Do Not Reduce This Institution to a Religion Business

Do Not Reduce This
Institution to a Religion Business

a talk by Heart-Master Da
Love-Ananda October 18, 1981


Communicating this Wisdom-Teaching, rather bright-eyed, more
than a decade ago already, and I am still Struggling with
the same lack of response in people that I encountered when
I began. Nobody is really interested. I have not really seen
any response to my Work. I have seen the usual, gleeful,
sitting­around-at-a-lecture attitude with which people
respond to movies and TV. The Teaching Argument is just a
commonplace. To enter into a higher frame of existence is
just not very important to people. They really do not care
to do it, particularly if it requires great effort, great
energy, great attention, great intelligence, great will.
Anything great to be Realized requires all of those things,
but people are used to being sold everything, as if they can
just have it at a cost they can comfortably


Like everyone else, you are adapted
to the psychology of the consumer. If something exists to be
desired, you can have it just by coming into contact with
it, or by going to a store, by picking up a book, and by
going someplace for a weekend. Everything is supposed to be
instantly consumable. The message is that what is between
you and a mouthwash is the distance between here and the
store. You only need to plunk your money down. Everything is
like a sex-object, conceived solely in terms of its
consumability, its desirability. Even the great Realizations
of human life have somehow been drawn into the stream of
communications that propose such things merely as desirable
objects. However, the substance of Spiritual life is not
merely a desirable object that you can notice and then
desire just because it is there, or that you can acquire
simply by coming in touch with it. The conventional
consumer’s mind says that there is nothing between you and
anything you might desire but space, whereas what is really
between you and What is Great is much more than


The distance between you and What is
Great is not only space but time, or mind. It is the
distance between where you are now and your ultimate
overcoming. God-Realization is not a consumable product.
Spiritual Teaching cannot be presented as a consumable
object. To become a successful institution or religion
business involves making the Teaching somehow consumable, an
object you can sell. And if the Teaching is to be an object
you can sell, then not only the Instructions but also the
Realization must become salable.


People are not interested in coming
to your church if Enlightenment is not what they get by
coming there. If they do come to your church, and you tell
them all the things they must do in order to become
Enlightened, they go to sleep. People simply do not have any
tolerance for the Way whereby the Great Things are Realized.
They reject the whole process. It is too much. They think it
is evil. They cannot desire the Way.


If you cannot make a religious or
Spiritual offering in its fullness available like a
consumable object, you cannot generate the growth that seems
desirable. Religious institutions grow, therefore, by
creating religious illusions, consumable religious products,
consumable Spiritual products. Religious institutions hype
illusion, or ideas, in such a fashion as to make them
desirable, make them somehow seem like Enlightenment itself.
You would think that just the ideas themselves were the
equivalent of ultimate Realization, or ultimate Happiness.
All you have to do is consume these things. All you have to
do is get kriya initiation, and right then, having gotten
that now, you are happy. People flock to organizations to
get products that are hyped, thinking that they are getting
Happiness, or getting the ultimate Great Thing. But they are
not getting true Happiness at all. The religion business
exists to make the unattainable seem like a product that can
be purchased.


I have been Teaching the Real Thing
to people all these years, and I know what happens to people
when they are confronted with the realities of Spirituality.
Unless they are unusual people, they basically do not
respond. They somehow can get attached to the Teacher, or
attached to whatever organization may seem to develop around
the Teacher, because they are hopeful of something, or
because in the context of belonging certain goods come
across so consoling that people do not mind being


But we do not have an
“Enlightenment-product” to sell here. The Way must be lived.
The Way requires disciplines. As soon as we emphasize the
disciplines in The Laughing Man Institute and talk about the
profound orientation to practice, every student wants to
retreat and become a friend. But if we keep The Laughing Man
Institute a kind of middle-class religion business, wherein
we do not make demands too heavily and we permit people to
dramatize their human ordinariness, then we can make that
department into a business. People do not mind being
consumers of The Laughing Man Institute business we produce
here-although even so it is very difficult to develop that


One of the reasons it has been so
difficult to establish The Laughing Man Institute is that
the Wisdom-Teaching is inherently critical of the point of
view of religion business. This Wisdom-Teaching just does
not have anything to do with anything like religion
business. The Wisdom-Teaching is not consumable. The Way is
not consumable. The Way is not something some smiling jerk
can purchase and tell his friends about. It is too
difficult, too profound.


