maanantai 30. syyskuuta 2019

About Lower Belly - Hara

About Lower Belly - Hara

I started to watch a video presentation about buddhist meditation given by a well known American teacher. The presentation was introduced by an American lady who as she described felt very fortunate and quite emotional to have the teacher give the talk. She gave the introduction with a voice that I could describe as weak and windy, rather than clear and settled. Also the composure of her spine wavy and her breathing was up in the shoulders. Watching this I was reminded of the lower belly which is known by the names of hara or tanden in Japanese arts.

Hara is all over Japanese arts from meditation to martial and fine arts. In popular language there are many terms that use the word hara which means belly, such as hara guroi, lit. dirty/black belly, which means dishonesty. That one's posture and inner composure is built on the belly is something very important in Japanese culture.

Living in Japan many years ago I saw how Westerners would share something emotional with Japanese but there was this cultural gap between the two and the latter seemed to feel awkward about emotional sharing. It seemed like they just didn't feel it was right. When one's breath is settled on the belly, one simply doesn't go off the rails emotionally. When one is emotional on the other hand, vital energy (prana/ki) is up in the shoulders and head. We all know about the headache after a big argument.

I didn't spend that long in Japan but it seemed to me that Japanese people couldn't trust or take seriously those who had their vital energy up, even if they were sincere in Western terms. When I think about it, it makes sense too because it is difficult to know and trust people who are over-emotional, whose mind flutters like a leaf in the wind.

There are downsides to lower belly cultivation too. It develops inner power so those who have charisma can end up on ego trips as leaders. I've seen this a lot in zen buddhism and martial arts. For meditators, too much emphasis on the belly can be a cause of spiritual bypassing.

Tibetan or Indian systems of yoga and meditation do not talk about the hara, only Chinese and it's derivatives do. The only lama I've heard talk about it is Tsoknyi Rinpoche who said he learned it from his Chinese qigong teacher. Nevertheless, being physically well composed and being settled is very much part of all systematic paths, and this, even without knowing about the theory of the hara, is what hara means.

In Open Heart and dzogchen-teachings in general, groundedness, which is one of the three characteristics of the natural state, is what refers to "hara".

keskiviikko 25. syyskuuta 2019

Mahayana Buddhism Includes Psychology and Doesn't Lack Anything

Mahayana Buddhism Includes Psychology and Doesn't Lack Anything

Santiago: Approaching the understanding of mind from these two sides that humanity has developed: The ancient teachings of awakening (the Wake up line of development) and the modern western discoveries that the ancient masters didn't have access to (the Grow up line of the development), understanding how they support and compliment each other, can help solve sooo many problems, giving us a better framework for understanding why "awakened people" are such a mess sometimes, and possibly help us move counsciousness towards a more inclusive, compassionate and integrated space.

Kim: So how did ancient master become masters if they didn't have access to the modern Western discoveries of psychology? Nothing personal Santiago but this whole idea is utterly ridiculous. I'm going to offend a lot of people but I'm going to say it anyway. It is a misconception of those who are 1. poor practitioners and 2. practitioners of sutrayana. Combine the two and you end up saying stoopid shit like that.

Chris: So, Kim, do you mean to say that medicine hasn't advanced beyond the ancient Buddhist understanding of the physiology of the brain, it's chemistry and the like? Why does the Dalai Lama favor studying that same "stoopid shit?" Is he stoopid, too?

Kim: What does my comment have to do with criticising the development of medicine? Can't speak for Dalai Lama or his interest towards science but you ever heard him mention his psychotherapist?

Chris: So you aren't opposed to combining the practices of Buddhism and the discoveries and practices of modern psychiatry, neuroscience and medicine, Kim?

Kim: No. Did you get that impression?

Chris: Yes, I got that impression from the above exchange.

Kim: Things can always be improved but the mahayana/vajrayana path doesn't lack anything as it has delivered innumerable sentient beings to the other shore. I got no problem with folks combining psychology and buddhist practice but it seems to me that their 1. understanding of buddhism and 2. practice of it has severe shortcomings. That this is their understanding and that they come to this conclusion that buddhism can be bettered with the findings of Western psychology, is not the fault of buddhism and what it has to offer.

