self-realization

the Buddha teaches the Lotus Sutra

Upaya | उपाय

Upaya is a term that is used in Mahayana Buddhism as a reference to a method of teaching liberation through conscious and voluntary action without reasoning the direction. In other words, they are short cuts that are created for students to expedite them along the path to enlightenment. It is essentially adaptations of certain teachings to bring the practitioner closer to the goal of enlightenment, even though the teachings may be untrue. The use of skill is extremely important here because one needs to adapt teaching to the audience that is receiving the message and teachings.

The concept was revolutionary for Buddhism and has some powerful implications. It essentially allows for skillful teachers to show the student half-truths to reach further into the path of awareness and enlightenment. In Buddhist tradition, it was later understood that the Buddha had given his followers various upayas, rather than whole truths, because they were not ready for the ultimate truth. This allowed for many of the prior doctrines of buddhism to be disregarded in favor of higher ones.

This allowed buddhist practitioners to build a kinda of step system from the elementary teachings of Buddhism into the most advanced and profound. The most important aspects of teaching this way are through skillful means guided by compassion and wisdom. This means treating each person as a different potential, because of their different capacities and ability to comprehend the lessons.

This is used to explain some of the crazy wisdom that buddhist monks and practitioners use when teaching, including an example where a monk slammed a door shut on a disciples leg and in the process gave him a deep insight. There are two primary examples or metaphors that are used to explain the concept in Buddhism: an empty fist and a burning house. In the example of the burning house, a man uses white lies to get his sons out of a building that is on fire and to get them to safety, because he knows that they will not pay attention if he tells them the truth. The empty fist is used as a metaphor to grab the attention of children, but really it is a teaching to allow the student to understand the emptiness and to focus on the essence of mind rather than the distractions of it. Both teachings are understandably adapted to each situation and each student. The teachings are quite powerful and you can read about them in Lotus Sutra, a Chinese buddhist text from around 300CE.

These teachings are powerful for the modern world, showing teachers to meet students where they are and to teach with compassion in a system that is optimal for the aspirant. Modern yoga does a very good job of doing this.

 

Van_Gogh_brothel

The Wanderer, Part 5

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4

Tas woke in a small bed by the wall. His shoulder was asleep, so he took a few moments to roll side to side and stretch his legs, still very sore and tired from walking the days before. It had taken two to arrive in the coastal city and another to find the inn called “rest long, eat lots”. He had been disappointed to find that the inn did not have much food, had a curfew, and let the light in as early as the sun rose.

He met a man named Shatar. He told him how he had come to arrive and of his mentor, the old man who wandered aimlessly. Shatar laughed when he first heard Tas’ description, but hadn’t laughed since. He was a serious man, concerned with running his business well so that he could feed his dozen or so children, who helped around the inn. Most were boys, which seemed to be rather unfortunate, as the inn seemed to lack the proper care that a good resting place required.

But he was in no position to complain and was given a small room with a bucket, drain, and small living area. He was told he would be given water to wash in the morning. There was a small bed, barely raised off the floor in the corner with soft blankets and sheet and a few cushions underneath. So this small room was his home for the time being and he quite enjoyed being able to sleep on a cushion rather than the hard wood of trees.

He woke each morning to work. He woke when the others did, no questions asked, and left with the group to head to the docks.

He spent the days loading and unloading cargo from ships, while the taskmaster barked orders and generally harassed the lot of them into moving slightly faster. Tas wasn’t sure if it worked, but he kept up a fast pace so that he was never punished with the whip. Occasionally, it seemed that the taskmaster just didn’t like him. At the end of each day, he was given 4 silvers and he would give one of them to Shatar each night for food. But it was a perilous job, full of surprises and occasionally he would be forced to stay later, say if a ship came in a dusk. It was hard enough work during the day, so if they worked into the night they were given an extra two silver.

Soon, Tas began to spend two silver a day on food, one during midday when the sun was too hot to work, and the other at night, when he was done working. He would save usually 2 per day, sometimes only one because he had to clean his clothes or buy something new like sandals. He had bought a good pair on his first day and his feet had thanked him ever since.

The days were long and hard, but he could feel his body adapting. A large bag of rice cost 35 silver, and the spices and nuts that he needed were another 30. He knew that he would spend a month then return to the wandering sage he had pledged himself to.

But in the first week, he found himself out at night with a few of his coworkers and they walked to a dirty and lowly place with men out front smoking all sorts of contraptions, a rickety porch, and a crowded entrance. The four of them walked inside to see several women serving men drinks, as well as several other who were sitting and some that were even kissing.

Tas had never encountered such a scene in his life, as his village had been quite tradition. He stormed out of the lowly and dirty place in a hurry, and he went straight to his room to lay awake on his bed for several hours. For the next few days, he went to work without talking to his friends, but on the fourth day, they invited him to come with them once again. He no longer felt the same revulsion as he entered the rickety old body filled hut. His curiosity had taken control.

