Posted by: Soh
The following article is a summary (by me) of some of the conversations Thusness had with me on the topic of Karmic Propensities/Karmic Momentum/Deep Conditionings and how it blinds us and completely affects the way we see phenomena.

Karmic Propensities is what blinded us from seeing the ultimate reality. Our entire mind is affected by karmic propensities such that our entire system of enquiry, even when we want to inquire on reality, we cannot know beyond "Who", "When", "What", "Where". Our mind is always thinking dualistically, in terms of subject and object (an I and a Not-I/an Observer apart from the Object of Observation, which cannot be found in reality). It is a momentum that cannot be located, yet it can be directly felt and experienced, and the momentum arises every moment and affect the entire way we see things. When we are affected by momentum the mind cannot know the ultimate reality (Emptiness).
Because our momentum is at work, we will always assume a subject-object duality. That is, there is a Self, an Agent, and observer, doer, thinker of thoughts. A self that persists in time in a connected way... experiencing things... It blinds us into seeing self and objective world as 'entities', as 'things' with inherent existence, as a separate and permanent 'me'.
So when momentum is in action, we cannot help but react with our karmic patterns. If we were to ask, "If you lost your shoe, are you still you?" or "If you lost your hands, do you still exist?". It almost seems certain to say "Yes, of course I am still I." because we always assumed there is a truly existing "Self" experiencing changes. This momentum can continue even after experiences of transcendental Presence, and distorting the experience.
Dharma Dan calls the karmic propensities of seeing subject/object division, or a separate Agent that is the observer, the "fundamental knot of perception". (See: The Non-Duality Models of Enlightenment by Dharma Dan)
Because it is our habit energy that made us think that way, we are so used to thinking in terms of subject-object duality that it has become so deeply part of us, deeply imprinted into our consciousness.
Apart from understanding our non-dual nature, what is important is the question of why is there a separation in the first place. Why is it that practitioners of all ages see thoughts, sensation, transience, the impermanence as not our Buddha Nature itself? Even when told non-duality, explained and experienced, how is it that it is not known? Understanding the power that blinds is equally important.
As my friend Longchen said, it's the working of the imprints and subtle recalling that makes us sink back to the illusion of a permanent background Source, Witness, Self... separating into form and formless, impermanence and permanence, and thus fail to see that the Appearance is the Source.
...From deep meditative observation, the witness is realised to be just an impression that is caused by subtle knowingness and sequential observation. Moment to moment arises in lightning fast speed. The second moment got a subtle imprint of the recently preceded one. This sequential change causes the sense of Subtle Witnessing known as the Eternal Witness...

If we were to eliminate this bond, then we can begin to realise, there is no "Self". In reality, there is only Self1, Self2, Self3 (which are not self), moment to moment our mental and karmic factors arise spontaneously but not in a connected way. We are not a permanent self, life is just a vivid, alive, yet momentary and insubstantial stream of mental and physical phenomena and nothing stays, everything is ever flowing. (Also see What is Self? and What Is The "Me"?)
Without seeing things as 'entities', we can begin to realise the nature of Dependent Co-Arising, Conditionality, Interdependence, etc, i.e Emptiness. The nature is always so, but our karmic propensities obscure us from seeing the truth, distorting the way we see things, enquire things, and perceive things. It is this bond that bonds us life after life in Samsara.
To eliminate the bond we have to feel it, feel the power of the bond, experience it. To eliminate the bond is a matter of insights, the insight into our true nature, the insight into self-liberation, etc. Not only must we eliminate the bond, we must be able to see how "Propensities" blinds us, and that is through naked awareness.
How can naked awareness lead to the insight of our "Propensities"?
Space, time, life, death, in and out are all ‘deeply held’ impressions. We are seldom aware of the “deeply held” until we are able to rest adequately in naked awareness. The nakedness creates the big contrast that provides us the condition for the arising of the insight of the 'deeply held'. The insight into the full power of our ‘propensities’ and resting in naked awareness are both equally crucial in our understanding of our non-dual (no subject-object duality, no separate permanently existing self) and empty (interdependently originated) nature.
To consciousness 'propensities' (deep conditioning or imprints) are all that matters. It is the only 'force' that blinds, bonds and prevents a liberating experience. Once formed it remains latent and only surface when conditions are riped for fruition. We are unable to get rid of it by will. Therefore to know consciousness, it is also to know the impact of deep conditioning, how it is formed and how it subsides. There is really no 'why', it is just how consciousness works.

If we drop our body, we experience astral body.
If we drop our thoughts, we experience “I AM”.
If we drop ‘I’, we experience non-duality.

Every major dropping results in a totally new experiential reality. Perhaps that is why Lao Tze teaches us to eliminate until none to experience Tao.
To drop the bondage/deep conditionings, the mind MUST realise that another way of 'knowing' is possible; an effortless, total sensing and experience of wholeness. Next the experiences of the joy, bliss and clarity of wholeness. Without the insight into the possiblity and the experience of the positive factors, the mind will not release itself from holding.

Even open pure and innocent inquiry is a deep conditioning. Makes the mind chatters incessantly. Every what, when, where and why by itself is a distancing from start. Freeing itself from such mode of inquiry aka 'knowing', the mind rests. The joy of this resting must be experienced for the 'willingness' to arise.

P.S. there are different types of meditative bliss/joy/rapture.

Like samatha meditation, each jhana state represents a stage of bliss associated with certain level of concentration; the bliss experienced from insight into our nature differs.

