An individual has to be tenacious enough to become enlightened. Everyone lives down at the bottom of the hill, in the city—in India everybody lives in these huge cities or off in the country, but whatever it is, it’s all a fairly low auric level, with certain exceptions, Benares, things like that. But even that’s kind of the costume jewelry of enlightenment.

But way up on top of the hills—this is how it was a while back if we can use geography as kind of a symbolic representation of the mind—there are the Himalayas, up top, snowy ranges, way up top. And people are living down in the city. And the cities are hot and crowded and they’re filled with the thoughts, feelings and desires of humanity. We could even go so far, perhaps, as to say that the cities are representative of the human condition. In other words, you might say, “Well God, these cities that we have, they’re so crowded, there are slums, there are nice neighborhoods, there are—.” They’re all just reflections of the human psyche. They didn’t just occur at random. These are the by-products, these are the auras, the creations of human beings. The earth in its current state reflects the consciousness of humanity. It’s an imprint of their evolution. What else could it be?

There are some individuals who are born, like we all are, in a city—be it the city, the farm, but down at the low altitudes of mind. They lead their lives like everyone else does until one day, they just sort of look around. You look around yourself and you know that this isn’t it, and thus the spiritual quest begins. Oh, I’m sure in past lives the person did the same thing, all that sort of stuff. But—the spiritual quest begins.

A person then has to be very tenacious if they’re going to overcome it, because the entire world they know—it’s like everybody subscribes to the same magazines and everybody gains their view of the world from the same magazines. But suddenly one day, you’ve been reading these same magazines and they’ve always been very entertaining. You’ve been watching the television shows, you have all the props of humanity—the families, the friends, the things to look forward to, the things to dread, the good times, the bad times, the menu-driven world of humanity. Then something in you one day just looks around and goes, “Oop! This is not it!” It’s been “it” up until now but suddenly it doesn’t feel right anymore; it just doesn’t feel good. In the old days in the Far East, such a person would then want to get away from the crowds because they felt something, an awareness, a feeling, that was very difficult to pin down in words, but it certainly would be very hard to experience in those cities or on the farms around people. It’s real hard to experience it around people.

So the individual would then leave the cities. They’d leave the family, and probably they’d be shocked by what they were saying, “Mom, Dad, I’m out of here.”

“Well, what’s going to happen? We need you to take care of the farm, or run the business, or you’re supposed to get married to Susie,” or whatever.

“Sorry, I just gotta go. I just gotta go. I just can’t handle this. It’s not me, you didn’t do anything wrong, or maybe you did. But in any case, I’m out of here. It’s been OK, adios!”

So, suddenly an individual finds themselves doing that. It doesn’t necessarily happen in a day. It’s a long process, but a day finally comes when it hits you. You just can’t do this anymore. You just can’t do it because it doesn’t mean anything to you anymore. It doesn’t have a pull. You watch all these other people who are obviously very, very much engaged in living the human life. They seem to be having a good time with it all, or a bad time. But whatever it is, it drives them. And you’re just looking at it. And one day you look at it and it just doesn’t make any sense to you. We’re not discussing whether it’s qualitatively good or bad, it’s just, you’re looking at it and saying, “Wait a minute, what a—what is this? I watch TV and I don’t enjoy it. I go to the places I’m supposed to go, I dress the way I’m supposed to dress, I do all the things, but I don’t—these other people seem to get off on it, but it’s just not doing it for me this week.”

Such an individual then will obviously look for something that does do it for them. And usually that involves a great deal of solitude. This is how it used to be. You see, it’s very difficult to get solitude on the earth, but we’re taking you back a thousand years or so here. Such an individual, in India, the subcontinent, would then leave and would usually go up in the mountains. You climb up the mountains. You don’t know why. It’s just because—it’s not going to be very comfortable up there, and you don’t climb the mountains because you’re avoiding comfort. You’re looking for purity, a purity of a kind, a clarity. Something that just isn’t all garbled. Someplace where you can feel the earth again, maybe. Where you can feel what the wind feels like. You can see the stars at night and actually not just look at little dots in the sky, but you can feel an energy from them. When you’re around the aura of humanity in those cities, you can’t feel anything. You feel the thoughts and desires and auric formations of human beings.

