Originally published in Crazy Wisdom magazine, Vol 1, No 3, June 1982.
Breaking the Cycle
MASTER DA: Because the basic work that I do with people is not noticed by them very well, I must keep reminding them of it. My Teaching Work is not something that I do every now and then when I gather people for instruction, but it is constant. In one fashion or another my influence in people’s lives is always interrupting the conventional or karmic motion of the self. I am not motivated to give you, the karmic or manifest self, something to be interested in, to give you visions or extraordinary experiences that pleasurize the manifest self. If visions arise in my company, they arise not to pleasurize but rather to stop the flow of the grosser self. They are possible moments of Awakening. I Teach a Way that enables you to make use of my spiritual Influence, as well as all the ordinary moments of life, as a process of Awakening and transcendence, until attention is perfectly free to directly and intuitively Realize the Condition of existence, or That in which all of manifest conditional existence is arising.
Particularly because you are Westerners, you have a sort of dogged interest in perpetuating the egoic state in every moment. The psycho-physical personality is tenaciously reinforced in the state of consciousness to which you have become habituated. No other influences have interrupted the flow of egoity in your acculturation as Westerners. Westerners do not have time for Enlightenment. They generally think of Enlightenment as they think of all the goods of the ego and the pleasures of the manifest self. They view Enlightenment as a big pleasure, one of the delights of the manifest being. For the Westerner, Enlightenment is built upon the conditional self, pursued by the conditional self, and conceived as a state or object of the conditional self, whereas in fact Enlightenment has nothing to do with the conditional self. No “one” is Enlightened. In Enlightenment there is no individuality, no separate person, no separate anything. The manifest conditions of existence may continue to arise, but they are utterly recognizable, they have no binding power, they are tacitly recognized to be merely apparent or unnecessary.
Ramana Maharshi is a teacher to whom I frequently point as an example of the sixth to seventh stage Adept. You all know the story about how he suddenly became Enlightened when he was about seventeen years old. Even he remarked that people should understand that Enlightenment happened in his case because of preparation in previous lifetimes. Thus, from his early years, his lifetime as Ramana Maharshi is regarded as an Enlightened lifetime, but an Enlightened lifetime that was the result of extensive preparation nonetheless.
Just so, there must be preparation in everyone’s case and an intense orientation toward Realization. Perhaps the Enlightenment of most people takes many lifetimes-how can we account for it? Fundamentally you must understand the Way as a person who is already born or incarnated egoically. You must be turned about, you must be converted, and you must enter into the stream of preparation. You must use attention and body and mind in a different fashion if you are going to realize Wisdom and Awaken to the Truth that transcends egoity. Without understanding the Spiritual Master, valuing such Awakening, and entering into the stream of practice, there is no such thing as Enlightenment, and. Enlightenment will not be true of you. There is no Enlightenment, no Awakening, without fierce practice.
You must practice fiercely, not because what is to be Realized is not already your Condition, but because through lifetimes of repetition you have reinforced mechanical states of attention. Because you have bound the consciousness and energy of being to the conventions of conditional existence, there is no residual attention to enable consciousness to stand apart from manifestation sufficiently to realize its own Status. Rather, consciousness is wasted in the repetition of states of attention that are fixed in the process of conditional existence. Spiritual practice must therefore be so fierce as to provide the basis for a natural Awakening so that we may release attention from the bond of conditional states.
In the process of practice, the Spiritual Master serves you in all kinds of ways, one of which is to stop the mind through verbal Teaching, through gestures, through Transmission of Spiritual energy. Through the Spiritual Master flow all kinds of instructional means that are encountered by people who respond to the Spiritual Master and the Teaching, who are practicing daily, who will use the spiritual Influence and not merely notice some parts of it here and there and every now and then while otherwise basically oblivious to it. Devotees are supposed to be those who have attention available for the Spiritual Master and the spiritual process, which is the process of transcending conditional existence, transcending the body-mind-self, transcending attention. If you are not oriented or inclined to transcendence, then of course no amount of help in that direction will be of much use to you.
These little satoris of the momentary stopping of the mind are not of any ultimate significance either. Much is made of them at the popular level of the Zen tradition. On some level Zen is a kind of “pop” Buddhism. Its satoris are for the common people who are very busy in their minds. The highest form of Zen is that which is applied by people who devote their entire life to its practice. For such people satoris are not sufficient. They are drawn to go beyond the moments of the stopping of the mind and glimpses of the space of Consciousness to Realize the Transcendental Condition of existence. Just so, you must also realize more than moments of experience, moments in which the mind stops, moments of meditation.
I know how fierce the mechanics of the body-mind are. I have had to deal with them all my life. Even though I possessed the capacity for Enlightenment at birth, my life became a fierce spiritual practice based on a spontaneous but profound commitment to Realization. Such commitment is absolutely essential for spiritual practice, which cannot fulfill itself without such commitment and which likewise must be fierce and profound.
You cannot be forced to practice, nor can your practice be guaranteed. What there is of Awakening in your case depends on your commitment. You must really practice. You cannot mechanically repeat yourself. If you are basically inclined to ordinary consolations and fulfillments, hopeful of being happy in this world, then when you feel so fulfilled, you step out of the stream of the spiritual process. You have bought and signed for consolation on the dotted line. If self-fulfillment is not sufficient for you, however, then you keep going. You persevere in the practice and you move on to the higher stages.
