Some information about Buddha – what he did, who he was. Plus my own experiences.
[Some free-thinking on the Buddha, meditation, vipassana, Buddhism, all ‘isms’, and my own personal experiences.]
I’m thinking today as I usually think… any person here is just a person. Nobody is better than anyone else for any reason, real or imagined. There is no supernatural… no god here on earth… at least there isn’t a good god here among us or accessible by us or to us because he/she couldn’t possibly stand all the silliness and sickness going on here. So – everyone is just a person.
Who Was Buddha?
The Buddha was just a person. He was a person that, if you believe what has been written, found a way to release himself from the bondage of the mind so to speak… the bondage of society… and the human condition which is suffering because of attachment to things, ideas, beliefs, traditions, memory, etc.
What he did was find a way to still the mind… to watch the breath until thought slowed… then ceased. Once thought ceased he went through what he called different levels (or hierarchies)… called jhanas… to him the Jhanas were acquired in a certain order and there were very definite rules about how they were found… he went about his meditations in the same way each time and went through the levels in a way that he remembered and that he taught others as the way to go about it.
Many millions of people believe the scripts written about the process of going through the Jhanas as according to the Buddha. Many people have a very closed mind about the meditation process and how to go about it… many INSIST that the only way to go about it is the way this man did it thousands of years ago – EXACTLY the same way… and it’s quite silly really. It’s quite silly that people don’t open their mind to some very real and simple possibilities.
Is Buddha’s Way the ONLY Way?
Number one silly belief is that the Buddha found the one and only way, path, or roadmap to reach what everyone calls “Nibbana” or “enlightenment”.
Because one person did it this way merely shows us that to GET THERE is possible. When explorers sailed for new worlds across the globe and found a way to arrive somewhere – they plotted where they went and how they got there. There later found THOUSANDS and literally endless ways to arrive at the same places. The way to create happiness in one’s life can be found in many thousands of ways… and there is no one path.
The path you follow may not lead to exactly Buddha’s endpoint, but then who cares? Yours may lead to a much better state of mind and be more helpful for the world, your family, or just you.
The roadmap to Nibanna can be the same way… many, many paths to get there. Humans, being what they are love to believe they have the monopoly on the “right way” to do something. We love to believe we have an exclusive on the way to do something, on the best way, a monopoly on the truth… We’re searching for power… for status… knowing the “BEST” way can give us some of that in others’ eyes… so we love to have it.
Even those that portray themselves as unconcerned about status or power are eager to separate themselves under different sets of beliefs and hold them as more important, more moral… than others’ beliefs… monks for instance… Christians for instance… yogis for instance… virtually anyone that believes strongly in any religion for instance.
Is Your Path Valid?
I’ve been led to some ideas that I can’t ignore anymore and that I want to think about out loud as I write. These are things I’ve been thinking about for years and yet I’ve not been bold enough to write them down like this until now. I’ve kind of come up against some things I can’t explain any other way – except the way I’m about to do it… and it may sound to you as if the writer is making bold statements because you don’t know him.
You are hearing everything for the first time and to accept that the writer has gone to a place that the Buddha and only a few others have been might be quite a large leap of faith for you… no worries, whether you believe or don’t believe really isn’t the point of writing it… it’s just to offer a possibility for you… to see if you might be able to question some long-held beliefs.
If you’ve read this far into this, I’m guessing you are a meditator of some sort. There must be some real interest in the topic. Maybe you hold tight to some beliefs about Buddhism or other ism that has led you up to the point you are today. Maybe you are eager to read about something that contradicts what you’ve read and believe in so firmly – so you can send the writer an email about what this text states and that text states…
And this writer has little interest in what texts state what… and for you to care about what books say and what teachers talking about things that happened many hundreds and thousands of years ago isn’t all that relevant today. The truth is what we can experience now.
Well, the closest thing to the objective truth for us. If you live your life according to what others told you and what you’ve read you are living in a world of 2nd or 3rd order truth that probably resembles nothing of the truth for you today at this point in reality.
