what makes us (not) mystics

I read a book recently called What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. The subject of the book is the “four seals” of Buddhism:

All compounded things are impermanent; all emotions are pain; all things have no inherent existence; nirvana is beyond concepts.

I had heard of the book while practising the lam rim at a study retreat, at a time when I was considering ordination ~ reading the book was part of my investigation into whether I actually wanted to be a Buddhist. The teachers at the retreat recommended the book as a good introduction to what a student should understand before they consider even taking refuge.

So I read the book with fervour and very much enjoyed Khyentse’s style ~ so much so that I eventually travelled up to Sydney to watch him speak at a day-long teaching that was more reminiscent of a rock concert than it was of any teaching I had ever attended before. He was very funny, and he managed to convey a lot of insights that were valuable without talking directly about Buddhism very much.

He remains one of my favourite Buddhist teachers, but there was something in the introduction to the book that has just now popped into mind and caused me to question the value of asking the question, “What makes me not a Buddhist?”

No wait … it wasn’t in the introduction to that book ~ it was in another book that was discussing the same concepts, the four seals. Anyway,

wherever I read it, the author was drawing on the same notion: that to be a “card-carrying” Buddhist, one needs to agree with or understand the essence of the four seals.

Based on the current state of my research/understanding, this includes me. I believe I understand and agree with each of these four principles.

These principles, however, are not exclusive to Buddhism ~ they are principles understood by mystical traditions everywhere … or perhaps almost everywhere. If we agree with or understand these principles, we are not necessarily Buddhist, but to identify as a Buddhist we need to agree with these principles.

I understand that doctrine is a valueable guide in the search for truth, but this feels a bit too-dogmatic to me, especially now, but even a little bit back then. I was willing to let the dogma-feel slide, because I was (and still am, sometimes), eager to feel like part of a group that shares the same beliefs ~ it’s comforting, no?

But just now when I was doing something other than actively thinking about truth (I was doing a sort of zentagle, a form of art therapy … and waiting for Centrelink to take me off hold … 1:02:51 hours so far ;/

Anyway!

I was doodling and it came to mind that if we want to call ourselves a “card-carrying” Buddhist, we need to look at that:

the mystical path is a search for our true identity, our true nature ~ in Buddhism it is taught that what we believe to be our identity, our self, is an illusion: our identity is comprised of such elements as, say, male, thirty-four years old, brunette, dread-locked, quite handsome but a bit lopsided 🙂 Other elements include our cultural affiliations: Australian, public-school educated, progressive and a little bit Buddhist.

It’s that term “card-carrying” that caught my attention while I was doodling. A card-carrying member of a club has easy access: show the card; people trust you won’t get drunk and trash the place; they let you in. To say that understanding the four seals makes you a card-carrying Buddhist just renders the whole purpose of understanding these truths irrelevant, because these concepts are also an illusion. Yes? No?

Dzongsar_Jamyang_Khyentse_Rinpoche
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse ~ he kinda looks like John Safran, don’t you think?

Something I remember now from the Khyentse book is that the conclusion, maybe even the final line of the book, is the statement that if you realise enlightenment and still think you’re a Buddhist, there could be a problem, you know what I mean?

I really appreciated that Khyentse concluded his book with that sentiment. I want to be accepted as part of a group as much as the next bloke, but if we look around and cling too much to various labels to know whether we are or are not making progress along the spiritual path … well, that’s a lot different from just straight-up knowing we are on the path without having to identify as a Buddhist or a Gnostic or a shaman or a Hindu or whatever.

I think it’s realy important to remember this. What do you think?

What makes us not Buddhists/shamans/whatever is what makes us mystics, I reckon.

~ ~ ~

featured image: gildedlilycharms

through journeying comes acceptance

Two things coming from the Journey I took just now: acceptance ~ that I am a teacher, that I “have” Anxiety/Depression, the latter of which came with a recollection of this:

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Jiddu Krishnamurti Read more at_ https_www.brainyquote.comquotesjiddu_krishnamurti_107856

I saw my GP the other day and we discounted the possiblity that I have schizophrenia or PTSD. Process of elimination.

