Archive for January 15th, 2010

Sungai Long buddhist Society. . .This reminds me of Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind Big Heart teachings.

The 5 ranks of Tozan is a description on the various stages of enlightenment. Tozan was a Zen Master who lived more than 1,200 years ago.

According to this description, there are 5 stages that one goes through as he progresses towards enlightenment. The majority of people in the world today are in pre-stage one.

Pre-Stage One

At this stage, one is fully engaged and absorbed in the physical reality, and only in this physical reality. One is still unaware of the other reality that is transcendental and sublime. In pre-stage one, one’s main focus and attention is on the day to day survival as well as physical accumulation of wealth. This is because one is able to see only this physical world as real. The spiritual and transcendental reality is not perceived as real. One may be able to conceptualize and rationalize about spirituality but one does not truly appreciate the reality of this subtle realm.

Stage One

In this stage, one is now convinced of the reality of the transcendental realm. One behaves and lives according to this perception and acceptance of this new reality. This means that one’s priorities in lives change to put more emphasis on the importance of spirituality. More time and energy is directed towards the pursue of this spiritual understanding and growth. Material comfort and accumulation become secondary.

Accumulating spiritual understanding means acquiring more understanding about the reality of the transcendental realm, its nature, its qualities. It initially leads to the accumulation of more new beliefs, concepts and assumptions about the various spiritual teachings. The rational mind tries to make sense of all these terminologies, concepts and beliefs.

Stage Two

This is the stage where the rational mind comes against a wall. It soon realizes that the rational mind cannot fully grasp the transcendental reality. After all, how can a mind that functions in time and space fully grasp what is beyond time and space? There arise great doubts about the whole concept of understanding via the rational mind. It begins to see the limitation of names, labels, concepts and beliefs.

To progress, the spiritual seeker needs to surrender all his attachments and clinging to concepts and names. In fact, he needs to let go entirely of the need to rationalize with his rational mind. To do that, he needs a great leap of faith in the beyond – believing that whatever is beyond the rational mind is far more superior and sublime than the rational mind. He needs to literally jump off the edge of a cliff and have faith that his fall is safe. This is the great death that will lead to a great rebirth.

Stage Three

After the great death comes a new rebirth into the transcendental realm. It is here in this transcendental realm that is timeless and limitless that one experiences only the now. Here one experiences the oneness of all things. Here is peace. Here is eternity. Here is now. Many who have caught or taste a glimpse of this realm believe themselves to be fully enlightened. The experience in this realm is one of detachment from the physical world, even to the point of not caring for physical existence. One may try to convince oneself that here at last he has completely eliminate his ego. However, he will only be deluding himself as the denial of the suffering of the physical world is still a denial, albeit a sublimely subtle one. That is why this stage is sometimes said to have a big mind but no heart. If not careful, one can completely indulge oneself by staying in this realm indefinitely as a form of escapism.

Stage Four

At some point, one begins to realize the remnant of his subtle ego. The ego has matured tremendously at this stage but one is still not completely free of it. Soon there follows a fall from grace. From this great transcendental realm, one fall into a greater realization of the need to interact with the physical world.

Stage Five

In this final stage of Tozan, one finally fully realizes and is able to integrate both the transcendental experience with the physical world. One is able to be “in this world, yet not of this world”. In other words, one develops a great heart of compassion for all sentient beings who are still caught in the physical world and comes back to co-exist for the well-beings and uplifting of their spirituality. This is the stage of big mind, big heart. One is able to live a full physical life and yet is above all the conflicts and sufferings that normally accompanies a physical life.

Another way of looking at this is by drawing a triangle as shown above. The left corner represents the human aspects of our existence, where everything is perceived in relative dualism using the rational mind. Here we experience both pain and pleasure. The right corner represents the transcendental aspects of our being where oneness is experienced. Here is peace and is where the rational mind cannot fully comprehend due to its limiting nature. The transcendental or intuitive mind functions here.

To exclusively dwell in either one of these domains is unhealthy for us as human beings. To be a human being, we must be both able to experience the human aspect of ourselves as well as the transcendental aspect. A fully enlightened being is one who has fully integrated both, as represented by the apex in the triangle.

Author: Dr. Ong

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