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Breaking Through Into Buddhahood

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by Sangharakshita

... by bit.

There they are in all their intractable tangibility, there they are like great rocks and great boulders blocking our path, so sometimes we have just to break through, sometimes we just have to burst through, with the help of a sort of charge of spiritual dynamite regardless of consequences -- it can*t always be smooth, it can*t always be easy, it can*t always be gradual.

Sometimes it has to be violent and abrupt and if you like even dramatic, and as I say, regardless of consequences. We have to break through, we have to burst through. We may say that the average spiritual life consists of periods of fairly steady progress, just a little bit at a time, you know, just very slow, just very imperceptible, from month to month and year to year. You look back after say three or four years, you think `Yes, maybe I made a bit of progress -- I*m not quite so bad tempered as I was, I*m just a wee bit more mindful.* So periods of fairly steady progress, perhaps even apparent stagnation, separated by more or less violent and dramatic breakthroughs. This is the picture as it were, this is the graph as it were, of the average vigorous spiritual life. A period of very slow progress then a breakthrough, to another higher level, then slow steady progress, breakthrough. Slow steady progress, breakthrough. This is the average picture.

So, this evening we*re concerned with the aspect of breakthrough. Now we*re going to discuss the subject under three main headings. First of all; What one breaks through. Secondly; How one breaks through, and thirdly; Where and When one breaks through. And these headings are not mutually exclusive, and there will be as we deal with them, quite a bit of overlapping.

So first of all, What one breaks through: Well what does one have to break through? In principle one has to break through everything which is mundane, everything which is conditioned, everything which is, as it were, of this world, everything which is part and parcel of the samsara, everything which represents a segment or a spoke or an aspect of the Wheel of Life. One has to break through, one has to burst through all this.

But this, though true, is too general. The mundane, the conditioned, the samsara, has so many different aspects, and these different aspects of the samsara are like so many thick, so many impenetrable veils, like so many barriers, like so many roadblocks, like so many, as I said, great boulders piled high in our path, and all of these have to be broken through. And this evening I*m going to discuss just four of the more important blockages; four of the more important aspects of the conditioned, of the mundane, which have to be broken through if Buddhahood is to be attained. First of all, negative emotions. Secondly, psychological conditionings. Thirdly, rational thinking. Fourthly, time sense. All of these have to be broken through if we are to get anywhere near Buddhahood.

First of all: Negative Emotions Now, more than once in the past we*ve had occasion to speak about these, especially in their verbal manifestations. So what are they? In their primary form the negative emotions are three in number. There*s craving, in the sense of neurotic desire.* There*s hatred and there*s fear.

These are the three primary forms of the negative emotions. But there are very many secondary and tertiary forms: There*s anxiety -- a sort of diffused fear. There*s insecurity, there*s jealousy, there*s self-pity, guilt, remorse, contempt, conceit, envy, depression , pessimism, gloom, alarm, always be smooth, it can*t always be easy, it can*t always be gradual. Sometimes it has to be violent and abrupt and if you like even dramatic, and as I say, regardless of consequences. We have to break through, we have to burst through. We may say that the average spiritual life consists of periods of fairly steady progress, just a little bit at a time, you know, just very slow, just very imperceptible, from month to month and year to year. You look back after say three or four years, you think `Yes, maybe I made a bit of progress -- I*m not quite so bad tempered as I was, I*m just a wee bit more mindful.* So periods of fairly steady progress, perhaps even apparent stagnation, separated by more or less violent and dramatic breakthroughs. This is the picture as it were, this is the graph as it were, of the average vigorous spiritual life. A period of very slow progress then a breakthrough, to another higher level, then slow steady progress, breakthrough. Slow steady progress, breakthrough. This is the average picture.

So, this evening we*re concerned with the aspect of breakthrough. Now we*re going to discuss the subject under three main headings. First of all; What one breaks through. Secondly; How one breaks through, and thirdly; Where and When one breaks through. And these headings are not mutually exclusive, and there will be as we deal with them, quite a bit of overlapping.

