Christian Cultivation and Consciousness (An Excerpt from my book "Chrsitian Cultivation")
So now the big issue is how exactly we can come to know this real one since we’re doing all this clinging to its manifestations rather than pure body. What’s the method of spiritual practice to come to know God?
It’s not true we should take the sixth consciousness for our master nor take the seventh consciousness as our master either. We should not cling to discriminations since they are not inherent in pure reality either. The basic road of spiritual practice is to therefore learn to let go of any obscuring attachments that stand in the way of realizing the clear base consciousness, the basis of the enlightenment mind, and that means all mental processes of attachment.
How do you purify attachments, how do you empty them out, purify them, let them go or break through them?
You don’t try to use pressure to suppress or destroy attachment but just let everything go. When you try to suppress or destroy these mental knowing, that’s incorrect spiritual practice and yet a lot of people make this mistake. We cannot eliminate or annihilate the seventh consciousness, just as we shouldn’t eliminate the sixth, because if discrimination becomes extinct then we have no knowing. We just have to abandon attachments, like this clinging to the idea of being an inherent ego.
What you have to do is transform consciousness by letting the functions of consciousness actively do their thing but without adding anything extra. Then they will purify out naturally. You might object that you’re already doing that but you’re not, You are always engaged in a subtle process of clinging and attachment than has become so commonplace that you don’t even realize it. That’s the habit energy you must break – it’s so subtle you don’t even know you’re doing it, which is why you’re out of sync with the Father. You don’t even know you’re using energy to attach to consciousness because you’ve become so used to the energy drain.
You have to relearn how to let consciousness function in operation without clinging. It’s the habit of clinging that is the cause of error. If you cease to cling and thereby stop obscuring, then the habit energy of grabbing will die down naturally and the purity of the natural state will reassert itself. Actually the ground state of being is always pure in its essence and functioning, but you’ve wrapped the purity with thoughts to obscure it.
There’s nothing wrong with the first five consciousnesses. They directly reflect the contents of the container consciousness. The problem is the sixth and seventh consciousnesses. That’s where the problem is centered. So let’s look at the thinking mind of the intellect that is centered in the seventh consciousness.
What does the subjective consciousness, the 7th consciousness perceive? You already know that consciousness is just experiencing consciousness, consciousness is just perceiving consciousness. The Kingdom of God is around men but they don’t see it. Mind is just perceiving itself.
Consciousness is always just perceiving the energies of itself but we think there’s really a real external, self-existing world there instead of recognizing we’re just seeing consciousness. We are only experiencing concepts in the mind, even though those concepts look like a real world. We think there is a real world we’re experiencing, other than recognizing we’re just experiencing mind, because of thoughts.
Then we get confused or "forget even further" and start believing that there really is a real being, self or entity inside us experiencing this all when it’s all the same thing …. The “me” thought is part of that manifestation, too, but we forget that. That’s why we’re in delusion.
Since it is all ultimately the eighth consciousness, consciousness is somehow perceiving the perfect base through veils or filters of limiting experience and that’s how delusion or ignorance arises. If you remove those filters you are spiritually enlightened once again.
So here’s the problem. The eighth consciousness or pure base is always there, presence it always there, pure awareness is always there, the nonmoving real is always there, indeterminate reality is always there. There are multiple ways to say it. God is always present in each and every thing.
By attaching to the ever present stream of consciousness as the base, more specifically in attaching to its "perceived portion" as a definite object rather than just letting awareness flow without clinging, the seventh consciousness generates a continuous image of the root consciousness and takes it as a real permanent self. It just happens out of the incidental habit of close association, that’s all.
The thinking ability, the knowing ability we call the seventh consciousness falsely attaches to the base of consciousness because its function of knowing resembles a homogenous series similar to something solid, constant and unitary. It thereby evolves an apparent self that is not a real self. It creates a false realm of duality of subject and object by falsely discriminating out a subject or self.
How’s this happen? It does this through an incidental error of attachment that becomes a habit and then continues obscuring the source as long as the habit is maintained. But habits can leave. They are not permanent. There is hope of liberation.
In discriminating out a subject and object, the continuous event of consciousness knowing itself at the contact point produces a habitual attachment that causes the delusion of an individual self or being to appear. If there were no grasping of this apparent self, if there were no stickiness of perception, there would be no problem.
That’s how the notion of self-identity arises. It’s an attachment of consciousness to itself, a stickiness of perception. This is the arising of the I-am, and it’s bound with desire or self-love, a self-love for continuance, a self-love for existence. That’s why in Christianity and other spiritual schools we say you have to give up self-love and cultivate selflessness. This is why you have heard preachers say to practice selflessness, renunciation and surrender by giving away thoughts, desires and attachments to the small ego and turning everything over to God. That mental charity of poverty, of holding on to nothing, will win you the Kingdom of Heaven.
