Gnosis (Greek)

Gnosis is the common Greek noun for knowledge (γνῶσις, gnōsis, f.) The term was used among various Hellenistic religions and philosophies in the Greco-Roman world. It is best known for its implication within Gnosticism, where it signifies a spiritual knowledge or insight into humanity’s real nature as divine, leading to the deliverance of the divine spark within humanity from the constraints of earthly existence.

Gnosis is a feminine Greek noun which means “knowledge” or “awareness.” It is often used for personal knowledge compared with intellectual knowledge (εἴδειν eídein), as with the French connaître compared with savoir, the Spanish conocer compared with saber, the Italian conoscere compared with sapere, the German kennen rather than wissen, or the Modern Greek γνωρίζω compared with ξέρω.

In the Hellenistic era the term became associated with the mystery cults.

In the Acts of Thomas, translated by G.R.S. Mead, the “motions of gnosis” are also referred to as “kingly motions”.

Bodhi (Hinduism, Buddhism)

In the most general terms, Bodhi designates the attainment of that ultimate knowledge by virtue of which a being achieves full Liberation (vimokṣa, vimukti) or Nirvāṇa.

Sometimes the term is understood to refer to the manifold process of Awakening by which one comes variously and eventually to know the truth of things “as they truly are” (yathā-bhūtam), thereby enabling Liberation from Duḥkha (Suffering) and Rebirth for both self and others.

At other times Bodhi is taken to refer to the all-at-once culmination of that process.

In the latter sense, the term Bodhi may be said to belong to the large category of names for things or events so ultimate as to be essentially ineffable, even inconceivable.

However, in the former more processive sense, either as a single term standing alone or as an element in any number of compounds (Bodhicitta, Bodhisattva, Abhi-saṁbodhi, Bodhi-caryā, etc.),

Bodhi is a subject of extensive exposition throughout which it is made clear that the term belongs more to the traditional categories of path (mārga), practice (caryā, pratipatti), or cause (hetu) than to the category of fruition or transcendent effect (phala).

Thus, despite a common tendency in scholarship to regard Bodhi as a synonym for Nirvāṇa, vimokṣa, and so on, it is best to treat Bodhi as analytically distinct in meaning from the various terms for the result or consequence of practice.

Although the term Bodhi often refers to the Liberating knowledge specifically of Buddhas (awakened ones), it is not reserved for that use alone;

Bodhi is also ascribed to other and lesser kinds of Liberated Beings, like the Arhat.

Enlightenment (Buddhism)

Enlightenment is a state of perfect knowledge or wisdom, combined with infinite compassion. Knowledge in this case does not mean merely the accumulation of data or a description of the world of phenomena down to the finest details.  Enlightenment is an understanding of both the relative mode of existence (the way in which things appear to us) and the ultimate mode of existence (the true nature of these same appearances). This includes our own minds as well as the external world. Such knowledge is the basic antidote to ignorance and suffering.

But by ignorance we do not mean a simple lack of information.  Rather we mean a distorted vision of reality that makes us think that what we see around us is permanent and solid, or that our ‟self” is a real, autonomous entity. This leads us to mistake fleeting pleasures or the alleviation of pain for lasting happiness. Such ignorance also makes us attempting to build our happiness on others’ misery.

We are drawn to what satisfies our ego and are repulsed by what might harm it. Thus, little by little, we create ever-greater mental delusion until we behave in a totally egocentric manner. Ignorance perpetuates itself and our inner peace is destroyed.

Buddhism’s form of knowledge is the final antidote to suffering. In this sense, it seems that knowing the brightness of stars or the distance between them may be very interesting in itself, but it cannot teach us how to become better people.

Kundalini (Hinduism)

Kundalini is a Sanscrit term from ancient India that identifies the arising of an energy and consciousness which has been coiled at the base of the spine since birth, and is the source of the life force (pranic energy, chi , bio-energy) that everybody knows.

