Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Enlightenment And The Doorway

"Enlightenment is only the beginning, is only a step of the journey. You can't cling to that as a new identity or you're in immediate trouble. You have to get back down into the messy business of life, to engage with life for years afterward. Only then can you integrate what you have learned. Only then can you learn perfect trust."
quoted by Jack Kornfield in After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

Jack is Mahayana, or at least this vision is basically a Mahayana vision. The Tibetans are Mahayana as well but it is they who also tell us that we are in a privileged position in the stream of life, very close to a doorway that can radically change your and my position in the universe. If we walk through that door, if we have the blessing and privilege of walking through that door we will rapidly alter our state of being and will no longer be visible from this side of the door. That is the Buddha's door and Hinayana Buddhism (Theravada) takes seriously that we have been directed to open that door and enter that path beyond it. Mahayana takes seriously instead what Buddha actually did, which was to refrain from entering the door and taking that path until his long life here was done.

I take both of these visions quite seriously though I am not Buddhist in my practice. I believe that Buddhism has hammered out a technology of spirit and their claim that you don't even need God is more or less the truth, at least to the point that God seems not to care if you engage in the spiritual walk without Him. Thus He is at least as pleased with high flying atheists as He is with the religious folk who take this whole thing seriously. He probably has to exercise infinite patience with most of us no matter what we profess. Infinite? Do I really mean infinite?? Of course I do.

It is a matter of destiny and fit to me. I think a person could find the door and then go beyond, and then turn and serve as likely as the Bodhisattva who refuses the threshold and turns on it to serve. The former is something like an "ascended master". There are opinions that the planet would have already crashed and burned had not the Masters turned their care to us. This is the Shambala story. I see nothing wrong with the idea. I claim I follow the Bodhisattva ideal. I don't claim I am good at it, nor do I necessarily think I must take the Buddhist explanations and directives as essential to a Bodhisattva path. I was directed quite explicitly in my youth to follow a template that is within me. Though I can fall short and use this as a way to avoid real commitment, I in the main have not done that. I do follow what was given me, though I realize more and more as I age how far I still have to go to really fit myself to this service. I had an inflated opinion in my youth, in my skill at overlooking stuff.

I know however, that I am very close to the door, have never been far from it, that the idea of a spiritual "shortcut" is quite true not only for me but for you in the human predicament, and that Buddhism is exactly right about that. I am not afraid to intend Bodhisattva. I assume however that I cannot do it from my side of the door, that if I ever manifest that state even for a moment that it is a gift from beyond the door, a state of grace, assistance from the Ascended Ones, from God Himself.

I believe there is a question. The Greater Vehicle (Mahayana) declares the Bodhisattva ideal, declares that it is the Way for most. The Lesser Vehicle (Hinayana) declares that Buddha told us to get across to the other side for real purchase on this thing, then decide whether service to the planet is the right thing. It may not be for any one of us who goes. There may be other concerns on that side of the door. Here is where destiny comes in. I know at least in this lifetime I am "supposed" to attend the Bodhisattva ideal. I also know that this is roughly a 75%-25% split or more if the numbers of practicing Buddhists are any guide. Mahayana is basically three fourths of all Buddhists, if I recall it correctly, though not everyone is explicitly aiming at the Bodhisattva path. That path is a monastic one and most Buddhists are not monastic.

Finally, the Caveat. I am not, repeat not a Buddhist and this essay is my tailored version of things to suit my own inner template. All I say here is me saying it for me, not an expert on Buddhism instructing you. I know what I know, I hope. It is enough for me but I am scientific enough that if I am told convincingly another truth, then I go there instead of here. I am responsible and hope I do not mislead. I don't think I am. But I am not able to protect against my own ignorance, nor yours.


  1. Holy, you have a lot to say, i like what you say, but i am watching the world cup now. I 'm just kidding, but i hear the Dutch are doing well. No, i recently watch a movie called 'the cup', about Budhist monks. It showed clearly how 'human' they are. When i read your words, i think yes maybe some of us are aware of such door, but we are all on a path, creating and the world is not going anywhere because to me that would have to mean we all have to go through that door at the same time.

  2. Jozien, the point of this is that you don't have to go at all. There is a "short" way and a "longer" way. We don't all go through the door. It isn't necessary in the "long" scheme of things. We are privileged to be near the door but we are not all chosen (whoever does the choosing) to go through it. If there is any sense to it at all, then you get there just the same. Once you are there then the length of the journey doesn't matter.

    To think that having the "short" choice as well as the "long" choice is a mark of distinction and pride is a mistake on the same order as thinking that I am more special because my being uses iron to transport oxygen instead of using copper to transform light into usable energy. Our placement is purely positional and has only a little to do with how well we have done so far. There are souls of the same or better quality elsewhere in the developmental scheme of things, but they are not close to the door that "shortcuts" the process.

    The Buddhist claim is that there is only "one" door. I would add, "that we know of". It is true that this knowing is radical. That means that other doors should leave signs, just as the privileged position of humans has left signs. Having a second choice is the essence of what we call freedom and power. It is the better bet to assert that the doors are few and far between if there is more than one.

  3. Christopher with the ever thinking mind. Is it ever blank? Is it every void of output? I always see you as a faucet...on. Never a sponge. But one must soak before they spill, so both must be true of you. There is always so much to chew on here. A banquet of thoughts.

  4. Annie, my mother said of me as a toddler that I would practice. I would stay in my room and work on things. She said that I was basically wordless for a long enough time that some people started to worry about me but she could hear my practicing in private. She claimed that my first foray into language other than the simpler grunts and almost words of my infancy, I came out of my room and asked her, "Momma, my panda is under the bed. Would you get it for me?"

    I don't know if that is a tall tale or not since I don't remember, but what is true is that I do practice before I publicize. The sponge part you refer to has been life long. How would you ever see it here, anyway? I am still learning, have never stopped. I said this at the end of this post. If I learn something new that sufficiently challenges all that I say here, I will recant in that instant. However, I have been crafting my opinion for forty years now without such a thing happening yet. It appears I am on the beam for my destined purpose. That is different from saying I am "right", that I hold a true view.

  5. Dear Christopher,

    I am having one of those weeks when I can hardly focus enough to read the comics...So I am going to have to come back and read your posts!

    Thank you so much for being present on my blog -- I think you know how much that means to me...

    I hope you are feeling well now... Sending you love ... lots of it.



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