PBS aired tonight a video from award-winning film maker David Gruben entitled "The Buddha."
I encourage you to watch this video even if you are studied in the Buddhist teachings already. It is masterfully done and deserves much acclaim.
As he sat beneath this simple fig tree, plagued by Mara and demonic minions of both seduction and violence, this simple man became much more than simple. There was a transcendence of mind, body, and spirit that awakened The Buddha to divine truth.
Or was there?
Siddhartha Gautama had been following the path of release from the flesh by means of self-punishment such as starvation, bodily mutilation and asphyxiation prior to his sit under the bodhi tree. Pushing his mortal body to the very limits of what levels of punishment it can withstand. Discarding this for the belief that discipline of the mind would liberate the body just prior to his awakening under the bodhi tree. But did Siddhartha learn nothing for his strife? Did his pain and near-death state account for nothing in his following transcendence?
I believe not. Just as Siddhartha first faced Mara after choosing to forsake his newborn son and loving wife to pursue a life without conquest and warfare, there is a requirement for transcendence placed upon those seeking divine truth. A toll must be paid, and a toll no less than ultimate suffering and ultimate loss. In order for the garden to fully bloom, it must first be set ablaze and left to wallow in ashes and ruin.
My experiences of transcendence are two-fold: the first door opened with the aid of psychotropic drugs, and the second with loaded firearms at close range of my face. I don't recommend either path.
Following the prescription of Dr. Timothy Leary and taking my tea with the Mad Hatter absorbed some section of my youthful escapades. Somehow I pulled back the throttle at the stage where one is still able to correctly identify human expressions that indicate people believe you to be insane or otherwise mentally unstable.
I never had any enlightenment nor transcendence down on the Yellow Submarine, but I also don't remember much of that point in my life either.
What cracked open my first spiritual transcendence bubble was a magic mushroom salad. Though I can explain it unlike that chemical broken-down bus that Leary was driving. It forced me to be perfectly still, just one time and one time only this effect was beyond profound. I did a meditation, but not the kind I ever thought myself capable of. The entire experience defies explanation, but essentially I sat in lotus position without moving whatsoever for several hours. I entered a trance-like state and received a vision. Nothing but symbols, no words whatsoever but there was a feeling of this amazing power like the burning hot sun on your skin but it wasn't harsh in any way. It was pure love, I can only call it a 'giant ball' or a massive collection of love and compassion.
I came to realize at some point hereafter this: whatever "God's domain" was, I was beginning to tread upon it.
Being raised Catholic and a person who can both claim to be hit with a ruler on the wrist by the nunery and kicked out of Sunday school ... I had some altogether rational personal objections to raising my newfound "wisdom" on my peers.
Again, I am drawn back to story of The Buddha.
When The Buddha desired not to leave the bodhi tree and saw the world for what it was and knew he would be called "mad" and much worse. But one cannot shelter themselves alone under The Tree of Enlightenment forever.
To quote from the video that inspired me to write this tonight:
"When you feel the pain of others is not even compassion to want to help them. It is more like a self preservation."
One thing I cannot abide, and have never condoned, is the forcing of beliefs that occurs under almost all organized religion. Due to this I would never tell another person what they should or should not believe and instead only state my belief if I so choose to do so. I notice this trait in many Buddhists I know as well and greatly appreciate it against the evangelists whom I've had moderate dealings with over the years.
But then we come to the ugly of my story: the guns and violence journey.
It is not what one might think. For a white man I have the same tale I hear from many of my friends of color: I've had the local PD try to frame me once and they were the jokers bringing out their guns into my face one fateful night.
In retrospect I was likely in minimal danger: some people who had just finished harassing me as I walked by had set off fireworks which the cops responded to by pulling out rifles with little flashlights on them and showing them in my face for being the wrong place at the wrong time without my ID and no real reason to be walking around in the middle of the night other than I was just stoned. That wasn't the transcendence. In fact I barely reacted and to these series of events and was allowed to walk home in a daze.
