The Dawning of Clarity, Realizing Our Contextual Reality: SHORT ESSAYS and TOOLS

September 27 2019

Turned in onto ourselves, overwhelmed by the growing complication of attending to even the basic needs requiring our attention and energy to sustain our existence here, has left us blind to so much of the “interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs” (as the word “context” is defined in the Webster dictionary).

Homo sapiens have no actual concrete obstacles to realizing their essential nature, or what some behavioral/cognitive scientists call “the self as context”.

Fused as we are with the “conceptualized self”, this contracted condition of entranced involvement with subjective movements leaves us blind to, or only with a dim recognition of, our essential nature, ie the “self as context”.

Lucidly recognizing our essential nature and relaxing into a spontaneous allowing of that realization into the forefront of awareness and feeling is Liberation from our suffering-inducing ways of recoiling from the movements of “what is”.

Our essential nature is not an objectified something that can be grasped and shown through conceptualization. It is not a state or an experience that we can strive for and attain. There is no achievement of becoming enlightened, as all beings, and I mean ALL BEINGS from unicellular to the most advanced, are ALREADY the intrinsically Enlightened Condition, whether realized at the forefront of awareness and feeling, or not.

There is NO iconic great “Other” to worship or appease, as Shiva tells the Goddess in the course of their dialogue in the Bhairava Tantra. (Shiva is Consciousness Itself, the Goddess all of the energetic and manifest Universe, and they are not two “things” but a seamless singularity.)

There is absolutely no need to dissociate from the “daily grind” or take up some goal-oriented course of action to achieve some grand attainment. To borrow the characterizing terminology of the Dzogchen tradition, this is already The Great Perfection or The Great Completion.

All beings, everywhere, with no exceptions are ARTISTS manifesting the expressive creativity of the Cosmos, in a seamless movement with the totality of energy. The art is limitless in potential. The potentialities are like seeds that sprout out of the total Sphere of what is, becoming evident in the light of non-local, non-dual naked awareness.


November 21 2019

Now, some basic tools:

~~~~~The 14th century body of texts by Karma Lingpa known in the west as the Tibetan Book of the Dead (and, actually “The Great Liberation by Hearing in the Intermediate States”) includes one text that is a Dzogchen (or Atiyoga) vehicle-based “direct introduction”.

[Reference Note: Chapter 4, “introduction to Awareness: Natural Liberation through Naked Perception”; THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, “first complete translation”, 2005 Penguin Books, copyrights by the various contemporary figures identified (i.e., minus Karma Lingpa and Padmasambhava); since these writings are supposedly based on initiations initially by the 8th Century figure Padmasambha, it is said to be “by Padmasambhava” and revealed by the “Terton” (i.e. treasure revealer) Karma Lingpa; translated by Gyurme Dorje; edited by Graham Coleman and Thupten Jinpa; introductory commentary by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.]

This text is simply an introduction to the actual nature of “intrinsic awareness”.

It opens up by noting that the intrinsic radiance, lucidity, luminous clarity, and bare awareness of our basic nature (or, as phrased here, “nature of mind”) is typically “not recognized” by most everyone even though it is continuously ever-present, seamlessly threaded with every unfolding experience and aspect of existence.

In the next short subsection of the “Introduction to Awareness….”, the point is made that “samsara” (illusion and entranced bondage to the round of birth, death, and rebirth) and “nirvana” (the condition of being awake and liberated) are “inseparable” in the full realization of our non-dual nature. So, the 8 vehicles preceding Dzogchen are described here, and all are noted to reinforce dualistic notions through their strategic efforts via the approaches of renunciation, purification, and transformation.

Then, the text identifies many of the “names” for the enlightened condition, just before offering the “three considerations” that serve as the method for directly recognizing the non-dual and enlightened base (for all!).

Rather than paraphrase the content of the “direct introduction”, I will quote the full short section that translator Gyurme Dorje entitled “Three Considerations”:

“The following is the introduction [to the means of experiencing] this [single] nature of mind

Through the application of three considerations:

[First recognize that] past thoughts are traceless, clear, and empty,

[Second recognize that] future thoughts are unproduced and fresh,

Abd [third, recognize that] the present moment abides naturally and unconstructed.

When this ordinary, momentary consciousness is examined nakedly (and directly) by oneself,

Upon examination, it is radiant awareness,

Which is free from from the presence of an observer,

Manifestly stark and clear,

Completely empty and uncreated in all respects,

Lucid, without duality of radiance and emptiness,

Not permanent, for it is lacking inherent existence in all respects,

Not a mere nothingness, for it is radiant and clear,

Not a single entity, for it is clearly perceptible as a multiplicity,

Yet not existing inherently as a multiplicity, for it is indivisible and of a single savour [my note: savour = taste].

This intrinsic awareness, which is not extraneously derived,

Is itself the genuine introduction to the abiding nature of [all] things……”

[Reference Note: pages 41-42 The First Complete Translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Penguin Books, 2005]