I’m learning again to manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression: yoga; water; rest; St John’s Wort; positive visualisation.

Journeying is also good. I got the drumming track and some guidelines from Shaman’s Way.

 

a statement of Mission

after Snowden

I was watching a documentary about Snowden recently, and I was inspired again to start educating myself about a basic truth that our culture hides in plain sight: our government is not serving our best interests.

Maybe I can’t stop/change this entirely or totally, but I can inform myself enough that my complicity is minimised, and perhaps I can be involved in some community project that undermines the elite’s power over us, the ~pawns~, like maybe a community bank or helping to organise and distribute organic food from independent growers ~ Monsanto would hate that, right? Even publishing this website and blog is an act of dissidence, a way of challenging the fear-mongering of mainstream media, which the doco refers to as ‘the corporate media’.

I shared a video on Facebook recently, by a guy called Rob Dial, who explains that any piece of information we absorb is ~brainwashing~ us, which means that we can choose to watch the nightly news and scare the crap out of ourselves, engendering distrust of our fellows, or we can choose to watch … well, videos like this one, which explains that, contrary to what we are told by the corporate media, the world is actually a profoundly safer place today than it ever has been in history:

As a somewhat-serious student of psychology and as a human being who desires understanding of and a modicum of control over his own mind, I am fascinated by the very concept of brainwashing. I’m somewhat reluctant to indulge the subject because it sounds so conspiracy-theory-ey, but the reality is that brainwashing is happening to us at all times, whether it be through advertising, news media, unscrupulous religious leaders, or even just the things we unconsciously choose to give more of our attention to, whereby we brainwash ourselves. So it’s definitely somethig I’m trying to keep my eye on.

It’s a curious thing though, that making ourselves aware of these unfortunate realities can sometimes have an adverse effect before they have a positive one ~ a scene from the Snowden doco that I could especially relate to, is where he says that the more he learned, the more the anxiety mounted up.

This is a normal and healthy response to the dawning awareness that our so-called leaders, who we hoped and believed were serving our interests, are actually serving theirs. It’s not fair that we are treated like pawns in the elites’ game of chess. And something I find especially distressing about the whole situation is I know they are seeking refuge in the wrong object.

Seeking refuge is an idea in Buddhism that can be understood as ‘seeking happiness’ ~ we seek refuge, from suffering, in all sorts of things we believe will give us lasting pleasure or contentment. Some people seek refuge in power, control and unnecessary wealth, by brainwashing and exploiting the weak or disadvantaged ~ such ‘leaders’ are causing (or contributing to) the suffering of others, and ultimately they are doing this to perpetuate their own suffering by pursuing happiness/refuge where it doesn’t exist. As well as people, this kind of misguided behaviour exploits the planet, our habitat.

Distressing, no?

When we begin to understand this, anxiety is a natural response because anxiety is a natural response to threat, to the perceived danger of, say, immanent ecological collapse ~ called ecoanxiety. In Snowden’s case, it seemed the anxiety came from becoming aware that our own governments are spying on us, and not for the sake of our safety, as they would have us believe.

Whatever the case may be, I’m interested in understanding how to raise awareness of these realities without catalysing massive panic attacks or debilitating depression ~ much of my own experience of depression has come from feeling disempowered in wanting to make positive change in the world. So I’m interested in how to minimise the psychological damage of becoming increasingly aware that our greatest threat may come from within our own culture.

I feel a strong duty to inform myself and to help others free themselves from a system that does not have their best interests at heart ~ well, rather than free ourselves from “the system”, it’s about healing ourselves so that we, as aspects of that system, can begin to improve the system from within. It’s not enough (in fact it’s not healthy) to blame “the system” for all of our suffering ~ to do so is an abnegation of individual responsibility, and an expression of Ignorance.

