Biographies > Step by Step To The Temple of Total Ruin: Lessons from Milarepa


Peter Holleran


   “ One day in the Hall I was browsing a notebook of extracts on yoga. Bhagavan [Ramana Maharshi] spoke to me in English: “What is that book?” I answered him. He said quietly, “Read Milarepa.” I read the book. (1) It thrilled and stirred deep places in my heart. Somehow, I feel Bhagavan had seen that it would be so.” (2)

   Milarepa (1040-1123) is perhaps the most famous saint in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. He emerged from a background as a powerful black magician to eventually become a great saint and guru. In this respect he was somewhat similar to St. Ignatius of Loyola and Brother Lawrence who had been mercenaries before being transformed into saints. The basic story goes like this. Marpa’s father died and an evil uncle stole all of his father’s lands and left him and his mother destitute. Milarepa was furious and, partly through his mother’s coaxing, becomes a black magician, conjures up a hailstorm and earthquakes through the casting of spells and incantations, destroys all of his uncles crops and kills thirty-five people, including his uncle's children. Filled with remorse and fear, he sought out a divine teacher to help him atone for his evil deeds. He was told to go to Marpa, as he was the only one powerful enough to help eradicate his evil karma. The ordeal which his guru Marpa (1012-1097) put him through can be considered an archtypal example of the aspect of 'fierce grace' in the guru-disciple relationship, or ‘guru yoga’ in Tibet, and which brought Milarepa to the brink of hopelessness. Yet this was a proximate cause of his eventual enlightenment.

   The traditional "lions at the temple gates" signal to the aspirant that he dare not come closer if he is not willing to be eaten alive. Such was the unspoken assumption that Marpa maintained in his relationship with Milarepa. To the recalcitrant human ego, truly enlightened teachers can be dangerous. They try their best to be sensitive, but they mean business and there are no guarantees of success. Every now and then someone unprepared by traditional standards can't take the heat and goes schizophrenic or even commits suicide. I've seen it happen.You’ve probably seen it happen, too. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche warned one who would approach such a teacher:

   "My advice to you is not to undertake the spiritual path. It is too difficult, too long, and it is too demanding. What I would suggest, if you haven't already begun, is to go to the door, ask for your money back, and go home now,this is not a picnic. It is really going to ask everything of you and you should understand that from the beginning. So it is best not to begin. However, if you do begin, it is best to finish." (3)

   "One must make a very direct and personal relationship with the guru. You might give twenty-million dollars to your spiritual friend whom you love dearly, but that is not enough. You must give your ego to him. You have to surrender the real core of you, the juicy part. Even if you give everything you have - your car, your clothes, your property, your money, your contact lenses, your false teeth - it is not enough. How about giving yourself, who possess all these things? You still hang out. It is very clumsy. Particularly in the vajrayana, teachers expect you to give yourself - it is not enough to strip off your skin and flesh and pull your bones apart and your heart out. What do you have left to give them? That is the best gift of all." (4)

   "We must allow ourselves to be disappointed, which means surrendering of me-ness, my achievement. We would like to watch ourselves attain enlightenment watch our disciples celebrating, worshipping, throwing flowers at us, with miracles and earthquakes occurring with gods and angels singing and so forth. This never happens. The attainment of enlightenment from ego's point of view is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment. Treading the spiritual path is painful. It is a constant unmasking, peeling off of layer after layer of masks. It involves insult after insult...The real function of the spiritual friend is to insult you." (5)

   Chittaranjan Naik likewise poetically summarizes the 'end-game' on the path of knowledge:

   ”Traditional advaita says that when you have prepared well, a disguised person will come to you at a Crossroad that you cannot now see. He will carry with him a sword that will slice clean through your neck. His is an act of Love. He is a mercy-killer! He will kill Death that Life may shine through. He is your Self personified in the mystery of Maya...Who says there is no path to liberation? It is not a path made of clay and earth. It is a path that leaves no trace. That you cannot point out a traceless path is no fault of the path.” (6)

   Whether it be the Guru or God to which one has pledged his troth - or even life Itself, which teacher Richard Rose said in this day and age would provide one with all the ‘koans’, or challenges and confrontations, that he needs - one must expect to endure a profound process before fully enjoying the fruits of self-knowledge. Paul Brunton (PB) wrote:

   "The sugar cane yields its sweet juice only after it has been crushed relentlessly in a mill. The human entity yields its noblest traits and truest wisdom only after it has been crushed repeatedly in the mill of anguish." (7)

   "Beware what you pray for. Do not ask for the truth unless you know what it means and all that it implies and nevertheless are still willing to accept it. For if it is granted to you, it will not only purge the evil out of you but later purify the egoism from your mind. Will you be able to endure this loss, which is unlikely to be a painless one?" (8)

   "Whoever invokes the Overself's Grace [for those unfamiliar with PB's unique terminology: Mind, World-Mind, World-Idea, Overself, found within this paper, please click here ] ought to be informed that he is also invoking a long period of self-improving toil and self-purifying affliction necessary to fit him to receive that Grace...If he offers himself to the divine, the divine will take him at his word, provided the word is sincerely meant. The response to this offer when it comes is what is called Grace...Many who ask for Grace would be shocked to hear that the troubles which may have followed their request were actually the very form in which the higher power granted the Grace to them." (9)

   "The Overself knows what you are, what you seek, and what you need...We sometimes wonder whether we can bear more, but no experience goes too far until it crushes the ego out of a man, renders him as helpless as the dying person feels." (10)

   For twelve years Marpa postponed Milarepa's entreaties to be given esoteric teachings, and instead had him single-handedly build multi-storied stone towers and houses, first in one location, then in another, tear one down, build another, for a total of eight times. Each stone was large and very heavy, such that Milarepa was bent over from the strain of carrying them. And each time he would finish a house, guru Marpa would say. "This is not exactly what I meant," or, "better re-build it over there." Each one took many months to build. Milarepa had open wounds on his back from carrying the bricks, and he suffered frequent beatings from his guru. During this time Marpa’s wife had compassion on him for his sufferings, and would periodically sneak him a bit of meat and vegetables to augment his diet of thin gruel. Even so, he was determined to learn the lesson of humility and abject dependence on divine Grace in the form of his guru, which is what he had voluntarily signed up for. For if he had not given his consent, the guru would not have been free to do what he felt was necessary for him to do.

   Once, near the breaking point, Milarepa convinced Marpa's wife Dagmema to forge a note saying that Marpa wanted him to study with and get initiations from a neighboring lama, and she even stole the guru's staff and precious jewelry for Milarepa to take with him. He received some teachings from the lama, but after days of practice the expected results were not forthcoming. He needed to learn the hard way that without the guru's blessing his teaching and secret instructions are not fruitful. Marpa found him out anyway, and sent word to the lama for Milarepa to return, whereupon he received the initiation he had asked for. Not the whole teaching, just some basics. Marpa again set him to work again building towers, but eventually Milarepa, at his wits end and practically near death with his whole body an open wound, finally had enough, and set out to kill himself [some stories differ, saying that Milarepa never lost faith in his guru, and just ran away disconsolate]. Whereupon, Marpa’s wife went after him and said, “look, I know my husband, this (ninth) house will be the last, and he will give you the teaching.” After completing the ninth house, Marpa finally gave Milarepa a meditation technique and told him to go to a cave and sit until he had perfected the practice. He lamented, however, that if he had been able to plunge his spiritual son Milarepa into utter despair a ninth time he would have saved him years of suffering to eradicate all of his impurities, and that he would have become an even higher master than he eventually did [This suggests that there are stages or degrees of enlightenment, which is consistent with the Tibetan Buddhism tradition]. Thus is the depth of solicitude and dedication a true sage or master has for those who are marked as his own and who come to them in full surrender. Because the guru was unable to finish his work, however, Milarepa needed to spend thirteen difficult years engaging a variety of practices in order to receive the final teachings of Mahamudra.

   During his time in the cave, Milarepa had only thistles to eat and became so gaunt and green that he acquired the name “the Green Yogi”. He would return to Marpa from time to time and receive further instruction.

   At one point Marpa said it was time for Milarepa to have a tantric consort, in order to test his realisation in life. In Tibetan tantrism, a consort is not a conventional romantic partner, but someone to practice an impersonal advanced yogic discipline with. As it turns out, Milarepa became attached to the lady in the natural way, which was undermining his practice, as it was considered in those days. Marpa, being clairvoyant, knew this was happening and summoned for Milarepa and his consort to come visit him. When they reached Marpa, he gave Milarepa his final test, saying that henceforth he would take the woman, leaving Milarepa’s head reeling and heart crushed. He did, however, see his mistaken attachment, and was sent out by Marpa for further practice to deepen his realisation. It was to take another fifteen years.

   One day Milarepa had a vision of his mother and sister and was filled with the desire to return home to reconcile with them after so many years. He asked Marpa permission to leave, and, both men realizing that they would never see each other again, Milarepa left. When he reached his former home he learned that his mother had long since died. Grief stricken and deeply impressed with the impermanence of life, he retired once more to a cave where he engaged in intensive austerity and meditation. After this he achieved his highest enlightenment. Through perseverance in the practice of Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa, passed on by Marpa, he is said to have achieved profound realization of the ultimate nature of reality.

   Milarepa had become a great adept, and he had only praise for the compassionate work of his guru, whom he called "kind Marpa." He wrote many works of prose and poetry, and is known for his "100,000 songs". he was a supreme yogi-siddha-saint, with many advanced capacities. An example of one is recounted by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu as follows:

   "When..one goes beyond the dualistic level, anything is possible. Near the cave of Milarepa there lived a very scholarly Tibetan monk who saw himself as being very intelligent. he believed he could overcome everything with his intellect, but the strange thing was that everyone went to receive teachings from Milarepa who had never studied anything, and no one came to see this monk. The monk was very jealous, and went to Milarepa to debate with him. he wanted to expose him with a few well-chosen words of argument, so he asked: 'Is space material or immaterial?' Milarepa replied: 'It's material'. The monk thought to himself: 'Now I've shown him up as a complete idiot!' and was preparing to debate some more in the same way, when Milarepa picked up a stick and began banging on empty space as if it were a drum. The monk then asked: 'Is a rock material or immaterial?' Milarepa replied by passing his hand through a rock. The amazed monk became his disciple." (10a)

   What can we learn from all of these stories about Milarepa? Mariana Caplan wrote:

   "What is not understood is that a real teacher will never threaten the free will of a human being because they know that it is a gift from God...Before the master tests a human being, he or she has to give permission to be tested. He or she has to say, "Yes," Because certain things can't be done to a human being, spiritually, without the human being saying, "Yes, do with me as thou wilt"...The human being has to be turned inside out, has to be burnt to ashes, and a master can't do that to a human being unless they say, "Yes." They don't have the right to. because everybody is free. The disciple, at each place along the way, is given a choice: do you want to continue, do you not want to continue? The teacher is there to open your heart, to tear you apart and feed you to the lions of love. But not everybody wants that."

