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Liberation and Self-Realization

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 Rama ~ Dr. Frederick Lenz

Self-realization is liberation. Liberation is self-realization. There is no beginning and there is no end. Nothing is final. There is no absolute. There is no highest point, nor is there a lowest point. These configurations are ideas. Ideas are primitive constructs, symbolic representations, reflections in a mirror. We see the world through thought, not only in the sense of individual thoughts that we think, but thoughts that have a mass, that have collected, that have formed composites.

There is no way to see the world. In this world, and in other worlds too, there are views. What we see in a view is not necessarily what is in the view or all that is in the view. We have to separate to some extent the perceiver from that which is perceived, or we have to lose all distinction whatsoever. We see life in terms of physicality. We see a world with buildings, trees, mountains, oceans, people. We are cognizant of time, the sense that there is mutability. Time is change. It's the separation of eternity from itself. When eternity is separated from itself, we see it appear in different forms. Time is not a movement in space. Space is a movement in time. There is no deterioration and there is no creation. There are projections, moments of existence. Each moment is perfect.

For example, if we were to look at an apple and we saw the apple as it was growing, and we watched the different stages of its growth, and we watched it ripen and fall from the tree and then we watched it decay, and we watched the seeds from that apple root themselves into the ground and grow. A huge tree eventually came forth from that apple and the tree provided a place for birds to have nests. One of the birds in that nest one day was flying to the court of a king and it flew in a window and took a precious gem. When the king couldn't find the gem, which was a symbol of his authority, the people said that it was a sign from the gods that the king should not have ruled the kingdom. The king was overthrown. His family had to leave the kingdom; they left in poverty. But the king had a son and one day the son grew up and he came back to the kingdom and he reclaimed the throne. He married, had children himself, and one day one of those children was out by the apple tree, the old ancient apple tree. And a windstorm had blown down a nest and in it he found the jewel, and as he looked into the jewel he saw himself, all the lives that he had ever had or would ever possibly have, all the creations of God stretched out infinitely, all times, past present and future for all beings—worlds unimagined. And he saw that each part of this was a part of himself—that the world and all the worlds were his body, that all the beings that peopled it were his mind, and that his soul was nirvana, which was all of this and more. And seeing this, and seeing us listening to this story, he came to see that there was no time, that the tree had never grown, that the apple¾the first apple from which all this came forth¾was still sitting in a garden, by a river.

So reality does appear to exist. There does appear to be birth, youth. People appear to have children, but all of it's a dream. These are isolated moments that are only connected by perception. There is no separation.

Self-realization is that awareness. Not the awareness that this world is a dream—that's a part of self-realization—not the awareness that there is time because there is time and that's part of self-realization. Not the awareness that there is no such thing as time, that there are only isolated incidents, but that, in other words, the apple is full-grown in one picture, the apple is only partially grown in another, the apple has ripened and fallen and its seeds have taken root in another picture. The seeds have grown into a giant tree in another picture; the bird has built its nest in another picture; it has taken the jewel, in another picture, from the king. The king and his family, homeless, wander poverty-stricken in strange lands in another picture in our album. The son of the king comes back and reclaims the kingdom in another picture. Further in the album we have another picture, and this is the new king's son, going to the old gnarly apple tree and finding the jewel. In another picture looking into the jewel and seeing all of the universes, all of the worlds, all of the dimensions, all times, all places. In another picture, seeing that there was something behind all that, and beyond it all, which we call nirvana, the self, God. In another picture, watching us listening to all of this. In another picture, being back at the beginning. None of it had taken place. It was all a dream, and on waking from the dream it all went away.

Now, time is our turning of the pages of this vignette, of this collection of photographs. Each one of these events is happening independently. There is no cycle of growth and development. Rather there are moments of perfectly manifested reality. They appear to be in sequence because we place them in sequence. A flower never unfolds. The sun never rises. All of the moments are independent and only seem to be connected by a causal chain, which we call time, because we are time and it is we who are connecting them with our consciousness. They all exist independently. So the moment of the apple at ripeness exists. It's separate; it's like a house you can go into. Next to it is another house and another and another. The apple falling, the child with the jewel, each moment is a reality in itself.

