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To Our Internet Sangha:

We've written a new book... well, "new" may not be accurate... we've been working on it for years. And "book" sort of suggests a cohesion that is probably lacking. But, being unable or unwilling to describe it as anything else, we'll stick with "new book." We called it, Assault On The Summit which is an ambitious title as, of course, is the attempt to experience the penultimate experiences of the Buddhist path which the book, in part, describes.

First, it's important to understand that the spiritual life and the religious life are two different things. The spiritual life is always an interior life. It is a universally known, protracted series of ecstasies and ecstatic visions, experienced during the state of meditation. By definition, then, there is no ego consciousness involved in any of the experiences. The spiritual life is not contrived in any way. Although it exists in potential form in every human being, as a pupa in a little chromosomal cocoon; many people will never see it emerge in its butterfly splendor. Not every human being gets to experience mystical transcendence, and those who do rarely care to discuss it. Since it is beyond the ken of ego-consciousness, it must be experienced to be understood. Worse, not only do people fail to understand what they are told, they have a peculiar resistance to the information and will not hesitate to dismiss the narrative as fanciful, absurd, and even heretical.

The religious life, regardless of any spiritual experience, is exterior to the point of advertising itself: parochial schools; distinctive temples; ceremonies and festivities; the raiment of hierarchical rank; garments and adornments that identify the laymen as a follower of the religion - prayer beads, special headdresses, and jewelry that displays a symbol associated with the religion. Prayers - openly said at meals, at the ringing of the Angelus or to the call of the Muezzim - also indicate the individual's religious affiliation. Genetic endowment is irrelevant except as it indicates family relationship. People tend to follow the religion into which they are born.

The spiritual life, then, being independent of cultural organization, has a commonality which renders it approachable from any religious base. Since visionary experiences vary little among the world's cultures, it is as if the characters, plot, and setting constitute a drama that can be translated into any language. Our problem - the one that caused the delay in finishing the book - was that we kept changing the language. Also, our commitment to the project was less than firm. The three of us had other obligations and interests that gave us convenient reasons to procrastinate. We meandered through Alchemy, Daoism, Zen, Kashmiri Shaivism, and Patanjali. It wasn't until we came across the great Mircea Eliade's book on Patanjali that we decided to follow a course that set most of what we had already written into a framework of the Aphorisms of Yoga... more or less. The pieces seemed to fit together.

The book is in four sections: general information; men's esoteric practices and exercises written by Master Yin Zhao, an adept; women's theory and practice written by me; and finally the meridians, some theory and practice to deepen the practitioner's meditative abilities and to keep the student in good physical condition by Fa Jun Shakya of Italy, a martial artist.

We decided to launch the book on our Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun website, at this www.zatma.org address, skipping around between the sections, publishing the various chapters one at a time. The esoteric techniques will not be published; but will be made available by contacting the appropriate author.

We'll begin publication with the opening part of the general information section.

If you have any questions about the text, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Ming Zhen Shakya

Humming Bird