Direct vs. Progressive Paths


While there are many paths to awakening amongst so many traditions throughout history, we can say they can be distilled into two main arteries.  One is the direct path, and the other is the progressive path.

The gradual path emphasizes the development of the body mind complex over a long period of time, for example through yoga or meditation or other practices that are meant to purify the mind and body of impurities.  Eventually once the impurities, or energy contractions, have been cleared enough, the body mind is transparent enough for awakening to appear.  It was always there, but now the veil is lifted after perhaps many years of dissolving ignorance.

The direct path points out that any recognition of separateness, and any perceived need to cleanse, as practiced in progressive practices is already dualistic and so inflates the delusion further.  The direct path radically points to the immediate realization of pure consciousness as it emerges into reality in every moment.  The underlying paradigm is to shift a person from seeking mode to being mode.  But it’s important to note that even in the direct path traditions, such as Zen, there is still a maturation phase for the student.  The fruit falls suddenly but only when it is ripe.

Of course, the problem for most of us is that often we don’t know how to access the Ultimate Truth in the visceral life that is our everyday reality.  We may be in physical or emotional pain, or some sort of suffering, and esoteric talk about how everything is illusory is not helpful.  So, we need to start where we are.  We begin with recognizing the nature of Truth: Existence, Consciousness, Bliss (or Love).  We imbibe the most accessible aspect, which is Love, and we bathe our pain and suffering in that Love within ourselves.  That will begin to ease the contractions and release the energy blockages.

There may be academic debates about the merits of direct and progressive paths, but we need to acknowledge that there is a person on the path.  That person comes with all kinds of karmic conditioning and compulsive impediments that are manifesting in their life.  If their perception of reality is to change, they need to take conscious control over their trajectory – that is the whole significance of being born a human being.  The karmic conditioning of the personal self is obscuring the Soul Self so an immediate and direct awakening, even though it is the One Truth, is simply not accessible.

Speaking of any debates about this, let’s realize that debates occur between thinking human minds applying logic.  Eternity is paradoxical, not logical.  From a transcendental perspective, ultimate and relative reality suffuse one another, endlessly enfolding into and out of, but still part of, each other.  Think of ocean waves coming up, seeming to be separate but really still being part of the source.  It’s almost as if we identify ourselves as the froth and forget the immense source that enlivens us.


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