The Four Yanas of Buddhism

The Four Yanas of Buddhism

A talk by 
(12/20/96) :

The possibility of going deeper is what the
traditions of internal creativity and sacred activity are
about—all the traditions of internal processes, the whole
tradition of meditation and so forth, Samadhi, religion (therefore),
and Spirituality and culture altogether. The positive cultural
endeavor and social endeavor of human beings is not only associated
with the three states (waking, dreaming and sleeping) but with modes
of endeavor with which, or in which, everyone basically participates
but some specialize in it, or do it more profoundly or more
consistently or whatever.

Some, like artists of various kinds, specialize in
associating with the waking and dreaming modes creatively. There are
all kinds of human creativity that are associated with going deeper
in the modes of mind and feeling and psyche, combining it with their
examination of waking phenomena otherwise, and all the realism of

Some who are religious, of course, also go beyond
the exoteric and social modes and so forth, go deeper than that, and
enter into the domain of mysticism and such, and inner perceptual
phenomena, including visions, and so on, in the modes of the fourth
and fifth stages of life.

Others in the domain of religion, Spirituality,
philosophy applied, exercise themselves profoundly relative to a
depth greater than the planes of mind, or deeper than the planes of
mind. Their exercises in depth extend into the domain of the sixth
stage of life, the domain prior to mind and perception. Some meditate
on that as a kind of end in itself. It is their taking of the
in-depth position, as deep as it gets, the deepsleep degree, and
using it as a means to escape the waking and dreaming world of
changes. They enter into the objectless mode of egoity.

In the Buddhist tradition, there are those who are
called “arhats”—those who, as is usually said, pursue liberation
for themselves and then achieve it. It is the liberation that is
experienced by attending to the depth rather than what is less than
the depth, and essentially retiring there, as the fulfillment of the
self-effort, ego-effort, of seeking for release. It is that
liberation which is realized upon entrance into the egoic domain of
deep sleep-bare attention without subtle or gross objects, but
nonetheless self-enclosed, self-aware, and excluding subtle and gross
phenomena, by an act of will, inner tension.

Beyond that, it is possible to enter into the
domain that is beyond deep sleep, beyond the unit of attention, the
self-contraction in its causal mode. And those who enter into that
greater depth may become firmly established thus, and then, in
association with the waking-state associations, their expression,
their Teaching (presuming they Teach) is in the mode of sixth stage
“Sahaj Samadhi”, or, otherwise, as demonstrated in the various modes
of Mahayana Buddhist Enlightenment.

STUDENT: Beloved, You were talking about the
arhats. Is there a hierarchical relationship between them and the


Well, “arhat” is a term associated with what is
called “Hinayana Buddhism”, or “the Pali tradition”, or “Theravada
Buddhism”. There the individual follows instruction, based on a
search to be free from suffering, and eventually achieves that. There
is no criticism of that within the Hinayana (or Theravada) Buddhist

In the Mahayana tradition, so called, you get the
language of rivalry about this—a different kind of idealism,
more readily associated with social-personality purposes for one
thing, social religiosity and so on, more amenable to it than the
more “monkish” and “nunnish” Hinayana tradition. So it’s associated
with some idealistic presumptions and so forth that were not
emphasized perhaps as much in the Hinayana (Theravada)

Other modes of philosophy or modes of meditation
and Realization are also associated with the Mahayana tradition, in
which there are many schools, of course. There are three yanas among
the historical Buddhist traditions. There is Hinayana (or Theravada),
and there is Mahayana, and there is Vajrayana (or Tibetan Tantric
Buddhism, in which there are many schools as well). And now there is
Advaitayana Buddhism, or Ruchira Buddhism—the Way that I have
Revealed and Given.

The bodhisattva is the idealized Realizer in the
general Mahayana tradition. The arhat is, generally speaking, the
idealized Realizer in the Hinayana tradition. So, from the point of
the view of the Mahayana, of course-speaking argumentatively—the
arhat ideal is not good enough.

STUDENT: Because he should do something social to
save people?


Yes. The general popularity of the bodhisattva is
that he or she forestalls Enlightenment in order to work for the
salvation of all beings—an altruistic point of view, as I said,
more amenable to all the modes also of popular religiosity and social
religiosity, more so than the more monastic tradition of the Hinayana
(although it’s not exclusively monastic, either-its history has
associated with the lay community as well).


In the Mahayana tradition, a somewhat different
point of view, generally speaking, is found. The Zen tradition, for
instance, is within that Mahayana tradition. The point of view of the
philosophy associated with meditation and Enlightenment is often,
generally speaking, quite different than that in the Hinayana
tradition. Buddhism, in general, is a tradition that’s about the
transcendence of suffering, but there is in the Mahayana
tradition—philosophically, at any rate—less of an emphasis
on the examination of suffering and going beyond suffering, and
instead there’s an examination of Reality Itself and a
“consideration” of the modes of mind and so forth that are used as a
basis for your presumptions about reality.

