Buddhism and the Way of Liberation

Ancient approaches to homeostasis were not always in the form of trance or possession though. Two thousand five hundred years ago Guatama the Buddha gave an impulse to the world which has developed a quite different relationship with self regulatory processes. In terms of homeostasis we can see these as Zen meditation. Tibetan Buddhism, the Chinese meditation described in the book The Secret of The Golden Flower, and Vipassana meditation. In these an open permitting state of consciousness is held. Thus the experiences described under Shaktipat may arise into consciousness. In the Buddhist tradition though, these are held back from physical expression and seen as illusory aspects of self which will pass away. As with Shaktipat and most of the older approaches, one seldom hears of people experiencing transforming childhood experience. The direct experience of ourselves in this way is more Western than Eastern, though definitely not our exclusive property. What is noticeable in the Buddhist tradition is more of an emphasis on introversion and withdrawal from the external activity. Thus, what is discovered within is seldom used to change social structure in the way described in chapter seven. But in its essence, Buddhism does not suggest this one sidedness of retreat. And in the techniques of Zen and Vipassana, especially in their Western adaptations, a really helpful approach to homeostasis is seen. Perhaps the most useful aspect of the training is in the opening and letting go of the ego, yet learning not to be lost in the forces and images which arise.

A very clear example of this is given in Tibetan Buddhism. Such teachings are very old. In her book Secret Oral Teachings of Tibetan Buddhist Sects, Alexandra David—Neal writes:

Liberation is achieved by the practice of non-activity,

say the Masters of the Secret Teachings.

What is, according to them, non-activity? Let us first of all notice that it has nothing in common with the quietism of certain Christian or oriental mystics. Ought one to believe that it consists in inertia and that the disciples of the Masters who honour it are exhorted to abstain from doing anything whatever? Certainly not. In the first place it is impossible for a living being to do nothing. To exist is, in itself, a kind of activity. The doctrine of non—action does not in any way aim at those actions which are habitual in life such as eating, sleeping, walking, speaking, reading, studying, etc. In contradistinction to the Taoist mystics who, in general, consider that the practice of non—activity requires complete isolation in a hermitage, the Masters of the Secret Teachings, although prone to appreciate the ‘joys of solitude’, do not consider them in any way indispensable. As for the practice of non-activity itself, they judge it as absolutely necessary for the production of the state of deliverance.

What then is this activity from which one ought to abstain? It is the disordered activity of the mind which, unceasingly, devotes itself to the work of a builder erecting ideas, creating an imaginary world in which it shuts itself like a chrysalis in its cocoon.

In the Buddhist meditation called Vipassana, the process of self regulation is allowed to let the flow of consciousness present ones innate images, fears, hopes and imaginings about life and death, and to recognise them for what they are — images, fears, hopes and ideas. In this way the attachment and even pain we experienced in connection with them falls away in some degree. That is liberation.

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