Enlightenment? Ten years, fifteen tops!
(From Shifu Damir’s ‘Desperately Seeking Yin: Tai Chi Chuan as the Masters-of-the-next-level-see it’)
In raja yoga there is a saying: Never pour milk down a sleeping child’s throat.
This indicates the danger of inappropriate timing. Milk, as a form of nourishment, is good; but the sleeping child might choke to death.
But my intentions were good! You’d say, I only wanted the best! But your judgment was poor and your timing sucked. You were supposed to wake the baby up first.
It might not be all that dangerous – we are all somewhat protected by reflexes, and the sleeping child would most likely be startled, and wake up kicking and coughing and spitting. But, he’d probably also be saying: Oh, yuk, I dont want to experience that ever again!
An incompetent or irresponsible teacher often does the same. Give a student too much too soon and, despite every good intention, all that’s achieved is to turn him off the path forever.
Recently, Master Ananda gave an interesting discourse. It was delivered in so casual a manner and such a light mood that, at first, I failed to grasp its significance, and only by thinking about it later on have I realised how accurately he described some of the major stumbling blocks we come across today.
The topic was today’s general obsession – among so-called spiritual people – with the Tao and Enlightenment, and the Master expanded on bodhisattvas and a categorisation of teaching and learning.
This is part of what Master Ananda said:
“From our perspective, becoming a bodhisattva is regarded as a relatively simple accomplishment. In higher dimensions, in our realms, it is seen as easy. So, what is seen as the ultimate achievement on one plane is but a starting point on the next plane, a ‘miracle’ on one is something quite ordinary on another.
So what do these bodhisattvas do on our plane? They keep going. Because being a bodhisattva is not the end of the path – though it certainly appears to be so from the lower plane. Becoming a bodhisattva marks the beginning of the next phase, the next stage, towards the next degree of enlightenment…
What people generally call enlightenment is achieved relatively easily. A bit of suffering, a bit of sacrifice, a bit of serving others and, there you go, we have a bodhisattva! Or, one can choose a different method, live like a hermit, a life of solitary meditation and, lo and behold – a bodhisattva.
We see it as the first degree of enlightenment. If we keep in mind that there are seven degrees of realization… usually. Seven is a good number. So let's say out of those seven degrees, bodhisattvahood represents the first degree. Of course, within that very first phase there are also seven sub-degrees. Anyway, the highest on the lowest plane represents the lowest on the next plane. You see, it’s all so relative.
being who feels the desire to re-establish contact with the soul, and
zeroes-in on a particular method of self-development in order to do
that, and then purifies and enriches that contact once established,
can become a bodhisattva in ten years, fifteen tops.
When they reach the next plane, though, bodhisattvas do not sit around twiddling their thumbs. Here again, they have their tasks and their duty, their work to do. Just as, for example, there are gardeners on earth, bodhisattvas are the gardeners on our plane. We love them and respect them, since we cherish our garden. But we love them for what they are, not because we see them as something they are not.
Here again, they have a place and a role.
So one who was the master of masters at one level becomes an apprentice’s apprentice on the next plane. This is why humility is an indispensable ingredient at every level, and without it no progress is possible, on any plane.
A bodhisattva can easily become one who withdraws from the world, renounces society, ignoring or scorning or turning away from it, concentrating on himself alone. But enlightenment accomplished in such a way is not our priority. We are not interested in mass-producing bodhisattvas; we don’t need them.
What we do need is a well-defined Endeavour. We need aspirants who are investing in a three-fold effort, who are working within their own particular given context. If the aim is just to reach enlightenment, an aspirant can achieve more, and more quickly, by neglecting the world; but an aspirant can earn far more ‘points’ by embracing the world… It means he can arrive on this plane as a landscaper, an architect, rather than a gardener…”
Master Ananda often directs us to grasp the concept first, and worry about details later. Going from the universal to the particular. To see the whole first, then attend to the parts. Only then can those parts become useful, orientated towards the whole.
“The main concept can be best explained in terms of dualities.
Human life unfolds in terms of two domains: the outer and the inner. Each domain can be further divided into twos: individual-social, body-energy, emotions-mind, or rather the personal or lower self and the individual or higher self; and then again into yet another subdivision, like fractals really, starting with the most sharply contrasting extremes such as major-minor, crude-subtle, gross-fine, and going on to even finer differentiations. But let’s look at the basic concepts first.
People can be divided into two groups, according to their chief orientation or predisposition – we have those who concentrate on the material, and those who are drawn towards the spiritual. That determines what their answer is most likely to be if asked: what is the purpose of life?
Those belonging to the first group find their goals in tangible things and visible achievements such as education, career, success. They are concerned with health, wealth, or children… they happily lead their personal existence as if it were an isolated fragment, oblivious to any wider context. They see their life as starting with birth and ending with death.
Those belonging to the second group are more preoccupied with what preceded and what follows those two points in life. They are eager to discuss past lives, Karmic Law, or the seven limbos of the afterlife.
In such a world, for obvious reasons, we need teachers who keep trying to persuade people away from their selected orientation, and inspire them to pay attention to the half they are neglecting. But such masters are as rare as hen’s teeth.
What we usually come across is a teacher who himself firmly belongs to either one or the other of those two groups. So there are teachers who can help us excel in our commitments within the material. And those who can help us understand the domain of the spiritual.
So how come we still find such great confusion, people getting incomprehensibly entangled in a mishmash of fragments?
It is because those seeking material prosperity often end up with a teacher of the second group, and those seeking spiritual growth go to masters of the mechanics of living.
Each of these two main groups of teachers is dual as well; for example, a master of skill can teach us either a sport, or a therapeutic aspect. And a master of spiritual tuition can train us in either an intellectual approach, or in an intuitional-meditational approach. Each, or any, of these areas of studies can help in equipping a student for a more complete search.”