Murder and Terrorism

Murder, She Wrote, continued

Murder and Terrorism

The Five Stages of Enlightenment

Between July 18th and August 10th 2016, I posted a series of excerpts from Bill Harris’ blog posting regarding The Five Stages of Enlightenment (The Five Ranks of Tozan). I will quickly review them here:

Nearly all human beings are “pre-stage one” in terms of the Five Ranks. In pre-stage one you’re living in the relative world, and don’t really know about the transcendent, at least on an experiential level. You’re caught in the mind-created world of separate things and events. In pre-stage one you live in a solid world of separate objects and separate things, the world of subject-object. In this world, certain separate “things” do something to other things, and the world is divided into separate events, separate objects, and separate people. This dualistic, relative world is a world of good and bad, here and there, yin and yang, life and death, having and not having, appropriate and inappropriate.

Once you get to stage one, though, you’ve realized that there’s more to life than just the relative world. You’ve had an experience of the transcendent which underlies the relative world, and you’ve learned how to get into the transcendent when you want to. You can’t, however, stay there. When you stop doing whatever allows you to get there, you return to the relative. You can visit, but you can’t stay.

In the transcendent, everything just “is”. It isn’t good or bad. In fact, there are no qualities to anything, and no distinctions are made. Qualities and distinctions are part of the relative world. What’s more, the transcendent has no beginning and no ending. It’s unborn and undying. It also has no boundaries. It includes everything. Everything is in it, and it is in everything. From the transcendent, there’s nowhere to go, because you’re everywhere. There’s nothing to get, because you’re everything. And, there’s nothing to be afraid of, because there’s nothing outside of you that could threaten you. Everything, including the suffering of the world, is just part of the dance of the universe. Everything is perfect, peaceful, and timeless. In the transcendent, it’s always now.

To get to the second stage is to fully surrender to what is. In doing this you understand at a deep level that there are certain things about the universe and about being human that just are the way they are. There’s no escape from them, and there’s no changing them, and resisting them just creates suffering.

For instance, people, things, and events exist in time. They come into being and eventually pass away. Because of this, and because to be here as a human being you have to be attached, at least a little bit, to the people, things, and events in your life, there always will be suffering in the world. Most people, of course, are attached a lot, and as a result they suffer a lot. People live, and then they die. There are causes and effects–karma. Sometimes you don’t get what you want. Sometimes you get what you don’t want. Resistance to these fundamental facts of existance, and attachment to it being otherwise, creates suffering, and keeps you stuck in the relative world. To move into stage two you have to surrender to all of this – not intellectually, but at a deep level.

You also have to submit to this state of affairs, because in the next step you have to do what in Zen they call “stepping off the one-hundred foot pole”–stepping into the unknown–and that takes a lot of trust. You have to know that if you step it will be okay, that someone will catch you. The teacher, having already done this himself, helps you realize that it can be done (he seems to be okay, in fact, more than okay). His example and reassurance allows you, hopefully, to take that leap, that step into the unknown. Submission is, at least partly, your saying, “Okay, I trust that it will be okay when I take that step.” To take that step you have to go through what Genpo Roshi calls “Great Doubt.” This is where you doubt – and I mean really doubt, totally, without reservation – that any of the stuff upon which you’ve based your Self, your identity, and your life, will ever save you, make you happy, solve the problems of being human, get rid of the basics of the human condition (including that all things – including you – are in time and eventually pass away), lead to any sort of salvation, or end your suffering.

This means that you doubt your ideas about yourself, the world, other people, life, and anything and everything else – all of them. You doubt your concepts, your premises, your way of seeing things, and the memories you string together to create a sense of an enduring “you”. You doubt all your personal defenses. You doubt the past. You doubt the future, and especially that the future will save you in any way. You doubt the value of all your accomplishments, the badges you’ve earned. You doubt your identity, your roles, your story, your idea of who you are. You doubt all your healthy eating habits, your meditation practice, your ideas about the way the world should be, your ideas about mental health, and so on and so on. You doubt the separate self. You doubt that any of this will ultimately save you or get you anywhere.

You also doubt the teacher, enlightenment, meditation, religion, spiritual growth, personal growth – all of it. None of this, you realize, is going to save you or change the basic human condition. All of these things, ultimately, are ideas about life, creations of the mind, representations of reality – but not reality. They are hopes, but not realities.

So, if you really doubt everything, which probably only happens if you fully surrender and submit – though, as I said, it is possible though more difficult to do it by submitting to an ideal rather than another person – you can step into the abyss (in other words, drop everything you always thought was you), or at least what seems like the abyss. (More accurately, you might say that if surrender and submission happens, stepping off that hundred-foot pole might happen, too.) The irony is that what seemed like a potential disaster – having nothing to hang onto, having not even a single molecule to stand on – turns out to be the doorway to the infinite.

If this happens, you are in the third of the Five Ranks. You are established in the transcendent, not as a place to visit, but as a place to live. This third stage is what is generally thought of as enlightenment – taking up permanent residence in the transcendent. In this place you aren’t just “one with everything,” you ARE everything, and everything is you. (In fact, you always were everything. It’s just that now you’ve realized it, not intellectually, but experientially.) D.T Suzuki described this experience as “just like normal life, but about two inches off the ground.”

