Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
Satsangha in Kyoto: June 14, 2008
• The Meaning of Duty in Yoga—Karma Yoga
• The Meaning of “Fulfilling One’s Duty” in the Bhagavad Gita
Satsangha in Kyoto: February 9, 2002
• The Meaning of “Do Your Best”
Satsangha in Kyoto: July 26, 2008
• The Meaning of Devoted Service
• The Meaning of Conquering Duality Through Asana
• The Meaning of Studying the Sacred Scripture
Testimonies from Actual Practitioners
• The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path by Sanatana
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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi:
June 14, 2008, The Ashrama, Kyoto
The Meaning of Duty in Yoga—Karma Yoga
Shaci: I’d like to ask about duty. Is there a difference between the duty of someone in the general public who does not practice Yoga and the duty of someone living as a Yoga practitioner? (Everyone starts to take notes at once.)
MASTER: “Even if imperfectly performed, discharge your own duties. Even though you can perform another’s duty perfectly, it is not good to do so.” This is a famous teaching about duty from Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
The word “duty” can be rephrased in other words to one’s naturally prescribed duty, “fate” or “destiny”; this means that each respective person must accept their role within their respective situation as their duty and then perform it. That is because these situations were results that were brought about by none other than one’s own self, from one’s own karma from the past. So, if one abandons one’s duty, then one cannot resolve the results of one’s karma, but only postpones them. Also, “another’s duty” means another’s karma, so it’s also not good to meddle in that. [What you must do], while having the understanding that you need to perform the duties within the situations created by your karma, is practice not receiving the results from your actions, that is, practice remaining unattached to the results—and that is important. If you attach to the results, then the repetition of these karma will continue further. Simply act on them as your duties. That is how Krishna taught. This can be considered to be the bare minimum or the basic foundation of karma yoga.
If you are to become more clearly aware of what Yoga entails and proceed on the path of Yoga, then not only will you have to perform your duties, but you’ll have to further your learning of the Truth and put the discipline of the practices into action. Your duty in terms of Yoga will gradually change as you progress on the long path of Yoga from a beginner to an adept. However, in simpler terms, the duty of Yoga is to perform all of your tasks for the sake of others, in other words, devoted service. Of course, you must also do your own practice of disciplines, which is your internal duty, but devoted service to others is added onto that.
There are various types of general duties, such as one’s duty towards one’s family and society, which you will be coping with according to your respective situation. And as Yoga deepens, your understanding of family and society will surely shift from just including blood relatives, or existing within society as a tribe or a nation, to an understanding that all living beings are family, and the entire universe and cosmos is society.
(Shri Mahayogi gently concludes his speech and slowly looks around at everyone. Shaci is gazing at Shri Mahayogi intently, while taking notes and nodding repeatedly.)
Ms. Mori: What does it mean “to take on another’s duty”?
MASTER: Each individual person is given roles according to situations that were brought about by karma. This means that in these moments, taking away the duty that another person must perform isn’t good, even if you are able to perform it perfectly.
Ms. Noguchi: So if you take away a duty from somebody…that isn’t beneficial for that person.
MASTER: It isn’t good. Because the other person was not able to end up receiving the complete result of that karma, so that karma remains. And the person who took away the duty, or the one who performed it, has also done something unnecessary, so that can become new karma.
Ms. Noguchi: I am concerned about inadvertently mixing up the aforementioned devoted service to others and taking away others’ duties by mistake. How do we distinguish between the two? Regarding others’ duties, I don’t think I can discern where other people’s roles begin and end from my own perspective. How should I approach that so I won’t take their roles away?
MASTER: Help should consist of directing other people only up to the extent that it is possible for them to actually complete the duties themselves, but not taking tasks away from them.
Ms. Noguchi: Regarding not taking away others’ duties, is that something that I will eventually recognize if I continue on the path of Yoga correctly?
MASTER: (immediately) Yes. You will gradually be able to discern things correctly and act upon them.
(Ms. Noguchi is sitting still, gazing at Shri Mahayogi, and taking in the teachings solemnly.)
