Friday, January 22, 2010

Cutting Out the Undergrowth

An uninformed relationship with the elements caused many to experience some considerable misery this past week. As predicted, the water element went to excess in many locales, with resulting disturbance of the earth element.

So, how did we see this?

Well, this Muddy Cow Year, now ending, consists of earth, fire, earth, water, fire. You see that wood and metal are missing, and earth is doubled up. The Steel Kitty Year, now coming, consists of wood, wood, metal, metal, water, with fire and earth missing.

Earth controls water, wood destroys earth, and water is reinforced by metal. Now, as the New Year approaches, earth is weakened and water comes to the fore. We have a double wood, double metal circumstance, so this is an exaggerated effect. There is almost a collision.

This is happening on a coarse level, but our reaction also impacts the subtle level. The subtle level may also be simultaneously experiencing imbalances due to various other factors. So, in the present case, while we seem to be observing singularity in the coarse elements, we are also observing latent singularity in the subtle elements. We will see a rise in mental disturbances: mentally ill people will become agitated as the year transitions, and will hatch various plots in their grandiose attempts to control that which cannot be controlled. Low-level occultists, pay-to-pray spiritualists,  crystal crazies, and New Age "healers" will abound, offering "solutions" to the credulous.

You know, I had rather an interesting discussion with a lama just the other day, and he raised a point that seems connected. We were discussing the perception among Tibetans that Tibetan Buddhism as expressed by Westerners resembles mental illness more than it resembles Buddhism as understood by Tibetans.

He stated that if a situation becomes vexatious and we decide we want to bring a lawsuit, we can research the situation and find the troublemaker. Then we can bring the lawsuit with considerable precision.

This is very easy to do: using something in the nature of a tool, to cut into a circumstance.

However, if a person has become crazy through reading thousands of books, how can we search back through those thousands of books to find the one that made them crazy?

These are rich metaphorical statements.

The "books" could be experiences, or interactions between the coarse and the subtle, which have issued perverse instruction to an already imbalanced mind -- compounding delusion, if you will. If a situation is clear cut, we can bring a "lawsuit,"  i.e. we can instruct to the point of bringing remedy. However, if something -- or, more to the point, someone -- is thoroughly damaged and uncooperative, and we cannot find the origin of the damage, then how can we fix this?

Failing to recognize the root cause of suffering, we are buffeted to and fro. Every drop of rain becomes another chapter in the book of imaginary storms. Sometimes, we read that it isn't raining, and that the sun is shining. We become very happy. Sometimes, we read that it is raining terribly, and that more rain is on the way. We become very anxious.

So, although the crazy tree appears to have diverse limbs, many leaves, and an abandoned bird's nest, actually it has one root. The limbs, leaves, and even the nest are just elaborations. That one root is where we need to place emphasis. We don't necessarily place emphasis by "doing" or "not doing;" rather, we place emphasis by letting things be, according to their nature, without taking a position.

The further metaphor of cutting the root is often employed, and when we hear of cutting, we naturally hear of axes, or swords, or knives. Whenever you hear this, try to bring this comment from Thinley Norbu Rinpoche to mind:
"...[T]he Buddha manifested many tools or symbols, not just one sword or one symbol but swords without limit. We make a limit if we completely trust to one certain sadhana, one graspable knife, one breakable vessel. But wisdom is never limited. We use certain particular sadhanas and texts to realize unobstructed limitless wisdom display. If we do not use our own inherent wisdom weapons, we must rely on symbolic weapons to destroy obstructions. But symbolic weapons are limited. If we realize our inherent wisdom weapon, we do not need to use certain gross element means to penetrate everywhere."
Lovely turn of phrase, isn't it? A philosopher is one thing, but a poet-philosopher is quite a treasure.

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