The happiness and pleasure experience by a dualistic mind is different from that experienced by a practitioner. “I AMness” is a higher form of happiness as compared to a dualistic mind that continuously chatters. It is a level of bliss associated with a state of ‘transcendence’ – a state of bliss resulting from the experience of “formlessness, odorless, colorless, attributeless and thoughtlessness’.
No-self or non-dual is higher form of bliss resulted from the direct experience of Oneness and no-separation. It is related to the dropping of the ‘I’. When non-dual is free from perceptions, that bliss is a form transcendence-oneness. It is what Thusness called the transparency of non-duality.
Posted by: Soh
This is one out of several models of enlightenment that is written by Dharma Dan a.k.a Dr. Daniel M. Ingram, MD MSPH, Arahat. The author is a qualified teacher of the Mahasi Sayadaw insight meditation tradition who has written a very practical and useful dharma book which contains very comprehensive and practical dharma teachings, meditation instructions and advises, and as he himself puts it: I am one of the few teachers I know of who will talk about high-level practice directly and unambiguously without relying on dogma, making things taboo or coating simple truths in mystery. I assume that most practitioners are mature enough to handle straight-forward and honest answers. My fundamental assumption is that many more people will be empowered to realize that they can master these things if they are out in the open.
His free E-Book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha is very highly recommended and a hardcopy has been recently published (2008) (see http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Core-Teachings-Buddha-Unusually/dp/1904658407).
My friend Thusness said that his book contains very valuable teachings for Insight Meditators; it is a great book which serves as a guide for a practitioner. It is unfortunate that Daniel's openness about his attainments has caused many doubts on his teachings due to the existing false myths and taboos surrounding Enlightenment in the Theravada tradition.
His book is also available in a 'blog format'. See: The Blook

The following article is one of the many articles dealing with the stages of insights and awakening.

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Update: For a more 'Mahayana' treatment of the non-duality model of enlightenment by the same author, see http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/12/heart-sutra-model-of-four-paths.html

