Thursday, October 8, 2009

Soruba Samadhi

I wanted to share a few things about the process of attaining physical immortality from several angles. One is that there is a difference between a "metaphysical philosophy" and a "scientific approach". Metaphysical philosophies start with the question "What is reality?" and formulate some vision about the nature of reality. They define a lot of terms, usually very precisely, define a series of principles or laws which govern events and objects in the universe, and sometimes define some potential that we have that is related to how reality is. Even though later Buddhism also developed a number of metaphysical views, the Buddha himself did not have one. When Hindu philosophers asked a lot of detailed metaphysical questions, the Buddha would often say, "You have come to the wrong person to have your questions answered. I merely show you sorrow and the ending of sorrow." The Buddha was very agnostic about the nature of reality and often very silent about those kinds of questions. He was clear that thought by itself could not come to the nature of reality and both questions and answers are thoughts. So Buddha was already doing what Zen masters call "using thought to go beyond thought". Metaphysics is about building up a whole system of thought in order to understand reality better. But the Buddha tended to see all metaphysics are "speculative views" which can lead to "a tangle of views, a thicket of views, and views clashing with views". He also had ten metaphysical questions that he did not want his monks and nuns wasting too much time contemplating, like "Did the universe have a beginning or did it always exist?" (to which he said the answer to this question was "lost in the night of time"). He did not want his students to waste their mental energy trying to answer questions like that. In thousands of years, these questions still seem somewhat unresolved in the minds of many people. There are usually several views that seem to recur, like the big bang theory, the cyclical death and rebirth of the universe theory, the endlessly expanding theory, and the steady state theory. Sometimes it is interesting to contemplate those theories, but not when we are in sorrow. I do find that most people, whether they have a fully developed metaphysics or not, still suffer and merely having the right philosophy seems to not help this. Even Christians who believe that they are "born again" and "saved" still suffer.

So what the Buddha did was put all metaphysics aside and look into his experience. He shifted to thinking about reality to looking at reality. He focused on the psychological movement of sorrow within himself and by looking at this movement of sorrow for 40 straight days, meditating day and night, the movement of sorrow came completely to an end. According to Buddhist tradition, when he became enlightened he attained "omniscience," he knew everything. This kind of omniscience, though, does not mean that Buddha can win every game of Trivial Pursuit and answer every single question that a person has about any subject whatsoever. When we are enlightened, there is a feeling of knowing everything. When Buddha elaborated about this state of omniscience, he said he could get answers by "putting attention on something," "tuning in," and letting the object of his attention "reveal itself". When we are in enlightenment, we are in radiant awareness. This energy is no longer filtered, constrained, obscured, or channeled by thought. It freely radiates in all directions instantaneously and encompasses the whole universe. You feel the universe reveal itself. The word that the Buddha used to describe what he saw was "tathata" which is sometimes translated as "suchness". When applied to the nature of the universe, it roughly translates as, "It is what it is." It is seeing and feeling what it is, free from all the speculations of thought, even if those speculations are true.

To get some flavor of tathata, let us take two views about the nature of reality. The first one is that the universe is a godless realm of material processes. The second one is that the universe is an illusion or dream of the mind. When you feel the unfoldment of the universe beyond the speculations of thought, you realize that the labels "material" and "illusion" are just labels. They do not really say anything about what you are in contact with when you are merely aware. What does it mean that something is an "illusion"? What does it mean that something is "real"? When we say that something is an illusion, we usually mean that it is not what we think it is. But if we are not thinking about what something is, one way or another, then we cannot be deceived and therefore it cannot be an illusion for us. If a magician creates the illusion that a rabbit is coming out of a hat, it is only an illusion if we believe something about the hat and later on find out it is not true. If a rope appears as a snake and then we notice it is only a rope, then we say that the snake is an illusion. But what if we do not assume that it is "snake" or a "rope" and look at whatever reality is without any label whatsoever? There is a "something" going on that appears as a rope and appears as snake to people who have those labels in their minds. But what if labeling something is not that important and "just looking" is more important. Can we put aside all those labels and just be with our experience? This is what the Buddha did with every single philosophy that he studied in India for his seven years of searching. He realized that he DID NOT KNOW and put aside all the speculations of thought and all the attempts to capture the truth through thought, and he looked at sorrow. He looked at sorrow with the feeling that he might not find the answer to how sorrow could end. Looked at his experience to simply feel what sorrow was. He even removed the label "sorrow" and looked at what was being labeled without this label. He entered into a silent, sensitive, alert, and curious mind about the movement of sorrow and followed this inquiry for 40 days until he found the end of sorrow and the presence of peace. When we are there, we do feel that we know the meaning of life and the meaning of life is life itself.

