Toward An Integrated Awareness Practice
In order to give the scope of this subject its due and proper consideration, it appears that this part of the Essay will establish what a spiritual practice is, how to establish it and how to begin. Part IVb will explore the intricacies of advanced practice, up to and including the trechko. It is necessary to start at the beginning, even if one believes that one is quite advanced in meditation. The reason being that this type of practice establishes that inner rhythm of presence (the attitude of the Observer) in every aspect of daily living, plus this will then establish That state of presence (the deepening and ripening of which becomes the state of Presence) through which the samskaras (the elementals, thoughtforms or patterns) are viewed, experienced and then changed into “propelling points of transmutation, transformation and finally transfiguration” which is what the Buddha had originally established and is hereby presented in a more modern esoteric mode. Here in Part IVa we shall see how to establish that abstract mental attitude which will be reflected into practice, ripening into presence and deepening into a spatial Presence.
This section (Part IV a and b) will establish those conditions leading to ‘spiritual awakening’ that rhythm which awakens the truth of our already acquired spiritual growth, leading more clearly to those conditions which lead to ‘spiritual growth’ or in other words, leading to that which will define and inwardly point to the new.
At the outset it cannot be emphasized enough that Concentration is the central factor of a spiritual practice. Concentration is that central quality of sustained attention in a particular and desired way. Since we are seeking to cultivate those qualities invocative of Bodhicitta, in order to compress or straighten the way toward attainment, concentration allows for us to accelerate the rate of unfoldment, qualities, insight and ability. Different styles and stages of practice use concentration, dharana, in different and central ways. Even unto the most advanced of stages, it is concentration that is the integral component of awakening, especially while employing those awareness practices in this essay, and spiritual manifestation. Therefore, it is useful and desirable to develop increasing proficiency in concentration, and understand more about how and in what most efficacious ways to develop and work through the various obstacles to concentration.
There are two types of concentration for our purposes, momentary concentration and selective concentration. Selective concentration is based on concentrating in a sustained manner on one object while excluding others. We select an object of focus and then hone in our awareness allowing us to increasingly center in that object or view. This is the type of concentration we employ everyday when reading, exercising, remaining ‘present’ in conversation, or planning our day and any number of tasks. Often it is the desire nature that unconsciously determines the focus of concentration, and we typically move semi-consciously from one focus to the next without conscious choice or greater degree of awareness of intentionality and focus. This is why when we undertake to use a particular focus that our mental nature, like unbroken horses, rebel, because we are so used to semi-conscious choice of focus. It is the strength of our desire, and when we graduate to the level of mental choice, plus the degree to which we are distracted by competing desire and thoughts drawing our attention to other interests, which determines the quality of focus of the concentration. The developed power to selectively concentration is what determines the degree of success in chosen fields of endeavour.
Concentration usually feeds that which we focus on, and whether it be a little or quite deep, is the indicator of the what and the quality of what we manifest in our lives. Therefore, concentration is a foundational factor as we cannot bring other qualities to a task, or deepen those qualities, if we are not able to sustain the level and depth of focus.
Momentary Concentration describes the quality of awareness that in certain ways shares similarities of selective concentration, but in an important way is different because it is the systematic way in which we deepen those qualities which require mindfulness, steadiness and alertness. These are the factors which cause the deepening of those qualities which we seek to ripen into the bodhicitta we seek to become.
Momentary concentration takes as its object that which is spontaneously arising into the awareness as we seek to look at the field of the quality which we seek. The ability to sustain the focus on the general field, while allowing that which is hidden to come to the surface in time, ripens into the ability to effect much needed transformation. What arises is thoughts, sensations, memories, emotions, desires (in advanced levels these will be coming from deep within referring to the samskaras of past lives). Samskaras are the depressions/impressions made in our various fields which are out of alignment with our deepest inner integrity, and therefore tend to block that free flow which the soul, and later the monad, seeks to further the connection to and portions of the Divine Plan and Purpose. In meditative practices like the Dzogchen or Vipassana we seek to cultivate this type of concentration. The one-pointed concentration required also sharpens without the mind seeking to rebel. Becoming very strong and penetrating, it may in the beginning not rest long on a subject, as it tends to inadvertently circumscribe the entire experiential field before reaching into the depths.
It is a leavening factor, because it most easily deepens into the attitude of the observer, the soul levels, as it meets each experience as it rises with awareness and focus in the encounter, and then letting it pass, and is freshly open to the next moment or experience. Not unlike standing in a reception line, meeting each person with intensity and focus (later deepening into equanimity, compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy or gladness) then freely and gracefully passing on to the next.
