Gaining insight from the content of accusations


I read a great post from Vince on how to relate to accusations.

One thing I would like to add to the list is gaining insight from the content of the accusations. In this way, we benefit from the content, and the other person benefits from feeling heard and acknowledged.

(Few things are as annoying as being caught up in reactivity and sharing it with someone who just goes into equanimity without relating to the content of what we have to say.)

Anything anyone has to say about us has, inevitably, some grain of truth in it.

How can I find it in myself? Can I find three or more examples in my own life where it is genuinely true for me, maybe even in how I relate to this person right now?

Why is it better that this person said this in exactly this way? Can I find three genuine examples of why it is better?

Milarepa: Magician, murderer, saint



I was fortunate enough to see the new Milarepa movie tonight, made by Neten Chokling who was one of the actors in The Cup and assisted with Travelers and Magicians.

Since I have been exploring the early part of the chain behind “deluded” actions lately, that was one of the things that came up for me.

Especially, how, when we unravel what is behind motivations, the ones stemming from a sense of an I with an Other, we find first fear, and then love.

In his case, fear of losing his mother (she threatened with committing suicide if he didn’t take revenge on the village), fear of what may become of him (they had lost their family fortune), fear of not getting his girl (he was poor, she more affluent). When I look for myself, I find that these types of fears are often behind ill considered actions, and also reactivity and reactive emotions. (Anger, frustration, despair.)

And going behind that fear, there is love. In his case, love for his mother, his father, his sister, himself. Love for those he included in his circle of us, which probably shrank due to how his family was treated by most others in the village.

And of course, behind the fear and reactivity, we find beliefs. A sense of being a separate self, beliefs in justice, in wanting a good life, and so on.

And mixed in with it all, pure innocence. Pure innocence in believing certain thoughts, just because most people around do it. Pure innocence in acting from fear, because this fear is inevitable when we take ourselves to be an I with an Other. Pure innocence in this fear taking the form of anger, hate, despair and wanting revenge, because that is inevitable when we resist the experience of fear, and also when it gets mixed up in typical beliefs. Pure innocence in the love that is behind it all, because that love is what we are. Pure innocence in filtering that love through a boundary of us and them, because that is inevitable when there is a sense of a separate I. Pure innocence in where that boundary falls, because that comes from culture, family and where we are in terms of maturity.

The story, as any other story, is a mirror for myself. Can I find what I see in Milarepa, his path, and in the people around him, in myself?

Where do I find the confusion? Being caught up in a sense of a separate self, and everything that comes from that? Where do I find the turning point? The situation or situations where I went far enough in acting from confusion, reactivity and beliefs that it stunned me, invited me to see if there is another way.

And in the sequel, which is about his training and awakening process, where do I build up stone towers just to have to dismantle them again, or having them dismantled for me?

Aspects of tong-len


Some aspects of tong-len

It invites me to find in myself the confusion I see in others, and see in others the clarity I find here.

It invites in a receptivity to any experience, even those I would rather not were here.

It invites in a sense of us, a sense of a seamless field we all happen within and as.

In other words, it helps me notice more of the fullness of who I am, as a human being, it gives a taste of fearlessness towards experience, and it releases identification out of content of experience, inviting me to notice what I already am.

In terms of the three centers, I see that it invites in a receptivity of mind, heart and feelings. Recognizing myself in others, opening my heart to all of us, and a felt sense of our shared humanity and existence.

Of course, all of this can be expressed in a more technical language, but why not stay with the simple words? Those that are a little closer to immediate experience.



Buddhism often talk about attachments to things in the world, and how this creates suffering.

But is that really what is going on? What is it an attachment really to? And what is an attachment?

When I explore this for myself, I find that what appears as an attachment to things in the world is something a little different.

Any attachment is to a story only. And this attachment is really an identification with a story.

The core story is that of an I with and Other, which is then fleshed out with other stories.

And I am identified with these, I take myself as these stories. I am this I with an Other, I am a living being, an object in the world, has a certain gender, age, from a specific ethnic background, has certain interests, skills, values, and so on.

I believe I am this human self, so am naturally attached to its well-being and aliveness. (Nothing wrong with that, although the added drama around it may be uncomfortable.) I believe people shouldn’t lie, so am attached to people speaking the truth. I believe a certain type of food will give me comfort, and that I need comfort, so appear attached to that food. I believe an intimate relationship will give me nurturing I cannot find any other way, and that I need that nurturing, so I am attached to having intimate relationships.

Our stories about what is and what should be often do not align, so attachments to stories create a sense of drama and discomfort. This is of course fine. But eventually, there may be an impulse to take a closer look at what is going on, and explore working with attachments.

One way of working with attachments is to explore impermanence.

Exploring impermanence has two effects. It invites in a disidentification with stories. And also a realignment of the stories we use in daily life, whether we are identified with them or not, to more closely reflect impermanence. In both cases, there is a release of attachment to having things a particular way. There is less of a war with what is, as Byron Katie says. (Although she uses a direct inquiry into the beliefs themselves, not this particular approach.)

We can explore it outside of stories, through directly see impermanence in the different sense fields. By getting familiar with impermanence in this way, we see that our stories are not true so there is a disidentification with them, and the stories we use realign as well. (This one is important for the disidentification part, less so for the realignment.)

We can also explore impermanence within stories, the impermanence of the universe, earth, humanity, civilizations, individuals, relationships and so on. This helps us realign our stories, and the larger perspective can also give a certain disidentification with stories. (This one is important for the realignment part, but maybe less effective for the disidentification.)

And we can investigate stories directly. We find a should which clashes with our stories of what is, and take it to inquiry. Is it true? What happens when I believe it? Who would I be without it? Can I find the truth in its turnarounds? This invites identification to be released out of the story.

A third way of releasing identification out of stories is to notice what we already are. We can use the sense fields to explore impermanence, see how all content of awareness comes and goes. But something does not come and go. What we really are does not seem to come and go. What is it? What is it that does not come and go? Or we can use the headless experiments to find ourselves as a no-thing full of whatever happens, or the Big Mind process to find ourselves as Big Mind.

There are of course lots of ways to explore attachments. These are just the ones I happen to be most familiar with right now.