Shaci: When we begin working at a job, it is often because we like what we do, or it could be because we have found work in the field we wanted to work in. Even if it wasn’t what we particularly liked, when we started practicing Yoga, I suppose that we began to think of working very hard, with all our might. But as we began to know Yoga further, we might have begun to sense that the job we were doing for money is, in a way, meaningless, because though we still tried to work hard, we started to recognize that this was merely one phenomenon. I suppose that when every living being becomes one family, there will probably no longer be any “me” or “I.” So if we are to continue to aim for that goal while we are still imperfect, then is the biggest task we must perform to proactively eliminate our own ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles?
MASTER: (after thinking for a while) Simply speaking, that is so. Through practicing that, you will arrive at the place where there is no longer the consciousness of “me” or “I,” and everything becomes the same, one Existence.
Shaci: What I wanted to ask today is about the words you spoke a while back. When I read about the bare minimum, inferior form of karma yoga, where one just performs one’s duties, and the superior karma yoga, where one performs tasks that entail self-sacrifice, a question arose about what the “self” was in self-sacrifice, and I didn’t quite get what devoted actions or the word “self-sacrifice” mean. Then I thought it might be about eliminating ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles.
MASTER: Probably it’s because of a semantic perception you have about it.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: When mentioning “duty in Yoga,” is it correct to think that these are things such as asana, pranayama and meditation? In the sense of one’s own practice?
MASTER: Not only that, but all actions that arise from one’s interactions with others: including yama, niyama, and devoted service.
Mr. Shocho Takahashi: So that means these duties include performing yama, niyama and devoted service, and at the same time, practicing the spiritual disciplines [of asana, pranayama and meditation]? If someone is doing just one side of it, only practicing [one’s sadhana (practice of spiritual discipline)] then it is not authentic and one ought to have performed both?
MASTER: Yes. Both are necessary.
1 Bhagavad Gita 3-35
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The Meaning of “Fulfilling One’s Duty” in the Bhagavad Gita
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna says to Arjuna, who is frightened and hesitant to go to battle, something like, “Perform your duty” and “Go to battle”…“because they have already been killed off by me.” What is Shri Krishna teaching us here?
MASTER: What Shri Krishna is teaching there is karma yoga. The phrase, “It is far better to perform your own duties, even though they may be tinged with faults, than to perform another’s duty, though perfectly,” occurs twice. These words can be summed up to mean that since the situation or the position you are in was brought about as a result of nobody other than your own self, you therefore cannot escape from your duty, which is your own prescription, so you must perform your duty—that is the main point here. [In the story], there is a teaching commonly cited as illustrating caste: for the Kshatriya, the warriors, they have duties to fulfill for the purpose of justice. As long as one is a Kshatriya, one has to fight wars for the purpose of justice.
If I further mention other castes, there is one called brahmin, which has Moksha, Liberation, or Satori as its goal. Vaishya, the civilian population, has artha—translated as profit or [material] gain, as its goal. The world is a material realm, so generating material, which means producing profit to make society prosper, is the purpose of their duty, artha being the power to support the mechanisms of society.
Another cast is called sudra, sometimes translated as “slaves,” and their duty is kama, which can be translated as pleasures and sensory indulgence, and its purpose is entertainment and various amusements. Well, these were the four general castes and their four [corresponding] dharma, which are their duties, established in the society of India at the time. Therefore, [Krishna taught that] one must not deviate to abandon one’s duty, one has to carry out these duties. That is why Arjuna was taught to go into battle. That is the foundation of karma yoga. Besides that there are other detailed teachings given to each caste as their purpose.
If we divide them into two main categories, there are sannyasin, the ones who renounce the world to seek Satori, and those who will remain in the world to have a family life. Sannyasin naturally must seek only Satori without any possessions. On the other hand, householders must serve the sannyasin. If you become familiar with the old tales from India, you know that it is the householder’s duty to provide a meal and lodging for travelers; and even if they don’t have anything to eat for themselves, they’re still obliged to procure food for the guests and to serve them. Recently, or rather, in recent times, if you’ve read the biography of the saint Nag Mahasaya, one of the leading disciples of Shri Ramakrishna, you will understand that he admirably fulfilled his duty while remaining a householder, and eventually he was looked up to by many as a holy being. Anyway, these are the teachings Shri Krishna taught in the Bhagavad Gita.
