Below is a slightly modified comment I recently wrote on a Buddhist blog about the so-called "hardcore" meditation movement, particularly the approach taken by Kenneth Folk. I follow this with some thoughts around craving and solitude.
Exploring Folk's website and video "consultations" I sense something slightly disturbing in the potential for harm in such an un-intermediated relationship. Of further concern, I particularly note that Folk doesn't use the words of the Buddha, never citing the Suttas, and never fully clarifies the conceptual underpinning of the point of teaching. This leaves the student without foundation in dhamma or recourse to their own research. This is like studying Greek philosophy without being introduced to Plato.
The Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, (meaning all seekers, not merely Bhikkhus) are synchronised together as the Triple Gem- the three-faceted refuge all seekers after calm, peace and knowledge may take. This has proven to be a highly successful way to prevent the development of cult worship of a teacher - even a Tathagata; to minimize blind faith in words or scripture; and to serve as a reminder of the continuing need to be mindful of the essential craving nature of dukkha - that "contemptible emptiness," the "difficult burden," that binds all beings to Mara and Samsara- the existential cycle of death and despair.
Why be reminded of this?
Because, as the Buddha says, "...whether or not there is the arising of Tathagatas, this dhamma (the analytically verifiable nature of the Four Noble Truths about existence) stands."(SN12.20)
How does it stand?
It stands as a teaching that is vibhajja-vāda: 'analytical or discriminating doctrine' (A 10.94).
What does it stand for?
It stands as a signpost for deliverance (vimutti) - both deliverance of mind (ceto-vimutti), and deliverance through wisdom (paññā-vimutti). Neither can be rushed, forced or instructed, by even the most sincere or charismatic guide.
Those who seek a fast-track, consumer friendly model of liberation will find only a reawakening of frustration, thwarted craving, animosity, or delusion regarding accomplishment.
From my own experience I can only say that to reach, even momentarily, any of the states Folk is aiming at is to be free of language to describe it or the need to do so. That is its bliss, its truly unbinding nature. Noble silence is golden.
Folks means well. May he find happiness in bringing dhamma to many. May he also find restraint: "What is blameworthy, the Blessed One blames; what is praiseworthy, he praises. By blaming what is blameworthy and praising what is praiseworthy, the Blessed One teaches with discrimination, he does not teach here in a one-sided way." (Vajjiyamaahita — AN 10.94).
I stand by this statement. Nevertheless, I have had to think deeply about the nature of searching, and in doing so the nature of craving. What is it that is wanted from this strange activity called meditation? Why is it so linked to moral uprightness and wisdom? This requires analytical thought, not blind faith. What can be done to satisfy the cynical, calm the anxious, embolden the disillusioned, satisfy the impatient?
Picture: Cave retreat- Laos.