Please note: Many of these ideas and some of these words are taken from the book A Heart As Wide as the World written by Sharon Salzberg. This book has been both a gift and an inspiration providing me with greater clarity and giving my life focus while bringing it both peace and freedom. I might suggest that you make the path your path for the new year. So, onward to the path and upward toward…
The path of purification is taken from classical Buddhist teachings. The path represents a journey from morality to ultimate liberation. It is a journey of the mind which leads, in a cause and effect manner, to true happiness and liberation. For an individual with a spiritual orientation or interest, it is a path that is logical and possible. It simply makes sense. As Richard Bach in, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, reminds us:
Each of us is in truth an idea of the Great Gull, an unlimited idea of freedom…break the chains of your thought and you break the chains of your body, too!
The path begins with morality. The definition of morality differs significantly from the western or Judeo-Christian view of morality. It has nothing to do with right or wrong. It is, in fact, a way of life that anyone can attain. Morality means to live with intentions that reflect our love and compassion for ourselves and others. The key word is intention. Most individuals intend to reflect their love of self and others. The challenge becomes one of living our intentions or acting in a manner that is consistent with our intentions. On the path, there is no one or no “higher power” that is judging us. We merely have to live in harmony (as much as possible as often as possible) with the innate truth of our interdependence. Our focus is on self and others. Conversely, the focus of others is on themselves and others (or me). If we remind ourselves and others of this on a daily basis, we help to maintain the focus on living with intent to reflect our love and compassion for ourselves and others. Every person simply needs to decide…do I wish to live with this moral intent?
Living with moral intent allows an individual to reach the next step along the path. This step is called restraint. It is at this point that we make a conscious effort to avoid harmful action to self and others. Of course, everyone is capable of inflicting harm. As we live mindfully, we choose to restrain (as best as possible) from inflicting harm in any form or fashion. Again, there is no judge or negative consequence awaiting us if we (accidentally) inflict harm. Inflicting harm is not our intent. We can keep working at it and getting better at it. This ongoing effort on our part creates a “gladdening” within us. We feel good about ourselves. This leads to a state of lightness and ease in our lives. As we avoid harmful action to self and others, we keep feeling better and better. We will experience a true and heartfelt connection to others because we are doing fewer and fewer things that separate and more and more things that unite.
At this point, we are feeling really good about ourselves and getting closer and closer to others. This makes us happy. In fact, happiness is the next step on the path. More and more, we are experiencing peace, composure and strength and they do not leave us. They become our constant companions. This level of happiness is based on the knowing of our interconnectedness to others and on the integrity of acting from our deepest values. We are being true to ourselves and this makes us really happy. We are being true to others and this makes us additionally happy. We are respecting ourselves more and respecting others more. This state leads us to the next state on the path.
So far, we have not been religious or had to follow any religious doctrine or dogma. Instead, we have been true to ourselves, others and the universal principles of love and kindness. Does this not create a better world?
Instead of being religious, we have been spiritual. We live with an internal knowing which is based in our spirit, deep within our being. We are, therefore, being spiritual and following our spiritual intuition. We just needed a reminder or two. It is not difficult to begin the journey. The path begins with what we already know. It began with the state of morality and has lead us to the state of happiness. We are, however, just at the early stages of our journey along the path of purification.
Because we are happy, our life becomes more tranquil. The state of tranquility is the next state on the path. We have a quiet mind. We are content. We are glad. We have few worries, no guilt or remorse. We are peaceful (tranquil) and comfortable with the moment. We are not living for some future event or for some future judgment. Our energy and focus is on the here and now and we continue to live with moral intent.
The next step evolves from this tranquil place. In a tranquil state we are able to concentrate with few distractions. We have a steadiness of mind and a focus that brings light and happiness to ourselves and others. This is the state of concentration. It is the doorway to insight and wisdom and the foundation for the development of correct knowledge and vision. We can see things as they really are. This allows us to be a part of everything and detached from everything both at the same time. We see how we fit into the scheme of the universe, life, community and all of existence. We are detached because we understand how we are unique and how the path is working both on our behalf as well as on behalf of the entire universe. Concentration leads to detachment.
Dispassion follows detachment. We simply exist. We are relaxed and confident about our living. We have a sense of wholeness and sufficiency regardless of our life situation. It becomes easy for us to let go in the face of the changing circumstances that confront us. This state of equanimity empowers us further. Our experience is our experience, nothing more, nothing less. We, on the other hand, are on a mission. Greed and anger fade away. We no longer hold on to pleasure or flee from pain. We are simply, working the program and following the path!
If this is confusing to you, go back, review the progression and retrace the states on the path. So far, they are: morality, restraint, happiness, tranquility, concentration, detachment and dispassion.
The final state is liberation. Liberation is arriving home. It is the “sure hearts” release from all other states. The “sure heart” is the heart within us that knows, that knew all along, how to be. This is the state of true knowing and fully being. It is knowing the truth so powerful that there is no turning back from it. It is the arrival. It is the place where “heaven” enters earth and beings become enlightened on earth and life continues on earth in a “heavenly” state. Our own experience has led us to the truth of all life for all beings. We are liberated from all restraint, from all limitation and we discover freedom as we once knew it before we were created. No one or no thing can control us. We have arrived and our journey is complete!
In case, you were wondering what this has to do with you…consider this:
Are you being true to yourself and to others? Are you truly happy? Does your life have meaning? Do you have a purpose or direction for your life? Is the world, as we know it today, in need of more unity and less separation? Can one person make a difference? Does making a difference matter? If each person pursued the path of purification, would not the world be a MUCH better place for all beings? What do you want for yourself, your family, your friends, your world?
The path of purification is a gift that I pass on to all who read this. You must then give the gift to yourself. Live it. Let your true being become you. If the path becomes your way, others will know. You may, at some future point, desire to share it with someone who does not know about it. What more can we do with our lives? Just imagine…