September 28, 2013
Dorje, Garuda, MV
The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom
This book is a sales pitch from the Buddha (Shakyamuni) to his two primary disciples, Subhuti the Elder and Sariputra, to try to convince them to stay on the wheel of life as Bodhisattvas, rather than dissolving back into the Dharmakaya, the clear light of reality.
The biggest challenge that readers seem to have is sticking with the text long enough that a transformation of understanding occurs. The text attempts to convey the realms and workings of non-duality to beings stuck in duality. It is an issue well described in the little book, “Flatland.” While reading the book, one book club participant visited a power spot and returned to the reading with sudden clarity and insight as to what it was conveying. Another reader, who painfully struggled and was fighting the depression of not ‘getting it’, broke through and surrendered on page 271 after reading the admonition, “But this perfection of wisdom expounded, in such a way, should not be taught in front of a Bodhisattva who has newly set out in the vehicle. And so with the other perfections, and the eighteen kinds of emptiness. And why? For he would lose that little faith which is his, that little serenity, affection and respect which are his.” In other words, this text is not beginners material! But anyone who studied with Rama has firsthand experience of the topics and dimensions discussed in the book.
One participant said she was glad to hear someone else had ‘surrendered’ to the book. She had done the same when she realized that it was describing Rama as the Boddhisattva.
Part of the challenge is that Conze uses rather cumbersome, non-glamourous language. Let’s start by substituting some of Rama’s terminology for Conze’s...
(And PLEASE, anyone who reads the text, let us know of any substitute words or concepts to put here, to make it easier for people who never had the direct experience of these ‘concepts’ in Rama’s presence.)
Stopping – Samadhi/ the state of no-thought in meditation;
Production – dependent origination, creating karma, samsara moving on, mistaking the dream for the real;
Non-apprehension – ecstacy and nirvana, when the world falls away, no god consciousness;
Reality limit – dissolving it all to move past samsara into nirvana;
Pratyeka Buddha – solitary Buddha lacking the knowledge of all modes, e.g. Buddhas and Arhats do have direct knowledge of the dharmakaya, they just can't come down and adjust someone's causal structure or defeat a legion of king entities, or spread light through thousands of world systems, which are things Rama could do.
Knowledge of all modes – Having multiple causal bodies, Ability to surf/see all dimensions, understanding of the workings of any realm; (practitioner: ability to be successful living and working in the world, in the world but not of it;)
Tathagata Buddha – Being who has the knowledge of all modes;
dharma – all things/ truths/ perceptions/ consciousness experienced in the realm of duality or samsara;
Dharma – the ultimate truth or law of action
Lucky – reach nirvana;
Unlucky – cajoled by God to stay in samsara and help others;
Samsara – duality, the dimension in which you are reading this, the unreal imagined as real;
This book is a technical guide to the inner workings of the process of awakening, but Rama and Sri Ramakrishna had a much more lighthearted approach. For example, Rama made us all take the Bodhisattva vow, but then would make fun of us. Ramakrishna said, “I just want to enjoy the mango groves, not understand the irrigation system.” While there is humor in Conze’s book, it may be overlooked in the process of trying to comprehend it, “it is base to find the baseless.”
A major theme in the book is emptiness. This “blue book” is pure Zen. Zen Mind Beginners Mind is quoting the Prajnaparamita; Padmasambhava uses “the uncreated”… He even say’s on page 200, ‘I’m writing this because the blue book is too complicated."
“The emptiness of non-emptiness is non-emptiness.” The entire universe is a dream, non-real. It is a reminder of don Juan’s work with Carlos. “The development of non-development of form is perfect wisdom,” which reminded one participant of Carlos’ experiences with peyote. Another example is that the “Cognition of origination is the forsaking of origination,” which could be described as ‘once you’ve left the farm and experienced the city, you’ll never be content on the farm again,’ or, ‘once you’ve experienced a taste of reality, you can’t take anything nor your ‘self’ seriously, again.’ In other words, you drop the world. (This leads into the dissolution of self, development of the caretaker personality and why we need to find an “abstract purpose” or meaningful reason to continue to interact with the world.)
Back to emptiness: For example, the reason that a Tathagata Buddha (Rama) can make his voice heard throughout the universe is because the universe is non-existent. See page 183 or listen to “Magic” the Lake Tahoe discourse by Rama – “this is a ridiculous dream.”
P. 405 – “The Suchness in which there is no form, etc. and which yet is no other than form…” Rama could go into nirvana and still stay in the samsara and help someone with their database skills. Those are definitely advanced states of awareness!
M -- Rama said: ‘Go into the world. This is the dimension you’re in. Master it’ (make money, work, adapt).
One reader dismissed the book entirely after her first reading and its discussion of women as unfit for the teachings and a lower class. She was glad she pushed through that issue to get so much insight from the book on this reading. We discussed this.
D – What about all the derogatory comments about women in the book? What was it about the context of those times made the Buddhist texts and even early Buddhism so anti-women? Was it because they had worse PMS than today?
