sunnuntai 26. kesäkuuta 2016

Posture of Meditation, Part 2: Standing

Posture of Meditation, Part 2:
Standing

Posture of Meditation Series:
Posture of Meditation, Part 3: Eyes

Standing meditation

Considering that standing posture is one of the four main postures of buddhist meditation, it has not been widely practiced as main method of it's own in other buddhist countries than China. It comes as a bit of a surprise when you think of it. Why not? In China both taoists and buddhists have practiced it throughout the centuries, and still today, although often from purely secular point of view, separated from larger philosophical context which may or may not be a good thing. In China standing meditation, often in connection with inner martial arts and self-healing, is known by many different names. Here, I'll refer to it simply by ”standing meditation”.

Meditation is a multilayered practice. Considering all the things that happen in the mind space, it is comparable to juggling. A beginning juggler is able to juggle for a brief moment until due to limited skills, balls fall to the ground. To manage all the different elements of the mind, such as thoughts, ideas, emotions and energies together with sensory information of the physical body, including the possibility of becoming distracted or subconscious, is not that easy and simple.

When meditation is practiced in a standing position or positions, it is an art of it's own. It is different from sitting meditation for the obvious reason that the body is an active element of the meditation. In sitting meditation, body is also central but in this case body has a more passive role in the meditative process.

Personally I think that standing meditation can be a great help in one's meditation when one has 1. recognised open awareness and has become familiar with it, 2. when one wishes to put more emphasis on how open awareness is embodied and 3. how the abstract mind-awareness functions relate to the structure of the physical body.

Of course standing practices can be done to begin with, without nondualistic insights and without any physical preparation such as rushen, but pursuing standing meditation as a primary method from the beginning, is hindered by many problems. I don't recommend it.

Perhaps this is the reason why the yogic traditions of India or Tibet never dove deep in standing meditation, although their traditions of sitting meditation have been exemplary. Perhaps masters and yogis didn't see it that important after advancing in their sitting practice.

The view from the top of the mountain

What is essential in all forms of meditation, is to recognise knowing awareness (first gear). By knowing awareness I refer to open awareness. It is our mind without dualistic content, without the sense of separation. Please refer to many texts on awakening and purification of the mind found from this blog, if you are not familiar with what this means.

So, whatever type of meditation we are talking about, it is the recognition of knowing awareness what makes the practice a ”meditation”. Concentration practice where intention is cultivated to attend the body-space, or the movement of the breath or made to act according to a mental image, is not really meditation.

So, the principle of open awareness should be clearly understood.

Training of standing meditation

When the recognition of open awareness is effortless and common, it is possible for the practitioner to put more emphasis on the embodying aspect of meditation. This is the meeting point of the third and fourth gears of ”Four Gears of Open Awareness”.

In sitting posture, the third gear, where open awareness (related to the primary sense organ) is met with the heart-space and the whole body, can already be thoroughly studied. However, when this is applied in standing posture, it takes on a different, physically more concretical spin. The connection of awareness in relation to action (based on intention/focus) can be studied and realised in a ”fleshy” way. Mind and awareness becomes flesh and bones. It becomes concretic because our physical bodies made of physical elements, are more actively looked as a central theme of our meditation. Here the dualism between non-physical absolute, open awareness, and physical relative body evaporates. ”Form is emptiness, emptiness is form”, as the Heart sutra says.

I find that it is absolutely crucial to stick with the panorama that opens from ”the top of the mountain”, referring to the first gear, because it is that open mind space, also termed as attention, bare attention or naked awareness which puts the whole practice and the method in a context that it actually is.

Nearly all inner martial artists have deficiency regarding this essential requirement. Without the first gear, and nonduality, standing meditation cannot and does not result in thorough understanding, traditionally called as wisdom and compassion.

- Kim Katami, 26.6.2016

Open Heart,










Posture of Meditation, Part 1: Sitting

Posture of Meditation, Part 1:
Sitting


Posture of Meditation Series:
Posture of Meditation, Part 3: Eyes

My meditation background is largely buddhist, zen buddhist in particular. In zen buddhism it is common to sit a lot every day either in any of the cross-legged sitting postures or in kneeling posture (seiza). It is common in that school to insist on particular physical form of sitting, despite of physical troubles one may have due to long hours of sittingfor days on end.

