The world seen through the eyes of a master

Session 26: “Worldliness and Spirituality”

Lester: Any time we see any difference, or a difference between the spiritual and the worldly, it’s because we don’t have enough understanding of the spiritual as yet. We are separating. The highest state is when we are in the world and in spirit at one and the same time and there is no difference. When we’re there, we don’t see it as world and spirit. We see it as one and the same thing. We see a oneness; we see it all as our very own Self. Or, if we want, we see the whole world as being within us, as a dream is within us in sleep. No matter what happens in the dream, we remain the same. We see absolutely no difference in anything; there’s a singular oneness throughout everything. Nothing changes. Ever-the-same is our feeling.

This can be used as a yardstick to know how far we are on the path. Is everything ever the same? Do things really not change? It is a little shocking when we start examining it from this point of view. How far am I on the path toward seeing the sameness, the oneness, the no-otherness, the nothing-but-God, God in all, the God in everyone? When you accomplish that non-duality, you lose the feeling of separation, of “I”. If you want to recognize the apparent others, you use the word “we”. But more than that, you would rather talk about yourself in third person. That is the feeling a master has. And he talks that way. Certain masters will not speak of themselves by name; they’ll speak of themselves in the third person as their disciples do. For instance, if everyone called me what Ken jokingly calls me, I would talk about Father Divine. Instead of saying I, me, or Lester, I would talk about him (pointing to himself), Father Divine. That’s just the way you feel when you’re in the state when all is one and all is the same. You don’t identify yourself with just your body. I’ve been emphasizing this point because quite a few were asking questions and talking about the two, the world and spirit, not knowing that in truth they are one.

Q: There is no difference?

Lester: Right. It’s one and the same, when you see it aright. If you see it through illusion, if you see it wrongly, you’ll see separation; you’ll see the differentiation that this is spiritual and that is worldly; that this is divine and that is mundane.

The “me” is a condescension on the part of a master in order to communicate with the apparent egos. A master sees nothing but masters; specks of infinite light, all looking alike; blazing effervescent radiant beings, points of Beingness all being One. This is the way a master really sees everyone. He doesn’t see people the way [ordinary people] see them.

Q: Does He sees them as different shades, or all one shade?

Lester: Identical points of light, of one ocean of light, brilliant effervescent, emanating, with center everywhere and circumference nowhere. Are you trying to imagine what it is like?

Q: Well, I had an experience of seeing something like that and it’s a light like a bright sun.

Lester: Yes, a bright blazing sun. Masters can see nothing but a master in [others], and at the same time, they can go through the pretense of seeing it otherwise by saying. “Harry, yes, you do have problems” or, “Harry, you do have a body and you do live in a house.” But as they say it, to them, it’s like a dream voice talking, or apparently talking, and it’s all an apparency. It’s a pretense. They’re actually pretending, because their view of the omnipresent, infinite One never changes.

Q: They are pretending a duality, then, actually, where we’re more or less living it?

Lester: Yes. However, [you are] pretending it too, but [you] don’t know that [you’re] pretending it.


Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Phoenix, Arizona: Sedona Institute. ISBN 0-915721-03-1

The Diamond Sutra

The Diamond Sutra is part of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra written by Nagarjuna in around the second century. Vajra is the hardest substance imaginable; it is also luminous and transparent. The Vajracchedika Sutra is said to cut through illusions just as a diamond cuts through inferior substances.


Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra

Based on translations from the Sanskrit by Paul Harrison and Edward Conze


Homage to Śakyamuni, Tathagata, Arhat, Completely Enlightened One!

Homage to the Prajnaparamita, the Lovely, the Holy!

1. The Setting of the Sermon

Thus have I heard at one time. The Lord (Bhagavat)1 was staying at Sravasti, in the Jeta Grove, in the garden of Anathapindika, together with a large gathering of monks, consisting of 1,250 monks, and with many Bodhisattvas, great beings (mahasattva).2 In the morning the Lord put on his cloak, took his bowl, and entered the great city of Sravasti to collect alms. When he had returned from going house to house and had eaten, the Lord put away his bowl and cloak, washed his feet, and sat down on his seat, his legs crossed, his body upright, his attention fixed mindfully in front of him. Then a great many monks approached the Lord, and after approaching him they prostrated themselves at the Lord’s feet, walked around the Lord three times, and sat down on one side.

2. Subhuti, Foremost of the Disciples

Furthermore, on that occasion the Venerable Subhuti had joined that assembly and was seated with it. Then the Venerable Subhuti rose from his seat, arranged his upper robe over one shoulder, knelt on his right knee, made obeisance to the Lord with his palms pressed together, and said to the Lord: “It is wonderful O Lord, it is exceedingly wonderful, O Well-Gone, how much the Bodhisattvas, the great beings, have been helped with the greatest help by the Tathagata, the Arhat, the Fully Enlightened One. It is wonderful, O Lord, how much the Bodhisattvas, the great beings, have been favoured with the highest favour by the Tathagata, the Arhat, the Fully Enlightened One. How then, O Lord, should a son or daughter of good family who has set out in the Bodhisattva path stand, how advance, how still his thoughts (cittam)?”3

After these words the Lord said to the Venerable Subhuti: “Well said, well said, Subhuti! So it is, Subhuti, so it is, as you say! Subhuti, the Tathagata has helped the Bodhisattvas, the great beings, with the greatest help, and he has favoured them with the highest favour. Therefore, Subhuti, listen well and attentively! I will teach you how those who have set out in the Bodhisattva path are to stand, how advance, how still their thoughts.” “So be it, O Lord,” replied the Venerable Subhuti, and listened.

3 The vow to save all living beings

The Lord said: “Here, Subhuti, someone who has set out in the path of a Bodhisattva should form the following thought: ‘However many beings there are in the universe of beings . . . all these I must lead to Nirvana, into that Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind. And yet, although innumerable beings have thus been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana’. And why? If in a Bodhisattva the knowledge (samjna)4 of a being should arise, he could not be called a Bodhisattva. And why? He is not to be called a Bodhisattva in whom arises knowledge of a self (atman), nor in whom arises knowledge of a being (sattva), knowledge of a living soul (jiva), or knowledge of a man (pudgala).”

(Na sa Subhute bodhisattvo vaktavyo yasya-atma-samjna pravarteta, sattva-samjna va jiva-samjna va pudgala-samjna va pravarteta.)

4 The perfection of giving

“Moreover, Subhuti, a Bodhisattva who gives a gift is not to dwell on anything, nor
is he to dwell anywhere. When he gives gifts he is not to dwell on that which is seen, nor on that which is heard, smelled, tasted, felt, or thought. For, Subhuti, the Bodhisattva, the great being, is to give gifts in such a way that he does not dwell on the slightest distinction between things. And why? Because the accumulation of merit of that Bodhisattva who gives a gift without dwelling anywhere is difficult to measure.”

5 “What do you think, Subhuti, is it easy to take the measure of space in the east?”
Subhuti said: “Indeed not, Lord.” “Likewise, is it easy to take the measure of space in the south, west, north, below, above–in all of the ten directions?” Subhuti said: “Indeed not, Lord.” The Lord said: “In the same way it is difficult to take the measure of the accumulation of merit of that Bodhisattva who gives a gift without dwelling. That is why, Subhuti, those who have set out in the Bodhisattva path are to give gifts without dwelling on any knowledge of a distinction.”

Now listen to a true saying! If a man gave a thousand marks of gold for building churches and convents, that would be a great thing. Yet that man would give far more who could regard a thousand marks as nothing; he would have done far more than the other. – Meister Eckhart (Sermon Forty)

6 Subhuti asked: “Lord, in the future period, in the last time, in the last epoch, in the last five hundred years, at the time of the collapse of the good doctrine, will there be any beings who, when these words of the Sutra are being taught, will understand their truth?” The Lord replied: “Do not speak thus, Subhuti! Yes, even then there will be such beings. For even at that time, Subhuti, there will be Bodhisattvas who are endowed with good conduct, endowed with virtuous qualities, endowed with wisdom, and who, when these words of the Sutra are being taught, will understand their truth.”

“And those Bodhisattvas, Subhuti, will not be such as have honoured only one Buddha, nor such as have planted their roots of merit under one Buddha only. On the contrary, Subhuti, those Bodhisattvas who, upon hearing these words of the Sutra being taught, experience even a single thought of serene faith, will be those who have honoured many hundreds of thousands of Buddhas, those who have planted their roots of merit under many hundreds of thousands of Buddhas. Known they are to the Tathagata by his Buddha-knowledge; seen they are by the Tathagata’s Buddha-eye; understood are they by the Tathagata. All will generate and be endowed with an immeasurable quantity of merit.

