If we lift weights, we will get fit, our muscles will grow and get stronger. This is something we all agree on. But what about reading books on weightlifting? Does this help make us fit?
What if I go to university and study anatomy, muscle development, physical therapy and the relative merits of exercise programs. Will I get fit? What if I get a PhD and two doctorates in these subjects? What if I research the different types of exercise equipment and weight lifting regimens? Will my muscles get any larger or stronger?
How about if I read weightlifting magazines? What if I work at a gym and meet alot of weightlifters or have alot of friends who are weightlifters? What if I travel around the world to weightlifting events and competitions, will my muscles get any larger or more fit?
What if I interviewed the greatest living weightlifters in the world and they told me their secrets to weightlifting success – would my muscles grow even a milimeter?
How about blind faith. If I have faith in weight lifting, if I believe in it. Will my muscles grow? Even if I accept as fact the idea that weigthlifting increases muscle mass and I vehemently defend this idea against non-believers, will this have any noticeable effect on my health?
How about philosophical debate. If I can convince someone else that I am correct that weightlifting builds biggger muscles, do either of us get any stronger?
How about personal identity. What makes someone a weightlifter? If three months pass and they have not lifted any weights, are they still a weightlifter? What if six months or 3 years have passed? What if they lift weights for one hour a day, but spend 23 hours of the day not lifting weights. Are they a weightlifter? If they call themselves, or identify themselves as a weightlifter, does this increase muscle mass or aid in fitness? Is there any reasonable relationship between lifting weights and identifying oneself as a weightlifter?
Meditation is like this. Buddhism is like this (in fact, Buddhism wasn’t an “ism” until the west found out about it). Buddhism is something you do. It is a practice. A good teacher can point the way, but you need to walk on the path yourself. The main part of that work is meditation.
So beware. The more you study Buddhism, the more you visit “holy” places, read books, meet teachers, the more you may begin to believe that you are a Buddhist or know something about meditation. Unfortunately, the more you think about it, the furthur you get from it and the more you delude yourself. This is not an intellectual endeavor, it is not a faith, it is not a philosophy to be debated and it is not something to build an identity around (in fact it is about deconstructing your identity). Don’t read about it. Do it.
To the extent that meeting great teachers, reading books and listening to talks inspires you to practice is the extent to which these are useful endeavors. The practice itself is what is important. So if going to weighlifting tournaments gets you motivated to lift weights for an hour a day, and reading weightlifting magazines and hanging around with other weightlifters inspires you to keep doing the work – then these are useful endeavors.
And so, watch the breath coming in and feel the breath going out. Stay with this as long as you can. Relax but remain alert. Bring your awareness to the sensations in your body. Sit back and practice for 10 minutes right now!
And remember – the practice is always “now” you don’t need time to meditate and you don’t need to go anywhere, just bring your mind into the present moment, now (and now) by becoming aware of the breath or of sensations in the body. (and now)
Peace (meditate now!)
Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal May Push Back the Buddha’s Birth Date
Time to push back the Buddha’s birth date a century or so? Archaeologists may have uncovered evidence of the oldest Buddhist shrine yet discovered, dating to around 550 B.C….
Original article is here: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/pune-scientists-find-air-quality-at-lumbini-world-heritage-site-alarmingly-poor/1190660/
A team of scientists from Pune assigned to assess the air quality at Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal, has come out with alarming pollution figures in one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. It has found that the air quality at Lumbini touches an unhealthy level with Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 (finer particles) recorded at 270 µg/m3 against the permissible level of 25 µg/m3.
The first ever air quality reporting at Lumbini has also found that the level of PM10 (bigger particles) is as high as 350 ug/m3, while the permissible limit is just 80 according to the WHO. The scientists from Pune were roped in by the WHO to assess the air quality in Lumbini after a UNESCO study found that 57 factories in the region and 15 major industries, including 11 cement factories, two steel factories, one paper processing factory and one noodle producer, could be considered hazardous for the environment in terms of their production processes and pollutant emissions.
The scientists who developed the System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) during the Commonwealth Games 2010 have been predicting the air quality in Delhi and Pune for more than a year now.
“Our system provides details about oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, black carbon and benzene present in the air. Exposure to pollutants affects human health and recently WHO has also listed air pollution as a carcinogenic,” said Dr Gufran Beig, Programme Director of SAFAR.
Equipped with automatic optical analysers, the team headed by Beig and researchers Neha Parkhi, Dilip Kate, K Ali and H Trimbaki spent a month in Lumbini during each season to assess the air quality. “Lumbini, an archaeologically rich and sacred site in southern Nepal, is among the four major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists and sees 0.8 million people visitors annually. Our project on heritage air quality and weather assessment for the Lumbini Protected Zone is the first to monitor levels of PM 10, PM 2.5 and ozone during different seasons of the year,” said Beig. PM 2.5 is an air pollutant that severely affects health if found in high levels.
Lumbini, Nepal is the birthplace of the Buddha and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lumbini is currently under threat of serious environmental degradation caused by local industry. In order to protect this important historical, religious and tourist site and to raise awareness about the threats it facing it, UNESCO has prepared an environmental impact study.
