Ascended Master Gautama Buddha through Kim Michaels, January 8, 2023. This dictation was given during the 2023 New Year’s webinar – Being a spiritual person in a chaotic world.
I AM the Ascended Master Gautama Buddha. The next topic is that of effort. Traditionally, again, people have defined that there is right effort and there is wrong effort. They have then striven to avoid the wrong effort and cultivate and practice right effort. This has, for many people, become a straitjacket where they barely feel that they can do anything because they are so afraid of doing wrong effort and making karma that they end up feeling that the only thing they can do is to have as little physical activity as possible and to either meditate or perform other spiritual practices most of the time. This then becomes obsessive-compulsive and people actually feel they are being very spiritual but in reality, they are not making any progress on the spiritual path. They are not climbing to higher levels. They are just treading water, becoming more and more agitated, more and more frantic in performing “right effort” as they define it.
Of course, based on what I have given you previously, it is now fairly easy to create a different way to evaluate your efforts. I have made a great effort to explain what is the goal of the Eightfold Path, what is the goal of the Middle Way. It is to raise awareness and how do you raise awareness? In one way only: resolving psychology. This will be new and shocking to many people, even many people from the Buddhist tradition. They have gotten themselves into a state of mind where they think that right effort is certain spiritual practices. Those spiritual practices have some kind of almost magical ability to transform their consciousness and bring them closer to enlightenment, or nirvana or however they define it.
Overcoming illusions is not a mechanical task
Now, I have said that there are valid spiritual practices that can have an effect, but how do they have an effect? They have an effect in transforming the fear-based energies that are accumulated in your emotional, mental and identity bodies, even to some degree in the physical cells. A spiritual technique can have the effect of transforming energy, but there is no spiritual practice, no matter what it is, no matter where it comes from, no matter who defined it or who released it, that can transform your state of mind, your beliefs, the illusions you have.
An illusion is an illusion. It is not real, but as long as you think the illusion is the truth, or as long as you have not become aware that you have an illusion, you are trapped in seeing the world through the filter of that illusion. How did you come to accept the illusion? Did some demon implant the illusion in your mind? There may have been some lower being, a being with lower awareness, who projected a certain illusion at your mind. In fact, the collective consciousness is currently projecting many illusions at people’s minds. But you are an individual being. You are not a separate being, but you are an individual being, which means that you have authority over what enters your mind, what leaves your mind and what takes place in your mind. You may have forgotten that in a past life you allowed an illusion to enter your mind, but regardless of whether you remember or not, there was a point where you made a decision to accept a certain illusion as the truth.
Now, after you stepped into the consciousness of separation, you have allowed a great number of illusions to enter your mind. This is what forms the veil of maya that blinds you to the reality that you are an expression of the Buddha Nature and everything else is also an expression of the Buddha Nature regardless of its outer form. There is no spiritual practice whatsoever that can transform your state of mind, change your beliefs, automatically free you from illusions. You can be free from illusions only by coming to consciously see them as illusions and thereby letting them go, because you see they are illusions.
This was the case 2,500 years ago, it has been the case in the meantime, it will be the case in the future. Spiritual growth that goes towards a higher level of awareness is a conscious process of consciously coming to see illusions. What a spiritual practice can do is transform the energies stored in, for example, your emotional mind that make it more difficult for your conscious mind to see the illusions. It is not that a spiritual practice is not helpful, it is just not automatic because it will not make decisions for you. You, the Conscious You that is the core of your being, you have to make decisions, and how do you make decisions? By becoming consciously aware of things that you are not consciously aware of right now. By bringing the illusions into your conscious awareness, pulling them out of the subconscious mind, where you can see them, examine them and then, when you see they are illusions, you let go of them, you dismiss them.
The creation of subconscious selves
Now, we have given many teachings that an illusion is not just an illusion. It is not just that you have false knowledge. It is not just that you have the belief that you are holding a rope when in reality it is a snake. Everything that happens in your mind has three elements. There is energy, there is a certain knowledge or belief and there is consciousness. When you consciously look at a particular illusion and you decide consciously to accept it into your mind, what then happens? Well, first of all, the Conscious You, that you are, is now beginning to look at the world through that illusion.