Chris: Then I'm a "stoopid" one because I firmly believe that the combination of Buddhism and psychiatry/psychology/etc. is more powerful than either one by itself.

Kim: Suit yourself. I'm just saying that even though combination of the two, sutrayana and psychology, go farther together than they go alone, it is an unproved hypothesis when it comes to anuttara samyak sambodhi.

I haven't seen a tantric lama speak of combining vajrayana and psychology but if anyone has references, please let me know. I'll then be happy to tell what is wrong with them and their bhumis, just kidding.

To be clear, I was/am looking for tantric lamas who speak in favour for combining tantra and Western psy and consider that the tantric path is doesn't go far enough.

Chris: Kim, I don't think anyone is saying quite this - that the path doesn't go far enough. What I'm asserting is that Buddhism and the science of the mind are congruent. They support and enhance each other.
Have you seen:

Kim: Yes, I understood what you're saying. I have never had much interest in scientific or psychological findings in relation to dharma practice but I am not against it, either. Each to her or his own but I just don't agree with a lot of folks who say that the buddhist system as a whole lacks anything in terms of comprehensive development. I am however highly critical about a lot of things in buddhism, buddhist paths and buddhists, and admit that for a lot of buddhists, therapy along the noble 8-fold path or paramitas, is a very smart choice. A lot of buddhist practice leaves so much untapped and rather enforces samsaric habits than releases them. A lot depends on the teacher too.

Among teachers who have turned out to be mess, there are tantrics as well but as far as I am aware none of these bad apples were practitioners which is what I mentioned in some of my prev posts. There is no way anyone, incl. a tantric lama will be able to do her or his work well, without hassles and scandals, without making sure of one's personal practice. So, I don't know of tantric lamas who were practitioners, who screwed up. All of them were nonpractitioners and therefore not actual examples or embodiments of vajrayana buddhism.

I am yet to finish the vajrayana path but maybe, when I finish the cleaning process in some distant future, I come to agree that the path of vajrayana lacks something. However, so far, I do not see the slightest indication that this would be the case.

Shargrol: It's interesting to me that I've mostly agreed with some of your statements about many of the scandal teachers not being very advanced as practioners and I've also mostly agree with statements like people who still have emotional/psychological baggage haven't gone far enough... but I've held of agreeing because I couldn't quite figure something out...

But this last post made me realize what it is: it really is more about the practioner's attitude than the practice.

If someone is honest with themselves and continues to see their blind spots, the ways they are not finished, and owns that fact and works on it --- well, then there isn't going to be much of a problem and the practice won't matter much either. If someone is doing mindfulness meditation, tantra, therapy, or centering prayer... if they stay humble and honest, they will keep seeing their imperfections. And if they stay motivated and aware of their imperfections, they will improve.

In fact, I would put my money on a dedicated non-meditator (in therapy or doing religious centering prayer, for example) over a half-motivated vajrayana practioner -- you know what I mean?

I have no idea to inspire people to have high-ideals for themeselves and their practice. It's really the only way to live, but there is no external reward. No one will give you a reward for your practice. And what having high-ideals really means, if you are doing it right, is that almost every moment and every day and every week and every year will feel like a failure. You mostly see and feel the imperfections. But every moment, day, week, year, you continue to refine yourself because you can see and feel your imperfections. That's what it means to really pursue excellence.

Unfortunately, it's clear that these scandal teachers would much rather rest on their past successes and create a mental framework where they are at a kind of pinnacle that can't be surpassed (or they might humble brag and say they are near the top) and then project any remaining shadow sides on the people around them - distancing themselves from awareness of their imperfections... until the whole thing comes crashing down.

Anyway, ultimately I don't think people can rely on any particular framework for waking up and growing up. But the path is obvious and right under our nose.

Kim: I think that attitude is very much part of the practice. It is spoken very widely about by masters of the past. Obviously, "practice" is not only sitting practice.

