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Reading for Self-Realisation
I always thought this was ambitious but have now understood that it cannot be written as one blog - and it will always need to be updated. So it is a new page.
A question arose - what should I read? We were discussing self-realisation, hence the title of the blogpost.
Reading only, especially for westerners, is mostly a waste of time. I say westerners because the problem arises from the western education system. Here is the system. Read and remember for exams. What you remember is what is required to pass exams, and there is a systemic accepted understanding of what is required for passing exams - an understanding that currently is being questioned by the confusion caused by fake news and attacks on liberalism (discussed here and here).
A short note on why I say westerners. It has been my experience that in schools outside the "West" there is an element of detachment from the curriculum. Whilst the content is similar and whilst the exam requirements are the same, the students are partially detached. I see this as a cultural thing, that their cultures accept western education models as some form of passport, they remain detached from the cultural colonialism that comes with western education. There is a difference - I perceive - between the two positions, in the West there is a belief that reading and remembering is learning, outside the West the tacit acceptance of the need for western exams does not bring with it the delusion that the methodology is learning - just a passport. I think this is primarily because of religion. Whilst western education has limited Christian religious bias, non-westerners are biassed. They believe their religion, and have to remain detached when western education presents views that contradict their religion. Or when western education presents racism disguised as education because so many of the contributors to western knowledge have a racist bias - to varying degrees. This detachment brings with it a distancing of reading and remembering from being completely accepted as learning.
But neither approach, western or non-western, fully embraces the need to internalise, and this is required for self-realisation. Internalising requires a process associated with insight, when something is read there is a deep conviction that this is truth - as opposed to a cursory intellectual appraisal (sankhara) in which content remains on the surface of the mind until something new is "remembered". The level of conviction of such internalising is the same as the power of conviction that comes from the process of insight, at the time it is an indisputable truth; over time such insights can become outdated.
For internalisation to occur the mind has to be clear - open to the deep learning. Meditation can create such a translucent learning mind.
For meditation to create such a wise mind, it needs to be free from distractions, distortions and defilements. To begin to create such a freedom there must be sila - moral integrity. This is not a set of rules - such as a moral code, but a deep understanding that you will act morally as far as possible in all circumstances. This acts as a platform of peace for meditation to create a wise mind.
The internalisation process is the process that "converts" knowledge to wisdom, so an essential aspect of such knowledge is that it is right knowledge. There is a sense of reuniting when mind internalises right knowledge - inside us we know the knowledge is right, however if we read false "prophets" there are dangers of internalising untruth - especially if the knowledge is close to being right. I choose not to read Osho. Many people consider he has wise words but his disciples especially when he called himself the Bhagwan performed actions that were not wise. The documentary series, Wild Wild Country (Netflix), showed a difficult situation, it showed deeply-committed followers who had internalised his teachings, it showed followers who were happy, and it showed unwise actions - criminal in some cases. That is where choice of reading - reading for self-realisation - comes in, avoid books if there are any doubts - even though the ego will say you would know untruth.
To summarise. Reading for self-realisation requires internalisation of what is read. This internalisation requires a clear translucent mind, and such minds can be attained through meditation. Sound meditation only comes with sila as a base or platform, and right internalisation or understanding occurs only with right knowledge - books containing wisdom.
So in some way I am going to try to indicate reading that has right knowledge - a huge task.
Let me begin with Buddhism, and that begins to be easy. Read Buddhadasa - Handbook for Mankind is a good place to start. Ajaan Buddhadasa is from the Theravada tradition. His view is to accept only what can be experienced, many Theravadan teachings include reincarnation but as we cannot be sure this happens he does not teach it. Theravadan teachers tend to teach reincarnation, so it already gets complicated.
Buddhism got divided into Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana (Tibetan) - even more complicated.
Mahayana - Thich Nhat Hanh. Excellent books and he has Plum Villages. Thich Nhat Hnah focusses on mindfulness, and not on dogma.
