Give up everything

Robert Adams Advaita

The following is by Robert Adams:

What happens is this. As you keep giving up all the reactions to life. As you begin to surrender everything to the one Self. The one Self which is the absolute reality, the pure awareness takes over.

And will do whatever you have to do, even better than you can do it yourself. This power that knows the way will take you over completely. And it will speak for you. Do everything for you that you have to do and yet you will feel that you are not the doer.

Yet everything will be done perfectly.

Many people are afraid to give up their senses. For they believe that they will turn into a vegetable. But this is not true. You will always function. You will always do what you came to this earth to do. And you will even do it better than you ever can imagine.

So do not concern yourself about these things. Simply go within, surrender everything to the Self.

Give up everything.

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Zen: an especially excellent teaching and a most essential shortcut

Branch light

The following is a letter written by the Chinese Master Yuanwu (1063-1135), It can be found in the excellent collection ‘Zen Letters’ translated by Thomas Cleary where it is entitled ‘Bringing Out the Family Treasure’.

I hope you don’t mind that I have interspersed my comments in red italics:

If you want to attain Intimacy, the first thing is, don’t seek it. If you attain through seeking, you have already fallen into interpretive understanding.

Yuanwu gets straight into it here, directly pointing out that the desire for Intimacy, or Enlightenment, itself is a barrier to it. Seeking will only yield a conceptual understanding. It is implied here that conceptual understanding is clearly not what is being aimed at.

This is especially true because this great treasury extends through all times, clearly evident, empty and bright.  Since time without beginning it has been your own basic root: you depend on its power entirely in all your actions.

What you are looking for has always been here (‘extends through all times’), is already shining (‘bright’), and is of no enduring substance (’empty’). It is the essence of you and is the power that manifests both you and your life.

You will only pass through to freedom when you cease and desist to the point that not even a single thought is born.  Then you penetrate through without falling into sense and matter and without dwelling in conceptualizations and mental images.

Yuanwu is stating we should be still. Not as something to do, but as something to stop doing (‘cease and desist’) until thoughts no longer occur. Using this method we do not fall into the traps of attachment to form, belief and dogma. What will this method eventually yield? Let us find out:

When you absolutely transcend these, then the whole world does not hide it.  Everywhere everything becomes its Great Function, and every single thing flows forth from your own breast.  The ancients called this bringing out the family treasure. Once this is attained, it is attained forever.  How could it ever be used up?

Here the fundamental insight has been recognised. Through being still, the bottom of the bucket has fallen out, and the Fundamental Essence has been recognised as being one with everything everywhere, and non-different to yourself.

Just be wary that your investigation does not rest on a firm footing, and that you will not be able to penetrate through to realization.  You must bravely cut off all entanglements, so there is not the slightest dependence or reliance. Relinquish your body and give up your life and directly accept the suchness that faces you; there is no other.

This is a warning to ensure that there is not the slightest trace of dogma, belief or attachment to conceptual views. Even after the fundamental insight has been attained, all entanglements or addictive desires are to be relinquished. We are to surrender totally, giving up our life’s dreams and ego-based desires in the process.

Then even if a thousand sages came forth it wouldn’t change you at all. Leaving it to the flow at all times, eating food and wearing clothes, you nurture the embryo of sagehood to maturity, not keeping to intellectual understanding.

Let go, let things be, let things come as they come, let things go as they go. Importantly Yuanwu hints that with the fundamental realisation already attained, it is merely the ’embryo’ of wisdom that has been obtained. It then takes time for this realisation to ripen to ‘maturity’, as the habitual tendencies to identify with the body and thoughts are gradually uprooted. This is explained in further detail in Yuanwu’s other letters, see here for example.

Isn’t this an especially excellent teaching and a most essential shortcut?

Isn’t it just!

Life’s purpose

robert adams ramana maharshi

The following is by Robert Adams:

…you have not come to this earth to struggle, to fight, to become anything, to hurt anyone, to be hurt, you are here merely to be. Not to be this or to be that just to be. You allow this beingness to function properly when you get yourself out the way, that is your thoughts, your preconceived ideas.

When you keep the mind still, perfectly still and calm then you will always find that you are in the right place going through those experiences that are necessary for your unfoldment and your fulfillment.

“…you will always find that you are in the right place going through those experiences that are necessary for your unfoldment and your fulfillment”

Do not worry about the future or the past. Do not concern yourself with events in the present. Just be! Be the Self that you are. You will be satisfied. Everything will be okay.

“Be the Self that you are….
Everything will be okay”

There is nothing that wants to hurt you, cause you pain or give you any problems. It is only because you keep thinking continuously, constantly that you have this belief that somebody wants to hurt you, cause you problems, upset you.

There is only one. There are not two or three. There is only one Self and you are that

Does Karma really exist?

Robert Adams Advaita

The following is by Robert Adams:

Does Karma really exist? I know that you can say, “No it doesn’t.” But as long as you believe that you are a body and mind, as long as you feel the world to be real, you cannot fool yourself. Do not lie to yourself. If the world perturbs you, if people bother you, if things annoy you, if you are reacting to conditions this means that you believe you are a body going through these experiences. And as long as you are going through experiences you are in karma. You are experiencing the karma that put you here as a body. It is only  when you have realized the self that there is no karma.

Therefore do not go around telling people that there is no karma, it will give them license to do anything they like. Feeling there is no retribution, there is no effect for their deeds. This is not true as long as you believe you are a body. For there are laws of the universe that respond to your actions. Karma means action. And as long as you believe you are the actor you will have to experience the results of the karma.

So in this particular life you are experiencing the results of not only the karma of this experience but of previous lives. Previous lives also come into effect whenever you believe you are the body.

There are only two ways to destroy the karma.

One is to inquire, “To whom the karma comes? Who is experiencing this karma?”

And the other way is to surrender completely to God. Totally surrender your life to God. God is within you as you. You therefore surrender everything to the self. Thy will be done. You begin to see that as long as you have God to surrender to, you need not worry, you need not fear. Everything will be alright.

Was Ramana Maharshi’s self-realistion final and complete when he was a teenager?

I recently got into an online conversation with someone about whether or not Ramana’s realisation when he was 16 years old (often written as being in his 17th year) was final, or if his realisation evolved and matured in the subsequent years in which he spent much time in silence.

