The Promise of Hunger
Buddhism is a religion that isn’t a religion. The truth of the matter is it is a religion in the sense of our perception, but when we dive into it, there’s no dogma, or at least there shouldn’t be. There is no substance, no absolute rules, no telling other people how to be, what to be, or who to be. Buddhism has no moral trips when practiced perfectly. Buddhism’s substance is only found in our own lives.
Buddhism requires people, there is an example set by other people, and the religious aspect is other people trying to follow the first example. This is where the dogma that’s not meant to be dogma occurs. Many practitioners, all of us really follow the wrong example. We think that a teacher, say the Buddha for example worse certain clothes, so we try and be more like him by putting on robes. Or the teacher is chaste, and holy, so we try and be chaste and holy too. Or maybe someone said once to repeat a mantra, so now everyone is repeating mantras. Dogma happens because we adopt certain things without endeavoring to understand their true meaning. Then we get lost and excited about our ability to follow in something holy’s footsteps, and voila spiritual materialism.
It’s a very spiritual problem. And it causes all religions to spring into existence, as soon as ego learns it can profit off of others following blindly. Dogma has no other source but ignorance. However at the root of everything we just said, there is a root of wisdom! All religions and all traditions, even what seems like dogma, usually hides a seed of truth.
With this disclaimer let’s look at what the wonderful religion of Buddhism has preserved for us. Buddhism has three main vehicles. These vehicles known as the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana are all simultaneously fields of thought, philosophy and tiers of life experiences. The vehicles are what we call the ‘path.’ The path is basically a simple way to say ‘train of conscious life experiences. So though not everyone is on the spiritual path, which we will later define, one does not have to be Buddhist to follow the path. Obviously the path exists regardless which religion we practice and identify with.
The point of the vehicles on the path is unique however to Buddhism. If we are talking about vehicles we’re not interested in repetitive cycles. Vehicles deliver us from one place of psychological circumstance to another place. The destination. The vehicles exist until the destination doesn’t. So the purpose of the three vehicles is to take us somewhere, even if the destination doesn’t exist, it’s still somewhere.
The landmark goal of the first vehicle is the goal of self enlightenment. This is to become woke. The first vehicle gets us woke. That’s so fun to say. And it requires some elaboration. Being woke should not and does not mean being able to cleverly point out the issues with the world and other people. Being an awake individual means that we are completely aware of our faults, virtues, tendency’s habits and mental activity. It’s not as easy as coming up with delightful conspiracy theories about the governement. Being awake is a lot of hard work, catching our monkey mind, watching our tendency to indulge and letting our habitual self secrets manifest, this is the work. This is the foundational stage of the path, where all the other tiers and natural evolutions are dependent on how disciplined we are in acknowledging the core of our own being.
The second vehicle seems a lot more grandiose in comparison. However it’s not possible without the discipline or the travails of the first vehicle. This is known as the Mahayana. The Mahayana is often known as the Middle Way. For our purposes of practicality we’re going to call it the way of the Spiritual Warrior.
The spiritual warrior is a person who has come to know and accept themselves. This person goes out into the world knowing themselves. Such a person is finally able to really help others. This helping of others though isn’t an ego thing, it’s merely a reflection of self knowledge.
This vehicle develops through failure and success. Though we pursue success, the spiritual path of the warrior cannot develop without failure. Failure reinforces and drives us back to personal discipline, encourages evaluation and forces us to experience spontaneous reflection. Now if we gloss over our failures or dress them up without feeling them completely, the whole thing crashes.
Where does it crash you might ask? Well it crashes into Samsara, which could use an explanation. Samsara is a very common word in Buddhism. Samasara means suffering. It’s very much thought to mean all suffering by translation, however it is a little better to think of it as neurotic suffering. It’s the whirlpool of discursive thought, distraction, self judgement, aggrandizement and dwelling on joy or failure. Samsara is driven by human emotions, propelled by the giant engine of ignorance. Samsara, or being trapped in it isn’t limited to Buddhism obviously. We all are in samsara. Which is the point of the first vehicle, delivering us from self inflicted suffering.
