(Zazen music plays in the background, and Rama speaks to the beat of the music.)

Hi there! This is Zen Master Rama. Today our topic is, my favorite, enlightenment! And for the next 45 minutes or so, I’d like you to sit back, relax, clear your mind and consider perfection—in your life, in your mind, in your work, in your play, in life beyond death. Perfection. Enlightenment.

What is enlightenment, anyway? Well, I don’t know if you can really put it into words, or perhaps you can, I can’t. I’ll try.

Enlightenment is having no mind. No human mind. No limitations. Your awareness is eternity—timeless, infinite, beyond boundaries, and yet it exists within all things.

But maybe it would be good to have some background about all this enlightenment stuff. Let’s consider it a little bit more closely.

The most noble of all pursuits—to become all that you are, all that you have ever been—is to be enlightened, to know truth, to have knowledge and yet be beyond even truth and knowledge, to be God.

You are God. To be conscious of that, not from just the point of view of the human form. To be endless and beginningless, perfect being. Infinite awareness, beyond pain, beyond frustration, beyond birth and death—that’s enlightenment. A part of it, anyway. And we call the study of enlightenment: self-realization or self-discovery.

There are many paths that lead to enlightenment. There are lesser enlightenments along the way to a larger enlightenment, which is referred to sometimes as liberation—the larger enlightenment, that is.

Not just being happy, not just having a peaceful mind or coming to a good understanding, which can change, but being perfect.

Perfect mind, the diamond mind.

Radiating all universes through your being. Each pulse beat is the universe. Each breath, eternity.

Enlightenment. Try it. You’ll like it.

So let’s cruise the galaxies a little bit in the world of Zen, the music of Zazen in the background from their Samurai album—the warrior, the samurai.

You have to be a warrior in order to become enlightened. It’s not easy. I mean if you think it’s tough just paying the bills and driving the car down the freeway and trying to schedule all your appointments, be all the places you’ve got to be—think about being everywhere all at once and doing everything in all the universes simultaneously, past, present or future.

It doesn’t matter. They can’t stop you. Nothing can. Because you’re eternity.

Obstructions on the way to enlightenment? Are you kidding? Hey, they crucify people here. You think this is an easy place? But what’s the alternative? To live in a mundane, boring level of consciousness? Knowing limitation, pain, frustration, skepticism, disbelief, no adventure, no childlike wonder?

Enlightenment, beyond knowledge. Oh heck, it’s the best!

(Zazen music ends.)

I’m here today in the city. The sirens are wailing, human beings are moving back and forth. In the hospitals, they’re being born and dying. In the universities, they’re going to school. Some are getting married, some are getting divorced. Some are unhappy, most—all—are unhappy. Some think they’re happy—when the pain that they experience every day stops for a few minutes, they call that happiness. There are billions of people on the earth, and there are billions of earths, billions of universes. It’s endless.

What is life? What is death? Why is it that people suffer so much? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s the way it is. But it’s not the way it appears to be. Enlightenment.

There are two universes. Two worlds. Oh, there’s more, but for the moment let’s just say there are two. There’s the world of the samsara. Samsara is what you’re in now. Everything that you see, feel and experience, your own perception of the world and yourself is samsara. Samsara means illusion. Illusion means things aren’t as they appear to be. So right now, you’re living in illusion. The things you see are real. Illusions are real, but they’re not a complete seeing. Samsara.

The other world is nirvana. Nirvana and samsara. They’re not opposites. Nirvana is a word that means enlightenment, being beyond illusion—the illusion of birth and death, the illusion of pain, the illusion of love, the illusion of time and life.

You’re on a vast wheel of birth and death. You’ve been through thousands of lifetimes, reincarnation, thousands yet to come. You’ll live forever. And forever is a very, very long time. Most people don’t know why they are born or why they die. They have no understanding of the forces in life that pull them and push them from one place to another, from one relationship to another, from success to failure and eventually to their death and another rebirth in this or another world.

Human beings find that it’s just enough to get through the day, and when there’s something they don’t understand, they go to church, or they used to, anyway, and the guy in the front of the church dressed up in black is the guy who you defer to when someone dies. He gives you comfort and says there’s life after death. He’s in charge of the mysteries of the universe, which ordinary human beings don’t seem to have the inclination to understand.

Well, beyond the guy at the front of the church, there’s somebody else. And that’s the enlightened being, or person.

An enlightened person is someone who has gone through what lies ahead of you. They stand both within and outside of the circle of life.

It’s not special to be enlightened. It’s just different. An enlightened person is someone who has dedicated not just this lifetime but thousands of lifetimes to becoming awareness. They see through the mysteries of life and understand them. They see beyond this life and beyond death. And what the enlightened person sees no one could ever tell or describe. Wonder beyond belief. We live in a universe filled with wonder. It is wonder just to live.

So the enlightened person lives up on the top of the mountain or out in the desert, sometimes in the city—wherever they end up. And those who seek knowledge come to them. Some come because they want their physical lives to improve, and they feel that just being around someone who has the knowledge of life and death—and that which is beyond—is a great blessing. And they go just so their business will improve; the stock market will do better for them. Some come because they’re sorry and sad; they want comfort and solace. Some come seeking power. They want to gain the powers that an enlightened person knows about—the power to get anything you want, the power to reincarnate in different worlds, the power over life and death. Many powers can be had—powers to heal, powers to injure. Some come to the enlightened teacher to interfere with his or her work. They take a malicious pleasure in trying to block light and interfere with his actions. Some come seeking knowledge.

It’s a great spectacle when there’s an enlightened person or several in the world. Many enlightened persons are never very well known. Most aren’t. Many are reclusive. They live in little villages in India or up in the high Himalayas in Tibet. Some have no students at all; some have a few. Once in a while, an enlightened teacher goes out into the world and spreads what we call the dharma. Dharma is a word that means truth, essentially. They attract some attention, and it’s a great spectacle to see who and why and what is drawn.

