Tibetan Yoga and the Secret Doctrine

When you meditate, always try and be hopeful. It’s very important.

It’s necessary to realize the infinite possibilities that life offers you at any moment.

Most people are engaged in a limited dharma. They are traversing in a given lifetime through a sequence of possible events, but the events are not too widely chartered, in the sense that the possible variations within that sequence are limited.

Meditation offers us the prospect of changing that.

The Tibetan doctrines are far reaching. They are really very similar in essence, I think, to the doctrines of yoga, Buddhism of different types, Taoism, the very early American Indian religions.

There seems to be a common thread that unites them all, which is the perception of that which is truth.

The Tibetan versions—with an “s”—of paradise are many. Tibetan mysticism is a mixture of many forms—of tantra, of the Bon religion, of Buddhism, of course, as brought in by Padmasambhava.

Naturally, there’ve been very well-known Tibetan teachers and gurus—the Dalai Lamas and Tibet’s most famous teacher, Milarepa, and his guru, Marpa the Translator.

The texts that have been brought to light in the West, particularly since the Chinese occupation of Tibet, are rather obscure.

These are ancient books—the tantras—which were written thousands of years ago depicting ways of

The knowledge of what occurred in Tibet was very limited in a spiritual sense in the West, primarily to Evans-Wentz who went to Tibet and began writing his books, and a few other adventurous souls who journeyed into an unknown land and as foreigners studied its religion and culture as best they could.

Naturally, it was impossible for them to penetrate the deeper inner circles of Tibetan mysticism. In many cases fortune brought them to a distinguished teacher or lama, someone perhaps who was somewhat enlightened.

But the true secret teachings of Tibet have been handed down orally, meaning not so much that they have been transmitted in words, but they had been transmitted from teacher to student in an unbroken chain for thousands of years.

Of course, tradition is not totally necessary.

Once you have realized the truth, once you become consciousness itself, then you go beyond all such distinctions as lineage and teachers and things like that.

Most people seem to have a teacher or a series of teachers

The teacher, the guru, would of course, oversee this training process.

The essence of the Tibetan knowledge, then, as it’s come out, which it has only partially, has come either through the texts, the tantras, things like The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or through a very small number of Tibetans who left Tibet with the Chinese occupation and decided to present some of the teachings to the world.

The idea inherent in much, but not all, of Tibetan Buddhism, is that

We find a parallel to this in the stories of Carlos Castaneda and his teacher Don Juan, where

Don Juan, in Tales of Power,

He holds off for many years. It’s only about a six-line explanation, at most a paragraph or two, and

You can hear the words, but that doesn’t mean you understand them.

You understand what the words mean in conventional usage, as they would be defined in a dictionary, as you’ve been taught by culture, the meanings associated with them, the ideas and the themes.

But when you deal with explanations of consciousness, it’s necessary to have much more, otherwise it’s like trying to explain the mixing of various colors to a person that’s blind. If they haven’t perceived the colors initially, certainly the refined mixing of them to produce various shades and hues is going to be impossible to comprehend, only because of their lack of sight.

So if a person doesn’t have a developed inner sight—or inner vision—then it would be literally impossible for them to understand what, on the surface, seems like a very simple explanation of the way life works.

The secret doctrines essentially are that. They’re not necessarily secret in the sense that they’re not told, although that was the way for thousands of years, but rather the idea was simply that they could only be understood by a class of evolved beings.

And as in the Bible they say, don’t “cast your pearls before swine”—the Bible is always graphic—in the same sense, the idea was, it’s silly to waste knowledge on people who will not benefit from it.

The danger of this idea, of course, is elitism, which really runs counter to everything in self-discovery.

And quite a lot of that evolved in the Tibetan practices—a sense of superiority.

Of course, this has nothing to do with advanced self-discovery or the advanced practices of mysticism.

Mysticism is an eclectic mixture of various forms of self-discovery that’s primarily experiential.

So when we speak of mysticism, rather than a philosophical understanding of a higher truth,

we’re speaking of someone who is more involved with

The way that is done is rather specific, and that’s what we’ll be talking a little bit about tonight.

I suppose the subtitle for the evening might be,

The Tibetan forms move in many directions. The overlying theme is enlightenment, but there are many variations.

It’s a very eclectic method of self-discovery.

Yet it has its own etiquette, as do all branches of self-discovery, its own special language. Certainly in one evening it’s not my intention to delve all that heavily into the language.

There are many books now available on Tibetan Buddhism. In the beginning there were just Alexandra David-Neel’s and W. Y. Evans-Wentz’s books, but now there are many—many written by the lamas themselves.

Of course, it’s important to note that because someone is a lama or is part of a monastic order or claims to be part of a succession, that doesn’t really mean they know anything, any more than someone who is perhaps a minister or a priest or whatever, doesn’t necessarily claim to have an absolute knowledge.

You have to always examine the individual’s consciousness, their ability to transmit light.

In the higher spheres, that’s the only criteria.

And, of course, I always feel that all spiritual knowledge can be understood very easily, that is to say,

Because it has to reflect not simply in gestures in front of the public or one’s students but in every aspect of your life—if it’s genuine, if it’s an integrated realization.

Our theme then, is the wit and wisdom of Tibet, and there was quite a bit of wit.

But [our focus] is not so much in a backward glance, but in the sense that the same truths are operable now, the same realities still exist.

So we’ll be talking about death, in other words, essentially, tonight. It should be a good night [audience laughs], at least from my point of view.

The following is the truth.

The truth is that

What we call life is

Time does not really exist as we know it, rather,

The mind is empty.

Nothing really is as it appears to be.

The essence of timelessness

Nirvana is limitless awareness, without a field, without a knower.

A body of light;

Nothing is as it appears to be.

Everything we see is an illusion.

When we silence the mind in meditation—

we reach a plateau of awareness that is

That awareness is within all things.

Everyone is at the movies.

You walk through the streets of the town. There’s no one there! No matter where you look, the streets are empty. All the theaters are full. Houses empty, cars [empty], yet somehow the town seems to go on by itself. The lights come on at night. Just the wind blowing some old newspapers down the street. No one is there.

You venture into one of the theaters all along the main street and everyone is watching a movie.

They’re all happily watching a comedy. They’re laughing and having a wonderful time eating popcorn, sharing Raisinettes with a friend.

