Sunday, August 3, 2014

Verse 1.5 self-reliance

Your mind is the source of all experience, patterned or free.
You wake up completely when you rest and do nothing at all.
Instead, you are dogmatic and single-minded in your belief
In the teachings of ignorance, interdependence and samsara.
How pleased you must be, you self-reliant ones, with your artificial awakening!

"Look at all experience as a dream." This is one of the most important instructions in Mahayana Buddhism, and one of the most misunderstood.

In a dream, everything you experience is your mind. When you look at the objects in the dream, you are looking at your own mind, though you don't know that unless you are able to do lucid dreaming.

In the same way, everything that happens in your life, everything you are experiencing right now, whatever you are doing, is your own mind. All the colors you see, the flavors you taste, the aromas you smell, the sounds you hear, all these are sensations that arise in your own mind. Yes, there are flowers and paintings, buildings, cars and garbage heaps, a whole world "out there", but when you look at a flower, you are looking at your mind. You don't see the flower that is out there but a flower that arises in your experience and what you experience is your own mind.

When you act out of reactive patterns, you are experiencing your own mind. When you project your confusion on others, it's your own mind. When you see things clearly and know exactly what to do, it's your own mind. When your heart is filled with love and compassion, it's your own mind. When you are consumed by pride, jealousy or greed, it's your own mind. When you are utterly lost in confusion, depression or darkness, it's your own mind. When everything is clear, vivid, alive, awake, it's your own mind.

What we experience arises freely, without restriction. When you look at a flower, it's color and shape are just there. You don't have to do anything to bring them into experience. When sounds strike your ear, the melody, the tones are just there. It's the same with all the senses. Thoughts, emotions, feelings, ideas, judgements, prejudices, stories, and insights arise -- unbidden, unpredictable, wanted, unwanted, comforting, disturbing, familiar, strange -- and it's all your own mind.

To be awake and present in your experience you don't have to do anything except rest and do nothing at all. This is advanced instruction and Jigmé Lingpa goes into this more in the second section of this poem. The greatest challenge in practice is to develop the willingness, skills and capacity to be able to rest and do nothing at all. And a big part of that groundwork is learning -- intellectually, emotionally and experientially -- to trust that that is all that is needed.

feet dangling over nothing Most of us find the complete lack of ground difficult -- difficult to see, difficult to take in, difficult to fathom, and difficult to accept. In fact, one could say that you, as you are now, cannot see it, take it in, fathom, or accept it. Much has to change before we can experience the world this way.

When we rely only on our own understanding and don't have the guidance, the encouragement, the inspiration or the experience of someone who has traveled these paths, we usually turn away -- unable to face that infinite depth in ourselves and the complete absence of any ground. We need a structure, a framework, on which to hang our experience. Where better to turn than the teachings of ignorance, interdependence and samsara, the core frameworks of all traditions of Buddhism, time-tested and endlessly refined over centuries of philosophical and contemplative practice? They provide a reliable map of the human condition, complete with directions and a guidebook for the path to enlightenment or nirvana. We adopt this framework and use it to build our spiritual practice.

Faith, at least the way I use the word, is the willingness to open to experience, whatever it is, however, pleasant or unpleasant, and let it unfold and resolve itself. In the process, it extends, deepens or wakes us up to new possibilities. Belief, on the other hand, is how we interpret what arises in experience to confirm and reinforce what is already inside us. The one opens, the other closes. All too easily, however, faith, whether in a teacher, a teaching, a text, a ritual or a practice, decays into belief and that belief then becomes the organizing principle of our lives.

When confronted with the utter openness and groundlessness of experience, of mind, of awareness, it's only too human to reach for something solid. We take what brought us to that openness, what inspired us, and now use it to confirm our understanding, our sense of who we are and our place in the world. And that is what often happens to the teachings on ignorance, interdependence and samsara. We see the map as how things are, and we increasingly interpret everything in terms of the map. Bit by bit, the map solidifies into a set of beliefs because we it gives us a way of understanding the world, life, ourselves. We go on about our lives, confident in our understanding of what it means to be awake. Unnoticed, ignored or forgotten, the utter groundlessness of experience slides away, out of sight, out of mind. Without noticing the change, we become a bit rigid, a bit brittle, a bit defensive, or a little too smooth, a little too eloquent, perhaps. We live in an idea of being awake, the feeling of being awake, and increasingly avoid anything that threatens that sense of ourselves.