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31. Models of the Stages of Enlightenment, IV
A Revised Four Path Model
Here is my revised version of the Four Path Model, and this is the primary model I use when describing awakening, talking about my practice, and helping others practice. I think that using the original terminology and revising its definitions allows a lot of good material in the Pali Canon to be used, thus provides a link to previously done work. However, I realize that using terminology that already has such deep cultural and dogmatic resonance may be a problem. For those who want something new, I will shortly present a rephrasing of this model that I call the Simple Model.
In the Revised Four Path Model, Stream Enterers have discovered the complete discontinuity that is called Fruition and sometimes called Nirvana or Nibbana (Sanskrit vs. Pali). This is the first of two meanings of Nirvana, with the other being Fourth Path. Stream enterers cycle through the ñanas, know that awakening or some different understanding from the norm is possible, and yet they do not have all that different an experience of most sensations from those who are not yet stream enterers. They may correctly extrapolate a lot of good dharma insights from momentary experiences, particularly high up in High Equanimity and the three moments before a Fruition, but this is not the same as living there all the time. In fact, most stream enterers have a very hard time describing how things have changed in terms of their daily life.
Those of Second Path have now completed a new insight cycle. They understand the process by which enlightened beings make further progress and equate progress with further cycles of insight, which is partially true. More model-obsessed or intellectual practitioners at second path may get very into fractal models, consciousness models, enlightenment models, various integrative theories, and that sort of thing at this stage of practice. Psychological issues tend to be a bit more of a big deal during this phase, and psychological development become interesting to them in some way. By this point most people, though certainly not everyone, also have a pretty good understanding of the basics of the samatha jhanas, and these can be very fascinating. What they may be most bothered by is that cycle after cycle of practice, duality remains the predominant experience most of the time.
Those of Third Path have shifted their understanding of what progress is from those of Second Path, and have been to see that it is about seeing the emptiness, selflessness, impermanence, etc. of sensations in daily life and begin to see that they have the ability to do this. This can be a long, developmental process from the first time they notice this to it becoming a nearly complete experience. Thus, Third Path tends to be a long path, though it doesn’t have to be.
At the beginning of Third Path, most practitioners think: “I’ll just complete more cycles of insight, like I did before, and this will do the trick.” They don’t tend to understand what it is they have attained all that well yet, nor its deeper implications. By the mature stage of Third Path, which can take months to years to show up, the practitioner is more and more able to see the emptiness, selfless, centerlessness, luminosity, etc. of phenomena in real-time, so much so that it can be very difficult to notice what artificial dualities remain.
As they cycle, they will enter new territory, possibly causing some uncertainty or instability, and with each Review phase they tend to really feel that they have done it until they begin to notice the limits of their practice. There can be this nagging something in the background that things aren’t done, and yet figuring out exactly what the problem is can be very slippery. It is a bit like being in the stages before stream entry, trying to figure out what exactly needs to be done. They need to notice something that has nothing to do with the cycles, to finally untangle the knot of perception at its core, but doing this can be a real trick. It is a very strange place, as one seems to know the dharma all the way to the end and yet somehow it just isn’t quite enough. In that vein, it is interesting to note that I wrote the vast majority of this book while I was some sort of anagami, and on reflection I got just about everything right. My emphases are slightly different now, but the basics are all the same.
As things progress, anagamis begin to tire of the cycles to a small or large degree and begin to look to something outside of them or not related to them for the answer to the final question. Finally, the cycles of insight, the states of concentration, the powers, and all the other perks and prerogatives of their stage of awakening or concentration abilities (if they developed them) hold no appeal and only lead to more unsatisfying cycles.
I completed around 27 full, complete insight cycles with mind-blowing A&P Events, Ass-kicking Dark Nights, Equanimity phases, and what seemed to be brand new, fresh Fruitions and Review phases between third and fourth path. There is nothing special about that number, as I mentioned previously in my descriptions of the problem that I call Twelfth Path. The later cycles got faster and faster, so that by the end it seemed I was whipping one out every few weeks or even every few days, but they still seemed to be leading nowhere. It was only when I had gotten so sick of the cycles and realized that they were leading nowhere that I was able to see what has nothing to do with the cycles, which also wasn’t anything except a strange untangling of the knot of perception of them. The cycles, for better or worse, have continued just the same. Thus, there is not much point in counting cycles or paths, as they don’t necessarily correlate well with anything past the first two or three, and issues of backsliding can really make things complex, as I explained earlier.
Finishing up my Revised Four Path Model, arahats have finally untangled the knot of perception, dissolved the sense of the center point actually being the center point, no longer fundamentally make a separate Self out of the patterns of sensations that they used to, even though those same patterns of sensations continue. This is a different understanding from those of Third Path in some subtle way, and makes this path about something that is beyond the paths. This is also poetically called the opening of the Wisdom Eye. What is interesting is that I could write about this stage quite well when I was an anagami, but that is a whole different world from knowing it like arahats know it.
The Wisdom Eye may seem to blink initially. It may go through cycles of flashing open just after a Fruition and then slowly fading over a few hours (at least on retreat) as each round of physical sensations, then mental sensations, then complex emotional formations, then lastly fundamental formations such as inquiry itself move through and become integrated into this new, correct and direct perception of reality as it is. Review cycles may occur many times during each flash, but when the eye is open they seem rather irrelevant in comparison to keeping the level of clarity and acceptance high enough to keep the eye open. When the eye fades, the familiar insight cycles may seem like pure drudgery, with the focus being of practice initially lost in getting through the cycles and then gradually shifting again to getting clear enough to get the eye to open again. The themes that occupy center stage go through a cycle that is very much like a progress cycle.
Finally, the Wisdom Eye cycles and insight cycles all converge, and the thing stays open from then on, which is to say that at that point it all seems the same whether or not the eye is open, which it actually was. That being seen, nothing can erode or disturb the centerlessness of perspective. Done is what is to be done, and life goes on. That there are arahats who have opened the Wisdom Eye but had it fade and those who have opened it and had it stay open is rarely mentioned but worth knowing.
For the arahat who has kept the thing open, there is nothing more to be gained on the ultimate front from insight practices, as “done is what is to be done”. That said, insight practices can still be of great benefit to them for a whole host of reasons, there is a ton they can learn just like everyone else about everything else there is to learn. They can grow, develop, change, work and participate in this strange human drama just like everyone else.
A Simple Model
In earlier versions of this work, I had a model called The Heart Sutra Model. The Simple Model is the less mysterious, stripped down version of that earlier model, though in its essence it is basically the same. While in one sense it is also rephrasing of the Revised Four Path Model, as it has no numbers, and is free of the traditional names, it has some advantages over that terminology.
I present this somewhat novel model here because it focuses on real insight directly and treats any emotional benefits of this as side effects. Further, there are often too many cycles of insight before arahatship, making the Four Path model troublesome. This phenomena of too many cycles (which I will sometimes call “paths” with a lowercase “p”) between each of the Four Paths gets worse as one works towards final awakening. As Bill Hamilton put it, and I have learned the hard way, “The arahat fractal is vast.”
The Simple Model does not reinforce fascination with content, nor with life denying ideals or limited emotional range models in the way that the traditional Four Path Model often does. It does not tempt one to count paths. It keeps the focus on precise inquiry into the truth and one’s experience of it or lack thereof.
This model basically says that enlightenment is about direct insight that progressively reveals something different in the relationship to the field of experience and gradually allows things in it to be held in their proper proportion. Thus, it is a Non-Duality Model.
The first understanding is that sensations are sensations, thoughts are thoughts, and this forms the basis of further inquiry. When the universal characteristics of these sensations begin to be seen, this represents growth in understanding. When the whole sense field is known directly and completely as it is, this can cause an entrance into Fruition through one of the Three Doors, and represents the first stage of awakening.
When one appreciates the cycles of the process of awakening and has completed at least one more cycle, this is the next stage. When one begins to appreciate the emptiness, luminosity, centerlessness, agentlessness, etc. of phenomena in real-time and this becomes the focus of practice rather than Fruition, this is the next stage. When the sense of the watcher, observer, subject, controller, doer, etc. is seen completely as it is and the knot of perception untangles, that simple, fundamental way of perceiving things is the next stage of awakening. When that untangling stays untangled, that is the next stage. When that understanding is integrated into our lives, that is the next phase, though I am not sure it can be defined as a stage rather than as a process.
The problem is that the traditions seem to want to make this understanding into so much more than it is, such as add ideals of emotional perfection onto this. There is some truth in the models dealing with emotions, but it has to do with things moving through faster and being seen more clearly. It does not have anything to do with bad emotions not arising. I hate to even go here, as my goal is to give the emotional models the bashing they richly deserve, but I also want to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Thus, here it goes.
As the deep-seated perceptual sense of a separate, continuous, permanent, observing Agent stops being extrapolated from the same old patterns of sensations that seemed to be those, there is this wider inclusive something that can come into the consciousness of the enlightened individual, depending on their level of awakening. There is also a slowly growing directness of perception that comes as reality is not filtered so exclusively through thought. These two can combine to give the emotions of enlightened beings less sticking power, so that they may move through more quickly than for those that are not enlightened, and also may be seen more quickly and clearly as they arise and vanish. There may also be less blind contraction into thoughts and emotions and a wider perspective, thus giving the other parts of the brain more of a chance of creating moderated responses to the emotions. That said, even when seen through, there seems to be a biological component to how emotions move through that can only be expedited so much.
Anyone who thinks these highly qualified statements are anything like a vision of emotional perfection or the elimination of all negative emotions is not paying attention! That is the last thing I wish to imply. I merely wish to say that there is some increased clarity about our basic human experience and it can help, but that is all. That said, you would be amazed how angry, lustful or ignorant enlightened beings can be, and they can still do all sorts of stupid things based on these emotions, just like everyone else. The ability to moderate responses to emotions can sometimes give the impression that those emotions have been attenuated, but that is not the same thing, and there is my nice transition to the Action Models.
Posted by: Soh