You walk inside and no one sees you, no matter where you go! You even, for a while, get frustrated because you try and talk to people. You walk up and say, “Excuse me sir.” No reaction. “Ma’am, uh … ” Nothing. So you walk up on the little stage in front of the screen for a minute just to try and get someone’s attention because you don’t understand why there’s no one on the streets.

You stand there—and still nothing. But if you jump and shout long enough and get in the way of the film, somebody will throw something at you. Then it’s wise to leave quickly and try another theater. So you leave the theater and go to another one, the next theater.

It’s a love story. All the couples are sitting there, or as in this age, the triples, arm in arm, or foot in mouth, whatever it may be, [audience laughs] and they’re looking at this wonderful love story and they’re all in love with love and you walk up to one of them and you say, “Excuse me, I hate to disturb you … ” Nothing, absolutely nothing. Everybody’s in the rhapsody of the movie. So you leave that theater and you go down to the next theater.

There’s a war movie on. John Wayne is still fighting out there. Everybody is engaged. Things are blowing up, bodies flying everywhere and no one hears you.

Well, all that’s left is a tragedy of another kind, so you walk into that—the drama, suspense, sadness. Again no one hears you. Well, you’ve seen it. You’ve been to the comedies, everyone laughs; the love stories; the wars and the tragedies. No one saw you, so you go back out to the street and you just walk and there’s no one there.

Everyone in this world is watching a movie, and the movie is their life. If you have reached a state of vacancy—of awareness—you walk as if through deserted streets.

Until then you’ve been watching a movie, until suddenly you find yourself out in the street walking or going from theater to theater trying to have contacts.

But everyone is so engrossed

Everyone’s so caught up

Awareness is wakefulness.

Oh, you yourself as you’re walking down the street might sit down for a few minutes and watch the show with everybody; it might be a good show!

But you won’t stay. You can get up from the show and leave.

They all stay there. They see the same film over and over and over, life after life. Oh, in some lifetimes it changes. It’s a war film, it’s a romance, it’s a tragedy, a political drama.

But you notice after a while that the people, if you look at them, seem very worn. Their expressions, they’re not happy. Now, in their mind, of course, they’re having a wonderful time. You see the expressions, the facial changes—sadness, when something sad is happening in the film; happiness; depression; grief at the death of a loved one.

But the awareness is so limited.

So it seems, to one who has begun the journey—beyond illusion. Now, of course, for one who is enlightened, the streets are always full and the movie theaters are always empty. That’s why enlightened people go to the movies. The streets are packed. Everywhere you go, you see people.

The development of mystical powers: mystical powers develop primarily through the raising of the kundalini.

The kundalini, as you probably know, is a type of energy that exists within all things. And it’s possible to pull that energy, to mass it, to transmit it.

The kundalini is the operable energy in anything that occurs. Whether it’s the movement of a hand, driving the car, the function of memory, creating ideas, activating emotions—it’s the energy behind all things.

It exists

[In the human body] The kundalini energy passes through the shushumna, which is a Sanskrit name for an astral nerve channel that runs along the spinal column.

Just as we have a physical body, so we have an etheric body or an etheric double, and the etheric body is made up of energy, of light.

But it has a structure, in the same sense that our physical body has a structure.

The kundalini is raised, or brought down. It can be done in several different ways, and as it moves to the different chakras or energy centers in the subtle physical body, it endows one with various powers.

There are many powers. The most notable, of course, are

The second body can be sent to pick up your dry cleaning, shop for you, things like that, if you’re very advanced. [Audience laughs.]

The development of the tummo, or the [bodily] heat—

The ability to do a kind of a “gait of power”—

And many other powers, of course.

The usage of the powers is something that fascinates us, I suppose, simply because it seems novel or maybe some of us remember having done it before.

Naturally, the traditional advice on the subject is, don’t cultivate powers … go after money instead. [Audience laughs.]

The feeling is that the powers interfere with enlightenment, in the sense that in order to utilize a power—let’s say, for example, you develop the ability to make parking meters disappear so that if you came up to one and you were going to park your car next to it, you could just make it go away and you wouldn’t get a ticket. It’s probably easier to put a quarter in. That would be the wisdom on the subject.

Now the problem with powers is not that they’re bad; of course there’s this school of thought that says the usage of all mystical and occult powers is bad. I find that that thought is usually propounded by people who don’t have any powers. It’s kind of a sour grapes attitude.

The problem with the powers is not whether they’re good or bad, they’re neither. They’re just powers, like the power to do anything, to walk, to write a book.

The problem is that whenever you use one of the powers, you’re using it.

From the point of view of enlightenment, or the way to enlightenment, in order to achieve enlightenment we have to dissolve the ego, the sense of self. If there’s a sense of self present, it interferes with enlightenment.

In order to cultivate the powers—in other words, if you’re going to set out on a serious journey, which many people have, to develop mystical powers to impress your friends and do other things to your enemies, if that’s what you want to do, the difficulty with it is that while you are engaging in the development of those powers, you will not be moving towards enlightenment. Now naturally, if you’re not interested in enlightenment, you can develop all the powers you want and it really doesn’t matter, have a ball.

But there’s a sequence to enlightenment. Enlightenment is not something that just happens at random. And if you understand that sequence, the whole process becomes somewhat cloudier. [Audience laughs.]

Normally, if you have not attained liberation in a previous lifetime, the best time to begin the study is around age 17 through 19.

If you’re younger than that, usually an individual will not be serious enough.

Sometimes we see a great deal of spiritual energy manifested in young children between the ages of maybe five and 12. They seem to be quite attuned. They might be interested in meditation, self-discovery, things like that.

Some of them even have very good past life recall. They can remember their past lives, particularly at age three, four, five, six and seven, before the ego becomes functional. When the ego becomes very functional, it tends to block those memories.

But children don’t know that they shouldn’t think that way, so very often they recall quite well. Usually when adolescence comes along and the hormones have their way, the attention wanders, and for that period of age 12 to 19, adolescence—terrible time in one’s life, regardless of what people—who try and remember how it was—say.

It’s interesting that people, when they get older, always remember that that was the best part of their life.

Illusion is a funny thing.

But in any case, during that period of time, most people have their attention in other areas, which is exactly correct and proper.

