Yesterday, during my Tai Chi class, I had an insightful flash moment that encapsulated how I look upon Buddhism (and also other forms of spirituality) these churchless days.
We started off by doing the Yang Long Form. I'm familiar with the form, which, not surprisingly, is long. About twenty minutes worth of prescribed movements, though we usually breeze through the form a bit more quickly.
Tai Chi often is described as "moving meditation."
Yeah, it seems that way to me. Just as when I do my unmoving meditation, sometimes while doing Tai Chi my mind is calm and centered, and other times it is chaotically active.
Because I know the Long Form so well, I don't have to think much about what movement comes next. This left me free to do other things with my psyche. Like, daydream about what I'll eat for dinner, what's on my "to do" list after class, and such.
When I noticed myself drifting off into non-Tai Chi'ish thoughts, I gave myself a mental reprimand. "I should be focused on the here and now, not the there and then. I'm not really doing moving meditation if my mind isn't absorbed in the Tai Chi movements."
I went back and forth in this fashion for a few minutes while we were doing the Long Form, bouncing between (1) absorption in the moment, (2) distracting thoughts, and (3) noticing that I was engaged in (2) rather than (1) -- which was mildly annoying.
Then, as I turned toward the north wall in Grasp the Sparrow's Tail, I got a message from... who knows? Doesn't matter. Wherever it came from, my brain suddenly was filled with a wordless realization.
Expressed in words, it sounded something like this:
It doesn't matter what you're thinking, or not thinking. It doesn't matter how you're moving, or not moving. Whatever is happening now, it's going to change before too long. Thoughts come and go. Movements come and go. Relax. Accept what's here, then let it go. And accept what happens next.
During the rest of the Long Form, I didn't feel any pressure to be focused rather than distracted. Or to be thoughtless rather than thinking. Flowing with whatever was passing through my mind, or being expressed through my body, was enough. Nothing else to do.
This is pretty much how I've come to view the essence of Buddhist philosophy, which bears a lot of resemblance to Taoism (Tai Chi also can be called "Taoism expressed in movement").
For the past few nights my wife and I have been watching parts of a recorded PBS documentary, "The Buddha," a film by David Grubin. We're past the Buddha's enlightenment, which was described in a wonderfully clear fashion.
Here's some enlightenment-related quotes from the film by Buddhist experts who appeared in "The Buddha."
"It’s not like entering a new state; it’s uncovering or surrendering to the reality that has always been there. He realized he’d always been in Nirvana that Nirvana was always the case; your reality itself is Nirvana. It’s the unreality; it’s your ignorance that makes you think you’re this self-centered separate being trying to fight off an overwhelming universe and failing. You are that universe." -- Robert Thurman
"You’re already enlightened. He’s saying the capacity for enlightenment, that your awake-ness already exists within you." -- Mark Epstein
"Nirvana is this moment seen directly. There is no where else than here. The only gate is now. The only doorway is your own body and mind. There’s nowhere to go. There’s nothing else to be. There’s no destination. It’s not something to aim for in the afterlife. It’s simply the quality of this moment." -- Jane Hirshfield
"Just this, just this, this room where we are. Pay attention to that. Pay attention to who's there, pay attention to what isn't known there, pay attention to what is known there, pay attention to what everyone is thinking and feeling, what you're doing there, and pay attention. Pay attention." -- W.S. Merwin
In the film, Buddha is shown experimenting with various sorts of traditional religious/spiritual practices common in the India of his time (as now).
He meditated like crazy, trying to find some mystical center of both himself and existence at large. He engaged in extreme austerities, such as supposedly eating only one grain of rice a day. He'd already done the sensual enjoyment thing before he left the family palace, so he knew that didn't bring lasting satisfaction.
Then the Buddha gets it. The Middle Way. Nothing special. Nirvana is right here. Enlightenment is right here. There's nothing to strive for.
"Buddha meets someone who doesn’t see anything special about him because the awakened Buddha doesn’t look any different from anybody else. He is ordinary. Buddhism is not about being special. Buddhism is about being ordinary. And it is not about the continual exudation of bliss. It is about walking a normal human life with normal human beings, doing normal human things."
And this reminds you that you yourself might be a Buddha. At this moment, the person you’re looking at might be one. It’s an interesting practice. Just each person you see as you walk down the street; “Buddha? Buddha? Buddha? Buddha? Buddha?” -- Jane Hirshfield
It was strange, watching the parts of the film where modern Buddhists are shown practicing their rituals, to realize how far removed Buddhism now seems to be from what the Buddha is considered to have taught.