One thing that has become obvious to me is that cross-legged posture or even sitting on a meditation cushion, are not essential factors of meditation practice, even though many schools of meditation say just the opposite.

I have found that the most important factors about the physical posture are:

  1. erect spine,
  2. erect head,
  3. overall comfortability of the posture which
  4. allows free and relaxed breathing
When these four factors are marked, you can choose to sit in any posture without loosing any of the benefits that perfect full lotus-posture (padmasana) is said to bring. There is no difference whatsoever.

Postures

Here's what Daniel Ingram says on Postures, from Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha:

The four postures for meditation that are mentioned in traditional
Buddhist practice are those of sitting, walking, standing and reclining.
Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and each may be useful
at one time or another. Looked at another way, this means that we can
meditate in just about any position we find ourselves... Which posture we choose doesn’t really matter from a pure insight point of view, but there are some practical reasons why we might choose one or the other for formal practice. Posture choice is mostly about finding one that works in our current circumstances and which matches our current energy level...

Sitting has the quality of being more energy-producing than reclining
and less energy-producing than walking and standing. It can also be very
stable once we learn to sit well. However, many people find that
learning to sit well is a whole endeavor in and of itself...

Many traditions make a big deal about exactly how you should sit,
with some getting particularly macho or picky about such things, but in
the end it doesn’t matter so much. The things that seem to matter most
are that you can sustain the posture, that your back be fairly straight so
that you can breathe well, and that you are not permanently hurting
yourself. Aches and pains are common in meditation, but if they persist
for a long time after you get up from sitting, particularly in your knees,
seriously consider modifying your sitting posture.

Standing is an even more energy-producing posture than sitting, with
the obvious advantage being that is it even harder to fall asleep when
standing than when sitting. It seems to up the intensity of a meditation
session even more and can be useful when the energy is really low. I
recommend standing with the eyes slightly open to avoid falling over,
though some people can do just fine with their eyes closed. If you are
sitting and finding that you simply cannot stay focused and awake, try
standing.

Walking is the most energetically active of the four postures and
also provides a nice stretch for the joints and back after we have been
doing a lot of sitting. Its strengths are its weaknesses, in that the fact that
one is moving around can make it easier to stay present and also lead to
a lack of stable concentration. Some people consider walking practice to
be very secondary to sitting, but I have learned from experience that
walking meditation should be given just as much respect as sitting
meditation.”

Cross-legs vs. straight legs

I once saw a documentary filmed in a Taoist nunnery in China. In the documentary whenever the nuns were seen meditating they sat on a particular kind of a chair where they had their legs straight (not cross-legged). I thought this was something interesting as their way of practice could well be older than buddhism and therefore might have beneficial time-tested factors to it. Traditionally, buddhist meditation is always encouraged to be practiced cross-legged on a meditation cushion, unless one's body or health doesn't allow it. If a cross-legged posture cannot be practiced, sitting on a chair as a secondary option is used.

I've recently tried to remember to sit down on a chair instead on a cushion to try this out. And everytime I remember to do so, it's much easier than sitting cross-legged with folded legs. Due to my hip bones not being identical, it's pretty much always been challenging for me to sit in one posture, although at some point I was sitting so much daily that it didn't matter. I've always had to shift legs every 20-30-40 minutes. I've done that when it was allowed. Now, I wouldn't join a training session where this was not allowed. Enduring pain and physical discomfort is a big waste of time and energy. It is counter-productive.

So, I've had wonderful sittings when sitting on a chair. I have to admit that I have also become habituated by thinking that ”real meditation” only happens sitting cross-legged. I've told students to use either postures for several years as a teacher but I never tried it myself, until recently. This is a good example of becoming conditioned to a training aspect of an old tradition, just because ”this is the way it always has been done and there is no other way to do it”. So be careful and have common sense of what you are told.

