Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thought, Stories and The Stories of Self

I really like the following piece from here

Ciaran recently blogged that he has a new Demon Theory that explains the selfishness of humanity - his no-self dogma wasn't quite working, as his 'team' and others (not himself you'll notice) were still acting like assholes even after liberation.
Ciaran deletes my comments on his blog, so maybe someone from his team can share the following with him as it should clarify his (and their) mistake.

"It's an ECOSYSTEM. An ecosystem of competing thought. And thoughts vie against each other for dominance, and see other thoughts - regardless of their truth value - as just that, other thoughts."

Ciaran is misundestanding what thought is.
It isn't alive at all.
It's just that the feedback mechanism in us humans is so subtle, that it's not always easy to spot.
This is probably why monks put a great deal of emphasis on purification and simple living, to allow a certain level of sensitivity to arise.

Thought in humans is much the same as in computers.
It's all data based.
Language, images, memory.

The difference between humans and computers is that humans have sensations as well as thought. And thought feeds back into sensations.

We see this all the time.

Just think about a pleasant experience, and a pleasant feeling arises.
Think about something unpleasant, and an unpleasant feeling arises.
Think about yourself, and a sense of self arises.

This feedback loop is how the sense of self and the whole delusion of self arises.

Thoughts can create a story.
When we see that it's just a story, there's no confusion.
It's when we lose track of the fact that it's a story that the confusion begins.

Every time we watch a film or drama and start getting emotionally involved, that's a sign that we've lost track of the fact that it's just a fiction, just a story.

Have you ever found yourself speaking or even shouting at the TV during a film or drama?
That's you getting caught up in the story and forgetting that it's a story.
Have you ever been scared whilst watching a horror movie?
Enough said.

The story of oneself is the most mistaken story in humanity.
It's only a story, but we take it for reality.
Then taking it for reality, the feedback mechanism of thought and feeling builds layer upon layer of experience which 'proves' that the story is real.

Virtually every person I have met, either in person, or over the internet, believes in their story.
Their life choices are based on this story.
Some people get a sense that it's all a story, so they work hard at making it a better story - this is most clearly demonstrated by the 'positive thinkers'.
And of course, a positive story, one where we look for a 'good' reason in everything, or imagine a better future, will feel more enjoyable than a negative one.

But it's not immune to the vagaries of life, so all but the extremely single minded manage to see good in everything that happens to them.

But they haven't realised that the self - the central character - is also a story.

Stories are very useful - we rightly use them all the time.
When I imagine going into town to buy some food, that's a story.
If on the way I get involved in something else, then I may not buy food at all, I may do something else altogether.

The story of shopping was just that, and many stories don't get lived into reality.
If I later say, "Oh I shouldn't have got caught up with Jack, I should have gone shopping", that's just another story and it's a story that isn't true.

When I believe a story that isn't true it can create negative emotions like frustration or discontent. It can generate additional false stories like "Oh I'm such a flake", or "I'm unreliable" etc. etc.
And it's these accumulated stories about 'myself' that create the illusion of there being a permanent self.

Unfortunately, the very first stories of myself were recorded at a very young age.
As very young children we are fed stories about us by people who didn't realise the implications.

We were too young to realise the difference between stories and reality.
We also grew up surrounded by people who didn't recognise the difference between stories and reality.

So by the time we were just a few years old, the story of self (among many others, like God, religion, soul, racism, and many other prejudices) was already established.
It's such an established story, that it colours every new experience and files them away with the tag 'self' attached to them.

So when we review our memories, It's like, I do change, and my stories change, but underneath them all is the real me.

The best example that illustrates the falseness of this claim is when people suffer amnesia.
They literally cannot remember the story of who they are.

It's just like the computer - if you damage the hard-drive, the data just can't be retrieved.

And in both examples, sometimes the data can be retrieved and the memory becomes utilised again.

So I hope you can see what I'm pointing to here.