So you climb on up the hill, you take the trip, you go up to Nepal or Bhutan or Tibet or someplace up there, and you get up there because you’ve heard the rumors that there are other people like yourself who are up there; they’re up on top and they are doing something different up there. They wanted to get away from it all.

Now, needless to say, there are going to be two kinds of people up there, really three. One is the structural, organizational people. These are people who went up to the top, they had the vision and after a while they couldn’t maintain it. They kind of missed the cities. They like being up there, and they like self-discovery and they like meditating. They like the experience of consciousness. So what they do is they get together and they form a community and they put together a little city, a monastery. And pretty soon the monastery develops history, customs, scriptures. Oh, all this is doubtlessly based around the religious teachings of one Buddha or another, but after a while the monastery takes on a kind of a functional autonomy, and the people in the monastery don’t necessarily have very strong or powerful experiences. It becomes another way of living, and perhaps it suits that person. If it does, they’ll stay there.

Now there’s another group of people who have kind of a wilder look in their eye. These guys and gals are a little further out, right? These are the people who are seeking the peak experience. And once the monasteries were built up there, initially when they probably got up there, they tried out a monastery for a while, met a couple teachers. They were handed the beads, the bowl, they put on the ochre robe, shaved the head and started doing all the exercises and the practices. But then after a while, they probably noticed that initially it gave them a new clarity, a new purity, the self-discipline was fun, the meditation was fun. They developed a new orientation and it felt better than it did before.

But after a while they noticed—they look at all the people doing the beads, they look at everybody singing the songs. Everybody’s looking good, you know, they’ve got the good monastery, the right outfits, the good looking ochre robes. No, I mean there are lousy monasteries where they’re real scummy. They’re not well run at all and the people are really flaky and the vibration is terrible. But let’s say you got a good one, everything is kind of pristine and looking good. And it’s all looking good, and you do it for a while, and it’s feeling good, but then a day comes when suddenly you’re looking at everybody doing the beads and singing the songs, and you know that prayers are in two hours, and then it’s time to go work in the kitchen, and you know it’s all scheduled out, and suddenly you’re looking at everybody, and they’re all really involved in it. I mean they’re getting into it heavily.

But you look at it, and it’s like you’re down in the city again, and you say, “Wait a minute, this is not it, for me.” And of course you doubt yourself, “Well, what’s wrong with me because all these other people obviously seem to be having some kind of great experience here and they’re all totally getting off on it,” right? I mean, they’re sitting in those lectures on the dharma and they’re just eating it up, and you’re sitting there kind of looking around. Because you don’t feel the pulse, you see, enlightenment isn’t there. Practice is there, and practice is good and it’s a necessary step, but I guess you’re through that step.

So then you hear about some weird radical group that is way up on the left, and they don’t have a real fancy monastery. It’s kind of basic. And you go there, and there’s some teacher there. Now the teacher there is real different. Doesn’t necessarily have all the robes and artifices and conch shells and all the good stuff, OK? And you walk into the room, and he kind of looks at you and says, “What do you want?” You know, they give you a harder time. I mean it’s not predictable. Oh, they might be very nice, or they could be into anything, but the teacher there is not exactly what the other people were like down on the real classy, Mercedes Benzy kind of monastery. The teacher is just a little off, a little weird, see? And the people there all look a little bit strange—they’re all a little bit off, too.

