September 29, 2019

The Preliminaries to the Fastest Path: Rushen and Traversing the Realms

Let us consider a few things to help organize our spiritual path and future. The concepts of samsara and nirvana are introduced in the teaching of Buddhism, but of course they are also within Hinduism, and more subtly in Christianity and Taoism, and certainly in The Lotus teachings. The teachings that are given regarding samsara and nirvana, that is, the six realms of samsara, and nirvana as the state of emancipation, liberation, or perhaps a pure place where we can live ultimately, change as one ascends in spiritual level.

To simplify, there are three levels of spirituality that were taught by the Buddha. We could call the first level the Theravada, sometimes referred to as the Hinayana, small vehicle; the second level the Mahayana, the lower bodhisattva teachings; and the third level the esoteric teachings of Vajrayana and Zen, which are the heart of the teachings in The Lotus. There are really three different kinds of instructors and three different kinds of sanghas, one for each level. The terminologies change; also, sometimes the terminologies stay the same, but the meanings of the terminologies change depending on the three levels. Specifically, let us further investigate the terms ‘samsara’ and ‘nirvana.’

In the innermost teachings of the Vajrayana, the third level, the teacher is able to give empowerment, and the student is able to receive empowerment and experience that same level of being. As a preliminary, there is a practice called Rushen: separating samsara and nirvana. What does that mean? An intelligent person would know right away that means it is necessary to differentiate the two. For some reason it is not exactly clear what samsara is and what nirvana is. If you are one of those smart people, right now you are probably having that moment of realizing, “Yes, there is a big gray area. What samsara is and what nirvana is has to be completely separated."

A person at a beginning level of spirituality still has a tremendous amount of naive realism and may think their mind is discrete from the world. The terms samsara and nirvana take on an entirely different meaning in the second turning of the wheel, the Mahayana, and an even deeper understanding in the third turning of the wheel, when one approaches the vajra master and the sangha at the Vajrayana, Zen level. In this third level, one is completely eradicating the sense of division between one’s mind and the world, as one’s meditation practice.

Again, many new terms will be introduced, and other terms that are commonly used may be dropped or used less often for skillful purposes.

What is this practice of Rushen, and why is it so important? It takes incredible courage and wisdom to discriminate between samsara and nirvana. As one looks in, one will confirm again and again that the samsara and nirvana that one is experiencing are within oneself. At first samsara and nirvana may seem like something entirely external, then half internal and half external, and eventually, it is seen as all internal, we could say. In the lower Mahayana one practices tonglen and feels a sense of connection to other beings, perhaps somewhat superficially, but in the Vajrayana a practitioner truly feels at one with all beings. The sense that things are apart from one’s mind is generally what is meant by that funny term ‘duality.’

To realize one’s unenlightenment is also to realize how one attains enlightenment. That is why Rushen is a preliminary practice for Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, which is the essence of The Lotus teachings.

If one has the potential ability to practice Dzogchen, one would receive the instructions and empowerments for Rushen. One cannot practice Rushen without empowerment. A regular spiritual friend or someone who has merely read a lot about Buddhism and can recite the teachings from rote is not sufficient in this regard: one needs an authentic teacher who has received empowerments and can pass on that expression of connection to one’s higher self. The main purpose of empowerment is to reveal in that moment who one really is.

Some people can’t receive the empowerment properly, so unfortunately they don’t see who they really are: there is too much obscuration. Other people see who they really are, but then they feel prideful about it and throw it away. A few beings, very auspiciously, decide, “I will dedicate my life to this because this is my true, pure nature. I don’t know what is to be known about this, but I’m going to jump in and find out. I will spend the rest of my life pursuing this as best I can.”

There is a tremendous amount of organization set up for people to move through the different levels. It requires courage and ability to practice separating samsara and nirvana. How does one do it? One must have great compassion of the Mahayana; one must have practiced shamatha, the peaceful mind; one must have the desire to extend and perfect the empowerment of the higher self with which one has been blessed; one must stay in connection with the teachers, and that would include one’s own teacher, her teachers, and her teachers’ teachers, who are all exemplars of God’s own presence. They all hold the holy spirit energy of God, to use the Christian nomenclature.

I bow in my mind, to my teachers who gave me the Lovestream empowerments and empowered me. In the same way, I see who is sincere, and I give the empowerments to those people. And they have one of the three aforementioned responses. I pray that they have the third response and that through the empowerment, they can begin to gain more familiarity with their higher self. If one becomes better at discriminating between what the higher self is and what the higher self is not, that is Rushen practice.

One who is within the energetic field of empowerment and blessings, committed to the lineage, and within the higher sangha, is able to do the impossible and move the mountain to which Jesus Christ referred. The mountain is the mountain of one’s own karmic residues, the skandhas, the five heaps, one’s habitual tendencies.

