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October 2, 2018 Tuesday Evening, Dharma Path Class, Part 2 (lightly reviewed)
The Path of Clear Light
Barbara: (reading questions) “In pure awareness, can there sometimes be no object, instead of a supramundane object?” Let’s call it objectless awareness, but there is always something. It may be light; it may be spaciousness. It may be the experience of the open heart. It may be just a very high vibration. It may be awareness aware of awareness. My own personal experience is that there’s always something.
This is different than the experience through vipassana of body and ego dissolution, where, I don’t know what to call it— Aaron, consciousness or awareness? Let’s call it consciousness, he says. There is no self. There’s no sense of an object. There’s no separation. All separation falls away. Because there’s no sense of a separate self, there’s no longer any sense of subject or object; there’s just being. No sense of being aware of an object or conscious of an object. So, I do not get that experience through pure awareness meditation. That doesn’t mean it cannot be experienced that way, just that I have not done so. I have gotten it, at times, through the deepest level of vipassana practice. Any comment on that? John, do you have any thoughts about that?
John: I believe the question was, in pure awareness, can there be a mundane object? Is that the question?
Q: …there aren’t any objects…
Barbara: I do not find that there can be, but I’m not the authority on your experience.
Q: The question is, maybe a way of putting it would be, the predominant object, rather than being nada or light, is more just awareness? I don’t know if I’m saying it… Rather than focusing on …
Barbara: Awareness can rest in awareness, but then awareness itself becomes the object. What is the experience of awareness as perceived through the eyes of awareness?
Q: That makes sense.
Barbara: So, there’s still something that knows: this is awareness. This is why for me vipassana is the more profound practice, because with awareness there’s still a subtle somebody to be aware. But with vipassana I can move on— “I” is not the right word— consciousness can move on to a very profound level of presence, where all sense of body and ego dissolve and there’s just pure being. At that level of experience, there is still experience. There’s nobody to think about it or talk about; only in remembering it afterward can I begin to look at it. Reviewing consciousness. But at the time that it’s happening, there’s no object.
Some others of you, that have gone into this deeply in your practice— I don’t know if John has any comments. Anybody? I don’t want to single people out, but anybody who has had these kinds of experiences?
Q: In the Indian tradition, one of the properties of pure awareness is that it’s self-reflective, so that it always knows itself. So, when I experience pure awareness, it’s just this one thing happening. Awareness, which is also aware of itself being aware.
Barbara: Then the question comes up: who is aware? Is there a somebody being aware, at that point?
Q: It’s just awareness.
Barbara: I’m tossing this out to a few others who I know have had these deeper experiences— any of you want to touch on this? (No.) Basically, it’s not something we need to talk about. When you have that experience, the answer will be there and until that experience, talking about it is not really that useful. So, we just let it go.
I’m reading a couple of the other questions, here. “Q wants to know if the akashic field is a part of the All Ground, a function of the All Ground?” (Barbara says yes but also asks Aaron) Aaron is saying, the akashic field is expressing from the All Ground, yes.
Q says, “Is the akashic field a function of the All Ground?” Look at this on retreat. What is the relationship between the akashic field and the All Ground. Don’t try to figure it out. Just resting in meditation, see what comes.
Okay, from me, Barbara, for those not attending the retreat, please try to find others in your group who are not attending, and next week, when the groups would normally be meeting, see if you can get together to talk…Have one connected period with each other and talk about what’s happening in your practice. (Further comments not transcribed.)
Aaron is going to come back…
Aaron: I am Aaron. Let us move on, here. Path of Clear Light. (From book; Aaron’s small variations while reading not noted.)
Contraction and Spaciousness
Darkness and Light
Fear and Love
All conditioned objects
(let us call them dhammas, a more elegant term)
arise when the conditions are present
for their existence
when the conditions cease;
the conditions in which that object had its roots,
Contraction, darkness, and fear
Are such conditioned objects.
They will cease when the conditions
out of which they arose,
They have no ultimate reality.
The rain storm will arise
when the atmospheric conditions are present.
When those conditions pass,
the sky will clear.
When clouds pass away,
we experience the blue sky.
And I would note here that the blue sky was always there, but you could not see it because the clouds were in the way.
