Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today Is Marpa's Anniversary

Some people like to tranquilize themselves, others like to stimulate themselves. It could be that both approaches are equally mistaken.

Trungpa Rinpoche wrote about what happens when a group of people get together, and call themselves a sangha, in the absence of basic sanity:

"Inevitably this organization, this collective ego, will look for further confirmation of its health and existence. It may even take as its credentials the transmission of the lineage, the teachings of the great masters, but it will be a prostitution of those teachings. It will involve itself in the ever-escalating game of one-upsmanship in order to enlarge its congregation. This one-upsmanship may take the form of collecting endorsements and diplomas, as well as the form of ambitious practice and adherence to the teachings. It will also see the success of rivals as a threat. The Buddha said that his teachings, like a lion, would never be destroyed by outsiders; it could only be destroyed from within like a lion's corpse consumed by maggots. This is the perversion of sangha. It is the dark-age of spirituality, the operation of spiritual materialism."

Today is Marpa's Anniversary, so in honor of this, we provide a brief excerpt from Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche's commentary on Trungpa Rinpoche's life and teachings:

"It is a testament to Trungpa Rinpoche’s integrity as a meditation practitioner and teacher that he emphasized the importance of eschewing credentials of any kind as an integral part of the spiritual path. He spoke of this as “buddhadharma without credentials,” and no teacher before or after him has underscored this point so forcefully. Trungpa brings this issue back to meditation practice, explaining that it is the experience of cool boredom that will assist us in overcoming this hankering after credentials: 'Boredom is important because boredom is anti-credential. Credentials are entertaining, always bringing you something new, something lively, something fantastic, all kinds of solutions. When you take away the idea of credentials, then there is boredom.'

"This seems to be an extremely important attitude, in light of the fact that most of the world’s great spiritual traditions speak of levels of attainment, gradations of consciousness, and so forth. They distinguish between superficiality and depth, ascending or descending, and different paths and stages of development. One could therefore be forgiven for wondering, What stage of development have I reached? What level of meditative concentration have I developed? How close am I to attaining a particular level of spiritual realization? This is not to deny the importance or reality of some of these stages of spiritual attainment, but the obsession with credentials is an attitude we must relinquish for our own benefit, because it actually inhibits our spiritual growth. As Trungpa Rinpoche says, the search for credentials is a sickness we have to eliminate from our meditation experience, while still fully experiencing our neuroses. In The Myth of Freedom, he likens this process to having an operation without an anesthetic: 'We begin meditation practice by dealing with thoughts, the fringe of ego. The practice of meditation is an undoing process.…So the practitioner who is involved with credentials begins with an operation. Credentials are an illness, and you need an operation to remove them.…They prove that you are sick so that you can have attention from your friends. We have to operate on this person to eliminate the credential sickness. But if we give this person an anesthetic, he will not realize how much he has to give up. So we should not use anesthetics at all.'

"This idea of no credentials figures significantly in Trungpa Rinpoche’s thinking. He continually points out that we should always remember the importance of engaging in spiritual practice without the desire for any form of recognition or acknowledgment, because such desire only reinforces the deluded tendency to define our territory, solidify our existence, and prove our worth to ourselves and others. It therefore limits and corrupts any spiritual insight we might attain in ego’s claustrophobic domain. The temptation to pervert our experiences with credentials arises from the fact that ego has no real solidity, as Trungpa Rinpoche emphasizes in the following passage: 'In order to cut through the ambition of ego, we must understand how we set up me and my territory, how we use our projections as credentials to prove our existence. The source of the effort to confirm our solidity is an uncertainty as to whether or not we exist. Driven by this uncertainty, we seek to prove our own existence by finding a reference point outside ourselves, something with which to have a relationship, something solid to feel separate from' (from The Myth of Freedom)."

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