You hit the nail on the head with, "what having high-ideals really means, if you are doing it right, is that almost every moment and every day and every week and every year will feel like a failure. You mostly see and feel the imperfections. But every moment, day, week, year, you continue to refine yourself because you can see and feel your imperfections.".

I can identify with that. It is not "fun", if you do it right.

Remaining vulnerable and open to have one's faults pointed out is an absolute necessity. It is easy to plateau and become self-confident in a dualistic fashion without it. I'm sorry if I get on people's nerves but still, I agree with Culadasa when soon before his case broke out said that the path (sutrayana) he has followed "doesn't go far enough" and that, "As you progress on the paths of awakening, the changes of you recognising them (parts of our pscyhe) as something that needs to be purified, diminishes." It is a striking statement coming from him. From what I have seen, sincerity or bad attitude never seemed Culadasa's weak point. Actually, to me he seemed to have an admirable character which obviously had a lot to do with what he accomplished/s in his life.

A tantric would never say what Culadasa did for the simple fact that if you practice deities, archetypes of enlightened mind, there is no way for becoming blind to one's own blindspots. It is impossible because the deity doesn't allow it. One simply keeps feeling bad as long as there is something wrong with one's view or attitude.…/culadasa-john…

Santiago: No offense on my part Kim, I'm grateful that we live in times where anyone has a right to express their opinion (although that's also a pain in the ass sometimes :grin. I just wonder, what is your expertice on modern Western psychological discoveries? Is it big enough to make the claim that the ancient Masters understood what this science has discovered? Did they also know about quantum physics, or even general newtonian physics? I'd just say that whenever someone thinks they have the Dharma all figured out (or figured out enough to deny new approaches that they themselves don't understand well), then THAT'S an utterly ridiculous, ignorant, shitty idea.

Kim: Hi Santiago.

I am not an expert of Western psychology or sciences but if I may, perhaps a bit of an expert of meditative yoga. Yogis, such as Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and numerous others sought to find a solution to remove dualistic suffering through the doctrine of emptiness and practice of various yogas. They succeeded and that's how the whole thing got started, which is why there are people who attain the same what the ancient masters did, to this date. I do not know quantum physics but I doubt anyone has ever diminished or removed their self-based confusion (dukkha) through it. Reg. healing through psychology, I am sure it happens but whether this outcome is valid as buddhist practice, is a good question. Actually, it probably is an entirely irrelevant question to a lot of people who just wish to remove their knots in one way or the other.

Dharma doesn't seek to explain all possible things, just those of our mind. It adresses a very specific problem, that of self-delusion, and I know that through these means full enlightenment can be attained. Tantric guru yoga, in which one tunes in with some enlightened master such as those mentioned above or some other, reveals this. When one spends sufficient time in guru yoga it explains a lot of the tantric path in comparison to other paths, of one's own buddhanature and about the concerned mahasiddha guru. I can agree with what the tantric tradition says that this is an extremely valuable and unique experience that cannot be acquired by any other means. From that experience I can testify that perfect enlightenment is possible and that real masters do not have shadows or unresolved psychological issues, and that they do not behave in ways like samsaric beings do. If you wish to see one in person, Amma the hugging saint is one, though not a buddhist. I'd say Rana Rinpoche is another one, though I haven't yet met him in person. Their energetic radiation is completely different from others, incl. very experienced meditators.

Sutric buddhism doesn't have tantric guru yoga, so consequentially practitioners of those paths generally do not gain this experience. It is actually possible to get the same "transmission", if you will, from chanting of the Refuge of the Three Jewels or Bodhisattva Vows, but then it is very common for sutrics to not realise that there is an element of transmission or energetic charge related to these prayers. I have actually never seen this being pointed out by any teacher of sutra but nevertheless, the same potential is there. This is a common problem in established tantric buddhism as well, although the probability is higher since the energetic charges from lineage masters, deities and prayers are more.

