Fantastic Buddhaverse of Robert Thurman
What is Enlightenment?, Fall/Winter 2002
Illustrated by Nadir Balan
WHEN YOU BECOME A BUDDHA, YOU'RE NO LONGER JUST A BEING INSIDE THIS SKIN...
SO FOR EXAMPLE, I'M A TEACHER, AND I HAVE TO GO TO SOME CRAPPY COLUMBIA CLASSROOM...
...AND I GOTTA TALK IN A MICROPHONE, AND YOU STUDENTS SIT IN SOME CRAPPY CHAIRS,
BUT IF I WAS A BUDDHA, THE CHAIRS WOULD TEACH YOU, THE ROOM. THE SHOES, THE CLOTHES, EVERYTHING!
I WOULD SURROUND YOU WITH PEDAGOGICAL DEVICES. DO YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING?!
BECAUSE I WOULDN'T JUST BE STUCK STANDING UP OVER HERE ON THE STAGE GIVING A TALK; I WOULD BE A WHOLE CLOUD OF THINGS!
THE MOMENT IN A BEING'S EVOLUTIONARY CONTINUUM WHEN THEY DECIDE THAT THE UNIVERSE HAD BETTER HAVE A HAPPY ENDING, AND THEY'RE GOING TO SEE TO IT...
...AND THAT HAPPY ENDING IS FOR THEM AND EVERYONE ELSE TO BECOME A COMPLETE BUDDHA, THEN THEY TAKE THE BODHISATTVA VOW. "I'M GOING TO BECOME A BUDDHA AND I'M GOING TO SAVE BEINGS." I'M GOING TO DO IT!" IT'S NOT JUST A LITTLE SELFLESS THING. "I'M GOING TO DO IT!"
AND IT'S KIND OF AN EGOTISTICAL ALMOST MEGALOMANIAC THING THAT A BODHISATTVA DOES. THEY GET SO PASSIONATE THEY CAN'T STAND TO WAIT FOR A LONG PERIOD OF EVOLUTION TO SAVE OTHER BEINGS...
...SO TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS, THEY SHIFT INTO THIS VERY DANGEROUS, SWIRLING VIRTUAL REALITY, IN ORDER TO CHANGE FAST.
THIS IS TANTRIC HIGH-TECH METHODOLOGY!!
IN THAT REALM, YOU HAVE TO ACTUALLY GO THROUGH THE SELF-TRANSFORMATION OF GIVING YOUR LIFE TO OTHER BEINGS.
LIKE A THOUSAND TIMES IN A NIGHT.
A GUY LIKE THE TIBETAN YOGI, MILAREPA, HE'S IN A CAVE THERE, BUT ACTUALLY HE'S IN A VIRTUAL PLANE AND IT'S LIKE HE'S DOING ONE OF THOSE TRAINING PROGRAMS FROM THE MATRIX.
AND IT'S INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS. YOU'RE DOWN THERE SWIMMING IN YOUR UNCONSCIOUS AND YOU'RE BRINGING UP THESE DEEP ENERGIES AND YOU'RE SORT OF REDESIGNING YOUR GENES...
...AND YOU COMPRESS YOUR EVOLUTION IN THIS INCREDIBLY HIGH-TECH WAY.
YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH A DEATH-REBIRTH, WHICH MEANS TO DEVELOP THE FORM BODY OF BUDDHAHOOD, AND INSTEAD OF THREE INCALCULABLE EONS OF EVOLUTIONARY EXPERIENCE AND SELF-TRANSCENDENCE...
YOU CAN DO IT IN ONE LIFETIME--IF YOU'RE A SUPER-DUPER PERSON!
BUT IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE FOUNDATION FOR TANTRA, WHICH IS KNOWLEDGE OF SELFLESSNESS, THE ABILITY TO LET ANY STRUCTURE OF SELF DISSOLVE--EVEN THE MOST POWERFUL, THE MOST MAGNIFICENT, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL STRUCTURE OF SELF--
--YOU'LL BE REBORN AS A TITAN OR A DEVIL OR SOMETHING.
THE BODHISATTVA COMPLETELY MASTERS THE WHOLE ART OF MANIFESTATION THROUGH THE MAGIC BODY...
...WHICH IS LIKE A DIGITAL RESIDUAL SELF-IMAGE IN A VIRTUAL, SAMADHIC REALM WITHIN A MANDALA, WHICH IS A PROTECTIVE FORCE FIELD IN WHICH TO VOYAGE TO INNER UNIVERSES. AND THIS IS ALL A REHEARSAL FOR DEALING WITH THE OUTER UNIVERSE.
SO, SAY YOU WANT TO GO AND REHEARSE SAVING SOME BEINGS FROM HELL. THEN YOU MIGHT WANT TO MEDITATE ON SOME FIERCE DEITY WITH MANY ARMS AND WEAPONS AND DIFFERENT HEADS LOOKING IN ALL DIRECTIONS...
