It’s presumptuous for me or anyone to talk about Buddhism because it is so vast, it’s so complete, and there are so many aspects of it. So without being presumptuous, I’ll talk about Buddhism.

I’m an enlightened teacher, my name is Rama. I’ve been teaching Buddhism for lots of incarnations, and I teach it in this incarnation. But none of us really teach Buddhism. Buddhism is a way of life. It’s yoga. And we practice it. People can watch us practice it; they can learn how to practice it by watching, by observing, by listening, by becoming sensitive. But I think it’s something that life teaches us. We are teachers. We are necessary, but life is the real teacher and always remember that.

Buddhism is the enlightenment cycle, and there are different types of it. Principally there is short path and long path Buddhism. The long path is more of the religious aspect, that is to say, the church aspect, the practice of reading sutras, healthy ways of living, things like that—a certain amount of prayer, a little meditation. The esoteric aspect of Buddhism, which is short path Buddhism, is meditation. And I am a teacher of Zen and Vajrayana Buddhism primarily, which are the two primary short path forms of Buddhism.

The short path of Buddhism, which is kundalini yoga, involves the release of the kundalini energy through the chakras or energy centers to create very rapid enlightenment. It is also taught with empowerments from a teacher, someone who is enlightened, who has experienced paranirvana and gone through the gradated stations and stages of enlightenment and has the siddhas and powers necessary to utilize in the teaching process. It’s a very complicated process.

The short path, of course, is the silly path. It’s the path with the smiles. Because you have to be funny or you won’t last long. It’s about releasing energy. It’s about being enthusiastic, overcoming all fears, doubts, worries and anxieties—basically being perfect all the time and knowing that you’re not. That’s Buddhism, the short path. The colophon is getting shorter all the time. Please put on a smile and a sense of humor if you’re going to continue listening.

Buddhism is the enlightenment cycle, as I said before. It’s about becoming enlightened. The essential premise of Buddhism is that there is enlightenment. There is nirvana. Beyond this world, beyond all worlds, there is something radiant, perfect and eternal. It creates these worlds and all aggregate formations. At the same time, it is beyond them. We call it nirvana. You could call it anything you wanted to—God, the Tao, Brahma, whatever you prefer—God, the names don’t matter. It’s that eternal reality which nothing can describe. It’s beyond words.

Buddhism—yoga—is a practice. It’s a way of yoking or joining your mind to that eternal reality and, at the same time, viewing this world and all worlds as particles of that reality. Buddhism is about living a very grounded, happy, fun life, being energized and being good at everything you do, and getting better constantly. It’s about utilizing the full power of your mind, body and spirit—your emotions, everything—to enjoy life, to experience its multifaceted sides.

The essential practice in short path Buddhism is meditation. Meditation is a process in which you stop thought, transcend dimensionality and merge with a perfect light, through the planes of light and the causal worlds beyond the astral. And there you experience light. As you go into light for longer and longer periods, as you progress in your meditation practice, you transform. You become illumined. You overcome all limitation, all sorrow, all pain. You learn not to be bound by desire, and eventually you transcend death itself. This is the enlightenment cycle. It’s the process of uniting your consciousness with eternity, of being eternal, eternally aware, and at the same time being poised, graceful, balanced and having a most excellent sense of humor.

What matters is the pathway. What matters is that you walk down it and enjoy it. If you are practicing Buddhism, if it’s real yoga, then your life is better every day. That doesn’t mean that better things happen to you. That’s just life. Who knows what’ll happen? It’s an adventure. But if you are really practicing correctly, the litmus test to true practice is that you like yourself better. You like your life better. You feel better. You can see every month, every week, every year, an improvement in the states of mind you exist in, an improvement with how you handle both difficult situations and easy situations.