   "There are some souls who come into this world already surrendered to God. There is a desire to be with God that overrules any human desire. But those people are rare. Most people say they want, but they don't want. This is the whole struggle with the spiritual path - do they want to surrender, or do they not want to surrender?"

   "It is said that even until the last initiation, the teacher does not know what choice the disciple will make. The disciple can say yes, or the disciple can say no. It has to be like that."
(11)

   This is why Milarepa had to permit Marpa to do whatever it took in his own case, with a minimum of grumbling. Even so, it was hard. This is why Marpa had to give Milarepa a final test, and then yet another, and why life had to deal him one last blow.

   There is a Hindu aphorism that sums up Marpa's role towards Milarepa:

   "Whoever seeks me finds me
   Whoever finds me knows me
   Whoever knows me loves me
   Whoever I love I kill."


   Only the soul wants this, which is why the path can be so hard.

   Today we in the West have seen so many guru scandals and phonies that we have strong authority issues. Perhaps the traditional model will no longer work in the same way as it did in the East. But the saints and sages keep on coming, because they see how dark the ignorance of humanity really is. The chief factor, and the shield against falling into deception, is to first become a true disciple, or candidate for discipleship. It means a certain sincerity and maturity, intelligence and discernment. The flames of longing still need to be fanned, however, and a realised master is a primary means to bring the necessary reaction to its fruition:

   "When someone asked Rumi [if it was possible to know the Truth without a teacher], he said that it was possible, only that the journey that would take two days with the teacher would take two hundred years without. How do you find your way through the desert when there is no road?" (12)

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   “The shaikhs of the Path have declared the following about the necessity of having a master, “He who has no spiritual master has no religion.” - Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

   “O Friend! sit near one who knows the condition of thy heart. Rest a while under the shade of a tree that is laden with fresh and fragrant flowers. Loiter not in the market place from shop to shop, as idlers do. Go straight to one who has a store of honey with him.” - Maulana Rumi

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   Anthony Damiani spoke on two factors that determine when one is truly "on the path" :

   "Once he gets a Glimpse, he recognizes the illusory nature of the ego but also its tyrannical sway. Then usually what a person does is offer that ego to his higher self. In other words he wants to be of service to the higher power and all he can do is pray and ask that that be given for him to do. Make sure you know what you're asking for, because this is a big thing. Once you do that, I'm not saying it's granted, but then there comes a series of lives where egoism is really crushed, or you go through a training where you get rid of it, or you come across a master who will help you get rid of it." (13)

   Swami Rudrananda spoke very directly on the reason for there being comparatively few who advance in the spiritual way:

   "The basic reason that real growth does not occur is that no one wants to feel pain. We are animals in that respect, conditioned to seek out things that bring us pleasure, and to avoid those which hurt. Pain must occur in the growth process. When we avoid pain, we avoid growth. That is what stops ninety percent of the people dead in their tracks." (14)

   Countless teachers have said the same thing:

   “You cannot realize God unless you suffer for him. Many aspire for God-realisation, but few are prepared to pay its price.” (15) - Sri Upasani Baba

   “Suffering is the way for realisation of God.” - Ramana Maharshi

   "The spiritual being will be born in the human soul, provided one willingly takes upon oneself the burden and pain caused by Divine Love." - Meister Eckhart

   “The body is like Mary. Each of us has a Jesus, but so long as no pain appears, our Jesus is not born. If pain never comes, our Jesus goes back to his place of origin on the same secret path he had come, and we remain behind, deprived and without a share of him.” - Rumi

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   The following dialogue occurred between Prince Chandragarbha and his guru, the great Atisha. It is an example both of the keen regard Tibetan teachers have for the law of cause and effect or karma and as an anecdote to spiritual hubris or immaturity.

   "O guru! On entering samadhi, I perceived (a state of voidness) like a cloudless sky, radiant, pure and clear. Is that the nature of the Dharma, O guru? Then, after coming forth from meditation, I was troubled by no attachment, but longed to be of benefit to sentient beings. I recognize the reality of karma, even though all objects are revealed as illusions. O guru, is my practice without error?" The guru answered: "Fortunate man. You are a product of accumulated merit. As a bhikshu I do not exaggerate or pervert the truth. Although at the time of concentration one perceives that all objects share the voidness of the sky, one must lift up all beings through compassion after the concentration has been performed. This is an exposition of two truths (absolute and relative)." (16)

   Indeed, in Tibet, the 'two truths', or karma (based on dependent origination), and emptiness (all things are devoid of inherent self-nature), are to be understood and applied together. This will be discussed in detail in the upcoming essay "Emptiness Is Empty" on this website. For now, know that for the Buddhists, especially starting with Nagarjuna, this is a core teaching inherent in all schools of the 'essence' of the primordial state of reality:

   "Having realized that all phenomena are empty,
   We still rely on the doctrine of karma and effects.
   Among all amazing things, this is the most amazing,
   Among all astonishing things, this is the most astonishing."

   "Because the doctrine was so profound, he
[Buddha] realized
   That it was difficult for men to understand.
   Thus, the Conqueror, upon attaining buddhahood,
   At first turned away from teaching the doctrine."
(16a)

   Similarly, in "The Sutra of the Wise and Foolish" or "Ocean of Narratives" we read:

   "Do not disregard small misdeeds,
   Thinking they are harmless,
   Because even tiny sparks of flame,
   Can set fire to a mountain of hay.

   Do not disregard small positive acts,
   Thinking they are without benefit,
   Because even tiny drops of water,
   Will eventually fill a large container."
(17)

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   The fearless Marpa (1012-1097) left Tibet three times and traveled the perilous journey to India to receive more of what became part of the Vajrayana teachings. Thus, Marpa was instrumental in bringing tantric meditation instructions to Tibet [to add to what Atisha had earlier brought there along with Mind-Training or insight practice. Already a well-established practitioner of Tantra in India, his place of birth, Atisha made a decision to renounce the search for magical power and develop compassion and selflessness. At the age of thirty he took Buddhist vows and traveled to faraway Sumatra, where he stayed for twelve years. It is said that such was Atisha's gratitude to Dharmakirti that he was unable even to hear his name without bursting into tears].Under the guidance of Naropa (1016-1100), Marpa was able to visit the greatest siddhas of India and to receive these teachings. Not only did Marpa copy down the tantric practices, but he translated them from Sanskrit into Tibetan and spent years practicing until he had thoroughly mastered them. This was fortunate because soon afterwards there was the Moslem invasion of India and most of these teachings were destroyed there. The dharma secured by Marpa continues to be practiced in Tibet to this day.

   Tilopa and Naropa were the first two lineage holders of the Kagyu tradition. Marpa was the third, the fourth was Milarepa, then Rechungpa, Gampopa, and the succeeding Karmapas.

   The study of the biographies of the great saints is valuable especially when one is discouraged or faced with doubt about one's spiritual practice. Just imagine the hardships they endured in order to even obtain the teachings: there were no bookstores, not even a printing press; there were no cars or trains; all except Milarepa travelled thousands of miles, through jungles, deserts, torrid plains, and snowy mountain ranges, to find their teachers and receive instruction. Atisha journeyed from Bengal to Tibet, then south to Sumatra where he found his principle teacher, then back to Tibet a second time. Marpa, as mentioned, made three long journeys to India in order to receive spiritual instruction and blessing from his guru, Naropa; Naropa in turn had been required to confront emotional and physical limitations, pain, and even death in his commitment to self-transcendence under his guru, Tilopa (988-1069); this included jumping off a temple roof and stealing food from a wedding banquet at the bequest of his guru and suffering beatings from the angry guests. Tilopa, who himself had no human guru but did associate with Nagarjuna and other teachers, is said to have literally chained himself down in a cave for twelve years to meditate, and later earned his livelihood pounding sesame seeds during the day and working in a brothel at night. (17a)

   The gist of these great souls' unique struggles can be seen as the equivalent of modern day preparatory practices such as Ngondro (refuge and prostrations, mantra, mandala offering, and guru-yoga), samatha, or vipassana to ripen and transcend karma and lead to the advanced end-game practice in one's respective school, be it Dzogchen, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Theravada - or whatever other tradition one follows. In Tibetan Buddhism, before the time of the ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje (1560-1603), such fixed preliminaries did not exist. Each of the masters had their own way of preparing the ground'.

   There is a saying in Tibet that the preliminary practices are more important than the actual or pinnacle practice, whether that be the 'open-minded' non-dual contemplation of Dzogchen or the higher tantras and Mahamudra of Vajrayana, the reason being that without them one cannot usually experience the true depth of the 'pinnacle or more direct practice. The outrageous and idiosyncratic ordeals of these great historical beings are basically archtypes of the 'preliminaries' that even today one must pass through in one form or another to be equipped with the 'organ' or 'vehicle' capable of receiving the liberating insight or 'seed of enlightenment' from the guru. As Dzogchen Ponlop put it, these preliminaries are the 'storyline' that prepares us to get the 'punch-line', that is, the pointing out instructions that introduce us to the actual practice of the nature of mind. (17b)

   Naropa was born into a high family and became a student (which required a ten-year course) and then professor at the famed Nalanda University. According to legend:

   “One day, so it is said, when Naropa was sitting in the shade of a large banyan tree, studying his books, an ugly old woman come up to him. She asked him if he could understand the words which he was reading. 'Yes, of course,' he replied, thinking that she was just some old illiterate peasant woman. At this she cackled with laughter. Then she asked him if he experienced the meaning of what he was reading. Again, he replied, 'Of course.' The old hag burst into tears. "Why do you cry?" Naropa asked. She then explained to him that first she was overjoyed when he said he could comprehend the words, but she wept when he also claimed to really know the meaning. 'You, having not experienced Enlightenment, cannot possibly really know the actual meaning,' she explained. 'Yet, being a scholar, you mistakenly believe that intellectual comprehension equals genuine Enlightened experience.' Naropa had to admit that she was correct."

   "How can I realize Enlightenment," he asked. "My brother is the great yogi Tilopa," she explained, "and he can guide you on the path of direct mystical experience."

