Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.
Someone asked: How to return to the bliss of the spirit? This is not a question with easy answer. More than 2000 years ago in India, Prince Siddhartha gave up his royal comforts and privileges, sought out many teachers and undertook years of rigorous practices to find the answer to the question. He finally awakened to the answer and became Shakyamuni Buddha.
He taught 84,000 methods to suit the infinite numbers of beings. In ancient India, 84,000 is a way of expressing many. All these methods can be categorized into 3 levels of practices – Hinayana, Mahayana-Sutrayana and Mahayana-Vajrayana. These are paths that all beings must undertake to return to the bliss of the spirit. Some are at the stage of Hinayana, some at Mahayana; just like progressing from kindergarten to postdoctoral level. No matter which class we are in, it is important to know that there are many levels in the program. If we are at grade 1 and hear about the postdoctoral class, do not remark that postdoctoral class is not for me or criticize it. Instead, have the aspiration to enter the postdoctoral class one day. This way, we do not cut off our path to spiritual bliss.
What is spiritual bliss? It is attaining great freedom, great compassion and an all-encompassing wisdom. It is liberation from the bondage of life and death/rebirth, awakening from the life of movie-like illusions. It is a return to our original state of perfection and purity.
The first step in the return to the bliss of the spirit requires a true understanding of oneself and the phenomenal world. Dr. Rudolf Steiner, founder of Spiritual Science, remarked that cancer comes from a mistaken thought. It may not be a personal mistake but a distorted perception we collectively have as humans. We regard our dream-like, movie-like physical world as inherently real, not recognizing that it is a projection of our mind.
By ‘mind’, we are not referring to our brain activities, but the very subtle consciousness that resides in our heart chakra. Our delusions, happiness, wisdom and compassion, all come from this subtle consciousness. Heaven, hell, rebirth and awakening also come from this. And spiritual cultivation is about working on this subtle consciousness that has existed primordially. It existed since beginning-less time, before our conception and even after our death. It is neither born nor will it die. The “movie” it projects has birth and death. This unseen subtle consciousness affects our physical form. This is the reason why spiritual practices of purification and accumulation of merit such as Thousand-armed Compassion Buddha retreat (Nyung Nay) are able to heal physical illnesses, transform emotions and life circumstances. The light of compassion and wisdom purifies the subtle consciousness that has been tainted by greed, aversion and ignorance. The projected reality will consequently transform.
Last year, my mother’s subtle consciousness left her aged body. After my sisters and I completed the funeral arrangements, we proceeded to do several rounds of the Thousand-armed Compassion Buddha purification practice. I had a deep experience of how this practice is able to relieve the sorrow and grief of the departed person and surviving loved ones. On the day of the actual practice of the first round (a day of total fasting), the grief of losing one’s mother was released from deep within. We also experienced our mother receiving the blessing of Compassion Buddha and a rapid positive transformation of her consciousness. Following the completion of the third round of this practice, we felt our mother came to thank us.
In August of last year (2009), 50 friends of Lapis Lazuli Light gathered in Crestone to practice 2 rounds of this Thousand-armed Compassion Buddha retreat (Nyung Nay). Most of the participants were first timers with no prior understanding of the practice. They also had not received the empowerment of the practice. Hence they were not able to do the practice in its full form. Despite that, within a short time of 5 days, they experienced the extraordinary benefits of the practice. It was tough during the 1st round, especially the day of total fast when one experience detoxification of negative emotions and the karma of the 3 lower realms. Responses ranged from drowsiness, nausea, thirst and hunger. The 2nd round was better. People were still able to chant and prostrate on the total fasting day. When I saw the radiance and joy of the participants at the end of retreat, I was more convinced how precious and extraordinary this practice is.
It takes only 2 days for a single round of practice. So it is very suited to our modern busy lifestyle. I have also heard that 2 days of the practice is equivalent o 3 months of retreat. The other surprise was that everyone looked much younger at the end of retreat.
Last October(2009) in Kuala Lumpur, we had 200 participants doing the retreat together. We also heard positive feedback about how it benefitted them. Examples like departed family members coming to thank the participants and the release of years of phobia. In order to do the complete practice, participants need to receive the empowerment of the practice from a qualified teacher. Hoping that more people meet the proper requirements, I requested my precious teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche to give the empowerment and teaching. Following that, 260 participants took part in the retreat. Though it was uncomfortable for some during the detoxification process, people felt great relief afterwards.