Both practices, which are complimentary to one another, will be used in these exercises with a primary focus in the momentary concentration. In the vipassana, emphasizing the open eyed approach) selective concentration is developed as a by product of focus on, say for instance, the breath at the abdomen or the nose, and therefore is used to inadvertently develop selective concentration as a foundation, while gradually and easily shifting growing emphasis on deepening momentary concentration. We will however explore deeply both modes of concentration in this essay, but still emphasizing the approach to that which will hasten and deepen the approaches leading to the threshold of the deeper vipassana and the dzogchen practice.
Stages of Concentration
Let us distinguish five important stages in developing concentration, applied to both meditation as well as daily activity practice (the key to the Vipassana is Access Concentration in daily practice, while the stage of Meditative Concentration is ripened sense of presence into daily living, and the fifth stage is the Sahaja state of the Arhat). These stages are:
Meditative Concentration (Dhyana)
In the context of this essay, spiritual awakening is the process of emerging from a state of false identification with our bodies, sensory apparatus, emotions, focused desires, thoughts, memories and values to the remembrance of our original nature. So let it be understood that this state of Self-realization or enlightenment is identical with perfected spiritual concentration. The goal in mind is to steadily and directly remain effortlessly in a state of undistracted realization of the Absolute. Therefore our spiritual development can be seen as unfolding the degrees of concentration and the ripening/deepening of the state of presence. We are simply seeking to eventually concentrate ourselves into the nondual/Absolute in the moment, moment by moment.
The third stage in our list can be described as stable concentration, and is a great turning point in our practice, sustaining us unto the Absolute. In the beginning we start to taste it now and then in our meditation practice, then later in our daily waking activity. This is what leads to a sustained service, without getting so involved in the thought of service that we merely get caught up in the personality rather than soul intent. Until we get to the point of sustained, stable, concentration in our daily living (what D.K. describes as the ‘Attitude of the Observer’), we continue to learn the tests of failure. Remember that all goes according to the Law of Cycles, meaning that we will go from initial stable success, than a seeming loss of sustained activity, then the eventual returning to stronger and deeper success. When this happens Rejoice! The ripening is then in process of becoming.
This stage was called ‘access concentration’ by the Buddha because stabilized concentration has decisively arisen above distraction, and will provide access to meditation.
The development, or arising, of this stage results in a sense of emergence from personality distraction and illusion to a space of greater clarity, serenity, inner calm, alertness ripening into the state of presence. Because this state is not normally possible to sustain from moment to moment, the various tendencies and preoccupations coming from the depths of the personality will still arise into the consciousness, needing to be transformed, until all within the personality field, and even the deeper lower causal, is transformed and consumed by the complete cultivation of bodhicitta — ripening into arhat liberation. So as the process keeps cycling itself, rejoice, because that recycling is the indicator of success. As this is the sub-plane of the astral plane where desire and aspiration meet (the battle ground and Arjuna factor), future attainment is indicated because at least in the meditative state the soul presence is momentarily stronger then the personality identification. Hence the significance of this stage considered as being the turning point(s) — the points of emergence. Patanjali referred to this as dharana, and is the sixth stage of his eightfold path.
This third stage of Access Concentration brings on the beginning of insight as a result of the points of emergence.
The next stage, meditation proper, that stage where deepening concentration develops in which soul qualities grow increasingly dominant while the personality qualities grow increasingly quiet – moving into the background. The severity of the hill and valley experiences which make this stage so stressful are significantly lessened by those practices advocated by the Buddha, which is what this essay is leading to.
There are many ways to develop concentration. Some of the most important factors are:
Consistency of practice — miss as few days as possible in the beginning, as the concentration/meditation muscle will fail to develop. Make this a high priority in life. We are setting aside other ‘important’ things aside to nurture our souls.
Quality of practice — make the sessions alive and dynamic, not boring, empty ritual; fully involve yourself in meditative practice.
Seek to maintain mindfulness and concentration throughout the day — Not bringing the fruits of practice into daily living does not develop ripening. Be patient with this. It is far easier to develop concentration and meditation during practice, but simply making the attempt in daily living consistently promises success.
Generate inspiration before practice — motivation through inspiration is the surest way to increase the intensity of spiritual presence in the practice.
Reflect on the growing power and significance of concentration. Note and observe the studied effects of concentration and distraction. Try to make the quality of your concentration a theme in your reflections and awareness, in your meditation and during the daily round. Bring this attitude into your study and service, thus will the attitude of the observer lift you up. We will now take up the studied effect of deepening concentration leading to meditation and the ripening of the qualities of Awakening.
The Mechanism of Awakening
In order to deepen our sense of the place that meditation has in the spiritual path, we must recognize and include the nature of transformation, and how various practices facilitate and promote transformation.
One basic factor arises when there is sufficient success in the awareness practice, it will naturally lead, of its own, to that emphasis on a more direct realization of the end state itself – what in the Dzogchen are completion stage practices. The style of the practice plus the way it is “held” will focus on the direct attempt to access or realize the state of Realization or Liberation, rather than view the practice as a means to an end – as an aid to growth, development, purification, awakening, or cultivation. This will indicate that the probationary path (discipleship or initiate) has reached the next plateau. Instead of pursuing the path, you will become the path and the path will pursue you. It then is not a matter of Doing, but of just Becoming.