   “As with many tales in the lives of an initiate, the legend of Naropa describes how he went through twelve painful trials to receive the mystical teachings of the "Way of the Yogi" from Tilopa. Each trial that Naropa had to undergo demonstrated some aspect of the teaching and also broke through Naropa's pride. Though he suffered tremendously during these trials, Naropa persevered to the end and won through to Enlightenment in only a few years.”
(18)

   This story apparently has several variations. According to Patrul Rinpoche (1808-1887), Naropa underwent twenty-four trials (twelve major and twelve minor) at the hands of Tilopa, including jumping off a nine-story tower and suffering great pain and physical damage, remaining he said, "like a corpse," after which Tilopa restored him to health; being beaten to within an inch of his life by angry mobs after Tilopa ordered him to steal; and also having red-hot bamboo splinters shoved under the nails of his fingers and toes by his guru, leaving him for several days with blood and pus spilling out of his wounds before being blessed by him once again. Finally one day Tilopa hit Naropa on the forehead with a sandle and the latter received all the qualities of his master's wisdom mind. The point of such stories lies not in their historical accuracy, but in the recognition that guru yoga, or implicit faith and endurance of a true master's ways can in itself convey realization on the ripe disciple. Rinpoche writes:

   "As the twenty-four trials undergone by the great pandita Naropa were, in fact, his teacher's instructions, they became the skilful means by which his obscurations were eliminated. They appear to be pointless hardships that nobody would think of as Dharma. Indeed, the teacher had not uttered a word of teaching, and the disciple had not done a moment of practice, not even a single prostration. However, once Naropa had met an accomplished siddha, he had obeyed his every command regardless of all difficulties, and in so doing achieved the purification of his obscurations so that realization had awakened in him." (18a)

   This process is the real work of any true Master, as opposed to merely a teacher, for whom one must nevertheless always be grateful for. The gurus mentioned were of the Kagyu lineage, also known as the ‘practicing order’ or 'fast-track' where the emphasis is strongly on the necessity of meditation and the guru-disciple relationship in order to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. [One may well ask, "where do I find such a teacher today? It is so easy to fall into an abusive relationship with the many phonies out there." The answer is that such a teacher is himself drawn to the ready disciple who is destined for his help and not otherwise. Much depends on past-life karmas. And in most cases the tests will be of a more subtle nature than these historical examples. In the meantime one carries on with as much humility, character, and patience as he can]. In all of the Tibetan schools, guru-devotion or guru-yoga is the most essential factor, and can make even the so-called 'preliminary practices' complete and effective paths unto themselves. This of course depends on finding such a qualified spiritual Friend, something hard to come by in any age.

   The biographies of Milarepa (nice read - also extensive links to his teachings) (19), Marpa (20), and Naropa (21) serve as archtypes of the sacred ordeal that a true devotee enters into when he submits to the guidance and grace of such an Enlightened being, or, as in the case of Tilopa, when he commits himself heart, mind, and soul to the sacred quest with Life and the divine Itself as his teachers.

   Curiously, though the way be steep and hard, the outcome is mirthful: of all spiritual masters, the Tibetans are among those who seem to laugh the most.

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   A critical part of this process are times of crisis, either provoked by the skillful means of a guru or by life Itself. That is, by the ego’s confrontation with the ‘not-self’ in a thousand different ways it sees its fundamental conceit to exist as a separate entity humiliated. This, repeated often enough, allows fundamental insight to arise or manifest. There is a chance one might find his soul. This does not only happen when one is in a relaxed mode, but often when he is in ‘extremis’, when all of his resources are exhausted or defenses are galvanized toward survival and thus then capable of being seen, understood, and released - if he can stay mindful and conscious of the process. It is a mark of some maturity to even reach this place. Surrender of self is a gradual, sometimes subtle, and complex affair. Robert S. deRopp states:

   “This seeing is the essence of the alchemical process called nigredo, “the blackening.” It involves confronting those forces in oneself that are mainly responsible for one’s inner slavery, forces referred to [by Gurdjieff] as the chief feature. One who has seen his chief feature and learned to separate from it is on the way to real liberty (the whitening or albedo).

   “But this work of discovering the chief feature can be as rough on the teacher as it is on the pupil. The teacher has to maintain a role that may be unpleasant and difficult. He must put up with abuse from the person he is trying to help. For few come easily to the meeting with their chief features. It is a real showdown, at which Dr. Jekyll meets Dr. Hyde, at which all the rotting monsters in one’s personal cesspool come crawling out into the light of day.”
(22)

   This is really preliminary but often necessary work before the higher spiritual process that the teacher wishes to bestow or initiate one into begins. It is not for everyone; for some, “grace falleth as the gentle rain from heaven.” But it is the kind of scenario portrayed in symbolic form by Milarepa’s struggles.

   Some people simply need tough teachers. A disciple of a Hasidic master confessed, "I need a guru who will flay the living flesh off my back rather than one who will flatter me." The Rinzai school of Zen was known as the "shouting and beating school." A Hebrew mystical saying is, "there is nothing so whole as a broken heart." The true guru, whether he be gentle or harsh, subtle or direct, will influence one on the subconscious and unconscious levels, restructure you, and at times, while always supporting you from beneath, may "mess you up." Those who approach such persons should be apprised of this fact and allow their egoism to be undermined. Probably, however, in this day of the universal communication of 'spiritual secrets', the shock value of any such techniques has been diminished. The guru needs to be more subtle to accomplish his task. Yet the intention of the spiritual friend is wholly benign:

   "The master's anger and kindness are the thunderstorms and sunshine
        of life's new spring.
    From them grows forth the rose of the disciple's sincerity and purity."
- Rumi

   The Vajrayana tradition, of which Milarepa is the epitome, teaches and employs many mystic and tantric practices, but ultimately points to the non-dual dharma of Mahamudra in which the phenomenal realms and the realization of consciousness itself are known non-separatively. The actual practice of Mahamudra itself can be quite complex, but essentially employs forms of deity contemplation and activation of the central kundalini channel in the body, sometimes tantric sexual practice (but only after one has full control over the subtle energies of the body) as well as a graded series of meditation, composed of two essential parts, samatha ('tranquility', 'calm abiding') and vipasyana ('special insight'), which are also basic to the two main sutra schools of Buddhism.

   It is essential to have a guru to engage Mahamudra successfully. It is not just a technique, but a complete life of practice. Lama mKas grub dGe legs dpal bzang (1385-1438) , a disciple of the great Tsong kha pa, wrote sarcastically of the 'quietist' practitioners of his time and their illusions of attainment and lack of insight, especially those who didn't have the necessary foundation method and understanding of 'emptiness':

   "But the great meditators of today, who are inexperienced at guarding against mental excitement or lethargy, even if they attain single-pointed concentration on the nature of the mind, by meditating on silence and blankness as their object, they are in actuality accumulating a subtle form of mental lethargy. By accustoming themselves to this for long periods of time, the dispersion of air (rlung) within their bodies gives them a certain type of lightness and ease in action. It seems as though they are abiding like space in the midst of space, or as if, having pushed their minds into a state of nakedness, they are emerging from the skin of a snake. It appears to them as though they are making their home on the pinnacle of Mt. Meru and that they are no longer solid as before, but are now like a rainbow. This leads to extreme elation and to thinking that one has traversed a variety of stages and paths, causing these masters to claim that the teachings of the Mahamudra, which perceives the nature of the mind are the most important and profound instructions of the Buddha, that they are the teachings which will allow one to attain the state of buddhahood in this very life."

   "In response to this the great lord Tsong kha pa and most of his followers have stated that the single pointed equipoise on the nature of the mind is only a slight mental avoidance of the self of the person or the self of phenomena and is only a slight break in the proliferation of conceptualization in regard to other things. Hence, they say it does not eliminate on the least either the delusion or the self-grasping that has arisen innately from beginningless time in samsara, since it does not in the least negate the object that appears in grasping at true existence."
(23)

   The guru is of essential importance in the Vajrayana tradition, more so, perhaps, than in any other school of Buddhism. Patrul Rinpoche says:

   “The Guru Yoga is the essence of all paths...Total openness and devotion to a realized teacher is the most sure and rapid way to progress...To meet a perfect teacher is more valuable than gaining a kingdom. Look how those with no devotion treat the teacher as their equal.” (24)

   “The teacher you have met by the power of your past actions, and whose kindness you have received, is the most important of all...Obey him in all things and disregard all hardships, heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and so on. Pray to him with faith and devotion. Ask his advice on whatever you may be doing. Whatever he tells you, put it into practice, relying on him totally.” (25)

   "The greatest of all teachers is the one with whom we are linked from former lives...For without the right conditions created by your former actions, you would never have had the good fortune of meeting an excellent teacher." (26)

   The great first-century sage, Asvaghosa, said:

   “What need is there to say much more. Do whatever pleases your Guru and avoid doing anything he would not like. Be diligent in both of these...Powerful attainments follow from doing what your Guru likes.” (27)

   A modern Hindu sage, Swami Gnanananda, was an example of a teacher whose treatment of his disciples varied widely depending on the level of their spiritual intimacy or deeper connection with him. In this respect he was much like ‘ kind Marpa’ :

   “There were many occasions when the Swami would start a devotee on the road to introspection. This he would do by being indifferent to him, by admonishing him in the presence of others. This was designed not only to fathom the devotee’s faith but also to deflate his ego and subject him to relentless self-probing. The Swami would impose the discipline on those who were very close to him and who he thought deserved his consideration and spiritual ministrations. The cravings and mental oscilllations of the past had to be erased and obstructive old paths and habits made to fade away and die, if the unmortified affections of the heart were to be sublimated to a congruous harmony. The more he chastened a devotee the more likely it was that he was very close to him in spiritual kinsmanship. The more he treated a devotee with cool indifference or a frigid look, the more likely it was that he was brooding over the welfare of the devotee.” (28)

   Anandamayee Ma spoke of this same process:

   "It is not right to compare and reason saying: "Such and such a person has done sadhana for so many years and yet has not got anywhere." How can you judge what is happening to anyone inwardly? Sometimes it seems that a person who does sadhana seems to have changed for the worse. But how do you know that this tendency has not always been in him and has now com out so that it may be dealt with and purified as a result of his endeavors? To say: "I have done so much sadhana but have not been transformed," is also the wrong attitude. Yours is only to seek God and call out to Him unceasingly and not look to the result of what you are doing." (29)

   In the case of Milarepa, Marpa's wife Dagmema would relate that when her husband would come home at the end of the day he would often be in tears from having to put his disciple through such terrible ordeals for the sake of his own purification. Such is the solicitude of a saint. A rare saint, for a rare disciple. Milarepa's attitude was, "Do what you like with me, cut my body to pieces, only do not let me be separated from you." Yet that was exactly what he had to endure on many occasions when he would be kicked out when Marpa's other disciples were all invited in. For their own benevolent reasons the greatest gurus will often appear to ignore their most beloved disciples for the sake of their ultimate growth.

   In this day of self-awakened and self-proclaimed teachers, there is something to be said about the power of a lineage of masters, whose grace flows from one to the next in an unbroken stream, with each humbly deferring to his teacher as the source of grace, and himself being backed up by those who came before him. In the Mahayana text, the Lankavatara Sutra it says:

   "What is this twofold power that sustains the Bodhisattvas? The one is the power by which they are sustained to go through the Samadhis and Samapattis, while the other is the power whereby the Buddhas manifest themselves in person before the Bodhisattvas and baptise them with their own hands...This is in order to make them avoid the evil ones, karma, and passions, to keep them away from the Dhyana and stage of Sravakahood, to have them realise the stage of Tathagatahood, and to make them grow in the truth and experience already attained. For this reason, Mahamati, the fully Enlightened Ones sustain with their power the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas...Thus it is said: The sustaining power is purified by the Buddhas' vows; in the baptism, Samadhis, etc., from the first to the tenth stage, the Bodhisattvas are in the embrace of the Buddhas." (30)

   Once again, this does not grant one a guarantee, only a more or less reasonable chance of success. On the other hand, what if the lineage is teaching an incorrect or incomplete teaching? There is no way of getting around a reasonable degree of self-reliance.