People go on meditation retreats where they sit still on mats for many hours a day, even though the Buddha explored the depths of yoga and meditation -- concluding that it didn't lead him anywhere.
People go on pilgrimages to Buddhist shrines, holy places, and temples, while revering Buddhist teachers, Zen and otherwise, even though the Buddha taught that truth is to be realized within oneself, not in any outside place or person.
As Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche says, the Buddha wasn't a Buddhist (just as Christ wasn't a Christian).
I strongly suspect that if we could be transported back to the time of Buddha, seeing him as he was, not as hundreds of years of legends and oral traditions made him out to be before Buddhist teachings were encapsulated in writing, we'd find a much different "Buddhism" from what is practiced now.
Much simpler. A lot less metaphysical. Non-religious. That's the Buddhism that appeals to me. Again: nothing special. Just this. Here. Now.
some random facebook search got me to this page, i didn't read the whole blog but just skim, i'm 17 and hard core Buddhist :P
yes the answer is right here simple, easy, all you have to do is close your eyes and don't think about anything just let go, may take time, but just let go. ;) you won't believe what you will see i promise, then you will know what the truth about life, heaven, hell is :D
and when you've got it, sitting for 2 hours will seam like 2 minutes, i did that already.
i don't care who chose to believe me or not, just try it, its just get comfortable, place your mind in the center of your body and think about nothing, how bad can it be? don't pressure yourself
you probably think i'm crazy :D
Posted by: Joanna | April 14, 2010 at 10:48 AM
When are you ever not here and now Brian ?I'd like to learn that trick
Posted by: Dogribb | April 14, 2010 at 12:06 PM
Dogribb, good point. You got me. But that was the theme of my post, though probably I didn't make it sufficiently clear. My big realization was that thinking about the future, or whatever, is part of the present moment -- just as doing Tai Chi is.
So like you said, how can we ever not be in the "here and now"? It does seem, though, that there is a difference between being present to the physical reality of "here and now," versus being immersed in our internal mental ruminations.
I mean, thinking about what is immediately present produces a sort of congruence between outer and inner. Thinking about what to eat for dinner while I'm doing Tai Chi puts my body kind of at odds with my mind.
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 14, 2010 at 12:34 PM
Joanna... yes, in a sense, you are "crazy".
there is no need to "close your eyes and don't think about anything".
there is nothing to "see". there is no "truth about life, heaven, hell".
there is nothing to "get", and there is no need to for any "sitting for 2 hours".
there is absolutely no need to "place your mind in the center of your body and think about nothing".
and the "pressure" you speak of, is all yours.
as long as you think that you are a "buddhist", then you aren't.
and btw, at age 17, you have quite a long ways to go yet. life has many lessons to teach you. so don't be so presumptious and arrogant thinking that you know what its all about. because if you think that you do, well then you don't.
Posted by: tAo | April 14, 2010 at 01:30 PM
Even the seeming obscuration or loss of it is still only that. Sailor Bob
Posted by: Dogribb | April 14, 2010 at 02:53 PM
Wow, it's gone very sensible, basic and fundamental in this blog entry and the comments. It's never not here, it's never not now. That's it! Ya got it whether ya want it or not.
Posted by: Suzanne Foxton | April 15, 2010 at 02:04 AM
the Yang Long Form sounds a bit disconcerting...
Posted by: George | April 15, 2010 at 04:13 AM
Hi Suzanne what brings you to a RSSB related site ? Brian is favoring the Non-duality message some.I can't help plagarize Bob and your peers from time to time.Cheers
Posted by: Dogribb | April 15, 2010 at 12:17 PM
Hi Dogribb, great pseudonym. (Or is it on your birth certificate?) Is this an RSSB related site? I've been following and commenting on CotC for about a year now I guess. Brian very kindly links to my blog. And I don't know that I take myself seriously enough for those dudes like Bob (I guess you mean Sailor Bob, http://members.iinet.net.au/~adamson7/index.html to accept me as a peer!)
Posted by: Suzanne | April 15, 2010 at 11:13 PM
Suzanne, this isn't a RSSB-related site. I simply write about RSSB fairly frequently, because this is the religious/spiritual organization that I'm most familiar with, having been an active member for about thirty-five years. If I'd been a Catholic instead, my Church of the Churchless blog would be focusing on the Pope's indiscretions instead.