If you’d like to read along, feel free. I’m writing mostly for me but there may be someone who gets something out of seeing it as well – so it’s easy enough to write this in a web publishing program as it is to write it in a word processing program…
I want to go over some ideas that I’ve been thinking about for years that I am today, just coming to accept as valid… or probably valid.
A New Look at Meditation
The first idea is that there is not just one way to meditate and be mindful and reach nirvana. The Buddhists don’t have a monopoly on it. The kundalini practitioners don’t have a monopoly on it. The vipassanaists don’t have a monopoly on it. Nobody does.
It’s a state that is reachable. That’s as much as I can believe. I don’t believe it because I’ve read it about a man that reached it thousands of years ago. I believe it because I’ve experienced it… a glimpse of it perhaps… but a life-changing glimpse nonetheless.
There may be countless ways to come upon this state… or, there may be just two or three other ways. Who can be sure? After reading about ONE person being able to reach the state, we cannot be sure that there is only one way to get there.
I do believe that it doesn’t matter at all whether one sits, stands, walks, lays down, sits leaning against a pillar, sits on a sofa, sits on a zafu, sits on a wooden chair or using any other posture. I find that I’m able to reach states where thought stops while walking, laying, sitting in a reclining chair, sitting in a half-lotus position on a hard floor, or sitting on a zafu and leaning against a bed, couch, wall, or pillar.
I know this and I am positive that I have experienced this. I directly experienced it. Direct experience is the highest of truths…. so I’m as sure as I can be that advanced states can be reached in these postures. And, if advanced states can be reached in those postures, then going the distance can likely be reached in any of those postures.
Focusing on the breath is an excellent way to begin meditation. But, like everything else… once it serves its purpose, it can be thrown away like everything else… there are many tools we can use during meditation – and then the tools must be dropped as we go further. I say “must be” because what I’ve noticed over the years is further movement is seen only when dropping attachment to whatever it is that one is attached to at the time.
Focusing on the breath is a good way to train the mind to eventually experience stillness. Once the stillness can be experienced then focusing on the breathing can stop.
Stuck in a Regimented and Idealized Process
If it does not stop, I believe that meditators become stuck like hundreds of thousands of Buddhist monks, and other meditators that report reaching states of bliss and joy… and other experiences indicative of the early jhanas… and yet they stay there forever because they are still focusing on breathing or on other rules of practice that someone has told them. They follow some hierarchy of steps that need to be traveled each time while meditating… and they are stuck right there.
There is no more movement… they are stuck because they are stuck in the process… in the instructions. And, being caught in the instructions, they are terminally stuck. The Buddhists and other styles or forms of meditation are usually strict about what is to happen…. this then that, THEN that, THEN that, and then this and that.
Once caught in that set of instructions and once one takes it as absolute truth…. that person is going to become more and more stuck as he/she researches more information about the ‘right’ way to meditate and finds more and more information – more details to pay attention to. More rules are added and more serious people are followed that tell them about the process and to follow the rules more strictly.
Before the meditator knows it, years have passed… and the beliefs about the RIGHT way to meditate have been reinforced over those years. Once these beliefs that cause someone to be STUCK are reinforced for 5 years, 10, 20, 30 years, the person has little chance of breaking out of the holding pattern. There might be nothing that will break that person out of being stuck at that point.
There are monks that have been monks for 40 years and more that are right where they were 35 years ago and right where they’ll be as they pass… the first few levels of Jhana.
How I Chose to Meditate
When I started meditation by focusing on the breath I found the first few levels of Jhana within about 2 months of starting. My “practice” consisted of sitting, focusing on the breath, and re-directing the attention back to the breath when thoughts hijacked attention for a millisecond or for minutes at a time. At times I focused on pains, mosquitoes, or other flies landing on me and biting me… spiders or ants crawling on me. I’d pay attention to hot feelings, cold feelings, tension, anger, and other emotions.
