Career Success

I’m a teacher of American Buddhism. American Buddhism is a new form of Buddhism. It’s a little different from our practice in the Far East. In the Far East, Buddhism is usually practiced in a monastery. You enter a monastery, and you live your life there. And you get up at a certain time, you have meals at a certain time, and you tend the garden or copy manuscripts. You meditate at certain times. You study with the master or the teaching monks. It’s a certain type of life. But in the West, while certainly there will be Buddhist monasteries, I’m sure, it seems to me the best form of practice is to live in the world, to have your own home or apartment, condominium, have your own car. It just seems to work better here.

The spirit of the West, of America, is different than the East. The cultural conditioning is very different, and it seems to be harder for people here to work in teams. It seems to be more difficult for people here to live in harmony, in a monastery. Certainly there are monasteries and convents have flourished in the Christian tradition for a long time in Europe and America and other places in the world. But a Buddhist monastery has a certain chemistry. There’s a certain laughter, a certain excitement, a certain brightness and ebullience, and it’s hard to capture that here. I think that same brightness here is captured in another way, and that’s by living and working in the world. It’s certainly more challenging in certain ways, and certainly about the same in other ways as compared to living in monasteries in the Far East.

As a practicing Buddhist in America and the West, or even in the Far East, in Japan and other places, if you don’t live in a monastery then you have to have a job. Even in a monastery, of course, you have a job, usually. But here you have to live and work in the world, and most of the time that people spend in their lives is devoted to working, whether it’s school or work. School is preparation for work and is a type of work, and then later we finish school and go to work. We get a job.

Working is not a nine-to-five experience. It’s a lifetime. Most people get up around 6:00 to get ready for work, 6:30, some even earlier, some a little later. Off they go into traffic. They have to commute for an hour or two sometimes just to get to work, spend the day there, commute back. They have to make sure their clothes are ready for the next day. They might have to do some study for the next day if their job calls for it, particularly if they are in a supervising or managerial position, or an R & D position.

In other words, for most people, a tremendous amount of time goes into their work. It’s the main thing that we do in life to sustain ourselves just as bodies. It’s a very important thing and it consumes a great deal of our energy, and energy is the central study or the component theme of Buddhist practice, of yoga—is the conservation of energy. And that’s why people live, or have lived, in monasteries. The idea was, the walls of a monastery are not to keep you in but to keep everybody else out because you want to develop a certain type of life and most people in the world have other ideas on the subject. Buddhists have, for a long time, lived in monasteries so that they can spend a certain amount of time working and a certain amount of time meditating. And they don’t want to use up all their energy in working.

You might say living in a monastery cuts down the commutation time. That alone would give you a couple of extra hours a day to meditate and do all kinds of things. And in a monastery, you lead a relatively simple life. You don’t need a lot of possessions. You don’t have to work as many hours to sustain yourself so you have more time for play. And spiritual practice is not thought of as an arduous thing or a hard thing, but play. It’s the fun of life.

You think of spiritual practice as hard work. Certainly there’s an element of work involved in it. But if you think of it as unpleasant work, it’s not spiritual practice as I know it. It has nothing to do with it. Spiritual practice is what you do at the end of the day, and you look forward to it, and you can’t wait to get there. It’s like the greatest date you’ve ever had. You get to go meditate. You get to go see your teacher. You get to go get involved with a project that’s advancing your consciousness because the immediate result—not just the future result of spiritual practice, if it’s genuine—is joy, immediate happiness, a deeper understanding of reality.

In the West, people spend most of their time and energy working, and it would be a difficult thing if we couldn’t gain something more than just dollars and cents from working. Because if you meditate for an hour in the morning, you have to get up an hour earlier than everybody else. And if you need to meditate for an hour at night, well, gee, there’s not much time but just to meditate and work. And the problem is, of course, you come home and you’re so tired from work you don’t have much energy to meditate and have a good meditation; unless you use work in a tantric way, unless you use work as a way of advancing yourself. And that’s how I define career success.