...AND THEN, IN YOUR IMAGINED BODY, LIKE A PEACE WALKER WEARING THE MISSILE MAN SUIT...
YOU GO INTO HELL,
AND GET THOSE DEMONS OFF THE BACKS OF PEOPLE
...AND COOL THINGS DOWN--BRING A FIRE HOSE, WHATEVER IT TAKES!
OR YOU COULD BE A BEING THAT IMAGINES ITSELF AS FOOD,
AND WHERE THERE ARE HUNGRY AND THIRSTY PEOPLE, YOU'D STREAM CARROT JUICE AT THEM FROM YOUR FINGERTIPS, OR POTATOES, AND WOULD COMPLETELY FEED THEM. BY DOING THAT YOU FEED MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AND YOU GAIN THE MERIT OF FEEDING ALL THOSE BEINGS.
SO YOU'RE ACCELERATING THE ACCUMULATION OF MERIT THAT WOULD OTHERWISE TAKE LIFETIMES TO ACCUMULATE AND YOU'RE DOING THIS IN THE NIGHT IN YOUR DIGITAL MAGIC BODY.
WHEN YOU GET THAT KIND OF MERIT...
...YOU DEVELOP THE STABILITY OF MIND AND HAVE THAT LEVEL OF ART AND CREATIVITY TO BE ENGAGED WITH THE WHOLE WORLD SYSTEM.
THEN YOU BECOME A BUDDHA!!
A BUDDHA CAN MANIFEST ALL KINDS OF INCARNATE FORMS AND SEEMINGLY INDIVIDUATED FORMS, TO BECOME A DISCREET MANIFESTATION THAT OTHER BEINGS CAN PERCEIVE. THEY EMANATE AN INDIVIDUATED FORM THAT ANOTHER PERSON CAN THEN RELATE TO IN ORDER TO GET THAT PERSON TO REALIZE THEIR OWN TRUE NATURE.
BUDDHA WILL BE A PARROT IF THAT'S WHAT IS NEEDED.
IF SOMEONE IS SO FRIGHTENED OF THE WORLD THAT ALL THEY CAN DO IS PET A DOG, THEN THE BUDDHA WILL BE A DOG, AND JUST GO AND GET PETTED. THEY WON'T EVEN SAY THE DHARMA OR ANYTHING.
AND TO BE A REAL GURU YOU HAVE TO BE CLAIRVOYANT, BUT NOT FOR YOUR OWN SAKE.
LET'S SAY THE GURU WAS TEACHING SOMEONE AND AT THE SAME TIME THEY WERE AWARE OF EVERY WAY THAT PERSON WAS PERCEIVING THEM...
...A REAL GURU WOULD BE AWARE OF EVERY THOUGHT IN THAT PERSON'S MIND....
...AND OF HOW THAT PERSON WAS INTERPRETING EVERYTHING THEY WERE SAYING...
IF YOU WANT TO BE A TRUE TEACHER YOU HAVE TO DEVELOP THOSE ABILITIES.
SO ENLIGHTENMENT IS WHERE YOU CONSCIOUSLY INHABIT WHATEVER LEVEL OF BEING YOU WANT BECAUSE YOU'RE NO LONGER A PRISONER OF ANY PARTICULAR BODY.
YOU CAN FORM BODIES OUT OF AIR, OUT OF MOLECULES, OUT OF COSMIC RAYS, AND YOU'RE TOTALLY INTERFUSED WITH EVERY BEING---
--TO AN INFINITE EXTENT! YOUR BODY IS LIKE A BACKGROUND RADIATION, NOT PERCEIVABLE BY OTHER BEINGS, YET IT'S INTERFUSED IN THE CELLS AND BEING OF OTHER BEINGS.
I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT ETERNITY OR IMMORTAL LIFE IN SOME NICE SENSE, LIKE UP ON GO'D SHELF, DANCING IN THE CHOIR WITH BEATRICE, LIVING IN THE BRAHMA REALM JUST LOUNGING AROUND IN ENERGY FIELDS, I MEAN BEING EMBEDDED FOREVER IN THE NITTY-GRITTY OF LIFE WITH EVERY OTHER BEING.
ACTUALLY, IF THE LUNATICS HAD ALL-OUT NUCLEAR WAR TODAY...
...BUDDHA COULD PRODUCE ANOTHER PLANET IMMEDIATELY IN A NEIGHBORING GALAXY AND FUNNEL EVERY SOUL THAT WAS DESTROYED!
SO THE WHOLE WORLD BECOMES AN EXPRESSION OF THE BUDDHA'S WISH TO TEACH BEINGS, AND THERE ARE ENDLESS BEINGS, SO THE BUDDHA WOULD BE A WHOLE CLOUD OF THINGS...A BUDDHAVERSE!!
