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The role of knowledge in spirituality and the destruction of the mind


dwai
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Most of us here have a practical background, having spent many years in the practice of a meditative method or art (e.g., qigong, yoga, taijiquan, etc). It is true that having a practice is essential for growth and learning. And yet, many seem to gloss over the role of knowledge. 

There are two kinds of knowledge -- one that is taught to us by another (such as a teacher, friend or some other medium -- book, etc). Let us call this "external knowledge" or "indirect knowledge". 

The other is the knowledge that is directly known -- usually as a result of a regular and diligent practice of the method of our choice. Let us call this "internal knowledge" or "direct knowledge". 

I've seen many practitioners of spiritual arts scoff at the external knowledge because it is considered somehow inferior to the "directly" known, internal knowledge that is supposed to be the fruit of our (glorious/valiant/heroic/add your own adjective here) efforts. And yet, we would not have embarked upon the path of our choice if we didn't have an external source of knowledge to guide us throughout our journey. 

It is quite possible that some people, due to their karmic influence are easily able to enter into deep meditative states. But that may not result in full awakening, without proper initiation into the external knowledge. The reason being, when the deep meditative states (samādhi) are entered, there is no mind involved (or minimal mind is involved). While repeated immersion into these deep states can result in thinning of the modifications of the mind, the mind still remains functional once one exits from such states. 

In the vedantic tradition, the entry into samadhi is called "mano laya" (or pausing of the mind). This is considered an intermediate stage of spiritual evolution. Once the practitioner exits from the samadhi, the mind resumes its functioning (perhaps with not as much vim and vigor as it did prior, but it generally tends to gather steam and pick up from where it left off eventually). 

The only way to cause what in vedanta is called "mano nāsha" (mind cessation) is to deliberately and methodically work with the external knowledge (as taught by the teachers and texts) and go through a process of intellectual assimilation. The mind has four components, namely the ego, the thought field, the storehouse of memories and impression and the intellect. For knowledge to be integrated, it has to be worked on with the cooperation of the mind (ego-thought field-storehouse-intellect). 

Key among them is the intellect. Whatever the intellect identifies with, the ego will do its level best to protect/maintain that. If the intellect identifies with the body, the ego will strive to maintain that identification. If the intellect identifies with the mind, ego will strive to maintain that identification. Therefore, the intellect needs to come onboard with the process of spiritual development. Once the intellect is onboard, all the other components of the mind will follow its lead. So with the study and contemplation on the external knowledge using the intellect, the intellect needs to be convinced of its 'place' in the grand scheme of things.

When the intellect understands completely that it is merely a function of the mind, and that the mind is nothing but a process arising in awareness, the intellect will gradually relinquish its need to identify with anything. It might initially start by giving up identification with the body and the mind.

Typically the intellect latches onto the idea of being "The Non-dual Self/Awareness". And it is a far better proposition that being identified with the body/mind. Then the seeker wants to constantly abide in this "non-dual awareness". Of course, life usually has other plans, so the feeling of non-duality, and the feeling of duality keep coming and going, oscillating between the two phases at regular intervals. This leads to great frustration in the intellect of the practitioner. And then one day the realization occurs, that what we truly are, is aware of both the duality and non-duality that seems to arise in the mind.  And on that day, the intellect gives up completely, and the ego disappears, as it has nothing to defend anymore. This results in a fully non-grasping mind, essentially a mind that has ceased to operate as it used to before spiritual practice started. And therein is the direct knowledge or internal knowledge, which is nothing but that which is aware of both the apparent duality and non-duality. 

 

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Barb Ortega
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And I thought it was just dementia....

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Naveed Chaudhry
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@dwai Can you explain more of what the thought field is?