lauantai 21. syyskuuta 2019

Pitfall of Being Alone by Ken McLeod

Pitfall of Being Alone by Ken McLeod

From Ken McLeod’s Waking up to your Life, pp. 87-88:

“Finally, there is one pitfall in meditation practice that you must avoid. Meditation practice raises the level of energy in your system in the form of active attention. The higher level of energy inevitably brings you into contact with reactive emotional patterns. If you now become selective and repress certain emotions, pushing them out of attention, two things happen. The higher level of energy in your system flows into the reactive pattern, making it stronger. The higher energy also flows into the repressing pattern, making that stronger. Both the reactive patterns of the emotion and the repression are reinforced.
You end up splitting in two. One part of you is capable of attention and response. The other part becomes increasingly rigid and inflexible. It takes over unpredictably whenever the repressed emotion is triggered by events or situations. Typically, a person becomes more arrogant and self-indulgent, obsessed with power, money, sex, security, or other fixations, and acts in ways to control or amass the object of the obsession. Long-term practitioners and teachers who protect areas of their lives from their practice frequently run into this problem with unfortunate and sometimes tragic results. We run the risk of a similar fate if we protect any area of our personality or our lives from the increased awareness that develops in meditation.

To guard against this problem, always have at least one person, a teacher, colleague, or friend, with whom you discuss all aspects of your practice and your life. The person needs to be someone you trust and to whom you will listen regardless of the state of mind you are in or what he or she says. The
only way to be sure that you will not protect an area of your habituated personality from the effects of practice is to have such a person in your life.”

sunnuntai 15. syyskuuta 2019

Ethics in Relation to the Depth of Awakening

Ethics in Relation
to the Depth of Awakening

Q: That's exactly what I mean. In the original Buddhist training there's a notion of morality, but the approach is ridiculosly primitive compared to the advances that humanity has made regarding human development, specially in the modern west. So, the possibility of putting together the super sophisticated training of Buddhism (WAKING UP) with the super sophisticated training of western psychology (and other approaches) that's available today (GROWING UP) is an unprecedented opportunity for humanity.
If you look at it this way, then all this debate about Awakening vs Morality gets pretty clear, then we can transcend the apparent confusion, and understand why so many "awakened" beings screw up so much.

Kim: I have no problem with combining dharma practice and psychology but I think that most "masters" of any branch of buddhism are actually more or less far from being fully enlightened, even if they were masters of their particular training systems/meditation techniques. The percentage of buddhists who attain any type of buddhahood per generation is ridiculously low. Hence, all the problems and confusions, f. ex. about attainments and morality.
I personally do not think buddhist dharma lacks anything else except a new understanding and methods in how to effect deeper waking up. Folks just aren't waking up quickly and deeply enough. The rest; growing up, cleaning up and showing up, that Wilber discusses, follows from there.

Q: Awakening is one dimension and maturity (ethics and morality) is another. People can be developed and/or not developed on either spectrum. They are not necessarily related.

Kim: Ethics in dharma are not merely preliminaries or something on the side. For a confused mind, they are pointers and direct means to access and recognise the enlightened mind. From enlightened mind itself, ethical actions come into being. They are one and the same thing, not separate things. This is exactly what I mean with shallowness of awakening.

Q: Kim, how do you explain unawakened people who are ethically and morally advanced? I know some. They are beyond reproach. True, highly evolved human adults. How do they get there without being enlightened?

Kim: They haven't had emptiness insight and aren't enlightened as defined in dharma but nevertheless they are better aligned with their nature of mind than people with poor morals. There is no chance for success in practice if one's inner values aren't made of uncorrupt steel. You can see from the faces of all those bad boys and girls that there is some dirt, dirtyness, in their eyes and general demeanor.

