(The Direct Path Group is for discussions related to Greg Goode and Sri Atmananda's teachings related to Advaita Vedanta)
= How silent meditation helped me with nondual inquiry =
This is about how silent meditation helped me with nondual inquiry. Silent meditation is different from inquiry, and helps prepare one for doing inquiry. It helps in several ways, which I’ll say more about below.
There are various forms of silent meditation and various paths of inquiry. For example, Shamatha is recommended if one wants to realize emptiness via analytic meditation.
Personally, I found Zazen helpful for nondual inquiry. How can it help? It stabilizes the mind so that the mind doesn’t get off track or fall asleep during the inquiry.
Here is a very rough and schematic quasi-Vedantic account of how this works. It’s not a DP account, but something that we were taught in the Chinmaya Mission. Vedanta looks at the body/mind apparatus as composed of various layers or sheaths of active energy. At the grossest is the body. At a more subtle layer is the “emotional body,” then the mind as controller of its activities. And more subtle still is the intellect, the process of ratiocination, making connections and insight.
All activities engage all of the levels, but some activities have their center of gravity more on one level than another. According to the present scheme, Nondual inquiry begins largely at the energetic level of the intellect. But the insights permeate all levels. And nondual insights deconstruct the levels altogether.
In order that the intellect do its appointed job well, it needs to be somewhat calm. It cannot be jumpy or inclined to nod off into sleep.
For the intellect to be calm, the less subtle levels need to be somewhat calm as well. This is familiar - if there is emotional turbulence, it is hard to think.
There are activities that address each of the levels. Such as karma yoga or recreational dancing or athletics for the physical level. Bhakti yoga or art or singing or performing music for the emotional level. Raja yoga or study or concentrated meditation for the level of controlling the mind. And jnana yoga or mathematics or other kinds of coursing stuff out for the intellectual level.
The calmer the levels that are less subtle than the intellect, the calmer the intellect will be able to be.
This is where zazen helped me. It came in at the level of the control-of-the-mind level and smoothed things out wonderfully. Plus it gives a taste of silence. For me, it helped the mind stay with the subtleties of jnana yoga without a a rage of chattering thoughts, and without getting drowsy and falling asleep.
Zazen is taught at Zen centers. Phenomenally (not doctrinally) it is a process of keeping the mind extremely steady on a subtle object like counting or the breath. There are two things that could depart from that: a chatty mind or a sleepy one. Whenever you notice that either has happened, you simply go back to counting or following the breath.
Besides calmness and stability and subtlety, I noticed physically healthy things, like better digestion, more energy on the lower body and more closely focused in everything where needed.
One can do zazen earlier in the day, and then nondual inquiry later in the day. And nondual inquiry will be supercharged. Of course there are other preparatory activities that will help. This was just my experiences with zazen!
Hi Andrej, Here are some examples of which inquiries were helped by Zazen.... I did years of inquiries, mostly before I did Zazen. The main inquiry I did with the aid of Zazen was later and extremely subtle: I was looking into why Truth and Reality were widely held to be nondual whereas I experienced a very slight, benevolent duality between witnessing awareness and the arisings that seemed to arise from/to it. There was no suffering (I was at the so-called "transparent witness" gestalt). But even so, I was drawn to this issue for over a year. I happened to be doing Zazen at the time - I only realized later that it helped, and how it helped. How did Zazen help? I was already pretty good at focusing and keeping my attention on an object. My father had this too. He brought it his work home and did it at the large dinner table while the TV was on a few feet away and we kids were running around. It didn't bug him a bit! He taught this focus to us. We were a family of introverted artists, so it was easy. All my school, military and corporate experience helped with focus as well. But this topic (subject/object distinction) was very slippery. In a word, Zazen helped make the mind more open and subtle. It quieted the mind so that it was more open to subtle insight coming from unexpected angles, as opposed to the usual ones. And it helped the mind recognize patterns and formulations of a vaguer and more subtle type. Here's a physicalist-type example. Imagine putting a long hair in a phone book and then cover it with one page. Then shut your eyes and try to trace the hair with your fingertips
Sitting has been invaluable for me in my life, with positive, long lasting effects. I really cannot recommend it enough. Also the more I sat, and the more stable my meditation became, the brighter my mind became, like increasing the brightness on a lamp. Energetically things became very coordinated, like Greg mentioned, and what I would call instances of transcendent insight would erupt spontaneously. Which were like precursors to larger events of the same species. Meditation if done right is just a fantastic supplement to any spiritual endeavor. It breathes life into the process and makes everything easier and more enjoyable.
"Anapanasati (Mindfulness of Breathing) is good. After your insight, master a form of technique that can bring you to the state of anatta without going through a thought process." - John Tan, 2013
“A state of freedom is always a natural state, that is a state of mind free from self/Self. You should familiarize yourself with the taste first. Like doing breathing meditation until there is no-self and left with the inhaling and exhaling... then understand what is meant by releasing.” - John Tan, 2013
“When we practice zazen our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.” - Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki
"You can meditate everywhere in all activities, meditation of non-dual is not restricted to sitting post anatta, this should be a moment to moment event for you. It is not about anatta insight, you need to complement what you lack for sitting meditation, equanimity is what you need to improve, don't waste too much time on FB [facebook] activities. Also do exercises, don't get energy imbalances." - John Tan
“Even up till longchen's (Sim Pern Chong's) stage [having realised non-duality], meditation is still very important except it should not be form and technique bound. So still sit and meditate. :) Spend quality hours in being naked... and let this continue till you experienced clearly what is the meaning of 'emptiness is form'. it can take 20-30 years. :P You must make it a habit, then you can progress fast. Even after experiencing non-dual, you must still work hard till it stabilizes. One should work harder after non-dual. :P So spend quality minutes in meditations. Don't just talk and ask for knowledge." - John Tan, 2007
“When you are luminous and transparent, don't think of dependent origination or emptiness, that is [the contemplative practice for] post-equipoise. When hearing sound, like the sound of flowing water and chirping bird, it is as if you are there. It should be non-conceptual, no sense of body or me, transparent, as if the sensations stand out. You must always have some quality time into this state of anatta. Means you cannot keep losing yourself in verbal thoughts, you got to have quality hours dedicated to relaxation and experience fully without self, without reservation." - John Tan, 2018
"After this insight, one must also be clear of the way of anatta and the path of practice. Many wrongly conclude that because there is no-self, there is nothing to do and nothing to practice. This is precisely using "self view" to understand "anatta" despite having the insight.
It does not mean because there is no-self, there is nothing to practice; rather it is because there is no self, there is only ignorance and the chain of afflicted activities. Practice therefore is about overcoming ignorance and these chain of afflictive activities. There is no agent but there is attention. Therefore practice is about wisdom, vipassana, mindfulness and concentration. If there is no mastery over these practices, there is no liberation. So one should not bullshit and psycho ourselves into the wrong path of no-practice and waste the invaluable insight of anatta. That said, there is the passive mode of practice of choiceless awareness, but one should not misunderstand it as the "default way" and such practice can hardly be considered "mastery" of anything, much less liberation."
Update: watch this video, it is highly recommended! Rinzai Zen at Korinji: Why Do We Sit in Meditation Posture?