The incredible fragility of a newborn.
The first time I saw a newly born infant, I had the distinct feeling that there was no way it could survive in this world, or ANY world. It was just too delicate.
When I consider newborns in general, now, I am visited by a sadly nostalgic feeling of their life in overview—birth, pain, pleasure, triumphs, sorrows, discontent, peace, denial, equanimity and death.
And reminiscent of Shawn's penned thoughts on the universe and our place in the grand scheme of things in last month's Forum, I observe this little breathing island of fragile experience shrinking below me, in an ever-expanding circle.
Welcome to the July TAT Forum, all you newborns!
The Law of the Reversed Vector states that you cannot approach the Truth. You must become [a vector], but you cannot learn the absolute Truth. We must back into the Truth by backing away from untruth. —Richard Rose
In 1984, when I first encountered this bit of advice while reading The Albigen Papers, I was baffled by the thought of not finding Truth through a headlong acquisition of knowledge. Up to this point, the efforts that brought me to the door of a true spiritual search involved a keen interest in psychic phenomena. My teen years were filled with reading books and fueling a desire to manipulate objects and people with my mind. I also wanted to read others' minds as if I could turn on a switch and throw light on their innermost thoughts. Obviously, these fantasies were born of ego gratification.
In retrospect, such endeavors had nothing to do with a search for Truth. They are, in fact, personal examples of untruth. In examining my own life, I was fixated on acquiring supernatural powers and correcting personality flaws that I believed were hampering my search, especially in the early years. For example, personal pursuits of seeker-perfection included a strong desire to be more assertive and eschew all feelings of intimidation while engaging others in daily affairs. The desire for personality perfection was an untruth. But surely Richard Rose meant something more profound when he encouraged seekers to back away from untruth and employ the reverse vector. In a lecture titled "Zen and Common Sense", Rose said, "…if you train yourself to avoid the untrue, to reject and reject and reject as you find stuff absurd, you can only go in the opposite direction. Your intuition…[is] going to be skilled or directed or trained to move into a computation that is valid as opposed to something that you'd just like to believe because you're tired."
Along the way, it became apparent that the answer to life's mysteries involved an inward examination through honest self-inquiry and self-definition. Gurdjieff's and Ouspensky's advice (In Search of the Miraculous and The Fourth Way) involves rousing us from "waking sleep." Several weeks after reading these books and while on my way to a college class, I was startled as I woke up and became the watcher for a few minutes. The possibility of watching thoughts was no longer a concept; rather, a small realization occurred—up to that point in the day, the mind's activities had completely carried me away as if in a dream. Complete submersion in the mind became an untruth. A few months later, while reading Rose's Psychology of the Observer, I vividly recall puzzling over the prospect of whether I was, in his words, a Process Observer. Was I the Observer, or was I simply the observed mind processes? Who was the true Paul?
For many seekers, reading books and Web site material or listening to audio recordings can become an obsession. Numerous books and sites offer inspiration that encourage us to keep moving on the spiritual search. However, reading or listening to others may also become untruth. With enough introspection, some seekers will know they aren't going to learn the answer—they have to take action. Somehow, they have to become the Answer.
I met Rose for the first time in 1985, at the age of 22, during an August "Chautauqua." At these annual events, he invited spiritual seekers to his West Virginia farm to get the most out of introspection. His discussions encouraged us to observe mental processes and to become aware of the Observer. Some of us employed techniques that offered shortcuts on the spiritual path, including celibacy. Depending on the seeker, a celibate lifestyle can serve as a temporary holiday from the loss of energy and the engagement in the games of life. Celibacy can improve intuition and reveal even more absurdities and untruths about ourselves and spiritual "systems." Rose encouraged each seeker to become a very determined person—a vector. He also advised us to get our head on straight and get our house in order by eliminating bad habits, including odd sexual practices, excessive alcohol, and indulgence in illicit drugs. In turn, discarding these untruths would keep us out of the mud and lead to a clearer mind, which enables a seeker to contemplate deeper questions about themselves. Often, I mulled over seemingly unanswerable questions about myself, life, and the spiritual path, and weeks or months later, answers would suddenly arrive out of the blue, and with conviction. Thus, I got my first glimpses of the true value of intuition.
As the years passed, I realized that Richard Rose was a crutch—meaning, I depended too heavily on his words to inspire me into action or to offer quick fixes to life's problems. This is not to imply in any way that Rose was an untruth. Without him, I would have been cast adrift at sea, floating for eternity in the doldrums. Encountering someone who has "made the trip" will shave off years of floundering on the spiritual path. In fact, as Rose faded due to his tragic debilitation from Alzheimer's Disease in the mid-1990's, my path became murky once again. Later, while encountering others who had experienced a maximum Realization, I understood that completely relying on a teacher—or for that matter completely relying on anyone—was untruth too.
