Buddhism is clarity. I suppose all great religions are. However all, including Buddhism become muddled over time. This is due to all sorts of causes, but one thing remains constant in the muddling of great messages, and that is our delusion.
Delusion is not a natural occurrence so to say. But it occurs, one could say it is our karma to be deluded. In the same way it is our karma to be enlightened and that’s what we’re going to keep discussing. You see clarity, is the enlightenment. The perfect message and the ability to hear it and execute it without twisting it for our personal benefit, is clarity.
It’s easier said than done, which brings us back to the muddling and something that holds Buddhism somewhat separate from other great religions. Buddhism has a protective mechanism, something found in other religions, however it is much more central in Buddhism.
Buddhism is the study of being awake. The name of the religion is the title of the ‘first awakened one’ which is Buddha. Buddha means awakened one. So in studying Buddhism, and being Buddhist, we’re merely trying to imitate, and eventually become awakened to life, in the same way Buddha Shakyamuni was.
There is no work in Buddhism that claims Buddha Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, was the last of his kind. On the contrary, Buddhism lore provides stable ground to say there are millions of Buddhas right now, there will be a future Buddha soon, and there are a myriad of beings that have given up the achievement of Supreme Enlightenment in order to serve. These beings are known as Bodisattvas. The landscape is rich, and something like Catholicism if you think about it.
Now we have to bypass the question of God. But we can easily say the the Bodhisattvas are like angels guiding us, pushing us and directing us on our way to discover our own inherent enlightened nature. And we have the lineage of masters too, great individuals that may o ray not have achieved enlightenment, and their memory and existence proves to beyond a doubt that we can exist in a fundamentally clear and deception less way.
Like Christianity, Tantric Buddhism encourages the relating towards the angels. However in Buddhism the angels are distinctly non-separate from mind. Which is to say that they aren’t not us. Now of course we might start practicing Buddhism without a lot of confidence, and see the existence of Bodhisattvas and heavenly dieties as something separate from us, but if Buddhism matures, then we naturally realize the nature of the angels is the same as our nature.
This brings us to the safeguard of Buddhism, which is meditation practice. Some might say. The safeguards of Buddhism are the Dharma Protectors or Dharmapalas, but we can’t see them until we’ve thoroughly established ourselves into the practice of meditation.
This is something even old Buddhists struggle with. Meditation isn’t easy and it’s probably extra difficult for people in the Western World. Meditation, by it’s very virtue is boring. Although EVERYTHING happens while we are meditating, at the same time nothing is happening. All we are left with is our mind, and it runs and runs and runs. It’s boring and painful. It’s realizing we, the we, we think so fondly of to be ourself, isn’t so permanent, and probably isn’t as one dimensional as we thought.
Meditation is the accidental exploration of that. Meditation cuts through our own internal, sometimes forgotten, self deceptive bullshit. This is the clarity we were speaking of earlier.It sees through all walls, and it’s luminosity is constantly expanding as we grow more comfortable seeing ourselves.
Through meditation we actually become clear minded and gentle. This isn’t the kind of gentility that sugar coats a message necessarily, this kind of gentility is the kindness that doesn’t flay ourselves for flaws. It’s the acceptance, the moving forward, the acknowledgement. This kind of gentleness through the virtue of it’s awareness, destroys the emotional states that inflict self harm, and hurt others. It’s quite amazing.
And it comes from doing nothing. Now it’s a disciplined kind of nothing rather than sit in front of a television and pretend that the assault of images isn’t doing anything.
Now Buddhism has it’s own imagery as we spoke briefly about before, a pantheon of beautiful enlightned dieties, male and female, Buddhas who have achieved perfect enlightenment, different realms of existence, secretly describing emotional states and hidden neurosis. It’s a world of where we could go, where we are, and if we’re ready a description of our neurosis and habitual distractions from clarity.
What I’m describing now is called Sadhana, literally translated as accomplishment. A sadhna usually involves a principal diety, representing a certain enlightenment, or perfection and the practice is done to invoke and simultaneously understand and realize that. It’s seems very similiar to a lot of ritual practices, done by shamans and spiritual people. It might not be all that different.
Which brings us back to the safeguard of meditation. If similar practices are done without meditation, one is likely to identify the me similar to the we, as the god or goddesses being. Then the practitioner is in for trouble. It could be enlightening trouble, but if we start actually thinking we are a diety, without self recognization, or realization of what a diety is we could damage our ability to relate to the sanity of the real world.
This is the importance of clarity. We have to have meditative clarity first, before we start dabbling in rituals and visualizations we have no understanding of. Maybe this is my somewhat conservative upbringing here, but I have become pretty disappointed in all the New Age youth and yoga teacher culture running around pretending they are goddess and gods. It’s unhelpful, foolish and naieve.
I hate to say that Buddhism is better, but the truth of the matter is that the visualizations and sadhanas of Buddhism have been created by a lineage of several thousands years, and are seen as a kind of science or math, rather than something one uses to be happy and powerful. The point is the Buddhist sadhanas are tried and true. Furthermore, such sadhanas are generally given out carefully, after or with a personal relationship with a teacher, someone who has been given the sadhana in much the same way.
In this way they are kept intact, relevant and useful, as it becomes up to the master to protect the transmission and clarity of the sadhana in it’s continual existence.