I think I read an article, I think by David Godman, some years ago on this which from memory stated that Ramana was insistent that his realisation was final and complete when he was a boy, and that unusually no sadhana (spiritual practice) was required for him. I’ve tried to find the article and I think this is it:

http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/more-on-bhagavans-death-experience.html

Below are some quotes from it and the link to the article. I want to add that while I quite enjoy learning more about Bhagavan Ramana, in a way all of this discussion can be a detour from the essence of the teaching, so apologies if this kind of minutiae is not that interesting to you. Now, with that said, here are some quotes from the above mentioned article:

‘In answer to a question once put by D. S. Sarma, Bhagavan definitely said that in his case, there was no special sadhana, at any rate in this life, leading to Self-realisation, but that in his 17th year, while he was still a student at Madurai, enlightenment, jnana, came to him, suddenly, in the course of a few minutes, not as a result of laboured ratiocination but as a sudden flash of intuition, and that that jnana has remained with him ever since.’
(My Recollections, p. 135, by Devaraja Mudaliar)

Here Ramana says his vasanas (likes and dislikes) were removed as a teenager (removal of the vasanas implies a full enlightenment):

‘When I lay down with limbs outstretched and mentally enacted the death scene and realised that the body would be taken and cremated and yet I would live, some force, call it atmic power or anything else, rose within me and took possession of me. With that, I was reborn and I became a new man. I became indifferent to everything afterwards, having neither likes nor dislikes.’ (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 22nd November 1945)

From David Godman, who states his sadhana was over in that single ‘death experience’ when he was 16 years old:

‘When he [Ramana] went to Arunachala, it was not because he was spiritually incomplete in any way. His sadhana was over at the end of the death-experience.’

Some further quotes from Ramana Maharshi:

‘In the vision of death, though all the senses were benumbed, the aham sphurana (Self-awareness) was clearly evident, and so I realised that it was that awareness that we call “I”, and not the body. This Self-awareness never decays. It is unrelated to anything. It is Self-luminous. Even if this body is burnt, it will not be affected. Hence, I realised on that very day so clearly that that was “I”.’

(Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 22nd November, 1945)

‘They say I gained realisation in twenty-eight minutes, or half an hour. How can they say that? It took just a moment. But why even a moment? Where is the question of time at all?’ I then asked Bhagavan if there was ever any change in his realisation after his experience in Madurai. He said ‘No. If there is a change, it is not realisation.’

As recorded by Balaram Reddy in My Reminiscences. p. 75

Zen: sudden vs gradual enlightenment

yuanwu letters

In his letters, Yaunwu write some of the most the nuanced of zen/chan teachings we have. Regarding realisation, he writes about its sudden nature:

Without setting up stages, they abruptly transcend to realize this essence alone.  Since before the time when nothing existed, this essence has been ever still and unmoved, determining the basis of all conscious beings.  It permeates all times and is beyond all thought.  It is beyond holy and ordinary and transcends all knowledge and views.  It has never fluctuated or wavered:  it is there, pure and naked and full of life.  All beings, both animate and inanimate, have it complete within them.

However, Yuanwu also writes about a gradual process, a gradual path:

In general, genuine Zen teachers set forth their teachings only after observing their learners’ situation and potential. Real teachers smelt and refine their students hundreds and thousands of times. Whenever the learner has any biased attachments or feelings of doubt, the teacher resolves them and breaks through them and causes the learner to penetrate through to the depths and let go of everything, so that the learner can realize equanimity and peace while in action. Real teachers transform learners so that they reach the stage where one cannot be broken, like a leather bag that can withstand any impact.

Only after this does the Zen teacher let the transformed student go forth to deal with people and help them. This is no small matter. If the student is incomplete in any respect, then the model is not right, and the unripe student comes out all uneven and full of excesses and deficiencies, and appears ridiculous to real adepts.

Yuanwu then goes on to describe the training required to be a zen teacher:

Therefore, in order to teach the Dharma, the ancient worthies worked for completeness and correctness, and clarity in all facets. This means inwardly having one’s own practice as pure as ice and jade, and outwardly having a complete and well-rounded mastery of techniques, a perspicacious view of all concious beings and skill in interchange.

When such adepts met with potential learners, they examined each and every point in terms of the Fundamental. When the learners finally did understand, then the teachers employed techniques to polish and refine them. It was like tranferring the water from one vessel into another vessel, with the utmost care not to spill a drop.

Here, in another letter Yuanwu also writes of the refining process required before someone can teach zen:

Ever since ancient times, it is only those who are able to bear the repsonsibility of being a vessel of the Great Dharma who have been able to undertake the role of a Zen teacher and stand like a wall a mile high. These people have been tempered and refined in the blast furnace of the teachers of the Source, taking shape under the impact of their hammers and tongs, until they become real and true from beginning to end. Otherwise, they do not appear in the world as teachers. If they do appear, they are sure to startle the crowd and move the people. Because their own realization and acceptance of the responsibility of communicating Truth was not hasty and haphazard, when they passed it on to others they were not rushed or careless.

We all know the classic examples. Mater Rang staying with the Sixth Patriarcdh at Caoqi for eight years. Mazu at Guanyin Temple. Deshan and Longtan. Yangshan and Guishan. Linji and Huangbo. In every case it took at least ten or twenty years of close association between teacher and pupil before the pupil was fully prepared to become a teacher himself.

That is why, with the genuine Zen teachers, every word and every phrase, every act and every state resonated with the music of gold and jade.

Virtually no one in the latter generations has been able to see into what they were doing. You will only be able to see where they were really at when you achieve transcendental realization and reach the stage that all the enlightened ones share in common.

I recall this story from olden times. Mazu asked Xitang, “Have you ever read the scriptural teachings?” Xitang said, “Are the scriptual teachings any different?” Mazu asked, “If you haven’t read the scriptures, how will you be able to explain for people in various ways?” Xitang said, “I must care for my own sickness – how could I dare try to help other people?” Mazu said, “In your later years, you are sure to rise to greatness in the world.” And that’s the way it turned out later.

Hopefully you will see how, whilst an initial breakthrough or realision is to all intensive purposes instantaneous, the rooting out of ignorance takes time, it takes time for the mind to become purified by that realisation and to fully manifest the heart of enlightenment. Yuanwu talks about this more explicitly here. I have written two articles here about the relationship between the gradual and sudden paths here and here.

Robert Adams: a beautiful teaching

Robert_Adams

Robert Adams:

The point I’m trying to make is that the Sages understood that at this age the way to realization, the way to unfoldment, the way to liberation, the easiest way is through namah japa, the chanting of God’s name. This they say was the thing to do in this age. This is the meditation to do in this age. Namah japa, chanting of God’s name. As an example, “Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.” This is what human beings were supposed to do in this age to awaken.

As the years went by people such as Buddha, Shankara, Jesus, some others, people that we know about like Sri Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and others including myself came to conclusion that what is needed in this age is a combination of teachings.

Jnana Marga, the path of wisdom is the highest stage of all yogas. That combined with Bhakti Marga, the path of devotion and Karma Marga, the path of service. These are the stages, these are the principles that we have to learn and understand. Therefore what I do is teach those three methods together, combined.