The best way to learn Buddhism is, of course, if you have an enlightened teacher, or if you don’t have an enlightened teacher, a teacher who is much more advanced than yourself. There are two types of teachers: exoteric and esoteric. Exoteric teachers can explain the outer forms of yoga—how to conserve energy, gain energy, utilize that energy to go into higher planes of consciousness. They can explain practices, teach you all kinds of valuable things and techniques. But they don’t have the transmutative power of the full kundalini. Only an enlightened teacher, an esoteric teacher, can actually empower you, transfer power from themselves to you so you can much more rapidly escalate your spiritual development.

If you are going to college and if you have a scholarship, or in graduate school if you have a fellowship, you can progress much faster. Instead of having to work a job and go to school, you can put all your time into school and get through a lot more quickly. Empowerments are designed to aid or speed the student’s progress on the short path. Normally, it would take a much greater period of time to amass all the power necessary to go into enlightened stages of attention. But an enlightened teacher can actually transfer power to their students in the same way that a wealthy person can give somebody money. It’s something tangible—power. You can’t transfer knowledge. Not really. You can’t transfer heart or the sense of loving things. You can expose someone to it. But you can transfer power—certain types of gradated kundalini. Part of the short path is the transfer of power. And this power is to be used to aid yourself and to aid others, never for anything destructive.

Buddhism is a practice in which we learn to avoid injuring others and ourselves. It’s a practice in which we learn to respond to beauty and to respond to difficult circumstances with patience, with a sense of calm, with clarity—because we know we’ve lived before, and we’ll always live in one lifetime or another; because you experience that in meditation. That knowledge and that power. We’re not really afraid of things. We’re not afraid of death. We’re not afraid of life.

Needless to say, there are always people who will give you a hard time because you’re a Buddhist or because you are an anything. We live in a world that’s extremely dogmatic. And people don’t understand. People on the earth are fairly simple, to be honest with you. I mean, they’re still killing each other in wars and polluting their planet and yelling at each other and shooting each other, so how far along could they be?

Buddhism is a very comprehensive way. There’s a lot of etiquette in it. There is a great deal of etiquette. Etiquette is an intelligent way of doing things. Over the centuries, ways of saving energy have been evolved by Buddhists, by people who practice yoga. And these methods are the etiquette of Buddhism.

Energy conservation is a very, very important part of the practice of yoga, of Buddhism. We only have only so much energy, and in order to exist in higher spheres of mind, you need more energy. Energy comes from releasing the kundalini through the practice of meditation. You gain energy that way. You gain energy through empowerments from enlightened teachers. You gain energy by going to power places, by making pilgrimages to sacred places where the earth vibrates faster. You gain energy by doing happy things, by being successful, overcoming obstacles and obstructions. That’ll get your power up.

You gain power in strange ways, sometimes. I mean, in other words, things that you might not think release energy, do. Athletics, which you might think would just tire you out, actually releases certain types of kundalini. Certain foods have more energy than others. And there are ways to deal with life and with people—very intelligent methods so that you can co-exist with other people and not lose all your energy. Just because someone is in a bad mood, that doesn’t mean they have to pull you into it. Just because someone’s unhappy, that doesn’t mean you have to be pulled into it. The etiquette of Buddhism is not—if it’s a real practice—it’s not bullshit. It’s real. It helps you lead a better life. It helps you conserve energy so that you can live in higher states of mind.

The central practice, as I suggested, is meditation. And just in your overall understanding, you know, you keep hearing me say, “Well, Buddhism is yoga, yoga is Buddhism.” Buddhism is not a singular way. It’s a compilation of ways. And it’s organic. It changes. It’s a science of self-discovery. Buddhism is yoga. Yoga was started, who knows when, a long time ago, when the first person learned that they could still their thoughts and experience eternity and access the higher planes of mind and the spheres of perfection that exist in the mind of the universe, in the central nexus of nirvana.

Buddhism does not have a start and an ending. It was not started by any historical figure. It’s a body of ways and beliefs and traditions which will enable a person, when practiced correctly, to experience enlightened states of mind. Occasionally, in each age and in different lands, a Buddha is born, that is to say, an enlightened person who simply recodifies in a new land. They recodify the ways, the practices; they make changes that are just intelligent, changes that adapt to a new century, a new culture. But Buddhism doesn’t come from anybody. It exists by itself. It’s the practice of becoming completely conscious. Overcoming depression, fear, anxiety, jealousy, the things that cause pain, attachment—and learning to exist in beautiful states of mind.