But you’ll notice when you sit there, even though it doesn’t look like you figure it should in the storybook version you have of the enlightenment experience, as you’re sitting there, you’re looking at the teacher, you notice that the room starts to change colors. You see the guy’s auras are flipping through and the room is spinning and suddenly you’re moving into different mindstates. You won’t have necessarily the prayers at five in the morning, and you won’t hear the beautiful dharma singing and all this jazz, but the people are flipping through different levels of consciousness. In other words, they’re avidly pursuing the enlightenment experience.

So what I’ve done is given you a few levels. I’ve given you the level of common humanity—having children, having families, growing old, dying, the endless samsara. Then we have, of course, the local religions down there, which I really say are part of the same thing. They’re just custom houses, social situations, something to hold onto, funeral rights, marriages, christenings, nice ways to live, moralities. That’s one level. I don’t really separate the local churches from the local people.

Your second level is your fancy monastery, OK? In the sense that it’s very well run, very antiseptic and it’s a place for people to do serious practice. They work real hard there. It’s not flaky. There are the flaky monasteries, but they’re not worth considering. They’re just like bad restrooms in the service stations. The less said about them the better. No, you know what I’m talking about—as opposed to the nice, clean sparkly restroom in the Exxon station. We don’t have to talk about the bad ones, we don’t even talk much about the good ones. But the bad ones, we all know about that. So the real flaky monasteries, we don’t have to talk about those. Those are just, they’re not even monasteries. And there are bad teachers who run them sometimes who are just mean, nasty people who try and get power over people for their own egotistical little reasons, or do black magic and sorcery, all kinds of weird stuff. But it’s all egotism and vanity, and it’s gross.

But there are some nicely run Buddhist monasteries, the kind you always see in the Kung Fu movies. They just do practice there. Nobody’s really enlightened. Maybe they had a guy who was enlightened a thousand years ago who started the monastery and since then they’ve been doing their best to keep up with it, but they don’t have somebody to really show them how to become enlightened. I mean, you don’t just go find out on your own.

It’s a very complicated matter to become enlightened. If it happens to a person without a teacher in this lifetime, you can bet their boots they’ve had about a thousand teachers in their last thousand lives because it’s a very complicated thing to do, to become enlightened. Very complicated. I mean, you don’t just sit down and design a supercomputer. You take a lot of classes before you get to the point where you design a supercomputer. See what I mean? Now, a lot of people will take the classes—that doesn’t mean they can design a supercomputer. That’s obviously going to be a certain kind of mind.

So we have the basic humanity, we have the posh ashram and then we have the wild-eyed types who actually have a teacher who’s enlightened or very close, who are all sitting around really not stuck in any particular way of doing things. Now there’s no suggestion that one thing is better than another. But the person who felt uncomfortable in the other situations will probably feel more comfortable there. There, people really practice and their teacher gives everybody a hard or a happy time constantly, depending upon what he or she is into. But you’re dealing with real enlightenment. Real enlightenment doesn’t fit into your storybook ideas.

Then there’s one other group that’s worth mentioning. It’s not a group, it’s an individual, and it’s a solitary individual who goes off on their own in the mountains and doesn’t get involved with the posh ashram where it’s well run, obviously avoids the flaky ashrams and knows where they are, nor do they go down to the local enlightened teacher with all the bright-eyed types who are on their way to enlightenment, working through various solutions. That individual wanders alone and just meditates by themselves. They might stop by a monastery once in a while, visit, listen to a talk, but they feel that their path is strictly solitary. And they roam by themselves. There are some enlightened teachers like that, too. Once in a while there’s an enlightened teacher who doesn’t take students, and they just roam. Whomever they meet they do their best to confuse, you know, that sort of thing, to teach something to. No, I mean it goes without saying, but they don’t really have a fixed abode and they don’t accept students at all.

You’re dealing, here, with a guy who’s involved with the wild-eyed group. It’s the actual practice of enlightenment, which has nothing to do with religion at all. It has nothing to do with the well-run monastery at all where everybody is doing practice. Everybody is practicing in the other one, but the real—the real enlightenment experience draws very few individuals. You have to be terribly tenacious. There’s a certain drive you have, that you will never be placated by illusory forms of self-discovery. You won’t settle for the town with the local churches. You won’t settle for the really well-run monastery. You want the peak experiences.