When you teach Jnana Marga by itself as many so-called beings, gurus are doing today it becomes a bunch of rhetoric. It builds up the ego, it doesn’t destroy it. Jnana Marga by itself becomes cold and calculating. People start to feel as if they are superior to others. It is called also the talking school. Where people talk to each other debate issues about Jnana Marga. Get involved in heated discussions, debates, arguments and you get absolutely nowhere.

It is called also the talking school. Where people talk to each other debate issues about Jnana Marga. Get involved in heated discussions, debates, arguments and you get absolutely nowhere.

If you teach and you learn Bhakti Marga, the path of devotion by itself you can become a fool. Where you become devoted to all the statues and all the trees and become devoted to all the gurus and you have just blind devotion, without knowledge. So that is not sufficient.

When you practice Karma Bhakta, the path of service to humanity. You become the servant of other bodies. The servant of the people. Yet you become confused because you don’t really know who to help. You really don’t know to whom to give service to. There are so many poor people, homeless people, deprived people, whom shall you serve? And again you become confused.

But when you combine all of them together, Jnana Marga, Bhakti Marga and Karma Marga you have a beautiful teaching.

But when you combine all of them together, Jnana Marga, Bhakti Marga and Karma Marga you have a beautiful teaching.

Robert Adams: the benefits of singing and chanting

robert adams ramana maharshi

I love to read the words of Robert Adams. They fill me with warmth and truth. Here I have compiled what he has said on the topic of chanting. He, in his wonderful style, teaches in accordance with traditional Advaita Vedanta, in line with the teachings of Shankara and Ramana Maharshi, namely that chanting is a useful practice to quieten the mind and allow for self-inquiry to take place. But we find many nuances in his teaching, and so I humbly offer you this compilation. Best wishes and blessings to you, namaste, Tom ❤

The following are words of Robert Adams:


Good evening. I welcome you with all my heart.

Chanting has been known to calm the mind, to calm the nerves, and to calm the soul. It makes your mind one-pointed. When your mind becomes one-pointed, you can practice atma-vichara or self-inquiry. And the path of Jnana becomes easier. So let’s all join into the chant.

Chanting…makes your mind one-pointed. When your mind becomes one-pointed, you can practice atma-vichara or self-inquiry. And the path of Jnana becomes easier.


Good afternoon. Welcome. I know some of you aspiring Jnanis do not enjoy chanting too much. (laughter) You’re making a big mistake. In all of the traditions of the world there has been chanting. The Catholics, the Jews, the Protestants, the Baptists, the Hindus, the Islams.

Why? If it weren’t significant, why would they have it? Well, when you come in here, the world has had you for a week, influencing your behavior. The chanting sort of goes deep into the subjective, calms you down, prepares you for something higher. Even changes your consciousness lifts you up. Chanting is very good.

I know some of you aspiring Jnanis do not enjoy chanting too much. (laughter) You’re making a big mistake.

At Ramana ashram they always had two hours of chanting prior to anything else, in the morning and the evening. The same with Ramakrishna ashram. Everywhere.

So, aspiring Jnanis believe only in the word. The word is insignificant. Many of you just come to hear me talk. How do you know I know what I’m talking about? Words are words. Chanting is thousands of years old and has it’s value.


If you’re that far enmeshed in this world, again self-inquiry will be difficult for you to do. That’s when you sing bhajans and you have mantras, you chant, you practice pranayama. You do all these things to make your body pure enough so that you can practice self-inquiry.

You do all these things to make your body pure enough so that you can practice self-inquiry.


Before you can practice self inquiry the best thing you can do is think of God. As an example; If someone does something to make you angry, instead of reacting like you always do, start chanting “I-am,” to yourself with your respiration. Remember to do this. You are invoking the name of God. And if you do this everything will be worked out. Not worked out like you want it to perhaps but everything will be worked out, I can assure you of this. Everything will work itself out. Your job is to invoke the name of God. Not to react to the situation.

Before you can practice self inquiry the best thing you can do is think of God…You are invoking the name of God. And if you do this everything will be worked out…I can assure you of this.


Chanting is a very important process. It makes the mind one-pointed. When the mind becomes one-pointed, you can focus on the Self. And by focussing on the Self, the mind becomes annihilated, and you become free.

Do not take the things we do here for granted. Everything is important, everything. If you get involved in it, you will see the results in a short time. But if you just come here for amusement because you have nothing better to do, as I said before, 50 years will pass and you’ll still be running to teachers, running to India, going to different states looking for certain ways or methods of finding yourself.

But in truth, there is no way and there’s no method. The Self is the Self, just like the sun always shines. You just have to remove the clouds and the sun will shine once again like it always did. And so it is, that all you’ve got to do is remove the ignorance, the world and all its ramifications from your mind and you will be free.

But in truth, there is no way and there’s no method.


R: …there is nothing that can be explained. As long as you can explain it, it’s not it. So what is left? Silence, quietness.

Q: Why does the music or song help to realize the consciousness or unexplainable?

R: The music quiets the mind. It makes the mind quieter and quieter. It makes the mind one-pointed. So you can get rid of it and become still, quiet.

Q: So we can use music to quieten our mind?

R: Yes. If you come home after a hectic days work, if you listen to chanting music like this, you’ll become quieter and quieter. You’ll become more and more relaxed and you’ll be able to go deep within yourself. Deeper and deeper than you’ve ever gone before. That’s how the music helps.


So try to keep your mind quiet, keep it from thinking and everything will take care of itself.

So as long as we believe that we are the body, chanting, music makes you one-pointed. It mellows you out and makes you calm and cool and peaceful. Remember music soothes the savage beast.

So as long as we believe that we are the body, chanting, music makes you one-pointed…Remember music soothes the savage beast.


Yet it is paradoxical due to the fact that when we went to grammar school, we learned the multiplication table, and that was sort of the substratum for higher mathematics. Without a multiplication table we would never have gone on to higher mathematics.

So again, for some people these things are necessary, ritual worship, surrender to God, mantras, chanting. These things are sometimes important to some of us.

Yet, they do not liberate you. Liberation comes by itself, but if we have not practiced the ritualistic worship, the mantras, the chanting and the other things, we will become aggressive, arrogant, cynical, whereas we have to develop humility and compassion.

…for some people these things are necessary, ritual worship, surrender to God, mantras, chanting…Yet, they do not liberate you.


When we understand these things we stop playing games and we get down to spiritual work. We forget about all these human traits, and we begin to realize, “My true nature is consciousness. I am absolute reality. I am pure awareness, ultimate oneness. This is my real nature. And even if I do not feel it right now, I am going to work on myself continuously even if it takes me ten million lifetimes, I will work on myself diligently and do what has to be done, until I become free.” The rest is up to you.

Now let’s chant together Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.


