Author Topic: Where am I?  (Read 5288 times)

Quardamon

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Where am I?
« on: October 14, 2015, 08:56:05 PM »
Hay all,

This might become a long post, because I do not know with what I am seeking help.
Next weekend I will see the teacher again with whom I did about three weekends and three retreats of 8 days over the last 8 years. I hope that that will help.
In 2013 I left the pipe carrier group that I was the central person of. A group of people called together by an American Indian medicine man in 1997, of people from whom he wanted support for a project of his. I left that group because I saw no means to grow a better understanding of what it is to be a pipe carrier. (The man who called us together died in 2001.) So the fact that people came to our group to be taught about this shook me awake to the fact, that we did not know what we were doing in the sense of our place and role in culture, and what was in fact the real value and what was the superficialities in what we were doing.

For me, meditation was, for a long time, a way to come into contact with a deeper layer in life or in myself. Later I liked the wording of: being intimate with life.
I did a retreat of nine days with Mettaviharee, a Thai monk, in 1992. He was so good, that after the retreat, I had the feeling that science and set of techniques about consciousness, that can bring one to enlightenment, but . . .   But that had no religious meaning for me. So my reaction was: "So what?". I lost my sense of being intimate with life when I was sitting in meditation. And I dropped the whole thing, till 15 years later. Then I went to a weekend on vipassana and family constellations with Frits Koster (and a co-teacher), and there I heard that Mettaviharee had died a few months before the weekend - that means: shortly before I enrolled.

Since a few years, I am convinced that meditation is (among other things) a means to teach a view on life, or a religion. Now I see that conviction supported in the online course "Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World: Lesser Vehicle" that I follow.

Well then - now I get lost.
No - I can tell this still: In 2014 I visited lectures of about 10 different teachers here in The Netherlands - all of whom had been teaching for more than twenty years, so amoung their pupil were many that now themselves were teachers of vipassana, or Tibetan style meditation, or Zen. They were all but one Netherlands teachers, and I came to the conclusion, that for all of them, what they were doing had their value in and from the Dutch society. They  might call themselves Buddhists now, but in my vie they stayed a Dutch professor, or a Catholic nun, or a product of the roaring sixties here.


Somehow, the point is that I have no idea what I am doing or where I am heading.
In this internet course that I mentioned it is made clear, that meditation and philosophy go hand in hand.

I stop now. Writing on and on will not help.

Thanks for reading.

I value sharing this.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2015, 09:17:53 AM »
Thanks for sharing.

I think if you aren't worried about what you're doing or where you're headed, that's good enough.

Alex

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2015, 03:27:57 PM »
Hi Quaradmon

Thanks for sharing. I tried to connect to what you wrote.

Your post looks like a selection from your personal “spiritual” search/history, intertwined with some reflections. There is also a hint of a distress signal, although to me it feels more like some healthy state of confusion, the fertile mental ground in which learning takes place.

You seem concerned with the relevance of your practice or previous practices (pipe carrying), of its place in culture, which would be understandable as these practices come from a different time and place, as these practices were mostly practiced by people who dedicated their life to it and had a cultural identity based upon it, whereas now to some degree these practices have to be reinterpreted as they are practiced by laymen in (post)modern times. What do this practices mean to us in our lives? All very legitimate and pertinent questions, which are better asked (to gain understanding) than answered (or killed).

What you write about Mettavihari resonates with something that’s happening in my practice. Although this is quite new for me and I’m also not sure what it all means, I’d like to share some of it. For years my practice has mostly been a practice along the "gradual path": developing wholesome qualities, advancing, mainly practicing concentration leading to insight. Even though for me insight does not come without openness, only in recent times did I start to appreciate metta-practices and most recently the centrality of these metta-practices or openness-practices in what we do. Special states of consciousness and deep insights are just fine, but maybe it is the openness that connects us with life (intimacy) and with each other, the religious dimension. I was on retreat where the instruction/invitation was to meditate with our eyes open (= openness). Sometimes checking in on the breath, but no fixed meditation object. Just sitting there and welcoming whatever comes along, both inside and out. The perfect path. The retreat teacher (Edel Maex, psychiatrist, zen teacher and mindfulness trainer for more than thirty years) in one of his talks expressed his doubts about any practice that does not emphasize this openness or gives it the prominent place he reckons it deserves. It's this openness and its centrality in the teaching that may be the best guarantee to have a teacher that doesn't legitimizes hierarchy for example or worse abuse (which can off course also be attributed to teachers in other traditions, non-Buddhist as well obviously). The link is off course that Edel Maex gave Mettavihari as an example who allegedly thaught, "First comes insight, then the rest..." In any case, maybe this resonates with what you thought his teaching was missing?