The Theravada is a very slow system, wherein those things are gradually worn away like a rock in a stream over thousands of years. The Mahayana is a faster system, in which one could attain enlightenment in so many hundreds of lifetimes. In the Vajrayana, however, that can be narrowed down perhaps to between one and ten lifetimes. That is why it is called the ‘fast path’ because one can attain enlightenment in a few lifetimes, two lifetimes, possibly this lifetime, even this year, or maybe even this very week, and in some cases, today.

We practice Rushen, separating samsara and nirvana, and we also practice traversing the realms of samsara. Those two comprise the preliminary practices, along with the requesting and receiving of the empowerments. Put those together, and one has the magical power to move out what a psychologist can’t move out, to clear what a psychiatric drug can’t clear. Included is the power to transform that which cannot be pushed out of one’s way merely by using willpower. Then beings, instead of arising as an “other,” arise as one’s own mind, and those beings—who aren’t really beings, yet they still affect us—are liberated. How? By our teaching them. Through the master giving empowerment we can ‘receive the holy spirit.’ There is nothing higher. We become at one with God, and as such we know intuitively what is ultimate truth. We stop manipulating these beings, who aren’t really beings. In our own mind they are liberated, and they move up into a state of nirvana, actual enlightenment.

On the first and second levels, we might have hints of enlightenment, but the discussion about samsara and nirvana is more general, and we haven’t clearly defined them. I suggest if you think you can handle level three to go ahead and do it. Pay respect to the lineage and learn who the spiritual teachers are. Ask questions to purify your misunderstandings about the small vehicle, Hinayana, and also the large vehicle, Mahayana, Great Vehicle. Receive the empowerments of Lovestream; receive the higher self empowerment and perfect it. Then request teachings in the inner tantric vehicles, and decide to prepare yourself in the preliminary practices of Rushen, discerning samsara from nirvana, as well as traversing the realms of samsara, going back and forth between the realms.

Regarding the practice of distinguishing between samsara and nirvana, one might wonder, “Isn’t that dualistic?” No, again, it’s a preparatory practice. One has to try, and then one will receive more. Those who have will be given more; those who aren’t trying aren’t going to make any headway. One cannot learn how to swim simply by dipping one’s toe into the pool. One has to jump in, and jump in every day. This is not something that can be done as a part-time hobby. It is very auspicious when someone practices, especially in a spiritual dark age like today.

In this time of Kali Yuga is the promotion of a sense that we are in a golden age, and the world is becoming spiritualized, and we’re going to feed the world, and all the problems of the world are going to go away. This kind of naivete needs to be put to the side. One has to seek first the kingdom of heaven, and then everything will be handled.

Ultimately we are going to handle all beings, but there is no point in trying to rush and being unsuccessful in the venture. Of course we need to feed beings and assist and liberate every being. We will never to be able to accomplish this if we are hateful and political. We can only do it if we can liberate ourselves. Then we will have the flexibility of what we would call “magic.” We will know how to do it beyond this lifetime. We will be able to come back and benefit.

Everything we talk about is based in compassion, the heart of the Mahayana. Only through the path of complete enlightenment can we truly benefit all beings. In level one, we are trying to help beings. In level two, we are trying more intelligently to help beings, but in level three, we actually have the capability to liberate ourselves and liberate beings.

All beings will attain the level of realization of buddhahood, of Dzogchen. This is not just wishful thinking. They will not be divided into heaven and hell forever. They are to some degree separated into samsara and nirvana superficially, but their nature is to be nirvana. All beings will ultimately be in nirvana, and samsara will be closed, done with and out of business. We can say the prayer that this occurs and that we can be a part of that.

Nothing is more fun than the simple magic of Vajrayana and Dzogchen. The people who are ready for that will be taught. May the people who aren’t yet ready for that find a path that is optimum for them, in whatever church and sangha would be in the highest good for them at this time, whatever they can best handle.

May we feel a camaraderie and connection with beings at every level of spirituality. May all of them be successful, and may they start to recognize that they are at a certain level, and there is a time to move up to the next level.

September 8, 2019

The Incomprehensible Understanding of Bodhisattvas

Thereupon, Manjusri, the crown prince, addressed the Licchavi Vimalakirti: "Good sir, how should a bodhisattva regard all living beings?"

Vimalakirti replied, "Manjusri, a bodhisattva should regard all livings beings as a wise man regards the reflection of the moon in water or as magicians regard men created by magic. He should regard them as being like a face in a mirror; like the water of a mirage; like the sound of an echo; like a mass of clouds in the sky; like the previous moment of a ball of foam; like the appearance and disappearance of a bubble of water; like the core of a plantain tree [plantain fruit]; like a flash of lightning; like the fifth great element; like the seventh sense-medium; like the appearance of matter in an immaterial realm; like a sprout from a rotten seed; like a tortoise-hair coat; like the fun of games for one who wishes to die; like the egoistic views of a stream-winner; like a third rebirth of a once-returner; like the descent of a non-returner into a womb; like the existence of desire, hatred, and folly in a saint; like thoughts of avarice, immorality, wickedness, and hostility in a bodhisattva who has attained tolerance; like the instincts of passions in a Tathágata; like the perception of color in one blind from birth; like the inhalation and exhalation of an ascetic absorbed in the meditation of cessation; like the track of a bird in the sky; like the erection of a eunuch; like the pregnancy of a barren woman; like the un-produced passions of an emanated incarnation of the Tathágata; like dream-visions seen after waking; like the passions of one who is free of conceptualizations; like fire burning without fuel; like the reincarnation of one who has attained ultimate liberation.

