We will pick from the previous classes focusing on the practice of passive contemplation or mushahada, and continue to explore the properties of mind and consciousness in the awakened state and sleep. Murshid said, “The further we study the phenomenon of deep sleep the more we will come to understand the mystery of life. It gives a key to the mystery of life for it is an experience which divides our spiritual consciousness between the physical and spiritual worlds.” The phenomenon Murshid calls “deep sleep” is what we have been referring to as the substrate, or alaya-vijnana in the East, the storehouse from which all mental appearances, images, memories give rise and either dissolve back into the substrate through renunciatory attention, or manifest as pleasant and unpleasant subjective experiences after we grasp hold and cling to them. Elsewhere, Murshid provides an excellent description of the mushahada meditative state:
“When a person speaks of consciousness he cannot think of the original condition; he can think only of the consciousness which is conscious of something. As soon as we distinguish between the consciousness [ie consciousness of the substrate] and what it is conscious of [ie. the objective appearances arising in the natural vacuous space of the mind], we separate them, as we separate the mirror from what is reflected in it.”
This has been the preliminary goal in the mushahada practices we have been doing so far. It is an introspective skill we seem to have lost in the West. It reminds me of what a friend shared, a Western Tibetan lama, after giving a lecture at Oxford on neuroscience and Buddhist meditation. A rather famous Oxford professor, a so-called expert in the “philosophy of the mind,” approached him after his talk. My friend described him as rather gruff and aggressive. Almost shouting at him, he said, “You cannot observe thoughts! You can only think thoughts!” Of course, this is a near meaningless statement unless one believes all invisible thoughts originate somewhere in the visible cellular and neural pudding of the brain. Murshid on the other hand is inviting us to learn to separate our awareness from the objective appearances presented to awareness. This also has enormous ethical significance. “When one has realized this,’ Murshid continues, “one will come to the conclusion that the soul of the wise and of the foolish, of the sinner and virtuous is one and the same.” Hence begins the journey towards the dawning of the divine pristine primordial consciousness.
Finally I received several excellent questions about some of the lessons we have investigated so far. So I hope to be able to address these for everyone’s benefit.
Would you like to help beautify the Abode this spring and summer?
Our service team is a group of dedicated people helping to tend a facility and land that have been considered sacred since the land’s earliest known stewards, the Mohicans. The Abode’s spiritual and service focus is the basis for offering sacred hospitality to all who cross our threshold.
As we plan for a Spring opening, we are seeking to recruit garden and facilities folks to help us undertake day-to-day care and upkeep and to facilitate upgrades. If you are looking to apply your skills and experience to preserving and rehabilitating something worthwhile, and to belong to a service-oriented team, please see the position descriptions below and connect with us!