The Story of Buddhism
Transcribed from a talk given by
Sakyamuni was a prince. Maybe you do not understand, though, that as a prince, when he went out into the world, his life suddenly lost all of the glamour that it had, all the ease that it had. He began to find his way spiritually in a way that few people really understand. When he first started out, he met up with some ascetics who practiced starving themselves, and maybe they stood there with a stick and beat themselves until blood came. Some even beat themselves down to the bone in an effort to draw forth some kind of spiritual essence from themselves. Very often, where they beat themselves became numb and they did not feel the pain anymore. To them, this was a sort of revelation.
Sakyamuni did these things to himself as well. He beat himself until he could feel no pain, and he starved himself until he was not hungry anymore. From this, he learned that there is a place, like a fine line of change, where on the one side of the line there is feeling, and on the other a sense of nothing. That fine line dividing the two—feeling and non-feeling—is what interested him. But all the knowledge he could gain about the fine line itself was limited to bodily sensations and nothing else.
So he practiced these different austerities to try to find out about spirituality. He met various teachers along the way. They were masters of various techniques; they would sit in meditation all day, urinate all over themselves so they did not have to get up, and then when they did get up, usually there was difficulty with their legs being able to support them. But just sitting still, passing through painful stage after painful stage, there was that certain numbness that Sakyamuni came to recognize, and gradually, he also recognized that when his body became numb with pain, his mind was numb as well.
He learned the various stages of numbness and about how far he could go into body dullness before his mind also became sensationless. After a while, being dazed in this way seemed to be a blessing, because then hallucinations set in. But even so, there was a dullness and heaviness connected to them caused from camouflaged pain.
"He had tried suffering but it had brought him
There seemed a great deal to explore and much to understand, and he spent many, many years studying these things, perhaps fifteen, seventeen, eighteen years, injuring and starving himself. He was in his early twenties when he started out, so his body was young enough that his youthful stamina and health remained, although many of those he practiced with often became very sick and died. Those who did not die admired Sakyamuni because his body was so strong and could endure much discomfort. The others admired Sakyamuni’s dedication to finding out what life was really about—what spirituality was, and the nature of God.
One day Sakyamuni decided to try the other end of the spectrum. He began to spend more time begging for food and he ate abundantly. The others shunned him but he knew that they were not advancing spiritually any more than he was, so gradually he made a total change in lifestyle. He was clever of mind, so he took up work with a merchant, and for a time he built up a good strong physique again. Now clean and clean-shaven, his princely appearance returned, and he became the object of great admiration. He had tried suffering but it had brought him very little knowledge, now he would resort to living well to experience the contrast and the fine line of contrast between poverty and abundance, but he went too far. He took up with a lover, and enjoyed daily sex, which brought him laughter and certain other elevations in feelings. He compared the agony of his previous life with the ecstasy of his present one, going from one extreme to the other. Year after year he did this, as well.
After a while, his body filled out and became loose and fat, his belly distended, and his mind was lazy. For a long time, he lived like this; and for a long time, he refused to acknowledge that his life had become meaningless. He even began to think to himself that his life as he was living it was real, and that the spiritualized consciousness did not exist. He had become very dull from too much food, too much wine, and too much sex.
Gradually, Sakyamuni came to the point where he did not care about anything anymore. Even food, wine, and sex had lost their meaning. Life had lost its meaning, because now he had gone to the opposite extreme where abundance became suffering. One day, Sakyamuni left his grand house, his business, his money and his mistress, and walked off. Life had lost all meaning for him—no hope, no happiness, nothing.
He walked off into the forest alone and remained alone, not trying to do anything; not trying to change himself, not caring if he lived or died. He gave up trying, gave up the struggle of pushing and pulling, just to be. Day after day he remained like this. When his food ran out, he went hungry for a while, not because he was practicing austerities, but because he needed to be alone. After a time, he began to have insights into the experiences of his life, realizing the pain of both poverty and wealth and how the spectrum between the two extremes met somewhere in the middle and yet, on their extreme opposite ends, both were equal torture. One really was not happier than the other, even though both had moments of elation, but something was always missing. There was no real joy, no real satisfaction. And in this moment of realization, Sakyamuni was awed by what he had learned—that both stages of life in their extremes were the same stage of life; both were misery.
"The expanse of his awareness became so great that
What he learned from that realization was that there was something other than the body. It was true that one’s body was capable of a multitude of feelings, and thoughts were born from the feelings, but there was something else other than all of the thoughts which arose from feeling. There was also consciousness, an awareness that did not rationalize, which operated independently from one’s body, although it used one’s body as a sensor or radar unit. This consciousness was independently aware of feelings, and of thoughts that arose out of them. It perceived and knew things directly, without self-explanation. This, to Sakyamuni, was a major discovery.