When contraction passes,
When darkness passes,
When fear passes,
light and love
do not arise and cease.
However, they do seem to come and go
into and out of your human experience.
They are direct expressions of the Unconditioned.
This means they are always present,
although not always perceived.
What is a direct expression
of the Unconditioned?
When you see sunlight
shining on the ground
You know the sun is shining
even though your back is turned to it.
We might say this perceived light
is a direct expression of the sun.
However, in this case,
both are conditioned objects.
The sun exists due to conditions,
so its light also exists due to conditions.
Light and Love,
as direct expressions of the unconditioned,
need no conditions to exist
the Unconditioned itself,
so they do not arise and cease
and are always present,
although not always known..
When awareness, spaciousness,
light or love are not experienced,
this does not mean they have passed away,
only that they are not in your field
of experience at the moment.
that may recognize these dhammas
is not open.
Turn your back to the window;
has the sun ceased to shine
just because you no longer see it?
Of course not.
Only your perspective has changed.
This is only a metaphor,
because as I noted above,
the sun is also a conditioned object;
it is impermanent.
The very nature of the Unconditioned
is that it is eternal
and cannot be destroyed.
What is the Unconditioned,
and why should you care about it?
It is the Primordial Purity
out of which everything expresses,
directly or indirectly.
It is Home!
It is the essence of the Divine,
of Love and of Light,
but it is also the Ground which,
when its expressions become distorted,
may become cause for
darkness, fear and contraction.
So the Unconditioned, divine essence is the ground for all things, whether contracted or uncontracted, distorted or clear. It is sometimes called the All Ground.
If we acknowledge the nondual aspect
of the Unconditioned,
then darkness must also be an expression
of that Unconditioned,
although not a direct expression.
The same is true
of anger and hatred,
of grasping and of all contraction.
Since there is no duality,
these are also expressions of the Unconditioned
but are indirect expressions.
This means that their existence,
depends upon the Unconditioned
and also the mundane conditions
out of which such objects arise;
fear, self-centered thought,
the mind that judges, and more.
I can only use a mundane
or conditioned realm example.
Water has the quality of fluidity.
It is not harmful in itself.
Air has the quality of spaciousness.
It is not harmful in itself.
But if winds blow the water to huge waves,
those waves may erode the land,
sink boats and cause death.
Water, air, the sun, sunlight,
and everything else that exists
are expressions of the Unconditioned.
You also are an expression of the Unconditioned!
And within you are direct expressions
of the Unconditioned:
Within you is also the potential for destruction.
When the direct expressions of the Divine are distorted,
and mundane forces creep in,
then darkness, contraction, fear and pain may arise.
Herein is the power of free will and choice,
and is the reason for your human experiences.
You are not here in class or in incarnation to intellectually understand these things, nor even to have a profound awakening experience in which you move deeply into ego and body dissolution and directly experience the Unconditioned. You are here in incarnation because of a free will choice to choose love even when there is pain, fear, and confusion.
At the retreat— and I’m addressing those coming to the retreat, here, but for those not coming, just take this into your practice— there you are, sitting. Objects have been dissolving, over and over. There’s enormous spaciousness. You’ve moved beyond access concentration into a deeply openhearted, joyful experience. And then, gradually, back pain begins to creep in. First, it’s just a little bit of contraction, throbbing. Mind touches it with gentleness. But it becomes stronger and stronger and stronger. And then aversion arises.
At this point, can you simply pause and ask yourself: in this moment, what is my highest intention? You might say freedom; to get my back to stop hurting; love; clarity; enlightenment— I don’t know what your highest intention is. But, whatever comes next, is it harmonious with your deepest intention? We are not going to this retreat or meditating this coming week with the intention, “I’m going to be enlightened, and then I’m out of here! I’ll never have to come back!” At least, I don’t think you are. You’re coming with the intention, “My highest aspiration is to learn to live with love. To support love in my own heart and in the world. And in this way, to deeply alleviate human suffering.” Fine! Wake up! Have a full enlightenment experience— wonderful! But if you don’t, you’re not a failure. Have you been able to live with a little bit more love in this moment, with this challenging experience? Just that.
