The Mature Monk

The universe is in your hands. It’s in your hands, it’s in your eyes, it’s in your feet, it’s in your breasts, it’s in your back, it’s in your body. There’s a wonderful scene in The Last Temptation of Christ where Christ is on the ground and he’s writhing and God is inside him. And it’s not pleasant; it hurts. This is a very different point of view than we get in the usual stories about Jesus in the Bible. It has upset some people, but there’s some truth to it.

Spiritual growth and development is at times very painful. At times it’s difficult, like any growth and development. But there needs to be a recognition of who we are and what we are and what the truth is. The truth is that the universe is in our hands and it’s in our body. Self-discovery and enlightenment is not something that is outside of us physically. It’s here. We are it, and it’s in everything. Everything is the eye of God. God is in everything, and God is everything. To not see that is to be blind.

There’s a resonance inside us, a sense of who we are. We’re a multi-bodied traveler. We’re an essence. We’re a feeling, an awareness that has an ancient existence. The world of meditation puts us in touch with that being. Happiness is not something that you’ll ever find in life, in the world. It doesn’t exist there. There’s no place that you can go to on the earth that will completely fulfill you. The Himalayas are beautiful. Ladakh is a very nice place. But if you go there, it’s still just a place.

You’ve been to lots of places and it’s fun to visit them. Each place has its own powers, its own beauties. People are interesting. There are all types, shapes, colors, sizes. They have different types of minds; you can experience them. But they won’t make you happy.

It’s interesting to have a successful career. It’s worth working towards because it gives you a sense of self-discipline; it trains your mind. But having a successful career, having a great car, having a great lover, having everything doesn’t make you happy. It just passes the time. That’s all it does. There’s only one thing that makes you really happy and it’s not found in this world. Otherwise everyone in this world of things and places and experiences would be happy. The only thing that makes you very, very happy is to go beyond this world to a world where there is what they call heaven—an absence of pain, ecstasy, a sense of completion, not just a sense of completion, but actual completion.

God comes in different forms. There’s the form we see with our senses, and there’s the form we know in meditation that we feel during the day and during the night if we extend our awareness. God is found in silence and in noise, but we get a deeper side in silence. Noise can take us to silence. Flesh can take us to spirit. Pain can take us to ecstasy. We use all the routes there are in our quest for enlightenment, perfection. But you should know that you’ll never be happy if you just try and get things and avoid things because then you’re in a world of pain and fear, loss and gain, of ego, time and space. Happiness is gained by getting outside the circle of all of this, the circle of self.

Enlightenment. Enlightenment is knowledge of who you are in a very real sense. Not just who you are in terms of what your personality is like, your likes, dislikes—that’s a simplistic overview of the personality structure. Who are you? You’re not a person, certainly. We take that form. We’re an essence. We’re an awareness of God’s. We’re made up of countless, countless realities. To come to know that is to know the truth, and the truth always frees us.

As Buddhists, and particularly as initiates, as Buddhist monks, we seek to find the truth wherever we are. But it’s with an understanding that the temporal truths that we find in the sensorial, sensual world, that those temporal truths, while an expression of the infinite, will not give us what we’re really looking for. We enjoy them but we don’t expect something from them that’s not realizable. Therefore we don’t get frustrated when the place we live doesn’t feel perfect, the job isn’t perfect, the people we know aren’t perfect or we ourselves are not perfect. We don’t place our expectations upon the physical. We place our expectations upon nirvana, upon the world of enlightenment.

We can elevate our minds and our spirits and direct our bodies to know, live in and flow with the world of enlightenment and spirituality. Or we can be destitute. We may be making $150 an hour, but we’re destitute because we have no light. We only have the small transient fulfillments of God in the temporal world.

Living in a spiritual world is very easy, once you grow accustomed to it. But initially, it puts you through some changes. To not go where the crowd goes and seek what the crowd seeks, nor to just avoid the crowd and the noise and be afraid, to be somewhere in the middle. To be looking for truth in all the wrong and all the right places is the only excuse for living.