~~~~~This text was a product of the Kaulism Tantrics, who clearly highlighted an approach to realization of the ultimate condition of non-dual Consciousness (Shiva) through a vibrant engagement with the Goddess-Shakti. This text from the 7th Century is the Vijnana-Bhairava Tantra and consists of an instructive dialogue between Shiva (here “Bhairava”) and the Goddess.

This text was first made available to the English speaking/reading world by the writer Paul Reps who in the early 1950s studied under Swami Laksmanjoo when Laksmanjoo was beginning to work on translating the text into English. Reps then wrote, and published in 1952, in the first edition of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, a version of the Bhairava Tantra in a section of the book (“Centering”) otherwise devoted to Zen. Reps mistakenly represented this text as 4000 years old (it’s 1400 years old) and as the basis for Zen! By the time Laksmanjoo’s translation effort is complete, through the efforts of Jaideva Singh, these mistakes are not repeated (Singh correctly notes the age of this text). By the late 60s or early 70s I have read the Reps version. His book was very popular, liberally stocked on bookstore shelves everywhere.

In the late nineties I came across a very poetic and fluid version of this text by Lorin Roche. That beautiful piece of work, along with Jaideva Singh’s and Paul Rep’s version helped inform my understanding of this text. I also studied Daniel Oldier’s version, which was translated into English from his French. So, I will use the above versions when describing the content and doing my own free rendering of specific verses. I will do a few comparisons of verses from the various versions so the reader can see the different styles.

The Bhairava Tantra is presenting practices that are known as “limited means”, or “anava-upaya”. This is the fourth of basic types of practice offered in the Kashmir Shaivism tradition, as laid out in the 9th Century “Shiva Sutras” presented by Vasugupta from the Kashmir Valley. The categories of “means” to realization are:

(1) No means or “anupaya” (upaya is translated as “means”). Without any effort whatsoever, and spontaneously, a person realizes their essential nature (as non-dual Consciousness and Its primary Energy manifesting as everything) merely upon hearing the teaching or, in other words, receiving transmission from the Guru.

(2) “Shambu’s means”, or Shambhava-upaya. Shiva was also known as “Shambu”. This category of practice also involves, like number one, the element of “grace”, or the spontaneous recognition and realization of non dual Shiva-Shakti, but in a more limited way than anupaya or non means. Here the practice simply entails stilling the chatter of the mind and in that stillness there may be the dawning spontaneously an awareness of “Shiva-Consciousness”.

(3) Shakta-upaya. For the person finding it difficult for the mind to come to rest, it’s suggested that the person adopt a focus on, and a pondering of, “higher” concepts that counter those already fixed in place in a person’s mind.

(4) Limited means or anava-upaya. A whole array of practices are available as options in this category, including the use of mantras, breathing practices, concentration, and meditation. The rise of the primal Energy current or Shakti up a central channel corresponding to the spinal line into the “crown” of the head is a key practice in this category.

The Vijjnana-Bhairava Tantra is a dialogue between Bharaiva (or “Shiva”) and Bharaivi (the “Goddess” or “Shakti”). The Goddess begins (in the first ten verses) with her questions to Shiva regarding his most essential Nature and whether that can be recognized through the various manifestations and concepts highlighted by teachers and texts, or showcased via rituals.

Beginning with verse 11, Shiva responds by saying “no”. The teachings about him (i.e. his essential nature) are insubstantial and illusory. But, useful for people heavily caught up in illusion and conditioned living. The stories and the rituals and all the practices are not “it”, but can serve to bring people to a place of greater capacity for realization of one’s essential nature. Another way to put it would be that one is made more open to the spontaneous grace of realizing one’s true and fullest nature.

Verses 14 through 16 note the radical non dual Nature of our essemce, which Lorin Roche translates this way:

“I am beyond measure. I cannot be calculated. I am beyond space and time.
I am beyond ancient and beyond the future. There are no directions to me.
I am always here.
I am the embrace
Of your most intimate experience.
Though I am beyond the intellect,
I am not beyond your daring.
I am the nourishing state of fullness
That is the essence of soul.
You belong to me, and I am yours.
My nature is spotless, completely uncontaminated. I am not covered up, not even by a billion galaxies. So who is there to worship and adore?
There is no one to appease.”