It is comparable to you being inside a house and the house is your identity, mental and emotional bodies. There are certain windows in the house, but when you accept an illusion, you are putting a piece of colored glass in front of one of the windows, at least a part of that window. Now you are looking out through the window and what you see outside yourself is colored by that glass, so you get a distorted image. This means that you are now seeing the world as something it is not, meaning that when the energy from your higher self streams through your conscious awareness and through that filter, you are qualifying it with a fear-based vibration. An illusion causes you to have a fear-based view of life, because if you see that everything is the Buddha Nature, there is no need for fear. After you have accepted a false belief, you are then starting to misqualify, to lower the vibration of energy, through that belief. Some of that energy is projected out, some of it accumulates in your three bodies: identity, mental, emotional.
As the energy accumulates, it starts to exert a pull on your conscious awareness, meaning that you more easily go into, for example, anger. As you are looking at the world through the filter of the illusion, you are actually imbuing that illusion with your consciousness. Because anything you focus your attention upon, you are allowing your consciousness to flow into it and through it. You have now three elements, you have an unrealistic an illusory belief, you have an accumulation of energy that gradually creates a magnetic pull and then you have the imbuing with consciousness. This means that what you are actually doing is you are creating what I call the samskaras, the patterns, but which with a more modern expression we could call a “self.” You are creating a separate self in your identity, mental and emotional minds or bodies, and the importance of this is that this self will have a certain level of consciousness. It will not have the self-awareness that the Conscious You has, so the self did not create itself. The Conscious You can create a self but the self cannot create itself.
This means that the self cannot change itself either. It can grow in the sense that it becomes more intense, it has more and more of a magnetic pull on your conscious mind, but it cannot change itself. If you create a self based on the illusion that anger is an acceptable reaction to certain situations, the self cannot come to say: “But wait a minute, anger is not right according to the spiritual teaching, so I am just going to let myself die.” The self will never be able to do this. The self has what we might call a survival instinct. It can become more and more angry, but it cannot become less angry, not by its own effort. It can become less angry when you stop feeding it your energy and use spiritual tools to transform the accumulated energy, but the self cannot do this by itself.
The self is literally like a computer program that can only do what it is programmed to do. As it becomes more intense, it has more of a pull on the Conscious You. You are pulled into the self and what happens over many lifetimes is that you gradually create a conglomerate of these selves that are all based on the illusion of separation, and they gradually exert such a pull that the Conscious You is pulled into this veil of illusion. You are pulled behind this veil of illusion and now you are looking at everything through that veil of illusion. You can even come to the point where you forget that you were ever outside the veil of illusion. That is how you forget that you have a connection to your higher self and you have the Buddha Nature and the Buddha potential within you. You identify yourself as a human being, either as a sinner, or as a person with great karma, or as an evolved ape. This can only happen when you forget your connection to something outside your own mind.
Separate selves can only create karma
If you want to take a higher evaluation of effort, you can say, if you are completely identified with this conglomerate of separate selves and with the ego that is, so to speak, the container where these separate selves exist, then everything you do, every effort you make through a separate self will create karma. It will misqualify energy. It will turn love-based energy into fear-based energy and it will only tie you more firmly to the illusion that you are a separate being. This clearly is not higher effort, it is lower effort.
What then is higher effort? It is activities that have the effect of freeing you from this identification with the separate selves and the ego. Now take care to make a distinction here. Many people from the Buddhic tradition will say: “But the Buddha vehemently denied the existence of a separate ego.” Yes, but listen to what is said. The Buddha denied the existence, the reality of a separate ego. The separate ego has no reality, it does not exist in the Buddha Nature, in the Buddhic mind, but this does not mean it does not have a temporary, fleeting existence in the human mind. As I have explained, everything is energy. Energy can take on any form, but it takes on form through consciousness, by consciousness projecting a mental image upon the energy.
This is what you are doing as a human being in embodiment, you are co-creating by using your mind’s ability to superimpose mental images upon energy. When you do this through one of these illusions of separateness, you are creating a separate self, you are even creating the overall illusion that you are a separate being. That self, the ego, has a temporary existence. There was no higher being that created it, but you created it and therefore it exists in your mind. It does not have an objective existence, to use the expression of science, it has a subjective existence, but as long as it is in your mind, as long as the energy, the illusion and the sense of self is there, it influences your mind. This means, among other things, that the ego cannot be transformed. There are actually people who have built a strong separate self and they have become so identified with it that they think that the purpose for walking the spiritual path is to transform this separate self until it reaches a state where now it can enter heaven, or now it can become enlightened.