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February 9, 2002, The Ashrama, Kyoto
The Meaning of “Do Your Best”
Medha: I am hoping to be able to “do my best,” and also act in accordance with the Truth you have been teaching us, whenever I am placed in a situation in which I have to decide what to do or how I should say something. I asked a gurubai and she told me that when she asked Shri Mahayogi what he meant by, “Do the best you can,” he had answered that, “It’s not about doing things recklessly, it’s about [doing your work] in such a way that you will not have regrets later.” This made sense in that moment, but then I wondered about when there is someone who is on the receiving end of my action, if it’s enough as long as there are no regrets in me. I’ve heard Shri Mahayogi sometimes say that we should, “act with sincerity no matter what.” So, I vaguely understood this, nevertheless, when I think about “the other’s duty” or “my duty,” I feel like it’s not that simple and that there is still something I am not quite able to understand yet, which stops me from taking action at all, and I feel that I can’t do anything but observe silence—and this I feel is meaningless. Earlier, Shri Mahayogi mentioned the need to “confront something without escaping.” As I kept listening, I felt that the only thing I can do just comes down to “not escaping but confronting.” But even when I think about it and believe that I’m not escaping, I might still be choosing an easier course of action; or even if others see me as someone who is stoic, I still may actually be escaping. So it’s not at all easy.
MASTER: Right, so what is meant by “leaving no regrets” is that [since one has done one’s best to the fullest,] one does not even need to self-reflect later on at all.
Medha: Even in failure?
MASTER: [When the action is done this way] there is no need to self-reflect, whether you fail or not, and that includes worrying about what others think—in other words, it comes down to the degree to which you need to do your utmost best, exhaustively, with all your might, in order to not have any regrets. You can’t change what happened in the past—it’s irreversible. You can only take action in the now, with what’s right before your eyes, which also means that you are bettering what is to come in the future. No matter what, you can only take action in the now. Therefore, if you keep doing your best in each and every moment, regrets and afterthoughts will eventually be unnecessary.
Medha: That means, looking at it from the opposite direction, that if one has regrets, one did not make one’s best effort.
MASTER: Yes, the action is still rather immature (laughs), and perhaps that part is felt [as regret]. There is no need to analyze minute details, but rather it would be ideal if you keep making efforts to do better each time, in order to do your best this time more than last time. What you can constantly remind yourself of and train your mind to do is to keep making efforts to improve each time. Through practicing this way, then before you know it, you will no longer have any regrets.
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July 26, 2008, The Ashrama, Kyoto
The Meaning of Devoted Service
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): I am amazed by the state of “seeing the omnipresent God becoming One, that is, no longer seeing a distinction between one’s self and others.” There is a story about a king—even though he does not have food for himself, he goes to find food and give it to others—or there are the heart-wrenching actions of Nag Mahasaya, in which truly there is no boundary between self and others. I’m unable to understand it yet at all, even as a feeling, but still I am wondering what the teaching of Nag Mahasaya feels like? I don’t get the sensory context around this, whether he was performing these actions because he couldn’t help but perform them, or these selfless actions had actually turned into real joy, so I’d like Shri Mahayogi, who knows this, to teach us. Are such devoted actions or service really joy?
MASTER: Well, I think he has no thought or judgement as to whether it is joyful or…sad. This means it is as it is. Yet, if you look at it objectively, it may be considered to be joy.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): I thought that it must have been really hard for Nag Mahasaya. (Everyone laughs.) While I was reading, I thought to myself, “There is no way I can do this.” (laughing) I was utterly amazed by it—to become One, actually, he became One, [his life is] evidence of having become One.
MASTER: Rather than “Becoming One,” well, it’s more about seeing God in all people, and its joy must be felt through actually doing the action.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): (as if to nod) Really…
MASTER: (after a while) Thorough devoted service.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): To Nag Mahasaya, was it joy?
