Discover more from Timeless Luminosity Newsletter
2023, May, Issue 45
When I was in the death bardo, looking back at my lifetimes, my time as a human, this condition we call samsara, I saw tremendous pain and suffering. It was cyclic existence; and, I gazed upon it with dread. I certainly don’t want you to think that living is only like that. We have options when we are alive.
Something that should make you feel a bit more optimistic is this notion of a Spiritual Path. When we discover the essence of a Spiritual Path, that is rather joyful. It’s a cycle that springs from Bodhicitta, which is at the root of our Spiritual Path. It’s at our foundation, the key to everything else. When you can see the entire Spiritual Path, as I did in the death bardo, you also see a cycle of joyfulness and discovery.
Now, I should also clarify just a little bit about just what a Spiritual Path really is. When we are seeking, going from this to that, not taking things too seriously, dabbling a bit here and there, that is not really a Spiritual Path. A Spiritual Path is really ignited by Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the key. When we generate enough compassion for ourselves and others that we decide once and for all that we must awaken, that is the beginning of a Spiritual Path. It’s that simple. Until that point, we are simply drifting aimlessly in the ocean of samsara.
In The Frog: A Spiritual Autobiography, Spanning Many Lifetimes, I discussed very precisely how, as just a frog in a previous lifetime I generated enough Bodhicitta to begin my Spiritual Path. One does not need to be smart, or even human to do that. In my case, I saw Buddha Shakyamuni, just briefly. And, in each lifetime, I needed the key of Bodhicitta to continue on my Spiritual Path.
In Buddhism, joyfulness is very important. It is identified as one of the Four Immeasurables, which are equanimity, love, compassion, and joy. Meditating in such a way that we cultivate the Four Immeasurables is considered to be very powerful meditative practice, which is extremely beneficial. I can attest to the power of such practices. Even if you are not Buddhist, I would encourage you to pursue teachings about the Four Immeasurables, then apply that to your daily Spiritual Practice. The benefit of this is in that it helps us to open our heart and mind to what is, as it is, which means we begin to awaken.
Now, since my death, I have been thinking about joyfulness in ways that I had not previously considered. I could look at my own Spiritual Path, seeing clearly that there are stages to this joyfulness, as it applies to the Spiritual Path itself. Looking back, I see astonishment filled with incredible joy occurring several times, in lifetime after lifetime.
At first, we feel joyfulness because of this incredibly good fortune, in discovering our own Spiritual Path. It’s not something we expect. Even though it’s about reality, it’s just unbelievable.
The next feeling is an astonishment that remains. It makes us laugh, fills us with joy, when we realize that we’re really on a Spiritual Path, that we have purpose. This feeling of joyfulness is still new; however, we’re learning that it will continue if we continue to practice.
The third aspect is more like amusement, thinking, “yes, we’re really doing this”. It’s a feeling of realizing the extreme fortune of discovering and being on a Spiritual Path. This joy is knowing that the Spiritual Path is truly benefiting all beings.
The fourth aspect this cycle is somewhat of an acknowledgement that this Spiritual Path is much longer than what we thought it would be, when we became aware that enlightenment is certainly possible. We realize our Spiritual Practice may last for many lifetimes. We see this with acceptance. The light begins to shine brightly in us, even though we may become weary. We feel incredible joy, at each level of realization, when we understand emptiness, when we recognize the Nature of Mind. It becomes familiar, and we settle down in this joy.
In lifetime after lifetime, we go from seeking to discovery to beginning and continuing our Spiritual Path. Joy is our condition. Since we have entered a genuine Spiritual Path, we know we have what we need. The seed of Dharma is planted so that we won’t become lost once again, as long as we remain steadfast. We practice opening our heart and mind in this lifetime so that we can practice once again in the next lifetime, or simply the next moment. At some point we awaken, having persevered, never abandoning our Spiritual Path.
If we find ourselves without that same joy, then we go back to the beginning, building our foundation of Bodhicitta, never letting ourselves become trapped by ego or intellect or harmful views. We keep our eye on this notion of awakening, repeatedly generating Bodhicitta at every stage.
If we have the key of Bodhicitta, we never give up. We will never give up. Even if you die a million horrible deaths, never give up. Once the key has been used, realize that you will realize your Real Nature, and you will awaken. Nothing can ever stop that.
Blessings in Light,