Lama Marut opened the 2 nd Annual Mahasukha Festival of Bliss with an extraordinary teaching on "Living the Perfect Life, Here & Now."
Venerable Sumati Marut kicked off the 2nd Annual Festival of Bliss on November 3rd and 4th with an amazing teaching on "Living the Perfect Life, Here & Now." Drawing from Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other sacred texts, he explored the lifestyle of the Jivanmukti, the Hindu yogic term for one who is "liberated in this lifetime." He was excited to give this new teaching because he believes most of us are very close to the goal of learning how to be truly happy.
Why are we so close to the goal? Lama Marut pointed out that the access to knowledge, material resources and education we enjoy was only available to royalty and the elite in the past. Now the question is what we're going to do with this prosperity. The only things keeping us from realizing true happiness are the everyday distractions of modern life. All we need to do is get our priorities in the right order. Venerable Marut alluded to Jesus' statement, "I declare that there are those sitting here among us who will not taste of death before they reach the Kingdom of Heaven."
He asked the audience, "What would a Jivanmukti look like? Does he float? Does she glow?" Lama Marut quickly noted that these types of ideas about enlightened beings keep us from becoming one. Why should they look different? The high Buddhists texts suggest we have the same physical form as enlightened beings. The Bible's Book of Genesis proclaims that we are created in the image of God. The change clearly doesn't take place so much on the outside as much as it does on the inside.
This served as the jumping off point for Lama Marut's explanation of two basic models in religion: developmental and discovery. To illustrate this, he referred to the continually debated question in Buddhism of whether enlightenment is gradual or sudden. He offered, "Gradually you'll get to the point when you realize that enlightenment is suddenly occurring." The paradox of the religious life is that we need to work hard to develop ourselves to the point where we realize that there was nothing to do at all. Lama Marut proposed another way of approaching the two models as "causal" versus "consequential." Take for example samsara (the suffering world) and nirvana. He advises that samsara and nirvana are simply different perspectives on the same thing. We don't attain nirvana. We realize it. We realize the potential here and now. When we realize enlightenment, we'll know we've always been enlightened. We'll just give ourselves an enlightened backstory as a prop for our present. Another angle on the developmental model versus the discovery model is "sequential" as opposed to "simultaneous." From a spiritual standpoint, this can be seen through the realization of enlightenment as a result of one's works or faith. From a philosophical point of view, we can understand this as "becoming" in contrast to "being." The last viewpoint Lama Marut presented was a linear view of history as opposed to a cyclical one. The West primarily adheres to the linear understanding. But the majority of the East lives by a cyclical view, where enlightenment can occur anywhere at anytime.
Many of us have not convinced ourselves that we're ready for the discovery model. We think we need to improve because we see ourselves as afflicted. The developmental model serves us well in building up our spiritual self-esteem. In this sense, if you want to achieve a happy life, you must practice a happy life. Be aware that the means and ends are the same. Do what Jivanmuktis, liberated living beings, do. As the Bhagavad Gita says, "Whatever an exceptional person does, other folks do too. The whole world tries to measure up to the standard that one sets."
According to Lama Marut, it is essential at this point to be honest with who we think we are. This involves looking at how morally we've been living our lives. When you become a person who trusts himself to do the right thing, you are living a moral life. You don't have to check yourself because you automatically do the right thing. You could be a Jivanmukti but you must "know thy self."
Lama Marut began to discuss how we can learn to be perfect, to be free here and now. The feared and favorite answer sprang from his mouthˇrenunciation. Happiness is not achievable outside of ourselves and the search for it externally distracts us from looking inward. Contentment, the base level of happiness, is found through discovery model, whereas the developmental model is driven by discontentment. It is achieved by realizing everything is fine in the present. Lama Marut quoted the Astanvakra Gita saying, "Samsara is nothing other than having something that needs to be done."
Acting with contentment, selflessly, in every situation eventually convinces us that we are Jivanmukti. Serving others without expectation generates this sense of true happiness. Practicing with compassion and wisdom leads to selflessness and this virtuous cycle continues to feed itself. Compassion does this by expansion. A compassionate person becomes one with everybody, therefore becoming nobody. Wisdom understands that we've never been anyone to begin with and that the sense of self is simply an illusion. Meanwhile, the ego is desperately trying to identify with concepts (emotions, objects, memories) because it knows there's no one there the way we think there is. The Jivanmukti has figured this out and has re-conceptualized himself in the ultimate way.
Lama Marut addressed karma at this point by explaining how we are our karma. For a person who has identified himself with everybody and nobody, what kind of karma does he have? This is how we beat karma. If karma existed in any other way other than an idea, how could we ever beat it? But we must work our karma to the point where wisdom can finish off the job. He emphasized how a strong spiritual practitioner must have a high tolerance for paradoxes such as this in order to succeed.
Submitted by Brian Reid
How can we safely practice being finished with suffering? Lama Marut encouraged us to just stay happy all day long. In every situation, ask what we can learn and whom you can help. If we see a situation as a teaching, it cannot be a problem. If we see a moment as an opportunity to care for someone, it cannot be a problem. In truth, there are no problems, only interpretations of problems. Does is it ever do us any good to be unhappy about a situation? Being unhappy or happy might not change the situation in the moment but which feels better and makes more sense. Lama Marut also suggested that we practice not having preferences and to say "yes" as much as possible.
The "Yes Man" is the Jivanmukti. He sees his life as a movie, "the play of illusion," with no attachment to the movie or desire to see it change. Lama Marut referred once again to the Astanvakra Gita saying, "When samsara has been terminated by the mind, it is only the play of illusion that remains. The wise man shines forth free of desire and attachment to °•me' and "mine."
With a smile, Lama Marut implored us to live like a child at play. Children don't play for a reason, they play with a free mind. They lose themselves in the playing, free from self-consciousness. The way to learn how to act freely again is through disciplining the mind. We must retrain our minds to trust ourselves.
Venerable Marut ended the evening by reminding us that ultimately, enlightenment is a waking up. After we awaken, we'll understand the world was never samsaric, just our mind was. We will realize there was nothing to be done, only to be known. We know how grateful and blessed we were to receive such wisdom. Please teach us again Lama Marut. Please teach. Please teach.
Some words on the beautiful Festival of Bliss last month:
"Amazing event with such pure good positive energy, a perfect example of the love and impact ACI has in the community.
I couldn't help but think last night about my experience moving here 8 months ago and how different it would be if I hadn't walked in ACI's front doors!
Thank you for helping me find the right perspective on so many things!"
Submitted by Kevin
I found out about the Mahasukha Center during a personal search for new tools and refinements to existing life practices. A deepening and stretching of strategies was occurring, and I sensed the need to add to the toolbox. My first visit to the Mahasukha Center was during last year's Festival of Bliss.
How to describe how big those first evenings at the Center felt? The positive energy flowing through the room was almost too much to grasp! Lama Marut's teachings addressed my agenda and began the accelerated filling of the toolbox; changes in practices quickly followed.
This year's Festival of Bliss was a joy to participate in and attend: working with various members in planning, sharing tasks and preparation added deeper meaning to growing friendships. Lama Marut's teachings added more tools and confirmed some discoveries. Still deepening and stretching, but, now it's within reach.
Submitted by Denice Bartels