“Star Trek” (2009). On his third attempt, Cadet James T. Kirk defeats a simulation programmed so that the ship is always destroyed no matter what the captain does. Before the test he asks his friend, Leonard McCoy, to attend, and McCoy tells him, “Jim, it’s the Kobayashi Maru: no one passes the test! And no one goes back for seconds, let alone thirds.” But McCoy is wrong on both counts. We come back to the no-win scenario over and over and over again, and it is possible to pass the test—but only if we refuse to accept the simulation as real.
Adhitthana (Pali): Decision; resolution; determination.
Virya (Sanskrit): Energy or zeal. It comes from an ancient Indian-Iranian word that means “hero.” The virya paramita is about making a courageous, heroic effort to realize enlightenment.
The verb πειθω (peitho) and its derived noun πιστις (pistis) are possibly the most signature words of the Greek New Testament. The verb means to persuade, and the noun means faith, trust or certainty. From the noun pistis comes the verb πιστευω (pisteuo), meaning to have faith; that is, to behave as someone who has persuaded himself into certainty. (Abarim Publications)
Christian Hope: “The state of pure love does not exclude the mental state which is called Christian hope. Hope in the Christian, when we analyze it into its elements, may be described as the desire of being united with God in heaven, accompanied with the expectation or belief of being so.” – Francois Fenelon, Maxims of the Saints
The man must be so much that he must make all circumstances indifferent. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
Maha means great. – Hui-neng
Faith is the belief that you are something infinitely greater than a mind and body.
To believe in spiritual truths is a simple matter of choice; however, to have the confidence that you will attain Self-realization is more difficult.
Lester Levenson was a man born with a great degree of courage and self-confidence. The importance he gives to courage is seen by the fact that he puts “apathy” first on his list of five hindrances. Apathy may not be the right word for what he meant: it comes from the Greek apatheia, which in turn is from apathes—“without feeling, without suffering.” Lester made it clear that what he meant by “apathy” was “giving up,” or allowing oneself to become discouraged. But one who has given up is not free of emotion or suffering, but is still beset by fear.
Curiously enough, Lester lived in the same time and place as Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale is famous for fusing psychology, Christian faith, and “modern metaphysical spirituality”—a movement which revered William James and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church was in Manhattan, which was where Lester lived. And one of the families that attended this church was that of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Trump, who took their son Donald and his sisters to listen to Peale’s sermons. Completing the chain of coincidences, a condominium named Trump Parc is two doors down from Lester’s former apartment on Central Park South.
Carol George’s excellent biography of Peale, God’s Salesman (1993), tells us that Peale was plagued by an inferiority complex his whole life. One of Peale’s professors at Ohio Wesleyan University identified “egotism” as the source of his problem.
The modified curriculum brought in the expected new offerings in the social sciences while keeping in place the traditional class format of lecture and student recitation. Whatever feelings of social liberation Peale felt in the fraternity house failed to sustain him in the classroom, where he continued to be haunted by his old fears when called on to recite. On those painful occasions, his shyness would overwhelm him, and his face flushed with embarrassment, he would stumble over answers he knew. His economics instructor, a Professor Arneson, informed by either years of experience or possibly the new psychological literature of narcissism, detained him after one of his classes to talk about the problem. Arneson accurately and knowledgeably observed that an inferiority complex was actually rooted in egotism and self-centeredness. Aware of his student’s background [as the son of Methodist minister], Arneson sent him on his way with two potent suggestions: to ask Jesus to help him deal with his problem and to check the writings of William James in the library. (p. 36)
What we can learn from this story is that self-doubt comes from identification with the ego. The ego craves approval and is terrified of disapproval. Why? Because over thousands and thousands of years it has been conditioned to think of itself as a member of a herd, and as everybody knows, if the herd rejects you, your chances of survival are slim. In order to be self-confident, therefore, we must let go of this pathetic animal self and put our faith in our eternal, omnipotent Self. As Meister Eckhart put it,
The sign of perfect love is if one has great hope and trust in God; for there is no better sign of perfect love than trust. For if a man deeply and perfectly loves another, that creates trust, and whatever one dares to expect of God one will really find, and a thousandfold more. And so, just as God could never love a man too much, nor could a man trust God too much. Of all things a man can do, none is so seemly as putting full trust in God. There was none who ever had full confidence in Him but He wrought great things with them. And He has proved to all men that this confidence comes from love, for love has not only confidence, it has true knowledge and indubitable security. (The Talks of Instruction, “Of True Confidence and Hope”)
Don’t push self-doubt away—release it
Most masters tell us to not allow doubt or fear to enter the mind. Lester said,
Your inner conviction does it. Your thinking does it. When your unconscious thinking that is negative on a thing is overwhelmed by the conscious thinking to the contrary that you can, then you can. (https://youtu.be/-XE-wat7btU?t=74)
For most of us, however, trying to push self-doubt out of our minds only keeps it there. Hale Dwoskin (Sedona Training Associates) said of the repetition of positive statements (made popular by Peale,)that if an affirmation doesn’t feel true, repeating it only reminds you of the doubt you are trying to get rid of.
