Chapter Six: The Instructive Stories

Chapter Six: The Instructive Stories

The overview of the traditions in the previous chapters highlights the fact that spiritual teaching and practice systems develop creatively over time, the expressions ensuing from them giving voice to a liberating realization through the filters of many different and unique individuals and cultures and times.

The traditions surveyed therefore do not really represent movements and voices that are necessarily locked into a rigid presentation and sharing of them. The history just shared in the preceding chapters demonstrates that fact. In fact, completely new traditions may take shape as a result of these traditions impacting western cultures over the last two centuries.

Taking a look of the state of the non duality scene today (end of 2015), there is a rich variety of teaching and practice vehicles available. This wealth in available options is a reflection of the natural and endless potentialities in personal make ups and ways of expression. Since the earliest years of the 19th Century, and with an accelerating creative surge over the last fifty years, a very wide variety of “vehicles” to teach and grant practice settings have manifested from both the impetus of traditional systems and iconoclastic voices. Thus, there’s something in place that may be effective, helpful, suitable, and attractive for more people than at any other time in recorded history.

There is therefore a very rich history with instructive stories available to us that not only inspires, but may disillusion us in a way that matures us rather than shut down our inspiration to awaken.

This chapter will not revisit in any great depth or specificity the history of the past two hundred years. For that, we offer a reference list for those wishing to followup in depth, and here focus instead on the key issues and instructive lessons arising from the history of these traditions taking root and developing in American and European cultures.

In this age, with our capacity to examine anything getting even more microscopic and transparent in a world connected by the internet, more gets revealed and exposed about both unfolding happenings and that which has gone on before. That means potentially clearer vision of dark shadows, creepy monsters as well as creative lights and bright energies——in us, and others. But, we have to hear the instructive stories, see the lessons, and allow them to deepen understanding of ourselves and our ways.

The airing of so many instructive stories in recent decades, oftentimes very publicly in dramatically presented news reports, has brought more acutely to our attention some key issues to be mindful of.

They are not new issues. Some were noted in previous chapters. For example, the Buddha, when practicing under the guiding instructions of his two gurus, could enter super-conscious states and stay blissfully absorbed for some time. Yet, in coming out of these states, he was still ensnared by the conditioning and raw realities of psychological, emotional, behavioral, and mental patterns binding him to an endless round of unnecessary suffering—-just like every other human. The Buddha wisely recognized that he had to openly face all of his “stuff”.

The flashes of recognition of our ever-present non-dual nature, or our intrinsic enlightened condition, can begin an awakening process that significantly brings into the forefront of our feeling and awareness this enlightened nature. Which doesn’t come and go, but is only usually “obscured” and “unrealized”.

The stabilizing and deepening of the realization of our non-dual nature is the basis for the liberating release these traditions (profiled in this book) reference as the “fruit” of practice. This liberating release, though, is not an escape from the world or human society, for in awakening compassion blossoms naturally (and unselfconsciously) and we are moved to inspire this realization by others who are still ensnared in a seemingly impossible-to-escape round of unnecessary suffering (compounding our experiences of inevitable psychological pain).

These traditions point to the need to bring into the light of “naked” awareness the conditioned and patterned movements of our life, largely impacting us from the shadowy realm of our “unconscious”. (The term “vasanas” refers to these patterns of behavior, emoting, feeling, thinking, etc.) These conditioned patterns are continuously shaped and impacted by the ongoing “storing” of our experiences and associated impressions of them. (The term “Samskaras” refers to that.)

All of that was the “stuff” the Buddha recognized he had to address and bring fully into the “light”. And, then, not get entangled in all of it but instead just releasing the bondage of the conditioning hold all that “stuff” has. In the metaphorical story of the Buddhas’s awakening, compressed into a single night, the enticing hold and patterned ways of the Buddha were vividly represented to him by the demoness “Mara”.

In our time, voices from many corners began to point out the pitfall of being distracted from the liberating and awakening process by seeking, and singularly focused on having, experiences of super-conscious states of blissful absorption. All the while leaving unaddressed the suffering-inducing and conditioned ways. The “stuff” just keeps popping up, and in the context of many spiritual practice communities, is dealt with in a strategy of suppression and dissociation.

In fact, in 1984, a psychologist and a Buddhist practitioner in such a community (Jon Wellwood) observed in himself and others there this dynamic and coined the term “spiritual bypassing”.

In a book where John Welwood wrote the forward, a quarter century after his coining the term “spiritual bypassing”, author Mariana Caplan (Ph.D therapist and long time practitioner) provides a clear definition:

“Psychologist John Welwood brought the concept of spiritual bypassing to the attention of the Western public as a way to help people understand how the ego can, and does, co-opt spiritual ideas and practices by attempting to bypass, rather than work through, the wounded, confused, and even damaged aspects of our psyches. Spiritual bypassing operates at all levels of spiritual development, from beginning seekers to advanced yogis and spiritual masters. Access to spiritual truth, when not integrated, is a very dangerous weapon whose primary hazard is that we can effectively fool ourselves into believing we are more realized than we are and miss the deeper possibility that is available to us. And if we are in a position of power, we are likely to bring this confusion to other people.”

[Reference Note: page 115, Eyes Wide Open (Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path]; Mariana Caplan, PhD; copyright 2009 by MC and forward copyright John Welwood; published by Sounds True]

Very good, well detailed histories and examinations have been written that serve to help inform practitioners on this, and so many related key issues.

Works worthy of studying so that practitioners go forth (as Mariana Caplan puts it) with “eyes wide open”.

Of course much of this has been dramatically addressed, often with the distorting influence of sensationalistic type presentations, in the news media worldwide. With the growth of the use of social media on the internet, a lot more comes to the surface nowadays.

But, we have great “history books” to resort to now, with the airing of nitty gritty details of all sorts of happenings related to the impact of the adoption and practice of these traditions in western cultures.

The reference list for historical examination of Buddhist movements in the west is much longer, by far, than for the non-dual traditions that are “Hindu” based. But, in 2010 a very in depth historical work was published by Philip Goldberg, called American Veda, and that oversight has been significantly mitigated now. That book is “must” reading.

[Reference Note: American Veda (From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West); by Philip Goldberg, forward by Huston Smith; copyright by Philip Goldberg; published by Three Rivers Press]

Long time religions writer Huston Smith, with co-author Philip Novak, offer a great summary history of the Buddhist impact and developments in western cultures with “Buddhism: A Concise Introduction” and include a comprehensive reading of previous (and more in depth) histories, including the valuable work by Rick Fields identified in the 2nd reference note below:

[Reference Note: Buddhism: A Concise Introduction; by Huston Smith and Philip Novak and copyrighted by them, 2003; HarperCollins publisher]

[Reference Note: How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America, by Rick Fields, 1992, Shambhala publisher]

A long-time bestselling book by veteran teacher Jack Kornfeld called After the Ecstasy, the Laundry is another valuable resource that will serve to help people keep those “eyes wide open”!

[Reference Note: After the Ecstasy, the Laundry…How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfield copyright 2000 (JK) A Bantam Book]

May my own briefing on the four non-dual traditions serve the education of others!

I conclude with an overall reference list.

The Reference List

Many books, articles, academic papers, and a few film/dvd documentaries were read (or viewed) in particular over the past three years which helped inform me. (During this three year period of first posting blog articles, and then several months ago in the spring, beginning work on a book.) There’s also an extensive history of reading before that (since about 1969), including many books read during the time period of studying under Dr. Duncan Bazemore from 1969-1974 (Humboldt State University, Asian Philosophy Series). Those books won’t be identified. (A small number make this list as they were revisited these past three years.)

There is no categorized ordering to this list. In fact, my guidelines in listing the books here simply consisted of writing down the title, etc. as I was packing the books up!!!!


1.) The Yoga Tradition Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice by Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D. Copyright 1998, 2001 (GF) Hohm Press

2.) The Shambhala Guide to Yoga An essential introduction to the principles and practice of an ancient tradition by Georg Feuerstein Copyright 1996 (GF) Shambhala Publications

3.) Buddhist Spirituality Indian, Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Early Chinese Edited by Takeuchi Yoshinori Volume 8 of “World Spirituality: An Encyclopedic History of the Religious Quest Copyright 1993 by Crossroads Publishing Company

4.) Mindfulness A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein Copyright 2013 (JG) Sounds True

5.) Awakening of the Heart essential buddhist sutras and commentaries Thich Nhat Hanh Copyright 2012 by United Buddhist Church Parallax Press

6.) The Practice of Dzogchen Longchen Rabjam Introduced, translated and annotated by Tulku Thondup Edited by Harold Talbott Copyright 1998 by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche Snow Lion Publications

7.) The Tibetan Book of the Dead (first complete translation) Introductory Commentary by His Holiness The Dalai Lama Translation Copyright 2005 The Orient Foundation (UK) and Gyurme Dorje , Graham Coleman, and Thupten Jinpa Introductory Commentary Copyright 2005 The Dalai Lama Penguin Books

8.) Tantra In Practice (Princeton Readings in Religion) Edited by David Gordon White Copyright 2000 by Princeton University Press

10.) Legends of the Mahasiddhas Lives of the Tantric Masters Translated by Keith Dowman and Illustrated by Robert Beer Copyright for text 1988, 1998, 2014 ,Keith Dowman, same years for illustrations, Robert Beer Inner Traditions

11.) How the Swans Came to the Lake A Narrative History of Buddhism in America by Rick Fields Copyright 1981 by Rick Fields Shambhala

12.) Buddhism A Concise Introduction by Huston Smith and Philip Novak Copyright 2003 (HS and PN) Harper One

13.) American Veda From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation…How Indian Spirituality Changed the West by Philip Goldberg; Foreward by Huston Smith Copyright 2010 (PG) Three Rivers Press

14.) The Great Transformation The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong Copyright 2006 (KS) Anchor Press

15.) Sources of Indian Tradition (2nd Edition) Volume One: From the Beginning to 1800 Edited and Revised by Ainslie T. Embrue Copyright 1988 by Columbia University Press

16.) The Yoga Upanishads Translated by T.R. Srinivasa Ayyakngar, B.A. and edited by Pandit S. Subrahimanya Sastri Copyright 1938 The Adyar Library (Texts of nearly 20 Yoga Upanishads reprinted from online source.)

17.) The Yoga of Light the classic esoteric handbook of kundalini yoga by Hans-Ulrich Rieker Copyright 1971 by Herder and Herder Inc and The Dawn Horse Press

18.) Buddhism The Light of Asia by Kenneth K. S. Ch’en (Princeton University) Copyright 1968 by Barron’s Educational Series

19.) The Art of Tantra by Philip Rawson Copyright 1973 and 1978 by Thames and Hudson LTD, London 169 illustrations, 25 in color

20.) Play of Consciousness A Spiritual Autobiography by Swami Muktananda Copyright 1978, 1994, 2000 SYDA Foundation

21.) Understanding Siddha Yoga (Volume 2) by Swami Muktananda Collected and edited from Swami Muktananda’s lectures by Swami Tejomayananda Copyright 1980 by Gurudev Siddha Peeth Published by SYDA Foundation

22.) The Supreme Source The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde Kunjed Gyalpo Chogyal Namkhai Norbu and Adriano Clemente Copyright 1999 (NN and AC) Snow Lion Publications

23.) The Mahabharata abridged and translated by John D. Smith copyright 2009 (JDS) Penguin Books

24.) The Upanishads translations from the Sanskrit with an introduction by Juan Mascaro copyright 1965 (JM) Penguin Books

25.) After the Ecstasy, the Laundry…How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfield copyright 2000 (JK) A Bantam Book

26.) Eyes Wide Open…Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path by Mariana Caplan, PhD (and forward by John Welwood) copyright 2009 Sounds True