Buddhism is a way, and there are lots of forms of it, and you find a way that suits you the best. No way is better than another. There’s short path, long path, Hinayana, Mahayana. There are many aspects to it. But the central point of all Buddhism is not the aspects, not the etiquette, not the books that have been written about it, but the practice of meditation. If you meditate, you’re a Buddhist. Meditation is silencing the mind, making the mind still. Your thoughts are like a curtain that separate you from reality. When they stop, suddenly you can see eternity. The longer you can stop your thought, the deeper is your vision and your mystical experience, the deeper your journey into realities, into higher planes of consciousness and knowledge. The practice of meditation is something that you learn a little bit each time you meditate, a little bit more about.

You need to make your mind calm, quiet and still. That’s the essence of all practice. Meditation is a letting go, a letting go of the ego into the clear light of reality. There’s a higher light. In Buddhism we call it the dharmakaya, or the clear light, the suchness; the essence, we call it in Zen. It’s there, ineffable and perfect. When you meditate, you allow that light to filter through your being, to come into your mind, body and spirit, and essentially to purify you. Just like bathing in a waterfall or taking a shower, it washes away the dirt and makes you clean. The light of enlightenment, the dharmakaya, that clear light, purifies all samskaras, all karmas, all experiences that you’ve had in this and other lives. It washes them away, energizes you and perfects you.

In Buddhism—you know, it’s a funny thing to try and think about; you really can’t. There is nothing that you essentially do in practice except stop thought. I mean, that’s the ultimate. You might say Buddhism is about what you don’t do. You don’t think. You don’t make stupid mistakes. You avoid them. You become conservative, concerned and conscious. Naturally you make millions of stupid mistakes. That’s the learning process, and that shouldn’t bother you. But the idea is to avoid real big mistakes by learning what’s what, what reality is and what it’s not, what practice is and what it’s not.

Buddhism isn’t about temples and incense and shaved heads and robes, and it’s not about church. There are aspects of Buddhism that involve that, and I guess people enjoy that—that helps them. It strengthens their practice. But real Buddhism is about meditation. It’s an individual experience. It’s an individual journey into enlightenment. Someone else’s journey may inspire you, but it won’t enlighten you. You need to have your own journey into enlightenment. Each time you meditate, you are on the pathway to enlightenment. You are experiencing higher mind and higher light. You’re a traveler, a mental traveler, on a journey which we call life. And death is not the end. It’s just another step in the journey. The journey is eternal.

If you are interested in meditation in this lifetime, in Buddhism, you’ve probably practiced before. We’re drawn back again in each lifetime to pick up where we left off. You may have a great deal of past life knowledge and power stored inside you, and the way you access it is by practicing meditation.

It’s best to meditate twice a day, in the morning and the evening. If you meditate in the morning, you will energize your body, mind and spirit, clarify your purpose and just become happy. Then you’re happy all day, successful all day. And then at night, meditate again and enter into the world of light. Fill yourself with light and you’ll have a perfect night.

The central theme or theory of yoga or Buddhism is that happiness is not something that you really gain in the world. You know, in life we see most people trying to become happy through their careers, their relationships, their school, or athletics, hobbies, pastimes or whatever. Certainly a certain amount of happiness can be gained through those things, but also it would appear, judging from most people’s experiences, that more unhappiness is gained than happiness. I mean, there aren’t many happy people around. You don’t see many smiles in the world.

Happiness does not necessarily come from experience nor knowledge. Yet there is happiness in knowledge. Happiness in knowledge, for sure, can come from meditation. There are worlds of happiness in knowledge outside of this dimension. Meditation is a way of getting to them. If you sit down in the morning and meditate, you will experience happiness, knowledge; you’ll gain power. Then all day long you’ll be happy. No matter what happens, you’ll be happy. If you have a happy day, then great, enjoy it. But if you don’t, you won’t lose your happiness. You’ve stored it up in your morning meditation and then you’ll gain more in the evening. Meditation puts an end to the dependency for happiness on physical things, on people.

