Fire Feeding Upon Fire – The Purpose of Sangha

fireThere is an expression in the Taoist tradition, known as “fire feeding upon fire,” which explains why practitioners of that tradition, like the Buddhist, Hindu and Zenkondo paths, value participation in a community of practitioners, or sangha.

While wood (or another substance) might burn and produce a fire, there is nothing which produces the intensity of energy and illumination that occurs when the fire feeds the fire itself.

Take a single candle, and you can illuminate a room. But bring the wicks of two candles together, that the intensity of the flame grows exponentially.

And so it is with the Dharma path. When we engage our spiritual practice, and begin serving others, with the intention of alleviating suffering and the causes of suffering for ourselves and for all sentient beings, we fill the space around us with illumination — Sacred Light or Pure Awareness — the unquantifiable energy that Einstein refered to as “zeropoint energy” from which all matter arises.

And so the work of the solo practitioner serves the world well.

seshin-tekina_kyokaiBut when we come together and practice as part of an intentional community… When we serve with fuller, more open hearts, because we have united in purpose, in truth and in awareness itself… the space around us, which becomes illuminated is exponentially larger, and we literally fill the multiverse with that Pure Awareness and Light.

The focus of fire feeding fire is not assimilation, but rather integration. Each bringing that which is uniquely their gift to offer, but forgetting the self, and allowing the common good to be served without losing sight of our individual responsibilities, paths, and insights.

The sangha is an opportunity for bring that insight to the table, where we can offer it freely and with pure love, not out of an egoistic need for recognition, but rather as a simple offering… a spiritual tithe, if you will, to be used by the whole community as fuel, or what Ram Das calls “grist for the mill”.

My Root Guru, Ma Jaya, would tell us that the key to longevity of spiritual practice was to learn how to “drink as you pour”.  And that metaphor is simply another metaphor for the Taoist “fire feeding fire”.

“Purify your mind,” Ma would tell us, “with your heart of love.” And when we come together as sangha, that is what we do… We purify our minds, and become One Heart of Love.

By What Spiritual Authority Do I Teach?

DC-Michelangelo-JeremiahThere exists an interesting misconception, in my opinion, about how things in the spiritual realm operate. The notion of spiritual authority is one of those aberrant ideas that illustrate how far from truth our misconceptions can carry us.

This misconception is neither exclusive to the Abrahamic traditions nor to Eastern Thought, and can be found equally among religious fundamentalists, Buddhist sectarians, and even some whom one would expect to be more intelligent than to play this game.

In a most interesting conversation this afternoon, I was asked by a woman (who is notably affiliated with a powerful religious cult, I mean sect, which is fundamentalist and literalist in nature), “By what spiritual authority do you teach?”

She was, of course, attempting to set me up for a debate on how I could be an apostolic successor and Buddhist abbot, but I was way ahead of her little agenda…

I answered that the sole authority by which I teach is my personal experience.

I neither acknowledge nor answer to any spiritual authority, institution, lineage, person, book or tradition, because nothing outside the fullness of personal spiritual experience is capable of bringing about personal and spiritual transformation or awakening.

That said, I have always gratefully acknowledged the lineages from which my teaching is derived, without whose gracious and very generous teaching, I would not have certainly struggled a great deal more in my own spiritual journey. I view my spiritual lineages, as documented backward to the original disciples of some of the Ascended Masters, as the “family tree” from which the download of wisdom was generously imparted to me.

As such, my lineage becomes akin to DNA, rather than being the source of “authority” or “orthodoxy”. DNA establishes us as legitimate human descendants, but doesn’t give us authority over any other beings. And so it is with our “spiritual DNA”, which lend legitimacy to the spiritual paths we travel, but which grant us neither authority nor supremacy over another sojourner.

dharmalineageI don’t believe the answers anyone seeks can be found anywhere but within themselves, and so I am not a spiritual authority myself, nor do I consider myself as being associated with any institution or religion at all, but rather see my role as that of a spiritual “lamp”, whose sole purpose it to help illuminate the way for the seeker, who chooses and creates the path for themselves.

Not a day passes that I do not offer profound gratitude for the gifts given to me by my Root Guru, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati; from the holders of the spiritual lineages from which I have gained so much, including Robert Danza Sensei, Lama Thubten Yeshe, Swami Dayananda, Swami Abishiktananda, Maharaji Neem Karoli, Albino Luciano (Pope John Paul I), Dr. Louise L. Hay, Dr. Kennedy Shultz, and so many others.