A stark reminder of the true source of all answers is found in the works of Joseph S. Benner. Benner wrote The Impersonal Life as though the Absolute ("My") was speaking to the reader:
The time has arrived, if you can see it, when you
must cast aside all accumulated knowledge,
all teachings, all religions, all authority,
even My authority as expressed in this and
My other outer revelations; for I have
quickened you to the consciousness of My
Presence within, to the fact that all authority,
teachings and religions, coming from
any outer source, no matter how lofty or
sacred, can no longer have any influence
with you, except as they become a means of
turning you within to Me, for My final
authority on all questions of whatsoever
And so it goes, you can't simply believe a teacher or what is written here; you must know the untruths for yourself.
Retreating from error. Employing the reverse vector. Backing away from untruth. These are phrases that Richard Rose used often. Rather than postulating an end result, the seeker doubts what he or she reads or hears, but maintains an open mind about the possibility of discovering helpful shortcuts. At some point along the path, determined seekers will have turned over every stone, looking for answers beneath. Each stone or untruth has been discarded, yet it is necessary to know with certainly that the stone did (or did not) remove erroneous concepts or beliefs, at least until we move on with improved intuition. In essence, the stones may serve as truth (small "t") until they become untruth. Diligent seekers know with certainty that tracing the awareness back to its Source is the only valid stone remaining. The path becomes ever narrower until a cataclysmic shift occurs and the "I"—the mind—is left behind during the experience of One Awareness. The final stone is lifted for us...
The process described above is akin to unraveling a ball of yarn. The steadfast seeker unwinds layer upon layer, down to the inner core. Where substance was once contained, Nothing remains when the ball is completely unwound. Does not Nothing exist without the yarn?
I could have clambered back
Left or right could be life and death,
I am grateful for agreeing to take the time
From The Platform Sutra of Hui Neng, Sixth Patriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism lineage (638-713 AD). Original of this version translated into English in 1930 by Wong Mou-Lam.
A visitor questioned Hui Neng:
"… If reincarnation is out of the question, then things will remain forever in a state of lifeless quintessence, like inanimate objects. If this is so, then under the limitations and restrictions of Nirvana even existence will be impossible to all beings; what enjoyment could there be?"
"You are a son of Buddha, (a bhikkhu)," said the Patriarch, "so why do you adopt the fallacious views of Eternalism and Annihilationist held by the heretics, and criticize the teaching of the Supreme Vehicle? Your argument implies that apart from the physical body there is a Law body (Dharmakaya); and that 'perfect rest' and 'cessation of changes' may be sought apart from 'becoming and cessation.' Further, from the statement, 'Nirvana is everlasting joy,' you infer that there must be somebody to play the part of the enjoyer.
"Now it is exactly these fallacious views that make people crave for sensate existence and indulge in worldly pleasure. It is for these people, the victims of ignorance… who crave for individual existence and have an aversion to death; who drift about in the whirlpool of life and death without realizing the hollowness of mundane existence, which is only a dream or an illusion; who commit themselves to unnecessary suffering by binding themselves to the wheel of re-birth; who mistake the state of everlasting joy of Nirvana for a mode of suffering, and who are always after the sensual pleasure; it is for these people that the compassionate Buddha preached the real bliss of Nirvana.
"At any one moment, Nirvana has neither the phenomenon of becoming, nor that of cessation, nor even the ceasing of operation of becoming and cessation. It is the manifestation of 'perfect rest and cessation of changes,' but at the time of manifestation there is not even a concept of manifestation; so it is called the 'everlasting joy' which has neither enjoyer nor non-enjoyer… Listen to my stanza:
The Supreme Maha Parinirvana
Is perfect, permanent, calm, and illuminating.
Ignorant people miscall it death,
While heretics hold that it is annihilation.
Those who belong to the Sravaka Vehicle or the Pratyeka
Regard it as 'Non-action.'
All these are mere intellectual speculations,
And form the basis of the sixty two fallacious views.
Since they are mere fictitious names invented for the occasion
They have nothing to do with the Absolute Truth.
Only those of super-eminent mind
Can understand thoroughly what Nirvana is, and take up the
attitude of neither attachment nor indifference towards it.
They know that five skandhas
And the so-called 'ego' arising from the union of these skandhas,
Together with all external objects and forms
And the various phenomena of sound and voice
Are equally unreal, like a dream or an illusion.
They make no discrimination between a sage and an ordinary
Nor do they have any arbitrary concept on Nirvana…"
Words of Wisdom
The most important question you can ever ask yourself is, Who am I? In a certain way, this has been an implicit question asked throughout every stage of your life. Every activity, whether individual or collective, is motivated at its root by a search for self-definition...
Unless this question has been truly answered, not just conventionally answered, you will still be hungry to know. Because no matter how you have been defined by others, well-meaning or not, and no matter how you have defined yourself, no definition can bring lasting certitude.
The moment of recognizing that no answer has ever satisfied this question is crucial. It is often referred to as the moment of spiritual ripeness, the moment of spiritual maturity. At this point, you can consciously investigate who you really are.
~ Gangaji - 2005, The Diamond in your Pocket (pp. 47-48), Sounds True
Click on image to access a short story
I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.
~ Lily Tomlin
The article by Bob Fergeson, Something for Nothing is an eye opener! Greatly appreciated!
I find the Forum very useful.
~ Pratap Bhatt