And why? Because, Subhuti, in those Bodhisattvas there will arise no knowledge of a self, no knowledge of a being, no knowledge of a soul, no knowledge of a man. Nor will those Bodhisattvas have knowledge of a dharma or an adharma (a non-physical thing). No knowledge or non-knowledge (asamjna) will arise in them. And why? If, Subhuti, those Bodhisattvas should have knowledge of either a dharma or an adharma, they would thereby seize upon a self, a being, a soul, or a man. And why? Because a Bodhisattva ought not to seize upon either a dharma or an adharma. Thus the meaning of the Tathagata’s words: ‘Those who understand the discourse about the Dharma being like a raft should forsake dharmas, even more so adharmas’.”5

7 Furthermore, the Lord said to the Venerable Subhuti: “What do you think, Subhuti? Is there any Dharma (Reality) that the Tathagata has known as utmost, perfect enlightenment, or is there any Dharma that the Tathagata has demonstrated?” Subhuti said, “No, not as I understand what the Lord has said. And why? This Dharma which the Tathagata has fully known and demonstrated cannot be grasped; it cannot be talked about; it is neither a dharma nor an adharma. And why? Because all sages belong to [the realm of] non-doing (asamskara or asamskrta), though [in appearance] they are distinct from one another.” (Suzuki, 1935)

9a “Subhuti, what do you think? Does a Stream-enterer ever have the thought: ‘I have attained the stage of Stream-enterer’?” Subhuti said, “No indeed, Lord. And why? Because, Lord, he does not enter anything: that is why he is called a Stream-enterer. He does not enter that which is seen, nor does he enter that which is heard, smelled, tasted, felt, or thought. Thus he is called a Stream-enterer. O Lord, if the Stream-enterer were to have the thought: ‘I have attained the stage of Stream-enterer’, then he would be seizing upon a self, seizing upon a being, seizing upon a soul, seizing upon a man.”

9b The Lord said, “What do you think, Subhuti? Does a Once-returner ever have the thought: ‘I have attained the stage of Once-returner’?” Subhuti said, “No indeed, Lord. A Once-returner does not have the thought: ‘I have attained the stage of Once-returner’. And why? Because there is no dharma whatsoever which enters the stage of Once-returner; thus is the Once-returner spoken of.”

9c “Subhuti, what do you think? Does a Non-Returner ever have the thought: ‘I have attained the stage of Non-returner’?” Subhuti said, “No indeed, Lord. A Non-returner never has the thought that he has attained the stage of Non-returner. Why? There is no dharma whatsoever which observes that it is a Non-returner; thus is the Non-returner spoken of.”

9d The Lord said, “What do you think, Subhuti? Does an Arhat ever have the thought: ‘I have attained arhatship’?” Subhuti said, “No indeed, Lord. And why? Because there is no dharma whatsoever, Lord, which is called an Arhat. If an Arhat were to have the thought: ‘I have attained arhatship’, then he would indeed be seizing upon a self, seizing upon a living being, seizing upon a soul, seizing upon a man.”

9e “I am the one, Lord, whom the Tathagata, the Arhat, the Fully Enlightened One called foremost among those who dwell in peace. I am, Lord, an Arhat, free of passion. But the thought does not arise in me, Lord, that I am an Arhat. If, O Lord, I could have the thought that I had attained arhatship, then the Tathagata would not have said of me, ‘Subhuti, this son of a good family, who is foremost among those who dwell in peace’. But a dweller in peace does not dwell anywhere; thus is a dweller in peace spoken of.”

14a Thereupon the impact of Dharma moved the Venerable Subhuti to tears. Having wiped away his tears he said to the Lord: “It is wonderful, O Lord, it is exceedingly wonderful, O Well-Gone, how well the Tathagata has taught this discourse on the Dharma. Ever since cognition was produced in me, Lord, I have not heard such a discourse on the Dharma. Most wonderfully blessed will be those who, when this Sutra is being taught, have true knowledge. And that which is true knowledge, that is indeed no knowledge (abhuta-samjna); thus the Tathagata speaks of true knowledge.

It is not difficult for me to accept and believe this discourse on Dharma when it is being taught. However those beings who will be in a future period, in the last time, in the last epoch, in the last 500 years, at the time of the collapse of the good doctrine, and who, O Lord, take up this Sutra, memorize it, recite it, study it, and illuminate it in full for others, those will be most wonderfully blessed. However, no knowledge of a self will arise in them, nor of a being, a soul, or a man. And why? That, O Lord, which is knowledge of self, that is indeed non-knowledge (a-samjna). That which is knowledge of a being, a soul or a man, that is indeed non-knowledge. And why? Because the Buddhas, the Lords, have left all knowledge behind.”

14d The Lord said: “So it is, Subhuti. Most wonderfully blessed will be those beings who, upon hearing this Sutra, do not tremble or become frightened or terrified. And why? The Tathagata has demonstrated this to be the highest perfection (parama-paramita). And what the Tathagata demonstrates to be the highest perfection, that also do the innumerable Blessed Buddhas teach. Thus do I speak of the highest perfection.”

14e The Perfection of Forbearance (Ksanti Paramita)

“Furthermore, Subhuti, the Tathagata’s perfection of forbearance is really non-perfection.6 And why? Because, Subhuti, while my body was being dismembered by the King of Kalinga7 I had no knowledge of a self, of a being, of a soul, or a man. And why? If, Subhuti, I had had knowledge of self, ill-will would have arisen in me; and likewise if I had had knowledge of a being, of a soul, or of a man. With my supernormal power I remember that I was the Rishi8 of Forbearance for five hundred lifetimes. During that time, too, I had no knowledge of a self, a being, a soul, or a man.”

Sickness or poverty, hunger or thirst — whatever God sends you or does not send you, what He grants you or withholds, that is best for you. Even should you lack fervour and inwardness — whatever you have or lack, be minded to honour God in all things, and then whatever He sends you will be for the best. Be sure, if it were not God’s will it would not be. You have neither sickness nor anything else unless God wills it. And so, knowing it is God’s will, you should so rejoice in it and be content that pain would be no pain to you. – Meister Eckhart (Sermon Forty)

“Therefore, Subhuti, Bodhisattvas, great beings, are to separate themselves from all appearances in order to cultivate the mind of utmost, perfect enlightenment. They are to cultivate a mind which does not dwell in that which is seen; they are to cultivate a mind which does not dwell in that which is heard, smelled, tasted, felt, or thought; they are to cultivate a mind which does not dwell on dharmas or adharmas; they are to cultivate a mind which does not dwell on anything. And why? True dwelling is non-dwelling. For this reason the Tathagata teaches that giving is to be practiced without dwelling on forms.”

14f “Subhuti, when Bodhisattvas give in this manner it benefits all sentient beings. The Tathagata teaches that all marks are no marks, and all sentient beings are non-beings. And why? Because the Tathagata speaks in accordance with the Dharma, speaks the truth, speaks of what is, not otherwise. A Tathagata does not speak falsely. However, Subhuti, in that Dharma to which the Tathagata has fully awakened and which he has taught, there is neither truth nor falsehood.”

14g “Subhuti, in the darkness one sees nothing; just so should one should regard a Bodhisattva who has fallen among things and who gives a gift while dwelling among things. When the night sky lightens and the sun rises, a man endowed with sight sees myriad forms; just so, Subhuti, should one regard a Bodhisattva who gives a gift without dwelling among things.”

16 “Subhuti, those sons and daughters of good family who take up these Sutras and memorize them, recite and study them, they will be humbled, well humbled they will be! And why? Whatever wrongful deeds (karma) leading to evil paths that these beings have done in their former lives, in this very life they will, by that humiliation, exhaust those wrongful deeds of former lives, and they will attain the enlightenment of a Buddha.”

17a Subhuti asked: “How, O Lord, should one who has set out in the Bodhisattva path stand, how advance, how still his thoughts? The Lord replied: “Here, Subhuti, someone who has set out in the Bodhisattva path should form the following thought: ‘All beings I must lead to Nirvana, into that Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind; and yet, after beings have thus been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana’. And why? If in a Bodhisattva knowledge of a being should arise, he could not be called a Bodhisattva, and likewise if knowledge of a soul, or a man should arise in him. And why? Because he who has set out in the Bodhisattva path is not one of the dharmas.”

17b “What do you think Subhuti, when I was with the Tathagata Dipankara, is there any Dharma (doctrine) by which I fully came to know utmost, perfect enlightenment?” Subhuti replied: “There is no Dharma by which the Tathagata, when he was with the Tathagata Dipankara, fully came to know utmost, perfect enlightenment.”