Please download the PDF versions here:
These documents may be freely distributed. The text of the Summary of the study can be found below:
Summary of Environmental Impact Study of industrial development around Lumbini, the birthplace of the Lord Buddha and a World Heritage Property
IUCN Nepal for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 2012
The importance of Lumbini
Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha, was inscribed onto the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 1997. It is situated in the Rupandehi district of Nepal and is rich in cultural, spiritual and religious values. The sacred site is the pride of Nepal and has the potential to become a major source of revenue for the country.
Land use pattern change around Lumbini
The land use pattern around the Lumbini World Heritage Property (WHP) has undergone a significant change from agricultural to industrial use in the last 16 years. As a result, the universally outstanding archaeological remains at the Lumbini WHP are being negatively affected by rapid industrial development. Similarly, local people, pilgrims, tourists and agricultural and industrial workers are suffering the ill-effects of industrial pollution. The development of industries at the site has also adversely affected existing fauna and flora and precious environmental resources such as water, soil and air.
In order to address these negative impacts, the Government of Nepal (GoN) decided in November 2009 that carbon-emitting industries would not be allowed to operate in the Lumbini Protected Zone (LPZ), as well as in an 800 metre designated area on both sides of the Bhairahawa-Lumbini Road (B-L Road)1. The GoN also issued a decree that industries operational at the WHP must respect the Environmental Protection Act and those that failed to do so would face compulsory relocation within two years.
Despite the government ruling on sensitive industrial development and environmental protection measures, adverse environmental and social impacts have been observed in the WHP due to the establishment of industries which do not adhere to the government’s environmental rules and regulations.
With this background, IUCN Nepal was requested by UNESCO in 2011 to prepare an “Environmental Impact Study of Industrial Development around Lumbini, the Birthplace of Lord Buddha and a World Heritage Property”, with the following terms of reference:
• identify and locate industrial activities in the study area;
• prepare an environmental plan and a monitoring strategy to reduce the impact of industrial activity in the protected zones; and
• develop zoning classes with guidelines establishing the type of development and industrial activities permitted or prohibited in the protected zones.
1 Industrial Promotion Board, Government of Nepal, 2009 and Lumbini Environment Protection Alliance, 2010. Petition to protect human health and the environment of Lumbini, Birthplace of the Buddha & World Heritage Site, Appendix 2
An interdisciplinary study team comprised of ecologist, EIA expert, statistician, scoio-economist, GIS expert, architect, biochemist was formed. Six Village Development Committees (VDC) [Ama, Bisnupura, Gonaha, Kamhariya, Labani and Madhuvani] located close to industrial sites were selected to assess the social status of the region. Data and information related to the socio-economic condition of the local population, the environmental situation and industrial activities, were collected from organizations and experts and a desk review was undertaken. Research tools such as focus group discussions, transect walks and observations with stakeholders, key informant interviews, and field observation and surveys, were used to collect biophysical and socio-political data. Data related to pollution was obtained by using laboratory soil and water analysis. Likewise, statistical tools including Likert’s attitudinal model, the Chi-square model, and the correlation coefficient model were used for assessing the perception of concerned communities of the impact of the industrial enterprises.
The study covers the Lumbini Protected Zone (LPZ), a rectangular area extending from the boundary of the Lumbini Project Area (1 mile by 3 miles) to 15 kilometres to the north, east, west and south (within Nepal). An alluvial plain, it is a largely flat land created by the deposit of sediment over a long period by the Tinau River. The LPZ lies between 270 19’ 34.803″ to 270 38’ 31.992″ N and 830 6’ 58.011″ to 830 26’ 7.977″ E in both the Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts in the Western Development Region of Nepal.
Industrial expansion in LPZ
In 2011, 57 factories existed in the region. They are located at different distances from the Bhairahawa- Lumbinî (B-L Road) in the LPZ varying from 51 to 2,663 metres. Industries include the production of:
• Bricks (30 factories);
• Cement and clinker (11 factories);
• Steel (2 factories);
• Noodles (1 factory);
• Paper (1 factory);
• Flour (2 factories);
• Other products such as plywood, edible oil and sacks (10 factories)
Of these industrial operations, some are major industries in terms of their production processes and pollutant emissions. Fifteen major industries include 11 cement manufacturers, two steel manufacturers, one paper processing factory and one noodle producer.
About 33,000 metric tonnes of cement is produced annually in the region. A raw materials-based cement factory and a clinker-based cement factory are currently operational. The major waste products of the latter are particulate matter such as dust, smoke and alkaline compounds. Its Green House Gas (GHGs) emissions such as dust, CO2,CO, sludge and SO2 amounts to about 912 metric tons per day. Other waste products from nearby industries include plastic, sludge, wood dust and paper sludge.
The study identifies a variety of major impacts on the socio-economy and health, flora and fauna, water, soil and air due to industrial development in the LPZ.
Socio-economy and health
Local people have gained very little from the nearby industries. Out of 11,246 households [of the study site] only 80 to 90 families have benefitted directly. This includes local people who are directly employed in the industries and are paid on average 150 Nepalese Rupees (NPR) per day. Others, who have shops near the industrial area, generate incomes of 8,000 to 18,000 NPR monthly.
Local residents also indicate that they have indirectly benefitted from the services linked to tourism development in the region such as more accessible road links. This in turn has enhanced local services such as water supplies, education and health care.
People living nearest to the industrial sites, or working in the industries are at high risk of exposure to hazardous industrial by-products such as dust, contact with allergic substances and extreme noise pollution, all of which pose serious health risks. Intensive air quality monitoring is still required to find the actual level of pollution. The health of local communities, especially school children studying at the school located near factories. Most of the road network is chaotic because of heavy industrial operations leading to huge traffic jams and associated transportation problems.