AND THE BUDDHA WOULD BE ACTUALLY UN-LOCATABLE. TOTALLY UN-LOCATABLE, AND TOTALLY PRESENT AT ALL TIMES WITH ALL OF US COMPLETELY RIGHT HERE AND NOW, FOREVER ENGAGED.
THIS IS WHAT THEY SAY. IT'S A LOT OF FUN TO THINK ABOUT ACTUALLY. BUT I KNOW IT'S A LITTLE INCREDIBLE. IT'S SUPER SCI-FI!
The Mahaprajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra
Thus have I heard at one time.
The Lord was dwelling at Rajagriha, on Vulture-peak mountain,
together with a great host of monks and a great host of Bodhisattvas.
At that time the Lord was composed in the concentration on the
course of dharmas called 'Profound Illumination.'
At that time also the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and
Mahasattva, in the practice of the profound Perfection of Wisdom,
looked down; he beheld but five skandhas and that in their own-being
they were empty.
Then, through the inspiration of the Buddha, the Venerable
Sariputra said to the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and
Mahasattva: "How should any child of good family train, who wishes to
engage in the practice of the profound Perfection of Wisdom?"
And the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and Mahasattva, spoke
to the venerable Sariputra as follows.
"Sariputra, any son or daughter of good family who wishes to engage
in the practice of the profound Perfection of Wisdom should look upon
it thus: he or she beholds but five skandhas and that in their own-
being they are empty.
Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is form.
Emptiness does not differ from form, and form does not differ from
Likewise feelings, recognitions, volitions and consciousnesses are
So, Sariputra, all dharmas are Emptiness, without differentiating
marks; they are not produced or stopped, not defiled and not
immaculate, not deficient and not complete.
Therefore, Sariputra, in Emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no
recognition, no volitions, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose,
no tongue, no body, no mind; no visible form, no sound, no smell, no
taste, no tangible, no mental object; no eye-element, and so forth, up
to no mind-element and no mental-consciousness-element; no ignorance
and no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, up to no aging and death
and no extinction of aging and death; likewise there is no Suffering,
Origin, Cessation or Path, no wisdom-knowledge, no attainment and non-
Therefore Sariputra, because there is no attainment, Bodhisattvas
abide relying on the Perfection of Wisdom, without obscurations of
thought, and so are unafraid.
Transcending perverted views, they attain the end, Nirvana.
All Buddhas existing in the three times, relying on the Perfection
of Wisdom, fully awaken to the highest, perfect Enlightenment.
Therefore one should know that the mantra of the Perfection of
Wisdom is the mantra of great knowledge, the highest mantra, the
unequalled mantra, the mantra that allays all suffering, the Truth,
since it has nothing wrong.
The mantra of the Perfection of Wisdom is proclaimed:
TAD-YATHA; GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA!
In this way, Sariputra, should a Bodhisattva and Mahasattva train
in the profound Perfection of Wisdom."
Then the Lord rose from that concentration and commended the noble
Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva and Mahasattva, saying: "Well said,
well said, O son of good family!
So it is, O son of good family, so it is.
Just as you have taught should the profound Perfection of Wisdom be
practiced, and the Tathagatas will rejoice.
Thus spake the Lord.
The Venerable Sariputra, the noble Lord Avalokita, the Bodhisattva
and Mahasattva, and the whole world, that assembly with devas, human
beings, asuras and gandharvas, were delighted and applauded the Lord's
We expect the teachings to solve all our problems; we expect to be provided with magical means to deal with our depressions, our aggressions, our sexual hangups. But to our surprise we begin to realize that this is not going to happen. It is very disappointing to realize that we must work on ourselves and our suffering rather than depend upon a savior or the magical power of yogic techniques. It is rather disappointing to realize that we have to give up our expectations rather than build on the basis of our preconceptions.
Such a series of disappointments inspires us to give up ambition. We fall down and down and down, until we touch the ground, until we relate with the basic sanity of earth. We become the lowest of the low, the smallest of the small, a grain of sand, perfectly simple, no expectations. When we are grounded, there is no room for dreaming or frivolous impulse, so our practice at last becomes workable.
