Friday, January 25, 2008

Non-negotiable Dharma

Photo of Rawak Stupa from Don Croner. Click here for more information.

Following is excerpted from a presentation Tenpa Rinpoche gave to some very good friends of his, who are students of another teacher. While not entirely out of context, I want to remember that he is very specific: what he says to one group is expressly for that group. Still, it seems there is something here for everybody:

Sometimes, it seems we bring a component of self-deceit to our relationship with the teacher. This self-deceit is characterized by a process of negotiation. I want to briefly examine this in a way that I hope will be useful to us all.

When I was still a teenager, I once had an emotional exchange with my teacher. It appeared to me, that despite all best efforts, he was still rather dissatisfied with me. I worried that he misunderstood me, so I told him, "Rinpoche... don't you understand I will do whatever you say? Don't you understand that I love you?"

His response was immediate, like a shot from a gun: "It isn't enough."

I think I was around seventeen years old, and I admit this was confusing to me. I recall feeling a little wounded by his remarks; a bit startled, actually. I remember asking, incredulously, "It isn't enough if I love you with all my heart?"

"If you love me, that is fine for me, but it doesn't do you any good," he answered.

So a fairly confused and dejected, teenaged boy went slowly walking down the alley, fighting back tears, contemplating all this Lama Drama, because I had absolutely no idea what he meant. It felt like a rejection, you know? It felt cold. I took the long way home that night, and when I arrived, I sat down and tried to decipher the day's events. While I was sitting there, the solution suddenly came to me, and I have carried it around ever since. I have so many things like that, in so many pockets, that if I ever fall in the river I will drown. Maybe I should take these things out and give them away.

Sometimes, we try to barter our delusions; to make them into a kind of currency we can spend with the teacher to buy his or her approval. As an example: perhaps we have a certain skill with painting. So, whenever our teacher needs some painting done, we do the painting. We become the "teacher's official painter," and this becomes a status thing, you know? Anybody else tries to paint for the teacher we immediately become territorial. We become jealous.

We also become negotiators.

If, for example, we haven't finished ngondro, it is because we were painting. If we put off doing 100, or 1,000 mantras in the morning, it is because we have to go painting. If we fail to make them up in the evening, it is because we are tired from painting all day. It doesn't have to be painting. We can be the teacher's driver, or the accounting person who pays the teacher's bills, or maybe even the teacher's personal friend (!) No matter what it is, we are using this as an excuse for our failure to discharge the most basic obligation we have to the teacher and hence, to ourselves. This is the fundamental obligation to practice, gain the results of the practice, and put these results into the discharge of our ultimate obligation, which is the welfare of all sentient beings. Maybe we are big sponsors, you know? Maybe we are trying to buy our way through the spiderweb? It isn't exactly fair to go to somebody and say, "Hey! I'm crazy! Help me stop crazy!" and then resist the process when our crazy perceptions don't let us see that this somebody is actually taking us on.

It isn't exactly fair to negotiate. This is actually quite common, and the master of transforming this was Trungpa Rinpoche. He organized his students according to their fundamental poisons. For example: he made the people with anger and aggression into his guards. He made the people with grasping and greed into his business managers. He gave very specific injunctions. To the guards he would teach tenderness. To the business people he would teach generosity. So, there was the poison, the antidote, and the transformation.

What we need to do now is wander down the alley, kick a few cans, take the long way home, and take a naughty little inventory to discover precisely how we are bartering and negotiating with the teacher -- how we are evading our basic obligations to our own lives and the lives of others. This is the way we deceive ourselves, do you see? This is just one more example of self-deception. There comes a point when being the court painter or the perfect butler becomes a kind of self-cherishing perpetuation of our own bewilderment. This becomes a very ornate portrait of all the things we are doing wrong. How about we learn to really love the teacher? How about we learn what devotion really means? How about we learn what service really means? How about we open up our stingy little paws and actually give? You know, if you say to westerners, "Go empty out the bank account and dump it all in a pile in front of your teacher," they will get a rope, form a posse, and ride out to the lynching. They'll be looking for the swindle. On the best day, maybe they'll be cajoled into paying monthly dues at some miserable "center." Marpa didn't do that when he was hopping around India, dumping out bags of gold, but then I guess maybe Marpa was gullible, eh?

The bottom line is simple: how about we take all the neurotic energy, and the sociopathic charm, and pour it into taking our lives on real terms and practicing the dharma according to the dharma, without any ancillary bartering or negotiating.

Do you think the teacher will be pleased?

I need my room painted yellow, or maybe a nice warm orange. Anybody know how to do that without getting drops on the floor?

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3 reader comments:

Lea said...

Very good posts today, Trinh. Thank you. Mostly I will lurk, but you have my attention, I'll be here.

conceição said...

"do you love me?"---it´s a song, n´est pas? and when i sing...

Don said...

Thanks for using my photo! For more see Rawak Stupa.