So how does this change come about? In the Teaching there is the notion that our thoughts, desires and emotions have form and substance. Each of these psycho-spiritual forms remain with us – either active in the life experience or less active, or even latent, in the subconscious field – like seeds that are in various stages of germination, sprouting or blooming. These are the samskaras in Sanskrit (sankhara in Pali) which are basically activators (elementals in metaphysics) which seek further action and longevity. The purpose of spiritual practice is to plant the higher seeds of quality which will squeeze the samskaras out of us, so to speak, in order to reach a state of satiety with those patterns which pull the personality mechanism away from realizing and manifesting the Good, the True and the Beautiful. First and essentially, the concentration practice must be centered in the Buddha’s Access Concentration mode, allowing the re-experiencing of the energy or desire, the thoughts or other forms of elemental/samskara without re-energizing them.
In other words, our samskaras, our personal down-ward moving tendencies, are experienced as desire or aversion until we learn via the Access Concentration Mode to experience without re-energize-ment. There are other dimensional dynamics involved but this is pivotal. If we can re-experience all our tired old creations from a trans-egoic viewpoint, meaning to witness them with the qualities of peace, contentment, openness, equanimity, unconditional love, with acceptance, concentrated observance and surrender, (differing modes of awareness practices by and through which we re-experience the samskaras) we establish and put into motion the mechanism of our own transformation!
In other words the point of Part IV (a and b) of this essay is to lay the foundation of those qualities, even if imperfectly applied at first, that the contents of our storehouse of experience, even the semi and sub-conscious energy and substance, will begin to be purified and uplifted! It is precisely these samskaras that form a cloud blocking our realization of our true nature. When these energies are transformed through the mechanisms outlined in this essay, insight and spiritual intuition grow and the heart opens. Put into motion, more and then almost continuously reinforced, we will have the full release of the last of our ego-generated elemental/samskaras (clearing our past karmas) which will result in our more swiftly, when avoiding the haphazard approach, have our full and final realization.
The Power of Awareness Meditation
Meditation is widely recognized as a most powerful tool for awakening. The power of Awareness Meditation is the act of profoundly establishing the conditions for the purification, then transformation, of the samskaras/elementals by building up the sattvic/dharmic elementals that replace and help transform the rajasic and tamasic elementals, the samskaras. This type of meditation is powerful for this reason: it is the deliberate building up of more spiritual elemental, substance, and then transforming and releasing more limiting ones (the prisoners of the planet) and when this has made the necessary impact of the life of the disciple, some point close to the third initiation, the aura will have impact on those in the immediate environment. Access Concentration, leading to Awareness Meditation, wherein enhanced concentration is nurtured, naturally leads to the condition for application to daily living. The building in, and ripening of, these qualities naturally bloom into outward living.
The qualities of presence developed (and stabilized) in awareness meditation naturally merge into the daily state of presence. Once having established this solid foundation, our deepening meditative states profoundly affect the daily living. This results in a process of simply and more profoundly recognizing that the time dedicated to deepening awareness is an intensifying period resulting in the purification and transformation of old built energies from yesterday or a millennia ago that has continued to haunt us, often in ways of which we were unaware, until the releasing mechanism holds sway over our process.
Developing the Access Mechanism
In whatever concentration, then meditation, performed, it is best to start with Breath Awareness. Do nothing with the breath, simply become aware of the process of breathing, using the act of breath awareness to start focusing the mind into a state of quietness. Remember, it will all start here. In fact this particular method of ‘Breath Awareness’ was the beginning of the final method used by the Buddha to attain full enlightenment. Although this practice may seem simple, the potentials are profound. The heart of all Buddhist practice, whether Theravada, Mahayana, or Tantric/Dzogchen is primarily or significantly based on this practice as a starting point into all corresponding psychologies of awakening (which is what Buddhism is, not so much religion, but a psychology of awakening).
The practice of breath awareness is in essence, very simple. After taking up the particular posture favored by the student, turn the attention to the sensation of breath movement at the abdomen. Do not attempt control or influence of the breath but simply observe the natural movement. Observing the breath may cause temporary changes in the pattern and depth of breathing. This is natural and will pass with experience. The point being is that nothing is done but attention to the breath.
When becoming aware of distraction, the becoming involved in meandering thoughts and other sensations, simply stop following the breath and become aware of the breathing again. Seek to avoid becoming involved in frustration or judgment about having become distracted. Gently and firmly return to the breath each time it is noticed that there is distraction. If judgments do arise in this, simply note them, do not engage, and return to the awareness of the breath.
