Buddha maturing


The conception of the awakened Buddha is maybe a glimpse of our Buddha nature, or an intuition of it, or even just an interest in it. Through the gestation period, there may be more and more glimpses of it, or explorations of it through headless experiments, the Big Mind process, meditation and other practices. And the birth of the Buddha is Buddha Mind awakening to itself, as a field of awake emptiness and form, absent of any separate self anywhere.

(It is usually not as clean cut as this, but it may be a useful generalization.)

The Buddha growing up

The Buddha is born, and may realize its own nature clearly, but it still needs to grow up and mature in its expression in the world. Its vehicle in the world – this human self – has to reorganize and relearn how to function in the world and live its life within this new context of realized selflessness.

Compassion arises

The first thing that happens is that it realizes that it has awakened to itself, yet also not. In the world and the lives of individuals, there are many examples of Buddha Mind not having awakened to itself, and of Buddha Mind experiencing confusion and suffering. So compassion arises naturally, and a desire to help – both with alleviating the suffering itself and in removing the causes of the suffering (if, when and to the extent they seek and want the help.)

Refining its instrument in the world

To do this, the vehicle for Buddha Mind in the world – this human individual – needs to be refined. It needs to continue to heal, mature, develop, and learn skillful means.

Deepening into the fullness of this human self

The more this human individual matures and deepens into the evolving fullness of what it is, the more it can connect with others where they are. It recognizes in itself what it meets in others. It becomes more deeply and thoroughly human, without having to defend or attach to any particular identities. It can allow the evolving wholeness of itself, with all the weaknesses and imperfections that goes along with being human.

Playing the game

Maybe most of all, Buddha Mind awakened to itself has to play the game. It has to take the experiences of Buddha Mind, when it is confused and suffers and takes itself to be just a small part of its own form, seriously. It has to play along, meeting people where they are, even when it is clear that it is all just the dance of the awake emptiness. When awakened to itself, this dance is free enough to play along in whatever ways arise.

The question of evil


Some of the many ways of looking at evil, in the context of Spirit as beyond and including all polarities.


Evil comes out of confusion. It comes out of believing in the idea of I, placing it on this human self, and then creating a more elaborate identity that needs to be defended.

I see myself as an object in finite space and time, and need to protect myself. I take as I, and believe in, the more elaborate identity of this human self, and this also needs to be protected.

And since it is a death-and-life matter, I am willing to use death-and-life means.

Expressions of Spirit

It is an expression of Spirit. It is Spirit expressing, exploring and experiencing itself, in yet another flavor. It is awake emptiness and form, in one of its many expressions, inherently absent of good and bad, good and evil, better or worse.


It ads to the drama of Spirit expressing, exploring and experiencing itself. Spirit creates a sense of I and Other, place the I on this human self and Other on anything else, and the drama is in motion. There is more juice, more engagement, more liveliness, if it appears as a life-and-death drama.

Evolution and development

Souls develop over incarnations, and human selves develop within its lifetime.

Evil actions is simply the actions of an immature soul or human self, when pressed to its limits. When nothing else seems available.

Or we can say that evil actions happen when our circle of care, compassion and concern is exclusive. It may be that we see a strong boundary between we and them, dehumanize the Others, and see it in our interest to harm them, directly or indirectly. Or it may be that we are simply oblivious to the effects our actions have on others, although this is typically not seen as evil.

Over the course of the development of the human self, its circle of care, compassion and concern gets wider and wider. The circle of we and us expands to include more and more people, groups of people, species and systems. It can go from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric and even to Kosmocentric, depending on the inner and outer conditions.

In egocentric, my circle only goes around me and maybe those most immediate to me. In ethnocentric, it includes my group, however it is defined – my nation, religion, ethnicity, age, political affiliation, and so on. In worldcentric, it includes all of us – which can be all of us human beings, all of us beings on this planet, all of this planetary ecosystem, all of us in past, present and future. And in Kosmocentric, it includes all of Existence, beyond and including all polarities. It includes all of Spirit as awake emptiness and the whole world of form.

Belief in an idea

Evil can be seen as coming from a belief in an idea. We believe in the idea of good and evil, create a definition for it (usually coming from culture or religion), and place it on the world.

We place it on top of something that is inherently free from good and evil, and then we act as if it is really there – because it is, for us.