The Lord said: “So it is, Subhuti, so it is: there is no Dharma by which the Tathagata,
when he was in the presence of Dipankara, the Tathagata, Arhat, Fully Enlightened
One, fully came to know utmost, perfect enlightenment. Moreover, Subhuti, if I had fully known some Dharma, the Tathagata Dipankara would not have predicted of me: ‘You, young Brahmin, will in a future time be a Tathagata, Arhat, fully Enlightened One, by the name of Shakyamuni!’ And why? The name Tathagata is a synonym for Suchness.”

17d “Should anyone say, Subhuti, that the Tathagata has fully known utmost, perfect enlightenment, he would be speaking a falsehood. There is no Dharma (Reality) to which the Tathagata has fully awakened as utmost, perfect enlightenment. In the Dharma to which the Tathagata has fully awakened, there is no orthodox and no heterodox. Therefore the Tathagata preaches: ‘All Dharmas (doctrines) are the Buddha-Dharma’. And why? Subhuti, the Tathagata has demonstrated that all Dharmas (doctrines) are adharmas (non-things); thus all Dharmas are said to be the Buddha-Dharma.”

17f The Lord said: “Subhuti, the Bodhisattva who would say: ‘I will lead beings to Nirvana’ is not to be called a Bodhisattva. And why? Is there, Subhuti, any dharma called a Bodhisattva?” Subhuti replied: “No, O Lord, there is no dharma called a Bodhisattva.” The Lord said: “Therefore the Tathagata teaches: ‘Devoid of self are all dharmas; devoid of a being, devoid of a soul, devoid of a man–all dharmas are thus’. (Niratmanah sarvadharma, nihsattvah nirjiva nispudgalah sarva-dharma iti.) However, Subhuti, the Bodhisattva who remains focused on ‘Devoid of a self are all dharmas’, him the Tathagata, the Arhat, the fully Enlightened One has declared to be a Bodhisattva, a great being.”

18b The Lord said: “What do you think, Subhuti, has the Tathagata used the phrase, ‘as many grains of sand as there are in the great river Ganges’?” Subhuti replied: “So it is, O Lord, so it is, O Well-Gone! The Tathagata has done so.” The Lord asked: “What do you think, Subhuti, if there were as many Ganges rivers as there are grains of sand in the great river Ganges, and if there were as many world-systems as there are grains of sand in them, would those world-systems be many?” Subhuti replied: “So it is, O Lord, so it is, O Well-Gone, those world-systems would be many.” The Lord said: “However many beings are in those world systems, I know, in my wisdom, their manifold patterns of thought. And why? Subhuti, the Tathagata has shown ‘patterns of thought’ to be no patterns of thought; thus do I speak of patterns of thought. And why? Past thought is unattainable, future thought is unattainable, present thought is unattainable.”

21 The Lord asked: “What do you think, Subhuti, does the Tathagata have the thought: ‘I have taught the Dharma’? Subhuti, whosoever were to say, ‘The Tathagata has taught the Dharma’ would speak falsely; he would misrepresent me by seizing upon what is not. And why? The teaching of the Dharma, Subhuti, is that there is no dharma which could be grasped as a teaching of the Dharma.”

Subhuti asked: “Are there, O Lord, any beings in the future, in the last time, in the last epoch, in the last 500 years, at the time of the collapse of the good doctrine who, upon hearing such teachings, will truly believe?” The Lord replied: “Subhuti, they are neither beings nor non-beings. And why? Subhuti, all beings have been shown by the Tathagata to be non-beings; thus do I speak of all beings.”

22 “What do you think, Subhuti, is there any Dharma by which the Tathagata has fully known utmost, perfect enlightenment?” Subhuti replied: “No indeed, O Lord, there is no Dharma by which the Tathagata has fully known utmost perfect enlightenment.” The Lord said: “So it is, Subhuti, so it is. Not even the least (anu) dharma is to be found or grasped there: thus do I speak of utmost (anuttara), perfect enlightenment.”

23 “Furthermore, Subhuti, that Dharma is of a sameness (shama), and nothing is therein at variance (vishama). Thus do I speak of utmost, perfect enlightenment. Of a sameness due to the absence of a self, a being, a soul, or a man, utmost, perfect enlightenment is fully known as the totality of all of the wholesome dharmas. Furthermore, Subhuti, the Tathagata has shown wholesome dharmas to be adharmas (non-things); thus do I speak of wholesome dharmas.”

25 “What do you think, Subhuti, in the Tathagata does the thought arise, ‘Beings have been liberated by me’? You should not see it thus, Subhuti! And why? There is not a single being who has been liberated by the Tathagata. Furthermore, if there had been any being liberated by the Tathagata, then surely the Tathagata would be seizing upon a self, a being, a soul, a man. Subhuti, the Tathagata has taught that seizing upon a self is non-seizing, yet the foolish ordinary men seize upon it. Furthermore, Subhuti, the Tathagata has taught that foolish ordinary men are non-men; thus do I speak of foolish ordinary men.”

26 “What do you think, Subhuti, is the Tathagata recognized by the marks he possesses?
Subhuti replied: “No indeed, O Lord. The Lord said: “If, Subhuti, the Tathagata could be
recognized by the marks he possesses, then a wheel-turning sage king would also be a Tathagata.9 Therefore the Tathagata is not recognized by the marks he possesses.”

Further, the Lord spoke on that occasion the following verse:

Those who by my form did know me
And those who followed me by my voice
Engaged in wrong efforts
Those people will not see me

By the Dharma [taught] does one recognize the Buddhas
From their Dharmabodies comes their guidance
Yet the Dharma’s true nature cannot be discerned
And no one can be conscious of it as an object

27 “Subhuti, No one should say to you: ‘Those who have set out in the Bodhisattva-path have conceived the destruction of a dharma, or its annihilation’. Not so should you see it, Subhuti. For those who have set out in the Bodhisattva-path have not conceived the destruction of a dharma or its annihilation.”

28 “Subhuti, suppose a Bodhisattva, in the practice of giving, filled as many world realms with the Seven Precious Treasures as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. If there is a man with the awareness that all dharmas are void of self, and if he accomplishes their complete extinction, then this is superior, and the merits attained by this Bodhisattva surpass those of the former. Subhuti, this is because Bodhisattvas do not receive merit.” Subhuti asked the Buddha: “Lord, why do you say that Bodhisattvas do not receive merit?” “Subhuti, in order for Bodhisattvas to generate merit they should not covetously wish to acquire it; therefore it is said that they do not receive merit.”

29 “Whosoever says that the Tathagata goes or comes, stands, sits or lies down, he does not understand the meaning of my teaching. And why? Tathagata is the title given one who has not gone anywhere, nor come from anywhere. Therefore is he called Tathagata, Arhat, fully Enlightened One.”

31 “What do you think? Subhuti, if someone said that the Tathagata had taught a view (drishti) of a self, a view of a being, a view of a living soul, a view of a man, would he be speaking right?” Subhuti replied: “No indeed, O Lord, no indeed, O Well-Gone, he would not be speaking right. And why? The Tathagata has taught that [the proper] view of a self is no view; thus has he spoken of a view of a self.” The Lord said, “Subhuti, regarding all dharmas, one who is developing the mind of utmost, perfect enlightenment should thus know, thus see, and thus believe, not allowing knowledge of dharmas to arise. Subhuti, the true marks of dharmas are non-marks of dharmas; thus do I speak of marks of dharmas.”

32 And finally, Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva, a great being had filled world-systems immeasurable and incalculable with the seven precious things, and gave them as a gift to the Tathagatas, the Arhats, the fully Enlightened Ones, and if, on the other hand, a son or daughter of good family had taken from this Prajnaparamita Sutra but one stanza of four lines, and were to memorize, teach, recite and study it, and illuminate it in full for others, on the strength of that this latter would beget a greater quantity of merit, immeasurable and incalculable. How should he or she illuminate it? By not illuminating it. This is what I mean when I say: ‘he or she should illuminate it’.”

As a shooting star, spots before the eyes, a lamp
A fantasy, dew drops,  a bubble,
A dream, a lightning flash, a cloud,
So should one view what is conditioned.

Thus spoke the Lord. Enraptured, the Elder Subhuti, the monks and nuns, the pious laymen and laywomen, and the Bodhisattvas, and the whole world with its Gods, men, Asuras and Gandharvas rejoiced in the Lord’s teaching.

This completes the Diamond-hard Cutter of Perfect Wisdom.