My conclusion would basically be that stories only become problematic when we stop seeing that they're stories.

The most problematic being stories of self.

Friday, August 5, 2011

the end of seeking

The End of Seeking By Arjuna Nick Ardagh

Seeker: You say that nothing happens, and all it takes is
this second. Then why isn't it happening this second to me
and everybody in this room? Why are people spending hours
with you, or two days, if it really is true that nothing
happens and all you need is the longing? Why isn't it

Arjuna: Because of accumulated concepts.

S: Why can't the accumulated concepts just be released in
a second?

A: They can.

S: Why aren't they?

A: Why aren't they? Because they are being clung to.

S: Why can't they be released right now?

A: They can. You want to uncling right now?

S: Yes.

A: Come up here. But beware, I mean business!

(She walks up to the raised podium.)

A: What is it you really want, sitting here. Do you really
want to be finished with seeking?

S: Yes.

A: Could you let that be stronger than the need to be right?

S: My mind goes blank when you ask these questions.

A: That doesn't matter. Just answer from your heart. Could
you let the longing to be finished with seeking be stronger
than the need to be right about anything?

S: Yes.

A: So, as you sit here, with a new face in front of you, a
new person, just keep the eyes as they are. That's right.
(Incidentally, just for your reference, you are completely
ripe. You are dropping from the tree already. You just
need to be blown upon.)

A: So just now, sitting here, seeing this form, noticing
what's occurring -- who is noticing these things? Just
look back into yourself and find out, "Who am I?"

S: I go blank.

A: Very good. Just stay there with "I go blank." When
you ask yourself, "Who am I?" what is found?

S: Nothing.

A: Nothing, okay. Now just rest as this. From here,
was there every anything that answered to that question?

S: No.

A: No, okay. Now could you just relax a little more into
what has been see? Could you just relax for a moment into
the actuality that there is nothing there called "I?" Could
you, just for a moment, relax into the recognition that there
is nobody experiencing this?

S: I can't believe that.

A: It doesn't matter. You don't need to believe it. It
has been seen, hasn't it? You have asked, "Whom am I?"
and nothing was found. Now just for a moment, could you
just savor the inevitability of it?

S: Nothing changes. I'm looking for something to feel

A: Exactly. What did Buddha say? "Nothing happened to me
under the bodhi tree."

A: Waiting for something to happen is what you have been
doing all your life. Do you understand? Your entire life
you have been waiting for an experience, and this is called

Now tell me, could you just for a moment stop waiting for
something to happen?

S: I don't know.

A: I'm not asking you to do it. I'm just asking theoretically:
could you just put aside the habit of waiting? Is it possible
to put that aside for a moment?

S: My mind goes so blank when I...

A: Exactly! Of course it goes blank. Could you relax into
blankness? Blankness is where it's at! Just be blank for a
moment. You see, you're waiting for a fireworks display,
which is just another experience.

A: When you get down to the nitty gritty, you are left with
no experience at all, and it's unfamiliar. It is not what
the mind is expecting. The mind has an entire fabrication
set up about enlightenment.

S: Well, "freedom," it sounds pretty good. This "nothing"
doesn't feel like that.

A: Be a little patient! We can go much deeper.

S: We're not there yet? o that's another experience.

A: No. We're here. But we may not have relaxed fully into
here yet, do you see? For instance, we're in Fairfield, Iowa,
right? But as long as we're still craving Paris, we haven't
quite relaxed into being in Fairfield. It is as though you
have been journeying and journeying and you finally arrive
in Fairfield. You park the car, but you are so much in the
habit of journeying that it takes a moment to relax and
realize, "We have arrived!"

S: Well, this is it?

A: This has always been it.

S: Yes, but this can't be it. It's nothing.

A: That's right! It's nothing!

S: But so what?!

A: Exactly! That is the point! So what? Why make such a
big deal about something so simple?