Robert: To know total happiness is to quiet your mind. When your mind becomes quiet, quiescent, happiness ensues all by itself. There are many ways to do this. One of the best ways that I know is chanting. Chanting has a positive effect upon the nervous system. It also has other subtle qualities that cause the mind to become still and quiet. So les prepare ourselves by doing a little chanting, shall we?

(Chanting)

I’m not really interested in any of your problems because I know that you are absolute reality. You believe that something is wrong with your life, you’re not being treated right, you don’t understand too much, or whatever it may be. It’s a lie.

I’m not really interested in any of your problems because I know that you are absolute reality. You believe that something is wrong with your life…It’s a lie.


Therefore silence is the best way to wake up, not by chanting mantras or prayers or incantations. Those things may bring you a little peace.


Q: Another question I think is important but is chanting more advantageous than listening to music? Like om, or any of that kind of music?

R: Again it depends on the person. Chanting is very, very good. The purpose of chanting is to make your mind one-pointed. So you can realize that you are in silence and you are quiet and you’re still and you’re able to sit in the silence. As you know when you chant for about fifteen-twenty minutes or a half hour, you feel very comfortable and very relaxed and very mentally still. Your mind becomes still. Then you can watch your mind more closely. You can ask, “Who am I?” more sincerely after a chant and the question will go deeper into the Self. But when you are doing worldly things for instance coming home from work. You have your mind on the TV and then you ask, “Who am I?” it’s more superficial.

It doesn’t go in deep enough. But when you chant for a while and then you say, “Who am I?” or then you say, “I am.” It goes much deeper into consciousness.

Q: So the question is: Is chanting better than listening to the music?

I should think so, yes. Because your entire being gets involved with the chant.

You can ask, “Who am I?” more sincerely after a chant and the question will go deeper into the Self. But when you are doing worldly things for instance coming home from work. You have your mind on the TV and then you ask, “Who am I?” it’s more superficial.


Chanting is very helpful to make you one-pointed, to put you into a state where you can absorb your own reality. So let’s do a little chanting together, shall we?


But I ask you to have an open heart and ponder the things that we discuss. I am not a philosopher. I am not a preacher. I am nothing. And our teaching is a teaching of silence. Even the words that I appear to speak are words of silence. If you listen to the silence you too will become silent and experience the bliss which you are.

To begin with, chanting is very efficacious. It is something that makes your mind one pointed and allows you to accept the realities as outlined. So we’re going to do a little chanting first. Everything we do is part of the unfoldment. All is well.


Now one of the ways of quieting the mind is chanting. It has been known for centuries that chanting makes the mind one-pointed. It works through the nervous system, bringing peace and tranquility to the mind. Then the mind disappears of its own volition.
Let’s do that now, shall we?


The closest thing you can come to, to having an experience of quiet mind, is chanting. Chanting has a vibration in the nervous system that actually causes the mind to slow down. There are many people who cannot do atma-vichara, self-inquiry too long. And for
those people who are practicing self-inquiry, sometimes you are meant to take a break. So put on a chanting tape and chant along with it to yourself, or out loud, and you will find that you go deeper within yourself and the mind begins to become quiescent, still, calm. So let’s do that right now, shall we.

(Chanting)

Some people tell me they like the talks better than anything else we do. Some people tell me they like the chanting better. Some people tell me they like the question and answers better. Some people tell me they like the silence better. Remember what this is. This is satsang. It’s not a lecture or a musical festival. Everything we do is important, even if I spoke about the weather and nothing else. It’s being at satsang that causes something to take place within your consciousness and lift you higher.

Everything we do is important, even if I spoke about the weather and nothing else. It’s being at satsang that causes something to take place within your consciousness and lift you higher.


To yourself. Even if someone is looking at you and screaming at you. As you watch the person screaming put a smile on your face, do not react and chant “I-am” to yourself.

Even if someone is…screaming at you…do not react and chant “I-am” to yourself.


Q: Robert, is the love that a person feels when they sing or they play an instrument, is that the love of the actual consciousness, the love bliss of consciousness coming through, even though it’s filtered through the mind?

R: Not really. Consciousness cannot be filtered through the mind. The mind has to be totally transcended for consciousness to be aware of itself. Consciousness is self-contained. It has absolutely nothing to do with the mind.

But, what you’re talking about, when you chant, when you play beautiful music, when you feel that feeling, it’s on the way towards that. It makes you one-pointed. If your mind is one-pointed, you can easily practice self-inquiry.

…when you chant…It makes you one-pointed. If your mind is one-pointed, you can easily practice self-inquiry.

When your mind is thinking about so many different things, about the world, about your job, about your family, about your car, about your dog, about all kinds of things, then it’s hard to get through. So we chant, we do yoga, we do different exercises, we sing bhajans, and the mind becomes calm, quiescent.

When the mind becomes quiescent it is like a clear lake. The clear lake reflects the sun and the moon and the stars. If the lake is murky and moving about, it does not reflect anything. And so it is when your mind is clear, quiescent. It reflects your divinity. When it’s murky, it reflects the world.

…when your mind is clear, quiescent. It reflects your divinity.

All these things are good, chanting, yoga, singing bhajans, everything is helpful. They all lead to atma-vichara.


Again, all these things simply make the mind quiet. Their purpose is to make the mind quiescent, calm, and peaceful, and then your Self, your real Self will shine through all by itself, when the mind becomes absolutely still. It will not happen during the singing or during the chanting. The purpose again is to quiet the mind. When the mind is quiet, when all the chanting has subsided, when all the music has subsided, when you have entered that place where there are no others, then you will awaken to your true Self.

…all these things simply make the mind quiet…It will not happen during the singing or during the chanting….when all the chanting has subsided…when you have entered that place where there are no others, then you will awaken to your true Self.

… As you keep practicing whatever method you’re using, you can practice meditation, you can practice mantras, whatever you’re doing to quiet the mind helps. Of course karmically if a person has been doing this in a previous existence, it will be much easier in this particular life, and you’ll fall right into it. But all these things are simply gimmicks to quieten the mind. They’re necessary for most people, but not for everyone.

But all these things are simply gimmicks to quieten the mind. They’re necessary for most people, but not for everyone.


Everything we do here is important. Every song we play, every chant we do, every word, every silence, it’s all important.

I know there are some people who would like to keep quiet all the time. They’d like me to shut up and not say a word, and just sit still. There’s a time for that also.

But remember, if you will, that the words that come out, are words of silence. Even though I may be appearing to talk to you, you’re sitting in the silence. Think about that. What I’m trying to say is, do not look for faults. Do not say to yourself, “Well, I’d rather be doing this,” or “Why don’t you give us more of this and less of that.” Remember it’s you that says this. This is coming out of your ego. Allow everything to be.