Mindfulness of the body

Obviously mindfulness of the body is a common issue to all styles of buddhist meditation. We work with mind and awareness through the body because body, mind and awareness are interconnected. Body is a good and concretic tool. Imagine how it would be to concentrate or meditate without a physical body. It'd be a different sport.

Comparing cross-legged and chair sitting positions, the biggest difference is in the posture of the legs. In the first legs are folded in a way that the crus and thigh are right next to each other. In the latter legs are also tilted in the knees but the angle is much wider, 90 degrees or more. This allows a lot more openness and relaxalation in the body on purely physical level which cannot but have an effect on the mental and emotional bodies, and in consequence on he recognition of awareness itself. Especially for beginners, the open sky-like mind is easier to find when the body is as relaxed and open as possible. It can be very difficult to be focused or recognise knowing awareness when the body is forcibly put into a posture where it's not used to being in. This is basic logic, right. For this reason, I'd always vote for sitting on a chair over sitting cross-legged.

Energetics

Usually schools of meditation which are unanimous of the sitting posture, it is common for them to prove their point by saying that in full lotus the subtle energies of the bodymind circulate in an ideal way and that this circulation, sometimes called as ”full body seal” (mudra) is what meditation is. In a sense this is correct. It is true in the case of a yogi who 1. can effortlessly sit in this posture for an extended period of time and 2. who needs the support of this mudra for his or her meditation. For those who cannot do it or for those who don't need it as a support, this rationale is entirely irrelevant.

It is also not logical to say that one couldn't be openly aware and meditate without sitting in some particular posture. It doesn't make sense, does it. If this is the view in regards to sitting posture, it is safe to assume that the one who insists on such views is 1. biased to his view perhaps because of his tradition, in a similar way like I was and 2. there is no sufficient understanding what the connection of body and energetics (mind) to open awareness is.

Posture and Tibetan Heart Yoga

Level 4 of Tibetan Heart Yoga concerns tantric (mantra, visualisation and breathing) practice in the subtle centers and channels in all four limbs. This practice can be done in a cross-legged posture, sure. However, in my experience, it is easier to sense the body cavities, the insides of the limbs, when legs are straight. This is a universal notion, of course. For this reason I'd recommend those THY-practitioners who practice this level, to try the practice sitting on a chair.

Conclusion

All in all, nowadays I tend to think that the cross-legged posture is an unstudied habit of the Eastern meditation culture. There is a strong emphasis on cross-legged meditation posture which can be seen everywhere in meditation centers, temples, in paintings and statues both in East and West but ultimately, just as Dan said, it's not a big deal.

Have a nice day,

- Kim Katami,
26.6.2016

Open Heart,










tiistai 21. kesäkuuta 2016

Monopoly of awakening

Monopoly of awakening

There is one thing about traditional Tibetan buddhism and dzogchen, that I have exceedingly hard time to appreciate. It is the monopolistic aspect of their tradition.

Oath of secrecy

Vajrayana, as Tibetan buddhism is known, is usually sealed with an oath of secrecy (samaya) which the student is required to take before receiving teachings. This means that the student who has received any sort of teachings from his teacher (lama) cannot tell or share with others what he has learned. If the student does this, it is seen as a violation towards the guru, guru's lineage and the teachings concerned. It is said that by breaking samaya, one goes to hell realms etc. It gets medieval pretty quickly.

Myself being an unorthodox, nonsectarian teacher of both tantra and ati yoga (dzogchen) I appreciate the aspect of secrecy to some extent. It is a fact that empowerments of tantric deities or mind-to-mind transmissions, also known as ”direct introduction” in dzogchen cannot be validly delivered by a person who has no thorough understanding, know-how and personal experience of the teachings concerned. One has to be an expert to be able to deliver these things.

However, to me it seems that the way how vajrayana-students, both eastern and western, are bound with an oath of secrecy regarding the teachings they have received, is an exaggeration. The way how it is applied sucks. Big time. Secrecy is clearly an element that prevents dharma-teachings from really taking fire and hence people of the society at large remain in dualistic ignorance.

