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The many paths to The Way


dwai
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There are generally two categories of spiritual seekers it seems -

  • Those seeking God (to understand/realize)
  • Those seeking Self (to understand/realize)

In the Hindu traditions, there are four paths outlined that can be followed by a seeker to find God or Self. I use the term "God" in a non-religious sense (as much as possible). By God I mean 'That which is the Source of Existence', as opposed to a Creator-God sitting in heaven and passing judgements and giving us positive or negative points (punishing us with Hell or rewarding us with Heaven). 

None of this is new for most spiritual people, but I would like to articulate it nonetheless.

The four paths are --

  • Bhakti Yoga -- Devotional surrender of individual self identity
  • Karma Yoga --Selfless Service recognizing all as Self
  • Raja Yoga -- Path of Energy and mind refinement 
  • Jñāna Yoga -- Path of Knowledge (of Self/God)

The fact that Hindu and Indic spirituality and philosophy have always been inextricably intertwined, that they are not considered separate at all -- together they are known as Darshan Shāstra (Darshan means "To See", Shāstra can be translated to being 'the field of systematized knowledge'). So as philosophical traditions, logic is very important. 

One main aspect of Darshan is Pramāna (or Proof of Right Knowledge). There are multiple modes to pramāna --

  • Pratyaksha - Direct experience
  • Anumāna - Inference
  • Agama/Śabda - Testimony of a reliable witness
  • Upamāna - Comparison and Analogy
  • Arthāpatti - Postulation (based on circumstances)
  • Anupalabdhi - Inability to produce (inability to proove)
  • Abhāva - Absence (absence/non-existence of something disproves it) 

I've linked to a nice wikipedia article on pramāna -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pramana

Depending on which path one chooses, one starts with one or more of the modes listed above.

 

Most powerful is direct experience which is usually the result of the path. When we know, we know. This is like a flipping of a light switch -- direct apperception of the Truth/Reality one is seeking. Once known, it can never be lost. 

Before that can happen, one of the other modes are required. The words of a teacher, our own intellect's ability to logically analyze something and ascertain whether it is in the possibility of reality or not.

What's more important is the degree of skepticism in the seeker's mind. If the individual is too skeptical, they can never really commit to learning and practicing any of the paths, because they have already presupposed what is right and what is wrong. A good criterion for a seeker that they be of an open-minded nature -- intelligent but not stilted by presumptions and presuppositions. 

Just thought I'd write down some ramblings before I forget.

 

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liminal_luke
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Posted by: @dwai

There are generally two categories of spiritual seekers it seems -

  • Those seeking God (to understand/realize)
  • Those seeking Self (to understand/realize)

(Yeah! My first successful quote...)

 

Qi gong teacher Robert Peng recently introduced me to a practice he calls "nurturing chi."  It´s basically the affirmation of two seemingly contradictory affirmation.  He says...All chi is inside me and outside me.  Chi is in me.  I am in chi.  To me, these phrases suggest a muddling of inner and outer, self and world, that feels powerful and true.

I don´t see myself as clearly fitting in with either variety of spiritual seeker you mention. For me, it´s not about understanding what´s inside me (the self) or what´s outside me (God). Rather, I´d like to get to a place where these two paths bleed into each other and lose distinction.  

This subject reminds me of one of my favorite Leonard Cohen lines...

We are so small between the stars, so large against the sky.

And lost among the subway crowds I try to catch your eye.

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dwai
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@liminal_luke you are ahead of the 'curve' so to speak...in my experience, the result of the spiritual journey is where you find yourself 🙂 

I don´t see myself as clearly fitting in with either variety of spiritual seeker you mention. For me, it´s not about understanding what´s inside me (the self) or what´s outside me (God). Rather, I´d like to get to a place where these two paths bleed into each other and lose distinction.  

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steve
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Posted by: @dwai

Most powerful is direct experience which is usually the result of the path. When we know, we know. This is like a flipping of a light switch -- direct apperception of the Truth/Reality one is seeking. Once known, it can never be lost. 

Before that can happen, one of the other modes are required. The words of a teacher, our own intellect's ability to logically analyze something and ascertain whether it is in the possibility of reality or not.

I'd like to challenge this assertion.

I have a good friend who had a direct and profound realization of non-duality at age 8 with no preparation, no teaching, no religious context... totally spontaneous. She subsequently went on to lead a life in Dharma as a result. We've discussed our experiences and the similarities leave no doubt in my mind as to the validity of her experience. There is some other variable involved, call it luck, blessings, karma...

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dwai
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@steve Yes indeed. There are rare exceptions. I should have been more careful in my words -- "Usually, before that can happen..." would have been more appropriate. 🙂 

Such people are called "janma siddhas" (Adepts by Birth) and it is considered a result of their 'purva janma sukruta' or 'past life good-karma'. 