I've met a bunch of people who are as you describe "beyond reproach". Some of them who are not practitioners, don't quite understand the point of practice because by having clear values they don't have as much need for it, as they already rest in true being a lot but they live in a dualistic state nonetheless. I've also guided a people like this to the first shift and even when they experience a shift that changes the way their mind works and increases clarity, it isn't as much of a surprise as it can be for others.

keskiviikko 11. syyskuuta 2019

Sex and Sexual Art

Sex and Sexual Art

Q: I write this partly as a response to your recent sexual art works but also it’s been something that’s been on my mind for ages and actually something I have been meaning to write to you about.
When you posted about your sexual art I read it at work and only the night before I had been very consumed by sexual desire. Hence sex was strongly on my mind when I read your email. Basically my sexual desire has nowhere to go. I know understand how frustrated and blocked this aspect of myself is.
Any advice in this area would be appreciated as I have experienced first hand the pain of cutting off the sex drive. I want to be a normal human being and not some spiritual seeker who cuts off the sex drive in an attempt to be holy.

Kim: Do what you can to help yourself. Suppression and ignoring sexuality makes people strange, if not batshit crazy. Once Babaji told me, ”Be yourself. Find your own way”. You got to find your own way. It is important not to pretend saintliness. Besides, saints are often psychopaths. Tantrics don’t play with fire, we use it as wisely as we can. 
Close up from one of Kim's works.

Q: That was a lovely reply thank you I really needed to hear that. Yes there is no post office form for how it should work out. I hadn’t really clocked how important sexual relationships are because it’s just not really spoken about in the Buddhist circles. My previous teacher didn’t go there that’s for sure. People don’t talk about it openly and I didn’t get any advice from my parents at all which I think is neglectful parenting, but that’s just my opinion.

Kim: Few traditions speak openly about sex and sexuality. I have the impression that Taoists from China, at least some lineages, have been most openminded about it. In buddhism and hinduism that I am most familiar with, it's like people had an empty hole in the place of their sexual organs. They don't exist and they never go there. Even the chakra, subtle energy center close to the genitals is called ”secret center”.
Looking at the record of sexual harrassment and abuse in buddhism tells me that whatever the tradition says or doesn't say about sexuality, needs to change because it is such a big part of being a human. If you ignore it or don't understand it, how could you ever truly know yourself?
People should not feel more uncomfortable about their genitals and sex than they are about their hands and feet. Shame and guilt that religions have connected with sexuality is completely unnatural, crazy really, and we see constantly how it affects people's lives in negative manner. If I can do something about it through my art and simply by talking about it openly, I feel I should.
I have received only few positive feedbacks about my art works but much more clicks than any of my other posts. Thanks.

keskiviikko 4. syyskuuta 2019

Infinite Love and Perfection of Wisdom

Infinite Love and Perfection of Wisdom

In opening and openness of heart there are typical signs. Some people get so high on love and bliss that they stop caring about everything else and stop using their mental discrimination. In terms of the three basic characteristics this means overdoing aliveness/love with the expense of knowing quality. Then there is a subtler form of this which I have a story of.

Couple of years back we had a special guest at our center in Finland. He was American lama who had really extensive training in vajrayana and hinduism but in the last 15 years had really diven deep into heart through teachings of Irmansyah Effendi. He spoke much the same way like Alex, "Top and bottom collapsed together, and exploded with infinite love in the heart.". 

I was really impressed by our lama friend's energetic skills. He had been a direct stdent of Dudjom Rinpoche and was trained since the age of 7 by him, so he got his skills down... but he was impossible to talk to. He would go on and on and on for hours on end, until people literally walked away. He was completely convinced that the heart path he followed was significantly better than any buddhist path he knew, and he knew all of them, though had not perfected his vajrayana practice. Listening him, I was like, "Oh really? And how many buddhas and rainbow bodies this path has produced...".

The problem was that he kept bypassing his emotions, always going back to his safe place in the heart when his own emotions started coming up. He had gotten really good at that, like the moment some dirt started showing up he had already shifted back to his safe place of immense and infinite love. It was nice and cute but completely pretentious, an ego trip. We had planned a course that he would teach at our place but the situation was so bad that I had to cancel it. He had mahasiddha bhumis open too.

