"Within the members of the relatively small search team, Chinese all, was a Buddhist or Zen Buddhist. When they came across me, not knowing if I was the one they were searching for or not, the Buddhist amongst them noticed the small Chinese symbol hanging around my neck. The team was just going to abandon me, but the Buddhist, after seeing what I had around my neck told them I was under protection of the Lord Buddha and to leave me in such a state and in such surroundings would be bad Karma --- that nothing but bad fortune and and bad luck would follow them if they did not take me with them."
The Wanderling, PARAGRAPH EIGHT, BELOW
"Several years before my mentor sent me to Pulyan's compound I found myself in the court of a Laotian warlord. I was requested to participate in, without many options to opt out or do otherwise, a ceremony that circled around the heavy use of opium. Dressed in local garb I layed on the floor on my side with a thin, three-foot long pipe, attended to by an ancient man that assisted me through the various paces. A couple of times afterwards, on my own and with others, I partcipated in a much less formal ritual called "chasing the dragon," but instead of a pipe, using a matchbox. That was ages ago. Those days, as well as any other such youthful indiscretions, are long gone and long over. The thing is, when the effects of the opium took over, it was like I had disappeared or no longer existed, having melded into the larger whole."
The Wanderling, ALFRED PULYAN: Richard Rose, My Mentor and Me
When people conjure of thoughts related to the life of the Buddha, after Enlightenment, usually India and the vast southern reaches of the Himalayas where he lived and taught comes to mind. When they think of Buddhism, most people turn their thoughts to China. With Zen, typically Japan --- with credit going to China from which it sprang. However, although it is not exclusively Buddhist, there is a broad band of Buddhism beyond those three countries that forms a huge crescent-like swath from India through southeast Asia, passing through Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Within that crescent-like swath are hundreds of Buddhist and Zen Buddhist monasteries with thousands of monks, many of which amongst their ranks of thousands have been found to be protesting government policies in Burma, while in the early-mid 1960s they were burning themselves alive in protests over government policies in Vietnam. (see) However, high in the mountains and plateaus bordering up and behind that swath there exists many ancient and unknown to the outside world and all its turmoil, basically unhindered and unmolested, a smattering of monasteries operating almost independent of time.
Buddhists notwithstanding, when most people think of that area below the mountains, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, it is associated primarily with the Vietnam war and only the Vietnam war --- with all its in-country death and destruction and social unrest and upheaval in America and around the world. However, the war cast a much different net than exclusively in-country fighting or anti-war demonstrations abroad. For years ALL the countries in Southeast Asia, large or small, were involved in some manner or the other, especially so following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in March of 1954. After the French surrender and eventual pullout, in order to ensure western interests would continue to be maintained on some level in the general greater southeast Asian sphere, the U.S. and/or allies or closely allied mercenaries or surrogates continued to keep their hands in the pie at some level or the other.
Eventually one of those closely allied mercenaries or surrogates became the aforementioned Laotian warlord mentioned in the quote at the top of the page. You may notice as well that the quote also states that I found myself in the court of that same warlord. The downstream outflow from that encounter, an encounter of which was put into place by others well beyond my control, later found me miles and miles away high in the mountains outside the confines of any warlord, in one of those ancient monasteries truly beyond the reach of time.
The warlord financed a good portion of his largely regional Laotian warlord activities through the use of, bartering of, or marketing of, opium. The problem with being a marketer of opium is that for any amount of it to become super-profitable on a large scale at the user end --- over any distance and to large population centers --- it quickly becomes way too bulky, heavy, difficult to transport, and hard to hide. However, processing opium into morphine base and then into heroin concentrates the power of the product into a more manageable material to transport --- that is, small amounts relative to its potentially huge worth can be moved in rather small spaces. The thing is, the refining process to turn morphine base into good stuff, say China White at 99.9% pure --- and doing it safely and expediently --- requires lots of chemicals and the experience of a master chemist. Although in later years there were eventually quite a number of highly capable heroin refineries located throughout the Golden Triangle area, at the time we are talking about here, the Laotian warlord operated the only one, and, even though it could process heroin, it was rudimentary at best and turned out only small amount of product.
In those days most of the opium in the Golden Triangle came down from Burma to Thailand by mule train to the railhead in Chaing Mai. Although the majority of the opium was grown or fell under the control of the Burmese strongman and warlord Khun Sa, on the long mule train trail to the railhead it was guarded by remnant soldiers of Chaing Kai Shek's old KMT, the Kuomintang. When Chaing Kai Shek and his Nationalist troops escaped to Taiwan a good portion of his army had been split into separate parts with large remnants remaining in the far reaches of the western provinces basically living off the land and scrounging for a living. Some of that scounging included providing security for Khun Sa's opium being moved overland by mule to Chaing Mai.
The people I was traveling with decided, and I am not sure of which even to this day, that it could possibly be quite lucrative on one hand or could eliminate a lot of drugs ending up on the market on the other if, rather than leaving Khun Sa's raw opium up for bid in the markets of Chaing Mai, we intercepted it sometime before arrival and making an offer that would be hard to refuse. The Laotian warlord, who was hoping to get the lion's share of the opium to turn into heroin in his newly established refinery caught wind of the plan and sent his people out to ensure we were not successful in our endeavors. Since everybody's job was only done on "a need to know basis," my role in the whole thing was minor but the most important. Khun Sa did not want paper money, he only wanted gold. My job was knowing who had the gold and where it was after a deal was made. Up to that time NOBODY else but ME in our portion of the on the ground group was privy to that information.
Waiting in Chaing Mai, and not knowing any of us were being pursued, members of the Laotian warlord's contingent caught up with some of us. Before I had a chance they grabbed me, took me to some dingy building, put me into a stupor with opium or some other drug, then shot me up with some ultra-strong heroin over a period of a couple of days --- the idea being, it is supposed, to stop any transaction from going forward in the first place, and secondly, to turn me into a highly addictive state and thus then revealing the whereabouts of the gold.
Now, if any of that was being done on their own level of operation or the orders to do so went clear back to the Laotian warlord --- or beyond --- was not known. Either way, for me initally, the results were the same. Then something happened.