Career success is using your daily work—schoolwork, work in the world, work at home, doing the laundry, doing anything, all physical tasks, cleaning the car, any kind of work, and specifically career itself—using career as a way, and scholastics, of advancing your mental state. Also, obviously, career success means making enough money to lead the kind of life you’d like to lead as a practicing Buddhist, to be able to live in the kind of house in the right energy area, to have the kind of car, or whatever it is that you need to shelter yourself from the abrasive forces of life that would be draining to you and would keep you in lower states of mind. The purpose of work is to make enough money to exclude the abrasiveness, to shelter yourself, to live well, in other words, and happily and successfully in a material sense. Also, with work you can make money to assist others—if you enjoy that—to pay for your own spiritual practice, to advance yourself and just to have fun. But, by and large, I define career success as using your work to advance yourself spiritually.

Now, you can do that with any kind of work. That is to say, if you use work as meditation, if work becomes meditation, then eight hours of work is eight hours of meditation. It’s still important to do a morning and evening silent meditation, meaning a sitting meditation, because it’s an entirely different level of experience. And by doing a proper meditation in the morning, a good sitting meditation, you will open yourself up to the planes of light and that will enable you to do a strong work meditation all day, just to be in high states all day. And then, of course, if you do that, when you come home, you’ll be able to meditate well again because you won’t be as exhausted as everyone else is because you’ve been gaining a kind of internal chi or power from your work. That’s the secret.

Meditation comes in different forms, and the best form of meditation, of course, is the one that makes you smile the most, and that’s the sitting meditation. But next is work. Work is a great way to meditate. There is a particular form of work that I recommend to people who practice meditation. It’s computer science, being a computer programmer or systems analyst or working in the data processing field. The mental structures that are used in computer science, particularly in working with relational database and artificial intelligence, are very similar to exercises that are done in Buddhist monasteries. And when you’re in school, if you’re studying computer science, it’s literally like studying Buddhism. That is to say, in Buddhism, in Buddhist practice in monasteries, there are many exercises that we do to develop our mental powers so that we can meditate extremely well and go into other dimensions and other states of mind that are ecstatic and lead to enlightenment. It’s necessary, if you are really going to meditate well, to do those exercises, which is why people always lived in monasteries—so they’d have the time, as I said before—you know, cut down the commutation time. And also there’s an environment that’s helpful for practice, and teachers are available, and a certain amount of backup is available from other students and the environment.

But really, computer science is fascinating. Because in the study of it as a student, as you study computer science, you will find that it will develop your mind. It makes your mind very strong. And it’s literally like doing Buddhist exercises all day long. And then, of course, as a profession it’s wonderful because it gives you a tremendous amount of money. Computer science is a very lucrative field. It’s a very clean field. It’s a non-polluting field, programming. There is always a job anywhere in the world because there just don’t seem to be a whole lot of people who want to do it. And you can make lots and lots of money so that you can meet all your expenses and do your Buddhist practice and just have a wonderful life in the material sense—aid others, if you’d like to do that. But, as you study computer science and as you work in the environment, you develop this wonderful mental acumen—particularly with relational database and, of course, systems analysis and artificial intelligence.

You see, Buddhism is the study of the way the mind works. And in the beginning, it’s explained to the student as simply meditating, leading a happy, bright life, accessing higher energy fields, moving the kundalini through the chakras and so on. That’s all true, of course, in the preliminary stages. But as you advance in practice, it’s necessary to develop certain faculties of mental discrimination. One has to be able to hold a large number of relational concepts simultaneously in the mind, and in the more advanced states, it’s necessary to be able to “grid”, to literally unlock realities and dimensions with the power of your mind. It isn’t just a physical power that does this. It’s an intelligence. And you have to become very subtle to do this; your mind has to be extremely flexible.

In the Buddhist monasteries, in Buddhist practice, normally a great deal of time is spent practicing mandala meditation. You learn to visualize and hold simultaneous concepts, usually visual concepts, in the mind during meditation. And after many years of doing this, the mind is developed in a specific way that enables you to pass through the dimensions into the higher planes of light and into the enlightened stages of attention.