MASTER: Yes, I suppose so. Yes.
Ms. Wada (Dharmini): (in a very small voice) …That is amazing.
Gargi (Mirabai): (after a while) Does that mean that for people who have not realized the Truth, devoted service can still become joy?
MASTER: If the Truth teaches it as such, then it must be true. (laughs a little) (Gargi has a complex expression on her face, as if to be thinking deeply for a moment.)
MASTER: (after some pause) Viewing it from the opposite side, who is “the one who is not able to understand it?”
Shaci: The little me. (Shri Mahayogi and everyone laugh.)
MASTER: Right, you see?
Madhri: (after sometime) Shri Mahayogi says, “Yoga practitioners practice devoted service toward the entire universe and all living beings.” When I hear that, it sounds so immense, and also, it sounds like a great feat, which I feel we will all be heading toward for sure. But if there are hints for devoting ourselves hidden in daily life, then how can we catch these opportunities and take action without missing them? I would like to ask you to teach us this, or the mental attitude or preparedness for it.
(Shri Mahayogi starts to speak slowly towards everyone.)
MASTER: That is a very important point, and that is exactly where the “beginner’s mind” is put to the test. “What am I seeking?” “How do I want to live?” and, “What is my ideal”—if [you find that] all the answers to these three questions exist entirely in Yoga, then you are able to proactively accept the act of “practicing devoted service towards all beings.” And what is required is to act with courage…in that sense, the mind is constantly being challenged and tested.
Madhri: …It is a major prerequisite for us to work on polishing ourselves. However, with regard to the teaching that, “God knows where good tools exist, and uses them according to need,” in a way if we consider our own selves to be “not yet perfect tools,” then I feel like we can get too negative or pessimistic. Then I think that even if we’re not prepared, perhaps, we’re getting polished as we use ourselves, or that kind of thing must surely be happening. (Master: Yes, yes.) I was thinking these things lately.
MASTER: Right. The appropriate material is applied in the appropriate place—so the appropriate worker is sent to the appropriate location, perhaps. (laughs a little) Through executing these tasks, one will level up to be able to perform increasingly difficult tasks. No one can perform difficult tasks from the beginning. Well, that is why when it comes to Yoga, (emphasizing) all [branches of] yoga are necessary. Of course, in order to maintain a healthy and comfortable body and mind, asana is needed, in other words, the meditation of raja yoga to eliminate pain-bearing obstacles and ignorance is necessary. And then, you master the Truth that is referred to in jnana yoga and bhakti yoga, that there is only Atman, or only God exists—and not only that—it is meaningless unless you further translate it concretely into action as karma yoga. Yoga is not a problem one can solve by reading books. It is never about knowledge, nor can it be solved intellectually. Truly, even if you have no knowledge, Yoga is something that ought to be performed with action.
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The Meaning of Conquering Duality Through Asana
(Jayadevi asks about the meaning of transcending duality through asana. Shri Mahayogi gazes around the room at everyone, and begins to speak.)
MASTER: This world is a world of duality, right? From physical sensations such as hot and cold to the mind’s thoughts of likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, everything has a complementary duality in opposition to it. The mind, being immersed within these dual conditions, is constantly agitated like a pendulum and does not know how to settle. And as you study and learn Yoga, you will learn the truth of the duality of the world and accept the phenomenon itself, which is the duality; yet even so, you still need to work on preventing the agitation of the mind that results from that duality after all. That means that it is clear that you have to conquer duality [in order to settle the mind]. For example, some level of hot and cold, and also comfort and discomfort to a certain extent, must be eliminated, but certainly this boils down to the fact that the biases arising from the mind’s creations, such as likes and dislikes, pleasant and unpleasant, must be eliminated more than anything else. As one’s asana becomes stabilized, the breath becomes stabilized, and at the same time the mind becomes stabilized. This means that the ground is getting prepared and the foundation needed to understand the words of the scriptures and the Truth is developing. While the mind is moving, it remains agitated, not able to stop, but as the mind calms down, it starts gaining the power to sense the Truth, which is immovable. Asana, [the discipline of the practice,] may be an indirect method, however, conquering duality is identified as its purpose due to its effect on the mind.