Naturally, if you’re dealing with an individual who was very advanced in a past lifetime, sometimes they show signs very early on and they continue to exhibit them throughout their life.

But for most individuals, even if they have had incarnations where they’ve meditated and practiced various forms of self-discovery, they tend to lose it around that time. The subtle body isn’t really tenacious enough.

The subtle body develops, just as the physical body does.

In the primary years, the subtle physical body is very soft, very luminescent. Young children have this glow about them. But it has to go through this embryonic journey, which it does in those years from about, as I said, 12 to about 19, where it solidifies and the fibers become stronger.

The subtle physical body is made up of fibers of light.

When those fibers are stronger, then one can begin the journey to enlightenment.

The journey to enlightenment is very arduous. It’s fun, certainly, and it’s a happy journey, but it takes a great deal of temerity, of strength. Not necessarily physical strength, but an inner strength, a determination, the ability to believe.

So, most people start, if they were fairly advanced in another lifetime, usually around age 17 to 19. You’ll notice that most men who attain enlightenment usually do so between the ages of 30 and 33 for some unknown reason. But statistically, that’s true.

As you know, very few women have attained enlightenment, and that’s an unfortunate fact that we have discussed before and hopefully this is the age of women and that will be ending. There are many reasons for it, which we need not go into this evening.

The ideal time to start then, is around age 17 to 19 because the subtle physical body is in superb condition. It’s similar to being an athlete. While it’s possible to become a great athlete at any age, I suppose, for most individuals there has to be a training process and the body will reach a peak at a certain time, but even for it to reach that peak, there has to be conditioning at a certain age.

Now this doesn’t mean that if you didn’t start to meditate at that time that you can’t attain enlightenment in this life.

You can, but it will be more difficult.

Because after that age … it seems that the ages from 19 to 25 are critical years. In those years a great deal of conditioning—mental conditioning—occurs to an individual. After that time, one has to erase that conditioning. It continues on, but those are very powerful years in an individual’s life.

What I’m suggesting is that there are sequences in your life.

There’s a marvelous book written a while back by Gail Sheehy, Passages, that suggested that there are time periods in our life where we’re capable of doing certain things that we really can’t do as well at other times of our life, and if we understand those passages it’s much easier to deal with life. It’s sort of the “Tao of living.”

And in the same sense, while she was discussing, perhaps, more psychological phenomena, it’s also true in the inner sense.

There’s a sequence to enlightenment. It doesn’t just happen. There’s a chemistry that’s extremely precise.

In Tibet, in the very large monasteries but even more importantly in the caves above 10,000 feet, where most of the really advanced teachers were, they would normally begin to work with individuals at around that age.

While many young children were brought into the monastery, that was more for educational purposes. While they may have studied the scriptures and become very learned, that didn’t mean that they were at all enlightened.

The sequence of enlightenment, then, is important. Now, if I can move aside from this ideal situation in which a person begins to meditate at 17, 18 or 19, finds a teacher who’s enlightened and begins the journey and continues on that journey throughout the course of their life, if I can digress for a moment—that doesn’t happen to too many people.

In most cases, you begin whenever you do.

There’s a sequence, though, that’s operable for each of you. That is to say, when you first encounter meditation, and even more importantly, if and when you—in a given lifetime—find an enlightened teacher and begin to study with them, from that moment forward, a sequence opens to you.

It’s kind of like going to medical school. You have to take your courses in a certain sequence. If you don’t, it upsets the balance.

You don’t have forever.

Some people are under the idea that you have all the time in the world, and in a sense, we all do, since we are the world and there is no time. But in a sense we don’t.

Karma is operable in all situations in the relative world.

Karma, as you know, is the law of cause and effect. The law of cause and effect means that for every action there’s a reaction of a type.

But the law of karma

The sense that karma means that I was kind to somebody and someone will be kind to me is a very limited understanding of karma. Or that for five lives I was a kind person and now in this life I’ll be wealthy. This is a very limited understanding of karma.

Karma has to do with planes of attention.

The idea is that each one of us is watching a movie, a film of some type. And the film that we’re watching, which may be happy, sad, pleasant, unpleasant, whatever,

the reason we’re watching it

There are many fields of attentionplanes of consciousness — the way you see things.

We’re in a particular field of attention

A person who thinks happy thoughts, progressive thoughts, thoughts of aiding others, of observing the beauty of life, things like that,

They’re in a more pleasant state of awareness.

A person who’s angry, frustrated, jealous, filled with a lot of different desires and doesn’t come to the “center of life,”

Think of the levels of attention just as the ocean.

The ocean has many different levels. You go down to 50 fathoms, the current runs one way; another 50 fathoms, it runs another way and so on. As you know, different types of fish and creatures live in the different levels, and there’s a different amount of light present.

For the first 50 fathoms, there’s more light, then there’s less and less and less.

A person will be born, depending upon their karmic patterns, with a certain potentiality and possibility.

That is to say, they’ll be born within a certain level of that giant cosmic ocean, maybe a thousand fathoms down.

Then, within a given lifetime, they will oscillate. Maybe they’re a thousand fathoms down, but maybe on their good days they’ll go up 20 fathoms higher and on their bad days they’ll go down 20 fathoms lower.

The idea is that through a very, very long process called reincarnation, we cycle slightly higher and slightly higher in each lifetime.

Sometimes we go backwards, sometimes we go forward. But there is movement, there is a progression.

Eventually, after many, many lifetimes, we move into higher levels of attention, of awareness.

Without looking so much at the karmic patterns of rebirth at the moment but rather considering a given lifetime, I would suggest that

How you feel

Simple example.

If you’re in a high level of attention,

So then,

The more conscious you are, not simply conscious in the sense that I see more colors, I’m more aware of what’s physically going on, I can hear more sounds; not simply conscious in the sensory modalities but

This allows us to do kind of a mental judo and step beyond harm’s way, [with] harm denoted as negative feelings, unhappiness, the loss of awareness.

What I’m suggesting is that most people simply go through life, and they’re not particularly aware of what’s happening to them or why. They move from day to day, from year to year, from lifetime to lifetime, shuffled back and forth by the “winds of karma.”