It's not completely clear to me, I definitely "lost time" like UFO abductees talk about, but once again I believe I simply entered a trance-like state in which my body simply did not move whatsoever for several hours. This time I was standing up, and this time is where I feel more like erasing the entire experience most times more than anything else. It's just too much. Not so much to recall it, I might be able to more clearly define it were I to meditate on it which I have not done in a great while. But to handle it, to cope with this.
This was not some symbols or vague emotional resonances becoming wild vibrations. This was a sit down answers session. I thought at first with God but that doesn't make sense, at one point I was convinced it was Jesus contacting me in spirit but that too seems like I am inserting something false into the experience. I received a message, that much of it I am clear.
I am the one who asked the questions we all asked in this rare opportunity (provided I'm not crazy as can be) to talk to the "other side." And like anything you can find in terms of answers to the big questions: the answers only bring more questions. Those questions bring more answers that desire more questions.
Looking into the face of the universe and having it speak back suddenly to all the answered questions laboring your mind of its power and its purpose.
In truth, there are not words that describe it. It's possible I came to attain some level of Nirvana, that I achieved this much sought after "transcendence" and "bliss" for a fleeting moment in time.
I am skeptical of this.
Everything I saw and everything I know I recognize as my spiritual truths, but I could no more prove such things true beyond all doubt anymore than I could prove them false beyond all doubt. It will continue to pique me whenever a person presents such truths as a matter of science and fact. Such is absurd to a thinking, awake mind.
I instead encourage yoga and meditation, not just to the 'seeking transcendence-types' like myself but to all peoples of all walks of life and all sets of beliefs. Should some barrier between flesh and spirit be melted away I would not be so bold to make such a promise, but the practice of calming the mind alone eliminates a great deal of stress.
I suppose I am a 'Buddha-Cath.' Since we are so found of labels being placed on everything that one fits for me quite well. I also like “spiritual agnostic” in that I’m over here totally open to being wrong and victim to auditory and visual hallucinations and nothing more. No person is beyond fault, it is within my own reasoning to draw out that I may gone looking for the impossible and simply convinced myself there is some tangible reasons behind all this for failing that it is nothing more than acts of vain futility.
People sometimes confuse me for a Christian. I used to refer to myself as such. I think the way that is used most commonly used simply doesn’t apply to my views in all reality. Yessiah bin Yoseph (Jesus of Nazareth) is “big brother” to me, a friend and a trusted counselor. The more I think on it though he is just a teacher to me, one I find hard to listen to, and not that which focuses my worshipfulness.
Just as the ground itself gave testimony before Mara that The Buddha was worthy of true enlightenment, so is the dancing of life around us all a testimony that we too deserve happiness in our short lives here. My worshipfulness falls upon the land, the animals and the waters of Earth. That which is most threatened by our way of life, our desires, seeking to destroy it forever.
"You do not possess mental powers that I do not." - Bill Maher
Au contraire, Mr. Maher.
I saw the third eye’s vision.
And just like everyone else saying these things: I have no good explanations why the heck I get this experience when so many seek it but so few feel to attain it and also don’t expressly recommend this high-trauma route of taking your life in your hands or putting yourself in mortal danger just on the off chance you might slip into a state of transcendence once your adrenaline fades.
Friends of mine laugh real hard when I start talking about founding my own church. Some part of me wishes I was just joking like they probably think I am. I have also retained a strong interest in going to seminary some day, but more to the end of being able to legally wed people combined with just a profound interest in all forms of theology.
To put it in the most simple fashion possible: all prayer is a form of meditation, but the practice of Buddhist meditation and perhaps others practices I am less aware of tap into some highly misunderstood regions of the brain. Through this intense stillness combined with this meditative state some form of 'natural energy' is able to communicate with your body and produce transcendence.
I've always loved the Diamond Sutra:
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, a dream.