A Buddhist monk has a responsibility first and foremost to themselves, and that’s to find the truth each day in every part of their life. In the morning we get up, take a shower and we meditate. Now we can fall asleep in meditation, but we were just asleep. We just woke up. Or we can meditate; we can make our mind stop thinking. Through the practice of concentration and various techniques, we silence the mind and we enter into a flow of perfect light. We go outside of the parameters of mind and thought and experience nirvana. We hold ourself in that state as long as we can, as high as we can. Then when it’s done, we bow. We touch our head to the ground as our way of saying, “Thank you for elevating me to a place that I can’t even consciously feel. And I trust that you will flow through my life—forever.”

We seek to unify ourselves with the endless light of truth, of God, of nirvana. And while the concerns of the world may not be such, that’s of no concern to us. We recognize the infinite playing through all beings and all forms, but we only have to concern ourselves with ourselves. We develop our bodies because it’s important to be strong, to be able to conduct the higher light and energy and to be able to deal as highly sensitized beings with the material world and the beings who permeate it.

We go through the day without a sense of superiority, without a sense of inferiority, but with a sense of being special. We’re connected to the Buddhist order, to the mind of enlightenment. All day long, we draw the power and force from that world, from all the teachers and all the adherents of the practices and the principles, who for countless lives have enjoyed the beauty of the viewpoints of the enlightened mind. We’re in the world, but not particularly of it, which doesn’t connote a spaced-out sense but a very grounded, integrated sense of dealing with the physical properly. But also more absolutely, a sense of assurance that our lives are not in vain, that there is a definite purpose, that every effort does create an effect and that happiness can never be known here, not in the physical—only transient pleasure and pain.

Happiness is something we know inside our mind when our mind is stretched towards God. When our mind is stretched towards God, we feel free. Needless to say, we are the God that we stretch towards in another form. Here we are, there we are. We’re trying to connect. Yet when we’re in the world, we must be extremely practical, pragmatic, down-to-earth, funny, loquacious. We must be able to deal with ridicule and scorn, which it always seems that Buddhists receive. But we feel that that doesn’t matter. God’s laughing at us; God’s laughing at God. I mean, we must seem pretty funny to create so much upheaval—such small groups of people, the Buddhists, seem to upset a lot of people. So we feel that God is laughing at God, and we can take a joke too. We’re pretty funny.

But we just keep walking. We have somewhere to go, and it’s not in this world. It doesn’t matter what anybody says, we know in our own conscience where we’re at, what we want. We know that we don’t mean harm to any living being and that we just wish to merge our minds completely with the eternal light of consciousness, and that’s all that matters. And we forget that sometimes. We forget who we are and what we are. We get very complicated with our lives. We think, “Well, I need this and I need that to be happy. I have to have one of these and when I get to this point, it will all be different.” No, it won’t be. It’ll just be another place, another state.

What makes the difference is when we take our mind and put it into the scriptures, when we read the Buddhist Canon, the Pali Canon, when we read the Tibetan books, when we read anything inspiring, somebody else’s journey into the world of enlightenment, anything that takes us there to that place of silence or stillness. Sometimes surprising things take us there, something that we might not expect. Something that seems, perhaps, antithetical to stillness. It doesn’t really matter what it is because the ten thousand eyes of God are everywhere, always seeing and always looking at perfection in different forms.

Enlightenment is real. It’s something that you grow into every day. The experience of satori, which is the lightning flash—the moment we step into it, the transmutation, the epiphany of perfection—is something that we have many times a day, briefly, a moment, an intuition, an insight into something beautiful.

But don’t be frustrated when you’re not happy. If you’re not happy, it simply means that you’re frustrated because you’re trying to be happy someplace that happiness can’t be. You have a longing for perfection but it will never be realized in anything physical. Yet we’re physical and other things are realized—enjoyment, pleasure, pain, suffering, the dance of the senses.

All kinds of things happen in the physical. But happiness is only gained when your mind is in extended states of attention, when your mind is merging with the infinite. Where else could it possibly be? We go to work, we practice martial arts, we live our lives, we keep our houses nice and clean, our paperwork nice and neat, simply so there’s no clutter in our lives. Not because we feel there’s a residual value to anything in particular, but because it is necessary to do commerce and to transact in the Western world. We’re not living in a monastery. And there, it’s necessary to do commerce and transact for the existence of the monastery. Monasteries are very complicated. They take a lot to run them.