Again, as he entered he saw a man and woman begin to kiss, long slow kisses like he had never seen. He stared for a moment before Annu, his favorite coworker, pushed him forward. He nearly tripped over a broken stool and continued by a bar, replete with all different colors and sizes of concoction and labels that he couldn’t understand. He waved for one above, a luscious brown color with hints of amber. The keeper made a motion for 2 silver and so he obliged. Upon opening and sipping the liquid, he felt a fire and spit. His friends laughed and Annu bought one of the same. As he drank it, he coughed as well, to the enjoyment of the older members of the crowd. Then, a woman took notice of them.

She first caressed Annu face, pulled it to her own, then kissed his lips with a ferocity that Tas had never seen. Then she turned, seeing his staring eyes, and moved towards him faster than a bolt of lightning and their lips danced for a moment before they parted. Tas could hardly move, let alone speak. He felt something pulling him from the small shack before he could think and eventually found himself being pulled to benches near the water by Annu. The others were left behind.

“You would have given her all your money,” Annu said slowly, as if answering a question. “I know you keep it all with you.”

Suddenly, Tas became extremely self-conscious, in a way that he hadn’t been since he’d left the desert a week before. He didn’t know what to say.

“Come. We should sleep to rest our backs for tomorrow. God knows they need it.”

Tas looked up with a sudden remembrance and gave a hearty chuckle. God indeed! He supposed god was the reason he was here in the first place. But the old man had left him. What was he pursuing now?

“Yes, they do.” Tas would keep to himself for now.

“What do you save for?” Annu asked him, a strange veil had taken his eyes and blurred them.

“I save my silvers so that I can follow a man to find god.” Tas said, realizing for the first time the ridiculousness of his quest. What was he thinking? Was there any purpose at all behind what he was doing? What was the old man up to anyways?

Annu did not laugh. He looked solemnly at Tas. He seemed to decide something, then asked, “What is this man like?”

Tas laughed, “He is the queerest man you might ever meet and nothing he does makes sense. But he laughs at everything and smiles all day long.” Tas looked out into the horizon, waves moving seamlessly into the oblivion. “I don’t know why I follow him.” He admitted, “except that there is a certain curiosity that I have that I cannot explain and that tells me to learn from this man.”

Annu looked at Tas long and hard, and again, seemed to come to a decision. “Well, you are my friend now, Tas. If you need anything, ask me and I will do my best to help you with what you need.”

Tas took a long moment to reply, “can you get me another kiss?”

Annu laughed, this time in a heart-felt chuckle and rose, slapping Tas on the back. “Probably not, but we can try can’t we?” He grinned slyly at Tas hinting at mischief.

“We sure can.” and with the remaining 11 silver in his pocket, Tas began to walk back to the inn but stopped as he had a thought.

“Do you save Annu?” He asked, turning towards his new friend.

“Yes.” Annu said, a distance returned to his voice.

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” Annu said with another grin, and he disappeared behind a moving cart.

Tas grinned as he turned to walk home. Tomorrow indeed.

Moksha | मोक्ष

Moksha is the concept of emancipation, liberation, and release from the cycle of Samsara or repeated rebirth. Mukti, vimosha, and vimukti are all interchangeable words that mean emancipation, freedom, self-knowledge, and self-realization. In the Upanishads, it refers to this release with the same word used to release horses from their carriage, but each school of yoga describes a different origin of Moksha and method for achieving it.

Moksha is a word that is similar to Nirvana, but Nirvana tends to be a buddhist concept while Moksha is Hindu; Nirvana means “blown-out” or perfect stillness of the mind. However, in both religions, this is a release from the endless cycles of samsara or the infinite cycles of rebirth. Samsara is seen as a cycle of suffering, pain, injury, death, and bondage, so release from this is the ultimate goal of an individual’s life, in combination with the four other purusarthas, or objective human pursuits. There are two different schools of thought as to how Moksha is obtained: on earth (Jiva Mukti), as an ultimate destiny, or only through concrete, ethical actions in the world. Moksha is a transformation of knowledge that allows an individual to see beyond the fog of ignorance.

The state itself is described as a oneness with Brahman, or the universal god energy that fuels the universe bringing absolute peace, bliss, and a state of knowledge. One of the written ways of achieving this is through meditating on Brahman, or universal “god” at the core of the being that is liberated. In essence, Moksha is liberation into the core essence of the energy of the universe, while relinquishing the sufferings of consciousness.

