Anytime you embark upon a program of study, it’s a good idea to have goals; if you decide to practice the 3-Speed Transmission, it will be helpful for you to know where you hope to end up. Do you want to be free from suffering? Do you want to be a meditation master? Do you want to know what all the fuss is about? Do you want to experience altered states of consciousness? Do you just want to be happy?
May I be so bold as to tell you my view on this? Nothing you can get or become will satisfy. I set out in 1982 to get enlightened and to become a meditation master. I feel that I have achieved both of those goals; the Four Paths of Enlightenment of the Theravada Buddhists all make sense to me now. I can access all sorts of wonderful jhanic states whenever I want to. I can manifest an astral body and fly through the air and dive into the earth. It’s all very nice, and if you dedicate yourself to this practice, you’ll be able to do it too. But the happiness that is independent of conditions has nothing to do with any of that, and the happiness that is independent of conditions is what I would most like to share with you. So, here are some goals for each of the 3 Speeds, understanding that in the end you can do no better than to surrender to what is already the case in this moment.
I will suggest some goals that I believe make sense at each level of the 3-Speed Transmission and you can accept or reject them and come up with goals that make sense to you.
1st Gear Goals: Balancing Concentration (samatha) and Investigation (vipasssana).
There are two distinct but intimately interrelated aspects to this practice. One is to master a number of altered states and the other is to progress along a continuum of physio-energetic development until you reach the point where you feel you are no longer a slave to this developmental process. With that in mind, the goals I suggest for 1st Gear are:
1. Become familiar with the samatha jhanas, including the four rupa (material) jhanas, the four arupa (immaterial) jhanas, the five Pure Abodes (suddhavasa), and Nirodha Samapatti.
2. Move progressively through the Four Paths of Enlightenment until you reach Arahatship (Fourth Path), at which time you will not longer feel that there is anything more to be done in this regard. You won’t stop developing after that, but you will feel that you are off “the ride” that began with your first spiritual opening.
2nd Gear Goals: Self-Equiry
Self-enquiry is the practice of inquiring into the apparent knower of this experience. The classic practice as taught by the late Ramana Maharshi is to ask “Who am I?”
If you find an answer to the question, you simply continue to inquire, as in “Who knows about this?” If the answer seems to be “I”, you again ask “Who am I?” This simple but relentless practice has the power to completely deconstruct the misperceptions that are part and parcel of what might be called the unawakened condition. In short, you are not who you think you are and this misconception is causing you a great deal of suffering. To find out who you are (or who you are not), become adept at the art of self-enquiry.
3rd Gear Goals: Be as you are.
The goal at this level is the happiness that is not dependent upon conditions. This means that no matter what is going in your life, be it good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, there is deep, abiding happiness. This comes from realizing, in this moment, things as they really are.
May you come to know the happiness that is independent of conditions.