Naturally, people who are involved in peak experiences are not what you might think. In other words, the way of humanity is to turn everything into a marketable product, and religion and enlightenment are no exceptions. But when we turn something into a marketable product, it loses something. Christianity is a marketable product. It has very little to do with Jesus Christ. I’m sure it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ at all, what that experience was like to be around the guy when he was walking around, for the three years he was teaching. This has nothing to do with it—these churches, edifices, robes, cardinals, Vaticans, popes. It is whatever it is, but it has nothing to do with any of that. I mean that was a bunch of wild-eyed guys who were just walking around with the guy. He was doing miracles, talking to them, telling them about other ways to live and be. That was very different than the well-ordered, “Let’s go to church on Sunday.” He didn’t say anything about going to church on Sunday. They all gave up everything and just roamed around with the guy while he did what he did. See? That’s what the study of enlightenment is like.

Enlightened teachers are not logical. They don’t function from levels that are understandable to the human mind. They’re not religious. Religions form around them, usually after they’ve died, because they’ve said interesting things and obviously they had a power and it left an impression on the minds of some of their students who wrote books and set up scriptures and ways of being and the structures.

But real enlightenment is something that, you have to be there. In other words, the only way it really happens is, you have to be there. You’ve got to find an enlightened teacher. And you’re with them and you go through whatever they happen to be into at the moment. It’s very vicarious. Whatever they’re into, everybody does—just because they’re into it. It’s not a clone situation, it’s just because that’s where the teacher is at the moment.

In other words, in this culture it seems that the student wants the teacher to be in some way available for them and feels that it’s the teacher’s bound duty to turn into what they want them to be. Somehow, in other words, you walk in and you want the teacher to be a certain way because this is how teachers are. You’ve got it all figured out. So now the teacher’s going to be one of “these” because you’ve decided that’s what the teacher’s supposed to be this week. You’ve got it all figured out before you arrive. Your Hollywood images are all in your mind. “Well, the teacher’s going to look this way, talk this way, act this way, this is what I’m supposed to feel,” you see? You’ve got this very defined idea before you ever arrive.

Now, there are people, of course, who are imposters, phonies, who know all that and they will act that out. They will portray that part completely, knowing that that’s what someone wants. And of course, they’ll fulfill that expectation; everybody will love them, they’ll be very popular. But a real teacher is not there to be of service to you. In other words, there’s a weird idea—teachers in the Western culture, by and large, are viewed as impotent. In the Western culture, the profession of a teacher—who becomes a teacher? Let’s say an academic teacher in high school, college—they’re usually kind of laid-back, scholarly, somewhere between a yuppie and a nerd. Right? Unless they’re a P.E. teacher. Right? No, I mean, think of what a teacher is in your mind. Whereas you think of a billionaire, someone who makes a lot of money, a corporate executive or a corporate raider, even better, an Olympic athlete—that’s a virile, strong person. But this is not the case necessarily in the East.

This is a very Western notion that teachers are impotent. They’re these kind of—they’re like Mom, after she’s kind of burned out. You can always go to her, she’s not going to create any trouble, she’s there to just take her energy, clean up after you, say everything is all right, then you can split. That’s Mom. Mom is impotent, basically. She might have been hot to trot before she had the kids, she was a real hot little number, wore the miniskirts, looked good. But now she’s—if I can step into the world of cartoons— Calvin and Hobbes? And the mother and the father there are great. They’re the mother and the father of the 90s. The father’s an attorney; he’s kind of a yuppie type. He’s kind of burned out. Just wants to sit in his easy chair after working all week and being completely drained. And the mother is the same thing, and they have this wild kid who they really don’t want, who is Calvin. Calvin has a lot of energy and he’s kind of wild-eyed and crazy. And mom and dad just are listless, tired, mellow types. They just wanted listless, tired, mellow kids. But instead they got Calvin. He’s totally frenetic; he eats the sugar bombs by the carton just to mellow out! They’ve got this crazy kid, see?

