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The Buddhist System of Liberation - 2

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The Buddhist System of Liberation - 2

I understand that such orientation toward one's own peace and happiness constitutes the Small vehicle and that the Great vehicle involves dedication of all one's activities for the welfare of others with the love and compassion of the mind aimed at enlightenment by the desire to liberate all beings from samsara.

This emphasis on the mind aimed at enlightenment (bodhicitta) distinguishes the Great Vehicle from the Small vehicle. It is the sine qua non of Great vehicle practice, for the penetrating wisdom by which we will eventually see the true v oid condition of all things must be balanced by the love and compassion of the mind-for-enlightenment in order to yield the perfect, non-exclusive freedom from samsara known as enlightenment.

Even in the Tantric Vehicle, which is a refinement in method but basically the same in philosophy as the Great Vehicle, the mind-for-enlightenment is a necessary prerequisite for practice. The Sanskrit term for this, bodhicitta, can be defined as the condition of the mind wherein all actions are performed spontaneously for the benefit of all. It is almost an instinctive drive for one's own freedom so that one may have the ability to guide others.

On the other hand, bodhicitta is not itself directly productive of liberation, for unless tempered by wisdom it will only bind the practitioner more tightly to samsara.

Persons traveling a path involving generation of this mind-for-enlightenment through tantric or nontantric methods are called bodhisattvas, or "enlightenment warriors." (Sanskrit sattva means " living being," but has the secondary meaning of heroic or courageous, and is rendered thus in the Tibetan.)

Mila sums it up in this way:
having conceived of samsara as a prison, understand that all beings lost in it are none other than our own parents who have given us birth throughout beginningless time. With love and compassion for those lost in samsara, generate the mind aimed at supreme enlightenment for the sake of their liberation.

Then ride the great waves of practice aimed at enlightenment : the three basic path-practices, the four social means, and the six transcendences, thus compiling the two stores and purifying the two obscurations.

This passage summarizes the main practices of the Great Vehicle. The three basic practices comprise morality as behavioral practice, and concentration and wisdom as mental practice. The four social means-giving, relevant communication, assisting the development of others, and serving as an example for their inspiration-are practices oriented primarily toward the welfare of others. The six transcendences-giving, moral behavior, patience, effort, concentration, and wisdom-are practiced primarly for one's own development, although of course in the Great Vehicle there is no exclusive self-interest.

These practices have a double-effect. First, they increase the two stores of personal power-the store of merit based on ethical behaviour and proper performance of ritual, and the store of gnosis based on examinations the samsaric condition and its correction, from the first intellectual gleanings up to transcendent, supermundane wisdom beyond the range of words and thoughts.

Secondly, they reduce the two obscurations-the obscuration of afflictive mental states, which blocks realization of nirvana, and the objective obscuration, whhich masks the reality of things, thus blocking the omniscience of perfect buddhahood.

Mila explains how the six transcendences, particularly those of concentration and wisdom, must be coordinated in a systematic practice of path:

Giving, moral behavior, and patience are the means of compiling the store merit. Concentration and wisdom are the means of compiling the store gnosis. Effort furthers all of them. The highest gnosis is the very mind of buddha. Those wishing to obtain it should apply themselves to these various methods.

Special attention is given to the development of concentration and wisdom. Basic meditation may be divided into that of focusing, or quieting the mind, through one-pointed concentration and the analytic process of generating wisdom through transcendent insight.

This quieting, known in Sanskrit as samatha, is so called because by one-pointed concentration the activity of the mind is stilled. As certain mental functions are alerted, the mind assumes different, meta-stable modes of operation.

The eight " different modes" are termed absorption levels (dhyana) and are similar in both Buddhist and Hindu mental cosmology. They are entirely samsaric, though of a much more refined nature than ordinary consciousness, and are the range of the traditional yogi's meditation. By practising these states, all yogis receive their powers and bliss.

Because of the mental pleasure and supernormal powers they confer, the absorption levels can be construed as a path to liberation, which they are not. They are rather the solid bases from which the transcendent mental leap to direct confrontation of voidness through wisdom can occur.

Since they are more developed and tranquil than ordinary mental operation, they are like the glass chimney of an oil lamp, steadying the tiny flame of wisdom against the winds of afflictive mental functionings.