Spearhead members of the KMT came into Chaing Mai with intentions to meet with my portion of the group to close the deal. Since none of us were at the preordained meeting spot they began searching the city. They heard a roundeye, possibly an American, was in one of the dens and went looking for me. In the meantime those sitting on the gold, who had lost contact with me as well, bypassed my portion of the operation and sought out the KMT. While all of this was going on the KMT searching the city came across me, finding me with bloodshot eyes, drooling at the mouth, unbathed, dirty, unshaven, no clothes, sitting in my own urine and defecation, and so mind-numb that I was worthless to their or anybody else's cause. However, this was when something highly unusual transpired that inturn, changed everything.
Within the members of the relatively small search team, Chinese all, was a Buddhist or Zen Buddhist. When they came across me in the den, not even knowing if I was the one they were searching for or not, the Buddhist amongst them noticed the small Chinese symbol hanging around my neck.(see) The team was just going to abandon me, but the Buddhist, after seeing what I had around my neck told them I was under protection of the Lord Buddha and to leave me in such a state and in such surroundings would be bad Karma --- that nothing but bad fortune and and bad luck would follow them if they did not take me with them. Now, whether it was true or not doesn't matter. The Buddhist believed it and HE convinced his fellow KMT such was the case.
I woke up in what was apparently some days later in need of a fix and traveling with a large contingent of KMT returning through Burma to their digs in China. I was still dirty, barefoot, and only had pants on, but somehow still carried the shoulder bag I had with me all along. It was a good thing too, because I had a stash in the bag and feeling the oncoming effects of the monkey on my back, the first chance I got, shot up. The KMT Buddhist, seeing what was going on and seeing, regardless of his good intentions, it wasn't going to work, left the main contingent of the KMT taking me with him high into the mountains basically retracing the steps of the ancient Chamadao, the Tea Horse Trail.(see) Some days later, with me still shooting up on and off, but running out of stuff, he left me outside of a somewhat ancient dilapidated monastery perched precariously high up on the side of some steep Chinese mountain situated somewhere along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. And there I sat. Monks going in and out or back and forth to the fields and village some distance below would leave me water and food on occasion, but that was it. After awhile someone gave me a blanket to wrap myself up with, but still I sat. People came by to look at me, kids threw rocks at me, dogs pissed on me. Days, weeks went by. Then one day I got up and followed some monks into the fields hoping to pull something, anything, out of the ground to eat. When they returned, I returned, entering the monastery right along with them. I looked worse than any animal and for sure smelled worse than any garbage truck. After hulking in the corner and eating scraps off the ground tossed to me over a period of days I woke up one morning to find a halfway decent pile of folded clothes sitting in front of me. I cleaned myself up, put on the clothes and was pointed to work in the kitchen food preparation area doing clean up and more or less garbage and latrine detail.(see) Soon, as I got some sense of my surroundings, I began sneaking in and sitting in meditation in the main hall with the rest of the monks. Eventually, falling into and following the strict Monastery Rules and Schedule as mandated by tradition over the centuries. Nobody said anything and nobody questioned why I was there. Not even the master. Months went by and I continued to sit in study-practice. Except for the occasional sting of the shiang ban or possibly the brightness of the light or the length or shortness of the shadows caused by the movement from the summer to a winter sun and back, nothing seemed to change. My mind was blank, only the moment existed.
Early one morning I was crouched in the fields working when I felt the shadows of three men fall across my face. The darkness came from the KMT Buddhist accompanied by two Australians that I recognized as having been members of our covert team. The Australians seemed huge in size, pale white with booming loud voices. Over their shoulders hung automatic weapons made of cold steel-gray machined metal with big long clips filled with bullets. Both men were the total antithesis to all I had been engaged in for so many months. Seemed the opium deal never went down and the gold never showed up. Thinking I along with possibly a few others may have absconded with the gold, powers that be began searching out details on what happened and in the process ran across the KMT Buddhist. Regardless of what story I or the Buddhist told them, or the trust the team may or may not have had in me at one time or the other, it was clear by the insistence of the Australians if I intended to remain alive, I had little or no option but to return to Chaing Mai with them. Which I did.
On the return trip we stopped one night at a military encampment or compound of Khun Sa. At first I thought we had been captured and taken to the camp, which for all practical purposes, we were. However, once we were inside the perimeter of the compound it was quite obvious the Australians and Khun Sa knew each other. He wanted to see the man under the protection of the Lord Buddha. After a quick introduction I was told I was under HIS protection now. Everybody laughed. Then Khun Sa motioned me closer, almost immediately dropping his eye contact from my eyes to that of the the small gold Chinese character dangling around my neck. Reaching forward he softly took the tiny medallion between his thumb and index finger, looking at it very carefully and rubbing it for what seemed the longest time. The background noise and the overall din of the soldiers in the camp became quiet and the air stilled. As a man who could have and take anything he wanted I thought he was going to yank the chain from my neck. Instead he allowed it to gently fall against my skin and stepped back and the sound returned to normal. Basically a tribal person seeped in superstition, Khun Sa, and no doubt along wtih good part of his camp as well, knew that for the necklace to have the intended power vested in it, it had to either be given freely and without malice or found after having genuinely been lost. Otherwise, if taken or stolen, its intent would be reversed and what would befall the person so involved would be quite the opposite of the protection it provided. (see)
In the beginning of the whole operation, when I first went to Chaing Mai, a couple of days before the Laotian warlord's contingent caught up with me, and unrelated to any of their forthcoming actions, to cover my own back, I secretly moved the gold --- all of it in pure, untraceable rough cast bars and quite heavy --- to a second more secure spot known only to me. The gold being missing wasn't found out until others, thinking they were sitting on the gold, and bypassing me, went to finalize the deal only to find it gone. By then I was long on my way to China and, at least initially, involuntarily so high on drugs I didn't know anything about anything one way or the other anyway.
