"Die before you die, to realize that there is no such thing as death..."
My crippling fear of impermanence and mortality, and burning desire for freedom from my suffering has led me again and again to a fork in the road where I can choose between...
"That death was inevitable was a bittersweet tonic that made every moment precious.”
It's also given new meaning to the words of dear Mary Oliver, “To live in this world you must be able to do 3 things - to love what is mortal, to hold it close to your bones as if your life depends on it, and when the time comes, to let it go…let it go.”
Continuing to make the choice to live my life in this world truly does depend on holding what is fleeting closer to my heart in a new way, as it dilutes the allure of the "divine" suicide ego death path, and inspires me to let the light of ephemerality illuminate the brilliant preciousness of mortal life, so that in savoring it's poignancy more fervently, I may perhaps let it go more gracefully, with death as a sweet-bitter price worth paying for my chance to live and love fully.
"Hello, my name is Tom, and I was addicted to spiritual heroin.
Officially, it’s known as Neo-Advaita, a Westernized version of the ancient Hindu mystical teaching of Advaita Vedanta, but its most common street name is “nonduality.” Vastly more powerful than most postmodern spiritual opiates, Neo-Advaita is also cheap, easy to acquire, and addictive as hell. I was only sixteen when I injected my first dose, and I’ll never forget the first time I felt the intense euphoria of its fast-acting high. Within days, even hours, of injecting that nondual bliss, the whole world took on an ethereal, dreamlike appearance, as all distinctions and dualities melted before my eyes, and I became firmly convinced that everybody around me was completely insane. I have vivid recollections of walking through the halls of my high school near Seattle, Washington, with an inner smile bubbling away as I looked upon everyone and everything as nothing but an illusory display of light and energy. Nothing was real, nothing was important, for all was nothing but a timeless dance of purest Consciousness.
Experiencing myself and everything I encounter as sewn, stitched together at the seams but still with distance in between, is transimmanent intimacy, one that is both profound and unconditional! It's a quality of intimacy that arises when I feel, not just conceptualize, co-dependent arising (in Buddhism - dependent origination) of oneness and separateness, self and other, as a palpable reality, the sense of everything being the universe in relationship with itself, ushering in tender strength and a security that doesn't over-ride my vulnerability but lets me expose it more freely, because inter-personal dynamics don't feel threatening anymore, so my entire system feels safe to finally let it's guard down again and feel at home in my body, among other bodies that are other unique expressions of what I also am. We are ourselves, and also each other. It makes me feel like a distinct part of the sweeping whole universe made of infinite other parts, and it carries a conciliatory quality, a drive to lend myself to mending things, caring for things neglected, to connect more personally while connected to being the universe as a person, I soften to the defenses of others and soften my own, with a felt sense of our fundamental commonality of humanness. We know why intimacy feels so threatening, without needing to know the details. We know what it looks like when fear presents itself as anger and when anger has turned itself into sorrow so we feel less threatened, because we see and validate the burden and saving grace of our conditioned defenses, the empathy of seeing them because we know them from within enlivened we feel the truth of being cut from the same cloth.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
So when I feel grief, sorrow, my grief and sorrow find and unite with everyone else's, to their universality, and then flows grace, compassion, tender strength in numbers, my joy seeks everyone's joy, and because all of this is god, I want more than ever to be with every feeling I've ever recoiled from, cast away, and I want to hold this sweet-bitter world close to my chest like a baby.
These poignant excerpts from the article The Dark Side of Buddhism are not meant to deny any of the bright aspects of Buddhism, but to reveal known pitfalls in spiritual paths on offer in the West, so that we're aware of them before embarking on these paths, instead of discovering them only after falling into them.
"On paper, Buddhism looks pretty good. It has a philosophical subtlety married to a stated devotion to tolerance that makes it stand out amongst the world religions as uniquely not awful. Even Friedrich Nietzsche only said of Buddhism that it was "nihilistic", but still "a hundred times more realistic than Christianity." And we in the 21st century have largely followed his lead in sensing something a bit depressing about Buddhism, but nothing more sinister than that. But if we start looking a bit closer, at the ramifications of Buddhist belief in practice, there is a lurking darkness there, quietly stated and eloquently crafted, but every bit as profound as the Hellfires of Christianity or the rhetoric of jihad.