   One hidden benefit of a lineage, however, is that a true master remains a true disciple, deferring all benefit of grace to his own master. Very rarely does a true master consider himself as surpassing his guru. If he does so it is done respecfully. This not only grants humility, but ensures the power of the lineage. My own guru, Kirpal Singh, being absolutely the competent master when assuming the guru function for his disciples, and without denying his own spiritual status, would also say: "I know my own worth; I am a mere pipe; unless my Master sends his Grace, I am nothing."

   Ramana was clear about the necessity of treating the Master as the representative of the Divine, and not as an equal - the raft to carry us to the other shore. He often referred to the "Tattvopadesha" by Sankara, which states:

   "Keep advaita within the Heart. Do not ever carry it into action. Even if you apply it to all the three worlds, O Son, it is not to be applied to the Guru."

   Kirpal Singh wrote about his Master, Sawan Singh:

   "When Baba Sawan Singh once wrote that he did not even yearn for Sach Khand (literally “True Region,” or the home of the Soul, a division of Sat Lok) but only prayed that he had “Love and faith at the Satguru’s holy feet,” Baba Ji was extremely pleased and replied that such self-surrender was “indeed the highest karni” (discipline) and assured him that “he who had such a love for the Master would certainly reach Sach Khand, and passing through Alakh, Agam, and Anami-Radhasoami, get merged in the Wonder Region.” (31)

   And Kirpal Singh once exclaimed to Sawan Singh:

   " ‘Hazur! The peace and security that I have in sitting at thy feet here cannot be had in higher planes...’ My heart was filled with anguish; I could not speak anymore and sat staring - Hazur encouraging and caressing me all the time.” (32)

   It must be repeated once again that it is grace which is the saving factor on the path. For the truly sincere, it makes up for their inadequacies, for no one is perfect. Without it we are helpless and there is no way of reaching the other shore. Contemporary teacher anadi states:

   "We are not only reaching for the inner wholeness, we are being reached by It as well. In truth, it reaches us, but our responsibility or freedom, if you like, is to be available. We have to surrender. This surrender is not emotional but existential. We must surrender into now, into the heart of the now, which is the mystery of God."

   "To meet your creator you have to cry. The tears in your heart will wash your heart, so it becomes innocent, as it always has been. As you have to wake up to the state of presence and to being, so you have to wake up to your soul, which is in the heart. You are a soul - this is your true image, the divine spark from the eternal fire, which journeys in the dimension of time towards the timeless...You are moved; you are touched by the beloved; you are seen by the Friend...and you are blessed."
(33)

   It goes without saying that one embarking on such a path must make a thorough examination of a teacher before making any commitment: if you find peace in his company, if he embodies the precepts, has basic integrity, if despite his apparent flaws you feel an unbreakable connection with him, if he transmits the power of the heart, and of emptiness, conveys the teachings openly, with intelligence and discrimination, then one may be reassured of his competency and ability to guide you successfully.

   Of course, there are good teachers and there are master-teachers. The sincere seeker will always find what his soul needs; that is the law. While a good teacher may be a step or more ahead of you, and able to give reliable and useful advice, and have some insight into ones character and development, the master-teacher can read ones soul. He is the agent for the divine in this world. He may not be humanly perfect, and even seem to have perceptible flaws, yet is in a special class of his own. "Gold is gold," were the short but sweet words my master to say. In olden times such a master, while acting very human much of the time, was viewed as having spirituality literally "in his blood," developed over the course of many lifetimes, as the following anecdote attests.

   The peerless sacrifice of the sage or "completed one" is dramatically depicted in a story called "In Praise of the Blessings of the Monk," from the Buddhist text Sutra of the Wise and Foolish, or The Ocean of Narratives, a series of Jatakas or rebirth stories. A householder called Majestic Being who was one hundred years old desired to become a monk, but was turned down by Sariputra, the wisest and most senior monk of the Sangha, as well as by Mahakasyapa and others, who believed he was too old to study, meditate and engage in discipline. The man wept and cried out in despair, asking what sins did he commit that he be denied becoming a monk, whereupon the Enlightened One appeared to him in all radiance and asked the reason for his sorrow. Upon hearing Majestic Being's story He spoke thus:

   "Do not let your mind be troubled, householder. I myself shall ordain you. Sariputra has not, during countless aeons, exerted himself in the austerities. Nor has he, for hundreds of aeons, brought forth virtues. Sariputra has not, in previous births, allowed his head, eyes, bones, marrow, flesh, blood, skin, feet, hands, ears, and nose to be cut away and offered them freely. Sariputra has never given his body to a tiger, has not been burnt in a pit of fire, has not had his holy body pierced by a thousand iron pins, has not had his body burnt by a thousand torches. Sariputra has not given away his lands, his cities, his wives, sons, men and women slaves, elephants, chariots, or his seven precious jewels.
   Sariputra has not, during the first countless kalpas, honored a hundred-thousand kotis of Buddhas. Nor did he, during the intermediary countless kalpas, honor ninety-nine thousand Buddhas. Nor, during the final countless kalpas, has he honored a hundred-thousand Buddhas, become a monk in their presence and become perfect in the Precepts and the Paramitas. Sariputra is not one who zealously teaches the Dharma. How can he say that this one may become a monk and that one may not? I alone have authority to endow one with the Dharma and to extol the Six Perfections. I alone have put on the armor of patience. I alone sit on the Vajrasana at the tree of Enlightenment. I alone have overcome the hosts of Mara and attained the bliss of a perfect Buddha. There is no one like me. Therefore, follow me and I shall ordain you."
(34)

   As the inner dimensions are literally infinite, so are the dimensions of the master's heart.

   There is another important reason, in this time of ordinary awakenings, for the continuing need for a teacher. There are many states beyond the mind, beyond concepts, and the ability to discern the nature of ones realisation is not inherently self-verifying, despite the common assumption that claims otherwise. Some say that self-verification is the inherent nature of consciousness. Yet the great Zen masters and Sufis didn't think so. Self-knowing is an element of consciousness, but what if the realisation of consciousness is not all there is to enlightenment? This, of course, would be a non-traditional view, but there are also many intermediate states that can pass for a final one. Buddhist teachings, attest that there are, in fact, many stages of the path after the realisation of 'no-self'. On the inside, moreover, there are formless, yet created realms, where one has no way of knowing what state he is in, whether that be the state of presence-awareness, the state 'beyond consciousness', 'emptiness', the experience of ones soul, God, and so on. It is easy to simply say, 'all is consciousness or awareness,' but is it true? In the graduated form of the mystical path of Sant Mat, moreover, there is said to be a great void of darkness called Maha Sunn between the created and the uncreated realms, where the soul, having shed all its coverings or sheaths, still can only cross this region with the master's help. In all of these cases only a master who has plumbed the depths of these levels of experience will be able to confirm ones state and help one go further.

   Going it alone is risky. Yet life is not without risks, and many choose, for instance, based on Buddha's last advice, 'be a lamp unto thyself,' not to avail themselves of hierarchically superior help out of fear of being misled. They don't realise that Buddha might not have meant by his statement the sort of premature spiritual independence that is common in the West, but instead was telling his disciples that they need not seek another guru after his death, and that his Sambhogakaya and Dharmakaya forms, as well as teaching and sangha (community of practitioners) would continue to guide them, as had been traditional before him.

   In this day and age when one can find all of the world’s wisdom teachings in bookstores or on the internet, which is a highly positive development in that it is leading to a rejection of provincial and partial views of the enlightenment process, and the rejection of static concepts for more dynamic ones suitable for a modern age, it is easy to forget the sacred ordeal, the means employed, and the many sacrifices made by great ones in the past to attain precious knowledge in pursuit of liberation, and upon whose shoulders we stand today. Some things have changed, but some things remain the same. Patrul Rinpoche states:

   “The Dharma is nobody’s property. It belongs to whoever is the most interested. The Buddha himself obtained the teachings at the price of hundreds of hardships.” (35)

   It is true that, by and large, today we are not Milarepas, and there are few Marpas. Life itself has become a master, or at least companion, teacher, to a greater extent than in the past. As Gangaji said:

   "If you are serious in your resolve to be vigilant, then your resolve will be tested. Once you consciously say, "Okay, I am ready. I am ready for everything to appear and test my confidence in what is true, what is real," then of course you will be thrown to the ground time and again. You are playing with the master, life itself." (36)

   Yet the ancient, authentic, and eternal guru-devotee relationship stills stand as a touchstone and singularly effective means to truth. The problem, however, is what it has always been, namely, the existence of few such saints and masters, but, also, comparatively few earnest disciples. There is some justice here in that everyone gets what they need and want. "There is food for the hungry and water for the thirsty."

   "You are dealing in diamonds, said Kirpal Singh; if that is the case, would one not be willing to go to any length to unearth them? (Oh, they're in your pocket already? No need to read further then).

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   While we are on the subject, Baird T. Spalding wrote the following on the practice of black magic:

   "Before one can practice black magic, or become an anti-christ, he must first become versed in the powers of the Christ consciousness. He gets the Christ power and uses it erroneously. The outcome of such practice is self-destruction, and with the destruction of individuals given to the practice of the black art, the art passes with them." (37)

   This would explain how a soon-to-be famous adept, Milarepa, was both born with great spiritual background, but also free will, and fell from his appointed destiny until undergoing drastic penance under the skillful surgeon Marpa. It would also explain how increasingly we are seeing people who have had at least an initial awakening while in prison, such as Satyam Nadeen or John Sherman, or how characters like Ignatius Loyola or Brother Lawrence became great saints. Saints aren't born in a day, yet had free will to exercise, for good or bad, up to the point of merging into the universal will. [Prison, it seems, may be a good 'concentration camp'. Sri Aurobindo had nirvikalpa samadhi while in prison, and St. John of the Cross reached some of his highest states there].

   Spalding also issues a similar warning for those who choose to be teachers, which is well to keep in mind, and may be why Kirpal Singh once said, "that man who wants to be a guru, I feel sorry for him":

   "The most painful, if not the quickest method of self-destruction, is the misuse of spiritual knowledge. The individual tempted to use this spiritual knowledge to influence, control or gain advantage over others should remember that every edict which goes forth from his own mind or mouth passes through his own being, and becomes a fiat of power within his own nature, working upon himself exactly as he had intended it for another." (38)

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   The Mahamudra tradition employs the Kalachakra teachings, essentially a combination of non-dual contemplation, guru devotion, and mystical meditation. (39) The extreme simplicity of his essential teaching, however, Tilopa expressed in a few words in his Song to Naropa:

   “Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don't try to figure anything out. Don't try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest. Don’t meditate. Keep your mind in its natural state.”