This is the true meaning of the teachings given 2,500 years ago. The ego has no existence, therefore it cannot become the Buddha, it cannot be raised up and gain any kind of permanency or immortality. There are people in the Christian tradition who believe that if they are faithful Christians and fulfill the requirements of the Christian religion, then after they die, Jesus will appear and take their outer personality, the separate sense of self, into heaven.
The impossible dream of the ego
What is the characteristic of heaven, or the spiritual realm, or whatever you want to call it? It is that it is based on the realization that all life is one, that everything is connected, that it is one interdependent whole, so how can a separate self which denies this connection, denies this oneness, ever enter oneness? It cannot happen, it cannot be done, it is simply an impossible dream, the ultimate dream of the separate self. Why do people come up with this dream? Well, because, as I said, when you step into this illusion of separation, you will feel you have lost something. You have lost your connection to your higher self. You will feel this as a loss and you will have some desire to overcome that loss, even if you have no conscious awareness of what it really means. You have a longing for something. People can cover this over for a time by immersing themselves in worldly activities as many people have done for many lifetimes, but there will come a point where your longing for something, which is basically a longing for something outside your own mind, the separate mind, will surface and you cannot deny it.
The ego has a certain rudimentary awareness. It wants to maintain its power over your mind. When your longing for something more surfaces, the ego knows it cannot fulfill it, but it will still try to make you believe that you can fulfill this longing by perfecting the separate self. When you find a spiritual teaching, for example, that talks about raising your awareness, attaining some higher state, entering into nirvana, heaven, bliss, enlightenment, the ego will say: “Of course! I support your quest to improve yourself and reach this higher state. And you can do it by raising me up to this higher state. I can become perfect. I can become immortal.” It is a complete lie, a complete misunderstanding. The ego will never enter heaven, the spiritual realm, nirvana. It – can – not – be – done.
A separate self cannot be transformed into a self of oneness. This is something that many spiritual people from many traditions will deny, but it is a reality. You have created these selves based on the illusion of separation. There is a specific illusion for each self, there is a certain amount of energy and it has been imbued with a rudimentary sense of consciousness, so it thinks it has some reality, some existence.
It is like the philosopher Rene Descartes said: “I think, therefore I am.” In other words, the fact that I am conscious must mean that I have existence and that is what a separate self thinks. The ego thinks that the fact that I am conscious as a separate being means I have some reality, some existence as a separate being. This is the illusion that I tried to explain 2,500 years ago by saying that there is no separate ego that has real existence. I was of course quite aware that it has a temporary existence and that the entire goal of the Eightfold Path was to help people overcome their identification with this ego.
Overcoming the ego one self at a time
What can you do to overcome the ego? Well, there is an ego that is the core of this separate sense of identity but this is not the easiest thing to overcome. What you do is you are practical. You start by realizing that the ego is kind of a container where there are many individual separate selves in the container, and each self is based on a particular illusion. You take one self at a time and the easiest way to expose the self is to look at your reaction to specific situations. Why do you for example react with fear to certain situations? Why do you respond with anger or irritability? Why do you doubt yourself in certain situations? Why do you become aggressive or why do you submit to aggression?
You take a specific reaction you have. You realize there is a separate self in your subconscious mind. Certain situations trigger that self into activity and when that happens, it takes over your reactions. You are not making a decision with the conscious mind on how to react to certain situations. The separate self is simply activated and takes over your reactions. This shows you that there is a separate self hiding behind this pattern. Now you can go into it. You can go into the feelings until you go through the feelings, and you can continue to examine and use your intuition until you see the belief behind it.
There can come this point where suddenly the Conscious You has stepped outside of this separate self and you are looking at it from the outside. Many people who may not even have heard of a spiritual teaching, and certainly not this teaching of separate selves, have experienced this spontaneously throughout their lives. They have had a certain outer situation, often a more severe situation that felt like a crisis, where suddenly they have felt a shift. Instead of reacting the way they normally do, suddenly, their minds have fallen silent. It is almost like they have, in an interval beyond time, they have stepped outside of this situation and suddenly they are seeing it from the outside.
There may be in some cases a conscious thought: “Why am I always reacting this way?” This is an example of how you come to that point where the Conscious You steps outside a particular separate self and once you are outside of it, you can see it. You can see the illusion it is based on. You can see how the self is limiting you and limiting your reactions, taking away your freedom to consciously react. That is when you can make this decision: “I do not want to react this way anymore. I do not want this in my life anymore. I do not want to see life through this filter.” What can you then do? Well, it is not a matter of fixing a problem, it is not a matter of doing something to this self. Once you see the illusion, you simply need to take the step to give up the self, to surrender the self, to let the self die.