Relational database work, artificial intelligence and related fields in computer science, really involve the same mindset, particularly artificial intelligence. What we’re doing in AI is creating a mind, hopefully as pure a mind as possible, for a computer. We are replicating the way the mind works. And the mathematical fields that are adjacent to computer science, chaos theory, things like that—and also just the ability to program at that level—requires a high degree of development. If you combine that with the practice of morning and evening meditation, you will advance very rapidly in spiritual practice, and at the same time, you will work in an environment that is not as draining as many careers are, and it’s extremely lucrative and it’s fun.

Essentially, computer science is, I think, the most misunderstood field there is. You are being paid $30 an hour, $50 an hour, $150 an hour, whatever it is, depending upon your level, to play games all day, to solve puzzles. And for a person who’s interested in meditation, that’s the way their mind works. That is to say, a person who has practiced meditation in past lives, who is interested in meditation, reincarnation and psychic development and related things in this lifetime, their mind works in a certain way because of their practices in past lives.

It’s very easy for such a person to do or be successful at computer science. They have already developed the mindset in past lives. And while a certain amount of energy will have to initially be spent, certainly working at programming, working at learning the languages and just kind of getting that mindset back, once you get past a certain point you’ll find that combined with, of course, your practice in meditation and streamlining your life and, you know, doing all the kind of correct, essential things that one does in Buddhism, you will find that your life and your computer science will progress, your spiritual life and your computer science will progress extremely, extremely, rapidly. They assist each other.

Think of it this way. Let us suppose that, in a past life, you had a very deep and thorough knowledge of Japanese. You lived in Japan for many lives. In this lifetime, you have no knowledge at all, consciously. When you begin to study Japanese, it seems like you’ll never learn it or, let’s say, it’s as difficult for you as it is for any Westerner because the initial mindset that you have in this life has nothing to do with your past lives. It’s what you’ve developed in this life, and it’s trained in a non-Oriental based language. But if you’re willing to be patient and learn the initial stages of Japanese, you will find that then suddenly you will jump ahead of most of your classmates in your knowledge and in your ability to learn Japanese. Because if you’ve known it in past lives, once you get through the basics—if you’re patient and you regain a little bit of a mind-state—that will open up the doorway to past life knowledge.

The same is true of meditation. If you have meditated in other lives and you’ve practiced meditation and had spiritual insights, meditation is something you have to learn again, and you may be a little slow at it at first or just like anybody else. But if you persist, suddenly you’ll reach a point where there’ll be a breakthrough, and you will be astounded at how fast you’ll progress. Suddenly you’ll leap ahead of everyone else—not that it’s competitive—if you’ve done a lot of practice in your past life because it’s there to draw on. But you have to get to that place. And in each lifetime, that requires a certain amount of starting over. It doesn’t just come, in most cases. Sometimes it does if a person is very, very, advanced. But usually we have to recapture the mind-state through a certain amount of mental work in this lifetime.

The same is true of composition of music, designing buildings, architecture, just about any past life skill. You have to pretty much start over. You have to pay your dues a little bit. But then you have the wealth of your past life knowledge to draw on. It just starts to come back to you. Anyone who is highly successful in a field in this life has probably been in it for many lifetimes, although they may not remember that. And once they were through the initial stages of learning, suddenly the brilliance, which was developed in other lives for a particular field or endeavor, returns to them.

Most people who practice meditation, if you are psychic at all, if you’re drawn to meditation, if you’re interested in spiritual matters, chances are you’ve done spiritual practice in other lives. And that spiritual practice has developed a certain mind-state, which is extremely similar to the mind-state necessary to be a successful computer programmer, systems analyst and AI expert. While you are at computer school or studying at the university, it may be difficult, or even more difficult for you if you just haven’t done much work with your mind in this life. Once you get to a certain point, you’ll find it’s a very easy career to be successful in. You’ll enjoy it thoroughly, and it’s one of the most lucrative careers that there is, particularly, of course, if you get into designing products and things like that. There’s no limit to it, to what you can do. And it’s a very nice type of work because you’re helping people process information, improve their lives.

