Article 8: The importance of meditation

 

Siddharta

Siddharta

In today’s stressed and frantic world, meditation is often practiced to release the mind from its never-ending dialogue and its tendencies towards negative and narrow views. This kind of meditation is often silent, sometimes guided with visualizations, and may focus on no particular religious object. It has a secular form, used to promote a serene mind amidst the adversity of Samsara. But what is the origin of meditation? Here is a brief history to show that most religious/mystical traditions have developed techniques to subdue the noise of the intellectual mind, and to connect with the mystical. It is useful also to look at the approach to life of indigenous peoples, as they use many mental techniques for understanding the invisible world and connecting with the Universe.

Dhyana

In antiquity, traditions of meditation called Dhyana (mind calming) existed in 1500 B.C.E. in ancient India. The Hindu Rishi, or seers, learned to hold themselves in a state of constant readiness to receive inspired words, which appeared in visions or from other dimensions. Thus, they had found a way of reaching into their vast unconscious minds via concentration, cutting themselves off from usual distractions of the mind in everyday life. They were connected strongly to their personal divinity, the divinity we all have which in turn connects us with the universe. In modern life, we are mostly distracted, so few of us can reach easily into the unconscious mind and access the clairvoyant skills of seeing beyond the conceptions of time and space. Techniques of deep concentration existed in ancient China, but to date, the Buddha was perhaps the first ‘seer’ to mention meditative techniques in detail. (see Pali Canon-1st century BCE).

In these pre-historic times, a need to be liberated from suffering, to be lifted away from the mundane, arose even when the gods walked among men and karmic debts were few. There were four stages involved to reach liberation: moral discipline; contemplative concentration; knowledge; and finally liberation. The Vimalakirti Sutra is perhaps the best-known Buddhist scripture devoted to the subject of meditation. Vimalakirti sutra

Ancient India was not the only centre of this practice which seemed to meet a deep need in people. In Greece, ‘spiritual exercises’ were championed by Plotinus on Mount Athos; in ancient Israel, meditation and reflection were central to studying the Hebrew Bible, the Tanach; and along the Silk Roads, as Buddhism was transmitted, meditation was adopted enthusiastically in China to later become the basis of the Zen tradition.

In the Middle Ages, in the 8th century, Dosho brought Buddhism from China to Japan, and created the first Meditation Hall in Nara. Then Dogen established the Zazen style of meditation in 1227. In Eurasia, Jewish traditions utilized Kabbalistic prayers and insight techniques, while the Sufis (Islāmic mystics) began breathing control and the repetition of Holy Words in 11th century. Orthodox Eastern Christian traditions perfected sitting postures for meditation, but in general, Christianity did not wholly adopt meditative techniques. They favoured reflection on Holy Texts. The Lectio Divina consisted of 4 stages: lection, meditation, oratio, Doshocontemplatio. In 16th century however, Ignatitius Loyala and St Teresa of Avila did reach states of ecstasy as a result of meditation or single-pointed concentration. From 18th century onwards, Buddhism became a subject of philosophical interest and Yoga traditions, and Transcendental Meditation became highly acclaimed.

From the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Milarepa (1040-1123) is inspiring on the subject of meditation. He was born into a rich family, but his greedy aunts and uncles schemed and took everything away from his parents. As a result of their poverty, his mother begged Milarepa to learn black magic and put a curse on them, bringing about the death of several people. Milarepa, understanding well the laws of karma, was terrified of the consequences of his evil deeds, so searched frantically for a spiritual teacher to help him. He found Marpa, who instructed him to live in a cave and practice solitary meditation, and as a result, he attained full enlightenment in his lifetime, which was a rarity in Tibet at the time. Here is an excerpt from his view on meditation.

‘Look up into the sky, and practise meditation free from fringe and center. Milarepa

Look up at the sun and moon, and practise meditation free from bright and dim.

Look over the mountains, and practise meditation free from departing and changing.

Look down at the lake, and practise meditation free from waves.

Look here at your mind, and practice meditation free from discursive thought.’

(Religious Biography of the Master Milarepa, pp 49)

When looking at the history of this type of life practice, we can see that humans desired to be close to the beings of higher consciousness, perhaps regretting their departing from the suffering world. These beings embodied the singular truth of existence, beyond duality and the petty concerns of the self. They had risen above the consequences and concept-bound games of acting as a human being in the world, to become the formless embodiment of Truth, the Great Truth of the universe. So-called mortals, those trapped in samsara, wished to emulate them and so be liberated from the steady encroachment of the ordinary mind.

Buddha's first meditationOne day 2600 years ago, the Buddha in the human form of the young Prince Siddhartha, accompanied his father King Shuddhodana to an agricultural festival to celebrate an Earth deity. It was Spring and a golden plough turned the earth ready for planting seeds. It was at this time that he noticed a small bird pecking at a worm turned up by the plough, and he felt pain in his heart that most living creatures kill each other to feed. On feeling this sadness, he promptly left public view to hide in a secluded grove. It was here that he entered into a deep meditative state, and attained the fourth dhyana, which allowed him to see everything objectively with equanimity. It is said that during this time, although the shadows were shifting as the sun sank in the sky, the tree he sheltered under continued to shade him to keep him cool. His father praised him saying that his countenance was like a flaming torch on a mountain summit in a dark night.

During the Buddha Shyakamuni’s ministry, meditation was an essential element taught to his disciples. He warned that it was totally ineffectual if practiced in a self-serving way. In other words, it must be a state of total mindfulness, of pure faith, fully concerned with the well-being of others, of protecting the Dharma, and being able to perceive one’s own Buddha Nature and that of others (see article 2 ‘Buddha Nature’ at http://wp.me/p3O6mn-bx). He also indicated that if we are truly practicing for the sake of others, then meditation is not a self-conscious state but completely without form. We are not aware of either what it is to be meditating, or what the outcome of the meditation may be. Another way of looking at this is that the greatest form of meditation will only come about if we pursue it with no notion of acquiring anything; and this is what separates it away from prayer in which we supplicate or beg or earnestly request something. True meditation is completely empty (see article 3 ‘Emptiness’ at: http://wp.me/p3O6mn-ck).emptiness

Detailed instructions on correct meditation were given by the Buddha to his half-brother, Nanda. This is the final metaphor he uses:

‘When one washes dirt from gold, one first gets rid of the largest pieces of dirt, and then the smaller ones, and having cleaned it one is left with pieces of pure gold. In the same way, in order to attain liberation, one should discipline the mind, first washing away the coarser faults, and then the smaller ones, until one is left with pure pieces of dharma.’ (Saundarananda chs. 14, 15)

When he was a weak old man, as he delivered his final instructions from his deathbed, which later took the written form of the mighty Mahaparinirvana Sutra, he proclaimed that it was impossible to understand correctly what happens in everyday life without entering into a meditative state. Without meditation, it was probable that we would become deluded, uttering the wrong words, going down the wrong path of faith, and would be unlikely to receive enough merit meditation then wisdomand blessings to reach enlightenment.