1 The title, Lord: see Why is the Buddha called Bhagavat

2 The Bodhisattvas are called Mahasattvas because they take the great vow, because they want to do the great work, and because they want to arrive at the great place. – The Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra

3 samjna: knowledge of things as good or evil according to whether they affirm our existence or represent a threat to it. ‘Knowledge of another’ is the view of other beings as separate from oneself, which is an affirmation of one’s own selfhood.

4 Citta (pl. cittam) means consciousness. It is the nature that is aware of its object. No other dharma or nature can know anything including itself, but citta can know everything possible, including cittam. Citta always leads other nama dharma and rupa dharma (name-phenomena and form-phenomena). A citta arises, it passes away immediately after its arising. Another citta arises, and again it falls away. Next arises and dies out immediately. This kind of uninterruptedness is the manifestation of citta. There are immediate causes for arising of citta: these are cittam themselves, nama dharma and rupa dharma. (Wisdom Library)

5 Adharma is the negation of the word dharma: it is a non-thing. It refers to non-material things that exist only in the mind, such as ‘the Buddha’ and ‘the Dharma’ (doctrine), and it is just as impossible to grasp or obtain as a physical thing. The simile of the raft is that just as one abandons a raft as soon as one has crossed a river, one abandons doctrine as soon as it is no longer needed.

6 True perfection is no perfection because there is no such thing as a self that is perfected.

7 Kaliraja, or King Kalinga: In a previous existence, when the Buddha was a Bodhisattva, he dwelt in a certain mountain. The king went on a hunting trip to this mountain, bringing along his concubines. While the king was off hunting, the women found the Buddha stayed to hear him speak. The king came upon the scene and accused the Buddha of harboring passions. When the Buddha denied knowledge (samjna) of any passions the king cut off first his ear, then his nose, then his limbs in order to test him. Every part of his body grew back, which proved that the Bodhisattva had not experienced any passions. The tale illustrates that the Buddha had let go of desire (attachments), anger (aversions), and delusion — the three hindrances.

8 Rishi: A sanctified sage, saint, an ascetic, anchorite. See

9 The thirty-two features and eighty auspicious characteristics are various unusual physical marks possessed by a buddha. They derive from earlier Indian thought, where they were said to distinguish a wheel-turning king [Chakravarti Raja] or ideal ruler. (Burton Watson: Lin-chi)


Conze, Edward (1958). Buddhist Wisdom Books: Containing the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra. Translated and Explained by Edward Conze. London: Allen & Unwin. (Diamond-Sutra-Conze)

Paul Harrison, from two oldest surviving Sanskrit manuscript copies:
1. MS 2385, Schøyen Collection, edited by Harrison & Watanabe, is presumed to have come from Afghanistan, possibly the Bamiyan area, and is dated on paleographical grounds to the 6th–7th centuries.
2. The Gilgit Vajracchedikā, discovered in Northern Pakistan in 1931, and subsequently
edited by Chakravarti (1956), Dutt (1959), and Schopen (1989), and is dated 6th-7th centuries. (VajracchedikaSutraHarrison)

Also available, translated from the Chinese:

Hsuan Hua (2001). A General Explanation of the Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra. San Francisco: Sino-American Buddhist Association, Inc. (Diamond-Sutra-BTTS)

Hsuan HuaConze Humphreys Suzuki

Dhyana Master Hsuan Hua              D. T. Suzuki, Christmas Humphreys, Edward Conze

Eckhart: Sermon Eighty Seven

He becomes a monk in all the different creeds of the world
so that thereby he may free others from ignorance
and save them from falling into erroneous beliefs. – Vimalakirti Sutra

Question: “It said that the Great Way is very easy to find and easy to follow, yet no one who is in the world is capable of finding it and following it.”
Bodhidharma: “These words are true. Being above the world, unmoved, letting go, indifferent to it, not doing a single thing, is called following the Way. Not seeing a single thing is called seeing the Way. Not knowing a single thing is called cultivating the Way. Not practising a single thing is called practising the Way. Thus it is said to be easy to enter and easy to follow.” (Bodhidharma’s Method for Quieting the Mind)


Sermon Eighty Seven

Beatitude itself opened its mouth of wisdom and said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. All angels, all saints, and everything that was ever born must keep silent when the wisdom of the Father speaks, for all the wisdom of angels and all creatures is pure folly before the unfathomable wisdom of God. This wisdom has declared that the poor are blessed.

Now there are two kinds of poverty. The one is external poverty, and this is good and much to be commended in the man who practises it voluntarily for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he himself possessed this on earth. About this poverty I shall say no more now. But there is another poverty, an interior poverty, to which this word of our Lord applies when he says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.

Now I beg you to be like this in order that you may understand this sermon, for by the eternal truth I tell you that unless you are like this truth we are about to speak of, it is not possible for you to follow me.

Some people have asked me what poverty is in itself, and what a poor man is. This is how we shall answer.

Bishop Albert [Albertus Magnus] says a poor man is one who finds no satisfaction in all things God ever created, and this is well said. But we shall speak better, taking poverty in a higher sense: A poor man is one who wants nothing, knows nothing and has nothing. We shall now speak of these three points, and I beg you for the love of God to understand this wisdom if you can. But if you can’t understand it, don’t worry, because I am going to speak of such truth that few good people can understand.

Firstly, we say that a poor man is one who wants nothing. There are some who do not properly understand the meaning of this: these are the people who cling with attachment [Eigenschaft – possessiveness] to penances and outward practices, making much of these. May God have mercy on such folk for understanding so little of divine truth! These people are called holy from their outward appearances, but inwardly they are asses, for they are ignorant of the actual nature of divine truth. These people say that a poor man is one who wants nothing and they explain it this way: A man should so live that he never does his own will in anything, but should strive to do the dearest will of God. It is well with these people because their intention is right, and we commend them for it. May God in His mercy grant them the kingdom of heaven! But by God’s wisdom I declare that these folk are not poor men or similar to poor men. They are much admired by those who know no better, but I say that they are asses with no understanding of God’s truth. Perhaps they will gain heaven for their good intentions, but of the poverty we shall now speak of they have no idea.

If then, I were asked what is a poor man who wants nothing, I should reply as follows: As long as a man is so disposed that it is his will with which he would do the most beloved will of God, that man has not the poverty we are speaking about, for that man has a will to serve God’s will, and that is not true poverty! For a man to possess true poverty he must be as free of his created will as he was when he was not. For I declare by the eternal truth: as long as you have the will to do the will of God, and longing for eternity and God, you are not poor, for a poor man is one who wills nothing and desires nothing.

While I yet stood in my first cause, I had no God and was my own cause: then I wanted nothing and desired nothing, for I was bare being and the knower of myself in the enjoyment of truth. Then I wanted myself and wanted no other thing. What I wanted I was and what I was I wanted, and thus I was free of God and all things. But when I left my free will behind and received my created being, then I had a God. For before there were creatures, God was not ‘God’: He was That which He was. But when creatures came into existence and received their created being, then God was not ‘God’ in Himself: He was ‘God’ in creatures.

Now we say that God, inasmuch as He is ‘God’, is not the supreme goal of creatures, for the same lofty status is possessed by the least of creatures in God. And if it were the case that a fly had reason and could intellectually plumb the eternal abysm of God’s being out of which it came, we would have to say that God with all that makes Him ‘God’ would be unable to fulfil and satisfy that fly! Therefore let us pray to God that we may be free of God that we may gain the truth and enjoy it eternally, there where the highest angel, the fly and the soul are equal, there where I stood and wanted what I was, and was what I wanted. We conclude, then: if a man is to be poor of will, he must will and desire as little as he willed and desired when he was not. And this is the way for a man to be poor by not wanting.

Secondly, he is a poor man who knows nothing. We have sometimes said that a man should live as if he did not live either for himself, or for truth, or for God. But now we will speak differently and go further, and say: For a man to possess this poverty he must live so that he is unaware that he does not live for himself, or for truth, or for God. He must be so lacking in all knowledge that he neither knows nor recognises nor feels that God lives in him. More still, he must be free of all the understanding that lives in him, for when that man stood in the eternal being of God, nothing else lived in him: what lived there was himself. Therefore we declare that a man should be as free from his own knowledge as he was when he was not. That man should let God work as He will, and himself stand idle.

For all that ever came out of God, a pure activity is appointed. The proper work of man is to love and to know. Now the question is: Wherein does blessedness lie most of all? Some masters have said it lies in knowing, some say that it lies in loving; others say it lies in knowing and loving, and they say better. But we say it lies neither in knowing nor in loving, for there is something in the soul from which both knowledge and love flow, but it does not itself know or love in the way the powers of the soul do. Whoever knows this, knows the seat of blessedness. This has neither before nor after, nor is it expecting anything to come, for it can neither gain nor lose. And so it is deprived of the knowledge that God is at work in it; rather, it just is itself, enjoying itself God-fashion. It is in this manner, I declare, that a man should be so acquitted and free that he neither knows nor realises that God is at work in him; in that way can a man possess poverty.