The facility gained in this part of the practice established the Access Concentration and continued use of which establishes sustained mindfulness, leads to deepened meditation. Without this facility strengthened, the results will not be consistent enough for sustained deepening.
The distractions that challenge the concentration and mindfulness can be categorized. The traditional ones are: desires, aversions, restlessness, boredom, pride and attachments. All thoughts, emotions, plans, day-dreams, that distract us during meditation are motivated by desires and aversions. Boredom during practice is the result of attachment to stimulation to avoid being fully conscious by the use of stimulation as a narcotic. Restlessness is a type of aversion. Anxiety is about facing ourselves, or not.
In the first stage of this practice the goal is to seek to sustain the concentration on the sensation of the breath. During this stage, when other sensations, impulses, emotions and thoughts arise, seek to remain focused on the breath. Every time there is distraction, simply come back to the breath focus. To take the practice of meditation beyond this point before facility is gained, results in disjointed and chaotic conditions of activated samskaras, without transformation.
As concentration reaches a certain level, we will find that we can remain focused on the breath for longer periods of time. This is still not true meditation, let alone Awareness Meditation, but is finally the stage which the Buddha referred to as ‘access concentration’. At this stage there will be only the peripheral notice of potential distractions that continue to arise in the field of awareness. Well and good.
The reason that we are taking the necessary time to build this foundation is that too many disciples in the world do not properly meditate, because the concentration is not adequate. This results in: clogged systems, bouts with inertia, and the stimulation of glamour– hence the time taken to build to this point in this part of the essay (after all, simply put are not glamours but the full stimulation of sets and subsets of samskaras?). To go further into meditative work can cause what the Master Morya has referred to as the ‘crises of imperil’. Not being thoroughly grounded in the technique of concentration leading to the Buddha’s “Access Concentration” prolongs the difficulty of reaching the second degree consciousness, and really deepens the difficulty of the disciple in reaching the third degree initiate consciousness.
At this point one may choose to intensify the level of concentration while diminishing the field of awareness so that the breath becomes more and more absorbing while the presence of thoughts, emotions, sensations and the like diminish even more. Then and only then is the taking up of a seed thought of real and consistent value. We can then learn to eliminate awareness of the physical body all together, eventually learning to eliminate emotions and thought altogether. This is what the Tibetan was referring to when He mentioned Right Withdrawal, the gaining of facility is the establishing of right contemplation.
However, the introducing of Awareness Meditation becomes the most effective after the Access Concentration is developed. The gaining of mastery in awareness meditation, the introducing of awareness practice, makes the deeper withdrawal not only possible, but the necessary purification and transformation affected by the next phase under discussion here will result in drawing closer to Hierarchy, or more correctly, allows Hierarchy to attract us more closely. Service will become more effective.
The Essence of Awareness Meditation Practice
The entire reason for the presentation of this essay is because too many disciples between the second and third initiations (most of them) spend far too much time wrestling and contending with their samskaras, when they should be ‘putting them to bed’ and entering a ‘wider field of the Lord’ in service to the Plan and more engrossingly approach the ‘fiery worlds’. For want of placing into motion that mechanism which transforms the conflict and crisis, much time is lost, and unneeded pain, when the aspiration is invoking the higher energies and the disciple is too distracted with ‘dancing with the shadows’. It will dawn on the reader that the next set of instructions will be (far from concrete mental) placing the focus on that mode which invokes the abstract mental. This is what sets the “propelling points of transformation”.
The practice of awareness meditation is deceptively simple. Apart from adherence to a few fundamental principles, even though there are various ways of applying these principles, one will be practicing a true awareness meditation. Once the simple essence is understood we can begin to explore a variety of perspectives and modifications that will deepen, then ripen, the practice. After some time in laying the inner foundation, the deepening, ripening, sense of presence will present subtle variations which will naturally introduce the higher fiery energies. The practice of adherence to the quality of mindfulness, observation or awareness is the key and is given the main emphasis. Awareness is a part of other practices, but in this essence first introduced by the Buddha, awareness is given the main emphasis. First begins effort, because we must establish a rhythm of practice, then other qualities come to the fore: devotion and surrender, bliss and lovingkindness. The underlying quality which remains after effort establishes rhythm, and deepens all the other cultivated qualities is mindfulness. It will be then easy to see why the Buddha first stressed access concentration. As this practice deepens and begins to ripen (which is another way of describing the result of invoking the presence of the solar angel, and eventually the Presence Itself) the practice will widen to develop the relative balance of the main facets in the spiritual nature – awareness, love, energy, devotion, equanimity among others. First it is important to take up the practice that develops each of these aspects separately so that each is strengthened in us and is more accessible as a quality which then radiates out into the environment. It is at that point when the practitioner reaches the stage to better work with integration, coordination of the personality, personality/soul fusion, finally into nondual awareness (the Presence of the Monad).