Conventional views as a guidelines

And then there are the many conventional views on ethics, law and so on, which are all very useful (essential) in our daily life. They serve as guidelines for our own behavior, and also for how we will allow others to treat others.

All together

Each of these views, and many more, have a good point. They are each true in their own way. They are each useful. But if we get stuck in just one, something else is left out and what we leave out will most likely come back to bit us. We act from a filter that removes most of the spectrum, and lose much of the information available to us.

We see it all as Spirit, and disregard conventional views, guidelines and laws. We stick only to our beliefs, and ourselves end up acting in less compassionate ways. We see it all as drama, and stoke the drama instead of helping people find relief from suffering and awakening.

The more of the spectrum included, the more we can see, and the more informed, and hopefully compassionate, our actions can be.

Free Will II – a difference between realizing and believing in ideas


There is of course a big difference between realizing and believing in the complementarity of the freedom of awake emptiness, and the absence of I and free will in the world of form – in our case, as a human being.

Realizing absence of freedom

Realizing it is Spirit awakening to itself as awake emptiness and form, inherently absent of I anywhere – and as a whole as an I. This is liberation. It is a liberation from an exclusive identity as a segment of this field, it is a liberation from seeing this human self and its actions as an I, it is a liberation for this human self from having a sense of I placed on top of it.

Believing in absence of freedom

Believing in it, just attaching to ideas about it, is quite different. This happens when there is still very much a sense of I there, placed on the local causality of this human self such as thoughts, decisions and actions. It is still taken and experienced as an I, yet there is a belief in infinite causes, in an absence of free will in this human self, maybe in an absence of I.

And this can take different forms.

Believing, yet still acting as if there is free will

One, and the more healthy variation, is to take it as a spur to practice, to explore this, is it really true? Can I find it in my own experience? Are there really infinite causes to anything I think, do, and experience? Is there an absence of I in this human self?

In exploring this, we take our experience seriously in two ways.

First, we take our findings seriously. We explore seriously, in detail, over and over, and take what we find seriously. We explore the implications of what we find, we feel into what it would mean to live more fully from it.

And, equally important, we take our current experience seriously in the context of our daily life. If there is still a sense of an I here in daily life, then I live from that as before. I take responsibility for my actions. I sincerely try to make the most informed and compassionate choices. I live as if I have a free will, because it seems I do.

Even if we don’t explore it further, it is a good thing to act as if we have free will. It does help in making our lives easier on us and others.

Yet, this too, this acting as if we have free will, is the local expressions of the movements of the whole. This too has infinite causes. This too is inherently absent of an I and free will. It may be good to realize that, but also keep it in the background. Acting as if there is free will is in the foreground, realizing that this too is absent of free will, that this too is grace, can go in the background.

Believing, and making wrong conclusions

The other, less healthy, way, is to take a nihilistic approach and abandon any sense of responsibility. Of course, what we are really doing here is to first attach to a belief of an absence of free will, and then attach to an idea that this means nihilism and abandoning responsibility. This is miles away from what happens in a real awakening, when there is a real realization.

How it unfolds when realized

In a real realization, this human self continues to operate much as before. It still explores options and alternatives. It still tries to make informed and compassionate decisions. It is still very much active and engaged in the world. If anything, there is more of an incentive to making informed decisions, to live from compassion, and to be engaged in the world.

The only difference is that now, there is no sense of an I there anymore. There are thoughts, choices and actions, yet no I there anywhere. It is just an expression of awake emptiness and form, as anything else happening.

There is very much doing, but no doer anymore.

Grace, and also planting seeds

All of this, believing naively there is free will, taking on a nihilistic attitude, Spirit awakening to itself, all of this is also absent of any I or free will. It is the local expressions of the movements of the whole, it is Spirit expressing, exploring and experiencing itself in various ways. It is all God’s will. It is all Grace.

At the same time, there is a planting of seeds in the world of form that allows these things to happen and unfold. There is a planting of a seed that spurs someone to explore for themselves, and some guidelines for how to do it. There is a set-up that brings someone into cynicism and nihilism when they read something like this. There is the infinite causes coming together so that someone still acts as if there is free will, even if he realizes, to some extent, that it cannot be.

Anything happening in and through us has infinite causes, and we can plant seeds for ourselves and others. We can plant seeds for happiness, release from suffering and awakening. And we can plant seeds for misery. We do both.

And both are themselves the fruits of infinite causes.

But here too, it is a good idea to act as if there is free will.