Jayadevi: So then, that is clearly the purpose of [asana]…?
MASTER: (immediately) Yes, without a doubt, that is correct. As I mentioned now, it has that power—through asana, the breath transforms, and that stills the mind. Stilling the mind means nothing other than conquering duality.
(Shri Mahayogi smiles towards Jayadevi and nods silently. Jayadevi powerfully nods back.)
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The Meaning of Studying the Sacred Scripture
(Ms. Wada asks what it means to do “research of the scriptures.”)
(Shri Mahayogi seems to find it funny to hear the word “research” used and asks, “How did you arrive at the word ‘research’?”)
MASTER: It means to learn. To study or learn does not mean just memorizing materials, as if being given an instruction manual like those commonly used these days. To study—it needs to not only remain in the realm of intellectual understanding but to be felt from the depths of the heart; think and meditate upon it. That is the meaning of “studying the scriptures.”2 That is “research of the scriptures.”
2 The true meaning of Svadyaya: “The meaning of the word Svadyaya, which is the teaching of one of the niyama, is to study the scriptures, or to recite the scriptures again and again. As this indicates, the mind does not change through a mere superficial intellectual understanding. It must be repeated again and again, and the process continued until the mind itself transforms.”
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Testimonies from Actual Practitioners:
The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path
Suffering, Cause, Cessation, Path
“I shall not rise from this seat until I have realized the Truth. If I cannot realize the Truth, let this body rot away. Until I realize the Eternal Truth, I shall neither sleep nor eat!”
Gautama made this firm resolve and sat down beneath the bodhi tree. Gautama Siddhartha, at the age of 35, faced his final battle, the battle upon which he staked his very own life. Even after having gone through the previous six years practicing austerities with such great hardship, he still could not realize the ultimate Truth. He abandoned the luxurious life of a prince, and he even renounced the path of austerities that he had believed to be the path to the Truth. There was no one to guide him. As for the people, they all scorned and laughed at him for deviating from these austerities. Yet Gautama was not able to give up. The last two masters that he had followed had told him that he’d already realized the ultimate Truth. Yet Gautama would not be satisfied. It is still not the Truth. He had a perfect ideal and aspired towards the Eternal Truth. “This isn’t It yet.”
Underneath the bodhi tree, just like the Awakened Beings from the past, Gautama sat with his back straight, legs crossed, facing east. He then embarked on a battle with that devil which is nesting within the human mind—ignorance. Was Gautama plagued by ignorance? No. He already knew the Truth. He left the palace, saying, “This is not the Truth.” He left his teachers, saying, “This is not the Truth.” He abandoned austerities, saying, “This is not the Truth.” He had already intuited the Truth, yet he had to clearly realize It—only thus could he unequivocally become the ultimate Truth itself. In deep meditation he uncovered the real identity of the devil. He clearly realized what pain-bearing obstacles are, what the mind is, what human suffering is, and he defeated them all. The supreme Truth—which exists all the same, whether or not a buddha appears in the world—that Eternal Truth revealed itself to Gautama. Within him arose the eyes that can see Truth, Insight, Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, and Intuition, and the Knower and the Truth that is known became One united Light. In that moment, Gautama became Buddha. Nay, rather, he realized that he was the Buddha. Everyone is buddha, but this fact is merely blocked by ignorance and pain-bearing obstacles. These things don’t exist to begin with. It is only a mere insubstantial dream. Gautama Buddha finally stood up from his seat and began to walk as the Ultimate Truth itself.