The following article is written by my forum friend, Longchen/Simpo, who also posts in my forum ~ Buddhism: Wisdom Bliss ~. Also check out a previous posting of his articles on this blog: http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/how-is-non-duality-like.html
Update, August 2009: Please note that the author of the site has taken down all his spiritual growth articles. The links below will not work anymore, however I have uploaded an archive of all his articles at Longchen/Simpo's Articles
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This essay is not a definitive writing on this subject of enlightenment. The following is just an expression of my own experiences and findings.
There seems to be a notion that enlightenment is just one final state. Many also believe that when one has certain transcendental or mystical experience, that experience is final and complete. This assumption is perhaps popularised by the classic stories of enlightenment that are widely known. Also there is much granduer associated with this notion of Enlightenment which, in my opinion, is totally overhyped and uncalled for.
My opinion is that enlightenment is not just one 'standard' final state but is a gradual and progressive establishing of states of consciousness. The process is a succesive unfoldment and transformation, leading to increasingly clear understanding of the dynamics of consciousness. So perhaps, enlightenment as described by various persons and traditions can be referring to different states of consciousness.

I, myself have not reach the end of the road. But from years on a spiritual path, I can confidently say that enlightenment happens in a series or stages of self-realisations and self-discoveries. There are, in fact, more than one type of transcendental or mystical experience.

Almost all stages of enlightenment can be said to be associated with states of Presence. However, the Presence comes in various degrees of clarity and intensity. The degree of intensity is directly dependent on the level and depth of one's clarity as well as one's realisations/discoveries.
Usually there is a difference between an initial awakening and a later stabilisation of that stage.

Also, as one progresses along, the relationship or connections of oneself to the universe and existence in general also becomes clearer.

Below is an attempt to illustrate the stage-based characteristic of enlightenment:

When one first begin meditating, one may have an initial experience of all-pervading Presence. This Presence, is most often experienced when thoughts are momentarily suspended. This Presence which exists in the timeless Present Moment is our true characteristic or nature.

However such an experience can only be classified as an initial awakening to the true nature.. which ironically have no sense of being an individual self. This is because, after the meditation, the Presence seems to have disappeared. One cannot understand and find the connection of Presence to our everyday life. Because of that, one will have difficulties re-acquiring the Presence. And it takes many stages and series of realisation to understand the relationship of Presence to our phenomenal world. It can be said that the prolonged sustaining of Presence is dependent upon the stages and depth of realisation.

Also, during the earlier stages we may mistaken another state to be the pure pristine presence. For example, we may mistaken 'I AM' or the Eternal Witness for pure presence. This is because the thinking mind has created a seemingly constant image of Pure Presence. This image is the I AM or Eternal Witness, as it is commonly described. Basically, at this stage, the true characteristic of Presence is not being clearly understood.

Usually, in order to pass through the so-called 'I AM' stage, the person must move towards even deeper understandings of consciousness. These understandings may include realising that one's sense of self or personality is not the doer or controller of action. This realisation allows one to loosen the 'sense of self's compulsive grip and in the process, a state of NOWness can be experienced. By NOWness, I am referring to a peaceful state where the mind is not chasing after thoughts but rather is abiding in the Present Moment.
This stage may persist for sometime before the person realises the illusion of subject-object division. This stage involves discovering and recognising the hypnotic impression of there being an observer (which is oneself) and the being observed. Typically, this is where one begins to see through the illusionary nature of our phenomenal world. This entire band of realisation stage is often known as non-dual experience or non-duality. After the initial experiences of non-duality, the person may reach a even more profound realisation. This is the realisation that everything that is being experienced is truly spontaneously manifesting. This realisation is more subtle than the previous realisation and represents a major leap in understanding.

Also, in the further stages of the enlightenment process, there are experiences of increasing brightness to one's consciousness. This brightness is the result of mind's deconstruction which allows for intense penetration into consciousness.
While there may well be other stages not described here, nevertheless, one can still see from the above description that enlightenment is not so straight-forward after all.

One more thing to add. Realisations and karmic pattern clearing go hand in hand on the spiritual path.

For your necessary discernment. Thank you for reading.
If you are interested you may also wish to read about the series of realisations that I had on my path of enlightenment as well as other essays related to this subject of enlightenment. Click here for the articles.

