There are interesting transformative analogies found in the relationship between a cocoon and the butterfly. If we think about it, ordinary mind is held tight in an almost impenetrable web, like a cocoon. In order to get out of this web, once nurturing, but now unendurable cocoon, the mind, like the butterfly is going to need a lot of strength. It must be another kind of strength because in human terms, how much strength does a delicate butterfly actually possess? It could not punch its way out of a paper bag, as they say, and yet I have seen photos of the tremendous exertion the butterfly expends in order to free itself. This is like the tremendous energetic effort that you will need to make at the time of your enlightenment.
There is continuous inner effort begun at the time of initiation or inner activation of spiritual connection with the Buddha. I suppose we actually do not need to worry about making too much effort at this stage because people are usually not capable of making the correct effort at the beginning. Lamas will say, "Try hard" because we are not afraid that you are going to break yourself, but if it looks like you are doing it inappropriately, then we say, "Try this, or try that."
My main point here, is that the path to transformation has been activated in you and is not activated "out there" somewhere; it is activated in your heart center, the real location of your mind. The Path is comprised of methods that strengthen connections to higher level being, enlightened being, or inner mentor. Some might wish to call that the higher you in the future, which is a little harder for me to understand from my more traditional Tibetan education. This special process coming from your interior, carefully structured for you as an individual, is according to your karma and characteristics rather than a group. If it is not disturbed, it will continue for a very long time and is considered to be a life treasure of a meditator.
There are other inner transmissions reserved for someone who may be in retreat for five or ten years or almost ready to make a breakthrough. There are still other transmissions associated with retaining a meditational inner lineage in a high clarity way that is rare, and requires special commitments. These are not part of this discussion but perhaps interesting to understand that they exist.
We feel that the path was spoken by and introduced into this world system by Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. Although it did exist before Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, those teachings from previous awakened ones or Buddhas who taught in this world had undergone great losses, so much so they became unrecognizable or unusable for transformation. Buddha Shakyamuni created a fresh transmission but did not invent Buddhism, as he is the fourth of the one thousand world teachers to arrive. He never said he was devising a new religious system. He just said, "This is how I became awakened, if you follow these steps, you will become awakened as well." Although his teaching style changed dramatically during his lifetime, according to the needs of the people, he was never separated from the Path. The three turnings of the wheel of dharma reveal special teachings for different levels of people as well as revealing a historical progression of teaching methods Buddha bestowed of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana paths.
Buddha Shakyamuni was continuously connected to the Great Path to Ultimate Perfection. By gesture, example and direct inner and outer guidance he showed people the way to grow and what would help. His path, as he generously shared with others, continues to be disseminated mainly by living transmissions but also through translations into many different languages. However, the main purpose is still very clearly to connect people to the path of transformation. Whether we speak Tibetan, Chinese, or English does not matter; the path is the same path. It existed as very real to Buddha Shakyamuni, and He is the shining light of the path for those of us in the human realm. He is a beacon on the path, fully recognizable to those who seriously study and meditate on Buddhism. At some point, you will come face-to-face with Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, and he is going to tell you, "Well done. You made it this far." Even that does not mean that you are just like Buddha Shakyamuni, but there is a strong connection.
These are authentic connections created in careful initiation and activation of the inner process, if we make effort to enter, and remain steady. There are certain steps that need to be taken by the practitioner, because it is as an individual that one becomes enlightened. However, inner mentor guidance will present challenges, issues, ideas, and teachings specific to the needs of the individuals’ development.
Even for those who are still quite young, there is not a huge amount of time to accomplish everything that could be done in the human realm. We will be challenged, from not only meditation; but even our everyday life will arise as big teachings. Will we listen, or turn away saying, "Oh, this is too difficult, I think I will wait until my next life to figure it out," or, "I do not want to know."
Now is a good time to begin because no one is expecting you to be perfect, which works out well, since the human realm is not perfect. Beyond that position of less expectation, however it is good to develop true sincerity. In that way, we are happy to be challenged in our perceptions, and we would like to gain deep understanding of our true nature. Regarding honest self-assessment, it is often hard for a practitioner to recognize that they have a problem. Often, when difficulties arise, it becomes a challenge to meditate regularly and keep steady schedule of meditation.
Our biggest challenge is understanding that this entire operating organization of mental functions, emotions and memories takes place within the very mind that needs to use the operating system, but also needs to monitor it while it is working. Here we learn that escapist thinking, avoiding dealing with problems in life as well as the stretching toward transformation, will not resolve issues for correct closure. A problem in recognizing that there is a problem is that you are already working with a defective operating system. The living computer program, in other words your nature, strategies, and personality are your personal operating system, and perhaps it does not run as smoothly as it could. To be continued……