Sunday, September 7, 2014

Verse 1.10: energy transformation

When you let go of the effort and work of cultivating seeds,
You experience pure being: the result becomes the path.
Then the practices that breathe life and vitality into mind, channels and energy seem so complex.
How tiring, you followers of supreme philosophy! 

In this verse, I am stumped as to how to express the technical vocabulary of the first two lines in natural English. The second line works, sort of, but I’m open to suggestions for the first.

Here is what is going on. (I’ve included a few Tibetan words as a couple of people have asked for the technical terms in Tibetan.)

The Nyingma tradition distinguishes between approaches based on the cultivation of seeds or potentials (rgyu’i theg.pa) and approaches based on giving expression to the results (‘bras.bu’i theg.pa). 

The former refers to the paths described in the sutras and earlier texts in which one cultivates the seeds or potentials of attention, compassion, patience, wisdom, etc. These seeds mature into the experience and qualities of awakening. The usual translation of this approach is “the causal path”. This, to me, is a serious mistranslation because the use of the word “causal” or “cause” in English has quite a different meaning from the term rgyu in Tibetan or hetu in Sanskrit. In English, philosophers are the only people who would ever say, “The cause of an oak tree is an acorn,”  or “Oak trees are caused by acorns.” “Genesis” is a better word but that doesn’t work in this context, and that’s why I’m stumped.

The latter, “the result path”, refers to vajrayana and is usually described as using the result of practice as a path of practice. In this approach, we start with some experience of awakening, however fleeting. That experience may come through an empowerment or transmission, it may have arisen naturally or it was precipitated by some special circumstance. We then let that experience take expression more and more fully, first in our practice and then in our lives.

Again, there are a couple of different approaches. One is to identify with a symbolic representation of awakening, i.e., a deity, and give it expression through what are essentially sorcery techniques until the identification transforms how we experience life. In the Nyingma tradition, this approach is called great union practice and Jigmé Lingpa talks about it in the next verse. Another approach is to transform energy in the body to generate similitudes of the experience of being awake. The level of attention thus created penetrates the projections of thought and emotion and opens the possibility that we just fall into the experience of awakening. This is supreme union practice and Jigmé Lingpa comments on it in this verse. 

Although both these approaches are classified as “result path”, we are still working at a remove from the experience of being awake — on the one hand by imagining it in symbolic form and on the other by generating similitudes through energy transformation.

Energy transformation practices transform the energies of the body, of sensations, of emotions or other elements of our experience so that those energies become available to power attention. The practices use meditations and physical exercises based on energy channels and vital essences in the body. They are present in traditional yoga, many forms of martial arts, medicine and healing arts, as well as spiritual disciplines. Because they work with the basic energies that sustain our lives and well-being, they are inherently dangerous. Yet, when practiced properly, they open up possibilities that are not ordinarily available to us. Helpful and useful as these practices are, people can and do get caught up in the generation of higher and higher levels of energy and the experiences of bliss, clarity and emptiness that accompany them. What was intended to help them find freedom becomes, instead, a form of enslavement, if not addiction.

Here, Jigmé Lingpa is saying that when we stop trying to make anything happen, when we stop trying to develop such experiences, then another possibility opens up — we are just there. That “there” is the groundless open clarity of pure being. This is another technical term, chos.nyid or dharmata, usually translated as “innate nature, true nature of reality, real condition of existence, reality, isness, etc. 

To experience just being this way is no small matter. Jigmé Lingpa may make it sound simple, but one should not confuse simple with easy. It often takes years of effort, years of preparation to build up the necessary capacities, then years of letting go and letting go and letting go. The point here is the difference in approach: working in your practice to build up abilities and capacity or working at letting go and just being. In today’s world, many people just want to let go. Most of the non-dual traditions of practice take that approach. Yet many people practice fruitlessly for years because they have not developed sufficient stability and clarity in attention to experience what arises without being swallowed by confusion or disturbance. On the other hand, other people wear themselves out building skills, abilities and energy. They never learn how to let go of control and just allow experience to open on its own.





5 comments:

Jj Simon said...

As always I appreciate the email and the opportunity to post feedback.
As far as the translation issue goes.
It seems that the idea of building blocks is what is trying to be expressed.
An acorn is not the only causal agent of an oak tree. Without it one cannot come to be but the same is true of water, sun, nutrients etc.

I do have a question about the implications of "Similitude"
How is the result of working with energy a similitude to experiencing the awakened state?
Does that mean that the experience of having the nature of mind pointed out to you is also a similitude?

As I understand it the experiences of bliss, clarity and nonself are bi-products of practices like pranayama and the experience of bliss etc because they are temporary should be treated as just another passing experience but even those experiences nature is empty and clear.

Am I misinformed?

Jj Simon said...

As always I appreciate the email and the opportunity to post feedback.
As far as the translation issue goes.
It seems that the idea of building blocks is what is trying to be expressed.
An acorn is not the only causal agent of an oak tree. Without it one cannot come to be, but the same is true of water, sun, nutrients etc.

I do have a question about the implications of "Similitude"
How is the result of working with energy a similitude to experiencing the awakened state?
Does that mean that the experience of having the nature of mind pointed out to you, is also a similitude?

As I understand it the experiences of bliss, clarity and nonself are bi-products of practices like pranayama and the experience of bliss etc. because they are temporary should be treated as just another passing experience but even those experiences nature is empty and clear.

Am I misinformed?

Ken said...

An acorn is the genesis of an oak tree. Water, sun, nutrients are contributing factors. The distinction between genesis and contributing factors leads to a better understanding of situations than reducing both to causes.

The experiences generated by energy practices are not awakening, but similar to awakening. The technical term in Tibetan is "example timeless awareness" dpe'i ye shes.

Pointing out instruction aims to precipitate an experience of actual timeless awareness -- don gyi ye she. That experience is then used as a basis for practice.

There is wide variation in bliss, clarity and non-thought experiences, from the very negative to the very sublime. Yes, experiences do come and go, but there are also shifts here, and they change how the whole system functions.

Hope this clarifies a little.

Kaz said...

What if it is less metaphoric, like:

When you let go of the effort and work of self-fulfillment,
You experience pure being: awareness becomes the path.
Then the practices that breathe life and vitality into mind, opening and energy seem so complex.
How tiring, you followers of supreme philosophy!

Diane de Ford said...

Thank you again for verse and commentary...

I understand that one approach (the first line of verse) explains how the seeds or roots of certain qualities like compassion are in relationship with awakening, are interdependent. The word genesis does get to it, like origin or root.

Where the second line of verse tells me "this is that". There is no origin or actual beginning to wakefulness, just the pure moment of awakening itself. It is interesting that in the "result path" there are still the many efforts to create awakening through something, as you say "still working at a remove".
Is awakening really just recognizing something that is already there? And, if it already exists, there's no getting there, right?