A separate self cannot be perfected. It cannot be transformed into a higher state. You simply need to let it die. A separate self is basically an attachment and how do you overcome an attachment? By letting it go. By surrendering whatever illusions and desires are behind the attachment. You think you have to achieve something in this world—basically to cover over your sense of being unwhole. When you see this, you can let it go and realize you do not need to achieve anything in this world in order to become whole. You need to give up the idea that you have to do something in this world, and then you will spontaneously feel more whole.
Why is this? Remember what I have said. You originally had a sense of connection to your higher self. You have covered it over by an illusion but the default state is for you to feel connected. When you let go of the illusion you will return to feeling connected. Now you can expand your sense of connection of course, which is what you are meant to do as you walk the Eightfold Path. The default state for a human being is to feel connected to its higher self. You can become more conscious, you can expand the connection, but you can never completely lose the potential to return to connection. The connection is in a sense always there. Your higher self is always there, it is always directing energy at you. It is just that in your mind you have stepped into an illusion so you are not conscious of that connection. Let go of the illusion and you return to a sense of connection. It is not a matter of thinking that the separate self that prevents you from experiencing the connection needs to be perfected and then you will again feel connected. Nay, you need to just let go of the self and return to the natural state of connection.
There is no secret to growth
What does this mean? It means that any effort that reinforces the sense of separation will not bring you further along the path. Any effort that reduces the veil of maya will re-establish connection or expand connection and this is what brings you forward on the path. This means that any effort that helps you return to connection is a higher effort. As I said, this is not just a matter of the physical actions or efforts you perform. A spiritual practice in itself will not automatically bring the transformation of consciousness. Studying a spiritual teaching will not automatically bring a transformation of consciousness.
There are many, many people, many spiritual people throughout the ages in the Buddhist tradition and other traditions, who have come to believe that there is some secret to spiritual growth. They think that there is some higher teaching that they can find. Many people believe for example that there are teachings that are given for the public but then there are secret teachings that are only for the elect elite who have reached the higher level on the spiritual path. They think that these teachings are hidden somewhere and they are spending lifetimes striving to find these teachings because they think that once they have this teaching and they read this teaching, they will automatically be enlightened by simply reading this teaching. How could this happen? Yes, a spiritual teaching may help you see an illusion, but it is not guaranteed that reading a specific teaching will help you see your illusion.
There can be two people that both have the same illusion, the same separate self. They read a spiritual teaching. For one person it means that he sees the illusion and lets go of it, but the other does not see the illusion. Why not? Well, it is a matter of whether you have realized what is the essence of the spiritual path. Is it to see the illusion and dismiss the separate self or is it to somehow raise up and perfect the separate self? We could also say it is a matter of where you are focusing your attention. Are you looking outside of yourself or inside of yourself? Are you willing to look at your own psychology, look at your own illusions, wrestle with them until you come to see through them? Or are you thinking that there is some magical thing from outside of yourself that can do this for you? Or rather, you do not even think that the outside thing is going to resolve your psychology. You think that the outside guru is going to magically bring you to enlightenment.
What a guru cannot do for you
There is a very long tradition in the East of the guru-chela relationship. It is believed by many, many people, and it is claimed by many gurus, that a real guru has a magical ability to raise his students up (I say his because they are most often men) to a higher state, enlightenment, nirvana, whatever you call it. It cannot be done. Nobody can undo your decisions for you. You must be willing to look consciously at the decisions you made in the past to accept an illusion to create a separate self, and you must be willing to consciously make the decision to let that separate self die.
A guru might help you see the separate self. He might confront you with your ego. He might act in such a way that it brings out, it activates, one of these reactionary patterns you have. The guru cannot make the decision for you because the decision was made inside your own mind and it can only be undone inside your own mind. You may not be conscious of you making a decision many lifetimes ago, but you can still become conscious of the decision and what it entails and therefore let it go. There is no amount of external effort or external force or external guru that can do this for you. As long as you think that you can direct your attention outside yourself and make an effort to change something outside yourself, you are treading water on the spiritual path. You are not getting anywhere. Again, you can create the impression that you are, but what are you doing when you do this?
