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This article originally appeared in HarshaSatsangh Magazine Greg Goode
I don't give you what has to be done because there is nothing to be done. -- Papaji
Is spiritual practice necessary? This question never comes up in the orthodox traditions, because the "Yes" to practice is built into their very structure. But within nondual teaching contexts, this is a Top Ten Question. And most of the time, the answer is some version of "No -- practice will only make matters worse! It will only reinforce the sense of a separate self that thinks it can gain something. What must happen is not practice, but the disappearance of this sense of self." Does this mean that meditation, contemplation, Kundalini yoga, self-inquiry, devotional love and selfless service are counterproductive? Up comes the question, "Should I stop doing these things? Sometimes they're performed or encouraged by the same teachers who warn against practice! Not to mention, most other paths are based on practice and progress. Does this make sense? I'm so confused! I don't know what to do!!" If practice proves to be necessary or even helpful, then it's not counterproductive. So let's restate. In nondualism, is spiritual practice necessary? It depends on your goal, on what you really, really want. The question, as stated, is incomplete. Is practice necessary? For what? Spriritual practice is certainly not necessary to go shopping or wash the dishes. So what do you really, really want? Is your goal to be awareness, to be your true nature, to be that which cannot be thought, to be that which is before and beyond phenomena? Is your goal just to be?? No practice necessary for that! Anything that is truly your nature, anything that truly is, is both inescapable and unattainable. The noumenal WHAT IS is intangible. It stands untouched before all phenomena. Phenomena are inseparable from it, so close that they're "inside" it. It is already the case. It is ISness, and ISness simply is. It can't be acquired and can't be shed. If being is your nature, then you are unavoidably that, even now! And to call it awareness or emptiness or beingness is saying too much.
Phenomenal spiritual goals abound. no practice is necessary! So there you are. even in this essay. Whatever it is. The point is that one's desire for these psychophysical phenomena can be addressed. These are goals. and it requires clarity and honesty. such as improved self esteem. I know I am awareness. Sometimes the goal.. It is not an experience. but we adopt spiritual language to talk about it. you cannot do anything to be it. it was already there. So are the teacup and the schoolbus. And whatever your actual goal is. The goal is seen as the proof of enlightenment. whether the goal is tangible such as keeping one's temper. even if only to free you from that "Yes. . These goals arise for different reasons. constitutes you and every "thing" else. Also. as when we desire siddhis because "All enlightened beings have them. The non-dual traditions are unanimous about it. some kind of spiritual practice can help. is what we really want. They make themselves felt and they don't go away. "Yes. Question: Does hearing this help achieve the goal? Does it make everything fall into place? Does it seem like the end of the matter? "Yes. For example. but. Enlightenment? Well. and raja yoga can beget siddhis. should the next Barnes & Noble be too far. this is IT!" That's IT! Have a cup of tea! Clink!! "No. meditation can quiet the mind. which I discuss below. it's a phenomenal motive with a phenomenal solution. then your actual goal is not awareness but something else. You are." Perhaps you clicked here because you feel. and it starts to seem like something much loftier. or breathtakingly subtle. It is not phenomenal. Wherever you look. It is not an activity. in that case one can turn to the vast ocean of nondual teachings. It's behind you. Achieving this goal is something located in the world of experience.You are THAT. often having to do with one's conception of IT.. it is therefore something phenomenal. It can't be grasped or held." Sometimes it's the other way around." If this is the feeling. of enlightenment. And there is no way that you can not be it. There's no aspect of you that is not it. There is no aspect of you removed or shielded from it. What if the goal is to penetrate the ultimate Truth or make sense of the notions of the Self. You don't need to do anything to be it.. As phenomenal needs. Knowing one's goal isn't always easy. Sometimes the phenomenal goal is seen as a necessary precondition to enlightenment. as when we desire a quiet mind because "If you quiet the mind. experiential." The link from quietness or siddhis to enlightenment is not the point. Awareness. If that's the goal. it's unseeable. And presumably it has a phenomenal criterion of success or failure.. something's missing.. tangible. they can be phenomenally satisfied. such as generating a distant pinpoint of light in deep sleep. your enlightened nature will shine in all its glory. or that which precedes. They are amenable to achievement. It can't be pointed to or talked about. They're only an Internet click away. but" feeling! Since your goal is not the non-phenomenal THAT which precedes phenomena. Consciousness.
