For over twenty years, I had enjoyed reading Paul Brunton’s books over and over again. I loved contemplating all of his works especially the sixteen volumes in his Notebooks series. At the time, I believed his vision of creating a synthesis of eastern and western spirituality was quite fascinating. Because of PB’s high ethical standards, I regularly used his knowledge to evaluate each worldly doctrine and healing modality that I was researching until I met my own teacher. Therefore, with reluctance I write this article as some may misconstrue what I point out stems from hatred or jealousy. Nothing could be farther than the truth. I hope this warning and cautionary tone comes across as a form of constructive criticism.
A few things need to be pointed out so every quester can see through their dark misconceptions that are gathered by working alone. If this advice is perfectly understood then he/she can continue safely on the path and avoid any harm. Since PB’s work, over the last century, has sunk into the collective-consciousness of our world a few bad seeds need to be uprooted.
As mental illness has drastically increased over the last ten years this topic surely needs to be addressed. Suffering on a grand scale has occurred with such painful conditions as Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia to name a few. It is my wish that a few guiding principles can be placed in the hands of practitioners, health-care providers, and psychologists for the benefit of spiritual beings lost in such confusion.
Here is one of the paras that PB writes that I took to heart for many decades:
“If the voices which he hears are audible in the same way that one hears the voices of people through the ears, it is merely psychic and undesirable. If, however, it is a very strong mental impression and also very clear, then it is the mystic phenomenon known as the “Interior Word” which is on a truly spiritual plane and therefore is desirable.” – Paul Brunton
This is quite a dubious para for the sole reason that any voice, whether audible or mental, can deceive you. It got me in trouble in the past and once I clearly saw the specific patterns of mental illness I was able to pull myself out of it. If I could easily be mislead so can other serious students. Unless it is clearly pointed out, this type of mistaken belief can result in spiritual ruin.
It is important to note that the Buddhist doctrine has never said to follow your mind, sense impressions, or intuition. These mental impressions really derive from a false source which is none other than our subconscious mind rather than a wisdom mind.
The Buddha said, “Be wary of trusting your own mind, for it is deceptive. Be wary of situations that may incite lust, for those will lead to disaster. Once you have attained arhatship, you can trust your own mind.” — The Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters
It is understandable that most westerners have an aversion to following a guru or a master. We all start off with a certain pride that we can walk this path on our own. However, since the subconscious mind is so entrenched in negative karma and emotional obscurations it is good advice to follow someone who is ahead of us on our meditational path.
Just as an Arhat can trust his own mind, a Bodhisattva on the 8th bhumi can truly discriminate what comes from ordinary mind or wisdom mind. He can now clearly see what comes from a demon or master. Since the faulty discriminating mind has come to an end for the Bodhisattva at this stage, the enlightening being can see what is illusory and real.
“Mahamati, at the eighth stage the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, Sravakas, and Pratyekabuddhas cease cherishing discriminative ideas that arise from the Citta, Mana and Manovijnana.” — The Lankavatara sutra
From talking to many people, I know all too well that most people would prefer to be guided by an internal master rather than a living Master. We all would like to advance on the quest without having to do much work. Of course, it would be nice to have a shortcut and not have to put much effort in traveling to see a lama or all the expenses that it entails.
Eight Worldly Dharmas:
The surest way to check if we have gone astray is to understand our ethical motivation. As soon as we have a selfish agenda we need to immediately recognize this wrong intention. We need to recognize these strong feelings that lead to harmful ends. We would be fortunate if we became properly instructed to go beyond the eight worldly dharmas.
These worldly dharmas or mundane concerns are the key to recognizing our base impulses. Once we are aware of our afflictive emotions then we can see our patterns of behavior. With this knowledge we can avoid grasping onto whatever the ego wants. As we become familiar with this, then we can easily dismiss any mystical message that would cause us to become grandiose or inflated. If we want a completely healthy mind we should follow the middle path and avoid the constant:
- hope for HAPPINESS and fear of SUFFERING
- hope for FAME and fear of INSIGNIFICANCE
- hope for PRAISE and fear of BLAME
- hope for GAIN and fear of LOSS
If we are fortunate enough to sit at the feet of an authentic, enlightened master we can gain confidence in following a correct path. Once we surrender in the right way then we can relax with an alert mindfulness. We never want to surrender and then act on our false intuitions. Only with right instruction in our mind and a pure motivation in our heart can an authentic samadhi will develop.