G – Well, I am in complete disagreement with the book on that. Rama taught us that men have actively suppressed women for years… made them property and childbearers. They were afraid of women’s natural power. (Listen to “Why more women don’t attain enlightenment” talk by Rama.) You might not want to incarnate as an oppressed class if you wanted to have the greatest possibility for attaining enlightenment. It would be like incarnating as a black in the South in the 1900’s.
D – That’s kind of what I figured. There is nothing inherently stopping women from attaining, but there are cultural conditions that might make for more advantageous opportunities. I can relate to it more if I think of it in the context of thousands of years back. This book at least redeems itself a bit, because “perfection of wisdom” is discussed not only as a concept or state of mind, but as a ‘she’ in the book. Interestingly, Rama also referred to the I-Ching not just as a book, but to the guardian/energy that watches over it.
G – Oh, there are lots of places that the divine feminine comes up in the book. There is the river goddess of the Ganges who was witness to Shakyamuni being told he would become a tathagata in a future life and got inspired and made her own vow to attain enlightenment, as well as other aspects of the divine feminine.
D – Culture and society created the problem for women. We are naturally more powerful, and particularly when we go through menopause. That coursing of ‘hot flashes’ is pure, uncontrolled kundalini or inner heat.
G – Yes. What you want to do is take advantage of any inner heat generated, move it into the central shushimna and push it into your chakras.
M - Women are the bearers of the souls to this world.
G – There are also enlightened guardians. Rama said there are guardians and magical beings who can assist us after he was gone, and he often called guardians to join us when we had desert trips with Rama. There are also power spots like Switzerland and Hawaii where it is easier to connect to the other dimensions.
G – Pop quiz. Can you define the Knowledge of all modes from the book?
D – I would describe it as cognizing the ways things work in all dimensions. Rama had that.
G – I think of it as Star trek, the Next Generation – the holodeck. Once you understand how to analyze the any complicated hologram of energy, you can understand whatever the universe manifests. You can learn and understand all these amazing things.
G -- If you’re alarmed by samsara, you’re still making the world a basis (for your consciousness.) As Rama said, you’re ‘back in the saddle again.’ You’re making a distinction between samsara and nirvana. The 5th skanda is consciousness, which is also an illusion, as well as the causal body.
It’s great because even the gods complain. They say that when fairies murmur it is very hard to understand them, and that is nothing compared to this book.
Also, there’s this great line – Empty space is nirvana.
M – Let’s go back to emptiness again. The emptiness meant a lot to me during the reading.
Page 144 -- What is the emptiness of an object – smell, taste, what’s its nature?
Page 410 -- Expressing the inexpressible. “The inexpressibility of all dharmas (things) is their emptiness.”
G – And words are a counter dharma. How can we even discuss this if words don’t mean anything? There is a distinctive method that the buddhas have used… they attain when they see that it is all illusory. Dreams don’t exist but they do have patterns.
P 380: Everything is a state of mind, a reflection of what your consciousness is experiencing. No need to take any of this as a basis. Even our own consciousness is an illusion. Don’t be attached to it. (Luckily we are not yet so evolved, so it doesn’t much apply.)
There is an example: If the Buddha were teaching a cartoon character, would the character attain? No. Same here.
Page 209 – All dharmas (things) are magical illusion. In the Tibetan tradition, this is the highest yoga tantra, kundalini.
G – Rama always said the black belt was the beginning. So gaining a first degree belt is ‘personal enlightment’, versus the knowledge of all modes – the avatar. There is a huge jump between personal enlightenment and avatar.
D – I want to talk about opposition to the path. In the book, it refers to Mara/ darkness as the main force opposing enlightenment.
G – Rama liked the Star Wars series because Darth Vadar represented that aspect.
D – So, in the book it refers to how you might pray or perform some ritual for a positive outcome, and then it occurs. It indicates that Mara may do those things for you, just to build up your ego or identity around being able to manipulate reality.
G – Mara is ego. Rama said the same thing about selfless giving, that people may develop more ego in the process of ‘helping’ others, which may be counter to their goal of losing the self.
D – How are things going in your new home M?
M – My dreams have changed. I’m having violent dreams. I’ve cleared the place several times.
D – It could be something that’s coming up for you, like a past life. Or it could be you’re picking up on something that was inside you all along, but now you can see more clearly. Use your dreams as tools. Don’t fear or be attached to them.
G – Or it could be the energy line you’re on. There could have been a battle there hundreds of years ago.
G – I’m glad you’re using practical tools. Cleaning. But I will say, shame on D and I, because if we were enlightened, then we could see exactly what was causing it. Likewise, we could say shame on you – if you had practiced and attained the inner vision of the buddhas, you could ask Rama directly. You could hear the Dharma being preached directly in the other dimensions.
G – We’re back to the beginning. We all need to keep practicing, and when we do attain, we should stick around and stay in the spiritual teacher training academy instead of dissolving into nirvana. There are a lot of beings who are seeking. A bodhisattva still courses in the samsara and learns all the rules in the different dreams and how to manipulate them. This is beyond ‘power’ in the mystical sense.
So we all need to at least achieve personal enlightment before we can talk about being an avatar…