Buddhist Yoga

The essence of all practice is to be cool. Life is not worth getting excited about because whatever you perceive is an illusion. If you like getting excited, then you can get excited. But if your excitement is anything more than enjoyable, then you’re making a mistake. The essence of all practice is to be relaxed, to be at peace with yourself. Now, you can’t really be at peace with yourself if you’re trying to hold onto things that are illusions. Think about it for a second.

Nothing lasts. Consider everything that you’ve gone through and experienced thus far. How many things did you really get upset about in your life thus far? How many things have you freaked out about? A lot of things—that are completely gone now. The amount of emotional trauma that you’ve gone through over things that today have no importance—and they didn’t have any importance then, except that you gave them importance by magnifying situations and giving them a power over you. It’s understood that nothing lasts.

This universe is just like the sky. Clouds come and go, but the sky remains. The universe is unchanging. It takes countless forms. To be perturbed about whether there are a lot of clouds in the sky today is silly because whatever is in the sky is going to change. That’s the nature of the sky. One day it’s clear, the next day it’s cloudy. One day it rains, the next day it snows, the next day it’s sunshine.

Human beings affix themselves to things that are of little or no importance. They affix themselves to the transitory, to things that are impermanent. And in doing so, they get all upset. Nothing lasts; everything changes. Life changes into death, death changes into life. So the essence of all practice is to be cool, to be relaxed, to be poised, to be at one with the changeless and to go through the experiences of transience, the experiences of daily life and nightly life—to go through them with a very balanced, open viewpoint.

You’re much too hung up, you human beings, on all of your ideas and your desires. You still have not penetrated the essence of yoga. You think that yoga is in some way going to make everything you want to happen work out, and you’re going to be able to avoid what you don’t want. That’s not yoga. That’s desire and aversion. The purpose of yoga is not to care about things, to detach ourselves from the ephemeral world, which causes us pain. The world doesn’t cause us pain by the fact that it exists, but we cause ourselves pain because we attach ourselves to circumstances. And when those circumstances are in conflict with what we want or don’t want, we experience pain. The answer is to pull our attention, our awareness, our focus, back from the physical world and to place it on something that’s changeless and ecstatic, which is the pure and perfect light of reality, which exists inside all things.

There’s another world other than this world. Oh, there are countless worlds, dimensions, planes, but there’s another world that’s formless. It doesn’t have a form. It doesn’t really change. That doesn’t imply that it’s static; it’s beyond change and changelessness. The purpose of all yoga or Buddhism, Taoism, practice, enlightenment, occultism, whatever it is, is to reach into that plane, world, call it what you will, with our minds—to enter into that reality through the conscious focus of the mind. Just to experience that reality is to be free.

In order to experience that reality, we have to remove ourselves from this reality. That is to say, what creates the world is our focus. If you focus on getting a job and you’re all hung up about it, and if you don’t get that one particular job, your world is ruined. Then you’ll go through a lot of misery and torment. You’ll go to an interview; you’re waiting to hear, biting your nails, you’re all upset. If you get the job you’re happy and smiling; if not, you’re depressed and suicidal. But the person next to you could care less about that job. That’s not even in their mind. You could be the person next to you. You could forget about the whole thing.

In other words, we assume that the things that are important in our lives are intrinsically in some way important, and the things that are unimportant are unimportant. That’s not true at all. We produce importance and unimportance by bringing to bear the power of our life, of our attention field, of our mind on something. What we focus on becomes reality. We give reality to things through the venue of our perception. When we withdraw our perception from the world, then our perception will go someplace else.

In other words, you can’t meditate on the clear light of reality, you can’t put your mind into samadhi, you can’t experience ecstasy if you’re all caught up in the things of the world. Obviously, if your feet are on one side of the street, they’re not on the other side of the street. So if you’re all caught up in this world, there’s no way you can experience ecstasy; you’re in this world. But this world really doesn’t exist, per se. Obviously, the world exists. If it exists, it exists. If you see something, you’re perceiving it. But that’s a way of saying that the only reason you’re perceiving it is because you’re there and if you change your perception, it’s not there. You know—if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to watch it, did it really fall? Well, it really doesn’t matter. If you weren’t there, it’s not of consequence.

The world of here and there is completely dependent upon you. You see, a lot of you are trying to use the power of yoga to improve your lives. This is a terrible mistake. Because all you’re doing is binding yourself more. You’re putting more of your attention into the transient world. In other words, if you increase the volatility of your mind through the practice of meditation and you focus that volatility into the physical, into the realm of desires and aversions, then you’re going to make everything more important. When you increase the volatility of the mind, whatever you focus it upon, the mind is going to interact with more.