   Longchenpa (1308-1364) also proclaimed:

     "Desiring happiness is the illness of attachment. It is through the absence of desire, that one gains happiness. Buddhahood does not happen by being made to happen. It is unsought and naturally indwelling, and so is spontaneously present. Rest nonconceptually in this effortless, natural abiding state." (40)

   The sage Astavakra, in his famous Gita, similarly wrote:

   “This is your bondage, that you practice meditation.”

   These are, of course, ultimate non-dual statements traditionally meant for proficients or ‘ripe’ souls, those who are able to recognise and "rest nonconceptualy in the effortless, natural abiding state." Usually there is first some kind of preparation to humble and chasten the aspirant, in Milarepa’s case quite a severe purification. Milarepa was a tough case, needing a tough guru. Why didn’t Marpa just give Milarepa the advice of Tilopa mentioned above? First, because while it was an essential gem it was not the whole of the teaching, which, besides the awakening and cultivation of insight, entails quite literally a transformation of the entire body-mind, making it, in Milarepa's case, fit for the higher tantras, and second, because if he had initiated Milarepa into the mystical practices, given Milarepa’s background, the forces activated might have again been used negatively, and lastly, because Milarepa had evil karma that needed purgation.

   In this day of easy access to a proliferation of teachings, both with or without a teacher the emphasis is more and more on getting insight first, and purification later. As the world enters the Age of Aquarius, the 'pain-body' and the 'crucified savior' archtype predominate in the preceeding Age of Pisces is diminishing, with more and more aspirants incarnating already suited for more direct paths of inquiry and understanding, employing the higher mind and its full reasoning and intuitive powers without the hindrance of dogma or other restraints. 'God does not teach by words, but by pains and contradictions,' said the great deCaussade several hundred years ago. For many this still holds true, but for many others God instructs by receptivity to guidance from within, leading one to ask questions, to find material that helps one ask the right questions, and to get answers until the intellect is satisfied, after which it can naturally, and not prematurely, step aside, its work finally done. In other words, the questioning intellect is an essential tool in the process of enlightenment, of evolution; one cannot go beyond the asking of questions before one has even formulated the right questions, good questions, questions so good they contain the seed of their own answer within them. As Anthony once said, “to be able to formulate a real question is already quite a feat of knowledge.”

   Don’t believe the yogis, therefore, who say that the mind is your enemy; without the mind one can’t become enlightened. Adyashanti said that one should question 'right down to the marrow.' For, ultimately, the mind is part of the Soul, which, through guidance by Universal Intelligence, uses the mind, along with other factors, to help itself understand and awaken. This is the positive aspect of the mind. Emerson wrote:

   “Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy.”

   PB and Damiani refer to this process as the World-Mind or World-Idea working out its meaning and becoming conscious in you.

   The guidance, on the level of the mind, helps one to work with ideas, developing more and more abstract concepts, ultimately the most abstract concepts, such as those of God and liberation, until one recognizes for real that truth lies beyond the mind. In this unstoppable process the individual is moving towards the universal, the whole, of which it formerly thought itself only a part. An evolution is occuring, and today new forms of spiritual teaching are also emerging. The primary forms of discipline, it seems, have become non-resistance, non-judgement, not-knowing, openness, study, reason, self-forgetting, and self-understanding, rather than penance or self-abnegation, endless hours of meditation, self-discipline and social isolation. Such self-abnegation occurs naturally as one becomes saturated in the wisdom teachings and applies them practically in life. The faculty of Buddhi, long relegated to the trash-bin of oriental mysticism, is being restored to its rightful place as a guide to spiritual independence. The heart is also coming out of hiding. The overall intelligence of man is being stimulated to a higher octave, for those receptive to the influence.

   Tilopa’s disciple, Naropa, spoke of the mystical practice of meditation in the tradition of these saints which accompanied their non-dual contemplation and keeping of moral precepts:

   “The actual practice of the light as the path is the emptying of consciousness from every content. Outwardly this is a process of dying, while inwardly it is an increase and gathering of the light, passing through the non-effulgent state of unknowing into the radiant light which cannot be predicated in any way...provided one is fully aware of the various phases in this process...The attainment of the goal is an access to a sphere of life larger and more powerful and divinely inspired than the normal conscious life. Not only does it make us happy, it also sheds its light through us on others who, awakened by it, may also follow its path.” 41)

   In the following the yogic/ mystical process of 'dying while living' and 'phowa' or 'transference of consciousness by first closing the nine 'outgoing' bodily gates to exit the body via the crown center is clear; it should be noted that for one who has already accomplished the goal of Dzogchen or Mahamudra practice, the realization of non-duality, the phowa exercise is superfluous. For such a one there is no longer any body-identification, no 'in' or 'out' to be concerned with:

   “The nine openings open on samsara
   But one opening opens up to Mahamudra.
   Close the nine openings and open up the one;
   Do not doubt that it leads to liberation.”
(42)

   Milarepa received the yogic Mudra teaching of withdrawing his subtle energy and consciousness into the central channel through his encounter with the goddess Tseringma while on pilgrimage near Mt. Everest and Chhubar. (43) Along with the non-dual contemplation, the secret Vajrayana tradition used a form of kundalini awakening in the sushumna or brahma nadi, merging the internal or microcosmic kundalini with the ‘terrestrial’ or macrocosmic kundalini flowing along the 'Axis Mundi', (also referred to in esoteric traditions as the Tree of Life”) allowing the adept to access supranormal abilities, as well as (in theory at least) gain the 'direct path' to the divine in one life. Ultimately, the development of the 'light body' (divya deha or cinmaya) is a possibility, wherein the physical form of the yogi disintegrates or reduces his body to the essence of the elements and he dissolves into Light, vanishing into the sky and completely transcending the cosmos. The 'rainbow body' is another possibility, in which a similar process takes place leaving a phenomenon behind which is said to exist until all beings are free of samsara, and is visible and of help to advanced practitioners. This is real, although rare, and not necessary for ordinary enlightenment. It is more a characteristic of the Dzogchen school, where it is sometimes considered a characteristic of Total Realization.

   It has been said that to simply realize truth, the kundalini doesn’t have to raise even one inch! However, that doesn't mean it has no significance, or that there isn't more to the depths of spirituality. The more radical practices of Mahamudra are inheritances from the Siddha tradition of India, which Marpa brought back to Tibet on his long sojourns. According to philosopher Ken Wilber, in The Atman Project , there is a spiritual progression of mankind from the stage of the shaman-mystic-yogi, to the saint, then the sage, and finally the Siddha, considered the crown of evolution. The Siddhas were tantric practitioners who practised kundalini yoga and along with insight practice as well developed such complete non-dual enlightenment that they attained natural control over the forces of nature and creation. Capabilities such as the rainbow body or light-body might be considered by some to be within the scope of Patanjali's ancient description of yogic siddhis or powers, including the ability to make the body very small or even disappear, but they are, rather, advanced stages in the tantric and Dzogchen non-dual development, or in some instances, rare manifestations of the Christ Power, such as in the case of Jesus. They are not necessary for ordinary enlightenment, as mentioned, which, however, may only be an initial step towards the higher stages progressively taught in these traditions. For instance, according to the Buddha the higher realizations are only possible when one is freed from karmas. The liberated Arhat is only the fourth of seven such initiations or stages.

   In the Siddha tradition, the ability to take up ones body and reappear anywhere and anytime at will, without death and reincarnation, is a sign of the true resurrection.

   Unique individuals who manifested the so-called light-body or simply disappeared body and all were Tamil Siddhas Manicka Vachagar, Thirugnana Sambanathar, Muruga Nayanar, Thirumoolar, and others (44), including also, according to tradition, Sankara, Ramanuja, Tukaram, Jnaneshwar, Madhya, Chaitanya, Kabir, Tsongkappa (founder of the Tibetan Yellow Hat Sect, that of the Dalai Lamas) and Lord Krishna. According to the Bhagavata, the latter performed agni-yoga-dharana, or the process of 'radiating inner fire' and transforming his physical body into a subtle form before departing from this world. Thirumular called this svarupa or form, 'self-illuminating manifestness.'

   Ramalinga Swamigal in the nineteenth century recorded in detail how he so transformed his body. In 1874 he entered his room and disappeared in a flash of violet light. Historically, Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus are reported to have done the same. Jesus is said to have appeared to his disciples for forty days after his death before ascending 'bodily into heaven.' Various saints in the Sant Mat tradition and others have appeared, not only in subtle but in physical bodies in more than one place at a time. Ramana Maharshi de-materialised and re-materialised in front of his disciples on a number of occasions. No doubt all of these things are possible. To the Siddhas such a transformation was considered jivan mukti, or liberation in life. Yet other sages, such as the advaitins, maintain that this is not a necessity for liberation, and most certainly is not the only way to reach liberation. If such a superhuman achievement were the case, then in this day and age we are all certainly doomed! It does remain, however, one among many possibilities of spiritual development for souls destined for a unique form of service, whatever that might be.

   Just a brief note on Dzogchen will be given here. Called "the Great Perfection", Dzogchen is the pinnacle practice of the Tibetan Nygmapa school, but considers itself outside of tradition, and almost primordially present in Tibet (even before Buddhism) and also according to one tantra (df. - scripture) present in thirteen solar systems other than our own! The Mahayana sage Nagarjuna who elaborated the 'emptiness ' teachings of that school, was also a tantric adept and is listed in various lists of ancient Dzogchen lineages. He is said to have derived many teachings from the nagas (spiritual beings who are said to live under water). Unlike Theravada, Mahayana, or even the tantras (df. - practices) of Vajrayana, true and not preparatory Dzogchen practice starts at the level of non-dual realization, and ends with the infiltration of non-dual realization to the deepest levels of body-mind. The 'Total Realization' consists of the practitioner dissolving his body into the essence of its elements, creating a Light Body, of benefit for other advanced practitioners. He has realized the already existing primordial essence of all three 'bodies': the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. That is, he not only can experience everything the dualistic, samsarically bound individual experiences, except from an enlightened point of view, but he can manifest enlightened bodies at these three levels if he chooses after death for the benefit of all beings. During life the greatest adepts may be able to appear and disappear at will, having spontaneously and without motivation developed numerous siddhis that can be employed for spiritual purposes. As in various classic yogic schools, including the Sant Mat tradition, the warning is given not to pursue these for their own sake, or in a motivated fashion, but they are allowed to arise on their own and can be used while abiding in the non-dual view.