And around and around it goes, until Spirit awakens to itself.

For the benefit of all beings


In Mahayana Buddhism, and maybe especially in Tibetan Buddhism, there is a strong emphasis on seeking awakening for the benefit of all beings.

And there is a pretty obvious reason for that:

If we attain awakening only for our “own” benefit, then that’s it. It stops there. (Not really, but that may be the attitude.) A seed is planted in our human self saying that Enlightenment is it, that it is a goal in itself, and that the continuing healing, maturing and development of our human self is not important.

On the other hand, when the invitation to benefit all beings is planted in our human self, it serves as a catalyst for this human self to continue to heal, mature and develop before and after realized selflessness. The intention comes from from, is form, and is a catalyst and guide for the unfolding of form.

It allows for Self-Realization as well as Enlightenment.

It allows for this human self to actively seek to heal, mature and develop, before and after realized selflessness, because it recognizes itself as a tool for benefiting others in the world of form, even as all these beings, including itself, are absent of any I.

It continues to play the game. It embraces the Absolute, the field of seeing and seen absent of I anywhere, and the relative, including the myriads of beings, the field mistakenly identifying as a finite being and experiencing suffering from it, and the possibility to help the field to wake up to its own nature as the Ground of seeing and seen, inherenly absent of I anywhere.

I know the first step, but what is the second?


I overheard a conversation a couple of days ago…

Somebody asked another how it is possible to not be reactive to what is happening in the world. The other said, I find in myself what I see in the other, and see that we are no different. And the first responded, impatiently, yes, I know that is the first step, but what is the second?

The second is the first step, all over again, and over again, and over again, until it deepens, becomes indisputable, is a lived realization, deepening and maturing over and over.

Whatever I see in you is also here in myself. Whatever I see anywhere out there, is also here in myself.

Knowing this as a general principle is useful as a pointer, as a reminder to look for the specifics. How is this true? How can I find in my own life what I see in your life? How does it play itself out here. How it is alive right here and now?

This exploration, over and over, is what deepens the realization. It is what puts meat on the bones. It is what fills it out. It is what makes it come alive. It is what allows any sense of absolute separation to soften, dissolve, melt away, leaving only an open heart – available to you and me as we are.

It is what any sense of boundaries to fall away, until there is only Ground left – the Ground of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere.

Wholehearted: whole heart


No new insight, but coming alive in a different way for me now:

To be wholehearted is to receive the whole of the world in my heart.

If my heart is open to some beings and not others, to some aspects of myself and not other aspects, to some situations and not other situation, it is split, broken, partially open, or open only part of the time. If my open heart is only available to some beings, aspects and situations, that means it is available to myself only partially, only some of the time. It is available only half-heartedly, including to myself.

If my heart is open for all beings, all aspects, all situations, it is whole. It is available wholeheartedly. It is available to myself wholeheartedly. With its sense of fullness, warmth, connection, passion, belonging, softening, healing, deepening, coming home.

Beliefs is the reason for half-heartedness. A person, aspect or situation arise, I see it as wrong, and close my heart off.

So inquiring into beliefs is one way to allow them to fall away and the heart to open. When it functions without the filter of beliefs, it is naturally open – available to anyone, any situation.

Another is to allow the person or situation into my heart, which in turns allows the belief to soften.

Heart closing and opening from same situation


This, again, is pretty obvious, but worth mentioning as a reminder for myself…

Any situation can close or open our heart.

A simple example from a couple of days ago: I see an abandoned cat at a truck stop, spend some time making friends with it so I can catch it and find a home for it, and somebody – in spite of seeing me and the cat, walks quickly next us, the cat is scared, runs off, and is not seen again.

So here, I can close my heart to the guy who scared the cat off without concern for it. In this case, the compassion for the cat, and for myself, gets caught up in the drama of closing my heart off from the guy. There is a lot of resistance to experience, and discomfort.

Or I can open my heart to everyone involved, to the cat, to myself, to the guy who scared the cat. We are all in the same boat here. We all operate from conditioning. We all want happiness and freedom from suffering. There is no difference here. So in this case, there is no drama, just a heart open to everyone in the situation. There is peace. No need to resist experience.

And this is the case with any situation.

When I notice that I use a particular situation to close my heart, I can see if I can include the person I closed my heart off from in my compassion. And really, the person I am closing my heart off from is always myself. I close my heart off, and it is closed off from myself right there.