S: But if my body were in the midst of severe pain right
now, I know that this wouldn't do it. I think I would still
be extraordinarily attached and that I would be thinking,
"So what. I'm not experiencing freedom in this." Do you
know what I mean?

A: Yes. I understand. Yet the one thing I can tell you
is that when you touch into that blankness, if you could
savor it for what it is, it would give you what you want.
You discard it right away because you are more interested
in having experiences. You overlook what is hidden in
the blankness.

What you are passing through is what everyone passes through.
Something is happening for you because I can see it in your
eyes. Something is beginning to take you over. So just
hang in there, okay? You may say this is nothing, but I
wonder why your eyes are so shiny all of a sudden!

Everything is up to valuing. If you are addicted to having
more experiences, more change, more ways to make life
comfortable, then you are going to trip across freedom and
overlook it completely. You are too addicted to this realm
and trying to make life better. Immediately you say, "Well,
if I were in pain, this wouldn't help me alleviate the pain."
This is not medicine. This is freedom.

Nisargadatta Maharaj, one of the greatest teachers of this
century, was once asked, "In what way will realization
benefit my life materially?" And he replied, "In no way
whatsoever. If you are trying to attain self-improvement
from this, forget all about it."

S: I don't want self-improvement. I want to feel better,
to feel more happiness, freedom, joy, love. Doesn't
everybody? Isn't that normal?

A: That is normal, and that's called being hooked into
samsara (the continual flow of desires). What will result
from chasing more joy and more happiness? You will
experience suffering because they go together. Chasing
after happiness and joy and all these things only brings
you more and more suffering because of your attachment to
them. At a certain point, you begin to realize that it
is all a trick. It's called samsara; it's called maya
(illusion). Then you're ready to find out, "Who Am I?"
Ask it now. Are you ready to give up the pursuit of
happiness, of pleasure and the acquisition of the
imaginary truth?

The funny thing is, you'll get it all back again, with
interest. But you can't do it for that reason. You 
will get everything you want, but for now you have to
choose freedom and only freedom.

When I met my teacher, Poonjaji, I told him with
absolute sincerity, not poetically, "I am ready to die
if that is what is required. I am perfectly willing
for this body to die. There is no hesitation in me."
And it was true. I was completely ready to give up

S: I'm too scared.

A: That is honest. But again, at least now, ask
yourself, "Who am I?" Just ask it. Who is aware
here? Who is present? Just ask that. Really ask,
"Who is aware of all this occurring?"

(There is no answer.)

A: Ah, there is silence. This word, "I," what does
it refer to? You see, you can take the word, "jacket"
and it has an object that goes with it -- name and form,
you see? You can take the word "watch," a five-letter
word, which is a symbol for an object. Now this word,
"I," find the object that belongs with it. There is
nothing like that. Just stay with this for a little
bit. There is nothing like "I," is that true? And
yet this moment is being experienced. It is not being
experienced by an "I" or "me" because there is nothing
like that which exists. So what experiences this moment?

S: I don't know.

A: But it is being experienced, isn't it? This is
definitely being experienced.

S: It feels like some individual something.

A: Then look for it. Look for the individual something;
just seek it out.

S: It can't be found, but that does not mean it's not

A: In eight years of teaching in this way, full time
every day, no one has ever, ever been able to find it.
Why not?

S: But something has to be experiencing this, or we
wouldn't be here. There is something that is me, and
there is something that is you. There is something.

A: That's what you have been told. Just stay with
what can actually be verified. Can you find a thing
called "I?" There is a body, but can you find this
individualized consciousness?

Can you find it?

S: No. 

A: Yet this is being experienced. All this is just
common sense, isn't it? You can't find an "I." I
have worked with thousands of people. Not one of
them has been able to find the thing they call "I,"
not once. 

A: I watched Poonjaji work with thousands of people.
Now I am not saying that everybody rests in emptiness
when they can't find the "I." A lot of people just
recreate the concept again. It is up to you.

S: I don't want to do that.

A: Then don't do it.

S: How?