Regular science believes in questioning everything, but they still use thought. They form a hypothesis, figure out some way to test this hypothesis through experimenting, perform the experiment, get their data, see if it is verifies or falsifies the hypothesis, and then they submit their findings to other scientists to see if they can duplicate the reasons and also to see if their experimental design has flaws. When there is some assertion about the nature of reality, a scientist tries to form some expectation about how reality would function if this assertion is true and then tries to test this expectation. If the expectation is confirmed, then the assertion is verified. If the expectation does not happen, then the assertion is considered false. This process even works with something as simple as, "There is a chair in the middle of the room." If this is true, if I walk across the middle of the room, then I will bump into this chair. If I walk across the room and I do not bump into the chair, then the chair does not exist. Perhaps the chair is a special chair, like a ghost chair, that you can walk through. Then there is a new hypothesis, "There is a ghost chair in the middle of the room." Then I would expect to at least be able to see it and put my hand through it. Then there is a new hypothesis, "There is an invisible ghost chair that you cannot see, taste, smell, touch, or taste." But when it is modified this much, then a scientist would ask the person, "What is the difference between this ghost chair and no chair at all?" If there is no difference, then the chair does not exist. If there is a difference, then some test must be able to be made to show this difference is real. This is roughly how science works versus speculative metaphysical thinking. Science and Buddhism move outside of thought to make contact with what is. Science uses testing expectations with some experiment. Buddhism and phenomenology use awareness. Scientists also use a kind of awareness, since every test involves some kind of sensing instrument to pick up what is going on reality. You could say that awareness is a low budget portable laboratory instrument that is highly underrated and which can be calibrated to pick up on almost any phenomena that arises in this universe.

Once awareness is liberated from the constraints of thought, we can still use thought without being trapped by thought. Thinking is a something very powerful. Ideas created by thought and embraced by thought have reshaped our human world. Thought is a power. Because it is a power, it can also trap us and limit us unless we are very careful. Many wars are fought simply because two different sides have different thoughts in their heads. Wars of believers against nonbelievers are made on the basis of thoughts being important enough to kill another human about. When we break free from thought, then we can use thought to communicate understanding rather than hypnotize people into believing us.

I had mentioned in a previous blog about the "dogma of aging and death". This is a deeply embedded thought inside our collective human consciousness. What this means is that there are tons of other thoughts that are interconnected with this core thought. Like a seed planted in the ground, the seed gathers energy from the sun, nutrients from the ground, water from the ground, and air from the sky and then synthesizes all these elements to create more of itself. The initial seed grows into a plant and sometimes even a forest. In a similar way, over time, this "meme" or core thought, builds up a whole system of thoughts around it until you have whole philosophies justifying it and proving it right in human minds. What I have found interesting about this dogma is that it is already implanted in everyone. You can find it embedded in movies, books, sermons, and discussions that humans see and/or hear. When I have brought up the idea for discussion, within seconds the dogma speaks. People do not even pause to reflect on the idea for a single second but instantly reject it. Or they move into psychoanalysis, saying that if you believe you can live forever that you must be afraid of death (which makes about as much sense as saying that people who believe they can fly must be afraid of gravity). In other words, the possible truth of the idea is automatically rejected. This is how deep this dogma is in the collective human mind. I remember one time a person said to me, "I will believe the idea when you live long enough to prove it." But according her belief, she will be dead before she can see me live long enough to prove it and thus will not be able to verify it. Maybe she might reincarnate and look me up, but then she will have had to attain the ability to take her present lifetime memories through the "amnesia gate" which she evidently did not do last lifetime (otherwise she would remember her previous past lifetime intentions). It takes a certain energy of inquiry to "think outside this box" (perhaps "coffin") and to give this idea a chance.