Not trusting the Australians I kept my mouth shut until we returned to Chaing Mai and was able to meet with higher members of the team investigating what happened. Once I told my side of the story and the gold was where I said it was, although I didn't escape without repercussions, I was officially absolved of any misdeeds. (see)
It must be said, however, that for our purposes here, except for being the primary thrust-medium that put into motion all the events that unfolded as they did, what I am interested here is NOT the opium or drug aspect of it all, but my stay at the Zen monastery. There are many strong, notable, and well respected members of the Buddhist, Zen Buddhist, and Enlightenment commmunity that have gone to, studied under, written books about, and run a number of excellent and fine Centers both in America and abroad. Many of the notables went to India or Japan and studied for months and possibly years under highly venerable teachers. Other teachers came to the U.S. passing their understanding to others and they still to even more. However, very little of what has been gleaned or passed on bubbled up untainted and unlayered from the unspoiled roots of their ancient past. I am the only person I am aware of operating at the level that I do that truly bypassed most of the layers --- primarily because where I was none of the layers existed. While at the monastery, I studied under the direct bold, unbending hand of a non-English speaking Chinese master of Zen and Enlightenment. The monastery itself was a cold, stark environment high in the mountains above the tree line, far removed from the western world and civilization, whose lineage, rituals, and beliefs harkened straight back unbroken and unfettered to the likes of Hui Neng, Bodhidharma and the Buddha. Doing so enabled me to be guided, via the master's skillful means, through to the full level of the unveiled truth, springing undhindered and unencumbered from it's original grounding source.(see) Returning to America I have, because of that experience, through comparison and similes, been able to cut through and discard the trappings overlayed over the centuries, stripping bare to the undiluted core. Now while it is true the monastery followed, implemented and enforced physically harsh and sometimes mentally arduous rules, they never strayed beyond the central underlying reason. They were far from what has permeated and morphed over time as being standard in Japan and the west. Some people need rituals and trappings, robes and cushions, Enlightenment doesn't.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Chapter IV, verse 1 it is stated that the supernormal perceptual powers of Siddhis that are most often associated with as going hand-in-hand on the Indian side of the Awakening process --- as well as Enlightenment on the Buddhist side --- and sometimes manifested but seldom admitted to on the Zen side of things, CAN be reached through the use of certain DRUGS. The use of those certain drugs is called Aushadhis in Sanskrit. The Awakening process through Aushadhis can be a very quick, albeit short-term and totally risky and unreliable method. In doing so it should be undertaken only under the guidance of a person who is totally reliable, knows the science and full potential of it's use, and thoroughly versed in any outcome thereof. See:
AUSHADHIS: Awakening and the Power of Siddhis Through Herbs
NOTE: If you have not yet read the comments regarding the phrase "under the protection of the Lord Buddha" and the origin and meaning behind it, please scroll down to the footnote at the bottom of the page. See also below, and especially so, the all important Monastery Rules and Schedule.
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
AWAKENED TEACHERS FORUM
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
ON THE RAZOR'S
AS FOUND ON
Day after day, week after week, month after month, rain, wind, snow, sun, hot or cold, the following schedule as listed below was, regardless of rank or position in the monastery, strictly followed and adhered to. Up at 2:45 AM, bedtime around 9:00 PM. When I say bedtime around 9:00 PM, you were expected to go to bed, but in practice after 9:00 PM the time was your own. Typically, after the long day you were wiped out, but you could bum with other monks, go outside the walls, work in the kitchen hoping for extra food, meditate. Even so, there was not many places to go and have a few drinks and kick back with the locals --- all of which, if there were any locals or drinks, were miles down the trail --- which was way to perilous to traverse at night for any reason. Such an endeavor, as enticing as it may sound, even if it did transpire, most likely would NOT have ended up similar in fashion as say, the tavern in Raiders of the Lost Ark owned by Marion Ravenwood, high in the mountains of Nepal. So said, although I NEVER indulged in anything of a suspect nature after my arrival, a few monks, even though it was strictly prohibited, were known for their ability to concoct some sort of unauthorized fermented brew on the side that if imbibed, would knock your socks off.
Although it was quite clear I was not of indigenous stock, and as well, not brought up through their local or regional system however formal or informal, in that I had studied under the Japanese Zen master Yasutani Hakuun Roshi prior to being drafted I had some background as to how to conduct oneself under the conditions afforded by the monastery. Because of such, even though it would seem I had many strikes against me, I fit in somewhat more comfortablely than might be expected. I did not come pounding on the door either, but, in a near Nirodha state, sat silently in what seemed a power beyond my control in the Bhumi-sparsha Mudra pose for weeks on end like a latter day Hui K'o outside the monastery until I became a more or less familiar figure and fixture. By then, seemingly more Neanderthal than Homo sapien, after entering the monastery, the mere aspect of being seeped in Zen or Buddhist protocol in what should have been clearly a foreign environment for almost anybody, showed at least I was not a neophyte. More than anything, at first I think it was the medalion that gave me the most credence --- and a wide berth of acceptance amongst most of the monks and members of the monastery. After that, there was no "I."
One day a very old and ancient man came down from the mountains and apparently asked to see the monk who was said to be under the protection of the Lord Buddha. I was quickly brought before his presence. Because of respect paid him by all, plus the serenity he seemed to abide in, it was clear the man was Enlightened. Even so, no sooner had I arrived when a look of disappointment seemed to cross his face. As he turned to walk away, in a flash he swung back around with his staff swinging toward me. As I raised my arm to block the blow just as quickly he lowered the motion of the swing and before I was able to counter the move he had knocked me off my feet. Huge roars of laughter permeated the room. Here was this billion year old man who had easily knocked me to the ground and I know he must have been saying to everybody's enjoyment, "under the protection of Lord Buddha, my ass!" He extended the end of his staff to pull me up, which I took. He then strode out of the monastery and back into the mountains.
Even though I state there was no "I" and lived in the moment there was something about the old man that would not just let go and it continued to nag at me for the longest time. Months went by. Finally, when the weather turned such that I could, I sought the old man out, visiting him at what was not much more than a stone-pile hut along the edge of a stream. This time when I came before his presence there were no swinging staffs, only a sweeping open-palm hand offering me to join him for tea. Several days went by and during that time not one word passed between us. However, just as I was leaving he grabbed at my sleeve if only for a second. When I turned to see what he wanted, he reached deep down into a pocket-like slit in the side of his garment and removed a small cloth bag. Inside the bag was a necklace made of string. Dangling on the string was what appeared to be an exact duplicate of the same small medalion I wore around my neck. Never before --- or since --- under any circumstances, had I seen one similar.
In a footnote further down the page I present the following quote:
"(I)n 1977 I was in Hong Kong to seek audience with the famous translator Upasaka Lu K'uan Yu."
I go on to say the purpose of that meeting was to get a better handle on what the Zen master wrote. The Zen master in question was the master at the monastery. However, there was an equally strong if not even more so overriding reason I was in Hong Kong to meet with Lu K'uan Yu in 1977, and it revolves around handwritten Chinese characters given to me by the Zen man far away and high in the mountains above the monastery. Even though we were unable to communicate verbally because of not knowing each other's languages, there was a great nonverbal understanding between the two of us. When he showed me that he too had a small gold medalion just like the one I wore around my neck, through hand gestures, pantomime, and line drawings in the dirt I tried to get him to show me how it was he came into possession of the medalion. He drew a couple of cuneiform characters in the dirt and using a charcoal stick and a piece of cloth I copied them as best I could. He inturn, upon seeing how I copied them, nodded in agreement. However, nobody I showed them to could translate them --- hence my trip to Hong Kong. Even Lu K'uan Yu was baffled, alluding to the fact I may have copied them wrong. Eventually he was convinced the characters were meant to mean Gyanganj, a home for immortals said to be hidden in a valley in the remote Himalayas. See also Shambhala.