A: Starting hitting your knee with your hand.

(She pats her knee.)

A: Do it hard, harder.

(She hits her knee harder.)

A: Now stop.

You see, you stopped. You just stopped because hitting
your knee is a silly thing to do. How are you going to
stop imagining something that is not there? Just stop.
You stop because it is ridiculous to keep recreating
something that does not exist. It doesn't serve any
purpose. It just creates unnecessary suffering. If
you want to suffer some more, if you want to continue
chasing after desire, then that's your brand of freedom.
It is your option. But if you choose to rest in this
recognition, you are also welcome. Right now, like it
or not, it is being rested in.

S: Yes.

A: Thank you for at least acknowledging that. Right
now there is resting. Now just stay here for a moment
and answer one more thing. In this moment there is
nothing, right? Is there any problem now?

S: No.

A: Is there anything that needs to be attained now?
Could you just rest? There is nothing to hang onto
anyway. Now tell me, resting as this, just answer
one simple question from your heart, not from concept.
Who are you actually meeting here? Not the form, but
who is looking back at you now? Answer this from
your heart.

S: Clearly me.

A: Shout it out!

S: Clearly me!

A: This is the truth. It is not poetry. It is not
hallucination. You are literally sitting here with
your Self. Now look around for a moment; look at
the eyes and see who is here in the room.

How many are there in this room?

S: I know the answer, but I go blank.

A: So come back here. Who are you meeting here?
Slowly, if you can put this on your altar instead
of the bric-a-brac you have had there -- including
all your seeking and your many practices -- if you
can put this emptiness on your altar, slowly you
will see "me" everywhere. By "me" I mean this
"Me" that is everyone.

You go to the market. Look into the eyes of the
person who is checking out your groceries. "There
I am again!" It is all you everywhere, and it is
not just philosophy. It is actually true. Now
tell me one thing now. In this moment here, is
there anything real called "ego?"

S: You want the truth?

A: Yes. I want to know if you can find it, not
think about it.

S: I think I can think of it.

A: Yes, you can think of elephants dancing in pink
underwear. It doesn't mean they are here. You can
think of anything. Anything can be created in thought.
Is there something real here called "ego"?

S: No.

A: Was there ever anything real called "ego?"

S: In those moments of its absence, no.

A: Even in the moments when it appears to exist, is
there actually something called "ego" or is there an
imagining of it?

S: Imagining.

A: Do you understand that? It is imagination. The
entire spiritual path is all imagination. It is the
imagining of something called "ego" that then has to
be removed. What a struggle to work so hard to banish
something that is not there! This is a waste of time.
All spiritual seeking is a waste of time. It is a
waste of life.

Could you just rest here now? Could you burn all the
concepts that you have ben fed? You don't have to do
it. I am just asking, could you?

S: Yes.

A: Will you? What would be the advantage of going
back to imagining all kinds of trouble and having to
get rid of it?

S: I'm just afraid that the habit would come back.
It is so strong.

A: The invitation is available.

Is there anything real in this moment called "mind?"
Can you find something called mind?

S: I can find something that operates a lot.

A: You find thoughts. Can you find a thing called

S: No.

A: These thoughts that arise, do they interfere
with being what you are?

S: They don't, but it feels like they do.

A: What is the actuality?

S: They don't.

A: The invitation is here to remain as This.

You have your choice to give your allegiance to "I
can't do this" and then, of course, that becomes
true. But know that there is also the invitation
just to put that thought aside and realize that
there is nobody who has to do anything. This is
the truth.

Do you want to try something really outrageous?
Tell them (points to the others in the room) who
you really are. Because this is what it takes,
you see....Tell them now, them who you really are.

S: I feel terrified.

A: Then all the more reason to do it. "Screw your
courage to the sticking place," as Lady Macbeth said.
Sooner or later you will have to do it. Sooner or
later you will have to come out of the closet if you
want to live this. Sooner or later you will have to
meet the world as one no longer seeking. Why not now?