On the note of internal vs external knowledge as well, I agree that while internal knowledge comes off as a lot more prestigious and cherished, external knowledge is duly necessary for correcting one's understandings towards the truth. I haven't met anyone with strong enough karma to solely travel with internal wisdom; though I've heard enough stories of it that I believe it can be done. But in an age where information is everywhere, unless one is in heavy seclusion, there seems to be very little reason to disregard the teachings of sages for pure internal development. But one can argue that there are many perversions in external knowledge that can delude as much as help someone; I can even partially agree with this stance. So one should still be skeptical of external knowledge and strive to not only correct but use their own judgement. If one has doubts, one should strive to find the source of said doubts and correct any issue; going past doubts and acting regardless is will of force, and not wisdom.

examples of some things I approached that I had to resolve internally/perversions: Sutra's disliking onions, Jing/sexual essence as a necessary part of cultivation, Self sacrifice, Sleeping in certain ways, etc

I'd say my main classification of perversions are rules that seem to just encapsulate what sages did by using the attitude: "since a sage did it I should do it too". This is no different from trying to teach one how to cook a cake by simply giving them the cake and telling them to make it without recipe. There are the cases that one can learn how to cook a cake by simply observing and tasting the final product, but it will often end in disaster/derivation. Some faiths seem to follow this classification so far, that their original texts themselves are polluted and made nigh useless.

True development happens through internal understanding, where wisdom arises and creates one's manner of living. External wisdom can be of great help in providing direction, but imo if not used correctly it can also be of great detriment.

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Barb Ortega
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I'm reading Vasistha's Yoga, it talks about the same thing but from a different angle - I happen to be right at this part, where it addresses the necessity of internal development, but in a different way -

 

VASISTHA continued:

"Victory over this goblin known as mind is gained when, with the aid of one's own self-effort, one attains self-knowledge and abandons the craving for what the mind desires as pleasure.  This can easily be achieved without any effort at all (even as a child's attention can be easily diverted) by the cultivation of the proper attitude.  Woe unto him who is unable to give up cravings, for this is the sole means to one's ultimate good.  By intense self-effort it is possible to gain victory over the mind; and then without the least effort the individualized consciousness is absorbed in the infinite consciousness when its individuality is broken through.  This is easy and is easily accomplished; they who are unable to do this are indeed vultures in human form*

"There is no other path to one's salvation except control over one's mind, which means resolute effort to abandon cravings in the mind.  Make a firm resolve to kill the mind as it were, which is easily achieved without the least doubt.  If one has not abandoned the cravings of the mind, then all the instructions of a preceptor, study of scriptures, recitation of mantras and so on are as valuable as straw!  Only when one severs the very root of the mind with the weapon of non-conceptualion, can one reach the absolute Brahman which is omnipresent, supreme peace.  Conceptualization or imagination is productive of error and sorrow; and it can be so easily got rod of by self-knowledge - and when it is got rid of there is great peace.  Why does one find it so difficult?

 

 

*seems a bit on the harsh side, if you ask me

 

 

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Spotless
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This idea of a war with the mind and overcoming the mind presents “it” as some sort of “other”.

It sets us against what we struggle to understand within.

“Mind” - “The Intellect” are such big words for what is primarily trance within frequencies of karmic compressions - DNA - and what we ate recently.

 

This “Mind” is not conquered nor will it be “absorbed” when “conquered” nor does it crave much but it certainly is connected to cravings throughout the gross physical and gross subtle - “it” mainly competes with opposing positions or collects supporting positions. Honing mind loops and pacifying the generally willful state of the general mass of trances that comprise “ones awareness”.

Teachings on the Way destabilize the trance states and once one is drawn to inquire regarding their sleep/trance mechanisms - then an opening for pointing the Ways and tools begins to find light.

 

The Way is not a Belief - and certainly not a Faith - if it becomes either of these then it has been formalized, reduced and an aid to further trance and sleep.

Certainly the logic and clarity of truth in light can lead one to believe that trying some of the practices put forth by the sages merits ones time and intentional suffering - and so one can also have some faith in the practices since in Every case - truth asks that you Not Believe but test and try to see if this Way is upon your path - if it works for you.

 

In every case True teaching does not harm, though incorrect practice can certainly harm - willful overindulgence, becoming a spiritual high Junkie, taking the easy fast path - there a millions of ways to continue in sleep and trance and millions more ways to harm oneself.

 

But the basics which are of the grandest scale do no harm and only free one from the compressions of fear, willfulness, mimicking, resistance and a house of babble within ones awareness.

 

The entire otherness of this “outside knowledge” we speak of is meerly a sketch pad we draw in the haze of the architecture of the odd cloud we know as Me - this life lacking in satisfaction - punctuated by highs and lows and self doubt and self infatuation and otherness.