Buddhism's inheritance from Hinduism is the notion of existence as a painful continuous failure to negate itself. The wheel of reincarnation rumbles ruthlessly over us all, forcing us to live again and again in this horrid world until we get it right and learn to not exist. " Life is suffering. It is something to be Finally Escaped.... Read More ⬇
I attended a satsang in San Francisco years ago in the height of my involvement with nondual teachings focused on the absence of self, and getting rid of the go. This one was led by a man who seemed different from the ubiquitous detached, impersonal teachers. He seemed more warm-blooded, more human, a sweetness and tender-heartedness about him. As with most satsangs, after a meditation, the "teacher" gives a talk which is not so different from a sermon, focused on different topics related to liberation from the suffering of selfhood, the illusory "false" self, that is.
Most of his talk was a variation on the usual theme of the illusory "ego" as a prison that we need to escape from, by seeing it's lack of inherent reality, and resting in our true nature by collapsing it into "pure awareness," our True Self. I distinctly remember how he used the word bondage, poignantly evoking oppression, and I could certainly relate to feeling wrapped in mental chains. "Realizing your True Self as awareness, is like going from bondage to freedom." We were gathered together as prison-mates plotting our great escape.
But something he said at the end of his talk, I'll never forget: "Perhaps one day we could even come to love the house that ego built." Love the house that ego built? How would we come to love the house that ego built if our spiritual practice was all about burning it down!? The notion of loving the ego's house was antithetical to the attempt to detonate it. How can we love what we are actively trying to get rid of? So the thought that the ultimate goal might be self-love confused me and gave me pause, it felt so out of place, and looking back, perhaps it struck something deep inside of me, a foreshadowing that this self-detonation project itself was deeply confused, misguided and that it would end up more tragic than triumphant. Read More ⬇⬇
In an interview with John Welwood, Buddhist practitioner who coined the term spiritual bypassing, he was asked what the value is being able to become aware of consciously focus on the "ground of being." His response was:
"We gain greater access to what's running us. And with awareness comes choice. Choice and freedom. Freedom to choose differently if I want. "
Yes, it's all too common in Neo-Advaita and also some other nondual traditions, to say that after you have an awakening to "the ground of being, there's a loss of the sense of there being a "doer," of agency, and "choiceless awareness" is a very coveted (and misinterpreted) state of perception in these circles often portrayed as a sign of and end goal of awakening. This loss of "doership" and choicelessness are positioned as only positive, and while it is indeed positive for us to loosen our grip on thinking we can, and trying to control everything, I've always felt that the most valuable gold of dropping our attention beneath the activity of the mind, and focusing fully on what some call "the ground of being," is how it can help us not erode our sense of choice and agency, but how it can so powerfully help us to be more of a conscious agent of change! These states of what some would call "nondual" consciousness, in which we are able to see with clarity the nature of our habitual conditioned patterns of thought and how they cause us suffering, invite us to uncondition those patterns but not stop there, instead to step into your power to choose in order to consciously recondition new ones in place of unconsciously created ones.
Tragically, instead of promoting the positive transformation that this new possibility of choice / change offers, Neo-Advaita chooses to seek out these states as a means to an end of deconstructing thinking patterns for good, seeking an illusory final end to the "ego" altogether, with self-reflective thought being high on the list of what Neo-Advaita promises to stop in its tracks for good...... read more ⬇
"See, we're always coming back into duality. Duality is where we live, at least if we are householders living in the world.
You can make a distinction between what's an "ultimate realization" and what's a complete life for human beings.
This is part of the problem with Westerners who try make nondual realization the only focus of their life. They often focus on nondual realization, while neglecting their human embodiment.
As a result, their lives can be rather colorless; they're not interested in being colorful human beings. They see the human realm as uninteresting somehow.
I would say that the complete fruition of the nondual is to come back and play in duality. This is the Tantric idea—that we must engage with the manifest realm.
If we were only here to dissolve into the absolute, what then would be the purpose of incarnation?
In the East— in Tibet and in India, among other places— there was a rich human soulfulness out of which the nondual traditions grew. The nondual teachings grew like a rare flower out of this rich human soil.
In modern Western culture, we don't have that rich human soil, that soulful soil, in the same way. Our soil is pretty depleted from the soul's point of view.
So when these nondual teachings come over from Asia, it's like a rich flower being planted in barren soil.
So what you often find among Westerners who become interested in nondual teachings is that they haven't been able to develop a rich human life and they are disconnected from community.
Not being able to have good relationships with people, they use the nondual teachings as a kind of consolation, or escape, or remedy for this.
I think that's a perversion and it becomes a form of spiritual bypassing."