S: I guess I don't believe it. I don't personally
believe it. I go in and out so much.

A: I understand. If you listen to thought at all,
it is going to invalidate everything.

Do you understand why? Because this realization
basically is the death of the thought machine.
Thought screams out, "Don't listen to that guy.
He's dangerous. He's a charlatan." Because if
you listen to this guy, thought no longer will
have rule in your kingdom. Every single thought
is revealed to be a lie, every one. You can live
your life perfectly well without thinking at all.

S: Really?

A: Absolutely. In fact things go much better.

S: What a relief!

A: I want to qualify that for a moment so there
is just truth spoken here....[What is different is...]
the abandonment of seeking, that's all. The content
does not necessarily change. Thoughts arise, and
feelings come and go. But there is no longer this
concept, "I should be different." It is from here
that peace arises. It is not the way you thought
it was. Essentially you were waiting to escape
from being human. I suggest you embrace being
human. Enjoy being human.

Just now, you see? Just now you are at peace. You
are perfectly at peace. There is nothing wrong in
this moment, is there? Is there any problem if a
thought comes? Does it matter if a thought passes

S: Truthfully, they feel annoying. It's more
peaceful to not have all these thoughts of
"What about this, and what about that?"

A: Yes, but could you just let them pass? Let me
ask you, before the thoughts arise, do you decide
to have them?

S: No.

A: They just appear anyway, right?

S: Yes.

A: So they are out of control. What difference
does it make if you fight them or not? Could you
just let them pass?

S: Yes.

A: Now could you just say to them, "You are welcome?"
Just tear down the barbed-wire fence and say, "Come
play in my garden?"

S: Yes.

A: Now does it make any difference to peace?

S: No!

A: How about emotions? Could they come and go?

S: Oh, God! I really don't like some of them.

A: I know. And does it serve you to not like them?

S: No, it doesn't really.

A: Don't they come on their own?

S: They really do.

A: If you lock your door and barricade yourself against
them, what do they end up doing?

S: They show up anyway and pound the door down.

A: They pound the door down or they get in through
the window, right? So why not just open the door and
welcome them in? And I will tell you one thing, if
you open your doors and welcome them as guests, you
will find that each and every one of them is a friend
with a gift. I can tell you this from personal experience.

Unbearable as it may seem, once you open the door and
say, "Come in and sit by the fire," grief becomes your
depth. Jealousy will become your freedom. Anger will
become your power. Welcome everything.

Tell me now, what can disturb peace now?

S: Pain.

A: Could you even welcome pain in the name of freedom?
If it meant your freedom, could you welcome pain? You
think that awakening is the end of pain? Actually, it
is the end of identification, but everything that has
been pushed away rushes in to be completed.

If you welcome pain, if you just say to it, "Come,"
it will not disturb peace. It will just pass through
like a guest. So in the name of this freedom which
you are now resting in, could you include pain, too?
If you just try it, you find there is nothing to resist....

There is no reason to leave this if you can just abandon
the allegiance to the idea, "I can't do it." There is no
"I," and there is nothing to do. Truly, the invitation
is to rest here. Even in the midst of trouble, there is

Any problems now?

S: No.

A: And now?

S: No.

A: That's all. You've got it. All there is, is now.

You know what? I'll tell you something. I have a nose
for these things. The thoughts might say, "This could
go away." But I'll tell you what I can smell. It's
going to get deeper, and deeper, and deeper. It's
going to take over your heart in such depth of love
and compassion that you will drown in it ecstatically.
And there is nothing you can do about it!

The gates are wide open, you see. You can choose to
hang on to cynicism, to tradition, to ideas and teachings,
but what does it give you? Or, you can choose freedom now.
You can choose to be That. It is available right now, and
now, and now. It is not a state of being that you access
by flipping a switch, and after that you are enlightened.

It is a choice that is made every single moment of every
day -- to choose freedom over the soap opera.