When it does, then it will be more than a glimpse that comes and goes. This type of samadhi would bring us to a level of permanent peace. Once this way of abiding is realized, then this stable state of Pure Being is always priority. Thereafter, any grandiose thought, elevated intuition, or wrong message that arises in the mind will pale in comparison. They are seen for what it is – a display of the mind and certainly NOT acted upon.
Fault of intuition:
One of the things that I took seriously was being a good student and following instructions perfectly. In many PB’s paras, he states repeatedly to obey your intuition. I figured that is what I must strictly adhere to in order to succeed. For example:
“The intellect ought to work only as a servant, obeying intuition’s orders in practical life or filling in details for intuition’s discoveries in the truth-seeking quest.” – Paul Brunton
The problem we have here is that our wisdom-mind is not fully developed until a stable realization takes place. When this is the case, then our own subconscious-mind can play tricks on us. If our mind is fragmented it surely can take on a life of its own. Furthermore, one must take into account that there are many planetary forces, nagas, and king-like spirits that are wandering about ready to cause mischief. They often act like authority figures and like a military general they are often in a disposition of shouting orders…wanting you to obey their command.
How would anyone know what the source is?
It is a simple fact that, when you deepen your meditation you become quite adept at hearing your own thoughts. Once this happens, it is never easy to discern if these are our own thoughts or someone else’s.
Furthermore, we all want to become the favored and chosen practitioner. We all want to be enlightened as soon as possible. And at a desperate time we would obey any faint intuition to get it. Unfortunately, this is not the proper way to go about it.
Just like the story of the monk on solitary retreat. He heard a mental voice tell him to throw his ritual bell against the wall in order to see a fantastic miracle. He did so only to shatter and break his precious dharma instrument. In the end, all the Buddhas want you to do is practice the six perfections and ultimately achieve non-action. One really needs discriminating wisdom, proper scriptures, and an enlightened master to keep us safely on track.
Proper use of Intuition:
A few circumstances where right intuition can be followed:
- Pertaining to the physical body
- Pertaining to interpersonal relationships
- Pertaining to travel
The following examples are correct ways to utilize your intuition which have no fault accompanying it:
First, when you are practicing yoga or exercising it is only beneficial to recognize the warning signs of pain and stop what you are doing. Women seem to have an easier time understanding this. Nonetheless, anyone can balance their intellect with their feeling and increase their level of skill through bi0feedback. Because of the reference point of pain and pleasure it can be mastered rather easily.
Second, when you are in relationship with another person (or someone you just met) and you feel a negative warning or a “red flag” comes up…it would be wise to follow your intuition and avoid this individual.
Third, when you are about to travel someplace and have a bad “gut” feeling. It is beneficial to follow that feeling and avoid getting in the car with someone. The negative warning sign may save your life.
The Lankavatara Sutra:
The Bodhisattva after achieving a direct perception of emptiness, on the path of seeing, has ten stages or bhumis of further enlightenment to enhance. To do more accurate research in this direction you can read this excellent sutra:
“The first seven of the Bodhisattva stages were in the realm of mind and the eighth, while transcending mind, was still in touch with it; but in the ninth stage of Transcendental Intelligence (Sadhumati), by reason of his perfect intelligence and insight into the imagelessness of Divine Mind which he had attained by self-realization of Noble Wisdom, he is in the realm of Tathagatahood.” — The Lankavatara sutra
Then the Buddha goes on to say:
“Gradually the Bodhisattva will realize his Tathagata-nature and the possession of all its powers and psychic faculties, self-mastery, loving compassion, and skillful means, and by means of them will enter into all the Buddha-lands.”
Click here to read the Lankavatara sutra online.
Click here to download this version of The Lankavatara Sutra.