Philosophizing with Hammer

The topic came up during a midsummer night conversation with a sweet and sensitive spirit, the idea that a purely contemplative philosophy is only the dark half of philosophy, and that a philosophy in its most developed and concrete form must be committed to responsible action in the world. This should be, above all, the final form of any mature spiritual philosophy. A religion or spiritual tradition immersed and lost in contemplative attitude, limited only to monastic or purely meditative form, in other words an armchair philosophy and a cave-bound spirituality, is a halfhearted dogmatic philosophy. Contemplation, however indispensable to the evolution of the Spirit, should be but a stage for concrete action in the world.

Philosophy changes the world by changing the man or woman who philosophizes. But philosophy, the greatest of all goods, is capable of being the greatest of all evils, for it can imprison as much as it can liberate. It can submerge the philosopher by sedating him, by removing him from the sphere of change and action with the false promise of truth and immortality. No one has been so acutely aware of and cautioned us against the perils of such philosophies and spiritual practices more than Friedrich Nietzsche, the demented soul who adored the “Yes-sayers” and despised the “nay-sayers.”

Philosophy must proceed and make way with a hammer, with the rushing forth of the spirit into, and not out of, the world, and with an unstoppable vitality and all-inclusiveness rooted in Ataraxia.

It is essential in the archetype of the hero to return from his retreat to its fortress of solitude, from the mountain like Zoroaster did; he must return with a divine love and tranquility to lift up the shattered spirit of the last man, to lead him out of the cave, or to become a bridge for the becoming of the new type of man. Only in his return the hero becomes full and concrete prior to which he is nothing but an inactive and unrealized ideal.

Before the moment of spiritual realization man is an abstraction, a sleepwalker and a blind drunkard at best: It is by this very realization, in Ataraxia, that he/she becomes real and concrete; and it is again by this realization that he/she is bound to return; and He returns, knowing that Samsara is Nirvana.

The Secret to Effortless Meditation

*This is an extended & revised version of an earlier article I wrote back in 2015

The Art of Effortless Meditation

We often approach meditation with a purely utilitarian mindset; we like the way it feels at the end. But meditation, in both eastern and western traditions, wasn’t originally prescribed as a means of intoxication but rather as a window toward self-transcendence and unity with the Godhead of which intoxication was a byproduct. Meditation as medication, as is often used nowadays, will always fall short of its intended function unless the practitioner is equipped with a spiritual understanding of the essence of meditation. My goal is to present the essentials of meditation without going into their traditional & psychological origins so that we can start meditating without worrying too about the symbolic aspects of various methods of meditation, for variation in method serves no purpose other than addressing the diversity of individual temperaments.

Understanding the essence of meditation is so important to the practice that its acquisition can save the practitioner years of futile time and effort: Meditation is possible only with the right intellectual-spiritual posture. Most meditation enthusiasts often give the physical posture priority over the intellectual posture. Taking into account the three dimensional reality of human being, i.e. physical-mental-spiritual, it is crucial we adopt the appropriate posture in all the three in order to enjoy the full fruits of meditation. Our aim here is to introduce the intellectual posture, or mental attitude, necessary for the practice of meditation.

Human beings are essentially goal-oriented, seeking an end of some kind sometimes actively and sometimes passively. We are goal-oriented because to be human means to be engaged in the world in one way or another, and engagement is the interplay of means and ends. Almost everything we do on a daily basis, from our most serious vocations to the most mundane routines, is for our minds a movement from point A to point B: We wash the dishes to have clean dishes; we eat because we are hungry; we work to serve some cause or just pay the bills, etc. We can hardly say that any of these activities are ends in themselves. In other words, as human beings we are always already oriented toward an end that transcends the given present. To be oriented-outside-oneself is so tied to the essence of human existence that if we won’t initiate a task with no conceivable end in view.

The problem with most failed attempts at meditation is that we look at it as just another task, as another human activity to be added to the timeline of our daily routines. We sit to meditate with the intention of finding ourselves at a point B that is better than point A, and in thinking this way we are always anticipating an end point that lies further in time. This mindset is entangled to a feeling of anticipation which is in principle contrary to the nature of meditative state. This looking and seeking out is the very thing that keeps us from experiencing the meditative state which is in fact our natural and permanent state, the state upon which our individuality with the coating of personality is superimposed.

This end-seeking mindset must change or else we won’t get far in meditation. Why? Because meditation is NOT a human activity but lack thereof. Meditation is in its essence a no-task: It is the practice of temporary abstinence from goal-oriented consciousness. Once we drop from all participation in this intentional consciousness we will instantly find ourselves in deep meditation, that is, we are dehumanized. Entering a sacred place we take our shoes off at the door; we can enter the meditative state only if we take off our human disguise at the entrance.

To try to meditate is not to meditate

Think of consciousness as an ocean. When the surface is calm it is in its meditative mode; when the surface is turbulent it is in its active mode which compares to our default, goal-oriented, human mode. If we want to move around in this ocean we have to paddle or swim, which is the only way of moving in it. But if we want to experience the calm, meditative mode of the ocean, no amount of swimming or paddling can help us. Trying to relax the mind by effort is like trying to calm the disturbed surface of a pond by pressing down on its waves.

Correct meditation must be effortless; our only effort should be before meditation, that is, to sit for it

We should not look at meditation as something that we do. Meditation is something that happens when we don’t do anything. Meditation is never made happen; it happens when we stop trying to make things happen or make them don’t happen.  

A fundamental mistake in the practice of meditation is anticipating a thoughtless state. Look at a very clam ocean; look closer and you will see there are always subtle waves still present. There is no ocean without wavy surface, and in much the same way there is no state of consciousness without something of which it is conscious. As waves belong to the nature of ocean, thoughts belong to the nature of consciousness.

What distinguishes the meditative consciousness from the active consciousness is our detachment from the contents as opposed to reacting to or engaging in them. If we start the meditation thinking we are at point A moving toward point B we have already introduced a preference, a sinkhole if you will, within consciousness; we have made a task out of it. Setting up a goal as necessary as it is in human reality is counterproductive to meditation; it produces an inhomogeneity in consciousness whereas the meditative state coincides with a perfectly homogeneous state of consciousness. To meditate is to refuse to have a goal; it is a state of goallessness. There are no points A and B; there is only consciousness; It has no before and after, no here and there.

It is crucial that we do not impose anything on consciousness, and that includes imposing the idea of goallessness and making a goal out of it. It will be difficult at first because we are by default task managers, making a task out of everything. Do not try to suppress this default mode; instead step back and stay aware of the impulse without aiming at its assassination. (I have added a practice at the end to deal with this impulse.)

During meditation: Have no aim, no goal, no expectation and anticipation. Pretend there is nowhere to be and nothing to do because there is nothing left undone in the whole world.  

The beginning challenge, if at all, of not engaging in the impulse will last for only a week if we practice everyday. The fist glimpse of what lies beyond will by itself keep us hooked forever, but do not anticipate anything; think of meditation as a safe and bottomless free fall in which gravity does all the work. Whatever comes, including thoughts and emotions, refrain from looking at them as good or bad, as something that should or should not be there.

Practice: When you meditate there are usually some natural sounds around, like the wind, rain, chirping of birds, etc. Ordinarily when we meditate we never mind these sounds and some people even find them helpful for meditation. Now, when you are meditating and thoughts arise view them as natural sounds in the environment, as something there in nature (this is actually true; it only appears that we own them.)

Treat your thoughts and the natural sounds of the environment on equal footing. Thoughts become problematic because we are possessive about them; we identify with them, and hence impose judgment and expectations on them. Imagine the thoughts to be sounds coming from the surrounding nature; they are just hanging there having nothing to do with you. Even if they are accompanied by emotions just be aware of the emotion as another species of natural sounds out there in the world; don’t become possessive; they have nothing to do with you. After all, no emotion or thought has ever hurt us on its own and without our permission.

Nothing has anything to do with the real you

Our possessiveness towards thoughts and emotions are acquired and not inborn. Thoughts and emotions disturb us only as long as we see them as disturbances, even more so as our possessions. By the practice of goalless meditation you will see that these seemingly internal disturbances will recede into the background where other natural sounds belong.

Once we become comfortable with that homogeneous state of consciousness where we are no more possessive of anything, and hence no more judgmental and existentially lacking, then our daily lives and relationships will naturally and without effort manifest the paradise and bliss we always sought elsewhere outside ourselves. When we become possessive towards our loved ones, included among them are our own thoughts and emotions, we always try to control or change them which will make us more inhomogeneous, hence lacking and unhappy. What we hope to learn from this goalless meditation is not that we shouldn’t be possessive; the only goal is to realize that we can never possess even if we wanted to.

The inner bliss liberates but the outsourced and manufactured happiness corrupts

During meditation: The only goal is to realize that there is no goal. The only point is to see that we are the point.  

The deepest level of this meditation which may take months to attain is the point in which the “I” realizes, i.e. recognizes, that it were the pure transcendental witness all along, the witness standing at the edge of a totality that contains the mind, body, ego and personality, and everything it thought it were: You are that transcendental witness.

