The Short Path
"If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety percent of his labor." Nikola Tesla
Both Prajnaparamita Buddhism and Taoism discuss a Short Path to uncover Heart-Mind,...a pathless path to fully awaken in a single lifetime. The Short Path is about the discontinuation of searching for oneself in thought and senses; a letting go of the struggle and labor to hold together a reality that does not exist.
Paul Brunton noted: "The Long Path is devoted to clearing away the obstructions in man's nature and to attacking the errors in his character. The Short Path is devoted to affirmatives,... how the individual can come into harmonious relation with the Higher Self....On the Long Path the man is preoccupied with techniques to be practised and disciplines to be undergone. On the Short Path one is preoccupied with the Higher Self and remembrance of its presence...The essential features of the Long Path are its concern with moral effort and its emphasis on character building; its injunctions to pray and meditate; its insistence on the constant striving for self-mastery through physical, emotional, and mental disciplines. The essential feature of the Short Path is its quest of the flash of enlightenment through intuitive feeling and metasensory thinking."
Most of us know the importance of morality for Long Pathers,...and how they cling to religiously contrived rules of right behavior,...usually at the cost of misogyny, pettiness, racism, and competitive attitudes towards others. Advocates of morality are indoctrinated into the belief that morality is necessary for the World; and that only their collection of beliefs constitute what is a good life.
In contrast, what is morality to someone on the Short Path? A Tantrayana Buddhist said, “Morality can only be imposed from without when we are asleep. It can only be pseudo, false, a façade, it cannot become your real being…morality is bound to be nothing but a deep suppression. You cannot do anything while asleep; you can only suppress. And through morality, you will become false. You will not be a person, but simply a “persona”—just a pseudo-entity. . . . Only a dishonest person can be moral."
He continued, “The preachers have convinced the whole world that “you are all sinners.” This is good for them because unless you are convinced, their profession cannot continue. You must be sinners; only then can churches, temples and mosques continue to prosper. Your being in sin is their success. [Churches] are built on your guilt, on your sin, on your inferiority complex. Thus, they have created an inferior humanity.
We condemn the real and we enforce the unreal, because the unreal is going to be helpful in an unreal society and the unreal is going to be convenient…A child is born in a society, and a society is already there with its fixed rules, regulations, behaviors and moralities which the child has to learn.
When he will grow he will become false. Then children will be born to him, and he will help make them false, and this goes on and on. What to do?”
The word false is important to a Short Pather. As Eckhart Tolle said, "we need to draw our attention to what is false in us, for unless we learn to recognize the false as the false, there can be no lasting transformation, and you will always be drawn back into illusion, for that is how the false perpetuates itself"
Whereas the Long Paths see good and evil in the world, the Short Path recognizes the basic goodness in everything, while simultaneously aware of the false that obscures it.
Paul Brunton notes that, "The metaphysical background of the Short Path is the very opposite of the Long Path's. The former finds only Good in the universe and only One Real Existence. The latter finds good and evil in constant conflict and millions of egos whose separateness is very real to him. The former regards the goal as being already and always present, whereas the latter regards it as lying at the end of a long, laborous journey."
Historically, the Short Path is often associated with Tilopa (and what is called the Second Transmission), which is embraced within the Third and Fourth Yana of Buddhism. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation (by Gampopa before Tilopa's Self-Liting) mentions that, "Man is to be known in three ways: As inferior (Theraveda), mediocre (Mahayana) and excellent (Vajrayana)." Vajrayana, in the simplist sense is the realization of the inverse flow of forward-moving things. Beyond Vajrayana (although often included as a subset of Vajrayana) is a Fourth Stream of Mastery known as Kagyu (associated with the Red Hats), and embodies much of the short path to Vajra, through which liberation from samsara can be uncovered in a single lifetime.
Some suggest that the Short Path or sahaja was first discussed by the Tantric Siddha master Saraha in the 8th century CE. Sahaja is one’s natural, unaltered, Unborn Awareness,...the consciousness before experience was filtered through the 6 senses. In Taoism, sahaja is synonymous with Ziran, referring to a state of "as-it-isness." This "as-it-isness" is not in reference to the 6 senses.
It is impossible to has a direct experience through the 6 senses,...all experience born of the 6 senses can only be experienced through the conditions of the 6 senses. Lao Tzu purportedly said, "Recognize that everything you see and think is a falsehood, an illusion, a veil over the truth." Also regarding the senses, he said, "the ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle; totally fascinated by the realm of the senses....if anyone threaten it, it actually fears for its life. Let this monkey go. Let the senses go." As-it-isness is beyond the senses.
In the Phaedo, Socrates argues that “the senses do not grasp reality in any way.”
“All that I have tried to understand to the present time has been affected by my senses; now I know these senses are deceivers, and it is prudent to be distrustful after one has been deceived once.” René Descartes
The lineages of Tilopa, especially those of the Kagyudpas Red Hats, bear much similarity to the teachings of the twentieth-century mystic G. I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff founded the Fourth Way, which, by his own admission, was imparted to him somewhere in central Asia, most likely the Uddiyana area, at a Sarmoun lamasery, an ancient school sought out by him in the early twentieth century. The Kagyu have had Surmang monasteries in that area. At a Sarmoun lamasery, Gurdjieff witnessed dakinis performing sacred dances that embodied universal laws, learned the basic principles of cosmology, and acquired insights into the fourth stream of mastery (Kagyu) that formed the foundation of his Fourth Way teachings. The Fourth Way, like Kagyu, is designed to facilitate the awakening of consciousness in a single lifetime. The lamas call this the Short Path of Mahamudra. Interestingly, Gurdjieff differentiated Lamas from Buddhists when he insisted that the Buddhism and Lamaism of his day were two of five distinct spiritual paths.
Within Tibetan Buddhism, freethought magick is specific to the Red Hat tradition. The Red Hats are Shambhala warriors, from whom it is predicted that Maitreya, the Future Buddha, will arise. The Yellow Hats are followers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Lamaseries in central Asia taught the "Four Turnings of the Dharma" or fourth stream of mastery through instructions on self-remembering. Like the Mahamudras, Gurdjieff’s intent (not to be confused with the philosophy of his self-estranged student P. D. Ouspensky) was a Fourth Way that, like Kagyu, included instruction on what is not the way,...that is, to understand truth through identifying what is not true. Gurdjieff himself purportedly said that he once wore the red robes, indicating more than a short stay with the “bees” who gathered and preserved the honey of wisdom. Thus the Fourth Way (the non-Ouspensky version) is a Western lineage of Tilopa’s transmission; one overlaid with the Middle Eastern Sufi influences of Gurdjieff’s youth. Many who seek wisdom, like Gurdjieff, understand that like bees, they must gather nectar from many flowers.
The Fourth Way student P. D. Ouspensky had a falling out with Gurdjieff when the latter advocated dance and movement to encourage wakefulness. Ouspensky was more interested in promoting his previous cerebral books than the sapience that Gurdjieff had to offer. Following Gurdjieff’s death in 1949, self-proclaimed authorities have taken over much of that philosophy, usually with the claim that they knew him, and thus eviscerated the Gurdjieff work by mixing it with theirs and Ouspensky’s cerebro-centric views, and making it binding as a canon of scripture. That is to say, no bees allowed.
Freethought Buddhism is not about exclusion, but inclusion of all that can cultivare direct experience. The Short Path uncovers truth through honesty,...even though that honesty will likely obliterate nearly everything one thought was meaningful.