27.) Perfect Clarity…A Tibetan Buddhist Anthology of Mahamudra and Dzogchen translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, compiled by Marcia Schmidt and edited by Marcia Schmidt and Michael Tweed copyright 2012 by Rangjung Yeshe Publications

28.) Dzogchen…The Self-Perfected State by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu edited by Adriano Clemente and translated from the Italian by John Shane copyright 1996 (CNN), translation copyright (JS) Snow Lion Publications

29.) The Crystal and the Way of Light…Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu compiled and edited by John Shane copyright 2000 (CNN and JS) Snow Lion Publications

30.) Self-Liberation…Through Seeing with Naked Awareness translation and commentary by John Myrdhin Reynolds forward by Namkhai Norbu copyright 2000 (JMR) forward copyright 1989 (NN) Snow Lion Publications

31.) Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu edited and introduced by Michael Katz copyright 1992 and 2002 (CNN and MK) Snow Lion Publications

32.) Dzogchen and Padmasambhava by Sogyal Rinpoche copyright 1989 by Rigpa Fellowship

33.) Heart Drops of Dharmakaya…Dzogchen Practice of the Bon Tradition by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen commentary by Lopon Tenzin Namdak copyright 1993 and 2002 (LTN) Snow Lion Publications

34.) The Bliss of Inner Fire…Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa by Lama Thubten Yeshe copyright 1998 by Wisdom Publication, Inc

35.) Crystal Clear…practical advice for Mahamudra meditators by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche copyright 2003 by KTR and Rangjung Yeshe Publications

36.) Essential Zen by Kasuaki Takahashi and Tensho David Schneider copyright 1994 by KT and TDS Castle Books

37.) The Zen Canon…Understanding the Classic Texts edited by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright copyright 2004 by Oxford University Press

38.) Everything Arises, Everything Falls Away…Teachings on Impermanence and the End of Suffering by Ajahn Chah translated by Paul Breiter copyright 2005 PB Shambhala Publications Inc

39.) The Book…On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts copyright 1966 by AW Collier Books

40.) Hidden Mind of Freedom by Tarthang Tulku copyright 1981 by Dharma Publishing

41.) Tibetan Meditation…Practical teachings and step-by-step exercises on how to live in harmony, peace, and happiness by Tarthang Tulku text copyright 2006 by Dharma Publishing and illustration copyright by Duncan Baird Publishers

42.) Spiritual Emergency…When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis edited by Stanislav Grof, M.D. and Christina Grof copyright 1989 by SG and CG Tarcher/Putnam

43.) Be As You Are…The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi edited by David Godman copyright 1985 by Ramanasramam Arkana/Penguin

44.) Zen selections from R.H Blyth compiled and with drawings by Frederick Franck copyright 1978 Vintage Books

45.) Wonders of the Natural Mind…The Essence of Dzogchen in the Native Bon Tradition of Tibet by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche forward by The Dalai Lama copyright 2000 TWR Snow Lion Publications

46.) The Natural Bliss of Being by Jackson Peterson copyright 2013 by JP

47.) The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones…The Practice of View, Meditation, and Action by Patrol Rinpoche with commentary by Dilgo Khyentse and translated by The Padmakara Translation Group copyright 1992 by DG Shambhala Publications

48.) Waking Up…A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris copyright 2014 by SH Simon and Shuster

49.) Kum Nye…Tibetan Yoga, A Complete Guide to health and wellbeing, 115 exercises and massages by Tarthang Tulku copyright 1978 and 2007 by Dharma Publishing

50.) Blazing Splendor…The Memoirs of the Dzogchen Yogi Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche as told to Erik Pema Kunsang and Marcia Binder Schmidt forward by Sogyal Rinpoche introduction by Daniel Goleman copyright 2005 by Erik Heine Schmidt and Marcia Binder Schmidt Rangjung Yeshe Publications

51.) Holy Hell…A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness…Revelations of my 20 years as personal attendant to the “Hugging Saint” by Gail Tredwell aka Gayatri copyright 2013 by GT Wattle Tree Press