Flora and fauna
The LPZ is rich in flora and fauna, but the change in land use from natural habitat into industrial use with increased human intervention and urbanization has a harmful impact on the native fauna and flora. The local people have seen a decrease in the population of the blue bull (nilgai), reptiles and amphibians and birds. In addition, a wide range of aquatic creatures and the Sarus crane have been victims of the industrial pollution affecting wetlands, lakes, village ponds, reservoirs, rain water ponds and paddy fields.
The by-products of industrial activity, particularly cement sludge, paper sludge and ghee sludge are discharged into rivers without any treatment. The surface water quality near to the industrial sites is heavily degraded with a water quality index of 45 which is well below the desirable levels of 90-100 for excellent quality.
There is strong evidence that industrial operators are releasing untreated waste into the River Dano and its tributaries. This harmful practice is making water sources unsuitable for domestic consumption and for wild animals.
Water contamination is found not only around the industrial sites but also downstream from the industrial area. In addition, according to the local people excessive withdrawal of groundwater for the operation of large-scale industrial activities causes an ongoing decrease in the level of water resources for communities and the native fauna and flora. A lack of data means that the observations of villagers about groundwater depletion cannot be verified.
Most of the cement factories do not use regular water sprinklers in order to reduce the negative impact of fugitive industrial emissions. Meteorological parameters such as wind velocity, temperature, humidity, rainfall, cloud coverage and solar radiation determine the dispersion, diffusion and transportation of particulate matter and emissions into the atmosphere.
Local people observe that the air pollution has the highest impact in a radius of about three kilometres from the industrial sites; it has a medium impact in a three to eight kilometre radius and a low impact beyond eight kilometres. However, to turn these perceptions into hard evidence, monitoring stations are needed at varying distances from the sources of the pollution to assess the volume and consequences of the differing levels of industrial emissions on air quality.
Industrial operators follow the harmful practice of releasing industrial sludge into rivers and onto land without treatment, thus seriously disturbing the soil’s organic qualities. The soil was found to be alkaline with an organic matter level lower (2.4 percent) than the normal standard (5.1 percent). The soil is also harmed by fugitive effluent from the cement factories. Anecdotal evidence indicates that as a result of the accumulation of dust, crop yields near the industrial site have dramatically decreased compared to the pre-industry era. During the flowering periods, photosynthesis and pollination are disturbed by dust accumulation on plant surfaces and in the soil.
Cement manufacturing plants adjacent to residential, institutional and educational areas use heavy industrial equipment such as fans, engines, generators and cement grinding machinery. In addition to the noise pollution caused by these devices, the excessive noise and vibration from heavy trucks associated with quarry operations and the transport of raw materials and finished products (about 100 trucks per day) causes noise and air pollution.
A study by Costantino Meucci entitled “Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha: project to Strengthen the Conservation and Management of Lumbini, Preliminary Analytical Report” prepared in 2011 highlighted that gypsum salt in the atmosphere is damaging the Asoka Pillar. It is also likely that other historical vestiges are equally threatened.
There are a variety of Acts that are applicable to control environmental hazards.
• The Ancient Monument Protection Act, 1956 does not state the permissible distance that industrial activities can be set up from heritage sites. The act also does not address any other kind of pollution control measures to prevent damage to the surrounding environment, be it biological, physical or socio-cultural.
• The Water Resource Act, 1992 prohibits any action that may pollute water resources surpassing the threshold value.
• The Industrial Enterprise Act, 1992 has the power to impose fines, cancel the registration, or close down an industrial operation if there is any violation of this act or non-compliance. But the act does not address monitoring mechanisms in a specific manner.
According to the Environment Protection Act 1996, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment to accept or reject an Environmental Impact Assessment/Initial Environment Examination (EIA/ IEE) request submitted prior to the establishment of a new industry. However, the application of these laws and law enforcement measures are not satisfactory in the study area. Only a few industries seem to use state-of-the-art environmental friendly procedures. Many more are operated without adopting proper mitigation measures as per IEE/ EIA. EIA or IEE documents submitted by potential industrial operators frequently do not contain detailed plans that address the likely harmful impacts on the health of workers, local people resident in the area and on the environment. Nor do they describe potential effects, monitoring and evaluation plans, the frequency of monitoring and reporting to regulators and the local community, and mitigation strategies to resolve harmful outcomes.
In order to conserve the natural environment of the Lumbini area and to foster the livelihood of the local communities in a sustainable manner, the study recommends a variety of measures as follows.
• Classify the LPZ into five zones as follows:
Zone 1-Restricted Zone: One mile in the north, east, west and south from the boundary of the Lumbini Project Area (LPA).This zone needs to be protected by developing a control mechanism with by-laws and restricted principles for human intervention except for conservation and research. This zone requires the highest level of protection. In its existing condition, this zone has been rapidly changing with public infrastructure and associated concerns that pose threats to the LPZ. It needs a control mechanism with by-laws and restricted principles for human intervention except for conservation and research.
Zone 2-Buffer Zone: 2 miles north and south and 1 mile east and west from the boundary of Zone 1. The focus in this zone needs to be on the integration of the improvements to the local communities’ livelihood and the conservation of the buffer zone. The buffer zone will contribute to the protection of the World Heritage Property. The importance of the environment must be properly emphasized and recognized.