Do not say to yourself, “Well, I’d rather be doing this,” or “Why don’t you give us more of this and less of that.” Remember it’s you that says this. This is coming out of your ego. Allow everything to be.

That’s what I meant before when I said you have to become a bhakta first. That means you just give out love, compassion, joy, kindness. You become a living embodiment of that. Then Jnana starts to develop inside of you. But if you always find fault with others, you’re always trying to correct something. You always see what somebody else is doing.

…you have to become a bhakta first

When your mind is full of doubts, apprehensions and suspicions, all of this negative energy pays a price in your consciousness and you develop in reverse. As the years pass you wonder why you haven’t made too much progress. Give of yourself. Open up. Love. And then see what happens.

The chanting we do has a very positive effect on the nervous system. It clears the chakras. It makes you one-pointed, so you can turn into your original Self. The whole object of everything we do is to make you one-pointed, so you can ponder “Who am I?”
The mind becomes quiet and everything unfolds as it should. So let us do a little chanting.

The whole object of everything we do is to make you one-pointed, so you can ponder “Who am I?”


Think of some of the teachers that you know or heard about. Nisargadatta, he always prayed. He realized that he was consciousness. He was self-realized, but at the same time he chanted, he prayed, he had devotion. It sounds like a contradiction. For you may say, “If someone is self-realized and knows himself or herself to be all there is, to whom do they pray?” Try to remember that all spiritual life is a contradiction. It’s a contradiction because words cannot explain it. Even when you are the Self, you can pray to the Self, which is you.

Ramana Maharshi always had chanting at the ashram, prayers, devotional hymns. These things are very important. Many westerners, who profess to be atheists, come to listen to lectures on Advaita Vedanta, and yet nothing ever happens in their lives. As long as you do not have devotion, faith, love, discrimination, dispassion, it will be very difficult to awaken.

As long as you do not have devotion, faith, love, discrimination, dispassion, it will be very difficult to awaken.

Therefore those of you who become bored with practicing self-inquiry may become very devotional. Surrender everything. Give up your body, your thoughts, all the things that bind you, whatever problems you may believe you have. Surrender them to your favorite deity. You are emptying yourself out as you do this. Do a lot of it. Become humble. Have a tremendous humility. If you can just do that you will become a favorite of God and you’ll not have to search any longer. But of course the choice is always yours.

Have a tremendous humility. If you can just do that you will become a favorite of God and you’ll not have to search any longer.


Just being aware of this, your thoughts stop. There is nothing to think about. There is no thing you have to do. There are no mantras you have to keep chanting. There are no formulas that is going to turn you into ajnani. There are no yoga practices that you have to keep doing. You simply have to be aware that absolute reality is omnipresent, all pervading, and there is no room for anything else.


All of the things I shared for you, with you rather. What you ought to do is to pick out the one that appeals to you mostly. Part of it should always be reading the transcripts because the transcripts somehow set you off on the right path. And then the method you’ve got to use, whether it’s self-inquiry or chanting or becoming the witness that will come to you easier. In other words you will know what to do by reading the paragraph from the transcripts and pondering the paragraph


As you know, on Sunday we have puja and we have chanting. To whom are we chanting? To Hari, to Ram, to Krishna.

I must again tell you as long as you believe you are the doer, that you are the body and the mind do not fool yourself into thinking you’re not, for if you weren’t you wouldn’t react the way you react to situations.

So as long as you believe that things are real, then you have to pray to God, because God does exist for you. You can call God the law of karma. In reality karma does not exist. Yet how many of us have such reality?

So as long as you believe that things are real, then you have to pray to God

Therefore the best thing for you to do is to practice the Jnana practices, but keep doing your puja. Do not give it up. If you’re doing japa, whatever practice you have, keep it up.


Words are only to motivate you to keep quiet. That’s all words are good for. Chanting, words, they’re only to quieten the mind. Keep you still. In the stillness is your reality. In the quietness is your strength, not in the noise, not in the talk. Try to be quiet most of the time. Do not get involved in too many conversations.

Words are only to motivate you to keep quiet.


The guru is the Self. The guru is the I-am expressing. The Self and the guru and the I-am are all-pervading. So when you’re turning within yourself and you are chanting I-am and turning your so called problems over to I-am, you’re turning them over to the guru, to God and to the Self. They’re all one because it’s all-pervading.


The point I’m trying to make is that the Sages understood that at this age the way to realization, the way to unfoldment, the way to liberation, the easiest way is through namah japa, the chanting of God’s name. This they say was the thing to do in this age. This is the meditation to do in this age. Namah japa, chanting of God’s name. As an example, “Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.” This is what human beings were supposed to do
in this age to awaken.

As the years went by people such as Buddha, Shankara, Jesus, some others, people that we know about like Sri Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and others including myself came to conclusion that what is needed in this age is a combination of teachings.

Jnana Marga, the path of wisdom is the highest stage of all yogas. That combined with bhakti Marga, the path of devotion and karma Marga, the path of service. These are the stages, these are the principles that we have to learn and understand. Therefore what I do is teach those three methods together, combined.

When you teach Jnana Marga by itself as many so-called beings, gurus are doing today it becomes a bunch of rhetoric. It builds up the ego, it doesn’t destroy it. Jnana Marga by itself becomes cold and calculating. People start to feel as if they are superior to others. It is called also the talking school. Where people talk to each other debate issues about Jnana Marga. Get involved in heated discussions, debates, arguments and you get absolutely nowhere.

If you teach and you learn bhakti Marga, the path of devotion by itself you can become a fool. Where you become devoted to all the statues and all the trees and become devoted to all the gurus and you have just blind devotion, without knowledge. So that is not sufficient.

When you practice karma bhakta, the path of service to humanity. You become the servant of other bodies. The servant of the people. Yet you become confused because you
don’t really know who to help. You really don’t know to whom to give service to. There are so many poor people, homeless people, deprived people, whom shall you serve? And
again you become confused.

But when you combine all of them together, Jnana Marga, bhakti Marga and karma Marga you have a beautiful teaching.

But when you combine all of them together, Jnana Marga, bhakti Marga and karma Marga you have a beautiful teaching.


Good Afternoon. It is good being with you once again on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. Everyone is sweating profusely. Chanters you are not. Why should we want to chant?

Jnana without bhakta is dry knowledge. You have to have Jnana with bhakta. You have to feel passion. You have to feel love. You have to feel loving kindness. This comes with bhakta. Unless you become a bhakta, you cannot be a Jnani. They both go together hand in hand. It’s like a man and a woman. You can’t have one without the other.

Jnana without bhakta is dry knowledge.

There are many people who profess to be Jnanis. They are very dry intellectuals. Very cold people. When you chant to the Goddess or the God, and you feel the chant in your heart, you will feel this way towards your fellow man. The same love you give to God you give to your fellow man. How can you love others if you do not love yourself? You love yourself by letting your heart open up and feel the passion, the joy, the harmony which is your divine real nature.