Is it now possible to see that taking these Buddhist practices at their essence how the Buddha was able to point the student to the attainment of Nirvana? The transcendental structure as presented by Buddha was weighed down with form and institutionalism resulted in future generations missing the point of His Teaching entirely. People failed to realize it was the structure itself that allowed one to Enter the Stream into the Dharma. (However, the inner traditions never lost this point) The loss of this bit of mindfulness has resulted in many disciples failing to “get it”, thereby not picking up the thread consciously until often times just before the third initiation. Just think where we would be today as disciples if we “caught the thread” right at the first initiation and put into motion that transcendental essence which was the heart of the Buddha’s presentation even at the beginning . . .
Also, the gaining of facility in this makes the practice of Vipassana, the open-eyed meditation, which the Buddha also recommended, possible.
Awareness Practice is dependent on the foundation of selective concentration. When an adequate level of selective concentration is established (access concentration) one can begin shifting modes to a more non-selective mode of concentration that emphasizes a more open awareness. In this type of awareness, the simple noticing of whatever presents itself to the field of consciousness, through the circumscribed field of for instance equanimity, rather than restricting awareness to a specific focus such as mantra, visualization, or a chakra is key. What happens when this route is taken first, the other forms of focus (mantra, visualization, etc.} result in performing that focus at the periphery of the fiery worlds. In more selective concentration we restrict and then eliminate extraneous thought, sensation and other phenomena to an object and progressively become more absorbed in that object. The two approaches are not exclusive of each other, but the selective concentration, without the awareness quality cultivation, results in the contacted energies also highly stimulating the samskaras.
In awareness practice we lean in the direction of allowing these phenomena (thoughts, sensations, sounds, visuals) to arise in the awareness while focusing on cultivating the ability to remain alert (awake) mindful but detached – maintaining the attitude of the observer. In this way we remain concentrated in our ‘presence’ and awareness in each moment of whatever arises naturally, but needs to pass through our generated field of transpersonal quality. In this way the seeds of bodhicitta are planted and take root.
When the practice of awareness meditation has reached a significant level of development, we are able to remain undistracted in any situation, sitting in meditation or in daily living because of the developed form of spiritual awareness that is not using the support of an object of focus. In this way, the state of presence ripens into the field of the ashram vertically and horizontally into the world of form. Thus do we become true servers, and we are not semi-consciously distracted in daily living as in ineffective meditation. Nor are we caught up in the narcotic of forced chaotic activity because the personality is not in synch with ashramic rhythm. Awareness practice integrates our inner and outer environment into the meditation because whatever is occurring in the field of awareness is the current object of meditation. We grow in our ability to greet each moment of experience consciously and we grow in our ability to let it pass by without attachment, while remaining alert, relaxed and content giving rise to great equanimity and FREEDOM!
However, both forms of practice are valid, but in practicing this way, we bring in the light of the soul (first, last, and always) and when moving into (even somewhat concurrently) into the selective mode, then we enter deeper levels of reality, not the danger of deeper levels of glamour. The Tibetan has repeatedly stated that the light of the soul dispels glamour, hence the value of destroying glamours with deepening qualities of soul before attempting to withdraw into contemplation and Samadhi, the door into the higher worlds. The quality of what we are determines whether we enter the higher worlds, or lower astral or lower mental sub-planes. We are attempting to quantify those qualities which bring on the light of the soul, and in the fullness of time, the Life of the Monad.
Dimensions of Awareness
So it can be seen that the aim of Awareness Meditation is to arrive at that state of presence in which the awareness is uniformly open to any and all dimensions of experience, that is, mindful of bodily and sensory states, emotional and motivational, of thought and memory, and then the ripening involves the more subtle spiritual experiences while neither grasping nor rejecting anything that arises. Thus do we finally know truth. Thus do we approach existence with profound spiritual peace, clarity, bliss and freedom. This will naturally arise to the extent of the attainment of a pure, equanimous, awareness of what is arising. Do you see how this naturally leads to the trechko, the cutting through the causal field into transcendental states of nonduality?
The Buddha in discussing awareness practice (He called it Vipassana) repeatedly referred to “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness”. These are foundations of experience, the specific areas where one focuses one’s concentration and awareness. The Four Foundations are four general areas of experience that one might choose as a daily field of meditation in cultivating mindfulness/awareness. These four are the body, feelings, consciousness, and ‘dharmas’ (the various fundamental elements or contents of the mind).
Awareness of the body includes the general and specific sensations of the presence of the body and the sensory (etheric) awareness through the body (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing). Mindfulness or awareness centered in the ‘foundation of body’. This uses the flow of bodily experience (rather that the interpretation of, and reactions to, these sensations) as the center of our practice.
Feeling as a foundation of mindfulness refers to the sensation of emotion and motivation.
The foundation of consciousness is the content of thought and memory and the ‘knowing’ of something – the factor of awareness itself.