   It is important to understand that the Great Transfer/Rainbow Body of Dzogchen (also found in some Taoist and Hindu teachings) is not a siddhi like the dematerialization/bi-location capacity so often demonstrated by various masters. That is a power that derives from the ability to manipulate the elements - not just the physical elements per se, but to be able to translate matter/energy in and out of the various planes. For instance, if one visualizes an orange clearly in one's mind, and then with adequate concentration, infuses this elemental that one has formed of an orange with the earth element, it will precipitate in the physical world. This is one basic method of materialization. Conversely, if one take any physical object, or one's own body, and through mind-power concentrates on removing the earth element from it, then it will dematerialize, though it will now continue to exist in the astral plane, all objects and beings always having an astral counterpart to their physical form. This is a siddhi that is based on will-power and knowledge of the elements. But the Great Transfer of Dzogchen is not a siddhi. It is the expression of so fully integrating nondual realization into the human form that it is transformed at a more fundamental level directly into soul. The great adepts in the tradition who achieve such 'Total Realization', at the time of death, usually retire for seven days (sometimes more), when their body shrinks and disappears into its elemental light essences, leaving only the hair and nails behind, these being considered its impurities and used as relics by the common people.

   This means that one has not only to have attained sahaja samadhi or stabilized nondual realization in the ordinary state, but also so illuminated the lower bodies with this realization that all karma is liberated, and the body itself (which is a product also of Nature) is also liberated. It essentially means that the Primordial Shakti-Holy Spirit-Wisdom/Energy inherent in the body is profoundly assimilated into the Self-Realized Soul of the practitioner.

   The realization of the Body of Light certainly seems to demonstrate a level of integration of nondual realization that is profound and unique. However, all great masters, obviously, do not do this. Some may not have trained to do so, others may choose not to do so. The Buddha seems to have been a case of the latter. He died an ordinary death, perhaps to avoid deification by drawing attention to a body of light. Yet he certainly knew about it, as the tradition was ancient even in his time. Another cause of someone not taking the Body of Light is that they may make the choice to direct the energies that are needed to achieve it into service to others, the spirit of bodhisattvahood, which will diffuse the focus of their realization, so that it is not so concentrated on their body, so that the Body of Light is not possible. It is possible that in the future as mankind evolves the phenomenon may become more common without such extreme focus necessary.

   Most masters who achieve the Body of Light do so under special circumstances, particularly as a result of having practiced certain Dzogchen practices that facilitate such a deep integration. There are probably other masters who do not die by way of the Body of Light for whom it would have been relatively accessible had they known about and/or wanted to do those types of practices. There are others whose realization was apparently so advanced that they appeared to have not even need to practice the special realization-integration practices of Dzogchen and similar lineages in order to take the Body of light. Ramalingar appears to be such a case.

   Dzogchen even distinguishes the Illusory Body called Gyula achieved through the Higher Tantras of Vajrayana, from the juli or Light Body achieved as a matter of course in the fulfillment of Dzogchen practice. The tantric practice employ effort at channeling the subtle winds, or pranas, and from the point of view of non-dual Dzogchen such effort is not a sign of the highest practice or realization. A Dzogchen practitioner, however, is free to use any other secondary practice he needs in order to maintain the non-dual view, and he is advised to use the wisdom of his own awareness to do so. And it is also recognized that the 'highest practice' is the one most suitable for the individual at any particular time in their development. Few can practice Dzogchen, as it, in a sense, starts at the non-dual goal and simply takes it deeper and deeper. On this path one absolutely needs a master to give one 'Introduction to the View', that is, transmit the non-dual vision. if one is not capable of receiving the view, he needs another level of practice according to his capacity. In both Bonpo and Tibetan Buddhism (which over the centuries have 'interpolinated'), Dzogchen is considered an advanced practice that is always based on a foundation of other teachings, as Namkhai Norbu would say, Sutra and Tantra (or, loosely, Mahayana and Vajrayana). In their view, almost no one is ready from the start to skip over the other stages of practice and just start with Dzogchen practices. Included in the other stages are the four elements of Ngondro, then other practices like vipashyana (vipassana) and various forms of tantric practices, which can include kundalini-yoga like approaches like the Six Yogas of Naropa and Deity Yoga. These are all preliminary to Dzogchen, and include the foundational Mahayana heart practices of cultivating generosity, compassion (including the Chod and Tonglen), bodhichitta (relative and absolute bodhichitta), and guru yoga. True Dzogchen practice really begins with a ripe enough disciple getting a transmission or 'introduction to the view' of rigpa so that the practitioner can now access nondual contemplation and stabilize and integrate it. (44a)

   Whether the 'Total Realization', or the 'Fruit', on the Dzogchen path, is the highest form of realization possible, surpassing, say, that of the Sants, who can also project both Light Bodies and Nirmanakaya or 'physical' bodies while alive, and a Sambhogakaya form in higher planes, but who do not bother consciously disintegrating into the elements at death, is surely up for discussion. There appear to be many possibilities of spiritual evolution within the purview of non-duality.

   Along with an advanced understanding of Buddhism, the Tibetan tradition, a mixture of Buddhism, the Bonpo tradition, and tantric teachings of the Siddhas, has brought us many possibilities and superstitions as well, so one needs to exercise clear discrimination as to what is essential and not strive for the impossible when liberation lies veritably 'in the palm of your hand.' Even the Dalai Lama has said that some the Buddhist teachings are very old and need updating. On the other hand, he has a Dzogchen teacher, Namkhai Norbu, and spiritual friendships across the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

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   As Vajrayana uses kundalini yoga, a word on that form of energy is warranted. Kundalini energy in a sense can be blind; it is not always directly connected with intelligence, when sought for its own sake. The transmission of awakening which a true master assists, however, is guided by wisdom, and kundalini in its broadest meaning as spirit-energy is an integral part of that. Its reception to an extent depends on the co-operation of the recipient, and as such may be limited by a closed mind or closed heart, but it works only for the positive.

   Especially the opening of the heart takes time. It is more complicated than the awakening to consciousness. anadi states:

   "Awakening of the heart is not automatic and in the case of most masters, it takes place years after the initial self-realisation. Even kundalini awakening does not necessarily open the heart automatically. Evolution is a complex process and not merely a one-time event.” (45)

   There are levels to the heart. There is the human, emotional center, where personal pain is stored and must be healed. Then there is the energetic psychic heart center, which corresponds to the heart chakra mentioned above. Behind this lies the true heart, initially locatable in the center of the chest as the ‘causal’ heart-root, but which is really to become known as all-pervading and formless being. Ramana Maharshi was the modern champion who re-discovered this ancient truth. This is ones very own soul. ‘Behind’ even this deep heart lies the universal heart, the over-soul, the soul of all souls. Despite the fact that the heart chakra is described in the yoga literature as a lotus with eight (sometimes twelve) petals, it is to this deeper domain that the Mundukya Upanishad refers when it states that ”the divine self, who understands all, and whose glory is manifest in the universe, lives within the lotus of the heart.” (46) This has traditionally been referred to as either the Atman or the one 'Self.' anadi, however, differs from the traditional view. That which is most often found in the 'cave of the heart' is not simply the ‘Self’, he says, but rather, in unabashed religious language, the soul and God:

   "Many students cannot grasp the difference between self-realisation and soul-realisation. Self-realisation refers to going beyond oneself and merging with the universal beingness. Soul-realisation is awakening to that very one who has transcended itself. To realise the Self is to go beyond, to realise the soul is to discover oneself from the inside. These, are, in truth, two sides of the same phenomenon...The ultimate containment takes place when our sense of identity rests fully in the beyond; and at the same time, the one who rests, which is me, realises herself from inside of herself." (47)

   He concludes with the following:

   “It is difficult to pinpoint what is the soul, for she is so subtle...that’s why, in some traditions, the soul is negated. They couldn’t distinguish between the experience of the Self and that of the soul. To see the difference, a new sensitivity and understanding must be awakened. The realisation of the soul is equally subtle or even more subtle than God-realisation.” (48)

   [More on this teaching can be found in Dual Non-Dualism on this website].

   To finish this section, we offer a verse by poet-saint Kabir that Ramana was particularly fond of quoting:

   “Some say the drop merges into the ocean (-bhakti), but few know that the ocean merges into the drop (-para-bhakti).”

   [For those who might wish to take a break before proceeding with our principle themes, there are a few things of interest to mention about this concept of the "cave of the heart." See note (49) ]

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   In some of the higher Tibetan tantras, the practitioner attempts to drop into the central channel at the level of the heart in order to experience the Yoga of Clear Light; this is one of the practices of the six yogas of Naropa. In Sufism, Ruh is the heart on the right side, also known as the center of the spirit, or the breath of Allah [note: might this be the heart on the right spoken of by Ramana where one feels the "aham sphurana"?], while Sirr is the heart in the middle, known as the secret or innermost heart, the heart of the heart, where Allah manifests his mystery to himself. ["To Sirr, with love."]

   While the awakening of the heart chakra is a good thing, it is far from the deeper realisation of the higher stages. All of ones chakras can in theory be opened without one having advanced spiritually beyond the psychic level. On the other hand, it is unlikely that one will be aware on the deeper levels with all of the chakras remaining closed.

   It is interesting to note that among some esoteric schools that formerly taught the activation of the kundalini from the muladhara up to the sahasrara in the traditional yogi/ kalachakric manner, a safer, gentler technique is now being employed. Early in her sadhana Sufi master Irina Tweedie was told by an Indian Sufi:

   “By our system it [kundalini] is awakened gently...we awaken the ‘King’, the heart chakra, and leave it to the ‘King’ to awaken all the other chakras.” (50)

   Safer and easier it may be, but read her spiritual diaries entitled Daughter of Fire to see what Ms. Tweedie went through in the course of her discipleship. It is sobering indeed. When expressing her belief that one could attain liberation without a teacher through one's own efforts, her guru Bhai Sahib said, "Not in a hundred years!" Irena was forced to endure many hardships and tests and was repeatedly, for instance, kept outside, like Milarepa, in the pouring rain and hot sun while other disciples were invited in to see the master. Bhai Sahib said, "You want everything but are not prepared to make sacrifices, to pay the price..People are not prepared to give anything up. If you want to go anywhere you will have to take the train or the plane, you are expected to pay the fare, is it not so?"

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   It is more or less common knowledge in the higher traditions that in the presence of a sage or master, unconscious egoic tendencies in oneself are brought into the light of day to be eradicated once and for all. It is not something the guru usually needs to do intentionally. It is just the nature of the workings of grace. Not everyone can stand such a rough shake-down. Those who do are usually treated especially affectionately by the guru thereafter. Life itself or the World-Idea are also working towards the same end, but in not so concentrated a fashion, and one must take advantage of the opportunities as they arise. Damiani states:

   “In the presence of the sage, a past habit which is still alive in you is brought up to the surface and now you have to overcome it once and for all...All these things within you that are blocking you from getting to the truth get activated when you get into the presence of a sage. It’s not that he comes personally there and shovels around [but he might]; it just happens naturally, like a catalytic reaction.”

   Ramakrishna called this “lancing the boil”.