When I was in my early 20s, I was extremely shy. I couldn’t approach women. I had no idea how to properly introduce myself to strangers, let alone make small talk. I’d heard that positive affirmations and “happy thoughts” could bury my fears and help me build the confidence I needed. I was certain that if I told myself I was great in a crowd, I would be great in a crowd. So for months on end I walked around all day long repeating over and over in my head, “I am highly pleasing to myself in the presence of other people.”
Instead of trying to nullify self-doubt with positive thoughts, which doesn’t work, we need to ask ourselves why we are afraid of failure. We may actually be terrified that people won’t like us and that we will be left alone to die. Contrary to what one might imagine, bringing up this fear and observing it does not give it more power, but instead releases it for good.
In order to bring up the fear of failure, Lester challenged his students to try to achieve goals they wanted in life:
The aversions to the world are difficult to see. Your attachments are obvious, and you’re chasing them all the time, but the aversions you push out of the way. So when you go for a goal, up come the anti’s—“Oh, I’m afraid,” “I can’t,” and all that stuff. So, it’s a gimmick for getting up the aversions to the world, getting them up into sight so you can let them go. If you don’t get a thing into consciousness, you cannot see it or handle it. (The most effective way of releasing)
This approach can be very effective as long as you don’t forget that the real goal is to let go of fear, to change “I can’t” to “I can.” You might think of your goal as a wall you are building at bricklaying school: you aren’t taking the wall home with you, only your confidence, which is the overcoming of fear.
The following is the greatest story in history of someone who let go of self-doubt:
With all his memory and learning, Ananda could not sound the bottom of the Buddha’s wisdom while the latter was still alive. According to tradition, Ananda’s attainment to Arhatship took place at the time of the First Convocation, in which he was not allowed to take part in spite of his twenty-five years’ attendance upon the Buddha. Grieving over the fact, he spent the whole night perambulating in an open square, and when he was about to lay himself down on a couch all exhausted, he all of a sudden came to realize the truth of Buddhism, which with all his knowledge and understanding had escaped him all those years. (Suzuki, 1953, p. 67)
What happened to Ananda that he finally attained enlightenment? Instead of pushing away his fear that he would never become an Arhat, he allowed his despair to come up and by so doing released it.
Assume the greatness that is your nature
In his essay, “Self-Reliance,” Emerson tells us to disdain the opinion of others and recognize our worth within. Further, our worth does not need the testimony of any deeds, because what we are is the infinite Self.
Emerson sees in the respect that ordinary people show for men of power and wealth an obscure recognition of their own innate royalty:
The world has been instructed by its kings, who have so magnetized the eyes of nations. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which men have everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own, make his own scale of men and things, and reverse theirs, pay for benefits not with money but with honor, and represent the law in his person, was the hieroglyphic by which they [common men] obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right and comeliness, the right of every man.
The description of Self as royal is found in several Buddhist texts, from Hakuin’s Orategama to the Tao Te Ching of Lao-Tzu:
25. Envisioning the Mysterious
5. The saying goes: “The Tao is great, heaven is great, earth is great, and royalty also is great.
6. Man follows the laws of the earth. The earth follows the laws of heaven. Heaven follows the laws of the Tao. The Tao follows its own self-nature. (https://www.sacred-texts.com/tao/crv/crv031.htm)
The source of this greatness, Lao-tzu, tells us, is the Tao:
16. Returning to the Source
1. By attaining the height of abstraction we gain fulness of rest.
2. All the ten thousand things arise, and I see them return. Now they bloom in bloom but each one homeward returneth to its source.
3. Returning to the source means rest. It signifies the return according to destiny. Return according to destiny means the eternal. Knowing the eternal means enlightenment. Not knowing the eternal causes passions to rise; and that is evil.
4. Knowing the eternal renders one comprehensive [all-encompassing]. Comprehensiveness renders one broad. Breadth renders one royal. Royalty renders one heavenly. Heaven renders one Tao-like. The Tao renders one lasting. Thus the decay of the body implies no danger. (Suzuki and Carus, The Canon of Reason and Virtue)
“All things are are too small to hold me, I am so vast.” – Hadewijch
Meister Eckhart employs terms like “sovereignty” and “nobility” to describe the magnificence of the highest state:
For the Now in which God made the first man and the Now in which the last man shall cease to be, and the Now I speak in, all are the same in God and there is but one Now. Observe, this man dwells in one light with God, having no suffering and no sequence of time, but one equal eternity. This man is bereft of wonderment and all things are in him in their essence. Therefore nothing new comes to him from future things nor any accident, for he dwells in the Now, ever new and without intermission. Such is the divine sovereignty dwelling in this power. (Sermon Eight)
Emerson, like Lao Tzu, tells us that self-confidence comes from our dawning realization that we are one with the source of all things:
The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust.
Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For, the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them, and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. We first share the life by which things exist, and afterwards see them as appearances in nature, and forget that we have shared their cause. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom, and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams.
“Do or die”
In times of old, generals invading foreign lands sometimes ordered the the burning of the bridges crossed by their advancing soldiers so that they wouldn’t attempt to go back home. The temptation to go back is sometimes expressed by the thought, “at least”—“I may not succeed, but at least I have this or that consolation.” To seek consolation in anything except success will only bring failure. Or, as Meister Eckhart put it, to seek comfort in anything but God will bring you neither comfort nor God.
So, if you would seek and find perfect joy and comfort in God, see to it that you are free of all creatures and of all comfort from creatures; for assuredly, as long as you are or can be comforted by creatures, you will never find true comfort. But when nothing can comfort you but God, then God will comfort you, and with Him and in Him all that is bliss. While what is not God comforts you, you will have no comfort here or hereafter, but when creatures give you no comfort and you have no taste for them, then you will find comfort both here and hereafter. (The Book of Divine Comfort, Complete Works, p. 535)
You can achieve Self-realization in this lifetime if you decide that you are going to do it, no matter what it takes.
To have faith means to dare, to think the unthinkable. This hope is not passive and it is not patient; on the contrary, it is impatient and active, looking for every possibility of action within the realm of real possibilities. Least of all it is passive as far as the growth and liberation of one’s own person are concerned. – Erich Fromm
* * *
The Master instructed the group, saying: “Those who study the Way need to have faith in themselves and not go looking for something outside. Whatever confronts you, don’t let it get the better of you. If you entertain even a moment of doubt, the devil will enter your mind. Even a bodhisattva, when he starts doubting, is prey to the devil of birth and death. Learn to put a stop to thoughts; whenever anything appears, shine your light on it. Just have faith in this thing that is operating in you right now. Outside of it, nothing else exists.” (Lin-chi)
Master Zhichang of Guizong Temple of Mt. Lu:
The virtuous of former times were not lacking in knowledge and understanding. Those great adepts were not of the common stream. People these days are unable to be self-empowered, nor can they stand alone; they just idly pass the time. All of you here, don’t make the error of employing your mind. No one can do it for you. Moreover, there is no place where the mind can be used. Don’t be seeking anything outside of yourselves. Up to now you have been acting in accordance with someone else’s understanding. (https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/GuizongZhichang.html)
And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if perhaps he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the season of figs was not yet. And Jesus said to it, No man eat fruit of you hereafter forever; And his disciples heard it.
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance said to him, Teacher, behold, the fig tree which you cursed is withered away.
And Jesus answering said to them, Have faith in God. For verily I say to you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be removed, and be cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart but shall believe that those things which he said shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he said. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you will receive them and you shall have them. (Mark 11:13-23, New King James)
Jacob, brother of Yeshua:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2, New King James)
Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity-boy, a bastard, or an interloper, in the world which exists for him. But the man in the street, finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god, feels poor when he looks on these. To him a palace, a statue, or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air, much like a gay equipage, and seem to say like that, ‘Who are you, Sir?’ Yet they all are his, suitors for his notice, petitioners to his faculties that they will come out and take possession. The picture waits for my verdict: it is not to command me, but I am to settle its claims to praise. That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke’s house, washed and dressed and laid in the duke’s bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes its popularity to the fact that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince. (https://emersoncentral.com/texts/essays-first-series/self-reliance/#fl-main-content)
Lester Levenson on Conviction
The moment we decide to be the Self—really decide—it is so!
We should expect to go all the way. Every one of us is born with the ability to do it in this lifetime.
Whatever your expectations are, raise them higher. Expect no less than infinity.
You will move as quickly as you expect to. To move more rapidly, expect it.
Every impossible, no matter how impossible, becomes immediately possible when we are completely released on it. And you know you are completely released when you just don’t give a damn.
* * *
Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1840). “Self-Reliance.” https://emersoncentral.com/texts/
Erich Fromm, D. T. Suzuki, et al. (1960). Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. New York: Harper Colophon Books.
George, Carol V. R. (1993). God’s Salesman: Norman Vincent Peale and the Power of Positive Thinking. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Phoenix, Arizona: Sedona Institute. ISBN 0-915721-03-1
Seretan, Stephen (2008). Lester and Me. (download)
Suzuki, D. T. (1953). Essays in Zen Buddhism (Second Series). London: Rider and Company.
Walshe, Maurice O’C. (2009). The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company. (download)