‘First there is meditation; and then there is wisdom.’

In the tradition of Shinnyo Buddhism, my Master, Shinjo Ito, interpreted the final teachings on meditation given from the Sala Grove in a unique way once they became the central scripture of the teachings. The Buddha gives many allusions to the power of meditation to take us to enlightenment, and as mentioned earlier, it should not be self-conscious if it truly is a meditative state. Thus, our sangha has been taught to meditate without ceasing, not only in serene sitting posture; this is the interpretation of mindfulness. Here are the eight comparisons Buddha makes:

First, the eradication of invasive weeds, is most effective if the gardener works methodically, removing all the roots of the weeds. So, with mindfulnessmindfulness at every moment of our lives out in worldly life, we can develop wisdom, and when every weed, every shortcoming or delusion is removed, we will become enlightened.

Taking a deep-rooted tree out of the ground is more easily accomplished if the ground around the roots is first shaken loose. We must undermine our doubts and delusions through meditation; and then pull out the tree with our wisdom.

When washing a dirty cloth, we should first wash it in detergent (ash water at the Buddha’s time), then rinse it with clear water to thoroughly cleanse it. Meditation is the cleaning agent, and pure water the wisdom.

When trying to understand a text, first we must read it and recite it so that its meaning can be understood. Meditation is the reading several times and the reading aloud; wisdom is the understanding and overall meaning the words convey.

armour of meditationIf a warrior wishes to defeat his enemy, first he must fit himself out with armour and then defend himself with weapons. Meditation is the fitting of armour; wisdom is engaging with the enemy. Thus meditation is a protection.

A skilled metal worker first makes his metal molten in a pot on the fire, then he uses tongs to stir and shape the object he is making. Meditation is the melting or reduction of everything; wisdom the reshaping.

Next, the Buddha says,

‘O good disciples! An untarnished mirror clearly reflects one’s face and body. The same applies to meditation and wisdom of Bodhisattvas. (see previous article ‘Bodhisattvas’:http://wp.me/p3O6mn-6r).’ Meditation is looking into the mirror; wisdom is being able to see the blemishes and change them.

Finally, farmers plough the ground and then plant the seeds, as students first learn from their teacher and then study more deeply the ploughingmeaning of what they have been taught. Meditation is receiving the teachings; the wisdom is the meaning.

So, meditation is not only the stillness and silence of sitting. We can meditate in every moment of our life using the tools of mindfulness and reflection, and such application in normal daily life, is a speedy way to reach Nirvana, the state of true emptiness. In the Shinnyo tradition we are greatly helped in cleansing our Buddha Nature through the power of sesshin, which means in Japanese ‘to touch upon the essence.’ We practice two types of sesshin (meditation): structured or formal sesshin, and unstructured or informal sesshin.

In structured sesshin, a spiritual guide (reinosha) gives Holy meditationpersonal spiritual words which are then reflected on and put into practice. This is made possible through the Shinnyo spiritual faculty and the essence of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Unstructured sesshin is the application of this holy guidance in daily life, combined with the aspiration for enlightenment and awakening to insights or messages which surround us, thanks to the Dharma Protectors and the ever-presence of Buddha and our gurus from the spiritual world.

These are the final instructions the Buddha gave on holy meditation. Practising in this way in every moment of life is a pursuit of great joy. We can take a complete rebirth of the heart and realize how flexible our minds are, and how thinking is just one small part of the mental continuum. Indigenous peoples often live in this state not limited by concepts, and as a result, they are not separate in anyway from the Universe. In my experience, they remain close to their divine origins. They are above all ‘spirit made human,’ and aspiring constantly to live in harmony with nature, as the gods of antiquity did.

fire sticks

 

Article 9: Becoming the Body of the Teachings.

Meditative Mind – Silent Mind 2003

 

This is an article I wrote 10 years ago on Meditation. It goes hand in hand with the next ‘Ultimate Teachings’ article on the same topic. Thank you to the late Steve Klick who taught me so much in the twinkling of an eye before departing for the spiritual world. At that time, I had no hint of living in Japan and encountering the Ultimate teachings of the Buddha, my final teachings, but he somehow knew so introduced me to Nichiren and the Lotus Sutra in preparation!

lotus seed pod

 

A Response to the Venerable U. Vimalaramsi’s “Guide to the Anapanasati Sutta” and “The Meditation Teachings of Stephen Klick.”

by Linden Thorp

It seems in our day, the Latter Day of the Law, that there is great conflict and dispute about meditation methods. This is curious and quite shocking as Buddhists are supposedly beings who have relinquished that kind of judgmental mind, that kind of fundamental dualism. But no, they cling desperately to their assertions and negations, and what is more, they consider themselves in a position to prescribe methods for others. When it comes to something as personal and intimate as meditation, something so important as our daily practice, how can we insist, using the arbitrary symbols of words, that there is only one way or one style of meditation? I would suggest that this is not the way forward for the Buddhist community.

There are many substantial books written exclusively on the “subject” of meditation which read as complex manuals containing detailed charts and check lists talking grandly about “access concentration,” “fixed concentration”, which are somewhat freely translated from Pali and Sanskrit without any real experience of the cultural aspects of these languages, it would seem.  Given that we all have unique minds and hopefully unilateral control over those minds, surely we each have to find our own unique way. Some developments in the teaching of Buddhist meditation seem to have taken the ideas very far away from what the Buddha actually said about meditation. After all no-body taught him, and he was a human being much like us, so is it not possible that we can teach ourselves? Isn’t it possible that we will recognize what is best for us in the long run. And if we feel the need of the guidance of a teacher, we must look to see which teachers have had the personal realizations which are compatible with our own.

There is also the question of karma (or kamma in Pali). Due to a mix of our karmic links and our physical and psychological make-up, we are bound to be attracted to one style of meditation or another, much as we prefer salty to food to sweet, for example. But remember, in reality, there is only one taste and that is “the taste of liberation.” 

” I do not dispute with the world, though the world disputes with me. No one who is aware of the whole truth can dispute with this world, “(Annattalakkhana Sutta). It is essential that we accept other people’s interpretations of the world. It is an act of compassion, though in our time of the domination of the bullying intellect, we stand to be accused of having no opinions of our own, of being tepid or shallow, and other such epithets, if we do. We must realize that this is the childish antics of Mara at work. How is it possible that we can argue with what someone has volunteered to express? Maybe they have their facts wrong and we feel we need to correct them; well this is of course acceptable if it is done in a compassionate and tender way, exchanging “but” for “and,” and so on. To silently accept these proffered ideas is graceful, respectful. Verbal expression, whether written or spoken, can be likened to music. If you want to stand up and sing something original no-one will round on you and say that it’s not correct or it’s in the wrong key or tempo. In the same way, as long as we express what comes from the heart, no one can possibly dispute it.