It is possible to find acknowledgement of this spiritual movement in many yogic and tantric traditions, Tantric Buddhism, Taoism, gnostic mystical tradition and some Native American teachings, and indigenous societies.  An image of a rising snake in the body signifies its existence in the esoteric art of many cultures. The capacity to intensify and raise energy in the body has been explored for thousands of years.  It is a natural human potential.

Kundalini awakening can trigger a wide range of phenomena, both positive and negative.  It can cause significant changes in the physical, emotional, sensate and psychic capacities, cause stress in vulnerable areas of the body, open the heart and mind to major shifts in perspective,  and cause many  unique and unfamiliar sensations including shaking, vibrating, spontaneous movement, visions, and many other phenomena.

Kundalini awakening offers a profound opportunity for those called to follow a spiritual path.  It gradually releases many patterns, conditions and delusions of the separate self.  It can be threatening to the ego-structure because a person may feel a loss of interest in their old life and identity, and consciousness may go into unfamiliar expansive or empty states that are diso


In a darkened room a man sits alone. His body is swept by muscular spasms. Indescribable sensations and sharp pains run from his feet up his legs and over his back and neck. His skull feels as it will burst. Inside his head he hears roaring sounds and high ‐ pitched whistling. Then suddenly a sunburst floods his inner being. His hands burn. He feels his body tearing within. Then he laughs and is overcome with bliss.

A psychotic episode? No, this is a psycho ‐ physiological transformation, a rebirth process as natural as physical birth. It seems pathological only because the symptoms are not understood in relation to the outcome: an enlightened human being.

When allowed to progress to completion this process culminates in deep psychological balance, strength, and maturity. Its initial stages, however, often share the violence, helplessness, and imbalance that attend the start of human infancy.

For thousands of years, from the ancient Vedas onward, this process has been described. Until recently, it was confined distant cultures, esoteric traditions, and a few isolated individuals. Accounts of it have usually been highly personal and often permeated with vague mysticism and strange mythology. As a result, the accounts were not taken seriously and no systematic comparison of the reports from different traditions was possible. Also, many of these traditions claimed divine revelation and absolute truth. Consequently professionals have remained confused, skeptical and suspicious.

We believe that these common aspects have physiological components, and that activation of a single physiological mechanism is at the root of the wide diversity of phenomena we see. If these assumptions are correct, the idea of spiritual rebirth or enlightenment can no longer be considered a confusing jumble of superstitions, religious dogmas, and wild rumors. Spiritual rebirth has become, instead, a well ‐ defined entity. We may now ask, what is this process? To what state does it lead? Do these people really develop psychic powers? How does it differ from normality, on the one hand, and from psychosis on the other? Is it merely another one of the altered states of consciousness that many researchers are now exploring, or is it something more?

It is not simply an altered state of consciousness, but an ongoing process, lasting from several months to many years, during which the person passes in and out of different states of consciousness. The process falls outside the categories of both normal and psychotic, because a person undergoing the transformation has experiences far removed from normal, usually without becoming so disorganized as to be considered psychotic. Nor is the process simply one of becoming psychic, because persons who have not undergone the transformation may be psychic, while others who have completed it may not be. The transformation may lead to many special abilities, but it is not intrinsically tied to them. Tirtha (1962) points out that a great Yogi who has control over his heart action may not have his kundalini active, while one with an active kundalini may have no such abilities.

For the person undergoing the transformation, the significance of the enlightened state may be highly personal and subjective. Our aim, however, is to describe the process itself in terms of what can be observed.

In this book we present many cases, some from a survey of diverse cultures and spiritual traditions, and others from our own clinical experience. These give us ample data for composing a portrait of the process.

From a survey of the literature, the clinical study of our own cases and laboratory findings, we present the thesis that a process, most usefully viewed as the “rise of the kundalini” is a reality, is much to be desired, and can be described as an evolutionary process taking place in the human nervous system. It is interesting to note that our thesis is consistent with the observations of Gopi Krishna (1973, 1975), from his personal experience with the rising of his own kundalini.He says:

“A new center ‐ presently dormant in the average man and woman ‐ has to be activated and a more powerful stream of psychic energy must rise into head from the base of the spine to enable human consciousness to transcend normal limits. This is the final phase of the present evolutionary impulse in man. The cerebrospinal system of man has to undergo a radical change, enabling consciousness to transcend the normal limits. This is the final phase of present evolutionary impulse in man. The cerebrospinal system of man has to undergo a radical change, enabling consciousness to attain a dimension which transcends the limits of the highest intellect. Here reason yields to intuition Revelation appears to guide the steps of humankind. .. The living substance which, in an altered form, is responsible for causing this aesthetic revolution in the brain is entirely beyond our scrutiny and will remain so for a long time to come.”