So a quick summary:

  • Attachments to situations or things in the world creates drama and suffering, because everything is living its own life and is in flux. We get what we don’t want. We don’t get what we want. We don’t lose what we have but don’t want. We can’t hold onto what we want to keep.
  • This attachment is really an attachment to stories about what is and should be. And this attachment to stories is really an identification with them.
  • We can work with this in two ways. First, by realigning the stories we use, whether we are identified with them or not, with everything living its own life, on its own schedule, and being in flux. Then, by inviting identification to release out of these stories altogether. Realignment without disidentification only works up to a point since the world always will show up differently from our stories about it. There will be a certain amount of drama and discomfort left. Disidentification without realignment will release the drama out of it, but the stories our human self uses in its daily life will not be as closely aligned with the world as they can be. Both are important.
  • And there are several tools for working with attachments in these ways. One is The Work which directly addresses the beliefs, broadens the scope of stores we have available to us through the turnarounds, and invites in a release of identification with the stories. Another is exploring impermanence through the sense fields, which invites in a release of identification with stories, and some realignment of these stories. And we can also find ourselves as that which is already free from identification with stories, through headless experiments, the Big Mind process, or finding ourselves as that which does not come and go in the midst of all content of awareness coming and going.

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Buddhist Visions



Our local art museum has an exhibit on Buddhist art called Buddhist Visions, focusing especially on depictions of heaven and hell.

So as with anything else, as usual, this is about what is happening here and now.

Heaven is here. Hell is here. The bardos are here. Whatever happens after we die, as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is here.

It is a projection of stories happening here now, into past and future. And it is a projection of dynamics happening here now, into past and future, or another location in space.

There is a story here, about heaven, hell, creation, what happens after death, and I see it as reflecting something really out there, in the past, future, or somewhere else in space. And I can either recognize it as just a thought, having purely a practical function for this human self in the world, or I can take it as somehow substantial, real, something far more than just an ephemeral thought.

Dynamics happening here now are also projected out, in a similar way, through these stories.

I can find heaven here, when I tell myself what is and what should be are aligned, or when I notice myself as that which all content of experience happens within and as. I can find hell here, when I tell myself that what is and what should be are not aligned, or when I get caught up in beliefs in general.

(For instance, have you ever felt like either or all of the figures in the painting above? I have, and do whenever I get caught up in being right, in a hot anger, creating a sense of being eaten alive. That is one version of hell.)

I can find the layers and processes described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead here now, when I explore the sense fields or use other approaches.

So all of these Buddhist images can be seen as describing something happening here and now, for each of us. And that is really the same with anything else, any other story, in the news, in movies, in books, in dreams, in myths, in fairy tales, in science, in religion. Whatever it is, it is something we can find here now, in immediate awareness.

We can find the story of it here now, as simply an ephemeral and insubstantial thought. And we can find the dynamics it refers to. Any story is a story about what is alive here now.

It has a double practical value. First, as a practical tool for our human self to navigate and function in the world. Then, as a reflection of what is alive here now in our immediate awareness.

Karma and reincarnation as teaching strategy


What do we know about life, death and what continues?

Well, we know for sure that this human self dies. It is gone. Never to come back. So if we take this human self, with its particular personality, to be “I”, then “I” will surely die and be gone forever, reincarnation or not.

At the same time, we see that the world of form is a seamless whole. Everything has infinite causes and infinite effects. The world of form is reorganizing itself in always new and different ways. There is no I with an Other within the world of form. Doing, but no (separate, individual) doer.

And if we look, we find that within all of this coming and going, all of this change, something does not come and go. The awareness it all happens within does not come and go. It is that which all forms happens within, to and as, including all time and space, all causality, and any sense of an I with an Other. This awareness is inherently free from all of it, so is also free to allow the appearance of it all. This is what we really are, awakeness inherently free from any of its content, free from any I with an Other, yet allowing the appearance of it all in its fluid richness.

So in this context, personal karma does not have much meaning, nor does reincarnation if we think of an “I” that is reincarnated.

There is no “personal” karma because everything has infinite causes and infinite effects. Every single little thing this human self does has causes that stretch back to the beginning of time and out to the extent of the universe. It is the karma of the world of form as a whole and does not belong to any individual entity within this world of form.

And there is no reincarnation of a separate “I” either, because it doesn’t exist. It only appears when we filter the world through a sense of I and Other, which all comes from a thought, which all happens within, to and as awakeness itself.

At most, there may be a rebirth of this alive presence with its many flavors of infinite love, wisdom, luminosity, nurturing darkness, and somehow personal and impersonal at the same time. This alive presence at the soul level, which may come in through certain soul level practices such as prayer, and which we can place our sense of “I” on if we want. But this too is within content of awareness, this too comes and goes, this too is inherently free from any I with an Other. So even if there is some form of rebirth here, it is free from a rebirth of any “I”.

So why does Buddhism, and some other traditions, emphasize personal karma and reincarnation? They are not stupid, they too must have discovered this either in their own immediate experience or at least rationally, so why do they still – sometimes – emphasize it?

To me, it seems to be a teaching strategy. A teaching aimed at a particular, introductory, level.

It is far too easy to be caught up in the words about these things… ground, awakeness, emptiness, no I with an Other. As soon as we start believing the thoughts about these things, or anything else, it quickly gets really weird.

So then it is better to encourage people to continue to believe in a separate self, with individual karma and the prospect of being reborn, because that at least invites in some personal responsibility, some measure of ethical living, the practice of thinking of the longer term and far reaching consequences of ones actions.

(It easily becomes a fear based motivation, which Buddhism traditionally is not foreign to, so we may agree or disagree with that particular approach.)

It aligns our sense of a separate I, with a conscious view of a separate I, which anyway is more honest.

If we are going to believe in thoughts, as we do until there is a shift into awakeness awakening to itself, we may as well believe in these thoughts. They do at least have some practical everyday value.

And if we, in addition to this, practice, we may eventually come to see through it all. We may discover that there is really no I with an Other. That the world of form is a seamless whole, where the local manifestations of the movements of the whole appears as under the influence of infinite causes and infinite effects. That what we really are is this awakeness within, to and as the world of form appears, inherently and already absent of any I with an Other.

And that there is no, and never was any, personal karma. No reincarnation of any I. No substance to those teachings.

Yet a great deal of appreciation for them anyway, as practical guides for a certain phase of the path.

Bringing all of us in


Many traditions have ways of bringing all of us into transformative processes.

In Tibetan Buddhism, it is done – among other ways – through visualizing all beings taking refuge with us, during the first of the four ngondro practices, each done a hundred thousand times. In Shamanic traditions, by inviting in the protectors from the six directions. In Christianity, through the Christ meditation where Christ is visualized in the six directions and the heart. In many traditions, through prayer or well-wishing for all beings, including our enemies and those in the hell realms. And so on.

In each of these apart from the Christ meditation, there is an intention and visualization of all beings aligned… in taking refuge in Buddha nature, in participating in sacred space, being included in healing and awakening. And even the Christ meditation has a sense of completeness and absolute inclusion in it, by visualizing Christ in all directions and in the heart.

And each of these is a way of inviting all of us to participate, and to align all parts of us. Using voice dialog language, each subpersonality or voice is invited to join and align in the same overall purpose of healing and awakening of the mind and heart.

