lauantai 12. tammikuuta 2019

Awakening & Psychological Growth

Awakening & Psychological Growth

From Awakening & Psychological Growth by Michael Taft,

"Waking up will not solve your psychological issues—which unfortunately is exactly what most people think it will do and are looking for. It will not automatically make you nicer, or make other people like you more. It won’t solve your depression, your obsession, or your narcissism."

In buddhism, awakening in general, is defined as familiarisation with the empty or selfless nature of mind. It is true that little familiarisation leaves much of the self-based terrain alive and this can and does lead to mistakes and problems, even scandals and traumas, unfortunately. It is little or too little familiarisation (or too little awakening) that is the problem here, not that buddhism, as a philosophy, wouldn't work or "go all the way". I am a fan of Western psychology but I do think that if taught and applied correctly, buddha dharma doesn't require support from it. Having said that, I don't recommend stubbornly sitting (sticking with one's chosen method of dharma) with one's problems if there is no indication of both awakening and psychological growth.

Buddhist methods vary and teachers' understanding of their own methods and ability to pass it on varies greatly. Even something very basic, like the meditative exercise of following of the breath or the meaning of taking refuge, can be taught very differently, which affects how the students learn and internalise it. The differences in learning can be vast depending on the method and the teacher, even if the theory is the same. Someone can be a teacher from a highly considered tradition, such as vajrayana, but be a poor practitioner and not much of a teacher, while a dedicated practitioner and skilled enough teacher from a lower vehicle can make his or her students advance and transform significantly. On the other hand, a vajrayana teacher, who is familiar with the natural state and sees into the underlying principles of practices, can make his or her students progress very fast. So, the questions of method as well as pedagogy are very important, as is the level or depth of the teacher's awakening.

To have use for dharma teachings, one has to acknowledge one's own confusion, or suffering caused by a sense of me-ness. Without this discontent one has no need or motivation for practice, and doesn't see the point of it either. On the other hand if one acknowledges one's confusion, and immaturity because of that, it feeds one's motivation to practice for one's own liberation for the sake of all beings, as it is taught in mahayana. But if you get your belly full from one or two shifts, possibly become a teacher, or a worshipped guru who has comfortable life with money and services, your growth stops there. It stops the moment you become satisfied. More importantly you only understand a fraction of what buddhism points to with emptiness or nature of mind. While anyone with one or few shifts can understand something of emptiness, only a fully awakened one, a buddha, really knows it. This leads to a whole another discussion but I'll try to stick with the topic.

The Heart Sutra states, "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form". Confused self-based (samsaric) mind is realised to be empty of self. "There is no one here! Woohoo!". Once this realisation expands to cover most of one's mind, one's training takes a different turn, that of becoming a human being again, instead of remaining as transparent, colourless and formless emptiness. The thing is that emotions don't go away or stop with realisation of emptiness but instead of them causing selfing, they become expression of the natural state. Because one has solid ground in the empty nature of mind, emotions and expressing them becomes an embodiment of one's awakening. It is OK to feel hurt, vulnerable and angry, that is the training here and really it is all part of the same training as before. In this way, one becomes healed as a human, instead of remaining a human-shaped non-human who has no self or emotions. This is, of course, if one has human traumas. Not all do but I think many attracted to dharma or spiritual teachings do, because once again you need suffer to have use for dharma.

But I think that in many cases there simply isn't enough familiarisation with the natural state, i.e. insight is insufficient, to get to the stage of emotional healing.

Hope this is useful.

- Kim