|Contributor – Meditations
The shirtsleeve weather of the previous few days suddenly shifted last night. Rain fell in the valley and snow fell in the foothills, just a few hundred meters above the city.
Today, black filigrees and the fractals of oak branches in the parkland are set against a white and gray sky holding small patches of blue.
Well layered against the cold, I sit for three-quarters of an hour at a picnic table overlooking the creek. A surprising number of runners, bikers, and walkers go by on the single lane park road on the other side of the stream, which has become a torrent of twice its normal width and speed.
The passive observation as dusk descends allows one to see the beauty behind the surface dreariness of the day. As darkness begins to envelop the land, a nearly full moon shines through the foggy skies above the bare branches of the sycamores oaks.
The space and silence of methodless meditation allow insight and renewal. In negating the observer through the action of undirected watchfulness, life springs forth around and within one. The spaces between thoughts widen, and the brain is essentially cleared of content-consciousness.
Why are meditation techniques a mistake? Because one has to allow the contents of the mind and heart the freedom to flow unimpeded by judgment, evaluation, and effort. Thought is a stream that only stops when it is undividedly and intensely observed as a whole.
Meditation means taking the time to sit still and observe, without employing time to reach some self-projected goal. One then finds that the spaces between thoughts increase. Emotions arise, and, in the unwilled action of attention, are discharged.
When passive observation negates the illusion of the separate observer, attention gathers its own momentum, and the mind spontaneously falls silent.
Then the present is no longer overshadowed by the past. Therefore meditation entails effortlessly leaving the stream of content-consciousness, which is the past.
Consciousness, as we usually know it, is an accretion of the material of memory, which as we grow older allows less and less light to pass through.
Right observation ends the infinite regress of the observer, allowing attention to gather. Undirected attention acts like a laser, burning all the way through the material.
Returning to one’s work and routines, the cumulative material of memory may seep back into the space opened up by the laser of attention. The mind falls back into the habit of thinking and associating‹the ebb and flow of the past. But one is changed, and cannot completely go back to operating in terms of thought, memory, and association.
What then, is “enlightenment” Hypothetically, illumination occurs when attention remains relatively constant, so that the material of the past cannot leach back into the mind. Presumably the illumined person (since there have been very few in human history that have attained that level of awareness) lives in a steady state of awareness and insight. One thing is certain: meditation is not a matter of will, effort, or choice, but rather of seeing and being.
I don’t favor transplanted Buddhist conceptions of illumination, since our linguistic and conceptual frameworks arise from the culture and times in which we live. Ours is a scientific and material age, and we need a new language for “enlightenment” that is put in these terms. Besides, tradition impedes illumination, and can never ignite it.
Buddhism is an Eastern tradition dating from the time of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived about 2500 years ago. Very little is known about the life of Gautama, and his teachings were first part of an oral tradition, not committed to writing until 400 years after his death.
Though many pretend to take on a mantle of authority with regard to Gautama¹s teachings, or Buddhism in general, it is a false attitude, and not just because there is inherent uncertainty about the Buddha’s teachings.
Authority where spiritual matters is concerned is utterly antithetical to inward learning and freedom.
Just as transformation and illumination aren¹t possible in the individual without self-knowing, so too a revolution in human consciousness is not possible without individuals awakening all over the world.
There have been many revolutions throughout human history; most have been violent, and essentially changed nothing. Indeed, the basic course of humankind has not changed since”modern humans” first emerged in Africa about 100,000 years ago.
Now, as no other time in history, because of globalization, technology, and a planetary ecological crisis, a psychological revolution is demanded, and possible.