And now I’m also a bit lost for words. ;-)
I expressed some thoughts, no conclusions.

Or maybe a question to finish… Maybe you’re breaking loose from ideas about what is the “right” path, leaving you with less certainties to go by?

Kindly
Alex

Vivek

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2015, 03:37:35 PM »
Thanks for sharing, Q. I do not feel myself capable of advising you since you are so senior to me in terms of life in general and meditation in particular, but I have heard that there is value in staying and being comfortable with the "not-knowing" state that you find yourself in right now. I must admit that I am also pretty much in the same state myself right now. Sometimes it is really painful to stay awake to this not-knowing state, but then eventually I realize it is just the proliferation of my thinking that is causing me much suffering, and then things start to settle sooner or later, without me doing anything much about it. What DT gave is sound advice. If we can remain accepting and open to the experience of not-knowing, I think we will do just fine. A door will be shown to us sooner or later.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Matthew

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2015, 08:49:06 PM »
Hi Quardamon,

I understand what you mean when you said that despite twenty plus years of teaching these people you went to lectures with somehow remained a product of their former being. I saw this with many people over the years. Stephen Batchelor comes to mind who now is rewriting the Dhamma to not include enlightenment - I see this as a failure on his part to understand and practice the teachings to fruition. I have compassion for him: our society has strong myths about what happens to the enlightened, just look at the myth of Jesus on the cross, dying for our "sins".

The programming runs deep, the ties to Wordly life make it very difficult to escape them completely. The Buddha's Sangha consisted primarily of people who gave up Wordly ties to life and concentrated full time on the path.

I wonder if you are somehow grieving a perceived loss of achieving your potential for deeper progress on learning paths in some way? There is a tone of mournfulness in your post. You were, I recall, quite troubled by the decision about the Pipe Carrying group - though you also were quite sure it was the correct decision.

The thing I see is that it is very hard to follow the Buddha's path in the conditions of the modern world. We can accept that we can do our best, but society does not make it easy to dive full in. Things were different back at his time in the Indian sub-continent. Once a man had undertaken and fulfilled duties towards family and ensured their financial security, it was quite common to go out on a journey for the sublime, the beyond: there were many teachers and many sects. The Buddha himself studied with many teachers before sitting under the Bohdi tree and realising the truths he went on to teach. People were used to wandering seekers doing alms rounds and living in the forests. Try doing an alms round in a town in the Netherlands or England ... hahhaha .... man, someone will bop you on the head with a spade.

So we live in a time and a place that does not make it easy to follow the path, because the path takes a deep commitment and there are many teachers who, though they have tried their best, have failed to cut the roots of ego. Many of them. In fact, most, if not all of them. The Buddha taught it would be so. We ought not be surprised it is.

Another Myth that comes to mind is this one, quoted from Wikipedia for ease:

"Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus's father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea's dampness would not clog his wings or the sun's heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father's instructions not to fly too close to the sun, whereupon the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea."

In one way this could be seen as a "middle way" teaching, and it is. It is also a warning not to fly too high, not to reach for the sky - and not to go too near the sun (enlightenment).

Our minds, societies, languages, schools, families are programmed. We are taught not to fly too near the sun. We are taught we will get put on a cross if we light up the world.

You light up the world in your own ways Q - you can be joyful about that and playful with it - and often you are. It might be that this course you are doing will be beneficial. In Tibetan teachings "lesser vehicle" is the Theravadin teachings. The Tibetans generally try to avoid calling it that these days as it has a negative or pejorative connotation, yet it's what my teacher taught me in great detail. She also taught me that more was not necessary. Indeed that more, sometimes, is less.

