That’s all true, but the real question is, if “more self-realization” isn’t the path forward, explaining the difference between a rock and sudarshana-cakra, or a flower and the mind of Shiva, what is? Compassion, in the sense of “becoming more”, expanding what you are into the realm that is presently beyond you? That seems to be the closest, because, obviously, things like suffering and yoga might be side-effects and tools, not the working principle; for instance, when through compassion you expand to include non-self things, they are usually what Patanjali would call “disturbed”, they create terrible whirlpools of citta that emotionally translate as “suffering”, and then yoga comes to play, as means of working through the suffering and “thermodynamically” calming the spiritual substance, the way a compressor in a refrigerator “calms” the gas by extracting the excess heat. This seems to be the basic Buddhist explanation for the phenomenon of spiritual growth, and I can’t presently think of problems it doesn’t solve.
You wrote earlier that one needs to increase both size and quality of the spiritual body in order to grow spiritually. I assume compassion in the context you describe it here, will increase the size of ones spiritual body through the inclusion of additional kalapas after they are calmed and integrated. In this sense, compassion seems to be part of the equation, but something else would be required to increase the quality of the soul in addition to its size. If one uses compassion to acquire more kapapas and calms them to ones version of perfection, wouldn’t the mass increase but the quality remain the same? Its obvious to me that God is not just bigger and more powerful, it’s whole other level of quality altogether. So much so that I’m not sure one could arrive at something like that through incremental progression, that level of quality difference feels like a result of something else entirely that I appear to have absolutely no knowledge about. So what to do about the quality part?
That’s a good observation, and I would have to think about it for some time before coming up with a solid answer. At this moment I’m half-sick (Biljana is really sick, down with high fever and something that looks like flu, but I can’t exclude some covid mutation, and I seem to have the same virus but asymptomatic; either incubation or my immune system is dealing with it) so my brain isn’t in top form, but let’s see…
Things usually follow a pattern of quantitative growth, followed by a qualitative breakthrough, such as initiation into vajra; it doesn’t feel arbitrary, so there must be some kind of underlying physics involved – for instance, in order for a spiritual body to grow to a certain size, measured in number of kalapas, the structure needs to be pure/homogenous, or it will collapse/fragment. However, if you get to a certain size, meaning that you maintained sufficient purity, a process of qualitative transformation begins, the way a liquid would turn into a solid, or very highly compressed hydrogen plasma would undergo fusion in order to form helium. Subjectively, this transforms your spiritual states from the expectation of greater/purer love that would follow if the present conditions were extended quantitatively, to states of consciousness that exist on a fundamentally different coordinate system, to the point where human language barely has any words to express them, due to the fact that almost no humans ever entered those states of consciousness and verbalized them. Most of it is metaphor and imagery that works if one is “there” so he can see what you’re talking about, but it’s nothing human, and nothing one would expect, but it is the “universe” in which god-stuff exists, and you can finally get how some things are possible. But, I must admit I don’t have a strong theory explaining the conditions defining the limits of quantitative spiritual growth. Also, I don’t yet understand how the process maps onto physical incarnation; I seem to have passed through phases of spiritual growth in this life, such as initiation into this and that, and yet all it seemed to do is create bridges and interfaces between this body and the pre-existing spiritual entity that had all this and more. The mahayana explanation of bodhisattvas and their process of “incarnation”, in fact spawning tulpas, is the best I have so far; basically, a bodhisattva looks at this world, feels a need to do something, and the motivation takes form of a tulpa that is a physical being that has a very strong motivation to grow back to the original spiritual entity that spawned it into existence. The more I got initiated, the closer I became to being the full physical incarnation of my true being. The corollary, of course, is that you can have failed tulpas, beings that failed to close the circle and attain higher initiation.
As an addition, when I think about the limits of quantitative growth, the necessary conditions are in the ability to extend one’s ability to feel others, and the “cracks” and “discontinuities” in one’s spiritual body are usually due to faulty ideas and beliefs that basically limit what you feel you’re allowed to do, and what is “right”. Also, there is a real possibility of having your mind so open your brain falls out, so to speak, and by feeling compassion with someone who is wrong, you lose your own correct perspective and adopt the wrong one, and if you’re not skilled at juggling multiple viewpoints, you might actually degrade your spiritual body instead of expanding it, so that would be counterproductive. The underlying assumption is that growing your spiritual body after a certain “normal” point requires additional skill on multiple dimensions – more detachment, more ability to shift perspectives, more mental and emotional agility, where your emotions are not “sticky” and you can get in and out of them quickly, and you need to be able to let go of your worldview/religion if it is restrictive. Considering how people usually think their religion will take them all the way to perfection, being able to let it go after it proves restrictive and doesn’t allow you to go further is quite an obstacle. Basically, the extension of quantity even a little bit after the “normal” point introduces quite a bit of additional spiritual demands, and it is definitely not “business as usual”, or a monotonous grind until some arbitrary point where you converge with the requirements for a qualitative initiation. Also, at least parts of the experiences preceding vajra initiation seem to be caused by the processes taking place in your astral body as it converges towards the limits and its inner weaknesses are “compressed” by the physics of the situation, like you would expect gravity to compress matter towards the limit where a “hot Jupiter” becomes a star, or something becomes a neutron star. Basically, shit gets increasingly weird, and people usually experience lots of assistance from above during this period – there are tests you must pass, there are temptations, there are things you must face and overcome, and so on. I’m not sure it’s not just the physics of extreme pressure creating “dakinis“, to be honest, but the result is the same – there are tests, and one can fail; I’ve seen that happen, too.
Compassion, as I conceive it, means to understand that it could be you in that “non-self” entity position, and when you are skilled enough in yoga, you can extend your area of “self” to engulf either a person and an object, and think and feel from their position, and if their understanding is flawed, you bring it to correct understanding by introducing proper arguments that improve thinking, and you apply yoga to the disturbances of your mind – because it is now your mind, since you expanded the definition of Self to engulf it – and process the karmic impurities that are now your own.
What if the person or object you’re extending yourself into doesn’t want to change, let go or alter their understanding?
Then you get my failed students. 🙂