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 16, 2010 at 12:04 AM
Suzanne.However it's expressed doesn't matter to me.I look at everything and what ever pops the head is of value.I'm doing the dish's more often...lol.I believe UG Krishnamurti said we have no idea who has it or not for all we know half the women in India may be enlightened and stay home and raise the kids.Thanks for the conformation :) Love that your not serious.As soon as it ends here I hope to add irreverence to the mix.Dogribb is the name of a Northern Canadian Indian tribe.I was involved with RSSB many years hence my identification.
Posted by: Dogribb | April 16, 2010 at 10:59 PM
apient -- most deeply religious people close their eyes and ears because they do not want to start doubting the thing they believe will save their very soul. So be it cult or religion, - denial, tunnel vision, and fancy rationalizations are the order of the day in the Land of Religious Beliefs.
When morally questionable actions surface in cults, the reaction is never transparency but retraction, circling the wagons, and putting up thicker fire walls. However, in a well oiled, firmly established cult there is no need to bother with this defensiveness as it has already become a *respectable* religion. Human standards for a respectable religion are alarmingly low --- being that some of the most grievous sins against humanity have been ushered through its doors.
TARA wrote this: "I'd like to think that Charan probably made ( what he felt was ) the right choice at that the time." ?
This is a generous sentiment, but places the guru far beneath his (cosmic) station as proclaimed by the dogma. (Ontologically incorrect). Or, put another way, if a Sant/Master is really just a regular old dude making the best decision(s) he can, it invalidates one of the fundamental tenants of Sant Mat. Having said this, the invalidation may be more offensive to a western disciple than an Asian disciple. Western outlook is rooted in different ideals. India does not seem to have the same loyalty to artless honesty, but rather 3 thousand years of slippery ethics that leaves Machiavelli lookin' boorish and unperceptive. In fact India has to be one of the most $$$corrupt (by Western standards) countries on the planet....they even managed to pull a fast one on the World Bank!
Actually this whole thing has so many facets to it, I hardly know where to begin.
Posted by: Jon Weiss | April 17, 2010 at 11:28 AM
Upon what do you base your claim that india has 3 thousand years of slippery ethics? LOL, very amusing.
Surely, ppl are ppl and there are those ocassional few individuals in any society who choose to transcend materialistic desires?
I must say tho, i too have little time for money-grubbers, especially through deception and these religious charlatans are surely the worst of the lot.
in fact, if there were such a thing as karma, these fellas would surely be first in line for a good dose of karma come upppance.
Posted by: George | April 17, 2010 at 12:13 PM
Peaceful change or domination is probably only possible with protest or money.
The people that give money to RSSB are getting in return, hope and faith in the security of everlasting life after death in the most luxurious place; and attachment to something rich and powerful. The Catholic Church knows to create magnificent churches and to expand. Maybe this is the single formula for success. Probably disciples think that their GIHF can do any materialistic thing and simultaneously be helping the initiates on the inner plane.
They all believe that he will invest it in the best possible way and maybe that his sons have reincarnated as sons of GIHF because they too are a chip off the old block and know how best to spend millions.
Some would argue that it's well invested.
Posted by: Catherine | April 17, 2010 at 11:50 PM
Mr. Jon Weiss : What kind of exposure have you had to this world ?
Seems very little - judging from your comment above.
Posted by: Captain Rathore | April 18, 2010 at 01:53 AM
So Zen,Tao,Tai Chi -arent these all the same ?Christian mystics like Jesus,St John his guru
and all the rest of us who worship something non racial,non sexual,non intellectual,non physical-end of the day its soul and guru meditation isnt it? We are all bound for death at any moment-and reincarnation afterwards-for those who dont subscribe-well they get reincarnated anyway.
All of us in the west will have to pay for the deaths of animals we ate,drugs we took,people we stole land off etc etc etc etc.Oh yeah how do I know-died been to the sach khand,radha soami din dayal -yep became a saint-with Maharaj charan Singhs help.So I know -I dont need to argue,pontificate,blog,run down RSSB-I have donemy meditation,got inner grace been there-and done that-most weekends I can travel to be with my beloved master-and ALL the other ones-past,present and future-thats all -of you all of US humans.