Become involved in the chanting. Feel it. Be it. And you will be amazed at the change that comes over you.

Become involved in the chanting. Feel it. Be it. And you will be amazed at the change that comes over you.


Until you come to the realization that there is no sadhana. All these years I’ve been spending standing on one foot with my arm in the air, chanting mantras, doing pranayamas has been unnecessary. Now you can only say this when you’ve arrived a certain place in life.

The stronger you’re attached to this earth the more sadhanas you have to do. But as you begin to lose attachment to this earth your form of sadhana changes. Your spiritual practices change. They become less and less. Since you’re beginning to realize that you are the pure awareness. Does the pure awareness have to do sadhana? Or does God have to do spiritual practices?

The stronger you’re attached to this earth the more sadhanas you have to do.


Now let’s talk about you. Many of you have been performing yoga practices, meditations, chanting, pranayama and various techniques in order to awaken. But I say to you that this will never cause you to awaken. It will bring you good feelings, it will bring you a semblance of peace, but you will never awaken through the practice of yoga unless the yoga leads to self-inquiry, or it leads to complete surrender of the ego. If you practice anything else it inflates the ego.

…you will never awaken through the practice of yoga unless the yoga leads to self-inquiry, or it leads to complete surrender of the ego. If you practice anything else it inflates the ego.


But do not make it hard for yourself by believing thoughts, that you have to do certain things or to say certain prayers or to do certain chants, drop all that kind of thinking. And just be! Just be yourself. You’re neither this nor that. If you’re nothing that you can talk about or imagine then your mind becomes still. And when your mind becomes still you’re already home. So learn to observe the part of you that tells you that there is something you’ve got to do, that it’s hard. Observe that in you. And when you do not respond to it, it will go away and you’ll be free. You’re already free.

But do not make it hard for yourself by believing …that you have to do certain things or to say certain prayers or to do certain chants…You’re already free.


In satsang there may be bhajans where you sing together, kirtans where you chant together, silence where you do nothing, just sit. Questions once in a while. This is what
satsang is all about. It really makes no difference what I say.


Consciousness has nothing to do. Absolute reality is absolute reality just the way it is. It doesn’t have to practice any sadhanas, chant any mantras, or do anything.

Absolute reality…doesn’t have to practice any sadhanas, chant any mantras, or do anything.

Why not awaken now? What are you waiting for? Make up your mind that you’re going to awaken right now, and allow your mind to turn into your heart, which is pure awareness. Do it. Some of you are still asking, how do you do it?

Through silence, experiencing the moment, the now, the reality. Nothing is happening now. No one is suffering. Now is the only moment you’ve got. Abide in the now.

Everything is perfect right now. Feel It. Don’t think about it. Feel it. There are no yesterdays, there are no tomorrows. All of your so called sins have been transcended. No past and no future. You are fully alive now. Right now. Enjoy.

Everything is perfect right now. Feel It. Don’t think about it…You are fully alive now. Right now. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Zen Master Hui Hai: does the Absolute ever change?

dazhu_huihai

It’s all too common for seekers of enlightenment to fall into conceptual traps. Rather than using beliefs to free themselves from beliefs all together, the verbal teachings are instead often clung to, like a drowning man clutching at a straw.

One concept that can be useful along the way is that of the Absolute, but like all concepts it is also a potential trap, in that we can fall into believing in the Absolute without any real experience, or worse, only a partial experience that gives us the false impression we actually know something when we in fact do not.

In this following passage we see Ch’an Master Hui Hai in dialogue with a Tripitaka master, (The Tripitaka are the traditional written scriptures of Buddhism). Deliberately Hui Hai gives the ‘wrong’ non-traditional answer initially in order to free the questioner from fixed views and show that the Teaching (Dharma) can be expressed in a myriad of ways.

At the end  of the dialogue the Tripitaka master expresses his respect and amazement at how the Southern school – the ‘Zen’ school of sudden enlightenment of which Hui Hai is part – is truly unfathomable:

Once a Tripitaka Master asked: “Does the Bhutatathata (Absolute Reality) ever change?”
The Master [Hui Hai] replied: “Yes, it does change.”
The Tripitaka Master retorted: “You, Venerable Ch’an Master, are wrong!”
The Master then asked the Tripitaka Master: “Does the Bhutatathata exist or not?”
The Tripitaka Master answered: “Yes, the Bhutatathata does exist.”
The Master replied: “So if you say it does not change, then you are just an ordinary, worldly monk. Doubtlessly, by now you must have heard that the lowest vices can be changed into the highest virtues, the three poisons into the three cumulative disciplines, the six consciousnesses into the six supernatural powers, all the defilements into Bodhi, and the most abysmal ignorance into the highest wisdom. Thus, if you say that the Bhutatathata does not change, then you, a Tripitaka Master, are really a heterodox-sect follower. [ie. a heretic]”
The Tripitaka Master responded: “If you put it that way, then I have to admit that the Bhutatathata does change.”
The Master retorted: “But if you, indeed, hold that the Bhutatathata does change, that is also a heterodox view.”
The Tripitaka Master asked: “Ch’an Master, you just said that the Bhutatathata does change, but now you say it does not change. How can that be?”
The Master responded: “If one sees his own nature clearly – which, like Mani-Jewels, can manifest itself in different colors – then he is correct in saying that the Bhutatathata both changes and does not change. In contrast, however, if one has not seen his own nature, he will, on hearing that the Bhutatathata changes, grasp at the idea of mutability. Also, oppositely, he will, on hearing that the Bhutatathata does not change, grasp at the idea of immutability.”
The Tripitaka Master concluded: “Now I really understand what is meant when it is said that the Southern Ch’an Sect is truly unfathomable!”

This last answer of Hui Hai is particularly instructive – he essentially states that the Truth expresses itself in different ways, just like jewels can be of various colours. If one has intuitively seen this Truth, then one can correctly express this truth, even with seemingly opposed verbal statements, as these statements are coming from a ‘place of Truth’. However, for one who has not seen, the verbal statements are always incorrect, even when they are ‘officially correct’, as the essential insight is not present, and the statements are not expressions of Truth but expressions of the ignorant ego-mind.

These ego/ignorance-ridden statements are not liberating – they are simply a clinging to an empty doctrine. These insight-less statements merely give strength to the false-ego that thinks it knows something, strengthening and perpetuating the ego/sense of separation of both the one speaking and anyone listening.

(Note that I use the word ego here as a synonym for ignorance, the false belief in separation or the false belief in a separate entity that authors thoughts and actions)

 

The essence of the Diamond Sutra

fo_guang_big_buddha_at_fgs_buddha_museum

The Diamond Sutra is considered to be one of the most important and venerated of Buddhist scriptures. The text itself says that it can be considered to be the ‘diamond that cuts through illusion’ and that understanding it will lead to ‘the Highest Perfect Wisdom’.