Phil Borges, filmmaker and photographer, has been documenting indigenous and tribal cultures for over 25 years. His work is exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and his documentary film CRAZYWISE explores what can be learned from individuals who have turned their psychological crisis into a positive transformative experience.

Revelation, Apocalpyse, Rapture (Christianity)

Revelation [𝑟𝑒̆𝑣″ə-𝑙𝑎̄′𝑠ℎə𝑛]
From Latin revēlātiō (“disclosure”), from revēlō (“to disclose”), re (“again”) + vēlō (“to cover”).
(noun) Something revealed, especially a dramatic disclosure of something not previously known or realized.
(noun) Theology: A manifestation of divine will or truth.

Apocalpyse [ə-𝑝𝑜̆𝑘′ə-𝑙𝑖̆𝑝𝑠″]
From Latin apocalypsis, from Ancient Greek ἀποκάλυψις (apokalupsis, “revelation”), from ἀπό (apo, “away”) and καλύπτω (kaluptō, “I cover”).
(noun) Revelation; discovery; disclosure
(noun) Anything viewed as a revelation, especially one that is highly significant for the person receiving it; a disclosure. Often used of a realization or revelation that changes a person’s goals or style of life.

Rapture [𝑟𝑎̆𝑝′𝑐ℎə𝑟]
Latin raptūra, future active participle of rapiō (“snatch, carry off”)
(noun) Ecstatic elevation of thought or feeling; lofty or soaring enthusiasm; exalted or absorbing earnestness.
(noun) A manifestation of mental transport; an ecstatic utterance or action; an expression of exalted or passionate feeling of any kind; a rhapsody.

Maya (Hinduism)

Under the influence of the three gunas, the soul is (1) misled by matter, and (2) subsequently entangled and entrapped. This tendency is termed maya (illusion).

Under maya’s influence, the atman, (the soul) mistakenly identifies with the body. He accepts such thoughts as “I am white and I am a man,” or “This is my house, my country, and my religion.” Thus the illusioned soul identifies with the temporary body and everything connected to it, such as race, gender, family, nation, bank balance, and sectarian religion. Under this sense of false-ego (false-identity) the soul aspires to control and enjoy matter. However, in so doing he continuously serves lust, greed, and anger. In frustration he often redoubles his efforts and, compounding mistake upon mistake, only falls deeper into illusion.

In ignorance (tamas), he is fully convinced that right is wrong and wrong is right. In passion he is unsure, hesitant, sometimes enjoying and at others times repenting. Only in goodness does the soul begin to develop wisdom – to see things in the real light. Thus enlightenment means moving away from tamas towards sattva. By so doing, the soul gradually escapes the clutches of maya and moves towards liberation.

Progressive Revelation (Bahá’í )

Progressive revelation is a core teaching in the Bahá’í Faith that suggests that religious truth is revealed by God progressively and cyclically over time… and that the teachings are tailored to suit the needs of the time and place of their appearance. Thus, the Bahá’í teachings recognize the divine origin of several world religions as different stages of in the history of one religion, while believing that the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh is the most recent (though not the last–that there will never be a last), and therefore the most relevant to modern society.

This teaching is an interaction of simpler teachings and their implications. The basic concept relates closely to Bahá’í views on God’s essential unity, and the nature of prophets, termed Manifestations of God. It also ties into Bahá’í views of the purpose and nature of religion, laws, belief, culture and history. Hence revelation is seen as both progressive and continuous, and therefore never ceases.