In order to see what this is, we first must understand what Buddha meant by "right." He did not mean to say right as opposed to wrong at all. He said "right" meaning "what is," being right without a concept of what is right. "Right" translates the Sanskrit samyak, which means "complete." Completeness needs no relative help, no support through comparison; it is self-sufficient. In a bar one says, "I would like a straight drink." Not diluted with club soda or water; you just have it straight. That is samyak. No dilutions, no concoctions -- just a straight drink. Buddha realized that life could be potent and delicious, positive and creative, and he realized that you do not need any concoctions with which to mix it. Life is a straight drink -- hot pleasure, hot pain, straightforward, one hundred percent.
chairman we come now to item nine. our treasurer, mr. mcphail, will report.
mr. mcphail the estimate for the atomic reactor is before you, sir, set forth in appendix h of the subcommittee’s report. you will see that the general design and layout has been approved by professor mcfission. the total cost will amount to $10,000,000. the contractors, messrs. mcnab and mchash, consider that the work should be complete by april, 1959. mr. mcfee, the consulting engineer, warns us that we should not count on completion before october, at the earliest. in this view he is supported by dr. mcheap, the well-known geophysicist, who refers to the probable need for piling at the lower end of the site. the plan of the main building is before you–see appendix ix–and the blueprint is laid on the table. i shall be glad to give any further information that members of this committee may require.
chairman thank you, mr. mcphail, for your very lucid explanation of the plan as proposed. i will now invite the members present to give us their views.
it is necessary to pause at this point and consider what views the members are likely to have. let us suppose that they number eleven, including the chairman but excluding the secretary. of these eleven members, four — including the chairman — do not know what a reactor is. of the remainder, three do not know what it is for. of those who know its purpose, only two have the least idea of what it should cost. one of these is mr. isaacson, the other is mr. brickworth. either is in a position to say something. we may suppose that mr. isaacson is the first to speak.
mr. isaacson well, mr. chairman. i could wish that i felt more confidence in our contractors and consultant. had we gone to professor levi in the first instance, and had the contract been given to messrs. david and goliath, i should have been happier about the whole scheme. mr. lyon-daniels would not have wasted our time with wild guesses about the possible delay in completion, and dr. moses bullrush would have told us definitely whether piling would be wanted or not.
chairman i am sure we all appreciate mr. isaacson’s anxiety to complete this work in the best possible way. i feel, however, that it is rather late in the day to call in new technical advisers. i admit that the main contract has still to be signed, but we have already spent very large sums. if we reject the advice for which we have paid, we shall have to pay as much again.
(other members murmur agreement.)
mr. isaacson i should like my observation to be minuted.
chairman certainly. perhaps mr. brickworth also has something to say on this matter?
now mr. brickworth is almost the only man there who knows what he is talking about. there is a great deal he could say. he distrusts that round figure of $10,000,000. why should it come out to exactly that? why need they demolish the old building to make room for the new approach? why is so large a sum set aside for “contingencies”? and who is mcheap, anyway? is he the man who was sued last year by the trickle and driedup oil corporation? but brickworth does not know where to begin. the other members could not read the blueprint if he referred to it. he would have to begin by explaining what a reactor is and no one there would admit that he did not already know. better to say nothing.
mr. brickworth i have no comment to make.
chairman does any other member wish to speak? very well. i may take it then that the plans and estimates are approved? thank you. may i now sign the main contract on your behalf? (murmur of agreement) thank you. we can now move on to item ten.
allowing a few seconds for rustling papers and unrolling diagrams, the time spent on item nine will have been just two minutes and a half. the meeting is going well. but some members feel uneasy about item nine. they wonder inwardly whether they have really been pulling their weight. it is too late to query that reactor scheme, but they would like to demonstrate, before the meeting ends, that they are alive to all that is going on.
chairman item ten. bicycle shed for the use of the clerical staff. an estimate has been received from messrs. bodger and woodworm, who undertake to complete the work for the sum of $2350. plans and specification are before you, gentlemen.
mr. softleigh surely, mr. chairman, this sum is excessive. i note that the roof is to be of aluminum. would not asbestos be cheaper?
mr. holdfast i agree with mr. softleigh about the cost, but the roof should, in my opinion, be of galvanized iron. i incline to think that the shed could be built for $2000, or even less.
mr. daring i would go further, mr. chairman. i question whether this shed is really necessary. we do too much for our staff as it is. they are never satisfied, that is the trouble. they will be wanting garages next.
mr. holdfast no, i can’t support mr. daring on this occasion. i think that the shed is needed. it is a question of material and cost…
the debate is fairly launched. a sum of $2350 is well within everybody’s comprehension. everyone can visualize a bicycle shed. discussion goes on, therefore, for forty-five minutes, with the possible result of saving some $300. members at length sit back with a feeling of achievement.
chairman item eleven. refreshments supplied at meetings of the joint welfare committee. monthly, $4.75.
mr. softleigh what type of refreshment is supplied on these occasions?
chairman coffee, i understand.
mr. holdfast and this means an annual charge of — let me see — $57?
chairman that is so.
mr. daring well, really, mr. chairman. i question whether this is justified. how long do these meetings last?
“if there were no people, than it’s obvious that people would not have a problem with people…. thus people are both the source of the problem and the solution…”
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