The problem with the people who are
involved here is that they have not observed life itself in
such a light that they are motivated toward the Great
Process. Life still seems to them to be an amusing
opportunity. They want to continue with its consolations.
They are not really observing life as a whole. They are not
really seeing what is before them. The profound nature of
existence escapes them. They are involved in a very
superficial level of existence, largely oriented toward
bodily amusement. For them, life is the proposition of
bodily fulfilment. Of course there is mortality and
difficulty, and therefore they like to throw a little
religion into their heads, just to protect


This Teaching is not the kind of
religion that can serve such a purpose. The kind of religion
that can serve that purpose is conventional, exoteric,
downtown churchism and all the hype of self-help groups. The
ultimate, Transcendental, esoteric Spiritual Process has
always been a great matter. Very few have ever been involved
in it. Very few even heard about it before the last century.
The ordinary run of humanity just is not in touch with it.
Thus, it has always been reserved.


Then the Lord said to the monks: “I
am released (mukta), 0 monks, from all fetters (pasa),
whether divine or human. You too, 0 monks, are released from
all fetters, whether divine or human. 0 monks, wander! We
will go forward for the benefit of many people, for the
happiness of many people, out of compassion for the world,
for the good, welfare and happiness of gods and

Kloppenberg, Ria, translator, The
Sutra on the Foundation of the Buddhist Order
(Catusparisatsutra), Vol. 1 of the Nisaba Religious Texts
Translation Series (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1973), p.


Yet, because the world has gotten
into such a bad state, and because the science of
communication has advanced, the secret stream of human
evolution and higher Teaching has become more public. As a
result, the secret Teaching became part of the domain of
business and superficial culture. And that is our double
bind: We are involved in a Teaching that is fundamentally
only for those who can use it, and at the same time we have
an apparent obligation to the world at large that requires a
worldly business.


Today all kinds of weak-minded
people are making commentaries on great matters, as if they
were authorities. The Great Teaching has been made an object
of abuse and casual treatment by the general public, who are
threatened by its existence. If you want to succeed as a
religious institution, you must reduce yourself to a common
message. You must present yourself as a congenial, friendly
little thing, a little character that does not know too much
or own too much, is not free too much, is just a good guy.
You must be like everybody else. You must present something
that is consumable by all people just as they are. “Jesus
loves you just as you are” is the message, you


All people want to be just as they
are, and they want to enjoy themselves just as they are.
Such is the common motivation to be exactly as you are and
to enjoy yourself. People basically come around here
expecting to find out that they can simply enjoy themselves
and not have to change one whit. They merely want to be what
they are, the born physical character. They desire all the
things that would be fun to do, and they want to know how to
do them. The reason they are asking about how to get happy,
of course, is that they are frustrated and unhappy and
mortal, but they do not want to get too philosophical about
all that. They do not want to look at their frustration and
unhappiness to the point of becoming something else
altogether. Of course, if they come to me, they are told,
“You should really examine all of this and be something
entirely different.” Yet they keep coming back every week,
asking, “Are you sure that is the way it is? Are you sure I
have to do all this stuff? Are you really serious, or is
this just a bit of theatre? Are you just setting us up for a
big party? What you are really going to wind up telling us
is that we really do not have to do anything but simply
enjoy ourselves, right?” Meanwhile, I am busy working myself
over, trying to Communicate the Truth to you in such a form
that it will make a difference to you.


Now, why should I be worried about
that? Why should I be concerned to find some new way of
phrasing the Truth that will somehow make the difference for
you people here? If you had half a wit, The Knee of
Listening would have changed your life! It has been in print
since 1972, but you simply do not like the implications of
The Knee of Listening. It suggests that you must change, you
see. It suggests that you cannot enjoy the consoling
religious ideas, You must have a fundamental understanding
now, and if you live on the basis of that fundamental
understanding, you will change your life. Your whole life
will be taken up by disciplines, meditation, and
God-Realization, but you do not want it.


