Friday, October 31, 2014

Verse 2.3 — you can't wake up a person who is pretending to sleep

To say “it is not” does not make it empty.
To say “it is” does not make it solid.
It is a realm beyond mind — natural, nothing held, nothing dispelled.
It is space free from the complications of thought and object.

You can’t wake up a person who is pretending to sleep. I can’t remember when I first came across this Navajo proverb, but it has served me well as a constant reminder that you can’t make something into what it already is.

Here Jigmé Lingpa goes into more detail about awakening mind, which he described in the last verse. Again, I want to emphasize that he is describing experience. To read these lines as philosophy will tie you up into knots. My perspective here is probably due to the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein as I have found that way of approaching life tremendously helpful in translation, in my work with students and in my own practice. Rather than view words as representations of reality, Wittgenstein proposes that the meaning of a word simply lies in its use, so it is important to pay attention to how words are used (or misused).

In this spirit, Jigmé Lingpa begins by making clear that the experience of awakening mind cannot be reduced to any philosophical category.

When you fall into a profound experience of groundlessness, you are naturally inclined to say, “There is nothing there.” But those words don’t carry any meaning if they are regarded as representing something, emptiness, say. You don’t make something empty just by saying there is nothing there. On the other hand, when you say, “There is nothing there,” using these words to give expression to your experience (note: when you say them to give expression to your experience, you will use a very different tone in your voice), they come alive and the experience comes alive in others. In the same way, when you are stunned by the extraordinary clarity and vividness of life, you might say, “It's just there!” but you aren’t making anything into a thing, either. (And if someone asked you, “What is there?”, you’d be hard put to answer.)

The experience of awakening mind, groundless and vivid, is beyond words, beyond description, beyond conceptualization.

Don't try to understand what Jigmé Lingpa is describing here. Any such effort is not only fruitless but counterproductive. Understanding is like quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink (into conceptual thinking).

A person I met recently in Europe suggested that to enter or engage the unknown, you have to be very precise in your method, and use that method to enter the unknown. The conversation was about the creative process in art, but it makes sense to me in this context, too. Here, we need a method, a practice, that brings us right into what we are experiencing, neither holding onto what arises not trying to dispel it. That’s tough! And that's why meditation instruction is often so very explicit. We need to be precise in our efforts.

In the end, it comes down to what Suzuki Roshi said about Zen practice: absolute confidence in our fundamental nature. Like Jigmé Lingpa, Suzuki Roshi is not making philosophical statements about the existence of a fundamental nature. Rather, he is expressing in poetical language how to practice.

Meet what arises, open to it completely, look into it until you see and receive what is there. Do this without any thought of anything else. And then do it again, and again, and again, until you know, yourself, what Jigmé Lingpa is pointing to.

1 comment:

Diane de Ford said...

What I notice as I continue to study and practice are brief and quick turns in my awareness.

It's like turning a corner and something I can't name has changed, and a different understanding of some old habit appears.