Everything always exists, in other words. Everything that has ever been or will ever be exists. What we do is that we, as a body of perception, take a tour and we visit different things, and as we visit them, we say that they "are.” When we leave them, we say that they “no longer are.” But everything always has existed and always will exist. The awareness of this is part of self-realization but is not self-realization.

Self-realization is not a state of being, although all states of being are contained within it. Self-realization is like the thin air—only you have become the thin air. There is no sense of form. There's no sense of being a person. When you close your eyes and meditate, there's no sense that you are meditating. All there is is the thin air.

It's like going down to the beach on a windy day and there's no one there. It's too windy and cold. All the bathers have gone away. We walk down to the beach; we sit out looking at that ocean and we decide to meditate, so we fold our legs, a half-lotus position or a lotus cross-legged position. We sit up straight; we close our eyes. At first we have a sense that, "I'm sitting here on the beach meditating. I can hear the wind. I can hear the seagulls when they cry as they go by, whirling in the wind. I can hear the sound of the water slapping against the shore not far away. I'm here alone on this beach, in the wind.” Then, something happens. The sense of being there on the beach goes away. The wind is still there, but no one is there to listen to it. Instead of hearing it as a separate wind, as separate from anything else, we don't perceive that. We see that it never was separate. There never was a beach. We were never sitting on it. The sea gulls were never—or always—were flying. Nothing is distinct and separate.

It's like water. We look at water and we can't separate it from itself. We pour more water into it. It's all water. We take water out from it. It's all water. The water can assume different shapes. It can be frozen. It can be like an ice cube and it seems hard and solid and independent, but then it melts and it's nothing but water. Fluid. The waves of the ocean arise and have a separate birth, crashing on the shore, but then back into the ocean they go. They never left it.

There is no movement in nirvana. There is no sameness, and one does not consider it to be timeless because one is not one. It is you, my friend, who go away. What we discover is that it was not the waves or the birds or the wind that were standing out and being separate from existence. It was we who were standing out and being separate from existence.

We take an eraser and we erase ourselves, kind of like one of those “Road Runner” cartoons, in which suddenly, in the middle of the cartoon, the cartoon would appear to stop and the hand of the artist would come onto the screen. And he would erase the Road Runner, a kind of surrealistic moment when something that was not supposed to be in our view comes into our view and changes everything.

This is self-realization. We erase ourselves. We go away. But we don't really go away and we don't really erase ourselves, since we were never there to begin with. We weren't there to begin with, in that what we are or conceive of ourselves as, is a perception. We've decided what we are. That's the dream. But when the dream fades, it's not that we don't exist. How could we not exist, since we never existed? It was only a dream. Dream after dream after dream. That's life.

The perceiver of the dream, the one before whom the dream is unfolding, is what we call the self. When we speak of self-realization, we don't mean the realization of the dream. The realization of the dream, or the different dreams viewing the movie, is what we already know. Oh, we could view different movies. We view youth, we view maturity, we view death, war, peace, space exploration, love, self-giving, selfishness, vanity. These are the different movies, the little videocassettes that we can pop into our screen and view. But this is not self-realization. True, one does not exist without the other, I suppose. But self-realization means the awareness, not of the movie, watching the movie, but of the self that watches.

Who or what is this self? This is our topic in self-discovery. Yes, the movie is a part of the self too. The movie comes out of the self and returns to the self. But it's a different part of the self. It's like a wave. Frozen in time. None of the waves are really moving, you just think they are. As a surfer is poised on the wave, on his board, cutting quickly to the left, he'll always be there, in that moment. He's never left it. He had no birth. He didn't go to school. He didn't purchase the board. None of those things ever were. Only that moment when he's cutting quickly to the left, frozen in time, a snapshot, a photograph, frozen reality, melting. In another picture he may be on the shore with his arm around his girlfriend. In another picture he's an old man in the hospital, dying. But these are not the same person. These are movies that the self is watching.