All of a sudden, for the first time in his spiritual search, Sakyamuni felt like he was getting somewhere, which gave him a moment of real joy. He had something to work with, because there was more to him than his body and its feelings, something more than the mind. There was something else, a consciousness that prevailed, which was aware of body feelings, aware of thoughts and mental images —a major discovery, indeed.
As he was sitting alone in the forest contemplating this discovery, for a moment, he fell into complete mental silence, during which time he discovered that while looking silently into space, there was an observer looking out of his eyes. Instantly, he knew that this observer was his divinity, and while it used his body and the body’s senses for observation, it was not a part of his body, or his senses, or his mind. He knew right then and there that this discovery itself was the Dharmakaya, meaning the essence of enlightenment, the spirit that prevailed. That spirit or essence connected to the awareness was his consciousness, the divine aspect of himself.
This divine consciousness, he knew, must be a part of the continuum, that which could be obscured through karma, but was everlasting none the less. Having been brought up in the Brahman religion, Sakyamuni had heard about everlasting existence but no one had seemed able to explain or define it, except in ambiguous terms. But now he understood. The everlasting existence was the divine consciousness. Sakyamuni spent many months in observation of this consciousness. Not only did he discover its existence in himself, but he also witnessed that, through observation of animals and even bugs, there was a relative awareness between them and their environment. This relative awareness was this divine aspect; it was evident in all sentient life, he realized. What animals and bugs seemed to lack, however, was the ability to have an awareness of their consciousness. Humans had this capability but mostly were incapable of accessing it because of their absorption with bodily senses, which obscured their consciousness from awareness of itself.
Then there was the question: If the consciousness was divine and lived forever, yet was obscured, what hid it, and how could it become freed? Was this consciousness naturally pristine? How did it become impenetrable?
As Sakyamuni sat in the forest contemplating these questions, the months rolled by, until gradually, the answers he sought were revealed to him. He found that the pristine quality of consciousness came in waves and could only be sustained when he was mentally relaxed. During such times, he did little thinking and analyzing, so his mind was at peace without those feelings brought on by sensations of anger, greed, vanity, lust, or attachment; and during such times, he had no fear of the future or the unknown.
Simply, he was joyful. Being mentally disciplined from his previous training, he was able to sit in meditation for long periods of time. When his body was uncomfortable, he walked about in keeping with his meditation, so that his post-meditation and meditation remained the same. This meant that his consciousness was stretched out, like an enormous field, all about him. He came to realize that this open mental state was a place of equanimity. Here, his awareness was full, and he had the ability to interact with creatures, both animal and insect, without inflicting harm on them, or they inflicting harm on him. The expanse of his awareness became so great that his body acted like a well-tuned instrument. Intuitively, it revealed to him what plants he could eat, where it was best to build his hut, where to collect water. In short, he had found a new way of living life, a way that provided a direct perception of his surroundings and the means and direction to provide for him. It was truly a place of spiritual power, and it was both practical and esoteric.
Through his discovery of how to live from this pure mental stance, Sakyamuni also came to learn that wherever he placed his attention, his awareness filled with that place of attention, magnifying the object of his attention. This realization led him to another—to keep his attention on what he wanted, and to remove his attention from what he did not want, without mentally wishing his circumstances to change. If instead, he wished his circumstances to change, his attention then became chaotic, torn between both what he wanted and what he did not want. The resolution was not in wishing, he discovered, nor was it in desire for something. Desire was a longing or a craving that was never satisfied, even in attainment. The reason there was seldom satisfaction in attainment, he learned, was because of the fantasy about what such fulfillment would be like. The fantasy was not up to par with reality, nor could it, because desire and fantasy were inventions of one’s personality and not relative to the natural state or divine consciousness.
Desire, Sakyamuni suddenly realized, was the cause of all suffering. When a person desired something, there was dissatisfaction in the recesses of his mind, and dissatisfaction was relative to anger.
"Desire, Sakyamuni suddenly realized,
When desire was released, there again appeared the openness of the pristine consciousness. Living like this, Sakyamuni literally opened as a being; his body, no longer bombarded by unfulfilled desires, trimmed down to a healthy size. So he wrote down: ‘The cause of suffering is desire. The way out of suffering is Nirvana.’ Nirvana means to live within the pure consciousness. This Teaching by Sakyamuni was revealed in the Four Noble Truths.
Further realizations unfolded a plan to assist others to be freed from desire. The method was revealed in what Sakyamuni called the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path instructed one to abide in ethical conduct; and once a state of ethical conduct was attained, wisdom was also attained, out of which the individual expressed kindness and service to others.Sakyamuni began to share these Teachings with passers by. He would sit for long hours talking to anyone who would listen.