Jivan muktis, or self-realized humans are said to have the following attributes in the Upanishads (keep in mind these are guidelines and in the tradition, there have been many jivan muktis):

  • not bothered by disrespect and endures cruel words, treats others with respect regardless of how others treat him;
  • when confronted by an angry person does not return anger, instead replies with soft and kind words;
  • even if tortured, speaks and trusts the truth;
  • does not crave for blessings or expect praise from others;
  • never injures or harms any life or being (ahimsa), is intent in the welfare of all beings;[87]
  • is as comfortable being alone as in the presence of others;
  • is as comfortable with a bowl, at the foot of a tree in tattered robe without help, as when in a mithuna (union of mendicants), grama (village) and nagara (city);
  • doesn’t care about or wear sikha (tuft of hair on the back of head for religious reasons), nor the holy thread across the body. To the Jivan Mukti knowledge is sikha, knowledge is the holy thread, knowledge alone is supreme. Outer appearances and rituals do not matter, only knowledge matters;
  • there is no invocation nor dismissal of deities, no mantra nor non-mantra, no prostrations nor worship of gods, goddess or ancestors, nothing other than knowledge of Self;
  • humble, high-spirited, of clear and steady mind, straightforward, compassionate, patient, indifferent, courageous, speaks firmly and with sweet words.

So you can see that there is an idea of what a Jivan Mukti is supposed to be: a teacher, a sage, a mentor, a guide on the path of Dharma.The Jivan Mukti is not only a friend for everyone, the Mukti strives for the liberation of all beings. The Mukti no longer lives for their self, but for others.

 

 

nirvana

Nirvana | निर्वाण – Liberation from Samsara

Enlightenment

Nirvana is a Sanskrit word that literally means ‘blown out’. In Indian religions, this is the achievement of moksha, or liberation from reincarnation. Nirvana refers to the extreme silence of the mind after one has tempered the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion. It is most commonly associated with Buddhism, though Hinduism and Jainism use the concept in association with their versions of enlightenment. Overall, the three agree that it is a release from Karma.

Jainism

In Jainism, Moksha and nirvana are interchangeable. Moksha is release from karma. The Gautama explains it as a safe place without old age, sickness, death, or disease. It is safe, happy, quiet, difficult to reach, but those who reach it are free from sorrows, and have put an end to the stream of existence, reaching complete peace.

Buddhism

Buddhism shares very similar views to those of the other indian religions. The Buddhists call it perfect peace, when all cravings are eliminated. When the forces of raga(attachment), dvesha(aversion), and moha/avidya(ignorance) come to an end, so does dukkha(suffering).

Hinduism

Hinduism‘s views of nirvana are a bit different, many apparently consider nirvana to be a buddhist term, though there are some that say that from the Bhagavad Gita onwards the term has been linked with Brahman, the absolute principle from the Upanishads and the Vedic traditions. The religion occasionally uses nirvana in place of Moksha. Moksha infers liberation, meaning to be set free of bonds. The nirvana of the Gita directly contradicts buddhism in that a person attains egolessness and unison with the Brahman, rather than perfect stillness.

Nirvana Across Traditions

Buddhism has differing approaches to the enlightenment of the buddha, Mahayana Buddhists believe in Dharmakaya saying that the buddha was born to benefit humanity and is one aspect of the buddha while Theravada Buddhists believe the buddha achieved libertation through human efforts. The Dhammakaya movements in Thailand and India view the true self of the buddha as being present in all beings.

Nirvana is death in much of the buddhist traditions. It is the ultimate freedom of life and most Buddhists consider it to be the aim of life. The buddha teaches the way.

ब्रह्मन्/Brahman, God, and Death

Brahman is a Hindu concept describing the energy force behind the universe, the unchanging truth of why the universe is, and the source behind it. This is very different from the god Brahma, who is known as the creation aspect of the divine pantheon and is a part of the Trimurti with Shiva and Vishnu. He is not regarded in quite the same way as the great cosmic spirit, which is everlasting and greater even than the Hindu deities as the source behind creation and sustenance of the cosmos.

Jiva-muktis or liberated beings are human beings that have realized Brahman and thus their become aware of their true self; described as consciousness bliss and the highest achievable reality. However, this type of self-actualization does not accord with the Buddhist ideals of enlightenment, nirvana, which denote an awareness of the nothingness inside and with this awareness great peace and release from suffering.

Brahman in modern-day Hinduism denotes absolute reality, unchanging, the source and return of all things. Within the Hindu religion, this is an argued point and even Buddhism denotes Brahman’s as divine forms having attained Nirvana. Certain Buddhist and Hindu schools seem to collide here, though it happens later in the Buddhist tradition when scholars begin to identify Nirvana with Brahman. But the Buddha seems to have rejected the idea, saying that the desire from Brahman leads to suffering. He could find no evidence of the personal, or cosmic soul. Jains completely reject the idea of a creator god, because the universe has always been.

Brahman denotes the cosmic god that many people of the modern west refer to as “the universe”. It is the idea of cosmic divine energy that is representing when saying Namaste and recognizing the divine in another. In this way, Brahman is inherently Hindu because of their belief in the divine unison of all things.

Atman is a Sanskrit word that means inner-self or inner soul. To obtain liberation, a human must acquire self-knowledge to realize that one’s true self is identical with that of the transcendent Brahman. This refers to the Hindu idea of breaking down the body to get to the divine soul within. This is the Hindu path to enlightenment, through one of the schools of yoga. It is through realization of the Brahman within that on attains enlightenment, according to the Hindu traditions.

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