In addition, it helps us see all beings in the same boat in different ways. All beings are taking part in this sacred process of life. All have the potential for awakening, and all have Buddha nature. We can learn to see beyond the surface ripples of contraction, and see how we each seek happiness and freedom from suffering, and all are awakeness.

10 questions about Buddhism


Ten questions about Buddhism from, and what comes up for me around it…

  1. If there is no personal God, and if one can attain nirvana only as a result of the destruction of thirst (tanha) / desire, therefore the destruction of attachment, therefore the destruction of existence–from whence, do you suppose, did personality (or even the sense of personality) ever come? Exactly what is it, and where does it go when one ceases to exist?
    • All of these questions is something we each have to explore for ourselves, in what is here now.
    • What I find for myself is that a sense of I and Other comes from beliefs (rigid identification with stories and identities, and a disowning of the truth of their reversals), and this is what creates a sense of a separate self, and of separation, which – for all its juiciness and wonderful gifts – in turn brings a sense of something missing and of dissatisfaction.
    • The human self and its personality does not really have much to do with all of this, apart from being something that we conveniently anchor this sense of a separate self in. It is an intrinsic part of the world of form, as long as it is around, inherently and already absent of an I with an Other.
    • Of course, we can also talk about a soul level, often experienced as an alive presence, which can pass from human form to human form through death and birth, and while the first part of it (ourselves as alive presence) is something we can notice here and now, the second part is more speculative and comes from a story.
  2. Without a personal God, on what basis can there ever exist any human moral standard or ethic–and therefore, in what sense do you mean for us to understand the terms noble and truth, i.e. The Four Noble Truths, or the term right in the eight-fold path of right views, resolve, speech, conduct, occupation, efforts, awareness, and meditation?
    • Good question! It is one that has many layers to it, and probably continues to unfold as we explore it through life.
    • No story has an absolute truth to it. It is always limited, and have a temporary, practical and pragmatic value only. It is a tool for our human self to function and operate in the world.
    • At the same time, when we bring in the heart, we naturally want to support life. This human self is part of life, and as it matures our circles of care, concern and compassion tends to widen to include more and more of life, until nothing and no-one is left out. And this heart is our guidance, telling us which stories and which actions in the world are most likely to support life, based on whatever experience and practical wisdom we may have gained through our life so far.
    • Since our heart is not always so open or available, it is good to have some more formal guidelines as well, such as the golden rule, the ten commandment, the various Buddhist precepts, and so on. There is no absolute truth in any of them, but they do have an important practical function in reducing suffering and increasing the likelihood of happiness for ourselves and others.
    • The four noble truths are also relative truths, since they are expressed in the form of stories, and they are noble because they reflect a direct insight that comes through awakening, and can also guide us towards that awakening. (When this awakeness here now awakens to itself, and thoughts are seen as just thoughts.)
    • The eight paths of the eightfold path are similarly right in a limited and practical sense. If you want to awaken, then they are useful guidelines to follow. If not, then they are not right for you. It all depends on your goals and motivation.
  3. If your teaching, which came on the scene in the sixth century B.C., alone represents truth and liberation–what provision was there for the millions who lived previous to the advent of your enlightenment and teaching? Why do you suppose that you, of all humankind, were the one to come on this insight when you did?
    • I don’t see Buddhism as alone representing truth and liberation. On the contrary, people from a wide range of traditions and cultures have expressed similar insights as those expressed in Buddhism, including many Christian saints and mystics. If Buddhism points to anything that is real and available to be discovered, then it is available to anyone independent of tradition or culture. There is no need to adhere to Buddhism to notice these things, Buddhism is just one of many collections of pointers and practices that can help you notice it for yourself.
  4. If, as you are reported to have said, nirvana is “beyond…good and evil”, then, in the ultimate sense, there is really no difference between Hitler and Mother Theresa, or between helping an old lady across the street and running her down–correct?
    • One answer is: yes, that is true. It is all expressions of life, of existence, of the world of form, which is inherently free from stories of good and bad, right and wrong, and so on.
    • The other, more practical, answer is: wrong, that is a misconception. In our daily life, it makes a big difference if you support or take life. It makes a big practical difference. One leads to suffering for yourself and others, and the other leads to alleviation of suffering and maybe even some happiness.
    • When the ultimate answer is realized in immediate awareness, it is liberation. But if it is merely believed in at the story level and used to justify actions, it becomes poison. That’s why ethics are so strongly emphasized in Buddhism, to prevent those confusions.
    • The ultimate answer is something we each can discover for ourselves, and it then becomes a new context for the more practical answer. And the practical answer stays the same whether we have realized the ultimate answer or not.
  5. Thich Nhat Hanh, bodhisattva (holy man) and author of Living Buddha, Living Christ © 1995 by Riverhead Books, attempts to homogenize Buddhism and Christianity. Though you never knew of Jesus Christ, it would seem that you too might suggest that one could conceivably be a “Christian Buddhist”. Yet how could that ever be possible given Christianity’s categorical differences with Buddhism on matters like the nature of sin, reincarnation, and salvation–to name just a few. Jesus claimed to be the Truth. The Christian Scripture says that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

