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

Reincarnation. Past lives. Future lives. Immortality. Your purpose in this lifetime. Twin souls, soul mates and karmic connections. Past life remembrances in waking states, dreams, during meditation.

Times between lives. Lifetimes. The cosmic journey through time and space. The endless cycle of rebirth, renewal.

Isis, the Egyptian goddess of renewal, symbolized for the Hindus by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Shiva the transformer or destroyer. The cycle of creation.

The circle, the symbol of perfection for the Buddhists. And beyond the circle, within the circle, the ten thousand states of mind that one passes through during the rounds of rebirth.

This is Zen Master Rama. Today we are going to be talking about, guess what?

(Zazen music ends.)

In 1979, I wrote a book about reincarnation. It was written for the popular market, that is to say, not necessarily people who are actively engaged in the study of Zen, but for folks who are out there who’d like to know more about the universe and themselves and the process of lives that they’re engaged in. It’s called Lifetimes: True Accounts of Reincarnation. It was a fun book to do because, while presenting certain cosmological theories in fairly simplified form from the Hindu and Buddhist point of view about reincarnation, I also included a large number of accounts or excerpts from accounts from persons who had had remembrances of their past lives. The book was fairly successful. As a matter of fact, it was just recently reprinted in paperback again. So you might say I’ve had an interest in reincarnation for a while.

The information I’d like to discuss with you today is a little bit different. It’s not so much the startling, exoteric stories of past life remembrance—there will probably be more of those—but the esoteric awareness of being eternal. There are two sides to self-discovery as in most things—an outer, more popular side and an inner side. The popular side presents more of a simplified form. Most teachers of self-discovery, for example, have two types of students. They have students who they deal with in a more exoteric way than the esoteric students. The exoteric students are presented general truths for their daily lives and their absorption, and the esoteric truths are presented to usually a smaller group of students.

So for example, a teacher might have hundreds of students, and he or she would instruct them in methods of prayer, meditation, ways to improve their lives. Then there might be 20 or 30 students or maybe 12, a smaller number, five, whatever, whom the teacher would instruct in the deeper mysteries. Now, it’s not that the teacher wishes to exclude anyone. But rather, the teaching, the inner teachings, are presented to people in a form that will best aid or benefit them. That’s the purpose of the teaching. So naturally, you don’t teach quantum mechanics to someone who is in algebra one. Nor do you teach someone algebra one who’s working through quantum mechanics. In the same sense, the deeper inner teachings, the esoteric teachings, are presented to very few because very few would understand them, be able to make use of them, while the exoteric teachings are presented to many.

Today I would like to tell you about the more esoteric aspects of reincarnation. The popular aspects of reincarnation you can read about—you’re probably already aware of. But the hidden side of reincarnation is the concern.

Let’s talk a little bit about your body. Not so much your physical body but your other bodies. There are different ways to refer to all of this and there are different systems, and you may have been exposed to certain terms and phrases that are used to explain cosmology—nonphysical bodies and all this sort of thing.

The thing that is important to understand in this study of consciousness is that you really can’t explain anything verbally. You can only allude to, point in a general direction of. But all the systems that try to present different worlds, planes of being, dimensions, different bodies, chakras, energy centers—all of these systems ultimately fail if you try to make them work or make them all-inclusive—because they’re all symbolic representations of something that lies beyond the world of thought and description or analysis. They’re meant to point [toward] a direction and they shouldn’t be taken literally.

Naturally in the esoteric teachings, it’s understood that the only real knowledge comes from personal experience of truth and awareness, not from conversation. If you’re with someone who is explaining something to you, a teacher, and that teacher is in a very high level of attention, they’re not just in the mind, you might say, but in other levels of mind.

A transference process takes place between teacher and student where knowledge is actually transmitted from one to the other. Naturally, this requires that the student be receptive, that they’ve gained some mastery of mind. They can stop their thoughts, they’ve developed their psychic sensibilities so that transference process can take place, and naturally, the teacher has to be able to do that. They have to have the requisite knowledge and experience to be able to do that kind of transmission.

When words are used, it’s always good to remember that they’re pointing a direction toward something. But it’s good not to take them too literally. The words, and particularly the energy behind the words, are to direct your mind or your awareness within yourself, within your mind, to inspire you to explore the parts of your being that a teacher has explored and found and discovered.

Each aspect of the teaching must be individually validated for it to be meaningful, real, and for it to lend a power to your life.

So when I talk about subtle bodies, causal bodies, structures, codings, things like that, it’s a good idea not to take it all completely literally. Certainly it’s literal. I’m describing something as exactly as I can. But it can’t really be put into words. And the purpose of all this is not so you can walk around with new vocabulary words but to cause you to speculate upon the marvel of your own being, and for you in meditation—in zazen—to go within yourself and feel all of this and try to understand what relevance it has for you.

I’m discussing horizons and I’m saying there are many horizons, some of which you have not perhaps conceived of, and by pointing in the direction of those horizons you can walk that way and you will discover them—if you walk that way. If you don’t know that they exist, if you don’t know where the direction is, then you may just stay where you are and continue to see the horizons you currently see.

The purpose of this dialogue and all of the dialogues, which I certainly feel are interactive even though I’m just talking, [is that] there’s definitely an interactive dialogue on an inner level occurring.

The universe is holding congress with itself.

But the purpose of this is to encourage you to explore horizons that you have not yet become consciously aware of, at least in this lifetime. In other words, look at the underlying or feel the underlying meaning and expression in all of the teachings that are espoused by me or anyone else. Not the words. The words don’t mean much. They have a power, certainly. They’re not meaningless. But they are [meant] to cause you to explore and look and search within yourself. They’re supposed to be catalysts for higher stages of attention within yourself, which will only occur when you put the practice of meditation to use in your daily life. That’s where the action is.

OK, good, enough of that. Forward.

The bodies. Reincarnation presupposes a few things. One, that there is an eternal ultimate reality, which is always present. You could call it God; you could call it anything you like—nirvana—whatever. There are two primary aspects to that reality.