Bhante Vimalaramsi and Steve Klick are two Buddhists with different karma and different connections even though they are both practicing in America at his time. It is clear at the start of each of their works on meditation that they have different functions in the world; one of them is an ordained monk the other is lay, one with total allegiance to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, the other a champion of Nichiren, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, himself a gifted student of the teachings of Shakyamuni, who appeared in human form in order to broadcast the revelations of the Lotus Sutra which would show people that path to liberation in a time of unprecedented suffering. Naturally, they would each offer different guidance for meditation. Perhaps one of the main differences between these two approaches is the pivotal use of chanting for Nichiren Buddhists. “The word ‘mantra’ actually means, ‘protection for your mind,’ says Steve Klick, and in this terrible time we witness in the history of civilization we certainly need that protection. Bhante Vimalaramsi in his ‘Guide’ takes trouble to redefine Pali words, which have become a little distorted by modern ways, talks lucidly about the Jhanas (the stages of meditation) and eloquently describes ‘tranquil meditation,’ and finally analyses the Anapanasati Sutta, The Mindfulness of Breathing practice, and comments on it in some detail. I have learned much from both works as I am sure practitioners from all disciplines of Buddhism will and have, even though I realize that my personal karma links me indisputably with Steve Klick, the Lotus Sutra, and that the BIONA electronic Sangha is now my direction.

I remark, as I pay attention to the varied language used by many teachers which expresses how to meditate, that despite their disciplines they all have their own inimitable way of talking about stilling the mind. Of stilling the mind and also of opening the heart. Certain words mean certain things to certain people. For example the words “concentration” of the mind, and “expansion” of the mind. While Bhante Vimalaramsi prefers not to use the word “concentration” but favors “expansion,” Steve Klick in his recent book on meditation favors ‘concentration’ and ‘heightened awareness’. Consider these two quotes, one from each teacher, which exemplifies this preferred use of language :

First Bhante Vimalaramsi: “The Lord Buddha had never taught suppression of any experience nor did he teach a meditation that causes the mind to fix or to absorb into the meditation object. Remember, he rejected every form of ‘concentration meditation’ as not being the correct way.” (Guide, pp 21)

Then Steve Klick : “The goal of Samatha meditation is to develop a deeper state of concentration. This is something most Western students need to work on with a lot of dedication because television viewing has trained them to view things in very short increments of time.” (The Meditation Teachings of Stephen Klick, BIONA Books, pp 3)

We are looking here at a whole mixture of elements, e.g.; culture, translation, education, social observation, rigorous study of the sutras, etc., Venerable U. Vimalaramsi is a Theravadan monk, and Steve Klick is a lay “Independent” Nichiren Buddhist, etc. These differences mean diversity and a wealth of material from which to make one’s own choice. The “Guide” says, “experience is multi-faceted and the Buddhist view is therefore multilateral. If truth is multifaceted, it cannot be stated in a unilateral way.” (Guide, pp 4)

Today we have to find the words to try to explain experiences of meditation because words are our staple means of communication, but of course these experiences come from individual minds with a background in different kinds of Buddhism. I think in each of these works there is integrity and a real mission to try to guide students, and each practitioner has the ability to look at the whole and not just its microscopic parts. Vimalaramsi uses the charming image of a group of blind men examining different parts of a gigantic elephant to show this idea (Guide, pp 3). We must each have the courage to take what most appeals to us from each view into our own practice; there are few rights or wrongs, and we must resist getting entangled in rows over details. Ultimately we need to find a way of adapting our own inner language for our own needs, which as we become purer and purer through daily practice, disintegrates and falls away in any case. We can take what we need gracefully, and “just practice;” Steve Klick tells with rye humor of formidable Japanese Buddhist matriarchs who, when he was a novice, force-fed him with food he could not tolerate and shouted, as he tried to resist the violent urge to vomit, that he should “just practice!”

Individual differences exist throughout the natural world; no two leaves are identical, and each drop of water in a waterfall differs from the next. The quintessential point which surfaces from close examination of these two works is that if you take away the human invention of language then we are all energetic particles of the universe; if one man wants to chant to make possible that connecting with the whole Universe and the other wants to smile and expand his mind, then neither can we prevent each of them from doing what they intuitively think best, nor can we make comments which may undermine that intuition. Instead why not dedicate ourselves to discovering our own intuition and direction?

I have taken Vimalaramsi’s “expansion” into my practice, and smile even more than before, and also into my artistic life. One could say that one “concentrates” on writing a text or a poem, or painting a picture, or playing the oboe, but I do now understand this to be a tightening, a squeezing of something to get the essence out, a collecting of everything into one locality. Perhaps this does foster the quality of attachment. Whereas if one expands it is almost as if we are sending energy out into the universe where we cannot possibly have any attachment. Bhante Vimalaramsi’s motto is to keep smiling, and indeed allowing a big broad smile to spread across one’s cheeks is an expansion of sorts, without question – ((((smile))))).

“I still respond to the call of the cosmos, although the way I do so has changed. The call is as clear and compelling as it was those many years ago. When I hear it now, I pause, and, with all my body, with every atom of my being, every vein, gland and nerve, I listen with awe and passion. Imagine someone who’s mother has been dead for ten years. Suddenly one day he hears her voice calling to him. That is how I feel when I hear the call of earth and sky.” (Fragrant Palm Leaves, Journals of Thich Nhat Hanh 1962-1966, pp 30) Here is another very impressive Buddhist talking poetically about the connection we all have with the cosmos. His is an auditory approach to reaching out, an intense listening. Perhaps Bhante Vimalaramsi breathes the cosmos in and out, and Steve Klick utilizes vocal vibrations, but they are all indisputably on the path to Enlightenment.

Vimalaramsi suggests that “concentration meditation” can be comfortable whilst we are engaged in it, but that adapting to normal life afterwards is then difficult and so we contract the mind in order to cope with this adaptation and thus become even more attached. Meanwhile Steve talks about chanting in front of the Gohonzon, the mandala of Nichiren, and every thought of a verbal nature simply dissolving. He talks about reaching out to the Universal Law and becoming one with it. Language becomes petty when we see the enormity of what each man is saying. They all three, Thich Nhat Hanh included, shout loud and clear of liberation and taking up our rightful places in the universe. What inspiration and insight they each have despite the limitations or at least ambiguities of language.

As a post script, I think it is interesting that I have never met or spoken to either Ven. U Vimalaramsi or Stephen Klick, and yet I am able to take through their written words their teachings. In a way this is the Dharma of the pioneers of Buddhism who made epic journeys across continents with the often memorized words of the Buddha in order to establish the faith in far-flung countries. BIONA books and the Internet have made it possible for me to be a truly “independent” Buddhist practicing out in the world, but still in no doubt whatsoever about the Dharma.

