Friday, December 17, 2004

All Situations Are Workable

To use Chogyam Trungpa’s phrase – all situations are workable. After reading part of a teaching by Trungpa Rinpoche on a forum today, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to label situations as either easy or difficult from the point of view of practice. And, beyond that, how easy to label certain situations as basically being unworkable.

How often do we seek to move away from situations that we don’t like? We justify it with all sorts of rationale’s, such as ‘this is not conducive to my practice’, or ‘this one encourages me to loose mindfulness’, or ‘this one has a negative effect on me, and I loose momentum or perspective’. So we decide that certain situations are basically best avoided, as somehow that would have a negative effect on what we view as ‘our practice’.

How is this? Well, from a Hinayana point of view there is certainly some merit in saying that we should not keep too close company with either those that are unskilful, or those situations which encourage unskilfulness. But, within the Hinayana teachings are those on Vipassana which encourage us to not get entangled in whatever arises, and caught up in either pushing away or pulling experiences towards us, but instead to see their true nature – especially in terms of their being impermanent, suffering, and not-self. Allowing things to be as they are, we practice non-preference, and examine the nature of what is, not trying to find happiness through choosing what we want.

And moving to Mahayana, where the emphasis is more on transformation, rather than avoiding that which is harmful, the first and fundamental perfection is that of generosity. So ideas of ‘my practice’ as being a guiding force, or being around this person is detrimental to me are fundamentally opposed to the Bodhisattva path. If we are on the Mahayana path, then should we prioritise ourselves in this way? There are needs, and we respond to them. Where there is suffering, our compassion moves to help. No longer hypnotised by what arises in our mind, we see the nature of things as empty - without enduring substance, like a rainbow. Watching what arises, we see no 'me', no owner of the experiences, just a play of insubstantial phenomena. No longer bound by 'me' and 'you', we are freed from attachment and able to respond to need wherever it lies. Standing our ground, wherever we are, we do what needs to be done, without favoratism or fear.

With the Vajrayana, we no longer need to transform anything, as all Dharmas are seen to be self-liberating anyway. Instead of either backing away from difficult dharmas, or seeking to transform them by applying antidotes, we allow them to be, see their nature as they play, and utilise their energy for our work of liberating all sentient beings. As all phenomena and circumstances are just empty arisings of mind, what need is there to discriminate between them in such a way that we try to keep ourselves out of certain circumstances or away from certain people. Different apparent arisings in mind have different textures, or different flavours, as it were. But all reveal the nature of mind, all appear to arise, all are empty of any substance, and thus all are one taste – inseperable emptiness and clarity.

If we no longer fear emotions, then we no longer have to move away from those that we label ‘emotional’. If we no longer fear different views, then it does us no harm to be around those who differ from us. If we are no longer afraid of ourselves going out of control, then we no longer have to try to keep the lid on our minds, and constantly worry that unskilful emotions or thoughts will take us over. Whatever arises can be taken to the path, becomes the path, is the path for us. Whatever arises, however it is, is the fuel of our apparent journey, our journey that takes us to where we already are.

No longer fearing dharmas, no longer enslaved by fleeting experience, we gain the courage and confidence to take a stand with life, and allow it to be what it is. And ourselves – we can be what we are – more fully each moment we open to and embrace what arises.

Each moment provides the flavour and the fuel.

Each moment is what it is … the ground on which we awaken.

All situations are the path – right here, right now.


Meredith said...

Dear Chodpa,
I have found the teaching of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to be a great source of inspiration and peace to me. This teaching, 'all situations are workable', is a way of being that really calms me when situations in my life are difficult. Often this has meant for me to open my heart, to melt my discontent, to accept things the way they are, and find some peace in this. I reflect on the very present moment, and realize, almost without exception, this present moment is workable, is perfect, is one I find peace in.

A simple change in me, a slight turn of perception, can transform a situation or experience from unworkable to workable.

Thank you dear friend,

freedom said...

All paths are one. When we label the hinayana as blah blah the mahyana as this that, we are missing the point.

Each of us brings certain wisdom and certain confusion to any situation untill we have attained nirvana. In all paths, primary objective is personal practice, to attain enlightenment. In all paths purpose is compassion, for oneself, for other humans, for all beings.

Paths are stories. They will not lead you to the other shore, only to places from where it might be seen. You have to cross alone and unaided. No story, no guru, no mantra. Just ride the waves.

Chodpa said...

Hi Meredith, many thanks for your comment - my apologies for my response, due to illness. Yes, the turn in perception .. it is slight, isn't, this change of perspective, and yet the entire universe changes as a result, as it were!

Hi Freedom, many thanks for your comment too. Actually, I don't share the same views as those you expressed in your comment.

Whilst all dharma paths may lead to the same goal, I don't agree that the paths themselves are all one. They are different routes to the same goal, taught by Buddha out of his compassion and skilful means to suit the varying needs of different beings at different times. There is 'seeming' variety in appearances, and trying to prematurely collapse that seeming variety into oneness before Enlightenment just serves to remove the raft that Buddha gave us to cross to the other shore. I believe this to be a mistake of taking something which is view on the goal and applying it to the path ... which leads to confusion.

Your point about labelling things as hinayana etc missing the point ... well, of course, with dependent origination, there isn't one point! 'The point' will vary, depending on your vantage point! It would seem that you have a different perspective, but that doesn't mean that 'I missed the point' .. it means that I had a different point! My point was that whichever vantage point we took, from whichever of the three vehicles, the idea that some situations are suitable for Dharma practice, and that some other situations are basically unsuitable and unworkable is not a productive viewpoint, or one grounded in Dharma. So I was trying to show that you don't have to chase after certain situations in life in order to be able to practice Dharma. You can practice in any situation, any time. That was my point ... but I guess you took something different from my post?!

Paths are empty ... I assent to that ... so they have no self-existence at all. However, from the viewpoint of relative truth ... that of appearances and concepts, they do appear, and they have utility as a result. Different teachings have different utility at different times to different people, and they provide us with the tools that we need to realise the nature of mind and go beyond suffering. *You* have to employ the tools, but to deny that tools exists, and call them *stories* seems to me a little counter-productive.

And finally ... and sorry to disagree again ... I don't believe the Buddha ever taught that you don't need teachers ... his entire path was centered around both seeking out the wise, and putting their teachings into practice yourself. Neither without the other is likely to get you far. You can ride the waves all you want, and just remain in Samsara. Without any clue as to how to ride the waves so that you can see the nature of the wave, and therefore be freed from suffering, you'll just keep riding. And to know how to do that, the Buddha has given us his teachings.

Forgive me for so much disagreement, but I just feel that there's an element of "throwing out the baby with the bathwater here", as they say in England.