Saturday, July 11, 2015

How to Be Enlightened (Maybe)

Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius. —William Blake’s Devil

     Over the years (ha, it’s been years!) I have mentioned several times on this blog a person that I consider to be a “sage,” or an abnormally, extraordinarily wise person, named Paul Lowe. But instead of just mentioning him, in order to do him justice, so to speak, I’d rather let him speak for himself in this post. So I transcribed two of his Dharma talks, or whatever he calls them, from the audio section of his website,, one of which is included below.
     I discovered Paul about 13 years ago, when I was going through a kind of spiritual/emotional/existential crisis in Burma. A friend, a fellow Western monk, gave me In Each Moment, by Paul Lowe, or maybe just lent it to me indefinitely, apparently without considering it to be much more than an interesting book. But it was one of those miraculous cases of receiving the right blessing at the right time, exactly what one needs—which is one reason why I like Paul so much, despite the rather New Ageish angle he adopts. I can honestly say that my life was changed significantly after reading the book, and letting it sink in.
     As Paul says sometimes, the mere words themselves are really not the point, so I suppose the following words will miss the point too. The words are simply a kind of vessel for an attitude, or a “vibration.” So reading dead words on paper or on a screen will hardly have the same effect as listening to a wise teacher in person, or even on a recording. But still, it’s well worth reading—the book, as well as what follows.
     I had never transcribed a talk before, and one interesting thing I learned (interesting to me anyhow) is that there are practically an infinite number of ways to transcribe a talk, even though the words are given; there isn’t just one way, or even a right way…unless the speaker’s preferences would be considered “right.” Where does one start a new paragraph? Does a comma go here, or a semicolon, or a dash? Sometimes it’s not clear even where to end a sentence. So any transcription is also a translation to some degree, reflecting the transcriber’s style of thinking and writing. Bearing that in mind, I hope I haven’t mucked up Paul’s talk too much.
     Also, as is often the case with me, I overcame many urges to “fix up” what are essentially someone else’s words. My duty as a transcriber is simply to record what Paul said, not fix sloppy grammar or whatever. (This is one great advantage of writing: That one can go back and fix up the rambling mode of communication that spontaneous speech often takes. On the other hand, that aforementioned “vibration” is lacking, or much reduced.) So instead of fixing up sentences in which Paul suddenly changes the subject midway, or in which he slightly forgets how the statement began by the time he gets to the end, I have left it as it is, which is best.
     I assume that most of the great spiritual teachers spoke in a rambling, not necessarily grammatically correct manner, and that later disciples, in recording and editing everything, smoothed it all out for the sake of “propriety.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buddha and Jesus gave rambling, sometimes semicoherent Dharma talks, and tossed in unnecessary particles like “kinda” or “y’know?” as well as some substandard grammar. “OK, uh, blessed are they who know their spiritual poverty, y’know?”
     Anyway, here’s the transcription of Paul’s talk. It, and many others well worth hearing, may be found at He also has talks on YouTube.