For those, whether on retreat or not, I’d like you to practice especially this week: when there is contraction, ask, right here in this moment— without getting rid of contraction, but along with contraction— where is spaciousness? In this moment where there is sadness, right there with the sadness, where is joy? Where there is anger, right there with the anger, where is compassion? Where there is fear, right there with the fear, where is love? In this way, you begin to see these more challenging experiences of fear, of sadness, of body pain, of confusion, of anger, as simply arisen from conditions, and you let loose of the story of it. Only when you are no longer caught up in the story are you able to be fully with the experience and, with that full presence, to see that other side of it— the spaciousness with the contraction, the joy with the sorrow. But you are not trying to hold onto joy or spaciousness or love. Not to hold onto it, just to hold presence with it and give it equal time. To begin to know the deeper truth right there with what has always lured you into the negative stories so you’re not so caught up in those negative stories.
As you are increasingly not so caught up in the stories, there is the possibility to— well, let me say this carefully. First there is the shift to access concentration. There’s a whole spaciousness of being. Objects are still arising and passing away. They’re pleasant or unpleasant. But there are no stories about them, and not even any liking or disliking of them, and thus no contraction with them. It is at this point that the whole idea of separate-self bursts open and dissolves. It is at this point that there can be presence with experience— no new being or doing anything; just presence with experience, without a self. And this opens the lokuttara citta, the supramundane citta. This allows you to move into a more direct experience of the Unconditioned, perhaps just the edges of it at first. That’s fine. It allows awareness to flow, rather than consciousness to get locked into the stories of this and that, and into separation.
This is my wish for you, for this coming week— just this. There is, of course, much more I could say, but I think it best that I just stop here, although I would be happy to answer your questions. The simple piece of instruction at the retreat: whatever has arisen, just be present with it. If it’s a challenging experience like grief or body pain, anger, a harsh memory, note it. Right here with this experience, where is love? Step back. Use the power of intentionality to choose love, with no denial of the hardness of the human experience. Rest on the bridge and trust your practice to take you from there where it needs to.
I am open to questions, here.
John: In a situation where someone may be relating to me in a way that brings pain to me, I’m experiencing pain because of how somebody is relating to me, and I feel a contraction that is fear, that is feeling very vulnerable or angry, what I hear you saying is that when I feel that contraction, to ask myself the question, where is spaciousness? Or, if I’m experiencing anger, where is love?
Aaron: But it has to be genuine spaciousness and love, not trying to get at some idea of spaciousness and love to fix the contraction.
John: So, then the question becomes, if I’m in that contracted state, experiencing, say, anger or sadness, you’re saying to note those states as I’m experiencing them, and I can use my vipassana practice to do that and not be caught in stories related to the anger and the sadness. That may allow me to connect with spaciousness and love, or it may not. What I come up against is a fear that if I allow this kind of relationship to continue with this person, then I will be taken advantage of by them. What do you have to say about that?
Aaron: The fear, “then I’ll be taken advantage of by them,” this entails you as a separate self and the other as a separate self. At that point, karuna meditation would probably be the most wholesome; to really look at that person’s situation and pain, to feel where they may be stuck. Looking at them and feeling, “Why are they so rigid? They are stuck in their own viewpoint and they can’t hear me.” Well, can you hear them?
At some point, you and that person will need to speak to each other and, free of anger, as much as is possible, to state, “I feel hurt when this happens. I feel you are not hearing me. Fear comes up for me that I’ll be taken advantage of.” Clearly, that’s your work, to take care of that fear. But also, compassionately to say no to the other person, “No, you may not take advantage of me. No.”
It’s very different when anger says no than when compassion says no. So, we’re all working toward the ability to say no with compassion. Once you are able to do that, then the fear of being taken advantage of falls away. Does that answer your question, John?
John: Yes. It interfaces with what you were talking about in the last talk, related to the difference between shielding and armoring. But I can see that it can be skillful to shield…
Aaron: With shielding, you take proper care of yourself and the compassionate heart is always accessible. With armoring, the compassionate heart ceases to be accessible. And, of course, there are going to be times when we armor, because you are human. It’s okay that you do so. Don’t condemn yourself when you do that; just, “armoring, armoring.”