Brian Hines -all credit to your sewa blog pages-you really should plan a trip to see Gurinder Singh-get some good quiet time free from home and go to your real home-when did you you go to dera last? In fact all initiates who have been initiated get on a plane and get to dera to have a perfect living masters darshan. Look as an ex devotee of all of the lower chakra yogas and a struggling satsangi,husband,seeker,brother-nothiong but meditation on the 5 holy names -the shabd-doing simran,bhajan-can clear the way to inner peace.Why is budhha depicted as serene in his meditation pose? He has detached from this world-and gone INSIDE.
we can become christ,mohammed,budhha-in no time-in a split second=ZAP we are in Radha Soami Din Dayalwhich means-in the abode of the real home of the Lord of the soul.Beleieve and leave-this realm and enter into Charan Singhs Christlike eyes-becoming Sawan Singh,becoming Jaimal Singh ,becoming Soami Ji,Tulsi,Kabir-ALL SAINTS ARE ONE. All is wonder,wonder,wonder
wonder,wonder,wonder. I know USA satangis-and the same results are in every book RSSB publishes of all the saints journeys.The desination is the same for you as it is for native americans,blacks,wasps,mexicans,jews,muslims everyone-the method one.Surat shabd yoga-meditation on the sound current.
Most need a perfect living master-in fact ALL of us need a teacher to help us.so have no fear you- reject one master but the law of love pulls you to the eye centre NOW.
So dont delay-honour your 12 steps,your sant mat vows-get on plane to sach khand via meditation-write to the master and book a seat to Beas Oct-2010-April 2011.
know ,as I said been there done that-and now I say to all initiates of Huzur Maharaj Charan Singh Ji and Gurinder Singh Ji-
DO YOUR MEDITATION-with love and devotion
I will comfort you,forgive you-and give you love and life everlasting-Do your simran,do your bahajan-all your worldly problems,physical problems,spiritual problems will disappear-will be lessened.Trust me. Radha Soami.Just go inside without the argument ok.Try the repetition of love rather than smart alec ness.GO FOR IT.-your brother
Ruhari Abdullah Sawan Singh
Posted by: Sawan Singh | April 19, 2010 at 01:48 AM
but why is eating animals bad karma?
how else are we to survice?
human beings are organic organims, they can only survive if they eat other organic organisms. this is a simple law of biology. who decides that eating one form of organic life is better than eating another?
Posted by: George | April 19, 2010 at 04:36 AM
Sawan Singh, thanks for your mention of the Buddha. I just finished watching a two hour documentary about the Buddha and his teachings, so I feel pretty darn enlightened at the moment.
Are you aware that before the Buddha died, he told his followers that they were to be lights unto themselves, that they didn't need a guru or any other teacher, but were to search within themselves for truth?
Did you know that the Buddha almost certainly would have frowned on making pilgrimages to anywhere, India included, out of belief that truth is somehow closer at hand in one physical place (like the Punjab's "Dera") than in another place?
I last saw Gurinder Singh in 1998. I've had numerous private and small group meetings with him. They were interesting. He's a good speaker and charismatic person. I spent thirty five years following the RSSB teachings much more diligently and carefully than most initiates do, so I've definitely tried the "experiment of meditation and love" that you allude to.
Been there. Done that. On to other things. There are many ways, many paths, many Tao's. Are you aware that Gurinder Singh says that also, according to what I've heard?
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 19, 2010 at 08:22 AM
The commenter who hgoes by the name "Sawan Singh" said:
"So Zen,Tao,Tai Chi -arent these all the same ?"
-- no, they are not all the same.
"Christian mystics [...] and all the rest of us who worship something non racial,non sexual,non intellectual,non physical [...] its soul and guru meditation isnt it?"
-- well if, as you say, you worship "the soul" and do "guru meditation", then you worship the soul and do guru meditation. so what is your point? do you even have a point?
"We are all bound for death at any moment-and reincarnation afterwards"
-- death is apparently a fact, but "reincarnation" is not an established fact... no matter what you say.
"for those who dont subscribe-well they get reincarnated anyway."
-- thats only YOUR opinion. and it is a form of mental illness to think that your mere opinion is an absolute fact.
"All of us in the west will have to pay for the deaths of animals we ate,drugs we took,people we stole land off etc"
-- not necessarily true. and you do not know this for certain. if we ourselves killed an animal, then yes. but not merely eating an already dead animal that was killed by someone else. whoever actually killed the animal is the one responsible for the act of killing. there is nothing to "pay" from taking drugs. millions of people take drugs and medicines everyday... drugs and medicines which may help them or also may hurt them. the only paying done is the monetary cost of the drugs. so you seem to have a rather irrational and illogical mentality when it comes to such things.
and as for stealing land... well Rothschild backed zionist Israel STOLE the land of Palestine and murdered many of the former inhabitants, the Palestinians. so yes, zionist Israel should indeed pay for their evil crimes against humanity.