Consider what I have said here. You have a certain number of separate selves based on illusions. They are keeping you trapped in the veil of maya. Now you find the spiritual path, a spiritual teaching. It is a valid spiritual teaching. It has the potential to help you grow by engaging in the Eightfold Path but will it? The result cannot be guaranteed because the essence of the real path is that you overcome, you make conscious and then consciously dismiss these separate selves. If you are not willing to do this or if you do not grasp it, what will you do instead? You will take the spiritual teaching and you will use that spiritual teaching to build a new separate self. That separate self would be based on the illusion that if you diligently study a spiritual teaching, if you diligently perform a spiritual practice, then you are becoming a more and more advanced student by demonstrating these outer things. Therefore, you are making progress on the path.
Many, many spiritual people throughout the ages have had good intentions of making spiritual progress but they have not grasped the essential nature of the path and therefore they have simply created a number of separate selves based on their spiritual teaching. They have reinforced the ego, which believes that it is separate and which is always striving for some sort of superiority. Again, why is the ego striving for this? Well, the ego has enough awareness to know that it is incomplete. It does not really understand that it can never enter heaven but it knows it is incomplete. It knows you are feeling incomplete and it is constantly seeking a way to cover over this incompleteness, to compensate for it. The ego is constantly seeking to become superior in some way because it thinks, the ego thinks, that if it becomes sophisticated enough in this world, then it must be allowed entry into the higher world.
The spiritualized ego
Many, many people who believe in a superior God have basically created an ego that thinks that if I do all the outer things right according to this religion, then God simply has to allow me to enter heaven. God has to give me immortality. The ego is sort of seeking to make a bargain with God. I do these outer things, you let me enter heaven. The problem with this is that this is all imagined. First of all, the image that the ego can formulate of God has nothing to do with the reality of the spiritual realm. You can look back to, for example, the three monotheistic religions that are based on the Old Testament image of the angry God in the sky and you can say: “Is there such a God in the sky that corresponds to this image?” The reality is that there is no such god in the sky, but there is a being created in the collective consciousness having a temporary existence in the emotional, mental and identity levels of the material universe and the collective consciousness. This is a man-made god, created in the image and likeness of the ego. It is a god that is partial to the people who are doing his bidding and those he is rewarding, but he is punishing those who are not obeying him. This can only be a dualistic god and therefore it can have no reality whatsoever when you begin to grasp what duality and non-duality is all about.
The ego is trying to do something impossible. It is trying to define criteria in this world that will guarantee its entry into the higher world. The ego is born from the illusion of separation. It can never fathom oneness. What is the ego doing? It is defining criteria based on the illusion of separation, meaning they are unreal. Reality is oneness, unreality is separation and division. You think, or the ego thinks, that you can leave oneness and go into separation and then based on the illusion of separation you can get back into oneness. This is impossible. How would it ever be possible?
You can see many religious and spiritual people who have found a spiritual teaching or a religious teaching. They have now created, or rather they have in many cases taken what has already been collectively created by the members of that religion, this elaborate view of what they are supposed to do and what they are not supposed to do. They throw themselves at this very diligently, and they are absolutely convinced that they are making progress and that one day something will happen. Jesus will appear in the sky, take the good Christians to heaven, roll up the world as a scroll and condemn everybody else to hell. The Buddha will appear to people, grant them enlightenment and leave the rest out in the cold. Some magical teaching will appear to them and when they read it they will be enlightened.
There is this belief among many people that walking the spiritual path is some glorious adventure that leads you to greater and greater sophistication and status and recognition in this world according to the criteria defined in this world. These criteria are defined by the ego, they are based on separation. How can they lead you to oneness? The spiritual path is really not a glorious path at all. It is a path of constantly looking at yourself, your own reactions, exposing reactions in your psychology and letting them die. Exposing these separate selves and letting them die. That is what the spiritual path is about. As long as you are in physical embodiment you will have certain separate selves that you have not yet discovered because if you had no separate selves, you could not stay in a physical body on a dense planet like earth.
What it means to be enlightened
There is a very old belief among spiritual students that: “Oh, this person is enlightened, this guru is enlightened.” Well, there is a reality and there is an illusion here. On the one hand it is clear that there are people who have reached a higher level of awareness than the average person. Certainly, those who understand the dynamics of the spiritual path that I have explained here, you can all work your way gradually towards higher levels of consciousness than where you started, and certainly higher levels than the average person. However, if you think that enlightenment means that you have no illusions or no separate selves left, then you are not having the highest understanding.