Now to concentrate a little on the two main works in question in detail.

The Ven. U. Vimalaramsi

The Venerable U Vimalaramsi, the author of “The Anapanasati Sutta: A Practical Guide to Mindfulness of Breathing and Tranquil Wisdom meditation,” is clearly both a marathon meditator and a man of great integrity. Right at the very opening of his Guide he talks about “the futility and absurdity of unilateral belief,” Guide, pp3). Meditation is both his vocation and his contribution to all sentient beings on a daily and colossal basis; there have been periods in his life when he meditated for 22 hours out of 24! And even today as he becomes more and more established as a Dharma teacher and is in the midst of the demanding practicalities of setting up a Dharma Center, Sukkha Dharma Center, along with staunch supporters, he refuses to miss his long sessions of daily Vipassana meditation which then empower the energy needed to clear land and manage the wild forests of the Ozarks, Lesterville, Missouri. He has studied meditation for 28 years in a variety of cultures and disciplines, and worked with the dying in hospices. His approach is, in the words of his assistant Khema, “really quite simple,” and that it is “remarkable that he figured out what he did about Vipassana meditation.” 

The Venerable Vimalaramsi has made it his life’s work to find the best teachers and to really get to the bottom of what the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, actually taught about meditation. “The Lord Buddha taught only one kind of meditation, that is by simultaneously developing both the jhanas and wisdom.” He tells us again and again to go to the Suttas to find all we want to know about Buddhist meditation in daily practice, the “Undiluted Dhamma,” and points out clearly that the Anapanasati Sutta, the Buddha’s clear instructions on the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation, “does not categorize meditation practices.”(“A Practical Guide to,” pp 10). In his own writing Vimalaramsi skillfully and respectfully utilizes the Buddha’s ideas on this practice “without a lot of additions or free-lance ideas” (A Prac. Guide, pp10), which he suggests are prevalent in the domain of meditation today, as we have already said.

For me, the two most impressive ideas which come out of this stimulating Guide, are firstly “suppression as a hindrance,” and secondly “chanda, or joyful interest or enthusiasm”.

Suppression as a Hindrance

My own experience of the rigorous, often ascetic Brahminesque advice to meditators is that mindfulness, in their view, seems to be about marshaling the mind with commands; “Walk. Walk,” “Left. Left,” “Right. Right,” “Sleepy. Sleepy,” etc. In this way language is used to “cultivate stopping,” and to switch the mind back to its object of meditation upon which it should be fixed. To my mind this seems very mechanistic. Meditation here is seen as a strict discipline, training the mind as if taming an enormous wild elephant. Surely, in our day and age when “success” and “failure” are important issues even inside one’s own personal development, this approach is bound to encourage damage to one’s self esteem if targets are not met, and as Vimalaramsi says, “The essence of meditation is to open and calm one’s mind and accept whatever arises without any tightening at all.” (Guide, pp 5) In addition, modern psychologists have amply documented the idea that the unconscious mind is perverse in that it will do the opposite of what it is told to do. This is an oddity in the way language works which is not at all surprising given its arbitrariness. It also tends to respond to an indirect style which is why therapists so often use metaphor in their treatment. In other words it does not like confrontation. Perhaps this mechanistic style of encouraging meditation worked in the monastery system or among wandering ascetics, but we moderns are neither of these things. In many ways we are much more fragile at the same time as being much more calculating.

Why do we suppress? Modern psychology offers the explanation that our conditioning trains us to block things which are painful or uncomfortable; this can be strikingly seen in the harmful acts of criminals who often do not recall committing their crimes. We are also trained to select, from thousands of stimuli, the ones we most like or feel most comfortable with. If we want something desperately enough, e.g.. Nibbána, and release from suffering, then we have the ability to block out anything which gets in the way. By suppressing, using the powerful electro-chemical energy of the mind which is on the whole greatly underused, we can instantly clear away all the “gray clouds” which are preventing us from seeing the infinity of blue sky. As Vimalaramsi says, “whenever one suppresses anything, they are not purifying the mind, or experiencing things as they truly are. At the time of suppression, one is pushing away or not allowing part of their experience and thus, this contracts the mind instead of expanding and opening the mind.” (Guide, pp 21) This means that we are protected from things which we must allow to arise in order that we may let them go, in order to purify the mind of the ego-belief of “I am.” Even death must be allowed to arise so that we can let it go, because everything is impermanent.

Bhante Vimalaramsi is a champion of “Tranquil Wisdom” meditation. He says that it “leads to wisdom, full awareness, sharp mindfulness and eventually to the highest goals of attaining nibbána” (Guide, pp 6). For 6 years before his Enlightenment the Buddha went in search of teachers who could show him how to totally let go of the ego-self, and he never found satisfaction with any of them. Although they helped him develop to a very high standard, the highest anyone else had attained, he observed that the concentration techniques they taught caused a tightening in the mind, which signified that there was still attachment. Then as the Buddha sat vowing not to get up until he had attained enlightenment he remembered an incident from when he was a very young child. During a plowing festival his attendants left him sitting quietly under a rose-apple tree, and it was here that he sat in “tranquil wisdom,” his mind expanded and open. It was this expansion, this opening up to the entire cosmos, that he was in search of, and that no teacher of the time seemed aware of. It is these childlike qualities of suppleness and “not a care in the world” that perhaps, as adults battling with the six lower worlds of Samsara, will lead us to our own personal Nirvana. The vocabulary of concentration meditation, i.e.. “fixed,” and “absorption,” smack of the drama of terrestrial life which we should try not get ourselves mired in.

Vimalaramsi also claims that we cannot experience personality changes if we do not open and expand the mind to let go of any hindrances. This is the silent mind at work, without ego-attachment. Not allowing the iron fist of attachment to release causes tension in the head, and “As a result of this suppression, there is no real purifying of the mind and thus, personality change does not occur. “(Guide, pp 21)

Chanda, or Joyful Interest

“one can see the importance of developing a mind that smiles and has joyful interest.” (Guide, pp27)

I can see that with all the intensified suffering in this Latter Day of the Law, that it is not surprising that we take on some of that intensity in our approach to life. Threats of another World War with weapons of mass destruction at its disposal this time, epidemic cancer, famine and natural disasters all around, and suicide and mental illness rapidly on the increase, all contribute to the proliferation of anxiety and confusion. For these reasons it is possible to become desperate to try to save the world with equal quantities of study and practice, and to replace “no-nonsense” effort with a manic intensity; after all this is the grand epoch of the “ic” and the “ism” – workaholic, alcoholic, shopaholic, and heroism, etc And so we become tight and intense about our practice and have somehow lost touch with joy and curiosity. We are obsessed with the detail and fail to stand back, smile and survey the picture. In fact, we have become specialists, viewing everything through the intensity of a magnifying lens. This has become a habitual way of using the energy of the mind, and like all habits, it is difficult to break.