Our monastery is the world. We’re networked electronically and psychically. We’re involved with the world of computer programming, meditation and martial arts. And fun. But in all of it, don’t lose your purpose—to be enlightened, for you, just for you. No one else knows or cares. They crucified Christ, you know. They don’t take real well, necessarily, on this planet, to the people who see things differently. Times haven’t changed all that much. There’s no alarm, there’s no death. The only losers were the ones who did it because they didn’t get to hear what he said and see the doorways he would open for them to other worlds that he lived in. The only loser who walks away from a wise man is the one who walks away. It’s not the wise man. So never be concerned with insults or lack of understanding. Be brave and be who you are, but turn to the silent mind.

In the quiescent mind, within your own mind, is enlightenment. It’s not just in my mind. It’s in every mind that exists. You have to find it. It’s a harmony, a ray of light. There’s a little path of Reese’s Pieces or something that leads to it. You have to follow the trail. You’ll get off the trail and you’ll know it because you won’t feel good. You’ll be frustrated, you’ll be trying to gain satisfaction from the physical. You’ll know when you’re on again because you’ll be smiling and not thinking about how things aren’t fulfilling you. But rather, you’ll just be experiencing the aliveness of the upward stratas of consciousness.

Meditate each day with your whole being and you will be free. Work, work, work to make the great vehicle, the diamond mind, the Vajra Sutra, perfection, a machine—so you can get back home again, real soon. Sitting around idly contemplating doesn’t produce much. But in work you can discipline your attention, forget about your misery, and it doesn’t matter how anything comes out; what matters is it was just fun to do. This is all just for fun. The meditation, the computer science, the martial arts, making money, spreading enlightenment—it’s all just for fun. The day it’s not fun is the day to think about what happened and to get back on track. It’s just for fun, for enlightenment, that is.

The eye of God is inside us. It’s looking through us and it sees whatever we look at. Sometimes I think we could give God better things to look at than the things we focus on, don’t you? As Buddhist monks it is our job to inspire others simply by our own presence. They look at someone who’s calm and serene even though they’re freaked out. They look at someone who is looking past this world of continual change to something that’s permanent and unending, someone who can laugh in the midst of adversity. We’re the best hope that humanity has, so humanity is clearly in trouble. (Audience laughs.) Buddhists have always known this. But we have to do our best. Our best is to just be as happy as we can, remembering constantly that nothing here will ever make us happy. Yet we have to do quite well here to have an uncluttered life.

An uncluttered life will awaken within us a very pure, simple view of infinite mind. A cluttered life will just keep us cluttered. We will just somehow never get to what mattered—the world of enlightenment. Going off in the desert and meditating is fun. But one can be as cluttered in the desert as here. Simply going out there doesn’t change anything. You have to simplify your life and your mind. You must think more of infinity and less of yourself. You need to spend time quietly working and letting your mind go beyond your work into infinity.

All there is is infinity, but so few are very aware of it except in the most simple, sensorial ways, and of course, a life of continual ups and downs, pleasure followed by pain, youth followed by maturation and by old age and death—it’s an endless cycle. But the world of enlightenment bodes a continual renewal. When we step into light, we’re free. We simply have to close our eyes, stop our thought and we’re free. That’s all it takes.

During the day with our eyes open, we witness things. We silently witness the passing of eternity in all of its forms and shapes, and we recognize those forms and shapes as part of our own essence—distant cousins, sometimes very distant cousins, your relatives, not mine. Somewhere out there in the great infinity, everything is connected.

Our interest is not the form but the formless, not matter but spirit because matter just changes; form just changes and it does not fulfill. What creates ecstasy is the formless void, the realms that are beyond description but are very experienceable, the realms of light that we touch when we meditate, when we have any type of experience that brings us into a sense of quiet, perfect exultation. That’s what we look for, the peak moments that take us above the horizon that we’re so familiar with, which is our boring old life and mind.

Enlightenment is very available. It’s in every single moment. It’s in every single being. But our task is not every single being. As Buddhist monks, our task is to bring ourselves resolutely more and more into light, to forgive, to forget those who create problems for us because to remember them is only to keep problems in mind.