The masters say God is a being, an intellectual being that knows all things. But we say God is not a being and not intellectual and does not know this or that. Thus God is free of all things, and so He is all things. To be poor in spirit, a man must be poor of all his own knowledge, not knowing any thing–not God, nor creature nor himself. For this it is needful that a man should desire to know and understand nothing of the works of God; in this way a man can be poor of his own knowledge.

Thirdly, he is a poor man who has nothing. Many people have said that perfection is attained when one has none of the material things of the earth, and this is true in one sense–when it is voluntary. But this is not the sense in which I mean it. I have said before, the poor man is not he who wants to fulfil the will of God but he who lives in such a way as to be free of his own will and of God’s will, as he was when he was not. Of this poverty we declare that it is the highest poverty. Secondly, we have said he is a poor man who does not know of the working of God within him. He who stands as free of knowledge and understanding as God stands of all things, has the purest poverty. But the third is the straightest poverty, of which we shall now speak: that is when a man has nothing.

Now pay earnest attention to this! I have often said, and eminent authorities say it too, that a man should be so free of all things and all works, both inward and outward, that he may be a proper abode for God where God can work. Now we shall say something else. If it is the case that a man is free of all creatures, of God and of self, and if it is still the case that God finds a place in him to work, then we declare that as long as this is in that man, he is not poor with the strictest poverty. For it is not God’s intention in His works that a man should have a place within himself for God to work in: for poverty of spirit means being so free of God and all His works, that God, if He wishes to work in the soul, is Himself the place where He works–and this He gladly does. For, if he finds a man so poor, then God performs His own work, and the man is passive to God within him, and God is His own place of work, being a worker in Himself. It is just here, in this poverty, that man enters into that eternal essence that once he was, that he is now and evermore shall remain. [. . . ]

So we say that a man should be so poor that he neither is nor has any place for God to work in. To preserve a place is to preserve distinction. Therefore I pray to God to make me free of God, for my essential being is above God, taking God as the origin of creatures. For in that essence of God in which God is above being and distinction, there I was myself and knew myself so as to make this man. Therefore I am my own cause according to my essence, which is eternal, and not according to my becoming, which is temporal. Therefore I am unborn, and according to my unborn mode I can never die. According to my unborn mode I have eternally been, am now and shall eternally remain. That which I am by virtue of birth must die and perish, for it is mortal, and so must perish with time. In my birth all things were born, and I was the cause of myself and all things; and if I had so willed it, I would not have been, and all things would not have been. If I were not, God would not be either. I am the cause of God’s being God: if I were not, then God would not be God. But you do not need to know this.

A great master says that his breaking-through is nobler than his emanation, and this is true. When I flowed forth from God, all creatures declared: ‘There is a God’; but this cannot make me blessed, for with this I acknowledge myself as a creature. But in my breaking-through, where I stand free of my own will, of God’s will, of all His works, and of God himself, then I am above all creatures and am neither God nor creature, but I am that which I was and shall remain for evermore. There I shall receive an imprint that will raise me above all the angels. By this imprint I shall gain such wealth that I shall not be content with God inasmuch as He is God, or with all His divine works, for this breaking-through guarantees to me that I and God are one. Then I am what I was, then I neither wax nor wane, for then I am an unmoved cause that moves all things. Here, God finds no place in man, for man by his poverty wins for himself what he has eternally been and shall eternally remain. Here, God is one with the spirit, and that is the strictest poverty one can find.

If anyone cannot understand this sermon, he need not worry. For so long as a man is not equal to this truth, he cannot understand my words, for this is a naked truth which has come direct from the heart of God.

That we may so live as to experience it eternally, may God help us. Amen.


M. O’C. Walshe. Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises Volume II. UK, Element Books Limited, 1987.


Q: What happens when you reach the desireless state?
Lester: Well, what is desire? Desire comes from thinking we are not the All. When you reach the desireless state, you see yourself as the All, as the sum total, and there’s no more need, there’s no more lack, everything is you. It’s not yours–you are it!
Q: So, it’s really a state of “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all this shall be added unto you.”*
Lester: Everything, every last atom in the universe. Please note that most of your questions have been on possessing, the possession of things. This indicates what you think happiness is. However, you will discover that should you obtain all the things you desire, you would still find yourself unhappy. You must go beyond the possessing state and reach the beingness realm where you only are. There you know that you lack nothing and that you are the infinite All. There lies the ultimate joy which is a deep and a most profound peace, the ultimate satiation.

*Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, How shall we be clothed?

For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.

But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought of the things for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matt 6:31)

Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom. Phoenix, Arizona: The Sedona Institute (p. 85). (Recorded in Los Angeles on February 10, 1966. “Mastering mind and matter”)

The Disciplines: Austerities, self-mortification and miracles

They may rightly and legitimately feast, who would have been as ready and willing to fast. – Meister Eckhart (Walshe, Vol. III, p. 38)

His disciples asked him, “Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity?
Jesus said to them, “If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits.
When you go into any region and walk about in the countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them.
After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it’s what comes out of your mouth that will defile you.” (Gospel of Thomas, Meyers, ed.)

“If you do not fast [away] from the world, you will not find the kingdom.” (Gospel of Thomas)

If I felt a craving for food, I would have to eat. – Giri Bala

The ancient practices of asceticism and self-mortification are not often discussed. To many they may look like symptoms of suicidal depression, and in truth these practices are part of a process of spiritual self-murder. However, a depressed person identifies with the ego-self, and because of this he suffers from moral pain, whereas an ascetic feels no psychological pain because he knows that he is more than a mind and body. He also feels much less physical discomfort, because sensation (vedana) is uncoupled from fear.

As the word ‘self-mortification’ implies, these are practices that come from self-will. They involve fasting, slowing or stopping the breath (kriya yoga), going without sleep, enduring the cold (tumo training), and spending long hours sitting or kneeling in meditation or prayer. What the different practices all have in common is that they imitate what sages can do effortlessly, but they also imitate the abilities of sorcerers. And because the same feats have been accomplished by people with no spiritual attainment whatsoever — free divers who hold their breathe, the natives of southern Chile who were impervious to the cold — there is nothing inherently meritorious in them. In fact, masterful musical performances, ballet, and athletic or gymnastic feats are no less of the mind. Is there a difference between levitating and perfectly landing a triple axel? One could argue that a skater who can land a triple axel has more skill than a lung gom runner who has to wear chains because he can’t stay on the ground!

D. T. Suzuki (1971) makes an excellent point about the essential lack of difference between the unenlightened and the sage:

The Buddha-nature is in every one of us, in every sentient being. Only when we see it do we recognize the Bodhisattva in one of his transformations. When a Manjusri or a Samantabhadra, or an Avalokitesvara is thus brought to our own social level, we meet him or her every day and everywhere in our daily life. The meanest thing we do, the most insignificant deed we perform, is the Bodhisattva’s vikurvita, and all the wonders achieved by the Indian Mahayanists and recorded so grandly in their various sutras have also been performed by Hjui-neng and Hung-jen, Han-shan and Shi-te; more than that by every Tom Dick and Harry. What is needed to become aware of this, to see how it is done, is only to open our own Prajna-eye. (pp. 382-383)

A story told by Alexandra David-Neel (1931) makes the point that the goal is not to be able to do miraculous things, but to attain the wisdom that sees everything as the movement of Mind:

It is said that the Buddha was once journeying with some of his disciples and met an emaciated Yogin, all alone in a hut in the middle of a forest. The Master stopped and inquired how long the man had been living there, practicing austerities.
“Twenty-five years,” answered the Yogin. “And what power have you acquired by such long and arduous exertion?” asked the Buddha. “I am able to cross a river by walking on the water,” proudly replied the anchorite.
“My poor fellow,” said the Buddha with commiseration, “have you really wasted so many years for such trifling result? Why, the ferry man will take you to the opposite bank for a small coin.” (“Psychic Sports”)

The monastic life in China, Japan and Tibet was severe, and it was not unusual for masters to strike and abuse their students. This was done in order to provoke an emotional reaction, to make the monk feel bad, so that he would see the “I” that felt bad. Ksanti is the perfection of patient sufferance: its aim is to humble the ego. Masters who hit a student were giving him the opportunity to practice ksanti by giving his egos a whack, and it was very effective. Since the student respond to the master he was forced to direct his anger against the real source of his pain, the ego.