Zone 3- Special Conservation and Management Zone: 1 mile distant from the boundary of the buffer zone to the east, west and south, and 6 miles distant to the north (natural forest land and major lakes) It should also cover some areas of land in the west and south near the Nepal – India border. The aim of this zone is to conserve natural resources and preserve the natural habitat, flora and fauna.
Zone 4- Community Resource Management Zone: The aim of this zone is to empower the local community by promoting agriculture-based activities such as cereal food production and cash crop cultivation. The following industries/activities can be permitted in this zone, with an IEE (if required): cottage industries; tourism; training institutes; consultancy enterprises; farm industry; candle production, incense sticks (agarbatti) industry;contracting industry(Thekkpatta Udhyog); ice-cream production; solar/ bio-gas energy industry; agriculture and forest-based industry (except milk processing); industries which do not need an energy source; cold-store industry; hospitals, nursing homes, human health care centres; software production; and the feature film industry.
Zone 5-Ecological Economic Development Zone: Major river basins such as the Tinau and Dano pass through this zone and has access to the Bhairahawa-Lumbini Road to the Siddharthanagar Municipality. This zone is a rich habitat for native flora and fauna and the land within it should be conserved for tourism development and biodiversity conservation. Small cottage industries to boost agriculture production with a mandatory IEE can be developed in this zone.
• The above zoning has been proposed consulting on the recommendations of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, Kenzo Tange Master Plan, IUCN Conservation Protection Category, Government of Nepal’s 10th National Development Five Year Plan (2002-2007) and findings from this study.
B) Industrial expansion
• Ban from LPZ all carbon emitting industries and other industries such as cement factories, leather processing, sugar mills, paper production, distilleries, brickmaking, tobacco processing, the plastics industry, metal foundry/ smelting, chemical fertilizer production, rolling mills, chemical goods production /processing, soap production (chimney system), rubber production/ processing, the animal fodder industry, bone mills, the mineral industry, L.P. gas filling/production, aluminium and iron processing, paint (distemper) manufacturing, the lubricant industry, the foam/sponge industry, battery production, colour dyes production, lime production, meat processing; and pharmaceuticals.
C) Socio-economy and health
• Employ local people in order to maintain the protected zone in the LPZ.
• Draw up a plan for conserving the local traditions of the region in all the LPZ zones.
• Provide awareness-raising activities to the local community on conservation of the archaeological assets and on the historical value of the archaeological assets in zones 1 and 2.
• Develop small cottage industries with mandatory IEE which will utilize agriculture products as raw materials in Zone 5.
• Give priority to agriculture-based tourism (for example promoting local agriculture products and practices) in zone 4 and empower the local community by promoting agriculture-based activities such as cereal food production and cash crops promotion.
D) Flora and fauna
• Develop community based forest activities to conserve a habitat for flora and fauna.
• Maintain and promote water bodies/wetlands and ponds such as Karbalahiya tal and Kebataliya tal wetlands in the LPZ.
• Prohibit polluted water discharge into rivers in the LPZ.
• Develop an irrigation facility in order to increase agricultural productivity (Zones 3, 4).
• Conduct a community-based watershed/lake management programme (Zones 3, 4, 5).
• Maintain air quality controls in the LPZ as per the national standard.
• Prohibit air and sound polluting vehicles especially in zones 1 and 2.
• Provide green stickers as per the In-Use Emission Standard of the government of Nepal to environment friendly vehicles.
• Adopt short-term and long-term strategies to control air pollution by the existing industries in the region.
• Adopt Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) to control the air pollution in the region.
• Monitor the air polluting industries and sources by the concerned authority.
• Widen the Lumbini-Bhairahawa Road and make a green belt on both sides of the road.
• Promote renewable energy for domestic use in zones 1 and 2.
• Encourage reuse and recycle of solid waste.
• Adopt noise pollution control measures by the existing industries in the region.
• Encourage reuse, recycle and proper disposal of solid wastes.
• Plantation in open (both public and private) space so that it could conserve soil.
H) Noise pollution
• Prohibit air and sound polluting vehicles and provide green stickers to environment friendly vehicles such as low emitting vehicles, electric vehicles as per the In-Use Emission Standard of the Government of Nepal (Zones 1, 2).
• Prohibit the use of horns (Zones 1, 2 and around dense settlement by the Bhairahawa-Lumbini Road).
I) Historical vestiges
• Take conservation measures for archaeological sites exposed to environmental hazards (Zones 1, 2).
• Prohibit development around archaeological sites except development essential for the protection and enhancement of the sites (Zones 1, 2).
• Undertake, if necessary, emergency archaeological excavations before development work is started.
J) Legal frameworks
• Establish procedures for the review and approval of development projects including industrial enterprise in the LPZ.
• Ensure that the projects are accompanied by an evaluation of their impact on the environment. Include an alternative projects to minimize the adverse effects (EIA/IEE).
• Incorporate an archaeological study of respective zones in future assessments of potential environmental impact.
K) Community involvement
• Conduct an awareness program about the inter-relationship between the importance of the World Heritage Property and biophysical impact and air pollution.
• Sensitize local communities about the importance of the conservation of archaeological assets and traditional values of these archaeological assets (Zones 1, 2).