I watched all sensations at one time or another – and yet the majority of time was spent focusing on the breath and re-directing errant thoughts back to the breath.
Once full attention was able to be sustained on the breath there were other goings on that were noted… very few of which I’ve seen written on the internet… and I’ve done many Google searches during my attempts to find someone writing about their similar experiences.
During the 10 or 11 months of my meditation, I kept one idea as a central theme… don’t attach to anything.
That one idea seems to have a lot of validity.
Once I reached the point where the mind quieted down and stopped there was no need to focus attention on breathing. There was no need to focus attention on anything that came from the ‘me’. There are many instructions flying around about what to do in order to go progressively through the Jhanas… and I didn’t follow any of them. There are things one can focus on – thoughts – ideas… and so, so many things… and I didn’t.
I just kept a blank mind – free of thought, free of pain, of any disturbance… and I let whatever come, come. And many forms of mind candy came…. and they went… and they came back sometimes, and then they went away.
And I didn’t read books about what process to follow… I didn’t read about Jhanas at that time. I didn’t want someone to tell me what to do at that point. I didn’t want to follow what the Buddha did or said… it was so regimented… I wanted to do it LIKE the Buddha did… and yet not try to follow his steps precisely. I think it was right for him – but my way might come about differently – I wanted to give it that option.
I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how long sitting sessions needed to be… or if they needed to be every day or twice per day. I didn’t follow anyone’s suggestions about things one “must” do to purify one’s self before being able to progress through the Jhanas…
And so when I meditated I just sat and had a blank mind… an attentive mind… a mind that was alive and vibrant… not muted by some trance-like state… the mind was very awake… there was not this “lost time” phenomena that can occur when one is just sort of ‘blanked-out’ and in a trance like state… time was able to be experienced if one wanted to experience it – and it wasn’t a perfect experience of it but one could guess at the end of a session how long one had sat and be within 10-15 minutes of the clock-time…
So, the me sat with a thought-less mind… and the most incredible, MINDBLOWING sensations came over me during that time… sometimes the experience was so strong that the after-effect lasted for hours afterward… and overall it was the most peaceful experience ever… some of the experiences I’ve posted to this site – and can be read at the main index page.
There were blissful states… so blissful that tears poured… there were states in which one felt solid as a rock… immovable… imperturbable… equanimous… solid… states where one felt connected with the entire universe – or all that “is”… states in which a merging… a melding of the energy of the body with the cosmic energy was experienced (for lack of better words to describe).
There were states in which the body felt like it was transforming – sometimes into amorphous shapes… (a cone of focused energy)… sometimes into shapes that were constantly changing – like a force field… or growing outward to encompass more space.
There were times when the mind felt as if it was expanding its consciousness to include more mass… more area… or as if it had less boundaries and then no boundaries. There were so many experiences that were so completely beyond words that, as much as one writes about it – little is actually revealed.
There were whole months of experiences that occurred during a time in which there was no conscious desire to record any of what was happening… there was no desire for anything at all really and the journal wasn’t kept… memory was still functioning – the me remembers much of what happened and what was felt during those last maybe 2 months in which all writing stopped, working stopped, talking stopped, and the me stopped engaging in anything of what it did previously, and a time in which interest in everything was lost… after about 6 months of meditating there was this disenchantment with everything – the term came from a book, but it fit the process perfectly… there was a disenchantment with EVERYTHING.
There was a loss of the ego… there was very little of the ‘me’ left at that point. it appeared to me that there was NONE of it left, though it was still there behind the scenes I imagine because it came back in a year or so after I stopped meditating completely.
At this point – this point of no “me”… of no desire… of total disenchantment with everything that was previously part of the ‘me’ in the past… there arose fear – a question – that maybe this was not at all the right thing happening… after all, I was not following the Buddhist way to go about this – not exactly… not as prescribed exactly by the Buddha which is how most people want to go about it.