There is a story of the Buddha that I reached enlightenment. I went into Nirvana and then I decided that instead of remaining in nirvana I would come back to earth and teach, and therefore I came back in an enlightened state. Which many people have projected that I was somehow a perfect being, that I had no illusions, no separate selves left. Now the reality is that I had overcome most of the illusions that you can have when you are a human being in embodiment. I had not overcome all or I could not have remained in a physical body. This does not mean that I did not reach a higher level of consciousness than the average person. I certainly did. It means that I had a realistic, you might say humble, assessment of myself. I did not consider myself to be a perfect being like some of my followers did back then, and especially have done since then.
There is a phenomenon in spiritual movements that we might call the “dead guru syndrome.” Once the guru is dead, people start projecting their dreams and illusions upon that guru of how special he was and how perfect they were. Why do they do this? Because the more special the guru is, the more special they become as the followers or students of that guru. This builds their egos and their illusion that by following this perfect guru because the guru was so perfect, he has the magic that can transform them without them having to look at their own state of awareness and psychology.
What am I saying here? What I am saying is simply this, as long as you are in a physical embodiment you have certain illusions that you need to overcome. This means you have to be humble, you have to be realistic and not proclaim that you have reached some kind of perfection. There are people who have proclaimed that they are the embodiment of some god, or that they have reached some state of enlightenment. There are people who have not proclaimed this themselves but they have allowed their followers to believe this without correcting them. This is not the highest view.
As long as you are in a physical body there is at least one illusion to overcome and when you overcome it you cannot stay in the body. It is that simple. You can come up with all kinds of stories and ideas that there are these perfected beings that are living in the Himalayas that are maintaining a physical body for centuries. It is not that there is not some reality here but these beings do not see themselves the way you see them from the state of separation. They have reached a high level of awareness but they are realistic in realizing that there is something that keeps them in a physical body and in order to become permanently free of that body they have to overcome that illusion. They are realistic in their self-assessment because you cannot reach a higher state of awareness without overcoming separateness, the sense of separation. It is only in the sense of separation that some people can be higher than others. The idolatry of a spiritual guru can only spring from the sense of separation. If the guru makes a claim to be superior, or if he allows his followers to put him up as superior, he has not overcome separation. How could he have?
The false effort of raising yourself above others
A realistic assessment when you overcome all of these separate selves is that you are an expression of the one mind and so is everyone else. Well, how can one expression of the one mind be more sophisticated, more perfect than another? Everything is the Buddha Nature. Every self-aware being is an expression of the Buddha Nature. How can one be fundamentally more special than others? It says in the American Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.” Well, that is in a sense, a recognition that all are expressions of the Buddha Nature. There is no value judgment in the Buddha Nature. It is only in the veil of maya, the illusion of separateness, that there can be a value judgment that says one person is more special than another.
What does this have to do with effort? Well, any effort that seeks to raise yourself up in comparison to others is not the higher effort. How could it be? As you move higher and you escape more and more illusions of separateness, you start seeing the whole and therefore every effort you make is aimed at raising the whole, not raising yourself as a separate individual.
Seeking to raise yourself as a separate individual springs from the illusion of separation and it will only serve to keep you tied in that illusion. If you raise yourself up to be some perfected guru, and you make your followers believe it, every effort you make only serves to keep you more trapped in the illusions of separation and keep your followers more trapped in the illusion of separation. If you look closely at the quite frankly fragmentary and incomplete records of the Buddha’s life and you read between the lines, you will see this—I did not set myself up as some perfected being. Now, you can find teachings that do this but they were added later because people looked at the life and teachings of the Buddha through the veil of maya, superimposed their separate beliefs, their beliefs in separation upon it and therefore created an idolatry around the Buddha that I was so special, I was born in such a special way and therefore I was the one and only perfect guru to ever appear on earth. That is why I have the magical ability to take them to enlightenment without them having to make the difficult and unpleasant effort to look at their own psychology, to overcome their attachments.
These are all illusions created by the separate mind. You cannot overcome separation through separation. You cannot create a separate self that grasps oneness, that experiences oneness, that comes into oneness. You cannot take a separate self and perfect it so it comes into oneness. You cannot overcome a state of consciousness, you cannot overcome a problem with the same state of consciousness that created the problem.
Some will say I am repeating myself. If you go back and look at some of the original teachings you will see that there was often a story told to illustrate a certain point. That story was then told one time and a second time and a third time, in some cases even more than three times. Why is this? Because most people do not grasp the spiritual teaching the first time they encounter it. You have the emotional, mental and identity body. You study a teaching and you grasp it at the emotional level, then you study it again and grasp it at the mental level, then you study it again and grasp it at the identity level. What if you do not grasp it at the emotional level? You can very easily read a teaching and it does not transform your consciousness. You understand the teaching intellectually and you use that intellectual understanding to create some kind of mental image of the teaching. That is not grasping the teaching.