Much love,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Quardamon

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2015, 09:44:40 PM »
Thanks for your reactions.

I will give an update. Partly, because I see what happened also as a reaction, from life.

Thursday, the day after my post, I met with someone that I lost contact with thirty years ago. Now she told me that in those days gone by, more violence was in her life than I had fathomed - even though I saw her at least once a week, for two or three years.
She later told, that I was exactly the same person as thirty years before. So for myself, I took that as a comment on my remark here on the forum, that those meditation teachers that had become Buddhists, still were the same Dutch person after forty years. Sobering, and healthy.

some healthy state of confusion
I like that remark. ;)

I could say a lot more, but I get confused when I try.

Alex

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2015, 10:47:54 AM »
Hi Matthew

What you write goes to the heart of my understanding of life & “universal laws”, so I'd like to respond and explore a little. I hope/trust that this is somehow still relevant for Quardamon, as it all revolves around the related question(s) after all: Where am I? What is this (life)? Which framework is beneficial (for what?), etc.?

I guess it is no coincidence that you mention Stephen Batchelor (SB). I have expressed my appreciation for his teaching before and also mention the perceived need for reinterpretation of the dhamma to a modern lay context in my post above, which might also have triggered his name popping up.

One of the reasons why I like the teaching of SB is that it offers a framework that is workable for me or that his words resonate with my experience. I have chosen to live a life among and in service of the community I live in. There are moments I feel connected to this non-reactive space and can respond to life with compassion and wisdom and there are moments where my actions are simply egocentric, conditioned and reactive. That’s the way it is. As I understand it, SB doesn’t give up the idea of enlightenment, but states that maybe it’s no definitive endpoint, but rather moments of freedom from the conditioned, which may be supported by the idea that people listening to the Buddha had spontaneous awakening (and may have lost it again when life caught up?). "If an ordinary man awakens, we call him a buddha. If a buddha screws up, we call him an ordinary man". (attributed to a zen patriarch)

Event though I’ve always felt a strong attraction to a life fully committed to a spiritual path (even in early adolescence) and even though I still like the idea of elderly men “going out on the journey for the sublime” as you call it, after an engaged life, I’m not sure why it’s so important to get anywhere. To me it makes sense to separate what the buddha might have taught from socio-cultural-historical additions, like SB does. Maybe back then it made sense to achieve some endpoint to escape an endless cycle of rebirth, if that was what you believed to be ontologically true. I don’t see any benefit for my (life) practice except clearing out the obstacles that impede a life that is virtuous and flourishing, here and now. So I’m not too concerned about having the “right” teacher, the “right” understanding, in sense that this is true/better than another. Only what helps me to grow here and now. In general, alarm bells go of inside me when I hear people talking about the true understanding and those who fail to see this (no offence). How would I know which is the true teaching until I reach this supposed ‘endpoint’? I have own subjective criteria, looking into the eyes of teachers to feel a sense of freedom and wellbeing, in order to see if what they teach is worthwhile. Feeling if people’s words and understandings unite rather then divide, welcome rather then dismiss. Also hte sense of words resonating with my personal experience. There may be different paths worthwhile exploring, leading to universal qualities?

I don’t know...
What I do know is that I can’t share anyone’s sense of necessity or urgency (which you also hear sometimes) about getting anywhere and needing compassion if I or someone else fail(s) to have a “true” understanding...

Thanks for sharing your thought on this.

Kind regards
Alex

Alex

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2015, 10:48:32 AM »
some healthy state of confusion
I like that remark. ;)

This made me think of the end part of a poem of Rilke I already posted here months ago

http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,2619.msg26996.html#msg26996

He is also quoted to have said “Your task is to love what you don’t understand.”

They  might call themselves Buddhists now, but in my vie they stayed a Dutch professor, or a Catholic nun, or a product of the roaring sixties here.

Quardamon, I’m still in doubt as to what this means to you.

