The saying, “All roads lead to Rome” does not apply in the spiritual world at all. The paths are different, the techniques are different, the so-called awakenings are different, and the ideas of what constitute a good teacher versus a totally “enlightened being” who may or may not be a teacher, are also different.
The Mind, Consciousness, spiritual experience, emptiness, the Void, devotion, love, grace, ALL VARY FROM TRADITION TO TRADITION.
You will find no mention of the place of love in Zen. You will find no philosophy in Zen. You will find no “final truth” in Zen. There is no discussion of the Absolute, and relative versus absolute.
However, you will find a lot said about form and emptiness, and the empty nature of feeling, thought, the sense data, and of Consciousness itself. You will chant about form and emptiness twice a day in a monastery, and practice many hours either of silent sitting doing nothing (Shikantaza of Soto Zen), or the same number of hours working on up to 25,000 Koans, each “testing” whether you understood elements of the awakenings of fifty generations of Rinzai monks.
Hidden and pervading all of Zen is the Chinese culture and ideas common a thousand years ago, all of which shape your training, your insights, your meditation discoveries and experiences.
There are a lot of hidden rules of behavior controlling your every action, and every action is judged by these hidden cultural artifacts. In fact, along with enlightenment, you have become a replicate of a Zen man of 900 AD China.
How do I know this? How can I make this judgment?
I spent nearly 25 years studying with six Zen masters from Rinzai and Soto schools from three different national traditions: China, Japan, and Korea. I was named America’s first International or World-teacher of Chogye Zen Buddhism in 1999. And, one of my teachers, Kozan Roshi was very explicit about this, saying, “You cannot understand Zen without understanding ancient Chinese culture.” Once you have spent 30 years mastering the insights of 50 generations of previous masters you will have received a total makeover, escaping from your culture of being a 21st Century American or European, the being an integration of that and also of a 10th Century Chinese monk.
I am trying to make myself clear. You have obtained the wisdom but also the limitations of a foreign culture preserved only in monasteries. You will have learned one way of understanding concepts, words, the nature of Consciousness, the manifest world and the unmanifest. You will have learned a great deal about emptiness, AKA the Void, and one’s manifest experiences.
Tibetan Buddhism is exactly as culture-bound and tradition-driven as Zen, but with a lot more reading of scriptures from the various schools of Buddhism dating back 2,500 years. Each school has different interpretations of what “reality,” time, space, emptiness, and phenomena “are” or mean. Tibetans also embrace Tantra, which is utilizing one’s desires to foster awakening.
Then there are the Advaita schools with the current best known historical examples of Ramana Maharshi/Robert Adams and Siddharameshwar/Nisargadatta.
It is by means of the teachings and practices of these two schools that I had my first two awakening experiences many years ago: first of “No-self,” then of the recognition that I was even beyond the emptiness and fullness of Consciousness itself. I was the witness of all that happened in Consciousness, including the comings and goings of the various states of Consciousness, such as the sleep, dream, and awakened states of Consciousness, as well as te knowing ness of the Subtle Body, the unknowing of the Causal Body, and also the bliss/love of Turiya.
Siddharameshwar presents a coherent model allowing the student to examine the various levels of his or her Consciousness in order to find the “location” of the sense of “I,” or “I Am.” That is, one meditates on one’s own inner experience “looking” and “feeling” for the Self, not the imaginary self that most people believe they are which consists of the idea of an inner, “objective” self, which actually has no referent, and the “seeing-through” of which results in the experience of yourself as having no objective existence, and that what one is, is a unitary oneness state with no inner or outer boundaries; one becomes limitless emptiness shining by its own light of awareness.
This is indeed a deep and profound progressive understanding of yourself, first as a person, then as various levels of Consciousness experience, then as the witness, or Absolute, not touched by Consciousness.
BUT, IT IS STILL A SCHOOL, A PARTIAL LOOK AT THE TOTALITY OF YOU. It is a system, a method of investigation, and a set of conclusions.
It posits that there is no objective self as in Zen, but also there are “levels of Consciousness” which need to be explored in order to discover who and what I am.
The levels are one’s sensual experience of a supposed external world as a body/mind, the knowingness of the mind, energies, emptiness of the Subtle Body, the non-knowing, or non-existence of the Causal Body, and finally, the bliss and energies of Turiya, which is the basic nature of the most subtle aspect of Consciousness. Turiya is the source of the sense of I Am.