The purpose of increasing the power of the mind through the practice of meditation and occultism is not to then be able to force and push our way, to get the things we want more and to avoid the things we want to avoid more. That’s going to be a major pain in the ass. What we’re trying to do is not care. We increase the power of our mind because our mind is hung up in a nasty little routine, and that routine is to try and get everything it wants and to avoid everything it doesn’t want. Yoga means we go a step further back. In yoga we go to the cause. The cause of pain is not the world. The cause of pain is us.

All pain comes because of frustrated desire. I mean, obviously there’s physical pain—you put your hand in a flame, you get burned—that’s not what I’m talking about. That’s sensorial pain that’s caused through contact with things that are obviously not pleasant to the senses. But we’re discussing mental and emotional pain. Mental and emotional pain come because we focus on things, we desire them. And either their possible loss—just the thought of it—or the actual loss causes us pain.

In other words, suppose—right now you’re caught up in the trauma of your life, totally. Each one of you has a scenario going; you’re making a movie. Listen to me, I’m talking to you. You’re making a movie right now in which you’re the star. And you’ve got your whole life figured out. You’ve already figured out what you want to have happen and what you don’t want to have happen, therefore you’re completely screwed. Because the likelihood of what you want occurring the way you want it to is highly unlikely. And even if you get it to happen, it won’t last, see? Or the mind will shift and then it’ll want something else. In other words, what you want to do is just be indifferent. You don’t want to be bound by the movie. The movie is always a bad movie; it’s always a B movie.

The answer is to withdraw from the stage of life and to place your attention somewhere else. In other words, if you really don’t care what happens here, it won’t affect you, it won’t bother you. Now, that doesn’t mean that one just doesn’t care. That’s absurd. You can’t not care. Of course you’re going to care. But what you do is, you move your caring to a safe place. There’s nothing safe here. Everyone and everything dies. Anyone you care for is going to die and that will cause you pain. If you care for yourself, you’re going to die and that’s going to cause you pain. This world only brings things apart that come together, and it brings things together that weren’t together.

The solution is not, as Charlie Brown once said to Lucy in a comic strip, “Don’t you wish sometimes we could take all the people we love and bring them all together and put our arms around them and just hug them forever?” That’s not the solution, because that’s not going to happen. Or even if it does, it’s not going to last. The solution is not to care.

I irritate my students whenever I make a suggestion that’s contrary to their current view of themselves and the world, which is the only kind of suggestions I ever make. They immediately get upset because they feel that what I’m suggesting runs contrary to their desires and their aversions. They’re so fixed in their view of themselves and the world that they don’t want to let go of it. So they experience mental suffering and emotional suffering at the mere mention of anything that they had not already scripted in their internal movie. This is ridiculous. What you’re trying to do is free yourself completely from the trap of selfhood, from the trap of being.

There’s no such thing as a better life. All of life is either wonderful or horrible. I mean, call it what you will. But no one life is better than another. All lives are equally painful, it’s just some people don’t let on how much pain they’re in. Oh yes, you can be in the cancer ward and it’s very painful physically. And we all go through the pain of having a body and of living and dying. But the real answer is to move our perception someplace else. You’ve come to study with a teacher because you’ve realized that no matter what you do, it’s a bad deal. You can be happy, but it won’t last, it just sort of opens you up for the sucker punch. Now this isn’t a negative way of looking at life, it’s just accurate. It’s just realistic. It’s just a clear perception of how things really are.

Pleasure and pain are transient. Look around you. Happiness here is limited. But there are realms of light, there are realms of perfection, from which all of this comes, this world, you. We all come from a place, which we remember intuitively, that’s perfect. That place always exists. It’s inside us. It’s the nexus of our minds. It’s the central core of our being. But we don’t see it because our focus is external. Just changing the focus to an ideal life won’t help; it’ll make things more painful later when the ideal life falls apart. Then the pain of the loss of the ideal life will totally floor you. Nor should you avoid the ideal life and seek a painful life. That’s equally stupid. The answer is to live as best you can, following your intuition and your feelings, but not to get caught up in it.

In other words, there are some people who practice in the Far East. And they feel that, “Well, since everything here is painful or it’s just transient pleasure, and what I have to do is remove myself and my attention from the sphere of this world, what I’m going to do is just not care about anything. I’m not going to take showers anymore; it’s useless. I’m just going to focus all my attention on the other world. What happens here is of no importance. Why bother? Why get involved? Why try?”

That doesn’t work. That doesn’t cause one to be happy either because you really can’t run away from the world and the body. They think they can, but they can’t. They’re experiencing the external world constantly. They’re experiencing their thought forms, their desires. Just because you deny yourself something doesn’t mean you really don’t want it. Who are we kidding?

The answer lies deeper. It’s really a change in psychology, our own psychology. What yoga teaches us, what Buddhism teaches us, is not to want things, not to avoid things, not to be upset by the loss. In the “I Ching,” there’s a hexagram that says, “Be like the sun at midday.” View all things as being equal. It’s the hexagram of abundance. “The king attains abundance” is the judgment. You get everything you want. Everything works out real well.

Normally, the sage, who is a little deeper than the average person—you win the lottery, you’re totally ecstatic, you’re going to get everything you want—the sage would immediately get depressed because he knows that if you get everything you want, it’s not going to last. The stock has gone as high as it can. Now it’s going to start to go down.

But that’s really not a correct view either. The guys who wrote the old “I Ching,” they say, no, that’s a mistake. It’s as much of a mistake to rejoice at getting everything as to be depressed at the thought of, “Now that I have everything, sooner or later it’s inevitable that it’s all going to go away.” Both are erroneous. The right view is just to enjoy everything, but not to be stuck on it. The right view is just to say, “Look, everything is transient. And great, I’ve got everything! Good! I’ll have fun with it. Great, it’s not going to last. That’s OK, then I’ll enjoy that experience.” Life is a circle. Today you have it, tomorrow you don’t; the next day you have it, the next day you don’t.

It’s easy to say, “Well, just feel equal about all things and don’t mind gain and loss and pleasure and pain.” You can have that idea, but that doesn’t mean you can do it. Because the winds of desire, the winds of aversion are very strong.

In order to do that so it’s not just a neat idea that you’ll forget about as soon as something really goes wrong, or really goes right, in order to be able to attain the equanimity of perfect dispassion you have to have something to distract yourself, essentially, from this world. You’ve got to have something that makes everything here seem unimportant. That’s the secret. In other words, you’re not going to move to another neighborhood until you find one better than the one you’re in. It’s all well and good to say, “Well, have an equal mind and view all things equally, pleasure, pain, loss and gain.” You know, that’s the classic yogic aphorism. But the answer is that you have to have something much more wonderful to absorb yourself in, and then you won’t notice. If you’re having a wonderful dream, the house can be on fire and you won’t notice.

So what we do is shift our attention to a realm that’s so wonderful that it really doesn’t matter what happens here. And that’s what the practice of meditation is. The practice of meditation is when we shift our mind through the use of the will to a realm of pure and perfect light. We learn to sustain ourselves in that realm, which actually exists. We go to another place, just like you physically walk from one room to another. We walk with our minds from the habituation of the senses, which takes us into the sensorial world or the thought world, habituations of the mind or desires or aversions or the egoistic cravings. We learn to take our mind to another place that most people don’t know about. It’s a place of perfect purity, peace, light and ecstasy, happiness beyond your comprehension that never ends. We call it the “clear light,” nirvana. There are different names for it. And the more we touch that world, that endless abode of happiness, the less we care about what happens here.

That’s what yoga is. Yoga is a removal of the conscious awareness from the world as you know it—meaning the world that you’ve constructed through your focus within your mind—to something else. Then you wonder, “What do I do here, does that mean that nothing matters? Should I act, should I not act?”

Well, you have to act. This is what Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita —karma yoga. He says that you can’t avoid acting. Even if you don’t move, you’re going to think, you’re going to sense things. You really can’t avoid action. If you can’t avoid action, you might as well act. Meaning, the avoidance of action is just another hang-up. So is being stuck on acting.

The answer then is to do things without being attached to the result. That’s an easy line. I’ve read it, as probably some of you have, hundreds of times. Do things without being attached to the results. But what does that really mean? Well, what they’re saying is that you should put yourself into such ecstasy that you don’t really care what happens. You can happily do whatever has to be done. Your happiness is not dependent upon what happens here, on outcomes.

Imagine that you’re working and you’re making $100,000 a year. You really need that $100,000—that pays your bills. Now, if you don’t get the $100,000, you’re going to be very upset. If you get it, that’s OK. But suppose you found another source of revenue. Suppose you were now making $1 million a year. It was just arriving. It was being put into your bank account. It wouldn’t really matter a whole heck of a lot anymore whether you got the $100,000 or not. But yet, in life, now that someone’s giving you a million, you still have to do something. You could just sit at home all the time, but maybe you like to do things. Maybe that would get to you after a while. Maybe you would still work. But it wouldn’t really matter whether you got paid or not.