What he realized at that moment must have been indescribable by words. Buddha himself thought, “The Truth I have realized is profound, invisible, incomprehensible, subtle.” At this point, he leaned towards not teaching the Truth. Then, legend has it that the Lord of the universe, Brahma, pleaded with Buddha, saying “You must teach the Truth for the [good of the] world.” This mythical expression can be interpreted as the Lord of the universe, that is, the universal law—the Truth itself—and it compelled Buddha to teach the Truth. As evidence of this, even after becoming one with the Light of Truth that had been revealed to him, he reflected on the Truth and on the origin and structure of the world’s suffering. For someone who had become one with the Truth, who had thoroughly understood all the mechanisms that contradict it and defeated them all, why did he need to reflect on It? At this time, Buddha, unbeknownst to him, was already beginning to prepare to spread the Truth, even though he himself was leaning towards not teaching it at all. It was not for himself, but for others, for those who had not yet realized the Truth, for those who were suffering from uncertain, ill-defined suffering.
Buddha made an effort to express this indescribably subtle Truth in some way. When he first told people about this Truth that he had realized under the bodhi tree, the great Wheel of Dharma began to irreversibly spin forward. The Truth that was then taught to the people for the first time consisted of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. To the group of five fellow practitioners of austerities with whom he had practiced hard together, he first taught that his Satori is the Middle Way. It was about getting away from the two extreme ends of the spectrum that he himself had experienced in the past, the life of pleasure and the life of austerities, and walking right in the middle. To [indulge in the] pleasures of the world is not the purpose of life. Immersing oneself in austerities does not equal holiness. To control the mind that tends to move in either direction and walk in the middle of the road is the right path.
Control the desire towards both extremes. Having fully understood sensory touch without being greedy, not doing what he himself has placed blame upon, the wise one does not cling to what is seen and heard.
Having understood the thoughts of the mind, cross over the raging river of desire to cling to one’s life. A holy being does not become defiled by any grasping, having pulled out the arrows of suffering (passion), wandering watchfully through strenuous terrain he does not wish for this world or the other.
It is neither indulging in sensory desires, nor stoically blaming oneself. What you do is, without being fazed by any experiences, carefully observe the easily-swayed mind. The cause of suffering is the desire to survive. Because one desires to possess something, one tastes the suffering of losing something. To desire neither this world nor the next—that is the way of being truly free in the middle, on the Middle Path.
This Middle Path is considered to be that which “generates eyes to see, wisdom to know, and guides one closer to tranquility, Awakening, and perfect Satori—Nirvana.” First, the Right View and right way of thinking are introduced. This is later expounded upon in detail in the Eightfold Noble Path. This results in getting closer to peace, Awakening, and then perfect Satori, or Nirvana, that is, cessation. Probably, these things are listed in order of occurrence. First, something like peace comes. To Buddha, true tranquility is nothing other than Nirvana. So the initial tranquility felt by the mind is mentioned as something “close to peace.” That is why it is still not the real thing. Then, there will be a self-awareness that, “This must really be the Truth,” and It is realized perfectly. However, there is more. Even the boundary between one who realizes and the Truth that is realized, is annihilated. That is Nirvana, the perfect state of Nirvana: Suffering will never occur again. There is neither the self-centeredness, nor is there the desire for the world. There has only been Truth from the beginning. It was Buddha from the beginning. That is how it is realized, how one becomes, and how it “Exists.”