Nonphysical beings are drawn to enlightened beings. Some come to aid them in their work; some come to interfere. Some just come to watch. Enlightenment is rare in this world. There are worlds where there are many, many enlightened beings. But this particular world, this plane of awareness, is a world in which there are very few at any one time.

Enlightenment is to be outside the circle. What circle? Well, the circle of death and rebirth. There’s a circle inside you. Above your physical eyes, above your eyebrows, there’s a spot about an inch above your eyebrows. We call it the third eye. If you meditate and focus on your third eye, you will see a circle of light. There’s a circle of light inside you. If you meditate very intensely on it and concentrate, you may be able to go through that circle of light into another world, another dimension, another existence.

There are circles, and circles within circles. To be enlightened is to have self- knowledge, to have power, to have control. It means that you really don’t change, and yet you’re nothing but change. Here I get into this kind of oxymoronic explanation of things—apparent contrasts. But let’s bring it down to your own individual level. I think that’s the best.

OK, you’re alive. How aware are you, of anything? Can you see eternity? Do you live in the land of the perpetually happy? When you close your eyes, do you dissolve into that white light of perfection that is God and the universe? No. Of course not. Your mind is filled with thoughts; desires pull you back and forth; your moods shift constantly; you’re not sure what it is you want—it changes from moment to moment; there’s little or no continuity in your life. That’s because you’re inside a circle, a circle of birth and death.

Life is a circle. Oh true, you’ve come forth from infinity. There was a time when you came forth from infinity—your essence that is—or from God or whatever you’d like to call it. Yet that essence has always existed. You’ve always existed, and you’ll always exist. But there are different states of existence, different states of mind in the universe. There are different cosmological theories.

The Tibetans believe there are six worlds. In some Hindu systems, they feel there are 14. We reincarnate in them. The Tibetans imagine it is the wheel of life. There’s a big wheel, and the wheel is divided into six portions. These are the six worlds. Some of the worlds are higher and more pleasant, and some are lower hell worlds. Some are heavenly worlds. The earth plane is somewhere in the middle. There are different cosmological systems. But when we look at a picture of the wheel of life and we see the six worlds, we see the beings in the six worlds going through them. They will incarnate in one of the six worlds for a while, and then if their actions have been meritorious, if they’ve been drawn towards something higher, then eventually they’ll switch to one of the higher worlds and incarnate there, until such time that their actions cause them to move to another world above or to a world below.

You reincarnate forever because you exist forever. You can’t die. You can’t be born, your essence that is. You’re on a big wheel, and you go round and round the wheel of birth and death. And when you die, you forget. Death is a sleep, a forgetting. You forget about your previous lifetime. The essence of your being is the same. But at death, the personality dissolves. The you that was in one lifetime will never be again. But the essence remains. It takes on a new body dependent upon the level of awareness you had in your previous lifetime.

Now, when you look at a picture of the wheel of life, above it there’s an enlightened person, a Buddha. And he’s pointing, not towards the wheel, but away from it. He’s indicating that there’s something else besides the wheel of birth and death, and that’s nirvana, and that’s the path to follow.

In the Upanishads, the Indian scriptures, they talk about the path of the sun and the path of the moon. The path of the moon is rebirth. It’s the lunar cycle. The path of the sun is the path that leads to self-knowledge, enlightenment, from which there is no return. Right now, you’re on a wheel. And you’re going around on the wheel again and again and again. You go around and around from lifetime to lifetime. In each lifetime, you never quite wake up. Enlightenment is waking up.

Oh, in some lifetimes you’ll wake up more than others. You’ve had past lives in which you were probably more knowledgeable than you are now. You’ve had past lives in which you were probably not as aware as you are now. You’ll have future lives in which you’ll be more aware and less aware. For a while, you’ll be more aware. You’ll go through a cycle of incarnations, then you’ll be less aware. Because the wheel goes round and round and round forever—pleasure, pain, birth and death, lifetime after lifetime. It’s endless. All sentient beings, that is, living beings, experience this. It’s the endless dance of life, the lila, as it’s called. Enlightenment is different. Enlightenment is getting off the wheel. Enlightenment is to become pure awareness.

There are ten thousand states of mind, ten thousand planes of awareness within the infinite mind of the diamond mind—not the physical mind that you think with, but your deeper mind. Beyond the ten thousand states of mind, there’s something else. I wouldn’t even call it knowledge but endless awareness. Imagine for a moment that you were God. Not God as a man or a woman, but God as awareness, the awareness of all of life. Not just the universes that you’ve seen and experienced, but all endless possibilities and permutations of mind—to be that is enlightenment.

To be that in a physical form is to be an enlightened person. An enlightened person is not someone who is in touch with all of the ten thousand states of mind and all of the infinite permutations of awareness simultaneously always. It would be very hard to go shopping, let alone drive the car. An enlightened person is someone who shifts from one plateau of knowledge to another.

Let’s say that you have a car, and in your car you have a fourth gear—it’s real strong. You’ve got three gears that you use most of the time in town, but once in a while, you can really open her up and slap it into fourth gear. Being an enlightened person is something like that. There are normal states of mind that you use for day-to-day activities, and those are the ten thousand states of mind. The average person walks around and goes through five or six states of mind in their whole life. But the enlightened person goes through ten thousand, and that’s usually enough. No matter what they’re doing, they’re in and out of those ten thousand states.

But once in a while, they go into overdrive. Fourth gear. That’s when they go into a state of absorption in nirvana. It’s not really a state of mind as such. It’s hard to talk about these things. It’s been referred to as nirvikalpa samadhi by the Indians—a state of no mind, beyond the ten thousand states of mind, where there’s nothing but perfection, where the self no longer exists, the ego dissolves in immortality. So an enlightened person, after many, many lifetimes of self-search, has developed quite a mind, and that carries over from one lifetime to another. They have a knowledge of the ten thousand states of mind, yet they’ve got that overdrive gear. They’re not exactly like a person is anymore, or any type of being. They’re enlightened. And they’re not special.

