The Four Yanas of Buddhism
A talk by AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ (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 mortality.
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 bodhisattvas?
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: 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 tradition.
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) tradition.
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?
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: 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 human.
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 line.
Why are there the similarities? Because the same structure is there. And why must the differences be overcome? Because there’s only one structure there.
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