Wisdom is developed by the practice of insight, a process of examination and analysis of our perceptions, a pressing of the intellect to the limits of its range until the flash of direct experience of reality occurs. This is the experience of the egolessness of persons and the voidness, or lack of identities, in things. It is the only meditational state capable of clearing the traces of experience that give rise to afflictive mental states and illusions about reality. Thus the practice of insight exceeds the practice of quieting, which can merely supress the active forms of afflictive mental states.

The yogi must trav el five paths to enlightenment. The process of compiling the two stores of merit and gnosis is the accumulation path, and the meditational application of these two stores to direct perception of voidness is the application path.

The direct perception of voidness itself is the path of seeing, and the development and repeated application of such direct perception to clear the compulsive action of the imprintings of experience is termed the "meditation path." The final elimination of all traces of the two obscurations is the final path, or path beyond practice, equivalent to buddhahood.

Mila sums it up:
In brief, the basis is faith, the assistor is effort, the antidote is the acquisition (of virtue) and expiation (of sin), the direct cause is the integration of wisdom with method ( the active aspect of the mind-for-enlightenment), and the subsidiary cause is the practice of the accumulation and application paths. When the path of seeing is thereby attained, that is the direct experience of the wisdom of insight.

With the attainment of the path of seeing, the bodhisattva-warrior stands on the first of ten bodhisattva stages, and after traversing them one by one attains the eleventh stage, the stage of enlightenment.

Reference: Drinking the Mountain Stream: Song's of Tibet's Beloved saint: Milarepa 

On the Plane of Self Consciousness IV - 2

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On the Plane of Self Consciousness IV - 2

According to this law the energy-the power of exciting vision-of the red rays is several thousand times as great as the energy of the violet, and there uis a regular and rapid decrease of energy as we pass down the spectrum from red to violet. It is plain that if there has been such a thing as a growing perfection in the sense of vision in virtue of which, from being insensible to colour the eye became gradually sensible of it, red would necessarily be the first colour perceived, then yellow, then green, and so on to violet; and this is exactly what both ancient literature and etymology tell us took place.

The comparative moderness of the colour sense is further attested by the large number of persons in all countries who are what is called colour-blind-that is persons who are at the present day entirely or partially without colour sense. " Wilson's assertion that probably one in five and twenty is colour-blind long remained doubted because not proved in reference to sufficiently large numbers.
Till we had comparison methods, and principally- Hohngren's, no satisfactory data could be obtained. His in proper hands so quickly decides a case that tests have already been made in thousands of persons.

Based on at least two hundred thousand examinations is the result that four per cent of males are colour blind in greater or less degree, and one-fourth of one per cent of females." This would make one case of colour-blindness to every forty-seven persons. The degree of universality of the colour sense in race is, of course, an important fact in estimating its degree of evolution as compared with other races.

In this connection the following facts are of interest: In Japan among 1.200 soldiers 1.58 per cent, were red-blind, and 0.833 per cent, green-blind. Among 373 boys 1 per cent were red-blind; among 270 girls 0.4 per cent. Among 596 men examined by Dr. Berry, of Kyoto, 5.45 per cent. showed defective colour sense. 

Among the Japanese, as a whole the percentage of colour blindness is less than in Europeans or Americans. Among 796 Chinese examined in various places no cases of colour-blindness were found, but there was a tendency often seen to mix green and blue. This peculiarity was brought out with much greater emphasis by Dr. Fielde, of Swastow, China, who examined 1,200 Chinese of both sexes, using Thompson's wool tests.


Among the 600 women only 1. The percentage of colour-blindness among Chinamen is, then, about 3 per cent., and does not vary greatly from that of Europeans." In colour-blindness the general vision is not affected; the individual distinguishes light and shade, form and distance, as well as do other persons. This also goes to show that the colour sense is more superficial, less fundamental, and probably therefore acquired later than the other powers that belong to the function of sight. For a person could not lose one of the more, fundamental elements of vision (the sense of visual form, for instance) and retain the other sight faculties unimpaired.

Colour-blindness is an fact an instance of what is calculated atavism, or relapse to a conditionm which was normal in the ancestry of the individual, but which does not properly belong to the species at the time in which he lives. The frequency of this relapse (estimated, as we have seen, to occur in one person out of every forty-seven) indicates that the colour sense is comparatively modern; for atavatism is more frequent in inverse proportion to the length of time that elapsed since the organ or function lost or improperly taken on (as the case may be) has (in one case) normally existed in the race or (in other) been discarded in the process of evolution.

The rationale of this law (which will be again referred to) is obvious: it depends upon the simple fact that the longer any organ or function has been in existence in a race the more certainly will it be inherited. The existence of colour-blindness, then, in so large a percentage of the population shpws that the colour sense is a modern faculty.