Enlightenment (Philosophy)

The term “enlightenment” is used by some philosopher and artist, in the 18th century in Europe and America. It started out of the renaissance and continued till the beginning of the 19th century. People of this Enlightenment era were convinced that they were emerging out, from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new dawn, enlightened by reason, science, love and respect for humanity. Among the philosophical rationalist two prominent names Descartes and Spinoza can be included and among the political philosophers Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Marx can be included in this category. Due to the discoveries in the field of science of natural laws, self confidence also increased in the society which was also an equally important feature.

The wave of changes that swept Europe, also influence the religion. The supremacy, power and prestige of church and the Pope was also questioned and challenged. People no longer believed in God’s blessings in human affairs. Prior to the Enlightenment principle and before the discovery of natural laws, people believed that event and thing that happened on this earth was the direct blessings of God. But when scientists and scholars like Marx, Charles Darwin etc., established that it was not God but nature itself caused changes, man’s faith in God was declined and religious obligations were no longer the important concern of the people. People who believed in the Enlightenment focused only on man instead of paying any attention to God and the Church. Famous poet Alexander Pope wrote a beautiful couplet on the changing attitude of man, “Know then thyself presume not God to scan,”.

Marx believed that with the faith in Enlightenment and increased and changing knowledge would increase man’s production powers. Even machines were not merely tools of production but a powerful idea spreading Enlightenment which could transform the nature and defeat scarcity. Marx and Enlightenment thinkers supported the democratization of knowledge and importance of the spread of knowledge for the onward movement and progress of society. Knowledge should be used to wipe out ignorance and abolishing the class division. The spread of knowledge should encourage, creating a radical democracy, in which every one has an equal share of political and economic rights.

Transcendentalism (Philosophy)

Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in the eastern United States. A core belief is in the inherent goodness of people and nature, and while society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual, people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent. Transcendentalists saw divine experience inherent in the everyday, rather than believing in a distant heaven. Transcendentalists saw physical and spiritual phenomena as part of dynamic processes rather than discrete entities.

Transcendentalism emphasizes subjective intuition over objective empiricism. Adherents believe that individuals are capable of generating completely original insights with little attention and deference to past masters. It arose as a reaction, to protest against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality at the time. The doctrine of the Unitarian church as taught at Harvard Divinity School was closely related.

It was also strongly influenced by Hindu texts on philosophy of the mind and spirituality, especially the Upanishads.

Major figures in the transcendentalist movement were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller…

Awakening (New Age)

Awakening is a shift in consciousness in which thinking and awareness separate. For most people it is not an event but a process they undergo. Even those rare beings who experience a sudden, dramatic, and seemingly irreversible awakening will still go through a process in which the new state of consciousness gradually flows into and transforms everything they do and so becomes integrated into their lives.

Instead of being lost in your thinking, when you are awake you recognize yourself as the awareness behind it. Thinking then ceases to be a self-serving autonomous activity that takes possession of you and runs your life. Awareness takes over from thinking. Instead of being in charge of your life, thinking becomes the servant of awareness. Awareness is conscious connection with universal intelligence. Another word for it is Presence; consciousness without thought.

The initiation of the awakening process is an act of grace. You cannot make it happen nor can you prepare yourself for it or accumulate credits towards it. There isn’t a tidy sequence of logical steps that leads toward it, although the mind would love that. You don’t have to become worthy first. It may come to the sinner before it comes to the saint, but not necessarily.

There is nothing you can do about awakening. Whatever you do will be the ego trying to add awakening or enlightenment to itself as its most prized possession and thereby making itself more important and bigger. Instead of awakening, you add the concept of awakening to your mind, or the mental image of what an awakend or enlightened person is like, and then try to live up to that image. Living up to an image that you have of yourself or that other people have of you is inauthentic living – another unconscious role the ego plays.

Only the first awakening, the first glimpse of consciousness without thought, happens by grace, without any doing on your part. Once it has done so, it cannot be reversed, although it can be delayed by the ego.

For some, the awakening happens as they suddenly become aware of the kinds of thoughts they habitually think, especially persistent negative thoughts that they may have been identified with all of their lives. Suddenly there is an awareness that is aware of the thought but is not part of it.