• Promote renewal energy for domestic use (Zones 1, 2).
|IUCN Nepal||UNESCO Office in Kathmandu|
|P.O. Box: 3923||P.O. Box: 14391|
|Kupondole, Lalitpur, Nepal||Sanepa, Lalitpur, Nepal|
|Tel: +977 1 5528781||Tel: +977 1 5554769|
|Fax: +977 1 5536786||Fax: +977 1 5554450|
|Email: email@example.com||Email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|URL: www.iucn.org/nepal||URL: www.unesco.org|
Reference: IUCN Nepal (2012). Environment Impact Assesment of industrial development around Lumbini “The Birthplace of the Lord Buddha and a World Heritage Property”. Report prepared by IUCN Nepal for UNESCO, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Free Adyashanti Video – Being Alone
Adyashanti – Being Alone full movie from Adyashanti Videos on Vimeo.
Adyashanti’s nondual teachings have been compared to those of the early Zen masters and Advaita Vedanta sages. Expressing both the infinite possibilities and the ordinary simplicity of a spiritually realized life, Adyashanti’s teachings are directed to those who are sincerely called to awaken to their true nature and embody this life-changing realization.
I just stumbled upon this site – they have over 500 free PDF books for download. Enjoy! Here is the url: www.holybooks.com
Can you do something for me? Can you do something for you? Right now, please close your eyes. Get comfortable, relax – but stay alert. Notice your breathing; hard or soft, long or short…just stay with your breath for a few minutes, observe it going in and out, touching your upper lip or perhaps notice the rise and fall of your abdomen. It doesn’t matter, just let your mind go empty and focus on the breath.
Now, move your attention to your body. Observe your face – are the muscles in your face relaxed? Relax them. Release any tension, muscle by muscle; just let it go, let it relax. Now check your neck and shoulders. If there is any tension, just relax it, let it go.
You do not have control over many things in your life. But you do have control over this. You can become aware of any tension in your body, any tension in your breath and any tension in your mind and you can release it. Not later, not tomorrow, but right this moment. If you are still reading, then stop for a few minutes – try it – observe the tension and release it – observe the breath – relax and then relax some more.
Happiness is not in the future. That is the big lie we all tend to believe. Happiness is only right here and right now. No matter what you are doing, what situation you are in, you can take a moment and you can observe your breathing and the tension in the breath and the body and in the mind and you can release it, relax it and relinquish it. Whatever is happening out there may be out of your control – but what is happening in here is entirely under your control, if you observe it, accept it and release it. You can even become friends with it or love it. All that tension is yours to love and let go!
My friend was telling the monk about how angry she was at her ex husband, who left her some months before. The monk interrupted her and offered her a piece of chocolate. She stopped complaining and enjoyed the chocolate; then she smiled and accepted the teaching. There is no reason to not be happy, content, fulfilled and comfortable right now.
And so, right now, you too can stop what you are doing, check in with your breath and your body and your mind and release all that tension by letting this moment be exactly how it is. The tension is nothing more than resistance, acceptance is the cure.
Learn to do this and your life will transform itself.
We spend most of our time thinking about what is lacking, what we need to be happy – what we will eat next, where we will go, what we will do. We keep looking for the next thing, the thing we need to make us happy – and that is exactly what prevents us from being happy!
All you need to do is stop. Stop looking – just for a moment – just for 5 minutes – just stop and instead check in again with your breathing, with your body, with the tension and make yourself comfortable right now by releasing or letting go whatever is making you uncomfortable – all that tension, the anger, the resentment, the tension in the face, the jaw, the shoulders. Just relax it; release it. This is one thing you DO have control over!
Nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing is lacking. Everything you need is right here, right now… so go back to the breath, and relax and smile a little and be friendly and just let it be.
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE SPIRITUALITY
Don’t speak. Act. Don’t Announce. Realize.
Among the visitors to spiritual organizations like Sri Aurobindo Ashram are some dead serious, sincere and intense young people who claim to be on the spiritual path but seem to be on the verge of losing their mental balance, if they have not lost it already. The question naturally arises what makes something as laudable as the spiritual path a risky road to walk on. The risk lies in a faulty approach to spirituality. Young people who become miserable as a result of their engagement with spirituality invariably treat spirituality as yet another worldly achievement. They go about searching for techniques that would take them to the peak by the easiest, shortest and fastest route. They treat spirituality like mountaineering. They want to climb nothing less than the Everest, and feel entitled to do so because they are ready to spend all their energy looking for and learning the best techniques. They may try several techniques simultaneously, or in quick succession, with great vigour. They may go straightaway to the advanced pranayamas, or meditate for hours or days at a stretch under the mistaken impression that if something is good, more of it should be better. Then they start looking for signs of progress. So obsessed are they with getting there as quickly as possible that they attach great importance to their ‘visions’, ‘dreams’ and ‘experiences’. They try to hold on to these real or imagined events, try to repeat them, improve upon them, and talk about them, either to seek approval and confirmation, or to impress people. But instead of getting the peace that may be expected on the spiritual path, they get only more and more disturbed. Unless they correct the fatal flaw in their approach to spirituality, they end up on the psychiatrist’s couch.