Best regards
Alex

Matthew

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2015, 10:13:35 PM »
Hi Alex,

I'm digesting some very deep dharmic understandings that came during a recent trip to Iceland. At the moment I can't answer your questions and the issues you raised: I'll get back to you soon - and hope too that Q will find relevance in this discussion.

Kindly,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Alex

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2015, 10:30:10 PM »
I hope to derive some benefit or understanding from this difference in perspective, but really no rush, or even need to answer. It's all good. If and whenever...

All the best!
 ;)

Quardamon

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2015, 09:36:06 PM »
Dear Alex, Matthew, Dharmic Tui, Vivek,

At the moment I write without re-reading what has been said in this thread. So some might sound illogic.

A picture that I sometimes use to tell about the spiritual quest, is a picture using my two hands:
On the one hand (left, palm up) we have the spiritual, the hope, the light. On the other hand (right, palm up), we have the physical, the reality that we meet every day.
And we try to make the two matching (left hand, palm up on the right hand, palm up). We want to make the two congruent. With a bit of strain in the upper arms and shoulders, you can four fingers of the one hand covering four fingers of the other. But than you still see two thumbs, one pointing left, one pointing right. When you turn both hands, you have the same result.
One can put the right hand on top of the left, in stead of the left on top of the right. The spiritual might have the upper hand. ("All is spirit, all is mind.")  Or the physical might have the upper hand.
But when you do not look at your hands, but allow your hands to look at one another, still keeping them in touch, you have a gesture of prayer. And then they match.
And then you can realize that you cannot solve the riddle. You have to leave it to what is beyond you.
So there is not just your hands and your mind or your insight involved.

Recently I read the first chapter of Stephen Batchlor's Living with the Devil. The title intrigues me. I never rad something form Batchelor. I give some quotes:
"This book is for those like myself who find themselves living in the gaps between different and sometimes conflicting mythologies - epic narratives that help us make sense of this brief life on earth.
"The old ancestral myths run deep.    . . .    The avowed atheist and materialist is uncomfortably stirred by passages from the Bible. The convert to Buddhism discovers a more intimate sense of the sacred in a crumbling village church in England than in all the monastries she has visited in Tibet.
"As I struggle to understand and articulate the teachings and myths of my adopted faith, I am continually aware of other voices I equally cherish.
"Much of this book is an interpretation of Buddhist myths, doctrines, philosophy, and practice. Yet as one who finds himself inhabiting the gaps between cultures and traditions, the Buddhist ideas are juxtaposed and interwoven with material from such sources as diverse as the Bible, Beaudelaire, Roland Barthes, and evolutionary biology.
"The pages of this book are populated with mythical and historical figures from various traditions who happen to speak to my condition. The path I trace follows the gaps between different religious and secular mythologies that help make sense of my life."

Maybe it is a nice illustration, that while I type this, I am listening time and again to the first Violin Concerto of Philip Glass (the second part, from minute 7 till minute 15:30 in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJW6T6WVn08  )
I came upon that piece a short while after having a kind but confrontational talk with the wife of a friend of mine. I had shocked her faith to the bone, I am afraid, in an earlier meeting. So chance presented me with this piece of music, that for me could give sound to how breakable life is, and also how elusive. I planned to give it to her a a present, but the CD never came. So probably, it is just for me. (I hope that you see the paradox in "breakable and elusive": one cannot break something that one cannot even get in one's hands.)

There is far more on my mind in the same vein, but I think it will do more harm than good to write that, partly because it is hard to put it in words.

Maybe the door shown is not where I expected the door to be. ;)

Yes, Matthew, this discussion is relevant to me. And indeed there is really no rush.

Matthew

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2015, 02:52:57 PM »
Thank you for your post Quardamon, I would not have a response yet. Things have to sink in for me. I can answer the same question for myself though;

Where am I?

Caught between two sides of one dilemma, I shrink into this veiled veil of veils of Matthew, of my, me and mine. Hiding from truths known and unknown, I shirk my Dhammic duty. So much can the human psyche take before it breaks like a bough in the wind; and I wonder, will I break or bend? Am I the man who can, who does - or yet the man who fails, flawed, flailed and ultimately accepting another version of the veil called, "I nearly crossed the bridge. It was before me, that can be said".