One aspect is the unmanifest reality, which is usually called nirvana. Now again, definitions are going to vary, and one person is going to say, “Well, nirvana doesn’t mean that, it means this,” and another is going to say, “It means that,” and words, words, words. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s only a word. We’re pointing a direction. You’ll know it when you arrive.

So, cosmology. Nirvana. The undifferentiated reality. That which is really big. That which is enlightenment. That which cannot be described; it bears no resemblance to anything in your current perceptual field.

Then there is samsara, which is the world appearance, the cycle of rebirth. In other words, there are the physically manifest universes and states of mind that you perceive through the medium of ego. There’s a sense of “I”-ness. You exist as you listen to me, and that being or sense of perception that is perceiving me, is you. As long as you exist, you are aware of the manifest universes to a greater or lesser degree through the senses, through feeling and through mind. You see the world around you, you feel it, you touch it, you taste it. You think about it, you interact with it.

There’s a sense of separativity—you are separate from the universe, therefore you experience it.

Nirvana, or the realization of enlightenment, is a step beyond that. Not simply you experiencing the universes in a nicer, happier, more direct and pure way, but rather the dissolution of the ego and the self. You dissolve into the universe; the universe dissolves into you until there is no longer a difference. There is no sense of individual self as perceiver. In other words, you’re not sitting around watching TV. You’re gone. You’ve dissolved. You’ve become everything. There’s no sense of TV, there’s no sense of you, there’s no sense of anything in particular. There’s no sense of time, space or dimensional planes. It’s something else that we call enlightenment, nirvana or whatever. No way to put it into words, of course. But a condition beyond mind, as we define mind normally.

Then outside of that or within that, we have the samsara that is the sense of self. I exist; I’ve had past experiences; I’m currently aware of whatever I’m aware at the moment; I will have future experiences. Continuity in change—that’s the idea of self. Everything around us is shifting and changing all the time. Energy is moving in all things. But there is an awareness of that, and what gives energy a continuity, what creates a pattern, is you.

Molecules don’t have patterns or atoms. You create a pattern by the perception of something. In other words, we know that an atom has protons, neutrons, electrons, all that stuff.

But the reason it has those things is because of you. If you did not perceive those things, if you did not exist, obviously there would be no patterns. The continuity of awareness is your perceptual field. If there were no one here, no one to perceive any of this, it would not exist.

Existence occurs only through the act of perception. When we become aware of something, it exists. Our awareness creates life. Life does not exist independently of perception. OK, great.

So, reincarnation.

The idea is that everything has always been in one form or another. All of existence exists. Always has, always will—but it takes different forms. There is an overriding unity to existence that cannot be known or understood if you’re in the world of perception.

In other words, the highest truths of life cannot be understood as long as you are alive either in this world, or in any other world, or in a passage between, because the truths are so big that the mind can’t get them.

In order to understand the truths of the universe—truths meaning not how the universe works per se but just to have a complete knowledge of all, to be that—it’s necessary to step outside our human mind form or any mind form whatsoever because any mind form whatsoever is a form.

And form cannot perceive the absolute formless existence. We have to become it.

You have to become that infinite formless creation, which is life, to know it. It can’t be known in an intellectual sense.

That’s enlightenment, that step outside. In order to do that, we have to, in a sense, reject or leave behind everything we’ve been, which is perception, a perceiver—I as an individual who was born, who lived, who died, who’s reborn. That’s enlightenment, to do that. To not be anymore, as we would define being. That doesn’t mean it isn’t being; the universe obviously is being.

So that’s the dividing line. The sense of perception that you exist and going beyond that. Death is not necessarily that.

Death is simply a change in perception. It’s not an end to perception as a finite being.

Reincarnation is a process in which a finite being, which is defined by a sense of perception—“I exist, I perceive, I am”—that perceptual field will go through a series of transmutations and it will perceive different things.

But there will be a continuity of perception. That continuity of perception is an individualized being. When that continuity is lost completely, the being no longer exists as they have been. What gives that sense, again, is perception itself—perception of the individual, the body of perception perceiving itself in variant forms.

Everything is God, let’s say. Everything is just infinite awareness.

And then, from infinite awareness, something comes forward, and that’s a sense of infinite awareness and finite awareness.

That perception is the birth of a being—as soon as there’s somebody around to say, “Wow, look at all this. Far out! Look how big the universe is. Look how small and finite it is. I can see a tree. I can see all universes, all planes of being, all realities and beyond them.” While there’s a perception of either the very big or the very small, the one who’s perceiving is alive. Obviously. You’ve got to be alive to see and feel.

Now, when you die, while you might not remember this at the moment, the same process continues at death.

You pass into inner worlds and you continue to perceive. That’s why I say, death is not the dissolution of the self, or whatever we’d like to call that part of you that is, that perceives.

Death is rather just a change in perception where you’ll perceive something else.

Then you will be reborn, meaning that you will come from the inner into the outer again, and you will perceive something else.

This process goes on indefinitely, with the exception of those who dissolve their bodies of perception completely and are absorbed into what we would call nirvana. Again, nirvana isn’t a physical place. It’s not like going to heaven. It just means no more individualized awareness. No sense of perceiving, therefore no self, therefore no aggregate body of experience, etcetera, etcetera.

It’s really hard to talk about reincarnation because you’ve always been and you’ll always be. You just experience different things in different ways.

Some people, however, or beings, get tired of that round of continual perception because they feel it’s limited. They feel that the perception of the finite universe over and over in variant forms is kind of an unhappy condition because you never get the whole thing, and it doesn’t last.

Whatever you’re perceiving in this life at death will end, and then you will perceive something else and so on and so forth. And perception becomes attached. You’ll start to like things, you reject other things, and this condition eventually causes pain.

Attachment always causes pain, aversion and suffering to the perceiver. You like this life and you don’t want to die, and that’s unfortunate. You like pleasure, you don’t like pain. When you experience pleasure you’re happy; when you experience pain you’re unhappy. And so on.

