If the soul were able to know God wholly as the angels do, she would never have entered the body. If she could know God without the world, the world would not have been made for her sake. The world was created on her account for training . . . Meister Eckhart (Walshe, Sermon Fifty-Two)
If we lose our sense of egoity in the state we are in now, we save ourselves millions of years of growing on the higher planes. To be in a higher astral realm, or a causal realm, or the highest of realms, we still need a sense of separation, a sense of egoity. We need a sense of a higher body. And one of the greatest, most wonderful things about the state we are in now is that it allows us to go all the way back home, right to the very top. Even the gods, the angels, cannot do what we can do. We can go all the way by completely losing the sense of being an ego. – Lester Levenson
“And then you die, and then you have a vacation on the other side, where you’re far better able to think and immediately have things happen. And then you come back into a physical body, and you keep working through this physical body until you’re able to free yourself from the physical body while you’re in the physical body. You can never get free of it anywhere else but from within it.” – Lester Levenson
It is a rare privilege to be born
as a human being,
as we happen to be.
If we do not achieve
enlightenment in this life,
when do we expect to achieve it?
— Nanyang Huizhong
The Vimalakirti Sutra:
Vimalakirti then asked Manjushri: What may act as the seeds of the Tathagata?
Manjushri said: The body is the seed, ignorance and discrimination are the seeds, greed, anger, and stupidity are the seeds. The four inverted views are the seeds, the five obscurations are the seeds, the six sense-objects are the seeds, the seven types of consciousness (vijnana) are the seeds, the eight errors are the seeds, the nine sources of anxiety are the seeds, the ten evil actions are the seeds. To sum it up, the sixty-two erroneous views and all the different kinds of earthly desires are all the seeds of the Buddha.
Vimalakirti said: Please explain.
Manjushri replied: A person who has perceived the uncreated nature of reality and entered into true understanding cannot again set his mind on attaining anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. The lotus does not grow on high ground; the lotus grows in the mud and mire of a damp low-lying place. In the same way, the Buddhadharma (बुद्धधर्म – doctrine) can never grow in a person who has perceived the uncreated nature of reality and entered into true understanding. It is only when living beings are in the midst of the mire of earthly desires that they turn to the Buddhadharma.1
If you plant seeds in the sky, they will never grow. Only when you plant them in well-manured soil can they sprout and flourish. In the same way, the Buddhadharma will never grow in a person who has perceived the uncreated nature of reality and entered into true understanding. But one who entertains egotistic views as huge as Mount Sumeru can still set his mind on the attainment of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. From this you should understand that all the various earthly desires are the seeds of the Tathagata. If you do not descend into the vast ocean, you can never acquire a priceless pearl. In the same way, if you do not enter the great sea of earthly desires, you can never acquire the treasure of perfect wisdom.
At that time Mahakashyapa sighed and said: Excellent, excellent, Manjushri! These words are aptly spoken. It is indeed just as you say. Those who are troubled by the passions are the seeds of the Tathagata.
1. Perceiving the unreality of the world, one does not suffer while in it. Not suffering, one has no incentive to set his mind on compete enlightenment.
If you suddenly awaken to the wisdom of the true reality of all things of the One Vehicle alone, the very objects of the senses will be Zen meditation and the five desires (20) themselves will be the One Vehicle. Thus words and silence, motion and tranquility are all present in the midst of Zen meditation.29 When this state is reached, it will be as different from that attained by a person who quietly practices in forests or mountains as heaven is from earth. When Yung-chia speaks of the lotus facing the flames, he is not here praising the rare man in this world who is practicing Buddhism. Yung-chia penetrated to the hidden meaning of the Tendai teaching that “the truths themselves are one.” He polished the practice of shikan in infinite detail, and in his biography the four dignities (30) are praised as always containing within them the dhyana contemplation. (31) His comment is very brief, but it is by no means to be taken lightly. When he says that dhyana contemplation is always contained within the four dignities, he is speaking of the state of understanding in which the two are merged. The four dignities are none other than dhyana contemplation and dhyana contemplation is none other than the four dignities. When [Vimalakirti] says that the bodhisattva, without establishing a place for meditation, practices amidst the activities of daily life, he is speaking about the same thing.
