21 October 2015

As an undergraduate, I majored in western philosophy, and was most interested in ontology (the structures of the existing), and epistemology (How do we know about those structures).  My favorite philosophers were Kant and Hume on the ontological end and Carnap, Quine, and Wittgenstein as to the nature of language, logic, and the mind.

However, sometime during my sophomore or junior year I knew without a shadow of doubt that there was no ultimate truth to be found there and left philosophy to study subjects closer to everyday life—economics.  But after three years of advanced study of macro economics, market theory, and money and banking, I saw again that theory was just a map, not the terrain itself, and most all the maps did more to confuse than make clear.

I found Eastern philosophy just as boring and off the point as Western philosophy, lost in concepts about the nature of reality and God.  Boring, boring, and so far from my direct experience such that I got into Zen, a transmission of Buddha’s enlightenment outside of the scriptures, except maybe for the Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, and the Lankanavatara Sutra, none of which meant anything to me then.

Unfortunately, not only did Zen toss out verbal and written teachings, it also got rid of Subtle Body energies, emotions, and the personal.  It is very one-sided and impersonal, even though quite brilliant and clear.

I remember taking Swami Shankarananda to see Seung Sahn Soen Sa some time after 1980, and noting how put off he was by Zen’s formality and lack of warmth.

Later I encountered Nisargadatta through Ramesh Balsekar, and then spent some weeks with Balsekar himself and found Nisargadatta’s Advaita as expounded by Ramesh extremely fascinating.  Indeed, one of my Zen Master’s, Song Ryong Hearn, also attended a few of Ramesh’s talks, turned to me during a break, and said that Ramesh’s exposition was as close as one can come to Zen’s truth in words.
Then I found Robert Adams, the history of which I have written about many, many times over the last 15 years.

Robert’s single teaching was that all that there is, is Consciousness, although at times, saying Consciousness itself was illusory.  You, as a human, do not exist.  The world is illusion, ignore it.  Follow the I-thought to its root, and through these teachings, had basic awakening to unbounded consciousness, the disappearance of all divisions within awareness and rest in the totality of Consciousness.

Since then I have had a very hard time reading, as I always had my own awareness to read by going within, observing my own awareness and the objects within Consciousness, such as my body experienced from inside, my emotions, my desires, thoughts, and imagination.
Nisargadatta’s world view is basically yogic, speaking of the four bodies, and beyond that, the Absolute, which he called Parabrahman.  He is terrible as a teacher of the fundamental Advaita he teaches because he speaks in aphorisms as opposed toa linear description. His expositions always lead to shutting down of the mind in stunned silence creating mindless states in his listeners, much like a Zen master with Koans or direct, physical blows.

Now, Rinzai Zen too has this brazen and somewhat violent approach to teaching, silencing the mind through physical blows or conundrums, but is heavily criticized by the Soto school of Zen, that does accept scripture study and sitting in silence, or just sitting, as proper meditation.  They regard Rinzai teachers and students almost as common thugs or retards, without subtlety or sophistication.  Rinzai masters on the other hand, regard Soto teachers as effete academics entirely lost in their minds or in quietism.

I guess my attitude towards scriptures has long had a Rinzai flavoring, and scriptural study was to be avoided at all costs for fear of getting stuck in words and concepts, drying out and becoming an old fart without juice.

However, to my great joy, now reading Shankarananda’s book, ‘Consciousness is Everything’ gives me a new appreciation for the scriptural approach.

I know that with Swami Chetanananda, I made myself a pest by criticizing his constant consort with academics to build a base or foundation for the future of Kashmir Shaivism in America.

But Shankarananda’s book is different.  It is not written in a boring, academic style, but from a personal point of view, filled with the delight and joy he experiences in the teachings and his own life.

The Kashmir Shaivism presented by Swamiji is very broad and rich, as well as deep, compared to the very linear verticality of Zen and Robert’s and Nisargadatta’s Advaita.

Shnakarananda’s Kashmir Shaivism is broad, rich, and great fun.  I feel a great happiness to experience all that I have experienced in terms of yogic bodies, altered states, unity consciousness within a broad context of teachings that is very rich, very personal, very much alive, and expressed with great joy.

I think Advaita and Kashmir Shavism are experiential antidotes to each other; one provides context, the other focuses entirely on the end state, the final goal.  I guess I will have to read one or two of Chetanananda’s books now to better “feel” the Shaivite approach.

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