There’s an expression in the Mahayana tradition,
“naive realism”, that’s used to criticize the Hinayana tradition,
which is expressed, at any rate, in the very ordinary daily-life
realism sense: “Every thing is unsatisfactory ultimately. There is no
ultimate satisfaction. Every thing is changing. Any thing that you
can call your ‘self’ is a form of conditional arising. It’s not a
separate entity. It’s part of a flow of changes.” It’s looking deeply
at “everyday” (so to speak) experience, or experience as it is
conventionally presumed to be being experienced by a physically based

The Mahayana tradition-speaking of its serious
philosophical dimension and so on-doesn’t merely take that daily
point of view. It, in fact, examines that daily point of view. Much
of the process of the Teaching and the meditation and practice and so
forth is about just this examination of presumptions about Reality.
In that process of philosophical “consideration”, the point of view
that is associated with Hinayana Buddhism is criticized, described in
such terms as “naive realism”—”naive” meaning “not very
profound”. Rather than emphasizing the nature of bodily based human
experience as being suffering and changing and so forth, there is
instead the practice of in-depth techniques of abstraction,
internalizing, internalized abstraction or depth-inwardness, and so
forth. There are various kinds of practices you see in the Zen
tradition as an example, and so on.

Then there is the Vajrayana (or Tantric) tradition
of (generally speaking) Tibet. And if the Hinayana is, in some sense,
associated with something of an ordinary realism of the first three
stages of life (while also being ultimately impulsed to the sixth
stage of life), and the Mahayana is more associated with the sixth
stage “consideration”, the Vajrayana tradition adds to this the kind
of middle term of advanced fourth stage and fifth stage processes.
Mahayana also adds a certain fourth stage dimension to the Buddhist
tradition in its own fashion.

Thus, if you look at all of the yanas within the
Buddhist tradition, the three historical yanas previous to My
Revelation of Advaitayana Buddhism cover the span of the first six
stages of life, generally speaking. I could point you to the various
elements of the Buddhist tradition corresponding to different stages
of life and so on, and you could see it as an entire tradition. Not
that it was anywhere practiced as a whole, or everywhere practiced as
a whole, anyway—some places emphasized one or the other of the
three yanas and, therefore, the stages of life associated with them
and so on.

Similarly, then, Advaitayana Buddhism, or the Way
of the Heart, or Ruchira Buddhism, is the single Way that covers all
of the stages of life, but not limited to the first six. The Way of
the Heart, rather, includes all seven of the stages of life, the
seventh being not merely a progression on the first six but
specifically being the transcendence of each and all of the first
six. This Way of Advaitayana Buddhism is a practice, a Way, that
transcends the inherent limitations in each of the stages of life as
the sadhana continues, and, likewise and directly, transcends the
root-condition, or act, which is egoity itself, or the very one that
would otherwise “develop” or “evolve”, so to speak, through the six
stages of life.

The process of the Way of the Heart is
fundamentally the process in depth. And, all throughout the Great
Tradition, that is the principle that is “taken advantage of”, so to
speak. It is the Law, the unique principle in the midst of
conditional experiencing—the fact that there is a depth, and it
is there in every present moment, to be entered into as you like. You
can live in such a fashion that you cultivate that capability that is
sadhana or the religious and Spiritual life because there is this
depth-this whole vast domain, deeper than ordinary waking awareness,
which is there to be explored, or (otherwise) examined and gone
beyond, as in the Way of the Heart. And this depth is always there,
no matter what realm, experience, condition, or whatever, of pain or
pleasure or any mode at all of experiencing, waking, or dreaming, or
(ultimately) even sleeping. There is a greater depth, and that is the
Way of the Heart. That is the Heart.

To enter into the depth is always the option.
Mankind, as well as the non-humans, has been exploring this for
uncountable generations. There have always been people and schools
and ashrams, groups, whatever, wherever, in whatever culture, who
have persisted in this process. There are many traditions for it.
They seem to contradict one another in various ways because they’re
all local to some then-known universe of associations. When any local
tradition gets in conjunction with some other tradition it grew up
without, that wasn’t associated with it before, each of them has an
integrity as a body of wisdom-communications, but they don’t seem to
fit, so they get into conflict and struggle with one another, each
claiming to be the one. Neither one of them is the one-only
the One is the one.

Whatever you brought out of your jungle, somebody
else brought something else out of their bit of the jungle. The
traditions are reflections of the “considerations” of people in the
past. However reliably or unreliably transmitted through time, that’s
what they reflect.

In every generation there are many who examine
this capability and mystery that is depth. Now, the human
gathering of traditions going on for all so long has shown itself as
a pattern of six stages of life and Realization, and I have proven
this to you in The Basket of Tolerance by gathering books reflecting
all of those traditions and showing you how it is so and what that is
based on, what the structure of the human being and of
psycho-physical experience is, and so on. And that’s how come there
are those six stages. They’re all based on the psycho-physical
pattern of progressively deepening experience, waking to dreaming to
sleeping, and then beyond.

These experiences, experiments, reflected in the
history of human cultures, even separate from one another, are still
demonstrating the same fundamental categories of “consideration” and
development, because the structure, the psycho-physical structure, of
the human being is the same in people, even though they do not
associate with one another historically (for a long period of time,
at any rate), and then come to meet somewhere down the

Why are there the similarities?
Because the same structure is there.

And why must the differences be

Because there’s only one structure there.