I had been studying the spiritual teachings of my teacher diligently for several months. I’d also been practicing the methods of meditation and expanded consciousness I’d learned from him. Yet I was still frustrated. I didn’t feel like I’d made much progress. When I compared myself to the great sages of the past, the men and women who had encounters with Bodhisattvas and Kami, I felt like I was missing out on something that should be present if I was truly on the right path. I went to my teacher in self-pity to discuss the issue.
“Sensei, I just don’t feel like I’m making progress. I mean, shouldn’t I have had some sort of mystical experience by this point?”
He sat in front of me drinking his tea. He looked down at the remnants of tea leaves in the bottom of his cup and spoke. “What would such an experience prove?”
“Well, it would prove I’m doing something right.”
He nodded. “How would it prove that?”
I thought for a moment. “When I consider great sages, they had experiences, didn’t they? That would tell me that I’m on the same path as they were.”
He frowned. “An experience tells you all of that? That’s absurd! The substance of the teaching is what should tell you that, not some experience! You’re learning exactly what they learned, doing what they did. This can be confirmed by reading the ancient texts. That is how you know you’re on the right path. I’ll ask you again, what then would an experience prove?”
I couldn’t argue with him. He was right. Logically, the evidence of being on that path was the teachings I’d been receiving. “I guess I just want an experience for my own sake.”
“Listen,” he said less harshly. “Mystical experiences prove nothing more than that you had an experience. If you tell others of your mystical experience, they will laugh, say you’re a madman or a liar, and dismiss you. We don’t live in an age that honors such experiences. You should also know that some experiences, as good as they might feel, hold the potential to lead us into illusion, if we think they’re the substance of our path. Those who look for experiences are often unstable. Their faith is invested in the experience, not truth. They crave greater and greater experiences, and when they don’t come, they lose faith in the truth itself. Don’t seek experiences and they will flow. Seek them and you will fail. Engage in removing the dust from your mind and you will experience mystical states. Ignore this practice and you’ll always be miserable. Understand?”
I smiled and nodded, then bowed to him in respect. “As usual, sensei, you’ve saved me from my own misguided ideas.”
Several months went by and I gave no more thought to experiences. I focused on cultivating the opposite qualities of the dusts of the mind in my life. Gratefulness became my focus. I thanked Kami sama every morning for being alive, for the sunrise, for the air, for my body which made it possible for me to experience nature-I wanted to express gratefulness all day long. I found my consciousness changing from one of distress and dissatisfaction to joy and happiness. I was content.
One night as I meditated in front of the Kamidana, I felt a strange presence in the room with me. I opened my eyes and saw a light in front of the Kamidana and bathed in the light was a feminine figure. Her black hair was long, and her features were clearly Asian. She wore flowing robes of white, with red trim. Her eyes were closed, and her head bowed slightly. Her left hand cupped a violet light in the shape of a flower. Her right hand was raised, palm outward, as if in benediction. The light appeared to flow from within her, moving outward only as far as it appeared to be permitted. It was not at all like natural light but seemed almost conscious or controlled. I was overwhelmed with a love that to this day I’m incapable of expressing. I felt love in every cell of my body. It was so powerful, so all-consuming that I could only weep like a child before his long-lost mother. She opened her eyes, and looking at me said, “Now you have seen. You know. Take this with you.” To this day I can’t put into words how her words felt. Quite literally, when she spoke, I felt the vibrations of her words pass through me and I felt “lighter” as they did. Almost as if something was stimulating the matter of the body, spiritually activating it briefly. It took my breath momentarily.
“I never want to be separated from you again.”, I managed to choke out in the midst of my tears after I’d caught my breath.
“Being with me is never being alone.”, she said.
I remained there, my eyes fixed on her, weeping and sobbing as her light withdrew, and as quickly as she had appeared, she was gone.
I cried for several minutes afterward, and finally gathered myself. I’d not sought out the experience, and as my teacher had said, it came. Now that it had, even I doubted my experience. Was it real? Was it a waking dream? Was it a psychological break of some sort? The next day, I spoke to my teacher about it, sharing the entire vision.
“Does it prove anything to others?”, he asked.
“No. It is just an encouragement to me to continue to practice the substance of the teachings.”, I replied.
“Good approach.”, he said with a smile. “In that case, does it matter whether it was real or a waking dream? The vision encouraged you to continue on the path, not to find out how it happened, why it happened or how to replicate it. Mystical experiences are momentary and rare. They go away, Katsumi. So don’t be disturbed by them or try to understand their origin. The teachings, however, are eternal. They never disappear from our sight. Pursue the teachings. That is the purpose of any vision; encouragement to spiritual cultivation.”
Am I a liar or madman? Let my reader think what they will. I have seen. I know. I take that with me no matter what.