 

This “outside knowledge” consists of nothing until put into practice  - and it wanders as we see again and again that we know nothing. That we control nothing - that we gnash our teeth and smash the square peg into the round hole ten thousand times in Willfullness - until at some point Self dissolves position and we gain Self Awareness and that Me is not triumphed over - it never existed but as an obstruction lost in trance. 

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dwai
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@spotless I hope I didn't come across as stating that 'a war needs to be waged with the mind'. On the contrary, I am suggesting that the mind needs to be led to the truth with kindness and gentleness. The 'leading' is done via external knowledge. 

None of this is new, of course,  but has been taught this way for thousands of years 🙂 

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Barb Ortega
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Posted by: @spotless

 

This “outside knowledge” consists of nothing until put into practice  - and it wanders as we see again and again that we know nothing. That we control nothing - that we gnash our teeth and smash the square peg into the round hole ten thousand times in Willfullness - until at some point Self dissolves position and we gain Self Awareness and that Me is not triumphed over - it never existed but as an obstruction lost in trance. 

 

What a beautiful paragraph.

The 'putting into practice' thing.  This is not something that is talked about much.

The Nagual counseled Castaneda to develop impeccability of character.  He mentions it only once or twice, doesn't really go into it.  But it is in the 'humanization' of those qualities of Love and Selflessness, wherein those who (perhaps by outside education) see that there must be an alignment between the quality and the human.  They say 'faith without works is dead' - I get the principle but don't go along with the word 'faith' (in something else).  I prefer 'faith in myself' to anything else, because I know that by having faith in myself, when aligned with all the right intent, is to have faith that the universe will bring the exact things and circumstances that are needed.  Indeed, it works.  But again, having 'faith' that it will work is the type of faith that is needed.

I have to go feed the dogs now.

 

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Spotless
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“Mind” “intellect”

They are misleading in most cases for the seeker.

 

“Awareness” is far less compartmentalized and less guarded.

 

For nearly everyone Mind or Intellect is conceptualized in a fairly brittle ideal - whereas in fact the noise of it is generally the product of the temperature, what you recently ate, what frequencies are nearby, what pheromones might be wafting about, and what futures you are in - not things the word “mind” or “intellect” typically indicate. 

So the student/seeker reads the teaching and tries to apply the pointers with his/her arms on the wheel but in a very different road than the one meant - they approach the pointers from their concept of Mind or Intellect and in this assumed posture get far less out of the pointers.

 

The general misdirection is that they will change their thinking - as though they currently control their thinking and willfully changing it will clearly work over time. It is the whole modification of sleep in order to sleep better - it is very frustrating and provides little to no progress.

 

Many teachings taught for eons did not use to use the words mind and intellect - they used consciousness and awareness and words of this sort that encompass a great deal more such that it aids the student/ seeker in not locking IN-concept but opening somewhat like a hunter sitting in a perch with ears reaching for all sounds - mouth slightly open to stop the inner wind from flowing past the ear drums - sitting upright for ease of breath - down wind and facing the breeze - dead quiet.

A whole body - whole being hive of activity and various and assorted levels of awarenesses and taste and sweat, and eyes and hearing and bladder and bowels and stomach and on down to the soles of ones feet - (which is a whole hell of allot more than Intellect or Mind conjures up).

The idea of “cravings of the mind” - is an odd idea by comparison to “cravings in ones consciousness”

Generally Craving is not much associated with mind or intellect - at least not the root cause such as loins or hunger or passions of heart.

I have no arguments with the previous posts in any way - but I was once a seeker and was astonished at how far off and vague so many pointers were because of poorly chosen and often outdated words and phrases. It is why many who Awaken do not know what happened even if they have had years studying and practicing. 

It seems many Awakened teachers are considerably compelled not to update and clarify and organically be in the spontaneity of the moment - words are constantly changing - they are not static and so to be static with them one is IN the past. Like saying hi to someone you knew 15 years ago and expecting him or her to be the same as they were then - it is a hello not IN the moment but to a book cover that is outdated.

 

 

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Barb Ortega
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It seems to me that the words mind and intellect contain just a skoch of structure.  The word 'awareness'  seems unlimited. 

And, as a bonus, this doesn't limit the awareness to just sentient beings.  Anything with form has its own form-awareness.  Trees and plants have preferences as well.  But it is Us that gets the whole enchilada of sensory perception.  (Actually, it may be only a partial enchilada, as how would we know if there were something there if it were outside of our senses?)

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