[Reference Note: the brief excerpts of Lorin Roche’s translation are from The Radiance Sutras authored by Lorin Roche, published by Sounds True, copyright 2014; the brief excerpts of the English version of Daniel Oldier’s translations and Jaideva Singh’s are from online resources.]

And, to demonstrate here (with these three verses) the variation in translation styles (as promised earlier), here is Jaideva Singh’s version:

“[If the shakti–or energy– aspect] of Bhairava does not reveal His essential nature, then what is His shakti aspect by knowing which one may have an idea of His paravasth (the highest state).

Bhairava now describes the (transcendent) aspect of the Supreme in these three verses].

Paravastha (the highest state) of Bhairava is free of all notions pertaining to direction, time(, nor can that be particularized by some definite space or designation . In verity that can neither be indicated nor described in words 1.14

[Then is it impossible to have any experience of her? Bhairava anticipates this question and answers that in the following verse].

One can be aware of that only when one is completely free of al thought-constructs. One can have an experience of that bliss in his own inmost self (when one is completely rid of the ego, and is established in the plenitude of the divine I- consciousness).

That state of Bhairava which is fuIl of the bliss of non-difference from the entire universe is alone Bhairavl or Shakti of Bhairava. 15

That should, in verity, be known as His essential nature, immaculate and inclusive of the entire universe. Such being the state of the highest Reality, who can be the object of worship, who is to be satisfied with worship.16.”

And, finally, this version of these verses are the English translation by Jeanric Meller of Daniel Oldier’s French translation (and includes with the last line a rendering also of verse 17):

“ Mystical ecstasy isn’t subject to dualistic thought, it is completely free from any notion of location, space or time. This truth can only be touched by experience. It can only be reached by those entirely freed from duality and ego, and firmly, fully established in the consciousness of the Self. This state of Bhairava is filled with the pure bliss of unity between tantrika and the universe. Only this state is the Shakti. In the reality of one’s own nature thus recognized, containing the entire universe, one reaches the highest sphere. Who then could be worshipped? Who then could be fulfilled by this worship? Only this condition recognized as supreme is the great Goddess.”

The next three verses (17-19) emphasize the seamless “not-two” nature of the always existing Shiva/Goddess union. The point is that they are not two separate things made into one thing. Lorin Roche’s version of verses 18 and 19 clearly conveys this key point to understand, directly and in one’s own experience:

“Heat and fire are not two things.
These are just verbal distinctions.[18] The Goddess and the One who hold Her Are one and the same.
We are inseparable’
The way to me is through Her.”

The Goddess in verses 22 and 23 voices an ardent interest in the instruction related to Shiva’s statement (in verse 21, a repeat of point made at end of 19) that the essential nature of Shiva can be realized through a vibrant engagement with the Goddess (Shakti, or the all pervasive Energy of the Cosmos).

So, with verse 24, Shiva begins to share instructions on 112 ways of meditating through a focus on the expressive energy states available to all beings, beginning with one’s breathing and the flow of the related life force. Verses 24 through 135, out of the total 162 in this tantra, are ways anyone can practice in using the “laboratory” of their own body and energy to realize directly in one’s awareness and feeling the primary Heart of All.

Below is a detailed description of the first 18 of these 112 focal points for meditation, verses 24 through 42. After that, there’s a wide range of options for a practitioner, of which a sampling will be noted.

Verses 24 through 27 direct the focus of feeling and awareness to the breath, and the gaps between inhaling and exhaling, as a preface to a focusing on the related flow of the life force or energy.

In feeling the spacious quiet alertness between breaths, awareness of our most essential nature can become acutely clear. Here, in this gap, no sense of “I” and “other” is felt or seen (as noted in verse 27).

With verse 28, focusing of awareness and feeling is on the ascending movement of the life force along a central axis corresponding to the spine. This movement of energy through increasingly subtler energy centers along this axis culminates in the crown of the head with the experience of the radiant and spacious energy of the “Goddess” and the realization and recognition of the centerless Consciousness unaffected by all movements. This latter realization is of “Shiva”.

The rhythmic movement of the breath remains as a felt focus, in feeling with awareness the ascending movement of energy up the central axis and into the crown of the head and beyond.

