowly undermining the premises on which the reality of the false self is based on, which in turn, eventually leads you to truth realisation. 
In Zen they use meditation on koans, which are basically riddles. Meditations proceed until these koans trigger the sudden realisation of no self. In that sense, Zen is the rapid enlightenment equivalent of Buddhism, so shares some attributes with Neo - Advaita, in relation to its parent religion.

So, these are the common all garden varieties of enlightenment schools, although this is not an exclusive list. There are other schools of thought, such as yoga and tantra to name a few, and this is merely a very brief glance at the main two religions.

Having outlined the basics of these schools of thought, we are in a position to look at some parallels and differences between their and our conception of no self...  

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