   “These parts of ourselves that can’t serve the higher purpose have to be taken up, brought up into the daylight, into your consciousness. They have to be understood for what they are and then they must be disowned, discarded, or completely dissolved. So very often when a person is neurotic, if he starts meditating, things are going to get worse, not better. Because these problems start coming out into the open. Those of us who have been at it a few years begin to recognize that. You know, “Why is everything going wrong? What’s going on?” But that’s exactly what to expect and it’s good, because if these things are not brought out they will always stay in what the psychologists call the unconscious, the subconscious. And when the right opportunity comes, they’ll spring out and you’ll find out, “I am not at all the way I thought I was. I’m really a grub, something horrible.” But all the time we thought we were 99% gold. So these things happen, very naturally. It’s to be expected.” (51)

   PB likewise wrote:

   "The more earnestly he takes to this quest, the more will his latent evil qualities be stirred up and then make their appearance in his character or conduct. He, as well as others, may be surprised and perturbed at this result..Ordinarily they are suppressed in self-defense by the conscious mind, and their existence hidden because it has quite enough to deal with. But the candidate for illumination has flung out a challenge to vigorous war." (51a)

   Sant Darshan Singh said:

   "Remember He has taken a vow never to leave or forsake us until he takes us to our eternal Home. But we should also realize that we must go through the stage when we feel abandoned, when we must feel that the Master has deserted us. This is one of the features of the path of mystic love. We must go through this stage without a grumble on our lips, for this stage is in reality a gift from the Master himself to help us grow. Ultimately, it is for our benefit, for our own salvation. There is a divine purpose behind everything the Master does. We may have to spend a lifetime of tears to get his love. We cannot demand the gift supreme from our Beloved. The gift descends at the appointed hour."

   "In order to make something of great value and beauty of the lovers, the Beloved sometimes shakes up the hearts. Not all the lovers can withstand it. Many hearts become crushed and broken in this process. But those who are able to submit to the Beloved's shake-up, and who surrender to it, are not broken - instead they come out whole and give forth the sweetest taste. Such lovers who have surrendered to the Beloved's treatment, be it gentle or vigorous, are the most fortunate... Hazur Baba Sawan Singh once said that when a saint takes a disciple under his wings, he is keen to compress twenty lifetimes into one. But if we desire to compress twenty lifetimes into one, we must pay for it.
(52)

   In Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion we read:

   "Marpa scolded and even beat Je-tzun Mi-la re-pa many times. This was not because he personally disliked him, but because out of compassion he saw the needs for skillfull means that were forceful. Thus if your Guru is wrathful to you, try to see this as a method he is using to tame your mind and lead you to Enlightenment. As a Buddha, how could he possibly hate you?" (53)

   Maulana Rumi penned this wise counsel:

   "When God loves a servant He afflicts him; if he endures with fortitude, he chooses him; if he is grateful, He elects him. Some men are grateful to God for His wrathfulness and some are grateful to Him for His graciousness. Each of the two classes is good; for gratitude is a sovereign antidote, changing wrath into grace. The intelligent and perfect man is he who is grateful for harsh treatment, both openly and in secret; for it is he whom God has elected. If God's will be the bottom reach of Hell, by gratitude His purpose is hastened." (Discourses of Rumi (Fihi ma Fihi))

   A true spiritual master or sage will usually be able to tell what is appropriate and how much an individual can take, but there are no guarantees. Relationship with the true satguru is not therapy, and should not be understood as such. The guru worth his salt, while the embodiment of wisdom and love, is out to break a spell, a hypnotic state that the seeker comes to him in. How many are ready for this?

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   Patience, perseverance, and faith in the divine Providence or one’s spiritual guide are essential qualities for everyone, especially the questor, to have at such times. It is also helpful to gain perspective on the meaning of one’s experience. The wisdom of those who have gone before us on the spiritual path is our pole-star in navigating treacherous waters. PB writes:

   "Eventually we reach a point, a very advanced point, where the ego sees its own limitation, perceives its helplessness and dependence, realizes that it cannot lift itself up into final illuminations. It should then surrender itself wholly to the Overself and cast its further development on the mercy and Grace of the power beyond it. It will then have to go through a waiting period of seeming inactivity, spiritual stagnation, and inability to feel the fervour of devotion which it formally felt. This is a kind of dark night of the soul. Then slowly, it begins to come out of this phase, which is often accompanied by mental depression and emotional frustration, into a higher phase where it feels utterly resigned to the will of God or destiny, calm and peaceful in the sense of accepting that higher will and not in any joyous sense, patiently waiting for the time when the infinite wisdom will bring it what it once sought so ardently but what it is now as detached from as it is detached from worldly ambitions. After this phase there will come suddenly unexpectedly and in the dead of night, as it were, a tremendous Realization of the egoless state, a tremendous feeling of liberation from itself as it has known itself, a tremendous awareness of the infinitude, universality, and intelligence of life." (54)

   Damiani states:

   “That’s a subject all by itself - the spiritual value of pain and suffering. But first of all, pain is real. It’s part of the World-idea and even the sage has to know pain. Even the Buddha died in pain - after eating some food that was poisoned or bad. But you have to remember, the sage’s experience of pain isn’t like yours. When we have pain, we feel that the self is completely negated. If I get into pain, for example, I feel like God abandoned me, left me to my own devices. I know nothing but a denial of my self. A sage doesn’t experience the denial of the self, but he will experience the pain.”

   “There are some schools of thought, like the positive thinking schools, who say that pain or evil doesn’t exist. Those people are crazy. After all, that’s one of the ways in which the ego gets instructed. You will notice that when a person is in pain he becomes humble. Ordinarily he is not humble. Get a little pain and you’ll learn humility fast. But let the pain go away, and the arrogance comes back.”

   “So, very often we are put through pain to learn certain lessons. I can’t say what they are in general, because every case is individual. But it always has a spiritual function.”
(55)

   And:

   “Meister Eckhart said, ‘The horse that will bear us quickest to perfection is suffering.’ Nothing will open your eyes like when you suffer.” (56)

   “Anyone who has been on the quest for a number of years will sooner or later find the world that he lives in, the world that he knows, blowing up in his face. Everyone who has been on the quest a few years has that experience automatically. It’s very rare that things go along smoothly for too long a time. For almost every questor, that’s to be understood, in the sense that it can’t be helped. It’s in our very nature, because of the way we are and the way our whole past history is. Our whole history is of such a nature that when we want to get to the highest part of our being, when we want to touch the soul within us, certain changes have to be made. The way we are is not good enough, some changes have to be made. And usually things happen so that these changes are brought about in the person.” (57)

   PB likewise informs us:

   “When the ego is brought to its knees in the dust, humiliated in its own eyes, however esteemed or feared, envied or respected in other men’s eyes, the way is opened for Grace’s influx. Be assured that this complete humbling of the inner man will happen again and again until he is purified of all pride...Out of this ego-crushing, pride-humbling experience he may rise, chastened, heedful, and obeisant to the higher will.” (58)

   To which Anthony adds:

   “Of course, anyone who gets crushed is not going to consider it as grace.” (59)

   anadi concurs with Damiani, and even goes so far as to say that without suffering one cannot know one’s soul, even though he reach the so-called absolute state:

   “Any experience, even the experience of your ‘absence’ refers to you [PB said that even the experience of the great Void was just another experience, albeit a profound one]... However, when there is suffering, this painful experience refers to you in a very acute way. It hits your integrity. No longer is it merely a neutral experience, like seeing a tree or hearing a bird. This experience hurts and you know it, for you are in pain! That’s why suffering points much stronger to the existence of the soul than anything else. Even happiness does not touch you as deeply as suffering. Deep suffering really shakes you. When you experience a thrilling joy, like falling in love, for example, you immediately feel your soul. But pain somehow moves deeper layers of your soul.”

   “Evolving individually, making all efforts possible, you will reach the point where you become ready to receive grace. You cannot receive grace until you have made enough effort and have suffered enough. That is the rule, the law - that your suffering and your effort make you available to grace. This is because the soul, in order to receive grace, has to have a certain essential quality in the heart to be able to appreciate the gift of transformation. There has to be a certain sincerity of the heart.”

   “If enlightenment was just given to you, without the striving to reach it - it would not be a real meeting. You are in a process of meeting the ultimate. The real meeting comes from the space of this burning desire of the Soul which does everything to return to her eternal home of the beloved. Your sufferings, your difficulties, your doubts...all these elements allow you to grow. They allow you to reach clarity, to deepen your sensitivity and to awaken true sincerity; these are the major characteristics of the soul. Afterwards, when you reach awakening, the meeting with the light and love of the creator has real significance. It is the true meeting of the soul with the beloved. It is more than becoming enlightened - it is a meeting, the supreme meeting.”
(60)

   The Prophet Muhammed wrote:

   "If Allah touch thee with affliction, none can remove it but he." - Qur'an 6:17

   Which is where faith, “humanity's best wealth, and through which one is said to cross the flood of the world” (61), comes into the picture. When one has achieved faith, then he can be led to hopelessness. With it may come feelings of despair or impending doom; these need be allowed to arise. They will anyway, barring heroic efforts to avoid them. Better not to fight the inevitable. Yet the death felt at the 'edge' of the void is ultimately illusory, for the void is already the case. Emptiness is 'empty', the void is 'empty', no-mind is 'empty'. The true meaning of all of these is simply being oneself. It is not a state. Fundamentally, reality exists, beyond all categories of thought. That in fact is what is meant by emptiness. Yet no doubt the passage through fear and despair feels real. To some extent it can be mitigated by the grace of the guru, but the experience awaits every true disciple.

   One is reminded on the verse in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (11.8.44 ):

   "Hope indeed is misery greatest, Hopelessness a bliss above the rest."

   All teachings say much the same thing. It may be their hidden teaching, or one may read of it on the internet. It doesn't matter. It is so clean that knowing won't spoil it. To become 'hopeless' is a stage that no one can really wish for, or even desire. Yet it is where the spiritual path is leading. Ultimately, as we stumble and scrape our shins, we are being led to a final surrender. Very rarely will it happen all at once. We may pass through states of freedom from ego, joys of union and oneness, or a falling away of our precious spirituality. Surrender is tricky business, profound and with many depths. It is not as if there is annihilation, or the path need be envisioned as an Aztec blood-sacrifice! It can be graceful, and in the future may be even more so. In the end, though, we become the entirely unexpected, yet somehow familiar. No words are adequate. There is generally an impasse one must face sooner or later. The consensus is that it has to be earned. The point of no return. The master wears you down. You can't win. There's nothing else one can do but assent. Or endure. Or show up. You don't know what it is, but you must want it more than anything else. That is the meaning of the story of Milarepa.

