Raja Yoga — The Way of Meditation (part of the 4 Yogas of Hinduism series!)

English: Kurt Friedrich Gödel (1906 – 1978)

Kurt Friedrich Gödel (1906 – 1978)

(4 Yogas Main) The Yoga of Meditation is for the experimental type.

The steps in this process are:

0. As a preliminary step learn physical stillness and mental focus.
1. Learn to direct the attention inward, shutting out the external world.
2. Focus on the object of meditation until there is no self, until forms dissolve.  There is then only the object of focus.

Buddhism can be classified as a kind of Raja Yoga, in much the same way Christianity can be considered a kind of Bhakti Yoga.

The disadvantage of this kind of yoga, of course, is that it is hard.  However, if you are the kind of person who likes abstract thought, you should know that it can be a vehicle to approach the Divine.

Kurt Godel is known for his incompleteness theorem, which proved that any non-contradictory form of proof could not demonstrate all possible truths expressible within its own system.

Godel is not known as a man of God, but that appear to be what he was.  He seems to have used a kind of “math yoga” to approach the Divine.

Rudy Rucker, before he became a science-fiction writer, was a mathematician who met with Godel several times.  This is of special value to us because Rucker was already leaning toward mysticism, and talked with Godel on the topic of using mental focus to contact the Absolute.

Rucker, in his Infinity and the Mind, reports asking Godel what he meant when he said he does “objective mathematics.”

Everyone believes that the Empire State Building is real, because it is possible for almost anyone to go and see it for himself.  By the same token, anyone who takes the trouble to learn some mathematics can “see” the set of natural numbers for himself.  So, Godel reasoned, it must be that the set of natural numbers has an independent existence as a certain abstract possibility of thought.

I asked him how best to perceive pure abstract possibility.  He said three things.  i) First one must close off the other senses, for instance, by lying down in a quiet place.  … ii) It is a mistake to let everyday reality condition possibility, and only to imagine the combinings and permutations of physical objects — the mind is capable of directly perceiving infinite sets. iii) The ultimate goal of such thought, and of all philosophy, is the perception of the Absolute.  Godel rounded off these comments with a remark on Plato: “When Plautus could fully perceive the Good, his philosophy ended.” More

Karma Yoga — The Way of Work (part of the 4 Yogas of Hinduism series!)

English: Mother Theresa with Dr. S. Brahmochary

Mother Teresa with Dr. S. Brahmochary

(4 Yogas Main) Karma Yoga — The Way of Work — is for the active type of person. There are two modes.  wp.me/p2ukOd-5S

A. emotional mode. Work with no attachment to success, focused on one’s duty to the community.

B. reflective mode. Witnessing of self, focused on duty with no notion of profit.

In either mode, the essential ingredient is selfless devotion to service.

In modernity, the one person most known for selfless devotion to service is undoubtedly Mother Teresa.  She was already a nun, traveling to her new home convent in Calcutta, when she got what she described as “the Call within the Call,” to serve the needs of the poor and hungry.  She explained that this was a command from heaven.


Bhakti Yoga — The Way of Love (part of the 4 Yogas of Hinduism series!)

Krishna and Putana - ISKCON desire tree

Krishna and Putana – Hare Krishna (ISKCON) painting

Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of Love, is for the passionate type of person (4 Yogas Main).

The process is:

  1. Adopt God as an object of obsessive love.
  2. Connect to God using every form of love:  parent-child, friend, lover.
  3. Adopt a specific manifestation of God — in Hinduism, a particular diety — as your primary image and symbol of God. Make all others secondary.

The Hare Krishnas are the most well-known for Bhakti Yoga.  Their group worship consists of singing and dancing.  The musician sings a round of the chant, which is in Sanskrit (the sacred language of India — think of Latin in Europe), and the congregation repeats it.

Typically this begins with the congregation half-singing, half mumbling the chant — just like Christians singing hymns in church — but they get more and more into it, more and more worked up, like teenagers at a pep rally.

Individual worship may consist of chanting, reading the Bhagavad-Gita, saying rosaries, or so forth.

The purpose of all this is to get the person worked up and emotionally involved with the diety.  The Hare Krishnas have the goal of so fixating on their desire to be with God that they are totally focused on this at the time of their death.  The name of this mental state is “Krishna consciousness” and the effect is to ensure that they go to Krishna in the after-life.

Hindus often regard Christianity as a kind of Bhakti yoga.  Christ said that the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your being.  He also said that the second commandment, which is like the first, is to love humanity in the same way. More

The 5 Abstentions and the 5 Observances (part of the 4 Yogas of Hinduism series!)

Facepage of the October 2007 issue of Hinduism...

Facepage of the October 2007 issue of Hinduism Today

(4 Yogas Main) Once a person decides to seek enlightenment, there are 5 Abstentions and 5 Observations that are a preliminary step to the productive work of the relevant Yoga.