Notice there is time set aside for what most would call breakfast as well as for lunch, but NONE for an evening meal. What is provided and eaten is not what most would call gourmet. No meat, table salt, coffee or sugar, but some of the best tea around, most often Pu-erh which was traded for along the trail up from the south. No electricity either, but on nights between the clouds or without clouds, so many stars seemed to blank out the night sky you could hardly make out any constellations.
- 2:30 AM wake up sounding board is struck three times.
The Chan hall Master and other main officers rise.
Fires in the ovens are lit.
- 2:45 AM wake up sounding board is struck four times, the monastery as a whole wakes up.
- 3:00 AM the bell outside the Chan Hall is sounded. Monks wash, use toilets, assemble in the meditation hall.
- 3:15 AM - 6:00 AM meditation.
- 6:00 AM breakfast.
- 6:30 AM - 12:00 PM meditation.
- 12:00 lunch.
- 12:30 work period.
- 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM meditation, work period, showers.
- 3:00 PM - 3:30 rest period, personal needs.
- 3:30 PM - 9:00 PM meditaion.
- 9:00 PM monastery prepares for bed.
Besides the rituals and schedules put into place and followed, there is a relatively rigid hierarchy of rank and authority in a Zen monastery. Most people understand there is a Zen Master and possibly an Abbot, but they don't always know that from top to bottom there exists an almost quasi-military-like structure.
The monks are of several categories. The Ssu shou are the leaders comprising the officers of the monastery such as the Meditation Master, the Chief Cook, the Business Manager, and the Treasurer. The Abbot usually has a male assistant as a secretary as well as a Scribe that deals with letters and documents related to commemoration of the dead, rituals and so on. The Ching chung are the ordinary monks while the Hang tang are the most menial doing such jobs as looking after rice supplies, water for tea, shower areas, and toilets. The Hsiang teng shi are cleaners and the Hsu shan foresters. The Chu i are kitchen staff. As well, although there is sometimes overlaps or shifting over time, monks are usually divided between those who work inside the monastery and those that work outside the monastery.
The following, regarding the expected code of behavior for cloistered monastery-type monks, and how it applies to oneself and one's conduct within the community of a Zen monastery, is by Stuart Lachs --- as found in his paper Coming Down from the Zen Clouds. Judging from my own personal experience I can, for the most part, attest to it's accuracy. The caveat "for the most part" is inserted however, because, at for least for me, there seemed to be more smoother corners to it all than rough edges:
In China, where Zen began, Zen monasteries became distinct from other Buddhist monasteries with the famous rules of P'ai-chang (749-814). P'ai-chang supposedly prescribed a strict code of behavior for all members of the monastic community along with severe penalties for improper behavior. All of the classical accounts of Pai-chang's founding of an independent system of Ch'an monastic training may be traced back to a single source: "Regulations of the Ch'an Approach" (Ch'an-men Kuei-shih) written in approximately 960 A.D.
According to this text, "If the offender had committed a serious offense he was beaten with his own staff. His robe and bowl and other monkish implements were burned in front of the assembled community, and he was [thereby] expelled [from the order of Buddhist monks]. He was then thrown out [of the monastery] through a side gate as a sign of his disgrace. The rules applied to everyone. P'ai-chang further recommended that "a spiritually perceptive and morally praiseworthy person was to be named as abbot." This definitely implies a moral and social aspect to Ch'an life. This is the logic of Zen from its earliest formulation as a distinct Buddhist sect.
The following paragraph, from "TO LEAD IS TO SERVE: The Training of a Buddhist Abbot," describes the Abbot's role in the overall functioning of a monastery:In traditional Buddhist monasteries, the abbot is both the spiritual and temporal head of the monastery. He leads all the monks in religious practice and ceremonies. He is the primary religious teacher in the community. He has the final word in all decisions, and the monks are expected to willingly accept his decisions even if they do not like them very much. He is the chief administrator, and has the last word on how the community's funds are spent. He is the final authority of the monastery's rules, and can make new rules when necessary. He appoints all the senior monks to their offices, and can remove them from those offices whenever necessary. It would therefore appear that the authority and "power" of the abbot is seemingly limitless, and that the responsibilities and duties of a Buddhist abbot are both desirable and to be eagerly sought for. However, the reality of the "power" and "authority" which the abbot seems to possess pales in comparison to the weight of his responsibilities and the complexities of his office. Whatever sort of joyful bubble of ability, exhilaration, and "power" which the new abbot has unfortunately allowed to form in his mind usually bursts within the first few years of abbatical service as the reality and weight of his office begin to settle on him. It is no wonder that, in China, monks who had been asked to become abbot of large monasteries sometimes disappeared mysteriously before the appointment could be made, while those who accepted the abbatical office in large monasteries would often die in office. (source)
If and after a certain level of Attainment is reached, a select few, either on their own or by a higher authority, will leave the austerity and strict rituals of the monastery, wending their way on foot, taking with them no more than a walking stick, bowl, and possibly extra sandals. Typically trading mental jousts along the way for food and lodging, but sometimes, for the lack of same, missing meals and seeking shelter in ruined temples, caves, or deserted houses by the roadside --- often suffering the severities of nature as well as the unkindness of man.
"He befriends kindred souls with whom he discusses problems and exchanges views. In this way personal experiences are widened and deepened, and his understanding grows. Then, one day, as what happened through the moon-driven events of Japan's first female Zen master, Chiyono, "the bottom of the bucket dropped out," he hears a chance remark of a charwoman, or a frivolous song of a dancing girl, or smells the quiet fragrance of a nameless flower and suddenly understands: the Buddha WAS 'like a piece of dung' and also 'like three pounds of flax.'"
See HSING CHIAO: Traveling On Foot as well as Parivrajaka.