These teachings claim that therapy only strengthens the imaginary egoic character. Sometimes one goal is achieved. "Nothing to do" sounds sophisticated but throws us off track. we can be made to feel that placing importance on emotional states is petty and betrays a lack of understanding. is a form of escape. or healthy self-esteem. we tell ourselves (and others) the spiritually "correct" thing. which is the root of the problem in the first place. But part of us knows this isn't what we really want. It prolongs our pain. This character should be seen through. which also work. and the result will be the good feelings originally desired. what we really want might be a pleasant emotional life. a sharp intellect. it is actually just an ineffective spiritual practice. which is Now. Clink! Tea time!! But the NOWness is a cover story. For example. But sometimes we mask or hide what we want. Sincere devotional chanting opens the heart. that would be it. unless of course Beingness could deliver us from guilt and insecurity. Meditation quiets the mind. and we look in the wrong place for the solution. that we're really after just Beingness. there are proven techniques such as hatha yoga. It's all a matter of phenomena operating on phenomena. for several reasons. Feeling this influence. "What is practice if not an attempt to make something natural?" With goals like a supple body. Other goals simply dissolve when examined. jnana yoga. As Ramana Marharshi rhetorically asks. We would be quite happy with that. This is not helpful advice. There are even investigations that can address this goal. They bubble under the surface and jump out as often as they can. free of guilt and insecurity. One reason is that. Note on Therapy Some nondual teachings advise against going to therapy. We might even adopt it as an article of faith -. in cases like the . Weightlifting sculpts the body. and another one pops up in its place. and the company of loving companions. If your goal is to lose the sense of doership.Why Practice is Necessary Spiritual practice for spiritual goals is necessary in the same way that ice-skating practice is necessary to land a triple-axel. it may mean that the newest is now the goal of goal-lessness. Candid and unflinching observation keep us on track. Why Be Honest? We have to be honest and courageous if we are to achieve our goals.we might actually come to believe the NOWness motive. there are analytic meditations that dissolve the goal by showing that a doer never existed in the first place. As our sexiest new newest doing. if we were really after the NOWness of Beingness. For example. To insist that there's nothing to do. while our mind and heart cry out for relief. "YES!! Now I can die!" as TV sitcom characters say when they get what they want. say the teachings. Selfless service reduces one's egotistical motives. New techniques can be taken up. Should it ever become tiring and repetitive to pursue these shifting goals. We end up going to ten years of satsang where ten months of therapy would solve the problem. In this example. in some spiritual groups. But the other motives have been there longer and are now much stronger.
opens the heart. as in: "I know that I am awareness. Two.. Or the goal is stated in terms of the desired thoughts or feelings. be vigilant with it. a teaching should not discourage any method that might help. there are effective new therapies being devised all the time by students of nondual teachings. the seeker's felt goal is not to see the unreality of an imaginary egoic character. hold it. remain true to it. regardless of philosophical disagreements. The goal can be to keep this intuition very close. Sometimes hearing about nondualism and consciousness just feels irrelevant. But it slips out of your grasp. or be happy.. feel it. It is to feel better. but I want to --" know it. but most often it is too airy and abstract. embrace it.Just do it! Kinds of Spiritual Goals Spiritual goals abound. Four. Sometimes you might have tasted what you take to be IT. remember it. live it. and turning our head away hasn't made it disappear. For example. never be angry. or see it. even if the egoic character has to stick around. merge with it. And there's no reason that one cannot pursue both. Three. for people with strong emotional goals. seek it and find its source. So why not go for it? It's fitting! It's efficient! The proper tool for the proper job! Like lighting a candle instead of rationalizing the darkness. Addressing an egoic character is only the nondualist's spin on things. whereas a beautiful chanting service quiets the mind. prove it. Reminding ourselves that we are Awareness has not achieved the goal. head on. if someone is in pain and distress. These therapies seek to alleviate the client's problems while also dissolving what the therapists see as the egoic fixations underneath. "I'll have IT when I can --" experience bliss. to be rid of guilt and low self esteem.satsang example above. and come away with a very strong intuition about it. Perhaps that spin will work for the seeker's emotional goals. rest or abide in it. Clearly knowing what we want provides the openness and impetus to seek our goal directly. center myself in it. . therapy without satsang works quicker than satsang without therapy. The Nike ads picked up on an American cliché which is apt here -. and puts us in touch with our completeness.
but this is because they're usually inherited from a spiritual teaching. contemplation. going to therapy. purify all five sheaths.. . meditation. lose the sense of doership. Practice becomes whatever you do with your goal as your motive. cast away spiritual practices. "I need to --" stop seeking.. Practice is necessary too.. forget everything." delving into why there is anything at all. gain my self-esteem. practice includes living with the question "Who am I?. never have an "I-thought" never have a thought. and selfless service. They sound a bit more theoretical. trying to see between thoughts. trying to stop thoughts. trying to witness thoughts. but much more. save myself and all beings from suffering. kill the predispositions. quiet the mind. stop believing that I am something in particular. have all the questions fall away.. cleaning the floor. refusing to run from painful experiences. be free from psychological pain. Practice works because it includes not only the usual suspects of chanting. -.. display miraculous powers. attending every satsang in your area. Or the goal can be cast in negative terms. Practice means removal of predispositions. or kill the ego. creating art. reading inspirational books. being with your teacher as much as possible. love my older brother. lose the sense of separation.. abandon desire. or calling your mother. getting to work on time. have no unpleasant feelings. never be unhappy. being open to criticism. conquer ignorance. changing your diet. Practice is as varied as life itself. love everyone equally.Ramana Maharshi For example. (Back to "Something's missing") How Practice Helps How can practice help with goals like these? Practice has a long history of success in achieving some phenomenal goals and dissolving others.have no feeling.
laughter! So. the desire to grasp and hold comes to a gentle conclusion. Given this belief. When this insight dawns. flashes of insight. Understanding our nature with the mind is not possible. and nonsensical. unnecessary. paradoxes. But these tools don't achieve this goal -. So how do nondual teachings help? By conveying the insight that the desired kind of understanding is impossible. It is believed to culminate in something to hold onto. --Gangaji . is still phenomenal. Nondual teachings are helpful here (in fact. The result is peace and -. and even exercises.when they work they dissolve it. go for it! No reason to hold back! I am not against meditation and practice. where the goal is abstract and intellectual). they are at their best here. The mind cannot grasp that which gives rise to the mind. to abide in. It is felt as something sweetly or bitterly tangible. such as wanting to understand one's true nature. dialectics. because our nature is not a graspable object like tax laws or Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.And even the most abstract goal. there's a phenomenal method. I am against the separation of a practice of meditation from life. Nondual lore is a voluminous storehouse full of pointers.
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