There is really only one activity on the spiritual path: cultivate an ever closer relationship with the Spiritual Guide, in all of his forms. How do we do this? First, we come in contact with his teachings and start to put them into practice (Dharma). Then, we start to develop friendships and personal relationships with others who are also practicing his teachings (Sangha). Eventually we start to cultivate relationships with the different Buddhas, such as Je Tsongkhapa, Dorje Shugden and Heruka or Vajrayogini. Then we receive empowerments into these deities, and train to become just like them. Then, we start to understand how each of these deities is actually an emanation of the Spiritual Guide. We then mix ourselves closer and closer with the Spiritual Guide, first at the level of self-generation, then at the level of mixing with his body mandala, then with his completely pure subtle body. The nada at the middle of the subtle body is like the final conventional portal into the Dharmakaya, or his Truth Body. A Buddha’s Truth Body is the ultimate nature of all things. The Spiritual Guide, from a practical point of view, is a portal through which all of the Buddhas express themselves in this world. So it is perfectly correct to view all phenomena as by nature the Spiritual Guide. Finally we realize that all of the different things we have been creating karma with, from the first teaching to the final meditations, are all by nature his emanations. We realize every moment of every day is part of his emanations.
The Spiritual Guide assumes countless forms according to the karmic dispositions of living beings. Each one of these forms functions to prevent us from sinking deeper into samsara and tries to send us in the direction of enlightenment. Every single moment of our life, every single thing that appears internally and externally is one of these forms. Our problem is we do not realize this. By becoming aware of this, these forms become empowered to accomplish their function. The emanations of the spiritual guide become activated by our becoming aware of them and developing a mind of wonder at his infinite skill.
The Spiritual Guide operates on many different levels. Functionally, there are four main levels: the world of our normal life, the world of generation stage, the world of completion stage and the completely pure world of the Dharmakaya. Each level is increasingly refined. Traveling through these different stages is the path. We get t the next level by learning how to be completely balanced with the flow of change at the previous level. Absent that balance, we get swept away and pulled in.
There is no relationship in the universe more important to maintain and cultivate than that with the Spiritual Guide. The real fruit of a marriage comes from cultivating an ever deeper relationship with somebody. Doing so requires tremendous inner work. In exactly the same way, but at a much deeper level, the spiritual path is primarily traveled through cultivating an ever deeper relationship with the spiritual guide. It is hard work to draw ever closer to him because it requires us to shed all that is impure and out of alignment with the way things really are and function. But that is the whole point and that is why it works.
Since I no longer have regular physical access to Sangha, for me this blog and my virtual spiritual activities are my main ways of creating karma with sangha. Looking forward, it seems clear that a new world is being created, a digital world, and more and more beings will be spending more and more time in this world interacting with others in this digital world. So just as we need to bring the Dharma into the physical world, so too we need to bring it into the digital world and learn how to practice in that world. This blog exists on the cloud of this virtual world, and is like my digital reliquary (for whatever it is worth… :)).
I have not been very interested in venturing onto Facebook, but I am starting to reconsider. If the world we are moving into is a digital one. If used correctly, Facebook is a powerful way of keeping in contact with and cultivating relationships with the people who have been important in my life. In particular, my sangha. I am thinking of making a “Kadam Ryan” Facebook page as a means of keeping in contact with my sangha. Since I do not have physical access to them, I can still maintain their relationship in my life through Facebook. In this new digital world, at least for now, Facebook is how people stay in contact with each other and how they hang out. Just as the most important relationship to cultivate is the one with the Spiritual Guide, so too with the Sangha. The Sangha are those other beings who are clustered around the spiritual guide. By drawing close to them, we anchor ourselves in the karmic orbit of the guru, not only for this life but through life after life.
4 thoughts on “Ever closer union”
Well, i have offered you and Claudine to come and stay here in Edinburgh 😉 i reckon you are scared of the cold!
I remember what one of my senior Sangha members said. She’s on her own retreat. She said, “everyone is Sangha”
I kind of didn’t get it at that time. Superior beings are everywhere. But there are different levels of what Sangha is. Conventionally, it’s a bunch of dudes around a Dharma campfire singing cum by ya (don’t know how to spell it) and this is great. We all prostrate at pictures of some bloke holding a bowl and so on. Then we have our Superior Sangha, the emanations who we can’t see.
Their are different roles of the Sangha. We’ve spoken about this at Tharpaland before. It goes without saying that we all need support, we are brothers and sisters, we should encourage each other. It’s a head trip this Buddhist path. Then overtime, a trust builds and we can then begin to develop a deeper relationship whereby our Sangha members are vessels for the Spiritual Guide to work through. We can constructively criticize each other and enjoy it if they know we come from a place of non-harm and compassion, although, this needs to be in the right setting.
I think it’s a great idea for Kadam Ryan to get a Facebook page, he’s on Twitter as well – i wonder if he’s seen GKG’s Tweets every other day?
I set up a Twitter account at one point, but I must admit Twitter is one step too far for me at the moment!!! 🙂 Facebook, I am still thinking about it.
I am glad you made it. i wish many of us (ordinary practitioners) may be able to enjoy your posts and articles.
And thanks James Morgan for all the profound comments too.
Ryan, I feel like I need to thank you on behave of everyone for taking the time to write this blog. I have always admired your clarity and deep understanding of the Dharma. I have learnt so much from you, years back, through the NKT chat and now through this blog and facebook! Funny enough I have never had the chance to meet you in person at any of the festivals yet feel close to you through this “digital world” you have helped and inspired me tremendously.
Thank you so much 🙂