With verse 31, an additional focal point is introduced: the “third eye” region in the forehead. This focus deep behind a point between the eyebrows onto the “eye of light” (as Lorin Roche translated it) grows into feeling and perceiving a brightening of energy and light from the third eye focal point which then expands upward in feeling and awareness into the crown and beyond.

The next verse (#32) shifts the focus to the play of all five senses, pictured as like five colored circles of a peacock feather. This focusing entails a further deepening of feeling and awareness of this unfolding and colorful display of the senses, to the point of realizing the insubstantial, “empty”, and spacious underlying nature and condition of the senses.

Verse 33 suggests that whatever one’s point of focus, give in to it completely, and to the point of recognizing the insubstantial spaciousness of that chosen focal point. That focal point could literally be anything at all, chosen from whatever is grabbing one’s attention in any given moment.

Verse 34 points to the space inside our cranium, where with eyes closed one sees and feels the spaciousness of our essential nature.

Verse 35 returns the focus back on the central channel and the very thin (“like a stem of a lotus”) channel (“nadi”) for the life force current. Here it is suggested to meditate on this channel’s “empty”, spacious, insubstantial but electrifying nature. There maybe, as a result, a dawning recognition of the divine condition at the heart of everything.

With verse 36, a focal point for awareness and attention is established by using fingers and thumb to close the sensory “opening” of the eyes and ears, and, enabled by this closing, seeing a point of light dawn at the third eye region. Surrendering awareness and feeling at this point of light, (1) “the yogi is established in the highest (spiritual) state” (Jaideval Singh’s translation), or (2) “an orgasm of light” [then] “breaks out” (as Lorin Roche put it). The English version of Daniel Oldier states that merging at that “bindu” (i.e. a concentrated point, in this case of the light at the third eye) brings about a recognition and experience of “the infinite space between [the] eyebrows”. Paul Reps noted in his version that practicing this focus (the 12th of 112 shared in this text), “a space between your eyes becomes all inclusive”.

With the verses so far, the central focal points of the breath, vital life force energy, the anatomy of the central channel, third eye area, and the crown have been introduced.

There has been also a description of the concentrative focusing on internal light, sprouting and expanding from the third eye focal point upward into the crown, and beyond. Verse 37 takes the reader to a place of blissful absorption in radiant clear light. These practices, and identification of the subtle anatomy involved, were described in early Upanishads. (See Chapter Two on Advaita Vedanta.) And, widely elaborately upon in the medieval Yoga Upanishads and in Saivite and Vajrayana “tantras” or texts.

Verses 38 through 42 also describe an essential focal point present in earlier and later works: sound. First (in verse 38), there is a focusing inwardly on internal sounds which over time become more refined and bring awareness and feeling to realization of the source of these internal currents of sound. (The ears are plugged here.) Sounds reportedly heard include heavier grosser sounds at first, with continued inward focusing on the internal sound “current” eventually evoking more subtler sounds like flutes and bees buzzing. The empty spacious silence, full of awareness and the feeling of being, is the subtlest condition of “Shiva”, and the space out of which all sounds (external and internal) emerge, manifest and play, and then disappear or dissolve.

Verse 39 suggests slowly intoning the primal sound “OM”, deeply entering that sound, and as it fades away, feeling the silent space afterwards.

With verse 40, the same feeling exercise in awareness is recommended with the emergence and disappearance of any syllable or vowel or consonant heard or voiced.

Verse 41 suggests using music for the same focusing practice.

Verse 42 has the reader taking a letter and pronouncing it while picturing and feeling it radiantly impacting the body with the sound, and then coming to realize the “void” (the Shiva condition) that is the basis for all of that.

The many more ways of focal points for meditation described further are wide ranging, including feeling and picturing one’s own body becoming on fire, spreading from the feet and consuming the body completely. And, the same for the whole world.

Verses 68 through 70 entail not the picturing of a fiery consumption of the body in the above way, but instead an embrace of the bodies sexual energies, either with partner or alone when inspired by memory of being with a partner. This brings about a similar feeling and awareness of limited and contracted identification and solidity melting away, the basis for all of existence realized in that state.

