In my previous posts I transcribed tracks from Session 13 of The Science of Enlightenment. Session 13 is one of my favorite sessions in the series because it’s a good reminder for everyone who are consciously taking a spiritual path.
In this post I’ve transcribed the last three tracks in the session. This is the part where Shinzen Young described in detail three possible extreme reactions or attitudes of people in the Intermediate Realms of Power.
Before reading my transcription below, if you haven’t read my previous posts yet, I suggest that you read them first so you can appreciate this post from a bigger context. Here are the links to the previous tracks that I have transcribed.
The following are last the three tracks on Session 13. I hope this helps you along your journey. May you be safe, be healthy, live with ease… and may Happiness be.
Session 13: Track 4 – Relating to Your Intermediate Realms
As I mentioned, in my book, the yardstick, the barometer of spiritual maturity lies in how one conceives of and relates to the phenomena of this Intermediate Realm. I can suggest to you that there are three extreme cases and an infinity of intermediate cases.
One extreme relationship to the phenomena of the Intermediate Realm is as follows. A person starts out on the surface like everyone, either because of a cultivated path, or simply spontaneously, or perhaps because of some condition like and illness or being expose to sleep deprivation or hot or cold or who knows what — drugs. For whatever reason a person turns 90 degrees from the surface and starts to go down a bit into the substance of consciousness. They go down a bit and they encounter some phenomenon that may be unusual. It may be strange, and they get frightened, and they say, “That is not for me. I don’t ever want to go back to that place.” So one extreme response or relationship to this intermediate realm is, you go down a little bit you freak out, you scramble back to the surface, and you stay on dry land, you stay on that surface for the rest of your life, and you do not go back there.
A second extreme relationship, once again for whatever reason, either through a cultivated path or some circumstance, or spontaneously due to random flow of probabilities, for whatever reason you have an experience when you go into the substance of consciousness below the surface. Start to move towards the source, something happens, and you like it. It’s interesting. It’s empowering. It’s enticing. You say, “This is for me. I want to learn about this.” You start to explore. But the way that you explore is not by going any deeper. You turn 90 degrees again and you begin to go out horizontally out into the phenomena of that realm. Now you start to go out and explore this rich, empowering, interesting world of special phenomena — kundalini energy, psychic powers. I think you can see that the range of phenomena that constitute that realm is pretty much the range of mainline New Age stuff. That’s the New Age material down there. There’s no end. Once you go out horizontally there’s no end to new stuff you can experience — more interesting stuff, more powerful stuff, weirder stuff. The problem is you think you’re making spiritual progress. You think you’re getting closer to the spiritual source. But in this extreme case you are not, and you don’t know it. And your followers don’t know it. Because the vocabulary that you use is almost indistinguishable from the vocabulary used by the people that are going the mainline plummeting straight down to the source without following any byways horizontally out. The vocabulary is almost indistinguishable. The concepts is almost indistinguishable. It’s all spiritually correct stuff. And this is one of the reasons why teachers are very useful, if not absolutely necessary. Only somebody that has traversed those realms can really distinguish whether you’re going on a horizontal path out into the powers or whether you’re following a direct line to the spiritual source.
Session 13: Track 5 – Problems with the Realms of Power
There are a number of problems with this whole New Age phenomenology. Of course New Age is just a late 20th century term for something that has been recognized and known for millennia. In the Buddhist terminology it is sometimes called the Realms of Power. The surface ordinary awareness is referred to in traditional Buddhism as the Nirmanakaya — which means kaya, the body of appearance. The phenomena in the intermediate realm are called the Sambhogakaya — which means the body of glory. And the Source is called the Dharmakaya — the body of the Absolute, or the supporter, dharma means that which supports. So they talk about the three kaya, or three bodies. Every buddha has three bodies — nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, and dharmakaya — because every buddha, every fully enlightened man or woman, has experience in each of these three realms.
