39. It Is Possible!
So why am I mentioning all these states and stages that are thought by many to be largely
mythical and unattainable? Because they are absolutely otherwise, that’s why. People do attain these states today, though they tend only to talk about them with their teachers and close friends who have enough experience in this stuff to understand and not have odd reactions to these disclosures. I assure you that I wouldn’t have bothered writing all of this if I didn’t think that it was possible for those reading this book to master these trainings.
As an example of a very different way of relating to attainments, Kenneth Folk was on a retreat in Burma and had attained second path as confirmed by Sayadaw U Pandita. He was finally done with his retreat and was taken to the airport by one of the lay people who helped run the monastery, who, incidentally, was known to be a stream enterer. As Kenneth was leaving, the layman yelled to him across the terminal, “Come back for number three!” meaning, “Come back and attain third path!” Note the many ways in which what underlies this statement differs from the paradigm you would likely find in a Western Buddhist context.
First, most Western Buddhists don’t really believe that after a few months of good practice you could awaken or awaken more. They do not believe it is simply a matter of following simple instructions, moving through the clearly defined insights, and tagging a path. In fact, I often tell this story to Western Buddhists, many of whom have been on numerous insight retreats led by teachers trained by the best Burmese masters, and they say things like, “What do you mean, ‘third path’?” It makes me want to explode in a great, world-shaking blast of magickal vajra wisdom when they don’t even know the basic structure of the path to awakening, much less anything practical about it. Most Western teachers wouldn’t have the guts to stand up and say, “Yeah, he did it, he got second path!” (assuming they were even able to evaluate such a person’s practice). If they could even identify the attainment, it would still likely be a huge, taboo secret.
The stream enterer who drove Kenneth to the airport also showed no jealousy on his part, but instead pure enthusiasm and encouragement for those above him to continue onward on the precious and efficacious dharma path. This is also radically different from the relationship many westerners have with those who have successfully practiced the teachings of the Buddha. The driver had faith in his tradition borne of his own practice. In short: it has been done, it is being done, it will continue to be done, and there are good, wise people who would love to help you do it!
Later, I am going to go into details about a practice called mudita, or joyful appreciation, and it is the practice of rejoicing in the successes and good fortune of others. It is one of the four brahma viharas, or “divine abidings”, and is a fundamental practice taught by the Buddha. The lack of mudita has ruined many spiritual practitioners and communities, since where there is no mudita, there is jealousy, comparison, toxic forms of competition, and disparagement or discrediting of those who attain the expected benefits of practice. Delight in the efficacy of the dharma and in those who master it! Delight that beings awaken! Delight in the opportunity to have wise, accomplished companions on the spiritual path! Recognize jealousy and insecurity immediately when they arise and practice appreciation and the gratitude we should feel that we get to have wise dharma companions.
Practice, practice, practice! This is the big difference between those who are merely giving lip service to Buddhadharma and those who really get what the old boy was talking about. Go on retreats with sane teachers and follow the instructions to the letter all day long. Find people who know how it is done and hang out with them. Keep it simple. Avoid magical thinking (except when doing magick, more on that later) and don’t lose your common sense.
The simple fact that you have read this book means that the ball is now in your court. There is more than enough information presented here and in the other texts that I mention on straightforward techniques that have a great track record of delivering as advertised. As a wise chef in a gourmet restaurant where I used to cook said to me, “I have two words for you: perseverance furthers.”