So, now that you have the basic instructions and some concluding advice, how do you “Practice like your life depends on it”?
What does that mean? What is ‘practice’? What is progress, anyway, and how can you tell when you’re making it? How does the average person do this on their own?
First of all, you’re not on your own.
You’re going to find that your progress has a lot (everything) to do with faith. But for most people, faith doesn’t come naturally, so this can seem like a big obstacle.
You’re caught in a dilemma.
On the one hand, you have this book telling you that you can become an Enlightened Being. But it’s also telling you that you have to have faith. And chances are that you’re immersed up to your ears in popular Western culture, which is not spiritual culture. Even if you have a natural tendency towards spirituality, staying on any kind of spiritual path seems like a constant struggle. And you’re being told that it all depends on Faith? Get real.
Don’t worry, We’re going to get Real.
Some people talk about Ffaith as if it occurs naturally or can be bestowed upon someone like a blessing. If you experience faith naturally, especially while you’re reading this book, then that’s great and you can feel free to skim ahead. Maybe you can relate to the description of the “stroll down the lane between lifetimes”, and you ‘get’ past and future lives.
That doesn’t make you any better than the person who had little faith; it just means your faith karma has ripened, so enjoy it!
Maybe you’re one of the many who just isn’t quite sure that you buy the bit about the “stroll down the lane” (it does seem a little far-fetched), and to you ‘faith’ is just another ‘F’ word. But for some uncanny reason, you’ve still made it this far through the book.
If this last description fits you, then let’s try this. Just take a moment and forget all about ‘F’ words. Even ‘Faith’… or ‘faith’… or faith. You’re going to be fine.
Just think of synchronicity.
That’s more palatable, isn’t it? Nobody’s going to get bent out of shape if you don’t have faith. Actually, you don’t even have to believe in karma and merit. If you just follow some of the advice in this book, you’ll still get there.
Forget all about Enlightened Beings floating all around you; don’t try to make yourself feel something that you don’t feel, or believe something that you don’t believe. That’s self-grasping, and that’s what you’re trying to get rid of. Just think of synchronicity.
It’s all the same. Use the word you’re most comfortable with.
Whenever you come across the word ‘faith’, try substituting the word ‘synchronicity’. If that sounds odd, then just choose another word that works better for you. Because all We are trying to talk about when We say ‘faith’ is this: sometimes things happen that you cannot explain.
It’s these synchronicities that We want you to pay attention to. They are your signs, your indications of progress (either forwards or backwards), and your encouragement. All We’re saying is give these instructions a try, and pay attention to what happens in your life. If this book works for you, then that’s great. If it doesn’t, then give it away and don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.
That being said, We’re going to continue to use the word ‘faith’, because it’s convenient. We hope you won’t find it offensive.
Now, please go back to the beginning of this chapter. Where it says “your progress has a lot (everything) to do with faith”, feel free to substitute “your progress has a lot (everything) to do with considering that anything may be possible”, if you prefer. And so on. At some point, We just a have to choose a word to use, and in that case in particular, ‘faith’ is a lot shorter. You get the drift.
Grasping at words is a distraction.
If you get hung up on something, just try to let go and move on. Thanks for that.
So, on to progress.
What is this progress that you are trying to make? It begins with recognizing your human delusions, then proceeds with working to eliminate them (without obsessing over them). Once you begin to notice a little progress with that (just enough progress to tell you that what you are doing is working), you take your perhaps newly-found spiritual confidence and begin to do what We call ‘Putting the Result Into the Path’.
Please note this is an active verb.
It means that you try your best to act and feel as if you are already a Fully Enlightened Being.
If you understand what delusions are and how Enlightened Beings behave, and if you have this book of instructions, then you have all you need to get started. You’re welcome to read (in as much detail as you like) any of the many other Buddhist texts which list and describe the various delusions. You can also find plenty of additional information on the qualities of Enlightened Beings. But the main principles are covered in Book One, and are quite simple.
The first thing you need to do is watch for any tendencies you have that might harm other people in any way, and try to stop those behaviors. Then you try your best to put yourself in other people’s places, and do what you can to help and please them, as suggested in Book One.
As you make progress along this path, many things will change for you. Some of it will happen naturally; some of the changes you’ll need to instigate for yourself. We’ll outline some of the likely categories for you, so perhaps you can spot the changes as they arise.
If you’re prepared for what is likely to come, the changes will perhaps not seem uncomfortable.
Your changes don’t have to be drastic. Don’t worry, We’re not asking you to do anything you’re not comfortable with. Getting outside your comfort zone is entirely your choice.