Anybody or anything can become enlightened because enlightenment is the very nature of existence itself.

Enlightenment is in every tree, every brook, every building, every car, every person. It’s the substructure of existence.

Enlightenment itself is what everything is made up from.

Everything is made up from everything. Everything is everything. But if your view of life is the view of most people—through the physical universe, through the senses—then you don’t see too much, and you don’t feel too good most of the time.

Enlightenment is the culmination of self-knowledge. And it doesn’t follow any rules, particularly. It isn’t religious. It’s just knowledge—pure, unadulterated knowledge. Not knowledge you can get from reading any book or attending any lecture. It’s a knowledge that comes from meditation, a knowledge that comes from perfecting your awareness, your mind.

A person who is enlightened does not have to reincarnate, or they may. If they choose not to reincarnate, they can just go beyond the circle, the wheel, and just slide into nirvana forever. Or, if they choose to reincarnate—this is all a way of talking, of course, there’s no actual choosing as you would think of choosing—but if they choose to reincarnate, they come into the world to aid others. While they’re in the world, and they feel pleasure and pain—their bodies do, and their senses feel what your senses feel—inside, they’re not bound by any of it. While you in your next lifetime will go off to this world or another world—dependent upon your karmas, the actions you performed and the states of mind you’ve been in will lead to your next rebirth—the enlightened person isn’t bound by anything like that. They are fluid light inside. Oh, you are too, but it’s deeper inside you. It hasn’t come out yet. A little bit, maybe.

Enlightenment puts an end to suffering.

Enlightenment is self-knowledge. Most enlightened people can do what you would call miracles. They know how to use energy on different levels. They can heal sometimes—sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Some have powers, some don’t. Some people have developed powers and aren’t enlightened.

You might decide that you want to pursue the path to enlightenment.

I used to study Judo, martial arts, when I was in college. I had a great Judo teacher. He was a fifth-degree black belt. Some of the classes had a lot of young kids in them—[ages] seven, eight, nine—and I wondered sometimes what the kids were doing out there because they were just mainly playing around, and they didn’t seem to be learning much. He told me that it didn’t really matter if they were accomplishing much. Just by being out there on the mat and moving and trying to throw each other and playing, they were learning something. They were gaining something and feeling something from their activities.

So those who follow the path to self-knowledge gain something. Even if they’re absolute beginners and they don’t even practice a whole lot, they learn something like those kids on the mat. Then, eventually, that will lead them to another step and another step.

No self-effort in the direction of enlightenment is ever wasted. Even if in a given lifetime you don’t become fully enlightened, you’ll be much happier and more aware. Your mind will work much more efficiently. Your life will be much more together.

There are many little enlightenments that you will experience that will overwhelm you with joy and knowledge. Many powers will come to you long before you become enlightened in the absolute sense.

Enlightenment is a lot like dying. And you might wonder why there aren’t more enlightened people. It’s because people are afraid to die.

Oh, some people commit suicide. They’re not really afraid to die; they’re afraid to live. They find that life is so painful, their current life, that they choose to die. But they don’t really die. Inside, they know that they go to another life. They may not know that consciously. But enlightenment is like—it is really dying—because in enlightenment, you dissolve the self. All of it—not just the outer self, but the inner self from all those lifetimes—into the white light of eternity. You become that eternity. Now, it sounds attractive on a certain level, and it is, but the mind is afraid of its own dissolution. Life always seeks to be life.

The pathway to enlightenment is beautiful. There are a lot of wonderful things that happen along the way to it. And I can only encourage you—as you listen to me, one who has walked that path for (Rama laughs) a long, long, long time—to follow the path to enlightenment. I wouldn’t worry much about becoming enlightened. It’s like going to school. When you’re in first grade, you don’t think too much about graduating from high school. It happens eventually, if you stay in school. Rather, you just learn the lesson each day and live your life each day and have fun each day and go through the battles that you go through. Win or lose, you just keep going, and it happens eventually.

The best thing to do, from my point of view, is to occupy yourself with what’s in your life now. Address those situations and subjects as fully as possible with your best efforts.

That’s what produces happiness and clarity and knowledge and power.

People who ponder too much about the subject of enlightenment, the absolute enlightenment itself, I find, don’t progress very fast. It’s like sitting around talking about getting a Ph.D. and thinking about what it would be like, instead of just going to school and doing it. It’s interesting to know it’s there, but you can’t know what it’s like until you get there, can you? The closest experience that you can have prior to that is to be with someone who is enlightened, to meditate with them and to feel as best you can with your psychic feelings what it is that they’re like.

I can remember when I was in a Ph.D. program at the State University of New York, after I had finished my master’s. I think I was in my first year of the doctoral program, and I was very curious. I ran into, in the halls of the English Department on different occasions, some people who were in different stages of their program. I remember meeting a girl who had just finished her oral examinations. I remember meeting another guy who had just defended his dissertation, and so on. And it was interesting to look at them. I had many years to go through before I would be where they were in the program. But I got a kick out of looking at them and trying to figure out what that was like because that’s what I was aiming at. Why did I want to get a Ph.D.? Well, I wanted to be a university professor. I liked teaching English, Shakespeare, poetry, things like that, contemporary literature. Turns out I didn’t do that for too many years. I went off into another profession or two, but I enjoyed the study very much.

But it was fascinating to see. Of course, the thing that got me to decide to do that was some of the wonderful, wonderful professors I had had as an undergraduate, not as a graduate student. As an undergraduate, I had terrific English professors. I just thought they were so super, and I enjoyed what they were doing so much that I decided that was the profession I wanted to follow. So the way I knew I wanted to get a doctorate and do all that was by being exposed to people who had already done it. I didn’t want to replicate them. I wanted to do it my way, naturally. But that’s what gave me the sense.