Now, what exactly is this Middle Path that guides one to the Truth itself? That is exactly what was taught next: the Eightfold Noble Path. Buddha teaches us that we should “transcend both good and evil.” These eight right steps do not teach one to “be swallowed up by the ethics of the world.” Rather, they teach that one must overcome the world. It is the path to overcome both extremes of good and evil. The first step of the Eightfold Noble Path is to have the Right View. First, one must learn the Truth. Suffering will only increase if you arbitrarily depend on your own misinterpretations or hearsay from others. Unless one understands the Truth intellectually and has one’s view aligned with that, one is not able to proceed in the right direction. The second is Right Intention. Third is Right Speech. Fourth is Right Action (with the right purpose). This means to regulate the thoughts, words and actions and to align them with the Truth that one has learned. And this will inevitably lead to the fifth, Right Livelihood. You must conform your entire livelihood itself according to the Truth. The Truth that only applies while you are receiving teachings from the Master in person, or only when you are meditating, or when it applies to a small superficial part of your life is not eternal. What is the resistance or friction you feel in the mind when you try to expand this and apply the Truth to your entire livelihood? You must observe it carefully, and think seriously about what happiness truly is, and you must do this for yourself. Then, the sixth, Right Effort will take place. It is not the world or others that you have to change, it is you, the one who thinks badly of the world or of others, that must change. Putting this into action is Right Effort. Every cause of suffering is within oneself. As long as there is the ignorance of not knowing the Truth, ego, and pride, the friction with the world will not subside. To practice to eliminate this is the Right Effort that you must exert. The seventh is Right Mindfulness. It is to carefully observe in their entirety—views, intentions, words, actions, livelihood, and efforts. That is what is meant by Buddha, who constantly said, “Pay very careful attention.” Only then, at last, will one arrive at Right Concentration (meditation or samadhi). Meditation is not simply about temporarily sitting quietly. It is only through controlling every aspect of your entire life that strong concentration finally arises for the first time. Buddha was the first person to teach that. A person’s way of being can be seen in the very minute details. From these concrete steps, Buddha prepared a path that anyone can begin to walk upon. There is no need for a special creed. There is no mysticism in it. Just like Buddha did, all you have to do is pursue it by asking yourself, “Is this real?” It is not about forcing yourself to have blind faith just because this is the Truth. Simply, we must rely on the self, and just follow our own intuition, which exists much further beyond what we have seen, heard, and thought. Whether that intuition is pure, or just a mere thought—you have to discern that, and there is no other way but by looking towards Buddha outside of yourself, as well as by using your own discrimination—because in the end, even if you don’t seek the Truth, you only get what you have earned.
After Buddha taught the concrete way to apply the practice of the disciplines, he taught what the Truth is: the Four Noble Truths. The character used to indicate “Truth” for this path in Japanese includes the character for the word commonly understood as “resignation” or “acceptance,” [which has multiple meanings,] but in this context, it refers to the Truth. It is actually not resignation in a negative sense, but rather it is quite proactively bold, where the impossible becomes possible. The four Truths are: the truth regarding suffering, the truth regarding the cause of suffering, the truth regarding the elimination of suffering, and the truth regarding the path by which to eliminate suffering. That is all summed up into one as “suffering, cause, cessation, path.”
The Truth regarding “suffering” is that “being born, aging, becoming ill, and dying are all suffering; as are meeting a person one despises, being separated from a person one loves, not being able to get what one wants, that is to say, whether it has form or not, and clinging onto something—these are all suffering.” As we investigated the “Twelve Dependent Originations,”1 we saw that they are all suffering due to the fact that they are not eternal. When you receive something and you try to keep possessing it, that does not go the way you wish it to be. Everything changes. To accept this and give it up is the Truth of this suffering. Many people sense this, nevertheless they have not confronted themselves to the extent that they are able to accept it. Somewhere along the way, they cheat and lie to themselves, making excuses like “this is what I want” or “this is reality.” To calmly accept that “everything is not eternal”—“everything is impermanent,” that is exactly the teaching of the eight types of suffering that begin with the first four sufferings of “birth, aging, illness and death,” which is the teaching of “everything is suffering,” and that is the Truth with regards to suffering.
The Truth about the cause of suffering is craving. This instinctual desire is similar to thirst, and the craving for survival is the main cause of this clinging to life. People do not know this. They say, “Without the sense of ‘I,’ how can I enjoy life?” as if this were a matter of common sense. Indeed, this Truth is hard to see, hard to comprehend, and it is subtle. What people consider to be the cause of pleasure, holy beings see as the cause of suffering! This limited condition, whose very foundation is conditional, inherently bears suffering. “I am me”—this obvious sensation that we take for granted divides “me” and “you,” creating judgements of “superior” and “inferior,” causing you to succumb to stubborn obsessions and miserable emotions. By overlooking the root of all evil within oneself, one sees evil in others. One gets conceited by seeing one’s own positive characteristics and depressed by seeing one’s own bad characteristics. Your own shortcomings, or those of another are not the cause of suffering. The “I” consciousness that regards them as evil is the very cause of suffering. It doesn’t solve anything to blame oneself. It only deepens the root cause and exacerbates the incorrect awareness of, “I am the one who did evil.”