In order to understand how the approach of these sincere but misguided young people to spirituality is flawed, let us digress to an ordinary young person. He wants wealth, power, and prestige. In the pursuit of what he wants, he becomes completely absorbed in himself. Our young man on the spiritual path wants to reach spiritual heights. In the pursuit of what he wants, he also becomes completely absorbed in himself. Hence there is no fundamental difference between these two young men. They both want something badly. They are both afflicted with acute self-absorption. The desire in both cases is intense, and the impatience of the seeker is palpable. The difference lies only in what they want. In a sense, our spiritual enthusiast is the worse of the two. The seeker of wealth, name and fame may at least temper his pursuit because of ethical considerations and out of decency. But the one wanting spiritual victory may be blatantly egoistic because he does not feel any scruples are necessary in pursuing the noblest of goals. The result is that spiritual enthusiasts frequently find themselves entangled in one or more of the following deadly traps.
The transactional trap
The seeker is quite conscious of having given up the usual goals of wealth, position and power. “I have sacrificed so much”, he argues, “therefore I should be rewarded with spiritual achievements”. In short, he looks upon spirituality as a transaction which involves giving up devalued currency and getting gold in return. The right approach is to simply give up everything that is no longer interesting. Gradually, there is more and more that appears uninteresting, unnecessary and superfluous. Giving up everything physically is, however, incompatible with life. But what can be done is to give up the attachment to everything – to things that one gives up physically, as well as to things that one has not been able to. This is what Sri Aurobindo calls inner renunciation. The key is giving up, not for the sake of getting something, but because one has realized that what is being given up cannot bring lasting happiness, and has no place in a meaningful and fulfilling life. Thus the dictum in spirituality is to give up everything, and to expect nothing.
The scholastic trap
The person reads a lot of spiritual literature. He finds so much of it that eventually devouring spiritual books becomes his major occupation, 24 X 7. Because of his passionate involvement in the subject, his reading speed is phenomenal, memory incredible, and even his comprehension may be admirable. Because of his vast theoretical knowledge, he assumes that now he has become deeply spiritual.
Spirituality is not the same as filling the head with spiritual facts. Spirituality may or may not be associated with mental knowledge; what is indispensable to spirituality is practice and experience. Knowledge may sometimes act as a trigger for spiritual progress by arousing the curiosity of the seeker. But if the focus remains on acquiring more and more knowledge at the mental level, knowledge may become a barrier on the path of spiritual growth in at least two ways. First, the person may start treating knowledge as a substitute for experience. Secondly, knowledge at the level of the intellect might make a person critical, less open, and distract him from genuine spiritual inquiry by directing the attention to too many irrelevant questions. As the Mother has said, “the mind is incapable of judging spiritual things… … in order to proceed on the path, it is absolutely indispensable to abstain from all mental opinion and reaction” (1).
The signboard trap
Soon after embarking on the path, the person gets trapped in the superficial and visible signs associated with spiritual life. For example, he may start observing regular ritualistic fasts, adopt fad diets, observe long periods of silence, dress up in saffron or white, and chant incessantly, keeping count of the chants using a rosary. He may impose on himself a rigid routine and a punishing schedule, filling up every hour of the day and night with something that he considers clearly and visibly spiritual. The result is that he stands out in a crowd, and has time for little else except doing things which are necessary for him, because he is ‘spiritual’. Although he is very busy doing one thing after another, and lives like a machine, he lives only for himself.
This type of engagement with spirituality only boosts the pride of the seeker without leading to any real progress. Spirituality is primarily about an inner change, which may get reflected in a few outer signs, but which must get reflected in outer life. Unless the outer life is filled with greater love, compassion, giving, caring and sharing, merely displaying the signs and symbols of ‘spirituality’ does not make a person spiritual.
The school-leaving certificate (SLC) trap
The person might have seen a beam of light, or heard an encouraging voice during meditation. Or, he might have experienced a rush of energy as a result of some practices calculated to open up the chakras or awaken the kundalini. The person is ecstatic about what has happened to him. He starts imagining how much of bliss lies untapped at the summit. He gets greedy, and wants more and more, as fast as possible. He behaves like a child who has just received a school-leaving certificate, and is now in a hurry to get a Ph.D. as soon as possible. The spiritual enthusiast now engages in a sort of spiritual engineering to repeat his experiences, to hold on to experiences, and to climb towards the peak experience.
The right approach is to take the experiences as an indicator of the immense love of the Divine. It is through Divine Grace rather than personal effort that the seeker has received some encouragement in the form of these experiences. To negotiate the long way to the summit also Divine Grace will be much more important than personal effort. The seeker may continue his efforts, and trust that the Divine will take care of his progress in Its way and Its time. Therefore, the dictum is to continue walking the path, and to continue seeking the guidance and grace of the Divine. The walk itself is blissful; why then be in a hurry to scale the summit?
The misplaced curiosity trap
Drifting into spirituality with the relatively simple aims of pursuing something of lasting value, something useful to others, or something better than joining the rat race, some young people get distracted by the futile search for answers to irrelevant questions. They want to know more and more about life after death, rebirth, past life regression, or forecasting the future. They start resolving the apparent discrepancies in the karma theory. They want to know whether an evil man can be reborn as an animal. They want to know whether it is possible to communicate with the dead. They want to know whether some yogis can really do without food, air or sleep, and if so, why and how. They want to know whether yoga can help in conquering death. The result is that they are lost in a maze. These are not good points to begin forays into spirituality. From the spiritual point of view, these explorations are fruitless at best; sometimes they can even be dangerous. Life on earth is for growing in consciousness, not for forcing the Divine to reveal what It has chosen to conceal from us for our own good. Growing in consciousness means a change in our picture of reality from one based on multiplicity and division towards that based on oneness and unity. This inner change should get reflected in our outer life. That is the essence of spirituality.