One morning during my visit with the old man at his stone hut he had me walk down stream quite some distance with him. In the rough rock hewn hillside somewhat above the stream just before it tumbled down into rapids over a rather steep waterfall the Zen man showed me what appeared to be the remains of a fallen-over, onetime rock shelter. I had seen a shelter built in nearly the exact same manner high in the mountains of the Sierras in California some years before. In High Mountain Zendo I described the Sierra-based shelter thus:
"It is actually a natural space, like a small cave that has a handmade pile or rocks forming a "C" shaped wall that protects the inside area from the prevailing winds and allows for a small fire for warmth and cooking. There is a log with a piece of canvas that can be put over the entrance and dropped to the ground if need be as well as it can get quite cold in the altitude and the winds quite strong."
From the remains of the onetime shelter I could tell that the one in the Sierras replicated almost down to the last stone the shelter I stood before --- it was as though the same person had built both of them from the same design. If such was the case, at the moment I stood before the ruins, I did not know which one came first, although I knew the shelter in the Sierras had seemed much more recent and was still intact. A strange non-weather related cold-like chill came over me as I crouched down and looked inside, gently poking the ground beyond the rocks with a stick. The feeling was broken by the Zen man putting his hand on my shoulder followed by a gesture as though he wanted to show me something else. He walked over to a close by tree and pointed to markings carved into the trunk. I could barely make out three letters and just below them four numbers, which appeared to be the date of a year, 1926. The letters were the exact same letters as the initials of my Mentor.
My mentor told me he had arrived in India a year after his future teacher to be, the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, had been accosted by ruffians in his ashram. That incident has been dated at June 26, 1924, which would make my mentor's arrival in India somewhere just before or during the summer of 1925. However it was not until 1928 that he showed up at the Ramana ashram. He traveled in "China, Burma, India" and it has been said he showed up in the temple of the south Indian city of Madura "two years later." It was apparently during those two years he ended up in the mountains along the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, possibly even doing study practice in the same monastery I was staying.
In the midsummer, early fall of 1922, before going to India, my mentor met a Benedictine monk, taken to be called Father Ensheim by Maugham, in Bonn, Germany who was on a research-study leave from his monastery in Alsace, France. At the time, the Father noticed my mentor seemed to be stuck in the beginning stages of a deep spiritual quest so he invited him to return with him to his monastery. In the summer of 1923 my mentor went, staying three or four months or more, studying and partcipating in all the monastery duties and activities. When he decided to leave, the following is said to have transpired:
"Those good fathers had no answers that satisfied either my head or my heart to the questions that perplexed me. My place was not with them. When I went to say goodbye to Father Ensheim he didn't ask me whether I had profited by the experience in the way he had been so sure I would. He looked at me with inexpressible kindness."
"I'm afraid I've been a disappointment to you, Father."
"No," he answered. "You are a deeply religious man who doesn't believe in God. God will seek you out. You'll come back. Whether here or elsewhere only God can tell."
What I was told, the good Father, figuring IF my mentor was just put into the right environment, he should be able to bridge the gap between the religious aspects he was familar with and that of the potentially deeper spiritual aspects he was seeking. In so figuring, he suggested that he go to India and visit a certain monastery high in the Himalayas in a city called Himis. How it has been related back to me is that the Father told my mentor that he heard sometime in the late 1880s early 1890s a man by the name of Nicolas Notovitch had ended up in a monastery in Himis recuperating from an injury. While at that monastery he was shown an ancient manuscript that indicated Jesus of Nazaerth had been in India during the so-called missing years of his life as indicated in the bible. The manuscript Notovitch was shown was a translation of the original which was kept in the library of the monastery of Marbour near Lhasa. The original text was written in Pali, whereas the Himis manuscript was in Tibetan, consisting of fourteen chapters, of which contained a total of two hundred and twenty four verses --- all related to Jesus being in India.(see)
Some thirty-five years following Notovich's sojourn to Himis, around the sametime that my mentor arrived in India (1925) a follower of the Theosophist sect by the name of Nicholas Roerich, who would eventually go on to be nominated three different times for the Nobel Peace Prize, arrived at Himis to see the Himis manuscripts and then on to Tibet in search of the originals. Foreigners, especially white people from the west, did not travel much in Tibet in those days, especially to Lhasa, and Roerich and his party were held incognito in Tibet during the years 1927-28, during which five of his party died. He was eventually released in 1928 and returned to India. It is reported he saw the same manuscripts as Notovitch. If you recall from the above, my mentor carved the date 1926 in the tree along the stream near the rock hut. It is my belief he went in search of the same manuscripts seeking the truth. If he ever met Roerich or saw the manuscripts --- or if the manuscripts ever existed --- is not known. However, it seems to me my mentor had a massive change regarding his approach to things spiritual and religion after going to Tibet, especially so how he viewed things in a western sense. Between the time he got off the boat in Bombay and the time he arrived at the temple in Madura some two years later and met a Holy Man there, who inturn was sent by that Holy Man to study under Sri Ramana, enough of a change occurred that he was Awakened to the Absolute --- that is, Enlightened in the same manner as the ancient classical masters.(see)
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
RECOUNTING A YOUNG BOY'S NEARLY INSTANT TRANSFORMATION INTO THE ABSOLUTE DURING HIS ONLY DARSHAN WITH THE MAHARSHI
It should be noted that Adam Osborne, who, as a young boy grew up at the Ramana ashram and the son of one of the foremost Ramana biographers Arthur Osborne, played a prominent role in the Last American Darshan as linked above.
"UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE LORD BUDDHA"
Many people take issue with the saying: "under the protection of the Lord Buddha" --- especially so in how it relates back to the Buddha and Buddhism --- and then inturn, how it relates back to me specifically.
However, implications or no --- or related to me specifically or not --- the quote is NOT of my own making. Although I have since heard it unsolicited a couple of times under varying circumstances, it first came to me from an apparent underlying belief held by the KMT Buddhist upon seeing the small Chinese character around my neck. Accurate assessment or not, it is what he believed. So too, in his own way, it is what Khun Sa believed as well. I have since run into people seeped in Buddhism that upon seeing the tiny medalion said the same thing.
One day, while still at the monastery, I was in a group of monks that went to the village some miles away. While there I sought out a villager that was able to speak some English. I was able to get him to write, in Chinese, a note to the master requesting information as to WHY the symbol around my neck afforded some sort of significance. Upon return the note was delivered by an intermediary. Some months later I was given a handwritten response --- in Chinese. After returning to the states nobody I showed the response to, who should have had the ability to read it, were able to translate it with any amount of accuracy.
