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Spiritual development is the development of the personality towards a religious or spiritual desired better personality.
Theravada - samatha and vipassana
In the Theravada-tradition traditions two types of Buddhist meditation practices are being followed, namely samatha (Pāli; Sanskrit: śamatha; "calm") and vipassana (insight).[web 1] Samatha is a primary meditation aimed at calming the mind, and it is also being used in other Indian traditions, most notably dhyana as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Contemporary Theravada orthodoxy regards samatha as a preparation for vipassanā, pacifying the mind and strengthening the concentration in order to allow the work of insight, which leads to liberation. In contrast, the Vipassana Movement argues that insight levels can be discerned without the need for developing samatha further due to the risks of going out of course when strong samatha is developed. For this innovation the Vipassana Movement has been criticised, especially in Sri Lanka.[web 2]
Though both terms appear in the Sutta Pitaka, Gombrich and Brooks argue that the distinction as two separate paths originates in the earliest interpretations of the Sutta Pitaka, not in the suttas themselves.[note 1] The suttas contain traces of ancient debates between Mahayana and Theravada schools in the interpretation of the teachings and the development of insight. Out of these debates developed the idea that bare insight suffices to reach liberation, by discerning the Three marks (qualities) of (human) existence (tilakkhana), namely dukkha (suffering), anatta (non-self) and anicca (impermanence).
Another example of this further development is the Zen Buddhist training, which does not end with kenshō. Practice is to be continued to deepen the insight and to express it in daily life.[note 2] To deepen the initial insight of kensho, shikantaza and kōan-study are necessary. This trajectory of initial insight followed by a gradual deepening and ripening is expressed by Linji Yixuan in his Three mysterious Gates, the Five Ranks, the Four Ways of Knowing of Hakuin, and the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures which detail the steps on the Path.
Ramana Maharshi frequently recommended Vichara, "Self-enquiry", also called ātma-vichār or jnana-vichara, as the most efficient and direct way of realizing Self-awareness, in response to questions on self-liberation and the classic texts on Yoga and Vedanta.[web 3] It is the constant attention to the inner awareness of "I" or "I am",[note 3][note 4] and is also the method which was followed by Nisargadatta Maharaj.
According to Ramana Maharshi, the I-thought[note 5] is the sense of individuality: "(Aham, aham) ‘I-I’ is the Self; (Aham idam) “I am this” or “I am that” is the ego." By paying attention to the 'I'-thought, inquiring where it comes from,[web 6][note 6] the 'I'-thought will disappear and the "shining forth" (sphurana)[web 8] of "I-I"[web 4][note 7] or Self-awareness will appear.[note 8] This results in an "effortless awareness of being",[web 6] and by staying with it[web 8][note 9] this "I-I" gradually destroys the vasanas "which cause the 'I'-thought to rise."[web 6] When the vasanas disappear, the mind, vritti[note 10] also comes to rest, since it centers around the 'I'-thought, and finally the 'I'-thought never rises again, which is Self-realization or liberation:[web 6]
If one remains still without leaving it, even the sphurana – having completely annihilated the sense of the individuality, the form of the ego, 'I am the body' – will itself in the end subside, just like the flame that catches the camphor. This alone is said to be liberation by great ones and scriptures. (The Mountain Path, 1982, p. 98)." [web 8][note 11]
Robert Forman notes that Ramana Maharshi made a distinction between samadhi and sahaja samadhi. Samadhi is a contemplative state, which is temporarily, while in sahaja samadhi a "silent state" is maintained while engaged in daily activities. Forman notes that "the first experience of samadhi [by Ramana] preceded sahaja samadhi by several years."
Robert Forman, who is a long-term Transcendental meditation practitioner, with over 40 years of practice,[web 12] describes the "Pure Consciousness Event," a state of consciousness which is similar to transcendental consciousness in transcendental meditation. TM describes seven states of consciousness; "pure" or"transcendental consciousness" is the fourth state of consciousness, and the first of four transcendental states of consciousness, which eventually end in full enlightenment.[web 13][note 12]
According to Forman, introvertive mysticism is a transient, contemplative state, akin to samadhi, while extroverted mysticism is a more developed form of mysticism, akin to sahaja samadhi, a "silent state" which is maintained while engaged in activity. Shear, also a long-term TM-practitioner, also notes that Stace regarded extroverted mysticism to be a less complete form of mysticism, but was puzzled by the fact that there are far more descriptions of introverted mysticism than of extroverted mysticism. Shear proposes a developmental sequence of three higher states of consciousness:
- HS1: the recognition of pure consciousness/emptiness
- HS2: the stable presence of this pure consciousness/emptiness throughout all activity
- HS3: the recognition of this pure consciousness/emptiness as the ground of all being
According to Shear, HS1 corresponds to Stace's introverted mysticism, whereas HS3 corresponds to Stace's extroverted mysticism, and is actually the more developed form of mystcism, in contrast to what Stace supposed.
Several psychologists have proposed models in which religious experiences are part of a process of transformation of the self.
Carl Jung's work on himself and his patients convinced him that life has a spiritual purpose beyond material goals. Our main task, he believed, is to discover and fulfil our deep innate potential, much as the acorn contains the potential to become the oak, or the caterpillar to become the butterfly. Based on his study of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Taoism, and other traditions, Jung perceived that this journey of transformation is at the mystical heart of all religions. It is a journey to meet the self and at the same time to meet the Divine. Unlike Sigmund Freud, Jung thought spiritual experience was essential to our well-being.