This cause of suffering must be extinguished and renounced. That is what is meant by “cessation.” Renunciation and extinguishing one’s craving are what truly eliminate suffering. When one is frantic about possessing things, renunciation becomes one’s biggest adversary. However, when one senses that one’s possessions are not eternal, and that everything is impermanent and therefore nothing but suffering, then this renunciation becomes eternal. To renounce temporary, limited conditions, that is what brings about the state that is infinite. When one removes the limit of loving only “me,” but not “you,” then infinite Love is born. You will know that Love itself never had any condition. It was like that to begin with. And rather, the limiting conditions that one had possessed, were created merely on our own whim, like a dream. In Satori, there are no additional possessions. One does not simply attain Satori after abandoning the world. Cessation—upon giving up, that then naturally becomes infinite love, eternal wisdom in which all intentions are abandoned.
If you feel otherwise, you must make an effort to become like this. You must walk upon the “Path.” You must follow the “Path,” that is to say, the Eightfold Noble Path; study and learn this Truth, correctly, thoroughly and firmly understand It yourself; put the Truth into action through your thoughts, words, and deeds; make your entire livelihood align with the Truth. You must always pay attention, without negligence or complacency, and realize this very Truth itself in meditation. The application of the practice of discipline is imperative. As soon as Buddha opened his mouth, he taught the application of the practice of discipline. He expounded the Eightfold Noble Path, which is the middle path, and even right at the very end too, he taught the Eightfold Noble Path.
When one has eyes to see the Truth, which formerly had not been heard of, has Insight, Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom and Insight to reach and become one with the clear light of Truth—there is the state of irrevocable Satori. Only hearing about it is not enough. Only knowing about it is not enough. The suffering is still there. To actually remove all suffering and pain and to become and remain the Perfect, Eternal Truth is the tranquility that Buddha taught. There is no need to debate tiny details that confine you within a limited consciousness. The silent holy being Buddha did not answer any philosophical debates. His heart of compassion did not put people into tiny categories and cause them suffering. In order to eliminate suffering, Buddha revealed only well-delineated paths. “Leave what was not taught alone as it is, and execute what was taught.” “One must firmly understand the truth of suffering. The cause of suffering must be rooted out. The cessation of suffering must be experienced firsthand. The path to the cessation of suffering must be applied again and again.” Buddha realized Satori by himself, and while he was at one with the Truth, he continued to look upon the Truth in this way. Until he saw that it was perfect, he did not accept that he had realized the ultimate Truth. It was because of the extent of his thoroughness, the perfection of perfection, that the irreversible Wheel of Dharma began to turn and the great salvation began. Even now, someone who lived 2,500 years ago is still revered so highly. Has there ever been a greater existence than he? He did away with narrow sectarianism, and his infinite Compassion and Love conquered half of the world.
At his last moment, he said, “Seeing my body does not make one a disciple. My true disciples are the ones that actually practice my teachings.” I believe that these words are still alive today. It is said that there is hardly anyone who is actually living the teachings of Buddha. But even if the people in the whole world are like that, I myself want to live as a disciple of Buddha. I want to demonstrate and prove this through the way I live, by being a person who lives faithfully to what Buddha taught. I don’t want to say that it’s impossible. There are no longer such options as possible or impossible. Just like the Master, Buddha, I aspire to be able to wrap everything in love, in silence, and to be the Truth itself, pervading through all corners thoroughly, and without a single stain.
I want to express my thanks for this opportunity to write a series about the way Buddha lived, and about his spirit. I want to express my deep gratitude for the readers, the gurubai at the Mission who have given me valuable advice, especially my brother Sananda, and to Shri Mahayogi, who has wholly supported me through his existence and words. How lucky am I to be able to hear the teachings about Buddha from Buddha himself. I am so deeply grateful.