If any of you have gone to the site of the mysterious Zen personage Wei Wu Wei, you will see in 1977 I was in Hong Kong to seek audience with the famous translator Upasaka Lu K'uan Yu. The purpose of that meeting was to get a better handle on what the Zen master wrote. The whole story is fairly long and complicated and most do not have the time or interest to delve into it at much length. However, the gist of the translation revolves around one King Dhatarattha, Bodhisattva, one time follower and confidant of the Buddha. Dhatarattha was the Lord of the East. The sun rises from out of the east, that is from the east of Mount Meru, out over the ocean that laps against the eastern shoreline of Meru and that extends continually eastward well beyond the horizon. The King's realm and power oversaw all that the ocean and beyond entailed --- hidden lands and all. If you recall, the symbol around my neck originally showed up around the neck of a merchant marine that had been found strapped to a piece of debris floating in the ocean. (see)
In the Sutras, Dhatarattha, in addition to being Lord of the East, he is also King of the Swans, and he above all others was the Golden Swan. The King of Benares heard of the Golden Swan and wanted him. So he built a beautiful lake to entice him to come there, wherein, upon doing so he could capture him. To wit:
Not suspecting anything and trusting the words of the king's proclamation the Bodhisattva and his friends were enjoying themselves among the lotuses of the lake, when the foot of Dhatarattha got entangled in a snare. In order to warn the other swans of danger, he announced by a certain cry that he had been caught and the swans with a cry of terror flew up into the air. Only Sumukha stayed at the side of his Master and would not move.
The Bodhisattva urged his friend to leave him as he could not help him, but Sumukha answered: whatever thy fate is, my Master, that shall be mine also. I always attend on thee in thy prosperity and I will not leave thee in thy distress." The bodhisattva answered: "My fate will be in the kitchen, as is the fate of birds ensnared. Why should you follow me there? And what advantage will there be of death of both of us?"
Sumukha answered:"The law of Righteousness teaches that one may not leave one's friend in distress, even for the sake of saving one's own life!"
Bodhisattva Dhatarattha told Sumukha, "My fate will be in the kitchen, as is the fate of birds ensnared," followed by he said, his death --- as sure as me continuing to be ensnared by heroin would most certainly lead to my death. The analogy as it applies to me is, when opium is processed into heroin it is in a sense, "cooked." Because of that "cooking" the refinery is refered to as the kitchen. Hence my fate would be, like Dhatarattha, in the kitchen. As for the fate of birds ensnared, in continuing analogy, the bird, as it relates back to me is what is called Vihangm Marg, the bird's way --- which in the Transmission of Spiritual Power is the shortest (fastest) way to achieve the Final Reality --- and taught to me by my spiritual guide and Mentor in study practice prior to going into the service --- making me in a sense the bird. Thus, the KMT Buddhist, not unlike Sumukha, who would not leave the Bodhisattva in distress, would not leave me in distress. Now true, we were not friends as Dhatarattha and Sumukha were, but in the overall scheme of things, seeing the symbol around my neck the KMT Buddhist apparently arrived at a kin relationship.
As Dhatarattha moved up he became, as in the Atanatiya Sutta, one of the four kings discussing with the Buddha what was called the Atanatiya Protection, hence the relationship to protection by the Buddha. At the end of the Atatatiaya Sutta the Buddha closes with:
When the night had passed the Blessed One addressed the monks: "Learn by heart, monks, the Atanata protection, constantly make use of it, bear it in mind. This Atanata protection, monks, pertains to your welfare, and by virtue of it, monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen may live at ease, guarded, protected, and unharmed." (source)
Now, how it relates back to me and being "under the protection of the Lord Buddha," I have been told, and I have no way of knowing how accurate any of it is, is that it is not from any direct translation of the Chinese symbol that is of importance, but the power invested in the symbol itself, as it harkens back to it being an ancient relic handed down through the centuries and blessed through the Buddha by King Dhatarattha himself.
For more please see
PARITTA: The Book of Protection
BUDDHST MONK THICH QUANG DUC, JUNE 11, 1963
The person I call my merchant marine friend was a man I worked for as a part time errand boy during my first two years of high school. He was an able bodied seaman in the merchant marines during World War II when his ship was torpedoed by German submarines. In order to save his life he was forced to jump overboad into oil burning on the surface of the sea. In the process he was badly burned. The following, regarding the merchant marine, is from the source cited below at the end of the second paragraph:
"Nearly two weeks after his ship had been torpedoed somewhere in the Atlantic he was found all alone strapped with heavy ropes to a piece of debris floating in the middle of the ocean, and except for being unconscious and heavily scared from the burn marks, which had seemingly healed, he was in pretty good shape. Everybody said it was a miracle, that his burns must had healed by the salt water. How he had made it in the open ocean without food or water nobody knew. Most people speculated he had been picked up by a U-boat and ejected at a convenient time so he would be found, although no record has ever shown up to substantiate such an event, nor did he recall ever being on a submarine, German or otherwise.
"The day he told me the story about being found he showed me a delicate gold necklace that had what looked like a small Chinese character dangling from it. He said one day in the hospital while being given a sponge bath he was looking in a hand mirror at his burn marks when he noticed he had the necklace around his neck. He never had a gold necklace in his life. When he asked the nurse where it came from she said as far as she knew he came in with it as it was found amongst the few personal effects he had with him. She said typically they would not put any jewelry on a patient but some of the staff thought that since he was so scared by the burns that he might like a little beauty in his life so someone put it around his neck. He told me he had no clue where it came from or how it came into his possession, but for sure he didn't have it on before he was torpedoed. He said everybody always admired it and it appeared to be very ancient."(source)
Latrine detail --- as I have chosen to call it --- COULD, if one so chose, fall within the precepts of the Buddha's Eightfold Noble Path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. So said, Eightfold Noble Path or nay, the task, generally rotated, CAN be and is often metered out in a disciplinary fashion for nearly any reason --- sometimes delt with by one person for days or weeks at time. It carries with it a total bottom rung status amongst the monks assigned and everybody knows WHO is doing it. Working your way out of that detail, in a sort of finished basic training, paying your dues or prove yourself sort of way, changes your status. The job, done with un-gloved hands because there were no gloves, basically entails scooping out a small wood and stone lined cesspool using a ladle on a long pole. The ingredients therein, unless otherwise below zero or frozen, are poured into large wooden-stave buckets and carried, honey bucket style, to the growing fields to be used for fertilizer.
