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.
We are Mahayanist because we are ecumenical, which means we believe in being a tradition for everyone, and we acknowledge parity between monastic and lay teachers. However we do not reject enlightenment at any time. All of our teachers are fully committed to enlightenment in this very lifetime. And, we dedicate every thought, word, action and resource to the benefit of all beings. We teach enlightenment is possible for everyone in the present lifetime regardless of ones culture, language, religion or ethnic background.
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.
Western Buddhism needs a canon of Western Buddhist literature, which is skillfully translated into the languages of the west. Since we consider the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon (Tipitaka or Tripitaka) the clearest and best example of ecstatic contemplative literature, we then feel it is our responsibility to preserve the Sutta Pitaka in its original language, as well as assuring it is skillfully translated into the native languages of the western people, as well as the native language of all the peoples of Earth.
Since the GWV is ecumenical and recognizes that enlightenment is possible for anyone in every culture at any time period, then we accept that every culture has produced fully enlightened beings. Thus, we accept the literature of the enlightened ones and mystics from every culture, and we will make every effort to include that literature into our canon. Examples of traditions that reflect enlightenment are: Christian mysticism, Kabbalah, the Gnostics, Sufism, the Yogas, Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, Taoism, Dzogchen, Mahamudra and Shamanism.
The experience of enlightenment is reflected in the literature of every culture. Thus we accept the literature from all three Asian vehicles into our canon, as well as contemporary Buddhist literature. And, since Western thought is founded upon Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, Roman and Islamic literary sources, such as is found in Greek Philosophy, the Gnostics, Kabbalah and Sufism, then we embrace those literary traditions into our canon. Buddhism is founded upon Vedic literature such as the Vedas, Advaita Vedanta and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, thus we embrace those literary sources. Finally, we also embrace Confucian and Taoist literary sources, because Chinese, Korean and Japanese forms of Buddhism are founded upon those literary traditions.
The enlightenment experience has been expressed in the language of mysticism and gnosis of the various cultures that have expressed the phenomena and characteristics of absorption. The Christian mystics used terms like: angels, bliss, joy, ecstasy, ecstatic, absorption, aura, charism, charisma, charismatic, clairaudience, clairvoyance, houses of god, insight, lucid dreaming, mystic, mysticism, out-of-body experience (astral projection, oob, oobe), rapture, reincarnation (past lifetime), remaining conscious during sleep, revelation, Saint Vitus' dance, trance and tranquility. The Buddhists used terms like: anagami, Arahant (arahanta, Arahat), Buddha, Brahma Viharas (Bodhichitta, divine abodes, boundless states, wholesome states), di.t.thadhammasukhavihaaraa, divine ear, iddhi, insight, jhana, jhana-nimitta, karuna, kasina, manomaya, metta, Mudita, nibbana, piiti (pleasure not of the senses), rigpa, sakadagami, shunyata, signlessness, sotapanna, succor, sukha, upekkha and vipassana. Yogis used terms like: dharma, dhyana. chakra, kriya, kundalini, nirvana, samadhi and siddhi. Islamic mystics, such as the Sufis, used terms like, dzikr and fana, The various forms of shamanism have their own language of gnosis.
The Great Western Vehicle is committed to training native speakers of the various cultures of the world to become teachers of Western Buddhism, because we believe every contemplative tradition should be taught by native speakers of that culture, who are dedicated contemplatives.
We believe that the present state of Buddhist literature in English translation too often suffers under translator bias, which is driven in part by an ignorance of the existing English language of cognition and gnosis, as well as due to too many scholars being only armchair philosophers and not dedicated contemplatives. To meet the GWV’s commitment to providing the literature of gnosis that is skillfully translated into the native languages of the western people, we have begun the GWV Pali Dictionary Project.
The GWV’s Pali Dictionary Project is endeavoring to assure that
the English language of gnosis and cognition is properly expressed
in the translation of Buddhist literature. Thus we are editing
a Pali-to-English dictionary. When that project is complete we
will make every effort to translate that dictionary first into
the other western languages, but ultimately into as many living
languages as we can. The beginning of our effort to present a
collection of the Buddha’s Discourses that reflects an understanding
English language of gnosis is available in the Phala Nikaya.
The GWV is committed to leading retreats and teaching meditation within the context of the meditative absorption states (jhana/samadhi). We feel it is best to engage in the contemplative life in the wilderness. We also feel meditation retreats should be affordable, so it is our goal to offer wilderness retreats as often as there is an interest in them.
One of the goals of the GWV is also to provide peer-level support for the contemplative who has arrived at meditative absorption. Thus we host several Yahoo groups that are dedicated to these contemplatives. Those groups are: the Jhana Support Group, Kundaliniheat and Shiva-Shakti. In that effort we are also gathering case histories of individual’s experiences with meditative absorption, and we are interested in documenting meditation induced neurosis, psychosis and physical ailment, such as meditation induced tinnitus, and the dark night of the soul. Our effort is to build a foundation for the study of Buddhist and Yogic psychology, which is the psychology of kundalini and ecstasy.
Sotapanna (stream winner) Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks) is the founder of the Great Western Vehicle. He is a self-ordained Western Buddhist monk, who has maintained a daily contemplative life that has born the fruit (phala) of meditative absorption (jhana/samadhi) and has become saturated and suffused with the phenomena of meditative absorption (jhana-nimitta).
Through the study of anthropology Jhanananda has studied and researched the contemplative philosophies, practices, literature and attainments of the ecstatic contemplative traditions of the world such as Sidharta Gotama; Christian contemplatives, such as Saints Anthony, Vitus, Francis of Assisi, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross; Sufi mystics al-Hallaj, Rumi and Kabir; Kabbalists Isaac Luria and the Ba’al Shem Tov of Turin; and Hindu mystics, such as Sankara, Sri Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi. Through the study of the lives and teachings of these mystics, Jhanananda has found enlightenment is not the exclusive possession of a people, time or place, but is available to all peoples, at all times, in all places. He has thus begun to formulate what he calls a Unifying Theory of Gnosis, which simply endeavors to find the commonality within the ecstatic contemplative experience.
Jhanananda teaches ecstatic meditation and contemplative philosophy.
His methodology involves satipatthana, which was the Buddha’s
four foundations of awareness training. His technique includes
he calls “field meditations” which he uses to teach people how
to cultivate the meditative absorption states. He is also an
ecstatic contemplative poet and artist. Jhanananda has been
on retreat for
the last three years, while formulating his philosophy. Much
of that retreat was conducted as a solo wilderness retreat.