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1: The Journey
Buddhist journey is a journey from beginning to end in which the end is also the beginning. This is the journey of the nine yanas, the nine stages that students go through on the path.
means vehicle or mode of transport. Once you get onto this particular bandwagon, it is an ongoing journey without reverse and without brakes. You have no control over the horse that is pulling this carriage. It is an ongoing process.
Beginning this journey is committing yourself to a particular karmic flow, a karmic chain reaction. It is like being born. When you are born, nobody can say, "That was just a rehearsal," and take the whole thing back. Once you are born, you keep on growing up, growing up, getting older, becoming aged,
more aged, and then finally you die. When you are born, there is a certain amount of commitment involved—to be born as a human child from a mother's womb, with parents, with a house, and so on.
This journey is a very definite one, absolutely definite, and that is why it is called Buddhism. Although urn is a rather ugly suflix, it is a definite
"ism." It is a "Buddha-ism," because we are trying to imitate Buddha's journey. And when we try to imitate Buddha's journey, it just so happens that what we are doing becomes an "ism." It is a real journey, and it involves a real commitment. Italso involves some kind of dogma.
It means associating yourself with a certain doctrine, a certain formulation of truth. We are not embarrassed to call ourselves Buddhists. In fact we take pride in it, because we have found a way, a path, that makes it possible for us to associate ourselves with Buddha, the Awakened One. "Awakened" here means highly awakened, fully awakened, awakened to the point of being entirely sane, to the point where there is no neurosis to confuse our journey. Ours is a completely sane approach. Thus there is room for pride, room for dogma, room for real commitment. That is the quality of the nine-yana journey.
There is a subtle difference between doctrine or dogma or commitment that is based purely on one's own interest in awakening and the same based on defending oneself against somebody else's belief. Buddhism's approach is the former, and in that respect it can be called a path of nonviolence. We are not interested in putting down any other spiritual journeys taking place elsewhere in this universe. We concentrate on the journey we ourselves are taking.
If we were driving on a highway and became fascinated by the oncoming traffic on the other side of the highway, we might become blinded by the glare of headlights coming toward us, lose track of our own steering, and end up in an accident. But we are interested in this one, direct journey. We keep our eyes on the dotted white line that goes with our direction. We might change lanes,
of course. There are faster lanes and slower lanes, but we do not try to get on the other side of the road. That is unlawful. There are no U-turns allowed.
So the journey is definite, absolutely definite, definite to the point of being dogmatic. It is dogmatic in the sense that there is no room for insanity or confusion.
You might ask, "If there is no room for confusion, since we are all confused,
how can we go on this journey? Are you saying that there is no hope for us to travel on this path? Do we have to get rid of our confusion first in order to embark on this journey?" As faras I know, the answer is no, you do not have to get rid of your confusion first. Precisely because of your confusion,
because of your bewilderment and the chaos that you experience, this is the most unconfusing journey you can ever take.
if you are utterly confused, you are confused to the point of seeming to yourself to be unconfused. This is what we call "spiritual materialism"—you have your ideas of the good way, the higher path, and so on, and you think you are beyond confusion.
In that case, you might try to cross over to the other side of the road, make
U-turns. Because you think you are an unconfused person, you presume you have all kinds of leeway. But in our case, since we know we are confused, we stick to our one journey. Since we know we are confused, this becomes the true confusion, which you can walk on—drive along—as the true path. Working on confusion is the basic point. Since we are highly confused, we have a better chance of getting into this kind of direct and real path. Since we are so very confused without a doubt, we have a big chance, tremendous possibilities. The more confused we are, single-mindedly confused, the more we have one direction,
one path, one highway.
Sometimes it seems there is an opportunity to interrupt our confusion by taking a break,
taking a rest here and there. As you drive along the highway, you see a rest area. How about turning in to that, pulling in for just a few minutes? Or there's a sign, "food, gas, lodging." How about taking a little rest?
Those advertisements for a break, those signposts, in Buddhist terms are called the daughters of Mara. They slow your journey. Suppose you stopped for every one of those signposts, you turned off and stopped and then came back to the highway. Your journey would be delayed, would double and triple in length. You wouldn't get to your destination on time at all. You would be delayed. As a matter of fact, you might not only be delayed. You might be seduced into stopping at a particular motel and fall asleep forever. Go the Holiday Inn,
celebrate life; go to the Ramada Inn, enjoythe salad bar of the spiritual feast. There are an infinite number of places where you can eat food and fall asleep forever.
What we are saying is we should try to be very practical—get on the highway and don't stop anywhere. Before you begin your journey, fill up your gas tank to the top. Make the journey and don't get tired. If you get tired of driving your vehicle, turn to your friends. Ask them to take the wheel. You become the passenger and
There's no point in stopping at these places. This is the yana, this is the journey.