It is that light luminous feeling which gives us a sense of happiness, a respite from the unilateral taking of things personally. Enthusiasm is a quality quite different from mania and obsessive neuroses. Meditation after all can encapsulate the whole of our lives, ultimately is capable of leading us out of all suffering, and this is good reason to smile and be light and contented. After all, despite all the atrocious things which are happening on our planet, what good does it do to become angry or irate, or debate and disagree with each other. It would be more effective both for ourselves and the world at large if we instead went out and did something practical like join a peace-march, or record Dharma tapes for prisoners, or help those who are helpless.

Vipassana meditation, or “Tranquil Wisdom,” can allow us to see impermanence. If one simply allows thoughts to come and accepts them lovingly, it is possible to realize that the ever-changing nature of thoughts is the mirror of all phenomenon. We can realize that we can have no control over anything in the Saha world. This simple act of observing thoughts and letting them pass away in their own time shows us the true nature of impermanence. “Mindfulness means to lovingly-accept what is happening in the present moment, without trying to control, resist or change it.” (Guide, pp 34) And this we can do with a smile on our faces and radiant, light bodies.

Sadly, meditation in these times of popular spiritual guides from the East and the subcontinent, has become a confused affair. Technicolor visualizations abound and affirmations brim over as we are tossed between Tibetan and Indian Buddhism; Zen Buddhism enforces austere vacuity; and all of this concerns “talk” or, in the case of Zen, “no talk.” We desperately need to get away from words, from their indirectness, from the habitual inner dialogue, the asserting and negating, the “nice” and the “nasty.” We must be wary of trying to achieve meditation as we might a physical feat or intellectual excellence. It leads us to direct knowledge, “not memorized or studied knowledge.” (Guide, pp 50)

Steve Klick

Firstly, perhaps it is important to say that this “small” meditation book is not a study document unlike the “Guide.” It is rather more a personal teaching for Steve’s students. However, there are inevitably very important elements to glean from his approach to meditation.

Steve Klick has tried and tested Buddhism whilst living out in the world, although he has spent time in retreat in the past. At the outset he says, “Buddhist realization is always based on direct experience so the only honest solution is for the student to experiment until they discover what works best for them” (The Meditation Teachings, pp 2). He is clearly a pragmatist, and a totally committed and prolific Buddhist. He spends all day almost every day engaged in spreading the Dharma in a variety of ways. He created BIONA books as a way of opening opportunities for “independent” Buddhists to express themselves in spite of their divers backgrounds, as is obvious from the site. www.buddhistinformation.com is a living experiment in “tolerance” and the compassion which this generates (sadly this site no longer exists). However, says Steve, “The one practice that we invariably share in common is the use of mantra, ‘Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. We use this mantra because the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice is to develop heightened awareness until we attain enlightenment” (The Meditation Teachings, pp 2).

His introduction to meditation is both clear and compelling, and also a support for modern people coping with the demands of living a modern life in a time of great mental sickness. The tremendous positive-ness that is a direct result of the revelations of the Lotus Sutra, the last teaching of Shakyamuni, open up enormous possibilities of attaining enlightenment for all beings whilst living in the Saha world. “Once you chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo you have a prediction of Buddhahood from the mouth of Shakyamuni Buddha, you are truly the Buddha’s child and heir to the Buddha’s spiritual throne” (The Meditation Teachings, pp 4).

Much of the explanations about Nichiren and his insights into the teachings of Shakyamuni appear in great detail in Steve Klick’s other works, notably “Day By Day” and “Stop Suffering: A Buddhist Guide to Happiness.” It is striking, I think, how meditation is such an integral part of the Dharma, of the truth that each moment of our lives is steeped in. In his view, “Meditation is like any other task that you undertake. The more time and effort you devote to the job at hand the more skill you will develop.” (T.M.Ts, pp 5) The way Steve lives his life is a total integration of the Buddha’s teachings adapted for coping with the Latter Day of the Law. Few commitments could be so unshakeable. “My experience has been that once you pass through such a stage where you do not perceive thoughts as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ the mind stops playing such games and your concentration becomes truly single pointed. You focus on the mandala, do your practice and that’s all.” (T.M.Ts, pp 10)

He is also extremely wise regarding human nature. In a series of questions posed by students at the end of the small book of teachings, one student asks why he becomes so bored when he meditates (chants). Steve answers, “You need to understand that boredom is good because it means you have made contact with the basic problem of all human kind. Samsara exists because humans will do anything to escape boredom. Once you learn to embrace boredom you no longer have to struggle to practice.” This is practical advice to send this student away to his place of practice to test out whether boredom will allow itself to be embraced by him or not. This, you will agree, accords well with the idea of non-suppression suggested by Ven. Vimalaramsi.

“While it is true that meditation practice will pacify your mind and eventually lead you to a state of heightened awareness, which will benefit society as you interact with people, it is also true that you are capable of doing so much more if you only decide to make the effort.” (T.M.Ts, pp 16) He is, as I know well, a tireless inspirer of acting now to liberate all sentient beings, not tomorrow.

Finally, his understanding of “Emptiness” and the isolation of each human being’s mind, the importance of the heart along with exhaustive familiarity with most aspects of the ocean of Buddhist literature, make him a giant, a great Bodhisattva of the Earth. I personally have benefited enormously from his insights and vibrant interpretations of daily life.

I hope that my appreciations of these two works have represented them accurately, and that they will entice people to acquire them both in the near future. Of course, both are available at BIONA books.

 

Meditation in Everyday Life

My own daily routine is built around both chanting and sitting, both sound and silence in meditation. This combination works well for me. I come from a background where both are essential, i.e.. the world of music. It has been said that without the silences, or rests as they are known, music as we know it would simply be monotonal noise. Science has discovered that both thoughts and sounds are made from vibrations of differing frequencies. If I think in this way I easily can get away from words and verbalizations. Add to this the loving attention to the breath, either counting it or simply observing it, or the sending of loving kindness out to all sentient beings, the gazing at the Gohonzon or a candle flame until nothing else exists, and transformation is inevitable. I have a repertoire of delightfully different ways of stilling my mind, and thus generating new energy for all the work we have to do to help sentient beings. There is no possibility that I will ever become bored, although I do have to deal with the hindrances of course and after Vimalaramsi’s insights into suppression I am determined to let them come so that I can look at them. I find his idea of opening the iron fist of attachment a very powerful image. In a similar way I find Steve’s idea of using meditation to allow us “to de-condition the mind from its usual pattern and to reform it to something healthier” (The Med Teachings, pp 11) very effective. We can easily find the compassion to dwell on the positive aspects of the very different approaches of two very different practitioners to develop our own very personal resource.