The second vehicle picks us up there. Self enlightenment, really is enlightenment for all, when it’s perfected. Which is the definitive goal of the Second vehicle. This is the famed path of the Boddhisattva. Built on discipline, and self knowledge the practitioner realizes he needs other people and challenging situations to continue to wake up. It’s based on space. Here samsara’s habitual and continual sufferings have ceased weighing to heavily on the aspirants mind. This naturally gives the spiritual warrior compassion and care for others. What else would you think of if you’re not thinking about yourself? This draws the spiritual warrior further from his neurotic mind and into the greater world.
For a spiritual warrior the world unfolds like a lotus flower. As it unfolds the meditation must continue to remain on the seat, basically staying in the vehicle of self awareness. This maintains space, allows the world to be as it is and reinforces all the good traits.
Now for all of those of us who have trouble staying in the seat, there is good news too.
Failure to remain perfectly unmoving emotionally and psychologically creates huge impediments to starting out on the path. However once a person is on it and has established a discipline meditative routine and practices awareness in all corners of their life, such failures become powerful stepping stones and landmarks within themselves.
This brings us to dignity. Some of the things we’ve spoken about in a wordy but barely intelligent manner seem ungrounded, grandiose and ludicrous to attain. It’s simple though, the core of Buddhism, if we can sum it up at all; meditate and maintain dignity, even after its been lost. You’re perfect, no need to struggle to show it. Dignity is knowing yourself and keeping ones head up. Meditation is the best place to practice.
The sum of the first two Vehicles described in Buddhism brings us to Vajrayana, the Adamitine Way. Everything in the previous pages describes it. We’re not going to go into detail on Vajrayana now. There’s no point until a further description and felt understanding of everything we’ve discussed so far comes to pass. Vajrayana is the most misunderstood yet, wildly spoken about part of Buddhism. Vajrayana is the same thing as Tantra. However a clear divination is required since we’ve said that word. The popular expression of tantra and sexuality is dogmatic, and rather awful. Tantra is NOT AT ALL POSSIBLE WITHOUT EXPERIENCING THE FIRST TWO VEHICLES OF THE PATH. Vajrayana is the adding of color back to the experience of giving the self up for others. If we haven’t gone through the trials and tribulations of giving ego away for others benefit, we are not experiencing tantra, even if we have a tantra sex coach. Especially if we have a tantra sex coach.
We can’t properly add color to our life, if we haven’t given our life away for the benefit of all beings. It’s a common problem. But Vajrayana as the unbreakable way isn’t something we can just decide to do. It only happens naturally, as an evolution. It’s like taking a drink of water. First we have the intention to take a drink, then we pour the water into ourselves, then we put the glass down and forget about it.
Vajrayana is putting the glass down. Sadly the iconography is so exciting and it coincides with our indulgences, desires and temptations. So we must have sympathy for the false tantra practitioners. But we shouldn’t encourage them, as they are fooling themselves and potentially damaging the spiritual growth of many other people. We can be happy that’s not us, and we should pray for them.
Even though Buddhism isn’t much of a religion the treasure of the wisdom compiled by it’s practitioners, is extremely vast. Enormous! And when practiced in a traditional way it has an extreme amount of safeguards for those who seemingly cling to silly principles. The best thing to take away from Buddhism is a teacher. And the teacher doesn’t need to be Buddhist. The teacher can be anyone, but the teacher will be the person who tells us we need to put the glass down, as well as pick it up again. The teacher, in all lineages is an example of human dignity. That’s the point. Enlightenment – perfection if you will – the perfection of never having a second thought, is only possible for humans. And these humans have to have every care in the world first, limitless compassion, and that creates the perfect vast mind without doubt.
This is the promise of Buddhism.