Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stop Cloning Around

by Tröma Rinpoche

It happens when we see a great musician performing or someone doing some work that they are completely integrated with. People want to become them, but what they really want is to become what they already are. When people see my favorite Ayurvedist practicing natural medicine, it often happens. People see him so wholly integrated with his art, he is Ayurveda, and immediately they want to learn Ayurveda. When people see my martial arts teacher teaching, they want to be warriors, he makes the sport of meeting violence seem so delightful that people in his classes enjoy imagining encounters with attackers, muggers and thieves. When people see Jack White singing and playing guitar, they want to be that, they buy the guitar, the clothes, the attitude. Kenneth Cole is this for fashion and advertising. Ngak'chang Rinpoche makes so many activities seem like the most fulfilling things we could ever pursue. Some radical contagion takes place when we are in the presence of someone who is wholeheartedly expressing what they are, when they display a quality of total enjoyment in an un-self-conscious expression of their own personal passion. We experience that and want to find it ourselves. Most of the time people get confused, thinking this is about some special magic in Ayurveda, in a particular music, in that profession, in those clothes, in that sport, but this is a mistake. We could put all our efforts into being carbon copies of these people and never find the magic that they held. We could dress like them, act like them, speak like them, train in their profession, change our name to theirs, but never find it. The root of all carbon copy-hood and conformity is the same as the root of all compulsive refusal to conform, search for special-ness, uniqueness and individuality. Behind it all is really the thirst to unleash our art, the intrinsic brilliance that sparkles through in wholehearted experience.

We long for the wholehearted experience that some great people display in moments. In Buddhism, this longing could be spoken of as impulse to express the dimension of experience known as Sambhogakaya. Sambhogakaya refers to the total manifestation of intrinsic brilliance. It literally means the dimension of enjoyment (in Sanskrit, bhoga means pleasure) and refers to the dynamics of realized emotion, beginning-less-ly enlightened energy, resonance, pure light, color, sensation and art (Tibetan, long-ku). Whenever we are able to enter fully into an experience, without self-consciousness, contrivance, or the inhibition of dualism conceptions, it is Samghogakaya that beams out. When our creativity is allowed to fully course through our veins, we are pulsing with Sambhogakaya experience. When we are inspired, it is the Sambhogakaya dimension we are connected to. It is a state free of dissatisfaction. It is the source of compassion, and synonymous with wholeheartedness. Trying to become anything inhibits it, instead we must find it as natural luminosity of our being. Everyone has a deep intuition to experience Sambhogakaya but most people live their lives cut off from it, or only access it accidentally or partially. For some it is let through in only in moments of discreet virtuosity, but not experienced within the rest of one’s life; for example rock stars who are extraordinary musicians but then fail to manifest as beautiful or even functional people. Too often Sambhogakaya is only present as a potential. We are often too busy trying to become something else, meanwhile that internal brilliance can only be found through authenticity, a total presence in what we are. As practitioners of Yogic Buddhism, to study and elicit this dimension of our being is our religion.

Fish play in water,
Birds play in air,
Sublime beings play in display.
- Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

Most people inhibit internal brilliance because of their need to conform to a fixed personal identity. We imprison ourselves in our own biography, biology, culture, and rationale. The plague of fixed identity dictates that we maintain a coherent, life-less demeanor that makes sense in the context of cultural rules for how people should be. There is some commonly held belief that we should all be satisfied with this and go along with the beige world of blending in. We should not wear pink ties and feathers to work. We should not wear black every day unless we are a part of some social group that does that. We should not wear high heels to bed. We should not be too happy or too sad. Rock stars and certain artists can express themselves wildly, but few others feel such total permission to play in display. Most people seem to be waiting for that permission, forever. It never comes, because Sambhogakaya experience is not based on permission. Other times people seem to be waiting to be “good enough” before they express it, but that time never arrives either. It is not based on being good enough. It is in fact baseless just like everything else. It’s basis is the momentary electricity of being that has no substance, it has no cause. According to Buddhism, everything is based only on vast open space, the luminous dimension of all possibility. Part of what makes the greatest people great, is that they have owned their magic anyway, even though there is no secured basis for it, whether or not they have been given permission to shine, even if it makes no sense, even if there are other artists that are much better than they are. The only way to contact Sambhogakaya, is to be willing to stand on empty ground, unconfirmed, un-guaranteed, impermanent, without credentials. Experiencing internal brilliance requires leaping beyond the confines of dualistic scripts and limited identities into a dynamic energy that is based on emptiness. Meditation is a training to enter the empty experience that Sambhogakaya arises from.