All of this comes about because of individualized perception. Those who seek what we would call liberation or enlightenment want to go beyond individualized perception. The essence of their being wants to dissolve back into the cosmos, into the cosmic hole. They no longer want to go through all of this. Others continue to go through all of this, other bands of perception.

Let’s think of a huge ocean. This ocean has always been there, it will always be there, it goes on forever. There are waves of the ocean. These waves move continuously. Some slap against the shore, then they fall back into the ocean and they move someplace else. Others are just continually moving through the ocean, endlessly, forever. As they move through the ocean, they change. The wave is not exactly the same. It picks up some new water, drops some old water, changes shape. But the wave continues on.

The only reason we think of the wave as continuing on is because we think. The wave continues on, but if you weren’t around to look at it, and say, “Gee, that’s the same wave that existed before,” it wouldn’t be. If the wave didn’t perceive of itself and say, “Gee, I’m the same wave, I may have changed a little bit, I’m a little bigger or a little smaller, but I’m the same guy who was around before. I’m still moving.”

There is a sense of time. When there is a sense of time, there is a sense of change. When there is a sense of change, there’s life and death and rebirth.

So it is the perception of time and space that creates the illusion of incarnation. That’s a level of perception. On the other hand, when that illusion is shattered, that is to say, when you’re not looking at the wave, when the wave is no longer conscious of its current, past or future state, then there’s no such thing. Everything exists in the mind, in other words. These are all just ideas.

So then, from a structural point of view, the way reincarnation works is as follows.

The universe, which is infinite in nature and mysterious and just plain awesome, created you. OK. Now it didn’t really create you. You are the universe; you are an aspect of it. You have several different bodies. You have a physical body at the moment with ears, which is how you’re hearing all this. You have a mind that thinks and perceives, senses that apprehend the world, feelings and so on.

But in addition to your physical body, you have two other primary bodies—a subtle physical body and a causal body. These are non-physical bodies that are composed of energy, that are not visible to the senses. But anyone who has developed their psychic facility can see these bodies as clearly as you can see a physical body with sense perception.

The subtle physical body is the body made up of energy and it has about the same shape and size as the physical body. The subtle physical body is made up of luminous fibers, and when people talk about the aura—seeing someone’s aura—the aura is the outer surface of the subtle physical body. It’s made up of energy. It’s not solid as the physical body is. It changes its shape more than the physical body does. Now, we know the physical body, of course, is energy, atoms, protons, neutrons, energy moving around. But it seems to hold a pattern, more or less.

It changes from time to time. The cells renew themselves and change every seven years, and all that sort of stuff. Well, it’s born and it dies.

The body of perception, which is the subtle physical body, does the same thing, and it’s made up of energy, fibers; the chakras —the energy centers that we meditate upon—are in the subtle physical body.

The subtle physical body protects the body’s physical health and it protects the mind. It’s the radiant energy or life force that is you.

When you get sick, when something happens to you, it’s because there’s a problem with your subtle physical body. When something goes wrong with the body of energy that surrounds and protects your physical body, it will later show up in your physical body. But the problem always starts in the subtle physical, and then it manifests in the physical.

Beyond the subtle physical body, which is more our interest when it comes to reincarnation, there is something called the causal body.

The causal body, which is just a word to express something that is hard to define, is the part of your being that lives from one lifetime to another.

Again, it isn’t really the causal body, it’s the awareness of incarnation that exists from one lifetime to another. But let’s just say for the moment, the causal body sort of sticks around. The causal body is like the DNA or RNA in that it is the coding that determines your level of evolution.

Right now, you are in a certain level or state of mind. You are also in a certain type of body. You are in a human body as opposed to a cat’s body. You are on the planet Earth as opposed to Mars. You are in a certain dimension as opposed to other dimensions. Within this dimension, within this structure of the universe, on this planet, in this body, in this current lifetime, you are at a certain state of perception. All of this is determined in a very orderly way. There is a coding, just in the same way that the DNA and RNA have caused your physical body to grow in a uniform way. You developed feet, arms, head, and so on; you just didn’t grow into an amorphous blob.

There is something that controls perception, or your inner evolution—which is the causal structure. The causal structure determines the rate and method of evolution, the level of intelligence, your awareness of the universe.

Reincarnation can be compared to a process of going to school. We go up to first grade, second grade, maybe stop at the end of high school, maybe go to college, maybe go to graduate school, but there’s a sense of progression. So there is a type of progression that occurs through the cycle of incarnations. We evolve, in other words.

And there are different cycles of incarnation. There’s not just one, there are different levels of mind. All inner structures are not the same. The cosmos is a very big place—with lots of different types of beings—and they follow different evolutionary patterns.

Now, the essence of your being is everything.

In other words, the part of you that exists from one lifetime to another is composed of all things. You are the energy of the universe. We call it the dharmakaya or the clear light of reality.

The ultimate intelligence of all things is your essence. Your mind is the universe; your body is all things.

But yet, the cool thing about the universe is that it can format itself into tiny little manifestations that are not entirely aware of all aspects, or sometimes hardly any aspects of life.

And those are individualized—what we call sentient—beings, things that take incarnation, as opposed to nirvana—that dissolute infinite intelligence in reality that does not have a sense of separativity.

The ocean without waves, just existing forever, unchanging so to speak—that’s nirvana.

On the other hand, there are these little waves that are whipping around and changing and growing and going through different formations forever.

These are sentient beings. You. People you see and perceive. These are all waves—that go on forever. You go on forever, but just as the wave whips across the ocean and changes shape a little bit from time to time, so do you.

There are laws or forces that govern those changes, and those are manifested by the causal body, just in the same way that your body grows in an orderly fashion, matures in an orderly fashion and decays in an orderly fashion. So the causal body is the determining factor in the changes that occur within your structure or growth rate.

Now the important thing at this point is not to understand how the whole universe works and all the different cycles of evolution—that’s interesting information, but it’s not necessarily relevant to you. If you’ve got a Chevrolet and you want to get it working better, what you need to know is about Chevrolets. The knowledge of the Ferrari or the knowledge of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle might be interesting intellectually, but it won’t really help you with your own car.