Does buddhism deliver?

Sometime ago I heard Tenzin Palmo, a widely respected Western Tibetan buddhist nun and lama, say with a frustrated tone*,

It would be nice if someone would come along and find a method by which people could awaken. Even the Buddha could't do that”.

*See the video here.

It is striking to hear this from a true yogini with lifelong practice who is a specialist of the buddhist tradition. Her tradition is the spiritual tradition of the world that is supposed to help people awaken. In my view buddhism, out of all religions has the greatest potential for waking people up... but it isn't happening.

There are many reasons for this, out of which oath of secrecy is one. It is a problem because it prevents from various enlightening techniques from being shared openly for the benefit of many. Only lamas and those who are initiated in specific traditions, have access to these teachings that are meant for every one, the whole humanity, not only to a priviledged few.

Tibetan buddhism being an old establishment, and largely a monastic one, it is clear that there is a motive of self-preservation, money and power there. No religion is above these human traits. What commonly happens when men in robes get together, and too comfortable without much responsibilities is that their dharma becomes diluted, watery. Nowadays, Tibetan buddhism, including the one which has been and is being imported to the Western world is like a pale ghost of dharma. There have lineages, temples, philosophies and the whole external show going on but rarely do lamas and rinpoches know first hand what emptiness etc. really means. There is no juice there. Largely, it isn't much different from what the Christian church has to offer. Many people buy into it, including westerners with high education but evidently endowed with only little of common sense.

I say this because I keep getting regular emails from people all around the world who for some time bought what their lamas, (who are often young men with buddhist academic degrees, without much or none experience of meditation, living very comfortable lives supported and served by their parishioners), kept telling them by reading books aloud.

This has been warned by gurus and masters through the whole human history. Never be fooled by titles, reputations, robes, fancy speeches or other externals. Judge a teacher by how his teachings actually work. Don't buy a pig in a poke.

Awakening and the two part formula

About two years ago when I was asked by a friend to help him awaken, I spontaneously came up with what now is called as the ”two part formula”. Over 95% of people who committed to use it as the basis of their existential analysis, got irreversibly awakened.

I have written about this extensively at the Open Heart-blog. There is also the free Awake!-ebook available at the Open Heart-website and YouTube-videos, if you are not familiar with the topic. Please look into it, if you haven't yet.

So, 65 people (out of 67 in total) got awakened with this formula, most in one-on-one guidance given by a teacher. Personally having spent years and doing literally tens of thousands of hours of various practices to get awakened, while not managing to do that, I think that this is very significant. The formula works. In some cases even without a dialoque with a teacher.

It works like a Swiss watch with anyone who has recognised his existential dilemma and has enough commitment to see thought it. As it works so well, I'd presume that it will, within some time frame, become a sort of a worldwide standard as a technique facilitating the awakening of people.

I wish to make clear is that this two part formula is not my property, my invention or trademarked by the Open Heart-method. I simply remembered it from my previous life.

It is free for everyone to use, to both seekers and teachers. Feel free to make it your own! Use it well.

Awakening and Tibetan dzogchen

After I had used the two part formula with about 15 people, I read from a dzogchen-book that these two principles, 1. I-less awareness and 2. I-based mode are used in a dzogchen tradition as a preliminary practice to generate awakening. As I forgot which book it was, I've tried to find a traditional dzogchen-reference about it. I just wanted to know if there is a real connection there, other than my past life memories.

An acquaintant, practitioner of Tibetan dzogchen and a student of Namkhai Norbu, wrote me:

”There are practices that are nearly identical to... "self-inquiry", in the practice of khordas rushan (korde rushen). But I'm a fairly hard-line traditionalist when it comes to practices and transmission and cannot discuss the specifics of rushan here.”

He admits that in their tradition, they have practices for separating (rushen) illusion (samsara) from reality (nirvana), that is concerned with the sense of self or me-ness, as is done also in vedanta-style self-inquiry. However, he stops from saying more by his oath of secrecy. With all respect, considering the topic and it's universal importance to all men, the otah of secrecy does not seem rational to me.

