2022, October, Issue 13
It should be obvious; however, one should be aware of traps when one is venturing out on a most Precious Spiritual Path, one that leads to awakening. When one is awakening, one is destroying that which traps us in this world of suffering. As traps are vanquished, new traps appear. This world of suffering does not want us to awaken. With some people, the worst thing, by far, is to see someone who is breaking free of their constraints.
Traps manifest everywhere. We are bound by our own mind; though, some say that we are chained to cyclic existence. That which holds us here can seem very powerful; though, our Real Nature is far more powerful.
In Buddhism, I’m not aware of a text specifically addressing all of the traps that exist; although, great masters have given very detailed instructions and described certain pitfalls that one may encounter. The two most prevalent traps involve developing extremist views. In order to awaken, we must remain at ease. Extremist views, such as that of eternalism and nihilism, or belief that nothing changes and belief that everything is nothing, may lead to big problems. Both carry some truths, but not the whole truth.
With Christianity, Yeshua explained the Spiritual Path. Yeshua said that the Spiritual Practitioner should look at the fruit of the tree; so, keeping love and compassion in mind, which were his core teachings, we can evaluate if the fruit is good. If it is worry about self, fear, anger, greed or hate, the fruit should be discarded at once.
For those of you who have understanding, you will see no contradiction between the core teachings of Christ and the teachings of the Buddha. Both discuss essential truths. These truths are about awakening. The Buddha taught about looking at mind, which means looking within at our Real Nature, this condition of light. Yeshua taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. This is the same teaching, and both teachings help us to avoid traps, thus becoming awakened beings at some point.
Delusion is a trap. If we have not looked at things realistically, we are in danger of falling deeper into a trap of delusion. If we are in samsara, we are already deluded. That’s why we have been born again as ordinary beings, why we suffer, why we continue in this cycle of life, death and rebirth for all eternity.
Laziness is a trap. If we think that we have all the answers, then we think we don’t need to care for our spiritual life, thus giving ourselves a trap to step into. This is a trap that often presents itself as a person nears awakening. If we think we have some idea about what awakening is, we may stop meditating or paying attention to our own mind, losing the necessary mindfulness that it takes to awaken. It’s very common to step into this trap when we are full of ourselves on the Spiritual Path.
Intellect is a trap. When we are awakening, we are going beyond concept. If we are very smart, it feels good to develop concepts, weaving in and out of various complex constructions of mind, thinking, always thinking. It’s almost like being an athlete, where you become addicted to exercise. Geniuses become addicted to their own analytical thinking. When we are going beyond, we must let go of mind and enter the Nature of Mind.
Emotions are a trap. It’s easy to become attached to our emotions, behaving in a way that is somewhat impulsive, not knowing that emotions cloud our view, leading to more suffering. People become addicted to emotions, as well, finding pleasure in every single emotion, even though they all lead to more suffering.
Deification is a trap. When we are looking outside of ourselves, sometimes we think that someone has more answers than we do. We might give someone cult leader status, because of something we perceive in them. If someone is manipulating you, or confusing you, or making you doubt that amazing light, then you’ve given them too much. They’ve become an idol, and your path has fallen into disarray.
Clinging to our experiences, as Spiritual Practitioners, is a trap. Maybe we find something very nice when we are meditating, and we try to bring that back. This is not awakening, this is letting the experience become an obstacle. When we are awakening, we must simply let it all be, as it is.
These are just a few traps. There are many more. What is most important is that we continually look at mind, contemplating life, death and rebirth, seeking that ineffable truth beyond what ordinary beings think is possible. We must look at everything without judgement, with love and compassion, realistically, as it is. This is the Path to Awakening.