It’s best then to confine this discussion to the evolution of the human form, unless you happen to be a cat or dog that’s listening, or a bird—or a spirit or a force.

But for now, we’re talking about people on the planet Earth because that’s where it is. And we’re considering what all this reincarnation stuff means to you.

Well, what it means is that you are experiencing right now—I mean right now—your past.

Everything that you have done has led up to what you are now. That’s the theory of reincarnation. Everything you do now will lead up to what you will be. That’s the theory of reincarnation.

The wave that’s moving along the top of the ocean has a certain formation. The reason it has that formation is because of what it has been through up until this moment. What it will go through will cause it to change form. So you are a wave of awareness and you are in this world and you are aware of a certain amount of stuff (Rama laughs), of consciousness.

If you wish to become more aware, then it’s necessary to do something that you haven’t done. Because everything that you’ve done, if you just continue to do it, will only make you as aware as you are now. If you don’t do as much as you have been doing, you will become less aware. Eventually, you will die.

When you die, you’ll become aware of other things.

Your next incarnation, the level of awareness that you have in it, is dependent upon what you do in this incarnation.

Your awareness in this incarnation is dependent upon what you did in your last incarnation, and so on and so forth.

But things change. If you change your focus in this lifetime, it will affect your next lifetime. Naturally, it also affects this lifetime. If you eat too much today, tomorrow you’ll weigh more on the scale. If you eat less today, you’ll weigh less tomorrow. There are immediate changes that occur, but those changes are more subtle. If today you eat a lot, tomorrow you’ll weigh a little more. But if you eat a lot every day for the next six months, you’ll weigh a lot more six months from now. So six months from now, we could say, “Gosh, look at the tremendous change that occurred.” But the day-to-day changes that are occurring don’t show as much, so we tend to miss them sometimes.

At the time of death, whatever you have focused on the most will determine your next life.

By next life, we’re not simply talking about location, which is more having to do with karma, which we’re not really discussing today—not what planet, not what kind of family you’ll be born into. Today we’re discussing the exoteric, excuse me, the esoteric aspects of reincarnation. And that would mean, therefore, evolution of awareness. The exoteric aspects of reincarnation are the karmic effects. How come you have the job you have now? Because of what happened before. How you can change that? All that sort of thing. But today we’re just looking at pure awareness and its evolution.

The evolution of your awareness is something that’s taking place moment by moment. In other words, the esoteric understanding of reincarnation is, reincarnation is not something that occurs at death, it’s something that takes place at every moment.

The exoteric explanation is death and physical rebirth.

The esoteric explanation is that death and rebirth are occurring at every second, but sometimes we notice those changes more than others.

Whatever you dwell on, you will become in your next life—but not really in your next life. You’ll become it in this life. It isn’t that suddenly, at death, magically you will die and then you will be reborn in a different form. You pick up exactly where you left off.

Let’s say, for example, in the early part of your life you were not really aware. Then you started to meditate and you started to become more aware. You started to use more of your mind. In the early part of your life, you watched a lot of television and the level of intelligence that was projected into your mind and your general state of awareness was not real evolved. If that’s all you did all your life, then your next life will be at the same level. But if, instead, you started to develop your mind through the practice of Zen, and you became aware of more of the states of mind, the ten thousand states of mind, levels of mind, then at the end of this life, you will be a lot more aware. You’ll be in higher stages of attention. You won’t be so limited.

Then, in your next life, that awareness will come back to you. You don’t lose it. You may lose it temporarily, in the sense that for a while, when you’re born into a new lifetime, that evolution doesn’t come out. But it does come out.

Even as a child you will be drawn to certain things. If you develop more of a refined sensibility you’ll be drawn towards more refined things, even as a child. Naturally you’ll be influenced by environment, by mental conditioning, by the people around you. You could have had a very evolved awareness field in your last life, and then if in this lifetime you surround yourself with unevolved people, it could make it more difficult for that evolution to come out. But eventually it will.

The same thing can happen in this lifetime. You could have lived in a very refined state of mind, and suddenly you surround yourself with a lot of unrefined people. By that I mean people who aren’t as aware; they’re aware just of mainly the physical world. They’re not in all those hundreds and thousands of states of mind. If you interact with those individuals, then you will lose some of your evolution, if you interact with them exclusively.

The tennis pro. The tennis pro is a hot tennis player—plays competitive tennis. Suddenly the tennis pro becomes a teacher, and all he does is teach fairly basic students. After a while, his tennis game will diminish because he is not doing anything to continue maintaining it on a high level. If he continues to compete and also teaches tennis, then he may advance. If you want to advance, you play with someone who plays a better game of tennis than you do, and that’s how you learn. You have to stretch yourself. Whereas if you play with people who don’t play as well as you do, it’s unlikely that your game will improve.

What you focus on determines what you become.

If you spend an hour or two a day meditating and focusing on light, then you will eventually become light.

If you work on developing your mind, then you will gain a strong mind. If you work on developing your body, then you’ll gain a strong body. It isn’t that it will happen at some later date. Every time you do a push up or a sit up, your body gets a little stronger. You may not see the muscles bulging yet—that may happen over a period of time—but it does not happen all at once. A little at a time, the wave changes. If we look at it an hour from now, we’ll see that it may have grown into a tsunami, a tidal wave, but the effects are happening all along. We just don’t see them until they become more apparent to the eye.

The esoteric teaching of reincarnation then, is—that it’s happening all the time.

At every moment we’re going through a change. Our being isn’t solid. It has a certain codified form that is held in structure by the causal body, which I’ll talk about in a minute. But it changes all the time, not just at death. In other words, reincarnation is now. It’s happening now, your awareness is changing now, and we’ll see the larger effect perhaps at the time of death or in the next life. But not really.

Your next life won’t be different than the end of this life. The end of this life will be a summation of whatever you’ve done in this life, and this life, of course, depends upon the prior life, and so on and so forth. Every moment gives birth to the next moment and influences it—that’s the chain of perpetual being.