In other words, it doesn’t seem to me that you have a lot of choice if you go to a school where they give you a choice of whether you want to be in Mr. Brown’s homeroom or Miss Green’s homeroom and both are tyrants.

You have the choice of Tyrant A or the choice of Tyrant B.

If you are born in a country that is very poor and all there is, is poverty, you have the choice to live in the southern part of the country and be poor or the northern part and be poor.

Life is a series of dreams, and

This is the Tibetan rebirth process.

The idea is that you don’t have a personality or a self.

All heavens and hells are created within ourselves.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a map, a TripTik, a Triple-A [AAA] “Guide to Existence.”

It doesn’t tell you how to get anywhere, since essentially the idea is there’s nowhere to go. Rather, it points out things of interest along the way and tells you how not to get into trouble in certain countries—where the water is drinkable, where it’s not drinkable.

It’s a map to existence.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is thought by many to be a very archaic book that describes what happens to you after you die. The idea is that

The soul passes through a series of etheric worlds, non-physical worlds.

In each of these worlds, you will see visions, have experiences, quite unlike the experiences and visions you have in the physical world.

A thought behind it all is that it is possible to attain enlightenment, not only while you are in the physical body but during this intermediate passage. If you can recognize what they call the “clear light of reality,” the dharmakaya, at any point in this process, liberation will ensue.

This is the popular understanding of the book.

Naturally, in many cases they feel that the soul of a departed one doesn’t leave the earth right away. It stays, it has a certain tie after death and is drawn to stay in the world for a little while and visits familiar places. It travels a little bit.

But eventually it is pulled on into other levels of attention, into other planes of existence, other dimensions.

Eventually, after a period of time resting in the subtle physical worlds of light and luminosity, or passing through the hell worlds or whatever it may be doing, the soul will be drawn back. There’s still a propensity to be drawn back to physical rebirth. It wants more experience so it comes back; it’s attracted back.

The real use of the book, though, the esoteric use of the book and the secret teachings, has nothing to do with that at all.

This is death. Life is the bardo.22

The bardo

Everything that’s present after death … is present now.

All of the dimensions, worlds, planes of existence and, of course, nirvana,

All of that is now,

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is really not correctly named.

Rather, it’s a book of the living, or a book of life.

It’s a book that teaches you about inner states of awareness.

Now, in its current form—the best translation being the Evans-Wentz translation, in my opinion—it’s incomprehensible to most people. You can’t make heads or tails out of it.

But what the book does—or the same teachings which are received through a teacher—is give you a map for dealing with existence; and the map is simple.

The theme of the map is,

And in

if you can recognize that

You can watch the movie if you like, you can wander the empty streets, or if you reach enlightenment, you can go to the empty theaters and avoid the crowded streets.

To take “charge of destiny” means to play a very convoluted chess game on multiple levels of consciousness and existence.

The Tibetan rebirth process involves the choosing of a “caretaker personality.”

Now as you know, the personality in most cases is formed early on in life, the initial experiences that we have with our parents, particularly in the teaching of language—language being a set of loaded dice.

Our experiences in the world with friends, family, and so on, and the propensities of the soul and karmas cause us to create a personality, a sense of self. “I am an individual. I am special. I am different from Bob because I like the color red, and he likes the color blue. I’m different from Jim because I’m a woman and he’s a man.”

We begin with a very basic sense of self that is determined

You’re taught that you’re a human being. Human beings don’t fly, so therefore you can’t fly. We’re told a lot of things, but also, just in the process of living, we develop this thing we call a personality. Most people are stuck with the same personality all their lives.

In the process of self-discovery,

The idea is that through a series of, let’s say, a thousand lifetimes, you will go through a thousand personality structures. Each personality structure would be slightly more advanced than the preceding personality structure.

Each would be more fluid.

As you’re moving from a hundred fathoms upward, there’ll be more light, and if in each lifetime you’re going up a little higher, there’ll be more light.

The soul progresses. It grows—spiritually—as it moves toward enlightenment.

The secret teachings of the oral traditions suggest that

With the aid of the benign forces and God and an enlightened teacher, and with proper motivation and proper evolution, you can do that.

Therefore, what you will do is

This is where it gets fun. It’s kind of like choosing lots of different outfits to wear. One night you could wear Western clothes, one night you could wear a sari, one night you could wear safari gear—you don’t have to be limited and always dress the same way.

As we go within the self, we discover that all the voices of our past lives are still there! They still exist.

As we peel ourselves, which is a process very much like peeling an onion—it’s very often compared to that—

We think of ourselves as an individual self, “I’m a person,”

and the voices grow louder as we advance, particularly if you’ve had a series of advanced incarnations, if you’ve perhaps been a monk in one lifetime, a seeker, a sadhu,23 you meditated and so on. These are stronger selves.

And you will find, as you progress, that these selves will begin to come out. You can have little coming out parties for them, invite your friends, things like that. When your Japanese lifetime is coming out, you see, you can all drink saké that night. Have a little bash. When the Tibetan life is coming out, of course, you can all go up into the hills for a while or go to the graveyard. [Audience laughs.]

So the selves come out, and we see that we’re not [just] one self. It’s fascinating! Jung was moving a little bit in this direction in his research with his archetypes, although he just scratched the surface. We are many, many selves.

We’re not just a finite being.

These selves don’t necessarily speak in words; it’s not like channeling24 or bringing some force through you. But they are you. You just become more conscious that you’re much more complex than you realized.

It’s necessary then, to design new personalities as you progress.

Of course, what makes this possible is the kundalini. The kundalini is the force, the energy, the power that dissolves [you] or raises you above the cycle that you’re in now.

That is to say,

You’re destined

You may think you have free choice.

But your choices are really very limited;

If you can

If you’re at 150 fathoms, no matter where you go, there will only be a certain amount of light and a certain species of fish. If you can go up 50 fathoms, everything changes!

More importantly, not only does everything change around you, but what really changes is, you change. You become a different self.

While it’s the same underlying reality, the same you is present in all things, a more evolved you comes out, a more aware you.

It’s as if you were born with a body that simply couldn’t compete athletically and suddenly you changed and you woke up the next day and you were set to be an Olympic athlete.

The “self” changes even more radically [than that] in this process. The way that is done is by generating enough kundalini.

