Wednesday, December 09, 2009

How Sweet, Not Always

Here is a letter that I received almost two years ago to the day:
Dear Tulku Tenpa Rinpoche,
I must apologize for interrupting what I hope is still a beautiful day in California. I hope you are doing well,  finding restoration in the ocean air.  I lived in southern California for some time, spent a lot of time on the beach. Even today I find that remembering the waves washing in and out-- the way they swell out of nowhere, crash thunderously, and the impossibly tiny fizzy sound produced as the last bit of water is drawn back from the sand--brings a cleansing kind of energy to my mind.  And though your mind has no need of cleansing, may it be the perfect medicine for your body. 
I am not a gifted writer, so I recognize a complete lack of segue here.... please forgive me.  I wanted to give you an update on how I'm doing.  With a few ups and downs, I feel just great!  There was an immediate sparkle back in my eyes.  I could call it "chi" or "life force" or my "giddy-up," but whatever it is, I feel alive again.  I have been shedding the skin of a sick person-- most happy to be leaving it behind-- and remembering what vitality feels like.  I've even had actual dreams of doing physical activities I used to enjoy.  My mental clarity is coming back, too. In all, I feel quite like I'm rising out of a deep sleep (maybe more like a coma!). 
I'm doing my best to receive your many blessings, to really work with what you told me and change.  (While it can sometimes be a negative habitual tendency,  I am quite tenacious when given a challenge!)  Rinpoche, I am so grateful to have received such a blessing.  Even my puny mind can recognize some part of the enormity of what you did for me.  The tenderness with which you and Jetsunma cared for me still makes me cry.  I am still with you, with Jetsunma,  as though none of us have left that room.  When you have a moment,  please guide me as to where to go from here.
More importantly, though, please take care and nurture yourself back to excellent health.  I make this plea to you on behalf of all sentient beings : Please stay. Please remain strong. Please hold back the darkness and help us find our way out.
Much love,
Sedona, Arizona
With that thought in mind, it is of singular interest to me when I see that same individual -- now in Maryland -- tweeting and posting all sorts of ridiculous nonsense, hither and yon. So, since the above letter contains the specific request, "guide me as to where to go from here," I do believe I will respond.
Dear Suffering Human Being In Samsara:

The best place to go from here is examination of the completely developed result of the actions your cohort has ordered you to perform.
You have engaged in verbally abusing someone. "Verbal abuse" is defined by a specific person who is addressed, harsh speech to that person, and that person's resultant discomfort. The types of verbal abuse are described as (1) public speech that exposes someone's faults, (2) indirect speech that wounds someone, and (3) private speech that wounds someone. The completely developed result of verbal abuse is rebirth as a sentient being in hell. If born as a human, the result is to enjoy engaging in harsh speech. One will hear unpleasant words and sounds. One will be constantly criticized. Even if one tries to make amends, this will become the cause of further criticism. The environment will be hot and dry, with numerous diseases, and poor water.

You have also directly engaged in divisive speech, defined by two people who are either neutral or in harmony, speech intended to divide the parties, and actual discord between the parties because of said speech. Divisive speech is described as (1) public speech, directly addressed to the parties, (2) indirect speech, and (3) private speech. The completely developed result of divisive speech is rebirth as a sentient being in hell. If born as a human, the result will be to enjoy discord, and to live an exceedingly lonely life. There will be numerous family quarrels, and one's family will be broken. The environment will be inhospitable, and travel will be difficult.
Engaging in verbal abuse and divisive speech is unseemly conduct for someone who has taken vows as a nun. It is made even more unseemly when one has taken vows as a physician, and finally, it approaches the level of mindlessly reckless behavior when one is as close to death as you are. 

Indeed, when I encounter someone who professes to keep the vows of a Buddhist nun, and those of a physician, who openly and notoriously engages in verbal abuse and divisive speech -- even to the extent of addressing such speech to the Nirmanakaya -- I am left with the impression that this person runs a very real danger of being reborn as a two-headed snake.

So, what to do? At this point, it is not enough to refrain from such unwholesome conduct, nor is it enough to practice the opposite, wholesome conduct. Even confession has its limitations -- after all, we are not Catholics here.

Permit me to suggest that what might be enough is to carefully examine the view that permits such speech to take place, albeit in a fashion that transcends care and examination.

It is an interesting situation, don't you think? Your precious teacher, incapable of fault, literally brings you to me. She tells you to believe one version of reality. You have one sort of view at this juncture, and with a kind of shorthand, we will call this your "positive" view. You believe you have been helped, and helped by a mighty power.

Subsequently, your precious teacher, incapable of fault, literally tears you away from me. She tells you to believe another, opposite version of reality. You have another sort of view at this juncture, which we will call your "negative" view. You believe you have been harmed, and harmed by a mighty power.

Lets take your precious teacher, incapable of fault, out of this equation for a moment, shall we? Lets concentrate on you.

What determines your "positive" and "negative" views? On what do you base your beliefs? If your views are based on the fallacy of whatever people tell you, and your beliefs based on your views, then your conduct, which is based on such beliefs, is also fallacious, is it not? What is the point in connecting view and conduct?

Speaking in terms of Wegener's granulomatosis, which will soon kill you unless you wake up, what determines your "hot" days and "cold" days?  In strict Tibetan medical terms, the disease is said to have its ultimate origin in the nexus of attachment and aversion. If this disease arises in dualism, and your relationship with this disease is governed by dualism, then any reinforcement of dualistic thinking will accomplish precisely what?
Interesting to me that you were up and practicing medicine when last I saw you, gleefully explaining to me all the ways in which it is possible to cheat insurance companies. Interesting to me that when you moved back to Maryland, you were the one being practiced upon, and the insurance companies were cheating you.
Before your kidneys and lungs collapse, why not collapse the boundaries between your positives, negatives, help, harm, hot, and cold, and come to some understanding of the nature of your own mind?

If today, you tell the world that you love me, and that I have helped you, that is part of your affliction and has no effect upon me. If today, you tell the world that you hate me, and that I have harmed you, that is part of your affliction, and has no effect upon me. Fabrication has no effect on anything that just simply is.

This fabricated love and hate spring from the same fabricated water --  Lake Subject-Object -- that drowns you in fabricated samsara and drowns you in your fabricated illness. Many, many times I already tell you: don't swim in mirages!
Every day, since the day I first heard of you -- since your cohorts sent me your photograph, which I still have -- every single day since then, no matter where I was or what I was doing, I have dedicated twenty-one recitations of the Medicine Buddha mantra exclusively to your well-being. 
This, I will continue to do... as you say... as though none of us have left that room.
Yours in the Dharma,
So there we have it. Rainstorms, and cyclones, and clouds come and go through the sky. Stars fall through the sky, and planets move through the sky, but the sky is always the sky. None of these things change or in any way alter the sky's essential nature. Ultimately, this is true, although conventionally speaking, it is best to discourage rebirth as a two-headed snake if at all possible. The opportunity to hear the dharma in such circumstances seems almost as rare as human rebirth.


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