I really think enlightenment is something that you decide to do or strive for, work towards, aim at, whatever you want to call it, after you’ve met someone who’s enlightened because you really don’t know what it is [until then]. Oh, you may have a feeling—you want light; you want knowledge; you want to get away from pain. You may have sought for it in past lives, and your own karmas just pick you up and carry you. But I think after you’ve meditated with someone who’s enlightened, that’s when you know.

Something touches your heart or your being at a very deep level, and you just look around this world with all its transitory joys and pleasures—nothing lasts here, not even you—and you say to yourself, “Heck! Everybody here is so caught up, they don’t even see life. They don’t see beyond their own deaths. They’re just all caught up in the game of life. They’re on the wheel of birth and death.”

Just to see that indicates that a kind of awakening has taken place in your mind, when you can see how caught up everyone is in their jobs, their careers, their families, their problems, their successes, their failures, their wars, their victories, their defeats, their moods.

If you can just see that there’s something beyond that, that’s great! You’re on your way.

When you meditate with someone who’s enlightened, if you were to come and meditate with me, for example, or with someone else who’s enlightened, you’ll have a kind of experience. I can’t tell you what it’s like. It will be different for you. It depends on how aware you are. But when you meditate with an enlightened teacher, the teacher goes into these different states of mind, those ten thousand states of mind, states of mind that you normally don’t reach, and you’ll feel something from them, if you’re sensitive, and once in a while they go into overdrive. They just dissolve completely. Absorption in nirvana, where they don’t even have physical contact with this world anymore. Nirvikalpa samadhi.

And you’ll feel something from that, as you sit with them and meditate, as you watch them talk and walk, or whatever they do. Something may touch you, and you might say, “I’d like to be where they are. I’d like to be off the wheel. I’d like to have knowledge. I’d like to have power. I’d like to be beyond the suffering that exists inside…”—your own mind!

All heavens and hells are inside your own mind. It’s not what goes on around you; it’s within you. And when your mind is lucid and still, and when you can climb into other states of being that are beyond pain and suffering, life is quite wonderful.

Now, the path to knowledge, I should tell you, culminates in everything that’s wonderful. Every step along the way, as a matter of fact, leads you to a higher and sharper level of living. It’s great. But it’s not easy. Let me tell you why. Some people are under the impression that to become enlightened, you meditate 20 minutes a day and chant some mantras, and, I don’t know—whatever.

Enlightenment is not like going to church. Enlightenment means that you have to address every part of your life and perfect it. You have to perfect your mind. There can’t be any fears that you haven’t overcome. There can’t be any desires that you haven’t conquered. There can’t be any sorrows that you have not experienced. There cannot be any joys that you have not experienced.

You’re going to merge with life, you’re going to mate with the cosmos and dissolve into it and become it. So the ego has to gradually be dissolved. You have to go through permutations and changes that I can’t begin to describe.

I’m a teacher of the art of enlightenment. And to try and describe what you must go through on a 45-minute tape is impossible. It’s as if someone had tried, in a 45-minute tape, to tell me what it would have been like to go through a Ph.D. program. They could outline the program, but no one could explain what it’s like, how you’ll change. This is the study of change and that which lies beyond change.

There’s only eternity. It’s all around us and within us, and it goes on forever. There’s only knowledge. And then there’s illusion, the way you see things now, thinking that there’s a tomorrow and there is a today and that there is time and that there is life and death. Those are just appearances.

Nothing lasts except eternity, and the knowledge of eternity is enlightenment.

So it is difficult, yes. The reason it is difficult is because there is obstruction. As you know, enlightenment is not exactly very popular in this world. History tells us that the enlightened teachers who made themselves largely available to human beings had problems. That’s because the level of evolution in this world is not exactly high. As we know, people on the planet are currently preparing to blow themselves up in ultimate thermal nuclear wars. The largest part of our budget here in this country, and in most countries, goes to war, defense, whatever you want to call it, which is not a bad place to put your money. But it simply tells us that we are living among beings whose state of mind is destruction.

Societies in this planet are based upon fear, not upon love. The strong dominate the weak. The most knowledgeable person is not necessarily the person who runs the government, nor the church, nor the business. Usually it’s the most powerful or the one who can grab power, the one who can influence. This is a place where the strong often victimize the weak. There is good here, and there is bad because it’s a relative world, the world of duality. There is suffering and there is joy. Your life here is very short, and then you’re back again for another and another, forever, unless you step off the wheel.

So it’s difficult because there are opposing forces. In the universe, there is darkness and light. We call this duality. When you seek knowledge and power, there are forces and people that will oppose you. Otherwise, everybody would do it. It would be very easy. But [there are] people and forces that are not illumined and are afraid of enlightenment.

You’ve all been to horror movies. I go to them sometimes. I get a kick out of them—things that make you afraid. Do you know what the horror movie is like for someone who is not enlightened? The ultimate horror movie is not Dawn Of The Dead. It’s not Frankenstein.

You know what the ultimate horror movie is for a really un-illumined being? It’s an enlightened person. The ultimate horror movie for an entity, an evil force that enjoys destroying others? The ultimate horror for a Hitler or a Mussolini is the enlightened person, because they are scared of knowledge. They are scared of others seeing what they are all about and what they really do. They are scared of truth—the truth of themselves, the truth of the universe.

Enlightenment in all of its varying degrees, whether it’s a fully enlightened Christ or Buddha or just people who have had some enlightened experiences and are more aware—a Martin Luther King, a John F. Kennedy, a Gandhi—they’re not fully enlightened, but they’re knowledgeable, more so than most. What did they do with them here? They shoot them, crucify them, get them out of the way because people are afraid of truth. Well, you may not be that public, but in your quest for enlightenment you must prepare for opposition.