5 Abstentions:

  • doing injury
  • lying
  • stealing
  • sensuality
  • greed

5 Observances:

  • cleanliness
  • contentment
  • self-control
  • studiousness
  • contemplation of the Divine

On the one hand, this is basic stuff.  On the other, to actually live it requires great devotion.

There’s a story of a holy man who saw a beetle drowning in a pool of water, and used a branch to fish it out.  It fell back in, and he helped it out again.  They kept on like that, one falling in and the other helping it out, until the man’s student said, “Master, why do you keep doing that when you know it’s the creature’s nature to fall into the water?”

He replied, “Why do you ask when you know it’s my nature to help it out?”

The 5 Abstentions and the 5 Observances are part of the path of spiritual renunciation.  You can think of them as prerequisites to any of the 4 Yogas.

Normal People Are On The Path, Too (part of the 4 Yogas of Hinduism series!)

The general teaching in Hinduism is that everyone is on the spiritual path. (4 Yogas main)  This is understood as a long-term evolution of the soul that proceeds through many lifetimes.  Reincarnation teaches that after death we will be reborn as humans (or possibly as animals) and that we have been through many lives leading up to this one.

People who have not progressed far are on the path of desire.

The Path of Desire More

End of the 7 Sets Series

Unlike the movies, you usually don’t get a box car. You snuggle in between a container and the lip of the car’s chassis, in the gap between the chassis frame and the container doors. It’s very dangerous — you can get killed. It’s also very illegal.

I hope this series has benefited you by presenting a hypnotherapist’s practical approach to the Buddha’s core teaching.

I consider the 7 Sets to be the Buddha’s core teaching.  To study the 7 Sets was useful to me because it is highly applied and specific.  The 7 Sets teaching is far more structured and nuanced than the “just mindfulness” or “just letting go” stuff that tends to circulate in his name.

I believe a hypnotist’s point of view is helpful because it looks to me like the Buddha did not exactly teach philosophy.  He taught how to cultivate selflessness to the point that it becomes possible to magically transcend the limitations that we, as embodied humans, implicitly assume are integral to consciousness.

The joy and delight in this work is that it makes one useful for humanity, and for all sentient beings.  I believe in enlightenment — in real enlightenment, that adorns Buddhalands, that dwells in Nirvana, and that provides a true release from the conditional existence that spurs suffering.

The Buddha did not teach “everyday enlightenment.”  He did not teach mood management.  I’m a pretty good hypnotist — I know mood management when I see it.  Mood management, everyday enlightenment, just letting go, and the quirky philosophy that compares Buddhism to quantum mechanics are all fine as far as they go.  But I do not believe they are the gift of the Buddha, and I believe the gift of the Buddha is transcendently valuable. More

The 4 Noble Truths (not part of the 7 sets series!)

Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first...

Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first sermon on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to his five disciples after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya.

The 4 Noble Truths are not actually part of the 7 Sets.  Therefore this is technically not part of the 7 sets series… but I’m cheatingly squeezing them in.  They’re important.

The four noble truths are:

    1. The basic problem is suffering.  Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
    2. The origin of suffering is this craving (or attachment) which leads to reincarnation, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for life, craving for death.
    3. The cure for suffering is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it. (That is, Enlightenment.)
    4. The cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

For “suffering” also read “unsatisfactoriness.”  The Buddha wasn’t claiming that life is pure misery from birth to death.  It has its good points — it has moments of union with what is pleasing.  The overall point is, the basic situation is inherently unsatisfactory, and it is because satisfaction, or even non-misery, is conditional.

Hindu doctors would diagnose illnesses with four questions:

    1. What is the disease?
    2. What is the cause of the disease?
    3. What is the prognosis? — is it treatable, and what would a cure look like?
    4. What is the treatment?

The Buddha contemplated the problem of the human condition as a Hindu doctor considered a patient’s disease.  (Not everyone knows that.)  The basic unsatisfactoriness inherent in life was the problem.  The cause was attachment, clinging or desire, which keeps a person reincarnating as a human.  The solution was to surrender the attachment that causes that stuff.  This means radical letting go of Self, or enlightenment.  The treatment — how to get there — is the Noble Eightfold path, which is explicated in the 7 sets.

The 5 aggregates the Buddha mentions are the sets of mental phenomena that produce consciousness, starting with matter (the brain; the embodied person) and resulting in pure mind.  That’s also not part of the 7 sets, so we’ll consider that too.

The Noble 8-fold Path and Obstacles on the Way (part of the 7 Sets series)

English: Path near Gamesley Fold Farm

The Noble 8-fold Path is most known of the sets in the 7 Sets. It is something like the 10 Commandments in Judaism and Christianity. One difference is that most of the 10 Commandments are prohibitions — thou shalt NOT — while the 8-fold path is a set of positive obligations.

(Westerners often say that means Buddhism is more permissive, but I’m not sure that comparison is valid, or true if valid. Which is more permissive — to be told 10 things you can’t do, or 8 things you must?)

The Noble 8-fold Path is:

1. Right View
2. Right Resolve
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

Notice that 1-2 are internal, 3-5 are social, and 6-8 regard meditation and the path to attainment.  Some of these are addressed very thoroughly in the rest of the 7 Sets framework.

