A most essential question
What convergence is there between the journey of the ascetic Tibetan yogi Milarepa and that of the little-known great French mystic of the Seventeenth Century, Madame Guyon ? between Ramana Maharshi and the famous sufi Al-Hallaj ? What is the common denominator between these extraordinary beings who, in such apparently dissimilar ways, climbed the rungs leading to the ultimate realization ? Is it not a question of the greatest importance, to conjecture about what is essential and what is of incidental value, about what is truly the core of a practice and what relates to a cultural context and epoch ?
Whatever their creed or race, and no matter where they happen to be, when a group of people are assembled together, listening to the sublime harmonies and wonderful orchestral “colors” of a great symphonic work secretly imparting to them an ineffable truth through expressions of elevated sentiments, the minds, thoughts, and feelings of all are then united in one silent communion. At that exalted hour, words have lost all their meaning.
A total absence of worldly pride and arrogance, harmlessness, a candid soul, a tolerant, long-suffering and benignant heart, purity of mind and body, tranquil firmness and steadfastness, self-control and a masterful government of the lower nature and the heart’s worship given to the Teacher.
A firm removal of the natural being’s attraction to the objects of the senses, a radical freedom from egoism. absence of clinging to the attachment and absorption of family and home, a keen perception of the defective nature of the ordinary life of physical man with its aimless and painful subjection to birth and death and disease and age, a constant equalness to all pleasant or unpleasant happenings.
A meditative mind turned towards solitude and away from the vain noise of crowds and the assemblies of men, a philosophic perception of the true sense and large principles of existence, a tranquil continuity of inner spiritual knowledge and light, the Yoga of an unswerving devotion, love of God, the heart’s deep and constant adoration of the universal and eternal Presence; that is declared to be the knowledge; all against it is ignorance.
Baghavad-Gita chap 13 – 8-13
The essential condition for the attainment of this supreme goal is the complete absence of the ego-sense. Self-control and self-discipline are the means. Yoga also signifies union with and absorption in the immortal Reality. A steady, persevering, and concentrated effort and struggle alone can lead the aspirant to the realization of the Godhead. So long as man is hankering after the pleasures of the senses, his progress on the path is slow and erratic. He must be undaunted in his endeavor and determined in his purpose. He must leave no stone unturned to subdue and eventually eradicate the impure passions of his heart and mind. A purified and enlightened bud-dhi can alone entitle the sadhaha to enter the kingdom of eternity.
Yoga is not a thing to be merely talked about, read in books, and heard through others. Yoga is for practice in life.
The Reality that came to me is profound and hard to see or understand because it is beyond the sphere of thinking. It is sublime and unequaled but subtle and only to be found by the dedicated.
Just as space reaches everywhere, without discrimination, just so the immaculate element, which in its essential nature is mind, is present in all. Visuddhi Magga
The truth is noble and sweet; the truth can free you from all ills. There is no savior in the world like the Truth.
Have confidence in the Truth, even though you may not be able to understand it, even though its sweetness has a bitter edge, even though at first you may shrink from it. Trust in the Truth.
The Truth is best as it is. No one can alter it, neither can anyone improve it. Have faith in the Truth and live it.
The self is in a fever; the self is forever changing, like a dream. But the Truth is whole, sublime and everlasting. Nothing is immortal except the Truth, for Truth alone exists forever. Majjhima Nikaya
The development of integrity and of true being, therefore, is indispensable for the seeker in his spiritual quest.
If he gives a promise he must keep it—no matter how hard it may be for him. He must constantly be wary of any unconscious lying, dishonesty, or inaccuracy, either to himself or to others. He should watch over his thoughts, his speech, and his way of being with people.
He must try to be as honorable and as sincere as he can, both with himself and with all those with whom he has dealings. He has to learn to have compassion for everyone with whom he comes into contact, because he never knows what profound hidden pain and worry this person may be carrying in him. He must become aware of the fact that, in one way or another, all beings suffer.
If, right from the start, moral values do not develop along with his inner spiritual work, then the seeker can be absolutely sure that his struggles will not bring him the true spiritual comprehension and unfolding he is seeking. His misdirected efforts may even accentuate and crystallize his undesirable tendencies, making them yet more difficult to eradicate later.