There are powers and forces that will seek to block you, to make your life more difficult. But if you are a professional, if you are up for the study and you take that into account, then you can continue to progress along the path to self-knowledge without getting discouraged. Or if you get discouraged, you brush yourself off, pick yourself up and go forward again and be encouraged. But there is a lot of opposition. I experience it as a teacher. I experience it as a student. You will experience it. But the joys that come from the study, from self-knowledge, just from gaining it, let alone sharing it with others, more than compensate for the opposition, in my opinion. It’s a personal choice.

Enlightened teachers have a lot of trouble, and people who help them sometimes have a lot of trouble. People try to interfere with the work and say things about you that aren’t true—spread awful rumors about you, misunderstand what you do, expecting that it should fit into their conceptual framework. Very often, people who help teachers have had problems.

We know that many of the apostles of Christ were killed: Eleven out of 12 met violent deaths when they were just talking about God and light. Many people who help me, for example, and other teachers, just by doing simple things—mailing some brochures, whatever it may be—encounter a lot of resistance from other people, from forces and powers that try and make it difficult. But this is part of the game of life, friends.

As you follow the path to self-knowledge, if you learn to lead your life strategically and strongly, you can overcome that opposition. But running away, you never overcome anything. That’s why the path of enlightenment is for the warrior, the samurai. You may not think of yourself as a warrior. You may not have big muscles and you may not have a black belt in karate, but you might have a warrior spirit in there somewhere, and it’s just waiting for an opportunity to come out. If you do, you might be a candidate for the pathway to enlightenment.

There is no best teacher. Life itself is the teacher. There is no best method. Zen is one method, jnana yoga is another, mysticism another, bhakti yoga another. You may have found your own method or path. All that matters is that it works. Then there is deception. People who think they’re enlightened and it’s just ego.

It is a great study. It has all permutations of every aspect of life and being because it is the study of every aspect of life and being.

But expect resistance and expect joys beyond your imagination. Expect to experience pain. Expect forces to interfere with you and expect to conquer them all, if you’re serious about the study. Step by step. Gradually.

Just as there are powers that interfere with those who seek enlightenment or seek to enlighten others, there are forces that aid us, forces in the universe. There are forces that will help you meditate. These are the forces of truth.

How do you become enlightened? Have fun, meditate, don’t take yourself too seriously, brush between incarnations and have a good teacher (Rama laughs). Have a sense of humor. It helps a lot. How do you become enlightened? I don’t know. Luck, karma, skill, friends in high places, friends in low places. There are certain things that you do need, though. You need a path. If you are trying to make it to the top of the mountain and there is no path, it’s pretty difficult.

Once in a while, an individual makes their own path, and you may be one of those, but they are pretty few and far between, let me tell you. Usually you follow a path. A path is there because it’s one of the best ways to get up to the top. Somebody figured that out. They saw the easiest way or perhaps the way with the most wonderful views. There are different paths; they afford different views. Some have greater difficulty, some less. Some people like difficulty; some want an easy way. That’s why one path is not better than another.

The important thing is to get the path that suits you, to follow that path, and once you’ve selected it, to stay with it and to not keep changing paths, always thinking that the next one is going to be better. It’s not.

Sometimes people like to avoid difficulty by running away, as I mentioned before. Running away solves nothing at all. Sometimes we make a change in life; it’s an intelligent selection. Our intuition says it’s time to change from one path to another. The one we were on was too slow for us or too fast for us or just didn’t have the views we wanted. But to keep changing constantly accomplishes nothing—always thinking the next city you live in is going to be better. There will be more trees, less trees, different people, different buildings, but life is the same wherever you go.

It’s good just to pick something that you like and then stick with it for a while and work on it and perfect it. But always thinking that the next relationship is going to be better, the next person—some are just not suitable. There comes a time in life when you just buckle down and have a good time with what you are doing because you realize that it doesn’t much matter what you are doing. What matters is how you do it.

Personal power, knowledge and fun come from how you approach something, not what you approach. When you give your best to something, and then you find out how to do better than your best, you feel good. But to run away accomplishes nothing. To take on a challenge and approach it strategically, intelligently and spontaneously—now, that’s a good time.

There are different pathways. Some pathways are quicker; some are more time-consuming. Some people aren’t in a rush; some are. What’s a rush to one person is not a rush to another. Some people run at 15 miles an hour and they find it’s comfortable; some find five miles an hour comfortable.

Zen is a very quick path. It’s the path of meditation. Some paths stress more working for others—that’s karma yoga. Some have to do with intellectual knowledge— jnana yoga. There are different paths. Some just have to do with just loving completely all the time—that’s bhakti yoga.

Zen is a path of meditation. The word Zen means emptiness or fullness, meditation. Meditation is the quickest path to enlightenment because when you meditate, you are not dealing with just actions, thoughts, ideas or intentions, which sometimes are good or sometimes not. Sometimes they are ego bound, sometimes they are not.

When you learn to stop your thoughts and become introspective, the universe reveals itself to you, and there is no illusion there.

There are different types of Zen, and there are different teachers of Zen. Some teachers teach more than one subject. In my lifetime, I’ve taught Zen and other pathways. I’ve taught some jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga and mysticism, which is another path. Those are the principal paths. There are some others.

There are combinations of those, different brand names, generic ones, but those are the primary paths. And all of them involve a certain degree of meditation. Zen is the path that focuses the most upon meditation. It is almost exclusively a path of meditation.

Meditation—zazen, when you’re sitting formally—and meditation which is mindfulness when you are active and engaged in activities, talking to people, working on your career, playing tennis, whatever it is, but the mind is set into the meditative state all the time.