Dharmas is the term in Buddhist psychology to refer to the various basic contents of knowing consciousness. For instance, observing the quality of arising anger through the sense of detachment refers to the quality of ‘dharmas’ which begin to transform because of the detached, open, non-reactive, awareness.
The beauty of all this is that the awareness practice espoused by the Buddha brings on the contents to be properly dealt with in order to achieve nirvana. Is it then possible to see that the awareness practice more evenly invokes the absorptive states mentioned by the Buddha! The difference is that the process is brought on in the direct manner of the spiritual warrior, rather than lost time wandering as a victim of circumstance, or of glamour and illusion.
Contentment and Equanimity
In the process of cultivating aspects of our innate being, our spiritual presence, we must consider many qualities which are exhibited by the awakened being. Consider these qualities as facets of one reality, our soul or Christ presence. These qualities are the fruits of spiritual development as well as the tools we use to cultivate our innate spirituality, ultimately leading to the realization of our non-dual or Absolute nature. This is ultimately beyond any definition of terms of even universal qualities as love, peace, joy, equanimity or wisdom. These qualities, when sufficiently cultivated and ripened, DO lead to the doorway to the fiery worlds. Spiritual qualities are often grouped in specific ways such as the Buddha’s Seven Factors of Enlightenment, or the Six (or Ten) Paramitas (literally the Perfections of the Bodhisattvas). All spiritual traditions have groupings that point to the cultivation of qualities leading to the Absolute.
Both Hindu and Buddhist traditions have a grouping of four major virtues also called the Four Immeasurables. Brahma-Viharas in Sanskrit is roughly translated as the “Stations of Brahma”. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refers in sutra 1.33 to the practice of cultivating these four virtues.
These four virtues are: equanimity, lovingkindness, compassion and sympathy. Compassion and Sympathetic Joy can be viewed as aspects of lovingkindness. Lovingkindness is the spirit of selfless caring, that concern for the well-being and spiritual progress of another (beginning bodhicitta). These are basically the outcome of the sense of sharing in the experience of others in the light of the soul. Should that experience be painful, love takes the form of compassion. Empathy, with the experience of happiness in another may be called ‘sympathetic joy’. Therefore compassion and sympathetic joy are simply two aspects of love (empathy and caring) reflecting the positive or negative conditions of others in the light of the soul, or presence.
All paths are based on the development of equanimity, whether it be the path of love, devotion, beauty, wisdom or surrender. Equanimity is the key to personality/soul fusion.
Equanimity is inner poise and balance. It is the establishing of a balanced, equal relationship to all aspects experience. When we divide the phenomena of life into what we like and what we dislike, we foster attachment, judgment, and aversion. We then restrict our awareness and life force, and bar the recognition and inclusion of the ripening of non-duality. As a result, we suffer. The cultivation of equanimity liberates us from these entanglements. Ripening equanimity de-centralizes us, giving peace, clarity and freedom.
It is equanimity which will describe our way of relating both outwardly to our field of service and inwardly to Hierarchy and the fiery worlds. It will slowly define the quality of our thought, feelings, desires, aversions, attachment to the form nature, our possessions, events, relating to other people, even Nature, whole Kingdoms, higher orders of wholeness and oneness. The result is that we neither foster aversion or desire, grasping or pushing away. The cultivation of equanimity will manifest the dual qualities of detachment and acceptance. When expressed in the presence of aversion, coming from within us or in our environment, takes the form of acceptance and detachment. We return to balance because we apply a third quality to duality which will synthesize into the non-dual absolute. However, acceptance does not mean that we remain passive in the face of injustice, but rather in the course of needed action, we remain inwardly at peace, avoiding excessive judgment.
One of the most important ways to apply equanimity in our own lives is towards all the ways in which we lack equanimity. We therefore follow the Middle Way espoused by Buddha and the Hierarchy. We unfold equanimity in our lives by learning to live with our humanness and through the acceptance discover our own path of expanding the heart and growing equanimity. Is it therefore clear that in establishing and expanding the sense and experience of presence in our lives we draw to that Presence which is our ‘comforter’. We must also seek to avoid that aggression which demands equanimity from others.
With the growth of equanimity the mind discover a naturally expansive spaciousness, because through the cultivation of equanimity we discover Space, which HPB asserted was an Entity. This act throws open the windows of the mind allowing the cooling balm of Presence to take residence and we discover that softening which expands the heart and we are therefore less and less harsh with self and others, and discover the depths of mercy and forgiveness. In fact equanimity gives courage to open the heart to discover the reservoirs of greater joy, bliss, beauty and love, but most importantly, the compassion to beat the pain and suffering that is so much a part of living on this non sacred planet. Suzuki Roshi describes equanimity as the ‘beginners mind’: a fresh awareness in each moment – not deadened by habitual modes of perception and interpretation.
The Intuition, the quality of Buddhi, flourishes with growing equanimity.