It's very difficult to let go of that artificial awakening, because so much of our identity is wrapped up in it. What would we be if we let it go? That's a direction that most people find very hard and very few take it. This is why it is so important never to let faith degenerate into belief.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't know what the original is for "source" - how about "basis"?

Jeff Bickford said...

2551Thank you for this new translation and commentary - I've been intrigued by this poem since first seeing it. I've wished to find more from "The Heart Essence of Great Space Cycle".

I find your comments on the first two lines particularly useful, and clear. Your commentary shined light on something I've been working with, "Self Liberated Mind" by Patrul Rinpoche (I believe translated by Eric Pema ____, not sure). In it thoughts are mentioned repeatedly as the manifestation of mind, never sensations or emotions. I've been intrigued by this, and puzzled - is it because it is perhaps easier to see thoughts as manifestations of mind then the sensations of an apparently external world? Your commentary here seems more relevant to experience, at least mine.

When you go on to lines 3-5 I found I had to read it a number of times to make sense of it. As I spent time with it I see that what you are saying is very clear and useful, but it seems muddy. Perhaps because there are more words and ideas than needed.

Peter Petrovich said...

Feedback from a friend of mine who I shared verse 5 with.

" I have to say that I disagree with Ken. Raw human experience can only be described as a feeling of being thrown into a vast and deep unknown. When my mom passed away, there definitely wasn't anything to put my feet on. I just feel into a deep abyss of unknown emotion and experience. I am not sure who he is referring to as those individuals being "falsely awake?" The spiritual teachings that I have explored ask you to observe your feelings, your experience, life, and emotions free of attachment or judgement. The minute you move into an awareness state you are noticing that you are essentially not your mind. This takes a lot of practice and is a daily, moment-by-moment undertaking. He seems to hold onto a "belief" about these other spiritual practices as not giving people the right information on finding this space of openness...he seems to have lost the "faith." Just some thoughts on this passage..."

Cheers,
Peter

Ken said...

Thanks for your comment, or your friend's comment. I think, however, that he points to where I haven't been clear. What I was trying to say is that people use belief in a system to avoid the openness he refers to. The crucial question is how teachings are being practiced, whether to open to close.

Mri said...

I appreciated the context you provided about the kind of guy Jigme Lingpa probably was, and I can see how, in todays world, he probably wouldn’t make the cut at large popular American buddhist centers! In fact, on Wikipedia it states that Jigme Lingpa’s “affiliations led sometimes to his participation in the sort of tantric activities that have long been criticized by more conservative Buddhists.” So I can only imagine he bugged the hell out of a lot of institutional buddhists during his time. Anyway, I think it is helpful to paint a vivid picture for the reader of the environment of Jigme Lingpa’s time, and what his personality might have been like. Maybe you can tell some stories about some similar characters you have met in your lifetime, to illustrate the point that someone can be *fiercely* compassionate, but may not appear as ‘nice’, or ‘politically correct’.

On groundlessness: being truly groundless is tricky, from the mammal perspective. Your nervous system has to be pretty evolved, and that takes serious training. Kind of like training a dog, or a horse, in a way. The training has to go deep into your body. Wonder what kind of practices Jigme Lingpa did to train? I’m curious about that.

Phil Gibson said...

Hi Ken,

I have a comment on the newsletter commentary:

"All the colors you see, the flavors you taste, the aromas you smell, the sounds you hear, all these are sensations that arise in your own mind. Yes, there are flowers and paintings, buildings, cars and garbage heaps, a whole world "out there", but when you look at a flower, you are looking at your mind. You don't see the flower that is out there but a flower that arises in your experience and what you experience is your own mind."

My comment is I'd like you to include, if possible, a little more to clarify what you mean with what you said in the above section about there being "a whole world "out there" ". My own thinking on this has been greatly informed by listening to your podcasts over the last three years, so I know you have more to say so that it's a lot clearer. What does it mean to say there a whole world "out there"? Where is "out there" anyway? We only know what we experience, we don't directly experience "a world out there" - as you said we "don't see the flower that is out there" - we see the flower that arises in our experience. Our sense experience of course seems to refer to objects in a world "out there", so we think there is a world out there, but that is thinking - which is also an experience.