We can freeze a frame, and when we freeze the frame we see a moment. We stop on a singular image. We stop the movie and watch him on the crest of the wave. But that's what it really is, you see. Life is composed of singular images. A movie is composed of tiny little singular images, and they go very quickly. When they go quickly they appear to have form, they appear to be solid and substantial. They appear to have movement. What we call life is movement. And this is the samsara.

The samsara is the movement of life, and you, an individual self, a form, a moment on a wave, are bound. You are bound by the frame. You have forgotten that you are watching the movie. You’ve become so engrossed in the movie of your life that you've forgotten that you're sitting there watching. You're in the movie, now you're participating in it. Self-realization means taking a big step backward. This is liberation, being liberated, and turning our attention to that which we are, the self, while enjoying the movie at the same time. Pass the popcorn please.

Life is a film, a theater, the theater of the soul. We play different roles on different stages. At death we walk off stage, at birth we walk on stage. Self-realization is that timeless, perfect awareness. Well, what is God then? God is that which watches. God is neither masculine nor feminine, although God can assume any form. God is that eternal reality that is in everything, the world of time, space and condition, pleasure and pain, birth, growth, maturation, decay and death. Spinning, spinning, spinning in this world, always spinning. Beings caught in this samsara, in this web of existence, spinning from birth to death to rebirth, again and again, thousands of incarnations in time, in a cycle of existence, a cycle of plays. Then one day the plays end, the screen goes blank, there's nothing. Everything returns to its original formlessness. Then another dream begins.

But who is it who's dreaming all of this? Ecstasy. Pure ecstasy. Joy beyond understanding. Bliss beyond the dry dullness of the mind's philosophical ranging. Light. Light beyond any light in this world. The substance and the essence of all existence is this light, the transcendental light. Self-realization is the awareness of the finite, of the physical world, of the movie, the moments in time—the bird taking the jewel, the king being banished, the son returning—this wonderful movie, seeing it and understanding it in all of its glory. Self-realization means, then, meditating on the beach and watching the birds and the waves and the sound of the wind blur and fade, until we can no longer distinguish one from the other. They become one sound, one resonance, which we find that we are. We can no longer distinguish ourselves from the bird or the sounds of the waves or the wind. There's not even a sense of being able to distinguish anything because we've forgotten that one could distinguish, that one could remember, that one could be. There's nothing. Nothing in particular, that is. Or everything, or beyond everything and nothing, which are concepts of the mind, which is sitting in a body on the beach, contemplating all of this. While not too far away a child is looking into a jewel, seeing all of the worlds stretching out endlessly.

To become conscious of God, to become God's consciousness, to become God, to be God and to be beyond God, God being beyond God, God having an existence, separate from the creation. Going beyond God to that from which God came forth, which sustains God, to which God will return. To be that, to merge with that, to lose oneself and find oneself endlessly again and again in that—self-realization—no ego, no desires, no weight problems, no tax forms, no death to die, no life to live. Not an empty extinction. How could being the entire cosmos and all of its wonder—in all of its stages and cycles, and yet being that which is beyond them all, the invisible—be extinction? Extinction? Extinction of what, of whom? How can that which has never been be extinguished?

None of this has ever been or will ever be. All is an appearance. All is an illusion. Illusions are truth. All illusions are real. We say “illusions,” meaning that they're shadows. I'm in Colorado; I'm walking through a field. I look up at the sky and I see a huge cloud moving across, very swiftly across and above. And then I look out and I see its shadow moving quickly over the land. One after another the clouds drift through Colorado, casting their shadows on the ground, moving quickly. The shadow covers a cow and moves on. It covers an old farm house. It goes across the highway, past the barbed wire fences, moving endlessly. Illusions are shadows moving endlessly across the ground.

The shadows are quite real, but they're shadows. They have very little substance. Oh, for the moment that they're there they appear to have a lot of substance, I would agree. Then again, who am I to agree? The shadow passes. The light is there again. Was the shadow ever there? No. The shadow was never there; the light has always been there. The moment with the shadow, when the shadow was there—well, light had never been there because the shadow was timeless. Only you create time by joining these events together. But they don't join together. There's no separativity.