Meditation is to be aware of many different levels. It’s not just the absence of thought. That is a type of meditation. But it is to be moving through the ten thousand states of mind and eventually beyond them. Anyway, what can I say?

There are different teachers. Most teachers are not enlightened. Very few are. That doesn’t mean they are not great teachers. Not everyone is a Jimmy Connors, but they sure can teach you a great game of tennis. Jimmy would only be able to help the game maybe of a few people or maybe beginners, hard to say.

Is it important to have an enlightened teacher? No. Yes. If you are an absolute beginner, it really doesn’t matter that much, to tell you the truth. Because what you need to learn are basic types of concentration—things having to do with just bringing more energy into your life, plugging up the holes where you lose energy—just the basics of self-discovery.

If you become serious about enlightenment—yes, it is absolutely necessary because an enlightened teacher doesn’t just teach you just through words. When you sit with the teacher physically and meditate with them, the teacher moves in and out of these different states of mind, and that’s how you learn to do it yourself.

As you are meditating with them, there is an inner dialogue that goes on, not with words at all. It’s an inner dialogue that takes place on a very deep level. That is to say, the teacher will go into a very advanced state of mind, and you’ll feel it. That’s how they teach you to shoot that tennis shot. As you feel it, you’ll find if you meditate deeply, riding the teacher’s energy, that you will be able to go into it too. Then when you go home and you meditate on your own, you’ll practice it, and gradually you’ll be able to get back there on your own. Then the next time you meditate with the teacher, you’ll learn another state of mind and so on.

The teacher also makes general recommendations as to ways to improve your efficiency in life, to improve the quality of your mind and your life, to become more knowledgeable, have more fun, to be deeper—all those things.

Every teacher does it differently, but an enlightened teacher, for someone who is very interested about enlightenment, is essential. If you just want to learn how to meditate, lead a better life and get more fun out of what you do, it is not absolutely essential to have an enlightened teacher at all.

The later stages of the enlightenment process are very tricky. They really are. They are not any more difficult than any other part, but in the same sense, there are certain parts of the writing of the Ph.D. dissertation that require specific direction. The later stages of the enlightenment process are trickier, and it is really essential to have a teacher then.

But to be honest, in the beginning, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that there is someone who inspires you to meditate, and you meditate with them once in a while or take a class from them. It is like taking a dance class or a karate class. You’ll learn a little bit more, and it keeps you going. On your own, you might not practice every day and meditate, but by plugging into that environment, you sharpen your mind. Remember, all of this has to do with your mind, developing your mind.

The more developed your mind is, the more successful you’ll be in everything.

People on the pathway to enlightenment become very successful in whatever they approach because they have learned to discipline the mind. Whether it’s your career, your creative pursuits, athletics, whatever it is you pursue, you can bring a tremendous volume of energy, precision and joy into anything because you’ve learned more about the usage of the mind on which all things depend. As you progress towards enlightenment you’ll find you become a winner at anything that you try because you are not so concerned about winning anymore. You are just concerned with excellence, the pursuit of excellence, because excellence gives you power and energy.

I personally only work with people who have excellence, who show excellence, in my business that is. I have a business, the business of enlightenment. I am a teacher. I do seminars—at the moment, Zen seminars. As I mentioned before, some teachers can just teach one way, or they just teach one way. You could go to a martial arts teacher, and the martial arts teacher might be able to teach judo. He might have a fifth-degree black belt in judo. Another has a fifth-degree black belt in karate, another has one in aikido. Then you might need a teacher who has black belts in all three. That teacher can teach many ways. One isn’t better than another. The only question is—can the teacher teach you what you want to learn? Do you relate to the teacher? Do you feel simpatico to a certain extent?

Some teachers are very kind. Some are very harsh. Some people like a harsh teacher. They feel that those demands make them learn more quickly. Some like a gentle teacher because they feel that that makes them learn more quickly. There is no right or wrong in any of this.

There are phony teachers who profess all kinds of things, and I think you’ll figure out real fast who they are. They just don’t feel right.

Sometimes when you’re with an enlightened teacher, things feel very intense and it’s not going to be what you’re used to at all, and you’ll feel both pleasant and unpleasant things magnified. That happens when you meditate with someone who goes into very strong states of altered consciousness. Everything is intensified, and you become more aware of all your own imperfections as you simultaneously become more aware of the overall perfection of the universe.

There is a certain degree of pain to be experienced and gone through in the search for self-knowledge. Definitely. Believe it—as there is a certain amount of joy.

But you just do it because you find yourself doing it. There just doesn’t seem to be much else that’s worthwhile, and it then makes everything else worthwhile because then your career is totally important because you need to bring perfection into it because it reflects on your study of enlightenment and your relationships, and everything counts. So as I said, I only work with professionals. I don’t mean at seminars but in my business.

I am a teacher. If you ever come to one of my seminars, you’ll notice I have volunteer workers who help you fill out forms and people who run sound systems and all kinds of things—art people, people who work in the office and all kinds of stuff. Naturally, when I work with individuals like that, I expect a level of excellence displayed in both their personal life and in their work, of course. Perfection. That’s the standard. What you would call excellence from the enlightened person’s point of view is not excellence—that’s just ordinary achievement. Everything has to be done perfectly.

Now perfection is a relative idea—true—but yet there’s perfection. Why, why, why? Why do everything perfectly? Isn’t that just an idea? Isn’t perfection just an illusion? Yes and no. Tell me if it’s an illusion if they don’t fix your car perfectly next time you bring it in, and you get it home and it doesn’t work. It stalls on the freeway. And tell me it’s not important that things be done right when you’re stalled out on the freeway and you have to get the AAA to come tow you and go through the whole hassle again and miss more work.

So in Zen, we do everything perfectly. We feel that our outer actions are a reflection of our inner state, and our inner state is a reflection of our outer action.