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Commments:
Please also read the following articles from the same author at http://www.dreamdatum.com/articles-path.html
self growth, healing, enlightenment, meditation______________________________
These are articles dealing with self-growth, healing and discovery systems or paths
General Information on self-discovery
Why is spiritual truth so elusive?
Why is spiritual truth so elusive?... This article attempts to find the causes.
A system of self-discovery
The path that I am walking upon... This article describes a system for self growth and discovery.
What is the Higher Self
Who and what is the higher self? Is there a way to contact it?
Enlightenment is a gradual process
Many people has the notion that enlightenment is one state. Many also believe that when it is attained, a person is forever in that state. My opinion is that enlightenment is not just one state but is a gradual and progressive establishing of states of consciousness..
Can the Source of existence be an Object?
Can the Source of existence be a thing? Can IT be an tangible object? Can we even can IT it? ...
Paradox
Paradox of perception...
Ripples on the surface of the Source
The impression of there being a 'me/self' interacting with the environment and others can be compared to the ripples on the surface of Being. The ripples can be liken to individuals/selves. The ripples are the perceptions of sensorial and thought experiences. Different beings/individuals will have different experiences that are dependent on their sense characteristics. Being/Absolute can be liken to the entirety which is the vast ocean. ...
The limitation of Science in dealing with Reality
This article describes why science may not be the right tool for dealing with Reality. ...
Is there really an Eternal Witness?
This articles explains why no Eternal Witness exist...
How does Non-duality feels like?
A description of how non-duality feels like from my experience...
Clearing of karmic patterns and habits
Beside having insights and realisations, karmic pattern clearing is equally important for effective transformation to occur.....
Are we supposed to get rid of unwholesome thoughts?
Many spiritual teaching say that one must get rid of unwholesome stuffs in one's life. So does that include getting rid of unwholesome thoughts that one is having? This article is related to karmic pattern clearing ....
Misconceptions surrounding the term Non-duality
An essay about the misconceptions surrounding the term Non-duality...
The non-solidity of existence
An essay about the non-solidity of existence...
Series of realisations and self-discoveries
Below is a list of realisations that I had. They are arranged sequentially with the earliest realisation on the top. What was being discovered is that a latter realisation can over-ride or modify upon an earlier one. This listing is not a definitive guide, but a documentation of the process based on my own personal experience.
The description of the self-discovery path that I use can be found here.
Who are we?
Are we just the personality?
Self-arised impressions?
When we interact with the world and others, are we really engaging the external environment
or are we really just interacting with our thoughts and ourselves?
Can a face see itself without a mirror?
Likewise, can the Absolute Source percieve itself without a mirror?
Doer and the being done
Who is the doer of action? ...
Symbolism and Presence
Our world seems 'solid' when we externalise experiences...
Entering Present Moment
Entering Present Moment cannot be a contrive activity. It happens when it wants to and is without any active intention on the part of the mind. ...
The impression of self and others
When the hypnotic impression of there being an observer (self) and the being observed(others and environment) is being discovered and recognised, the world suddenly appears illusionary....
Knowingness and Self
Knowingness is in-built into consciousness. But this knowingness is being mistaken for a doer or a self.....
All is the Universal Mind
Click to find out... Please understand that there is a difference between a conceptual understanding and an experiential realisation...
When meditation can be a hinderance
Meditation is a useful practice for one on a spiritual path. However, at a certain stage it can actually be a hinderance. This article is an essay on when meditation becomes a hinderance to experiencing Oneness Presence.....
Non-dual conversation
Is it possible to maintain non-duality when talking to someone? Yes it is possible ...
A new phase
Description of a new phase ...
Below is a list of spiritual transmission example.
These are some psychic transmissions that I had some years ago. They represented an intermediate stage of my spiritual development.
Transmission example 1
A query on reincarnation...
Transmission example 2
An explanation on consciousness...

Posted by: Soh
Here's a very interesting interview with Bernadette Roberts, a modern Christian contemplative who spoke about her experience of moving from the 'I AM' stage to the insight of the Nondual nature which she calls "No-Self", which is different from the egoless state of I AM . It is the Thusness's Stage 4 experience.

However she has tendency to speak about the experience of No-Self as a stage rather than as the everpresent nature of reality, a dharma seal... even though she knows experientially that nondual is pathless without entry and exit.

Bernadette: That occurred unexpectedly some 25 years after the transforming process. The divine center - the coin, or "true self" - suddenly disappeared, and without center or circumference there is no self, and no divine."

Initially, when I looked into Buddhism, I did not find the experience of no-self there either; yet I intuited that it had to be there. The falling away of the ego is common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, it would not account for the fact that Buddhism became a separate religion, nor would it account for the Buddhist's insistence on no eternal Self - be it divine, individual or the two in one. I felt that the key difference between these two religions was the no-self experience, the falling away of the true Self, Atman-Brahman.
Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless state of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond. Unless we clearly distinguish between these two very different experiences, we only confuse them, with the inevitable result that the true no-self experience becomes lost. If we think the falling away of the ego, with its ensuing transformation and oneness, is the no-self experience, then what shall we call the much further experience when this egoless oneness falls away? In actual experience there is only one thing to call it, the "no-self experience"; it lends itself to no other possible articulation.
Initially, I gave up looking for this experience in the Buddhist literature. Four years later, however, I came across two lines attributed to Buddha describing his enlightenment experience. Referring to self as a house, he said, "All thy rafters are broken now, the ridgepole is destroyed." And there it was - the disappearance of the center, the ridgepole; without it, there can be no house, no self. When I read these lines, it was as if an arrow launched at the beginning of time had suddenly hit a bulls-eye. It was a remarkable find. These lines are not a piece of philosophy, but an experiential account, and without the experiential account we really have nothing to go on. In the same verse he says, "Again a house thou shall not build," clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a "true center," a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.

