The Shimmering Dead End
Thoughts on the packaging and sale of nonduality

Making the mountain an inner forest may ease your way

“[We’re] already in the state of awakening; we just have to discover that.” ~Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

I’ve found there to be two main schools of thought which attempt to describe the realization of nondual, or primordial consciousness: the ‘glorious mountaintop’ school and the ‘chop wood, carry water’ school. These denote the metaphor systems employed to make the description. The first makes heavy use the attributes “up,” “higher,” “greater,” “perfected,” “pure,” “chaiste,” and “divine.” The metaphor is one of having defeated the temptations of the world by conquering desire, thus allowing one to ascend the difficult path up the lonely mountain, arriving at a summit that is full of peace, happiness, perfection, magic power, divinity, and the absence of anything that could be considered suffering—but only after the complete extinction of our individual sense of self.

The ‘chop wood, carry water’ school is quite the opposite in terms of its use of superlatives and attributes. We merely see what has always been present, as the Rinpoche describes. When this moment occurs, there is a recognition of what has been ongoing in our awareness, albeit seemingly overlooked. While a subtle shift in personal identity may occur at this moment, nothing else really changes in a life. Why should it? Or more to the point, how could it? The neurobiological component in personal consciousness is subject to its biological processes. Shifts in mind may be immediate, but shifts in personality usually occur over a longer period of time, usually years in most cases.

The ‘glorious mountaintop’ is the defacto home of the folk theory of enlightenment. Most of the Vedic-based systems of thought are saturated with it, as well as their Western deriviates, the neo-Advaita schools. ‘Chop wood, carry water’ finds its purview in Zen, Ch’an, and Dzogchen Buddhism, as well as with just about every individual I have met personally who I regard to be a jnani, or knower of nondual consciousness.

I’d like to suggest that the main problem is simply that our embodied minds take these metaphors too literally. Thus, to make enlightenment something that is higher, greater, more perfect and/or more pure, is to remove it from ourselves in the moment, resulting in the occluding effect of the folk theory of enlightenment.

We cannot escape metaphor, but we can be more strategic in how we employ it. Thus, rather than being something that is higher than where we are right now, our nondual consciousness can be said to be the very heart of our personal identity in each moment of our lives, albeit one that seems apparently, momentarily obscured. Rather than being a journey up a difficult mountain path, we could instead explore our own inner forest. Both require the fearlessness that is a pre-requisite for any sincere spiritual exploration, but one keeps us where we are at, as well as keeping our goal inside us. While the difference may seem slight to some, to our embodied minds, the contrast could be like day and night.

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4 Responses to “Making the mountain an inner forest may ease your way”

  1. This . is . beautiful .

  2. Hi Jody ! “Wow” is all what I can say. This clarity of your words describe from where it comes. Not certainly drifting from the context but surely wish to know some of the Jnanis you could name, you have met in person. That would be really cool. did you make some pilgrimage to meet them as the tradition usually is? Or you just happened to run into them ?

  3. Hey P.S.

    Most of that list I met online, and then I subsequently met them in person. Please note that it’s my personal determination as to their status as jnanis. None of these folks are making much of an effort to market themselves as gurus. Thus, there is an accompanying (and oh so refreshing) lack of self-promotion. Pretty much everyone in the links box on the right is on the list, although the Duhism blog is meant to be more humorous than instructive.

    –jody.

  4. Semantics can be treacherous, they are responsible for much separation. both ‘chop wood’ and ‘ascension’ schools are open to the same thing. you’re right there probably is no real ascension, but these types of words are merely used in an attempt to express something that is ineffable. a lot of times things get lost in translation. doing away with your ego, for instance, should not be doing away with who you are, but rather doing away with all the conditions that cloud who you really are. god the dreamer is in many worlds if every different body is a world unto itself. we are all waves of energy on different levels of vibration, the science of quantum physics will come to agree. we are all, essentially, the same eternal thing. I think the divine reality is one of nonduality. i came to this understanding on my own, prior to encountering the lessons of gurus and prophets. I lost my mind and found it again. I now have a better sense of the truth that lies behind semantic differences and can see how most lessons, if understood correctly, can be congruent with a singular, dare I say, enlightened understanding of reality. I do not claim to be enlightened, i still have knots in my soul to untie 😉

    I hope I’ve given you something to think about,
    peace


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