We call it mindfulness. Whenever I work with anyone, I only work with individuals who display a level of professionalism, and that’s an opportunity, of course, for them to become more professional and to do something for someone else. That’s the attitude that one has, not just towards working at a Zen seminar or helping a teacher, but towards everyone and everything in your life.

That’s the hallmark of a person who is following the pathway to enlightenment, that they bring excellence into everything, no matter how crappy they feel—whether they are sick, well, upset, down-set —they bring excellence into everything they do. No matter how much opposition there is, no matter how much pain they feel, no matter how excited they get, no matter how much joy there is—it doesn’t matter. You are unmoved. You experience all of that, and yet you are beyond it because you are moving in and out of different, advanced states of mind through your practice of daily meditation and mindfulness. And it’s that level of excellence that gives you joy in life—not the fact that you won or lost, but that you did a great job. Winning and losing is just someone else’s definition. But you know if you did a great job because the car works. It goes down the freeway really well.

Enlightenment is not for people who get thrown by things.

Or it’s not for someone who wants to dedicate their life to a teacher. Once in a while, at one of my seminars—or you’ll see it with other teachers sometimes even more because they allow it—you’ll see someone really drippy. You’ll see the person who has to sit in the front row and has to stare at the teacher all the time with that devoted and disgusting and sick look. It’s boring, misplaced devotionalism. One should never become devoted to a teacher, any more than one should become devoted to a statue of a god. There is only one thing to be devoted to, and that’s your mind.

Unfortunately, in the field of Zen, once in awhile—or in any aspect of self-discovery—you get the culty types who want the father figure or mother figure to tell them everything to do. Somehow just being with that person is going to make it all right. They want a savior; I don’t know what they want. I know what they want. They don’t want to do any work, is what they want. They want to hang on your energy and try to drain it. I can’t help such a person. I don’t know anybody who can. That’s what they’re going through right now. That’s the state of mind they’re in.

They don’t get it.

They don’t get that it is only hard work that brings about results, and doing things for others. Forget about your own problems and stop feeling sorry for yourself and assume importance for your activities. Take responsibility for your life and make it into something fine and beautiful in the midst of changing circumstances. That’s the challenge. Of course, it’s not going to be easy. It’s the Earth. But that’s what creates power in a person’s life is when you perfect your mind, your career, your associations with others. You’re not fanatical.

Zen is not a religion. There is no room for a cult. There is no dependence on a teacher. There is only learning how to use your own mind and developing it and making it strong, from someone who knows more about that than you do—the same way that I learned from my professors as an undergraduate and graduate student, and eventually I taught students at the university.

So in Zen, we have no gurus, using the word “guru” as it is used in the contemporary American scene, which is someone who, I don’t know, would take all your money and tell you what to do with your life all the time, so you assume no responsibility yourself. A lot of people want that free ride, but it doesn’t bring about enlightenment. Just sitting around with someone enlightened doesn’t make you enlightened. If you sit with them and you meditate as hard as you can and you go out and direct your attention into your life, something will happen. But this misplaced devotionalism is actually antithetical to the very study itself.

If you are a serious student of self-discovery, then you get your emotions under control and your life under control. You work really hard, and you don’t make a big deal out of yourself. You have humility, or you develop it. You believe in yourself, and you don’t get a fanatical fixation on a teacher. If it’s a good teacher, like a good karate teacher, you go study with him. If you get a kick out of them, you like their jokes and you feel empowered when you are with them, then you go practice the things they teach you about meditation and some advanced thoughts about mind and life. Then that’s great.

But never make a teacher into a god. What a mistake!

Oh, you might meet someone who is enlightened, who can do fantastic things—fantastic compared to your average Earth being. Well, you don’t have to be too fantastic to do fantastic things compared to your average Earth being (Rama laughs). That’s for sure.

They [the enlightened teachers] display miracles. There is no such thing as a miracle. A miracle is just what somebody else doesn’t understand. If we went back into the Stone Age and we lit a match, we’d say, “Ahh, miracla, miracla.” You know, that would be a miracle because they don’t understand how phosphorous and other chemicals combined with friction create fire. So enlightened teachers can do certain miracles, but they are not really miracles. They just know how to use energy on other levels of consciousness. If you understood it, you wouldn’t call it a miracle. A miracle is in the eye of the beholder my friend, as is all of life.

So yes, it’s important to have a good teacher.

If you don’t have one, that’s fine too. You are not supposed to. If none feel right to you, then just meditate on your own, read books on the subject that inspire you, to keep you meditating, and have fun with it. Don’t become a spiritual bigot. Don’t feel that just because you meditate and you’re striving for enlightenment that you are in any way superior to any other person, being or thing. Be even. Be easy. You’ll last longer on the pathway to self-discovery.

What’s important in self-discovery is not a person who does really well for a short time and is just intense, but the person who keeps going, who has a smile, who’s kind to others, who works hard at everything, who doesn’t take their failings to heart and doesn’t let it blow them away—that’s just reverse ego—who doesn’t criticize others, who keeps their mind on their own business and not everybody else’s, and who has a good time with their life. When they suffer, they suffer. They know they’ll get through it. They’ve gotten through it before. But they have a smile, and they’re open to new experiences. They’re ready for life. They know that tomorrow can be better than any other day that’s ever been, or today can because they meditate. They don’t just chant a mantra for 20 minutes, but they really meditate. They’re learning the arts, and gradually they’re moving from level to level and different world and vistas are opening up to them. They are enthusiastic and optimistic but they know that there is difficulty on the pathway to enlightenment. And they’re not too concerned about becoming enlightened. They just enjoy the process.

It’s like going to school. You get a kick out of it. If you don’t get a kick out of it, maybe you shouldn’t be in school. Maybe it’s better to go do something you like for awhile.