"Being Open for What We Need," by Paul Lowe

     As we start to be less asleep, more awake, we start to realize that what we've been accepting as "the way it is," is not the way it is. There really is something else. And is seems that this happens in degrees; we have a certain level of waking up, and we go, "Ohhh…right, it's not like I thought is was! It's like this!" And then, we start to assume that this new "this" is the way it is, because we want to be safe and secure and predictable—you want to say, "Ah, this is it." And it isn't it. I don't think that there is an "it." It's moving and changing all the time.
     So we have an awakening, you see the way it is, and that's the way we want to see it now. And it isn't the way it is, 'cause if you can see it, there's still a seer and a seen. There's still a separateness. So, to have our realizations and then say, "Great! And is there anything else?" be grateful for where you are, and be open for something else. 
     Now one of the things that people wake up to is, that they've had a fixed idea about what's possible and not possible. Of course we were indoctrinated with that from birth—"This is the way it is"—and it's a different "This" depending on whether you're a Catholic or a Muslim or a Jew or a this or a that. The "This" is different. 
     When you realize, "Oh, it's not that way; things aren't as fixed as I thought; so therefore: I can change it! I can manifest it."—in fact there are workshops about manifesting—which is certainly a better idea than being stuck in the old, but what we don't realize is, when we manifest something, we manifest it from the old, 'cause that's all we've got. We don't have the new, we don't know what the new is. So when we manifest something we take the old, and squeeze it into a shape we like better, and project it into the future and say, "That's what we want." 
     Marilyn Monroe sang, "After you get what you want, you don't want what you got at all." So when you get there you realize, "Oh, this is out of date already," or "This isn't the way I thought it was," or "I didn't realize that." I didn't realize that. And we can't, 'cause we don't see in the future. Even a psychic, when they see what we call "the future" is the future based on now. You can say, "Oh, this will happen to you in the future," but only if you keep on doing the same thing in the same way; so if a psychic says you're going to have a car accident on the 19th, you don't get in a car on the 19th. You've already changed what's called "the future."
     So when we manifest, we manifest from the old—and we put a lot of energy into it—getting something that may, almost certainly, [be] what we want, but not what we need. And what we really need to be open for, is, "What do we need?" Whatever it is, however it is, we need to be open to what we need; so then people say, "So don't manifest," and we go into extremes again. 
     What I suggest is this: Sit, close your eyes, turn everything off, and listen. Be still. And then, allow coming in, "How would I like things to be, ideally? Where would I like to be, what would I like to be doing, and would I like to be—" get it all very clear, because you see, that is your reality, whether you know it or not. That's your matrix. That's your pattern. That's what goes on in the background all the time; that's why you keep getting upset, because things aren't the way that you would like them to be. In the background. But get it clear, bring it all to the fore, see it, get it clearly and say, "That's the way I would like things to be." And then, disconnect and let it go. As is appropriate. 
     Don't make things happen. You use your will and almost certainly you'll regret it. Because the will…let's say it…bends things, your will bends things, you bend peop—you know, when you convince somebody against their will to do something, they're never happy, and neither are you! 'Cause you know you made them do it and they didn't want to do it. Disconnect from the will. Acknowledge it, see what you would like, and disconnect from it. Make space. Open up, and say, "As is appropriate. That's what I'm available for."
     Let's go back a little bit. Almost everybody all the time has a fixed place, and if you say, "Aw, that'll never happen," you have put out a frequency that that will never happen! "Oh, I'll never meet anybody that—" You've just created it! Acknowledge that thought, and then say, "and, I don't know. Existence, I'm open for whatever you'd like to bring me, however you'd like to bring it." Open up, be available, for whatever. 
     Have you noticed sometimes some of the most intriguing things seem to happen, by what we call "accident?" Do you know, many of the great breakthroughs in science were all an accident! Look at the guy that developed LSD: He had no idea what was happening to him, going into these states, he didn't know where it was coming from. He was just imbibing the fumes and going into a state—oh, and so many things; Madame Curie, and—and, uh, Einstein had it come in his sleep, and so, we don't know.