Because the lotus that blooms in the water withers when it comes near to fire, fire is the dread enemy of the lotus. Yet the lotus that blooms from the midst of flames becomes all the more beautiful and fragrant the nearer the fire rages.
A man who carries on his practice by shunning the objects of the five senses, no matter how proficient he may be in the doctrine of the emptiness of self and things and no matter how much insight he may have into the Way, when he leaves quietude and enters into the midst of activity he is like a fish out of water or a monkey with no tree to climb. Most of his vitality is lost and he is just like the lotus that withers at once when it is near fire. But if you dauntlessly persevere in the midst of the ordinary objects of the senses, devote yourself to pure undistracted meditation and make no error whatsoever, you will be like the man who successfully delivered the several hundred ryo of gold despite the turmoil that surrounded him. Dauntlessly and courageously setting forth and proceeding without a moment’s interruption, you will experience a great joy, as if suddenly you had made clear the basis of your own mind and had trampled and crushed the root of birth and death. It will be as if the empty sky had vanished and the iron mountain had crumbled. You will be like the lotus blooming amidst the flames, whose color and fragrance become more intense the nearer the fire approaches. Why should this be so? It is because the fire is the lotus and the lotus is the fire. (translation by Philip B. Yampolsky)
20 – Wealth, sex, food, fame, sleep.
29 – Zenjo. Zen is dhyana; jo is samadhi.
30 – Four dignities: motion, standing, sitting, and lying down.
31 – Zenkan. To contemplate the true principle while seated in meditation. The term is not commonly used in Zen writing.
* * *
Lester: And then you die, and then you have a vacation on the other side, where you’re far better able to think and immediately have things happen. And then you come back into a physical body, and you keep working through this physical body until you’re able to free yourself from the physical body while you’re in the physical body. You can never get free of it anywhere else but from within it.
Question: How did you arrive at the fact that we have to gain realization in the body? Why can’t we just die and be realized?
Lester: Because as long as you are a body, you have very strong convictions that you are a body, and you’re holding it in your mind, and you’ll always be a body again and again and again, until you let go of the desire to be a body. So, it’s while you are in the physical body that you have to let go of all desire to be a physical body. Now, that word “desire” is a very powerful word. The only reason why we have bodies is because we desire them. The only reason why we are limited in any way is because we desire limitations. Become desireless and you are unlimited.
Question: Is it all that we can conceive? Do we conceive we have to have a body because we always had one, and so it goes on and on?
Lester: It’s a matter of choice. Whether you face it or not, you’ve chosen to be a body. If you will dig within you, you will discover this.
The real culprit is the thing called the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is a storage closet of thoughts. We create thoughts, we put them back in the subconscious, and then we act as though they are not there. Every subconscious thought is just as active as any conscious thought is. But we have created this mechanism of subconscious thinking. And the subconscious thoughts are only the conscious thoughts that we’re not looking at at this moment. And right now there are millions of thoughts going on in your mind. You bring to consciousness a few of them at a time, but all those millions back there are active. And this is the greatest difficulty. It was a very handy mechanism in the beginning—it was an automatic pilot. When we became more and more involved with thoughts, we put them on automatic an stopped looking at them. And we are now running on automatic, called the subconscious mind. And this is your greatest difficulty. If you could make the subconscious conscious right now, you would be realized, because you would see all this limitation that you set in motion in the past that is now continuing, invisible to you all. And by making it visible, naturally you’re going to drop all the limitation.
Keep your attention focused on you. If you would do only this for weeks or months, you would get full realization. I say “only,” which means not stopping it and looking at, “I am a body with problems.” It would be very quick. (“Letting go of ego”)
Watson, Burton (2000). The Vimalakirti Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press.(https://www.wisdomlib.org/buddhism/book/vimalakirti-sutra/d/doc116206.html)
Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Phoenix, Arizona: Sedona Institute. ISBN 0-915721-03-1
“National Teacher” Nanyang Huizhong (Wade–Giles: Nan-yang Hui-chung) (675-775)
Often known by his nickname, National Teacher Zhong.
Yampolsky, Philip B. (1971). The Zen Master Hakuin: Selected Writings. New York: Columbia University Press. https://terebess.hu/zen/Orategama.pdf