When we begin practice it is like we are traveling up the mountain. We are separating our transcendence from the mundane and finding out what part of us is eternal. Little by little we separate our pure nature from our habituated tendencies and the blind functioning of our body/mind until we can abide in our pure nature without a trace of attachment to the five senses or the story they would tell.
As we climb higher on the mountain the task is to try to abide beyond body and mind 24/7. Though this may seem to take the form of ruthless non-attachment to the outer world, we begin to see that we are only practicing non-attachment from our inner ignorance because all worlds were only our inner world the whole time. The spark of our mindfulness eventually grows to a roaring fire which burns the whole forest of delusion.
We sit for a time on the peak of the mountain, abiding in our pure state and wondering what, if anything, needs to be manifested through energy or power. At this point in our practice we have come to intimately know what it is to be human, with all of our suffering, confusion, anxieties and ambitions and we realize there really is no right answer and never has been. All of our actions, responses and creations were only arbitrary illusions. Although we worked hard and put many delusions to rest to reach this point it is here that we truly begin our most difficult task.
Realizing that there is no reality apart from what we choose to create, we know that all of creation is illusion. This leaves us in a very precarious spot and it is here that we need to work the hardest. There are a few ruts that we can become stuck in at this point and I believe they are as common as enlightenment itself.
- We see, from a place of transcendence, that we have more power and freedom than most other humans and can use that to try to dominate and manipulate and use the world around us to build fantasy, ego worlds for ourselves. In this case, we have not really matured our personalities and there is a gap between our understanding and our behavior. This is the case with “gurus” and “teachers” and salesmen and cults of personality. This creates even stronger negative karma for us because our compassion and insight is still lacking and we can end up like Charles Manson in the worst case. We are only above karma in Shiva, never in Shakti.
- We can give up, go away and remain silent inside and outside. This is the path of an Arhat who enjoys her own abidance and realizes the near impossible task of teaching others. In some schools of Buddhism this person is seen as inferior to one who practices for the sake of all beings. However, the path of the Arhat is superior to making trouble for oneself and others and gives time to deepen and stabilize their practice.
- The path of truly selfless compassion and practice for the sake of all beings and worlds is not an option for most at the peak of the mountain because their practice has not deepened fully – their manifested being is not fully transformed yet. Even a criminal can attain “the bright” as Adi Da called it, yet “the bright” has not yet had the time and circumstance to mature the person. We can see from gurus like Adi Da that they still carry an outside and an inside, a front and a back, a being, a life, a bright and a dark. This is not full maturation and it is not the level of a Buddha. Still carrying delusions there is nothing they can “teach” except “look at me, transcendence is possible.”
And it is here where religion, not just practice, is important. Religious dogma is, of course, useful only as a consideration, but it is useful nonetheless because we need to create for ourselves a map for manifestation. Practice without a map will create trouble because with great freedom and power come great responsibility.
From The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda:
“Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary.
This question is one that only a very old man asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”
When we abide as Shiva or consciousness, we can choose our path ever new, but choose a path we must. The less of our old self we bring to the present moment the more we live from enlightenment but we still must live. The single wish to be of benefit to others in this moment is the map that leads to Buddhahood, not just some failed Bodhisattva. Once we enter the stream, we can delay progress towards Buddhahood only by choosing to manifest something less than Bodhichitta. In the end all of the freedom we thought we’d attained through practice eventually collapses down to the size of a pinhead in this very moment, and its name is love.