Tag Archives: Spiritual Practice

Commitment to the Holy Life

So then, bhikkhus, the holy life is led not for gain, honor and fame, not for the endowment of virtues, not for the endowment of meditative absorption, not for the endowment of knowledge and vision. Bhikkhus, it is for the unshakeable release of mind that is the essence and end of the holy life .

Gautama Buddha, speaking to his monks in the Mahasaropama Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya, The Major Discourse on Heartwood.

Meditation is one of those activities (or “anti-activities”) that seems so beneficial, so pure and so GOOD, that one simply accepts that one should adopt a meditation practice – although one may assume that her life-circumstances may not provide time or space for such a practice – but, definitely, without a doubt, one embraces the vague notion that meditation is on one’s list of things to do when… well… when the time is right.

* * *

Once in a while, one receives just the right amount of support in just the right way, such that she suddenly understands that the time is right – circumstances have been fulfilled, planets have aligned and the inner lottery has hit the jackpot – such that the most important thing in the world has suddenly become to build a Holy Life around meditation practice, study, moment-to-moment mindfulness and the company of others who have made a similar commitment in their lives.

This is a very delicate moment. Our prospective contemplative may very well have been here before, not once or twice, but maybe three, four or five times. She may have resolved in the past to meditate for 30 minutes every morning, and sure enough, she stuck to her resolution for a whole month. Then her practice fell off, and before she knew it, two years passed before she made a new resolution. This time she went for 45 minute meditations, and she kept this practice for four months. And so forth and so on, in and out of practice every few years, year after year, wishy-washy and full of good intentions… yet always succumbing to that great undertow of externally-imposed promises of fulfillment.

How does one, then, once-and-for all commit to something like a rigorous and skillful meditation practice – one that gives rise to bliss, joy and ecstasy, establishing one in constant saturation in meditative absorption, such that true fulfillment occurs with the confident assurance of breathing?

How does one go beyond a rigorous and skillful practice, adding to meditation things like daily study and immersion in the writings of ecstatic contemplatives from multiple traditions… using the time between formal meditations to bring attention to ever-growing saturation, deepening moment-to-moment mindfulness… and, perhaps as important as all the above, seeking the company of others who are engaged in the Holy Life?

How does one deal with a lifetime’s conditioning? How does one become convinced – beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt – that the life of an ecstatic mystic is not only possible, but that it makes sense in a world filled with jobs, children, relationships, parents, debts, duties and desires?

This world conditions us to seek external gratification — to find meaning in external conditions, so that we project our very identity onto people, places and things that have nothing to do with our essential being.

As the years go by, we become heavily invested in things like money, success, achievement, societal position, homes, cars, appliances, lawn ornaments, wardrobes, furniture, home entertainment systems, food, social circles and professional sports… so that THAT which has true importance gets interred under this ocean of externally-imposed expectations.  It’s not that these things are bad in and of themselves — who doesn’t need money? — but when it comes at the expense of what brings self-arising bliss, joy and ecstasy, it becomes obvious to the devoted ecstatic that chasing after the impermanent is not a viable pursuit.

From the ecstatic contemplative’s perspective, the Holy Life — however it evolves for a particular individual — is the only viable life, in that it does not depend on external gratification.

* * *

As mentioned above, it helps to receive the right type of support — giving honest recognition to the fact that we as human beings must arrive at a moment of absolute conviction on our own; no one else can push us over the line.

A validating comment from a respected teacher, for instance, will go a long ways toward convincing one that she really does have what it takes, and that she may expect to see positive results in due time.

A very beneficial activity is to put oneself through a nine or ten-day meditation retreat – ideally a jhana retreat, one that honors and fosters the ecstatic – so that one experiences absorption at ever-deepening levels, thus informing future practice with the assurance that these states are attainable.  Upon returning from a retreat such as this, it becomes much easier to open to the idea of becoming a yogi, devoted to a daily life built around practice.

Finally, it is a blessing to the ecstatic mystic to either find or create a local community of contemplatives. Meeting for regular mediation sits, doing retreats together, studying ecstatic writings, feeding back to one another each contemplative’s interior experiences, learning from one another – this is a boon.

* * *

The bottom line is, commitment is required.

It takes time, patience and persistence to bring one’s contemplative practice into an ecstatic framework.

It then takes more time, patience and persistence to sustain an ecstatic practice, such that one becomes saturated in the ecstatic 24/7.

It takes internal fortitude to engage with the world from the perspective constant bliss, joy and ecstasy.  The ecstatic contemplative must develop an attitude of love and well-being toward her fellow human being — an attitude of thankful giving — knowing that the blessing of meditative absorption should be shared freely, often and fully. If we don’t develop a need to help others, we lack motivation for leaving the cave, and we cut ourselves off from the support needed to continue on in the Holy Life.

One must arrive at a moment of transformation, no turning back, no second-guessing, no vacillation.

One is now a devoted yogi who recognizes that nothing in this world compares to a spiritual practice that is directly infused with Divine energy, and that this practice is what the yogi and the world both need more than anything.

Knowing that we are only human, that we have a lot of work to do in our ecstatic practices, and that we will fall short from time to time… we jump into the Holy Life nevertheless.  We have come to the realization that we really have no choice.

When and if it is time, I invite you to take the leap.

You won’t be sorry.

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A Skillful and Rigorous Practice

meditation-in-green
I imagine I’ll be referring to the phrase “skillful and rigorous meditation practice” over and over again, since this is the baseline for harnessing meditative absorption as a “divine locomotive” to transport the contemplative Home.