52.) Awakening the Buddha Within…Eight Steps to Enlightenment by Lama Surya Das copyright 1997 by LSD Broadway Books

53.) Make Me One with Everything…Buddhist Meditations To Awaken From The Illusion Of Separation by Lama Surya Das copyright 2015 Sounds True

54.) Now that I Come to Die…Intimate guidance from one of Tibet’s greatest masters by Longchenpa and introduction by Tarthang Tulku copyright 2007 by Dharma Publishing

55.) Open Secrets…A Guide to Tibetan Buddhism for Western Spiritual Seekers by Walter Truett Anderson copyright 1979 WTA, Tarcher

56.) The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet by John Blofeld copyright 1974 by Causeway Books

57.) The Tibetan Book of the Dead…The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo translated with commentary by Francesca Fremantle and Choyam Trungpa copyright 1975 by CT and FF Shambhala Publications

58.) A Heart Blown Open…The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi by Keith Martin-Smith copyright 2011 by K M-S Divine Arts

59.) Buddha’s Nature…Evolution As A Practical Guide to Enlightenment by Wes Nisker copyright WN Bantam Books

60.) The Body of Light…History and Practical Techniques for Awakening Your Subtle Body by John Mann and Lar Short copyright 1990 Globe Press Books, Inc

61.) I AM THAT…Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaja copyright 1973 Acorn Press

62.) Chants of a Lifetime…Searching For A Heart of Gold by Krishna Das copyright 2010 Hay House, Inc

63.) The Mummery Book…A Parable of the Divine True Love, Told by Means of A Self-Illuminated Illustration of the Totality of Mind by Adi Da Samraj copyright 2005 by The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam Pty Ltd

64.) Mindfulness in Plain English by Venerable Henepola Gunanatana copyright 1991 Wisdom Publications

65.) The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharishi copyright Sri Ramanasramam 1972 Shambhala Publications

66.) Gesture of Balance…A Guide to Awareness, Self-healing, and Meditation by Tarthang Tulku copyright 1977 Dharma Publishing

67.) In My Own Way…An Autobiography 1915 to 1965 by Alan Watts copyright 1972 Vintage Books

68.) A History of God…The 4000 year quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong copyright 1993 KA Alfred Knopf, Inc

69.) Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell copyright 1972 A Bantam Book/Viking Penguin

70.) India by Stanley Wolpert copyright 1991 University of California Press and The Regents of University of California

71.) The Essential Mystics…The Soul’s Journey Into Truth edited and introduction by Andrew Harvey copyright 1996 Castle Books

72.) Coming To Our Senses…Healing Ourselves and The World Through Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn

73.) The Notebooks of Paul Brunton Volume 1 copyright 1984 Kenneth Thurston Hurst, Larson Publications

74.) Evolving Dharma…Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment by Jay Micaelson copyright 2013 Evolver Editions/North Atlantic Books

75.) India…A Sacred Geography by Dianna Eck copyright 2012 Three Rivers Press

76.) Diamond Mind…A Psychology of Meditation by Rob Nairn copyright 1999, Shambhala Publications and Kairon Press

77.) Yoga and Beyond…Essays in Indian Philosophy by Georg Feuerstein and Jeanine Miller copyright 1971 Schocken Books

78.) Dark Pool of Light Volume 2…Consciousness in Psychospiritual and Psychic Ranges by Richard Grossinger Foreword by John Friedlander and Kenneth Warren copyright 2012 North Atlantic Books

79.) Rainbow Body and Resurrection: Spiritual Attainment, Dissolution of the Material Body, and the Case of Khenpo A Choo; Father Francis Tiso; 2016; North Atlantic Books

80.) The Visions of Elias: A True Story of Life in the Spirit; Tom Veitch; 2016; Sky River Publications


1.) Awake: The Life of Yogananda

2.) My Reincarnation
Film by Jennifer Fox, covering twenty years of Namkhai Norbu and his son Yeshi.

3.) Destoyer of Illusion…Secret World of a Lama narrated by Richard Gere PBS

[in development…]