Ending Religious Authority

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    [captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”left”]There are more Buddhist traditions in the West than you can shake stick at these days. There are even one or two ‘lineages’ that don’t subscribe to any tradition, but are distinctly ‘Eastern’ in character and gesundheit, I mean gestalt.

    Of course, all have their favorite guru or teacher. Very few people seem to be able to be done with religious authorities, even though they impede, if not preclude religious insight and growth in the individual.

    Though they seem to be opposites, there is a curious alliance between reason-worshipping humanists and feel-good New Agers. They both make quitting on humanity sound so reasonable and natural, so soothing and inconsequential.

    Humanists, who hold reason to be the highest human capacity, pride themselves on living by evidence, but they refuse to hear any evidence for a capacity and dimension beyond human reason (namely, stillness and insight). New Agers, who value stillness and awareness above all else, aspire to lose themselves in indifferent undifferentiation, where the only thing that matters is one’s own experience of oneness.

    Humanists don’t even bother to question the validity of a separate self, since they hold thought, under the guise of reason, as the sine qua non of human existence. New Agers aim to efface the ego in blissful contemplation and comprehension of its illusoriness, extending their idea of delusion to include such minor matters as starvation, war, and ecological destruction.

    ‘It’s merely our perceptions that everything is separate and in conflict,’ say the awakened teachers echoing for whom the bell Tolles. ‘Our individual perceptions are the only reality,’ say the humanists. Both lack the essential insight into the movement and mechanism of thought.

    [captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”right”]I’m as caught in thought as the next person–except during one’s sittings in nature, even if that nature is the backyard. Ever since my teens in my parents’ backyard, and without following any person, method, or tradition, these simple periods of daily observation have effortlessly quieted the mind through observer-less attention. No matter how depressed or distressed I’ve been, watching without the watcher has brought “the peace the passes all understanding” for a few precious minutes each day.

    Having such a ‘practice,’ which is no more of a chore or ‘discipline’ to me than a daily walk, a strange thing happens when I sit in a room full of other people in ‘group meditation.’ If the energy and quickness of awareness sufficiently gathers in such a setting, and thought substantially slows down, I start picking up the background noise in the room from other people.

    It’s not like I’m reading people’s minds; it’s more like everyone’s thoughts are flying around the room, mixing together in a complete mish-mash of disconnected chatter. It’s just like it is in our own heads, only more so. Perhaps enlightened people remain unperturbed by such a field of reams, dreams, and screams, but my impulse is to get outdoors as quickly as possible.

    This may explain why group meditation is an oxymoron to my mind. I’ve never understood why people who don’t know how to quiet their own minds alone would sit in a room with other people with equally noisy minds.

    To borrow two terms from physics, thought is a field of dark matter and dark energy, a reality that’s as hard to pin down in consciousness as it is in physics. As such, thought isn’t the province of individual brains, but of all brain caught of the net.

    Is there consciousness without thought? Perhaps we should put the question another way: Is there consciousness with thought?

    Our inner lives are something that another may be able to guide to some degree, through insight and example, but like death, each person is alone in it when it comes down to it.

    No matter how far another person may have gone, even if they’ve transcended death in life, we cannot compare ourselves to anyone or bow before anyone. We’ve got to stand on our own completely, which doesn’t mean we can’t read or study various teachings.

    Ultimately however, one has to be done with all teachings and traditions if one is to free oneself from the murky and increasingly toxic river of human consciousness. That is the driving intent of a religious mind—to liberate oneself completely from conditioning in this lifetime.

    Sometimes I think the world is inhabited by people who have had an insight into the whole movement of thought, and people who haven’t. But that is just another division and duality of thought…

    This is why I’m interested in the social equivalent of the inherently solitary action of meditation—insight inquiry…

    by Martin LeFevre for

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