So here are the problems with the phenomena of the Realms of Power. The first and foremost is, because the realms of power are near the Source, if you get caught up in the appearances in the realms of power, you’re losing this wonderful opportunity to have a direct experience of the Source. You have to be able to see through those phenomena just like you have to be able to see through the phenomena of conventional reality. That’s the first problem. The second problem of course is, this whole aspect of turning 90 degrees again and going out into exploring these realms, because as I say without knowing it you could think that you are on a spiritual path and you could convince others that this is a spiritual path. When in fact it is literally parallel to the movement that people make on the surface of consciousness which is a movement of statis. When we move on the surface of consciousness we get statis. Basically the same trip that’s why this phenomena, this extreme case of going out horizontally is sometimes referred to as “spiritual materialism.”
The other problem is for every person that is interested in traversing the vertical path to the Source, there are a thousand people that are interested in the ego ornaments of the realms of power. So the ration is about a thousand to one in terms of where people’s money goes, where their time and energy goes, who they’re likely to follow on a spiritual path. The more you have a component of the powers, the more likely you are to attract a lot of people and to make money.
Another extreme, the third extreme, I’ve already obviously implied what it is: You go straight down. Whatever comes up you just view with mindfulness and equanimity. If nothing special happens, you pay attention to the ordinary. If something special happens and it’s frightening and painful, you view it with mindfulness and equanimity. If something special happens and it’s blissful and gives you special powers, you view it with mindfulness and equanimity. You make no distinctions. It’s a zero-tolerance policy. It also represents a certain extreme. In general, the Buddhist tradition would prefer that people follow that extreme. However, I should say that I have had teachers whose main interest was the special powers, BUT from a certain context.
I live with this teacher in Taiwan for almost a year, just he and I living together. He was a total Taoist Tantric Wizard. His entire interest was in the spirit realm and getting powers, BUT that interest had developed after his enlightenment. Why he had that interest was, within his culture and given his educational background, that was the best way he could help people — by curing their illnesses, by locating runaway children with psychic powers, by exorcising people that have been demonically possessed (which I saw him doing. very fascinating. Chinese possession phenomena, culturally quite different from Western possession phenomena). In any event, he cultivated all this stuff because that was part of his path of engagement to help other people. It wasn’t he was particularly interested for himself. He was liberated. He lived in the Source.
In the Buddhist tradition, if you’re interested in this stuff, it’s ok to put a lot of time and energy into it AFTER you have contacted the Source. Because after you have contacted the Source all of this phenomena take on such a different context. You realize where it really comes from. And until you have realized where it really comes from, there’s every probability that you’re going to develop problems in your relationship to these powers, which will then translate into problems in relationship with your fellow human beings.
We have three extremes:
You go down a little way, you encounter this stuff, you freak out, and you pop back up.
You go down a little way, you encounter this stuff, you get interested, and you go out into the world of exploration.
The third extreme: You go down and whatever you encounter you view it with mindfulness, equanimity, and a cognizance of its impermanence, and you just auger, auger, deeper, and deeper, and deeper, until you touch the Source. And you have direct experience of where both the surface and the intermediate zone come from.
Session 13: Track 6 – The Ascent of St. John of the Cross
A good historical example of the third extreme, from the Western tradition, is St. John of the Cross. He was a great Christian mystic-poet. lived in the 16th century in Spain. He used the model of going up rather than going down but the idea is the same. He described the path to God as Subida Del Monte Carmelo (The Ascent of Mt. Carmel). He belonged to the Carmelite order of Christianity, which is one of the main meditating orders in the Roman Catholic tradition. He drew a picture (and we actually have the picture that he himself drew) of this Mt. Carmel — different stages that you go through as you’re ascending. And of course, the peak of Mt. Carmel is Dios, it’s God. Except he didn’t write Dios on the peak. Here’s what he wrote: At each stage of going up this mountain, he wrote Nada, Nada, Nada, Nada. And on the very top he wrote Y El Monte Nada. And at the peak also you’re going to experience Nada. Nothing, ok. But of course, the Nada of that peak is a very special nothing: the Zero of which you have heard me speak, many, many times. That’s the Nada that is Todo. And with this picture is a poem in Spanish. And I’m paraphrasing, I can’t remember either in Spanish or in English the exact thing that he said but it is something to the effect of: If you want to climb this mountain, you cannot let yourself be frightened by the beasts, neither can you stop to pick any flowers. It’s exactly the description of a really mature relationship to the intermediate realm — Not frightened by the beasts, but you’re not picking any flowers either.