Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Boats
Building, Destroying and Abandoning Boats
Work schools have been created to help us reach this juncture. They are useful for most of the way, for almost the totality of the inner journey. We need the boat to traverse the course, but not to finish it. We have to be completely alone at some point, absolutely independent, not simply from other people’s minds but also our own. Our own mind is the juncture where other minds hook on to us. It is our mind that holds on to concepts, whether our own or others’. The work is necessary to teach us how to build boats. But a genuine teaching shows us also how to destroy these boats, and then how to create better ones and destroy them, until we learn that we don’t need boats at all. In this respect, work schools deal more directly with the situation than do world religions. Work schools rent you temporary boats, whereas religions sell them to you for life. While the boats may keep you afloat, they will never permit you to reach the other shore. In order to cross the river and reach the other
shore, you have to abandon the boat at some point.
Diamond Heart Book Five, pg. 65
Prayer is a Boat
Ultimately, prayer is like any other method: it is a boat that at some point you will need to abandon. Your life itself will need to become the prayer, or the meditation, or the inquiry. You may practice whatever works for you—pray, meditate, inquire, take aims—until you realize that none of them work. Because as long as you do these practices you are acting from the perspective of non-reality. All of those methods assume that you are a separate individual who needs to get someplace. At least that’s how most people begin these practices. The practices have deeper bases in the truth of reality, but that is difficult to see until we actually arrive at this reality. When you realize the truth, however, you see that you do not need a boat, for you have already arrived on land. You need a boat only when you have not yet reached land. But the boat cannot get you all the way to the shore. You must get wet. You have to leave the boat at some point before you can reach the shore. You have to get your feet wet.
Diamond Heart Book Five, pg. 85
It is difficult to talk without creating another boat. We destroy one boat, and the moment that we say another word, we create a new boat. It is difficult to be and not think of being, to really forget our entire mind, to take our mind and put it into one of our pockets and zip it up for a while. But this is precisely what we need to do if we are going to find out the truth for ourselves. Such freedom and such boldness are not easy.
The boats cannot be sunk all at once. Usually we sink a few boats at a time; otherwise, we may get overwhelmed, flooded, totally disoriented. To sink all of our boats we have to confront all possibilities. We are completely and absolutely at sea then: nothing above, nothing below, nothing to hold us from any side. At this juncture, we cannot expect anyone or anything to help us. It is useless even to think that Christ will be your guide, or an angel will descend, or a bodhisattva will help. These are some of the boats that we need to abandon.
Diamond Heart Book Five, pg. 65
Teachings Are Boats
Teachings are boats with which to cross a river. You are not supposed to carry the boat with you on the other shore. If you carry the boat with you, you will end up with a greater load than when you started. Teachings help us see how our experience is limited and bound, and offer us ways to liberate ourselves from such unnecessary boundaries. Once we are free, to keep on looking at reality through the same lens will again bind and limit us. Once we are free, teachings become artificial, extra, and unnecessary. To be free is to be free from all concepts, all formulations, all views.
Diamond Heart Book Five, pg. 59
We Have to Use Boats
These practices teach all kinds of things. You grow and develop, but you have to see that they are based, at least in part, on an unreality, on a perception that is not yet completely objective, because objective perception is a perception of the oneness there is. In reality there is no person who needs to be enlightened; there is no river, no boat, no other shore. But you can’t from the beginning act from this perception, because you can’t see it yet. You have to use the boats; you have to pray, with utmost humility, for a long time. You have to meditate with total dedication, and you have to do it all the way. You can’t sink the boat until you take it as far as it can go.