I understand from my own experience of many years of professional kriya yoga practice which had really strong flavour of love, how great love feels for someone whose heart has been kicked in by the world and people who were supposed to love you. It is amazing and useful to a degree... but that's not the whole story of our mind/psyche and neither it is the whole story of practices.

The three characteristics are excellent guideposts.

It is curious that buddhist dharma describes perfection of wisdom or prajna paramita as a mark of buddhahood. Perfection of wisdom is born out of completing the whole vipashyana process, that is, realising emptiness of all phenomena. This is the first stage of buddhahood, perfection of the first 10 bhumis, hence arriving or abiding on the 11th bhumi, if you will.

Vajrayana buddhism is very particular about different bodies, like nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya and dharmakaya. In hinduism they never really made such divisions even if they discuss Shiva (dharmakaya) and Shakti (sambhogakaya) principles. Buddhism is very insistent on this point and it has both pros and cons. The con is that because most practitioners are unable to stabilise knowing awareness (rigpa), they misunderstand the meaning of emptiness. You know, mosts buddhists don't look like they enjoyd life very much. Ha. I think the constant discussion about the empty nature of this and that, and me and other makes buddhists go a bit lifeless and boring. But, emptiness itself is far from lifeless and boring. Good side of separating bodies is that at least theoretically it brings much more clarity than without the separation. I think that it is because of this very emphasis why buddhist practitioners are much more succesful in their practice than hindus are, at least based on what I know. And having said that the division between bodies from the point of view of big picture or dzogchen is completely artificial. I see it as a pedagogical tool because it helps with the learning of it but purity of emptiness is not all there is to buddhanature. There is also light and colours, like there is in all life. This is something that only dzogchen teachings talk about.

So, again speaking of three basic characteristics of the natural state, there is a good reason why clarity or knowingness of given more emphasis in the beginning until rigpa become stable with the opening of the 11th bhumi. Looking at our lama friend's and Alex's cases, even such advanced practitioners who have all bhumis open can apparently be mislead by the samsaric experience of infinite love. It is precisely because of this why buddhism is so much more successful in yoga. I base my statements about success and failure of paths on bhumi analyses (OHBM).

Heart and it's ability to feel love is very meaningful but without clarity it leads astray. Again, buddhahood comes through perfection of wisdom, not through perfection of emotion, such as love.

-Kim Katami, 4.9.2019
Open Heart Sangha,

maanantai 2. syyskuuta 2019

Dharma Porn

Dharma Porn

For those who don't practice or who practice too little, views and ideas can turn into porn. Buddhists like to roll over in the thought of emptiness. Emptiness this, emptiness that, emptiness, emptiness, emptiness... people go on and on talking and thinking about emptiness, as if they had fever. It is even more pleasurable when one's favourite teacher or lama talks about emptiness. It is like our fantasies becoming true. People associated with dzogchen, find pleasure and delight in words such as rigpa and dzogchen. That's their favourite thing, so they keep repeating these terms. Advaita folks get goose bumps and shiver in pleasurable delight through all those catchy phrases like I am That, I am That, I am That and oohh... how it turns them on. 

This kind of thing is very common. People mistake the finger that points to the moon, for the moon. Instead of practicing and finding the moon of buddhahood within themselves, they start sniffing the finger and develop a liking for it. It is OK for someone who is new but sometimes you see people who have practiced for a long time who still look at teachings very superficially like it was porn. Zen porn, dzogchen porn, advaita porn, emptiness porn, lama porn, rigpa porn, stream entry porn, kensho porn, guru porn, secular buddhist porn, wearing robes porn, being a monastic porn, compassion porn, enlightenment porn, purity of mind porn, nonduality porn, Dalai Lama porn, Karmapa porn, my favourite lama porn, being a servant of all beings porn, being awakened porn, taking refuge porn, getting a dharma name porn and so on.

There is a big difference between those who talk and those who walk. In my view, most people associated with spirituality talk much more than they walk. Some even want to remain as fans of dharma and never become practitioners of it.

Getting enchanted by ideas is a sign of immaturity. Getting enchanted by ideas is samsara. 

- Kim Katami
Open Heart Sangha,