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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Buddhism -- Credo VI

I received a post from my dear friend Mike Dickman, formerly of Jung-Fire and whom I met on Iona and who visited me here in my home. He is a practicing follower of Tibetan Buddhism, speaks fluent Tibetan. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

Where Theravada and Mahayana had practiced the cause leading to a goal called buddhahood, the six sub-vehicles of Vajrayana practiced the goal itself as an ever increasingly subtle path, starting with ritual acts calculated to break the grasp of ordinary, everyday projection (which is generally of a privative nature – “Oh, it’s only a dog,” rather than recognizing the miracle of the fact that a dog and one’s awareness of dog could actually be) and culminating in the view that, from the very first, everything has always been beyond all conceptual grasping. Awareness itself – the only thing of which we can be more or less sure in this universe – is said to be essentially empty, clear and vivid by nature and all-encompassing in its compassionate energy. This is said to be like the sun shining from cloudless space or like the surface of a mirror that reflects whatever appears before it.

Ordinary, everyday consciousness with its dualisms of subject and object – situation and owner of the situation – and their concomitant likes, dislikes and lack of interest is regarded as like clouds arising in basic space or dust on the surface of a mirror. It is fleeting and non-essential . . . in Zen terms, the ‘guest’ rather than the ‘host’.

Once the dust is cleared away, the mirror reflects. When the clouds disperse or night lifts, the sun is always there, bright and shining. It has never been anywhere else.

Furthermore, clouds are part of the very nature of the sky, just as waves are of water. Therefore whatever arises within or from awareness will have its being in and as awareness and then dissolve back into it, really like clouds in the sky. There is nothing to seek for in that awareness – pure awareness (an attempt to translate what is meant by the Tibetan term rigpa which in tern translates the Sanskrit, vidya, cognate with the Old English verb ‘to wit’ and the more modern ‘witty’) is our very nature. Everything we know arises from and as it and dissolves almost instantly back into it. Alice knows the story of the little fish who asks the Dragon of the Ocean what water was . . . This is that.

Dear Mike,

Thanks for the Buddhist letter – am folding it and keeping it in Dilgo’s book. Shakespeare says something like it in The Tempest:

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismayed: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
– Prospero, The Tempest, 4.1

The first dream I had of Jung, we were in a wood. He had a cane and poked a hole in the earth and said: Ein Loch ist auch eine Mandala. A hole is also a mandala. So, if we look at the circle with dot in middle, and since a point has no dimension(!) that justifies the no-self Buddhist definition and proves that ultimately Eastern and Western mystics agree. They seem to be paradoxical or complementary definitions.

A funny thing happened to me in Los Angeles in 1982 when I was promoting something along these lines in a seminar and writing on a large blackboard. Suddenly the huge blackboard fell off the easel and landed WHAM! on my foot!! It hurt so much they had to seat me in a chair w/a bucket of ice-water. I was using ‘Woodstock’, my cromag or staff as a pointer and wearing a cotton mumu [long dress], so everybody agreed I looked like a Tarot card! But the message was clear – as long as we are in the body, which Buddhist teaching declares is a wondrous privilege, we have to live with compassion and accept “chopping wood and carrying water.”

The value of a window is provided by the wall that holds it. AHA!

Incidentally, I had to go to hospital emergency room. It broke my right toe!

For me, as I have said previously, Buddhism is not a religion per se but a meta-religion, if you will. It describes the how of the Only Way. It stresses compassion towards all sentient beings, never tries to convert or force others. I have met many lamas personally, including the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala – he who says: My only religion is kindness!

One thing they all have in common – they are merry! Without exception.

It’s getting late and I am tiring. Perhaps I will share the story of our meeting his holiness in Dharamsala in a future post.


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