    • See another post on this topic.
    • It all depends on what aspects of the different traditions we emphasize.
    • If we take the typical theology of Christianity as our base, then we cannot combine the two, apart from maybe using some insights and practices from Buddhism as practical tools within a mainly Christian life. (Which can be very helpful for some people.)
    • If we take the Buddhist philosophy as our base, then Christ is seen as an awakened one, a Buddha, and we look beyond the theology to find shared insights and expressions of awakening. As in the previous example, we can also find insights and practices from Christianity very helpful within a mainly Buddhist context.
    • And we can also look at the insights of the mystics of Christianity, and find a close alignment between what they describe and express and what Buddhist teachers describe and express. At the mystical level, there is a difference in flavor, but a description of what looks like the same.
  6. How do you feel about the many variations of your teaching that have evolved down through the years? Please comment on Theravada (38%), Mahayana (56%), Tantrism or Vajranaya, Tibetan (6%; Dalai Lama), and Zen Buddhism?
    • I find it to be a beautiful diversity, formed by time and culture and what is appropriate to people in different cultures and different times. Buddhism is often described as similar to water: it can be poured into any vessel (culture, circumstances), and take the form of the vessel.
    • I have personally benefited greatly from insights and practices from Varjayana, Zen and Theravada traditions.
  7. Chuck Stanford says: “Like cloudy water, our minds are basically pure and clear, but sometimes they become cloudy from the storms of discursive thoughts. Just like water, if we let our minds sit undisturbed the mud and muck will eventually settle to the bottom. Once this happens we can begin to get in touch with our basic goodness. It is through this basic goodness that the Buddha discovered that we can lead sane lives.” But, Mr. Gautama, what if you are wrong about our being basically good? The Bible says that we’re conceived in sin. What if there is a personal God to whom we will all one day answer? What if your enlightenment (awakening) was really only a dream?
    • There are many possible answers to this.
    • One that made sense to me in my childhood (long before I got interested in Buddhism), and still does, is that to me, the main part is to live a life that supports life. If God has any problem with that, then too bad 🙂
    • Another answer, which only makes sense within a certain context, is that an awakening is to our timeless nature, which contains space & time and the world of form, and this world of form is no other than our timeless nature. Here, sin is seen as just an idea overlaid on this field of awakeness and form. But, as I said, this only makes sense when it is realized, and it is not meant as an argument at the level of stories.
  8. In the film Beyond Rangoon Laura’s guide says that the (Buddhist) Burmese expect suffering, not happiness. When happiness comes, it is to be enjoyed as a gift, but with the awareness that it will soon certainly pass. If the ultimate Buddhist hope is to just leave the present wheel of birth and rebirth and enter into the ineffable bliss of Nirvana, where is the motivation to do good, and to actively oppose injustice, in this present life?
    • Well, these days the Burmese monks certainly demonstrate a strong motivation to oppose injustice, in an active and engaged way, even to the point of sacrificing ones life for it.
    • The two are not opposed, and are, in a sense, intimately linked. The “escape” is only an escape from blind and unquestioned beliefs and identities, and actually allows for a more full and juicy embrace of our life, including opposing injustice when the situation calls for it. (See other posts for more on this topic.)
  9. How do we reconcile the Dalai Lama’s observation that “Every human being has the potential to create happiness”, with your own teaching that suffering is caused by desire? If one sets out to resist desire, why would one ever then entertain the desire for happiness, and thus work to create it?
    • Good question, again!
    • Teachings are aimed at different levels, and sometimes seem contradictory.
    • Also, Buddhism talks about the desire for awakening, and happiness and release from suffering, as the golden chain. It is still a chain (a desire coming from a mistaken identification), but it is a chain that can lead to a release from this chain.
  10. Personal Trivia: Did you really sit under that bo tree for seven full days–without ever eating any figs? Did your remarkably sensitive, compassionate, nature come more from your mother or father? How did your son, left to grow up without a father, feel about your “Great Renunciation”?
    • Well, I didn’t. But I can imagine into his situation.
    • One thing I imagine is that his family probably didn’t like it very much, and that Gautama Buddha felt a great deal of tenderness for his family because of it. It may even have been one of his motivations for deepen into his practice, and later his teaching. He would probably, I imagine, have been very open about this and not tried to explain it away. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions, and others would have chosen differently.
    • Btw: There seems to be a parallel with Jesus here. Didn’t he even encourage his disciples to leave his families behind? (Fortunately, this is not a requirement for neither Buddhist nor Christians today, unless we commit to a lengthy solitary practice.)

Christianity and Buddhism


Many combine Christianity and Buddhism in different ways these days, and it is interesting to explore some of the ways this happens.

It is of course possible to combine the two in a superficial way, without looking too much at the clashes between the philosophy of Buddhism and the mainstream theology of Christianity. But if we take it more seriously, we need at some point to reconcile the two in a more thorough way, and this usually happens through giving priority to one or the other.

We can give priority to the mainstream theology of Christianity, with its assumptions of the reality of a separate self and soul, and use whatever is useful in Buddhism within this context. Often, this means using some of the Buddhist practices for clarity of mind or for opening the heart.

We can give priority to Buddhism, with its emphasis on the inherent absence of a separate self anywhere, and use Christianity within this context. For instance, we can use Christian forms of prayer and meditation emphasizing the heart and embodiment. (In my own experience, the quality of heart awakening through Christian practices have a flavor quite distinct from that of Buddhism.)

Or we can give priority to the mystic’s view of Christianity, which already is pretty much aligned with the philosophy of Buddhism. Some Christian mystics describe oneness, a separate self one with God and all there is, but there are certainly many others who describe realized selflessness, as in Buddhism. In this case, there is a nice alignment of the philosophy and descriptions in both traditions, and we are free to use practices from both as well.

Buddhism is not about becoming good, yet is


A good topic over at Thoughts Chase Thoughts: Buddhism is not about becoming a good person, but becoming a human being.

And really, it is about both. It is about deepening into our humanity, as it is, and as it reveals itself and matures when not resisted. And it is about living from ethical guidelines, from the empathy that naturally emerges from embracing the fullness of our own humanity, and from the inherent goodness revealed behind narrow beliefs and identities.

By deepening in our embrace of the fullness of who we are, as human beings, there is a release of resistance to any of it and also a release of beliefs and identities. This opens for a recognition of our shared humanity, and of ourselves and others, which in turn tends to lead to a natural empathy which spills over into our lives. And this release of beliefs and identities also invites us to notice what we are.

Exploring what we are, untouched by stories, there is a fuller allowing and a wider embrace of who we are, as human beings. And there is also an uncovering of the inherent compassion and wisdom in what we are, this awake void and form, noticing itself, even while operating through this one particular human self.

And by following ethical guidelines throughout this process, we are more likely to stay out of trouble and be less of a nuisance to others in a conventional way, and it also helps us deepen into who and what we are. Ethical guidelines helps us notice what is happening, what comes up in us and how we relate to it. They serve as a pointer for recognizing our shared humanity and ourselves in others. And they mimic how we naturally live our lives within the context of Big Mind/Big Heart awake to itself.

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God as creator?


I listened briefly to a Zen broadcast where the teacher talked about Buddhism not acknowledging any creator. She probably wanted to make it clear how it differs from conventional Theistic traditions, which is helpful.

But what is less helpful is maybe to leave it there. Why not also explore the truth in the reversal of that statement? How does Buddhism acknowledge a creator?

When I look into that, I find that Buddhism does indeed (also) acknowledge a creator. It is not a wise old man with bushy beard, nor any entity at all, but just this awake void that everything arises within, to and as.

It didn’t happen (only) sometime in the past, but happens right here now, within this timeless present. Creation is here now, allowing all form to always be utterly fresh and new.

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Reversals and the Middle Way


When I read Ordinary Extraordinary’s excellent post on emptiness, I was reminded of how well reversals fit in with the Buddhist Middle Way. They both reflect the same insight, so it is not surprising: any story is only a relative truth, and each of its reversals have truths to it as well. And, when they all cancel each other out, we can taste the inherent neutrality of any situation… emptiness dancing, God’s will, God expressing, exploring and experiencing itself.