The notion of the numinous was an important concept in the writings of Carl Jung. Jung regarded numinous experiences as fundamental to an understanding of the individuation process because of their association with experiences of synchronicity in which the presence of archetypes is felt.
McNamara proposes that religious experiences may help in "decentering" the self, and transform it into an integral self which is closer to an ideal self.
Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the transpersonal, self-transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human experience. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology describes transpersonal psychology as "the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness" (Lajoie and Shapiro, 1992:91). Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance and other metaphysical experiences of living.
- Moral development
- Personality development
- Spiritual bypass
- Brooks: "While many commentaries and translations of the Buddha's Discourses claim the Buddha taught two practice paths, one called "shamata" and the other called "vipassanā," there is in fact no place in the suttas where one can definitively claim that."
- See, for example:
* Contemporary Chan Master Sheng Yen: "Ch'an expressions refer to enlightenment as "seeing your self-nature". But even this is not enough. After seeing your self-nature, you need to deepen your experience even further and bring it into maturation. You should have enlightenment experience again and again and support them with continuous practice. Even though Ch'an says that at the time of enlightenment, your outlook is the same as of the Buddha, you are not yet a full Buddha."
* Contemporary western Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett: "One can easily get the impression that realization, kenshō, an experience of enlightenment, or however you wish to phrase it, is the end of Zen training. It is not. It is, rather, a new beginning, an entrance into a more mature phase of Buddhist training. To take it as an ending, and to "dine out" on such an experience without doing the training that will deepen and extend it, is one of the greatest tragedies of which I know. There must be continuous development, otherwise you will be as a wooden statue sitting upon a plinth to be dusted, and the life of Buddha will not increase."
- Ramana's written works contain terse descriptions of self-enquiry. Verse thirty of Ulladu Narpadu: "Questioning 'Who am I?' within one's mind, when one reaches the Heart, the individual 'I' sinks crestfallen, and at once reality manifests itself as 'I-I'. Though it reveals itself thus, it is not the ego 'I' but the perfect being the Self Absolute.[web 3] Verses nineteen and twenty of Upadesa Undiyar describe the same process in almost identical terms: "'Whence does the 'I' arise?' Seek this within. The 'I' then vanishes. This is the pursuit of wisdom. Where the 'I' vanished, there appears an 'I-I' by itself. This is the infinite.[web 4]
- According to Krishna Bhikshu, an early biographer of Ramana Maharshi, "[a] new path for attaining moksha was indicated here. Nobody else had discovered this path earlier." According to David Frawley, "atma-vichara" is the most important practice in the Advaita Vedanta tradition, predating its popularisation by Ramana Maharshi.[web 5] It is part of the eighth limb of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which describes the various stages of samadhi. Meditation on "I-am-ness" is a subtle object of meditation in savikalpa samadhi. It is also described in the Yoga Vasistha, a syncretic work which may date from the 6th or 7th century CE, and shows influences from Yoga, Samkhya, Saiva Siddhanta and Mahayana Buddhism, especially Yogacara. The practice is also well-known from Chinese Chán Buddhism, especially from Dahui Zonggao's Hua Tou practice.
- Ahamkara or Aham-Vritti[web 6]
- According to Ramana Maharshi, one realises that it rises in the hṛdayam (heart). "Hṛdayam" consists of two syllables 'hṛt' and 'ayam' which signify "I am the Heart".[web 7] The use of the word "hṛdayam" is not unique to Ramana Maharshi. A famous Buddhist use is the Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sutra, the Heart Sutra
- "Nan-nan," literally "I-I", also translated as "I am, I am", "being-consciousness",[web 9] and "I am I".[web 10] According to David Godman, the "I-I" is an intermediary realisation between the "I" (ego) and the Self. "[T]he verses on 'I-I' that Bhagavan wrote are open to two interpretations. They can be taken either to mean that the 'I-I' is experienced as a consequence of realisation or as a precursor to it. My own view, and I would stress that it is only a personal opinion, is that the evidence points to it being a precursor only.[web 11]
- Ramana Maharshi: "(Aham, aham) ‘I-I’ is the Self; (Aham idam) “I am this” or “I am that” is the ego. Shining is there always. The ego is transitory; When the ‘I’ is kept up as ‘I’ alone it is the Self; when it flies at a tangent and says “this” it is the ego."  David Godman: "the expression 'nan-nan' ('I-I' in Tamil) would generally be taken to mean 'I am I' by a Tamilian. This interpretation would make 'I-I' an emphatic statement of Self-awareness akin to the biblical 'I am that I am' which Bhagavan occasionally said summarised the whole of Vedanta. Bhagavan himself has said that he used the term 'I-I' to denote the import of the word 'I'."[web 3]
- According to Sadu Om, self-enquiry can also be seen as 'Self-attention' or 'Self-abiding'.
- Conceptual thinking, memory, the creation of "things" in the mind
- Ramana Maharshi: "Liberation (mukti) is the total destruction of the I-impetus aham-kara, of the "me"- and "my"-impetus (mama-kara)".
- See also Fred Travis, Summary of Research on Higher States of Consciousness
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