The project was simple, in theory! To find, see, and express the common basis of all spiritual teachings, wisdom traditions, as well as between science and religion (and what some psychedelic experiences, as well as NDEs –Near Death Experiences –are pointing to) and whatever valid realities or experiences psychology may point to (if any); to explicate and express that. The One (we intuitively know).
It evolved, particularly after doing online meetings, into more of a going-beyond-spirituality journey. What can we do about all our programming as humans, including the spiritual ideas, religious beliefs, and scientism religions, such as neuroscience's consciousness-from brains dogma... and the addictions we pick up?
In practice, of course, it's not so simple. Neither to express, nor always easy to live out. But, great progress and discoveries have been made. Love and enthusiasm (and a longstanding writing habit, love of it) beg me to express. I obey the exhortations of my soul.
If there are meditations or practices or tools that are helpful along the way, we will look at those "weird bugs" too. Whatever works.
Not just as concepts, but in experience. For if it is not grounded in experience, of what real use is it, to me or anyone? It would be a start only. Or a story. We don’t want merely expound a collection of pointers. Telling stories is fine too, they can be enjoyable, engaging, interesting, and we may do that. But ultimately we want simplicity, peace, happiness that is grounded in reality not fantasy.
That common basis is (our own) Being, or Consciousness (for certain), with its attributes of Truth, Love, Beauty.
The simplest, most elemental, joyous thing, can sometimes (seem) to be the hardest to find, though it is all around in a sense, in a real sense. So, we explore the reasons for that, too.
Why? Why do this?
Because otherwise there is endless seeking, or trying to reconcile apparently competing or conflicting views, or self-delusion.
It started in my own seeking (for happiness and peace), and the conflict from my own scientific, naturalistic, material worldview growing up, and the intuitions and experiences of consciousness and reality I had, which I could not reconcile, as well as intense curiosity.
Hopefully along the way we will explore some practical ways of living (such as how to not be overwhelmed, stressed, be more focused, at peace…) – and after all, what could be more “practical” than being “grounded” in truth love and beauty – enjoying Being?
Why "On Beyond Zen"?
At the time I came up with the name I had a vague intuitive sense of what it meant (as well as the play on words from the book I learned to read from as a child: On Beyond Zebra). As time went on, the meaning deepened, and then I saw that one of the functions to be played is to both honor teachings, and to go beyond them – and in fact, it’s an important service that one can point to not being trapped in the outer form of teachings – and even the greatest teachings – the most pure, the most direct – are still just a teaching, and just form.
We can keep returning to them and using them, but they are ultimately just to kind of scaffolding or stepping stone – a tool, measured by how useful they are (as well as beautiful, which is also a "use").
There isn’t really any destination, except where we are. This is a paradox – the path that's no path – but only as long as there’s time and space! Yes, here we are reading words seemingly in time in space...
Objections (July 2023)
I named this site from a creative intuition “On Beyond Zen”, and intuition (tuition from within, often being ahead of the rational faculties) prior to, and while the meaning was still unfolding over the years.
One of the complaints I hear from friennds boils down to “what use is it?” – or “what about all the ugliness and suffering and conflict of mankind, etc – all this spiritual or non-dual talk…is just abstract or intellectual or self-serving BS, bypassing for spiritual teachers making a career or lifestyle out of it; it’s all lies”. The attitude ranges from cynicism to skepticism to frustration, anger and despair.
And I don’t mean just those who don’t, or never had an interest, but those that oscillate from being high on it to being low on it or about it. (Or those life coach and psychologist, counselor types that see non-duality (which they may misinterpret as Oneness teachings or equate with neo-Advaita teachings) and such as “non-starters”).
One of the problems – or simply realities of dynamics, or apparent dynamics – is how these kinds of teachings, pointings or messages act to deconstruct beliefs, thoughts structures, identifications & attachment – patterns that veil what we truly are: not only is there resistance and attachment, stirring up fight & flight responses from deep in the psyche of the animal network (from the “ego”, though there is no one to have an ego), but on the flip side, there is attachment to the forms of the teachings, our deeply held beliefs, even those that sound the same as what I write here – what I think of as a religious aspect of the human tendency. It’s a characteristic of mind to cling to the form rather than what is being conveyed, the meaning behind it, the reality being pointed to. We have to let go, or not-hold, even to the Zen (or whatever) that brought us liberation. Or seemed to… if we are still clinging to the Zen, are we really liberated? Is there really a “we” or just an absolute “I Am”?
In the process of deconstruction, the mind (naturally) attaches itself to *new* beliefs and thoughts structures and identification and patterns, which in turn need to be deconstructed. Thus “On Beyond Zen” – or at least one of its raison d'êtres.
One should certainly be empathic and also have compassion (empathy is not enough – one can know or understand the state of mind and feelings of another and yet not have love & kindness but be selfish, like sociopaths are able to “read” others) for the plight of humanity – the tragicomedy of the show, and do what one can in the moment, meeting the moment, the totality of the whole situation in the present awareness as best one can, from the impersonal, universal (which is quite concrete yet invisible) of whatever one presents in the play – and not in the abstract like some kind of mission from God, starting new wars …
In other words, one can have compassion, is compassion, without taking it seriously, so to speak – “it” being what is presented.
The focus is on behavior by most people … which is fine as far as it goes. But when it ends up being an advocate for human misery, for separation, there is another way of being my friend.
One is not going to clean the pigs of mud by getting down in the mud and covering oneself with it.
Part of growing up, “spiritually” speaking, is being honest (with oneself at first) and clear-sighted about the unhappiness of one’s own, and one’s family or friends in their orientation to life, when one wants to go beyond that (“programming” or recipes for happiness and “being good” that don’t work) and find something real – being honest, not in a critical or mean nor despairing way, but a neutral observing way, as awareness. Thus the Buddha’s first stage of “there is suffering”. You don’t ignore it (ignorance, in the Sanskrit sense) or sweep it under the carpet (blindness of humanity, or psychological bypassing) or join into it, identifying. The whole point is to not identify – with *anything*. You don’t own anything – any object of Consciousness, since you are This, only, and there simply Is no-thing else.
This seems to be a hard pill to swallow, even for those with years of experience under their belt with nonduality, spirituality, meditation and so forth – the ups and downs of the resurgence of the need to identify, associate – the attachment, the being part of groups and clans and tribes and memes and families and what have you: thought systems, networks…. To find safety and oneness in something outside oneself, in the world of appearances… even if it means joining a cult for some, where freedom is sacrificed in the name of “love” and “community”, or, closer to home, “family” or “country” or “party” or “freedom” (in name only, since there’s an “us and them”, and fear behind it), whatever.
Most are so *distracted* by the noise of the mind, and taking it seriously. It is amplified or justified or supported by the noise of the crowd or of (even well-meaning and “supportive”) friends.
Part of the allowing this distraction is not understanding the crucial distinction, the discrimination of mind from consciousness. This I have gone into in another essay, so won’t belabor it here. You could also call this “pure consciousness”.
“Pure consciousness” can also become problematic – that is, dualistic – if it becomes a position, a stance, and advocate for something pure and religious as it were. It becomes abstract and absolute in a final or fundamentalist or rigid way. This is not what is meant here. Think of it as a stage or pedagogical tool.
or, one can swing the other way and get religious or attached about the Kashmir Shaivism or tantric path, the phenomenal, the creative (Shiva and Shakti) and object to the Advaita way as just a stepping stone. Again, it all depends on where you are coming from. Why set up another dualism? There are not paths here, in this land of freedom and openness and freshness.