Monday, December 7, 2009

Working with Emotions

The Buddha had said that progress in meditation proceeds "step by step" with later stages being based on the gains of the earlier ones. Padmasambhava likened this progress to how a baby learns how to walk and how to gain strength. While Zen Buddhism has emphasized "sudden realization", for very deep and valid reasons, I do find that there is still a "ripening process" that allows the flash of enlightenment to illuminate the landscape of our inner being. Even here, there is an after enlightenment process, fugen kensho, or what Shunryu Suzuki called, "being enlightened before you are (fully) enlightened". The full realization that is called "Annutara Samyak Samadhi", complete perfect enlightenment, is a very fast, full, and deep state that does take a long time to happen. It means the complete emptying of the subconscious mind of all the potential "samskaras", embedded thought impressions that attract experiences to fulfill themselves and then react to these experiences according to a conditioned pattern of response. The opposite of operating from these samskaras is "out of emptiness", a vast living energy field that feels like crystal clear radiant space, and can respond to the moment without rehearsal and without ancient drives moving from past to present to future to time bind our lives into rigid automated habit patterns of thinking, feeling, and reacting (vashana). Jesus would call beings beings who live in these patterns "the dead" as in "let the dead bury the dead". When deeply awakened, ordinary consciousness looks somewhat zombie like and half alive. It is an actual experience that happens on the journey. Everyone looks like they are drugged. Their radiant consciousness looks like it is submerged in a kind of stupor, drunken on thousands of thoughts that color consciousness and keep it operating in a kind of haze.

There is an ancient theme that the very first thing that a spiritual teacher says when he or she starts his or her teaching cycle is called "sounding the doh note". It is the key note that will build and develop throughout the teaching process. It is "the (corner) stone that the builders rejected" which becomes the chief cornerstone upon which the whole foundation and house is built. For Jesus, it is normally translated, "Repent, for the kingdom of g-d is at hand." Although this translation is standard, it does not usually convey the full meaning of what Jesus was trying to teach. The word "repent" is "metanoia" which roughly and literally means "go above ordinary consciousness". The root "meta" means "above" as in "metaphysics" (literally "above physics". The root "noia" means "consciousness" as in "paranoia" (fear consciousness). Just one word and already there is so much being said by Jesus. The word "metanoia" is very much like the Zen Buddhist term "satori" (flash of enlightenment) or "paravritti" (a deep turning in the innermost consciousness, a deep turning being what repentance ultimately really is).

The phrase "kingdom of g-d" or "kingdom of heaven" (Saint Matthew followed the more Orthodox Jewish tradition of not using the name of g_d and makes this substitution consistently throughout his writings. Buddhism does not really believe in a personal g_d who runs the universe as a being with a supreme personality, but rather teaches that there is a "Dharmakaya" which is an energy field of love, wisdom, and creativity which permeates all of existence and is the basis which allows "cause and effect" to operate as well as "divine grace") is another phrase which is hard to translate into English well. In Greek, the nouns and verbs are less different from each other than in English. In Sanskrit and Pali, there are some similarities to this. The Buddha taught that there is no solid substantial thing as an ego personality and that when we look inside all we see are transitory thoughts, emotions, sensations, impulses, and reactions. We do not see or ever really feel anything like a solid thing which is a "self". This is a simple scientific observation that the Buddha made and upon which the Buddha saw was key to find a deep relief from unnecessary sorrow. We have this illusion about what we are and who we are, an idea of self, which has no basis in reality but which grips our consciousness and locks it into a certain kind of existence. One time the Buddha said, "Unless one understands the illusion of self, there is no end to sorrow." Satori, metanoia, enlightenment, or paravritti is all about a shift outside the grip of this illusion, where the feeling of self that we are normally attached to, ends completely and when we are also aware of its ending . This feeling of self weakens and almost disappears when we are asleep and unconscious, and apparently under certain hallucinogenic drugs it also almost disappears. These kinds of experiences can show how the feeling of self is not solid, permanant, and continuous. The Sufis have found that if you are very aware that you will notice that 2 seconds out of every twelve seconds it also spontaneously disappears in what is called "a moment of freedom". It is like a mini-satori that life gives us for free if we are aware enough and sensitive enough to notice it. Sri Yukteswar, the teacher of Yogananda, said that, "God can be found in the space between two thoughts," and pointed to a similar realization.

Rudolf Bultmann, who was a very brilliant Bible and Christian history scholar, mentioned that the phrase "kingdom of g_d" was more like a verb than a noun. It pointed to some kind of sacred process we could enter into. I think the current phrase "being in the zone" is like what Jesus was trying to describe. What is interesting is that Jesus nearly always talks of "kingdom of g_d" in the present tense and always talked as if it was impending, coming soon. The some Jews and later on Christians took this mean some kind of reign of a personal g_d on Earth through some Messiah or son of g_d. Many liberal Christians assume that this was a misprophecy and many Jews consider Jesus not to be the Messiah because he did not fulfill this seeming prophecy. As mentioned earlier, I do feel that Jesus did fulfill "the son of man coming into his kingdom" when he transfigured his body into a light body before certain of his disciples. It is actually the only interpretation that I have found that makes sense of "some of you standing here will not taste death" until they saw this, since all of the disciples are either now dead or had converted into a light body themselves. This is, too, the only verse where the kingdom of g_d is actually talked of in the future tense and it makes sense that it is a short range prediction that is fulfilled in the very next paragraph of the narrative.

