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Stream Entry - the Point of No Return

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by Sangharakshita

The Higher Evolution of Man

Tape 80: Stream Entry: The Point of No Return Many years ago I spent some time on a sacred mountain in South India and the name of this sacred mountain was Arunachala. This is a Sanskrit word and it means the mountain of light.

And according to local tradition, according to local Hindu belief, Arunachala originally was just this, a mountain of light, an enormous mass of incandescent radiance of pure light, but this was of course many millions upon millions of years ago, way back in the past, in the dim, legendary, mythical, primeval, even primordial past. According to Indian, according to Hindu tradition, this was in the Satya Yuga, in the Age of Truth, the first of the four Ages into which Hindus and Buddhists traditionally divide the history of the world. But then, we are told, according to this tradition, a change took place. The Age of Truth lasted a very long time, millions of years, a very beautiful period, an ideal period, a paradise-like period, but eventually, as always happens, it seems, the world deteriorated just a little. It entered upon what the Hindus call the Treta Yuga, which is the second of the four Ages, and in this Age, according to Hindu tradition, according to local Hindu belief, Arunachala appeared not as a mountain of light any more - it deteriorated too - but as a great mountain, a great glowing pile or heap, of rubies. And then, we are told, the world deteriorated a little more still. It entered upon the Dvapara Yuga, the third of the four Ages, and in this Age Arunachala appeared merely as a mountain of gold. And of course the world deteriorated even more, things became, we are told, really bad. The world entered then the Kali Yuga, the fourth and the last Age. And Kali Yuga means the Age of Darkness, and this of course is the Age in which we are living at present. In this Age of Darkness, we are told, Arunachala appears as a mountain of stones. The spiritually-minded, however, we are told, still see it not as a mountain of stones, not even as a mountain of gold or rubies, they still see it as a great mountain of light.

I was reminded of all this recently, all this came floating back into recollection, because in these lectures, in this whole course in fact, we have been climbing up the side of a mountain. Perhaps, in a sense, climbing up the side of a mountain - if we did but know it - of light. Week by week we've been making some progress. Progress not on the level, not on the flat as it were, not even up the hypotenuse of the triangle of our first chart. As we saw I think last week, our journey has been rather up the side of a pyramid or up the side of a mountain. And as we also saw last week, the higher we have climbed the less in extent, the narrower if you like, has become the diameter of the mountain, the diameter of the peak up which we have been climbing - in other words, more literally, the shorter the length of time with which we have been concerned. So much so that eventually, as we go up and up, concerning ourselves with a more and more limited period, at ever higher and higher levels, eventually we shall find ourselves standing on a veritable pin-point.

Recapitulation In the first lecture, you may remember, we were concerned with nothing less than the whole evolutionary process, the process of the Lower Evolution, as we called it, the process also of the Higher Evolution. In other words we were concerned with a vast period, a period covering hundreds of millions of years. And we saw that we ourselves, that Man himself, stood right in the centre of this process. We saw that the Lower Evolution revealed what Man had been, whereas the Higher Evolution revealed what he could be, could become, can become.

In the second lecture, we were concerned with a much more limited, a much more restricted period. We were concerned with the whole period of human history, that is to say with a period of about half a million years, in round figures. But especially were we concerned with the Axial Age as, following Karl Jaspers, we called it: that is to say, with the 600-year period from 800 to 200 BC, the great period during which the whole course of the Higher Evolution commenced; the period during which, or the Age in which, emerged the New Man.

Then in the third lecture, we went on to deal with Art and the Spiritual Life, with the Fine Arts, that is to say, in their relationship with and to the course of the Higher Evolution. We saw, you may remember, that the true artist, the artistic genius if you like, was himself a kind of New Man.

We saw that he created out of the abundance of his experience or a higher level of being and consciousness than is accessible to the ordinary, to the average man. And we saw, therefore, that the true artist, the creative genius, the artistic genius, occupied a higher place in the scale of evolution.