As verse 140 notes notes, any single one of these ways can suffice for a practice, opening up the door to a graceful realization of “Shiva” that enables a passing on and sharing of the primal energy (“Shakti”) of the Goddess.

~~~~~~~~~~Today’s students and practitioners of Buddhist teachings and practices have a wealth of published material available to them. Translations of texts from the wide variety of Buddhist schools or systems, and the commentaries and explanatory examining texts, teachings, and practice, heavily populate bookstore shelves, clearly outshining in sheer number and volume all the nearby books covering the so called schools of Hinduism (like Advaita Vedanta, the focus of the previous chapter).

One of the contemporary works standing out on these booksellers’ shelves worldwide was Sam Harris’s 2014 book “Waking Up ~ A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion”.  Therein (on page 35) he correctly notes the expressive manner of the second text this chapter will examine, The Satipatthana Sutta (or Sutra) or Full Mindfulness of the Four Fields (Body, Mind, Feeling, Perceptions):  “Highly repetitious” and, perhaps excepting avid students, “exceptionally boring to read.  Yet, he also notes (correctly, I feel!) this sutra is a “rigorously empirical guide to freedom from suffering”.

The two instruction talks on mindfulness by the Buddha to be looked at here, both expressed in this very boring repetitive manner apparently to aid the memorization of the instructions, represent a key fruition aspect of awakening practice which altogether, in the Buddha’s system, rests on a foundation of addressing all aspects and movements of one’s life: right view, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, and concentration.  Mindfulness, with effort and concentration, are the maturest aspect of practice prior to the full breakthrough awakening.

The mindfulness process is interwoven with the development (in one’s practice) of six other “factors” contributing to awakening:

1.) First is the capacity to discern our various states, stay free of delusion, and further see and understand our life’s patterns (including the movements of thought).

2.) The Buddha notes, in the Full Mindfulness of the Four Fields or Foundations, that the aware-feeling inquiry involved in sustaining mindful awareness arouses a “tireless energy”.  The factor of energy aroused and stabilized helps sustain one’s spirit, and inspiration, through this awakening process.

3.) Tied to the previous factor of “energy”, the development of “rapture” is noted to involve five deepening phases. The Buddha reported that the factor of rapture is enabled by by the “tireless energy” manifesting through a stable mindful focusing.

Initial signs of rapture are minor, slight thrills (perhaps producing goose bumps) through the body that may serve to straighten one’s posture. Then lightening like burst of rapturous energy may be momentarily experienced. A further deepening of rapture may be felt as intensely pleasurable wave like currents sweep over the body. A more refined feeling of upliftment, to the point when one may feel like they are floating and levitating, may next arise. A final degree of rapture is said to be an extremely refined thrill, seemingly all pervasive.

A key warning note is often imparted related to these experiences, not to become fixated upon and attached to these states of rapture. Let them arise as they will.

4.) The cultivation of calmness is the next phase identified by the Buddha as key to the awakening process. The mindful focusing on breathing is the practice the Buddha emphasized for developing the capacity to abide calmly in the face of unfolding experiences.

In a sense, this is a further refinement or deepening of that all-pervasive subtle thrill described in #3. Here, in a stable calm abiding state, there’s a deeper sense of ease and a simple enjoyment beyond the more excitable charge of the rapture states.

5.) In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the “conclusive” practice sequence is one-pointed concentration to states of meditative absorption and then awakening to one’s essential nature. In the Buddha’s “Noble Eightfold Path”, the awakening factor of “concentration” is the final step on that path, with mindfulness the preceding one.

An adept concentrative capacity involves developing a stabilized capacity to remain undistracted in an effortless and easeful manner.  Which contributes to the stabilizing of the last of the six factors standing with “mindfulness” as the seven factors of awakening:

6)  Equaniminity

The Buddha identified maturing signs and levels of awakening awareness from one pointed concentration and meditative absorption. These deepening states are called “Jhanas”. The Buddha’s two gurus taught him the practices of experiencing increasingly more refined states of blissful absorption, where in a state of lucid awareness one begins to lose the sense of bodily solidity and experience has a “formless” feel to it. Enhanced or paranormal perceptual capacities may awaken here, like clairvoyance.

Many teachers consider cultivating these blissful states of “formlessness” a distraction from the main focus of fully awakening. Instead, concentrative efforts shed light on the ever shifting and fluid motion of our experience, where we clearly see the rising, appearance, and passing away of thoughts, emotions, sensations….the whole range of our experiences. Undistracted thusly, we are prone less to get lost in thought and reverie.

The Buddha taught a basic practice using breathing as the concentrative focal point in serving the development and deepening of the seven factors of awakening. That narration of the circumstances and content of the Buddha’s instruction on this is provided in the Anapananasati Sutra, or The Sutra on the Full Mindfulness (or, Full Awareness) of Breathing.