But there must be such a deep persistent dedication to practice, and a willingness to return to the hard places again and again. Because for each of you there will be specific areas that are hard, and they’ll keep presenting themselves to you until they’re understood and released. (John: Yes, I’ve come to that place…) Others?
Q: Can you describe the experience of access concentration while resting on the bridge?
Aaron: You can only experience access concentration while resting on the bridge. You certainly can’t experience while lost in nirmanakaya, and if you are in Dharmakaya, you have to back-step to reach access concentration. The experience of that access concentration is simply presence with objects arising and passing away, knowing some as pleasant, some as unpleasant. There’s probably not going to be any liking of the pleasant or dislike of the unpleasant, but there may be a little bit of that, and that’s okay. Awareness can just note liking and disliking, and let it go. But there are no stories. There is no contraction. There is no trying to fix anything or hold onto anything, just presence with things as they are, and the skillful intention to support the wholesome and to release the unwholesome, with nobody supporting or releasing.
Q: What type of consciousness experiences non-duality?
Aaron: Non-dual consciousness! I don’t meant to make light of your question. Non-dual consciousness experiences non-duality. Non-dual consciousness, we could call it awareness. (inaudible) Others?
Q: I find I have to create the proper conditions for me to live skillfully. And that if my life is unbalanced, it’s impossible to live skillfully. So it’s important for me to control myself and to keep a balanced life.
Aaron: I think that’s accurate, Q. So the question is, what supports that control? As long as it’s coming from a self that says, “I will be balanced!”, how can there be balance? Where is the already-present balance, opening to that which already is? We find that it always has been, even while we’re being pushed off of it.
I would invite each of you, sometime later, not right now, to try standing on one foot. Hold onto something, first— the back of a chair, the kitchen counter. Breathe and relax. Begin to feel the innate balance of your being. Just get a sense of how that feels. If you begin to lose balance, put your hands down again. No fear, just coming back to balance. Try it for a few minutes, back and forth. Then, a few minutes later, come back to the same thing with the idea, “Now I must be balanced!” Contract your body to hold balance. Grab that chair or counter, lift up your leg. “I must be balanced!” What works best? Can you be balanced when you say, “I must be!”? What allows for the experience of inherent balance? What supports that? Just try it.
Q: In some ways it relates to what John talked about in his question, but on a macro level. I find it very difficult to have an open heart with, well, people, particularly in the political realm, who seem so disingenuine. If everything is an expression of the divine, how do I see their light?
Aaron: Some things are a more direct expression of the Divine than are others! You might ask yourself, especially here with the political realm and the chaos and the mud-slinging: what are we being offered to learn, here? Why is this happening to us? And why am I being invited to participate in this?
For many of you, you are being given an opportunity to look at the judging mind that so quickly jumps into right versus wrong. Where anger comes up, “This shouldn’t be. We need that.” But some people see it differently. They don’t think we need that; they think we need this.
So many of you are incarnate at this time, on this planet at this time, to learn to truly live, speak, and act from a place of unconditional love, which is the ground for compassion, and compassion is ground for unconditional love. Compassion is strong. It knows how to say no. But it says no with kindness.
Now, I’m looking at this current political situation, with the potential Supreme Court justice. Is there any one among you who, at age 17, when you look back, did not do something about which you are embarrassed? Would you be able to turn to the person who you may have hurt in those words or actions, and say, “Please forgive me. I am sorry. I would like to make amends.”?
Then there are those who find themselves upset because somebody is not telling the truth. There cannot be two such totally different perspectives.
So, it would seem that this person, as potential Supreme Court justice, that he has come as teacher to so many of you.
Let’s start with you saying thank you. Thank you for coming as a teacher to me. What he’s teaching each of you may be different. For some it may be to look more deeply at your own honesty to others, and your own self-honesty, and the places where you have judged yourself, feeling, “I should be more honest.” But perhaps it’s too hard— “I must be completely honest, 100%, or I’m a failure.” Where’s the compassion, there? Each of you learning different lessons.
We start with gratitude. “I don’t like this situation, but it comes as a teacher. What am I being offered to learn? In what place do I have some shortage of compassion for myself or for others?” Or it may be a different issued— “In what way am I being to slack on myself and others, excusing myself?”