     Now this is what I'm telling you: Listen. Listen. Dare, "Don't know." Don't know. There could be a knock on the door any time, or the phone will ring, or… Anything can happen. Anything. Way, way beyond what you imagine, because you're imagining the old in the old way, and it's usually contracted and it's usually complaining. "Aw, that doesn't happen to me. Aw, I never win anything." Well, you keep going on like that and you probably won't! You're creating an aura around you. And existence will respond to that. "Oh, so you think nothing will happen? I'll make sure nothing happens!" Instead, say, "I don't know, and I'm available, and it may come in some unexpected form, and I'm ready. I'm available. Every time the phone rings, I pick up, not knowing. Every time I meet somebody, I don't know whether I'm not going to say anything, I'm going to have a deep conversation, or I'm going to live with them for the rest of my life!" Don't know. In each moment. 
     Here's something else to review, not getting what you want. So, as I say what I'm about to say, watch where the mind tends to jump, and have a reaction to it. Just, just listen. Just listen. You see, most of the time, most people are not having fun, because they think they don't deserve it. Do you deserve it? 
     You take a look inside, and you'll probably find that somewhere, you're not honoring yourself. You're not accepting yourself the way you are. You think you should be another way, or you think about all the things where you were not kind, or you could have done something else. And so, at some level down there, you don't think you deserve what you would like. And that keeps blocking your blessings. Allowing existence to bless you, to shower on you, to pour all over you—abundance. 
     Nothing's a coincidence; everything has some link somewhere, and if you look deep inside—oh! I used to do this in the groups—I used to say, "Say a long lost uncle had left you some money; how much did he leave you?" You'd be amazed at the piddling little amounts people gave themselves! Instead of millions and millions and millions they'd say, "Oh, he left me a hundred dollars" or "a thousand" or "ten thou—" but they're restricting: they just wouldn't open up to a total amount beyond their imagination. And that's what we do, we just don't allow ourselves to be that open to an abundant, unexpected gift. 
     In each moment…ofttimes—oh, especially when I was born in England, it was, [moaning] "Uhhhr, yeah, oh we're going on a picnic, it'll probably rain." Just…And where I was, if you'd say, "How are you feeling," if somebody was feeling really good they'd say, "Ahh, I could be worse." You see, that's a frequency, that's a vibration, that's what you're putting out, so that's what you get! 
     And I'm not talking about the opposite of being positive, I'm just talking about not being negative. Just being open. "Yes, it could rain, and it may not. And even if it does rain, maybe…" and so on. Keep looking for possibilities that you enjoy, and not keep looking on the dark side. 
     Here's another aspect to not getting what we would like to get. What we don't realize is, as I was saying before, is we've got a fixed place inside—it's fixed—and…see it as a box, and inside the box are all sorts of little compartments about, "This can't happen unless that happens." And so, these are the conditions that you're setting up for what you want to happen; and you make it pretty well impossible. Here's an alternative. Just for a moment, imagine you're semi-transparent; instead of being a fixed idea, you're a not-knowing energy. Now, everything's changing and moving and shifting, and if you look, everything's growing. You just put a tiny little seed in the soil and water it, and in no time at all you've got this incredible being coming out of the ground. And trees that you imagine, "Oh, it's a tree," but keep looking at it, and you'll find it's growing, it's moving, it's changing—everything is growing and moving and changing. If you are less fixed, life will flow through you, because you're not stopping it in any way, you're not fixing it in any way, you are not putting conditions on it. You're saying to life, "Live me. Live through me. Be me." And you're part, then, not a-part, meaning separate, you're part of this incredible abundance. Go out into the forest, go down to the river, look at the fields, bursting with energy, with life…and movement. Moving, always moving. 
     So when we get a fixed idea, we've anchored ourselves in a spot; and as soon as you're not moving, you're miserable. The joy, the bliss, the ecstasy, is Being With Each Moment, as it takes place, flowing with it. And when I say "with it," you're not doing anything; you're just not stopping yourself. 
     A classic one—you jump in a river. If you're trying to achieve something, you're swimming up against the tide. Or, you're a negative person, you're fighting your way down the flow. Instead of, just let go. Bernie Gunther used to say, "Waterfall? No trouble at all." Just be with the flow. And it'll take you here, and it'll take you there, and it'll always take you exactly where you need to be at exactly the time you need to be there! You say, "Isn't that amazing I met you at this point!" No, it's not amazing. That's what happens when we get out of the way. When we become part of life instead of apart. 
     And then, you know, you really do feel blessed. You say, "Oh! Isn't that amazing? Isn't that wonderful?" And the thing is, you see, the more you feel blessed, the more blessings you get, Tiddly-Pom. That's the way it is! Gratefulness creates a space for more to come to you: exactly what you need, in exactly the appropriate moment.                          