Liberation from the finite. Liberation from the things that make you unhappy? Well, things don't make you unhappy. People don't make you unhappy. You make yourself unhappy. Because you are in the cycle, you're stuck. You're stuck in time. Liberation from time. Liberation means no rebirth. Now, does that mean you don't reincarnate? Well, you never did reincarnate. It's a way of talking, I suppose. Oh, you may have had countless lives and many more stretching before you, and what else have you got to do with your time? What does that have to do with liberation? I'm not sure there was a question. Was there? I've forgotten.

I knew there was some reason that we were talking about all this. Seems to have slipped my mind. What mind? I'm not sure. That word came from somewhere. Must have been an archaic language that they used in another time, on some planet someplace. They all went away, those people, though. I remember that. Oh, there were a lot of them; they thought they were important. And they were. And they went away. Gee, they didn't give us a forwarding address, I'm sorry. They moved out. Yes? One of them was your sister? And your father and your mother and all your friends, your relatives, people you met, experiences you¾all of them¾yes, they did live here for a while, yes, I remember them. Uh-huh. No, no, the city folks, they all moved, yes. Country folks too. Oh, the military? They went too, yes, uh-huh. You were worried about the bombs falling? Well, they couldn't fall. Oh, I suppose they did. But then they went away. The earth, yes, we had it in a file here. I think it was in one of our cabinets. Let me look for you—uh, earth, let's see, solar, yes, no, I'm sorry we've thrown that file out. Uh-huh? Yes, well, if we find it we'll call you, OK. Where are you staying? Nirvana? Is there someplace else? Oh good, yes, OK, we'll find you, no problem, we'll just, uh, the computer will take care of it.

It's a good model, it's a new one. It has everything in it—all of existence, all of the cycles, all of the stages. This computer is so good, as a matter of fact, that it has all of the past, present and future on one chip. All of the other possibilities on another chip. All of the impossibilities on a third chip. The fourth chip, well, that's the fourth dimension, the superconscious. Oh, yes, we've got that too, uh-huh, we've got that. God? Yep, God's on another chip. Yep. We've got it all. The computer itself? Oh, yes, self-replicating DNA. We grow them. Out back. Yes, that tree that used to be the apple tree? Uh-huh? Yeah, some kid found this jewel, and we got it and we looked inside of it and we saw all of this happening, so we decided that it was. In one facet of the jewel we were sitting here having this conversation, I was explaining how the computer worked. Uh-huh. Then some guy came in and he brought the beach with him. Suddenly it got very sandy here, and we were all sitting around and the waves were coming through. Fortunately we had the computer waterproofed. I can't tell you, I was very nervous about that. Uh-huh? Yes, sure! Well, it's been nice seeing you too, and listen, you know, drop by some time again in any one of the possible futures the computer can construct for you. Yes, well, who do we buy our computers from? Oh, well, we grow them. Uh-huh, yes, they grow out of the heart of being. No problem, sure. We'll call you, thanks.

The awareness of liberation is not liberation. The awareness of time is not liberation. The awareness of place, space or condition is not liberation. The smoke from the fire passes through the building and the soot affixes itself to the walls. The smoke passes through the air and keeps going. Liberation. You can't say what it is, but you can sure say what it isn't. And yet everything is in it. If you choose to be free, if you choose to be liberated, if you choose to be what I am, then you've chosen freedom.

You can do this. That's my sole purpose in life, just to sit here today and tell you that you can do this. In any life. You can do this in one of your past lives, in a future life, or right now. I prefer now. You have to refine your being. You have to go through all the stages and steps of erasing yourself. Through service to others, with purity, humility, integrity, by going through the things that life gives you to go through, happily.

You have to loosen the grip of time gradually. You've fallen asleep in bed with someone you love. Their arm is around you. And veeerrryy quietly and slooowly you have to get up out of bed¾you don't want to wake them now. You lie there for about 15 minutes listening to the sounds of the night. And then veeerrry quietly you lift the sheets and just slide¾oops, they moved a little bit; we wait a few more minutes, listening to our heart beat. They're dreaming next to you, they're dreaming. Who knows where they are or what they're seeing or what they're feeling? They've forgotten all about you. Such is love.

