Saturday, 10 February 2018
Not everyone in the 'spiritual world' greets ecstasy and bliss with such enthusiasm. Some schools of Buddhism are full of sharp wits queuing up to issue stern warnings. 'Bliss, ecstasy, rapture are all very well, but heed my wise words. They are impermanent, just like anything else, fragile as the leaves on the trees in the autumn wind. Pay them attention, get attached at your peril. Suffering will follow in their wake as sure as night follows day.' 'Lofty but still mundane possibilities' is what Sangharakshita calls the jhanas, or higher states of consciousness, which are suffused by such qualities. And that need to emphasise 'mundane' seems to bring bliss, ecstasy, and rapture down into the same category as queuing up at the supermarket check-out.
Fortunately, not all Buddhism views ecstasy in such a dim light. Vajrayana, Tantra, see the energy of bliss as a quickener, creating a kind of short cut to wisdom, or gnosis as I might prefer to call it. It is fuel for the path, as well as a reflection of the blessedness of gnosis in and of itself.
As I sat in a shrine room full of meditators in the 1970s and early 1980s, a wry sense of humour would come over me whenever these bliss-alerts came to mind. One would-be meditator would be sitting there trying to banish fantasies about the girl he saw on the bus en route to the class. Another would be assailed by an avalanche of jobs that needed to be done by the weekend. Another would be engrossed in irritation at the stupid guy he was talking to over a cup of tea before the meditation. Yet another would be shaking and wobbling internally, undergoing his regular visitation from generalised anxiety. And there we were, told to beware of the dangers of too much bliss and ecstasy.
Jana Dixon amplifies on what 'society based on bliss, rather than misery' is actually about. 'The bliss is a permanent background which is impervious to both suffering and pleasure. The bliss is all pervasive. That is, we can be in the worst physical or emotional suffering and still be in radical bliss. Then on top of the bliss there are emotions, desires, suffering, numbness, anhedonia and whatever our relative response to life is at the time.' (Biology of Kundalini, section 'A tolerance for bliss'.)
So, promoting bliss does not mean becoming a 'lightworker' who shuns the dark side of life. It is about background; the programme running quietly yet continuously in the background.
A better feeling for this may come from considering the opposite. As Osho says, a society based upon misery. Everybody will be familiar with this as the backdrop to existence, either from personal experience or from those they are close to. It is the wash providing the context, influencing everything and all. Birthday with lots of nice presents: great, but with a background of misery. Promotion at work: yes, but the background's there. Holiday abroad: sun, sea, sand, and a backdrop of misery.
Spend any substantial time in the company of mainstream media, and I suggest that it is almost impossible to experience life as anything but misery. 'News', current affairs progs and documentaries, soul-destroyers like 'Newsnight' and 'Victoria Derbyshire' on BBC in the UK. My own continued 99% boycotting of these noxious programmes has yielded interesting results. Should I stumble into a thirty-second exposure to such programmes, it is like looking at another world on the other side of a pane of glass. And it is a hell world, composed of pure evil. 'Are you telling me that this.... is..... the....world?' I ask slack-jawed in disbelief. It is a synthetic, manufactured version of 'what is important'; and it is purpose-designed to instruct the viewer that life, the world, is misery. It's a lie, a vicious piece of mind control. Better by far the way of bliss.
Image: Chinnamasta. Or, from Tantric Buddhism, it could be Chinnamunda, a form of Vajrayogini. When I saw this thangka, I immediately thought 'Ah, Kundalini.'