So any situation can either open or close my heart.

When my heart is open to some beings and not to others, it opens and closes depending on where attention goes, and there is confusion, drama, a sense of something to protect, and constant work in analyzing the situation, comparing it with beliefs, and then deciding who to open and close my heart towards. It’s a lot of work, and does not give much peace or satisfaction.

When I include everyone indiscriminately, it is much easier, much less work, more peaceful, and gives a sense of fullness and connection. It even helps me to function and interact from more clarity.

I also notice that when I open or close my heart, I mainly open or close it towards myself. I am the one who lives with the effects of it, 24/7.

The many faces of love


Somebody sent me a question about love, pointing out (accurately) that I don’t use that word much here.

Here are some of the things that came up for me…

Jnana and bhakti

There are two main approaches to spirituality: jnana (inquiry, insight, wisdom) and bhakti (love, compassion, devotion).

Over the last few years, jnana has been more in the foreground for me, in the form of various ways to do inquiry. Before this, there were several (pre-blog) years where bhakti was in the foreground as a practice and lived experience.

Both are fine of course. And at different times in our lives, one may be in the foreground for a while, and then the other, and then maybe neither, and then both.


Another thing about love is that it is used in many different meanings, and also can be filtered in different ways.

It can be filtered through a generally egocentric or ethnocentric or widening worldcentric way of being. Being exposed to people living from the two first of these, it is fine if I am inside of their circle of concern, but not so nice if I am outside of it. (Ku Klux Klan really do love whites, and I am sure it is a genuine love, but I if I am black and on the outside of that love, I may not appreciate it so much.)

Love, even world-centric love, is also filtered through beliefs. For instance, I may love somebody, but also think they should appreciate me, or be with me, or give me money, or generally behave the way I want. Love is then mixed up with much else that may not be so comfortable for those at the receiving end.

The view and emotion of love

There is also the view and emotion of love.

The view of love is Big Mind, or any views that approach Big Mind such as deepening and widening worldcentric circles of concern, a sense of no separation, of oneness, of recognition, and so on.

If I act from these views, my actions may be interpreted by others as coming from love. In reality, I am just acting from a sense or view of no separation, or recognition, or Big Mind, but it certainly looks like love, and I may even experience it as love – or not.

Which brings us to the emotion or experience of love. As with any content, the emotion or experience of love comes and goes. It is sometimes strong, sometimes, less strong, sometimes absent, sometimes mixed up with all sorts of other emotions. It is maybe not the most reliable basis for action.

But the view can be more stable. Unravelling beliefs, or finding myself as witness, the world of form is a seamless field and there is no absolute separation of I and Other anymore. From here, I will naturally live in ways that looks like love. And when the emotion is there to create a fuller and richer experience, that is the icing on the cake.

Impersonal and personal

A final thing that comes up for me is that love can be experienced as impersonal or personal, by either the giver or the receiver.

On the one hand, love in its essence is completely impersonal – embracing everyone and everything.

On the other hand, if my whole being is participating (present, engaged, wholehearted), and I am transparent and receptive, and interested in the other person as a human being, it tends to be experienced – by both, as more personal, more alive, more rich and full.

Forms of Compassion


There seems to be a few different forms of compassion.

Compassion from realized selflessness

One is what happens when Ground – Spirit, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Divine Mind, Emptiness, What Is – awakens to its own nature. Here, everything arising is revealed as Ground (etc.), and there is no I anywhere.

There is still a functional connection with a particular human self, and when this human self encounters Ground functionally connected with another self, and is (apparently) confused about its identity, then compassion naturally arises. It is as simple as the left hand helping the right. Effortless. Natural. Spontaneous. Without drama.

Compassion in the context of an idea of I

The other form of compassion is what happens when there is still a belief in the idea of I, still an identification with a segment of what is, typically our human self. This compassion is usually mixed with a sense of drama, ambivalence, struggle, effort, precariousness, and so on.

A belief in the idea of I creates the whole sense of I and Other, and the sense of ambivalence, struggle and drama inherent in that experience. And when there is a belief in the idea of I, there are usually beliefs in lots of other ideas as well, which only complexifies and amplifies the sense of drama, struggle and ambivalence.

Even here, the natural and effortless compassion arising from realized selflessness can come through. It is, after all, what we already are, so it will come through at times.