There is a self: Yes. (a) There is indeed the appearance of an individual human self and soul, as a holon in a much larger holarcy. Through an overlay of stories, we can differentiate within the world of form, split it up freely in any size and shape, and individuals are one of the things we can differentiate out. And (b) there is a Self… as Big Mind, Brahman, Tao… The Self absent of an Other, not any more or less identified with any aspect of the field of awake emptiness and form.

There is no self: Yes. (a1) Within the seamless world of form, there is no separate self. We can differentiate out an individual human self and soul within this seamless world, but there are no absolute boundaries there. Any boundaries come from stories alone. And (a2) all forms are no other than the brilliantly clear and awake emptiness itself, which is inherently absent of any separate self… no boundaries, no beginning, no end, timeless, spaceless, allowing any and all forms… And finally, (b) there is no Self. Any self requires an Other, an in the absence of an Other there is no Self either.

There is an I: Yes. (a) When there is an identification with one region of form, the sense of I is placed there, making the rest of the world of form (and the rest of Existence) appear as Other. This creates the appearance of a separate I. (b) There is an I, as the awake emptiness and form itself, as Big Mind, Brahman, Tao… This is the I without an Other. It is the same I as under (a), but now clearly realized to have no Other, and not more or less identified with any aspect of the field (of awake emptiness and form) than any other.

There is no I: Yes. (a) There is no separate I anywhere, no I with an Other. Only the appearance of it, when there is a belief in the story of a separate I (self), and the field is split into the appearance of I and Other. (b) There is no I even as the I without an Other, because without an Other, no I either. There is only what is… the field of awake emptiness and form, already and inherently absent of any center and any separate self or I.

None of these stories are absolutely true, yet they are all relative truths… each with a grain of truth in them. Together, they fill out the picture within the realm of stories, and they also point to that which is inherently free from (and prior to) stories.

The beauty of meeting people where they are


I watched Life of Buddha last night, and was in particular impressed with The Dalai Lama’s ability to meet people where they are at.

He was asked what is enlightenment, and could have answered in a precise way, or a technical way, neither of which would have been much help for people not already familiar with the territory.

What he said was (heavily paraphrased)… I don’t know, I think it is an energy of peace.

At first, I was surprised. Here is someone who is deeply immersed in the most sophisticated Buddhist philosophy and practice available, and he is using vague new-age sounding terminology…?

But then I saw the beauty of it. Had he talked in a technical or precise way, it would have sounded too abstract, too removed from most people’s experience. They would not have been able to find it in themselves, and they may even have been turned off from pursuing a Buddhist practice if there was such an interest there.

Using familiar and slightly fuzzy terms, and showing that he himself is not exactly sure what it is (which is true, it is a mystery even for those clearly awakened), he allows people to find it in themselves and also see Buddhism as more approachable.

Skillful means in action.

Blogisattva awards


The Blogisattva awards for 2006 have been announced. The winner of the blog of the year award is Integral Options Café, which is well deserved for its quality, consistency and comprehensiveness (it is one of the few blogs I regularly read.) The rest of the list is also worth taking a look at.

The premier award, Blog of the Year, Svaha!, goes to Bill Harryman’s Integral Options Café [link] the fulsome and intellectually hefty — yet fun, smooth, easy and delightful — carnival of information and insight. Bill has a broad and sophisticated palate of what is worthwhile and interesting and has an ability to sweep his readers in to his world of treasures and responsible living. We learn to stay fit; eat right; take care of body and mind, but we are not being lectured to by a finger-wagging nag. Bill gives us things to do, fun to find and insights that come from his challenging, interesting life and then adds thoughtful essays that are finely crafted, masterfully done, about Buddhism informed by Integral theory.

The Buddha growing up


Filtered through a relatively mature human being, an awakening to what we are (as Spirit, Big Mind, Brahman, headless, awake emptiness and form absent of separate I) can show up in some broad ways.

What we are as not awakened to itself, hidden by strong and narrow identifications

First, a noticing of what we are can be nonexistent. When there is a relatively complete and exclusive identification with our human self, there is not much room for noticing ourselves as Spirit. Spirit may break through occasionally, through drugs, sex, ritual, nature and so on, but these are interpreted as anomalities and usually as completely “other” (which is good, otherwise there would be inflation.)

What we are as other or “no separation”, within the context of a sense of separate self

Then, it can show up as other yet more present, and gradually as with “no separation.” Awareness is more present, but still slightly as other. Or I may find myself in periods as awareness, or awake space, or awake emptiness, with what arises as form as distant, or as arising within and to awareness, or as no other than awareness itself. There is still a sense of a separate I here, at least most of the time, although it may appear subtle, vague and transparent.

Awakening to what we are, and sense of I clearly seen as just an idea

Then, in a more full awakening to what we are, we find ourselves as awake emptiness, and whatever forms arising as no other than this awake emptiness. Any sense of a separate I is clearly seen as coming only from a belief in the idea of a separate I, often placed on the perceptual center (head area) of this human individual. Now, this idea of a separate I, along with the perceptual center and this human being, all arises within the field of awake emptiness and form, and as no other than awake emptiness itself. There is just a field inherently free from center and any separate I or self.

Expressed in the world as the Brilliant Sun of awakening

At first, although it can be a very clear awakening, it is also expressed in relatively immature ways through our human self. It is a baby Buddha which needs time to develop and mature in its expression. In Zen, this clear but also relatively immature expression of an awakening to what we are is called the Brilliant Sun of enlightenment. It is the child and youth stage of the Buddha and often shows up in the world in flashy ways.

Deepening into the Hazy Moon of awakening

As this awakening matures, as the Buddha grows up, this awakening to what we are also includes a more full awakening as who we are. It includes a deepening into who we are as an individual human being and soul (alive presence), expressed in the world as a maturing into the fullness and evolving wholeness of our human life. It is a deepening into who we are, into becoming more and more fully and deeply human, within the context of the awakening to what we are. This is the Hazy Moon of awakening, the awakening which comes through a deeply ordinary, mature and seasoned human being, a human being which appears in the world as (at first) nothing special, apart from being thoroughly and deeply human. Of course, over time, there is the realization in the wider world that this ordinariness, depth and maturity is indeed remarkable, maybe the most remarkable of any of the many ways an awakening can be expressed.

Deepening into who we are, before and after an awakening into what we are

In real life, the sequence is of course not always clearly laid out like this.

For instance, the deepening and maturing into who we are happens before and after an awakening into what we are. And to the extent it happens prior to a more full and clear awakening it allows for a more rapid shift into the hazy moon of awakening.

A gradual awakening to and exploring of who we are as human and soul helps with this maturing and seasoning. The more we know ourselves in the fullness of our evolving human self, and the more we allow our human self to be reorganized within the alive presence, the more it heals, develops, deepens and matures.