There was no step-by-step outline I was following… I was mostly just going by one thing I had read in a Vipassana book (SN Goenka’s) that said to not attach to anything as you meditate… at least I think it came from there – I’m only about 55% sure it came from there…
So, the thought that became prevalent was… maybe this was the me losing his mind… not just his ego… the changes that took place within this body were so catastrophic… so complete… so POWERFUL that there was no rationalizing whether it was nibbana coming or severe mental illness coming…
And so began a search among the Thai Buddhist monks in the area to answer my questions about what was happening…
The answers I got were profoundly inadequate… I came to understand that the monks I spoke with had not been through the experiences, the states of mind, the changes themselves… because they couldn’t relate to the experiences at all.
I asked everyone I could about it and there was nobody that could give me some answer to my question… am I going nuts, or is this the road to Nibbana? Nobody could validate experiences I had with similar ones they had experienced.
I began to read some books to see if others had talked about similar things… and I found nothing… I literally went through the entire Barnes and Noble bookstores section on Eastern religion looking for someone relating an experience that sounded similar… and couldn’t find what I was looking for.
And yet, since I wasn’t following anyone else’s roadmap – why wouldn’t my roadmap be different? and I thought about this… and yes, it had some truth… but the question I was facing was a most serious one… and if I was to continue meditating without knowing where it was leading… without having the slightest idea where it was leading… then a very real possible outcome was the loss of the mind to a mental illness.
And that just wasn’t a possibility that the me that was left wanted to leave open as a possibility.
So there began an idea inside that meditation was not really such a great thing either… the experiences were phenomenal – yes. The benefits to an individual that reaches nirvana weren’t really clear… this one couldn’t really come up with good reasons to go toward nirvana anyway… for what reason would someone do it? it seemed selfish to do so… yes, it put one in a permanent place of no pain… that much could be guessed… and it would be good for that person… but what good to anyone else?
If I had reached nirvana… then what of others that had known the me…? family? my son? my friends?
What of those relationships that no longer meant what they had before meditation started?
When I say that EVERYTHING was dropped… I mean attachment to ANYTHING and everything was dropped. Family bonds meant no more than bonds between someone that I had been friends with for weeks, days or hours. There was a feeling of a bond because we were human… and because we were on the same planet… but familial bonds meant nothing more special than that.
What would the future hold for someone that has reached nirvana but outside the protective umbrella of the Buddhist church…? had one done it within their bureaucracy there would be things to do… places to go… people to meet… advice to give…
What of someone that does it on his own? again, the idea of being labeled with a mental illness came to mind… and really, to this day the me can’t fathom what would happen to someone that focused on breath… stopped the mind of thought… went through the Jhanas… and reached nirvana – all without being in a system of religion that would understand what happened… that would take care of any needs one had after reaching the state… that would sort of take over…
What of someone like that?
And still, no answer comes to mind.
And so some weeks were spent thinking about these topics… what is the point of meditation… and what happens if one IS on the right track – and actually reaches nirvana and it changes the me so completely that it can’t function in society anymore…?
And what happens if one is NOT on the right track at all and finds the me in an insane asylum of sorts… because nobody understands what happened…?
And so the idea that meditation was a good thing – stopped.
Meditation was dropped. Stopped.
Meditation was no longer attached to – in any way. It was just dropped like the tools to progress through meditation were dropped…
And there was no more question about it… there was no more reading about it, talking about it…
And so that was it – there was a decision made to propel one back into life in the materialistic society in the USA even more so than one was before meditation was started.
The Process Goes On without ‘Me’
And the “process” just started on its own at that point.
