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The five great stages of the spiritual path



Sangharakshita has spent most of his life trying to communicate authentic Buddhadharma in such a way that it is appropriate to what might be called the western mindset although with the phenomena of ‘Globalisation’, ‘Western’ is a bit of a misnomer.

In renaming, the order and community, (partly in recognition of this misnomer) from the Western Buddhist Order to the Triratna and together with a succession of papers over the last six years there has been a restatement of the movement, clarity of its approach and that it is a tradition in its own right.

On Facebook this month we have been offering a few expositions of my understanding of aspects of the Triratna path. Specifically… A guide to good practise and Ways of working in meditation.

They are an attempt to extend and explore the Triratna path to enlightenment from two different perspectives.

So what is the Triratna path as bequeathed to us by Sangharakshita and members of the movement he created?

The five great stages of the spiritual path are an attempt to take a non dual experience and put it into dualistic terms so that we may better understand the path and process of moving towards enlightenment. The stages are not separate and distinct but rather mutually inclusive. In a sense, to work on one is to work on all. These stages are termed; the stage of integration; the stage of positive emotion; the stage of spiritual death; the stage of spiritual rebirth and the stage of receptivity.

As we look at our lives we see what benefits self and other and what limits us. The very nature of this process, although challenging, becomes increasingly joyous as we can take steps to let go of whatever is holding us back. In letting go, we are releasing our attachment to a particular way of being a way of being that we may have invested in for a very long time. As with the loss of anything we can experience it as a mini death along with the emotions that are associated with death such as grief. Having let go of this unhelpful pattern we are reborn but we don’t yet know what that rebirth is going to look like. Thus we open ourselves up, have an attitude of interest and receptivity.

Having shown these stages here in the order as given by Sangharakshita we can see that they are mirrored in the movements ordination process. Ideally they are all present in any given retreat all though an emphasis may be given to a particular stage. All the stages are implicit or explicit in all of the practices be it any given meditation, dharma study, spiritual friendship, team based right livelihood, community an so on. Indeed our whole life becomes an distillation of these fundamental principals. Our mental/emotional tone when washing up, brushing ones teeth, working, walking, talking… Everything becomes a spiritual practise and an expression of the five great stages of the path.

I feel a great deal of gratitude for having such a clear, concise, understandable and yet profound teaching and offer thanks to our teacher, Sangharakshita and all those who have helped make his teachings available.

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