In the parables of the kingdom, Jesus does mention something interesting. When a person discovers this, they go through a profound emotional shift and "sell all that they have to obtain it". I take this to mean that there is an evolutionary impulse within us, motivating us behind all our desires, that when it tastes enlightenment does feel this is what it has wanted behind every thing it has wanted. When we recognize this, this some profound shift happens to us, a paravritti turns, a metanoia conversion, and a flash of lightning which illuminates the dark landscape within us, and we are free. This seed realization eventually grows until a deep mature enlightenment and an eventual light body. In this process, emotions are deeply and profoundly felt. This is what I want to discuss at this time.

The Buddha talked about nirvana, enlightenment, happening when the three poisons of the mind end. These poisons are craving, negativity, and delusion. Jesus taught the ending of negativity through "faith and forgiveness". Buddha mainly talked about letting go of craving, while Jesus mainly talked about letting go of negativity. Much of Christianity has been influenced by its evangelical form which has emphasized "salvation by faith". But if you read carefully, both faith and forgiveness are needed. In the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, in commenting on the prayer of Jesus, it says you will not be forgiven unless you forgive. This is psychologically valid. It is something that a meditator would understand. When we look within and spend time with our inner being, we will notice all kinds of thoughts and emotions floating by and our relationship to each one. We will notice that the same thoughts that float by the mind of a psychopathic killer as also inside us. We will notice a kind of river of thought that runs through all of humankind, very ancient and very filled with deep sorrow. When Jesus screams, "My g_d, my g_d, why have you forsaken me?" it is coming from the depths of someone who has gone within deeply enough to feel what is inside of us all. Every meditator who has gone deep enough knows exactly what Jesus touched into when channelled this emotion for collective humankind. He is reaching a place where the three poisons emanate from the same source, a feeling of abandonment, loss of love, and deep separation which is at the heart of the illusory sense of self that binds us and holds us in pain. It is from this place, too, that Jesus can see all the karmaic processes which create all the lives of all sentient beings and say, "Abwoon, forgive them for they know not what they are doing". This delusion, this unconscious ignorance, is the deepest root, deeper than our cravings and deeper than our negativity, and motivates all sentient beings until they awaken from the trance of self No one knows what they are doing when they "sin" and therefore all sentient beings can be forgiven. In all the passages in the Bible, this is the only reason ever given to forgive anyone. The commandment to forgive is given all over the place, but the only reason to forgive is given by Jesus on the cross. I find this very interesting. I noticed when I would listen to various sermons, teachings, and study various writings that I found no one else who answered why so clearly and succinictly as Jesus did. It is a profound key to unlock the door. Forgiveness is the undoing of our condemnation, our negativity, upon anyone or anything. It needs to be linked with this reason, that when others have hurt us that they did not know what they were doing, that they were lost in unconscious ignorance and therefore can be forgiven. There is no such thing as "conscious evil". This also is true of us and allows us to be forgiven and to feel forgiven. The same realization is behind us feeling forgiven and forgiving others. Through forgiveness, the emotional obscurations that cover our true nature, our radiant awareness, can dissolve and allow us to shine forth as love and light. As such, it is an integral part of the process of attaining a light body. It also is a cure for spiritual arrogance on the spiritual path. When we are aware of all the negativity inside us, it humbles us. We enter into what the Buddhists call, "the wisdom of equality". None of us is superior or inferior to another of us. We are never better than or less than another. We are, in fact, exactly the same inside, "in Christ", in our true nature as radiant love or radiant awareness. Jesus, too, likened "Abwoon" (translated weakly as "God the Father") to this wisdom that "causes the sun to shine" on all alike or "causes the rain fall" on all alike (I always found it interesting how many times Jesus linked his observations of Abwoon to natural processes, like the sun shining and the rain coming down, to the lilies of the field and birds in the sky, whatever divinity Jesus associates with this more intimate name of g_d it is a divinity he found in and through nature, this is also found in the life of the Buddha when he talked about "the Earth is my witness" and when he described enlightenment being like flowers blooming).

