“Just look along the road, and tell me if you can see either of them.”
“I see nobody on the road,” said Alice.
“I only wish I had such eyes,” said the King remarked in a fretful tone. “To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!” Lewis Carol, Alice in Wonderland
Something happened to me on my way to enlightenment . . .
I had already written 3 ½ pages in response to my second week at Deer Park (too much probably for a Blog article but my mind was full.) I began with the following quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama taken from his book How To See Yourself As You Really Are.
“Given that lust, hatred, pride, jealousy, and anger stem from exaggerating the importance of qualities such as beauty and ugliness, it is crucial to understand how persons and things actually exist, without exaggeration.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, taken from How To See Yourself As You Really Are.
I think to myself, “Right,” and go on to write how such exaggeration causes us to suffer. I also attempt to write an introduction on the wisdom of emptiness.
But life interrupts the best of plans.
I hit a hole in the road and took a detour.
The winds changed direction on me.
You get the idea, don’t you? Something occurred that shifted my perspective and experience. So, instead of attempting to finish my piece on examining emptiness I find myself writing about, well, . . . How those knots in the yarn, the road blocks, the interruptions, all the difficulties are an opportunity to actually practice and live the Dharma. How difficulty is the blessing of the Buddha. If you have sat in any of my classes you know my willingness to demonstrate how we can transform a mess (because I have my share) into gold. My life is often used as the template of how we find ourselves at times like vulnerable children on our first day of kindergarten.
Certainly listening and attempting to absorb Venerable Geshe Lhundub Sopa’s teaching on emptiness brings up feelings of vulnerability, curiosity and bewilderment. At times while sitting and listening it is like I am on a playground among other students, most which are older. In an exaggerated view most of the kids on the playground understand the teachers and know where they belong. If you are a kindergartner (or just feeling like one at the time), you are less likely to be certain about the teachers or your place among the other kids. Alas, this is all grist for the Buddhist mill. It is here in this vulnerable spot where the Buddha shows up and a blessing may be bestowed.
Sometimes the break in our plan simply gets us to question our plan. “Is this correct?” “Am I correct in my view?” Sometimes the interruption gives us a nudge to look more honestly at our intentions. “What are my intentions for being here?” “What are my intentions with this choice?” Or we can polish our mirror and grasp some understanding as to what is getting stirred up. “What is being triggered?” Or we can simply choose to practice our principles. “What dynamic can I practice Tonglen on?” (In this case it would be on myself, since the affliction is mine.)
If you have gotten this far with me you are probably wondering what it was I stumbled over (this time). Of course the projected cause of my suffering is not important. Let me use an analogy, since what is important here is what I do with the situation, not what I cognitively perceived others did or did not do. I will continue to borrow from the analogy of a school playground. — Perhaps I was showing off my jump rope skills and wiped out. Perhaps the other kids didn’t invite me into their game. Or, I was overlooked for an opportunity to be in someone’s favor. Doesn’t matter what the circumstances were – something triggered an exaggeration in my mind and there I was stewing in a “pain story.” (In the Wheel of Initiation a pain story is made up of the agreements, perceptions and beliefs we carry from the past and project onto the present situation. Not only are we caught up in an delusion of some kind, it is really the past we perceive.) So there I am suffering due to an exaggerated perception of circumstances.
It takes a moment to realize I am caught in a delusion.
It takes longer to realize I am an adult among other adults (and actually not a child on the playground).
It takes yet longer to realize I could be practicing nonattachment.
And finally, I realize that underneath all my intentions of generosity and beneath my meditations on emptiness stands a child wanting to be part of something. Within the adult is a child-mind that does exaggerate the importance of events. Here arrives the potential blessing of the Guru.
It took awhile after the emotions arose for me to acknowledge the blessing of the Guru. The Guru blessed me through this discomfort and difficulty because the difficulty points to where I am stuck. The blessing comes with the opportunity to actually practice nonattachment when attachment arises. Being the Bumbling Bodhisattva in training I initially just noticed how attached I am and how I still carry pain stories in my heart/mind. The Guru then used this opportunity to show me where and how I am attached. I saw more clearly how my exaggerations cause me (and others) to suffer. Therefore, blessing received. And I began to practice nonattachment and generosity as best I could. Fortunately, I have available wonderful teachers and fellow-students to offer me places to practice. Undoubtedly the Guru will have more chances to bless me with opportunities to practice.
So, I end by acknowledging my gratitude for the bumps in the road – for all the disruptions in my plans. As I stand here in the middle of the playground surrounded by beautiful children and teachers I see clearly my present obstruction to enlightenment, an obstruction that fortunately also points the way to freedom.
“All things, then, depend on something else;
On this depends the fact that none are independent.
Knowing this we will not be annoyed at objects
that resemble magical appearances.”
Shantideva, verse 6.31, Bodhicaryavatara
“Spirit speaks to us continually, in dreams, through the melodic sounds of a stream, through deaths and illnesses, and all the dressing and undressing of the seasons. Still, we are often oblivious of its hum, wrapped as we are in a shroud of self-occupation–worries, fears, angers, jealousies, and other catastrophes. Yet, like a youthful injury that haunts our old age or a fierce storm that changes the landscape in an instant, spirit illuminates the world in surprising ways. We all have those turning pointes in our lives–either fully recognized in the moment or traced through hindsight–that spin us in a new direction.” John Kain, taken from A Rare And Precious Thing.