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http://www.spiritualteachers.org/b_roberts_interview.htm
Interview with Bernadette Roberts Reprinted from the book Timeless Visions, Healing Voices, copyright 1991 by Stephan Bodian (www.stephanbodian.org). In this exclusive interview with Stephan Bodian, (published in the Nov/Dec 1986 issue of YOGA JOURNAL), author Bernadette Roberts describes the path of the Christian contemplative after the experience of oneness with God.
Bernadette Roberts is the author of two extraordinary books on the Christian contemplative journey, The Experience of No-Self (Shambhala, 1982) and The Path to No-Self (Shambala, 1985). A cloistered nun for nine years, Roberts reports that she returned to the world after experiencing the "unitive state", the state of oneness with God, in order to share what she had learned and to take on the problems and experience of others. In the years that followed she completed a graduate degree in education, married, raised four children, and taught at the pre-school, high school, and junior college levels; at the same time she continued her contemplative practice. Then, quite unexpectedly, some 20 years after leaving the convent, Roberts reportedly experienced the dropping away of the unitive state itself and came upon what she calls "the experience of no-self" - an experience for which the Christian literature, she says, gave her no clear road maps or guideposts. Her books, which combine fascinating chronicles of her own experiences with detailed maps of the contemplative terrain, are her attempt to provide such guideposts for those who might follow after her.
Now 55, and once again living in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, Roberts characterizes herself as a "bag lady" whose sister and brother in law are "keeping her off the streets." "I came into this world with nothing," she writes, "and I leave with nothing. But in between I lived fully - had all the experiences, stretched the limits, and took one too many chances." When I approached her for an interview, Roberts was reluctant at first, protesting that others who had tried had distorted her meaning, and that nothing had come of it in the end. Instead of a live interview, she suggested, why not send her a list of questions to which she would respond in writing, thereby eliminating all possibility for misunderstanding. As a result, I never got to meet Bernadette Roberts face to face - but her answers to my questions, which are as carefully crafted and as deeply considered as her books, are a remarkable testament to the power of contemplation.
Stephan: Could you talk briefly about the first three stages of the Christian contemplative life as you experienced them - in particular, what you (and others) have called the unitive state?
Bernadette: Strictly speaking, the terms "purgative", "illuminative", and "unitive" (often used of the contemplative path) do not refer to discrete stages, but to a way of travel where "letting go", "insight", and "union", define the major experiences of the journey. To illustrate the continuum, authors come up with various stages, depending on the criteria they are using. St. Teresa, for example, divided the path into seven stages or "mansions". But I don't think we should get locked into any stage theory: it is always someone else's retrospective view of his or her own journey, which may not include our own experiences or insights. Our obligation is to be true to our own insights, our own inner light.
My view of what some authors call the "unitive stage"is that it begins with the Dark Night of the Spirit, or the onset of the transformational process - when the larva enters the cocoon, so to speak. Up to this point, we are actively reforming ourselves, doing what we can to bring about an abiding union with the divine. But at a certain point, when we have done all we can, the divine steps in and takes over. The transforming process is a divine undoing and redoing that culminates in what is called the state of "transforming union" or "mystical marriage", considered to be the definitive state for the Christian contemplative. In experience, the onset of this process is the descent of the cloud of unknowing, which, because his former light had gone out and left him in darkness, the contemplative initially interprets as the divine gone into hiding. In modern terms, the descent of the cloud is actually the falling away of the ego-center, which leaves us looking into a dark hole, a void or empty space in ourselves. Without the veil of the ego-center, we do not recognize the divine; it is not as we thought it should be. Seeing the divine, eye to eye is a reality that shatters our expectations of light and bliss. From here on we must feel our way in the dark, and the special eye that allows us to see in the dark opens up at this time.
So here begins our journey to the true center, the bottom-most, innermost "point" in ourselves where our life and being runs into divine life and being - the point at which all existence comes together. This center can be compared to a coin: on the near side is our self, on the far side is the divine. One side is not the other side, yet we cannot separate the two sides. If we tried to do so, we would either end up with another side, or the whole coin would collapse, leaving no center at all - no self and no divine. We call this a state of oneness or union because the single center has two sides, without which there would be nothing to be one, united, or non-dual. Such, at least, is the experiential reality of the state of transforming union, the state of oneness.