And you slip out of bed¾oh, you did it! Now tip-toe very quietly, put your hand on the doorknob, turn it slooowly, open it, you're out in the hall. Close the door behind you, slooowly¾liberation! You're free! From those who loved you. Isn't that liberation? Well, now you're in the hall, true. Well, you've got to go somewhere; you could go to the kitchen, outside—.

Liberation, what did you expect it was going to be? What did you think? What do you think, they're going to put a crown on your head and put robes around you? And what do you want anyway? Just who do you think you are? That's the question. It's not enough just to walk down the hall? You can go back into the bedroom if you want to, I mean, if you like that sort of thing, I suppose, if you're one of those. Is that what you really want? Well then go ahead. We've got it on the computer chip. The bedroom scene. Do you want us to play it again? That's the one where you were a person. Do you remember when you were a person? When you still had a life? Yeah, those were the good old days, weren't they? Oh, we had a hell of a time, didn't we? Fought battles together, grew up together, listened to music, went to parties; we worked. God, do you remember all the work we did, all those years in school, sitting in the classroom listening to the teacher? Then we became teachers. Do you remember the time and the worlds where we taught them? God, Atlantis was only yesterday. Let alone Los Angeles. Remember that incarnation in Los Angeles?

Well, you've taught in a lot of places now, and we're glad. You've helped many beings, who didn't exist, to attain liberation, which they never lost, since they never had it, since they never were. We think the work you’ve done is wonderful. We've got this gold watch here. And you know, we've managed to take our entire computer, with all of existence, with all those chips, and we've reduced it into this watch here. This watch is so good that it never stops. It's what we call perpetual motion. We finally found it. Well, it was here all along. It was the universe; existence is perpetual motion. Galileo wondered about it, da Vinci—we've got it right here. It's a Rolex, of course.

Timelessness and time, life and death. Your existence is passing before you, grains of sand in the hourglass. The Wicked Witch of the West has you in her castle and she's turned the hourglass over and the sand is running through. Will you be rescued, will you be liberated or will you die? The only way you can beat death is liberation. If they rescue you in time, if the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Toto and the Scarecrow get there in time, you'll be rescued. If not, the Wicked Witch of the West will have her way and her day, and she'll get those ruby slippers. But if you can click your heels three times and with your whole heart want to be home, as little E.T. says, "home" or "aum,” then you can get out of the castle, you can go home. And all the friends that you had, all the adventures in Oz, will go away, and all your good friends. You'll cry, Dorothy, as you leave them, and they'll all go away. The Tin Man, the Scarecrow and that wonderful Lion and the Wizard himself and the Munchkins and the evil witches and Glinda the Good Witch, they all go away.

Well, you know you have to go home, even though you could cry and stay forever, you have to go home. So, with them all gathered around you and the Wizard up there in the air someplace in that wonderful balloon, you click your heels three times, and the mother you loved and the father you loved and the children and the places and the moments of this world all go away. You don't know why, but you know you have to go home. It's an eternal longing. It's Marvell's drop of dew, wanting to go back to the sky. We're drawn by a force we don't understand—through worlds, through experience, and then click your heels three times. There's no place like home.

And then, when we're home, "Well, God, it was a dream, it was a dream; Oz, I dreamt it,” Dorothy says. "Didn't it really happen Auntie Em? You're all still here!” You see that's nirvana. You must understand. It's Dorothy at home. She went to the Emerald Kingdom for a while but at home, all the characters are still there. The fellow who looked like the Scarecrow, the fellow who looked like the Cowardly Lion, the fellow who looked like the Wizard and the Tin Man, they're all there still, just in a different form.

Self-realization doesn't imply loss, gain, or even transition. It's only a settling. The separate sounds on the beach, the bird, the waves, the wind—they all come together again. They blend, they harmonize. The moment of the wave with the surfer cutting to the left, the moment with no surfer and no wave. The ice has melted, the water is all. And beyond all of this, beyond these discussions, these ideas, these analogies, these images, the child is gone, the jewel is gone, the computer outgrew itself and went away. Took itself out for lunch. Everything gone away. Self-realization and liberation.