You all know the story about the two sexist monks who were crossing the river and there was this gal on one side and one of the monks picked her up and helped her across, and they got to the other side and he let her down and she went her way. They walked on for a while, and the other monk said, “How could you let that woman touch you? How could you carry her?” The one sexist monk turned to the other sexist monk and said, “What do you mean? I put her down at the edge of the river. You’re still carrying her.”

I say they’re sexist because they carried her. If they weren’t sexist, they would have had her carry them, you understand?

So what are you still carrying? No, real question. What are you still carrying? Are you still carrying everyone who’s insulted you, injured you or in some way defamed you or bothered you or hurt you, attacked you or interfered with you? That’s a lot of weight. I’d let it go, personally, and just move on and forget. Whether you forgive or not doesn’t matter. Forgiveness is a silly word. Forget is the correct word. Be in the moment. Don’t even notice. Personal power means that you cannot notice things. You see them in your peripheral vision but they’re not worth focusing on them because you only get caught up in them and to get caught up in them distracts you from someplace you want to be—eternal awareness of light.

The only issue is, how long will it take you to wake up? As long as you choose, it’s completely within your control. The more deeply you meditate, the more quietly you work, the less excuses you make, the more you simplify your life, the less you expect to be happy here, and the more you move your mind into the upward radiances of the ten thousand lights of enlightenment, the ten thousand radiances of enlightenment, that’s when you’ll be happy. All this work is simply to gain the mental control to put the mind in alignment with the ten thousand radiances of enlightenment and experience them in various gradations forever. That’s our only purpose. All of this is only to do that. That’s the total purpose of a monk.

There are teaching monks who remind others of the things that they forget. There are enlightened beings like myself who project the radiances to any who show signs of wakefulness. But what happens in the world is immaterial because it will change again and again and again. You keep up with it, just like you keep up with cleaning in the house. You keep it clean. But you know it will get dirty again. If you’re going to cry every time your clean house gets dirty, you’re in for misery. If you’re going to be in ecstasy every time it’s clean, you’re going to be in for ecstasy and you’ll bounce back and forth. That’s life for most people.

But if you just do it because it’s what we do, it’s what a mature monk does—we just keep up with our lives, pay our bills, go our own way quietly. Then you can take your energy instead of losing it in all the little hassles and all the little battles you could have fought with opponents who didn’t matter, who were so confused that they didn’t know what they were doing or even who they were or what they were. Instead, if you put that energy into pushing your mind into the ten thousand radiances of enlightenment, you’ll find that you’ll be enigmatic, practical, purposeful, funny and quite happy. But if you try and become happy leading your life, it’s impossible.

Look at the world—happy one day, sad the next; laughing one day, crying the next. But if you put your mind into the Diamond Vajra Sutra, into the ultimate spiritual vehicle, the ten thousand radiances of enlightenment, if you think about it, dwell on it, meditate on it, program about it,3 let your mind dwell on the kingdoms of enlightenment that are endless—they’re there, they’re real, they’re more real because they stay the same. They are permanent, whereas the transient world of form is impermanent.

Meditate on enlightenment. Read the exploits of the great teachers, the great saints. They’ll inspire you. Their power is there. Accept that you’ve become a monk—unless you choose some day to give it up—to discover something, to lead a different kind of life. Be proud without being vain. Feel special without debasing others in your own view. And seek a stillness, whether it’s in the city or in the woods, seek a stillness. Avoid the noise and the commotion unless it’s very good rock and roll. Avoid the noise and the commotion; it doesn’t empower, it drains. It just looks like it’ll feel great but then afterwards, you feel lousy.

As a monk you have a responsibility to meditate many hours a day. Not just to sit there but to think of the ten thousand radiances. When you get sleepy, to wake yourself up. If you’re meditating for 90 minutes and you’re losing it, keep the Tibetan book in front of you and open it up and read a page every 25 minutes to remind yourself to keep your mind there. Don’t just sit there thinking for 90 minutes or two hours. It’s a waste of time.

Think about enlightenment, live in enlightenment, experience enlightenment and don’t care what anybody says about enlightenment, except the enlightened and those who seek it.

3. Rama indicates that programming can be a spiritual vehicle.