What do you want? You want some
promise, some graduated path. Why must a Teaching based on
the Wisdom that there is no graduated path and that the
ultimate Realization is not the goal of human life busy
itself creating a graduated path wherein the goal of
Realization is constantly sought? Why must a gradual path be
created? Because of the nature of the people who come
around. Because they are not really available to the Wisdom
that is offered to them, they must be given something else
to do in the meantime so that perhaps they will gradually be
brought around. Not only are people not ready for the
esoteric dimension of this process, but they are not even
ready for the basic communication.


You simply do not use the radical
Wisdom. You insist on being associated with the conventional
archetypes. As long as I use archetypal words, you feel you
are in the presence of something religious, you feel all
right, you will keep struggling along, applying yourself in
some very minimal way because you are not truly motivated.
You are motivated only if you wake up, and then you have
great energy. But since you have not awakened yet, you only
want to be surrounded by a few comfortable slogans and
archetypes, and you will apply the discipline only to the
degree that you are not burdened by guilt.


The trouble with religious and
Spiritual institutions all over the world is that people do
not practice. In general the institutions do not even regard
this reality to be a problem. They become immune to it. They
are willing to exist specifically for people who do not
practice. Lack of practice has likewise always been a
problem here. I have been able to function as someone who
communicates, but I have not been able to function as
somebody who communicates in the company of people who
practice. The institution itself takes on more and more of
the quality of non-practice, on the justification that “If
we are going to succeed and grow, then we must give up on
this idea that people are supposed to practice seriously, if
at all”


If all there is is what there was at
the beginning – which is me, having Realized the Truth-then
that is all there is about this institution that is real.
All the rest of it is a worldly machine that has developed
around me because of my poor interest in bringing other
people into God Realization. But I ask myself, “Why should
it be a concern of mine?” Why am I concerned about whether
or not people hear me and change their lives? That concern
just led me into more and more involvement with people and
with the world, an involvement that confines and threatens
my own existence and that does not represent a change in
other people.


I did not become involved in this
Teaching Work in order to create a religion business, not at
all. My Teaching Work was a serious impulse, a real impulse,
based on what I had observed in everybody since the day I
was born. What I had seen in other people seemed to make
them worthy of being instructed. Something needed to be
found out, and if it could be found out, there would be
profound change. It always seemed to me that if I could find
it out, then to let other people know about it was something
important to do. Such has always been my impulse, but it is
an impulse that is always frustrated, even subverted and
reinterpreted by the institutional process of communicating
the Teaching Argument to people. Something could be
profoundly different about everybody’s life, but the fact
that I am interested in its being profoundly different does
not mean that other people are interested in its being
profoundly different. Basically people are not


You know that saying in The Knee of
Listening, in “The Man of Understanding” section, something
like “Nobody understands so he makes himself happy with the
idea that you have already understood.” There is no way
whereby you get to understand. There is nothing I can do to
make you understand. The Bodhisattva vow does not really
work, not in any ultimate sense. Some sort of Transmission
is involved in the awakening of one individual, because the
Divine Reality Transmits Itself to the world in one way or
another, but such Transmission is required eternally. It
must happen again and again and again and again. Nothing one
individual can do in one lifetime is going to make the
ultimate or absolute difference for mankind as a whole
because of the nature of this material bondage that is


I have had only the best intentions,
but this world, and the people who come around to hear the
Wisdom-Teaching, and the people who are available to listen
to it, are doing something different than I am doing. I
lived what everybody else lives in the midst of this
Teaching Work in order to be instructive. It became very
clear to me in the midst of that submission that everybody
is interested in my living what they are living forever.
What they liked was the fact that I was living their kind of
life, not the fact that I was Teaching in the midst of their
life. Everybody was really very disappointed by the fact
that I did not want to live that kind of life very long and
by the fact that I am not doing it now.


Everybody is wondering where the
good times are! People become worried when they see me just
as I am, when I am not taking on their qualities, playing
life just the way they want to play it. They start getting
uptight. If I am just sort of invisible, criticizing things
and making demands, people become uninterested. They feel
burdened by everything. When all they hear about is the
disciplines of Spiritual life, they lose


The survival of the institution
should not be dependent on immature people who presume they
are already Enlightened beings. Because immature people are
what they are, we must have a proper formal structure for
their involvement. That is the way it was always done
traditionally. If there existed a core of renunciate or
esoteric practitioners, they related to the public and to
beginners through the kind of very formal temple structure I
have described in the past. They did not create folksy,
informal association with inappropriate expectations and
access to beginners.