This Third Rank is what most people would consider “enlightenment.” In this stage one’s center is no longer a separate self, a separate ego, a separate, agentic “doer.” Instead, one’s center is experienced as being everywhere, and the only doer is the entire universe, the Tao, the entire going on of it all. In the Third Rank there are no boundaries, no beginning, no end. You are birthless and deathless. This is Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind.

So what’s missing from this place, the Third Rank of Tozan, where you’re everything, everywhere, everywhen? Heart, for one thing. Though at this stage you see the suffering of humanity, and you feel compassion for all those who are caught in it, you can’t help thinking that if people would just wake up to who they really are they could step out of it, just as you have. You certainly feel tremendous love for humanity – in fact, for everything – but you are, to a certain extent, detached from it all. So in one sense you do have heart, but it’s a detached heart, you might say.

Even though the Third Rank is such a great place to be, it’s considered in Zen to be another place of stuckness. Just as you can be stuck in the relative world (as most people are), you can also be stuck in the transcendent. In Zen they say, “Enlightenment is delusion.”

At the Third Rank you’re on the mountain top, and everything below you in the valley seems far away. From the mountain top it seems as if everything is perfect (which, in a sense, it actually is), including the suffering in the world. “God is playing all the parts. He who suffers and he who inflicts the suffering are both God in disguise.” In one sense this is true. However, there is a lack of personal connection to that suffering. “If only I could help other beings wake up, they would see the perfection I see, and they, too, would be out of the world of suffering and impermanence.”

Where the Third Rank was impersonal, the Fourth Rank is very personal, and very humbling. In the Third Rank you thought you were beyond the world of suffering, that you had escaped from the vicissitudes and problems of the human condition. Now, having fallen, you’re up to your neck in personal problems, personal suffering, and the human condition. In fact, it seems worse than before. Everything is personal, and everything is relational. You feel your own suffering, plus that of all the others who suffer. And, having fallen from so high, you are humbled. In the Third Rank you felt quite extraordinary. Now you realize that you’re incredibly and totally ordinary.

And, in the Fourth Rank, you FEEL. You feel everything. Before the First Rank, back in pre-stage one, you were subject to the world of human suffering, but this time it’s different. In pre-stage one you were unaware, unconscious, unawake. Now you’re very awake, very conscious. And, because you are so conscious, so aware, you feel everything.

In the Third Rank you were “one with the universe” – but you were detached from the human aspect. You saw the suffering and even felt compassion about it. Perhaps you worked to help others wake up, to help others out of their suffering, but you weren’t really FEELING it. Now you are. You’re really one with everything now, including all the suffering. And, it hurts.

In the Third Rank, You’ve stepped out of the relative entirely, as if it didn’t really exist. In the Fourth Rank you find that the relative is real, and you can’t avoid it. You discover that cause and effect are all too real. As long as you’re here, in a body, being human, cause and effect will hunt you down, and there’s no avoiding it. The Fourth Rank is painful.

So what does it take to get out of the Fourth Rank? And what is the Fifth Rank all about? The Fifth Rank is the integration of the relative and the transcendent. I’ve referred to it in other things I’ve written as knowing who you really are (ultimately, that you are the transcendent, the entire going on of it all, Big Mind, beyond all beginnings, beyond all endings, and without boundaries or limits) but also knowing that you are expressing That from the perspective of a limited human being, living in time, subject to the laws of cause and effect, subject to karma.

Genpo Roshi sometimes calls someone in the Fifth Rank the one who chooses to be a human being. Knowing what you know, being unable to delude yourself anymore about who you really are, and what is really real, you choose to be here, you choose to be human. In the Fifth Rank you surrender to what is in a whole new way, because for the first time you really know what is.

When you consciously choose to be a human being, fully knowing what is involved, and being totally awake to (and fully feeling) your own suffering and the enormity of the suffering of all of humanity – while also knowing at the same time that you are simultaneously the unborn, undying transcendent – something remarkable happens. Having REALLY surrendered to what is, you’re free.

Freedom, in this case, however, doesn’t mean freedom from suffering. It means the freedom to CHOOSE. In surrendering you don’t remove yourself from cause and effect, or from the fact that human bodies and psyches are sensitive and therefore subject to both pleasure and pain. At the Fifth Rank, however, you can choose your suffering.

The enlightened person, the person at the Fifth Rank – the one who consciously chooses to be a human being – chooses when and how he plays [the game of life]. He plays with full awareness of the karma he is creating, with full awareness of how cause and effect works. Though he is, relative to other unconscious and unaware people, unattached to life, he still chooses, for instance, to be attached, to some degree, to his children, his spouse, his friends, his motorcycle, his body, his life – or whatever. Since he is very aware that everything is in time, he knows that whatever he becomes attached to will eventually pass away, and that becoming attached to anything has consequences. But the Fifth Rank human being doesn’t become attached unconsciously, like other humans. He chooses, and he chooses knowing full well what the consequences are. And, moment by moment, he surrenders to those consequences. [Which is also why Christians aren’t more Christian than they are – nobody wants to get crucified!]

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