A deepening into who we are aiding the expression of an awakening as what we are

When an awakening into what we are is filtered through a relatively immature individual, it will appear in the world as immature. And when it is filtered through a more seasoned, mature and deeply human individual, it is expressed in a more seasoned, mature and deeply human way.

And this can only aid its expression in the world.

It allows for a more differentiated and fluid use of tools and approaches, and for a deeper and more real connection with others, and this is more potent in alleviating the suffering for others, and also help them awaken to what they are (or rather, for what is to awaken to itself through them.)

The impulse to help

After, and often long before, an awakening into what we are, there is a natural impulse to help others, a natural compassion expressed in various activities in the world.

It all arises as an inherently selfless field of wakeful emptiness and form, as inherently absent of any separate self. And since what arises are individuals where what is has not yet awakened to itself, there is a natural impulse to help alleviate the suffering experienced (the suffering is really nothing than awake emptiness but is taken and experienced as real so worth alleviating) and to aid in what is to awaken to itself through those individuals (as long as these individuals seek it out and are interested.)

So if there is any concern with helping others, there is also a concern with allowing our only tool for this – our individual human self – to deepen, heal, develop, differentiate, mature and season. And this happens through a deepening into who we are, as an individual human being and soul.

The more honed our tool is, the more effective it can be in the world.

Embracing both, before and after an awakening into what we are

For many reasons, it makes sense to emphasize both an awakening into who we are, as individual human and soul, and what we are, as Spirit.

A deepening into who we are is enjoyable in itself and it reduces suffering. It allows knots to untie, releasing identification, which reveals more of what we are. And it allows for a more mature and seasoned tool for a more full awakening of what we are. There are benefits all around.

An awakening into what we are is not only the final release from suffering, but also allows for a deepening into who we are. When there is less identifications and drama, who we are can unfold in a more free way, and deepen more easily into its evolving fullness as a human being and as a soul.

Mutual influence

Deepening into who we are reduces suffering, aids in an awakening to what we are, and allows an awakening to what we are to be expressed in a more mature and seasoned way. And awakening into what we are removes (identification with) suffering, and allows for a deepening into who we are.

Again, there is a beautiful symmetry here, of one aiding the other.

Milarepa: The Film


Since the dream had some associations to Milarepa, I looked him up online, and found that there is a recent biographical movie on him – Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint. It is made by an associate of Khyentse Norbu who made The Cup and Travelers and Magicians.

From the movie website:

Neten Chokling Rinpoche, born in Wandipodzong, central Bhutan in 1973, was recognized and enthroned by both the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa and Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, from whom he received many teachings and transmissions. Renowned as an accomplished practitioner, he is the spiritual head of the Pema Ewam Choegar Gyurmeling Monastery in India and Tibet

Neten Chokling Rinpoche’s lineage is that of the great terton (treasure finder) Chokgyur Lingpa, and traces itself back to the Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen, who invited Guru Rinpoche to Tibet.

In previous incarnations Neten Chokling Rinpoche accomplished many great activities in association with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), a renowned Buddhist saint who played a pivotal role in the revitalization and preservation of Buddhism in Tibet in the 19th century. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s present incarnation is Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, aka ‘Khyentse Norbu’ – the critically acclaimed film director.

Likewise, Neten Chokling Rinpoche is fascinated with the power of cinematic art and the emotional influence of storytelling through sound and moving pictures. He greatly admires the directors Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou.

Neten Chokling was a principal actor in Khyentse Norbu’s ‘The Cup’ and assisted in his latest production ‘Travellers and Magicians’ as a stuntman, assistant to the director and 2nd unit director. The tradition of accomplishing remarkable activities with Khyentse Norbu, which dates back many centuries, is apparently very much alive and well in this century.

Neten Chokling’s rigorous training in Buddhist meditation and philosophy, combined with a deep interest in the film medium, make him well-suited to bring the teachings alive in a way that is accessible to a modern audience.

Four aspects of the view


I recently discovered the Tricycle blogs, and found a nice little entry by Eric Pema Kunsang on what makes a Buddhist. Essentially, it is the view below. I am not sure which one of (a) believing in it (as an idea), (b) examining it in own experience, or (c) actualize it as living realization is sufficient to be considered a Buddhist, not that it matters. Here are the four aspects of the view, with my (unschooled) commentary below.

  1. Everything conditioned is impermanent
    All form is change, including any experiences and states.

  2. All tainted states are painful
    Whenever there is a belief in an idea, we are at odds with what is, and there is suffering. (This includes the idea of a separate I.)

  3. All phenomena are empty and devoid of self-entity
    This one can be understood in different ways.

    One is that the field of form is a seamless whole, with any boundary superimposed and ultimately arbitrary. This also means that any local effect is really the result of the movements and activities of the whole, having infinite causes. So everything is empty of a real boundary, of a separate I, and also of a local cause of anything happening.

    Another is the immediate realization, or noticing, of emptiness, of every form as awake emptiness. This one is difficult to explain as logically as the previous one, but actually easier to notice here and now – for instance through headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

  4. Nirvana is peace
    I am actually not quite sure what nirvana refers to, but assume it is either the awakening as awake emptiness, as the formless, or the next-door neighbor of awakening as awake emptiness and form as no other than awake emptiness. The content of awakeness, the forms arising within and to awakeness, is no other than awakeness itself. In both cases, there is a release from identification with aspects of form, so also a release from suffering.

    Another way to put it is that this awakening is the awakening to selflessness, of no separate self anywhere in the field of awakeness and form, so no I and Other, so rest and peace.

    And then there is the reminder that nirvana is samsara and samara nirvana. In this awakening, there is the realization that there was never anything besides this. There was always this field of awake emptiness and form. It only appeared differently due to a belief in the idea of a separate I, usually placed on this human self.

    They are both the same field, in one case awakened to itself as a field, and in the other case forgetful of its true nature, believing in ideas, taking itself to be only a segment of itself.

Of course, implied in this is that we are only awakening to what we already are, and this happens within, or even outside of, any tradition. It may be about being a good Buddhist, but is really about just seeing what already is.

Big Mind, Big Heart, Big Belly


If we map the three centers onto the Big Mind framework, we get Big Mind, Big Heart, and then also Big Belly.

The head awakening gives serenity and wisdom, as shown in many traditional Buddha depictions. It is the seeing of all as Spirit.

The heart awakening gives love and compassion for all beings, independent on who they are or what they do, and is reflected in depictions of Avalokitesvara, Kuan Yin, Chenrezig, Kanzeon. It is the loving of all as Spirit.