But that gratitude arises from the Ground of Experience, not from honouring some paper or oral lineage, recognition by this Lama or that Swami. And it also takes its foundations from seeing the good that has demonstrated in the lives and hearts of hundreds, possibly thousands of my students, over the past three decades.

Just as the goldsmith refines the metal to separate the gold from other elements, the spiritual path allows us to separate that which is non-essential from our True Nature as Pure Awareness.

You need no authority to enter the path, because you are the creator of the path, and the path itself.

For the seeker of liberation and awakening, there is nothing to do, but to open your heart, serve those who are hungry and in need, and be still.


The Secret Message of Yeshua the Nazarene

Understanding the Mystery School Teaching of Rav Yeshua – the Palestinian Dharma Master – on this celebration of Rebirth and Resurrection.

Video: The Mystery School Teaching of Rev Yeshua (Rabbi Jesus)


This teaching is especially dedicated to my Root Guru, Tenzin Yangchen (Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati Santa Maharajni), to my brother monks, Gen Lozang Gyaltsen, H.E. tsem Tulku Rinpoche, Jampal Vajra Changko Braveheart, our novices, Adam Whiteman, Kalisvara Jaya, and my beloved Jampal Choden, as well as with fond thoughts and blessings to former members of the community, Michael and Amy Johnson, and members of our lay sangha, Pema Khandro, Janet McEnany, Sandy Cagle, and the monks, nuns and clergy who make up our extended spiritual sangha.

May this celebration of the spiritual resurrection of the Cosmic Christ within us all inspire new birth and a personal transformation for you and those you touch.

Wayseer Manifesto

zen-circle-five-peter-cutlerAs we begin a new year, I want to share with you a video that many of you have seen me share over the past two years. The Wayseer Manifesto resonates deeply with who I am, and with what we’ve taught for the past 32 years. It speaks to who I am and what sets us apart from the masses.

Neurological oppression often prevents us from embracing the Implicate Order, known as the Way. But what if this video were to unlock something within you?

Compassion and Wisdom in the Zenkondo Tradition

WisdomWhen we imagine that wisdom and compassion are somehow separate qualities we develop or adopt, we are caught up in delusion, for these two qualities are the essence of the Enlightened Mind itself.

If we attempt to cultivate wisdom, without compassion, we are left with meaningless platitudes and intellectual masturbation. The Tao tells us that without compassion, “(W)isdom degenerates into an escapist entanglement in concepts, theories and dogmas.” (In other words, wisdom without compassion degenerates into religion.)


Spiritual Practice

moneyWhile I am certain that there will always be those who delude themselves into believing their spiritual practice is both healthy and substantial, or those for whom material possessions, status and personal indulgence is somehow justified away, as something other than self-absorption and lack of mindfulness; our teaching is very clear about this matter.

The twelfth verse of the Tao eloquently observes:

The five colours blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavours dull the taste buds.
The chase and hunt make the mind crazed.

Wasting energy to obtain material possessions only impedes growth.

The skilful practitioner observes the world,
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
He prefers what is within
to what is without.


Contraction is a Natural Part of Expansion

Monarch chrysalis emergence 3Before the butterfly can emerge into this world, it must endure what I would imagine could be an agonising period of contraction and constriction as a chrysalis. It is a common misconception that the butterfly pupa lives within a cocoon, but in fact, the chrysalis does not emerge from a cocoon at all. It’s hard, constricted, shell-like exterior is all part of the chrysalis itself.

Life can seem, at times, like it is constricting, even contracting all around us. Perhaps our relationships, our work, the world around us seem like they are in shambles, crumbling in on all sides. We might even imagine that we’ve lost our sense of spiritual practice and inner compass.

I can clearly recall sitting in the temple, at Sarvodaya – Jaya Aśram, on that Friday night last year, staring in complete disbelief at the computer screen, at the words announcing the sad news that my Root Guru entered Mahasamadhi, and left her physical body. My chest felt tight… my stomach felt like someone kicked me repeatedly in it… and the night seemed especially dark, rainy and cold. I remember at one point stabbing the phurba deep into the earth, crying out, “MA!”

546859_10151268546062392_1104576104_nAs I write this, a couple days short of the one year anniversary of Tenzin Yangchen Ma‘s passing, the tears again flow… the chest tightens… and the knot returns to the stomach.

At times like these, we can only return to the breath, remembering that we are Pure Awareness. There, in the moment, there is no separation. There is contraction… at times, constriction… there is emptiness… groundlessness… but there is also Primordial Compassion — the pure Essence of the Mother Herself.

