Saturday, November 20, 2010

Meditation in Action

So first one has to start by respecting concepts and then build from there. Though actually in Buddhist teaching, concepts are generally regarded as a hindrance. But being a hindrance does not mean that it prevents anything. It is a hindrance and it is also a vehicle -- it is everything. Therefore one must pay special attention to concepts.

It is said, I think in the Lankavatara Sutra, that unskilled farmers throw away their rubbish and buy manure from other farmers, but those who are skilled go on collecting their own rubbish, in spite of the bad smell and the unclean work, and when it is ready to be used they spread it on their land, and out of this they grow their crops. That is the skilled way. In exactly the same way, the Buddha says, those who are unskilled will divide clean from unclean and will try to throw away samsara and search for nirvana, but those who skilled bodhisattvas will not throw away desire and the passions and so on, but will first gather them togetehr. That is to say, one should first recognize and acknowledge them, and study them and bring them to realization. So the skilled bodhisttva will acknowledge and accept all these negative things. And this time he really knows that he has all these terrible things in him, and although it is very difficult and unhygienic, as it were, to work on, that is the only way to start. And then he will scatter them on the field of bodhi. Having studied all these concepts and negative things, when the time is right he does not keep them anymore, but scatters and uses them as manure. So out of these unclean things comes the birth of the seed which is realization. This is how one has to give birth. And the very idea that concepts are bad, or such and such a thing is bad, divides the whole thing, with the result that you are not left with anything at all to deal with. And in that case you either have to be completely perfect, or else battle through all these things and try to knock them all out. But when you have this hostile attitude and try to suppress things, then each time you knock one thing out another springs up in its place, and when you attack that one, another one comes up from somewhere else. There is this continual trick of the ego, so that when you try to disentangle one part of the knot, you pull on the string and only make it tighter somewhere else, so you are continually trapped in it. Therefore the thing is not to battle any more, not to try and sort out the bad things and only achieve good, but respect them and acknowledge them. So theory concepts are very good, like wonderful manure. Through thousands and thousands of lives we have been collecting so much rubbish that now we have wonderful wealth of this manure. It has everything in it, so it would be just the right thing to use, and it would such a shame to throw it away. Because if you do throw it away, then all your life until today will have been wasted. Not only that, but lives and lives and lives will have been wasted, so one would have a feeling of failure. All that struggle and all that collecting would have been wasted, and you would have to start all over again from the beginning. Therefore, there would be a great feeling of disappointment, and it would be more a defeat than anything having been gained. So one has to respect the continual pattern. One may have broken away from the origin and all sorts of things may have happened. These may not be particularly good things. They are rather undesirable and negative. At this state there are good things and bad things, but this collection contains good things disguised as bad and bad things disguised as good.

One must respect the flowing pattern of all one's past lives and the early part of one's present life right up to today. And there is a wonderful pattern in it. There is already a very strong current where many streams meet in a valley. And this river is very good and contains this powerful current running through it, so instead of trying to block it one should join this current and use it. This does not mean collecting things over and over again. Whoever does that would be lacking in awareness and wisdom, he would not have understood the idea of collecting manure. He could collect it together acknowledge it and by acknowledging it he would have reached a certain point and understand that this manure is ready to be used.

There is a story in the teachings of tantra about two close friends who both wanted to search for the truth. They went to a master, and the master said, "Do not abandon anything, accept everything. and once having accepted, use it in the right way." And the first one thought, "Well, this is wonderful. I can on being just the way I am." So he set up hundreds of brothels and hundreds of butcher shops and hundreds of drinking places, which in India was regard as something that only a lower-caste person would do. He began to run all these big businesses, and he though this was what he was supposed to do. But the other friend thought this was not quite right and he began to examine himself; and by examining himself he to the conclusion that he had enough material already and did not have to collect any more. He did not have to do any particular practice of meditation, but by acknowledging the already existing heap, he achieved enlightenment, or at least a certain state of realization, an kind of satori. Then one day they met each other and talked together and compared their experiences. The first was not at all awakened: he was still struggling and collecting and doing all these things. In fact he had fallen into an even worse trap and had not even started examine himself. But each of them was quite sure that he was right, so they both decided to go and consult the teacher. And the teacher said "I am afraid your way is wrong" to the one who was running the businesses. And he was so disappointed that he drew his sword and murdered the teacher on the spot.

There are these two possible approaches, and there may perhaps be some confusion between the two. Nevertheless, if a person is skilled enough, not necessarily intelligent, but skilled enough and patient enough to sift through his rubbish and study it thoroughly, then he will be able to use it. So, coming back to the subject of concepts, a very important example, the idea behind this is to develop a positive outlook and to recognize your great wealth. And having recognized one's concepts and ideas one must, in a sense, cultivate them. One has a tendency to try and abandon them or throw them away. But one should cultivate them, not in the sense of reading more books and having more discussions and philosophical disputes - that would be the other way, the way of the friend who ran the businesses - but simply, since you already have enough wealth, just go through it. Just as a person who wants to buy something first has to check and see how much money he has. Or else it is like going back to your old diaries and studying them, and seeing your different stages of development, or going up to the attic and opening up all the old boxes to find the old dolls and toys that were given to you when you were three years old, and looking at them and examining them together with their associations. In this way you gain a complete understanding of what you are, and that is more important than continuously creating. The point of realization is not to try and understand only the awakened state and pretend not to understand the other side, because that becomes a way of cheating oneself. You see, you are your own best friend, your own closest friend, you are the best company for yourself. One knows one's own weaknesses and inconsistency, one knows how much wrong one has done, one knows it all in detail, so it doesn't help to try and pretend you don't know it, or to try not to think of that side and only of think of the good side; that wold mean that one was still sorting one's rubbish. And if you store it like that you would not have enough manure to raise a crop from this wonderful field of bodhi. So you should go through and study even right back to your childhood, and of course if you have the great ability to go back to your previous lives, you should do so and try to understand them.

Chogyam Trungpa on "The Manure of Experience", Meditation in Action Ch.1

1 comment:

  1. Dear Joel: A most interesting and evocative essay! Love your bodhi tree description! Trees mark time, as we do, and we need "things" to remind us, to trigger our memories. As trees complete concentric rings in the centre, we try to use things to create this same physical marking of time in the physical which does transfer to our core and is stored there. These rings reflect previous rings/lives, we must trace them from the beginning to know the end is near or far, we can perhaps glimpse future worlds in this way, once we understand the circle route of our lives.
    It is human nature to want to complete the circle of life, to make it perfect before death, to come to an understanding of our standing in the universe; to connect the dots.We want our lives to make sense and have significant meaning to others so that our memories are kept alive in other souls that are really part of us, part of the circle.
    It does not matter the seeming insignificance of "things" that are similar to "manure". Everything is important to understanding how and why things took on a certain form and certain times in one's life.
    "Know thyself" Plato. We need to know the positive and negative aspects of our existence, not dwell on it, but understand it, get over it, wish it good bye and get on with living in the now.
    The past is past, and if we can go way back to a previous lifetime we are able to fully understand our position in the universe, where we stand, spiritually speaking. We need to seek and find. This helps grow out of the old and into the new. Ja-Len Jones FB