It is a nice idea that there be a
gathering of mature practitioners, but it is very difficult
to manifest, particularly in this wasteland where forces
propagandize against the higher possibilities of humanity
from all directions. It is basically against the law to
become Enlightened. You must violate basic human taboos to
enter into the real Process of Spiritual life. There is not
enough free space. Everyone is obliged to be the same. How
can you possibly create an authentic gathering under such
circumstances? It would be a rare case if any single
Realized individual came out of that, and it is rare and
unusual, but today everybody wants to maintain the
egalitarian view of humanity. Everybody imagines that if one
guy can do it, everybody must be able to do it in a weekend.
It must be as easy as pie.

Adepts almost never appear. Real
practitioners are very, very rare. That is the way it has
always been, and it is still the way it is. To hear people
talk you would think there were thousands of Adepts all over
the country. There are not even thousands of real
practitioners. There are people famous for their
Spirituality who are not even real practitioners. This is an
Alice-in-Wonderland world. It is not real. That is why there
must be the Great Teaching. That is why the Truth is of such
great consequence, because it is hardly understood, and the
real implications of Spiritual Wisdom are not

Even in the optimum circumstance of
the traditional setting, it still took years and years to
develop a disciple. And there were very few of those. Look
at the history of the traditions and consider the people who
were associated with Adepts. How many Adepts were, in
effect, fathered by other Adepts? How many Adepts produced
one or more other Adepts, even in the apparently optimum
circumstances of the traditional setting?

All of the Adepts basically act as
if, in their sort of bright-eyed fashion, they are going to
save the world. What they have Realized obviously has great
consequences. If everybody else could Realize it likewise,
things certainly would be remarkably different. Thus, the
Adepts are always laying the Teaching onto people and
suffering and being abused for doing so. What is the history
of mankind? It is not the absence of Adepts and Teachings.
These have always appeared. It is the non-use of them, the
non-response, the abuse, the suppression. Yes, religion is
famous, but not as true religion, not as the servant of
Truth, not even as the medium of Truth. Religion has become
famous because it is not really religion. It is the same
thing that existed before the Truth was proclaimed. And it
makes the Truth or the atmosphere of Truth into something
else entirely, basically a justification for the conventions
of worldliness, not Enlightenment.

And yet religious institutions have
value in that they keep some sort of stream of Spiritual
teaching in the world. What they present is often falsified,
manipulated, suppressed, abused, and miscommunicated, but
these institutions are the only vehicle apart from the
occasional arising of an Adept. This is why it seems
important to me to create an institution that functions
rightly, but not because I have even the slightest sense
that the world could be suddenly changed by hearing the
Truth. It has never happened, and it is never going to
happen, at least not with humanity as it is. In general, it
is not going to happen in the manifest realms, and there is
no other place where it could happen.

To communicate the Truth is always
difficult because the Truth is about waking up from the
presumption you are making on the basis of manifest
existence. Even religion and so-called Spiritual endeavor
tends to be based on that same presumption. The religion
people hold on to, cling to, feel consoled by, is the
religion based on that error, that false presumption. The
Truth is another matter. The Truth is taught in a religious
or Spiritual context, but if it is to be practiced, the
error you are making on the basis of manifest appearances
must be thoroughly transcended. Such transcendence is
Enlightenment. Such transcendence is hearing the

Just to begin the Way you must hear
the Teaching. You must Awaken. Whole-bodily Enlightenment in
the most thorough, full, and high sense involves a Great
Process, but Enlightenment is not its goal. Enlightenment is
its root. Enlightenment is a fundamental Awakening, a
fundamental insight, which you then use moment to moment to
create the Way. A practice that is not based on that
fundamental insight is not based on Truth.

Therefore, the basic Teaching this
institution should represent is the understanding of this
fundamental error, or the mechanism associated with manifest
existence that makes it into an illusion, into suffering,
un-Happiness, un-Enlightenment, Godlessness. You cannot
merely believe something positive and develop a true
religious or Spiritual life. Enlightenment is not simply a
matter of believing in conventional God-ideas that motivate
you to be better. All such ideas must be understood. You
must enjoy this Awakening, this insight. You must hear the
Teaching Argument.