Personality & Enlightenment

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“That the personality of enlightened beings and advanced mystics remains largely intact is obvious when one examines biographies and autobiographies of adepts, past and present. Each one manifests specific psychological qualities, as determined by his or her genetics and life history… What these awakened beings have in common is that they no longer identify with the personality complex, however it may be configured, but live out of the identity of the Self. Enlightenment, then, consists in the transcendence of the ego-habit, but enlightenment does not obliterate the personality. [This] raises the crucial question of whether enlightenment also leaves untouched traits that in the unenlightened individual might be called neurotic. I believe this is so… The traditional spiritual paths are by and large grounded in the vertical ideal of liberation from the conditioning of the body-mind… This may explain why so many mystics and adepts are highly eccentric and authoritarian and appear socially to have weakly integrated personalities. Unlike transcendence, integration occurs in the horizontal plane… Having discovered the Divine in the depths of his or her own soul, the adept must then find the Divine in all life.” — Georg Feuerstein in Paths Beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision

Viktor Frankl on the Potential of Love in Self-Realization

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IMG_2764“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” — Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning

The Lama and Unpredictability

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IMG_2764“The Lama is the ecstatic, wild, and gentle figure who short-circuits your systems of self-referencing. The Lama is the only person in your life who cannot be manipulated. The Lama is the invasion of unpredictability you allow into your life, to enable you to cut through the convolutions of the interminable psychological and emotional processes. The Lama is the terrifyingly compassionate gamester who re-shuffles the deck of your carefully arranged rationale. To enter into vajra commitment is to leap from the perfect precipice. To find yourself in the radiant space of this choiceless choice, is the very heart of Tantra. To leap open-eyed into the shining emptiness of the Lama’s wisdom display, and to experience the ecstatic impact of each dynamic gesture of the Lama’s method display is the essential luminosity and power of the path” — Rig ʼdzin Dorje, in Dangerous Friend: The Teacher-Student Relationship in Vajrayana Buddhism

(It would seem we ought to be quite cautious if we decide to allow somebody into this role in our lives given the advantage so many spiritual teachers have taken of their students that did not appear to have ecstatic consequences…)

What if the Guru isn’t Perfect?!

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IMG_2764“Guru-yoga is not necessarily about doing everything your guru tells you—discernment must always be operative in that dimension, for you cannot shortcut your individual process of realization. The practice of seeing the guru as divine in spite of his human flaws—in other words, of having unconditional love for him—is preparatory to extending that sentiment to all other beings.” — Christopher Wallis in Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition

It seems the Standards for Yoga Teachers used to be somewhat higher!

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IMG_2764“[The teacher] is one who is endowed with the power of furnishing arguments pro and con, of understanding questions and remembering them, who possesses tranquility, self-control, compassion and a desire to help others, who is versed in the scriptures and unattached to enjoyments both seen and unseen, who has renounced the means to all kinds of actions, is a knower of Brahman and established in It, is never a transgressor of the rules of conduct, and who is devoid of shortcomings such as ostentation, pride, deceit, cunning, jugglery, jealousy, falsehood, egotism and attachment. He has the sole aim of helping others and a desire to impart the knowledge of Brahman only” (Śankarāchārya in Upadesa Sahasri).

John Cage on Sound Discrimination

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IMG_2764“If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience… The most recent change in my attitude toward sound has been in relation to loud sustained sounds such as car alarms or burglar alarms, which used to annoy me, but which I now accept and even enjoy. I think the transformation came through a statement of Marcel Duchamp who said that sounds which stay in one location and don’t change can produce a sonorous sculpture that lasts in time. Isn’t that beautiful?” —  John Cage via Mark Epstein in Thoughts Without a Thinker

Richard Freeman on Why We Practice Yoga

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IMG_2764“We may come to the practice to relax, or because our back is out of alignment, we feel frustrated, our knee hurts, or we just want a distraction.  As we continue, however, our reasons for returning to yoga begin to change.  We find that the practice solves our initial problems…  but then deeper problems… begin to reveal themselves…  until we finally realize that although we use our body to experience the yoga, the purpose of the practice is not to cure our ills or to meet our desires, nor is it about relaxation or stimulation…  Yoga is a path to undo the root of all types of misery through the direct experience of deep, clear, open awareness.  Ultimately we find that it is an attraction to the joy of this liberating experience that underlies all our other desires…”  — Richard Freeman in The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind

Richard Freeman on Ashtanga Yoga

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IMG_2764“Ashtanga yoga, though familiar to some as strictly a series of postures accompanied by specific patterns of breathing and gazing, is actually the broad system of yoga that forms the context for posture and breathing practices. Ashtanga means eight limbs, implying that there are many different interrelated approaches within this school that are used to develop a laser-like focus of the mind. This focus is utilized to explore any and all physical and mental phenomena that arise in order to reveal that they are composites of their backgrounds and not anything separate or eternal. This revelation or insight leads the ashtanga practitioner on and on to deeper states of insight into the nature of the mind and the world, and eventually to liberation from conditioned existence.”  —  Richard Freeman in The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind