Jun 29, 2012

Wisdom as one's purpose in life

It can be a scary thing to leave ordinary life behind, and enter the spiritual realm, the realm where reason is taken to extremes in understanding what is true for all things, and then applied conscientiously to all aspects of one's being.  Spirituality is not about airy-fairy, feel-good, no-thinking-allowed flowieness.  It is extremely demanding, to the point of cruelty, and it is completely unknown to virtually every human being on the planet.

What frightens the beginner, or "stream entrant", is the way the mind automatically reacts to leaving a normal existence behind.  The mind is habituated to a particular set of perceptions and habits.  When one willingly abandons "everything", for the sake of truth, then this means normality is left behind, and that everything is up for grabs.  So, what can one expect?  What is going to happen?  Can one actually survive, down the path few ever venture to explore?  Such questions evoke terrifying answers for the highly imaginative beginner.  Reason takes them to mind-blowing visions and possibilities.  No extreme is off-limits.  This is the stuff of nightmares,  literally.

It is a dangerous time for the baby Buddha.  If they haven't sunk roots deeply down into the mode of rationality, and have not yet come to trust logical thought deeply, then they can easily believe in their dramatic and imaginative visions, and genuinely experience psychosis.  If such an individual continues to have such visions of life and death, of grand escapades and world-changing revolutions, and really invests in these visions, then, with the mass of egotistical reactions that they're inevitably subject to, they will experience such great stress that it is quite possible to traumatise the brain and body.  It is no joke.  Be careful.

It is not surprising, therefore, for one who hasn't fully entered the "logical realms" --- and most have not done so yet --- to draw the label "mentally ill".  Any mainstream psychiatrist or psychologist will see the manic-depressive mood-swings, distress, lack of mental coherence, and self-obsessiveness, and quite rightly conclude that they're dealing with a psychologically unbalanced personality. 

Go easy with things at this stage.  It's unfortunate, but it's likely that the diagnosis of serious clinical mental illness - psychiatric, not psychological - can make things a lot worse for the vulnerable and suggestible baby Buddha, who is over-blown about their abilities (this is an inevitable aspect of the ambition for Buddhahood), and prone to believing they ought to have a great impact on the world - or else it is their fault.  When a perceived authority has the power to schedule you into a psychiatric ward, and you are actually in a pretty bad way and therefore, it's quite possible you look the part, the likely result is paranoia.  The youth is trying to save face, by saying the world is always set against the one who seeks enlightenment.  But the more rational explanation here is, the spiritual youth has not put down their roots into reason and wisdom enough, and are terrified of the venture they've undertaken. 

Don't get paranoid about the clinical diagnosis.  Don't start building up a persecution complex, or painting yourself as a sage out to save the world if it weren't for the bloody psychiatrists controlling the system.  Get yourself grounded first.  You may actually get some help from mainstream or alternative psychologists, because even if they don't know emptiness from a toothbrush, they do know how to soothe a troubled ego --- and to stop it roaring and obstructing your spiritual progress, is the main priority for anyone in those circumstances.

It is also possible for psychiatrists to label one's states of mind with terms like "prodromal psychosis", "schizophrenic", "disassociating from reality", and so forth, when one isn't in that frightened, unbalanced phase.  Anyway, in both situations, what they mean by this, is merely: the client no longer conforms to mainstream culture.  You are not fitting-in, and you are not bothering to.  That is all.  Don't worry about it.

The upshot is, the young spiritual traveller needs to recognise more honestly where they're at, and look after themselves.  It avoids unnecessary suffering, and it avoids destabilising the mind.

Remember that everything one is experiencing is inevitable: it's caused by one's past choices,  personality and genetics, one's upbringing and teachers and other influences.  The key question about one's capacity to undertake the entire journey to the very end, no matter what it demands, or what sacrifices are required, is likely to bring up a lot of fear and guilt.  But much unnecessary and gruesome suffering can be avoided.  Simply, remember it is not exactly one's own responsibility.  You are not a stand-alone agent directing your life.  All you have to do is remember what enlightenment is, and let everything else follow its natural course.