If you love someone and they die, your life can be ruined. You can be miserable. But if you meditate, not so. Of course you’ll experience sadness. That’s natural, but because you meditate and you see that there is no death, and because you experience radiant happiness in your meditation and in the practice, you’ll be happy no matter what happens.

This is a world where people age. They grow old, they die, they despair, their lives don’t work out as they thought. Nothing seems to; it’s a transient place. Things come and go fast, like youth, wealth, health. Visit an old age home. Visit a cancer ward. Things don’t always work out so well. But if you’re a Buddhist, if you practice, you can take these things in stride. Every year you grow older, you can grow wiser.

The West is a funny place. The East too, but I think the West is even funnier in certain ways. I like it, but it’s strange. People here think that youth is what it’s all about. This is the youth culture and old age is where we hide our old people away in homes, and they are stupid and sick and senile. What a weird concept. You see, in the Far East we feel that as people grow older, if they lead an intelligent life, they get more powerful; they get wiser, they become happier. But you have to lead an intelligent life. If you meditate and if you practice yoga, then your body shouldn’t end up a mess at fifty or sixty or seventy. You should be mobile. You should be in good shape.

Most people use up all their energy and become old because they are stressed out, because they don’t have any balance in their life. They’re not grounded in happiness. They’re not grounded in the spirit. If you practice yoga, if you meditate, do some exercising, lead an intelligent life, then every year you get older, every day that passes, you can become more enlightened, more aware, more conscious. That’s the normal way. That’s the healthy way. That should be everyone’s way. Then there’s no despair.

Old age isn’t a time when you sit around and feel jealous about all these younger people who are running around in convertibles. I mean, that’s not a problem. You did that; you enjoyed it; it was interesting, but it was facile. You were young then. You didn’t have power then. As you grow older, you should be more intelligent. And you should enjoy what the kids do, but it’s not what you do. You should be off having new adventures in different fields of attention. It’s a more graceful way to be.

Buddhism and yoga are great practices because your whole life is streamlined. Your whole life becomes a way of achieving success, and it doesn’t end at a certain age. It just gets better and better. But you have to stay centered in the practice.

Now there’s a lot of confusion in the West and the East about meditation. Some people astral travel. They go into these kind of astral states above the body where they get spaced out and dissociated. And they think that’s meditation. Not at all. Meditation is a beautiful and perfect state in which there is tremendous light, energy and humor. If you are not becoming happier, more centered and better at what you do in the physical world, if you can’t relate better to people than you could before, if your conversation isn’t sharper, you’re not funnier, if you’re not more street-wise, you’re not meditating. You’re spacing out. You’re in the astral. And that is not meditation.

There’s a kind of New Age-ism that you see in the West. You see it in the East too, where people walk around with a sort of dissociated look, and they think that they’re being spiritual. There’s nothing spiritual about being dissociated. That’s just being dissociated. Spirituality is a graceful and beautiful state of mind. And it’s sharp and very physical, too, in certain ways. I mean, martial arts comes out of Buddhism and yoga. And in martial arts—I also happen to be a martial arts teacher—in martial arts, you learn to use the body in a very dynamic and very graceful way, a very powerful way. Certainly, in martial arts, you know, you can’t be spaced out or you’re going to get a foot in the face. And I think that’s a good way to look at Buddhist and yogic practice.

Buddhism and yoga make you funny, give you a sense of humor about life, about yourself. If you’re becoming just a prig, or if you’re getting spaced out, if it’s about social climbing and who’s who in the Buddhist set or sect, it’s not Buddhism. I mean, they may call it that, but it’s not pure practice. Pure practice is about the transcendence of ego, being clear, centered, being kind, being detached also in a positive way, leading your own life and not being afraid to, but always being a student, never being superior, meaning you know it all and there’s no more to learn and there is nothing you can learn from anyone else.