More than fifteen years ago I led this retreat frequently. There were several miraculous accounts. There was a Catholic woman suffering from cancer who recovered completely. I suggested her to visualize Mother Mary instead of Compassion Buddha because they both represent source of Compassion. This patient has also been practicing waidangong and changed to a natural vegetarian diet. She personally felt that the retreat was the key turning point to her full recovery. Another cancer patient also related that the retreat quickened his recovery. One dentist injured his right arm during his service in the army throwing a hand-grenade. He could not stretch his arm. During the retreat, his right arm was able to stretch out when he was doing the prostrations.
This practice started 1000 years ago with Compassion Buddha manifesting in the form of having thousand arms and thousand eyes. He transmitted the practice to a Nepalese princess, also known as Bhikshuni Lakshminkara, who was suffering from leprosy. Due to the practice, she finally recovered and even gained spiritual realizations. Since then, many have used this practice to eliminate physical obstacles like sicknesses and gained spiritual realizations.
This practice belongs to the Kriya (“Action”) class of Tantra in Vajrayana (大乘行瑜珈部). It is a 2-day fasting retreat observing the Eight Mahayana Precepts – partaking a single meal (lunch) on first day, and total fast on second day (no food and drink, and complete silence). It is a rich and comprehensive practice that covers the Seven Accumulation of Merits (based on the Ten Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva). This is a quick and effective method to purify a lot of negativities and at the same time accumulate a vast amount of merit. If we can do this at least once in our lifetime, we will not be reborn in the 3 less fortunate realms. If we can do this for at least 8 times, we are bound to be reborn in Western (Amitabha) Pureland. This is the vow of Compassion Buddha. It takes only one prayer and Compassion Buddha will guide and protect us for an infinite lifetime.
In modern era, we face the prevalence of diseases and their onset at much younger age. This is an opportune time to awaken to the truth of life, break away from the causes of physical illnesses and suffering, and return to spiritual joy.
Spiritual joy and growth come from compassion and love. We need to not harm others and all other living beings in our thoughts and actions.
Take being on a vegetarian diet for example. Some people choose this out of health reasons, others out of love and compassion; the implications are beyond our imagination. From the school of Spiritual Science, plants have physical and etheric bodies, animals have physical, etheric and astral bodies, and humans have all the 3 bodies plus ego-consciousness.
When we consume pork, beef, chicken or fish etc, we are also consuming the elements in these animals’ astral bodies, including their fear, anxiety and hatred. Our astral body needs to digest these negativities during sleeping hours, making it unable to depart from physical and etheric bodies to return to spiritual world for recharge. When an astral body is damaged and torn, the person will feel exhaustion and fall sick easily. A damaged astral body is less sensitive to guidance of wisdom from the spiritual world and intuition. As a result, one’s worldly actions are often destructive. If we consume meat over a long period of time, our astral bodies will become similar to those of what eat – pigs, cows, etc. Can you imagine what kind of life forms animalistic astral bodies will create?
I have friends who after going on a full vegetarian diet remarked that although they ate very little meat before, they felt completely different not eating any meat. Rudolf Steiner emphasized that plant-based diet is a significant key in spiritual growth.
Our astral bodies need to return to the spiritual world to recharge. We need the guidance of wisdom and inspiration from spiritual world, so preparing ourselves before going to sleep will better facilitate us in the process. At the time of death we will experience a life review. Each night is a similar regressive experience.
Reflecting on the day’s experience we need to remember important experiences as well as trivial ones. With incidents that evoked strong emotional reactions in us, we can review the encounter from a different perspective, asking ourselves why we had such strong reactions. If we had lost control of ourselves emotionally in that incident, remind ourselves to be more aware of the process in future. Sometimes we only realize the significance of certain experiences during the recall.
It is my wish that everyone be free of delusions and difficulties quickly, open our hearts in love and compassion, and realize the true freedom of our nature.
3 lower realms: the hungry ghost realm, suffering resulting from greed and attachment; the hell realm, suffering resulting from aversion & hatred; the animal realm, suffering resulitng from ignorance & confusion.
Translated from the original article in Chinese. Accessible at: http://www.lapislazuli.org/TradCh/magazine/201008/20100801.html
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