Alternatively, for those who feel substantially prouder of taking on the difficult path if it's advertised widely with notes of travail and suffering, orgies of wild mental upheaval and random and eccentric "discoveries", and adamant declarations of the insanity of everyone else, then one can't be surprised if the normal outsider (and psychiatrist) draws the conclusion that one is in the thick of a psychotic episode.  They're not far wrong.

Basically, don't make things more difficult than they already are.  This is no joke.  There are lasting consequences for one's mental health, and it's a precious thing to look after.

Take the fact that the young spiritual venturer is typically totally alone.  If they are lucky enough to know another spiritual man, who is living, then they are probably never going to meet in person.  They won't get the chance to see the physiological nuances of resting transparently in God, but remain much like the spoon that cannot taste the soup.  So the transitional period is a really difficult time.  It's rough working these things out by yourself.  But it's necessary.

All I would like to say is, keep things simple.  Don't exacerbate the mental disturbances and afflictions, by letting the mind rage about like a gruesomely undisciplined brumby.  The more you let emotions and worries afflict you, the worse your spiritual progress.

Keep things simple, and just focus on one thing only: making your understanding of the Totality perfect, which is both an intellectual and experiential process.

When wisdom is your purpose in life, you don't have anything else to do, but that.  Just being wise.  You are not required to do anything else.  So don't worry.  Don't make countless projects.  There is no criteria for qualification, like writing a book, or finding disciples, or starting a movement or a religion, or debating intellectuals.  You are fully paying your debt to the world simply by making your life count in the truth stakes.

The first and only thing that counts, is that one is as wise as one can possibly be.  Don't pretend, or try to jump levels.  This harks back to what I mentioned earlier about keeping afflictions and psychological agitation to a minimum.  If you strive at too high a level for your own actuality, you become demonic and hypocritical.  Others can tell.  And you bring unnecessary suffering onto yourself, confusing and agitating the processes of thought.

Give yourself time to develop, and be patient as you keep applying yourself every day.  This is the real ground for spiritual trial: it's considered privately and quietly in a calm way, thinking the ideas through to oneself.

Spiritual trial and spiritual suffering are not indicated by rampant and dramatic turmoil of the mind.  If you are in agonies, it isn't really a spiritual trial, but rather, you are losing the battle.  Spiritual trial can only start if you abandon the egotistical urges to have an emotional orgy of self-pity, or are experiencing a troubled, doubtful mind.  It's only when you are resigned to letting the Infinite be your mainstay, and are no longer resistant or disquieted, that the trial can begin, and spiritual suffering becomes pure, the ego dying progressively.

One last thing.  If you decide you would like to help others, and you are conscientious about purifying and emptying yourself of the mind of attachment, so as to be qualified to help others, then don't turn it into a revolution.  Your aim is to draw the mind into the relationship to truth.  It's an individual task, quite private, and quiet.

If you dream that the best way to educate others about the realm of spirit, and enlightenment, is to start a revolution and gain followers, you're going down the wrong path.  Wisdom is not about worldly power, numbers, disciples, founding a school of thought, or starting a religion.  Everything that draws the mind away from the quiet, private realm of contemplation and inwardness, from that special one-on-one conversation with reason, is wrong-headed.  To be able to speak to the solitary individual, just talk simply and plainly.

If you are a beginner exploring the mind and its power, and you feel desperately in need of publishing your ideas, then fine, do it.  But try to discipline yourself, so that you steer overall towards simplicity.  The more you publish, especially randomly in venues like Facebook, Twitter, and so forth, the less help you are to others.  Being random, posting whatever comes into your head, again exacerbates demonic mental agitation and ego.  It doesn't lead to the depth and single-mindedness necessary to sustain enlightenment.  And it also says to the world you're a fly-by-night, a creature of emotions and moods, who will transform back into an ordinary sod tomorrow.  Of course they will like you, and applaud your craziness.  You're good  entertainment.  But you're not touching them in a spiritual sense.  I recommend, if you're in this phase of the path, where you feel compelled to express yourself publicly and prolificly, then discipline yourself.  Concentrate your mind and ideas, and write some coherent, focussed essays.  Work on letting the ideas sit in your skull for days, rather than feeling urgently that you have to show off to others.  Try to explore a single topic deeply, and benefit from it yourself quietly and alone.

Enjoy the trip as a student, and look after yourself.  Remember cause and effect: your future lives.

Kelly Jones

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