Getting out of that chain of perpetual being, where one moment leads to another, is getting off the wheel of birth and death. That’s enlightenment—stepping outside of that pattern because that pattern is endless. The wave can never get away from itself. It changes. But it always has that continuity of change.

Every moment leads to another moment. How can you get out of that?

Naturally, you might ask, “Why would I want to get out of that? I exist; I’ll always exist. Isn’t that pretty neat?”

Well, yes it is.

You will always exist and you now exist, and you’re a changing wave. You’ll never be as you’ve ever been before, probably. It’s possible. But at every moment, you’re changing. Yet within an individual incarnation it doesn’t seem that you change that much. For example, at about five or six, the personality forms, and you will develop certain character traits and those traits will probably stay in place. Some of those traits are carryovers from previous states of awareness, from your last life and preceding times. Some of them might have been developed in this lifetime.

The reason they stay in place is because you have a certain idea of yourself that develops as the ego becomes aware of its surroundings in the world. And through the experience of memory, you recall what you’ve done, and you therefore attach yourself to it and perceive yourself through prior experience. So for example—this is how come you get stuck—you fell down a lot when you used to run. Now you don’t run because you think of yourself as a person who falls down a lot when they run. You see? In other words, you are new at every moment. You are an extension of the previous moment of your awareness, yes, but you can completely and radically change if you can unhook yourself from what you’ve been. Granted, you will still be in a perception, a body of perception that you can’t get out of, unless you can move beyond the level of perception.

The ten thousand states of mind that we talk about in Zen are all levels of perception. Right now you are in one of those ten thousand states of mind. That means that you’re perceiving life in the world, in the universe, in a certain way.

You can think of each of the ten thousand states of mind as a different dimensional plane, and right now you’re in a certain dimension. If you had Excedrin headache number 99, the whole world would look different to you. You’d be in a different dimensional plane, a different state of mind.

Love is a state of mind, you see. Fear is a state of mind, and so on. There are lots of them. You may not have experienced all that many in your life, but there are ten thousand. Who’s counting anyway, right? Each is completely different—a completely different state of mind—and bears no resemblance to the others.

The wave of your awareness – OK, what you are is awareness; you’re a little band of awareness.

You’re like an M&M, a peanut M&M, green, red, whatever, and you are aware. But what are you really aware of? I mean just who are you anyway?

You are aware of a state of mind. And your awareness—that which you are—moves from one state of mind to another. There are ten thousand of them.

Reincarnation is a process of your awareness, the person or being or whatever it is inside you that is aware of all this.

If you’re in a fun house and there’s a mirror that makes you look fat, if you look in it, you’ll look fat. Another mirror makes you look skinny. When you look in it, you look skinny. Well, let’s say that each state of mind is a mirror.

And there are ten thousand different mirrors, and in each mirror you have a different shape,

Your “self” is the universe, and you are perceiving the universe through a state of mind, and one state of mind leads to another.

You can stay in one state of mind for a long time. In other words, your mind is a mirror, and it reflects life. But it reflects life according to the curvature of the mirror. You are perceiving life in the universe in a state of mind. When you change from one level of mind to another, the world appears to be totally different and in fact, it is—because what creates difference is perception.

Therefore there’s no continuity at all—it’s enough to drive you nuts—in the universe. Because every time you change states of mind, it’s all different—which means that the universe isn’t any particular way. It strictly depends upon perception.

There’s no ultimate objective reality within the ten thousand states of mind, and most people don’t like to hear this. They can’t handle it. Freaks them out! Because it means that there’s no objective reality. Yaagh! (Rama laughs.) There is none! But there are objective realities.

In other words, there’s no single unifying reality—that’s nonsense. There are ten thousand realities though, and each is definitely unifying. Maybe that makes you feel better. They move in and out of each other constantly. Your lifetimes are spent as perception in one state of being or another, perceiving the universe in those states of mind. That’s all there is, and it goes on forever.

There are some beings who reach a point where they no longer want to move continually, aimlessly, through the ten thousand states of mind because, of course, there is something else, and naturally there is an objective reality. It just doesn’t happen to be objective in the sense that you would think of it as objective. It’s neither objective nor subjective, it’s beyond subject and object. That’s what I was talking about before, and that’s nirvana.

Nirvana or enlightenment, or whatever we’ll call it, is outside of the fun house. You’re walking around in the fun house forever. Is it fun? I don’t know. That’s for you to decide. Some of the things in the fun house certainly aren’t fun. It’s no fun to look in the mirror that makes you look real fat and makes everything look terrible. It might be more fun to look in a mirror that makes you look thin and bouncy and perky and beautiful. All of them are illusory, in that none of them give you an absolute clear view of what is. They all distort life slightly. All states of mind do. Therefore, everything is considered to be unreal.

That’s how it’s discussed in the esoteric philosophy—meaning that, when you look at a couch, you don’t really see the couch. You see the couch as perceived by a state of mind, and you can see the couch in any of ten thousand states of mind, and you’ll see ten thousand different couches. Which couch is the real couch? Do you want to walk through Door Number One, Door Number Two or Door Number Three? Should you take the box – the mystery box—or the money? It’s hard to say. So [the question] therefore, is—which is the real couch, in which ten thousand states of mind is the real couch?

They are all the real couch. They’re all different perceptions of the real couch. Wrong. They’re different perceptions of your, our mind. Your mind is made up of the ten thousand states of mind.

The couch doesn’t even exist outside of you. There’s no wave, remember, unless you perceive it. Yet there is something beyond the ten thousand states of mind because obviously, no one state of mind is better than another. There just happen to be ten thousand.

