Sunday, 4 April 2010

What Masters Get Up To in Caves

Image source: Andre Engels/Wikimedia

So let's get into what masters get up to when they hole up in caves with no food or water for 20 days or more. And no, in case you were thinking to ask, this is NOT something I do. Nonetheless, Master Chunyi Lin had some interesting things to say (years after he got out of the cave by the way) about what the experience was.

"I finally know why masters could go into meditation so much - they were watching TV!"

No kidding. I heard him say that (well, not necessarily word for word - it's been awhile now) at a retreat. And like many others, I had absolutely no idea what he meant until I went through my own process. Having done so and watched also as other people experienced it has given me some kind of clue as to what happens.

The whole process begins by some kind of releasing process, externally or internally triggered. In my case, as my readers will know, circumstances forced me into a mental position where I had a choice of letting go of my own attachments or risk insanity. It is an interesting one - when you make the decision to demand nothing of life, because the very thought of demanding it summons up a sense of desperation so paranoid that you feel extreme pain. This is by far the most dramatic way to discover truth, and I do like the drama, even if I had no clue what was happening at that point.

So I gave up everything, even thinking itself. It was a forced surrender. Every thought brought me pain, so I started ignoring the thoughts. That's when things began getting remarkably exciting. Only the pain remained. With nothing further to lose, I plunged into the pain. It was partially an act of desperation, a last act of defiance that screamed, "Go on then, do your worst!" And it stopped hurting. Not immediately, but it became somewhat more bearable. I no longer had to fight the throbbing headache, the deep fear or the intense cracks in my self confidence. By degrees, over a course of maybe a month, the pain began to disappear. Like fog disappearing in the morning light, it could not withstand conscious awareness upon it when conscious awareness did not impose conditions. And so I understood the nature of thoughts' ability to manipulate - they do it through fear. When fear is no longer a goad one instinctively shirks from, thoughts lose their power and begin to evaporate.

So back to watching telly. I did not digress above, but rather gave a context in which this process happens. As I sat in meditation as I had never sat before, I surrendered everything. It was the most painless thing I had ever done. And when you're in such pain, every little bit helps! And then the thought-ego body (what Eckhart Tolle would call a pain body, one supposes) tried a last ditch attempt to retain the illusion. It started dredging up images. Things I had never seen before, things long forgotten from my youth, loves and hates, fears, random imagery - they all floated by. And this is where I was blessed by weariness. Beleaguered as I was, the monkey mind was finally too tired to chase after each image to analyse them, as I would have in the past. And they flittered right by. Sitting in that perspective of weary hopelessness (and this is why I say hopelessness is rather useful for enlightenment), it became a television show.

Bit by bit, I discovered a way to interact with them without being burned, and this was through service. By praying for others in the depths of my pain, I managed to maintain a neutral stance. And unlike any healing process I was familiar with, the images began to shape themselves. All I did was hold an intention and surrender completely. Images that started out apparently as illusion began to develop into surprising meanings, and I understood them. Practically all the praying I did in those days of trial worked, incidentally - the people benefitted very quickly. And all the intuition worked as well. And thus I understood why so much intuition fails as well - the messages are mixed, like two people shouting over each other. One would be true intuition, and the other would be the pain body. How to recognise truth? It's simple - the images untainted by fear or even attraction. Those are the truth. The truth has no need to compel - it simply is. And by their fruits ye shall know them, I believe Jesus the Christ said. And the whole thing is much like watching television, as Master Lin said all those years ago. I can finally agree.

But he said more!

"When you find in your qigong practice that you enter emptiness, leave your practice and simply sit. The healing will go on instantaneously."

This is a statement I also struggled with for a long while. How can emptiness be trusted to do anything, without supervision? The brainwave management crowd will have the same issue - how can sitting in alpha, theta or delta without doing anything be beneficial for anything other than perhaps rest? How can that solve our problems?

It is an incredibly arrogant position, if you think about it, to assume that the ego knows better than emptiness, or the sea of awareness, from which the ego itself arose. The emptiness is the basic space, the basic canvas upon which everything is painted. To return to the emptiness is to dive beneath the surface of the overpainted fabric of our lives and to get in touch with basic awareness. And it heals. Once left alone, the structures of our thoughts disintegrate - the same process that I described above. However, this becomes painless, for we are enjoying the nature of emptiness.

""Om Mani Padme Hum" means "Go into the emptiness and seek your authentic Self. And from your true Self, everything else will be attained."

Again, Master Lin's words, not mine. But I agree completely. Wish I had said it. But I doubt even Master Lin could claim credit for that one. After all, were we not told to "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all other things shalt be added on to ye"?

So let's address the difficult issue - how is emptiness to be trusted with what is right? After all, it is constantly throwing up streams of thoughts spontaneously, and all we need do is look around to see that certain outcomes are not, to the ego Self at least, desirable. In the eyes of the Divine they are all perfect, of course. Well, there are a couple of effects there:

1. Firstly, as we transcend thought and conditions, we also transcend need and preference. Whatever happens cannot harm us now, for fear loses its manipulative ability, and thus emptiness can be trusted to do exactly what it does, and the outcome makes no difference.

2. Secondly, the closer one gets to pure awareness, the closer one gets to the true attributes of the soul. One no longer needs the attention of another to feel loved. Money no longer is needed to feel abundance. The conditional emotions are dropped in favour of unconditional ones. These are the First Emotions, the First Order. They are the samboghakaya, the Light that arises out of the sea of awareness. And they are nothing but benevolent. If we rest in them, they can summon nothing but the highest manifestations. Why, then, do we get ourselves into so much trouble? It is only when we get involved in the derivatives of these emotions, the Second Order, the Conditional Emotions, that chaos ensues. Each intention becomes tainted by fear and suspicion, and thought streams become tainted. The purification process, then, is the same - it is to sit in sheer unconditioned awareness, to rest and to recuperate. Then, when we are ready, we surrender our awareness fully to pure emptiness and live in the bliss of the First Order emotions (interesting how that abbreviates to FOEs - which is what our mind perceives them to be, not the salvation that they are).

So nature becomes truly benevolent. And with no effort at all! Fundamental nature is benevolent. Sitting in it, we cannot help but be benevolent and compassionate.

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