Also to be completely available for my practice each day I have adopted various techniques which help to organize my thinking time during that day. In this way I can enjoy creative thinking and planning in its own right without it turning into a distraction or hindrance during my practice. I make thinking time in the morning and usually last thing at night. This always takes place in front of the Gohonzon, the practice place, with the presence of candlelight and purifying incense. This is also a very serene time, which often slides irresistibly into meditation filled with tranquil wisdom. If I have a lot of projects on the go at one time, which is how I seem to do things, I need an efficient way of surveying and recording all my ideas. To deal with this in a creative way I use the idea of mind maps which some of you maybe familiar with. I always have a special notebook and a set of colored pens to hand, and I choose a visual theme to organize my thoughts which I draw in divers colors. For example, colored balloons with a thought or idea written inside each one, or colored and various fish, each carrying an idea. This is fun and it is more creative than writing notes or lists in a linear fashion. It is very freeing and often stimulates something completely unexpected or even solves a problem because the conditioning loop of the brain has been short-circuited.

Two Important Meditations

The following is a concise description of two Buddhist meditations which I used when I first started, to great effect. Perhaps you are already familiar with them, perhaps not, but in any case they are versions of the two original meditations of the Buddha which he particularly emphasized. One of course, is the Mindfulness of Breathing (the Anapanasati of Ven. Vimalaramsi’s Guide), and the other Loving Kindness, or Metta Bhavana. I am using here a shortened version of them from “meditation, The Buddhist Way of Tranquility and Insight” -published by Windhorse, 1992, ISBN 1 899579 05 2 ” by Kamalashila, a long-standing member of the Western Buddhist Order, the leader of which is Sangharakshita. For beginners I assume that they have some idea of how to sit comfortably for 15-20 minutes and suggest that they read the instructions through before commencing.

The Mindfulness of Breathing (pp 16)

Sit quietly for a few minutes before beginning to settle yourself.

(1) Feel the sensation of the breathing as it flows naturally in and out of the body. Just after each breath leaves the body, mark it with a (mental) count. Count ten breaths in this way, then start again at one.

After doing that for a short while (say four or five minutes), start counting each breath just before it enters the body, counting in the same way as before.

After a few minutes of stage 2 stop counting altogether, and simply experience the flow of the breathing.

Finally, direct your attention to the point where you almost feel the air making contact with your body (this will probably be in or around the nostrils or the upper lip, though the exact location does not matter). Choose any point that seems suitable, and let your attention stay with the subtle sensations made by the air stimulating that point.

The Mettá Bhávaná (pp25)

Concentrate your attention on yourself. Develop a response of friendliness and kindness towards yourself. Take time with this Then…

Call to mind a good friend. (avoid someone for whom you have parental or sexual feelings). The traditional practice is to choose someone of the same sex and about the same age as yourself. Generate strong feelings of friendliness towards them. Then…

Think of a ‘neutral’ person, i.e. someone for whom you have no personal likes or dislikes. Wish them happiness. Then…..

Turn your attention to a difficult person. Try to let go of your dis-ease with or dislike of them. Then…

Concentrate on all four people, and develop loving kindness, or mettá, towards all of them equally. Then allow the mettá to extend steadily outwards in ever increasing circles, eventually to include the whole world.

Finally, bring your attention gradually back to yourself and, in time, open your eyes.

I hope that these are useful. If you need any more guidance please get back to me or refer to Kamalashila’s comprehensive book.

Finally, as the Venerable U. Vimalaramsi tells us, Krishnamurti had enormously valuable insights into meditation. I would like to end this appreciation of both Ven. Vimalaramsi’s Guide and the Teachings of Steve Klick with this sublime description of Meditative Mind – Silent Mind.

“A meditative mind is silent. It is not the silence which thoughts can conceive of; it is not the silence of a still evening; it is the silence when thought with all its images, its words and perceptions have entirely ceased.”

 

May all beings experience these wonderful moments of the human spirit in tranquil wisdom as it connects with the cosmos of which it is a particle.

 

 

 

Charley Linden Thorp

9th March 2003

 

Article 7: The Land Immovable

immovable immovable 1

The assembly of distinguished monks and dignitaries under the twin Sala trees implored the Buddha for his final instructions and blessings about how bodhisattvas in the Land Immovable (in Nirvana) attain wisdom and become masters of great virtue. He states them from the clarity of his pure treasure mind, stipulating exactly those who may be reborn in the Land Immovable (Nirvana).

The important requirements are:

  • not to harm any living being
  • to abide by the precepts
  • to accept the Buddha’s teachings without question
  • to not steal from others but instead to give to others indiscriminately

He then gives instructions for living in human life and not monastic, which as we saw from the last article, was a departure from all previous teachings aimed at monastics. But now, by accepting lay Chunda’s offering and praising his sincerity above his knowledge or religious practice, he broadens the field so that all beings may become enlightened to Nirvana.

Chunda

He cites the building of living quarters and lodges for monastic practitioners, and the creation of Buddha images. If great joy is taken in these undertakings it is a sure way to be reborn. And those who do not seek worldly profit, or harbour fears or tell lies about themselves or others, are good candidates. Those who do not hurt or harm teachers of the Dharma, stay away from unwholesome circles, and try to harmonise with everyone they come into contact with in their interactions, will become enlightened. The Buddha stresses the importance of choosing and saying proper words to the appropriate people at all times.

reciting sutrasHe wishes his disciples to be able to stand whole-heartedly in the shoes of others, to share their pain and their joy, and for them to avoid making others worry or suffer through their behaviour. Also, to speak always in a kind way to their parents, and to avoid having wrong views of life in general. Reciting sutras every day for the welfare of others, and observing the precepts (8 precepts- the usual 5 and the 3 monastic precepts on certain days of the month) are essential.

legacyThen he implores his disciples not to violate the precepts in daily life, or to mingle with those who violate them, and he strongly requests that they should speak sternly to anyone who slanders the sutras. All Buddhist paraphernalia should be protected and cherished, and the ground around monasteries should be cleaned regularly. Those who give their wealth to Dharma teachers, and copy and recite the profound teachings of all Buddhas will, without doubt, be born again in the Land Immovable.

