Great Secret of Mind

As usual I have been reading extensively on consciousness – with a particular interest in spiritual development. I was reading Tulku Pema Rigstal’s The Great Secret of Mind, and was severely disappointed in his holding onto outmoded patterns of thought, for a youthful teacher teaching non-duality in the 21st century several of his images were dated and culturally biased. Granting that his translator, Keith Dowman mentioned that the text was prepared for his Tibetan and Nepali students who are young and who “have been alienated by the heavy conservative nature of tradition…” In addition, Dowman mentions that it was also intended for Western Buddhists attracted to Dzogchen.  Even with that cultural caveat,  I was surprised by this passage:

Now let us consider the example of a beautiful woman. Such a woman is seen variously by different beings. To her father, she is a daughter. To her children, she is a mother. To her husband, she is a wife. To a tiger, she is not so much a beautiful woman but is instead something tasty to eat. To the exalted arhat, she is not a beautiful woman at all but rather something unclean and repulsive.

The contrast of the thoroughly post-modern multiple perspectives, and the Buddhist perspective of the emptiness of all forms, with the choice of a ‘beautiful woman” as an example was jarring. This level of objectification of the feminine, depriving her of person-hood, even by hypothetical example, is unacceptable in any teacher today. And the contrasting of the “exalted arhat” (an arhat is a person who has attained the realization of the non-dual perspective) with the woman as “something unclean and repulsive” is pure misogyny.

In addition the teaching while trying to transcend the traditional exposition falls again and again in outdated concepts. Rigstal uses the pre-modern, medieval elemental theory as examples and explanations for many phenomena.

If we regard this body composed of the four great elements (earth, water, fire, and air), we will see that it is generated by the mind. It’s primary cause is the consciousness that has no origin, and its necessary condition is our father’s semen and our mother’s blood.

I was hoping to find a modern, even postmodern exposition of the nondual in this book but had to filter and translate so much of the muddled metaphysics into something comprehensible to myself that it became a chore to read.

Ken Wilber mentions in his essay Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies the pitfall (and proposes a post-modern solution) of the use of the pre-modern physical and metaphysical maps for modern explorers in the spirit realms.

…the metaphysical interpretations the ancients gave their authentic mystical experiences could not take advantage of the profound disclosures of postmodernism, ethnomethodology, cultural contextualism, the sociology of knowledge, and so on. All of those taken together, deliver a devastating indictment: much of what the ancient sages took as metaphysical absolutes are actually culturally molded and conditioned…

This does not mean that there are no cross cultural truths or universals. It simply means that identifying them has to be done with much more care than metaphysics imagined; and that much of this identifying has to be done with research methodology and not speculative metaphysics.

Still looking for good informative 21st century books and readings on non-duality!

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