A student of mine came to a retreat to meet me for lunch wearing a renaissance outfit, complete with giant hat and feather. It was not a renaissance day. There was no renaissance fair. The place where the center is located is a lively, active, bustling little village but everyone else was dressed in modern clothing. It made me so happy to see him do this. Strangely when people approached us, they asked him why, why had he dressed up like this? Wasn’t it obvious why? It’s almost always fine to ask sincere questions with good intentions and an open mind, but, did they really need to ask? They should be asking themselves the same question about their own clothes! A good reason we should do anything as practitioners – is for the sake of unbridled enjoyment, as a celebration of the art of experience, as compassionate appreciation of the boundlessness of phenomena - that’s Yogic Buddhism. He wore that outfit simply because it lit his fire to do so, not necessarily to be different. Courting Sambhogakaya, our internal brilliance, may incidentally make us different, but it is not about contriving some "uniqueness," it is more about being willing to authentically enjoy our own particular inspired experiences.

Enjoyment is a Buddhist pursuit, it is an aspect of the natural state that we can wake up to. Some people think Buddhism and enjoyment do not go together, but that is just the renunciate, monastic Buddhism of Sutrayana, which has come to dominate Tibetan Buddhism for the last 1000 years. That Sutric view is the one that most people train in, even when they are training in something called Vajrayana. But there is some other kind of Buddhism too – that which spawned Vajrayana in the first place, the Yogic Buddhism of the MahaSiddhas. It flourished in many unexpected forms because it was a celebration of form, rather than a renunciation of it. It was imperative for the MahaSiddhas to communicate this in terms of being people and personalities from every walk of life, every socio-economic background, biography, preoccupation, interest and age group. It communicated something essential about Yogic Buddhism (and all of Vajrayana) from the start – it is about finding that which is already within everyone.

“Everyone is an innate artist.”
- Ngak’chang Rinpoche

How each individual access intrinsic brilliance is unique. I prefer my students to be different from each other and from me; it would be a total nightmare to walk in one day and see them all looking the same. I find something very sad about habitual carbon copying and cloning of others’ behaviors, hairstyle, dress, voice, mannerisms, goals and professions. It is sad because it often represents the total and utter failure to taste the juice of life. No amount of imitation of others will unlock our magic. No amount of dressing up as someone else will give ultimate confidence, which is only found in authenticity. No amount of plastic surgery will guarantee connection with the most beautiful thing on Earth - our wholehearted alive-ness. We will only ever be disappointed by such pursuits, because trying to be other than what we are is always dissatisfying. The only way to find the magic that has glistened out from others, is to court our own living dynamic. Our enjoyment and inspiration is a giant clue to Sambhogakaya. But genuine enjoyment requires us to enter into our own experience, as it is, complete with dualism and non-duality, confusion and wisdom (1). Doing this requires training, but the training has very juicy elements, since if properly applied, Buddhism could end up being an opening into the vivid landscape of the senses where all great art takes place, where we could dare to communicate with what we are.