Thank you, Paul.


  1. Not sure if post went through, I'll try agin. I watched some of his videos and was initially impressed with his voice but as I continued to watch I got a 'silver tongued devil' vibe. Maybe it's because I have heard most, if not all, of the new age platitudes by now. Or maybe it's because he's a silver tonged devil.

    Brian in Bellingham

  2. His video message about "The Nasty Subject Of Being Nasty" made a point about what you do returns to you (not a new concept for most, at least in theory if not in conscious practice/awareness) and also suppressed energy/feelings will eventually come out in extreme and probably inappropriate ways was true enough. I would add that playing the 'victim' or at least playing it to the extreme will attract bullies or circumstances that support the victim mentality. That's been my experience at least. The Middle Way seems to work best for me personally thus this comment.

    B in B

  3. Now I can't say I am pure as the something snow but on some level I believe this article confirms my feelings of a "silver tongued something or other' Or maybe I'm just holding on to some prudish residue from a catholic upbringing?

  4. Venerable, I recall from your blog, immediately before your previous return to the west - it's one simple line. You let it slip that you came back to the United States as a reaction to lust. A reaction. Not equanimity. Not stillness. Not another breathe. But a plane ticket. And what followed was a litany. It was judgement and it was accusations. Entanglement. Pornography. Indulgence. A love affair. More accusations. Resentment. Bitterness and sorrow. Although you were sleep-walking your manipulation of her was entirely conscious. And now here we are again. You return. You say you come in search of (preferably female) "spiritual warriors." You praise the notorious sex cultist Paul Lowe. Can't you see? All this nonsense would not have arisen if only you had remained with the breath. To quote Pascal -- 'All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.'

    1. It all depends on how you look at it. If you have a negative attitude you see things negatively, and if you have a positive attitude you see things positively. We interpret reality through limiting filters. "Sex cultist," for example, is a limiting filter.

      And I assure you that my two primary reasons for leaving Burma were 1) a desire to stop drenching in sweat, and 2) a desire to communicate in the English language. I admit that there was an interest to see what would happen with the lust thing, though.

      Anyone who stays only with the breath is a vegetable, not to mention boring as hell.

  5. Hola, I remember listening to a talk you gave where you related your experience with Ayahuasca. I think you still have the talk somewhere here on the blog, but as you were telling about the event and it's powerful affect on you the tape suddenly ended. I would like to know "...the rest of the story" so to speak. Will you be giving any talks around the PNW soon?

    1. Wow, Remonster. I had figured you'd maybe washed your hands of me in disgust a long time ago. Good to hear from you again.

      With regard to a talk on ayahuasca, the only detailed account I can think of is the post "Trial by Ordeal," which I assume you are familiar with. Although I don't check the website very often, I'm pretty sure there's still an audio there briefly describing not an ayahuasca experience, but the only time I ever took psilocybin mushrooms. The only other drug trip I can remember describing is a profound experience I had after "smoking out" on the shore of the Irrawaddy River last January, mentioned in "Life in the Middle of Nowhere," posted on the blog on Feb 21st. I have considered writing a post on psychedelic experiences I had long ago, before becoming a monk, but it would be largely for the sake of entertainment, and for pointing out the subjectivity of "reality."

      As for coming to the PNW, I have been invited, sort of, to come to Bellingham in August, although not for a Dharma talk. At present I have no "venue" in the Pacific Northwest. The board of directors of the meditation society in Bellingham unanimously excommunicated me from their "sangha," ostensibly as a result of the posting of "Let This Be a Lesson." So I'm not planning on any Dharma talks up there in the foreseeable future. If you or someone else provided a venue, however, I could do it.

  6. (An angry, hostile, and—as is to be expected—ANONYMOUS comment received containing the word "fucking" and referring to Paul Lowe as a "vain paedophile" was rejected, not so much for the general information it contained, but because, in addition to it being an anonymous hostile comment, the attitude struck me as being toxic to the point of qualifying as mind pollution. It is strange how people can rage against the alleged false wisdom of a teacher, while behaving in a much more foolish manner themselves. One difference between Eastern and Western Buddhism that I haven't dwelt on is that many Westerners do not hesitate at all to seethe against and attack people who, in all likelihood and to all appearance, are far beyond them in mental development. Astonishing. Those lacking in philosophical detachment, or an appreciation for a little "devil's advocacy," should read a different blog.)

  7. Dear Bhante,
    I hope everything is fine with you in USA. I have a question regarding the dharma not related to this article to ask you. Why is it that it is not right to damage seeds and plant life?

