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True Enlightenment, as experienced by the Buddha and transmitted through the patriarchs, is independent of verbal explanations, including the record of the Buddha's teachings (i.e., scriptures) and later doctrinal elaborations. (source)

This course starts from a very simple double-premise, and that is that the phenomenon known as Enlightenment in the Zen tradition IS, and in so being, because of the history of Zen and what it professes, can be realized outside the doctrine, that is, beyond the scriptures and any ritualized formulas or patterns layed down therein.

Thus said, if you are here as a layperson, a fellow wanderer, a seeker along the path, or even a skeptic and want to experience, that's well and good, but if you are here to argue, lambast, debunk or carry on against the above premise then there is a very good chance this is not the place for you. Such an individual with such views would probably be better served by expressing themselves on one of the online newsgroups such as alt.zen or one of the various message boards offered by Yahoo, Lycos, Excite, etc. So too, if you are here to promote, push, or champion some unrelated personal cause, religion, religious figure, or doctrine this is not the place for you.

There is no fee for this course and no charges. There is a suggested book list and some highly suggested books, but nothing, books, audio tapes, speaking tours, tee shirts, caps or anything else, will be sold, hawked or marketed through or by me or any associate. This is not a commercial venture. You will be on your own to obtain and read any books suggested from whatever source you may so chose, be it your local library, used book store, major chain or online vendor. As many of the reading materials that I can possibly suggest will come from freely available internet access and easily linked through to you from course sources.

As the modern day Zen master Luangpor Teean pointed out and I am in agreement with:

"The Buddha's Teaching was recorded in the Tipitaka several hundred years after the Buddha passed away, and this text was then copied and recopied over a period of thousands of years. The teachings were probably recorded very well, but it is possible to doubt that the reader will now understand what those who recorded the teachings meant. For me to refer merely to the texts all the time would be like guaranteeing the truth of the claims of another, claims of which I am not certain. But the things that I tell you I am able to guarantee, because I speak from my own direct experience." (source)


A special transmission outside the scriptures;
No dependence upon words and letters;
Direct pointing to the soul of man:
Seeing into one's own nature and attainment of Buddhahood

It has been said that of all the billions of people alive today there are probably only 1000 truly Enlightened beings currently inhabiting the planet. Others say even that estimate is way too generous. I have been overly fortunate in my wandering path through life to have met or crossed paths with at least seven, possibly eight individuals, that were truly Enlightened beings.(see)- So said, I can speak from experience that Enlightenment is something that is --- and not some subjective non-existant philosophical happenstance or mere thought-game mental construct, however unreachable or ungraspable.

But, thousands or few, immediate or taking months and months or years and years of arduous, stringent study-practice and meditation, invariably, in every case, the mind had to be ripe. Whether known or unknown, teetering on the edge of accepting openness, barriers, mental blocks, veils, fog, false views, mind clutter and other steadfast inhibiting co-factors had to either never have existed, never arisen, not be there, removed, collaspe, dissipate, dissolve or disappear in some fashion so an open gate recipient would be ripe for the onrushing tide of Attainment.

There is, however, a caveat of sorts to the mind being ripe thesis, a caveat that has been known, observed, and has manifested itself over the centuries to those who have sought and taught Enlightenment. Over those same centuries it has come to be written down. The Abhidhamma is one of three divisions of the Pitaka, a huge collection of systematically arranged doctrines representing the teaching of the Buddha. One of the seven books of the Abhidhamma is the Puggalapannatti. The Puggalapannatti is a small treatise describing various types of individuals according to their stage of achievement along the Path. The lowest of the stages is Padaparama, followed upwardly with less and less inhibitions by the Neyya stage, Vipancitannu, and lastly, Ugghatitannu. The four stages are described thus:


One whose highest attainment is the text. An individual who, though he encounters the Buddha-teaching or Buddha-doctrine and puts forth the utmost possible effort in both the study and practice of the Dharma, cannot attain the Paths and the Fruition states within this lifetime. All that he can do is accumulate habits and potential. Such a person cannot obtain release from Samsara.(see)


An individual who does not have the capability of attaining the Paths and the Fruition states through the hearing of either a short or a long discourse but who must make a study of the teachings and practise the provisions contained therein for days, months or years in order that he may attain the Paths and the Fruition states.(see)


An individual who can attain the Paths and the Fruition states only when a discourse is expounded to him at some considerable length.


An individual who encounters a Buddha in person and who is capable of attaining the Noble Path and Noble Truth through the mere hearing of a short discourse.