You are meditation Itself

I Am Meditation

Meditation is not about having a pleasant, calming experience; it is about being fully open to the richness of experience as such. Meditation is the state of least resistance; it is the Tabula Rasa on which our individuality with the coating of personality is projected. I am not what is projected; I am the screen. I am meditation itself.

The Veiled Revealer

What is that thing through which we see everything? Light.

What is that thing which in principle can never be seen? Light.

What is light? Light is the dark revealer; itself veiled, it unveils everything else.

And the light of this world is only the shadow of that Intelligible Light which shines in your dreamless sleep, the home to which you return every night after a day of surfing on the ocean of life. Though you can never describe the dreamless state you know for a fact that it is a state of your reality. You don’t know what it is but you know that it is. Like dreamless sleep, Truth too is beyond whatness: It is but It is free of being anything in particular.

Whoever claims that there is no consciousness in dreamless sleep is claiming two things that contradict one another: First, by saying so he/she admits that there is such a thing as dreamless state, as opposed to a dreaming or a waking state. But then he denies in it the very existence of a consciousness that must be there in order for him to know about such a dreamless state. Exactly how did you “know” that there isn’t consciousness in that state? You must have been there yourself in one form or another! And if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t even know about it, let alone talk about it.

In dreamless sleep there is certainly no cognition going on but consciousness is there ever present as it is in all other states of consciousness. So this state should be characterized with the absence of cognition rather than the absence of consciousness, the latter leading to contradiction.

If there is no experience in dreamless sleep it is because there is no cognition to be illumined by the ever shining light of consciousness. Cognition is entirely conditioned and determined by the psycho-physical constitution of the individual being while consciousness is universal and transcendent to the plane of nature cognition.

Experience arises when the Intelligible Light, i.e. consciousness, is reflected back to Itself off of a non-consciousness, matter or cognition. In the absence of a non-consciousness, of a duality, there is nothing to reflect the light of consciousness so that no experience arises; however, the light is still there.

Same is true of the light of this world: That the outer space is dark, as opposed to our sky, is because there is no air or matter to reflect the light. In fact, the empty space is filled with visible light. We cannot see it because light, Intelligible or worldly, is the dark revealer: It only manifests the face of the Other and not Its own.

Hell is the Other

The man of today is drowning in the ocean of subjectivity, in phenomena, falling for his own shadow, falling a second fall. By continuous feeding of our little desires we have made a mistress out of them; mental and physical needs become more subtle, and we have developed a consciousness for them; we have become too conscious of every disturbance, and we struggle to suppress it one way or another, like a madman trying to calm the waters by pressing down upon waves. But this growth of desire has no end, a shoreless ocean it is; it opens up indefinitely like a fractal.

We are so mesmerized with the dance of forms that we can’t remember our exalted station. Man is a frail and fragile creature, a transient phenomenon; but what is within him, or what animates him, is immortal and indestructible. It is the androgynous perceiver of all the states of reality. It perceives all points of view at once; It sees through all eyes: It is the beholder of every now and then, of every here and there. It is what it is; “I am that I am.”

This universe is a one-man universe. There is no one else in it but you; there is no “other.” It is like when we reenact a situation or lost opportunity in our head, playing all sides and conversations by ourselves! This world, this diversity of subjects and objects, it is one of those situations in the mind of the Solitary One. And you are that One, the One without a second, the only One; and there is nothing like it.

If you see the success of others, why jealousy! In them, in their hearts, it is you; their gaze is your gaze. So their achievements should make you better and happier; their success is yours and their failure too is yours. Who else is in this world!? When you judge you judge only your own perceptions. If you are true to yourself, if you are objective at all, you must realize that you see nothing but your own perceptions. So, if the world is hell for you it is the hell of your own perceptions; and if it is heaven, it is the heaven of your own perceptions.

The otherness of the other is just another perception. The other is a manufactured reality, a notion, an alien interpretation read into the Current of Forms. I am all alone; I am the only reality. The diversity of subjects and objects, giving rise to the illusion of multiplicity, has its cause in a greater and higher intelligence beyond the mind. Being one and alone, It perceives within itself an apparent diversity, much like when a single mind can perceive such diversity in a dream state. As it is in the nature of light to shine, it is in the nature of consciousness to project, to make an image of its ideas. So the reality of the image is not to be found in the image itself but in the consciousness that projects it. All we perceive is light; world, diversity, is an interpretation: “The face of Truth is concealed by a golden vessel.” (Isha Upanishad)

In this world there is no such thing as equality. There are greater men as there are lesser men. What shines in them is the same; the difference is only in what they reflect of that Intelligible Light. The difference is in the degree to which they reflect in the outside world what is reflected within them. It is the matter of concentration and utilization. The psycho-physical constitution of a man, and indeed of this modern people, is such that the intelligence shining in him is mostly dissipated by mundane curiosities and irrelevant information; the attention is leaking out every which way.