Kundalini is generated through cultivating humility, purity, through meditation, selfless giving, and

That’s the tricky part of course—

I first became interested in Tibet many years ago. I found myself reading Tibetan sacred texts and I didn’t understand a word of it, to be honest with you. When I was younger, 60 or 70 [audience laughs]—I was about 12—I found myself just drawn to these books, and I kept reading them and … I don’t know if I understand them today.

After meditating for a number of years, I began to recall my past lives. I don’t know if “recall” is the right word in a sense because that almost implies that you were looking for something, and I was just meditating.

But the selves reassert themselves. It’s not so much a question of where you were, [and] when. It’s not really like looking through a scrapbook or a photo album. Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes they’re images you can see

But rather those selves—as I went through the enlightenment process—began to re-emerge and assert themselves, in a way.

Nirvana seems cold to most people, the idea of it.

The word “God-realization” works for a lot of people in the West. It sounds more positive somehow.

Even samadhi has a warmer sound to it than nirvana.

I think it’s the N at the beginning of the word. [Audience laughs.] N’s are much colder than G’s or S’s I think. “God-realization,” of course, you get a GR combination. [Audience laughs.] But no, many people don’t explore the pathway to nirvana because they don’t like the way the word sounds. It’s true, it’s true! I watch! Words make a difference.

If we called it “Wonderful-Land,” they’d be signing up in droves.

But “nirvana”—just the idea of emptiness, nothingness, a desert without cactus and sand, no rocks, no gila monsters, no heat, no cold, no spirits, no wind. Not much of a desert, if you ask me. Sort of an un-desert.

Nirvana’s not like that.


I can’t say the end product of self-discovery is nirvana because that would imply that there was a beginning and an ending, and there isn’t really.

In other words,


Upon being absorbed in nirvana, there will be no memory of anything else. Not because you’ll forget, not even because you’ll go away.

Perhaps I can present an alternate view, the warm side of nirvana. This is Southern Nirvana. [Audience laughs.]

Imagine that you can see a certain amount of light through the retina of your eye, and let’s say that light is ecstasy. Let’s say that there’s a beautiful, wondrous light, more wonderful than anything.

And let’s say that in our life occasionally we get a glimpse of that light when we do something noble for someone else, if we have a mystical experience of some type where we go beyond the body and experience that ecstasy. Even in the “dream yoga,” if we use the etheric double and go beyond the confines of the physical, even into the etheric planes, it’s very ecstatic.

But the kind of ecstasy that we experience in this world or in the subtle physical worlds, the astral worlds, in any worlds, is limited.

If you could imagine

there would be

you would be

That ecstasy would not be a narcotic ecstasy in the sense that it’s simply a forgetting, but rather

In other words,

This is Southern Nirvana.

Northern Nirvana, of course, is different. It snows all the time. It’s so white that you can’t tell if it’s white anymore. It’s absolute silence and stillness, but not a sense of silence as absence, but a silence filled with sound, kind of like white noise. So many sounds are present that you can’t distinguish them.

If we could trace all of life back to a primeval source, to its essence, which is God, and

But still, you see, we have an idea. We always have ideas of God and nirvana or truth or enlightenment. These ideas will go away in nirvana because the suffusion is so complete and intense that nothing can be remembered.

For example, at the border of nirvana, OK, there’s a gate, there’s a crossing.

And when you reach the border of nirvana, at that point, someone will walk up to you and inform you that if you enter into nirvana, everything that you’ve ever loved will be lost. You will be alone. There will be the most terrible aloneness that you can imagine. You will be alienated from everything, including yourself. Forever—a sense of drifting in a cold, irresolute space forever.

At that moment, oh nobly born,

They will say,

Now, if you listen to what that individual tells you, what that fellow tells you at the border, of course, then you won’t cross over. You’ll go back to all of the things that you’ve always loved and all of the things that have bound you and limited you also—you’ll have both because in the world of duality you have the pairs of opposites.

Now, if you listen to me, which no one does, fortunately, I would suggest that it’s not like that at all.

That when that fellow comes up to you and presents that information, you’ll say,

And he’ll say,

And you say,

So you’ll take out your kind of faded three-by-five—you know, a few lifetimes ago—a three-by-five file card, but if you get a plastic one, as we all know, plastic is forever.

So you take this plastic three-by-five file card which you had laser engraved, and it says,

[Audience laughs.]

In The Odyssey, of course, we see Odysseus—he’s going by the island with all the Sirens on it, and they’re all singing and luring men to their death on the rocks. They had a lot of sexual hang-ups in those days. But, anyway, we’ll let that go by.

So, what Odysseus did was he sealed up his ears with wax and he didn’t listen to what they had to say. No, that wasn’t Odysseus, who was that? That was his friend. No, he was just tied to the mast and he listened. But all the guys on the ship didn’t get to listen. They put the wax in their ears and they kept rowing. That’s what we call class distinction. [Audience laughs.]

Odysseus got to listen. But not his friends, no, because they were of lower births. You see, it’s always that way, the upper class gets everything. What can you do?

They had a terrible class structure system in Tibet. Awful. I mean, don’t believe that Tibet is some wonderful paradise. It’s cold!

And a terrible, terrible, system there, particularly regarding women, awful, suppression. That isn’t necessarily how a few of the yogis felt, but by-and-large, people in the West sometimes have these marvelous visions of India and Tibet and they just assume that there are all these sadhus walking around and everybody is breathing enlightenment. Forget it. Certainly not.

There have been wondrous, luminous beings who have lived there and in the Himalayas, of course, there are many non-physical beings that exist that are very advanced, Babaji and others. But don’t look at it through rose-colored glasses.

Anyway, when you get to the border of nirvana and you take out your little plastic card, hopefully it will be in the right language, “Don’t listen,” because that’s not what it’s like. In other words, when you’re sitting there in meditation someday and you’re just on the edge of moving into samadhi, that’s the difficult time.

That’s when most people lose it— if you get to that point to begin with—because all of your attachments and aversions—this is what The Tibetan Book of the Dead is for—will present themselves to you. And in the Book of the Dead, it explains that when this happens, don’t run away from anything you see, don’t run towards it. Be neutral.

Just observe. Be neither attracted nor repulsed. Because otherwise you’ll get pulled into another plane of consciousness as opposed to passing beyond them all, or through them all.