In Turiya we find the sense of me or I Am that pervades all other levels of Consciousness. Then, one discovers the one who has explored all these levels and found oneself, the I Am, and who is entirely beyond Consciousness. This witness, the Absolute, Parabrahman, watches and experiences Consciousness, but is entirely beyond it, untouched by it, but the Witness has mistakenly identified itself with the personhood of the sensual physical world, as well as with the I Am of Turiya, and upon this recognition, goes completely beyond Consciousness and has snuffed out all desires and karma keeping one engaged with Consciousness and its apparent worlds, leading to the same state that Hinayana Buddhists call Moksha, or liberation from attachments to the world and Consciousness, leaving one in the most profound peace and happiness, where there is completion and perfection everywhere one looks.
Siddharameshwar and Maharaj consider this witness, Parabrahman, to be the subject, the True Self so to speak, as opposed of the illusory objective self of concepts, roles, and the I-thought, that are initially seen through and called recognizing No-Self, or no objective self, or no separate self. But the feeling I Am of Turiya, is not part of the subject, but is still an object witness by the absolute. Even those with limited meditation experience early become aware of the difference between the witness and the sense of Self found in Turiya.
However, Siddharameshwar goes one step further than his two students Nisargadatta and Ranjit, admonishing the transcender to continue to worship and devote oneself to love of Turiya, for without that love, one dries up and becomes useless.
My own teacher, and his mentor, Ramana Maharshi missed this aspect of devotion altogether. And Robert rarely acknowledged that there was a witness beyond Consciousness, and usually held that one was the totality of Consciousness. Yet, from time to time he would say even Consciousness does not exist and you are even beyond Consciousness. He felt the teachings of the absolute was beyond most of his students. And, while he talked about love, love was not at the beginning or end of either his philosophy or his methods. Love, you might say, was almost just an add-on.
If you read Robert’s transcripts you hear much mention of love, sometimes as an intrinsic aspect of Consciousness. But if you actually spent much time with him as I did over 8 years, you will find him rather removed and cold. He was not a warm, smiling, happy being. He was indifferent to most every situation. He felt “cold.”
Yet, in his everyday life Robert actually practiced a search for love in women and a few students. He had a difficult time staying in this apparent physical world. His dog Dimitri, of whom Robert said kept him grounded, and when Dimitri died, he would die, which is exactly what happened. But mostly, when not doing something, or seeing someone, or while being at Satsang, Robert would sit quietly by himself, hour after hour, doing nothing.
Yet Robert himself actively searched for the love of a woman including the physical aspects, because he was human, and because dwelling in the peace and completeness of the Absolute eventually results in the need to worship Consciousness and the easiest way to do that is to worship—for Robert—the embodied feminine.
His behaviors towards some of his female students was a constant source of criticism from some critics, but I saw it as a desire to worship Consciousness in the embodied form of women. It is exactly what Siddharameshwar recommended: worship Consciousness, and the essence of Consciousness is found in Turiya, the experience of which is Love and Bliss. Turiya could be called the love/bliss body as per Jan Esmann.
And, love of a physical man or woman, in the highest sense, is love of the I Am, Turiya, the Love/Bliss Body felt first in another, which then allows the Love/Bliss Body then to be found in oneself as a personal Self-Realization of having the “other,” Turiya, presenting herself or himself to you appearing as “God,” as an experience of incredible love, blissful energies and as the light of Consciousness as bright and pervading as a thousand suns all exploding from within YOU, as your own intrinsic Turiya nature.
However beautiful, consistent and complete is the Siddharameshwar model, you have to understand it still is only one model of Consciousness and Beyond, and does not contain the Zen model or experiences as subsets, nor does it contain God, the divine, nor really does it talk about the Void. It is one of many snapshots of the totality of all that is.
Each of these traditions can take many years to master, and to do so, you have to stay with one teacher or one method for many years to dig a hole into Consciousness to reveal all that is to be revealed by that teacher or method. Otherwise, one flits between teachers and books about or by different teachers each of whom has their own model of reality, their own methods from meditation, to Koans, to rituals, to scripture studies, etc. Without deviation, one needs to follow one method or teacher to dig deeply into the nature of one’s self that has been explored and articulated by whole lineages of teachers.
If you do not persist in one method or one tradition, you will dig, as Osho said, many shallow holes as opposed to reaching the depths of Consciousness.