‘Tanzt, tanzt sonst sind wir verloren.’
‘Tanzt, tanzt sonst sind wir verloren.’
Dhyāna, or Formal Meditation, an elemental, time-tested tool is the single-best practice to sight the Self-Loop, to grab the swirling cat’s tail.
It’s why most formal representations of The Buddha have him in Padmasana.
Meditation Practice is the cultivation of the act of ‘Seeing Straight’. The precise practice of seeing without blinking or winking.
It is the ancestor of ‘The Scientific Stance’; the sustained aseptic posture of a ‘Disinterested Alertness’, the original laboratory.
It is the perfected posture to trek the ‘Backward Step’. Take it.
A search for Shūnyam without a Meditation Practice in place is a bad idea. It will simply unhinge your basic beliefs and throw you into a free-fall. You’ll need to call Mama.
Just get on the Mat.
The track of the Meditator is fairly well-established. After a lengthy period of investigating conceptual and concrete Objects and repeatedly catching himself chasing his tail in braided, layered self-referential loops, his focus turns inwards towards the Subject, the Investigator himself.
This is the entry into the long hall of mirrors. The very slippery search for ‘Self’ by an assumed ‘Self’. Is there a real Subject? Or is it little more than Object confounded as ‘Subject’? No clarity is possible until you keep stepping back to see what is in front of you.
This ‘Backward Step’ terminates at True Nothing. And this is necessarily preceded by: ‘The [Self-Scuttling] Sight-Insight [‘Observation-Understanding’] on the very nature of Sight-Insight’. The final act of investigative Meditation Practice.
Nowadays Meditation Practice is recommended for everything from lowering anxiety to heightening libido. Wonderful; go for it. But Meditation Practice originally began as an investigative stance.
In the best known lines from Plato’s Phaedrus:
‘But I [Socrates] have no leisure for them [other inquiries] at all.
And the reason, my friend, is this: I am not yet able, as the Delphic inscription [Gnothi Seauton] has it, to know myself; so it seems to me ridiculous, when I do not yet know that, to investigate irrelevant things.’
Now what did monks in the 11th century do when not making fine brandies?
Monks meditate, navel-gaze, step ‘Backward’, go ‘Inward’.
When was the last time your Philosophy Professor suggested a moment’s quiet breathing before discussing the ‘Meaning of Meaning’? Ten minutes of Formal Meditation preceding John Rawls?
You can do a Doctorate in Philosophy today in the best universities without ever raising the question of the ‘Subject’ doing the Inquiry.
If you suggest that it may be relevant, the Professor will likely take you aside and suggest that you might be better suited for Art History.
The word Pundit [Puṇḍita], a scholar, learned teacher, has its roots in the first Vedic texts. The English word ‘Professor’ derives from the medieval Latin Prō-fitērī: ‘To acknowledge, confess, avow a religious order’. It’s origins are monastic.
Did you know that by most reliable accounts the world’s oldest University still giving courses is Bologna, founded in 1088 C.E.?
And that it originated in the monastic schools that had been active for nearly 400 years until the University was established?
No? And you have a degree from Oxford [1167 C.E.]?
The word ‘University’, in spite of its loose use, is a very specific term for an institution that birthed in the Western historical and religious tradition. There were numerous large Instituitions of Learning that predated the specific concept of the University [Nalanda or Takshasheela, for example] but they are not to be called ‘Universities’.
In those days, you dictated your risky love-letter to a monk who wrote it and passed it on, to be read to the ear of your Beloved by an equally celibate monk. Difficult days.
Instead of continuing the ‘Backward Step’ all the way back to Shūnyam, the inquirers stopped short at Tat [That].
And this is the very point at which the radical scholar-monks of the emerging Buddha-Dharma pick up the thread [circa 500 BCE]. And carry it, continue the back-step, all the way back to True Nothing. And Not-Two.
The short-stopped terminus of this ‘Inward Turn’ was declared the Summum Bonum of the Dharma itself: Tat Tvam Asi: ‘That Are’t Thou’.
And it is this Mahavakya [‘Summary Truth’, literally, ‘Great Utterance’] that gets repositioned in the new Buddha-Dharma as: Tat-āgatha.
We’ll get to tracing the route of the revision in later Posts after we first present Yagnavalkya’s Rule.
It was in the Upanishads, most conclusively in the Chandogya Upanishad, one of the two earliest extant texts [circa 1,500 BCE], that the Subject of Inquiry was emphasized as not simply relevant but pivotal in any proper investigative undertaking. This was the definitive turn ‘Inwards’.
The modern assumption that the Subject can be ignored as long as the Object was clearly in view was, after repeated and painful experimentation, found to be false.
Honest Inquiry began inwards, backwards. The assumed Subject had to be clearly identified first, the Inquirer’s Platform laid bare, prior to any investigation on a modeled Object.
In time there spread a wider appreciation of the issues involved. That this type of Inquiry was of a very special and perilous character, that any inquiry on the nature of the Subject, by an assumed Subject, was fraught with miscues, wrong turns and short stops.
The rounding of the circle comes much later in the Prajna Paramita. But the ‘Inward Turn’ which was formalized in the Sutra as the ‘Backward Step’ leading to Shūnyam was born a millenium earlier.
The Sutras could not have birthed if not for the documentation left behind by these first pioneers.