Current Article: Be True to Your Self
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This website explores the direct pointing to Truth, as expressed through the traditional teachings of Advaita (nondual) Vedanta and Zen Buddhism. This, Here and Now, is all we've ever dreamed of, in every sense of the word. Look closely. Observe from various angles. Look continually in the here and now. Gradually or suddenly, you will come to see. You will see it all. It really is that simple. But you do have to look...
The most powerful teaching of Buddhism is the concept of "no self." Hinduism speaks of the true self, which is points to the same thing. All words fail to describe our ultimate reality, of course, because language is born of and its use sustains duality. Words divide and categorize. "Analyze" literally means to take apart.
Yet we need words to point the way out of samsara to freedom. So while no words are absolutely "true," some are truer than others in the sense that they are more accurate pointers. "No self" is a little more accurate than "true self." No self reminds us that we are emptiness, that there is no personal self. Nor is there a collective Self.
The conceptualization of a "big Self," i.e., universal consciousness, God, etc, can be a helpful stepping stone, and this is where the pointer "true self" tends to take us. But to move beyond that provisional truth, the concept of "no self" is a powerful teaching.
It reminds us that we are emptiness. We, as individual humans, with assigned minds, bodies, thoughts, personalities and stories do not exist. An individual is an illusion, a dream character - smoke and mirrors. This illusion arises from nothing, from a deep but vibrant emptiness, a clear void. From this clear void infinite worlds arise. But all of these worlds, which come from nothing, are ultimately illusory, empty.
Both Zen and Advaita provide many tools and practices for lifting the veil of illusion, and seeing the profound emptiness of Truth. In essence, all practices aim at thinning out the person, the illusion of a human who was born and will die, and weaves her stories in between. All spiritual work aims to see the truth of no self.
The types of spiritual practice fall into four basic categories. The first is “karma yoga” - good works, selfless service. The second is “bhakti yoga” - passionate devotion to a deity, with the desire to serve and abide in the presence of that deity. The third category is meditation, which aims to quiet the mind, so that deeper truths can shine through. The fourth category is “jnana yoga” - studying the nature of reality through direct observation; an essential tool of jnana is “inquiry,” where the seeker contemplates who he or she really is.
Advaita and Zen make use of all these types of practices, but the emphasis in both is upon inquiry and settling into direct experience of What Is.
Advaita and Zen together are especially powerful. Their fundamental approaches complement each other, giving us a deeper understanding of Truth. For example, emptiness, or void, is a wonderful pointer. But it can convey a sense of coldness, even a lack of light or life. This same concept is expressed in Advaita as “sat-cit-ananda” - existence, consciousness, bliss.
Understanding that emptiness is vibrant and blissful brings us closer to the heart of the truth. Emptiness is not cold or sterile. And the bliss of Brahman (reality) is not the surface joys and pleasures of sentient beings. The bliss of Brahman is empty of all modulation; it is unchanging and eternal.
As we come to see, comprehend and integrate the truth of who we are into our daily lives, we will gradually find release from suffering. The experience of relative life will continue. But seeing that the dream of life arises from emptiness and bliss infuses it with those very qualities. You are the clear light of emptiness, refracted into a play of colors. You are pure bliss. Any other experience is part of the dream. Any transitory state, any sense of suffering, ecstasy, boredom, etc. is just an overlay upon the purity of what essentially Is, or, to point another way, of what Isn't. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Enjoy exploring this one truth - this one truth that opens a thousand portals to a thousand worlds, all of which are none other than You.