Stephan: How did you discover the further stage, which you call the experience of no-self?
Bernadette: That occurred unexpectedly some 25 years after the transforming process. The divine center - the coin, or "true self" - suddenly disappeared, and without center or circumference there is no self, and no divine. Our subjective life of experience is over - the passage is finished. I had never heard of such a possibility or happening. Obviously there is far more to the elusive experience we call self than just the ego. The paradox of our passage is that we really do not know what self or consciousness is, so long as we are living it, or are it. The true nature of self can only be fully disclosed when it is gone, when there is no self.
One outcome, then, of the no-self experience is the disclosure of the true nature of self or consciousness. As it turns out, self is the entire system of consciousness, from the unconscious to God-consciousness, the entire dimension of human knowledge and feeling-experience. Because the terms "self" and "consciousness" express the same experiences (nothing can be said of one that cannot be said of the other), they are only definable in the terms of "experience". Every other definition is conjecture and speculation. No-self, then, means no-consciousness. If this is shocking to some people, it is only because they do not know the true nature of consciousness. Sometimes we get so caught up in the content of consciousness, we forget that consciousness is also a somatic function of the physical body, and, like every such function, it is not eternal. Perhaps we would do better searching for the divine in our bodies than amid the content and experience of consciousness.
Stephan: How does one move from "transforming union" to the experience of no-self? What is the path like?
Bernadette: We can only see a path in retrospect. Once we come to the state of oneness, we can go no further with the inward journey. The divine center is the innermost "point", beyond which we cannot go at this time. Having reached this point, the movement of our journey turns around and begins to move outward - the center is expanding outward. To see how this works, imagine self, or consciousness, as a circular piece of paper. The initial center is the ego, the particular energy we call "will" or volitional faculty, which can either be turned outward, toward itself, or inward, toward the divine ground, which underlies the center of the paper. When, from our side of consciousness, we can do no more to reach this ground, the divine takes the initiative and breaks through the center, shattering the ego like an arrow shot through the center of being. The result is a dark hole in ourselves and the feeling of terrible void and emptiness. This breakthrough demands a restructuring or change of consciousness, and this change is the true nature of the transforming process. Although this transformation culminates in true human maturity, it is not man's final state. The whole purpose of oneness is to move us on to a more final state.
To understand what happens next, we have to keep cutting larger holes in the paper, expanding the center until only the barest rim or circumference remains. One more expansion of the divine center, and the boundaries of consciousness or self fall away. From this illustration we can see how the ultimate fulfillment of consciousness, or self, is no-consciousness, or no-self. The path from oneness to no-oneness is an egoless one and is therefore devoid of ego-satisfaction. Despite the unchanging center of peace and joy, the events of life may not be peaceful or joyful at all. With no ego-gratification at the center and no divine joy on the surface, this part of the journey is not easy. Heroic acts of selflessness are required to come to the end of self, acts comparable to cutting ever-larger holes in the paper - acts, that is, that bring no return to the self whatsoever.
The major temptation to be overcome in this period is the temptation to fall for one of the subtle but powerful archetypes of the collective consciousness. As I see it, in the transforming process we only come to terms with the archetypes of the personal unconscious; the archetypes of the collective consciousness are reserved for individuals in the state of oneness, because those archetypes are powers or energies of that state. Jung felt that these archetypes were unlimited; but in fact, there is only one true archetype, and that archtype is self. What is unlimited are the various masks or roles self is tempted to play in the state of oneness - savior, prophet, healer, martyr, Mother Earth, you name it. They are all temptations to seize power for ourselves, to think ourselves to be whatever the mask or role may be. In the state of oneness, both Christ and Buddha were tempted in this manner, but they held to the "ground" that they knew to be devoid of all such energies. This ground is a "stillpoint", not a moving energy-point. Unmasking these energies, seeing them as ruses of the self, is the particular task to be accomplished or hurdle to be overcome in the state of oneness. We cannot come to the ending of self until we have finally seen through these archetypes and can no longer be moved by any of them. So the path from oneness to no-oneness is a life that is choicelessly devoid of ego-satisfaction; a life of unmasking the energies of self and all the divine roles it is tempted to play. It is hard to call this life a "path", yet it is the only way to get to the end of our journey.
Stephan: In The Experience of No-Self you talk at great length about your experience of the dropping away or loss of self. Could you briefly describe this experience and the events that led up to it? I was particularly struck by your statement "I realized I no longer had a 'within' at all." For so many of us, the spiritual life is experienced as an "inner life" - yet the great saints and sages have talked about going beyond any sense of inwardness.
Bernadette: Your observation strikes me as particularly astute; most people miss the point. You have actually put your finger on the key factor that distinguishes between the state of oneness and the state of no-oneness, between self and no-self. So long as self remains, there will always be a "center". Few people realize that not only is the center responsible for their interior experiences of energy, emotion, and feeling, but also, underlying these, the center is our continuous, mysterious experience of "life"and "being". Because this experience is more pervasive than our other experiences, we may not think of "life" and "being" as an interior experience. Even in the state of oneness, we tend to forget that our experience of "being" originates in the divine center, where it is one with divine life and being. We have become so used to living from this center that we feel no need to remember it, to mentally focus on it, look within, or even think about it. Despite this fact, however, the center remains; it is the epicenter of our experience of life and being, which gives rise to our experiential energies and various feelings.
If this center suddenly dissolves and disappears, the experiences of life, being, energy, feeling and so on come to an end, because there is no "within" any more. And without a "within", there is no subjective, psychological, or spiritual life remaining - no experience of life at all. Our subjecive life is over and done with. But now, without center and circumference, where is the divine? To get hold of this situation, imagine consciousness as a balloon filled with, and suspended in divine air. The balloon experiences the divine as immanent, "in" itself, as well as transcendent, beyond or outside itself. This is the experience of the divine in ourselves and ourselves in the divine; in the state of oneness, Christ is often seen as the balloon (ourselves), completing this trinitarian experience. But what makes this whole experience possible - the divine as both immanent and transcendent - is obviously the balloon, i.e. consciousness or self. Consciousness sets up the divisions of within and without, spirit and matter, body and soul, immanent and transcendent; in fact, consciousness is responsible for every division we know of. But what if we pop the balloon - or better, cause it to vanish like a bubble that leaves no residue. All that remains is divine air. There is no divine in anything, there is no divine transcendence or beyond anything, nor is the divine anything. We cannot point to anything or anyone and say, "This or that is divine". So the divine is all - all but consciousness or self, which created the division in the first place. As long as consciousness remains however, it does not hide the divine, nor is it ever separated from it. In Christian terms, the divine known to consciousness and experienced by it as immanent and transcendent is called God; the divine as it exists prior to consciousness and after consciousness is gone is called Godhead. Obviously, what accounts for the difference between God and Godhead is the balloon or bubble - self or consciousness. As long as any subjective self remains, a center remains; and so, too, does the sense of interiority.
Stephan: You mention that, with the loss of the personal self, the personal God drops away as well. Is the personal God, then, a transitional figure in our search for ultimate loss of self?
Bernadette: Sometimes we forget that we cannot put our finger on any thing or any experience that is not transitional. Since consciousness, self, or subject is the human faculty for experiencing the divine, every such experience is personally subjective; thus in my view, "personal God" is any subjective experience of the divine. Without a personal, subjective self, we could not even speak of an impersonal, non-subjective God; one is just relative to the other. Before consciousness or self existed, however, the divine was neither personal nor impersonal, subjective nor non-subjective - and so the divine remains when self or consciousness has dropped away. Consciousness by its very nature tends to make the divine into its own image and likeness; the only problem is, the divine has no image or likeness. Hence consciousness, of itself, cannot truly apprehend the divine.
