Advaita Philosophy and The Yogachara school of Mahayana Buddhism
Having explored my soul’s path and that of many others on their journeys of reincarnation, I find western philosophy completely inadequate to describe the great journey of the human soul.
So my philosophy is the most beautiful in all the world of religions: The Yogachara school of Mahayana Buddhism.
What’s that? Well, fortunately it’s easy even for western minds to grasp. (Thanks to Roger Corless of Duke University for explaining this all to me in 1971, so I could explain to all of you.)
I must however begin at the beginning. The Advaita philosophy is the basic belief system of all of Hinduism, Buddhism, and a string of religions in the East. Any objective explorer of the inner worlds quickly discovers its reality.
Advaita means “non-dualism” and is based upon two apparent dualities that must be reconciled. The physical world exists and appears to be dense, chaotic, and filled with notions of separateness. Since I am not you, I can use or discard or steal from you at will. This evil world is thus filled with evil actions. Life appears to end at death and is mostly meaningless. Especially it seems meaningless or evil when we compare it to the heavenly realm of spirit, an utterly separate world.
This common theme among religious philosophies is called “dualism”. Or for us simpler folks: “This world is a veil of tears! Swing low sweet chariot, and take me home!”
But according to Advaita philosophy, this ugly appearing world is not separate from the underlying universal consciousness which connects all of us together. This universal consciousness is known as the Atman in Advaita philosophy, the Buddhata to Buddhists, and the morphogenetic field or the Quantum field to the modern physicist.
Evidence of this connection is found in modern physics laboratories as well as in the equations of quantum physics. This quantum field is not a connection of energy or matter but of consciousness. (Look up Bell’s theorem some time). Instead of being separated by a vast gulf, the spiritual and material worlds are linked together inseparably through this universal field of consciousness.
For us country folks, that means: This physical plane provides a perfect reflection of our spiritual lessons and challenges across our many lifetimes as an immortal soul. It is not just a “veil of tears” and suffering while waiting for an afterlife of joy. Not a prison land of temptation, evil, and pain, to be escaped from. That is the meaning of the word “Advaita”, Sanskrit for non-dualism.
According to this philosophy the goal for us human souls is to transcend our ego attachment to the desires of this world which have ensnared our soul through many lifetimes of ignorance, selfishness, and pain. This is to be accomplished ideally through discovering a living master who has escaped this world and following his every instruction for many years. Ideally while living in a celibate (no distractions from the opposite sex) community and meditating daily. Only thus, says Advaita, do we release our centuries of accumulated Karma and enter the utterly transcendent state of “nirvana” which means blissful extinction of the ego self into the sea of universal bliss.
Innumerable schools of Buddhism, as well as numerous eastern guru cults, are based on this philosophy. Traditional Buddhist and Hindu teachings go by many names in many languages but most are based on this understanding.
Not so the Yogachara school of Mahayana Buddhism. First Mahayana Buddhism’s goal is quite different than earlier schools of meditation. The defining feature of Mahayana is that the practitioner deliberately makes a holy vow that isn’t the usual poverty, chastity, and obedience required of Buddhist monks.
“I promise not to enter nirvana until every other sentient being in all of creation can go with me.”
That’s kind of a big job. So the Mahayana practitioner has to leave the monastery for some portion of his life and work in the world to help ordinary people attain enlightenment. He doesn’t get to just hide out in a monastery!
Mahayana monks are free to marry in many orders, using their married life as a chance to grow toward enlightenment while helping lift others as well. They also assume roles as teachers, servants, healers, political activists and spiritual teachers remembering every day: “I have to carry all of you clowns with me into heaven or I’m not getting there!” they have to live in the world.
The yogachara philosophy exists within this tradition. In Yogachara the physical world is a secondary manifestation of the great underground river of karmic deeds and consequences that is the alaya vijnana.