The process that I feel Jesus was describing was an "entering into our hurt" into the pain of separation and forgiving that hurt through a sacred breathing process, the holy breath. His final act of forgiveness, which finishes the whole process (as in "it is finished") is done with a breath release (paradoxically the word "nirvana" means exhale, nir=out and vana=wind). This is the moment when our ego grip on our breathing, a subtle movement of craving, grasping, holding, and controlling, completely lets go and life breathes in us, through us, and for us, and our separation from life completely ends inside the depths of our breathing. It leads to what the Hindus call "nirvakalpa samadhi" where the breath completely stops and the cells shift beyond the need to age and die. In the Rebirthing tradition, it is called "breath release" which is slightly different, because it matters less whether the breath completely stops and more whether the ego grip releases from the breath. It is linked with going back to the moment where we struggled to breathe our first breath in this lifetime and letting go of the struggle. From my own experience, I did find that the breath stopped for what seemed about five minutes and there was no urge to breathe. It was not like holding the breath, because you are struggling with something that wants to breath. There is nothing that wanted to breathe. It think it is partly due to how much the blood stream is oxygenated and literally does not need to breathe. It was a quiet and peaceful place with no thought traffic running through the mind. It was after entering into and embracing painful emotional places held in the body and then feeling blissful waves running through the body, and even past these shimmering lights which emerged from the bliss.

When Jesus teaches us, "Resist not evil." He also taught another profound key to this process. We tend to resist all the hurt that is inside us, avoid going there, avoid entering into this level of energy inside us. By doing so, the life force, holy breath, or prana is withdrawn from our body and aging and death are set into motion. First we push all our unwanted emotions into the body and then we withdraw our energy from the body so that it ages and dies. Our bodies cannot regenerate without life force or prana circulating through us. Life force, too, needs sacred breathing to be generated and circulated within us. It is no accident that if we hold our breath too long that we would die, though life is merciful and if we hold our breath too long we go unconscious and start breathing again. Not resisting evil means not resisting hurt, pain, and anguish inside us and not resisting the causes of these pains outside us (our blames, our condemnations). If we understand what Jesus is trying to teach us here, this "not resisting" is another way of teaching immediate forgiveness. It is our condemnation that makes something feel evil and then resists the evil that we feel. It sets up the struggle. The very moment we stop resisting it the war ends. It feels like we are letting ourselves get crucified when we do this. But we are letting ourselves enter and pain and go beyond it. To me, this is the key process that Jesus is modelling in the crucifixation story. It is clear from other passages that this process is meant to be done by us and is not meant to be vicarious (he does it for us). He clearly teaches in one passage to "pick up your cross" and to "die daily". Taken literally, we cannot really do this, unless we master bodily resurrection 101 in life university. But what it means is to use all the circumstances that life brings us to keep this sacred process alive. We only have to notice the little crucifixions that happen as people who do not know what they are doing do to us do things to us. We will then have micro-crucifixions (cross-i-fiction) and micro-resurrections. You may want to notice, too, if you are holding your breath when you are reading this or whether you are breathing through even imagining doing this.

What was called "conviction of sin" in ancient Christianity is about admitting that we have "psychological baggage". We are all neurotic and we put our neurosis into the very tissues of our body, cause it to age and die, and then blame life for killing us. We enter the process when we admit our baggage, do not run away from it, enter into it, and move through the process to the "other shore". The Buddha likened this process to taking a raft to from shore to shore. From the shore of ordinary life to the shore of enlightenment. Water represents emotions. We can drown in them, avoid them, swim through them, take a raft across them, or use the holy breath to blow our sails and move us across them.


  1. I can feel things in me shift as I'm reading. 'To die every day....' notice the little weird things people to us in there foggy state, un knowing of what they do. I hope I haven't / aren't /won't cause too much cruification on your part. You have been and I'm sure will continue to be kind with me in my sleepy/ foggy state. Thank you. When I was young "to forgive is Devine" meant that ultimate forgiveness was for G_d to do. It becomes easier and easier to forgive others every day. For me it seems the hardest to forgive is myself. Touching the reality of the present moment helps. Alas that chastising voice. So being gentle and kind to the one who chastises, hummm Breath in love.. forgive release relax breath love compassion. It seems to help if I look at this from as many angles as possible. Thank you for your kind guidance.Wind is shimmering on the sail.

  2. I remember when I was first studying the Sermon on the Mount and had deep insight into what it was saying. I remember commenting "brilliant" and had an understanding that if everyone truly lived this that there would be peace on Earth right here and right now. I got that even a small handful of people fully living this could turn the world upside down. I then decided to start with the smallest commandment and work my way up. The smallest commandment, literally, is "judge not" (just two words!). After a few decades I find that it still has not exhausted what it can teach me. After three days of concentrating on this commandment, I found a mass of negativity rise up inside me and then dissolve, then a radiation of love gently exploded outward from my heart. In this other state, condemning, judging, and feeling hostile towards the faults (characteristics) of others did not make any sense. Everything simply was what it was and no more. It was in this state that I saw that Jesus was just talking about a certain kind of love that had no opposite, that accepted everything as it was, and that this was all that he really taught. The same lesson just went through stages of deepening and, oddly enough, increased in the number of words, aka "resist not evil" (3 words) and "bless those who curse you" (5 words), and "pray for those who persecute you" (6 words). Of course, "judge not" includes us.


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