I was presented with this idea of physical immortality through my second spiritual teacher who was a Sufi and Christian Mystic. There was something about what he shared that struck a chord in me, even though my mind was immediately rejecting it too. Dogen Zenji, a Zen master, one time said, "Unless a teaching feels like it is forcing something on you it is probably not useful." In other words, a new alive idea will challenge our mental conditioning and offer us a new possibility. This idea of physical immortality challenges a pretty vast network of thought. It took me several years to contemplate this idea, question this idea, and ponder what it could mean if it were true. It was during this time that I found, much to my surprise, that there was no a single scientific shred of evidence that aging and death was NECESSARY. That aging and death HAPPEN is not in question by either mortalist or immortalists philosophies. So merely pointing to dead bodies is not the issue. For the mortalists to prove that aging and death do not merely happen, but MUST happen means that some mechanism must drive it that can be observed and shown to be uncompromising. There has been no such mechanism. The closest mechanism was the loss of telemeres each time our cells replicate, but telemerase apparently repairs the tears. Trying to find a cellular mechanism, though, is a bit of a contradiction, since our cells are intact enough to join in sex with another human being and produce a single cell that can become a whole young human body. If our aging cells can do this, then they can renew themselves too. Single celled creatures do not age and die, but split into two healthy cells to reproduce themselves. This means that the original Amoeba is still around as all its descendants. If we evolved from single celled creatures, then we evolved from essentially immortal cells.

If you release this idea that there is some mechanism which causes aging and death, then death is due to conditions that we can take responsibility for and do something about. My next inquiry is whether or not physical immortality was hard to attain or not. To me this is unproven either way, because something can only be considered hard if lots of people try, work hard, and fail. But because of the dogma of aging and death, very few people are trying. If you take simple common sense, that at the very minimum you would need to "embrace what is healthy and abandon what is not healthy," then who is doing this consistently? When I looked at people, I found that many people were indulging in all kinds of toxic habits, knowing that these habits were killing them, sometimes even knowing that they were being killed by these habits and even saying, "What does it matter, WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE ANYWAY!" (Freud defended smoking cigars with this thought). So in my scientific sociological study, merely looking around at people I knew, I found that not only were people not trying, people were knowingly keeping unwholesome habits of all kinds that would eventually kill themselves. They were all addictions of one kind or another like cigarette smoking, other kinds of smoking, overeating, drinking too much alcohol, coffee, etc. When I eliminated these as candidates for physical immortality, then I asked, "Who is doing some kind of health program?" I found that few were doing it consistently, every day or every week and also proactively eating the right foods (not merely not eating bad food). In short, there was no one, including myself. So I could not scientifically conclude that physical immortality was hard to do or easy to do.

I also saw that the feeling of being old was variable. It was not like every year I felt older and older. Feeling old and feeling young was a matter of energy. Some days I felt very old and tired, and the next day I did not. I found that the feeling of being alive and energized or old and aged was something that I could do something about. I found that if I meditated every day that it would regenerate me and that if I periodically did deep retreats I would super-regenerate for a short period of time. This meant that I needed precise knowledge to use my time very wisely. Fortunately there are yogic texts which do outline useful knowledge in this regard. The main thing that is emphasized is mastering pranayama, ending all toxic habits, becoming vegetarian, eating fresh clean food, doing periodic cleansings (one per a season at least), getting deep regenerative sleep, energy circulation, hatha yoga, and meditation. There are other things, like avoiding toxic company, thinking positive wholesome thoughts, being creative and purposeful in your work, and surrounding yourself with wholesome loving supportive friends. There are also special medicines which are alchemically powerful to help heal people, but these medicines work best when people are living a regenerative lifestyle.