Computers are tied in, and will only be more so in the future, with everything in our lives. And there’s not much good software and there aren’t a lot of good programmers, so it’s a real service to humanity and the world to be a good programmer, and particularly if you design great products. You make it easier for everybody—everybody has less headaches and their businesses work better and their life is better and, of course, you get rich and develop your mind in a yogic way, in a Buddhist way. It’s really the best of all possible worlds.

Naturally, you can practice or be involved in another career and advance your mind and your spiritual practice by being mindful, using your career to develop certain skills. But I have yet to see a career that is as similar, if not almost the same, in benefit as computer science is, to doing the advanced exercises. It’s like being in a monastery. For eight hours a day, you’re sitting there, seven hours a day, getting paid to do Buddhist exercises which are developing your mind. You do yoga all day and get paid for it. And it’s fun. And it’s exciting and it’s lucrative and it’s non-polluting. There’s just nothing negative about it at all. And then, if you did a good morning meditation, you did computer science during the day and come home at night and do some more meditation, it’s literally the same effect as doing practice all day. It puts you in a very high place.

Think of career as a vehicle. It doesn’t have to be down time. And that’s not just true of computer science. You could be sweeping the floor in a factory. Now you can just sweep the floor generally and gain nothing from it. Or you can sweep the floor intelligently. You can figure out the best way to sweep the floor, put your power into it, use it as a concentration exercise, be meditative about it. There are lots of things you can do with any task. You can stack firewood, fold your laundry, just organize your day.

Each time you do something in a clear, sharp and definitive way, you are using the higher mind. When you find a new way to do something, you’ve reached up into the intuitive levels of the astral, and you’re creating on a higher level. There really is no down time in life if you use life properly. Most people don’t do that, needless to say. They just stumble along. They want to get out of work as fast as they can. They want to make maximum money for minimum output, and that does not result in a happy life. There’s no pride in your work, and work does not become an active force to advance your mental awareness into higher states. It doesn’t compact you.

Let’s say that you wanted to become an Olympic athlete, and you got a job that would develop your muscles the same way as an exercise program would. Naturally you’d have to pay for your life—you know you’d have to make your way in the world until the Olympic games came. Other people, perhaps they were subsidized, perhaps they had a scholarship or someone funded them, and they could just go train all day, but you didn’t have that available to you. If instead, you got a job that was literally like training all day and you were getting paid at the same time, well, that would be the best of both worlds.

That’s how a Buddhist uses career. And any career—being a doctor, being a lawyer, anything—can be used to advance yourself. The key is to have, to begin with, that sense, that possibility, that I’m working not just to get paid, but I’m working to advance myself; and that there’s an inherent power in my career to advance myself spiritually. In other words, you shouldn’t create a break, a syntactical break, in your mind between your career and your religious practice. If religious practice is something that you just do when you go to the temple or to the church for a couple of hours a week, that’s not a lot of practice. The rest of the time is down time.

In the type of Buddhism that I teach, the career actually is the central point in practice since you spend perhaps two hours a day meditating, or maybe just an hour if you’re new to meditation, a half an hour twice a day, and maybe 10 or 12 hours is devoted to the career between the commutation, the dressing, and going to school or the homework. That’s a lot of time. If that time is turned into meditation, then you live in a high level of energy all the time. Your mind advances rapidly and you just dash along the path to more and more beautiful vistas. You experience deeper ecstasy through working, through going to school.

