I don't disagree with you, but I would say there is most certainly a Self. I don't really like the term emptiness because I feel that what we are is so 'Full' and not empty. Granted not the self we believe ourselves to be via thought, but an Eternal Self where all is connected when thought stops. My own experiences......
I've had profound experiences in the past when I initially had my awakening and when I joined this site where thoughts stopped and everything was just seemingly blissful. Tolle's reference of 'Space' was what did it for me at the time. I had many long stretches of this over a series of months in 2013, and while everything seemed just "is" and it's hard to describe, there was still an 'I AM' for sure, granted it was almost like 'I' was aware that nothing I was experiencing represented the true me and I was constantly aware of my thoughts and feelings almost like being in a heightened state of awareness, but without any kind of stress. It was meditation all of the time for me as I rarely hooked on to anything in my experience and it made for quite a blissful number of months. And I realized that no matter the apparent separation of I (from this body) from a different I (another person, animal, etc), there was still the eternal I AM that had no separation beyond thinking and it was only thinking that creates the notion of separation and this was very strong and important for me I felt because it was a glimpse as it turned out as eventually the thinking mind took over again and claimed ownership to little me and my life seemed to tread back into ego almost full force and it's right now, it's probably been the most toughest times I've had to experience on my spiritual journey because of the ego. But, I also feel that I know there's a way beyond thought.
Zen, on to your post.
Regarding enlightenment taking many lifetimes - personally I don't find considering my prior or future lifetimes very helpful. When I find myself pondering what I've been or what I will be I get lost in those thoughts. Instead I like to remind myself of the unifying factor within all those experiences. Each experience is Now. Literally, undivided, Now. Enlightenment will happen Now. It cannot happen any other time. (I know you are aware of this, but I know I need to constantly be reminded of this fundamental fact [it's rare I say 'fact' but in this case I feel it's justified] so thought it was worth mentioning). Also I do see your point that we live multiple lifetimes to advance spiritually and this is unlikely to be our last - but it might. Either way it's an assumption and focusing on the moment feels more helpful to me.
An assumption it may be, but it feels very likely for me. But, that's not why I referenced it. It was just a phrase I was using and nothing more, in reference to what full enlightenment might be, as you described in your last post (with no desires and no fears) as that would seemingly take multiple lifetimes to finally get to the root of all of our conditioning. On the other hand......
Personally, I believe it is possible to be completely free from attachment to desire and fear leading to total liberation from vibratory experiences. This would not mean an end to these experiences, but rather a freedom to experience while being fully aware that you are not these experiences - that you are the awareness that experiences and is the source of all experience but not in any way contained by these experiences.
This to me, seems a bit different than what you were prescribing in the previous post. Meaning, non attachment to desires and fears is far different in my book than actually not having desires and fears which is seemingly what I thought you were saying. Maybe you still were?
Sometimes I desire romantic relationships. I haven't been in one for a few years, though there have been a couple of brief encounters since then. When I contemplate these things I am reminded that none of these desires have ever been fully satisfied. At one time I was in a romantic relationship that I thought was perfect. That led me to desire it to continue as my vision of perfection. This led to the tensions and fears of it ending. Leading to jealousy and me pushing this person away in an attempt to avoid the fulfilment of my fears. In the sense of partnership - relationships have never provided lasting peace for me - no true satisfaction. So these desires now feel like something it would be wise for me to let go of. Doing so is a work in progress. The same for sex and masturbation. Both provided temporary relief which is counterbalanced by the tension of the absence of that relief. If i had sex I may feel satisfied for a brief time, but this will fuel future dissatisfaction when my sexual desires are not met. Fuelling this cycling of desire of experience and fear of absence of experience feels foolish to me. That isn't to say I don't have sexual desires and fears. Just that I am starting to see that they (and all fears and desires) are a hinderance to spiritual progression which is the only way within my awareness for true, lasting peace.
I also believe that letting go of desire and fear does not mean an ending of relationships. Rather, it would be the beginning of relationships without the tyranny of conditions, which would be better for all.
Ok, THIS now. This late quote is wonderful and I fully agree. Please understand that I'm not suggesting that relationships (romantic) are based on desire. No, not at all. I'm simply implying that romance still has at some level, even the most basic level of desire that is there. I don't think it's possible to completely eradicate desire 100 percent from your relationship with your partner especially where sex is involved. But, sexual desire does not have to equal craving. I can desire my girlfriend (I'm single, but just hypothetical), but not necessarily feel a craving for her. Same discussion I had with Fore and I just don't agree with the terminology. At least you are using in a more understandable approach than fore is. Or maybe it's because I'm not enlightened yet
When you say desires are a hindrance, I get what you're saying. And I feel the same way many times. I feel that constant interaction with the western world seems to drive desires more and more for me, especially with the high level of conditioning my mind has. Sometimes, I'd like to move away from the western world and simply live a life like a monk and just meditate 24/7 or live on a beach. Yet, I feel like that life is not available to me right now, nor do I know if I really want it and seems that I am making part of my experience 'wrong' even when I feel that desire to have that particular experience as well. I had this same discussion with Fore (granted he was approaching it more dogmatically than you).
Desire and fear are both craving - the impulse to change the moment. Without craving there can be no anxiety or fear or desire as you would be comfortable in the moment regardless of the content of that moment. The completely end of craving is the complete end of suffering which is enlightenment. Though there are many people on this planet who seem to have reached a sort of partial enlightenment (having partially transcended vibration and experienced The Self directly in the complete absence of any vibratory experience), the number who have completely transcended seems incredibly low. Using Ramana Maharshi as a kind of spiritual gold standard, he had many, many students and only said two had become enlightened. So I suspect we are all a work in progress and should focus on non-judgemental awareness of our momentary experience - relaxed, indifferent awareness of all experience without attachment to these experiences. Our true nature cannot be experienced with the senses or the mind. It is not physical reality. It is not humanity. It is not the heavens. It is not the higher selves. It is not hell. Though it is the source of all of these - and utterly non-judgemental of them all as a literal undivided whole.
I believe Ramana was single and never married. Yet, many other gurus like Nisargadatta, Adayshanti, are married and likely have/had sex with their wives. Meaning, Adya likely still desires his wife on some level. Yet, Adya is looked at as an enlightened guru. Not to imply that these people are any kind of standards to be held to, but even Eckhart Tolle has a wife and likely some desire (even if it's rather faint) for his wife.
I just don't agree that desire has to equal craving. I desired a cup of coffee this morning. Does that mean I craved coffee? I desired a snack of sugar over the weekend. Does that mean I was craving for sugar? What about the desire to eat in general when you're hungry? Or the desire to have any kind of goals with your life? I mean.....desire is EVERY aspect of our human experience because our human bodies are needy. They need things. That doesn't mean that WE are needy. But, we are experiencing through these bodies and in this human experience, desire is everywhere especially when we interact with life.
So, Jack, I bring to you the same question that I brought to Fore.
Pro-creation requires sexual desire. To be free of all desires means essentially to abstain from sex. I don't believe there is anything wrong with that and actually, I am kind of doing it myself right now . I'm holding off any kind of romantic relationship because I actually feel it is a hindrance right now to my spiritual growth.
But, how do we resolve the simple fact (and in this case, it is a fact) that sexual desire is needed for pro-creation. Meaning, if all desire is a hindrance to spiritual growth, then how is it that the most basic form of creation in the physical sense.....sex.....requires desire?
I'd love to hear your opinion on this.