As equanimity unfolds in our physical lives (a natural first result of cultivation) our senses are cleansed and enlivened. We are liberated from false identification with our bodies, manifesting the freedom to live from the heart.
Emotionally we are gradually freed from compulsive and unconscious behavior.
Mentally, equanimity makes room for greater wisdom and love in living, a capacity for more relaxing and spaciousness in each moment, and the FREEDOM to embrace more wholesome actions.
In more fully developing equanimity we are not attracted to spiritual states and experience either, but have the grace to honor all dimensions of experience – the bodhisattva lifting all to Heaven. Equanimity leads to initiation, human, solar and cosmic.
Ultimately, equanimity nurtures a form of awareness that sees all through the Eye of God.
Equanimity is both a method we can truly use to lead to this perception and a quality that arises naturally as a result of this perception.
Equanimity is that quality describing an awakened relationship to samsara, to the realms of birth and death, and to the conditions arising from the misunderstanding of who we truly are. Equanimity expresses wisdom, acceptance and surrender to life on its own terms. As such, equanimity has a somewhat negative connotation to the uninitiated, not in the spirit of a negative trait, but in describing a state of releasing attraction and repulsion to that which cannot ultimately satisfy our true nature. We come to a state of balance, of refusal to be involved in a confused relationship with that which appears to be separate from us in the ultimate sense.
What is misunderstood by the uninitiated is that equanimity brings such bliss, a great openness of heart, profound peace and contentment. Therefore this is not a cold or stoic state of being. True equanimity brings expansive love and an intimacy with all things, all beings. Equanimity is therefore spacious and luminous. The Tibetan Buddhist refers to the expansion of luminosity into the nondual as the ‘child luminosity’.
One quality which can be easily related to equanimity is contentment. Contentment is a positive description of equanimity. We realize a deepening independence from all that used to condition our happiness. If conditions are not as we would like, or desire, or if attached to conditions remaining as they are (pertaining to past and future personal expectation as well) then we suffer – often to punish those we seek to conform to our needs, and later some seek to punish the universe.
Spiritual contentment is not the state of static or laziness. It is simply that we are no longer looking for personal fulfillment through our experience. We then become the source, or are connected to the Source, of our satisfaction, fulfillment our contentment in life. We let go of personally wanting the conditions of our lives, our bodies, our emotional and psychological needs, to be the way for us to be happy-pervasive equanimity-we then naturally rest in a profound, unshakeable contentment.
Contentment is one of the fundamental keys to awakening. From the standpoint of Hindu philosophy we experience a steadily deepened sense of sat-chit-ananda: Spiritual Beingness-universal consciousness-unconditional bliss. These same qualities are considered in the Vedanta Vision as being the essential attributes of the Atman, the liberated spiritual core of all beings. Ordinary experience is vastly limited and unstable reflection of our true nature, the Atman, or True Self. Through spiritual practice (coming up I promise you, since we are presenting an abstract mental practice we must build up the abstract mental focus) we cultivate that mindfulness/awareness and in doing so, we gradually expand our awareness into fuller and unbounded consciousness of our spirit. More importantly, we also first explore the nature of our ordinary beingness until it too expands, through that transformational release into realization of our true Being or Self.
Similarly we cultivate the realization of absolute bliss through realizing first the expansion of our capacity for unconditional satisfaction, the transcendence and fulfillment of all lesser pleasures, happiness and satisfactions. We get a hold of this vast potential for realizing bliss by cultivating contentment.
As we grow into our ability to access contentment and not only in our periods of quiet contemplation, but throughout our waking and dreaming, this contentment will deepen and ripen into that unshakable peace and bliss of our Buddha-nature.
Contentment then is not simply one of many hundreds of spiritual qualities; it is really one of the most essential keys to awakening. It is similar to such qualities as awareness, equanimity, love, concentration, wisdom and discipline. Contentment is the precursor to our finding fulfillment in our natural state. We need to re-phrase the spirit of bodhisattva-hood as the vow to work to bring all beings to ultimate, absolute contentment.
The qualities mentioned, the Brahma-Viharas, contentment, will form that diamond light which ultimately guides us Home.
The simplest way to cultivate contentment (or any of highest spiritual qualities) is to be mindful of contentment while doing any form of sitting practice. Whenever we sit in meditation, have contentment as the basic foundation. Then make contentment the central theme, of our meditation. It can be tremendously powerful as the practice takes hold to sit and follow the breath and be particularly mindful of seeking to rest in a peaceful state of contentment with the universe. This does not mean, however, that there may not be other experiences that pass by the consciousness, come up into consciousness so to speak; uncomfortable sensations or emotions. Only, and here was one of the Buddha’s central themes, rest in an innermost state of presence and awareness, allowing what needs to come up, or pass by, and let these samskaras come to our awareness through the chosen state of mindfulness. With just a little experience, the inner presence will touch the samskara with a drop of the nondual presence, turning that same samskara into a propelling point of transformation. Through such a practice we directly explore and expand on the truth that we do not really need anything interesting, pleasurable or otherwise fulfilling to occur in our physical or psychological experience in order to be spiritually content – even bliss. This will lead to the invoking of the atmic, and later even the monadic, into our state of presence.
