Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Fine Day

"The Great Perfection, having spoken its own message, 
places you in your own reality." 
- Rig pa rang shar chen po'i rgyud, as quoted by Longchenpa

I went to as far, wild, spare, and lonesome place as I have ever been, and I waited there without anything in mind. Becoming dusk, three ravens flew across my sight from the east. They formed a triangle in the sky, with a raven at each vertice. Flying against the wind, they were frozen, and I reckoned the triangle as a door.

I went through the ravens' door, into the sky that needs no contrasting ground.

For me, this life has always been a reconnaissance.

In that regard, I am probably out of step with store-bought Dharma, and you should not pay me very much mind. I do not know how to help you accomplish anything in this life. I myself am not trying to accomplish anything in this life.

I have more confidence in my past vows than that, and besides -- it is "doing" that gets you in trouble.

I look at it in this fashion: the merit of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of every time, place, and direction is unfathomable. I rejoice in that. The altruistic motivation of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of every time, place, and direction is profoundly limitless. I rejoice in that. The powers and abilities of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of every time, place, and direction are immeasurable. I rejoice in that.

Yet, here we are still beguiled. 

Here we are hog-tied by the buddhas and bodhisattvas. That would make them gods, wouldn't it? Tinkering gods who for all their unfathomable merit, limitless altruistic motivation, immeasurable powers, and hog-tying abilities are unable to interdict the dualistic decision-making process of human beings, whether inside or outside the context of the historical agreement known as Buddhism.
"Abiding here, doing nothing,
embodied as a man or god,
our dynamic is buddha-reality;
here sentient beings are cared for,
and without any exertion we live in ease."
The sun gets it done. The moon merely reflects. So, I should expect exactly what from this postulate of reflected merit, motivation, and abilities when the sun has already risen?

This effort -- if we can call it effort -- would be directed to what end? To make us into that which we already are?
Because you yourself are the divine mandala,
naturally manifest to yourself,
Do not offer worship to the deity,
for if you worship you will be fettered by it…
Do not renounce samsara, for if you renounce it,
you will not attain buddhahood.
Because the Buddha is not elsewhere
he is naught but awareness itself.
Samsara is not elsewhere;
all is gathered within your own mind.
Do not practice conditioned fundamental virtues,
for if you do you will be fettered by them.
Renounce conditioned fundamental virtues,
such as building stūpas and temples.
There is no end to contrived doctrines,
but by leaving them they will end.
Not renouncing the yoga of abandoning deeds,
should you renounce deeds, you will become a tathāgata.
So it is that you must know the path
of the authentic buddhas in everything.
Quoted in Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History (Boston: Wisdom publications, 1991)
If you do not have confidence in your own past vows, you are living only the smallest and most nervous portion of your life. You are living timidly, and that is no way to live.

"Whatever you do, strongly do. Have no regrets."
                                                   --Tarthang Tulku

So, it has been a little over forty years since the living lineage of the sublime Ati first reached the West. Although there have been literally thousands of practitioners in the past who met their mind through this means, nothing of the sort has happened here.

Which is not to say that it cannot or will not, only that it has not happened yet.

Forty years isn't very long at all, and people tend to be impatient -- and in any event, time spent shooting at an arbitrary concept like the "goal of liberation," or indulging wrong views is time wasted. If you subtract all that time from the forty years, you are left with maybe one or two moments. Those are the moments when progress was at least theoretically possible, but maybe we were too exhausted to notice.

Fatuous criticism and comparison thinking do not count. Being a good little Dharma consumer does not count. Thinking you have the whole course aced because of this or that ticket punch definitely does not count.

"A man has to know his limitations."
                                                  --Dirty Harry

A little over forty years ago, I abandoned all hope of ever getting anywhere. Instead, I just decided to do whatever seemed right at the time. 

If it seemed right to engage in "dharma projects," then that is what I did. If it seemed right to get drunk and raise hell, then that is what I did. If it seemed right to go on retreats, then that is what I did. If it seemed right to play with living metaphors, then that is what I did. If it seemed right to go to this or that empowerment, then that is what I did. If it seemed right to play at politics and crime, and the crime of politics, then that is what I did. If it seemed right to be in love, then that is what I did.

So, in this fashion, I wasted my time with what seemed right at the time.

Walking on the razor's edge, if you think too much, you might lose your balance, and fall this way or that way. Snorting at the great smorgasboard of basic space, if you fall into the trap of "Oh! I like this," or "Ugh! I don't like this," you will give yourself indigestion.

Worse yet, you will fall into the trap of waiting for something that never comes.

And so it went, taking the antacid of what passes for practice, until  -- Un bel di, vedremo -- that strand of ship's smoke did not appear on the far horizon, and poor Butterfly did not go down to meet anybody.

Butterfly had grown accustomed to being in one place.

Maybe it was hot there. Maybe a bead of perspiration eroded a tiny river in the rice powder, right where it met the camellia-oiled, perfect edge of Butterfly's immaculate hair. Maybe it itched, the way perspiration sometimes does when you sit in the heat. Maybe a fly landed on her wrist.

Butterfly sat there, a recognized albeit rejected beauty, powdered and perfumed, sweating and itching, swaddled in silk and brocade, with a fly on her wrist.

Sitting in the heat, a cool breeze comes over you in a fashion difficult to describe. There is no shudder. There is only immediate and extensive relief. It does not come as a shock. It does not come with trumpets and fanfare. It does not come with a whole lot of intellectualizing. You cannot beg the breeze. You cannot earn the breeze. You cannot plan the breeze. You cannot proclaim the breeze.

Cool breeze just comes over you.

In fact, there is no particular recognition involved. You do not, in the initial and absolutely pure instant, say to yourself, "Ah! A cool breeze!"

The relief is quicker than the label.

That is the authentic breeze.

Butterfly's fan was exquisite. Butterfly's fan was costly, and had consumed precious materials in the crafting. Butterfly's fan was the pinnacle of the fan maker's genius.

Butterfly's fan was her constant companion. She used it to express her moods. As a brush is to a painter, or an instrument to a musician, so was Butterfly's fan to the opera of her life.

Yet, in the instant of the authentic breeze, Butterfly knew her fan was artificial.

Of what use was Butterfly's fan after that?

She could use it to pick up dog shit.

Abandoned, yet relieved; denied a prop, and now well able to pick up dog shit if need be, Butterfly finally relaxed. She laid back into the grass, and fell asleep.

Farewell, flowery refuge.

In her sleep, she only dreamed of suicide -- herself now an apostate, who abandoned Buddhism for unrequited love, and bowed to Mr. Pinkerton's God -- mistaking her own desire as the benefit of others.

Later, she awoke in the night. When her eyes opened, the first thing she saw were three stars. They formed a triangle in the sky, with a star at each vertice. They were frozen, and she reckoned the triangle as a door. 

Flying through the door, she glanced back at the world she had known before.

But, the stars had now become ravens, and she found herself in as far, wild, spare, and lonesome place as she had ever been.

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5 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the only blog that can put Tarthang Tulku, Clint Eastwood, and Madame Butterfly together with Longchenpa and actually have it make any sense.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that things are hard for you. I know that you are sanguine on the matter, but I'm still saying. -- LL

G.W. said...

This is a teaching of genius.

stoic said...

Lyrical, seriously good stuff.

T.K. said...