This is the legacy that the fading Buddha leaves, entrusting it to his disciples, and instructing them to go forwards into the future, scrupulously handing down the wisdom and compassion to their own disciples so that the Dharma can be preserved forever. This is also the legacy that we have been handed from our gurus and masters today. It has been flawlessly transmitted through the lineages and adapted to new cultures and epochs. Today, in the 21st century, Buddhists follow his last instructions still, though various schools emphasize earlier teachings.

turtleIt is a truly marvelous and auspicious privilege to be connected to the Buddhadharma, and especially so today when the beings in the world are mostly intent upon satisfying their own self-centred needs. To repeat a sentiment from an earlier article, encountering the Buddha’s teachings is tantamount to a sea turtle poking it’s head through a hole in a piece of drift-wood on the surface of a vast ocean (see Hearing the Dharma article). I personally could have no physical connection with Buddhism in working class northern Britain, and yet I heard a radio feature in my childhood introducing the rareness of encountering the Buddha’s teachings, and so developed an aspiration to find the Buddha and his Dharma. You can read more about my spiritual journey into Buddhism in ‘My Path So Far.” (see may article, http://wp.me/P3O6mn-i)

In respect of Holy Precepts, Holy meditation, and Holy wisdom, the Buddha a little later goes on to advise against straying from the correct path. He benefit seekerswarns that the precepts are to be followed for the happiness of others, not primarily our own, so that the Dharma may be protected for eternity. Neither must we vow to keep the precepts out of fear of falling into the lower realms of existence. They should not be practiced in order to gain benefits and to access the superb power to be liberated from all happiness. He warns too about not mindlessly heeding the precepts in order to avoid damage to your reputation.

True practice of the precepts then is to generate Bodhicitta, the force which will liberate all beings from suffering and protect and uphold the Dharma and the Dharma still to come, to enlighten the unenlightened, and coax people back to the sacred, their natural state. In one respect, as chronological time moves in a linear way always forward, we humans are getting further and further away from our original state of Grace. Once, before the Buddha’s time, Indian having already started to decline when he started to teach in this way, the divine was near at hand. It is said that in the Golden Era, the gods walked among men so there was no distance between the secular and the sacred, no dualism. All beings were sacred and quickly attained enlightenment. Nowadays, many of us are far from the sacred, and the divine spark which we are all blessed with, is virtually extinguished. We need to approach the sacred once again and polish our true nature. (see my article, http://wp.me/p3O6mn-cF)

Gaia

He also tells his disciples that those who truly abide by the precepts are not aware consciously of doing so. When they are sincerely practicing for the liberation of all sentient beings at every possible moment, their practice is not self-conscious. In other words, they are not aware they are doing anything special or unusual. They have naturally connected with their divine nature and are able to accept everything that occurs in their lives with natural practiceequanimity, and to live with sincere joy.

In terms of Holy Meditation, his instructions are also very clear. Again, if the motivation to meditate is to achieve one’s own enlightenment and to gain benefits, then this is not the correct way. If, on the other hand, the aspirant is practicing for the sake of other beings or the protection of the Dharma, and to stay away from the impurities of the body, greed, disputes, and physical violence, then this is the correct way. Focused meditation in these last teachings is defined as ‘altruistic action that benefits others.’

Another way of expressing this is through mindfulness. If we practice mindfulness at every moment of our daily lives as householders, we can: preventfor the sake of others regression into lower states of mind; have pure faith; work for the sake of others; protect the precious Dharma; encourage all beings to aspire to become enlightened; be free from delusions; achieve an unwavering state of mind; acquire merit by reciting dharanis (mantras); be able to expound the Dharma freely; and finally, to perceive our Buddha Nature or True Nature.

It is clear that the motivation or intent to meditate must be pure. It should be conducted at an unconscious level, without attention to form or even to be aware of meditating, and certainly to have no outcomes in mind. If our conscious state shifts when we meditate, approaching a state of emptiness, then we can truly connect with the flawless Dharma stream directly to the Buddha, the Dharmakaya or body of the unconscious mindteachings.

Holy Wisdom follows a similar vein. It should not be conscious or self-serving. If the aspirant is seeking an aim to or level of wisdom, then they will never acquire ultimate wisdom. True wisdom is closely dovetailed with compassion. We can vow to take on the agony and suffering of others, to release them from their negative wrong views and from the cycle of perpetual rebirth in the lower realms. The wise are able to put aside their own needs and wishes entirely and be willing to stay in samsara expressly to help to liberate others who are trapped in their delusions. In conclusion, the wise wish all beings to attain perfect universal enlightenment – in Sanskrit – anuttara-samyak-sambodai-shin.

If we are truly wise, we do not recognize the acquisition or form of that wisdom. There should be no conditions placed on attaining wisdom. We train wholly for the sake of others, and eventually the mundane ego-mind entirely disappears. To put this more succinctly, someone who observes the precepts, meditates in the fashion described, and acquires wisdom unknowingly, is called a Bodhisattva. (see my article -http://wp.me/p3O6mn-6r)    Kannon

As an aspirant myself, I try to abide by this advice. I have found it useful to keep the following in mind when aspiring. To help us to aspire in the right way, we might remember that our origin, before our appearance in the physical dimension as a human of flesh and blood, was spirit. And when our human body decays, as the Buddha’s did, we will return to the spirit world. We take on the form of a human being to learn how to become a Bodhisattva, how to become consistently compassionate and unconditionally loving. We can easily connect with our spiritual pathway if we open our hearts and empty our minds, then devote ourselves to the Bodhisattva’s Way for the sake of all sentient beings.

spirit origins

 

Article 8: The Importance of Meditation.

Article 6: the Mystical

spiritual practice

As practitioners of any religious discipline, we can fill our lives with spiritual practice: serving others without expectations of them serving us. We can give of our wealth and time to others without expecting anything in return. We can share the Dharma with as many people as possible without expecting them to listen attentively or understand. We can chant regularly from the heart and adopt the sutras and teachings as our guidance in daily life. Of course, all of the Buddha’s disciples were engaged totally in such practices by the time he lay down in the Sala grove to pass into Parinirvana, many of them enlightened or very close to it.

wake up to the universe

However, as human beings marooned in samsara, distracted by self-serving needs and ego, the Buddha felt his spiritually elevated disciples had become complacent, even arrogant, their joy muted. Perhaps it is possible to become too attached to a lifetime of dedicated practice, and feel that we are doing all we possibly can to reach enlightenment. The Buddha wanted to wake them up to new insights, to ignite their exultation once again. Chunda, on the other hand, as we saw in the last article, was wide-awake by comparison. He was a simple beginner with a sincere heart who recognized and was in awe of the Buddha, and wanted to bring his friends to mark his passing into Great Nirvana. It was his sincerity that was impressive; a living example of Buddha Nature shining out, without training or knowledge, and without the Buddha’s direct teachings unlike his disciples. The Buddha accepted his offerings because he recognized in him his ‘true nature.’ (see my article at http://wp.me/p3O6mn-cF)

The Buddha knew his last moments were approaching and that he had to comfort and reassure his grieving disciples. During his enlightenment he had confronted the suffering of humans, and had realized that nothing could be done in actual terms to change the nature of suffering. He had gained understanding of what he called the ‘Four Noble Truths: what suffering is; what causes it; what it means to end it; and what path to follow in order to do so. Through his determination to not leave his seat until he reached Enlightenment and his deep meditation, he had shifted himself out of samsara (the world of spiritual darkness, ignorance, and other negative emotions) and passed into Nirvana, a realm where all cravings and fears cease. His focus had been greatly tested by an onslaught of terrifying delusions conjured up by Mara, the King of Delusions, but every obstacle was transformed by his empty mind in single-pointed focus, and they fell at his feet in the form of beautiful blossoms. By shifting into Nirvana, the cause for his being further reborn into samsara had been eradicated.blossom at his feet

When he first started to teach the findings of his enlightenment to others, he said,

I have now found the cause of delusion that could not be found before, and which had caused me to endlessly repeat lives of suffering. But now, I have uncovered the cause. Oh Delusion, you have been vanquished and I have entered the state of Nirvana. Where once there was delusion, there is now the wondrous balm of Nirvana.’

Then, at the end of his long ministry, the final teachings were revealed for the first time exactly to bring out the Buddha Nature (see my article) of all attending. Buddha referred to it in another memorable phrase as, ‘the hidden essence of tathagatas (fully enlightened beings), something ever-present and unchanging.’ This is the mystical universal element of the Buddha’s teachings, which he deliberately revealed before his physical death so that the body of the teachings were perfected and would live on in the Dharmakaya – the body of the Buddha’s teachings, tantamount to the Buddha’s physical body.(see my article athttp://wp.me/p3O6mn-4P)  He lists the numerous benefits of being able to encounter and hear such Dharma (see my article) at the time of his Great Parinirvana.

mystical universal

Here are just a few. He compares the Nirvana teachings to the sun, which will make any fog vanish. If the teachings reach the ears of sentient beings, all ills and unrelenting negative karma will be extinguished. Because of this final teaching, the Dharma will never cease, and the sangha (spiritual community) will overcome any obstacles. The Nirvana teachings lead to attaining ‘immeasurable merit and inexhaustible enlightenment.’

As the culmination of his human existence, this teaching was the Buddha’s final gift to the world of samsara so that all sentient beings, without discrimination, could reach Nirvana and the extinguishing of all suffering.

the moonPerhaps the most surprising and magical benefit of this teaching is that even if seekers of enlightenment cannot actually hear this wonderful Dharma, it will radiate through the 84,000 pores of their skin, and cause all beings to aspire to attaining supreme enlightenment. This is a truly mystical aspect of the teachings that had never been presented before. Once the teaching passes in through the pores of the body, the aspiration for enlightenment is strengthened in a wondrous way.

There is a mystical aspect to most religions, but when a spiritual leader dies, this is the time that certain powers are activated so that the teachings can continue onwards, and the faith of its believers is deepened and made unwavering. But, what is the mystical and why do human beings need it to deepen their faith? By its nature, the mystical is often not logical or visible to the naked eye, and concerns powers locked in the storehouse of the universe, which only the initiated can access. Some call it Universal Truth.

I myself have encountered the mystical while practicing these Nirvana Teachings. Through my training I have learned to discern signs and indications, which give me an insight into the vast invisible world of which the visible is only a tiny part, and into the past, present and future. If we view difficult or painful situations in everyday life with human eyes, then often we cannot apprehend or perhaps accept them. But if we are able to open our spiritual eyes, through practice and guidance from our Masters, then we can discern a bigger picture, more extensive conditions which have precipitated the perplexing event or situation.

sylvanusA 1st century Christian mystic Sylvanus said,

Knock upon yourself as upon a door, and walk upon yourself as on a straight road. For if you walk on that path, you cannot go astray; and when you knock on that door, what you open for yourself shall open.’

This is another mystical hint. Because we each construct the world in our own minds and we are convinced it is real, then our capacity to catch the mystical depends on our ability to step outside that construction and experience reality, experience the actual weather and quality of the air for ourselves instead of interpreting it with our minds through concepts. Therefore, the first step is to take control of our minds and touch our self-honesty, because the mystical cannot be accessed if we are not totally sincere in our beliefs and practices. As we are architects of our own worlds, we are the only ones who can deconstruct them and start to connect directly with the Universe.

architects of our worldIn the case of indigenous tribes, which as mentioned in previous article I have had direct experience of, it really is clear from they way they live their daily lives that they do not make concepts or interpret the world as we do, but instead live in direct commune with the spiritual, the mystical. In our so-called ‘developed’ civilisations, we have become distant from the sacred, the divine spark. It has been replaced by the secular, diversity, layers and layers of thinking, speculating, measuring and comparing. Indigenes live directly and retain the skills that we all once had when the gods walked among us. I have seen this with my own eyes. The Dreaming Lands of Australian aboriginals is the invisible world, it is the mystical, in which they are totally immersed. There is no duality for them as there is for us. (see my experience in Easy-Happy-Sexy which is being serialized on ValidLit.com at http://wp.me/p3PG1V-3m)

dreamtimeWe humans relate to the mystical, to the boundless and eternal, because we are originally spirit. We are born flesh in order to learn the lessons of becoming an excellent human being, who can love unconditionally and live in true happiness. We may try to convince ourselves consciously that we cannot possibly believe in something formless, invisible, which we can have little control over. But the bulk of the iceberg of consciousness that lies below the water, craves the formless, the welling up of feelings, the unwavering belief that our spirits are indestructible and pristine and bright. That goodness and light are natural; evil and darkness, the handywork of delusions; and that words are crude tools to attempt to describe the fundamental presence or ever-presence of the spirit. Human life without true awe and humility is shallow and weak, and often declines into a self-serving and limited existence. We are each inseparable from the divine.

The supreme power of the universe once extended to us weak sense-bound humans makes anything possible. In Shinnyo Buddhism, which places the Nirvana teachings at it centre, by tapping into the storehouse of power of the MahaParinirvana Sutra, my Master H.H. Shinjo Ito released 3 such powers which benefit sincere practitioners: Shouju – the power of embracement beyond barriers of culture, creed, race or religion; Saisho – compassion with no distinction between friend or foe; and Bakudaiju – which protects people from death, disease and accident.  Such transcendent powers (Skt. superstitionAbhijna) are not easily accepted by modern people who seem able to find sufficient magic in technology and science, in consciousness-altering substances, in wealth and fame. They view such phenomena with superstition.

Regarding these transcendent powers, the Buddha pointed out to his devotees that:

Since these bodhisattva-mahasattvas dwell in great nirvana, they will manifest various kinds of transcendent powers limitlessly.’

Nirvana is also the dwelling place of tathagatas, so we are able to directly experience the remarkable power that Buddhas manifest there. They can further help us to open our eyes of wisdom. This is the legacy the Buddha left as he shifted back to the spiritual source, having perfected the teachings during his time in human form and made keys available to unlock the treasure house of the MahaParinirvana Teachings.

final teachingsArticle 7: The Land Immovable