A Record Of Awakening

ROA-book-cover I often wondered before the publication of this my first book whether the story of my spiritual awakening in Sri Lanka in 1981 would be of much use to the reader. I’ve found, however, to my joy and deep satisfaction that many who have read ‘A Record of Awakening’ found it gave them new strength and inspiration to deepen their own established practice. I know also that it has brought people to the practice of the Dharma and even brought some back from the brink of abandoning their practice altogether.

My story tells of not only the unfolding of insight once our inner nature has been re-discovered but also graphically describes the struggles, fears and suffering that have to be endured if we are to break the bonds of ignorance. The second half of the book is a question and answer session that allows me to expand on many of the points within the main text. The book opens with a preface written by Urgyen Sangharakshita the founder of The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. He describes the work as ‘a remarkable document’ and ‘a treasure.’ Here are a couple of extracts from his preface.

‘ As I went through the draft of his booklet, that autumn day in 1997, I was irresistibly reminded of the Platform Scripture, the reading of which had played such an important part in my own ‘awakening’ (to use David Smith’s language) nearly fifty years ago. Like Hui Neng, David Smith was no scholar. In his own words, he was ‘just an ordinary working class chap with average intelligence and an ordinary education’, and one who carried around moreover, ‘as much ‘’baggage’’ as most Western people do’. Like Hui Neng he was consistent and uncompromising in his commitment to the Dharma, and like Hui Neng he had only a limited acquaintance with the Buddhist scriptures.’ (p2)

‘Nevertheless, I was struck by the essential orthodoxy of his position. Even though some of his expressions might not have been in accordance with the strict letter of Buddhist tradition. I was also struck by his insistence that, after what he called awakening, the everyday, deluded mind continues to exist, alongside the Awakened Mind, and that from the first bumi to the last there was a great struggle, or ‘holy war’, between these minds, as the former sought to transform, and free itself from the latter.’ (p3)

Here are a few extracts from the first and main part of the book..

It is hard for me to put into words the feelings of the following minutes. One of the first thoughts seems almost egotistical because of the great feeling of ‘victory’. All these years of struggle were not in vain; the training had been true. With this seeing of true training comes the seeing of the Path, a seeing that will never be lost, and will always be there to guide me. And with this came tremendous feelings of gratitude to my teacher for putting me, and keeping me, on the Path of Freedom.’ This was the first stage of Bodhisattvahood, and for several days that followed insight rained down almost continuously. So much happened in this time – not just the insight but the feelings of joy and release and many tears of happiness- that it is difficult to remember much of it and the order it all came in.’ (p31)

‘The build-up continued, and one day mara arrived, that little devil that is in all of us, that comes to us whenever there is a situation he feels he can exploit, so that he can increase his position just a little bit more. The situation was right for him, with all this power just waiting to explode. So he came, and for the next six weeks he laid into me with hateful vengeance, the like of which I had never experienced before. He latched on to a small rule which I sometimes broke, but which was really not very important. The mind broke into two halves: one half, totally possessed by mara, had nothing but hatred and contempt for me and my hypocrisy and impure practice; the other half tried to reason, defend, and contain this onslaught. Mara didn’t let up. He tried with all his might and cunning to get me to let loose the tremendous power that consumed my whole being, battling the whole time with the part of me that brought forth insight, the part that says ‘Don’t react, just accept.’ The intensity just never let up.’ (p50)

‘With that understood, there is just one more ingredient that has to be known, and that is the total commitment to the Way. Immerse yourself in the Dharma, dive into it like you would into a cool pool of water on a hot summer’s day, but never get out! Make it the priority in your life. Immersing means developing a one-pointed mind, ‘staying at home’. This can be matured on many levels. You can simply think about or talk about the Dharma, or read about it (as long as what you read is useful for practice). In quiet moments contemplate the Dharma; in deep meditation burrow right into it. Develop a one-pointed, single-minded mind and do it always in a consistent way. Allow these aspects to develop, and you are practising Dharma wholeheartedly. That is all, there is nothing more. When the sword is truly sharp, it will cut through that ‘tap root’ of ignorance – you will have no say in the matter.’ (p73)