Variations will come up in consciousness, let it happen but do not make it happen, by using words or phrases to stimulate, or as a response to deepening, attunement. We can do this in conjunction with other practices after a while as a response to the deepening with following the breath, listening to the inner sound, by being one-pointed in our focus, the possibilities may be endless. The main point being, let the variation well up from the state of presence we invoke. This attitude of observer will become more and more spacious and expansive, as the energy of the samskara activators are redirected for direct use of the soul nature for service.
Practicing contentment throughout the day is, like working with any other universal quality, a matter of remembering to return to the more relaxed, contented state whenever we notice we have become tense, or anxious, caught up in the drama of our lives and the outer world. Let go, accepting and returning to intrinsic contentment.
Each of the qualities touched on in this part of the Essay are designed to ripen into the full spectrum of spiritual potential qualities in human nature. The spiritual practice develop a path or linking thread that seeks to gradually and smoothly unfold these aspects in our nature. The practice, as outlined by the Buddha, is like developing a spiritual muscle or organ, and the practice of those qualities we like, to the neglect of those qualities that make us uncomfortable, will achieve a short term goal of personal liberation, but will not achieve the deepening potential, and inevitable calling, of full enlightenment and spiritual individuation.
These qualities are aspects of our underlying spiritual nature, that state of presence. The spiritual practice invokes that sense of presence within us, adding the higher rhythm to our samskaras, eventually transcending duality or Maya and will also be due to the collective fruits of our spiritual development from numerous lifetimes. The distillation of character and spiritual realization is what makes us aware of our transcendental nature, while at the same time is also present to our relative existence. It infuses into the personal/relative.
Qualities of Presence
Following is an attempt to organize the innumerable qualities of presence into several general categories:
* Awareness — Qualities that reflect this aspect are mindfulness, clarity, consciousness, wakefulness, and attention.
* Equanimity — Other terms that reflect this aspect include detachment, acceptance, dispassion and spiritual indifference.
* Peace – Tranquility, contentment, serenity, calm and bliss.
* Love – Compassion, sympathetic joy, generosity of spirit, selfless service, caring and understanding.
* Wisdom – Inquiry, discrimination, insight, understanding, discernment and knowledge.
* Devotion – Faith, trust, surrender, grace and gratitude.
* Will – Responsibility, choice, intention, discipline, concentration, effort, work, patience and inspiration.
There is no perfect way to categorize these subjects, but from the standpoint of the abstract to the nondual, these can work quite adequately.
This list does help clarify the needed task of identifying areas of practice, which are designed to call forth those qualities direct from our own expanding sense of presence. The list does not cover or exhaust the qualities or virtues (how to exhaust the Dharma?), but does cover a comprehensive foundation, and when pursued will generate the needed points of propelling transformation.
Heart of Awakening Presence
The essence of Awakening lies in remembering the natural, unconditional state. This is not a belief system or code of ethics. Spiritual awakening happens everytime we remember to come back to ourselves, recollect ourselves and thereby moving closer to the universal Self which is our underlying nature. The direct realization of transcendent reality is not immediately accessible to most of us as a luminous apparent truth (that would imply the attainment of togal). However, each time we can move closer to this state through innumerable keys or tools, those methods that bridge to this reality leads to that Remembering which is the heart of spiritual awakening.
Levels of Presence
Presence is that underlying state of spiritual being that is the foundation of all awakened qualities. When we manifest humility, compassion or clarity, we are manifesting aspects or underlying presence. There our levels to this Presence, manifested initiations, pointing to the nondual aspect, called Rigpa in the Dzogchen and Atman in Hinduism. This is that state of liberated presence beyond not only limiting identification with the body, emotions and mind, but even beyond intuition and spiritual qualities as well. It is a level of our being that rests in direct realization of our absolute nature, the monadic, even while living in the world.
Each moment of cultivating a bit more patience, understanding, detachment, awareness or any other qualities is a moment of awakening, that moment when we move closer to a remembering of our true nature. The accumulation of awakening leads to core spiritual awakening, the initiation into greater Life, and Life more abundantly so. Cultivating these qualities is the bridge to transcendent realization. Every act of remembering to return to the moment, letting go of anxiety and regret, to be content with life as it is, is a step into our deeper nature.
In Part IVb we will explore an exact technique of Lovingkindness Practice, the use of Awareness Practice in other techniques such as the Inner Sound Current (in inner meditation and during heightened points of service) and end with a discussion of Trechko Practice.