Because in nirvana—we speak of it as if it is a physical thing, of course it is and it isn’t—it’s not like that! It’s not empty or cold or barren.

You don’t remember …

The ecstasy and the completion of absorption in God

In other words, they say that this world and all worlds, everything other than nirvana is the samsara. It’s the illusory worlds, the shadow planes. And then there’s nirvana. But that’s not true. I mean, it is and it isn’t, like all good things.

Nirvana and samsara are one. This is nirvana.

This is Eastern Nirvana. This is nirvana without realizing where you are.

This is everyone sitting in the theater watching the movie, not realizing that there is more than the particular movie that they’re watching, there are endless movies. You can watch one after another. You can watch them all simultaneously, or you can just go walking in the streets for a while or in the fields.

You can become nonexistence. You can become existence.

Existence is a playground when you’re enlightened.

But to reach that point, to cross over the border is, of course, what the teachings are for.

They aid you and guide you in preparing you, as

It’s really just the Socratic parable, you know; the Platonic parable of the cave is the same thing.

But what you have to do is

Eternity manifests itself in endless ways on endless planes of existence that they call lokas, other dimensions, worlds within worlds.

Within an atom there can be a billion kingdoms, endless.

But all of them are bound by the cycle of birth and death. They all come into being for a while and then vanish. That’s mutability.

Transmigration is the process of shifting awareness within all of that.

But it is possible to go beyond that, which doesn’t mean you won’t be passing through it, but it will not affect you.

And to do that one follows whatever path you prefer.

The short path, of course, is the path—it’s not actually shorter, it’s just that you do it faster but since there’s no time, there’s no sense of fast or slow. It’s rather [you’re doing] what’s correct for yourself, and that’s

The essential principle, the guiding principle to remember in all of this is love.

A better name for nirvana might be endless love.

Love not even in the sense that we see it if we’re watching the romantic movie, but

So if you want to, you can view what will eventually happen, I suppose, at enlightenment, as a final completion. But that doesn’t imply an end to existence, it just is a change in direction. After enlightenment, that doesn’t mean you don’t reincarnate. That’s a myth.

Many people feel that once they attain enlightenment, “Well, why should I do that? I won’t live anymore.”

In the enlightened states of consciousness, when you’ve reached that point after much meditation and so on, then you’re just at the beginning again, but in a different way I suppose.

I received a letter the other day; it was kind of funny. I get mail from people who have come to meditations or they just see the ads sometimes. I get interesting things, letters from people asking—they want to be helped so they can sleep at night. I got one of those today, and I don’t quite know what I’m supposed to do. I’ll think of something.

You know, I take all my mail very seriously.

But I receive sometimes, of course, you receive nasty mail from people who, it’s amazing, they’ve never met you but they have decided they don’t like you.

And there’s this one character who writes me occasionally, and I love his audacity. He wrote me a letter informing me that truly enlightened people never die, their bodies, see?

He was writing me and every other spiritual teacher he could think of—it’s one of these things where they tell you who the other letters are going to—informing us that unless we were at the point of physical immortality, that it was impossible to be enlightened.

Of course I read it, took it in. It’s always good to consider anything anybody says because it might be true. You never know. I mean, one should never assume anything. I think it’s worth listening to what anyone says.

Even if it seems ridiculous on the surface, there may be some truth in there to learn from.

And the truth was that he didn’t know what he was talking about. [Audience laughs.]

Now he does have a point in that it is possible,

It would seem to me that would suggest a tremendous aversion to the experience of death. Someone who wants to keep the body going, in other words, sort of—why? I mean it’s not that great here.

You see, enlightenment doesn’t have anything to do with the body particularly.

Naturally, after enlightenment your body changes tremendously. Its very molecular structure changes just because the kundalini is always streaming through you.

Enlightenment is nothing.

It doesn’t mean that you are affixed to any particular level of consciousness.

In other words, there are very high states of awareness, like the turiya consciousness, which is a superconscious state of samadhi that, if you’re a very powerful meditator, if you’ve meditated for a long time and eaten the right foods and stuff like that, you can go into this consciousness.

If you’ve let go of all your attachments, let go of your pet poodle Sam who you had a multi-incarnation relationship with, you can go into this wonderful sahaja samadhi.

But to be fixated on sahaja samadhi is to be fixated. To be fixated on the idea of being not fixated is fixation, too.

That’s why all these ideas and definitions about enlightenment become silly. Because that’s all they are [is ideas].

Enlightenment is absorption, not only in some nebulous state of awareness but in everything. It’s the ability to talk to a four-year-old and have a comprehensive conversation about whatever.

It’s the ability to meditate and dissolve in light and be absorbed in nirvana.

The self dissolves,

and you become

Then a few minutes later, you can be picking up a phone and talking with someone. In other words,

True, the being has become completely refined.

There’s no longer hatred or fear or any of those things. Those things went away long, long, before. You went through the shifting of thousands of selves, countless lifetimes and within lifetimes.

But finally it simply means you can be funny—

Then, since there’s no attraction or aversion, you can open yourself up to everything.

In other words, I don’t think it’s possible to be funny if there’s anything you still want or anything that you’re afraid of. Your humor will be incomplete.

I’m using humor in a slightly different sense than it’s usually used. Humor very often is derived at the painful expense of another; we laugh at someone’s misfortune. That’s not what I mean.

But as long as there’s still attraction or aversion, you can’t be funny.

In other words, it’s only when you realize that you are mortal and yet immortal simultaneously, that you begin to realize the beautiful incongruities of existence aren’t incongruous at all but rather perfect.

Now I realize that this is a very refined discussion on matters that probably are of no interest to anyone.

But it’s nice to be funny. Particularly not in the sense of making people laugh, but as you pass through your journey to or from enlightenment or wherever you happen to be in between, there’s a sense of the joyous humorousness of existence.

Self-discovery is not as some would have us think—this heavy, awesome, moral process where everyone sits around and frowns.

As you progress towards enlightenment—and of course after enlightenment—you become funny. Serious of course, but being serious, one can still be humorous and light because you’re

Nirvana, in other words, I’m suggesting, is very funny.

It’s not sincere particularly. It’s rather frivolous, actually. Well, why not? Why should it be the way you want it to be—unhappy, miserable and cold, or trapped in etheric colors and robes?