That’s the essence of all yoga, in other words, of all karma yoga. If you’re working for rewards, you’re screwed because that’s why you’re working. If you get the reward, great. You live in anticipation of something. If you don’t get the reward, you’re unhappy. It puts you in this whole transient phase. The answer is to have so much money that it doesn’t matter and you can go do anything that you want to. Money is no longer an issue.

I see a lot of people worried about money. They spend their whole lives worrying about money. My answer to worrying about money—if you’re worried about money, why don’t you go make so much money that you can just get anything you want? I mean, if it’s such a big issue, how hard could it be to be rich? If you have any mental control, if you really put your will and your mind and your body and your spirit for a while into making a vast quantity of capital, then you’ll never have to think about it again. If money’s such a hangup for you, why not get too much of it? That’s a yogic attitude. If it doesn’t matter to you at all, then you don’t need to think about it. It’s not an issue.

Obviously, if the ups and downs of the transitory are driving you nuts, the answer is to get beyond the transitory. Go make so much happiness that nothing here will matter. You won’t take it seriously. Loss and gain just won’t matter. As I said, millions and millions of people read those lines in practice—loss and gain are the same, don’t focus on the transient, be unattached to your work. But no one does it. You read the lines, you say, “That’s a great idea.” But then, you know you really care. You’re all hung up.

I could right now say, “I want you to do the opposite of everything you’re doing,” and you’d freak. Whether it was better or not wouldn’t matter, if it went against your desires or your aversions, you’d immediately become upset. Which tells you that you are completely into loss and gain. You’re stuck completely on results of your actions. You’re completely into avoidance. That means you don’t really practice much yoga. If you’d practice a lot of yoga, you’d be really happy all the time and you’d have equanimity, and then if someone who knew a little more than you do pointed out a course of action which might lead you to an interesting experience, you’d be happy to take it, since it doesn’t really matter.

In other words, a real yogi or yogini can at any point drop everything in their life because they know it doesn’t matter—because they’ve realized that nothing makes you happy. And nothing makes you unhappy. What makes you happy or unhappy is to depend on happiness from activities, from experiences. Once you get to the point where you’ve established your awareness, you’ve moved it from the transient into the eternal, into the formless, and you just are happy all the time because of your experience in the formless, then you can just have fun with what’s going on here. You can get highly involved, if that’s what you want to do, with the world and activities. And if everything falls apart, it doesn’t matter. And if everything comes out well, it really doesn’t matter. If you just get a kick out of doing things, you might as well do them.

In other words, I don’t really think a person should work at a job if they wouldn’t do it without pay. What a bad idea, to go do something you obviously don’t want to do because somebody’s paying you. It’s time to rethink it. I do what I do because I enjoy it. If I’m getting paid for it, fine, but I would be doing it if I wasn’t getting paid. It’s what I have chosen to do. Otherwise I’m working for a result. Everything I do in my life, I like. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. I don’t do it for a result because I know that’s ridiculous.

Nothing works here, in the transient. Everything changes, everything shifts. If you bother to study the nature of reality, if you wake up for a moment and look around at life, you will observe that nothing here lasts, nothing works out. There are no happy endings. There are happy moments. But everything culminates in death; all accomplishments are washed away by death or by the next moment.

All beings are egotistic and vain, driven by their desires and aversions, and they have very little knowledge of how the whole system works, or what it could possibly lead to. If you happen to be just a little bit wakeful, then you back up and say, “Wait a minute, no matter what path I walk down, there’s going to be happiness and unhappiness—unless I walk down a path that isn’t in this world. That isn’t in any world. If I place my mind in the midst of eternity, in the midst of eternal ecstasy, then it really doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m going through. Well, then, what should I do?” How will one choose?

Well, your nature will guide you. There’s a part of you that will always know, intuitively, what you should do and what you should avoid. We don’t have to be concerned about that. If you’re still thinking about that, that means you still think it matters. You’ll just know. You’ll wake up in the morning, you’ll know what to do. You’ll find yourself doing it.

So what yoga and the practice of Buddhism is, is the removal of the mind, of the focus of the conscious attention, from the world to infinity, to a realm of pure light. To simply increase the power of your mind through the practices that are engaged in yoga—gazing exercises, meditation, empowerments from teachers, from power places, from karma yoga, whatever it is—to simply increase the volatility and power of your mind without then using that power to move your mind to a formless realm, is going to cause you much more pain than you had prior to practicing.