In this post I have grouped excerpts from the Diamond Sutra into themes and so hopefully the essence of the teachings are readily conveyed. Please note that The Diamond Sutra itself is not actually very long, so if you are interested, I would readily encourage you to read the original in full.

It was composed perhaps as early as the 1st century BCE in Sanskrit, and forms part of the Prajnaparamita (perfection of wisdom) sutras in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It is also given particular importance in various Zen/Ch’an schools, which are often themselves considered to be part of the Mahayana tradition.

Interestingly, a Chinese version of the scripture is one of the oldest examples of a printed book, dated from 11th May 868, about 500 years before the Gutenburg. The original can be currently seen in the British Museum and is officially ‘the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book’.

This sutra takes the form of a conversation between Buddha and one of his disciples, Subhuti. I have used the translation from Alex Johnson, primarily because it is easy to read and is without technical terms.


This teaching leads to the ‘highest perfect wisdom’

The Buddha then replied:

“…If sons and daughters of good families want to develop the highest, most fulfilled and awakened mind, if they wish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdom and quiet their drifting minds while subduing their craving thoughts, then they should follow what I am about to say to you. Those who follow what I am about to say here will be able to subdue their discriminative thoughts and craving desires. It is possible to attain perfect tranquillity and clarity of mind by absorbing and dwelling on the teachings I am about to give.” Then the Buddha addressed the assembly.

(from Chapter 2)

The basic teaching

“…all living beings will eventually be led by me to the final Nirvana, the final ending of the cycle of birth and death. And when this unfathomable, infinite number of living beings have all been liberated, in truth not even a single being has actually been liberated.

“Why Subhuti? Because if a disciple still clings to the arbitrary illusions of form or phenomena such as an ego, a personality, a self, a separate person, or a universal self existing eternally, then that person is not an authentic disciple.”

(from Chapter 3)

Is the Buddha his body?

“Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be recognized by means of his bodily form?”

“No, Most Honored One, the Buddha cannot be recognized by means of his bodily form. Why? Because when the Buddha speaks of bodily form, it is not a real form, but only an illusion.”

(from Chapter 5)

Illusion and reality

The Buddha then spoke to Subhuti: “All that has a form is illusive and unreal. When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin to perceive your true Buddha nature.”

(from Chapter 5)

Will people benefit from reading or hearing this sutra?

“Without a doubt, Subhuti. Even 500 years after the Enlightenment of this Buddha there will be some who are virtuous and wise; and while practicing compassion and charity, they will believe in the words and phrases of this Sutra and will awaken their minds purely. After they come to hear these teachings, they will be inspired with belief. This is because, when some people hear these words, they will have understood intuitively that these words are the truth.

(from Chapter 6)

Who will benefit from hearing this message?

“But you must also remember, Subhuti, that such persons have long ago planted the seeds of goodness and merit that lead to this realization. They have planted the seeds of good deeds and charity not simply before one Buddhist temple, or two temples, or five, but before hundreds of thousands of Buddhas and temples. So when a person who hears the words and phrases of this Sutra is ready for it to happen, a pure faith and clarity can awaken within their minds.”

“…this person must have discarded all arbitrary notions of the existence of a personal self, of other people, or of a universal self. Otherwise their minds would still grasp after such relative conceptions. Furthermore, these people must have already discarded all arbitrary notions of the non-existence of a personal self, other people, or a universal self. Otherwise, their minds would still be grasping at such notions.”

(from Chapter 6)

If I am seeking enlightenment, what view should I take of the teaching?

“Therefore anyone who seeks total Enlightenment should discard not only all conceptions of their own selfhood, of other selves, or of a universal self, but they should also discard all notions of the non-existence of such concepts.”

(from Chapter 6)

Are these teachings true?

“When the Buddha explains these things using such concepts and ideas, people should remember the unreality of all such concepts and ideas. They should recall that in teaching spiritual truths the Buddha always uses these concepts and ideas in the way that a raft is used to cross a river. Once the river has been crossed over, the raft is of no more use, and should be discarded. These arbitrary concepts and ideas about spiritual things need to be explained to us as we seek to attain Enlightenment. However, ultimately these arbitrary conceptions can be discarded.

(from Chapter 6)

The highest, most fulfilled, most awakened and enlightened mind

Then Buddha asked Subhuti, “What do you think, Subhuti, has the Buddha arrived at the highest, most fulfilled, most awakened and enlightened mind? Does the Buddha teach any teaching?”

Subhuti replied, “As far as I have understood the Buddha’s teachings, there is no independently existing object of mind called the highest, most fulfilled, awakened or enlightened mind.

Nor is there any independently existing teaching that the Buddha teaches.

Why? Because the teachings that the Buddha has realized and spoken of cannot be conceived of as separate, independent things and therefore cannot be described. The truth in them is uncontainable and inexpressible.

(from Chapter 7)

“…And yet, even as I speak, Subhuti, I must take back my words as soon as they are uttered, for there are no Buddhas and there are no teachings.”

(from Chapter 8)

“No, Most Honored One. According to what I understand from the teachings of the Buddha, there is no attaining of anything called the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind.”

The Buddha said: “You are correct, Subhuti. In fact, there does not exist any so-called highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind that the Buddha attains…Someone would be mistaken to say that the Buddha has attained the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind because there is no such thing as a highest, most fulfilled, or awakened mind to be attained.”

(from Chapter 17)

Does a Buddha consider themselves to be enlightened?

“Tell me, Subhuti. Does a Buddha say to himself, ‘I have obtained Perfect Enlightenment.’?”

“No, Blessed One. There is no such thing as Perfect Enlightenment to obtain. If a Perfectly Enlightened Buddha were to say to himself, ‘I am enlightened’ he would be admitting there is an individual person, a separate self and personality, and would therefore not be a Perfectly Enlightened Buddha.”

(from Chapter 9)

How to practice

“A disciple should develop a mind which is in no way dependent upon sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensory sensations or any mental conceptions. A disciple should develop a mind which does not rely on anything. Therefore, Subhuti, the minds of all disciples should be purified of all thoughts that relate to seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and discriminating. They should use their minds spontaneously and naturally, without being constrained by preconceived notions arising from the senses.”

(from Chapter 10)

“Therefore, Subhuti, disciples should leave behind all distinctions of phenomena and awaken the thought of the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment. A disciple should do this by not allowing their mind to depend upon ideas evoked by the world of the senses – by not allowing their mind to depend upon ideas stirred by sounds, odours, flavors, sensory touch, or any other qualities. The disciple’s mind should be kept independent of any thoughts that might arise within it. If the disciple’s mind depends upon anything in the sensory realm it will have no solid foundation in any reality.”