There’s no competition between teachers if they are really Buddhists. There’s only a smile between them of true acknowledgment that we’re all in the world of light together, and how great that we practice, how great that there are other people who are having fun, too. When you see this egocentric competition between students and teachers, these are people in very early stages of practice. We have to allow latitude for that. I mean, you don’t just become enlightened in a day or a week or a month or an incarnation. It’s a beautiful process, but it takes a while.

Buddhism is about tolerance to an extent—having a tolerance in the practice with people who have trouble with it, who become egocentric, who turn it into politics, into a clique, into, oh, all the different things that can happen. In other words, by applying the vain human emotions in the ego to practice and energizing them with kundalini, one achieves nothing. This is about selflessness, stillness, flexibility and strength, wisdom and humor. These are human words, English words, that are trying to divine—define, interesting Freudian slip—trying to define spiritual states that are beyond words. But if you walk into a place where people are allegedly practicing yoga or Buddhism and you don’t feel comfortable and they don’t seem to be in touch, you’re right. Time to go someplace else.

But then, sometimes, that’s part of what students do. You go to a university for the teacher, not for the students, unless you’re just looking for a social experience. If the teachers are great, they’ll teach you what you need to know. Your university days will come and go, but if you learn something from your teachers, it’ll help you your whole life.

In yoga and Buddhism, you look for the right teacher. There’s no best teacher. There’s no competition. There’s the one that works for you. Good teachers are usually hard. That was my experience in college and graduate school. They’re difficult, but they’re understanding. They demand more from you so you can get more from yourself. But in Buddhism, there is a sense that the teacher is not responsible for your education. You are. In the West we feel if we come into a class, somehow the teacher—because we pay them—is supposed to educate us. Not so in the world of enlightenment. In enlightenment, you have to convince a teacher not only that you are worthy of teaching, but then that they should show you some of the secrets.

Buddhism is all about secrets, you know. And those secrets are things that most people don’t learn because they are not enthusiastic enough or bright enough or patient enough or funny enough—or still enough. You have to have a yen for that which is infinity, for brightness, and you have to be willing to overcome your meanness and your separativity. You have to be flexible, open-minded. Then you have what we call the apprentice or the student spirit, the spirit of the young monk, or young monk-ess. Buddhism is something that you practice regardless of sex, religion, color, age—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you love light, that you want to learn and that you are willing to overcome your limitations.

There are those—in the West particularly, where Buddhism is not that well known, as I said before—who will give you a hard time because you practice. Employers will be bigoted. Some of my students and other students of other teachers have experienced that. There are nasty groups out there who try to put us out of business because we practice Buddhism, even in the good old USA. It has nothing to do with the Constitution—they’re just the KKK of the spiritual world. They don’t like it. Some people think of it as a third world religion. Next joke. Welcome to Japan, which is currently buying the world out of Buddhist-based mentality—we’re a nation that’s doing rather well if you check the yen.

Buddhism lends to good business, a good business sense, as not only the Japanese illustrate but as all Buddhists illustrate. It’s a very sophisticated thing. But just, you know, the West is a very young culture. America is only a few hundred years old, and it’s a great place, and I love it, and I enjoy teaching here. But there’s not a lot of knowledge about Buddhism, one of the largest and oldest religions in the world. It is the oldest religion—yoga is, the oldest practice.

I do warn you, if you practice, that it does get a little rocky sometimes. People give you a hard time about it. But don’t let it bother you. It’s always that way in a new culture, in a naive culture. America’s a great place. It’s a wonderful place to practice Buddhism. The whole world is. And just as the Soviet Union and the demagogues who ran it fell apart, so all nations fall apart where there are demagogues. Eventually light prevails. You just have to be patient.

So practice Buddhism. Learn to be enlightened. Put a smile on your face. Go find a great teacher. Meditate. And stay funny. That’s the essence of all practices—enlightenment with a sense of humor. That’s always the best.