The karmic deeds of our past are seeds(Bijas) we planted in this great river of universal consciousness, some yesterday, some hundreds of years ago. These deeds for good or ill bear fruit which arise before us as the lessons, challenges, and heartbreaks of our daily lives. Most of us simply endure these experiences without understanding their meaning. We have no clue what seeds planted in our past lives are bringing these lessons into our lives. We don’t even know there are such lessons, or what those lessons are supposed to be. And this is true especially in the West. Here the blindness of Western religions to past life karmic realities leaves us completely at a loss to understand the sources of our life circumstances. We wind up wondering, like the Biblical Job: “How could there be a loving God when he does that to me!” How many times have we heard this before? How often have we said it? Yeah. Lots. Well, we can finally stop blaming God. Here’s where the real fault lies:
Imagine waking up every day with no knowledge of who you were or what you did before you awoke. “Who is that person sharing my bed? There’s a guitar in the corner. Do I play it? Why is my leg hurting? Someone saying she’s my mother is on the phone. Do I have to go to work? Where? I can’t remember…”
Most of us, thank God, don’t suffer this kind of confusion in our daily lives until we hit the depths of dementia. But everyone born and raised in western religious or atheist culture grows up just this ignorant of their thousands of years of past lives. Past lives which have brought them all of their present personality, abilities, challenges, and traumas. Pretty stupid really. To ignore the vast river whose current carries us onward. Worse, to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
Many of us in the west therefore are happy to surrender our rudderless existence in the incomprehensible currents of life to any guru or Religious faith who can give us a promise of “Salvation.” Most people would rather believe a wrong answer that is easy to understand, than the truth, which is considerably more complicated. And may require changes in their lives.
The true practitioner of Yogachara Buddhism, rather than surrendering to a guru or cult, uses active meditation, called vijnana, to swim upstream in this great river of karmic deeds and consequences, clear the karma and learn the lessons that our ten thousand year old soul has to teach us. This means we should not count on a guru, or a human sacrifice to save us from our soul’s purpose. We have to learn to swim, and discover that destiny within ourselves.
We actually have to pick up the textbook which is our karma and start learning the lessons and performing the actual deeds of giving and serving in the world required to erase that karma. That is called turning through your own efforts the wheel of dharma, which means “right action”.
The great Wheel of Dharma on the Indian flag is this symbol. It is no accident that this wheel in all the ancient images as well as the modern flag, resembles the wheel of a sailing ship. Take the wheel of your destiny and turn your ship toward home. Don’t just be a passenger and give the wheel to someone else.
Take responsibility for your Soul’s journey and its path through the millennia. Learn the lessons of past mistakes, and the numerous gifts they have for you. Learn to flow with rather than against the river of your karmic path. Receive guidance from both inner and outer teachers. But with no surrender to any guru required...or recommended. This is Yogachara philosophy.
In the language of Alchemical Hypnosis that means using the alert trance to enter the collective unconscious and work with the higher self to learn from our past lives, both our successes and our failures, and discover and serve our karmic destiny.
That is Yogachara philosophy.
The Yogachara philosophy didn’t survive for long in its native India. More aggressive cults, including a newly nationalistic Hinduism, then the bloodthirsty Imperial faiths of Islam and British mercantilism ran these folks up into the Himalayan Mountains. Where they became...Tibetan Buddhists! And they renamed their philosophy “Vajrayana” The path of the lightning bolt of insight.
So in case you’re wondering why I’m always wearing Tibetan clothes and spouting Tibetan philosophy. Yeah. The great reincarnated masters of Tibet, especially the current Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet for nearly 500 years, are strangely different from other gurus in the Advaita tradition.
They don’t talk up how enlightened they are. Or how sinful and lost you are. They don’t wave a book of essential doctrines at you. Nor do they insist that you surrender your will to them. They just encourage you to go on a path of self-discovery. A path which they claim they are also still on. As the Dalai Lama once said: “(Tibetan) Buddhism is not a religion. It’s a set of practices anyone can use to help us find happiness.” This is the modern lotus of wisdom that is Yogachara.