So began the Buddhist Teachings. Buddhism means Path of Awakening. The first Teachings of this Path, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which led a person out of desire, comprised the roots of Hinayana Buddhism, or essential Teachings on the Path of Awakening. These Teachings showed people how to live simply by stretching out their consciousness in a most pure way.
Now, unfortunately, there were some people who misunderstood Sakyamuni. They said, ‘I’m not supposed to desire but I can’t help it.’ So they would feel guilty and unworthy, which they called sin. And the more they berated themselves, the stronger their desires became, and the more they would argue to find some other way to live with their guilt. In these minds, the Teachings became twisted.
Sakyamuni was able to reach the minds of many, however, and then these people whom he reached took a step further. Now Sakyamuni effected a greater teaching vehicle, which he called Mahayana Buddhism. These Teachings expounded the non-dual principles that lay beyond the Hinayana cause and effect Teachings. These non-dual Teachings came about because Sakyamuni found that, the more he talked about desire, the more enmeshed in desire people became. He found that, if he focused the Teachings at a place that stretched out above desire, people were then able to expand their consciousness into the pure and pristine field of their own divinity.
Sakyamuni was a true Master Teacher. He understood human nature, because he put himself through every possible scenario to understand all people. He understood himself. When one truly understands himself, he understand all people. Not only did he understand himself, but he mentally disciplined himself, which is also a key factor in the Eightfold Path.
One of the heights of Mahayana Buddhism is the Mahaprajna Paramita, which is the Heart Sutra (sutra means teaching). He said that we can recognize whether or not we are living the Eight-fold Path correctly by the connection of our ethical behavior, mental discipline, and wisdom with our heart; that there should be a heart connection between ourselves and everything we touch, both with our hands and our minds.
Once we come to recognize and refine this heart connection, we realize that there is a string of energy between us and everything else bound by our attention. If there is a feeling of resonance or well-being to the connection, then we know we are to go in that direction. If there is no resonance, we should not go in that direction. Until first we establish our heart connection with the pure (divine) consciousness. Once this is done, nothing is incomprehensible.
Sakyamuni showed through his Teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, the various techniques of connecting our heart to objects and other people, and how to use this divine power in unconditional service to others. He explained that to be able to give without a hidden agenda attached to our giving, was the way to begin to learn what real love was really about.
Now I have described to you in a short time, the very essence of Buddhist Teachings. When one is able to live in the manner Sakyamuni prescribed, one approaches Buddhahood. In other words, when we realize these Teachings and fully comprehend them so that we can integrate them in all their clarity into our lives, then our consciousness becomes clean and pristine, divine. Sakyamuni was such a Teacher.
These are some of the roots of HÜMÜH Buddhism. The actual knowledge of the pristine consciousness did not originate with Sakyamuni. Sakyamuni founded Buddhism, which is a system or school to integrate divine truth into one’s existence. The actual root of all valid Teachings, however, are Primordial. They have always existed.
Buddhism does not lay claim to being the only exponent of the primordial teachings. They are at the root of all valid religion. If we were to pick up the Bible, we can find the primordial root there. Often-times, the primordial roots are well disguised by inept translators, or by translators who interpreted the Root because they did not have a pristine consciousness to make the translation. And there are many Buddhist texts that are inept as well, as well as translations of many other religions, which are just as confused.
Buddhism does not place God outside of us. It says that we are a part of THAT, and when we learn to live within the pristine consciousness, we ourselves become God-like. We recognize then, that we are the dreamer of our life, that we invent our life through the mental images we carry in our minds. Unconscious, habitual mental patterns have to be brought into consciousness to be interrupted. Buddhism is an excellent system to learn how to interrupt such unconscious habit patterns.
Buddhism is more than a religion. It is a trek to awakening. If we see a Buddhist sect that is bogged down in tradition, ritual and dogma, we do not see a walk to awakening. That is why a live Teacher is important. A true Teacher will never allow the Path to become bogged down in tradition and ritual, will never put piety above realization, will never put formality above realization.
Ritual is a set way of doing something that often builds boxes around us. If we lose the heart connection, we live in a box or in boxed-in consciousness. Buddhism is a path of awareness, of wakefulness. Learn what the Wish-Fulfilling Gem Mantra has to teach us, chant it and study it continuously. The Heart Sutra is taught in that Mantra.
Is it not nice that we do not have to go out and beat ourselves with a stick, or starve ourselves? Is that not nice? Sakyamuni did that research for us. And yet, we lavishly fill our bodies and our minds in constant entertainment. We eat, and drink too much, until dullness sets in. Be mindful of that.
When a person grows weary of suffering, that is when they begin to step out of it.