Then in the fourth lecture we went on to explore the subject of Religion: Ethnic and Universal, and we listed the characteristics of each. We saw that ethnic religion was, amongst other characteristics, on the whole collective and as such belonging to the Lower rather than to the Higher Evolution, even though its branches did extend up into the Higher Evolution. Universal religion, we saw on the other hand, amongst other characteristics was more individual and belonged as such more to the Higher Evolution, even though its roots did go deep down into the Lower Evolution. Looking at the different religions of the world in turn we saw, for example, that Hinduism was a good example of an ethnic religion and Buddhism of a universal religion.

In this way we climbed up the side of our mountain, higher and higher. Last week, for the first time in this series or course, we dealt specifically with Buddhism, and we dealt with Buddhism as the Path of the Higher Evolution. In other words, we were concerned last week with a very high level indeed of the evolutionary process. And you may recollect that we studied the path of the Higher Evolution in terms of the Twelve Positive Links, as they are called in the Buddhist tradition. We saw how the experience of Suffering gives rise to faith, in the sense of a positive emotional attitude towards ultimate things. We saw that faith gives rise to joy, joy to rapture or ecstasy, rapture to peace, peace to bliss, bliss to concentration of mind, of heart, of being; and concentration, in its turn, eventually gives rise to the knowledge and vision of things as they really are. And then this in turn to withdrawal and so on.

---oOo--- Now tonight we reach, we come to, a higher level still. Tonight we are concerned with an even more limited, an even more restricted, field, at an even higher level. Tonight we find ourselves standing, we may say, right on the top of the mountain, find ourselves in fact standing on a pin-point. And that is because we come tonight to the subject of Stream Entry, The Point of No Return. Now this does not mean that our journey is ended. The Zen people have a saying: When you want to climb a mountain, start at the top. But we haven't started at the top, we have started at the base. We have worked our way up now, to the top, to that pin-point, but that isn't the end.

We haven't yet reached our destination, haven't yet reached our goal. In any case there are two more lectures and obviously they will have to be filled in somehow. This fact that we have reached the top of the mountain, reached this pin-point tonight, means that tonight we break through into another dimension. And this of course is the dimension of the transcendental; if you like, of the unconditioned; if you like, of the Absolute, Ultimate Reality. It is as though, continuing this particular way of thinking, on the top of our pyramid or our mountain up which we have been climbing, the top of which we've now reached, on the pin-point of which we now stand, it is as though on the top of this pyramid there was another pyramid, standing on top of this first one; but standing not on its base, standing inverted, balanced on its point, the downward-pointing point of the second pyramid balancing on the upward-pointing point of the first pyramid. So that, if one wished, one could as it were pass through the point of the lower pyramid up into the higher pyramid, up inside it, penetrating as though it were hollow into its interior - that is to say, penetrating into a new dimension altogether; the only difference between this second, inverted pyramid and the first pyramid being that whereas the first pyramid has a base as well as a point, this one, the inverted one, has a point but it has no base. In other words, being inverted it has no ceiling. There is only within this second, this inverted, this higher pyramid, there is only the possibility of infinite ascension and infinite expansion, going on to infinity without reaching any base, without reaching any ceiling. However, I am not going to continue with this particular comparison.

I want now to get on directly with the subject-matter of tonight's lecture and I want to introduce a new comparison. And this new comparison will, I hope, make clear what exactly is meant by `The Point of No Return'. It is something I have often mentioned. I have mentioned it from time to time in the course of lectures but as far as I know, I have never really explained it properly or in detail. So with the help of this new comparison, I hope to be able to throw some light, at least, on this rather obscure and very important, very significant topic. I also hope to be able to elucidate, incidentally, the conception of what I've called sometimes the `gravitational pull' - this being an expression which has cropped up rather frequently of late, in lectures and discussions.

Now I am going to start by asking you ...

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