The seventh falsely transposes its faculty of perception onto an assumed independent self when that self has no reality of its own but is just a bunch of thoughts. Thus the mind of thoughts covers over or distorts the real perceiver nature of awareness by inventing an illusion via the habit of attachment. There is no real self, only various transformations of consciousness that don’t stay. The real self is the root of it all, the support or base from which everything springs – the eighth consciousness.
The fact that this ego doesn’t exist but is only a thought, is why when we search for the ego or I inside ourselves we can never find it. That’s why many spiritual schools ask you to investigate where the sense of “I” comes from. They tell you to ponder deeply “who am I?” or “what am I?” or “What is my real nature?” They have you search inside for the answer in hopes you discover there isn’t anything there.
Awareness is empty of anything you can grab, hold onto, or label as a permanent, self-existing, independent self. It just doesn’t exist. As Christians we can look inside, too. Looking certainly doesn’t violate anything. That’s how you’ll find the proof of what I’m saying and what the saints keep telling us. They are saints, so you should hear what they have to say. If you look, you’ll also find the same answer.
Christian dogma also supports the very same conclusion. Where is the problem? There is no problem. The only problem is people don’t want to use their discrimination. Maybe they’re too immature or lazy or weak, but they just don’t want to turn within and look to see if this is all true. Remember that none of this is religion. It’s all a natural, non-artificial investigation. Anyone can do it. You don’t even need the Bible to know this.
Even if you grew up somewhere without access to the Bible of Christianity you could discover this and prove it yourself. That’s a real, genuine spiritual path because you didn’t need to know any special dogma to achieve anything. It is self authenticating, a true non-contrived, non-artificial path. This point is particularly important because if something is truly real, you shouldn’t need to have knowledge that there was such a being as Christ or there was a book called the Bible in order to be able to find it. And now you’ve proved that to yourself without having to rely on ancient words or letters. Free of dogma, you are able to reach the end point.
All you have to do is let go of thoughts, which means resting the mind. It’s a process of non-effort, and thus isn’t anything artificial anyone made up, and there aren’t any secret steps you have to know. You just rest. You rest the mind of the subtle clinging habit that uses up energy.
That’s why true religions all commonly declare this path. But you should not blindly accept what scriptures say. To become one with the Father and make spiritual progress, you have to see this for yourself and prove it in such a way that the words become your own testament from experience and you can teach others because you proved this yourself. Then you’re qualified to teach Sunday school. This is the real spiritual practice, not memorization of the Bible.
Now just as the sixth consciousness attaches to objects by grasping them, so does the seventh consciousness attach to objects, but in this case mind objects since that’s all it knows. The seventh consciousness is the thinking mind and will, so its whole realm of operation is just mind. It only knows concepts. It attaches to what it knows, which is actually only consciousness itself and in identifying with that knowing of concepts, mistakenly turns that knowing into an apparent I or ego or knower that it believes is real, blinding itself from the reality of pure consciousness as the only real self.
Consciousness only knows consciousness as that’s the only thing it CAN know, but the seventh consciousness forms an attachment to the knowing, and that attachment becomes an obstruction or unreality that filters the experiencing of the original nature. It self-references itself, like a dog biting its own tail, and mistakes the constancy of perception as a real permanent self, for the idea of constancy is just a thought.
Go ahead and look. The idea of being a self is just a thought, which is why you can’t find a self anywhere. It is only in a state of spiritual ignorance that one identifies or confuses that which is impermanent with that which is eternal, that which is impure or colored with that which is pure and unconditioned. Most people identify with the body as their self, but the body will die and then where is the self? If you lose and arm or a leg, is the self still there? How much do you have to lose before you say there is no self any longer?
There is a type of subtle innate mental attachment that builds up image of an apparent ego, self or entityness where there is none. If this habit energy were to only purify or empty out, you’d still experience everything perfectly but just cease to identify with the experiences that arise. Everything would still function fine, only now you’d be one with God and your functioning would be pristine and automatic. There’d be no change as to what really is going on other than for delusion to drop away, so there’s nothing to worry about in this process of purification. You’re not creating anything new that’s incorrect or wrong. You’re just letting go of the only thing you could call original sin or error.
One doesn’t disappear, one doesn’t become annihilated. Awareness still functions but it has no more stickiness of clinging, and thus is free of illusion and errant ways. The false idea of a separate ego or individuality eventually disappears — ignorance leaves – but acting out of the Absolute self, the big Self, the true nature, the Father remains and perception remains. The seventh consciousness faults in taking an image of the eighth consciousness to be the self but that’s not true because the image is just an image, not the self. That’s the problem to be solved within religious striving. We’re all clinging to a made-up imaginary self ego, and we’re usually taking the conscious experience of the body as our self. You have to let go of this and that’s spiritual practice.
I told you that the seventh consciousness assumes a master inside that isn’t there, and that the sixth consciousness isn’t the master as well. The sixth consciousness or discriminating mind gives rise to its own problems. You have all these experiences that arise in your mind due to discrimination. You see, feel, smell, taste things. Sometimes you take what the sixth consciousness serves up for dinner and take that to be the real self. Most usually people identify with the feeling of the body as the self.
Just as Jesus indicated the sixth consciousness was not the master, which is other spiritual schools also tell you to quiet the mind, we also know from Christian dogma that we must give up the self to become one with the Father, so the seventh consciousness is not he master either. We also know from Scripture that Jesus reached the stage where he lost his sense of personal individuality and merged with the Supreme, the Father, the Absolute state, the Original One. We know this because he came right out and said it, “The Father and I are One.” (John 10: 30-34). This is why we take him as our teacher – to realize God is to become God and that’s why Jesus become Christ.
Basically the road of spiritual practice is a road of mental purification to accomplish this feat. We can say that mental attachment or delusion becomes extinct, but we don’t say that consciousness becomes extinct. We say the small self leaves but one gains the true self. We say one gives up everything but gains everything. We say ordinary consciousness becomes purified so that it becomes wisdom, a direct knowing or direct passing through of awareness without clinging.
Here’s how it happens …
If you engage in the correct sort of spiritual practice, your mind of discrimination empties out or clarifies so that it becomes able to see all things without distortion. Discrimination still functions but without clinging, and without clinging there is no distortion.
Shakyamuni explained that the seventh consciousness automatically begins to be transformed as the sixth consciousness of discrimination, of mentally constructing and then clinging to names and labels, is transformed. The seventh has no power of its own to eliminate delusion, because its delusions are all innate rather than distinguished. Through spiritual practices that involve purifying the sixth consciousness, the attachment to the self is gradually eliminated. You don’t need to know the exact how-it-works process, because all you have to do is let go and achieve it. Once again I’m just supplying the technical details in case you’re interested in the process.
When you let go of the habit of naming and holding to discriminations, the seventh consciousness of yours loses its stubborn insistence there is an “I am” and thus you eventually realize the equality of yourself with all things. It’s not that “we are all God’s children” but that everything is God, period. You can actually reach a stage wherein self and others are one whole and there is no difference between anything. It’s a stage of universal unity.
The base of pure consciousness, when you finally let go, becomes like a great omnipresent mirror that can see all things without sticking, so it can reflect everything in the universe perfectly without getting caught up in the displays. That’s what it’s always doing anyway in its radiant shining, but you just don’t realize it.
You don’t have to create anything on the road of spirituality. You just have to let go of your own views and the real nature of things will clarify out naturally to reveal what is, and what is is what we’ve been talking about. That’s what’s always there but you’ve just been obscuring it. The real essence is fully present in each state of consciousness, each and every moment so realization of what always already is is the point, and you already have everything in consciousness that is required.
The very beginning of this road is for you to take a moment to realize that all you are ever experiencing is consciousness, and to “GET IT,” to experientially see this. You are consciousness touching and feeling consciousness.
I’m not talking about an intellectual acknowledgement of this. You have to sit there, close your eyes, think about it and then see it, taste it with realization, authenticate this with a personal understanding because you lived a realization. That’s all … you’re just seeing, hearing, thinking this very moment.
This panorama of thoughts, feelings, forms, phenomena, sensations are just consciousness and not anything else but it’s hard to realize this so Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is around us, but men do not see it. Don’t be that way, be the opposite way. Be one who sees it. Be someone who realizes that the Kingdom itself is consciousness, it is all you ever experience. So Jesus said in the Gosepl of Thomas, “Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."
The next step after this first realization is to just let go and start watching consciousness itself. In Christianity we call this cultivating “quietude” or “silence” because you sit down, close your eyes and then watch whatever arises in your mind but without clinging to whatever arises. Sometimes we call this “surrender.” As you do this, in time your wandering thoughts will die down to produce a quiet realm.
The problem is the habit of attachment to thoughts which you must break, and if you can do that then consciousness will naturally clarify. You just let the mind give birth to whatever arises, but you don’t attach to it. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, “Be passersby.” You just let everything go without attaching to it.
That’s it, that’s all you do. In the Middle Ages the saints would sit in prayer for hours just watching their minds, offering every thought over to God by not clinging. That’s how they would learn to empty themselves, and in time their busy minds quieted down and they began to enter into this silence.
You can’t do this immediately because it takes practice to let go of attachment and let the clinging unwind. When they totally let go, then would find the host, the master, the ultimate source, the Father. It’s just like Jesus said in Mark 13:33-37. You have to keep watch constantly and then one day suddenly it will happen, you will realize It. You will come home. You need constant, diligent practice effort otherwise you will never achieve this awakening.
As the silence, or the non-existence of wandering thoughts, gets deeper and deeper and the habit of clinging begins to unwind from letting go, the thoughts which cloud your unity with God are eventually washed away. You don’t progress all at once but in gradual stages and then there is a sudden final breakthrough. At that point you lose the sense of duality, of being an independent self because the false ego disappears, and you achieve unity. You realize that there is only the Self witnessing all.
We want to be like Christ, we want to emulate him because he reached this stage of selflessness. But people never think about what selflessness means. Only in oneness with God, the Father, the original nature, do you lose all sense of self because the identityness of the “I am” disappears. Consciousness returns to its source, and with consciousness goes the ”I am” since that is one of its products.
In letting go of the products of your mind, eventually things will clarify out and wondrous transformations will occur along the way. In letting go of your insistence that the mundane reality you see is real, you will be able to access all sorts of spiritual states and powers because they will slowly appear as you let go of the coarse layers of the false world. This is what our Christian saints achieved, and what the saints of other traditions achieved by the same sort of practices as well. It is achieved no other way other than by letting go. It’s just a path of mental purity, of not clinging to consciousness.
When Jesus would withdraw into the wilderness, perhaps this is what he was doing although we don’t have the records. We know the Christian desert Fathers would withdraw into themselves by watching their minds, and then eventually lose the sense of self as their thoughts died down. Plenty of Christian saints have described this very exact same thing from all sorts of Christian practices.
Now you know the key, the big secret the organized Churches have been keeping from you. This is what happens on the road of Christian spiritual practice, but certainly not from going to Church on Sunday and attending services. Those are activities that just gain you a bit of merit. Now you know the details.
The objective is to reach the root of all existence, and this is it. But if you just follow normal Christian activities and think this is it then you’re wrong, for Jesus said, "If a blind person leads a blind person, both of them will fall into a hole."
Remember that the starting point is to recognize that the world out there you see is not real but an illusion. It’s not the real, unchanging, ever present One you can rely on that is possible for you to become. It is not the state of bliss that is free from pain and sorrow. It’s just a world of ever changing moments that’s more like a dream, mirage or illusion. There is nothing you can produce that’s forever. It’s like writing a letter of the alphabet in the water, for as soon as you draw the letter it disappears.
That’s yet another analogy to help remind you that whatever you experience is actually just your “mind stuff”…that’s all you are truly ever experiencing. What you experience when you eat the apple or see the apple is not the apple, but just a scenario of consciousness, a changing perturbation of consciousness. You never see an apple…you’re just seeing discriminated pictures of consciousness that you take as an apple, and you forget about this linked chain event process of knowledge that brings you that information. You are not seeing an apple, the real you is only seeing the mind, only seieng ocnsciousness, only seeing concepts. that’s all that the true self is experiencing. The false self is a concept, so of course is enmeshed in the world thinking it’s real. You have to give up that false one.
You can only experience your mind, so I’m telling you that you should get to know the source of your mind. Whatever you have, whatever you experience is only because of consciousness, so what gives rise to consciousness is the root or base or essence of your being that is God, the real nature. You only experience your mind’s knowing of consciousness, the awareness of consciousness. That’s it, that’s all.
If you point your spiritual striving to finding the root source of it all, and then you’ll find It. If you really look, it’s guaranteed you’ll find it because it cannot escape you, it’s always there. If you stop attaching to objects in consciousness including the idea that you are the viewer, you can regain the full experience of being the pristine, immaculate, clear awareness that is one with the source. That’s the stage of spiritual enlightenment.
There is nothing higher than this. When you become that awareness you are everywhere. That’s why Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there." He also said “I am the light of the world.”
You find awareness everywhere because it is everywhere, it never quits, it always shines, it is self-illuminant, self-effulgent but men do not see it, they cannot recognize it, they cannot know it using their present mental habits, and thus it escapes them even though they every moment are using it. It is a difficult spiritual task to recognize it because we get attached to the conscious viewing of the outside world rather than looking within and recognizing the base of consciousness itself.
Forms appearances, the phenomena people perceive are to be regarded as forms born of a dream or vision that have never been created. They are illusions since there are no such things as self or others … it’s all just one whole no matter how big or tiny you make it. The external world exists only in conformity with mind-only, and its intricate network of infinite causation owes its rise to discrimination rather than as things truly born. The things we see and experience, the phenomena of the mind, are of the nature of a vision, and thus being illusions are unborn, unproduced, non-created. They are in a state of non-production.
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