So first of all, What one breaks through: Well what does one have to break through? In principle one has to break through everything which is mundane, everything which is conditioned, everything which is, as it were, of this world, everything which is part and parcel of the samsara, everything which represents a segment or a spoke or an aspect of the Wheel of Life. One has to break through, one has to burst through all this.

But this, though true, is too general. The mundane, the conditioned, the samsara, has so many different aspects, and these different aspects of the samsara are like so many thick, so many impenetrable veils, like so many barriers, like so many roadblocks, like so many, as I said, great boulders piled high in our path, and all of these have to be broken through. And this evening I*m going to discuss just four of the more important blockages; four of the more important aspects of the conditioned, of the mundane, which have to be broken through if Buddhahood is to be attained. First of all, negative emotions. Secondly, psychological conditionings. Thirdly, rational thinking. Fourthly, time sense. All of these have to be broken through if we are to get anywhere near Buddhahood.

First of all: Negative Emotions Now, more than once in the past we*ve had occasion to speak about these, especially in their verbal manifestations. So what are they? In their primary form the negative emotions are three in number. There*s craving, in the sense of neurotic desire. There*s hatred and there*s fear.

These are the three primary forms of the negative emotions. But there are very many secondary and tertiary forms: There*s anxiety -- a sort of diffused fear. There*s insecurity, there*s jealousy, there*s self-pity, guilt, remorse, contempt, conceit, envy, depression, pessimism, gloom, alarm, despondency, despair, suspicion, resentment... Now I don*t want to say too much about them, because over-preoccupation with negative emotions is itself likely to generate negative emotions.

So I*m not going to say very much about them at all, but they certainly have certain characteristics in common as we*ve seen on other occasions. All these negative emotions represent leakages, drainages of emotional energy. When we indulge in negative emotions, whether in their primary, their secondary, their tertiary forms, energy, psychical energy even spiritual energy is draining away from us in all directions all the time, and indulgence in the negative emotions therefore weakens us. And this causes us to withdraw into ourselves -- if you haven*t got much energy you don*t want to give out. If you*re weaker, if you*ve lost energy, you tend to withdraw into yourself, to contract.

So the negative emotions cause us to contract into what we may describe as a cold, hard, tight knot of separative selfhood. This is the effect of indulging constantly, persistently in negative emotions. And unfortunately we may say that the negative emotions are extremely widespread.

They*re practically all-pervasive, and it seems to be the special function of several ubiquitous agencies to intensify the negative emotions as much as possible. Take, for instance, the daily newspaper. You see many newspapers specializing in the sensational, the horrible, the shocking. If there*s a good juicy murder this is just what they love to get hold of, and they gloat over it page after page. In this way negative emotions are stimulated. And then there*s the advertising industry; a very large, a very important, a very powerful industry. It*s special function seems to be to stimulate neurotic craving, to multiply people*s wants, not to meet their needs, but to multiply their wants. And then we find that most of the people that we meet, outside of course of our own movement I hope, are negative rather than positive in their emotional attitudes and their emotional responses. You get from most people a negative rather than a positive feeling, if one moves in ordinary society. So we have to be very careful not to allow ourselves to be influenced, not to be tinged ourselves with this grey, negative emotional attitude. We have to break through all this, burst through all this, into a positive emotional state; a state of love, a state of faith and devotion, a state of compassion, a state of joy. And we should try, we should do our best to encourage positive emotions, positive attitudes in other people.

Now secondly: Psychological Conditionings These too are something to be broken through - psychological conditionings. But what are they? Psychological conditionings may be defined as factors that influence, even determine our mental attitudes and our behaviour without our being fully aware of it, or perhaps without our being aware of it at all.

Suppose for instance we are born in this country, born in England. We are naturally brought ...

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