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LONG PATH/SHORT PATH

You asked about the terms "Long Path" and "Short Path." I don't know who initiated them. They've existed since long ago and are paths to the attainment of spiritual realization. The Long Path means that it takes a long time and also that the path itself is difficult, and being difficult it takes a long time.

The term "Short Path" has the opposite meaning: it's short in time, and the amount of work is short. For example, in teachings like Zen they speak about sudden enlightenment. You can't get any shorter than that.

Of course, when people hear about sudden enlightenment, they want to join, to get enlightenment quickly. The Long Path is not very popular.

"Short Path" does not mean "sudden." It just means "shorter."

The Long Path is simply what is normally associated with yoga: the exercises to practise concentration, attention, relaxation of the body and the mind, ascetic self-discipline, self-control. These are taught in most of the schools; however, there is no set of rules that is studied. Basically it involves getting your thoughts under control and controlling your body, your thoughts, feelings, and will.

This is working on trying to improve yourself inside and your life outside also. The inner and the outer work is part of the Long Path. It's not so easy and may go on for a long time.

After years, people may get a bit tired and abandon the thing altogether, or withdraw and come back later.

Anyway, there comes a time to most--not to all--of those with special karma, those who have gone through the Long Path before, and they are plopped into realization. Examples are Ramana and Wei Wu Wei. They realize what is Truth, what is Real, what is the I. But these are exceptions.

The Long Path will be followed life after life with only some results, nothing dramatic.

But others get rather hopeless without results, and they reach a stage of pessimism or even despair over this impossible goal. This is where they abandon or turn against the quest. At this stage they are very ripe for a transition to the Short Path. (This is the method of the Koan, where the seeker is forced to reach a state of despair.) If he gives up in the proper way, he'll get a glimpse powerful enough to turn him around.

Others come to the Short Path in a very simple, natural way. They've done what they could on the Long Path, and they are brought into contact with the Short Path--either by a book, by a dream, or by their guru.

So the Short Path has begun. It makes life considerably pleasanter because you are supposed to make a 180 degree turn, putting your past behind you, looking first on the bright side, the sunny side, of your spiritual life. Very often a glimpse is given which starts you off on the Short Path, and you are shown what to do. You get new exercises, or no exercise at all. You see things which you missed before when you just saw the gloomy side. The exercises may be chosen by the seeker or by the guru. Each must find his own, but all are bright, cheerful, constructive.

But most important of all, now you are in the area of Grace. Now Grace is coming openly to work, and you can see it working, a power higher than your own, higher than your guru.

When you are in the area of Grace, anything can happen--anything--because you are not doing it. A higher power is doing it. It is really being done within you, in the heart, not in the head.

The heart is the centre. Here is the consummation, the union with God. It is here that you feel it most in the beginning. We have to end up in the heart, which means we have to meet Truth, Reality, in the heart with feeling. But it has to be understood in the head. There has to be discrimination between what appears and what is really there.

This Reality is what you are really seeking. What appears seems to be what you are seeking, but it is not.

You can't be a fool to understand the meaning of the world and of life. We must feel and think. The two together fuse in realization.

You both feel and know at the same time what you are, what God is, and what the world is.

Realization cannot be achieved on the Long Path. It cannot. It is a gift, and that means grace, the Short Path.

But you must work for it. There has to be the Long Path and the Short Path, but you must not make the mistake of thinking you must mechanically stick to the Long Path. You may start with both, work the two together, and it becomes a sort of balance.

If you start the Short Path before you are ready for it, you may become unbalanced. But the Long Path may become dry.

There has to be life, feeling. The amount of Long Path and Short Path depends on the individual. If you don't know, you must ask your guru.

It seems complicated, and in a way it is. But in a way, it is very simple.

In the end you will reject both. There is no Long Path or Short Path. We have constructed them to conform to what we think. Buddha says in the Dhammapada that you yourself made up this picture you have of yourself, the picture you think is real. It is made by thought and can be undone by thought.

You could also say there is nothing to the whole thing: simply surrender yourself to God. This is true if you can do it.

We get over-educated, have to rationalize everything and spend time writing books and reading books which are not altogether worthwhile.--January 1979


-- Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 5: Balancing the Paths > # 56






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