    1. The prohibition against damaging seeds and living plants applies only to fully ordained monastics, not to lay people, and I assume it is more a matter of ancient Indian spiritual culture than of fundamental ethics. Plants were considered to be "ekindriya jiva," or one-facultied life, that is, conscious beings with only one sense, the sense of touch--no sight, hearing, thought, etc. So "holy people" were expected not to harm any conscious being at all, including plants. The Jains and others took it even further, considering fire and cold, unsterilized water to contain life that must not be destroyed (by putting out the fire or drinking the water). So again, it's probably a matter of ancient Indian beliefs, and not actual good or bad.

  8. Thank you Bhante for answering my query.

  9. Shri Pannobhaso Bhikkhu ji,
    I just could not get over the fact a few months back that he was not celibate and more like a sexual reprobate to my then conservative mind. But a bit deeper meditative practice had me reflecting on this again..May be he can call up his Nirvanic state/"The Zone" at will? and when the Nirvanic state dominates there is no "I" story playing in the background? and only a mechanical understanding of what needs to be done at the present moment?........along with mindful cognition of the present scenario?

    and since The Zone uses the same brain to project itself on Earth, it quickly depletes brain power and thats why fades away or abolishes itself away...and then the Paul Lowe returns with all his sexual desires?

    I am tending towards the view that you proposed in your latest essay..There is something called "temporary enlightenment" and the Suttas point out that too as you said..

    So may be Paul Lowe and for that matter quite a few others know the inner psychological workings of the brain (which of course doesnot disappear with Enlightenment even if the "I"/self-narrative disappears) when "The Zone" descends on to this plane..

    I would also like to know the relationship between sexual desire and the Onset of Enlightenment.. I would like to know your view specifically given your huge knowledge from varied scholarship, interaction with various traditions and personal experience and not just a didactical/doctrinal point of view.

    I experimented with Tantric Vipassana last year and almost meditated to death (or at least was ready to embrace death in meditation) in order to save the father of my then girlfriend (still very close friends, we just stopped physical connection) who went into severe coma after being in a car accident ...

    After I came out of that session (which was intermittent over 36 hours), I felt completely Asexual for the next 2 weeks....let me put it this way..It was EFFORTLESS thoughts, words and deeds...sexual thoughts were getting neutralized the very second they were coming in...

    My mental state could have been likened to a 7 yr old boy...even Freudian's say that after experiencing sexual desire in childhood (0-5 yrs) , there is no sexual feelings in boys till the start of puberty

    But this sort of meditation really robbed me of my energy (mentally and physically) and I was not ready to do that regularly..when the two week period waned off, sexual desire came back in a much more explosive way..I am suffering from such a high libido as never ever in my life..this has been the story the last 1.5 years...only with much difficulty I can do one week streaks these days..when previously I could do one month streaks.but a zest for worldly life also came as I intimated to you earlier, my goal is to make as much money as possible so that I can establish a monastery here in Germany for monks in max. 3 years...

    That way I can stay close to the holy life, till I can totally get rid of sexual desire..

    1. It's not a matter of alternating back and forth between enlightened and sexual. Most people have very unrealistic ideas about what wisdom is and isn't. For example, most people are neurotic as all get-out with regard to sex (which is a major reason for all the uproar about sex scandals), so they can't see it as anything more than a spiritual problem, or worse.

      You come from a predominantly Hindu culture, right? Consider Krishna. He wasn't just enlightened, he was God Almighty, in human form. But Krishna killed people, had sex, told lies, and did all kinds of naughty stuff. Some people would like to interpret it all as allegory, but the thing is, Krishna wasn't just the God of goodness and rightness and "purity" (whatever that is), he was the God of EVERYTHING, including murder, sex, and lying. Enlightenment and illusion are not mutually exclusive opposites, and a saint and a sage are not necessarily the same person.

      The trick lies in not having a two-dimensional understanding of "how things are." Enlightenment may be much more a matter of transcending our humanity than of amputating it. An enlightened human still retains his or her humanity.