What does it mean to actually grasp a spiritual teaching? Take note that I am not saying understand, I am saying grasp, internalize. When you take a specific spiritual teaching and you use that teaching as a mirror to look at yourself, to look at your own reaction, to look at your own psychology, and when you see something in yourself, become conscious of it and let it go, then you have made use of the teaching, then you have grasped the teaching. You have put it into action.
The real purpose of a spiritual teaching
Even beyond this, what is the purpose of an outer teaching? It is to connect you to the source of the teaching. How do you connect to the source of the teaching? Well, not through the mind of separation. How can the separate mind connect to anything? How can the separate mind connect to anything beyond separation? How can the separate mind connect to oneness?
Here you have the Buddha. I walk a spiritual path for many years, I reach a higher level of awareness, and I have an option. I can leave the earth behind permanently and go into nirvana. I will not describe what happens in nirvana, it is irrelevant to the current discussion. I have the option to leave the earth behind. Instead I choose to come back into a physical body in order to teach. What was it I wanted to accomplish? Well, I knew that my physical body had a limited lifespan. I knew that the direct teaching I could give in interacting with students could only happen for a certain time, so I aimed to give a teaching that could survive my physical body and for future generations help them walk the path. The path that I had walked myself to higher levels of awareness.
There are other levels of that path, as I have described, that can help you take various steps. What is the core of the path, the real purpose of the teaching? Well, how had I attained a higher level of awareness? I had attained it by overcoming illusions, dismissing these illusions one at a time. After I started overcoming these illusions, what started happening? What started happening was that I connected to my higher self, to the Buddha Nature within me. I connected to the one mind and I did not do this intellectually. I did not do this from a distance. I did not do this by creating a mental image of the one mind. I did not do this by using my separate mind to create a mental image of the one mind. Nay, I did it by stepping outside of the separate mind and experiencing the one mind directly. This is the true inner purpose of a teaching—to connect you to the one mind within yourself so that you do not project that the one mind is outside yourself.
What is the reality of the teaching that everything is the Buddha Nature? You have the Buddha Nature within you. How are you going to find the Buddha Nature? How are you going to find the Buddha? Only by looking within yourself. The separate mind, the ego cannot grasp this. It will forever be looking outside yourself, outside itself. You find a Buddhist teaching that talks about the Buddha and the separate mind projects: “Ah, the Buddha is outside yourself. He is there. He is there. He is behind that rock. He is in that cave up there in the Himalayas. He is in that scripture. He is in this practice.” There is a Buddhist teacher who came up with the idea that if you meet the Buddha in the road, you need to kill him. Why? Because if you meet a person and you identify that person as the Buddha, then by doing this you will prevent yourself from seeing the Buddha Nature within yourself and this will stop your progress on the path. It is better to kill that outer person, not physically, but mentally in your mind so that you still have a chance to discover the Buddha Nature within yourself.
How do you discover the Buddha Nature in yourself? Not through some intellectual understanding, but through a direct experience. What can give you that experience? Well, I have explained that the core of your being is this Conscious You, this conscious self. It created the outer personality. It created the contents of the emotional, mental and identity minds but it did not become those contents. You created the ego but you did not become the ego. You have only stepped into the ego as you take on a suit of armor. You cannot lose your ability to step outside of the ego and the outer mind. When you become conscious of this ability, when you cultivate it, when you use it, when you diminish the pull from the outer mind on your conscious mind, you will come to a point where you will spontaneously have this experience of stepping outside of your normal sense of self and therefore connecting to something greater, something beyond your normal sense of self. This is an experience of the one mind, of the Buddha Nature within yourself.
This is the goal of any real spiritual teaching. This is the goal of the Eightfold Path.
The aim of your efforts
Therefore, you can now evaluate your efforts. What are your efforts aimed at? Are they aimed at raising you up to some status, based on criteria defined in this world? Or are they aimed at giving you this experience of connectedness, oneness with the one mind, with the Buddha Nature? Seeing it within yourself instead of seeing it outside yourself. What is the purpose of the Buddha coming back from nirvana to teach? Was it to elevate himself forever and make all people on earth say: “Oh, once upon a time there was this wonderful perfect being that walked around on earth. We must worship him, we must follow him and then one day he will raise us up into perfection?” Was the Buddha really on a giant ego trip to elevate himself above all other people for all time? If you believe this then you are in a state of separation and you are projecting the dream of your own ego upon the Buddha. Better to kill that Buddha since that might lead to progress because worshipping him definitely will not lead to progress.