I've read in the Advaita Vedantic texts that when an adept of very high level becomes "yoga bhrashta" or "interrupted before completion of their yoga", will reincarnate again in human form and in a very short while become jivanamuktas (or liberated while in the body). All it might take is 3-4 years...or maybe before hitting adulthood, or right at the cusp of adulthood. 

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liminal_luke
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Posted by: @steve

I have a good friend who had a direct and profound realization of non-duality at age 8 with no preparation, no teaching, no religious context... totally spontaneous. She subsequently went on to lead a life in Dharma as a result. We've discussed our experiences and the similarities leave no doubt in my mind as to the validity of her experience. There is some other variable involved, call it luck, blessings, karma...

Just to riff on what this brings up for me...

I think we are an incredibly diverse species.  Most of the generalities I´m tempted to make about human beings won´t turn out to be universally true.  There are indeed, as Dwai says, "many paths to the way."  For me, this really comes home in matters of diet.  I don´t believe that all human beings would be better off being vegetarian or eating meat.  Part of me would like to nail this food thing down, but there are few pronouncements I could make that would respect our biochemical diversity.  Ditto for spiritual paths.  Some people really are, incredibly, janma siddhas.

While this is frustrating for the part of me that would like to think I know what´s good for others, it´s probably for the best. Contemplating the vastness of human truth and possibility, I recognize the futility of trying to figure out what others should do.  I´m thrown back onto myself, not a bad place to focus my energy. 

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dwai
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@liminal_luke well said! As many views, that many paths -- the 19th Century Hindu Master Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa famously had said so. Main thing is to really experience our path...it will eventually lead to The Way. Of course caveats etc apply as they should... 🙂

My own master says, "listen to your body...eat what you need...and how much you need." 

My challenge is in the "how much ?"...

 

 

 

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silent thunder
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To me, Reality is Awareness. As simple as that.

 

All notions of mind, sensation, emotion, thought... arise in Awareness.

Awareness is what is...

 

It is the ground of all experience and all that is experiencable... as well as all that lies beyond the ken of our own individual local awareness.

It is the truest nature of my core reality as I've experience to this point.  And one of the only remaining few certainties after years of dissolution and revelations that repeatedly strip away nearly all former assumptions and projections, leaving me a gossamer husk of blissful raw presence, compared with what I was before... a brutish certainty filled machine of assumption and projection.

 

 

Awareness.  Reality... is like a gem to me.  Like Indra's Net, but for me it's a fluid gem with as many facets as there are entities, including trees, insects, stones, grains of sand, stars and nebula... you name it, it's aware, on some level.

Each facet being one localized awareness, is experienced as 'the truth' due to being the center of its own awareness.

Yet, like Indra's Net and each facet of the Gem of Awareness experiences reality from the center of its own awareness while reflecting all others.  While we do not experience life from other's facets, yet through words and actions we reach out to share what we experience and reveal kinship or contradiction.  Yet all is Awareness, unfolding in presence.  Pure.  Raw. 

 

Each of us experiences awareness from the center of our unfolding and none of us are wrong.  (Though some are untenable and i cannot remain in their presence for long).

Like Indra's Net, the Gem of Awareness is holographic and each facet of the gem is reflecting and reflected in all others. 

 

There is no longer for me, any meaningful separation between myself and other, aside from the rather arbitrary skew of my local awareness when my perception aligns on the local level. 

 

More and more, last few years, no effort is required any longer... this process is dissolving into less concrete edges defining what I used to think of as my 'self'.

 

I used to think of my skin as the border, separating me from the rest of the universe.

Now, I realize, it's the most intimate bridge, connecting my local awareness to the true reality of the All Unfolding Awareness of Reality.

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dwai
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A dear friend, and a disciple of the Master referenced here shared this today --

SIGNS OF PROGRESS

?"What are the signs of progress in our practice? What can we expect?
Should we wait for a signal from the guru—
or an award?
According to Karma Chagme Rinpoche,
we will have no experiences,
no special dreams, no pure visions.
The “king of all signs,”
also known as the “sign of no-sign,”
which was highly prized
by the Kagyupa masters of the past,
is when renunciation mind,
sadness and devotion blaze in your mind.
The signs to be cherished
must include an escalating appetite
for dharma practice;
noticing the futility of everything you do; ever-increasing conflicts
as a result of old habits;
and while you may still have the urge
to party with your friends,
to be plagued by the unwelcome sense
that the whole thing
is a useless waste of time.

Therefore do not constantly aim
to finish the practice.
Instead, try to accept that your spiritual journey
will never end.
Your journey began with the wish that you,
personally, bring all sentient beings
to enlightenment,
so until that wish is fulfilled,
your activities as a bodhisattva
will never cease."?

~ His Eminence Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

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Barb Ortega
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Posted by: @silent_thunder

I used to think of my skin as the border, separating me from the rest of the universe.

Now, I realize, it's the most intimate bridge, connecting my local awareness to the true reality of the All Unfolding Awareness of Reality.

 

As some native American peoples refer to humans as skin walkers.  It's just the current bag this consciousness is contained within

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