But my contemplation did not stop here. I was understanding something about how we were actually aging ourselves with stress and killing ourselves with bad habits. But I came to understand a thought Leonard Orr had shared, "You are immortal until you prove otherwise." I was still seeing physical immortality as a goal to be attained, rather than as a natural state that I already had and just needed to take care of. There was one recent comment that still saw physical immortality as a goal. This is a natural thing for the mind to do, but it still has the belief that there is some mechanism to overcome. Yet there is no mechanism that needs to be overcome that has been found. It is the dogma of aging and death that makes us believe that there is some "thing" called "death" that we must fight, when death is only an effect of a lot of processes that we can potentially redirect. When I removed this "last doubt" about aging and death, then I felt this shift inside me. I felt an energy move across every cell in my body that felt like a shimmering. I felt both birth and death drop away from me and leave me in a simple physical here and now. I realized that the "thought of death" had released from inside me and with it the whole structure of thought that was built around it. I realized that this thought system was very heavy and oppressive to consciousness and body. I realized that I was free from it and my cells liked this new state.

In the year 800 CD, a Kriya Yoga master named Babaji (mentioned in the book AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI by Yogananda) attained, "Soruba Samadhi". The description of what happened to Babaji seems similar to what happened to me when the last doubt had released. I gather that his own process was most likely deeper and more thorough going than what happened to me, because it was supported by doing Kriya Yoga for at least 3.5 years at 8.5 hours per a day and with a regenerative lifestyle build around the practice. I could still feel some causes and conditions inside of me that needed to be released. I think when Soruba Samadhi is attained it is like an integration, crystallization, or stabilization of a regenerative physical body, heart, and mind. Whereas what I had was more like a "Soruba Satori" (flash of physical enlightenment moving across the mind, heart, and body about the nature of death and immortality which has a permanent result). This parallels the difference in Zen between satori and complete enlightenment. The two have the same taste and the same realization, but satori still needs about 20 years to fully mature into a deep enlightenment and still may not be fully complete. When you cannot totally renounce your life in the world, but must practice inside the world, it takes about 25 years of daily practice of one hour a day to do what it takes 3.5 years for a sannyasin to do. It is still important to be relatively karma free, not lying, stealing, killing, intoxicating, misusing sexual energy, or eating animal flesh, during those years of practice. Until then there is "relative immortality" where the balance between the degenerative forces in our bodies and regenerative forces in our bodies is tipped in favor of regeneration.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Will. More wonderful insights on physical immortality.
    My feeling is that physical immortality is in the now moment and in the journey. Like life, it is infinite and yet beckons us to also enjoy the playground of 'labels' with their experiences - the 'little' things.
    We can BE the mountain AND/OR have the experience of climbing the mountain. Yet with the knowing that our infinite consciousness goes way beyond any definition. The earth is one of our playgrounds.
    I like this quote from Harry Palmer of Avatar who said -'When we perceive that the only difference between any of us is beliefs, and that beliefs can be created or discreated with ease, the right and wrong game will wind down, and world peace will ensue.'
    blessings Janni

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  2. Thank you for sharing. I am finding it interesting just how many people are grokking this shift in consciousness and sharing their support for this shift. It is wonderful to feel a kind of community about this.

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  3. It is wonderful to feel the community energy that's developing.
    Thanks for introducing me to the 'grokking' word and concept - I like it!

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  4. Just as a footnote for anyone reading this side and who does not know what the word "grok" means, the word first appeared in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein (as far as I know) during the 1960s or 1970s. The book is about a human raised by Martians, about an evolution based spirituality, and other themes. It is probably one of the earliest and best writings of this author. The word "grok" is from the Martian language of the story. It has the meaning of "drinking deep", really getting something, deeply understanding something, and has the kind of knowing that is like a flash of enlightenment or an "aha!" moment, and usually has a shift in body sensation associated with this moment, like energy tingling throughout the body, or a rush of heat. It became part of the language of the 60s counterculture for a while, as in phrases like "I grok it", "I grok what you are saying", and "I really grok you". It was often used as verb, "grokking", to indicate a deep learning process about something important. There is a sense that this knowing is beyond words, as in the Martian-human in the story having to learn things about Earth without the benefit of knowing the language of this world or being conditioned to see things the way that we are.

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