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Sometimes in my study, although I am filled with interest in the teachings of the Buddha, I find myself with resistance towards it. In my fourth semester at RYI, I learned to see this resistance as nourishing ground for my self-study. What I call ‘self-study’ is something we indirectly sign up for when engaging the Buddhas teaching. It is the consequent watching of the movements of our minds, the study of our self as it manifests from moment to moment. It is the awareness of the mind ground, onto which all the Dharma teachings are to be applied.
So when I saw my resistance to study, I learned that behind it was the mere painful sensation of growing pains. Studying Buddha dharma does change our way of thinking. It is often an invitation to letting go of cherishing beliefs and habit patterns. Especially if one has held something for a long time, to then let it go initially is very painful – like letting go physically of a (luggage) handle that one held on for a long time. The tighter the grip on that handle had been the more painful is the release.
And pains like this are surely part of the curriculum. For example, one of the classes these last two semesters had been the study of a summary of Abhidharma teachings (Gateway to Knowledge by Mipham Rinpoche). The teachings of the Abhidharma are the classification and systematic presentation of our experience, the insights into reality and the consequences of it. While the book and Khenpo presented us with an overwhelming amount of details on how my experience can be classified, I found myself more than once squirming in my seat – yearning for lunch or any other escape route that would help me protect my ‘self-serving’ views. I mean, who wants to be reduced to a list of physical and mental events?
The initial resistance to these teachings was soon to be replaced by an awareness of my difficulties to loosening the views of myself as a solid, permanent and coherent person. Yet, through staying with the teaching material, new openings began to allow incoherency, impermanence and groundlessness to be part of my field of experience – letting myself ‘out of the box’. As Walt Whitman puts it so nicely:
“I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”
With this new won relaxation regarding the complexity and vastness of my being, I continue to study at RYI while resisting, loving, hating and being completely grateful for it. As this study supports the transformation and insight into the self beyond the confines of self concern, I can see that my growing pains will ultimately bear fruits. May they be sweet and nourishing for many.
~Shoho from Germany