"Precisely thus, Manjusri, does a bodhisattva who realizes the ultimate selflessness consider all beings."

Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra Chapter 7, tr. Robert A. F. Thurman


In the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra Chapter 7, Vimalakirti discusses the manner in which a bodhisattva should regard living beings. Many of the analogies Vimalakirti gives reflect the irony of the situation: when a bodhisattva encounters a sentient being, he sees someone whose nature is a buddha but is lost in suffering.

A stream enterer is someone who doesn't hold onto egoistic views. A bodhisattva thinks of a person as being like a stream enterer with an ego. By definition a stream enterer has put his ego aside—hence the irony of it.

When things are ironic, the whole point is they are in conflict. Take the example of moving a mountain with a mustard seed. A mustard seed is tiny; a mountain is gigantic. If someone threw a mustard seed at a mountain, it wouldn’t seem that it could move it.

When bodhisattvas look at people they see what seems to be incongruous: beings who are buddhas in their nature but crazy. What could be more preposterous than being a buddha and not experiencing it? Bodhisattvas become concerned when they see unenlightened beings, all of whom have the buddha nature but don't recognize their nature.

People would be bewildered and upset if they saw hair on a turtle, a horn on a rabbit, or a core of a clove of garlic. They would think it incredibly strange if they saw a barren woman have a baby or a mountain move from the power of a mustard seed. Those are all things that don't really jive. In the same way, a bodhisattva is baffled when he sees an ordinary person. That would be similar to seeing a rich man living as if he were destitute, who once a week would go to the bank and withdraw a nickel even though his checking account has a billion dollars in it. A bodhisattva would think, "People are completely insane. They have the buddha nature, yet they act like confused, irrational children. They are ravenous for the Dharma but won't accept the Dharma." That would be comparable to offering a a delicious meal to a starving person who refuses it.

Looking at a person from a bodhisattva level is like noting something fantastical. Bodhisattvas regard beings as if they are a manifestation of the impossible. Whenever they observe people, bodhisattvas are shocked and wonder how could they be so far askew. Bodhisattvas see beings as a farcical, ridiculous implausibility, almost like a Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass type of absurdity. Everything is backward: what's up is down, what's down is up. That would be like blue that is red, red that is green, and green that is black. That would be like birds that fly in outer space, people who live in the center of the earth, or the sun shining in the middle of the night—things that don’t exist, impossible yet appearing, one after the other.

What bodhisattvas discern when they come upon people is beyond the understanding of ordinary beings. Looking at people, bodhisattvas see magical potential. They know people are in a state of delusion and that conceptual limitations all need to be cut through.

Bodhisattvas love and help beings. They don't go into a pure situation and stay there; rather, they remain with people. Beings are so ludicrous that it's as if they are being handed millions of dollars but dropping their wallet on the way home. They lack the tiniest bit of discipline to be able to hold the gold they are being given. Curiously, although beings are buddhas, they behave foolishly and rarely truly let go of worldly concerns.

September 3, 2019

Mudra and Mahamudra

A mudra is a position. If you hold your hands in the Amitabha position of equanimity, then that would be a mudra. Once you release your hands, then that mudra is no longer there. If you sit in a Vairocana posture, that would be a sitting mudra. The moment you stand up, that sitting mudra isn’t happening anymore. Any position that you keep is a mudra.

If things solidify into certain forms, then those too are mudras. Any mudras done intentionally are an expression of the seventh ray of Ceremonial Order. If the position of your body is always moving and constantly changing, there is no mudra. Moving nonformally with no particular pattern would not be mudra. Any repetition of a movement could be considered mudra because there is a certain shape of the body being exhibited.

The position of your mind is a mudra. The Mahamudra is the great mudra. It means your mind is expansive and unlimited.

For materialists, mind doesn't even exist. They have been told that material objects are important and things that are subtle or intangible are not important. To them, the position of their mind is insignificant.

Anything that fixates is a mudra. But what if you simply stayed open? Then that would be the Mahamudra. An utter lack of fixation is the Mahamudra.

Mahamudra means the ultimate position. It is the perfect meditation posture: the perfect position, location and situation. When a beginner hears this, they think of sitting with their back straight, folding their legs and holding their hands a certain way. But here we are speaking of the mudra of your mind. When you assume this posture, then all passing stains become purified.