What was it that the Buddha wanted? He wanted to demonstrate an example that it is possible for any human being to reach a higher level of awareness, so that by looking at the Buddha as an example, people could say: “What one has done, all can do.” If the Buddha could attain a higher state of awareness, then I can too. How did the Buddha attain a higher awareness? By rediscovering the Buddha Nature within himself. The Buddha says everything is the Buddha Nature, meaning I have the Buddha Nature within myself, meaning I can rediscover the Buddha Nature in myself by following the Buddha’s example and teachings. If I project that the Buddha Nature could only appear in the Buddha, then I am not a true follower of the Buddha. I am not using the Buddha’s teachings and example. I am creating an idol and worshipping that idol.
Again, what should be your effort? Well, the aim of your effort on the spiritual path should be to have this experience of oneness, of connectedness. Now watch how your outer mind reacts to this. Your outer mind will say: “Ah, there must be some special effort that I can make to produce this experience, to guarantee this experience.” If you take what I have said here you will see the folly of this approach. There is no effort you can take based on the illusion of separation that is guaranteed to produce the experience of oneness. What you need to do is not make an effort, not make a better effort, not make a more intense effort. You need to stop making an effort. You need to stop making efforts through the separate self aimed at producing spiritual progress.
Now I have said there are efforts you can make in order to overcome illusions but there is no effort you can make in order to experience oneness. In order to experience oneness, you have to stop making an effort. You have to actually silence the mind but how do you silence the mind? What effort can I make to silence the mind, the mind will say. There is no effort you can make.
The effort to stop the mind
Many, many people in the Buddhist tradition have contemplated meditation and they have seen that the mind always interferes. The monkey mind comes up with thoughts so they think they have to find some higher effort that can silence the mind. The more you try to make an effort to silence the mind, the more you are actually using the mind, so the more trapped you become in the mind. Thinking you can use the mind to silence the mind just becomes a trap, another trap. What can you do? Well, you can walk the path. You can follow the teachings I have given here. As you overcome these separate selves, there will come points where you will spontaneously have an experience of stepping outside your normal sense of self and connecting to something beyond your own mind.
An experience of oneness is not something you can produce. It is something you receive. You might consider it a gift or a grace, but still be careful not to think that there is some external force that bestows it upon you. It just happens spontaneously as you walk the path. Therefore, you need to have patience with yourself, continue to walk the path and wait for it to happen. Be, in a sense, not attached to whether it happens or does not happen, because if you want it to happen, what are you doing? You are using the outer mind to make an effort to make it happen. and this pushes it away from you. Many, many spiritual people have actually reached a level where they have cleared out many of the obstacles in their minds. They are able, because there is enough openness in their emotional, mental and identity bodies, that they can experience a connection to their higher self. They are able to do it, but they are still in their conscious mind so focused on making an effort that they are pushing the experience away from them.
There is no effort you can make. You can only surrender effort. You can give up. You can let go. Let go of your attachment. Many spiritual people have an attachment to having these peak experiences and the attachment prevents their minds from letting go and therefore pushes away the experience. Some people have done this for decades, even lifetimes, constantly being so focused in their minds instead of letting go. Most people who are open to this teaching already have some openness in their minds. Therefore, you could at this very moment experience connection but you can only experience it if you are able to let go. Instead of being in your normal state of mind or instead of even being in the mind that wants to have a certain experience, you go into a completely neutral state of mind. Come what may. If you have an experience, you have an experience. If you do not have an experience, you continue walking the path.
There are efforts that you can make on the spiritual path that will help your growth. There are efforts that you can make that take you gradually to higher and higher levels. There comes a level of the path where you also need to contemplate that beyond making the effort, and I am not saying you should stop making the effort, but beyond making the effort you need to cultivate the ability to not make an effort. To let go, to surrender, to give up, to flow with the river of life, however you want to see it. You are not making an effort. The supreme effort is effortlessness.
With this, I seal you. For me, giving this long discourse has been completely effortless. Has it been an effort for you to study this discourse? Well, then consider what I have said about letting go, because you can come to a point where studying and internalizing the discourse becomes effortless, and that is when you have fully grasped higher effort.
Copyright © 2023 Kim Michaels