Some may seem to move more quickly to the higher stages of practice. The fact that they seem to have more talent and natural ability for it is probably a reflection, not only perhaps of their commitment during this life, but primarily of their preparation in previous lifetimes. They too will reach their cutoff point, the point where they will tend to stop, the point where practice tends to be sufficient for them or where further effort is too frustrating and too offensive. Everybody reaches the point where he or she tends to withdraw from the stream of practice. Most people reach that point even before they begin the practice. Either they are never moved to find anything greater than ordinary ego-fulfillment in the world, or they are just “fans” of spiritual life. They like the books, but they basically resist and even resent the interference represented by a Spiritual Master and a Teaching and the idea of practice.
The world is not organized around Enlightenment Wisdom, which is struggling to survive in our time, even though paperback books about spirituality and so-called spiritual teachers are springing up everywhere. The Enlightenment or Wisdom Tradition is struggling to survive. Spiritual life is mocked everywhere, and the culture of materialism is dominant. The politics of egos, with its materialistic force, is in charge in this world and it always has been. The motive to Enlightenment has always been rare. Although the motive to God-Realization has traditionally been a cultural premise and many people have responded to it in one form or another, more so in the Orient than in the West, even so, the spiritual cultures have tended to rise and fall, or become weak or conventional, or be reduced to at most a fourth to fifth stage esotericism, and the practitioners within those cultures have tended by and large to be ordinary people.
Only those who have accepted the discipline of religious or spiritual renunciation sufficiently to release attention from the bond of the mechanics of ego or body-mind can practice the conscious process in its radical form. The radical process of spiritual practice can be described to people, and I have written a great deal about the radical form of the conscious process. It need not be kept secret particularly, but it cannot be practiced fruitfully by an individual in whom attention is not fundamentally free. One cannot simply communicate to people in general a sixth stage teaching, for instance, such as the teaching of Advaita Vedanta or the mindfulness discipline of original Buddhism, and expect that everybody will therefore be able to practice it. Most people must engage preliminary or supportive practices. Most people should approach the radical Way through the lesser stages of life, because one cannot practice the advanced levels without an increase of available energy and attention.
To realize profoundly the mysticism of the fifth stage of life, for instance, you must demonstrate a great deal of free energy. Energy cannot be locked up in the vulgarities of the physical, outer-directed personality. Only free energy floating in the brain permits the subtle phenomena to arise. Likewise, you must realize free attention to invert beyond the outer-directed mechanics in order to focus in the phenomena of brain and higher psyche. Just as the fifth stage is an advance over the lesser stages, likewise the sixth stage is an advance beyond the fifth, requiring attention free even of the subtle bond of energies and mechanics.
Thus, this radical practice that I communicate based on the seventh stage disposition is not something that people can rightly, truly, fully, and fruitfully practice without preparation, without available energy and attention. Therefore, I have also communicated the forms of spiritual practice that basically represent the preparation for the most radical practice, preparation that releases energy and attention for the conscious process, which is the fundamental process I consider. That process in consciousness cannot really be engaged until there is free attention, because in that process attention itself is encountered and transcended. If you cannot enter into the consideration of naked attention itself, the fundamental mechanics of the being, then you cannot practice in the fadical sense. Most people cannot. The attention of most people is wandering in the conditions of the body-mind and is not free to inspect and transcend itself.
Therefore, I have engaged this ten-year display of Teaching Work, and I have written this literature and related to people in many different ways, in a tremendous struggle with people who are basically disinclined to the very process I am considering with them by virtue of the fact that on the one hand they are Westerners and on the other hand they are mechanical beings or egos. Such a struggle with egos is inevitable wherever the Teaching and a Teacher appear. But it is particularly disheartening to spend a decade at it and not have at least some mature practitioners who are sufficiently committed and prepared to practice in the radical sense. Such freedom for the radical process is not easy to find. It never has been easy to find in any cultural setting, yet it seems that there are remarkable impediments in the West. Still, because of the change in our time – worldwide communication, political changes, suppression of the Orient through political, social, materialistic, and technological movementsbecause of all that the technological twentieth century has created, it is necessary that the Dharma appear in the West, which is also the source of the materialistic movement that is overcoming the world. That a Spiritual Master be born in this setting and do this work is therefore necessary. In a few more decades there may not be any such thing as the Orient anymore. There will basically be a worldwide culture, and the esoteric and transcendentalist cultures will perhaps fundamentally have been suppressed in the part of the world we call the Orient.
Then the Teaching must take hold elsewhere. Orientals themselves are moving all over the world. The traditional homes of esoteric and transcendentalist schools or movements are being overwhelmed by the materialistic politics of our time. The Tibetans were suppressed by the Chinese, Communism is taking over in Southeast Asia, and materialistic social movements are overcoming India. The break in the Transmission must be mended, and the Teaching is appearing in the West through my Work. But my Work is obviously immensely difficult and not a very rewarding task, if we can use the word “rewarding” in discussing the work of Spiritual Teaching.
You should see in yourself your mechanical disinclination to the very thing that is brought to you every day of your life. Not so much through an intentional will, but via the mechanics of your own born personality, you find one way or another to by-pass the Divine Influence and the obligation to practice in every moment of your life. This sidestepping of responsibility is Narcissus, the self-contraction. To break the cycle and even glimpse the transcendental circumstance of the ego requires great intelligence and fierce commitment. The Siddhi or perfect fulfillment of that process is rare and remarkable, but you are given all the arms for it, all the Help for it, all the Teaching necessary for it. How well you will use the opportunity is to be seen.