The grandiose trap
Some seekers pass through a confusing and risky stage that Sri Aurobindo has described as the intermediate zone.* This is a stage between the physical and spiritual realms, and lacks the firm foothold of both. The seeker thinks that he has realized much more than he actually has. At this stage the person is vulnerable to exploitation by negative forces in the occult worlds. By unwittingly giving his consent to such exploitation, the person exposes himself to great risks. The person may go totally astray, or may stay permanently in the intermediate zone without any aspiration to progress further. Sri Aurobindo asserts that safety lies in attending to psychic and spiritual development before entry into the occult regions.
The intermediate zone is not an inevitable stage on the spiritual path. The risk of passing through this stage is increased by excessive hurry and eagerness, letting the emotional and mental parts of the being lead the sadhana, and an exaggerated confidence in one’s ability to do it either on one’s own or with the help of the ‘Divine’, as erroneously visualized by the seeker. While passing through the intermediate zone, it is important not to get attached to the lesser truths of this stage. The risks of the intermediate zone can be avoided by sincerity, humility, being calm and patient, letting the psychic being lead the sadhana, and by seeking the guidance of a guru. As Sri Aurobindo has said, “It is idle for anyone to expect that he can follow this road far, – much less go to the end by his own inner strength and knowledge without the true aid or influence…. All work here must be done in a spirit of acceptance, discipline and surrender, not with personal demands and conditions, but with a vigilant conscious submission to control and guidance” (2).
The greatness trap
The seeker is not sure whether he has reached the summit, but he has convinced himself that at least he is one notch above the rest of humanity. This is a very subtle trap, to which even experienced and sober seekers are not immune. It is a trap that people around the seeker strengthen by admiring him to the point of worshipping him. Experienced seekers may be a victim of this trap, but often manage to hide their vanity behind superficial humility. But young and volatile seekers who fall for this trap flaunt their arrogance with abandon. They miss no occasion to talk about how immune they are to heat and cold, hunger and thirst, pain and suffering. They look upon ordinary suffering humanity with a mixture of pity and disdain. On one hand, they are angry at the world for not doing what they have done. On the other hand, they are quite convinced that stupid humanity (with rare exceptions like themselves) is incapable of following their example. They are also proud to talk about their personal acquaintance with many renowned persons on the spirituality circuit, and enjoy comparing one with the other, and in the process end up talking about not only the strengths but also the flaws and weaknesses (as perceived by them) of these luminaries whom other people might have seen only on the TV. If they have read a lot, and are also a victim of the scholastic trap, so much the worse. Then they have a tendency to analyse spiritual books in hair-splitting detail. If they attend a discourse, they ask questions, either to show off their knowledge or to find faults with the speaker. They itch for discussions on spiritual topics, and if they do get (or create) such an opportunity, they are quick to argue in order to prove the other person wrong.
The right approach is to be grateful for whatever progress has been made, and to realize how much more remains to be done as compared to what has been done. Comparisons are also unfair because we are all fellow travelers on the same spiritual journey, and are manifestations of the same Divine. The following celebrated quote from James Adams applies as much to spiritual seekers as to the rest: “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behaves any of us to find fault with the rest of us.”
The greatest difficulty for the spiritual enthusiast probably originates in the glimpses of suprasensory reality that he might experience. Spiritual experiences are not an achievement to discuss, share or boast about. Spiritual experiences widen, deepen and raise the consciousness, and this change should be reflected in outer life, making the person more considerate, compassionate and contented. Further, one should not talk about these experiences. As the Mother has said, “It is a very well-known fact that one has never to speak of one’s spiritual experiences, if one were not to see vanishing in a moment the energy accumulated in an experience which is meant to hasten one’s progress” (3). Another common wasteful distraction is searching for miracles. Ordinary life is itself a miracle – no other miracles are necessary for inspiring faith in the omnipotence of the Divine. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have repeatedly emphasized that the aspiration for spiritual growth should be sincere and constant; it may even be intense, but it should not be impatient. The distinction that Sri Aurobindo has made between straining and concentration is also relevant here. He wrote in a letter, “Straining implies an over-eagerness and violence of effort, while concentration is in its nature quiet and steady. If there is restlessness or over-eagerness, then that is not concentration” (4). Obviously, concentration helps, but straining hinders spiritual growth. Anxiety and restlessness are an expression of the ego. Ego is a product of the dividing consciousness. It divides the individual from the rest of the creation. In contrast, spirituality breaks the dividing barrier. Spirituality unites the individual with the rest of the creation. Hence the acute self-absorption that afflicts misguided spiritual enthusiasts cannot take them towards the spiritual consciousness that they seek. Instead of getting obsessed with spiritual growth, it is much better to follow one of the simplest pieces of advice that the Mother has given: “Be simple, Be happy, Remain quiet, Do your work as well as you can, Keep yourself always open towards me – This is all that is asked from you” (5).
1. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother On Education. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1956, p. 125.
2. Sri Aurobindo. The Riddle of this World. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 6th Edition, 1973, p. 44.
3. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother On Education. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1956, p. 150.