As sun shines equally on everything, pure intelligence too shines equally in every being and animates it; but the receptivity of the spirit to this light always depends on our spiritual/intellectual orientation. If your mind-body complex is consuming most of your intelligence, then you are moving toward intellectual dullness and stupidity. Here lies the difference between literacy and knowledge, between mere information and true wisdom: Literacy doesn’t make noble men; it doesn’t impart virtue. Books don’t make men; it is men who make books. We see more crookedness, arrogance, and awkwardness in the merely literate than the illiterate. While literacy concerns itself with the letter, or the most superficial reading of it, knowledge is concerned with the spirit behind the letter, i.e. the transcendent and immutable meaning of things.

The imperative has always been the same: Know thyself. Know, first, that by knowing which everything else is known.

We produce informed but not wise men. We produce readers but not seers. We produce sterile beings. It is by the admission of our scientists and philosophers that “the more we know we realized how little we know.” That this knowledge, this outward curiosity, adds not to knowledge but to our ignorance. Then, how can it be called knowledge when by possessing it we feel less knowledgeable. Simple is the answer: This cannot be knowledge in the true sense of the word if it does not remove ignorance and instead multiplies it. That is why the more we fill ourselves with this world-knowledge, the more empty and arrogant we become. This is the difference between knowledge and literacy; in the latter we accumulate letters, a pile of names and forms, something even a tiny flash-drive can do; while in knowledge we accumulate nothing; we only peel off the many layers of ignorance; we add no more conceptions but stand behind all conceptions. By reaching the ground of Being we stand under everything; then and only then can we say we truly understand.

In true knowledge we add nothing but subtract everything until the true Self shines, until its beams emerge from underneath a pile of forms and letters. Literacy makes a man heavier, less flexible, less immortal; but knowledge, i.e. knowledge of universal principles, makes a man light, more flexible, and closer to immortality. At the summit, when the last veil, i.e. your human cover, drops and His face, your true Self, is beheld, then immortality is realized. And it is the immortal man who hovers over the surface of the waters, the waters in which the literate man of today is drowning to his demise.

Some make their own truths, and some let themselves be made by the truth: To be made is to be hammered.

 

Summary of Vedantic Metaphysics

The student: What is the cause of this world?

The master: Ignorance.

The student: What is ignorance?

The master: It is confusing the seer with the seen.

The student: What is the seen?

The master: Everything.

The student: What is the seer?

The master: You are the seer.

The student: Who is confused?

The master: No one.

The student: Then, why is there ignorance?

The master: There is no ignorance.

The student: So how come there is a world?

The master: There is no world. What from afar appears to be the world from near is realized to be the Truth. “The face of Truth is concealed by a golden vessel.”*

The student: But I can see and hear the world!

The master: That Truth is that very seeing and hearing by which you find yourself  wrapped in a world. The seen and the heard are naught; they are like the waves in the ocean, just water like the rest of it. Only water is real; wave is mere name and form, i.e. conditioned emptiness.

The student: Who am I then?

The master: You are the unconditioned Reality, the Knower of that emptiness. You are the answer to your own question. Don’t seek; see!**

The student: Whatever.

The master: Exactly. At once drop all notions and be happy; you are already perfect: You are unconditioned Reality. Notion is condition.

*Isha Upanishad

**Swami Vivekananda

State of Mind

Our moods and mental states are real only as long as we attend to them. So it is not good to dwell on them, let alone getting caught up in their analysis. Sometimes it is better to simply ignore them instead of looking into them seeking a cause or solution. It is the nature of our consciousness to become identified with the state toward which it looks.

The more we zoom in on a state the more it stands out, and there is no limit to its complexity. In fact zooming in on a state, which begins by first entertaining its idea, brings that state into existence, from potentiality into actuality. So, the quality of our lives depends only on our overall orientation toward reality and not what we do with it. All we need to do is turn the gaze of consciousness toward the state of bliss, or hell if you please; this is very similar to the way we can bring the eye focus on an object by simply turning away from everything else and withdrawing our attention from them. This is easily achieved by continuous practice in which we have to keep bringing our focus back on a desirable state.

Of course in the beginning the mind tends to scatter and steal away our focus but practice makes it easier and finally attainable where we become identified with that state and it becomes a permanent station for us. This is really the simplest thing in the world because it requires no action at all and is accessible at all times and regardless of outward circumstances. We should see that there exists nothing but the mind and that the mind is nothing but emptiness.