A better and more to the point reference about awakening as it is taught in Tibetan mahamudra and dzogchen, popped up when I was listening to a recording* by Daniel P. Brown, the author of the book ”Pointing out the Great Way”:

Now bring to mind your usual sense of self, your personal identity. You can evoke this and use it as an object of reflection. For example I would evoke Dan, Danness, and look squarely at Danness. The thing about self-presentation is that you can evoke it and you can observe it... So evoke your sense of self and observe it. Notice any personal characteristics you associate with that sense of self. Familiarise yourself with the target of your search... And now take your awareness... And let your awareness roam thought the regions of your body. See if you can find any thing in itself, any independently existing thing that is that personal identity, anywhere in the field of bodily experience. You have to actively search... And the more you search anything independently existing, any thing in itself, the more what you search for will be seen from your awareness as unfindable. Emptiness practice... is in the unfindability of the target... If you think you find the independent basis for that sense of self, if you find any thing that's substantial, roam around in that area and break it down to smaller units of analysis... OK, now evoke your sense of self, your personal identity once again... Familiarize yourself with the target of the search. Evoke your personal identity and notice any personal characteristics you associate with that sense of self... Now, take your awareness and let it roam through mental content. Do you find any independently existing thing that is that self?... As you continue to search at some point there is a shift in your basis of operation. What remains right here is the awareness itself, no longer obscured by the empty construction of the personal identity. You open up to the level of awareness that is cleaned up of the cloud of self. And you start operating from that instead of operating out of self-mode.”

*The recording can be found from this page, under: ”Meditation on Insight Training or ”Emptiness”.

This is the only recording that I've come across (in addition to those offered by Open Heart) which quickly but in reasonable clear way says what one should do to get awakened. It is better than most instructions out there. It is essentially the same as the two part formula.

Because of the way it is guided (pedagogy), a beginner without any exposure to what is being instructed will probably have difficulty understanding what Brown is talking about, and may not be able to apply the practice. In order to get the instruction properly, you'd have to join a retreat with him and they cost quite a bit of money. Anyway, for Brown's guided meditation to be public like that, him being a traditionalist bound by oath of secrecy regarding the practices, I think it's good they made it available.

To clarify what Brown is instructing people to do to gain insight of emptiness, is precisely what is being instructed with the two part formula, which is availabel in clear and understandable instructions.

Compassion

What I say are not the words of a buddha, fully awakened one. I am well aware of my immaturity as a yogi and as a teacher. But with all love and respect, neither are correct the words of many gurus out there. There is a need to burst some widely believed and practiced bubbles.

My motive for writing another critical text about the problems in the world of dharma today, is because I think that proper spiritual instructions should be available to all people. I hope from my heart that the humanity as large will someday be significantly more aware than it is now, even though various teachings have been around, kept in vaults, for hundreds and hundreds of years. It simply is not correct or fair to speak of ”compassion towards all beings” while holding to the medieval attitude of dharma monopoly.

May all beings be free!

With love,

- Kim Katami, 20.6.2016.


torstai 16. kesäkuuta 2016

Bhumi Study Series, Part 2: 6th bhumis with notes

Bhumi Study Series, Part 2
6th bhumis with notes

Bhumi Study Series presents information on many of the contemporary gurus, lamas and spiritual teachers, and their respective spiritual attainments, or bhumis. This study has been conducted by two founding teachers of the Open Heart-method, Kim Katami and Pauliina Katami on the basis of photographs available about the concerned persons. For more info on Open Heart, go to http://www.openheart.fi

Familiarizing yourself with the Open Heart bhumi-system is recommended, in order to understand what this series is about. Read "Stages of Spiritual attainment" and go through Kim Katami's video documentation on the topic to get a better picture of what bhumis are. Studying and understanding bhumis in this manner is a deep subject which requires meditation and analytical skills. One may or may not be able to discern the outcome of this study series without extensive practice experience. On the other hand, the differences are quite easily seen when studied attentively and when the information is offered in context as has been done here, where one may compare between teachers, right next to each other. The study has been divided into several categories. As the Open Heart-bhumi model is universal, it applies regardless of possible differences in methods used by distinctive traditions.