The belly awakening gives a deep sense of all as Spirit at a physical level, with the whole body and emotions, a deep sense of safety, nurturing and comfort. This profund sense of physical well-being (in the midst of whatever else may be going on) is reflected in Hotei, the big bellied laughing Buddha. It is the feeling of all as Spirit.

In each case, Big refers to that which leaves nothing out. The nondual view embraces and goes beyond all polarities. The open heart is open to all beings without exception, and to all forms no matter their specifics. The belly awakening is an awakening into the fertile darkness that is the ground of all form, the womb of all form in its infinite richness.

The view, love and fertile darkness is the seeing, loving and feeling all as Spirit, as awake emptiness and form, beyond and embracing all polarities.

All sentient beings, the great earth, and I have awakened together


This is what Sakyamuni Buddha said upon his awakening, according to the story. And it is one of those statements that are confounding before awakening, and clear as day after.

The main question coming up is: If all beings awoke then, why do they appear so deluded?

When Ground awakens to its own nature, including to being the physical space everything appears within and as, then it is clear that this Ground is the same Ground always and everywhere.

It is also the Ground awakening to its own nature, while functionally connected to a particular human self.

So this means that the Ground awakened to its own nature as the Ground of all sentient beings and the great earth. Yet, this awakening is expressed through only one particular human self.

Fifth Peak Buddhism


I came across this interesting article on Buddhism and The Work of Byron Katie: Fifth Peak Buddhism, by Kevin Maher.

In it, Maher explores – as so many others, how this form of inquiry is similar to Buddhist practices, and leads to similar or identical (?) insights, realizations and transformations. The title, Fifth Peak Buddhism, refers to the four historical peaks of Buddhism (initial teachings, Mahayana, Tantric, and Tibetan and Japanese versions) and the fifth peak, which may occur in the west, may or may not be called Buddhism, and may or may not have any historical links with Buddhism.

The Big Mind process can be seen as one example of fifth peak Buddhism, one with obvious historical links and connections with Buddhist tradition (coming out of the Maezumi Roshi and Soto/Rinzai Zen lineages).

As the author says, The Work can certainly be seen as another expression of fifth peak Buddhism, this one with no historical connections to Buddhism. And that may be very good. It makes it open for those who has no connections with Buddhism (and wouldn’t want any connections with Buddhism), and those who do. Also, it is a clean slate, free of historical baggage. It is just what it is – four questions and a turnaround, allowing each individual to explore what is true for them, and find liberation there.

Study the Self


This is probably the most often quoted phrase from the Zen tradition:

To study the Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.
To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one’s self and others.

Dogen Zenji


The first that comes up for me is the simplicity and clarity in it.

First, we study the apparent self – or rather our sense of self. And we can do this through for instance sitting practice, allowing the mind to bring itself into awareness, and/or inquiry – such as Big Mind, Byron Katie’s inquiries, Headlessness or Atma Vichara.

Then, we realize that the whole sense of self comes from something as simple as a belief in the idea of I. We have glimpses of selflessness, and then emerge more stably into a realization of selflessness. We forget the self by seeing what is really true in our own immediate experience, and this allows the belief in the idea of I to fall away.

The whole world is now revealed as the play of God. Everywhere and nowhere is I. It is Big Mind awakening to itself, while functionally connected with a human self.

And in this, there is no I and Other. No barriers.

Diving into self-centeredness

To do this, we need to fully dive into self-centeredness.

As long as there is a belief in the idea of I, there is a natural and unavoidable self-centeredness.

There is a belief in the idea of I, this is out of alignment with our own (unnoticed) immediate experience, so attention naturally goes to this sense of I. Whenever something is out of alignment, attention goes there to allow it into awareness and resolution.

Typically, this process takes the form of self-protection and functioning with a limited circle of care and concern.

If we dive into it more fully, with intention and some skills, it can unfold into realization of selflessness.

Studying the self

Studying the self can be seen in two ways in this context.

One is studying the sense of I, wherever it is applied. The belief in the idea of I, which creates the whole I – Other dynamic and the identification with a segment of what is. This is the one that leads to a realization of selflessness.

The other is the more conventional study of the self, in this case meaning our human self. How does it function? What are the processes? How can we allow it to heal and mature? How can we fine tune this instrument in the world of form? This is an exploration that takes place before and after realization of selflessness. Nothing changes except the context – first within the context of a sense of self, then within the context of realized selflessness.

Some approaches focus mainly on one of these. For instance, Headlessness and Atma Vichara emphasize mainly the exploration of selflessness.

And other approaches include both. For instance the Big Mind process and Byron Katie’s inquiry process. Both of these allow us to study in finely tuned detail how our human self function, allowing knots to unravel and the human self to mature and function more effectively. And they also bring us to a realization of selflessness. Elegantly, through the same process. Two birds killed with one stone.

If we only focus on realizing selflessness, we may have Big Mind awakened to itself, but functioning through a relatively undeveloped and unhealthy human self.

If we only focus on the human self, we may have a relatively healthy and mature human self, but there is still the inherent dissatisfaction from a sense of separation.

With both, we can function within a context of selflessness, also also allow our human self to continue to mature, develop, heal and explore news ways of functioning in the world of form.

Ways of Being With Experiences


One of the common features of most (?) spiritual traditions is guidelines for how to be with experiences. Here are some I am aware of…


Allow experiences to come and go as guests. This shifts the center of gravity to the witness, and allows for deepening detachment and insight into the general processes and patterns of the content of mind.


See, accept and move on.

This allows for shifting the center of gravity to the witness, and release clutching of content.

Can I be with it?

A particularly elegant approach is that of Raphael Cushnir. Whenever there are strong experiences coming up, or any other time, ask yourself – can I be with what I am experiencing right now?

This also shifts the center of gravity to the witness (or at least expands it to include the witness), and it allows the processes of the content to unfold and unwind on their own.

Recognition yoga

This is from Waking Down and I don’t remember the steps here… But it is something along the lines of see it, feel it, become it, and live it (and something more I am sure).

Release to the divine

In our deeksha group, we use a process which is very similar to what came up spontaneously for me during the initial awakening. Fully feel it, and fully release it to the divine.

The difference between this approach and many others is the intention. In Zen, they rarely speak about intention. But here, intention is included to offer it to the divine, and allow the divine to take care of and resolve it.

My experience is that this is a remarkably effective process, and one that deepens with time.

Unfolding the process

Yet another approach is that of Process Work. Here, the immense wisdom in every process is acknowledged, and the profound gifts behind any experience – including or maybe especially the difficult ones, are recognized. Through following the bread crumbs, the process behind the symptom (which could be anything within the field of experience, including disturbing and difficult ones) is unraveled, leading to often surprising insights and gifts.


I am not familiar enough with all of these to say much of the various dimensions, or to compare the various approaches in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Each of them seem to have its place, its own valuable contributions.