All of you: if it’s for the sake of the Dharma, don’t hesitate to sacrifice your bodies or give up your lives! Twenty years ago, when I was at Huang-po’s place, I asked three times what was central point of Buddhism, and three times he was good enough to hit me with his stick. It was as though he had brushed me with a sprig of mugwort. Thinking of it now, I wish I could get hit once more like that. Is there anyone who can give me such a blow? – Lin-chi

The most dramatic practice of self-mortification is found in Tibet: it is called chöd (written gchod). As described by Alexandra David-Neel (1931), chöd is an elaborate ritual of self-sacrifice in which the sorcerer’s apprentice, or naljorpa, emaciated by austerity and placed in a terrifying setting, blows a trumpet made from a human femur and summons hungry demons to feast on his body. As a practice which accomplishes several things at once, it has no equal.

He imagines that a feminine deity, which esoterically personifies his own will, springs from the top of his head and stands before him, sword in hand. With one stroke she cuts off the head of the naljorpa. Then, while troops of ghouls crowd round for the feast, the goddess severs his limbs, skins him and rips open his belly. The bowels fall out, the blood flows like a river, and the hideous guests bite here and there, masticate noisily, while the celebrant excites and urges them with the liturgic words of unreserved surrender:

“For ages, in the course of renewed births I have borrowed from countless living beings — at the cost of their welfare and life — food, clothing, all kinds of services to sustain my body, to keep it joyful in comfort and to defend it agaist death. Today I pay my debt, offering for destruction this body which I have held so dear. . . . Shame on me if I shrink from giving myself! Shame on you, wretched and demoniac beings, if you do not dare to prey upon it. . . .”

This act of the mystery is called the “red meal.” It is followed by the “black meal,” whose mystic signification is disclosed only to those disciples who have received an initiation of high degree.

The vision of the demoniacal banquet vanishes, to laughter and cries of the ghouls die away. Utter loneliness in a gloomy landscape succeeds the weird orgy, and the exaltation aroused in the naljorpa by his dramatic sacrifice gradually subsides.

Now he must imagine that he has become a small heap of charred human bones that emerges from a lake of black mud — the mud of misery, of moral defilement, and of harmful deeds to which he has co-operated during the course of numberless lives, whose origin is lost in the night of time. He must realize that the very idea of sacrifice is but an illusion, an offshoot of blind, groundless pride. In fact, he has nothing to give away, because he is nothing. These useless bones, symbolizing the destruction of his phantom I, may sink into the muddy lake–it will not matter. (“Dealing With Ghosts and Demons”)

Something that is very important to understand about the disciplines is that their sole purpose is the cultivation of the mind. The epitome of this principle is Layman P’ang. He was born a Confucian and had inherited some wealth, but upon converting to Buddhism he loaded all of his money and possessions onto a boat and sunk them in the middle of a river. He felt his wealth was a burden which kept him in bondage, and he didn’t wish to lay this burden on anyone else. He was following the Diamond Sutra, which teaches that the highest perfection of giving is to regard one’s possessions as nothing.

The cultivation of the mind focuses on three hindrances, or klesa: attachment, aversion and delusion. By forcing us to confront our craving for existence, our fear of death and our delusion of the reality of the body, self-mortification addresses all three at once. As an illustration, part of the chöd consists of a dance in which the celebrant turns successively towards the four quarters, reciting “I trample down the demon of pride, the demon of anger, the demon of craving, the demon of ignorance.” Understanding the threefold purpose of disciplines, we then need to know whether they create more karma than they destroy; that is, whether they do more harm than good. To answer this question I think we can justly compare Lester Levenson’s experience to that of the Zen master, Hakuin.

Lester never went through any disciplines; what he did was to focus his mind on just one question at a time. When his practice of loving others produced an awakening into samadhi, he set about bringing all of his subconscious feelings to consciousness and letting go of them. After three months of this intense self-examination and letting go, during which the psychic powers “fell” on him, he was instantly cured of all of his illnesses. Hakuin, on the other hand, went through years of arduous disciplines, and even gave himself an illness he called Zen sickness. I think that Lester’s path demonstrates that if one is zealous enough in investigating, in letting go of attachments and aversions, in reducing the self to nothing and finally going beyond it, the disciplines are unnecessary. Since Lester’s Self-realization came about so quickly it’s impossible to examine each thing he did separately, but later on he taught his students that mastery over the body could be achieved without extreme measures–by cultivating the mind.

It is not to encourage imitation that sages go without food, water, sleep, breathing, or show their insensibility to the cold, but rather, as Giri Bala said, “To show that man is spirit.” Sages usually choose not to put their powers on display because this only produces the “Jesus effect” — making students believe that the master is an other-worldly being.

Masters are also aware that extraordinary exertions produce karma, as Lin-chi makes clear:

Those who go off to live all alone on a solitary mountain, eating only one meal a day at dawn, sitting in meditation without lying down through the six periods — such persons are only producers of karma. Then there are those who renounce their head and eyes, marrow and brains, their domains and cities, wives and children, elephants, horses, the seven precious things — giving them all away. People who think thus are all inflicting pain on their body and mind, and in consequence will invite a painful retribution. Better to do nothing, to be simple, no more. Then even the Bodhisattvas who have completed the ten stages will be seeking the traces1 of you, Followers of the Way, and will not find them. All the devas rejoice, the spirits of the earth support your feet, and all of the Buddhas of the ten directions do not withhold their praise. And why? Because this man of the Way who is now listening to the Dharma acts in a manner which leaves no traces.(Lin-chi (Rinzai))

1. Traces: karma.

One final observation on sleep is in order. Monks detest going to sleep, because they have no control over the id — it runs wild and indulges all of the shameful passions that we are trying to do away with. The Chan Whip Anthology tells of a monk who kept himself awake by stabbing himself with an awl (a pointed tool for making holes in wood or leather). Another monk used a wooden ball as a pillow: when his head rolled off he would wake up and meditate. Zealous monks would put away their futons and not lie down for months on end, but as they confessed, this only exhausted them.

We know that we can’t rid ourselves of negative feelings by pushing them away; rather, we have to bring them into our consciousness and release them. Someone trying to do away with lust might be better off allowing the feeling to come up and observing it dispassionately rather than trying not to fall asleep. Sleep is actually very useful, because it reveals deeply buried feelings we may not even be aware of. When we dream of something that carries a strong feeling we can use the Release Technique the moment we wake up — before we even open our eyes. It is when every trace of the ego is gone that one does not require sleep.

Broughton, Jeffrey L. (2015). The Chan Whip Anthology. New York: Oxford University Press.

David-Neel, Alexandra (1931). Magic and Mystery in Tibet. London: Penguin Books. (

Guyon, J. M. B. de la Mot (1875). A Short Method of Prayer. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle.

Suzuki, D. T. (1971). Essays in Zen Buddhism (Third Series). New York: Samuel Weiser.

M. O’C. Walshe (1987). Meister Eckhart: Sermons & Treatises Volume III. UK: Element Books Limited.

The characteristics of things devoid of self-nature

Anatman Skt. (Pali, anatta); non-self, non-essentiality; one of the three marks (laksana) of every­thing existing. The anatman doctrine is one of the central teachings of Bud­dhism; it says that no self exists in the sense of an unchanging, eternal, integral, and independent substance. Thus in Buddhism the ego is no more than a transito­ry personality, consisting of the five aggregates (skandha). (Wisdom Library)

The translation of this title is awkward: it might be better understood as “Discourse on the Characteristics of Things Devoid of Self-Nature.”


Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: Discourse on the Characteristics of Not-Self

Translated from the Pali by N.K.G. Mendis © 2007

Thus it was heard by me. At one time the Blessed One was living in the deer park of Isipatana near Benares. There, indeed, the Blessed One addressed a group of monks regarding the five skandha.

“Form (rupa), O monks, is not Self. If form were Self, then form would not lead to passions (klesa), and it should obtain regarding form: ‘May my form be thus, may my form not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since form is not Self, therefore form leads to passions and it does not obtain regarding form: ‘May my form be thus, may my form not be thus.’

“Feeling (vedana), O monks, is not Self. If feeling were Self, then feeling would not lead to passions, and it should obtain regarding feeling: ‘May my feeling be thus, may my feeling not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since feeling is not Self, therefore feeling leads to passions, and it does not obtain regarding feeling: ‘May my feeling be thus, may my feeling not be thus.’