Zen is also part of Mahayana. I used to follow Brad Warner for a long time because he was refreshing and less dogmatic. I stopped following him - not reading his website. I am still enamoured of his Buddhism but I felt that he had not detached sufficiently from his American conditioning, as his style was to bring Buddhism into daily life this mattered to me. However he learned in the tradition of Dogen's Shobogenzo. I have read small amounts of this, and I like it - but it is hard. But they practice Zazen, and integrated that is a good way of learning.
I include Pirsig here, his books lead to a great enquiry. Pirsig, now sadly dead, was a Zen Buddhist. His first book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has no dogmatic connection to Zen teaching but could well have been Zen-inspired. His second book, Lila - An Enquiry into Morals, is also deeply-enquiring. Study of both as "Right Knowledge" could be reading for Self-Realisation. I began my own journey of enquiry (chautauqua) with regards to Pirsig; I would read a bit and this would spark writing - very enjoyable.
Pirsig's books were concerned with right knowledge and his life's journey. I like books which talk about the teachings and how people experienced them in daily life. The Treatise of Zandtao was my limited attempt about my own life.
Despite Tibetan being the most popular Buddhism in the West, I steer away from it because of its ritualism, also reincarnation is integral. I have read books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) and I find his writing clear and not dogmatic. Another book I found easy to read was "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche. Before #metoo there was an accusation of sexual impropriety. This cast doubt for me, I don't think the doubt has been resolved. Nor did HHDL intervene, and that worried me. I keep away from all teachers who have created any such doubts as there is an abundance of "untainted" teachings - such as Buddhadasa .
Eckhart Tolle teaches Buddhism, but appears not to belong to one of the traditions. Eckhart focusses on the "Power of Now" and presence. His teachings are not dogmatic. I would also recommend another of his books A New Earth, and there was an excellent series of discussions with Oprah that made the teachings more accessible. Eckhart has many talks on youtube, and there is a facebook group that can be interesting - and a way of learning.
Personally I think Buddhism is the most established tradition of right knowledge but you have to be selective as there are many proliferations (sankhara). But right knowledge is not limited to Buddhism. I am not offering a comprehensive list of Buddhism or other teachings that are right knowledge - these are just teachings that have worked for me.
I next want to talk about "Indigenous Wisdom" - what I have read of this I consider right knowledge. I am discussing three components of self-realisation in this blogpost - meditation, sila and right knowledge. I do not know the practice of indigenous peoples. I believe that their practice is related to "altered states" - ayahuasca, sweat lodges etc. - and prayer together with the practise of sila and the study of indigenous wisdom. You must investigate for yourself the validity of their practice if you choose to go that route, but in my view meditation, sila and the right knowledge of Indigenous Wisdom could offer an approach to self-realisation.
My first contact with Indigenous Wisdom was with Carlos Castaneda's book "Journey to Ixtlan", I found it enthralling reading. At the time (I was 24) I was fascinated by "death over my left shoulder", and other such ideas, it seemed to have a truth for me then. I only wish to talk about this one Castaneda book because it helped me. There has been great doubt cast about Carlos Castaneda, and I do not encourage people to study him, but I loved that book. This blog seems interesting.
A Toltec book I really like and would heartily recommend anyone to read is "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is a book that you can safely study and learn from. There is a follow-up, "The Fifth Agreement" that I also recommend.
I have picked up on 7 "Spiritual" principles, talked about here and here; I am not in a position to talk about authenticity of either of these. Wisdomkeepers is a very interesting facebook group.
Indigenous Wisdom was handed down as oral tradition - it is not a books thing. So where you find the right knowledge of Indigenous Wisdom is not clear to me. In the last chapter of my treatise I began to understand the primary importance of GAIA. Buddhadasa discusses this as idappaccayata, other than this I have only found it in Indigenous Wisdom. Emails are welcome on my ignorance.
To be added:-
Addiction – Russell
Ascension – over-the-top rapture
"Tao te Ching"
|Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education. Blogs:- Matriellez, Mandtao.|