What we need to do is liberate ourselves from psychological enslavement to the systems of power that control us, which is an entirely internal process ~ we don’t need to change the system externally, but change ourselves so the control mechanisms of culture no longer have any power over us.

So I’ve come here to declare the nature of my Mission, which I choose to accept in pursuit of a Vision:

I imagine a world characterised by harmony and diversity in unity, a world where each and every individual has realised the true nature of reality and therefore is happy to serve the collective interests over their own ~ imagine a world where everyone was watching out for everyone else … we wouldn’t need to worry about anything, there would be no cause for regret and we would all be free to enjoy the present again.

It’s been bouncing around in mind lately that my mission is to

help people heal so that our world doesn’t continue down a path where it’s okay for governments to spy on their citizens people and for businesses to plumb the earth to line their rubber wallets. Entheogens are being used to evolve consciousness and of course modern-day shamanism and other ancient soul-healing methods exist (they have survived the onslaught of scientific materialism), and I yearn fiercely to be involved with such transcendental forms of transpersonal psychology so I can 1) heal myself and, in doing so, learn how to 2) help others to heal the will to power.

If we can help each other to experience the divine connectedness that is at the heart of these ancient traditions of psychotherapy, we can begin to eradicate ruthlessness from the world. Call me an idealist, but I believe we create our own reality and we define our own meaning ~ if we can imagine utopia, then utopia will cease to mean ‘no place’ and instead come to mean ‘our place’.

If we can help each other to experience the profound empathy and compassion that is our nature, the world will begin to transform, which is already happening ~ we are very fortunate to be alive and working at this time, cresting a wave in the evolution of human consciousness and the planetary consciousness supporting such diverse forms of life.

I declare that I accept the mission to ride this wave along with the other awakening individuals I am beginning to encounter in the community. I declare that I will honour the powerful potential I need to fulfill by helping to create a world characterised by harmony and diversity in unity, a world where each and every individual has realised the true nature of reality and therefore is happy to serve the collective interests over their own.

In my burgeoning role as a transpersonal psychotherapist / shaman I imagine treating individuals who are operating at three levels:

  • the ~underdog~ who feels disempowered, so they might come into their own and realise their potential to contribute improvements as grassroots leaders within their communities
  • the ~average~ who is coping, surviving, but beginning to look for ways to pursue thrival instead of just survival
  • the ~leader~ who already has power, so they might wield it more compassionately and for the genuine benefit of all

I feel I am making the journey through these levels, having started out life as an underdog, raised myself to an average level of success and wellbeing, and begun to aspire to being a true leader in my community ~ when I say ‘leader’ above, I do mean ‘politicians, businesspeople, teachers and other heads of institutions’, but what I envisage is that in this millenium we will see a shift away from leaders and those who are lead, from elites and pawns, to a far-more-decentralised way of living and governing ourselves.

I am also interested in what I learned were the original aims of psychology ~ I don’t have the source with me here, but I recall from a textbook of positive psychology that the original aims of psychology were:

  1. the treatment of pathology
  2. the maintenance of wellness
  3. the nurturing and harbouring of talent and genius

Oh, I found the textbook!

In Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths by Charles Richard Snyder and‎ Shane J Lopez, there is a quote from Martin Seligman saying the above three missions were the original aims of psychology, so, yay, I remembered!

What I definitely remembered (because I was especially impacted by it) is the idea, as described in the same quote (a breakout quote from the main text), that the second two were neglected throughout the twentieth century for reasons I don’t need to go into here, because the point is that I want to get behind the move in positive psychology to start focusing again on the other two objectives of psychology.

More than that, I would add that the fourth objective of psychology (or what I am starting to call ‘holosophy’ and what others might call ‘entheology’) is:

4. facilitate conscious evolution (the evolution of consciousness)

BAM! Homo evolutis.