The relative visibility of the differnt coloured light rays makes it certain that if the colour sense was acquired it would undoubtedly have been so in the order in which philologists claim it actually was acquired, and the concurrence of these two sets of facts, the one drawn from natural philosophy and the other from etymology, together with the fact of colour-blindness, is so striking that it seems impossible to refuse assent to the conclusions reached.

Reference: Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in The Evolution of The Human Mind: Richard Maurice Bucke   

The Buddhist System of Liberation

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The Buddhist System of Liberation

TO DEFINE PRECISELY a basic system of Buddhist practice is an impossibility because of the great number of schools and styles both in India and Tibet. However, it is possible to form a general picture of the Buddhist system of the Great vehicle as explained by Milarepa in many of his songs and stories.

Taking into account that his explanation and emphasis varied according to his audience, we cannot reconstruct a brief "stages of the path" text wherein the basic elements of the Smaller, Great, and Tantric Vehicles are placed into perspectives in a consistent effective system.This shows that even at this early stage in Tibet there was a tendency to integrate the three vehicles and diverse schools of Indian Buddhism into a unified system.

The following excerpts are from "Mila's First Meditation" and "Rechungpa's Mahamudra Pride," both from the large collection Stories and songs from the Oral Tradition of Jetsum Milarepa, from which all material in these pages are drawn. The first step is to understand the leisure and opportunity for liberation provided by well-endowed human life:

The fragile body of flesh and blood endowed with a subjective consciousness results from the twelvefold chain of dependent origination-ignorance and so on. It is the great ship of leisure and opportunity for those endowed with merit and the urge for liberation. However, for the evil-natured who use it to pile up sin upon sin it is a guide leading them to lower states. It stands on the boundary between development and degeneration. I have understood in the nick of time this critical situation, which can lead to lasting good or lasting ill.

Mila explains the general condition of samsara, or cyclic, mundane existence, in this way:
Living beings of the six realms (the life-forms of samsaric existence). afflicted with ignorance and attracted to illusionary appearances, have been bewildered throughout beginningless samsara. They take what is selfless to be a self-what is egoless to be an ego-and thus are adrift on the ocean of samsaric misery through compulsive attachment to the imprints of evil action.

Every action, every experience, has left its traces imprinted on our minds in the forms of "seeds" for the recurrence of such experiences. The primary imprinting is that of ignorance, which engenders the mistaken world view of the existence of egos in persons and identities in things just as they appear to the ordinary individual. In the wake of this mistaken gut feeling about the nature of our experience the afflictive emotions of attraction, aversion, and so on are brought into play.

Now to explain the inner workings of this: beings wonder in samsara due to the action of the twelve causal links of dependent origination. First, ignorance-that is "not knowing," not understanding," not realizing" (the actual condition of the objects and events of our experience)- provides the condition for the synthetic operation ( of the elements of the samsaric existence). This process continues up to the inevitable miseries of recurrent birth, sickness, aging, and death.

This chain of dependent origination is the process by which beings are born repeatedly into the samsaric condition with its six life-states: Hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, gods, and anti-gods. The state and condition of their births and lives is determined by their re-actions (karma) to experience in previous lives. The majority of beings take lower rebirth (as hell beings, hungry ghosts, or animals) through the force of bad action. Such lower states are miserable, and even lives in the (three) higher states have a nature of misery.

The way to correct this sequence is to understand at the beginning the difficulty of obtaining the leisure and opportunity (of well-endowed human life)-that such leisure and opportunity found only once in a hundred births is impermanent and that the time of death is uncertain. You must reflect on the fact that there's no telling where you'll be reborn after dying, and since we are inexorably impelled by the force of action, you must consider the cause-effect relationship of action. So according to Mila, the first stepm is to have a thorough understanding of the samsaric condition and its causes, to meditate on misery, death, and impermanence to quicken the initial impulse for freedom into a powerful drive for liberation, and to understand that our present human existence is the best possible opportunity for overthrowing the oppression of ignorance and achieving such liberation.

Motivated by these understandings one then enters the door of actual Buddhist practice:
For protection from lower births, caused by the force of evil deeds, Lama and the Triple Gem are the sole refuge. In all Buddhist schools the beginner takes refuge in the Triple Gem consisting of the Buddha, who is able to guide others through his own freedom from samsara (samsara), the Dharma (his teachings), and the Sangha (the community of practitioners). This refuge doesn't involve denial of worldly pursuits but places them in perspective with regard to these effective guides to liberation. Since the Triple Gem cannot at first be a living presence to us, the lama (guru) is their living representative.