So in the West you expect a teacher to be a very impotent person. You expect, usually, they’ll be from the Far East, very old, lots of wrinkles; you’ll come in and you’ll get what you want out of them and leave. That’s your idea. They’re here to be of service to you. What bullshit. What vanity. What egotism—to think such a thing—in the world of enlightenment.

I don’t know about scholastics. In scholastics that’s largely true because we hire the wrong people. We should hire virile men and women who are tough, who are fighters. That’s what a teacher is—it’s someone who has worked their way to the top and can transmit that spirit and that information to someone else. That’s a teacher.

But in the world of self-discovery, if it’s real enlightenment, not religion, you’re dealing with someone who has done what almost no one on earth has ever done. You’re dealing with someone who’s broken through every rule, every barrier, every “do” and “do not,” and they’ve reached an apex of consciousness. They’ve broken through all the conditioning, all the timidity. They don’t buy any program. Someone who’s fought their way through to that is virile, is tough, is one tough hombre. Now, that’s not going to be your little image of the kind of quiet teacher who just kind of walks up (Rama playfully imitates an East Indian teacher), “Oh, is very good to see you today, students. How nice, please sit, we will have darshan, close your eyes and repeat the sacred mantra!” (Back to normal voice.) And then you’ll walk out with kind of a passive, dead feeling, with no energy involved and you’ve done your religious enlightened bit, and they’ll say some nice words about truth or maybe even about emptiness, something for you to think about that will confound your little simplistic mind for a while. Which isn’t hard! (Audience laughs.)

But if you have someone who’s intense, who’s virile, who’s just like—when I say “virile,” I don’t mean that necessarily sexually; I don’t mean it not sexually, but I don’t want to limit it to that definition—but someone who’s strong, which is what you have to be to become enlightened. You have to have fought through every limitation inside yourself. Such a person is not going to sit there and just be passive. And they’re not going to be around for you to get what you want out of them in your way, when you don’t even know what it is to get or what is there to get. You don’t know anything about it. You’re coming in looking for something. You have no idea what’s involved. This person does.

Such a person is going to tell you what to do and how to do it if you’re interested, and if you impress them that you even have the potential. But you in the West expect someone is just going to be here; it’s going to be like your high school teacher was. They’re going to sit here, you can ask them all the questions you want, get whatever you want and walk out. That has nothing to do with the enlightenment experience. Nothing.

In the enlightenment experience you’re dealing with someone who’s done what no one does. They’ve overcome the self. That doesn’t make you passive, that doesn’t make you anything that can be verbalized. It makes you everything. Yet there’s still a body there for some reason, with an infinite consciousness floating through it. You can’t comprehend what it means. Don’t try. If you want to become that way, you’re going to deal with someone who’s very intense. Not off, not out of balance, not someone who will take advantage of you, just someone who’s operating from levels you can’t even imagine.

Now that shocks most people. That shakes them up; that scares them. Padmasambhava is the classic teacher. Oh, you can read accounts of his illustrious miracles, which have been embellished about a thousand times over, to the point where it’s ridiculous. But if you can get past that, you’ve got a guy who came to—you know he brought Buddhism to Tibet, and this was one tough motherfucker. This guy is tough, this Padmasambhava; he’s a hot dude. He goes off, he meditates in a cemetery for five years, then spreads the dharma, then he kills a couple of people, throws a rock off a tower and somebody dies, and then in court he wins because he informed everybody that this guy had it coming from a past life, right? (Audience laughs.) You know.