This Bhumi Study Series has been made public in order to bring awareness, lucidity and clarity to the present spiritual culture of the world by explaining and showing what many of our well known teachers have actually been able to attain. There is much confusion about this topic, so we wanted to clarify this matter from our part, for the benefit of all.  

May this study help and serve many in their understanding and study of the path of mind training.



Bhumi Study Series

Bhumi Study Series, Part 1: Before and after awakening, and 2nd-5th bhumisBhumi Study Series, Part 2: 6th bhumis with notes
Bhumi Study Series, Part 3: 7th bhumis
Bhumi Study Series, Part 4: 8th bhumis
Bhumi Study Series, Part 5: 9th bhumis  
Bhumi Study Series, Part 6: 10th bhumis
Bhumi Study Series, Part 7: 11th bhumis 
Bhumi Study Series, Part 8: 12th bhumis
Bhumi Study Series, Part 9: 13th bhumis  
Bhumi Study Series, Part 10: From Zero to Mahasiddha Bhumis
Extra: How to do Bhumi Mapping


Related posts:

6th bhumis with notes

Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:



Note: "S", the person above, started regular Open Heart-practice, Tibetan Heart Yoga, in August of 2013. Before this she had practiced Hugging Saint Amma's IAM-meditation for a year. This was preceded by some reiki courses a decade earlier. Since 8/2013 until today 6/2016 she has practiced Tibetan Heart Yoga almost constantly, with some short breaks due to hard physical pains and aches. This has included all four levels of Tibetan Heart Yoga.

S awakened (1st bhumi) in February 2015 and proceeded through bhumis 1-6 during a time period of 1 year and 4 months. The total time frame for mind purification, including awakening, being 2 years and 10 months as mentioned above.


Bhumi: 5/13:



Bhumis 6/13:


Note: "P", the person above, has been very active in her Open Heart-practice since 2009. Prior to this she practiced different forms of hatha yoga, like astanga and iyengar, for 4 years. In 2009 she started Open Heart-practice with kriya yoga, kept at it until 2014 and switched to Tibetan Heart Yoga in early 2014. She awakened (1st bhumi, Open Heart Bhumi Model) in October 2014 and progressed through bhumis 1st-6th within a time period of 1 year and 8 months. She has been very busy in daily life from early 2014, after mothering two children.



Bhumi 5/13:



Bhumi 6/13:


Note: ”N”, the person above, started Tibetan Heart Yoga, exactly two years ago. He awakened with the two step formula (1st bhumi) 1½ years ago and since has been steadily progressing in his bhumis. Prior to this he had some hatha yoga experience but no regular training of any sort.

Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:

 
Bhumi 5/13:



 Bhumi 6/13:


Note: Karl, the person above, started regular Tibetan Heart Yoga Introduction practice, in January of 2016. Before this he had practiced meditative relaxation for some time and joined one 10-day vipassana retreat. Karl awakened (1st bhumi) in January 2016 and proceeded through bhumis 1-6 in a time period of 8 months. He reached 3rd bhumi by the time of his Tibetan Heart Yoga level 1 course and initiation in 6/2016. The total time frame for mind purification, including awakening, in his case was 8 months.


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Note: Tiia started Sundara Kriya Yoga daily practice on 09/2012. She hadn't practiced any other method before, only had done some hatha yoga and energy healing since 2009.  

Awakening (1st bhumi opening) took place on 04/2014. Kriya Yoga was switched to Tibetan Heart Yoga on 08/2014. 6th bhumi opened on 08/2016. 

Altogether it took 2 years 4 months to progress from 1st to 6th bhumi. 

She's practicing approx. 1,5 - 2 hours per day. She has three children and a daytime job. 

Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:


Bhumi 5/13:


Bhumi 6/13:




All people in this episode are Open Heart-practitioners.
   Thank you to all people who offered to use their pictures here!