“Knowledge (samjna), O monks, is not Self. If knowledge were Self, then knowledge would not lead to passions and it should obtain regarding knowledge: ‘May my knowledge be thus, may my knowledge not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since knowledge is not Self, therefore knowledge leads to passions, and it does not obtain regarding knowledge: ‘May my knowledge be thus, may my knowledge not be thus.’

“Mental formations (samskara), O monks, are not Self. If mental formations were Self, then mental formations would not lead to passions, and it should obtain regarding mental formations: ‘May my mental formations be thus, may my mental formations not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since mental formations are not Self, therefore, mental formations lead to passions, and it does not obtain regarding mental formations: ‘May my mental formations be thus, may my mental formations not be thus.’

“Consciousness (vijnana), O monks, is not Self. If consciousness were Self, then consciousness would not lead to passions and it should obtain regarding consciousness: ‘May my consciousness be thus, may my consciousness not be thus.’ And indeed, O monks, since consciousness is not Self, therefore, consciousness leads to passions, and it does not obtain regarding consciousness: ‘May my consciousness be thus, may my consciousness not be thus.’

“What do you think, O monks? Is form permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, O Lord.”

“Now, it being impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, O Lord.”

“Now, form being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to view it thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my Self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“What do you think, O monks? Is feeling permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, O Lord.”

“Now, it being impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, O Lord.”

“Now, feeling being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to view it thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my Self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“What do you think, O monks? Is knowledge permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, O Lord.”

“Now, it being impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, O Lord.”

“Now, knowledge being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to view it thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my Self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“What do you think, O monks? Are mental formations permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, O Lord.”

“Now, they being impermanent, are they unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, O Lord.”

“Now, mental formations being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to view them thus: ‘These are mine, these I am, these are my Self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“Now what do you think, O monks? Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, O Lord.”

“Now, it being impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”

“Unsatisfactory, O Lord.”

“Now, consciousness being impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard it thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my Self’?”

“Indeed, not, O Lord.”

“Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever forms, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those forms must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: ‘These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.’

“Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever feelings, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those feelings must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: ‘These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.’

“Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever knowledge, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all of that knowledge must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: ‘These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.’

“Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever mental formations, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those mental formations must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: ‘These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.’

“Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever consciousness, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that consciousness must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self.’

“O monks, the well-instructed noble disciple, seeing thus, becomes wearied of form, becomes wearied of feeling, becomes wearied of knowledge, becomes wearied of mental formations, becomes wearied of consciousness. Being wearied, he becomes free of passions. In his freedom from passions, he is emancipated. Being emancipated, there is the knowledge that he is emancipated. He knows: ‘Birth is exhausted, lived is the holy life, what had to be done is done, there is nothing more of this becoming.’ ”

This the Blessed One said. Pleased, the monks were delighted with the exposition of the Blessed One; moreover, as this exposition was being spoken, the minds of the monks were freed of passions, without attachment.

Madame Guyon: Letter to Gregory

To M. Gregoire Bouvieres de La Mothe.

My Dear Brother,

It is always with the greatest pleasure that I receive any tidings from you; but your last letter gave me more satisfaction than any previous ones. You are the only remaining member of our family who appears to understand the dealings of God with me, and to appreciate my situation. I receive your letter as a testimonial of Christian union and sympathy.

The Lord has seen fit to bless me much in the labours for a revival of inward religion, especially in Grenoble, where the work was very wonderful.

I speak to you, my dear brother, without reserve. And in the first place, my soul, as it seems to me, is united to God in such a manner that my own will is entirely lost in the Divine will. I live, therefore, as well as I can express it, out of myself and all other creatures, in union with God, because in union with His will. . . . It is thus that God, by His sanctifying grace, has become to me ALL in ALL. The self which once troubled me is taken away, and I find it no more. And thus God, being made known in things or events, which is the only way in which the I AM, or Infinite Being, can be made known, everything becomes, in a certain sense, God to me. I find God in everything that is, and in everything that comes to pass. The creature is nothing; God is ALL.

And if you ask why it is that the Lord has seen fit to bless me in my labours, it is because He has first, by taking away my own will, made me a nothing. And in recognising the hand of the Lord, I think I may well speak of God’s agency physically as well as mentally; since He has sustained me in my poor state of health and in my physical weakness. Weak as I have been, He has enabled me to talk during the day and to write at night. After the labours of the day, I have, for some time past, spent a portion of the night in writing commentaries on the Scriptures. I began this at Grenoble; and though my labours were many and my health was poor, the Lord enabled me, in the course of six months, to write on all the books of the Old Testament.

I am willing, in this as in other things, to commit all to God, both in doing and suffering. To my mind it is the height of blessedness to cease from our own action in order that God may act in us.

And this statement, my dear brother, expresses my own condition, as it is my prayer that it may express yours.

In such a state, riches and poverty, and sorrow and joy, and life and death, are the same. In such a state is the true heavenly rest, the true Paradise of the spirit.

In the hope and prayer that we may always be thus in the Lord, I remain, in love, your sister,

Jeanne Marie B. de la Mothe Guyon

Dec. 12, 1689


Upham, Thomas C. (1858). Life of Madame de La Mothe Guyon. London: Sampson Low, Son, and Co. (p. 305). (Upham-Madame-Guyon)

Madame Guyon: The surest way to arrive at divine union

[Note on translation: The following is an excerpt from A Short Method of Prayer. It was written between 1681 and 1682, after Jeanne had moved to Geneva but before she had left Gex to stay with the Ursulines at Tolon. A. W. Marston’s translation from the Paris Edition of 1790 is followed here, with some minor changes. – Editor]

A Short Method of Prayer



An act is an action that is good, useless or offensive. The actions of creatures are either external or internal. The external are those that appear outwardly and have their object in the realm of the senses, having neither good nor evil qualities in themselves except those that are attached to them by the motivating principle. It is not of these that I intend to speak, but only of internal actions, those actions of the soul by which it turns inwardly toward some object or turns away from another.

When, being turned toward God, I desire to perform an action of a different nature from those that He would prompt, I turn away from God and I turn towards created things to a greater or lesser degree according to the force or weakness of my action. If, being turned towards the creature, I wish to return to God, I must perform the action of turning away from the creature and turning towards God. The more perfect is this action, the more complete will be the conversion.

Until I am perfectly converted, I need several actions to turn me towards God. Some are performed all at once, others gradually; but my action ought to lead me to turn to God, employing all the strength of my soul for Him. As it is written, “Therefore even now, saith the Lord, turn you even to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12); “You shalt return unto the Lord your God . . . with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 30:2). God only asks for our heart: “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (Prov. 23:26). To give one’s heart to God is to have its gaze, its strength, and its vigour all centred on Him, to follow His will. We must, then, after we have applied to God, remain always turned towards Him.

But as the mind of the creature is weak, and the soul, accustomed as it is to turn towards worldly things, is easily turned away from God, as soon as it perceives that it is turned towards outward things it must resume its former position in God by a simple act of returning to Him. And as several repeated acts form a habit, the soul acquires a habit of conversion, and from action it passes to a habitual condition.

The soul, then, must not seek by means of any efforts or works of its own to come near to God; this is seeking to perform one action by means of others [indirect action], instead of by a single [direct] action of remaining attached to God alone.

If we believe that we must commit no actions, we are mistaken, for we are always acting; but each one must act according to his degree. I will endeavour to make this point clear, as, for want of understanding it, it presents a difficulty to many Christians.

There are passing and distinct actions, and continuous actions; indirect actions and direct actions. Not everyone can perform the first, and not everyone is in a condition to perform the others. The first actions [passing and distinct] must be performed by those who are turned away from God. They must turn to Him by a distinct action, more or less strong according to their distance from Him.

By a continuous action I mean that by which the soul is completely turned towards its God by a direct action, which it does not renew, unless it has been interrupted, but which subsists. The soul altogether turned in this way is in love and remains there: “And he that dwells in love, dwells in God” (1 John 4:16). Then the soul may be said to be in a habitual action, resting even in this action. But its rest is not idle, for it has an action always in force: a gentle sinking in God, in which God attracts it more and more strongly. And, following this attraction and abiding in love, it sinks more and more in this love, and has an action infinitely stronger, more vigorous, and more prompt than that action which forms only the return to God. Now the soul which is in this profound and strong action, being turned towards its God, does not perceive this action because it is direct and not indirect, so that people in this condition, not knowing how rightly to describe it, say that they have no action. But they are mistaken — they were never more active. It would be better to say they do not perceive any action than that they do not perform any.