And just as the chrysalis is nourished, struggles through the pains of its personal transformation, and eventually breaks free to reveal its beauty, and to live out its true purpose as a butterfly, so too do we emerge from these periods of contraction and constriction, darkness and despair… stronger, more vibrant, more beautiful and more aware of our true purpose.

Speaking on this path… the lion’s path of transformation… Ma would write:

When you begin to analyse your life and you begin to ask the question “Who am I,” you realise that you are not bound within the limits of a mind and the senses.  When you realise this, you transcend unhappiness.

Unhappiness is nothing but the perception of a certain limitation within your own being.

Go beyond yourselves, my chelas.
Feel the essence of your innermost spirit.
Feel the Guru in this place.

Ramana Maharshi is and was one of the greatest teachers of His time. Our Baba and Our Swami had and have the greatest respect.

He is also one of your Guru-ji’s teachers.

“Why,” I asked this great man, “do you want so many to ask the question WHO AM I?

He answered me in this way:
“Some thoughts die from meditation.
Some thoughts die from japa.
Some thoughts die from karma yoga.
Yet all thoughts die from this wonderful inquiry.”

“Be a lion, Ma,” He said, “when you teach your children – and teach them to be of the lion lineage.
Let them ask from the depth of their souls who they are.”

And so, no matter how heavy my heart feels today… no matter how much every breath reminds me how much I miss her… I embrace this contraction for whatever time it fills the moment, knowing that this chrysalis will again emerge as a butterfly.


Jai, jai, jai Śri Mata Jaya Sati Bhagavati, Santa Maharajni. Ki Jai!


Recognising the Unhealed Healer

kundalinirising2Healing is a natural aspect of transformation. But healing cannot begin in the hands of the unhealed healer. Upon recognising the presence of the unhealed healer in ourselves, we must begin within.

When we experience someone who is ill, or who has undergone surgery or some other difficult emotional or physiological circumstance, we recognise that our experience of their condition is an opportunity for us to heal something within our own minds.

The wheezing, hacking cough of the co-worker, may be an opportunity to realise there is something we need “to get off our chest”. The emergency heart surgery of a loved one, may represent unforgiven hurts that we’re afraid to let go of. That pain our neighbour feels in her back, may be a reminder of a burden we’re carrying, that’s weighing us down.

This isn’t to say those persons are experiencing their conditions because of us. Their conditions are, for them, an opportunity for them to heal something in their own lives.

My experience of Parkinson’s Disease may be a feeling that I am constricted by rigid and inflexible circumstances, beyond my immediate control. A weakened immune system may reflect that I feel like I have lost my ability to “fight back” in the face of injustice or lazy dharma practitioners. Even the thyroid condition I experience could be a need to address the feeling of complete imbalance in my present experience of life, and the toll I imagine those circumstances to be taking on me.

562058_10150647109752972_204769565_nWhen we come to understand that all of these beliefs arise from the chaotic data, playing on the hard drive of our subconscious mind… that they are, in essence, bullshit… healing spontaneously occurs.

And so we don’t focus on healing another. For pretending to be able to do so is little more than an ego trip. All healing can only occur within.

What’s more, there’s really nothing to “heal”… it’s just a matter of forgiving ourselves, and returning to the present moment.

When a Buddha Becomes Ill

photo-mindfulnessLately, I have had time to reflect quite a bit on illness, dis-ease, and on the role mindfulness plays in our own and others’ sicknesses.

For much of the past eighteen years, I’ve not awoken in anything less than debilitating pain, living with a burdensome fatigue, intense skin sensitivity that comes and goes for hours at a time, and intermittent, annoying fevers. Since the onset of this hypothyroid challenge, which I don’t believe is anything I will have to deal with longterm, all of these things have intensified.


On the Mythos of the Resurrection

A few years ago, I posted a question on Facebook, and asked how many people believed that Horus, one of the oldest gods of the ancient Egyptian religion — the Falcon-headed Avenger, was a real being. Fifty people commented saying, “Of course not.”

Speaking at a workshop after the film, “The Avengers”, I asked how many people there believed that Odin, Thor and Loki actually exist, 47 out of 49 people said they did not.

But there is a vast disconnect in the intelligence, rationality and spiritual maturity here in the West, where we are all too quick to suspend reason, and demand that the whole world believe a legend that has been shown time and time again, with empirical evidence sociologically, historically and anthropologically to have been an adaptation of the ancient legends of the “man-god” mythos.