Some dimensions which come to mind…

  • Shifting center of gravity to the witness, or expanding it to include the witness.

    There is a subtle difference here, yet maybe important. The first encourages a slightly stronger sense of separation than the second.

  • Emphasizing the release from content, insight into the processes, and/or digging into the content.

    All of these emphasize a certain release from content – either in the present (most of them) or after a certain process (Waking Down, Process Work). Some emphasize insight into the processes and others don’t. Among those focusing on insight, some emphasize a more general insights into the patterns of the content (Zen), and others emphasize insight into the particular process arising in the present (Process Work).

  • No intention apart from the seeing of it, or intention of offering it (back) to the divine and have it more actively resolved.

    Zen is a good example of a tradition where the active use of intention is not much emphasized. The other end of the spectrum is the way we do it in our deeksha group, actively offering the processes to the divine – with the intention of allowing the divine to work on it, allowing it to unravel and find a resolution. Most are somewhere in between these two.

V for Inquiry


I watched V for Vendetta Sunday, and thought it was worth the time and money – although maybe not too much more. The theme is certainly relevant (governments with totalitarian tendencies playing on fear), although especially the ending was anti-climatic for me – too much of a one-man show and less emphasis on the role of the people in changing regimes.

It is interesting to note that the theme of the movie is pretty much universal – reflecting totalitarian governments at many times in history. Still, many Bush supporters apparently see it as a specific criticism of the current Bush administration. Maybe it hit a little too close to home? Maybe the rhetoric and strategies were a little too similar to that of the Bush administration? Maybe it could be taken as a mirror rather than an attack?

Going to the BK inquiry group last night brought up some things related to the movie.

Fear of death

In the movie, V takes Evey through a process where she finally looses her fear of death. And in our group last night, one of the participants went through another process on her fear of death – arriving at a place of peace with it. The outcome may be very similar, although the process is – on the surface – very different. One is brutal and uses exhaustion, the other skillful means and detailed belief surgery.

Zen and inquiry

Actually, this is not that dissimilar to the relationship between traditional Zen practice and the Byron Katie inquiries. The outcomes may be quite similar, although one can be grueling and exhausting and the other precise and playful. I have a tremendous respect and appreciation for Zen, although also see how the BK inquires offer a more precise approach for unraveling beliefs – in any thought, including that of a separate self.


Noticing the profound effects in myself of inquiry, and in others who have done it for a while – often far longer than I have, I see how it brings people to where Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, mysticism and many other traditions try to lead people.

To a place where they see through beliefs at a deep level, and come to the nature of mind – unfiltered by beliefs, thoughts, ideas. To a place of liberation. A place where the natural and inherent compassion and wisdom of the mind can play unhindered.

It is very impressive. And it all comes from each person’s inquiry, guided by a very simple process that even small children can and do use. There are no teachings, only each person’s inquiry – their own truth guiding them to clarity and liberation.

Soul & Big Mind


This is of course very basic, but a topic that has come up for me more strongly over the past few weeks.

Among the many ways of slicing the continuum of being is body, mind, soul and spirit.

Body, mind, soul, spirit

The body is our physical body – a fluid and temporary pattern of matter and energies. And this body shows up at our individual level, as our human self, and it also shows up as the whole of this universe – as the body of the divine mind or Big Mind. (F1 in KW’s framework).

The mind is the psyche, the emotions and thoughts at our human level. As with our physical body, these are universal patterns with a unique flavor in each of our case, and in time as well – always showing up in new and fresh ways. (F2-F6)

The soul is that part of us that goes on between physical incarnations. It is that which evolves, matures, develops over longer time spans. When brought into awareness, it gives a deep sense of richness, fullness, guidance, meaning, intimacy – in short, soulfulness. It is the middle ground between our human self and Big Mind. (F7-F8)

The spirit is the ground of it all, and also that which forms itself into all these other phenomena. It is the divine mind, Big Mind, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Dao and so on. It is completely impersonal, allowing all the manifestations to occur within and as itself. (F9, nondual)

Leaving out the soul or not

In Zen and the standard Big Mind process, the soul level is mostly left out and there is an emphasis on our human self and Big Mind. There are good reasons for this, mainly to avoid distractions from realizing Big Mind (selflessness) and living from this realization.

At the same time, it leaves out the deeply nurturing sense of soulfulness which comes from bringing the soul into awareness. When I ask to talk with the soul in the Big Mind process, there is a presence there which is quite different from any of the other voices – including that of Big Heart.

When I lived in Norway, all levels were quite strongly present – including the soul and Big Mind, and there was a tremendous richness of it all. In Utah, living at the Zen center there, the soul aspect got de-emphasized and gradually left my attention and awareness. And now, it seems time to bring it back in. Apart from the fullness it offers, it also gives a sense of responsibility for the evolution of this soul – for allowing it to mature through bringing it into awareness. And through that, participating more fully in the evolution of the form aspect of the divine mind, of Big Mind.

Evolution of soul and selflessness

In some ways, it is easier when only our human self and Big Mind/Heart are into the picture. It does simplify it. It brings attention to the ground awakening, to realizing selflessness and living from that. When the soul is into the picture, it is both fuller and a little more complex.

There is a dual emphasis on the evolution and maturing of this soul, as well as realizing that the soul too is part of the world of phenomena – that too is the temporary manifestations of the divine mind, of Big Mind. That too is ultimately selfless.

Buddhist God Realm, Identification with Witness, and Fall From Grace


I am sure this is detailed in Buddhist philosopy, although I can’t recall having seen this in the sporadic readings I have done in the area.

One of the six realms is the God realm, defined by bliss but also impermanence.

It seems that this describes an awakening as formless awareness – as the Witness, F9, causal realm – quite well.

There is bliss and a certain release from suffering, and it can certainly last for a long time. Still, there is the belief in an “I” here, now just placed on pure awareness. The seeing is made to appear as a seer.

With this subtle “I” there is also a subtle “other” and attachment to content. And as content always changes, it inevitably leads to a fall from grace. It is temporary.

All of this sounds a lot like the God realm.

Different Emphasis


The mystical (practical spiritual) movements within all of the world’s major religions all seem to be able to lead people into an awakening into Big Mind. But there are some differences in emphasis. For instance, it seems that the Buddhist awakening emphasizes clarity and wisdom, although the compassionate aspect is strong. And it seems that the awakening through Christianity and Islam (Sufism) emphasizes the fullness and richness of love and compassion. Buddhism may be more head-centered, and Christianity and Islam more heart-centered. Within Big Mind/Heart, Buddhism may emphasize Big Mind, and Christianity and Islam Big Heart. Buddhism may be more yang, Christianity and Islam more yin. And together, there is an even richer experience.