The Buddha taught the path is hard won: morality, discipline, effort - then a little mediation ...

Yet this takes you right out of the world: "ITRW" In the real world,  in text speak; one has to fit in, pay the bills, hold down a job, make money, get a house etc etc ..  whatever combination of these and a thousand other choices make up "Who am I?". In the Buddha's state of mind this is all irrelevant.

You see I might not be enlightened yet like many I have seen a good few insights into what makes that way of life ontologically different to the "real world" type living we all do, to a greater or lesser extent. The jump from here to there seems immense.

In Iceland recently a few truths came home to me. I'm wobbling from trying to integrate them into my life. Ah well, the hot pools are good though ;-)
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2015, 01:36:30 AM »
Ideally what you want is a simple, comfortable life where the need to make money doesn't exist.

I actually like the contrast, when you're not in your experience anymore and things just are, it shows how absolutely trivial modern life is. I know I don't need it, because I don't really need anything.

Matthew

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2015, 01:52:14 PM »
Hi Quardamon, Alex,

Quote from: Quardamon
She later told, that I was exactly the same person as thirty years before. So for myself, I took that as a comment on my remark here on the forum, that those meditation teachers that had become Buddhists, still were the same Dutch person after forty years. Sobering, and healthy.

Sobering and healthy to look at oneself yet patently not the case you are the same person as thirty years before.  She was seeing you through her eyes, her memories comparing you now to then.  You are not these static moments in time, you are process, you are a living man. Thirty years of process and change has taken place in you, profound ideas encountered and experiences of understanding, living, loving, suffering, learning, being and doing ...

... in your earlier post you spoke explicitly of death and implicitly of the death of ideas and any form of religiosity. You were seeing your teacher? How did that go? Do you still have a connection that goes beyond things such as religiosity?

I see this aspect of religiosity as somehow deeply connected to this thing you face. Maybe you are coming to a place where your attitude to the life spiritual will change?

Quote from: Matthew
We are taught we will get put on a cross if we light up the world.

"Don't be different. If you don't fit in they'll call you a terrorist."

People dare not be themselves truly.

Quote from: Alex
.. even though I still like the idea of elderly men “going out on the journey for the sublime” as you call it, after an engaged life, I’m not sure why it’s so important to get anywhere. To me it makes sense to separate what the buddha might have taught from socio-cultural-historical additions, like SB does. Maybe back then it made sense to achieve some endpoint to escape an endless cycle of rebirth, if that was what you believed to be ontologically true. I don’t see any benefit for my (life) practice except clearing out the obstacles that impede a life that is virtuous and flourishing, here and now. So I’m not too concerned about having the “right” teacher, the “right” understanding, in sense that this is true/better than another. Only what helps me to grow here and now. In general, alarm bells go of inside me when I hear people talking about the true understanding and those who fail to see this (no offence). How would I know which is the true teaching until I reach this supposed ‘endpoint’? I have own subjective criteria, looking into the eyes of teachers to feel a sense of freedom and wellbeing, in order to see if what they teach is worthwhile. Feeling if people’s words and understandings unite rather then divide, welcome rather then dismiss. Also hte sense of words resonating with my personal experience. There may be different paths worthwhile exploring, leading to universal qualities?

I've always said I suspect the path is lost and there is no enlightened teacher on this planet. Many can offer some help yet it only goes so far. That's why it say's "Meditation: it's a D.I.Y project" over there <. Everyone must seek inside themselves for the truth. Like a "million monkeys", if enough of us do that someone will find it, so keep exploring your path into the workings of the mind :D
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Where am I?
« Reply #14 on: December 25, 2015, 02:54:19 PM »
PS It's also why here on the forum "nobody is the teacher and we are all the teacher": all of us have experience other's can learn from.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Attachless

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Re: Where am I?
« Reply #15 on: December 25, 2015, 02:59:01 PM »
Million monkeys :-D very nice put
to be or not to be - one hardly notices the subtlety