Once you have had a glimpse of awareness or Presence, you know it firsthand. It is no longer just a concept in your mind. You can then make a conscious choice to be present rather than to indulge in useless thinking. You can invite Presence into your life, that is to say, make space. With the grace of awakening comes responsibility. You can either try to go on as if nothing happened, or you can see its significance and recognize the arising of awareness at the most important thing that can happen to you. Opening yourself to the emerging consciousness and bringing its light into this world then becomes the primary purpose in your life.

Ascension (New Age)

Spiritual ascension is the awakening of the soul. It is the process of transformation in which our frequencies are raised to a higher level of consciousness. There is no single spiritual ascension meaning. It is a multi-faceted experience that each person undergoes in unique ways. Some people experience heightened compassion for humanity and/or nature, while others acquire stronger psychic abilities.

Above all these, the experience of feeling closer to the Divine seems to be a shared experience among every individual.

One important thing to note about our spiritual ascension is that it is quite a long journey. Our souls do not awaken in just a snap. This spiritual transformation involves a series of events that are intended to expand our consciousness and elevate our energies. Some people take months while others take years when it comes to seeing their spiritual progress.

Remember that it is a different experience for every person, so you shouldn’t be comparing your journey to those around you. Patience and perseverance are keys to a successful spiritual ascension.

So, why is it important to enlighten the soul?

We were all born with pure souls. It is only upon growing older that we start absorbing the impurities of the world. These impurities start building up within us until our visions are blocked from seeing what is truly good. Our spirits become tainted with arrogance, greed, and materialism – among many other evils. The goal of the spiritual ascension is to bring our pure souls back.T his means raising the quality of our thoughts, increasing our emotional intelligence, and bringing us closer to the presence of the Divine. Overall, we are bound to experience a renewed spiritual perception.

Gateless Gate

Daitsū Chishō


Once a monk earnestly asked Priest Jō of Kōyō, “Daitsū Chishō Buddha sat in the meditation hall for ten kalpas, but the Dharma of the Buddha did not manifest itself and he could not attain Buddhahood. Why was this?” Jō replied, “Your question is reasonable indeed.” The monk said, “He sat in zazen in the meditation hall. Why did he not attain Buddhahood?” Jō replied, “Because he is a non-attained Buddha.”


I approve the old barbarian’s realization, but I don’t approve the old barbarian’s understanding. When an ordinary person has realized it, he is a saint. If a saint understands it, he is nothing but an ordinary person.


Far better than realizing the body is to realize the mind and be at peace.
If the mind is realized, there is no anxiety about the body; If both body and mind are completely realized, A holy hermit does not wish to be appointed lord.


The priest Jō in this koan is Seijō, a Zen master of the Igyō sect. He was the Dharma successor of the famous master Bashō Esei, a Korean whom we will meet again in Case 44.


The term “Daitsū Chishō” will need some explanation. Daitsū means being able to go to all places or go through anything, in other words, pervading the whole universe. Chishō means wonderful wisdom. Thus Daitsū Chishō means the wonderful wisdom that pervades the universe. We will at once recognize that this name represents one of the characteristics of our essential nature. This is also true of the names of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Take Amida Buddha, for example. In Sanskrit, Amida is Amitayus, which means limitless life, or Amitabha, which means limitless light, also characteristics of our essential nature. Then there is Bodhisattva Kanzeon or Kannon, which in Sanskrit is Avalokitesvara. In Japanese, kan means to see with the mind-eye. Ze is the world, and on means sound, so ze-on means the sounds of the world. It is said that Bodhisattva Kanzeon, upon hearing the voices of those who call upon his name, instantly renders mercy to them. This is, of course, the mercy of our essential nature. The following story of Daitsū Chishō appears in the parable of the magic city in Chapter 7 of the Lotus Sutra:

Daitsū Chishō was the king of a certain country and had sixteen sons at the time he entered the priesthood. When he experienced complete enlightenment, he began to preach the Dharma in a mountain area. Upon hearing their  father’s preaching, all sixteen sons also entered the priesthood. This group constituted the foundation of present-day Buddhism. Each of the sixteen princes eventually became a Buddha, the youngest being Shakyamuni Buddha himself. It is written that Daitsū Chishō sat in samadhi in the meditation hall for ten kalpas. Ten kalpas means countless ages. One of the sutras defines a kalpa as the period of time it would take an angel who descended from heaven once every hundred years and made one sweep with its robe of feathers across the top of a cubic-mile stone mountain to wear it down level to the ground. Or it is said to be the period of time it would take a bird to consume a cubic-mile container full of sesame seeds if it ate one seed every hundred years. Ten kalpas is, therefore, a very long time.

In spite of such a lengthy practice, the Dharma of Buddha did not manifest itself, and Daitsū Chishō did not achieve Buddhahood. The monk could not understand this, so he earnestly asked Priest Jō, “Why was this?” Jō replied, “Your question is reasonable indeed,” which means: yes, it is as you say, he did not attain Buddhahood. Why not?
The monk persisted in asking why he did not attain Buddhahood when he actually sat for such a long time in samadhi. Jō answered, “Because he is a non-attained Buddha.” This is the point of the koan.


Other translations have it, “Because he didn’t,” or “Because he was not a Buddha.” These two versions of the reply miss the point. As I repeatedly tell you, every koan must be contemplated from the point of view of our essential nature and not from the phenomenal point of view. In this koan we have Daitsū Chishō. What is he? He is a man who will never attain Buddhahood. Who is he? He is Daitsū Chishō, you will say. But who are you? You are John and Jenny and Bob. And each of you will say, “John? That’s me,” or, “Jenny? That’s me,” or, “Bob? That’s me,” or “Daitsū Chishō? That’s me.” I am John. I am Jenny. I am Bob. I am Daitsū Chishō. Each says “I.” Who is that
“I”? If you are conscious only of the relative phenomenal “I,” it is nothing but the ego. But for the transformed, enlightened consciousness, what is this “I”? You must come to grasp it directly by experiencing enlightenment. Then you will know why neither Daitsū Chishō nor any of you can ever attain Buddhahood.

At the risk of revealing too much, I will explain more clearly. Hit your thigh with your fist. OUCH! That’s it. Who is crying out? Not only Daitsū Chishō but all of you are Buddhas from the beginning and will never attain Buddhahood again, no matter how long you sit in samadhi. Can water get any wetter? Can gold become gold again? Can completeness become more complete? Can emptiness become empty? Of course, from the phenomenal point of view, our Buddha nature manifests itself little by little in the process of time. But from the essential point of view, we are Buddhas from the beginning.

As Hakuin Zenji says at the beginning of his Song in Praise of Zazen, “All living beings are intrinsically Buddha.” It is not until you grasp your own self nature through direct experience that you realize for the first time what a non-attained Buddha means.


“I approve the old barbarian’s realization, but I don’t approve the old barbarian’s understanding. When an ordinary person has realized it, he is a saint. If a saint understands it, he is nothing but an ordinary person.”


The old barbarian here means Shakyamuni Buddha or Bodhidharma. As I said before, from very ancient times the Chinese have been proud of their race and have referred to others as barbarians. So when Mumon uses the word here, no contempt is implied. Mumon is saying that even though the old barbarian might be Shakyamuni Buddha or Bodhidharma, if he understands the true fact only by thought processes, I do not approve of him at all. He is nothing but an ordinary man. But if an ordinary man has realized it by actual experience, then I admit he is a saint.


Far better than realizing the body is to realize the mind and be at peace. If the mind is realized, there is no anxiety about the body; If both body and mind are completely realized, A holy hermit does not wish to be appointed lord.


I think the meaning of the verse is self-evident. It is far better to realize our essential nature than to resolve the problem of our bodies. By the problem of our bodies is meant all of the problems of our phenomenal world, our physical, economic, and social existence. If you realize your essential nature completely, the problems of the phenomenal world will no longer disturb your peace of mind; you will be filled to your heart’s content and will not look for anything more, just as a holy hermit does not wish for worldly honors