Thus in Tibet the lama is placed first in importance even to the buddhas, for it is through him that we'll eventually meet the buddhas. Mila calls this understanding of commitment to a lama " the first key for great importance." After this it's necessary to rely on a basis constituted by whichever of the vows for personal liberation are appropriate (to oneself), with an urge for liberation from samsara compelled by reflection on death, impermanence, the cause-effect relationship of action, and the difficulty of finding the leisure and opportunity (of human life again).

The commitment to personal liberation (pratimoksa) refers to the vows of the Small Vehicle, which serve as guidelines for behaviour conductive to (nirvana), one's own liberation from misery. Hence the name "Small Vehicle" -one that can carry just oneself. It's necessary to expand this motivation further. The Great Vehicle encompasses all sentient beings in its scope, for in fact, all life is inextricably bound together, and the struggle for enlightenment must be pursued for the sake of everyone.

Mila explains this as follows: 

Reference: Drinking the Mountain Stream: Song's of Tibet's Beloved Saint: Milarepa

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Contemplation and the Divine Therapy - 2

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Contemplation and the Divine Therapy - 2

Through a spiritual practice like Centering Prayer, we begin to experience spiritual awareness. Ordinary life then becomes like a lousy movie where we don't identify with the characters or plot. We can get up and leave-something we can't do in daily life when we overidentify with our ordinary stream of awareness and its c ontents. That is the inner tyranny that opposes true freedom. The freedom of the children of God means we can decide what to do about particular events. We live more and more out of self-actuating motivation rather than the domination of our habitual drives to be esteemed, to be in control, to feel secure.

Centering Prayer and other practices that lead to Christian contemplation move us toward interior freedom. We open ourselves to God and allow ourselves to rest in a silent place beyond thinking, a kind of oasis in a day of emotional turmoil. Even from a purely human perspective, everybody needs some solitude and silence in daily life, just to be human and creative about the way one lives.

This sort of spiritual discipline is a therapy for the tyranny of the false self, not only for our emotional programs for happiness, but alos for our overidentification with family, nation, religion, or group. Of course we owe a measure of gratitude to our nation, religion, and family. But it is interesting that Jesus said that unless we hate our parents, we can't be his disciples.

By this he didn't mean that we should not love and respect them and care for them in their old age, as commanded by the Fourth Commandment of the Torah, but that we should not have naive loyalty to a particular group (even one's family) that disregards injustices that need to be corrected. Sometimes, for the sake of peace or in order to be loved, one sweeps serious problems under the rug instead of dealing with them in honesty and truth.

Once a regular practice of Centering Prayer has been established, we move normally in each period of prayer toward a place of rest where our faculties are relatively calm and quite. Thoughts are coming downstream, but as we learn to disregard them, we begin to enjoy a sense of the divine presence.

Beyond our thinking and emotional experience is the deeper reality of the spiritual level of our being. It is another way of knowing reality that is unlike ordinary psychological awareness. As a result, not only is the mind quite and at rest from the ordinary concerns of daily life, but the body also begins to rest, a rest that is deeper than sleep.

Repressed material in the unconscious is vigorously defended by our various inclinations and biases, especially by our emotional investments in particular programs for happiness rooted in the unconscious. Where it may remain unknown by the victim unless deep psychotherapy or contemplative prayer loosens up the defence mechanisms.

Centering Prayer is not an end in itself, but its deep rest loosens up the emotional weeds of a lifetime. When our defences go down, up comes the dark side of the personality, the dynamics of the unconscious, and the immense emotional investment we have placed in false programs for happiness, along with the realization of how immersed we are in our particular cultural conditioning.

Everybody is culturally conditioned to some degree. Even the greatest saints only reach a certain degree of freedom from cultural overidentification. That overidentification is challenged in Centering Prayer. We spend the first part of our lives finding a role-becoming a mother or father, a professor, a doctor, a minister, a soldier, a business person, an artisan, or whatever. The paradox is that we can never fully fulfill our role until we are ready to let it go.

Whoever we think we are, we are not. We have to find that out, and the best way to do so, or at least the most painless way, is through the process that we call the spiritual journey. This requires facing the dark side of our personality and the emotional investment we have made in false programs for happiness and in our particular cultural conditioning.