As one can see, according to the doctrine formulated over the centuries, if a person, for whatever reason, falls under the parameters of the first of the four stages listed above, Padaparama, it would be very difficult for even the most stringent effort by a seriously inclined adept to ever grow into the mind being ripe, open gate catagory. Or would it?

The above four stages notwithstanding, according to Vignana there are three ways of Transmission of Spiritual Power. Nowhere in describing the three is there made mention of a person such as a Padaparama. The three ways are explained through example with no inhibition stated or implied:

Suppose there is a sweet and ripe fruit at the top of a tree. To enjoy the taste of the fruit,

  1. PIPILIKA MARG: An ant slowly comes to the trunk of a tree, slowly marches forward to the branch and enjoys the taste of the fruit. The way is known as Pipilika Marg (Ant-path).

  2. MARKAT MARG: Jumping from one tree to another a monkey comes from a distance to the branch of the tree and directly starts tasting the fruit. This way is known as Markat Marg (Monkey-Path).

  3. VIHANGAM MARG: A bird flying in the sky, directly pecks at the fruit with its beak and starts eating. This is known as Vihangam Marg (the Birdsí-Path, the Birds' Sky-way).

Of the three, Vihangam Marg is considered the shortest (fastest) way to achieve the Final Reality while Pipilika Marg is the slowest. Pipilika Marg states that the ant slowly marches forward to the branch and enjoys the taste of the fruit. Nothing is implied, said or stated that the ant, that is ANY given ant, no matter how slowly or how much time it takes to march forward, that he cannot or will not enjoy the tast of the fruit. That is the difference between the knowledge we get from just reading or listening to Sutras and Sastras and the knowledge that we get from actual experience. It is during that march forward that even the slowest of adepts among us can, step by step, hopefully position themselves along the branch so that their mind will open up and become ripe.

The doctrine states that an individual of the Padaparama class can attain release only after rebirth in his next existence if he faithfully practices in his present existence. If such is the case, and I doubt if it is, there is nothing that one would know that would preclude one's present existence from not being actually their "next existence," thus opening the gate --- even if not through the Marges --- to one not being stopped from Full Attainment.

Beyond the three Marges there is a fourth way for the Transmission of Spiritual Power NOT usually mentioned called APARKA MARG. Again, suppose there is a sweet and ripe fruit at the top of a tree:

  • APARKA MARG (sannyasa-vidvat). To enjoy the taste of the fruit the ripe fruit falls to the ground just at the exact time as an unsuspecting hungry-being is there. Aparka Marg is the way Realization falls upon the Self. The Bhagavan Maharshi Sri Ramana would be a prime example as would the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Hui-neng who, as a young boy collecting firewood, experienced Awakening basically out of nowhere. Modern day examples would be Suzanne Segal as well as the instant transformation into the Absolute as found in:






An individual of the Padaparama class can attain release only after rebirth in his next existence IF he can faithfully practise the Bodhipakkhiya-Dhammas in his present existence. The present Buddha Teaching will continue to exist so long as the Tipitakas remain in the world. The Padaparama class of individuals have to accumlate as much of the nuclei or seeds as they can within this lifetime.


An individual of the Neyya class can become a Sotpanna in this present life if he faithfully practises the Bodhipakkhiya-Dhamma comprising of the four Applications of Mindfulness (satipatthana), Right Exertion (sammapadhana), etc. If the individual is lax in his practice, he can become a Sotapanna only in his next existence after being reborn. If he dies while still aloof from these (Bodhipakkhiya-Dhammas) he will become a total loss so far as the present Buddha Teaching is concerned, but he can still attain release from worldly ills if he encounters the Teachhing of the next Buddha.


Vignana is the difference between the knowledge we get from just reading or listening to Sutras and Sastras and the knowledge that we get from actual experience. It corresponds to the six senses: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, taste-consciousness, touch-consciousness, bodily consciousness, and mental consciousness. In the process, Vignana incorporates within the totality of itself both the Western idea of that which is "conscious' and "unconscious." For that reason it is difficult to translate by any single term. The following, however, might help:

Suppose we collect water from the ocean and bring it home. The ocean water will have a salt taste to it. When the same ocean water is converted by the sun's rays into vapor and then comes down as rain from the clouds, there is an amount of "sweetness" which is associated with the same water. The knowledge which we get by reading or listening to Sutras and Sastras compares with the water collected directly from the ocean. Vignana is comparable to the ocean water when it is converted into rain from the clouds -- that is, sweeter than the ocean water it originally came from.

FROM: the Discourse of Sathya Sai Baba during the Summer Course in Spirituality and Indian Culture
held for College Students at Brindavan, Whitefield, Bangalore District in May/June 1974
Published by Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust