Down to earth meditation
MYSTERY and romance are words that most of us would immediately associate with the mysticism of Tibet. Nor are these false associations. Yet few people realise the truly scientific nature of Tibet’s secret oral teachings.
Far more fanciful and imaginative are our own occidental, materialistic and spiritualistic philosophies.
So searchingly do they lay bare our human conceits and desires, that many people find such teachings unacceptable. There are, of course, the obviously scientific statements that deal with the phenomenal and intangible world. “Movement”, they say, “constitutes the objects which appear to us-they are nothing but movement.” They teach that this movement arises as flashes of energy that vary infinitely; or, as we would call it, vibration. These flashes of energy form conjunctions, just as two notes on a piano form a third sound. These conjunctions form yet more unions, and these unities we call the various types of matter and objects.
THAT is easy enough for us to accept, because it seems to be so impersonal, and does not attack our convictions about ourselves. But the Masters of these secret teachings lead to more personal issues. They tell the student that “ALL AGGREGATES ARE IMPERMANENT.” That is again easy enough to accept. A house is the result of many bricks and timbers being put in a certain order. If these pieces are taken apart the house no longer exists. Therefore, no unity of two or more constituents is permanent.
Secret oral teachings
The secret teachings then go on to say that “ALL THINGS ARE DEVOID OF SELF” (Atman-Ego or Soul).” This leads us to the more personal issues. Human consciousness, man’s sense of having an individuality or ego, are the result of many things coming together. When these things separate there is no longer an ego or self, just as, above, there was no house.
The fact that an ego may continue to act without a body is no proof to them of immortality. It is still a unity of various forces, and may as such be dissolved. All that is permanent is what they call the VOID, which is primal and has no unity.
It seems likely, then, that all that is attainable through life is possibly a consciousness or realization of this void. As the void has no form, is without ego or self, it is difficult to see this as a promise of individual immortality.
THESE Masters even smile at the theory of reincarnation that so many are fighting to promulgate here in the West as an Eastern teaching. Certainly this is a Hindu doctrine, but the secret oral teachings of Tibet seek an analysis that gives the theory a completely different look. A man may he moved by the forces set in motion by Napoleon, Jesus and Franklin, but it does not mean that he is any of those people. An ego is a unity of all the forces that were set in motion in the past, along with the physical forces of his body and environment in the present. John Smith of today may be comprised of and moved by forces set in motion by an Arab of a hundred years ago; and those forces in turn were each moved similarly.
Nothing is permanent except change
But, they say, this does not suppose a permanent ego that moves from body to body like a man moving from house to house. There are certainly a host of others in us, but we are not they, and they are not us. Our only connection is through the influence they throw on this life through the forces they set in motion. Also, besides these past personalities, any practicing psychiatrist can observe how we are also the union of present people. Our mother and father, friends, and even books we read or films we see.
Whether that may, or may not be, the author finds more interesting the methods these Masters use to teach, and the disciplines they recommend. For instance, although the teachings they give are said to be secret, they clearly point out that the “Secret” depends, not on the Master, but on the hearer. Because of this they give their teachings only to those they consider to be on the verge of “seeing” ; and within their simple statements such students find tremendous power. After all, their aim is not to show the disciple a secret, but to give him methods to realize the secret for himself, and these methods really consist of mental attitudes.
An illustration of this last statement is that the very first suggestion they give to the student is to DOUBT! It is only through doubt that one will come to analyse truly and understand those things their attention is directed to. Following this they are given this advice, spoken by the Buddha. “Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honor for many generations and in many places ; do not believe anything because many people speak of it ; do not believe on the strength of sages of old times ; do not believe that which you have yourself imagined, thinking that a god has inspired you. Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or of priests. After investigation, believe that which you have yourselves tested and found reasonable, and which is for your good, and that of others.”
WHEN the disciple asks with what be is supposed to investigate things and test them, he is told to do so with his senses. The Tibetan Masters say that there are six senses, the mind being the sixth. As to the psychic senses, these only present a similar type of information to the physical senses. This information does not constitute actuality, and is therefore not Transcendent Insight. It is purely the mind’s conception of forces that are contacted through a psychic sense, just as we have the mind’s conception of forces contacted through a physical sense. Being a psychic contact does not make it any the less a mental concept.
It is said that these Masters do not see their students very often, and do not give them set lectures. They merely have what seems to be informal conversations with the disciple, listening to his conclusions concerning the last talk. The student may have meditated upon such a conversation for months. However. upon confronting his master with his conclusions, these are likely to be smashed and tumbled by just one searching question. The Master’s aim by this is to produce a mental shock, and an upsetting of habitual ideas.
IN searching for the reason that this is done, we do not have to seek very far. Transcendent Insight, the very thing the disciple seeks, is not to be found in mental forms of concepts. Therefore, every time the disciple builds a new concept or idea. the Master shows him that it can be torn down, and that the opposite is equally true. They teach that it is by going beyond wisdom, virtue, vice or opinions ; it is by going beyond all of the mind’s activities and the opposites that Transcendent Insight is realized. This they call the “”Short Path”, the one that goes straight up the mountain. and breaks the Two Chains. These two chains are the iron and gold, the chains of vice and virtue. For a man who binds himself to virtue is as bound up in his own mental concepts as the man who binds himself to vice.
It is interesting in this regard to watch people react to blasphemy, swear words, or smutty jokes. If the person reacts in the way of either repulsion or delight, it shows how strongly they are being influenced by their own mental and emotional contents. Instead, we are told to view them, and even our reactions, as images seen in a dream, interesting, but VOID.
These Masters are not silent upon how one may go beyond these opposites and mental concepts. It is done. they say, through non-activity. This is not to be confused, however, with the quietism of certain Christian or oriental mystics. Nor does it deny one a normal everyday life, or demand rigorous disciplines of emotion or body. To exist is a kind of activity, and it is but normal to eat, sleep, walk, read, speak, laugh, love, breathe, etc.
Power of non-action
The non-activity they mean is “that of the disordered activity of the mind which unceasingly devotes itself to the work of the builder erecting ideas, creating an imaginary world in which it shuts itself like a chrysalis in a cocoon”. This is very reminiscent of Jung’s suggestion to patients that they allow fantasies to arise in the mind, and then to watch these fantasies, attempting to see their cause, and the underlying forces at work. It is an attempt to step back from our convictions, ideals and morals; to set them loose, and watch them as a silent watcher, who does not interfere, condemn, or condone. The aim in the Tibetan teachings however is to recognise them for what they are – mental and emotional creations that vanish like mist as the next image arises.
Masters of the secret oral teachings point out that this Short Path is one that many prefer not to take. The guiding forces of morality and social rights have been removed, and the student may fall into one of the pits of extremity that he was previously fenced from. To quote from Alexandra David Neel’s book on the subject (Secret Oral Teachings of The Tibetan Buddhist Sects, to which I owe this article). “It may indeed be foolish to preach to an individual of ordinary mind that there is neither Good nor Evil; that his acts have no importance, and that, moreover, he is not the author of them, because he is moved by causes whose miscellaneous origins are lost in the inscrutable night of eternity.”
True, it may be foolish for the multitude. But for some, these ideas come as a delightful shock of confirmation to intuitions half formed and half sensed within themselves. To some of these latter, if they persist, may come Lhang Tong – Transcendent Insight. As the Masters say, the student may persist for years with no result ; and then suddenly, one day, while looking at a stone. or feeling the wind upon his face, he is possessed by Lhang Tong and from all the ties and chains he had found RELEASE.