The process is what the me calls the otherness that goes on according to its own schedule… it is like a corner of heaven dipping down to touch the me during some part of the day and showing me a different dimension… it is a feeling not unlike experiences during meditation when one felt a connection with – a fusing or merging with all that “is”… a connection and a feeling of “oneness” with all that is… and yet, this was not happening during sitting meditation with eyes closed and no thought…
This was happening during waking hours – driving the car, walking down the street, washing the dishes… eating something, on the toilet… anytime… and when it came it was as if the world shifted… or the dimension I was in – shifted… and it came over me – or came to me…
And the instant feeling of oneness and peace and tranquility and bliss… was unimaginable… and indescribable… in its simplicity… it’s power…
It was as if there was an instant knowledge of the way that things are… it was a knowing that this was as it ‘is’… and that it is OK… and that there was no feeling of “should be” or “bad or good”… there was no judging about things – at all! one could look at a person that had done evil things – horrible things – and yet understand everything in one moment – that the person was a product of the environment that he grew up in…. and that this is the situation we have here… and there isn’t a right or wrong about it – this is just “it” and how it is…
During these moments there was a distortion of perception of things – visual things – though in ways not possible to describe… one part of it comprised things that the me saw in front of the body seemed to come into the body as one moved forward… things on the side – in the peripheral seemed to blur as if merging into the body, not just passing by… and it was like the body – the eyes were just a piece of glass… that visual things entered into – and were absorbed by the body…
Another part of it was a magical aura to things… a slowing down of perception of time – or distortion of perception of time… and yet this doesn’t describe it at all…
The process would come for seconds at a time – or minutes or back then when it first started, it would come for 30 minutes at a time or more…
Today is the 8th of September 2006 and is over 9 years since stopping meditation.
(Update 2023: This was written many years ago, as you can see. The process kept going and in the late 2000s I had period of intense Jhannic activity that came during an intense meditation practice experiment. It changed the mind completely. Check out the About link at the top of the page to see more.)
The process STILL comes to me after all this time… and for nine years there has not been meditation – of any note. Maybe ten times over the course of these nine years has the me sat and focused on the breath – more as a relaxation tool than any quest for nirvana.
And recently – two years ago I moved from the USA to Thailand… and I have spoken to some Buddhist monks that have explained to me what they believe i’ve experienced – and they have shown me pamphlets explaining 8 levels of Jhana… and from this i’ve come to see that they think i’ve been through the jhanas…. the 8 levels… and though nobody has said it – the name “stream enterer” or stream winner is mentioned in the pamphlets… as describing what the me has stumbled upon… and still the process comes… and gives the me these crystal clear moments of pure experience that is untainted by thought… by the memory of the old ego-filled me. and the experiences are too phenomenal for words…
And yet they’re not attached to – and they come when they want… they leave and there’s no longing for them to return… and yet they return…
So, this one has decided to start meditation again… and is not at all sure where it will lead… perhaps nowhere…
And the experiences are starting again during sitting… the fatness… the body expanding… the stillness of mind -the absence or stopping of thought as the mind slows to a crawl and then just stops.
And who knows where it will lead… certainly not i…
I’ve asked my friend to take me to Suan Mokkh Buddhist temple here about 60 kilometers away if she notices a major change in the functioning of the me… so, that’s as much as I can share right now..
Perhaps in the future, there will again be no desire to share anything – to write anything about the process as it goes along… my email is: aimforawesome [[ at ]] gmail.com, if you would like to write.
OK then, thanks for listening… this has helped me to put into words what i’ve been thinking for a while…. there is no one way to reach nirvana… there is no process or set of rules for reaching it…
There is no morality that needs adhering to before practicing… the morality comes afterward… it is complete when it comes – there is no wavering… the morality is like a natural morality that comes over one and doesn’t allow one to harm others in any way… that is a morality that is beyond religion… beyond words… beyond rules… beyond trying… it just IS.
Meditate first, morality comes afterward… immorality cannot stand in the face of the disenchantment process… nothing stands.
Likewise… maybe religion comes afterward… maybe some ideas about what to teach would come afterward… after nibbana…? Not at all sure, just guessing.
When religion comes first it traps one into a step-by-step process that actually hinders the process from coming… because there is attachment to the idea of the STEPS that hinders progress… attachment to anything hinders progress.
And maybe, attachment to the idea of meditation even hinders the ultimate progress… and so when attachment is dropped -through disenchantment of the idea of meditation – then it comes… and on its own schedule.