Buddhism in action

“Waking up from slumber”

Artwork by Claudia Tremblay

I.

“Patience means to gladly undertake and bear difficult tasks without being upset by anything whatsoever. It can be divided into three: the patience of not taking offence at harm-doers, the patience of gladly undertaking difficulties, such as accepting hardship for the sake of the Dharma, and the patience of being unafraid of the deep meaning.”

[18.12, Gateway to Knowledge, Volume III, page 17.]

This semester we are continuing to study the Gateway to Knowledge in our Khenpo class and I came across this classification of patience. I have been contemplating on the third type of patience, the patience of being unafraid of the deep meaning. I think, we can better develop this kind of patience if we include certain kind of practice in addition to our intellectual studies. If our goal is to become a scholar-practitioner, then our study and reflection should also be incorporated in our practice. Recently, I had an opportunity to attend Ngakso and Tsekar Drubchen, which are group sādhana practices offered at our gompa, which allowed me to combine my studies with practice. Cultivating patience requires both intellectual investigation and direct experience in order to let the Dharma teachings truly enter into the heart.

II.

When one practices meditation with the view,

It is like a garuḍa fathoming space.

There is no fear and no doubt.

[“Song of Lodrö Thaye,” King of Samādhi, page 159.]

The essence of this kind of approach, which incorporates both study and practice, is to look at oneself (and everything else) just as one is, without any conditioning and impositions. In this regard, Krishnamurti asks: “can the mind, so heavily burdened, resolve completely, not only its conditioning, but also its fears? Because it is fear that makes us accept conditioning.” [The Flight of the Eagle, page 5]. For him, a fearless mind is completely free, without leaving any marks, just like the flight of an eagle. Moreover, this freedom is endowed with both intellectual understanding and direct insight. Similarly, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye compares the practice which dispels all fear and doubt with the flight of a garuḍa. At the beginning, it is incredibly difficult to go beyond conceptual constructions, elaborations, assumptions, speculations, doubts, fear, and ignorance. But as one enters deeper into the heart of the practice and wakes up from the slumber of ignorance, paradoxically, one discovers that one has not gained anything new and that one has always been enlightened.

III.

The doctrine of original or inherent Buddha-nature states that we are all in enlightened state—saṃsāra is nirvāṇa—but that our enlightenment is obscured by veils of passions and ignorance, so we are not aware of it. When one first becomes enlightened, s/he is usually astonished at the fact that s/he has not realized anything new. S/he has been in the enlightened state all the time. That is why certain Mahāyāna sūtras and Zen texts say that at the time of the Buddha’s enlightenment, he exclaimed, “How strange this is! All sentient beings are already enlightened, yet are not aware of it.”

[“The Demonstration of the Inconceivable State of Buddhahood,” End Note 3, A Treasury of Mahāyāna Sūtras, page 36.]

Is not it ironic that at the end of an intense practice for incalculable eons one realizes that the moment of enlightenment is not anything dramatic and in fact, nothing new has been learned or gained? Unless we go beyond the dualistic concept that saṃsāra is to abandoned and nirvāṇa is to be acquired, I suppose, we will not quite understand this paradox nature of our practice. From the very beginning, if we meditate or practice along our intellectual exercise, I think it will keep us grounded with the reality. Another benefit of incorporating practice at an early stage is that it keeps our mind turned toward the Dharma and prevents us from spiraling down into the state of despair when things becomes exceptionally difficult for us. Last year, throughout the pandemic, I was at a dark state of mind and it was not until I attended the Ngakso Drubchen last month that I began to pull myself out from that depressive state. Doing the group sādhana at our gompa in the presence of Chokling Rinpoche’s kudung and occasional visits by Chyoki Nyima Rinpoche, Phakchok Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, and Tsokyi Rinpoche facilitated in gaining momentum in our practice. We all are at different stages and have our own ways of assimilating our studies and practice, but the presence of spiritual friends touches everyone, regardless of the boundaries of language, culture, religion, or any other conventional constructs. What an incredible gift to be in such presence of light and compassion that constantly reminds us of our own Buddha-nature!

~ Moondil Jahan

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