Rest in Centering Prayer provides us with profound healing. To be really healed requires that we allow our dark side to come to full consciousness and then to let it go and give it to God.

The divine therapy is an agreement that we make with God. We recognize that our ideas of happiness are not going to work, and we turn our lives over completely to God.

Reference: The Human Condition: Thomas Keating

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On the Plane of Self Consciousness IV

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On the Plane of Self Consciousness IV

Much more modern than the birth of the intellect was that of the colour sense. We have the authority of Max Mueller for the statement that: " It is well known that the distinction of colour is of late date; that Xenophanes knew of three colours of the rainbow only-purple, red and yellow; that even Aristotle spoke of the tricolored rainbow; and that Democritus knew of no more than four colours- black, white, red and yellow."

Geiger points out that it can be proved by examination of language that as late in the life of the race as the time of the primitive Aryans, perhaps not more than fifteen or twenty thousand years ago, man was only conscious of, only perceived one colour. That is to say, he did not distinguish any difference in tint between the blue sky, the green trees and grass, the brown or gray earth, and the golden and purple clouds of sunrise and sunset. So Pictet finds no names of colours in primitive Indo European speech. And Max Mueller finds no Sanscrit root whose meanings has any reference to colour. At a later period, but still before the time of the oldest literary compositions now extant, the colour sense was so far developed beyond this primitive condition that red and black were recognized as distinct.

Still later, at the time when the bulk of the Reg Veda was composed, red, yellow and black were recognized as three seperate shades , but these three included all colours that man at that age was capable of appreciating. Still later white was added to the list and then green; but throughout the Rig Veda, the Zend Avesta, the Homeric poems and the Bible the colour of the sky is not once mentioned, therefore apparently, was not recognized.

For the omission can hardly be attributed to accident; the ten thousand lines of the Rig Veda are largely occupied with descriptions of the sky, and all its features-sun, moon, stars, clouds, lightning, sunrise and sunset-are mentioned hundreds of times. So also the Zend Avesta, to the writers of which light and fire, both terrestrial and heavenly, are sacred objects, could hardly have omitted by chance all mention of the blue sky. In the Bible the sky and heavens are mentioned more than four hundred and thirty times, and still no mention is made of the colour of the former.

In no part of the world is the blue of the sky more intense than in Greece and Asia Minor, where the Homeric poems were composed. It is possible to conceive that a poet 9or the poets) who saw this as we see it now could write the forty-eight long books of the Illiad and Odyssey and never once either mention or refer to it? But where is it possible to believe that all the poets of the Rig Veda, Zend Avesta, Iliad, Odyssey and Bible could have omitted the mention of the blue colour of the sky by mere accident, etymology would step in and assure us that four thousand years ago, or, perhaps three, blue was unknown, for at that time the subsequent name for blue were all merged in the names for black.

The English word blue and the German blau descend from a word that meant black. The Chinese hi-u-an, which now means sky-blue, formerly meant black. The word nil, which now in persian and Arabic means blue, is derived from the name Nile, that is, the black river, of which same word the Latin Niger is a form. It does not seem possible that at the time when men recognized only two colours, which they called red and black, these appeared for them as red and black appear to us-though just what the sensations were which they so named cannot of course be now ascertained.

Under the name red it seems they included with that colour white, yellow and all intermediate tints; while under the name black they seem to have included all shades of blue and green. As the sensations red and black came into existence by the division of an original unital colour sensation, so in the process of time these divided. First red divided into red-yellow, then that red into red-white. Black divided into black-green, then black again into black-blue, and during the last twenty-five hundred years these six (or rather these four-red, yellow, green blue) have split up into the enormous number of shades of colour which are now recognized and named. The annexed diagram shows at a glance the order i8n which the spectrum colours became visible to man.

It can be shown in an entirely independent manner that if the colour sense did come into existence as here supposed the successive order in which colours are said (following ancient documents and etymology) to have been recognized by man is actually the order in which they must have been recognized and the scientific facts now about to be adduced must be admitted to be remarkably confirmatory of the above conclusions, while being drawn from sources entirely separate and distinct.

The solar or other light rays that excite vision are named red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. These rays differ the one from the other in the length and amplitude of the waves which compose them, and both the length and amplitude of the waves diminish in the order in which the names have just been given. But the force or energy of a light wave-that is to say, its power of exciting vision, is proportional to the square of its amplitude and especially.

Reference: Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in The Evolution of The Human Mind: Richard Maurice Bucke

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