We will say, however, that the more eager you are to make quick internal progress, the more changes you’ll experience in your external world as well. So that’s a choice you have to make, before you start challenging yourself to show results. For most people, real progress takes many lifetimes, because they’re very attached to their friends and family. If it’s more important for you to stay with your familiar group, then you all have to make progress together.
So, if you want both – progress and your buddies – then you need also to work on getting everyone on board.
You can begin to see why some Buddhist texts say it can take aeons to attain Enlightenment!
So, let’s assume you want a path that’s not too extreme, but you do want to make some noticeable progress in this lifetime. You’re reading and thinking and meditating as much as you can comfortably, and you’re feeling like it’s making some sense. You’re noticing little synchronicities now and then that are leading you to suspect that maybe there is something to this after all. That is an example of fantastic progress.
It may not seem dramatic, but you don’t want drama – you want progress.
It doesn’t matter if you choose the quiet stream or the raging current. They both reach the same destination.
If your taste is more for the raging current, then We suggest you strap yourself in and get very clear on your priorities, because it’s challenging to ride the raging current if you’re loaded with a backpack full of expectations.
You won’t drown, but you might lose your backpack when your kayak flips over. We just want to make sure We’re very clear on this. The Raging Current is a serious undertaking, and if We sense you are taking it in a flippant manner, We’ll obstruct your progress in order to protect you and others.
Sincerity is a prerequisite.
Now that We’ve covered that, let’s talk about physical and energetic body changes. As you make spiritual progress, your body becomes more pure. It doesn’t become weaker, but it does become more sensitive to certain things. Noisy places, crowds of unfamiliar people, and ‘normal’ food can become great irritants to your energetic body.
Some meditations can help alleviate energetic imbalances, and We’ll give these to you in an appendix. In many cases, a good night’s sleep can set things right, but the meditations are very useful if sleeping is not convenient.
We can’t really predict exactly what changes and challenges you’re likely to face as you make progress, because there are so many variables. What happens depends on your karma, your merit, how fast and intensely you want to progress, and your own particular blend of delusions. All of these are different for every person.
We can tell you that in general, the external changes will tend to lead you to better conditions for making progress.
It helps to keep an open mind, because oftentimes what you think will help you is not really what’s best for your spiritual realizations.
That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for synchronicities. Sometimes the smallest clues are cues for us, signaling that it’s time for something different. Following serendipity can be quite blissful, despite the uncertainty.
We can also tell you that not all ‘setbacks’ are really setbacks, and we mean that both externally and internally.
Of all the times when you feel like you’re not making progress, the hardest can be when you’re working on your self-grasping. The tricky thing is that most of the time when it’s there, you don’t notice it. Then when it’s not there you don’t notice it. But when you’re actually working on it and getting somewhere, it feels like you’re one big grasping ball of angst. So it’s very hard not to get discouraged.
You go through a round of progress, then all is quiet for a while… and then you get hit with it again, just when you thought you’d conquered it. You realize you’re still grasping at all the things you think you are… and what you’re doing… and what you should be doing… and you’re even grasping at how many delusions you still have…
So please listen closely to this: All you are is a collection of aggregates or attributes.
And if you dissect it carefully, each moment there is a different set of attributes. And each attribute is constantly changing… just like your mood or your location in the universe. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re trying so hard to control it, define it, explain it. But it’s a moving target. No wonder you give up and give in so often.
Here’s the solution: Try letting go instead of grasping. Try letting go instead of giving in.
If you let go, you’re not going to dissolve into nothingness. Your mind is not going to leave your body and forget to return. You may experience some realization of Emptiness, but that’s a good thing. Emptiness is not going to devour your world. It’s going to make your world blissful.
You may forget who you are at the moment, but your body will figure it out. You may forget what you were doing for the moment. Why do you think it’s called absent-mindedness?
Because for a moment your mind let go. And it enjoyed it…
But your self-grasping freaked out, and now it’s trying to convince you that if you keep messing around, you’ll go crazy.
But there’s no ‘you’ to go crazy.
Ceasing self-grasping will not cause you to lose your mind. It will cause you to lose your delusions. And delusions tend to have a bit of a mind of their own, so of course they don’t want to be put out of commission.
If you really want to put your Inner Gangster to work, turn it loose on your grasping at your ‘Self’. Let it tear it to shreds until there’s nothing left. You must lose your ‘Self’ in order to discover the true nature of your mind. Your mind is the only real ‘you’, and it’s also Empty. Beyond that, there are some things that you just need to learn on your own.
Wait. What did We mean by “also Empty”?
That’s right. We’ve talked about grasping, but We haven’t really talked about Emptiness yet. An understanding of Emptiness is good armor, and you may need some of that… especially if you ever decide to try the Raging Current once in a while. So please join Us in the Emptiness of Chapter Two, as We invite you into ‘Our’ world…