There is a sanskrit word NIRODHA described usually as cessation that carries with it a more indepth meaning. In the index of the Visuddi Magga, for example, there are over twenty-five references that need to be read in context in order to cull out a fuller more concise meaning. Briefly, like Deep Samadhi, it is a very, very high degree non-meditative meditative state. During Nirodha there is no time squence whether a couple hours pass or many, many days, as the immediate moment preceding and immediately following seem as though in rapid succession, start and finish compressed wafer thin. During, heartbeat and metabolism continue to slow and practically cease, sometimes continuing below the threshold of preception at a risidual level. Previously stored body energy that would typically be consumed in a couple of hours if not replenished can last days with very little need for renewal. The Visuddhi Magga cites several instances where villagers came across a bhikkhu in such a state and built a funeral pyre for him, even to the point of lighting it. During low-level residual states the body temperature drops well below the 98.6 degree point. If suddenly jarred to consciousness body metabolism is slower to regain it's normal temperature, and inturn, that is recorded by the quicker to return cognative senses as "being cold."(source)
Years later I was waiting between trains at the major railroad terminal in Los Angeles, California called Union Station. Directly across the street from the terminal is a small Mexican-themed tourist area called Olvera Street. Walking over from Union Station, just on the left as you enter the street, is a small open-air stand that sells the best tacquitos in the world --- at least for me they always have been. My stepmother used to take me there when I was just kid, and being at the train station with some time to spare I could not resist going over and indulging myself.
The man behind the counter handed me my tacquitos almost as soon as I placed my order and I sat down on a little wall close by to eat them. Within a micro-second of taking my first bite a hulking homeless-looking man in ragged clothes and reeking with the sour smell of a unhygienically clean body stepped up basically out of nowhere and said that he knew me.
Without the remotest chance to reply he rattled off some story of where we first met, a story that only someone who DID meet me under the circumstances he described could have possibly known. Seems he knew when I was in the military I had the opportunity to interact with a couple of Asian warlords, both of whom the man was familar with. I bought him a double order of tacquitos and an iced tea, then, carefully positioning myself upwind from him, I sat down and we began to talk.
He told me while other low-ranking members in the military contingent I was with were off trading cheap handmirrors and pocket combs for favors with the local tribeswomen I had gone off on my own volition like some Peace Corps volunteer rather than a heavily armed GI, to lend a hand in repairing and building an irrigation ditch and fresh water conduit that supplied drinking water to one of the villages. An advisor to the warlord, a Shaman, informed the general of my actions and the general invited me join him for dinner. Knowing only high-status people were included in such get togethers I asked the now apparently homeless man, who must have participated in the dinner, how it was he found himself in his current situation. Rolling up his sleeve he graphically showed me the scarred up chicken tracks all across the upper inside of his forearm. He told me it started with opium, then heroin. He said he had ended up with the section of the team I was with in Chaing Mai but got separated in the den after being abducted by the warlord's men. He never knew what happened to me specifically, but figured that a similar fate had befallen me. From there, for him, it was nothing much more than a downhill sprial. Now, until recently, given the chance, he injected and used just about anything. He had lived on the streets for years, eating scraps, begging food, stealing to support his habit. Then sometime back his longtime close female companion OD in a cement hole along the L.A. River. He carried her lifeless body for miles crunched up in a shopping cart to a church of her demonination and left her in front of the main doors on the stairsteps. Before he had barely even crossed the street someone had taken her shoes and jacket. That day he quit shooting up cold turkey. For weeks he had been trying to get his life back together without any luck. Then he saw me.
We talked for a long while. Then needing to catch a train I had to go. Before we parted I called a person I knew who attended a local Zen center on a regular basis and he promised he would come by for him. I also wrote down several URLs to my websites. I told him as soon as possible go to the library and look up the websites and follow some of the suggestions as they might help. I handed him the slip of paper along with a few bucks for himself and some for the Zen center, then, taking him at his word, darted across the street at the last minute to catch my train.
Two years passed. Then out of the blue I received an email from him. In it he told me at first he had not done so well. He didn't feel comfortable at the library or the Zen center. Then one day he was walking along outside a Starbucks and saw a woman working on her laptop computer. He asked if she could look up some URLs for him, and unbelievably, she did. He said he tried to read them, but, as nice as the woman was, he couldn't really absorb anything considering the circumstances. She said she could print them out for him that night and bring them by the next day at a certain time and give them to him. The next day he came by, but no woman. He hung around hoping she would show up, but nothing. After awhile the Starbucks manager came out and thinking he was going to be chased off he started to leave. The manager asked if he was waiting for a woman to give him some paperwork. When he nodded yes the manager handed him a large manilla envelope. Inside were all the URLs on the list printed out. He never saw the woman again, but he read the papers over and over. He cleaned up his act, started doing study-practice first at the Zen center, then on his own, all along following what he could in the paperwork as extracted from the URLs I gave him.
He tried to get a job with a local school district as an instructional assistant working with individuals with severe disabilities, but because of his rather sketchy background, they wouldn't hire him. An instructional assistant who just happened to drop by the the school district office to sign some papers recognized him from the Zen center. He told him a nearby group home that served adults with disabilities had been looking for a person to work there. He went by the group home and they hired him on the spot. He had been there ever since. He also wrote he felt he was very close to a spiritual breakthrough. Although I haven't seen or heard from him personally for quite sometime it has been brought to my attention through intermediaries that while attending sessions at an affiliate center of the one the man that I sent him to was associated with, a center high in the mountains above Los Angeles, the onetime homeless smell-like-a-garbage-truck man attained a state of immortality. If it happened I don't know. However, I like to think that it did.
The Zen center so mentioned located high in the mountains above Los Angeles was the Mount Baldy Zen Center and the local center affliated with it being the Rinzai-ji Zen Center.
The following is found in SANNYASA: The Further Shore:
"Let us take first the case of Christian monks, who are already bound --- and freed --- by their religious profession. When they come into contact with their Hindu brother-monks and meet with the uncompromising ideal of sannyasa, they discover in their own dedication a compelling summons, even more interior than exterior, which no longer allows them any respite. They feel a natural urge to take the garb of the Indian sannyasi --- and or if not them, send others as with the French Benedictine monk Father Ensheim --- to observe at least the most essential of their customs in matters of poverty, abstinence, abhayam,(fearlessness) etc. Even more fundamentally, they surrender themselves to that freedom breathed in their hearts by the Spirit. In such cases to receive a new diksa would be without meaning, since in the total surrender of their original profession, expressed in the prayer "Suscipe ....," the essential oblation was already made. Their case is comparable with that of the paramahamsa who, when the full light shines within him, passes over, quite naturally and without further thought, to the condition of a Turiyatita or of an avadhuta."