Fidelity to oneself also means fidelity to others; what one would wish for oneself, one must wish for others too. If a person does not want to be robbed of his happiness, he must not rob others of theirs either. The seeker must begin this spiritual work with the clear understanding that there is nothing in the universe that is not part of the whole. And if each thing is part of the whole, then there is only the One. All beings and everything in the world, as well as all the planets and stars, are parts of the Divine Universal Being in the same way as one’s head, neck, arms, trunk, legs, internal organs, and blood cells are part of the whole of oneself. Whatever harm is done to the one, the whole will inevitably suffer, sooner or later.
That is why there is so much insistence throughout a greater part of the text that follows on moral values and sincerity of being.
The Law of attention (chp Introduction)
What is of primary importance for an aspirant on this path is to learn to get away from his habitual state of being, the ordinary state into which he constantly falls each time after he has made the vital effort to rise and be connected anew to his Inner Source.
This habitual condition of being—or rather of not being and of not sensing himself—in which the human being generally passes his entire life is the very dragon in him to be overcome and transformed.
If a seeker can really see and understand what takes place in him every time the mists of this strange inner death descend upon him and mysteriously swallow up the awareness he has of his existence, he will have gained a further precious insight into himself and found a weapon with which to combat the enigmatic problem of his self-forgetfulness .
This difficulty can thus be used by a wise aspirant as an additional means to rise spiritually. Each time he catches himself flattering or disliking someone, saying something unkind, being untruthful, or even playing a certain role with people, if he follows up the source whence all these have sprung, he will generally find it to be a form of wrong self-consideration.
This will, in turn, be an alarm signal for him to realize the immediate need there is to try to disengage himself from the grip of his inferior state of being and of feeling himself into which he has once more sunk. The aspirant will find that, each time he makes a genuine effort to redirect his gaze inwardly to dwell in the silence of his true abode, he will at that moment begin to experience a state of pure and uninvolved impersonal awareness.
In this state, there will be neither the time nor the place in him for personal consideration or anything else arising from his lower nature.
For all its problems, uncertainties, and pains, life as it is affords the human being the indispensable and only means of learning right and noble conduct, and with the chance to sublimate himself through these very difficulties.
After death, the conditions necessary for his transformation will no longer be there. Without these harsh trials, it is ordinarily impossible for a human being to evolve to higher planes, just as it is impossible for a glittering pot of gold to come into being if it has not passed first through fire.
World Honored One, I remember when, as many kalpas ago as there are sands in the Ganges, there was a Buddha in the world named Contemplating the World’s Sounds. It was under that Buddha that I brought forth the Bodhi-resolve. That Buddha taught me to enter samadhi through a process of hearing and reflecting.
I received from that Thus Come One a transmission of the Vajra Samadhi of all being like an illusion, as one becomes permeated with hearing and cultivates hearing.
That in which the mind becomes silent and still by the practice of Yoga: that in which the Self is seen within in the Self by the Self, and the soul is satisfied.
That in which the soul knows its own true and exceeding bliss, which is perceived by the intelligence and is beyond the senses, wherein established, it can no longer fall away from the spiritual truth of its being.
That is the greatest of all gains and the treasure beside which all lose their value, wherein established he is not disturbed by the fieriest assault of mental grief.
It is the putting away of the contact with pain, the divorce of the mind’s marriage with grief. The firm winning of this inalienable spiritual bliss is Yoga; it is the divine union. This Yoga is to be resolutely practised without yielding to any discouragement by difficulty or failure.
When we sit down to meditate, we are trying to transcend our everyday consciousness, the consciousness used to transact ordinary business, the one used in the world’s marketplace as we go shopping, bring up our children, work in an office or in our business, clean the house, check our bank statements, and all the rest of daily living. That kind of consciousness is known to everyone, and without it we can’t function. It is our survival consciousness, and we need it for that. It cannot reach far enough or deep enough into the Buddha’s teachings, because these are unique and profound; our everyday consciousness is neither unique nor profound, just utilitarian.
In order to attain the kind of consciousness that is capable of going deeply enough into the teachings to make them our own and thereby change our whole inner view, we need a mind with the ability to remove itself from the ordinary thinking process.
Attaining this sort of mind is only possible through meditation. There is no other way. Meditation is therefore a means, and not an end in itself. It is a means to change the mind’s capacity in such a way that it can perceive entirely different realities from the ones we are used to.