Masters of Enchantment, The Lives of the Mahasiddhas, Translated by Keith Dowman
G: Rama said this book can be used by us. We will be drawn to certain stories of the siddhas. Each of these stories is a mandala. We might find an activity – singing, shoe making, etc. – that can be used to take us into a state of enlightenment. Each of us live in delusion, but one of these things might be used as a path to awakening.
These stories are from a time long past, but are still so current. If all I am drawn to is singing, there is the possibility that I could use that as a tool to take myself into an awakened state of mind. That is my love of this book. It is so current.
The book is a beautiful representation of tantra. This shows that anything can be used as a tool for awakening or self-awareness.
These are great examples, and provide a nice opportunity to look honestly at where we are on the path. For example, look at the story of the Lazy monk. Even a lazy month can become enlightened. You could be a hedonist, wanting to satiate yourself in every way, and turn that into freedom and enlightenment.
G – That is useful in understanding why Rama recommended this book. Through our own growth, we can come to a different level of understanding. Rama suggested that we meditate on the 84 stories and find the ones that draw us.
The structure for each of these stories is a pattern. There is a disease, a diagnosis and a medicine.
For instance, in the story of “The Academic” – There is a disease of the malaise caused by the belief of and I and mine, or selfhood. There is the recognition of the illness, which is not on an intellectual level, bestowed through the teachings of the guru. Then the cure is recommended by the guru, which is to use the thorn to remove the thorn – to grow into the bliss of the Mahayana through understanding that there is no I.
J – I liked the story of “The cobbler”, because it is so tangible – something he did again and again every day. The guru instructed him to “Mold the leather of passion and conceptual thought around the last of loving-kindness and compassion. Then, taking the guru’s precepts as your awl, stitch carefully with the thread of freedom from the either obsessions. Miraculously, you will create those slippers that cannot be seen by those with clouded delusion—the marvelous slippers of dharmakaya.” (Page 83)
G – I like the imagery and the reference to the ‘eight mundane obsessions’. I see how I become obsessed with certain things and they take me away from freedom. The freedom is beyond the shoe. Also, this is another example of the illusion of I and mine. Rama was able to assist me in experiencing the state of no I and no mine. That was a place where I understood that what I think is reality is not at all.
Simplistically, I can say “I’m an I”. Hi! I’m speaking with you. But from an enlightened one, all these are deluded states of mind. No matter what tool (sadhana) you are using, there is always another level. The Handsome Prince believes he is handsome, he believes he is good. Also, note that they didn’t talk much about women, which shows that even the writers were caught in even subtler delusion.
Each of these stories reflects someone who was ready to let go of the world, through some realization that suffering was inevitable. So what happens when you move beyond pleasure and delusion. Why bother? How does that feel? Saturated. Completion. Oneness.
All of us are self-deluded. The ambrosial nectar is the medicine. The Prince started out completely vain and deluded. Then he sees something else. The Madman comes by and say’s ‘aren’t you tired of it?’ That wasn’t it. Try this instead – take yourself out of the usual world. The yogi gave him some tips. He was so hung up on social niceties and attachments, but he was able to free himself… The tips from the guru released his mind and he became free and entered bliss. He was in a state of anxiety, so many watching him, praising him, but it didn’t provide him with satisfaction.
It shows that no matter what state of mind you’re in, if an awakened being walks by and gives you some tips, you can make your way out of it.
Another I liked was the Peasant Guru. He was in such pain, this man. It shows how both pleasure and pain are the mind’s constructions… even the wisest man may dig forever on a mountain of rock and never discover the nature of bliss.
I felt a relief when I read this. Do not seek to label or name. Relax and enter a state of natural ease. It reminded me of Rama. “All of these names and labels are false. You have to meditate and free yourself.”
We all want to be free and happy. You have to rid yourself of the labels. I am this. I am separate. You are someone else. It immediately creates anxiety. The Peasant Guru went through the moral states of ‘high mindedness’ – But even that is still a mind form.
Similiarly, we also have these constructs: I want to be generous; I want to concentrate; I want to be kind. Ultimately you’re still you.
J – I remember Rama saying at some point you have to kill the Buddha. All constructs are dissolved in the Infinite. Use the thorn to remove the thorn, then throw both away.
G - It’s always another trap. Even the highest, most noble ideas exist in duality/ separativity.
High morals take us in to a good place, but your body is worn down by your hard life. This guy is digging the earth. He shows tremendous persistence. He thinks he’s got it right. His path is the karmic path of those things. But the karmic path is inherently hostile. Abandon it -- the hostility and self-torture. Devotion to the guru is generosity-- not digging the earth, not non-violence. Constancy of mind is patience. Meditation is how the enlightened mind speaks.