You get stuck in them, sometimes for a long time. You can get stuck in one state of mind for a thousand lifetimes or in a general area of mind. Some states of mind afford better views than others, but they’re still states of mind. Outside of the state of mind that you’re in or all states of mind, there’s something that cannot be described, and it cannot be perceived by any of the states of mind. Some states of mind are more open to it, and others are less open to it. The more evolved states of mind are more open to enlightenment. The less evolved states of mind are less open to it—they’re afraid of it, and some of the most simplistic of the ten thousand states of mind don’t even know it exists and would deny it. That’s just the level they function on. They can’t perceive that there could be anything—some of the most simplistic states of mind can’t even perceive that there are other states of mind other than the individual state of mind that is having the perception.

You see this with people. For example, a person could be in a state of mind where they feel that their religion is the only religion, there aren’t even any others, anything else is just crazy. Another person—“Well, see, there are lots of other religions and I wouldn’t want to practice them, and they’re probably not very good, but there are others.” Another person in another state of mind—“Well, see, yes, there are as many religions as there are people, and each one is as good as any other.”

But none of those states of mind could see, perhaps, that there’s something beyond religion. In other words, they see religion as a way of looking at God and truth. But none of them actually take their minds and merge it with God’s and see what God sees. They can’t handle it because then, even their ideas of religion would fade away because religion is just a perception of the human mind. It’s an orderly way of trying to understand spirit and matter.

But maybe, from God’s point of view, or the infinite’s point of view, there aren’t even religions, there aren’t even worlds, there aren’t even people.

What does God see, in other words? God is the Universe. That’s just too much. They can’t deal with it. Some are more liberal than others; some have better views. There are big houses and there are small houses. There are rich neighborhoods and there are poor neighborhoods. There’s variation in the universe. There’s variation within the ten thousand states of mind. There are different states of mind, and at any given moment you are in one of them and you are perceiving life, the couch, the wave, your existence, pleasure, pain, loss and gain, past, present and future.

Reincarnation is the movement from one state of mind to another.

Ultimately, that will culminate in a physical change. Because you are in one type of state of mind, you are incarnating in a certain universe, in a certain body, in a certain world, with a certain level of perception. Those are the outer reflections that have to do with what we call karma, which is the law of cause and effect. But ultimately, all karmas are dependent upon state of mind.

You can get into a state of mind in which you no longer want to be in the ten thousand states of mind. That’s the joker in the deck, and that’s when you look for enlightenment.

Enlightenment means not that you don’t necessarily like the ten thousand states of mind—it’s not a question of liking or disliking; they exist as they are—but something in you wants to go beyond all that, to not just be looking through mirrors all the time, but wants to perceive the reality, wants to be free from this endless round of perception.

Enlightenment is that.

If you were enlightened now, what you could do is sit down and meditate and go beyond the ten thousand states of mind—that is enlightenment. You may exist within the ten thousand states of mind; the enlightened being can look through those states of mind, but they are also outside of them.

You visit a country and everybody in that country is bound by certain laws. But let’s just say that you have diplomatic immunity. You can go in and you can obey the laws or break the laws; it doesn’t matter. You can visit the country. Someone visiting the country who doesn’t know that you have diplomatic immunity will assume that you’re bound by the same laws as they are, and if you commit a crime like they do, they go to jail, but you don’t. But they don’t know that. You look, to the person who doesn’t know that you have a different status, like everyone else.

So an enlightened person lives in the world, passes through the ten thousand states of mind, but they’re not bound by those states of mind. They can step outside of them. They can go beyond perception.

Again, here the words break down. How can I possibly describe it? I can’t. I don’t know anyone who can.

Enlightenment does not put an end to awareness. It puts an end to limited awareness. It doesn’t necessarily put an end to incarnation. It puts an end to reincarnation in that once you attain that status, once you break through the ten thousand states of mind, you will never again be limited by the ten thousand states of mind. If you’re born into another lifetime, you remain enlightened; that which is your essence is beyond the ten thousand states of mind. It may take a while for that to surface again, from one lifetime to another, but it’s there anyway, even if your individualized mind doesn’t perceive it, the outer mind. The enlightenment is there.

All beings exist ultimately in a condition of inner enlightenment. Enlightenment is in all things.

The path of reincarnation, then, is simply the path of changing awareness. What you are reincarnating into are different states of mind.

That which reincarnates is the awareness that perceives each state of mind. That’s reincarnation.

The whole show is on the inside. And it really doesn’t matter that you change bodies from one lifetime to another. That doesn’t really change anything. That’s just a change in location, not in you. Oh, the memories will fall away from your last lifetime; they’re not really necessary in this lifetime. You might remember past lives. For example, let’s say that you remember meditating in another lifetime. That’s interesting information, and if you’re meditating in this lifetime it’s probably true. Because that’s what you were doing before, and it carried over into this lifetime. In other words, you’re no different in this lifetime than you were in your last lifetime. This lifetime is simply a continuation of your last lifetime, as your last lifetime was a continuation of the prior lifetime.

Death doesn’t change anything. It just gives you a new location, some new clothes, but you wash out the memories. The physical mind dissolves and doesn’t return. But the overriding state of mind that you die in is the state of mind that you are born into. There are other things that we call karmas. They will determine the location, the type of body, how much money, birth into a wealthy family, a poor family, opportunities that will be presented to you throughout life. I have another tape on karma where we discuss more of the exoteric aspects of reincarnation.

But the inner aspect of reincarnation, which is the important part, has to do with where you put your mind, and the more expansive the state of mind you enter into, the less suffering there is. Because the more expansive states of mind of the ten thousand states of mind are less attached states of mind—they perceive more light. They know more about the universe and the way it works. Ultimately they’re still bound states. They don’t reflect life perfectly, but some mirrors reflect the way things look more accurately, some less accurately.

If you see a couch and then you have a mirror on the other side of the room and it’s completely bent, and you look at it and the couch doesn’t at all look like the couch that you just saw when you looked directly at the couch, the mirror is not a good reflector.

Some states of mind really bend life out of shape. Some of the ten thousand states of mind do the opposite. They’re pretty good reflectors. But none of them show you what really is. Yet all of these things are. Each is a part of life; each state of mind is. Each reflection is an element of existence. That’s why when we say that they’re unreal, when I say that the ten thousand states of mind are unreal or hallucinatory—hallucinations are real, dreams are real, but there are some things that are more real.