Christians (Catholics especially) are often blamed for being the great image makers, yet their images are so obviously naive and easy to see through, we often miss the more subtle, formless images by which consciousness fashions the divine. For example, because the divine is a subjective experience, we think the divine is a subject; because we experience the divine through the faculties of consciousness, will, and intellect, we think the divine is equally consciousness, will and intellect; because we experience ourselves as a being or entity, we experience the divine as a being or entity; because we judge others, we think the divine judges others; and so on. Carrying a holy card in our pockets is tame compared to the formless notions we carry around in our minds; it is easy to let go of an image, but almost impossible to uproot our intellectual convictions based on the experiences of consciousness.
Still, if we actually knew the unbridgeable chasm that lies between the true nature of consciousness or self and the true nature of the divine, we would despair of ever making the journey. So consciousness is the marvelous divine invention by which human beings make the journey in subjective companionship with the divine; and, like every divine invention, it works. Consciousness both hides the chasm and bridges it - and when we have crossed over, of course, we do not need the bridge any more. So it doesn't matter that we start out on our journey with our holy cards, gongs and bells, sacred books and religious feelings. All of it should lead to growth and transformation, the ultimate surrender of our images and concepts, and a life of selfless giving. When there is nothing left to surrender, nothing left to give, only then can we come to the end of the passage - the ending of consciousness and its personally subjective God. One glimpse of the Godhead, and no one would want God back.
Stephan: How does the path to no-self in the Christian contemplative tradition differ from the path as laid out in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions?
Bernadette: I think it may be too late for me to ever have a good understanding of how other religions make this passage. If you are not surrendering your whole being, your very consciousness, to a loved and trusted personal God, then what are you surrendering it to? Or why surrender it at all? Loss of ego, loss of self, is just a by-product of this surrender; it is not the true goal, not an end in itself. Perhaps this is also the view of Mahayana Buddhism, where the goal is to save all sentient beings from suffering, and where loss of ego, loss of self, is seen as a means to a greater end. This view is very much in keeping with the Christian desire to save all souls. As I see it, without a personal God, the Buddhist must have a much stronger faith in the "unconditioned and unbegotten" than is required of the Christian contemplative, who experiences the passage as a divine doing, and in no way a self-doing.
Actually, I met up with Buddhism only at the end of my journey, after the no-self experience. Since I knew that this experience was not articulated in our contemplative literature, I went to the library to see if it could be found in the Eastern Religions. It did not take me long to realize that I would not find it in the Hindu tradition, where, as I see it, the final state is equivalent to the Christian experience of oneness or transforming union. If a Hindu had what I call the no-self experience, it would be the sudden, unexpected disappearance of the Atman-Brahman, the divine Self in the "cave of the heart", and the disappearance of the cave as well. It would be the ending of God-consciousness, or transcendental consciousness - that seemingly bottomless experience of "being", "consciousness", and "bliss" that articulates the state of oneness. To regard this ending as the falling away of the ego is a grave error; ego must fall away before the state of oneness can be realized. The no-self experience is the falling away of this previously realized transcendent state.
Initially, when I looked into Buddhism, I did not find the experience of no-self there either; yet I intuited that it had to be there. The falling away of the ego is common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, it would not account for the fact that Buddhism became a separate religion, nor would it account for the Buddhist's insistence on no eternal Self - be it divine, individual or the two in one. I felt that the key difference between these two religions was the no-self experience, the falling away of the true Self, Atman-Brahman. Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless state of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond. Unless we clearly distinguish between these two very different experiences, we only confuse them, with the inevitable result that the true no-self experience becomes lost. If we think the falling away of the ego, with its ensuing transformation and oneness, is the no-self experience, then what shall we call the much further experience when this egoless oneness falls away? In actual experience there is only one thing to call it, the "no-self experience"; it lends itself to no other possible articulation.
Initially, I gave up looking for this experience in the Buddhist literature. Four years later, however, I came across two lines attributed to Buddha describing his enlightenment experience. Referring to self as a house, he said, "All thy rafters are broken now, the ridgepole is destroyed." And there it was - the disappearance of the center, the ridgepole; without it, there can be no house, no self. When I read these lines, it was as if an arrow launched at the beginning of time had suddenly hit a bulls-eye. It was a remarkable find. These lines are not a piece of philosophy, but an experiential account, and without the experiential account we really have nothing to go on. In the same verse he says, "Again a house thou shall not build," clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a "true center," a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.
As a Christian, I saw the no-self experience as the true nature of Christ's death, the movement beyond even is oneness with the divine, the movement from God to Godhead. Though not articulated in contemplative literature, Christ dramatized this experience on the cross for all ages to see and ponder. Where Buddha described the experience, Christ manifested it without words; yet they both make the same statement and reveal the same truth - that ultimately, eternal life is beyond self or consciousness. After one has seen it manifested or heard it said, the only thing left is to experience it.
Stephan: You mention in The Path to No-Self that the unitive state is the "true state in which God intended every person to live his mature years." Yet so few of us ever achieve this unitive state. What is it about the way we live right now that prevents us from doing so? Do you think it is our preoccupation with material success, technology, and personal accomplishment?
Bernadette: First of all, I think there are more people in the state of oneness than we realize. For everyone we hear about there are thousands we will never hear about. Believing this state to be a rare achievement can be an impediment in itself. Unfortunately, those who write about it have a way of making it sound more extraordinary and blissful that it commonly is, and so false expectations are another impediment - we keep waiting and looking for an experience or state that never comes. But if I had to put my finger on the primary obstacle, I would say it is having wrong views of the journey.
Paradoxical though it may seem, the passage through consciousness or self moves contrary to self, rubs it the wrong way - and in the end, will even rub it out. Because this passage goes against the grain of self, it is, therefore, a path of suffering. Both Christ and Buddha saw the passage as one of suffering, and basically found identical ways out. What they discovered and revealed to us was that each of us has within himself or herself a "stillpoint" - comparable, perhaps to the eye of a cyclone, a spot or center of calm, imperturbability, and non-movement. Buddha articulated this central eye in negative terms as "emptiness" or "void", a refuge from the swirling cyclone of endless suffering. Christ articulated the eye in more positive terms as the "Kingdom of God" or the "Spirit within", a place of refuge and salvation from a suffering self.
For both of them, the easy out was first to find that stillpoint and then, by attaching ourselves to it, by becoming one with it, to find a stabilizing, balanced anchor in our lives. After that, the cyclone is gradually drawn into the eye, and the suffering self comes to an end. And when there is no longer a cyclone, there is also no longer an eye. So the storms, crises, and sufferings of life are a way of finding the eye. When everything is going our way, we do not see the eye, and we feel no need to find it. But when everything is going against us, then we find the eye. So the avoidance of suffering and the desire to have everything go our own way runs contrary to the whole movement of our journey; it is all a wrong view. With the right view, however, one should be able to come to the state of oneness in six or seven years - years not merely of suffering, but years of enlightenment, for right suffering is the essence of enlightenment. Because self is everyone's experience underlying all culture. I do not regard cultural wrong views as an excuse for not searching out right views. After all, each person's passage is his or her own; there is no such thing as a collective passage.