   Meanwhile, know that one is indelibly stamped as God's own, that here is nowhere else to go or be, that all is already accomplished in the now, only needing recognition and acceptance. "How to get the fly out of the fly-bottle?" asked Wittgenstein; "Look," he replied, "it's out!" Or, as Hakuin proclaimed, "When all the effort you can muster has been exhausted and you have reached a total impasse..it will suddenly come and you will break free. The phoenix will get through the golden net. The crane will fly free of the cage." When one has done all he can do, and lies nose-bloodied on the floor, what remains is only the mind's convincing, through the saving help of grace.

   “The world is full of remedies, but you have no remedies until God opens a window for you. Though you are unaware of that remedy now, God will make it clear in the hour of need.” - Rumi

   Have faith, then, dear child, you were meant to be here, and everything is working out for the best. Every cloud has a veritable silver lining. As promised: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12)

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   Milarepa wrote in a song of praise:

  “Lord, from the sun-orb of Thy Grace, The radiant Rays of Light have shone,
   And opened wide the petals of the Lotus of my Heart,
   So that it breatheth forth the fragrance born of Knowledge,
   For which I am ever bounden unto Thee;
   So will I worship Thee by constant meditation.”
(62)

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   ”I know God will not give me more than I can handle. I just wish that he didn’t trust me so much.” - Mother Teresa (63)


(1) Evans-Wentz, ed., Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa (London: Oxford University Press, 1973)
(2) Duncan Greenlees in: Professor Laxmi Narain, ed., Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi (Sri Ramanakendram, Hyderabad, 2007), p. 54
(3) reference misplaced
(4) Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche, The Myth of Freedom (Berkeley: Shambhala, 1976), p. 137
(5) Ibid, p. 6
(6) Chittaranjan Naik, "Why Traditional Advaita is Relevant to Liberation"
(7) Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, N.Y.: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 12, 5.238
(8) Ibid, Part 2, 2.143
(9) Ibid, 5.189, 5.33, 5.262 (10) reference misplaced
(10a) Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 2000), p. 102-103
(11) Mariana Caplan, The Guru Question (Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, Inc., 2011), p. 312-313
(12) Ibid, p. 337
(13) Anthony Damiani, Standing In Your Own Way (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications,1993), p.
(14) John Mann, Rudi: 14 Years With My Teacher (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rudra Press, 1987), p. 137
(15) Sayings of Shri Upasani Baba, p. 13
(16) reference misplaced
(16a) Nagarjuna, quoted in Jose Ignacio Cabezon, trans. (A Dose of Emptiness: An Annotated Translation of the sTong thun chen mo of mKas grub dGe legs dpal bzang (Shakti Nagar, India: Sri Satguru Publications, 1993), p. 112
(17) Sutra of the Wise and Foolish or Ocean of Narratives, trans. Stanley Frye (Library of Tibetan Archives, 1981), p.
(17a) Dzogchen Ponlop, Mind Before Death (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 2006), p. 255-256
(17b) Ibid, p. 258
(18) Naropa
(18a) Patrul Rinpoche, Words of My Perfect Teacher (Boston: Shambhala, 1998), p. 157-159
(19) Lopsang P. Lhalungpa, trans., The Life of Milarepa (Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala, 1984)
(20) The Life of Marpa the Translator, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee (Boulder, Colorado: Prajna Press, 1982)
(21) Herbert Guenther, trans., The Life and Teachings of Naropa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963) (Boston: Shambhala, 1986)
(22) Robert S. deRopp, Warrior’s Way (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1970), p. 236-237
(23) Cabezon, op. cit., p. 401
(24) Patrul Rinpoche, op. cit., p. xxxvii, 35
(25) Ibid, p. 153
(26) Ibid, p. 152-153
(27) Asvagosha, Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1976), p. 29
(28) Sadguru Gnanananda by His Devotees (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1979), p. 48
(29) Ram Alexander, Death Must Die: A Western Woman's Life-Long Spiritual Quest in India with Shree Anandamayee Ma (Varanasi, India: Indica Books, 2006 (2002), p. 519
(30) D. T. Suzuki, trans., The Lankavatara Sutra (Boulder, CO: Prajna Press, 1978), p. 89-90
(31) Kirpal Singh, A Great Saint: Baba Jaimal Singh (Delhi, India: Ruhani Satsang, 1968), p. 79
(32) Kirpal Singh, The Way of the Saints (Sanborton, N.H.: Sant Bani Ashram, 1976), p. 27
(33) Aziz Kristof (anadi), Transmission of Awakening (Delhi,India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), p. 116, 140
(34) Sutra of the Wise and Foolish or Ocean of Narratives, trans. Stanley Frye (Library of Tibetan Archives, 1981), p. 73
(35) Patrul Rinpoche, op. cit., p. 13
(36) Gangaji, The Diamond in Your Pocket (Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, Inc., 2007), p. 273
(37) Baird T. Spalding, Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, Vol. IV (Marina Del Rey, California: DeVorss & Co., 1947 (1976), p. 52
(38) Ibid, p. 53
(39) The Kalachakra teachings are said to have come down from antiquity from the mystic brotherhoods scattered throughout hidden valleys and remote places within Central Asia, between Tibet and Mongolia. They are part of the tradition of Shambhala, from whence the world’s religions are said to have been disseminated by masters of wisdom. Similarly, the Sufi orders long antedated Islam, also being held to have originated there. They are called the "People of theTradition" by the Afghanis, the tradition being that of the Solar religious teachings, or the teachings of the Inner Light, found ubiquitously throughout the globe. It was to this region that George Gurdjieff travelled and was admitted into the outer order of the Sarmoung brotherhood by Bahauddin Nakshband. See The People of the Tradition on this website.
(40) The All-Creating Monarch Tantra, from Longchenpa's PreciousTreasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena (Padma Publishing, 2001)
(41) Herbert Guenther, trans, The Life and Teaching of Naropa, p. 196-197
(42) Patrul Rinpoche, op. cit., p. 356
(43) Garma C. Chang, trans. The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa (Boulder: Shambhala, 1977), vol. 2, p. 357-361
(44) Marshal Govindan, Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition (Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and Publications, 2000)

(44a) There are two types of transmission or introduction to the 'view' by the Master in Dzogchen. One type can happen once or many times, and is essentially a glimpse of nondual realization. It is typically in a 'sahaja format' in that it is not some internal state, but rather experiencing everything in one's awareness as one's own natural state or as empty or as the Tao or whatever is one's preference. But it is usually a nondual awareness in the midst of ordinary life, as is the typical satori in Zen. The other type is sometimes called 'final introduction', which is a point when, as a result of a particularly powerful moment of awakening, typically in Dzogchen also facilitated by the guru, then after that point one is able to hold this view, more or less, in meditation. Technically, this is not a black and white thing. People can have degrees of resting in the nature state, of holding nondual presence in meditation. But in Dzogchen, again, this is not a trance or inverted state, but is present to the arising of phenomena, considered resting in the view if one is has a pristine awareness that is free of all grasping, contriving, distraction, longing or effort. When one has fairly good access to this state regularly in meditation, then one is said to have moved into 'doing' Dzogchen proper, rather than practices that lead up to that state. Final introduction to the view is said to finally precipitate this phase. Prior to this can be introductions, but they are preliminary. Similarly in Zen, the initial kensho is powerful but preliminary. It is the third of the ten stages depicted in the famous ox-herding pictures. Sahaja or the state of presence is the tenth oxherding stage.

    With all the complexity that the fancy systems of Dzogchen and Tibetan Buddhism, Hindu tantric systems and others, Taoism systems and so on, with all the practices they have, the essence is simple. The cultivation of simple qualities of presence such as awareness, concentration (not being distracted), equanimity, contentment, etc., both in action (karma yoga) and in meditation if possible (like vipassana or zazen) are the simplest most direct approaches to nondual realization. Most direct not in the sense of fastest, because that varies from person to person what is fastest. Most direct in the sense that one is 'practicing the fruit' as they would say in Tibetan Buddhism. That is, one tries to enter as directly as possible into the view as one can, moment to moment. The closest we can come to this from our ordinary state is to practice awareness, equanimity (non-grasping, non-aversion), etc. This will gradually blossom directly into sahaja samadhi. If we can add other qualities to this, like love, compassion, devotion -great. All the better. If not, they will come in a round about way eventually anyway. Because they are intrinsic to how the nondual state actualizes within relative experience. So many prefer to just keep it simple. Be in the moment. Rest in pure awareness. Choiceless awareness. Non-judgmentalness. Equanimity. Being Peace. Whatever inspires the person. This is the power of the simple approach is that it makes one feel directly connected to the 'goal' of sahaja here and now, pointing powerfully to how that is at the root of one's ordinary presence and awareness, if we just remain alert, relaxed, equanimous, loving. But it turns out that this sounds great, yet it is much harder to do than people think. Anyone who has tried to be aware/present all day long, just for one day, soon discovers how much they end up distracted. So, many paths have come up with what are offered as acceleration practices that burn away obstructions faster, liberate karmas,and so forth. Then you get guru yoga, shabd yoga, kundalini/tantric yogas, purification practices, ngondro, visualizations, breathing practices, or mantras. The testimony of countless sages is that, paradoxically, although these practices seldom directly and simply point awareness at its own nature, but rather are secondary methods to clear the way, that these methods are often more efficient at progressing through these stages for many people, and can either be used side-by-side with what can be called direct or essential practices (shikan-taza, mahamudra, Dzogchen), or these pure, direct practices can be used later when one is actually closer to slipping into the nondual state. Whole traditions and thousands of years of experience has been built up on the side of testifying that this is why all this other stuff is good.

(45) Kristof, The Human Buddha, op. cit., p. 247
(46) from the Mandukya Upanishad, Swami Prabhavananda and E. Manchester, trans., The Upanishad: Breath of the Eternal (New York: Mentor, 1957)
(47) Kristof, op. cit., p. 258-259
(48) Ibid, p. 414-415, 418
(49) "Cave of the Heart"
(50) Irina Tweedie, The Chasm of Fire (Dorset, U.K.: Element Books, 1984), p. 27 [also published in a much longer version (802 pages) as: Daughter of Fire (The Golden Sufi Center, 1995)
(51) Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind (Burdett,New York: Larson Publications, 1990), p. 134-135
(51a) Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 3, 3.118
(52) Darshan Singh, Spiritual Awakening (Bowling Green, Virginia: Sawan Kirpal Publications, 1982), p. 307
(53) Asvagosha, op. cit., p. 30
(54) Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part 1, 2.55
(55) Anthony Damiani, op. cit., p. 55
(56) Ibid, p. 147
(57) Ibid, p. 134-135
(58) Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 6, 8:4.430-431
(59) Anthony Damiani,Standing In Your Own Way, op. cit., p. 209
(60) Kristof, op. cit., p. 428-430
(61) K.N. Upadhyaya, Buddhism: Path to Nirvana (Radhasoami Satsang Beas, 2010), p. 197
(62) Evans-Wentz, op. cit., p. 143
(63) as quoted in: Michael Mirdad, You're Not Going Crazy...You're Just Waking Up (Bellingham, Washington: Grail Press, 2010), p. 48