Intrinsic brilliance is dynamic and that is also why people do not live within this dimension. It is highly personal and absolutely fleeting. It requires an ongoing cultivation, a willingness to respond, evolve, to halt and change directions when our art demands it. No formulaic approach will do. The lucid vividness of being seems to require being re-approached anew endlessly, because Sambhogakaya only exists in the moment. We can only ever experience what we are in the moment, expressing it is a living conversation, we have to learn to speak the language and then pay attention to keep up with the dialogue. That paying attention is what meditation practice trains us in.

As Buddhists we do not believe in fixed Self, what a wonderful freedom, to never dwell in what we were, that any moment could be completely new and different. We previously behaved like a jerk. Now we could behave as a kind person. In one moment we may dress up as wall-paper enjoying being back-ground-man, and in the next, stark overt expressiveness, according to whatever elicits the living energy within us. It may not necessarily be logical, or it may be highly logical if this is what floats our boat. I’ve met people like that who seem to really get off on logic. I have met people who fully inhabit the uniforms of social convention but in a wholehearted way that makes it beautiful. Total ordinariness can be magic. Unusual or highly ordinary, it may stand out or blend in, but it is marked by the experience we are having within it, within those clothes, that music, that art, that science, that word, that movement, an experience of energy and awareness.

Investigating our intrinsic brilliance threatens fixed identity. It threatens dualism, the attempt to live out a predictable, secure, permanent, continuous existence. It threatens our un-enlightenment, which is precisely why it must be cultivated, for our own sanity. It must be cultivated for the world’s sake, for Buddhism’s sake, lest people forget what Buddhism is really all about.

There are some people who would equate this phenomenon with “doing what you feel,” “being true to yourself” and only doing exactly what one wants – but that is as misguided an approach as conformity is. Knee jerk non-conformity is based on concepts, driven by conditioning, it may assume that others’ needs and desires cannot be a priority in our own enjoyment. What comes from this approach is stale and pale. Selfishness is quite boring because it is ultimately inauthentic. It is based on sacrificing oneself and others for some true “Self” that doesn’t really exist. We should not forget being compassionate and considerate in some pursuit of being authentic and true to our feelings (yuck!). Quite the contrary, we must absolutely consider others. Uninhibited enjoyment does not exist in a vacuum, it exists in a continuum of communication with everyone, everything, everywhere. This is why it is distasteful to show up topless when everyone else is wearing clothing. Enjoyment only reaches its full potential when it is not intentionally harming others, imposing on others or forcing them to become the audience to our narcissism.

When we are authentic, others may appreciate it or they may not relate to it and that cannot be a decisive factor. As soon as we become Self-conscious we have split apart from Sambhogakaya dimension. It cannot be contrived. We can't find it by trying to be good or original and we can't expect everyone will understand it. It must occur only for its own sake, otherwise it becomes distorted. It seems to me that there is something interesting about anyone who is sincerely inspired, the wholeheartedness itself is a captivating quality. Yet, sometimes it really gets people's goat when other's creativity is uninhibited. That could happen. Sambhogakaya experience has a quality that makes experience worth it anyway, for its own sake.

Yogic Buddhism is a tradition of people inspired to experience a magic available in what we already are, in ordinary life where Sambhogakaya is always taking place as the basis of our own being. This vividness is constantly communicating itself all the time and meditation methods are a training to be present within it. Whenever we let go of attempts to become something else, there is what we are in this moment and that itself has its own brilliance, a brilliance that can be cultivated and explored. The more we experience it, the more capacity we will have to enter wholeheartedly into any experience, into every experience, into every aspect of life.

1) The path is not about getting rid of duality to find non-duality. Non-duality is only ever found by entering fully into the experience of duality, wakefully. That’s the brilliant essence of the six yogas and the heart-essence of the MahaSiddhas.

From: .yogicbuddhism.org

1 comment:

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Practicing buddhism sustain a wholesome life that brings good karma in our daily living. All positive enlightenment is attained if one focuses on right words, thoughts and deeds. Establishing the right mindset, anyone can live a happy and blessed life.
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