Rama gave us tools to break our samskaras – to free ourselves from that trap. We became ascetics to free ourselves of the desire of the body and pleasure, but we had become so conditioned to reinforcing the self through asceticism. He wanted us to go to the next level to drop the asceticism, this belief that denial is somehow closer to God. We had to release ourselves from those attachments.
So he said, “Go make money.” Our conditioning said that money was contra to freedom and unenlightened. Instead, become unattached to making money and use it for your awakening and helping others.
I can make a whole ton of money and still be a free being. That’s why this incarnation with Rama is so important. Energy is just energy.
Robert Beier in the intro had the experience of himself becoming part of everything – the experience of oneness. He say’s, “I was distorted in my understanding of reality. I finally found someone who understood what I was saying. “
Some of us may have experienced the understanding that there is no other, that there is only unity. In the book it is described as how all experience melts into its essential nature – the realization that the underlying reality of everything is emptiness.
We create these distinctions in our minds. “My dog has pointy ears/ my dog has round ears.” The extreme is when we attack and even kill one another over these beliefs. It is just a description in the mind, and it becomes the basis of war.
The Jackal Yogin (pg. 87) learned to taste the one flavor of all things… And came to know the oneness of appearances and emptiness, through listening to the jackals howls as the ‘root of all sound.’ He turned his fear of the jackals into the basis of he awakening.
It is phenomenal that with one statement, someone can receive the antidote and after 9 years, all his defilements disappeared.
One thing could kick it off for us. (The cubic centimeter of chance.) We all have defiled minds. He became free because he harnessed the power in experiencing the taste of everything as one flavor…
It could be as simple as me looking at the color orange. If that were the right thing, I could see the emptiness in the color orange. That might get me there. So the book is quite hopeful. It shows that we are all subject to delusion of different types.
G – All of the Siddhas, regardless of their sadhana, had similarities. It is much like the book ‘Buddhas Lions’.
I had heard that Rama had recommended that his students read the book and identify the stories to which they were drawn, then use the process that that person used. He had indicated that these practices can be applied even today. We can use them as our sadhana.
These siddhas all came from such varied backgrounds, yet they still became enlightened. It is quite hopeful!
If we look at these examples, The model wife, The temple whore, the rag picker, the enlightened moron, the headless sisters, these are not admirable people. It shows that there are infinite ways to attain. We all have the potential.
The Epicure (pg. 169) – This guy was a merchant, really wealthy and indulgent. His guru told him ‘ You can attain enlightenment in spite of how many sesame seeds you crush -- no matter how much money you make. He taught him how to see his business of crushing sesame as his practice. He eventually would see naked reality – this is what Rama said!
… a golden radiance began to pour from his being until it illuminated the sky. He was very happy with his life and said, “if wealth is measured by inexhaustible bliss, then I am a king without peer.”
J – I thought it was interesting in this book that there was no distinction between a Dakini being good or bad. We might judge a divine being as good or bad, but it is still polarity. At some point we have to drop the judging mind.
G – Yes, even the positive can oppress the spirit. It is another trap. It can become a torment – all of that reaffirms the notion of self.
Even though we are pure.. we build up our identify. But it is all a figment of our imagination.
Rama would say, “No, Suzy, you aren’t a flamingo.” It is an illusion, you are just reaffirming your self
This book gives us practices to relieve the pains we create for ourselves…
It is wealth of information and a great resource.
The model entrepreneur/ daughter.
Some additional comments:
Page 110: Tantepa, The Gambler. “Had I not known sorrow and remorse, how could I have entered the path to release? Had I not placed my trust in a teacher, ow could I have attained the ultimate power?”
The Introduction explains that each of these people are mandalas (pg. 19). They are a mandala to focus on – the center, radius and circumference of a mandala.
Rama taught us something that was a pure, long-lineage teaching about the nature of reality. He saidn, “Use this story as a mandala, and you too could become liberated.”
Each of these people focused on their practice and after 9 or 12 years, they became enlightened. These could work for us, as well!
J – I know that I went through many relationships as a means to shatter my illusions of romantic love. It doesn’t mean I’ve awakened, but it has certainly shown me a lot about how my mind works. There are always more illusions, however, so plenty more to look at.
I found the introduction to be a wonderful, concise explanation of Buddhism. I think anyone interested in getting a good understanding of Buddhism should read the introduction, as it explains so much and is so easy to read.