Here, then, is my friend and teacher, Jeffrey Brooks (aka, Jhanananda), laying out his own daily sadhana… which is what I emulate to the best of my ability:

A practice regimen that can lead to Enlightenment in this lifetime

March 28, 2005

By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)

(copyright 2005 all rights reserved)

Someone intent upon enlightenment in this very lifetime recently asked me to prescribe for him a practice strategy that would bring him to enlightenment in this very life.  I can only speak about my contemplative practice strategy.  This is it:

In meditation (sati) practice:

In the morning arise when your awareness first becomes aware of the physical world.  Wash your face and mouth out, empty your bladder and drink a little water, then sit in meditation as if you will never get up again.  Do not end any absorption.  Let the absorption end on it’s own.  Often times an absorption will appear to be ending, but I have found if I just sit with the absorption until I am sure it is done, then occasionally there has been a second wave front that was many, many times more power than the first.  So, stick with it until you really know it is done.

When in meditation remain observant of the signs of absorption (jhana-nimitta).  Once jhana-nimitta arises sensory phenomena is no longer relevant.  Allow yourself to become utterly and completely saturated in the jhana-nimitta.  This is relevant for jhanas 1-4.  Allow all absorptions to sweep you away as far as they will take you.  Cling to nothing. Sometimes the absorption is of such intensity that it feels as though the body will be destroyed, good, let the body die, because you are done with it anyway and you are not coming back.

You will eventually find while in meditation the signs of absorption will efface the physical phenomena (rupa-nimitta) this will bring you to the non-material absorptions (arupa-jhanas).  Cling to nothing.  There is a transitional phase in absorption that is neither material absorption, nor is it absorption in an infinite dimension.  This transitional phase is characterized by a single luminous sphere that is often called a kasina.  Do not try to resolve it into anything. If it becomes a tunnel then you will be propelled out of body.  If so, just fly wherever it takes you. Cling to nothing.

When you eventually enter infinite space (5th jhana), it will be because the kasina opened into an infinite domain. At this time give up all attachment to ever having had a body, or ever having another one.  If you can remain in infinite space for a considerable amount of time, then absorption into Infinite time will occur. The infinite time dimension, has not yet been assigned a name.

When you enter into the infinite time dimension then let go of ever having been born at any time or ever returning again.  From the infinite dimension of time and space you may see an ocean of stars.  You may realize these stars are all beings.  This is the infiinite psyche (6th jhana). Open yourself up to them.  Resist noting. If you can remain in infinite time and space for an infinity, then you may become all of those infinite beings of light, if you do this is the 7th jhana.  When you become all of those light beings (7th jhana), then let go of ever having been a being or ever becoming one again

If you can let go of ever having been a being or ever becoming again, then you arrive at no longer being able to tell who you are, this is the 8th jhana, then give up ever having been someone.  When the universe collapses around you into a black hole, that will swallow both you as an individual and as an infinite being from which you can never escape, then love it utterly and completely, because this is called nibbana .  If you return from that my friend, you will be the Maitreya.

Each time you sit, you sit with no agenda, no intention to ever get up again.  Only rise from meditation when the body is fatigued, or sore, or hungry.  Meditate thus at least 3 times a day, or more often.  Only keep track of the beginning time and ending time, and never, ever set an end time for the session.  If your sessions gradually increase to more than an hour to 2 hours, or more, then you are doing well.

You are now ready for death to occur at any time.  If you have any loose ends, then tie them up. Leave nothing pending for the next day.  You are now finished, you are ready to die

Lying down meditation:

If your body feels fatigue during the day, then lie in shivassana and allow absorption to take you away.  When you lie down day or night, say silently, “I am ready, take me now.”  When you rest the body endeavor to remain conscious at all times. Deal with sleep as if it is simply a long period of lying down meditation.  Gradually you will become conscious throughout the sleep cycle.  When you no longer lose consciousness during the sleep cycle then you can say, “The holly life has been lived, death has been conquered there is no more coming to being.”

Daily mindfulness:

Endeavor to remain mindful and alert at all times.  If any of the signs of absorption persist after your sitting session is over then be mindful of them throughout the day.  Endeavor to keep the signs of absorption (jhana-nimitta) present with you at all times.  This is what is called “saturation.”  If you can maintain the signs of absorption (jhana-nimitta) throughout the day, then you can say, “I have arrived in the joyful home of the dhamma (Di.t.thadhammasukhavihaaraa).

Whenever anxiety arises, let it go, be ever mindful of any arising of tension, stress or anxiety, and become skillful in letting them go as soon as they first appear.  Live your life in such a way that you have no stress, no anxiety, and no tension even if that means dumpster diving for subsistence and sleeping under a tree at night.

Ethics:

Live your life for the benefit of all beings.  Do nothing for yourself.  Harm no one in body, speech or mind.

Study:

Read the teachings of all enlightened ones.  Read the Discourse of the Buddha until you have read all 5 volumes.  Then read the Christian mystics, then the Sufi mystics, then the Kabbalists, then the Yogis, then the Taoist masters, then the Shaman, etc.  Keep reading the teachings and biographies of the enlightened ones, and keep living the ethics and keep meditating as described above until this body is dead.  Do not ever assume that you need not maintain the Noble Eightfold Path after you have had all of these absorption experiences listed above.  Because if you stop living the Noble Eightfold Path your absorptions will eventually dissipate.

If you diligently engage in the contemplative life you will become enlightened in this very life-time,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)



Let me just say, this will keep you busy, eat into your television consumption, and cause your friends to wonder.

To say it’s worth it is a gross understatement.

Imagine living in constant 24/7 bliss, joy and ecstasy without resorting to drugs or alcohol….

Seems like a no-brainer, yes?

And yet, most humans would rather entertain their neuroses, pretending they will be able to gain succor and satisfaction through external means. Only on their death beds will they find that it was never going to happen.

True succor and satisfaction is self-arising, and it is your birthright.

I promise.