None of those little seductions of spiritual materialism that are presented to us are worthwhile. Each one of them says to us, "Don't go too far~ Stay here with us. Stop at our place. Spend your money here."
In this respect, the Buddhist path is ruthless, absolutely ruthless, almost to the point of being uncompassionate. What we could say is that we are not looking for pleasure. The journey is not particularly geared for finding pleasure; it's not a pleasure trip. It is a visiting trip rather than a pleasure trip. By no means is it a vacation, a holiday. It is a pragmatic journey. You want to see your mother, your father. You undertake the journey to see them, and you keep driving constantly, maintaining your speed. You don't make any of those roadside stops. You just go, you drive straight to your parents' home.
One of the greatest misunderstandings people have is regarding the spiritual journey as a vacation trip with all kinds of nice things happening on the side.
It is a direct journey, visiting our relatives. We don't actually want to see them, but at the same time we are intrigued, fascinated by the possibility of seeing them. "I wonder what they're doing. I wonder how they're getting on." That is precisely what our journey is about.
There is a Buddhist term,
which means dharmaness, the isness of reality. Isness is the parents we are trying to visit. This isness might turn out to be chaotic, terribly embarrassing, or maybe fantastically beautiful and enlightening. All the same, we make our journey back home, back home somewhere, wherever it is.
We left our home a long time ago. We dropped out of college, and we've been wandering here and there, hitchhiking. We are leading our life of a hippie or a tripper, or whatever. We've been here, there, and everywhere. Some time ago, we started to think, "I wonder what my mother's doing. Maybe I should phone her and find out." We phoned her, and then we thought, "Now that I've heard her voice on the phone, I'm more intrigued to see her. Maybe I should pay her a visit. Also, maybe my grandmother would be an interesting person to meet again after all these years. Maybe I should go back and pay her a visit.
Grandfather, too, maybe I should visit him." That is exactly what our journey is like. Going back to our heritage, our origin, that is the meaning of
"journey" here. So it is not a pleasure trip.
journey like this can be painful. You wonder why you are taking such a journey.
It was not long ago that you felt embarrassed by your family. They gave you enormous pain, real pain. There were all kinds of hassles connected with your parents and grandparents. Your memory of them and your memory of yourself in connection with them is painful.
That is the neurosis of our own basic being. It is highly neurotic, completely confused. We carry a fat body or a skinny body, and we have this big dictionary that we carry with us. Each time we open the dictionary we find a word, which is a piece of our subconscious gossip. And each time we find a word, we close down—we get anxious about the whole situation. Then we open this book again and find another word. This produces further anxiety, more subconscious gossip.
We're hampered: we're completely crowded, confused, and claustrophobic with all the passion, aggression, and all kinds of other things going on in our minds bouncing back on us.
Sometimes of course, we try to put this off on somebody else—kick somebody or make love to somebody. These involvements provide further fuel for the constantly ongoing fire of our emotions. Even trying to get away from it, to turn our minds toward the higher truths, only adds further fuel. We say, "Now Iam getting rid of all that, because I'm getting involved with a higher truth. Whew!" But it comes back again. "Oh-oh," we say, "here I go again." And the same trip goes on again and again and again, constantly. An awareness of unending confusion begins to develop heavily in our state of mind.
We might say, "I'm a happy person. I've got my life worked out. I've found a certain truth that I can rest my mind in. I don't have a problem anymore. My existence is very simple. I've paid my debts materially, psychologically, and spiritually." The more we say and think things like that, the more there is a very subtle but fundamental pin piercing our heart. It says, "Am I
doing the right thing? Maybe I'm doing the wrong thing."
An endless journey of this and that, that and this, is going on all the time. We may think that we have encountered a greater truth, the greatest doctrine of all, or we may tell ourselves that we are just beginners—"I'm just a beginner, but I have found a solid point to begin from"—but whatever we think, whatever we tell ourselves, the whole thing is chaos, absolute chaos. We have question after question happening constantly, all the time. We have even lost track of where we're going or of whether we're coming or going. Having heard the truth, we think, "Is that really the truth?" We ask ourselves, "Do I exist or don't I?" Or, "Who am I, what am
I?" This kind of experience is not necessarily restricted to LSD trippers,
not at all. Even people who are absolutely normal, in the ordinary sense of the term, who think they're doing okay and are on the right track, have the same kind of confusion, a complete mingling and mix-up of this and that, continually woven into each other. It is fantastically confusing, absolutely confusing. We are confused to the extent that we do not even know who we are or what our journey is about.