PARIVRAJAKA can be defined in two ways: Paritah Vrajati (One who wanders everywhere) and Parityajya Vrajati (One who wanders renouncing everything). One who has released himself from the bondages of the world is a Parivrajaka. To such a person, observing the Dharma will have become as effortless as breathing. Therefore, they need not make any effort to practise the Dharma. They are often referred to as 'those who have transcended Dharma'.
- The old Parivrajakas were persons who had abandoned family life and were a mere floating body of wanderers.
- They roamed about with a view to ascertain the truth by coming into contact with various teachers and philosophers, listening to their discourses, entering into discussion on matters of ethics, philosophy, nature, mysticism, etc. See: hsing-chiao as well as Upaka the Ascetic and Totapuri.
- Some Parivrajakas lived under a teacher until they found another. Others lived singly without acknowledging any master.
- Among these older type of Parivrajakas there were also women wanderers. The female Parivrajakas sometimes lived with men Parivrajakas; sometimes they lived alone.
- These old type of Parivrajakas had no Sangha, had no rules of discipline, taught outside the doctrine, and no ideal to strive for having transcended the Dharma. See: the Wanderling
The Buddha (560-480 BCE) sat seven years in meditation. The First Patriarch of Zen, Bodhidharma (470-543 AD) sat nine years facing a wall. During some of that time an adept that championed Bodhidharma's cause waited outside the Shaolin monastery where Bodhidharma resided . He was a Confucianist scholar, a prodigy who had mastered the theory of the Dharma and wanted no more than to receive the teaching from Bodhidharma. One winter as the sun set and it became cold it started to snow. The adept remained unmoving. When dawn began to break Bodhidharma took notice of the wretched sight outside the walls freezing and waist deep in snow and said, "What do you search for?"
He answered, "I would like to hear the Dharma's compassionate teaching so that it could be disseminated widely.
Bodhidharma said, "The various Buddhas of the past devoted themselves earnestly. They practiced what was difficult to practice, and endured what was difficult to endure. One cannot be shallow, small-minded, proud, or complacent."
The scholar listened to the advice, then took out a knife and cut off his arm at the elbow and displayed his now severed arm to Bodhidharma, all the while turning the white snow all around him red with blood. Bodhidharma took the scholar as a disciple.
Not having resolved his problem, the disciple was still deep in confusion. He entreated his teacher, "I have not yet found peace of mind. Please grant me peace of mind."
Bodhidharma responded, "Bring me your mind and I will show you peace."
"I cannot grasp it," the disciple replied
Bodhidharma then said," Then I have shown you peace of mind."
The disciple's name was Hui-K'o, the to be Second Chinese patriarch.
In Buddhism the Bhumi-sparsha Mudra, the earth-touching gesture, is associated with the victory by Shakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama over the demon Mara just prior to his Enlightenment, thus becoming the Buddha.
The upcoming Buddha had vowed to remain in meditation until he penetrated all the mysteries of existence and in the process of maintaining that vow was visited by Mara --- a demon associated with all the distractions of mundane existence. According to the Sutra's, Mara's soldiers hurled an unending variety of dangerous weapons accompanied by a continuing onslaught of vile and threatening gestures. The Buddha remained unmoved by their assaults and all of their subsequent distractions, both pleasant and unpleasant.
Seeing the possibility of defeat Mara launched a final assault that consisted of undermining the Buddha's sense of worthiness. Mara wanted to know by what entitlement did he seek the lofty goal of Spiritual Enlightenment and thus then, freedom from rebirth? Friendly spirits reminded the Buddha of his countless compassionate efforts he had made on behalf of sentient beings throughout his many incarnations. In doing so Shakyamuni recognized that it was his destiny to be poised on the threshold of Enlightenment. Shakyamuni answered Mara's question initially without a voice response, but by only moving his right hand from his lap to touch the ground, then, to underline his gesture, stated, "the earth is my witness." This act of unwavering resolve caused Mara and his army of demons and temptresses and the like to disperse. Shakyamuni, the Buddha, then experienced the Consummantion of Incomparable Enlightenment known as Annutara Samyak Sambodhi
-------TOWARD ENLIGHTENMENT: The Eight Jhana States
-------TEN MOST IMPORTANT MUDRAS
Some people, mostly those that have not had the opportunity to find themselves in, or to have experienced a similar situation, sometimes take a strong issue against what I have written in the quote below --- and any implication that it may or may not have --- especially so in how an adverse intake may apply to their own efforts along the road to Enlightenment:
"The monastery itself was a cold, stark environment high in the mountains above the tree line, far removed from the western world and civilization, whose lineage, rituals, and beliefs harkened straight back unbroken and unfettered to the likes of Hui Neng, Bodhidharma and the Buddha. Doing so enabled me to be guided, via the master's skillful means, through to the full level of the unveiled truth, springing undhindered and unencumbered from it's original grounding source. Returning to America I have, because of that experience, through comparison and similes, been able to cut through and discard the trappings overlayed over the centuries, stripping bare to the undiluted core."
While abiding in a like-minded self-imposed starkness the Buddha traversed through all eight of what are called the Eight Jhanas States --- and beyond --- before reaching the Consummantion of Incomparable Enlightenment, Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi. The Jhana states are considered to be at the very heart of the Buddha's teaching. Regarding those Jhana states the following is found at the Jhana link so provided:
"The Jhanas are difficult to teach. Not everyone has a temperament suited to concentration practice. Even for those who find concentration easy, the Jhanas require a long silent retreat setting for learning. Far from being "secluded from unwholesome states of mind," people who wish to learn the Jhanas are immediately thrust INTO the state of desiring something. Finally, as mentioned above, the Jhanas do not lend themselves to "book learning"; you really need one-on-one, immediate feedback from a teacher in order to aim your mind in the correct direction. The Jhanas are natural states on mind, but the lives we lead here at the close of the 20th century are so filled that it is difficult to find the quiet, natural mind."
What actually led Siddhartha to the Buddhahood was his own experimentation in meditation --- the and the beyond mentioned above. This new meditation is known as Vipassana. Vipassana is a Pali term which means insight or penetration into reality. See: VIPASSANA MEDITATION.