Monday, October 08, 2007

Smoking the Scorpion's Tail

In this morning's post comes a plaintive question: "Rinpoche, how should I practice?" Hence, the topic of today's sermon, which refers to the practice of smoking the pulverized stingers from a scorpion's tail.

In general, people will do anything to achieve some change in their ordinary status. Since this is the 21st century and you're on the Internet, I don't need to belabor this point overmuch. You already know that people will smoke, snort, and stick just about anything and everything on the slightest chance they might alter themselves, and thereby momentarily kill the pain of life in this here Samsara.

The same attitude carries over to what we call "practice." We have this tendency to jump in the car, head down to Sedona for the In'juns, then run to the coast for the lamas, make a couple of swami stops, and then...hallelujah lord....tune in that old time radio religion. This turns into a hobby. I actually heard two ladies arguing the other day, saying "my Rinpoche is higher than your Rinpoche because he travels with a bigger entourage." Somebody better start making copper statues of Willie Nelson, because he travels with the biggest entourage I ever saw.

So, let's just work with this energy, shall we?

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche did a little book about twenty years ago called The Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. This was actually his take on the first Karma Chagmey Rinpoche's Direct Instructions of the Compassionate One. So, here is the translation:

By keeping the gaze again and again, clarity increases.
Sometimes practice one-pointedly in seclusion,
and sometimes mingle practice with daily life.
at this point, when you read the scriptures
and all the teachings of the siddhas of India and Tibet,
they will be in harmony with your mind.
If your diligence is great, you will repeatedly recognize dreams.
If your exertion is slack, the number of recognitions will diminish.
Following this, all of the external world and its beings,
Though their appearances are individually distinct and clear,
In their essence, just as ice melts and becomes water,
They will all mingle inseparably with emptiness and mind.
If you meditate, they are mind and if you don't meditate, they are also mind.
You will then realize that mind is emptiness, without concrete existence since the beginning.
This is the essential point of original emptiness without distinctions.
Such as meditating or not meditating, being distracted or not distracted.

This is one of the more salient instructions one could hope to find. In terms of our present discussion, we could say that this might help us with our monkeyshines by allowing us to shift our gaze, up and down, to the sky, to the ground... we could then get up and try to mingle the practice with daily life...when we are secluded or when we're at the coffee shop. Sooner or later, we can start opening dharma books at random, and the chances are good we will find something useful no matter where we look.

But, the important thing is to arrive at the point where we practice regularly. There are a lot of nuances to this. Some of us beat ourselves in marathon practice sessions and then go on vacation. This doesn't work. Some of us get up in the morning and start negotiating until night falls: we can't do it today but we'll do it twice tomorrow. This doesn't work either. Some of us get up and blow through the mantras like ole' Dale at the 500 'afore he up and crashed? This will not help.

The thing is to reach the place where you get up and can't wait to do your practice: where your practice is joy. You know... doing practice properly is like being in love. Every day is a holiday. The flowers are that much brighter. Just be constant and regular. Be like a river.

Finally, you get to the point where---whether you practice or not---everything is mind.

In terms of "modern Western Buddhism"---(shudder) whatever that is---what does this mean?

I'm glad you asked that question.

It means be human, be kind, and be happy. Say your prayers every day and take guidance from that which inherently surrounds you at all times. Stop chopping salad bowl spirituality and concentrate on the basics of Buddhism. Then, allow the basics to carry you forward naturally. Lay off the labels and let the sun shine where it wants to shine; let the rain fall where the rain wants to fall.

One more thing... you kids better stop smoking that damn 'tail!


The nomenclature of scorpion toxins recognizes two general classes, alpha-and beta-toxins. The division being not whether they are insect or mammalian specific but rather their effect upon sodium channels. Scorpion alpha-toxins induce a prolongation of the action potential of nerves and muscles by slowing down the inactivation of the sodium channel with receptor affinity dependent upon membrane potential, while beta-toxins bind to a receptor site distinct from that of the alpha toxins with binding being independent of voltage. Scorpion alpha- and beta-toxins are sometimes called 'Androctonus-like' and 'Centruroides-like' toxins after the genera from which they were first isolated, these two genera being representative of Old World and New World species respectively. So, kids... the next time somebody comes up to you in the desert, the temple ruins, or anywhere else for that matter, and offers you a 'tail... just say NO!

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