Why? It’s beyond anything.

But the realization, what I’m suggesting about humor here is, that if you were to sit down and be absorbed in nirvana—poof, gone!—and experience the limitless ecstasy of existence—this is just a silly way of talking because there’s no way to describe it.

As soon as you get into this, you get into persona and duality and all this nonsense and then find yourself back here again!

That’s pretty funny! [Audience laughs.]

And having to worry about the heat guy coming out or the electricity goes off, after you’ve just been infinite, endless reality and you find yourself here. And true, I mean it’s not exactly the same; everything moves and changes and there’s nothing stable, particularly yourself, but there is some sense of duality since that’s not contrary to nirvana, that’s just another idea.

These are the secret teachings.

Now you understand why they kept them secret. No one would take them seriously. [Audience laughs.]

In other words, the secret teachings suggest that everything they tell you on the way up is not untrue, but it’s not necessarily so. All the things that the spiritual teachers taught you to get to the top were good for you to hear at the time, but once you get up a ways it all changes.

The rules—there are no rules anymore.

Anything is possible and usually occurs … because you go beyond mind and form, and mind and form dictate rules and regulations and commandments and do’s and don’ts. But it just doesn’t matter. That has nothing to do with God-realization.

But yet it’s very necessary to tell that to beginners because they have to progress, and it does help because without that they won’t get to the point where they can forget it.

It seems silly, I know. It is, but that’s how it works.

It’s not logical, self-realization. If it was, everybody would be self-realized because everybody is logical.

It defies everything that you can imagine and yet incorporates it.

In other words, there are no opposites.

There are no complements;

Nothing is or is not

That’s what Shakespeare said,

So you go beyond all that. Once you’re beyond all that, you aren’t beyond it. You can still be in it, since beyond was just another idea.

That’s why you have to meditate because otherwise you’d drive yourself crazy thinking like this. I think that’s part of it.

What they do is they teach you on the way up all these convoluted ways of thinking about reality and immortality, and it finally gets to you and you can’t stand it, and you have to stop your thoughts just to get away from it.

And that, of course, causes enlightenment. [Audience laughs.]

Now, if you’re trying to aid people in the process of self-discovery, what you have to do is confound them with so many concepts that are contradictory, yet each makes complete sense in its own right, that it begins to drive them absolutely nuts, and the only way they’ll find any peace of mind is if they meditate deeply.

That’s the job of the spiritual teacher, to show you there’s absolutely no way out, except the way in, you see.

That’s the essence of the secret teachings—that there is no essence and there are no teachings. [Audience laughs.]

It’s not such a bad job. It has its moments.

So many Tibetan masters were, then, I suppose what we would call “nontraditional.” Of course from their point of view, they weren’t nontraditional since they didn’t realize there was a tradition because they didn’t believe in tradition. Now, of course, there are those who are extremely traditional, who propound tradition, which is not antithetical to dharma, since that’s dharma in another form.

But the nontraditional teachers—in other words there were Tibetan teachers who smoked a cigar, you know, that sort of thing. You go see the enlightened teacher and he’s … [Rama makes the sound of smoke being exhaled] “Havana’s finest,” that sort of thing, and Havana hadn’t even been discovered yet. That’s when you knew you had a powerful teacher. [Sustained laughter.]

And then of course, there were some Tibetan teachers who were quite famous for their … they “got around,” which caused great consternation to some, because according to traditional theory, that’s not the sort of thing that spiritually-minded people do.

But since no one ever told them that, after they attained enlightenment, what was the difference?

In other words, there’s no prescribed way to attain enlightenment, except the ways they’ve prescribed. If you follow them, they work. To a point.

But then you’ll reach the point where they won’t work anymore because they’ll take you to a certain point, but then you can’t go beyond the point. Or even if you get to the point, it’s still a point, and if it’s a point it’s in the samsara because it’s in the relative world and planes of opposites. [Rama pants like he’s out of breath, then laughs.]

There’s no point to that at all because that’s not liberation; it’s a point. So how do you get beyond the point, since that’s another point? And if you just go towards no point, then that’s the point of no point. You see? It’s discouraging! Enough to make you want to cry. [Audience laughs.]

Well, that’s the secret teachings.

It’s not what you know, it’s who. It’s true. You don’t think so? That’s the truth. That’s why there are spiritual teachers—to confuse you … with the facts.

Because the way you bring a person to those higher levels of attention is a very refined art, is what I’m suggesting, and that it involves so many things, most of which are nonphysical.

In other words, when you work with a student,

when I work with a student,

but almost all of

It’s all done with fields of energy

The secret teachings, in other words, are that enlightenment is—I wouldn’t say—“transmitted” because that implies that there’s a giver—but let us say that it’s transmitted, only because there’s no other way to say it.

But if we realize that we can say it but not mean it, it’s OK to say it. See, that’s how you get out, you see, that’s the secret. You live without living, you die without dying, you breathe without breathing.

That’s the idea, that in the physical level of attention, there’s only that. But the physical is no longer physical when you go beyond it.

It still is extant, but it changes because your understanding changes, because after merging with the transcendental light or returning to the source or whatever you’d like to call it, nothing is as it appears to be. The movie theaters are empty and the streets are full.

The bridge is flowing but the river is not.25

In other words, there’s no way to describe it, which does not prohibit description. Yet there are defined ways to approach that realization.

What I’m suggesting is that there are very traditional methods to attain liberation. There’s Zen, Tibetan forms, yogic forms, many, and you follow those ways to a certain point.

Once you go through all those traditional forms you reach a point where you have to then get creative with God-realization,

There are certain things that can be said—very few—but even they will only be understood when you’ve reached that level of attention. They won’t even necessarily be said verbally, although they can be echoed that way.

They will be said through psychic communication.

But you can only do that, of course, if it’s their dharma, and if they’re prepared. You see, otherwise if you take them up they’ll become fearful, they’ll see so much light they’ll get scared and go back down. They’ll be attracted back to the murky levels.

So you have to prepare them, gradually. It’s like training an athlete, for those higher dissolutions which happen faster and faster [Rama snaps his fingers repeatedly] as you go further, since there’s not as much time, since time goes away.