We’ve got somebody who’s running—every chance you give them—against a wall. They just keep running into the wall. Great, let’s take the guy down to the gym, make him a lot stronger. Now he can run against the wall with twice as much speed and hurt himself even more and cause himself more pain. Great accomplishment!

Well, that’s what I observe most people are doing with yoga. That’s all they’re doing—they’re increasing the power of their minds, but then they are going back to or they never left the world of desire and aversion. Consequently, now that they’ve refined and developed the power of the mind, the pain will be all the greater, the attachment will be all the greater. Desire will completely overcome them.

It’s [yoga is] through the conscious removal of the focus of the mind and the body, to the realm of spirit, to the realm of happiness. Now, when I talk about the realm of spirit, happiness, nirvana, enlightenment, I’m not talking about something ideal or imaginary. There are realms of light that exist that have always existed and will always exist. They’re much more solid than the transient, sensorially perceived or mentally perceived reality that you’re currently experiencing. They’re just behind the world that you see. Oh, there are countless dimensional worlds, but they’re no different than this one, really.

All form worlds are the same. Meaning, they’re painful, ultimately frustrating. There are some good moments, some bad moments. Just to shift dimensions isn’t going to make a difference, really. You’ll be in the appropriate one—you’ll find your way to it, for your level of evolution—where you’re supposed to be in the cosmos. What really is important is to remove yourself from this world. Death doesn’t help because it just places you into another world. One reincarnates. Reincarnating to a better world does not necessarily—there really isn’t a better world. There are worlds that one should be in according to one’s evolution. To not be in one would be somewhat painful; it’s appropriate of course. Or if a world becomes inappropriate, then it would be time to shift to another plane.

But the real way out is within. It’s through the practice of meditation and through leading a pragmatic life doing the different practices of yoga, Buddhism, occultism, that one frees oneself from the world, from the self. In other words, you have a habituated focus on a certain level of reality, and that certain level of reality is always painful—occasionally pleasurable, but always painful. So you have to change the way—like you get an old horse and he is used to going around the track in a certain way because he’s done it so long. He can’t even understand that there could be another possible way. That’s what the mind is like.

The human mind is very habituated. It creates reality in very specific ways. But that doesn’t mean that that’s all there is. Yoga is the exploration of other states of mind, other realities, other ways of perceiving things. Those who have practiced yoga have come to know and see that there are countless ways to perceive. And you can get stuck and have fun in all of them. But if you keep searching—you can wander endlessly in the bardo of the samsara, you can wander endlessly through countless perceptual levels and have varying experiences. But it won’t really make you happy. Good moments and bad moments, depending upon what’s going on. Horror or ecstasy. But it’s all temporary.

If you really want to be truly happy, then you have to remove your mind from all samskaric worlds; all worlds with formations, with aggregate formations; all worlds that have dimensionality, in which you have a self. You have to place your consciousness in the realm of the dharmakaya, the pure light of the void. Void means formless. You have to separate yourself from yourself, because the very self that you perceive as you, is created by the world that you’re in. The world adjusts to itself.

Yoga means we train our bodies, minds and spirits to enjoy everything, to not get hung up about what happens and what doesn’t happen. The way we can do that is by bringing our attention into the world of enlightenment, into enlightened mind. We do it a little bit more every day, so every day what happens to us here affects us a little less, and we’re independently happy regardless of circumstances. That’s the only way to happiness that I’m aware of. Everything else is just temporary. When you realize that, you stop taking shortcuts, you stop doing things poorly. You relax a little bit, you look at yourself, you look at your imperfections, you look at your life and you realize that everything has to be done right to get out of here, and so there’s no point in trying to do anything poorly because it simply means that they’ll send it back to you and you’ll have to do it over again.

You have to completely perfect your nature. When your nature is perfect, meaning it’s void, when you’ve completely managed to move your mind—another way of saying the same thing—away from the world and you’ve placed it completely in the worlds of ecstasy, in the formless plane of nirvana, whatever you want to call it, then you’ll be free.

To perfect your nature doesn’t mean to have some idea of what a perfect person is and simply be that. That doesn’t work. To perfect your nature means to let go of this world and place your attention fully in the plane of ecstasy, in the plane of enlightenment. That’s what “perfect your nature” means. Any way you can do it is valid. There’s no way that it has to be done. Whatever works, works. There are methods that some of us have found that we pass around to each other who have been exploring this for a while, and that’s called “the teachings.” It’s a very loose collection of methods that have worked for some of us. And we pass them around since no one has a copyright on them.