(from Chapter 14)

Is there a clear teaching to be taught?

“What do you think, Subhuti? Has the Buddha taught any definite teaching in this Sutra?” “No, the Buddha has not taught any definite teaching in this Sutra.”

(from Chapter 13)

Does a Buddha have characteristics?

“Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be perceived by means of his thirty-two physical characteristics?”

“No, Most Honored One. The Buddha cannot be perceived by his thirty-two physical characteristics. Why? Because the Buddha teaches that they are not real but are merely called the thirty-two physical characteristics.”

Subhuti’s response to the teachings

At that time, after listening to this Sutra, Subhuti had understood its profound meaning and was moved to tears.

He said, “What a rare and precious thing it is that you should deliver such a deeply profound teaching.”

(from Chapter 14)

The benefits of understanding this teaching 

If there is a person who hears this Sutra, who receives and retains it with faith and understanding, then that person will be a rare one, a person of most remarkable achievement. Such a person will be able to awaken pure faith because they have ceased to cherish any arbitrary notions of their own selfhood, other selves, living beings, or a universal self.

Why? Because if they continue to hold onto arbitrary conceptions as to their own selfhood, they will be holding onto something that is non-existent. It is the same with all arbitrary conceptions of other selves, living beings, or a universal self. These are all expressions of non-existent things.

(from Chapter 14)

What is a Buddha?

“Buddhas are Buddhas because they have been able to discard all arbitrary conceptions of form and phenomena, they have transcended all perceptions, and have penetrated the illusion of all forms.”

(from Chapter 14)

Persons and form

“…Just as the Buddha declares that form is not form, so he also declares that all living beings are, in fact, not living beings.”

(from Chapter 14)

Understanding the teachings

“Subhuti, if a person is satisfied with lesser teachings than those I present here, if he or she is still caught up in the idea of a self, a person, a living being, or a universal self, then that person would not be able to listen to, receive, recite, or explain this Sutra to others.”

(from Chapter 15)

“Subhuti, you should know that the meaning of this Sutra is beyond conception and discussion. Likewise, the fruit resulting from receiving and practicing this Sutra is beyond conception and discussion.”

(from Chapter 16)

Helping others attain enlightenment

“Subhuti, a good son or daughter who wants to give rise to the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind must create this resolved attitude of mind: ‘I must help to lead all beings to the shore of awakening, but, after these beings have become liberated, in truth I know that not even a single being has been liberated.’ Why is this so? If a disciple cherishes the idea of a self, a person, a living being or a universal self, then that person is not an authentic disciple. Why? Because in fact there is no independently existing object of mind called the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind.”

(from Chapter 17)

“Subhuti, do not say that the Buddha has the idea, ‘I will lead all sentient beings to Nirvana.’ Do not think that way, Subhuti. Why? In truth there is not one single being for the Buddha to lead to Enlightenment. If the Buddha were to think there was, he would be caught in the idea of a self, a person, a living being, or a universal self. Subhuti, what the Buddha calls a self essentially has no self in the way that ordinary persons think there is a self. Subhuti, the Buddha does not regard anyone as an ordinary person. That is why he can speak of them as ordinary persons.”

(from Chapter 25)

Who becomes enlightened?

“Subhuti, my teachings reveal that even such a thing as is called a ‘disciple’ is non-existent. Furthermore, there is really nothing for a disciple to liberate.”

(from Chapter 17)

Who is a true disciple?

“A true disciple knows that there is no such thing as a self, a person, a living being, or a universal self. A true disciple knows that all things are devoid of selfhood, devoid of any separate individuality.”

(from Chapter 17)

What does it feel like to be enlightened?

Subhuti again asked, “Blessed One, when you attained complete Enlightenment, did you feel in your mind that nothing had been acquired?”

The Buddha replied: “That is it exactly, Subhuti. When I attained total Enlightenment, I did not feel, as the mind feels, any arbitrary conception of spiritual truth, not even the slightest. Even the words ‘total Enlightenment’ are merely words, they are used merely as a figure of speech.”

(from Chapter 22)

Total enlightenment

“Furthermore Subhuti, what I have attained in total Enlightenment is the same as what all others have attained. It is undifferentiated, regarded neither as a high state, nor a low state. It is wholly independent of any definite or arbitrary conceptions of an individual self, other selves, living beings, or a universal self.”

(from Chapter 22)

The importance of ethical behaviour

“Subhuti, when someone is selflessly charitable, they should also practice being ethical by remembering that there is no distinction between one’s self and the selfhood of others. Thus one practices charity by giving not only gifts, but through kindness and sympathy. Practice kindness and charity without attachment and you can become fully enlightened.”

“Subhuti, what I just said about kindness does not mean that when someone is being charitable they should hold onto arbitrary conceptions about kindness, for kindness is, after all, only a word and charity needs to be spontaneous and selfless, done without regard for appearances.”

(from Chapter 22)

Knowing and worshipping the Buddha

“Should anyone, looking at an image or likeness of the Buddha, claim to know the Buddha and worship him, that person would be mistaken, not knowing the true Buddha.”

(from Chapter 26)

Is everything illusory and unreal?

“Do not think that when one gives rise to the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind, one needs to see all objects of mind as nonexistent, cut off from life. Please do not think in that way. One who gives rise to the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind does not contend that all objects of mind are nonexistent and cut off from life. That is not what I say.”

(from Chapter 27)

The verbal teachings

“If any person were to say that the Buddha, in his teachings, has constantly referred to himself, to other selves, to living beings, or to a universal self, what do you think, would that person have understood my meaning?”

Subhuti replied, “No, blessed One. That person would not have understood the meaning of your teachings. For when you refer to those things, you are not referring to their actual existence; you only use the words as figures of speech, as symbols. Only in that sense can words be used, for (1) conceptions, (2) ideas, (3) limited truths, and (4) spiritual truths have no more reality than have matter or phenomena.”

Then the Buddha made his meaning even more emphatic by saying:

“Subhuti, when people begin their practice of seeking to attaining total Enlightenment, they ought to see, to perceive, to know, to understand, and to realize that all things and all spiritual truths are no-things; and, therefore, they ought not to conceive within their minds any arbitrary conceptions whatsoever.”

(from Chapter 31)

How to understand these teachings and explain them to others

“Subhuti, how can one explain this Sutra to others without holding in mind any arbitrary conception of forms or phenomena or spiritual truths? It can only be done, Subhuti, by keeping the mind in perfect tranquillity and free from any attachment to appearances.”

(from Chapter 32)

Closing words

“So I say to you—This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:

Like a tiny drop of dew,
or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp,
an illusion,
a phantom,
or a dream.
So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”

THUS SPOKE BUDDHA