(PS: I don't mind my comments made public if you think they would be helpful to others.)

Diane de Ford said...

I am appreciating going through these verses one at a time, really absorbing and reflecting on each...

The last line of the verse about "faith, belief and awakening" points us directly to our practice! Especially "you self-reliant ones".

I'm thinking this refers to our reliance on the self that needs something solid to grasp onto, to create our story around. And, to a hesitancy or fear of turning towards groundlessness (or a state of less self-absorption).

"Never to let faith degenerate into belief" ... I'm still reflecting on this sentence in the commentary, but thinking that faith is expansive and belief feels solid.

Thanks for your work,
Diane

Ramo de Boer said...

The most eesential mengak is right at the end:

Stay open. Be no one. Achieve nothing.

Thank you!

00951b5c-1f34-11e4-a533-bf3ac1a6455f said...

The opening discussion regarding Jigmé Lingpa's tone was useful, perhaps something to include in an introduction?

The verse worked well for me.

The thread tracing the way we constantly try to get ground is becoming more and more clear in these sections.

The commentary felt a bit long; at the same time I liked the way it is connected to the slogan "look at all experience as a dream".

The commentary also raised a common question for me: how do we strike the balance between letting things unfold and actively unfolding them ourselves? Probably a classic Westerner's conundrum. I wonder if Jigmé Lingpa will address that? (Look at me trying to get ground!)

Thank you!

pispiris said...

The opening discussion regarding Jigmé Lingpa's tone was useful, perhaps something to include in an introduction?

The verse worked well for me.

The thread tracing the way we constantly try to get ground is becoming more and more clear in these sections.

The commentary felt a bit long; at the same time I liked the way it is connected to the slogan "look at all experience as a dream".

The commentary also raised a common question for me: how do we strike the balance between letting things unfold and actively unfolding them ourselves? Probably a classic Westerner's conundrum. I wonder if Jigmé Lingpa will address that? (Look at me trying to get ground!)

Thank you!

Spear said...

Thank you, Ken, for your Faith, as you describe and embody it, as openness to experience and new possibilities, whether pleasant or unpleasant. This blog and comment space is a wonderful manifestation, as is your redefinition of Faith ;-).

At a conference I attended last year on the neuroscience of meditation, one scientist told a story of a visit to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is a lay scientist himself and has regular discussions with scientists from many fields, and he wanted this neuroscientist to help a select group of monks begin to study what we know about the biology of mind.

At an early point in the discussion with these monks, the scientist was stumped when his references to the brain, assisted by a physical model, were met with tilted heads and quizzical expressions. As the translator made it clear what the scientist was saying about the relationship between brain and mind, open guffaws and bellowing laughter took over. The monks had realized that this idiot scientist thought that thinking occurs in the head, when everyone knows it happens in the heart.

Before you jump to the monks' defense, they weren't talking about compassionate thinking coming from the metaphorical heart. They were talking about the organ! It wouldn't seem to take much experience with head-injuries in any century or any locale to figure out that the head is where thinking takes place. This was a problem of belief.

Belief can obscure large quantities of readily available data, as it does in the U.S., where scores of college graduates say they aren't really sure about evolution.

I think our poet is making this point with a bit of consternation. As I think you said in Wake Up to Your Life, "Belief is the enemy of knowledge." My own reactivity wants to say that it can make you downright stupid, but I'll refrain because I know that my reactions are about me, not the subject matter. Wait...

kim said...

You probably caught this already: need to change "it's" in 'When you look at a flower, it's color and shape are just there.'

The commentary is a bit long, but I can't find anything to omit.

--anon

Kaz said...

This is a wonderful commentary. It speaks to me in a clear, concise, comprehensive, step by step, lovingly manner leaving less and less to grasp hold of.

Re: “How pleased you must be, you self-reliant ones, with your artificial awakening!”
I find that I am more often mired in self-deception and denial then self-reliance. Teachers and teachings help to shine a light on these masked illusions and my misguided eureka moments. Thank goodness for teachers.

Re: “What would we be if we let it go?”
Groundlessness to me is asking: What would we be if we let it all go?

Re: “Jigmé Lingpa goes into this more in the second section of this poem”
I am very much looking forward to seeing how the second section of the poem unfolds.