I do, indeed, feel fortunate for having found (or been found by) Jeffrey Brooks (aka, Jhanananda) of the Great Western Vehicle.
What is the GWV?
Here’s a chunk of it:
The Great Western Vehicle (Mahaparacakkayana), is a 4th wheel (Catutthayana), ecumenical, engaged, ecstatic contemplative Buddhist tradition that seeks to teach Buddhist philosophy and contemplative arts within the context of any culture or religious tradition. We are not interested in Buddhism as a religion, but as a philosophy and practice strategy (dhamma/dharma) that any one can follow to enlightenment, regardless of one’s cultural or religious background. Thus the GWV does not expect nor require conversion to Buddhism, but seeks to forge alliances with other ecstatic contemplatives and their traditions.
The GWV is first and foremost a contemplative tradition. The teachers of the Great Western Vehicle are all contemplatives. One cannot become a lay teacher or monastic priest in the Great Western Vehicle without leading a life that is dedicated to the daily practice of meditation, which is oriented toward the cultivation of meditative absorption.
The GWV is an engaged, contemplative tradition, because we have dedicate every thought, word, action and resource to the benefit of all beings, Every teacher of the GWV endeavors to be a living example of an ethical life. In fact if a teacher of the GWV is found to not to be leading an ethical life, then he or she is immediately disqualified from a leadership roll within the GWV. We view ethics as not only avoiding the 7 deadly sins, but also leading a harmless life, and a life that meets the needs of the people, culture and environment. Thus, we support peaceful resolutions between peoples, institutions and nations; and preservation and restoration of wilderness areas; as well as environmentally sensitive and sustainable agriculture, habitation and transportation.
We are an ecstatic contemplative tradition because we recognize the meditative absorption states, which are what the Christian mystics called “ecstasy,” and what the Buddha called “jhana,” and what Patanjali called “samadhi.” We find the meditative absorption states are one and the same from culture to culture, and are the very definition of a correctly executed contemplative life, and they are also the defining quality of the 8th fold of the Noble Eight Fold Path. Thus all of the teachers of the GWV are committed to cultivating the ecstatic states, and teaching how one can cultivate those states.
Western ecstatic contemplative traditions need a canon of literature that supports their noble endeavor of leading a contemplative life for the purpose of cultivating the meditative absorption states. We find the early canon of Buddhist literature, as reflected in the Discourses of the Buddha (Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon), is one of the clearest and best examples of the ecstatic contemplative path, thus we consider the Sutta Pitaka should be considered a major aspect of the western canon of ecstatic contemplative literature.
By way of full disclosure, you should know that Your Proprietor completed teacher training this past summer, and is in the process of integrating into the GWV as a faculty member. I’m working on a bio for the faculty webpage, and will provide a link when available.
What drew me to Jhanananda is this business of “meditative absorption,” which is something I’ve experienced all my life — but especially since 1995, when I turned 33 and found that my meditation was filled with bliss, joy and ecstasy. These qualities have “matured” during the intervening years, especially since May of 2003, when I attended my first 10-day retreat with Jhanananda in Riverside, CA. Two years ago (almost — New Years 2007 will make it official) I dedicated myself to a three-hour-a-day meditation practice… which sounds horrific, probably, except that it beats anything I’ve ever done during my 44 years on Earth — including psychoactive drugs, sex, rock n roll, or otherwise partying with my homeys. In other words, spending three hours a day steeped in ever-deepening meditative absorption — and then spending the other 21 hours saturated in a baseline bliss — is a no-brainer, and I can’t figure out why everyone doesn’t do it.
That’s not really true — I know why no one does it, because I avoided it in spectacular ways for many, many years. It’s been a process of surrender to an innate gift, which I believe we all have access to, but which our culture does not understand, let alone support.
So, perhaps this post points to a major reason for my sticking around on planet Earth. Perhaps it says something about my remaining time, in that I do hope to attract others who are discovering this universal gift within themselves, and need a little support in anchoring it in their daily lives.