Padma’s hanging around with the princess and he’s all over the place, but he’s pure as can be. He’s coming from a place human beings can’t imagine. Human beings want you to be orthodox, to fit into their ideas of purity and spirituality. Fuck that. Just fuck it. It’s bullshit. In other words, human beings want to deaden you. They want to turn you into something that’s porridge, that’s palpable, that works into the 50-minute timeslot on TV at night.

Enlightenment is X-rated, honey, if you haven’t checked it out. It’s hot, it’s vivacious. You’re going to take your mind and merge it with the entire cosmos—your idea of the word “cosmos” is what you can perceive with your senses.

You’re going to merge your mind with the mind of eternity that goes on forever? You’re going to do that? That’s not easy. It’s very intense. I mean sitting on Mount St. Helens when it went off would have been small talk. You’re going to refract your mind through the endless refractions of infinity, constantly, forever? That’s not exactly your timid type who does that, or your mellow type.

A real enlightened teacher is intense. And they could care less what you think about anything at any time since you are lost in illusions. They understand that because they were once in the same place. Of course there’s understanding. But if you want somebody timid and dead like yourself so you can feel comfortable, well there are lots of them out there. But real teachers are very intense, if they’re enlightened. They’re very strong. They don’t take shit from anybody. Yet they’ll take shit from anybody if that’s what they’re supposed to do. It’s complicated, it’s complicated.

The world of enlightenment is for very few people. It’s for people who have what we call an edge. They’re not people who want the religious imagery—oh, you may have gone through that phase. They’re not people who want the human deadness. They don’t really want somebody to pat them on the shoulder and tell them everything that they want is acceptable. A lot of religion and a lot of the pseudo enlightenment is just people who are kind of practicing psychology. Originally, before there was psychology and psychiatry, there was religion. And there still is. It’s just saying that it’s OK, or whatever you believe is OK. It’s peer group acceptance.

Real enlightenment has nothing to do with this world. It has nothing to do with this world. It’s the entrance into infinite consciousness. Beyond the body. Outside of time and space. That doesn’t fit into any pragmatic program, and almost no one has the guts to try it. Which is OK—that’s why there are very few who reach that point, and those who reach that point are indifferent completely to all others. But because there’s a tradition, because someone once helped them when they were a complete asshole lost in illusion, you do that for someone else. It’s sort of a payback, I guess, to the universe. A karmic chain of some kind that isn’t really karmic. It’s just how it works. I don’t have words for it.

The enlightenment experience is not what you think. It can’t be, or it couldn’t be enlightenment. How could it be anything that you can configure, anything you can imagine, any way that you think it should be, any way that you want it to be? Nor is it necessarily what you don’t want. It just is what it is.

Your entrance into enlightenment begins where you are at any given moment. And the outer forms, symbols, are completely irrelevant. They might be there, they might not be there. What matters is—is there enlightenment? Yes, everything is enlightenment. Yes, there’s enlightenment inside of you. Yes, there are numerous pathways, forms of yoga, Buddhism, Taoism, blah, blah, blah, that lead to enlightenment. But they all are dead ends, of course. They just lead you to a certain point where you have to make a leap yourself.

But the experience of enlightenment is something that rubs off. It’s transferred. Now, it isn’t really transferred, that is to say, you don’t really transfer it from teacher to student. The student has to find it on their own, just as the teacher did. But it’s transferred in the sense that the steps, the alignments, the melding of the mind with infinity is a complicated maneuver, or series of maneuvers, that you learn from a teacher. You don’t learn it physically, I mean, it’s nothing that can be explained in words. It’s something that you learn occultly or inwardly or mystically. It can’t be discussed. And a person who seeks it will find it.

Very few people seek it, and that’s just fine. It’s not something that’s supposed to be sought, necessarily. It’s not something that, “Oh gee, isn’t it too bad, there aren’t a lot of people seeking enlightenment now.” There never were. There probably never will be. That doesn’t matter. If someone has the impetus and the drive, they seek it. And if they seek it, they’ll find it—if they don’t stop.