The Four Steps of Buddhist Practice

In recent years, it began to dawn on me that most Buddhist practices, such as those on devotion and loving-kindness, lead meditators through four distinct stages. The first stage, which I call the Outer Buddha, is to see the Buddha before oneself with devotion. The second stage, which I call the Inner Buddha, is to find the Buddha’s unconditional love within oneself. The third stage, the Universal Buddha, is to awaken to the Buddha everywhere: the whole universe arises as his love. The fourth stage, the Ultimate Buddha, is to be in oneness with the Buddha’s love. I talk about love because that’s my subject here. But any enlightened quality could be substituted for it in this four-stage model. Although the Four Stages are conceptually distinct, each leads infallibly to the next. We can flow from one stage to another without needing to stop and shift gears.

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