We all have COVID here at the moment and are in quarantine for the next ten days after a doctor phoned to confirm a positive PCR test and told us we should all isolate. I don’t mind though, I will just imagine I am on a retreat. I seem to have COVID pretty mild compared to the others in my household who are quite sick with it. It is strange how it effects everyone differently.
I meditated for two and a half hours today in a single sitting. And it is true there does come a point where the monkey mind gives up and lets go and one drops into a deeper state of serenity and stillness. Although my legs and knees hurt after sitting for so long. I am going to try and keep it up and sit that long every Sunday afternoon, perhaps try three hours next week.
We ordered our shopping online from the local supermarket, who delivered it to us, knocked on the door and scampered post-haste, leaving the bags of shopping outside, lol. Just two bags that came to £30. Everything is getting so expensive, the cost of living has doubled since this time last year and the media keeps telling us it is going to go up even more. Many people are worried about it, and understandly so. Old Richie would have been worried about it, but I find myself oddly calm, semi-detached and just flowing with things as they are. I still have the determination to make a livelihood for myself, but I am not attached to any outcomes, it is purely for functional reasons, as I need to get an income sorted so I can take care of this body, this organic vehicle to enlightenment; but if I fail then I fail, all anyone can do is try their best. I feel like I can die with some peace and dignity. I don’t feel like my time here on Earth was wasted, in fact I feel like I have found the real treasure in this life, the dhamma taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago (-:
I feel like I am part human and part something else these days, like some part of me is not of this world anymore. It is a nice feeling, like a taste of freedom, a kind of heaven on Earth. The stuff happening in the world just doesn’t seem to get me as ‘het up’ anymore. I find myself not getting caught up in the stories or dramas about the world or desiring anything in it that I used to enjoy, except perhaps for weed (;
The thought occurred to me if I die now I wouldn’t mind at all. I will just let go and direct my consciousness to higher things and if I don’t reach nibanna, perhaps I can make it to the stage of enlightenment known as non-returner, as a consolation prize. Then I will never have to be born and exist in this world ever again. Non-returners don’t come back to Earth, they are born in the higher heavens and get fully enlightened there, and although they have extremely long lives (aeons) they never incarnate here or in any of the worlds below them ever again, they can however visit any of the lower worlds whenever they like, and some do from time to time.
Non-returner is the third stage of enlightenment in the four traditional stages which are: 1. stream-enterer, 2. once-returner, 3. non-returner, 4. fully liberated (has reached nibanna and never incarnates anywhere again).
I was reflecting on what it means to be a non-returner and imagined that there could well be many celestial Buddhas in the heavens right now who were non-returners, living extremely long lives beyond anything we can comprehend, who have seen universes come and go, and I wonder if they sometimes come to Earth out of compassion to help and guide people on the spiritual path. Who knows, but it is a nice thought (-:
Many Buddhists disagree with my thinking here, and I have been challenged on it. They say that devas or other heavenly beings don’t act as spiritual guides or helpers to humans. They only visit the human realm to learn, gain wisdom and knowledge. But in my personal experience I have encountered spiritual guides and helpers from the deva realms who have helped me many times when I have been feeling desperate and alone (and still do now). So I think perhaps some non-returners do act in a compassionate way towards humans. Brahma Sahampati the anagami (non-returner from a previous Buddha) certainly seemed to be showing compassion towards humans when he came to Earth and persuaded the Buddha to teach after his enlightenment.
But noone really knows. I like thinking of there being celestial Buddhas out there who do show compassion to the lower realms, and guide and help those on the spiritual path. So I think I will believe in this theory whether anyone agrees with me or not (-: I also like to think if I can make it to the third stage of enlighenment and become a non-returner that I would be someone who acts this way; and if I feel like this, then there are bound to be other beings who do as well.
Maybe it is the Mahayana part of me coming through. I have spent a year as a Zen Buddhist so I am a bit influenced by that way of thinking, and do feel somewhat drawn to the Bodhisattva ideal, but not in the extreme way most Mahayana Buddhists do. I don’t particularly want to keep incarnating here over and over until all beings are liberated, in fact I don’t want to be reborn here if I can help it. My life here has felt very lonely and painful, poverty is no fun at all and this material world and the suffering it causes for most if not all of the beings who live here is a misery I never want to encounter again. I have found my time on Earth to be very unpleasant and I am keen not to be reborn here; but I do want to help liberate other beings in the future when I am ready to teach the dhamma, either as a human or a deva.
Anyway it doesn’t really matter, the important thing is practising the eight-fold path. There are certainly many devas who are just visiting Earth for their own personal development and don’t act as spiritual helpers or guides; but I also believe there are just as many who do show compassion and help other beings. Different strokes for different folks I guess, it is a huge multiverse out there with many differnt worlds and beings of all kinds with differing views.
Some of my views are different from what many Buddhists believe. Views that from my own personal experience resonate as truth; but they are so small as to not be worth argueing over. So I will remain silent about them and keep those thoughts just to my blog from now on. I am learning it is better to remain silent about such things when in the company of others. Something I think the Buddha himself practised at times. I don’t think people will ever agree one hundred percent on everything.
I like both Theravada and Mahayana, and seem to be a mixture of the two traditions in my own practise. It may be that I end up practising alone as a result, as it is difficult to plant one’s flag in just the one tradition when I am not wholeheartedly in agreement with any of them. I doubt there is a single teacher out there I will ever one hundred percent agree with, not even the Buddha himself.
I guess there is still desire in me, a desire not to be reborn in this world, a desire not to exist anymore, as it is existence itself which is the problem. Suffering follows existence like a shadow. Interestingly and rather paradoxically one can experience freedom from existence whilst one is still alive, in this very life in fact, a state of mind known as nibanna and when one dies that state of nibanna just continues unceasingly (no comedown). Nibanna is permanent and non-reversible, it is described as neither existence nor non-existence, as something utterly beyond all that, beyond anything we can imagine or comprehend, beyond duality. There are no adequate words to describe it, one has to experience it to know it. There are other experiences like that in life where words are inadequate. Nibanna is one of those experiences, it is a complete state of irreversible freedom that goes beyond everything, beyond all words and worlds, it is neither life nor death.
Desire for freedom may not be a bad thing. In a talk by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, he likened the aspiration to become enlightened as a pair of tweezers that one can use to get something out of their eye. Once the offending item is removed from the eye, one simply puts down the tweezers as they have done their job and are no longer needed. I have also heard someone else describe it as a key which unlocks a door, and once inside people don’t then walk around holding the key in their hand, the key has served its purpose and one simply puts it down. In a similar way desire/aspiration can be used as a tool to help liberate oneself from suffering. It does have to be used skillfully mind and that’s the tricky part. If one does not know how to handle a pair of tweezers they might end up poking their eye out.