[B]Q:[/B] You said in your talks that “practice” along the spiritual path is for preparing your inner space for transformation. How should one prepare the space exactly?
[B]A:[/B] Attention is required to sow the seeds, but you cannot pull the flowers out of them. Effort is just for the sake of preparing the ground, but the season, and the blossoms in the season, are beyond your control. Though these are forces beyond you, when the inner space is prepared with all of the ingredients in place, the blossoming of enlightenment is certain without a doubt.
There are many ways to prepare the mind for seeing into a dimension beyond mind, for nirvikalpa samadhi. That is why it has always been said that the paths are many, but they all eventually come to the same realization of the one Brahman. What is important is not so much what path you tread, but that whatever path you tread, you go all the way until the path is killed. Like anything else in life, if we want to create a suitable atmosphere for growth, a certain one-pointedness and commitment is needed, one`s energies cannot simply be scattered here and there. When we talk about “paths” we are just talking about different possibilities for inner transformation and the discovery of one’s Buddhahood. Of course, even if you had a million lifetimes, you would not be able to explore all the possibilities. What is important is to engage in one path - but with absolute intensity, be total with your whole body, heart, and mind. When I say intensity in action, I should clarify what I mean because this can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings. I mean that your action is intense in the moment, traveling the path has to become a moment to moment affair. This is why the Buddhists have considered mindfulness - the capacity to remain attentive from moment to moment, one of their so called Seven Factors Of Enlightenment. It is not about reaching the destination. If you keep your eyes focused on the destination, you will simply forget your own feet grounded on the Earth and how they are moving. To “go all the way” means nothing less than giving yourself completely to this moment, seizing every moment as an opportunity to come to more awareness of the obstacles which are preventing you from boundless freedom. The time available is not much. Life flashes by in a blink of an eye, and as a natural result of birth, the death of the body is without a doubt. Seeing how most human beings are focused on everything else in existence except coming to know themselves, the time available is not much. Gautama Buddha used to say that there are two major obstacles along the way to awakening - the first is not starting, and the second is not going all the way. If one continues fluttering like a butterfly, from one desire to another, from one attachment to another, you probably half-hearted with your intentions and are far more interested in immediate pleasure rather than insight into yourself. How you turn inwards is not so much relevant, whether you are turning inwards through intellect (jnana yoga), or emotion (bhakti yoga), or meditation (raja yoga), concentration upon inner sound (mantra yoga), transforming the subtle energies of the body (kundalini yoga), or “selfless” action in the world (karma yoga), none or a combination of these, it comes down to one simple thing - intensity.
Intensity need not mean years upon years upon years of training. It is less a matter of time, less a matter of quantity and more of quality. Ramana Maharishi became awakened, without any previous training and within a few moments just when asking the question “Who am I?”. He lay down as a corpse, visualizing the body withering away, and asked the question, “Who am I?”. Don’t think that it is the question itself which is of importance. It is how you ask the question. The way Ramana Maharishi asked the question, “Who Am I?” was with such intensity and sincerity - it was really an emergency situation for him, as if the moment was both his first and last moment. The reality of death became so vivid to him, that he even started to experience the physical symptoms of dying. But in those few moments, his inquiry was so intense that he cut through to the very source of being and realized his Buddha-Nature.
That is all that practice is along the path, it’s just sowing seeds in the soil and taking care of the ground. If your action remains moment to moment while taking care of the ground, then without even desiring for flowers, flowers will happen. I shouldn’t even mention that flowers will happen, because that is still emphasizing the importance of the flowers. Just surrender yourself, but surrender yourself while in action. Be careful to remain focused on one at the expense of the other. I said, surrender yourself while in action. In yoga, it is called nishkagrya karma, actionless action. The Taoists have called it wu-wei, non-action. This means that you have to act - and act totally, intensely, and completely, as though you are a warrior on the battlefield, with attention so sharp that this moment becomes without beginning and without end, eternal. But while in action, you surrender yourself - be so absorbed in the process that the action and the actor melt and merge as one. This is what I call sowing seeds.
In Zen, there is a well known master named Hakuin, who is considered the father of modern Rinzai Zen. If it were not for master Hakuin, it would be very difficult to imagine the state of modern Rinzai Zen without him. He revived Zen with a new spark and innovation during a time when the spirit of Zen was in decline. One of his students was another master named Suiwo. Once a disciple came to Suiwo to learn of Zen. Suiwo gave him the problem, “What is the sound of one hand?”. Zen has a unique approach to cutting through the habitual patterns of the mind through the use of koans. Koans are tools that are used as objects of contemplation in Zen. They are often just short stories, a single sentence, or sometimes just a single word, taken from incidents that have happened in the lives of Zen masters and their disciples. The koans designed in such a way, that they appear illogical to the intellect. But that is their skillful means, because they appear illogical to the intellect, as you continue contemplating on them with the right energy, eventually something snaps in you. You transcend the logical, linear, dualistic ways of the mind and come to a state which is beyond mind.
So Suiwo gave this problem to a disciple, “What is the sound of one hand ?”. The disciple for three years of enormous effort, contemplated on the koan, but without any success. He could not realize the sound of one hand. The disciple was so ashamed about it, that he wanted simply to leave and return to his homeland.
“Wait another week”, Hakuin said. “Continue with your meditation”. The disciple continued with his efforts, trying to penetrate through this sound of one hand. Still, it was of no use. The disciple went back to the master.
The master said,“Give it another week”. The disciple obeyed, but this too was in vain. The master said, “Still, continue. One more week”. This too was futile. The disciple at this point was simply in despair, that in spite of all of this enormous effort, still he has not managed to come to his awakening. He begged the master to be released from his training. Master Suiwo asked for five more days of practice. This, again, was without any result. Finally, the master said,“Meditate for three more days. If by then you still you have not come to your enlightenment, then you should kill yourself”.
On the second day, the disciple was awakened.
Amir Mourad is a yogi, spiritual teacher, and founder of Shunya Yoga. For more information, visit shunya-yoga.com