I went to Powell’s bookstore in Portland today and asked for An Interrupted Life, the journals and letters of Etty Hillesum. The person behind the desk looked it up, and asked if it was about the holocaust. As I said yes, I noticed compassion and sadness come up for me, and how the atmosphere changed. I also noticed how much I like that experience of compassion and intimacy.

And I saw clearly how it all comes from a story.

Without the story, there is just clarity. Jesus and Hitler is the same. There is ruthless equality.

With a story comes compassion and sadness. People shouldn’t do those things to each other. It is so sad that such a beautiful young woman, with so many talents, had to die so young and in such a way. And so on.

It is a beautiful story in a way. And as I said, I noticed a great deal of attachment and comfort in the compassion it gave birth to. Yet, it is only a story. Only another delusion. Another veil.

Who wants to hear that? How can it be expressed?

At the same time, I see that conventional compassion has a content, a particular feeling associated with it. And transcendent compassion does not. Transcendent compassion, Big Heart, just acts. There is suffering and the desire of I in the form of you to be relieved from suffering, and it acts. It is the left hand helping the right. No hesitation. No dependence on any particular feeling. It is the ruthless equality of Big Mind appearing as love in action.

Inquiry & Empathy


One of the outcomes of examining my beliefs is understanding and empathy – with myself and others.

I see that when I believe in any particular thought, it brings about certain outcomes in many areas of my life – all of which amount to variations of suffering. Listening to others doing their own inquiries, and looking at people in general, I see that these patters seem mostly universal, shared by most or all of us and played out in very similar ways – with a certain unique flavoring in each case.

This means that it is often helpful to inquire into any belief, even if I don’t at first recognize from our my life. It is most likely there, in one form or another.

At the very least, it helps me understand how it is to be a human being believing that thought – it opens for more genuine empathy from having walked in those shoes. In most cases, I realize that I have walked in those shoes myself, even if I didn’t see it at first. And at a minimum, I walked in the shoes through inquiry, through living myself into how it would be for me to have that belief.

Heart Centered Practice: Fullness, engagement and embodiment


I used to focus on heart centered practices – mainly the heart prayer, Christ meditation (visualizing Christ in the heart and about 5 feet away in all six directions), and gratitude (for everything happening, through for instance repeating the word “thanks” as a mantra) – and it seems that they are slowly coming back. There is a quite different embodiment that comes from heart-centered practices, a different sense of engagement in the world.

There are many ways of talking about this, and I am only scratching the surface here as with everything else (and am obviously far behind many others who have explored this).

Where inquiry and basic sitting practice gives insight and clarity, heart-centeredness gives engagement. The first is a zero/first person relationship with God, and the second a second person relationship with God. One gives the context, the other the content. One gives clarity and space, the other fullness and richness. One gives equanimity, the other joy, gratitude and compassion.

And both seem needed, at least in my case.

There is a continuing deepening into the heart and living from the heart possible, before and after a nondual awakening.

Even the unconditioned is conditioned on awakening


In some spiritual traditions, they talk about conditioned and unconditioned such as such – for instance compassion.

This makes sense when we talk about conventional conditioning, but there seems to still be a condition there – even for the “unconditioned”.

When I am exclusively identified with my human self, anything that comes up for me tends to be conditioned by external and internal circumstances. Something happens which triggers something in me, and the mechanisms behind it are formed by biology, culture and personal experiences. So in this case, (just about?) everything is conditioned – in a conventional sense.

When I awaken to myself as pure awareness, or as what is with no “I” anywhere, there tends to be “unconditioned” compassion and so on. But what comes up is still conditioned on something, in this case the realization of our nature as pure awareness or as what is with no “I” anywhere.

The infinite compassion that tends to come up here is certainly unconditioned by anything in the world of form, although it can be stimulated by it. And it can be described as unconditioned in the sense that everything is just happening – it is emptiness dancing. But we can also say that it is conditioned on awakening and immediate realization.

Breaking Down vs. Breaking Open


Whenever there is a strong experience, I have two (broad) choices.

I can choose to resist. Or I can be with it – or rather be it.

When I resist, there is suffering. If it goes on for too long, and/or is too strong, I can “break down”.

When I am the experience, there is a current of bliss. And I can allow the experience to open my heart and mind. I can break open. The separations between me and others break down – it opens my heart/mind for the experiences of others, and I see that we are all in the same boat. My own pain is a reminder of the pain that all humans experience. It opens for compassion through seeing myself in the other and the other in myself.