I say that they’re unreal in the sense that they are not as real as some things are. But that doesn’t mean they’re completely unreal and that they don’t exist. Everything is perception. A hallucination is a perception of a certain reality. It’s a perception of a certain state of mind.

So then, reincarnation is a process of moving from one state of mind to another.

Whether you’re in a body or out of a body is immaterial, to tell you the truth.

Disembodied beings are in a certain state of mind. Embodied beings are in certain states of mind. The disembodied being stays in the same state of mind that it was in when it was embodied, unless it does something to change that while it’s out of the body. So you move in a cycle—this is inner reincarnation—from one level of awareness to another, from mirrors that reflect life more accurately to mirrors that reflect life less accurately.

We talk about spiritual evolution in a sense that spiritual evolution is a movement from the mirrors or states of mind that reflect life less accurately to the mirrors that reflect life more accurately. But even if you hit the ten thousandth state of mind that reflects life most accurately, that is not the same as enlightenment. It’s a more enlightened condition, but enlightenment is when you smash all the mirrors, and whatever is left is reality. When there are no more mirrors, you break perception itself—the prism of perception breaks. That’s enlightenment.

Then the light just floods through and you realize, well, I mean you just can’t say what it is or what it’s like because it’s beyond discussion. That’s enlightenment, that’s liberation, that’s freedom, that’s perfection. Yet each of the states of mind is a kind of perfection, has its own beauty, has its own horror. All are reflections of your mind.

Your mind is the ten thousand states. These are ten thousand aspects of your mind, not your physical brain cells and so on, but your mind, your awareness, your perception has ten thousand forms. Beyond your perception, there’s something else—beyond those ten thousand forms. But those forms can only think about or ponder what it is. They can’t know that. You have to step outside of perception itself.

When a person is evolving, they’re moving, as I said, to clearer reflections. The reflections get more and more clear, and as a person is devolving—if you’re going down cycle—things are getting fuzzier and fuzzier. Drinking alcohol, for example, takes you into a lower state of mind. If you drink a lot of it, things get very fuzzy and they’re not very sharp or defined. That brings you into a lower state of attention. Some things—meditating and some other things—bring you into higher states of mind, [as does] the way you lead your life, your purposes, your goals and so on.

Zen is the study of the ten thousand states of mind and that which lies beyond the ten thousand. You are the sum total of your perception, and if you want to move into better perceptual fields, you need to awaken your mind. As you awaken your mind, you become free, happy, powerful.

Anything that you might want to be is around somewhere, and you can become it, if you’d like to. But you just have to get into the state of mind that allows that to occur. In order to do that, then, you need to learn the ways of mind. There are specific ways to do that.

The casual body holds the structure. The casual body is the coding. So you’re not just scattered all over through ten thousand states of mind. The casual body is the linkage that holds together the different states of mind. Just as the subtle physical body holds together the physical body, the casual body holds together the awareness. It is the body of awareness. Normally, that body of awareness changes in a linear progression.

In other words, let’s say we’re looking at 50 states of mind in a row. And of those 50 states, there’s one at the bottom of this circuit that least accurately reflects life. Then there’s one that most accurately reflects life, and then there are 48 in between. Normally you move from one state of mind to another at a kind of slow progression, but it is possible to move through those states of mind very quickly, and that’s Zen. Zen is a very quick movement.

In other words, let’s say that you are incarnating and you are in a very low state of mind, and it might take you ten thousand, a hundred thousand million lives to move from lower states of mind to some of the real higher stages of attention. And it’s only from the higher stages of attention that you can eventually move beyond the ten thousand states of mind. In other words, you have to hit the highest—you’ve got to get up to that ten thousandth state of mind. If you get to that one, then you can jump, potentially, beyond the ten thousand states of mind to enlightenment. Remember, this is all a way of talking. It’s not really like this. I’m just trying to describe something that’s beyond words. So don’t get too stuck in the images here, OK?

The problem is that it’s a long climb up to ten thousand, and it’s not necessarily so orderly. It’s possible to go up and then go down because there’s a certain force of gravity that pulls you back.

That’s why a lot of beings never become enlightened—it’s not an automatic process. If someone tells you in reincarnation everyone eventually becomes enlightened, it just takes a certain amount of lives, that’s not true. Not at all. Certain beings, certain waves will always be waves. They will never go beyond that condition. They’ll be different kinds of waves. They’ll whip in and out of those ten thousand states of mind forever, forever!

But in order to reach enlightenment, you have to be able to get to the ten thousandth state, and even that is not a guarantee. From there, then you have to make the big jump, but it can be done.

Every state of mind that you climb up, you will be happier and more complete. Again, you don’t have to get to the ten thousandth; each one can totally, radically shift and improve your awareness. So it’s a little game you play. How high up can you get? And the way you shift states of mind, well, that’s the study of Zen or different forms of self-discovery in which you are taught how to do that. How to balance your life, meditation, ways of using energy—you know, there are just a million factors that go into moving from one state of mind to another. That’s the study of self-discovery, where you’re discovering the different states of mind. Each is God; each is perfect in its own way. None of them are bad. Some are happier, some are unhappier. Some are very painful, some are very pleasurable. But you go round and round in them forever.

What gets frustrating for some people is the fact that you might get very high up there, but then you kind of get pulled back again. In other words, you moved into very high and pleasurable states of mind for a while, but then the wheel turns around and you find yourself pulled down again because there are certain forces—we call the force illusion or maya —that cause us to make mistakes sometimes. And suddenly we find ourselves back in.

So an enlightened being comes into a world because they help, you see. In other words, they’ve done it or whatever you want to call it. They’re off the wheel. They have the diplomatic immunity. They walk around in the world like everyone else, but there’s something—if you could really see—that’s strikingly different about them. They’re not bound by anything that happens here. When they die, their next incarnation, where they end up, will not be determined by this one. They are not bound by the laws of experience here because they’re liberated. They will experience different states of mind and in those states of mind, they will suffer, they will know joy and so on. But ultimately, they’re free of all of that. In other words, that doesn’t stay with them like it stays with you.