They recognize and value a good teacher, but they don’t make a big deal out of the teacher. They make a big deal out of their own life. They realize that sometimes the experiences in self-discovery will be painful. You’re learning about your limitations, and they will also be enlightening. You’re learning about unlimited sectors of your being. A balanced person will get depressed and discouraged and frustrated and angry sometimes but doesn’t direct it towards anybody else, or if they do, they quickly realize they made a mistake. [They] apologize, forget about it and move into the next moment, living in the moment, forgetting the past.

The pathway to enlightenment leads to states of ecstasy I could not begin to describe to you, and knowledge and also a pretty ironic sense of humor sometimes when you’ve been around for a while.

I personally have fun with enlightenment, the study and the teaching of it. I get a kick out of doing it different ways because I don’t think there is any “way.” But that’s because I don’t have to think there is any “way.” For you, there is a way. For me there’s no way. We are on different sides, at the moment. So I like to play with it. I like to be weird, kinky, straight, in and out, up and down. I like to blow up people’s expectations. Create them. Destroy them. Dissolve them. It’s fun. This is Zen. It’s the quick path. We turn everything inside out and upside down, which is when it gets straightened out very neatly and in an orderly fashion. Professionalism. Higher states of mind.

Fun with life, a life that most people will never even know about out there, can be yours in this study, but only if you approach it with equanimity, poise, grace, balance and professionalism.

This study is not for the amateur. It’s not for the dilettante. It’s not for the cult follower. It’s not for somebody who wants everything done for them. It’s not for the one who just wants to stare with that fixed dog-like devotion towards the teacher, or the person who wants to throw bad energy at anybody else, thinking that they were doing a better job than they are. Forget it. Amateurs in self-discovery. No room for them. That’s like the guy in the karate class who just wants to beat other people up. They don’t last long in the class, as opposed to someone who wants to study the art and realizes that there is a much deeper art to martial arts than simply learning to beat somebody up. It’s the study of self-control and discipline and grace. Combat is only one aspect of martial arts.

With Zen, it’s the study of the ten thousand states of mind, not just the study of enlightenment. Everything in life is a type of enlightenment. It’s the study of grace, control and discipline—bringing that into every aspect and nuance of your life with a goodly sense of humor. Enlightenment happens to some people, but that’s not the point. The point is greeting the challenge of each moment with a bright mind, with a warrior spirit, with grace, determination and fun. I’ve gone a bit over 45 minutes—but that was good!

What more can I tell you? I tell you at seminars how to become enlightened, how to sharpen and develop your mind, how to succeed in anything that you approach.

No one can guarantee your success. I can’t. But there are states of mind that you can learn about—unsurpassed beauty as you can see.

You’re going to die. And you’re going to be reborn and die and be reborn, go through greatness, have people love you and people hate you. You’ll love and hate yourself. But there’s beauty in everything, my friend—if you have the state of mind to see it.

So Zen, enlightenment, the state of mind to see it—we are so complex, we beings. We house all of eternity. We’re everything and nothing. We’re nothing. We’re a forgotten moment. We don’t even exist, which is the real freeing part. We don’t even exist. We just think we do. That’s the illusion. Enlightened people know this. Enlightened not-people know this (Rama laughs). They know not to know that to know is to—oh, you understand. And if you don’t …

So learn to meditate. It’s fun. It will give you a strong, wonderful mind. And be even. You don’t always have to be the winner, the first, the greatest, have everybody notice you. It’s fun to dance by yourself alone sometimes. It’s just a kick. That’s what enlightenment is—it’s dancing alone by yourself.

Once in a while, you’ll see someone like me, a Zen master in front of a whole bunch of people, who dances in front of others so they can learn or just be inspired by watching someone else do it in a new way to do it more themselves. But life is just a dance, you know—it’s just a dance. Each lifetime, we dance with someone else. But the real dance is within. It’s inside your mind. Everything is inside your mind. God is inside your mind—everything.

Have fun with it. Don’t be a bigot. Don’t be a devotee. Be yourself—unlimited mind. Be a professional. That’s right, go to school. Get a job. Get it together. Bring power into your life. Energy. Fwam! As my friends, the Blisses say, “Do something!” Be like the Gwid. Be a great capitalist. Be a great socialist. Be a great whatever you want to be, but do it with style, clarity and precision. That’s the hallmark of those who seek higher knowledge and truth. Expect difficulties because they are there. Expect pain. Expect hassle because it’s there. But that’s no reason not to have a good time. I mean, really, it’s only life. What did you expect?

So this is Zen Master Rama—what did you expect?—wishing you well on your journey, and as you go off into that sunset or sunrise, always remember, buy name brand products, take vacations in Hawaii and watch out for dark streets in big cities because there are a lot of strange beings that hang out there late at night, let alone the people. I mean, really, don’t you remember anything from any of your other lives?

Life is beautiful all the time; even death is beautiful. When you close your eyes, when you meditate well, you’ll understand. You’ll just see the light of God, of eternity, of whatever you want to call it. It’s perfect and beautiful. That is you.

You are light. You are not a body. You are not a mind. You are infinite light, infinite intelligence, the radiance of all beings, the dharmakaya, the endless light of creation.

(Rama playfully imitates the actor Cheech Marin) “That’s you. It’s not so bad, man, eh? You know, you can kind of get on down with it, eh. Have fun with it. It’s all right, it’s pretty heavy, but you know, what else could it be? The discotheque of the mind, man, it’s OK. Later …” (Back to normal voice.)

So this is Zen Master Rama once again, out the door and into another state of mind, slipping and sliding between realities, stepping through those inner-dimensional vortex points, somehow coming out as somebody else on the other side. Nirvana, Samsara. Juggling one in each hand, winking at a cute girl. It’s all in the mind of the Buddha. Miller time, right? Take care. Keep dancing. It’s the best, inside your mind, or outside of it. Is there anything outside your mind? That’s the Zen koan for the yuga.