Each human being must individually come to a deep reflection upon the meaning of death and its connection with the moment of birth. And each must make for himself or herself a decision which enables one to undertake a freely chosen set of spiritual practices. These self-chosen exercises will, now and again, prove extremely taxing, and they can be sustained only by the momentum of a tremendous motivation. As all the greatest benefactors of humanity have taught, we must be ready to give up everything for the sake of the whole. Unless one releases a motivation which is universal, rooted in a love for all humanity, one cannot keep oneself upon the spiritual Path. It is fatal to rush into any pretence that one loves all humanity. Instead, though it will take time, one should dwell again and again upon the sublime and extraordinary nature of that fundamental and all-embracing motivation which is represented by the Kwan-Yin Pledge and the Bodhisattva Vow. Only through that motivation, authentically released and maintained intact, can there be an awakening of the spark of bodhichitta.
The redemptive love of the part for the whole springs from the immortal soul. It is deathless in origin and is the individual’s share in what is universal and immortal. Behind all the modifications and manifestations of prakriti there is Purusha – the single indivisible universal Spirit known by many names. It is indestructible, beginningless and endless. It is itself a pristine reflection of the very essence of the Divine Darkness. The spark or ray of that Spirit within every human soul is the power of love. It can illuminate the mind and enlighten the heart so long as one is ready to give up all, willing to be alone and whole-hearted, single-minded and one-pointed. Then that love becomes a form of wisdom, a ray of light, assuring one in the hour of need and seeming gloom and doom that there is hope. It tells one where to go and what to do, it advises whether one should stand and wait. It gives one immense patience whereby one may recognize those tendencies that come in the way of releasing that spiritual energy. There is that in the lower nature which wants to grab and seize, which also at the same time is insecure and fickle, uncertain of itself and desirous of something from outside. One must learn to wait, to relinquish and wear down that side of oneself which is the weaker, if one is to release the stronger.
Meanwhile, before one is able to release the true strength of the heart, and while one is still in the grip of that which is weaker, one can learn. One can discover the patterns, the instabilities and the vulnerabilities of one’s nature. This process of diagnostic learning cannot, however, come to fruition unless it is balanced by a deep adoration of those Dhyani Buddhas who sustain the cosmos. One must deliberately place the mind and the heart within the magnetic field of attraction of the ideal, the mighty Host of Dhyanis and Bodhisattvas. One can think of them as galaxies of enlightened beings who are cosmic forces, living facts in invisible Nature, and at the same time shining exemplars to humanity in the visible world. Through hearing about them and through studying the sacred texts and noble traditions that have preserved their Teachings, one may begin to assimilate the way of life exemplified by such beings. Thus one can learn to live in a state of learning and letting go – learning joyously and vigorously while at the same time letting go slowly of the fickle, fearful and furtive self. After a point, one cannot even conceive of living in any other way. One finds a profound satisfaction in this way of life, and as a result one is able to look upon the world not as a receiver but as a giver. In the solitude of one’s own contemplation, one will naturally think of hungry hearts and neglected souls to whom one may try to reach out through an ardent longing of the heart and through intense thought.
Breathing on behalf of the world’s disinherited, one can become a messenger of hope to others. Everyone has had the experience, in dark periods of doubt and despair, of receiving a sudden bright flash of inspiration and hope. Gratitude for this light mysteriously received can become the basis of a faith and confidence that one may give light to others. If one persists in one’s solitude in thinking of all those beings who are disinherited, yet worthy of one’s compassion, one can reach to them in their deep sleep and in their dreams. Through the strength of what George William Russell called the Hero in Man, one can give to them that hope or saving grace that will sustain them, whatever their condition. Thus one forms invisible magnetic bonds with other human beings, channels of transmission that can move in every direction. To do this is to go beyond any conception of individual salvation or progress based upon a personalized and localized notion of love or light. One learns how to move towards the sun so that one’s shadow declines, and one begins to understand what it is to stand directly under the sun and cast no shadow. By freeing oneself from self-concern, one becomes truly confident in one’s capacity to reach out and help human beings no matter at what distance. Letting go of all external labels, tokens and pseudo-proofs of love and light, one is prepared to bask, so to speak, in the supernal light and truth, the boundless wisdom and compassion, of the Spiritual Sun.
The entry into this light is to be understood not only in terms of a mystical metaphor. It is also linked up to the presence of actual beings who have become Bodhisattvas of Compassion, rays flowing from a cosmic energy such as Avalokiteshvara. As the lord who looks down from on high, Avalokiteshvara may be envisaged as seated in total contemplation and calmness, wrapped in an extraordinary golden halo of perfect purity and love. He holds within the gaze of his overseeing eye all humanity. To meditate upon this paradigm of all the Tathagatas and Predecessors, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, is to restore one’s sense of the ontological plenty of the spiritual realm. Thus one may transcend confining conceptions of the evolutionary history of humanity or the false notion that human spirituality is entirely dependent upon localized events in the past. Rather, one will come to know humanity as extremely old, extending over millions upon millions of years and sustained throughout in myriads of ways by countless saviours and helpers and teachers. Many of them were humble wanderers in villages who had no external marks, bore no labels and made no claims. Nonetheless, they helped and uplifted the human heart, giving hope to others, and then moving on. Their lives are an uninterrupted and living testimony to the ubiquitous force and presence on earth of the Tribe of Sacred Heroes.
To raise one’s sights to this extraordinarily universal perspective is to begin to see that many questions which once were bothersome are no longer difficult. As soon as one thinks of love separatively or in terms of bilateral contexts, one thinks in terms of particularized intentions and externalized concepts of the will. This concretized will is bound up with proving something, showing determination in a context, mostly through verbalizing and acting out. Whereas, if one thinks in terms of vast collective hosts of beings, uniting all humanity through invisible ties, one is drawing closer to an idea of will as a universal and impersonal force. By inserting oneself within the invisible brotherhood of true helpers of humanity, one can learn to do what one can, according to the measure, degree and depth of one’s knowledge and feeling, without engendering any false conception of the will.
Hermes, March 1985