Sanatan Dharma - Shaucha

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Sanatan Dharma - Shaucha

Postby Rumpelteazer » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:26 pm

Cheltenham Group Meeting 19/01/2012
Continuing our study of putting Sanatan Dharma into practice, this week we looked at the fifth principle, Shaucha - cleanliness. We felt that the concept of purity was a more helpful way of looking at the subject, and considered purity of body, mind and heart.
20120119 Shaucha.doc
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In answer to the question "what practices help you develop awareness of the body", group members mentioned the Alexander Technique and Iyengar yoga. Both of these help in producing stillness and clarity of mind as well as correct habits of movement and posture. Another group member uses observation of unnecessary tension in the body as a way of alerting her to identification. Deliberate relaxation reduces the stranglehold of identification to the point where it can be gently released.

It seems to be relatively easy to say "This is not I" to the things we don't like about ourselves. But what about all our good qualities - those attributes or natural talents which are appreciated by others and seen as kind or helpful or enriching? Those are also "not I" but it's very hard not to claim them for ourselves.
One person remarked on how the quotation on pre-attention had entirely changed her attitude to practice. It showed how all the 'hindrances to Self-realisation' that H.H. talked about are actually habitual pathways in the brain that operate below the level of conscious experience. So the purpose of practice is to change these habitual pathways. Trying to change what is going on in the cortex each time something 'bad' arises is not going to help significantly. What is needed is the indirect approach of a large amount of regular, persistent practice of meditation, self-observation, and attention. It is interesting that these three practices occur in some form in almost all esoteric traditions and mystical branches of religions.
Several agreed that we should be focusing on self-observation as an essential method for purifying the Antahkaran.

Most people found it difficult to 'draw a line in water'. One person asked: 'if we have to be without thoughts all the time, not thinking about what we've just done or what we are going to do next, that sounds like a very empty life - filled with nothing at all. And how can anything happen?' Another replied 'that's how it is meant to be. Things will just happen anyway. You don't need to think about it.'
One person was particularly attracted by Thich Nhat Hhan's method of dealing with negative emotion. She mentioned his more detailed description of a five step process which occurs later in the book:
  1. Observe the negative feeling.
  2. Own it. It is within you - not produced by someone else.
  3. Hold it in the mind in conjunction with the memory of your aim, or your love for Param-Atman.
  4. Comfort it as a mother comforts a child and allow it to disappear.
  5. Examine the causes. (Usually a threat to I - the strong individual that I think I am, Me - the vulnerable creature that gets hurt by others, or Mine - the things I think I possess which I'm not going to let go of.)

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Re: Shaucha - group exercise

Postby Rumpelteazer » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:46 am

The following exercise, based on this paper, had been set by the group-taker:
James Austin, in Zen and the Brain, suggests that ‘Mindfulness . . . means paying bare attention to ongoing perceptions.’ In a following passage he says, ‘ But to become this mindful of the world, the person must first slow down. Only then does one begin to really look at life, observe it and start to see it afresh for what it really is. And this is one of the major functions of meditation: to reduce distractions and slow the flow.’
Perhaps, during the time before our next meeting, we can, in our own way, start to practise this state of Mindfulness in order to explain what it means to ‘see life afresh’ and next week to share any experiences and raise any questions.

At the start of the next meeting we discussed our experiences:
  1. (Written): “It’s been a particularly busy week for me – busy in the mental, but not the physical sense as long periods have been spent working at the laptop, grappling with the printed word, sending and receiving emails, chasing up copyright issues, etc., etc. All mentally absorbing and challenging at times.

    So, it’s been a good time to practise the exercise – when Buddhi has been strong enough to remind me, of course. What’s struck me is that when I’ve remembered there is first a mental pause that then prompts a physical slowing. An example: while making a cup of tea and remembering the exercise, I slowed the physical movement – just a fraction – and then I became aware that attention and concentration became clearer visually and more acute. Colours, shapes and movement were more defined and held in a prolonged moment. Perhaps that is the ‘seeing afresh’. It isn’t a ‘Road to Damascus’ experience, but it certainly might open the perception to allow it in one day!

    Another example, walking to the shop: the mental remembrance and then the prompting of physical slowing brought more of the immediate environment to one’s attention.

    I have learnt that this week my thoughts, etc. have been moving very quickly – much too quickly – and that this exercise has really pointed out what needs to be done. Slow down!

    I think, when I remember, it brings to mind the stillness that one can experience in Meditation. I was reading the Record this week and Lord Allan said: ‘The Mantra is the Word of the Absolute, its rhythm that of Creation. That is what one is hearing when one listens to it. In complete stillness one is at one with this.’ (1964,p.72)"

  2. I found it hard to slow down mentally. But when I managed it, things that I normally consider to be quite boring became interesting and I noticed all sorts of things I would never previously have noticed. I had another experience that seemed to be related. I had been unable to go to a concert that I was very keen on. A friend of mine had gone and had phoned me afterwards with a very full and evocative description of the music, the performers, their expressions and the emotional effect it had produced. As my friend was talking, it was so vivid that it seemed as though I had been there myself. Somehow, her clear memory had been transmitted directly into my mind.

  3. I found that thoughts kept coming in over and over again. Sometimes I could just ignore them, but eventually they made me angry with myself. Then after much frustration I remembered being told some time ago that the Work should be pleasurable. In that moment I realised that I was spending much of the time not being in the present – getting angry about my failure in the immediate past, and concerned about whether my performance could be improved in the immediate future. Having seen how ridiculous this was, practising suddenly became relaxed, happy and easy, I was able to enjoy everything I encountered and the intrusive thoughts disappeared.

  4. I found it to be a very useful exercise. In the normal way I frequently bang my head on things through inattention. But when ironing in an area in which it would be very easy to bang one’s head, practice of this exercise prevented this occurring.

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