Some fairly advanced articles
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October 20, 2016
By Michael Erlewine (Michael@Erlewine.net)

Awareness is a natural product of removing obscurations, plain and simple. There is no point at which the dharma techniques themselves generate any awareness. Their only function is purification by removing impediments to awareness. Dharma practices hopefully facilitate awareness, but they are not themselves awareness. By removing obscurations, awareness is what remains. So, don’t look for increased awareness as something coming from outside, like from on high. Awareness can only be found inside and is naturally always already there.

So, unless we are actively removing obscurations through our dharma practice, nothing will happen. No awareness will ever arise, because, as mentioned, awareness is always already there, just hidden by our own obscurations. It’s not like when we rub two sticks together, we get fire. If we understand that, then it should be clear how important it is to practice effectively and under authentic guidance. Anything less and, as mentioned, no awareness will result and through ineffective practice, further obscuration may even accumulate.

This is why it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of practice by any other method than direct results. Reciting a mantra 108,000 times does not guarantee anything. Practicing a dharma technique for a certain length of time, even years, is no guarantee either. These are just convenient approximations, but it is difficult to measure awareness except by direct achievement. Awareness does not come from our teacher, but only from us. We already have it, but just don’t know it.

The bottom-line advice is to follow our teacher’s instructions with great care until awareness actually results. It is KEY to accept that we have no idea what greater awareness, much less realization or enlightenment, is like. We are blind to our inherent awareness, except perhaps in fits and snatches. Just as there is no free lunch, there is no way (at least that I know of) to practice by rote or to automatically be mindful. Mindfulness requires just that, actually being mindful. We can’t just throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.

Because of this, we can see why the great siddhas suggest that many small sessions of practice, done with the proper intent, are often better than grinding out a long session during which we are not fully present. In other words, we have to be there (and learn how to be there) 100% for dharma practice to be effective. We can’t fake it and nothing less than our full attention is required.

In summary, there is no back door to awareness, to realization, and to enlightenment. As the New Testament says, “Straight is the gate and narrow the way.” For each of us, there is only one way to realization and that is the removal of our own particular obscurations. While we all may share common types of obscuration, the removal of our personal set (and their particular arrangement in our case) is unique to us and probably has to be undertaken in a certain order.

To me, the message here is that, unlike many things in life, we can’t just put dharma practice on automatic and expect anything good to result. It seems better to do a small amount of practice carefully, with mindfulness and direction, than to risk staining our practice by forcing or doing it by rote. There is no substitute to full attention and actually doing it. This could be the one thing in life that we can’t skimp on and still have any success.
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