Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Collapse of Belief

In 1974 I had a near death experience in which the ego temporarily collapsed. This was experienced as perfect peace, suddenly there was no more fear even though I was still drowning. This event as well as enabling me to survive set me off on a quest to find what had happened to me. Since then I have practiced, studied, and eventually taught various meditation techniques, mostly zazen and vipassana. I also worked for eight years in a psychiatric unit working with adolescents and trained to become a transpersonal psychotherapist. All of this to find out what had happened to me for that short time in the ocean. About a year ago the last piece of the puzzle fell into place, the penny dropped. I saw that all suffering is caused by believing something to be true that isn’t true. Although meditation was very useful in many respects, it was the collapse of belief that finally brought me back to the perfect peace I had been searching for. The only reason I can see as to why we meditate or do psychotherapy is to reduce or end suffering. The reason meditation can be difficult is because unknowingly we are holding on to beliefs that are not true. This causes agitation in the mind and although meditation will help us relax it is unlikely that these false beliefs will end. The ego itself is thought and thought is composed of belief; in fact all that we experience is also formed of various subtle layers of belief. This process is evolutionary in that it can take many years of finding out that believing something that is not true inevitably causes suffering. This can change when we question belief itself, not what we believe but belief itself. It is very helpful to remind ourselves when we experience suffering of any kind that the belief behind this is ‘ it shouldn’t be like this’, and that this is clearly not true, as it is like this.This applies also to meditation, when the mind is agitated it is suffering and this must be because we believe that ‘it shouldn’t be like this’. We can apply this throughout the day whenever we feel angry or frustrated, identify this false belief and observe what happens. The more we do this the more we naturally come to see all the negative and sometimes positive beliefs we hold that are not true. Eventually this will happen without any effort. All beliefs are destined to collapse whether we like it or not. 


  1. sHi Ray,
    Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say 'to question belief itself. How does that happen? What exactly does happen in that process. How do you know and identify 'belief so that it is seen for what it is i.e. untrue?
    Even though I try to understand this conceptually, I can't understand the mechanics of this questioning and if left to its own device, my beliefs get stronger and the suffering increases.
    There is some confusion on this matter.


  2. Hi Kite, I am stating that belief is absolutely unreal or untrue. In the beginning it may be useful to just trust that this is so and then in any moment that you experience suffering ie anger, sadness, irritability, frustration, jealousy or any other negative experience to remind yourself that if you are experiencing anything negative that you must be believing something that is not true. Keep doing this every time you experience suffering and notice what happens. Your beliefs get stronger and therefore your suffering increases because the process of belief is continuing unchecked. This cannot be understood conceptually. In other words we are not in control of our level of understanding. We understand when and only when we are ready to understand. Real understanding comes naturally when beliefs are seen for what they are.