The soul does not act of itself, I admit, but it is drawn, and it follows the attracting power. Love is the weight which sinks it, as a person who falls in the sea sinks, and it would sink to infinity if the sea were infinite, and without perceiving its sinking it would sink to the most profound depths with incredible speed. It is, then, incorrect to say that no actions are performed. All perform actions, but not everyone performs them in the same manner, and the error arises from the fact that those who know that action is inevitable wish it to be distinct and sensed. But action that is sensed is for beginners, and the other for those more advanced. To stop at the first would be to deprive ourselves of the last, and to wish to perform the last before having passed the first would also be a mistake.

Everything must be done in its season; each state has its beginning, its progress, and its end — there is no act which has not its beginning. At first we must work with effort, but afterwards we enjoy the fruit of our labour. When a galley is in the harbour, the sailors labour to row it out to the open sea; but once there they easily set course. Just so, when the soul is in sin it needs an effort to pull it out; the ties that bind it must be loosened. Then, by means of strong and vigorous action, it must be drawn within itself, little by little leaving the harbour and being turned within, which is the place to which it should be steered.

When the vessel is offshore the sails catch the wind and the oars are useless. What does the master do then? He is content to set the sails and remain at the helm. Setting the sails is simply laying ourselves before God to be moved by His Spirit; remaining at the helm is preventing our heart from abandoning the right way, steering it gently and guiding it according to the movement of God’s spirit, who gradually takes possession of it, [just] as the wind gradually fills the galley’s sails and carries it forward. So long as the vessel sails by the wind the oarsmen rest from their labour; they travel farther by the wind in an hour than they would in a much longer time rowing; and if they attempted to row, besides the fatigue that would result, their labour would only serve to slow the vessel.1

This is the conduct we should pursue in our inner life, and in acting thus we shall advance more in a short time by the Divine guidance, than we ever could do by our own efforts. If only you will try this way, you will find it the easiest possible.

When the mind gets free enough, then the Self of you takes over and you are from then on Self-propelled. – Lester Levenson




It is impossible to attain divine union by the way of meditation alone, or even by the affections, or by any luminous or understood prayer. There are several reasons; these are the main ones. First, according to Scripture, “No man shall see God and live” (Exod. xxxiii. 20). Now all discursive exercises of prayer, or even of active contemplation, regarded as an end and not as a preparation for the passive, are exercises of life by which we cannot see God, that is, become united with Him. All that is of man and of his own industry, however noble and elevated it may be, must die.

St John tells us, “there was silence in heaven.” Heaven represents the depths and centre of the soul, where all must be in silence when the majesty of God appears. All that belongs to our own efforts or to ourselves in any way must be destroyed. The self is a force opposed to God, and all the malignity of man lies in this self-appropriation, which is the source of his evil, so that the more a soul loses its appropriation (grasping, holding on), the more pure it becomes. Secondly, in order to unite two things so opposed as the purity of God and the impurity of the creature, the simplicity of God and the multiplicity of the creature, God must operate alone; for this can never be done by the effort of the creature, since two things cannot be united unless there is some relation or resemblance between them, as an impure metal would never unite with one that was pure and refined.

What does God do then? He sends before Him His own wisdom, as will be sent upon the Earth to consume by its activity all the impurity that is there. Fire consumes all things and nothing resists its activity; it is the same with wisdom. It consumes all impurity in the creature to prepare him for divine union.

This impurity, so opposed to union, is grasping and activity. Grasping, because it is the source of the real impurity that can never be united with essential purity. As the sun’s rays may touch the earth but cannot unite with it, so the divine never unites with grasping. Activity, because God being in an infinite 47 stillness, for the soul to be united to Him it must participate in His stillness, without which there can be no union because there is no likeness, and in order for two things to unite they must be in a like stillness. It is for this reason that the soul can only attain divine union by the pacification of its will, and it can only be united with God when it is in a central stillness and in the purity of its creation.

To purify the soul God makes use of wisdom as fire is used to purify gold . . . until it is fit to be employed in the most excellent workmanship. This being understood, I say that in order that the soul may be united with God, wisdom and divine justice, like a pitiless and devouring fire, 48 must take from him all grasping, all that is worldly, carnal, and of his own activity; and having taken all this from him, they must unite him to God. This is never brought about by the labours of the creature; on the contrary, it even causes him regret, because as I have said, man so loves what is his own and is so fearful of its destruction that if God did not accomplish it Himself and by His own authority, man would never consent to it.

Some will object that God never deprives man of his liberty, and that therefore he can always resist God, for which reason I ought not to say that God acts absolutely, without the consent of man. In explanation I say that it is sufficient that man should give a passive consent that he may have entire and full liberty. This is because having at the beginning given himself to God that He might do as He would both with him and in him, he gave from that time an active and general consent to all that God might do. But when God destroys, burns, and purifies, the soul does not see that all this is for its benefit — it rather believes the contrary. And since at first the fire seems to tarnish the gold, so this operation seems to despoil the soul of its purity, so if an active and explicit consent were required, the soul would find it hard to give it, and often would not give it. All that it does is to remain in a passive contentment, enduring this operation as well as it can, being neither able nor willing to prevent it.

God then so purifies this soul of all natural, distinct, and perceived operations that at last He makes it more and more conformed to Himself, and then uniform, raising the passive capacity of the creature, enlarging it and ennobling it, though in a hidden and unperceived manner which is termed mystical. But in all these operations the soul must concur passively, and as the working of God becomes stronger the soul must continually yield to Him until it is absorbed altogether.

We do not say, then, as some assert, that there must be no action, since, on the contrary, this is the door; but only that we must not remain in it, seeing that man should tend towards the perfection of his end, and that he can never reach it without quitting the first means, which, though they were necessary to introduce him into the way, would greatly hinder him afterwards if he obstinately attached himself to them. . . . 49 Should we not consider a person destitute of reason who, after undertaking a journey, stopped at the first inn because he was assured that several had passed it, that a few had lodged there, and that the landlord lived there? What the soul is required to do, then, is to advance towards its end, to take the shortest road, not to stop at the first point . . .

It is well known that the sovereign good is God, that essential blessedness consists in union with God, and that this union cannot be the result of our own efforts, since God only communicates Himself to the soul according to its capacity. We cannot be united with God without passivity and simplicity, and this union being bliss, the way that leads to it must be the best, and there can be no risk in walking in it.

This way is not dangerous. If it were, Christ would not have represented it as the most perfect and necessary of all ways. All can walk in it; and as all are called to blessedness, all are called to the enjoyment of God, both in this life and in that which is to come, since the enjoyment of God is blessedness. I say the enjoyment of God Himself, not of His gifts, which can never impart essential blessedness, not being able fully to satisfy the soul, which is so constituted that even the richest gifts of God cannot thoroughly content it. The desire of God is to give Himself to us, according to the capacity with which He has endowed us, and yet we fear to abandon ourselves to God! We fear to possess Him, and to be prepared for divine union!

You say we must not bring ourselves to this condition. I agree with that; but I say too, that no one ever could bring himself to it, since no man could ever unite himself to God by his own efforts, and God Himself must do the work.

You say that some pretend to have attained it. I say that this state cannot be feigned, any more than a man dying of hunger can for any length of time pretend to be satisfied. It will soon be known whether or not people have attained this end.

Since, therefore, none can arrive at the end unless he be brought there, it is not a question of introducing people to it but of showing them the way which leads to it, and begging them not to rest in those practices which must be relinquished at God’s command. 50

Would it not be cruelty to show a fountain to a thirsty man and then hold him bound and prevent his going to it, leaving him to die of thirst? That is what is being done now. Let us all be agreed both as to the way and the end. The way has its beginning, its progress, and its terminus. The more we advance towards the terminus, the farther we go from the beginning; and it is impossible to reach the terminus but by constantly going farther from the starting-point, being unable to go from one place to another without passing through all that comes between them: this is incontestable.

Oh, how blind are the majority of men, who pride themselves upon their learning and talent!

O Lord! how true it is that Thou hast hidden Thy secrets from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes!


1 Compare this analogy to Suzuki (1929): “This effortlessness is again compared in the Dasabhumika to a great seafaring boat. When the boat is not yet at sea, much labour is needed to make it move forward, but as soon as it reaches the ocean, no human power is required; let it alone and the wind will take care of it. One day’s navigation thus left to itself in the high seas will surely be more than equal to one hundred years of human labouring while still in the shallows. When the Bodhisattva accumulating the great stock of good deeds sails out onto the great ocean of Bodhisattvahood, one moment of effortless activity will infinitely surpass deeds of conscious striving.” (p. 226)


London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Searle, 1875. Printed by Ballantyne and Company, Edinburgh and London. (guyon_shortmethodofprayer)

Suzuki, D. T. (1998). Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. (originally published in 1929)