4. The Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1993, p. 156.
5. The Science of Living: A Simple Programme. Words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2006, p. 1.
*For more on the Intermediate Zone, see Reference 2, pp. 35-47, and Reference 4, pp. 187-189
Commentary by Zen Cohen
The paradox of spiritual practice as “Not-Doing”
As Gangaji points out in this short video: “The desire for real fulfillment which arises in your lifetime, paradoxically can only be realized if you don’t do anything for its realization…What you are given to do [as a spiritual / meditation practice] is designed to wear down your desire for doing.”
The three Kilesas or defilements (roots of suffering) in Buddhism are: greed, hatred and delusion. When viewed from the micro context of meditation, greed and hatred can be seen as movements of the mind towards an object (greed, desire, clinging, wanting) or away from an object (hatred, not wanting, wanting to get away from or push away the object). An object is anything that arises in the mind.
Delusion (or ignorance) is simply not being aware that this is happening in the mind and more importantly, that these movements, towards and away from objects (“reacting”, “reactivity”), are the root cause of our suffering.
If it is true (and you need to look for yourself) that the mind moving towards and away from objects is the root cause of suffering, then what is the solution?
The solution is to “stop” this movement. To observe; to look but don’t touch; to remain equanamous; to accept everything that comes into the mind, or to do nothing. But even “doing nothing” is doing – and when you try to “do nothing” you might notice that you tense up – as if doing nothing requires some doing – which it doesn’t. And so you hear the words over and over from the teachers to “let it be”, “relax, relinquish and release”, “detach”, remain balanced and embrace everything, “renounce the world” - “be still” – all of which are “verbs” and imply doing – when what we want is “not-doing!”
It is like being in a cramped shop surrounded by fine china – any move you make will surely knock something over – so remain still – stillness – keep the mind still – don’t touch anything – don’t let fear make you pull away, don’t let desire suck you in, just sit back in awareness and observe. This is what meditation becomes as concentration improves and the mind becomes more still. Like watching a video game and objects are flying towards your face – but you can’t flinch – and you need to relax rather than be tense.
The breath makes it easier to observe – ask yourself who is breathing in this moment? You don’t have to do anything to breathe, it happens when you are not paying attention – but just try to intentionally let go control of breathing and you run into the paradox of not doing. As long as you are trying to breath naturally you won’t breathe naturally – you almost have to forget about it. To just breathe without thinking about it or controlling it is “being spontaneous.” On the other hand, you may notice that when you are controlling your breathing, you become uncomfortable, the mind and body contract a bit and there is tension – this is suffering.
Why does Gangaji say: “What you are given to do [as a spiritual / meditation practice] is designed to wear down your desire for doing?” She says this because as you sit in meditation, the difference between suffering and peace will become clear to the mind. What will also become clear is that the suffering comes up whenever you “do” something and it goes away whenever you “let things be.”
When you feel a pain arising in your knee and you react to that pain (you move the mind away from it, try to reject it or push it away) you will notice that the pain gets worse. When you “accept” the pain, and do not react to it one way or another, but keep the mind balanced, you will see that the pain goes away. This is how you “wear down your desire for doing” – you show the mind over and over again (in meditation if not in life) that suffering happens when the mind rejects an object or goes after it and peace happens when you let the objects be – in the same way that one sinks in quicksand when one struggles but doesn’t when one remains still. You see this lesson over and over again in meditation until the mind pulls back from objects – it stops moving towards them or away from them – rather, it remains equanamous and balanced. It stops fighting the world.
What did the Buddha teach? Suffering and the end of suffering. When the mind sees suffering over and over again and then clearly sees the cause of suffering, it gets worn down – in the same way you would get tired of touching and burning yourself on a hot stove over and over again. In the absence of ignorance, in other words when you are paying attention and being mindful, you begin to clearly see that it is you that is touching the hot stove over and over again, it is you who are causing yourself all your suffering, and you get worn down, and you stop.
May you remain mindful in every moment of every day, may you see the cause of suffering for yourself, and may you discover the end of it.
Gangaji shares a simple message-This is an invitation to shift your allegiance from the activities of your mind to the eternal presence of your being.
Born in Texas in 1942, Gangaji grew up in Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1964, she married and had a daughter. In 1972, she moved to San Francisco where she began exploring deeper levels of her being. She took Bodhisattva vows, practiced Zen and Vipassana meditation, helped run a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center, and had a career as an acupuncturist in the San Francisco Bay area.
Despite her successes, Gangaji continued to experience a deep and persistent longing for fulfillment. She pursued many paths to change her life including relationship, motherhood, political activism, career, and spiritual practice, but even the greatest of her successes ultimately came up short. In the wake of her disillusionment, she made a final prayer for true help. In 1990, the answer to her prayer came unexpectedly, taking her to India and to the meeting that would change everything. There on the banks of the river Ganga, she met Sri H.W.L. Poonja, also known as Papaji, who opened the floodgates of self-recognition. In this meeting, Gangaji’s personal story of suffering ended and the promise of a true life began to flower and unfold.
Today, Gangaji travels the world speaking to seekers from all walks of life. A teacher and author, she shares her direct experience of the essential message she received from Papaji and offers it to all who want to discover a true and lasting fulfillment. Through her life and words, she powerfully articulates how it is really possible to discover the truth of who you are and to be true to that discovery.
We invite you to read The End of All Excuses by Gangaji an in-depth article by Gangaji about her spiritual path and essential experiences.