However, the social precepts — Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood — are less discussed.  There are rules for monastics.  There are guidelines for finding suitable employment.  Right Speech mostly boils down to not lying or being deceptive and not quarreling.

This is a good time to talk about the 5 Desires.  These are intrinsic drivers to attachment that are defeated on the path to enlightenment.

1.  Wealth
2.  Sex
3.  Fame
4.  Food
5.  Sleep

I hear the Buddha once said that if there were another desire like sex, he wouldn’t have attained enlightenment.

The 3 Sources of Bad Karma are:

1.  Hate
2.  Greed
3.  Delusion

These are to be avoided in yourself, but also one is to avoid stirring them in others.  No internet trolling, no being a con artist.

There are two lists of fetters.  There are the 3 Fetters and the 10 Fetters (which include the first three).

The 3 Fetters are:

1.  Identity View
2.  Skeptical Doubt
3.  Clinging to Rites & Rituals

Identity view is the idea that the self is real.  It is attachment to having a particular viewpoint.  The second and third are interesting in combination:  on the one hand, one ought not have skeptical doubt, but faith.  On the other hand, to cling to rites and rituals is a debased form of faith.

Rather than relying on rites and rituals, one should look into one’s own nature.  Doing this thoroughly shows up the emptiness of identity view.  The more you look at who you are, the more you find that you’re not there.

The expanded list of 10 Fetters, for those of you aren’t satisfied with only 3, is:

1.  Identity View
2.  Skeptical Doubt
3.  Clinging to Rites & Rituals  ………………The basic 3 Fetters
4.  Sensual Craving
5.  Ill-Will ……………………………………….. Fetters 1-5 are regarding this world

 6.  Desiring a Fine-Material Existence
7.  Desiring an Immaterial Existence ……… Fetters resolved with Bodhichitta
8.  Conceit
9.  Restlessness
10. Ignorance  ……………………………………Fetters 6-10 are regarding the next world

You can see how freeing oneself from the basic three fetters will tend to resolve the others.  Desiring a fine-material existence (to become an angel or guardian spirit, I imagine) will prevent attaining the enlightenment of the Buddha.  But really that has to do with identity view:  imagining that you exist, and further, that other sentient beings exist.

That doesn’t mean you should think that sentient beings do not exist:  it means that the language which expresses the question of whether sentient beings exist or not implicitly presupposes the problem that enlightenment resolves.

The 7 Factors for Awakening — Waypoints on the Journey to Enlightenment (part of the 7 Sets series)

English: Paticcasamuppada (In Pali), life Cycl...

Paticcasamuppada (Pali), life cycle wheel of beings, good to use for Vipassana mediators and important to understand.

The 7 Factors for Awakening set is a kind of a road map toward Enlightenment. (7 Sets main) These are the steps to take to become enlightened.

1. Mindfulness
2. Insight (or Analysis of Qualities — the behavior of insight)
3. Persistence
4. Rapture
5. Serenity
6. Concentration
7. Equanimity

The last four are the four Jhanas, which we’ve talked about.  These are levels of attainment achieved in sequence. One attains the Jhana of Rapture before one attains the Jhana of Serenity, and so forth.

Mindfulness and Analysis of Qualities probably do not need to be attained in that sequence. Rather, these are preliminary tools. Persistence clearly is necessary throughout.

I have seen Buddhism divided into three basic parts:

  • Vipassana — Insight into the nature of things.  This is the contemplation of what is true.  It is more intuitive than what we normally call “theology,” but constitutes a deep awareness of transcendent truths, and therefore might be considered metaphysical in nature.
  • Samatha — quiet mind.  This is the meditative version of what for a hypnotist is command of trance state, also called state control.
  • The Jhanas — the levels to Stream Entry.  These are enduring states of the psyche, or foundational changes in one’s spiritual body.
The 7 Factors for Awakening are these three, plus persistent effort.

The 5 Faculties and the 5 Strengths (part of the 7 Sets series!)

English: Vietnamese devotional statue of the h...

Vietnamese devotional statue of the historical Buddha

The 5 Faculties and the 5 Strengths are the same 5 items. (7 Sets index) Really this is one set. The difference is only whether you have attained the virtues.

Some translations have Faculties and Strengths, while others have 5 Roads to Power and 5 Pillars of Strength. It’s a road to power when you’re on it and a pillar of strength when you have attained it.

Or you could say it’s a road to power when you’re cultivating it and a pillar of strength when you’re using it. Since using these virtues and attaining them are inimately linked, there is probably a good reason the Buddha linked them the way he did.

The 5 Pillars of Strength, the 5 Roads to Power, are:

1. Conviction
2. Persistence
3. Mindfulness
4. Concentration
5. Insight

Sometimes #5 is translated “discernment.”

Insight, #5, is the most useful and important. Making this point seems to be the Buddha’s primary purpose in mentioning this set.

The reason insight is the best of these is that it naturally leads to cultivation of the other 4.

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