"Oh yeah how do I know-died been to the sach khand,radha soami din dayal -yep became a saint-with Maharaj charan Singhs help."
-- I'd say that rather than being any supposed "saint", you are obviously mentally ill. and Charan Singh was obviously not what he allowed his followers to believe he was (a sant satguru and GIHF), and he knew it... which makes him guilty of commiting fraud. then Charan appointed his nephew to succeed him after his death, and so perpetuate the same fraudulent deception. so his nephew is yet another fraud deceiving all of his own disciples as well.
"I know -I dont need to argue,pontificate,blog,run down RSSB-I have done my meditation, got inner grace been there-and done that-most weekends"
-- so you are a like a 'weekend sant', is that it? what a ridiculous joke and nutcase you you are.
"I can travel to be with my beloved master-and ALL the other ones-past,present and future-thats all -of you all of US humans."
-- well I think, quite clearly, you are certifiably mentally insane.
"Brian Hines -all credit to your sewa blog pages-you really should plan a trip to see Gurinder Singh"
-- Brian has already seen him, you dimwit.
"go to your real home [...] go to dera"
-- The Dera is just another feudalistic cult compound shithole. the Dera is no more a "real home" than Sai Baba's pedophilia ridden bedroom. and btw, my home is right where i live, and i am sure Brian's home is right where he lives too. only luntics think the way that you do.
"In fact all initiates who have been initiated get on a plane and get to dera to have a perfect living masters darshan."
-- There is NO "perfect living master". thats nothing but a delusion, a rather lame and childish myth. no one in the world is "perfect", and there are no such "masters". only crazed religious fanatics think the way that you do.
"nothiong but meditation on the 5 holy names -the shabd-doing simran,bhajan-can clear the way to inner peace."
-- thats a load of rubbish. its merely your stupid opinion. moreover, its quite obvious you don't know shit about "inner peace".
"Why is budhha depicted as serene in his meditation pose? He has detached from this world-and gone INSIDE."
-- you also don't know shit about Buddha either.
"in a split second=ZAP we are in Radha Soami Din Dayalwhich means-in the abode of the real home of the Lord of the soul."
-- like I said, you're obviously mentally deranged.
"leave-this realm and enter into Charan Singhs Christlike eyes-becoming Sawan Singh,becoming Jaimal Singh ,becoming Soami Ji,Tulsi,Kabir"
-- I don't need to be anybody other than who I am - myself. but you are a very very confused individual, and you apparently have a rather serious problem with identity.
"The desination is the same for you as it is for native americans, blacks, wasps, mexicans, jews, muslims"
-- you sound like a real racist.
"Surat shabd yoga-meditation on the sound current. Most need a perfect living master-in fact ALL of us need a teacher to help us."
-- thats only YOUR warped and lame opinion.
"get on plane [...] book a seat to Beas Oct-2010-April 2011."
-- I have absolutley no desire to go back to RS Beas. period.
"now I say to all initiates of Huzur Maharaj Charan Singh Ji and Gurinder Singh Ji- DO YOUR MEDITATION"
-- you are preaching your religious dogma here, where it does not belong.
"I will comfort you"
-- nobody needs your stupid "comfort", you dimwitted dingbat.
"Do your simran,do your bahajan-all your worldly problems,physical problems,spiritual problems will disappear-will be lessened.Trust me."
-- I would not "trust" a mentally disturbed nutcase like you if you, even if you paid me a million bucks... or a million shares of stock.
"Just go inside without the argument ok."
-- NO... and not ok.
"your brother Ruhari Abdullah Sawan Singh"
-- aka a crazy RS guru-cult GOON.
Posted by: tAo | April 19, 2010 at 04:37 PM
Ahhhh... Joanna, Suffering is what made you say that. YOu seem to Be lost within yourself. you have good intentions. you just seem Confused. You have no Right view, rather you are Clouded, the Boy has a Good point Doggrib does. Letting go is best, But Losing yourself is Ignorance. Buddhism does not Say that it is a religion. rather, like taoism, it is Ultimately the True expereience of ones self and not some Metaphysical or supernatural Imagination.
ah, But dear joanna, it is YOU that has A lot to learn. i am 52 Years old, and i Have been A bhikku for many years since i was young. I have felt the Peace of Loss. for how do you anger those who have no anger? Lose yourself in this moment, for the next moment, youll be gone.
Posted by: Bhikku Coulter | April 23, 2010 at 09:55 PM