I'm always looking for shortcuts to enlightenment, bliss, nirvana -- whatever you want to call it. For a long time I was on a spiritual path.
Paths take time to travel. I'm too old for paths. I want to see the promised land right goddamn now! Not after death. Not after years of meditation practice.
So my attention perked up when I got an email today from an occasional Church of the Churchless visitor who said, in part:
A guy by the name of Michael Langford, (who I recently ran across) says that he had followed Sri Ramana's 'self inquiry' method for some 27 years without getting much in the way of results. Then in 2001, while visiting Tirunnivalli (sp) and the Ramana Ashram there, he made a slight change as to how he practiced this method and that in the subsequent 2 years and 1 month, he says he merged into . . . whatever . . . bliss-awareness-love . . . you know, the whole deal.
I've always had a strong interest in Sri Ramana, Sri NIsargadatta, Annamali Swami, and a couple others. Personally, I always felt RSSB's 'Simran' [mantra meditation] to be too 'noisy' and preferred something more silent.
On an RSSB CD from the 1988 series, from a cassette dated 23Nov88, around track 19/20 or so, Maharaj Ji [Charan Singh] answers a series of questions and comments from a young lady . . . and says that Simran takes you to a state of silence in which one couldn't repeat the names . . . and that this silence is the state to be achieved . . . however one gets there. That was my understand of what was said. That kind of justifies to me my own proclivities toward silence as opposed to simran.
I feel the same way. Mantra meditation, where you calm and focus the mind by repeating a word or words, seems to be a means without an end.
That is, you've reduced mental noise by whispering to yourself.
It's a quantitative rather than qualitative change. Pleasant, useful, worthwhile. But is this the highest state of human consciousness?
The email pointed me toward Albigen.com, a site that looked familiar. Since the Internet couldn't have existed in a past life, I'm pretty sure my deja vu sense was the result of having looked over these awareness watching awareness writings not too long ago.
I've seen lots of claims like this: "The Most Rapid and Direct Means to Eternal Bliss." I'm always skeptical of them.
But I also like the words "rapid," "direct," and "bliss." So I read on. Or, re-read on.
There's a surprising amount of material on this web site describing the rapid and direct method. I found that disturbing. I wanted to share the method in today's blog post and didn't want to spend all night learning about it.
So I focused on the Awareness Watching Awareness "book," thirteen online chapters that I zipped through quickly.
More quickly than the author wanted me to read them, since I kept coming across admonitions to read the sentences slowly, savoring them like fine wine. Well, I chugged them down like beer.
In Chapter 4 I learned that I'm supposed to devote at least two hours a day to the Awareness Watching Awareness (AWA) practice. Naturally my dogma-averse mind immediately popped up with "who says?"
And so it went through the brief book. On the whole, I liked the message. But the tone is preachy.
Like Langford, I'm also an admirer of Ramana and have read several books about his teachings. And I too am a long-time meditator who is looking to make meditation into something more than endless looking for the moment that will end the desire for looking.
Chapter 6 describes how the author came to his breakthrough "it's all about awareness watching awareness!" realization.
If you want to jump right into how-to, Chapter 7 is where the method is revealed. There's a variety of descriptions of AWA. This is the basic one:
Shut your eyes. Notice your awareness. Observe that awareness. Turn your attention away from the world, body and thought and towards awareness watching awareness. If you notice you are thinking, turn your attention away from thought and back towards awareness watching awareness.
OK. Makes sense. But I kept wondering, "Why not just be aware? Isn't this practice dividing awareness into two, while it seems to be one?"
Maybe Langford addresses this question somewhere. I could have missed it in my rush to get to the mystical "money shot."
The final Chapter 13 has the most disturbing dogma. Langford goes into full-on fundamentalist fire and brimstone mode here.
If you do not do your spiritual practice everyday, you will continue to be caught in the cycle of birth and death, birth again, death again, birth again, death again and in that cycle, eventually, all of the thousands of forms that suffering takes will enter your life.
If you do not do your spiritual practice everyday, you will experience death, diseases, violence and thousands of other types of suffering, lifetime after lifetime.
Dude, lighten up. You're giving non-dualism a bad name. If I wanted to be threatened with eternal damnation I would have stuck with Catholicism.
Where Langford goes astray, I'd say, is a common problem in spiritual writings of this sort (I should know, because I've fallen prey to it myself).
It pops up when someone has a profound spiritual or mystical experience and then extrapolates that to apply to everybody. This is the seedbed of religious dogma: an individual understanding is turned into a universal truth.
I think Langford is on to something with his awareness watching awareness insights.
However, they aren't unique to him. Many others have had similar experiences and managed to write about them in a less preachy fashion.
I've come to meditate in pretty much the way that's encouraged by the AWA method. I don't do it for several hours a day though. And I don't feel the urge to make this my main life's work.
Langford did. That's great. But I'm me, just as you are you.
Each of us has to find our own way. Awareness watching awareness may be an aspect of it. Or, not.
Here's a nice summary of the AWA approach that I found via this laudatory site: