"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, April 11, 2011

Deep Seeing through the 'Headless Way'

Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886)
"Swami Vivikenanda's teacher, the great 19th-century Indian sage Sri Ramkrishna, presciently observed that, "God is in the microcosm and the macrocosm." Poor, and lacking formal education (even by the then standards of education in British India), Ramakrishna was nonetheless able to convey truths that a century-and-a-half-later are at the heart of the convergence of spirituality, psychology and science. With the blossoming of a spirituality in the West informed by the ancient wisdom traditions of the East, the Jungian psychology of the collective unconscious, and the advent of relativity and quantum theory as the dominant paradigms in science, Sri Ramakrishna's brief observation seems evermore prescient today.

The late Douglas Harding, a truly enlightened spiritual teacher in his own right, put it this way:
"The world’s great mystics have a common message: There is a Reality which is Indivisible, One, Alone, the Source and Being of all; not a thing, nor even a mind, but pure Spirit or clear Consciousness; and we are That and nothing but That, for That is our true Nature; and the only way to find It is to look steadily within, where are to be found utmost peace, unfading joy, and eternal life."
(From "Religions of the World" by Douglas Harding)
Science’s answer says Harding, is that who you are depends on the range of the observer:
"You are human, but at closer ranges you are cells, molecules, atoms, particle. Viewed from further away your body becomes absorbed into the rest of society, life, the planet, the star, the galaxy. Science’s objective view of you – zooming towards and away from you - reveals a hierarchically organized system of layers that is alive, intelligent and beautiful. Thus you have many layers, like an onion. You need every one of these layers to exist. Your human identity, vital and important as it is, is just one of these layers. You are also sub-human and supra-human."
Neither science nor religion can, however, answer the question of who we are "at the center of (our) many layers. "The scientist cannot say because she can only observe you from a distance. However close she gets to you," he remarks, "she can only observe you from a distance. However close she gets to you, she remains outside of you. What or Who you really are, the Ground of Being remains a mystery."

While there are vast chasms between the accepted paradigms of science, metaphysics and psychology, the leading edges of these disciplines appear to be converging on the same truths, albeit they are described in different terms, all of which are concerned with the question: "What is consciousness."

Douglas Harding (1909-2007)
Indeed, in his masterful book, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, best-selling author and spiritual convert, Gary Zhukav contrasts the views of the great psychologist Carl Jung with those of his close friend and colleague, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, Wolfgang Pauli. His conclusion? That modern physics has become "the study of the structures of consciousness."

Douglas Harding's teachings of radical non-duality, focus on the mechanisms by which a person's unexamined worldview helps to create the illusion of
individuality and a separateness from 'everything else,' on the mechanisms that help create what  Einstein called "an optical delusion of consciousness, or, in psychological terms, on what psychologists and most spiritual teachers call the ego.

To counter this "optical delusion of consciousness," and to come to rest in a higher consciousness beyond the ego, Harding taught what he called "the Headless Way." Elaborating on the intensive, experimental, 'top-down' nature of his "Headless Way" experiments, Harding remarked:
"Over the past [sixty] years a truly contemporary and Western way of 'seeing into one's Nature' or 'Enlightenment' has been developing. Though in essence the same as Zen, Sufism, and other spiritual disciplines, this way proceeds in an unusually down-to-earth fashion. It claims that modern man is more likely to see Who he really is in a minute of active experimentation than in years of reading, lecture-attending, thinking, ritual observances, and passive meditation of the traditional sort. Instead of these, it uses a variety of simple, non-verbal, fact-finding tests, all of them asking: how do I look to myself? They direct my attention to my blind spot - to the space I occupy, to what's given right here at the Center of my universe, to what it's like being 1st-person singular, present tense."
To experience this radical new way of "seeing" who and what you are, and to participate in what Harding called his "experiments" in seeing, visit the www.headless.org website and its "experiments" page that contains a number of his Zen-like practices.

In the following video, Harding explains his "Headless Way."

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