The central point, really, in the teaching I do is career, since we spend more time doing it and more energy is expended in it than anything else. Career becomes the most important item in our agenda to turn into a meditative form, a practice that makes us happy, that makes us wise, that makes us balanced, that develops our sense of humor, that develops our concentrative and meditative powers and then enables us to go into inter-dimensional realities that are bright and beautiful and empowering and, eventually of course, into enlightened stages of attention. Naturally, you can’t really practice the yoga of career without practicing meditation by itself, sitting meditation, because you simply won’t have the kundalini available to you. When you meditate in the morning and in the evening, you release kundalini energy. That energy, through the proper meditation upon the chakras, will enable you then to have the mental power to use your mind in your career in a new way each day.

Most people are operating out of repetition. In other words, if you come to work or school each day with the same mind-state, you probably can’t get more out of it than you did yesterday. But if you meditate in the morning and you reach a mind-state you’ve never been in before, it’ll stay with you throughout the day, and you’ll be able to find new ways to utilize your career and your school work and just the routines of daily life—cooking, cleaning, getting the car serviced. There are millions of little opportunities out there to advance yourself. Everything in life is a pathway to enlightenment. But you have to have the personal power to see how to do it. You can know that as a theory, but it doesn’t mean you can do it.

The personal power comes from meditating in the morning and meditating in the evening, and if you have an enlightened teacher, of course, receiving instruction and empowerments. But then if you combine that with a career like computer science, or just use whatever you have as a yoga—the career that you’re in or the schoolwork that you’re doing—you will find that your practice will not be in any way, shape, manner or form less powerful or less effective than a person who lives in a monastery. Not only can you be on a par with them, but you might even excel because practice in a monastery can get one-sided.

There are certain challenges that you face living in the world, certain difficult situations that you deal with that you don’t deal with in a monastery. And sooner or later, the person in the monastery is going to have to overcome those things. Some people feel it’s better to postpone it, solidify their practice, solidify their realizations and then take on the more difficult things. I like to just jump into everything at once because I think you’ve got to learn it anyway, and why not just tackle it to start with? If we’re going running, let’s do the uphill part of the run first, and then as we come back and we’re a little more tired, we’ll have the downhill to aid us, and we’ll go with the flow of gravity. But when our power is up, when we’re new to something, that’s the time to tackle the rough stuff. It’s kind of the fun. It’s easier. We have more energy.

I think that it’s better personally, I think one can advance faster, outside of the monastery. If you follow a tantric path, that is to say, a path in which you use the experiences of daily light, of daily life—that’s a good Freudian slip—if you use the experiences of daily life to advance yourself, that’s tantra. Tantra is the form of Buddhism and yoga in which not only is the kundalini released through chakra meditation, but daily experiences are used to advance oneself.

I think if you combine the experience of career and daily life with meditative practice and study with an enlightened teacher, I think while it’s more difficult initially than going into the, you know, supportive environment of the monastery, you will progress faster. And then later in your life, once you’ve learned to deal with the world and the more complicated balancing issues of dealing, you know, with life in the physical and all the things that can happen that can jar you when you are outside of the monastery; once you’ve kind of gotten your rhythm for that, I think you’ll progress much faster, and the second part of your incarnation will go much more smoothly—that’s the downhill run. Whereas if you avoid that, which you do sometimes in the monastery, I think you’ll find that while you’ll learn certain things in a controlled environment, when you are out of that controlled environment, and you’ve gotten used to it, it can become debilitating to a certain degree.

It’s not bad living in a monastery. I’ve done it many times, in many lives in teaching in them. Don’t misunderstand me. But I think you can do a better job outside of the monastery if you have the necessary component parts. And I really think that computer science is one of those component parts. I can see no better way, if you don’t live in a monastery, to practice because the mere practice of the art itself, of computer science, advances you, advances your mind in tandem with meditation. It’s a very powerful, very potent way to free yourself materially and to advance yourself spiritually.

Career is yoga. Career is the Buddhist practice. I can think of nothing that is more so because it is what we do with our lives, and if we make that a spiritual thing, the thing that gives us energy and enlightenment, then enlightenment can’t be very, very far off can it? Career is one of the pathways to enlightenment. And needless to say, I recommend computer science as the ultimate form of career for the reasons I have discussed.