So the best way out, is to find someone who’s out and listen to them because they’ve obviously figured it out, and they know and can explain to you or show you how to go through the ten thousand states of mind to get to the one whereby you can make the big jump.

Or maybe even you don’t want to do that. You just want to get into some nicer ones than you’re in now and know how to do that—you’ve probably had past lives, since you’ve existed for a long time, forever, where you were in better stages of mind than you’re in now.

But even though you’ve existed all this time, you still haven’t become enlightened.

Enlightened beings are rare in the universe. They’re the joker in the deck. They’re outside of the circle. They can’t be born and they can’t die, even though they can take a physical incarnation and their bodies will be born and die, meaning death and birth don’t affect their stateless minds. Yet they will go through, in any incarnation, something similar to everyone else. The person who has diplomatic immunity still eats and sleeps. They can still stub their toe, but yet there is something different about an Aqua Velva Man, right? Does she or doesn’t she? Right? Only the Zen Master knows for sure, and he’s not telling. Naturally, of course, etcetera, etcetera. You get the idea. Yeah.

So the universe is pretty cool. You’ll always exist in one form or another. You’re a wave and you’re changing and moving from one level of attention to another.

But if you’re not completely crazy about where you are now, the state of mind that you’re currently perceiving as perception, then you should do something to change it. That change will come about gradually, yet all at once. Each aspect of it happens all at once as you do it. Each time you do a push up you’re stronger. “Gradually” implies that you won’t necessarily see the changes unless you see very carefully—if you see details for a while.

When you really start to meditate, when you start to take the Zen program on, or whatever form of self-discovery you use, if you really stick with it and progress with it, then you will see, over a period of time, tremendous changes in your life and state of mind. Those changes came about, though, because each time, at each moment, you did something that caused you to move in a certain direction. That’s reincarnation. The wave is choosing its own direction. Whereas most people don’t do that. Most people are just—they don’t understand how any of this works. They’re just scattered around through life by desires. They chase their desires, they run away from their fears. They have no idea how they get from one state of mind to another or that even other states of mind exist, other than the one that they’re in right now, since they tend to forget everything all the time.

I’ve seen a lot of my students—I’ve moved them into a high state of mind and they’re much more aware for awhile, but then they don’t do the things that I’ve shown them how to do. So then they drop down into a lower stage of attention. Or they do the opposite of what I told them to do. That will then, of course, simply cause them to move into a lower state of attention because I explained what would give them energy; they did things that would drain their energy, so they go down. It’s the darndest thing because I stand outside of all this—I get a kick out of it—and I can, of course, recall where they were before. I can see where they are now. But they don’t. They honestly don’t remember the higher stages of attention they were in, even though they were there maybe six months ago, in which they were completely different beings and the couch didn’t look like it looks now.

The same happens the other way. You forget where you’ve been. You will forget the stage of attention you were in that was lower, which is just as well. It’s like not remembering one lifetime because you are in a different lifetime. You really don’t need to remember the other lifetime, what you did in it, per se. It won’t make any difference. That’s last week’s TV show. Watch this week’s.

But if you can summon up power from past lives and bring them into this life, and that can give you a boost into the next state of mind up or further, well that’s a good thing. That’s worth doing.

But just remembering what you did in previous lives doesn’t mean a thing. It’s nice to remember that you had higher states of mind, but that won’t necessarily get you there. It might even make things painful.

Once you were rich, and now you are poor, and if that’s going to make you feel very unhappy about your current state, what good is it going to do you? If, on the other hand, it reminds you that you were rich before, and you can become rich again because you know how in there somewhere, and if that inspires you to try and it causes it to happen, then that remembrance is worthwhile.

Again, this is all a certain perspective in which the most important thing is raising your level of attention. There are other perspectives and other states of mind in which it doesn’t matter. I could enter into those and we’d have different discussions because there are ten thousand ways of looking at things. And I don’t exactly have a point of view per se.

If you are interested in the other stuff about reincarnation, pick up the “Karma” tape – which is exoteric jazz about physical happenings that are of great concern. That’s the other side.

This [the “Reincarnation” tape] is what goes on within—these are the secret teachings which most people forget as soon as they’ve heard them (Rama laughs) because they move to a different state of mind. But the mere hearing of these teachings, so they say—not because I said them, the teachings are independent of the teachers—the mere hearing of these teachings can bring one into a very high state of mind if you meditate upon them.

Ultimately, from my point of view you’ve got to be practical, and you need to go do something and that’s—you need to do whatever will bring you into the next higher state of mind and get some evolution going. Then life can be pretty wonderful. When you don’t do that and you allow yourself to get dragged down to the lower states of mind, life can be very uncomfortable and very painful.

But there’s something beyond all states of mind, my friend, and it’s the best. It’s better than the best! Better than Dutch apple pie, right? And that’s enlightenment. It’s worth striving for. It’s worth doing something about it. It’s worth becoming. Again, that’s the perspective of the enlightened.

(Zazen music begins in the background.)

So, is there life after death? Is the moon made out of green cheese? What’s really happening anyway? Where are these states of mind? Who am I? What’s going on? How’d I get here? What world is this? They gave me a travel brochure. They said: “Earth, right? Enjoy it.” I’ll never use that travel agent again. Clearly it was a dated brochure. What a place! What an incarnation! I don’t know about you, but I’m getting out of here soon. (Rama laughs.)

Oh, diplomatic immunity is great, right? But you still have feet. In this place you have feet. You know, there are worlds where you don’t have feet. There are worlds where you don’t have bodies. There are states of mind where you don’t have a mind. I mean there’s a lot of stuff. The universe is very big. (Rama laughs.)

So this is Zen Master Rama, cruising the ten thousand states of mind, stepping in and out of realities, wondering why the whole thing is and knowing simultaneously that—what the heck, right?

Keep meditating—you’ll get it. Just keep meditating.

(Zazen music ends.)