But even still, you cannot take them over the border into nirvana. Oh you can bring someone into samadhi with a touch, if they’re prepared, as Ramakrishna did with Vivekananda.26

But even so,

What a spiritual teacher does, is they teach you things you don’t need to know now. That’s what the Tibetan secret teachings are—the things you don’t need to know but might prove useful at some point.

So you learn them anyway

The teacher will teach you things that you won’t even realize you’re learning until some day you find when you get there—you didn’t even know that you had the plastic card, and you’ll find yourself pulling it out of your wallet and it’s in your hand.

You didn’t even know that you needed it, you see? And it’ll come up.

But then again, what’s a teacher, anyway? Nothing.

So nothing helps nothing into nothing, which is really something. I didn’t think it was such a bad line myself. Anyway, what do you want for five bucks, huh? [Audience laughs.]

In other words, my essential feeling as I meditate with you tonight and have this wonderful opportunity to waste time with you since that’s all we’re doing together, which is very constructive, from my point of view anyway; there’s no better way to spend your time … since there is no time … is the realization that you’re all very straight in your approach to self-discovery, which is admirable!

I respect your sincerity and intensity and your intensive religious belief systems that one should be very serious in approaching self-discovery. I agree in the sense that it’s necessary to have total commitment, or as much as you can muster to pass through the bardo, that’s true—and a reverence for life.

But I disagree with your moralistic interpretations of life.

You know, I’ll be the first to pat you on the back and congratulate you, but that doesn’t mean that I agree. I agree in a sense that maybe it’s right for you at the moment.

But for you to believe for a second that it’s universal is ridiculous.

In other words, you’re not funny enough to get by the guy because you’ve got to make him laugh. He’s just going to look and say, “Look, there’s no way I’m letting you in there.” Then you say, “Well, did you hear the one about—” [Audience laughs.]

If you get him laughing enough, you can just fshweeet! right by him, into nirvana. So you have to begin to develop a repertoire of jokes. But they can’t be the usual ones because they know all of those.

They have to be these subtle, multiple-plane spiritual jokes, the sort of things the Zen masters tell each other when they’re asleep. Those are the secret teachings. There are a lot of jokes. “Life has no meaning,” you know, stuff like that—“ha, ha, ha.”

The guy climbs the mountain and the guru’s up on top, and he finally gets there after searching—you know, one of those endless shaggy dog jokes—he finally gets there after all these experiences and hundreds of lifetimes and he gets to the illumined one and he says, “Oh guru, what is the truth?” And the guru says, “I forget. I had it, I know it will come back.” [Rama and the audience both laugh.]

Well, what would you do if you were enlightened? I mean, if you’re not already. Well, what would you do? What’s left, but fast cars and … films? All that’s left is life.

I mean, now that you have it, you’ve done it and it’s done and not done and it changes all the time and yet it’s always the same, you’ve got to fill up your time with something.

Those are the secret teachings. They saw that there would be fast cars one day. [Audience laughs.] I’m pushing my luck, I can tell.

Try it again. Enlightenment. Take three. Roll ’em.

What I’m suggesting is that if you really think this whole process out too much

To assume that there is a way to do it and not to do it is narrow-minded, in my opinion. While there may be a way for you at this time, you will change. If you don’t, it means you’re not progressing. But for others there are many ways.

So, what one develops is compassion. Compassion allows us to accept everything.

That’s why there’s always

Because without a requisite knowledge

You only become immortal

Yet that tear remains, even after enlightenment, even though it’s invisible. It’s only visible to those who know. And there’s no way to will that, it will come when it will, through the grace of God.

Therefore to be so absurd or knowledgeable or even, as a teacher, autocratic to assume anything at almost any time seems to me to forget that there’s a tear in the eye of the Buddha, and we are all the Buddha and we all have that tear but we don’t see it because

It’s only with that complete commitment and simplicity and humility and humor that is engendered

’Tis a noble endeavor.

All the rest is just the fun of the process. The craziness, the idiosyncrasies of the enlightenment process, the development of the relationship with the teacher, being in a spiritual community, going off on your own, mystical visions, developing powers—

Enlightenment, in other words, is not the point. That’s only the point for those who don’t understand yet. For them it’s a complete point, and we must identify with it and congratulate them and agree with them because they’re right!

But in the secret teachings, it has nothing to do with that.

The secret teaching was the bodhisattva ideal—

Not some flashy state of luminosity. That’s just another samsaric experience.

Samadhi is another samsaric experience. Samadhi is not enlightenment. It’s a jump into a larger ocean.

Enlightenment is commitment to life,

It’s complete surrender to eternity,

It’s accepting, embracing existence,

It’s not a fixated state of awareness, a samadhi, an attainment.

Oh sure, there are things to attain if that’s what still interests you. But those are sort of adolescent notions in self-discovery.

Eventually you get down to the point where you’ve got to wash the dishes.

That’s the fun in life,

Being an instrument of that cause, which you can do at any evolutionary level.

And such a person is fit for enlightenment because they’ve understood that the secret of life is humility.

In humility you disappear. You’re absorbed in eternity. You can do lots of things for others and still be very egotistical. Better to be egotistical and do things for others than to do nothing at all … I suppose. [“I suppose” said very quietly.]

But humility is folding in on yourself until you’re gone.

One can be humble and be active and in front of the world. It doesn’t matter; it’s the spirit, which no one has to know. You keep it tucked inside yourself since it doesn’t need to shine.

That’s perpetual enlightenment, perpetual humility.

Living, of course, in the undifferentiated nirvana.

No zip code.

22. In The Enlightenment Cycle, chapter “Reincarnation,” Rama refers to “the intermediate stage of the bardo plane, when we’re between lives, between birth, death and rebirth, in between all things.”

23. A religious ascetic, mendicant or any holy person in Hinduism and Jainism who has renounced the worldly life.

24. In Zen Tapes, chapter “Personal Power,” Rama describes and strongly warns against channeling, beginning “Today it’s very popular to do a thing we call ‘channeling.’ There are all these groups out there, and people are trying to channel entities and have these beings come through them at little séance sessions, which in my estimation is downright ridiculous and dangerous.”

25. A Zen koan. See chapter “The Non-Doing of Meditation,” p 255-7, and The Bridge Is Flowing But the River Is Not, Rama - Dr. Frederick Lenz.

26. As recounted in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Mahendranath Gupta (M.)