Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Response to Suffering

How often it is that our response to our own suffering is to grasp at the very things which bring about our suffering!

We seem to have a wrong 'gameplan' - one which says that having or grasping this or that experience will make things 'right', and not having or pushing away something will lessen what is unsatisfactory. So when times get tough, or we feel disatisfied, we seem to want to grasp onto these ephemeral experiences, and push and pull at them to attain what we seek.

Yet what we seek surely comes from letting go of this gameplan, this uncontrolled desire to make the world right via accepting and rejecting experiences, and seeking the perfect situation.

When the going gets tough, we often retreat into trying to beat Samsara at its own game, only to find that the wheel goes round, and actually spins faster. When the pressure is on, we may choose to not meditate, but to watch TV or whatever turns you on, seeking relief in that which cannot bring it.

How interesting that this 'vicious circle' is a tendency in something which is described as an endless circle. It's as if things compound themselves - we suffer, so we grasp ever stronger at that which binds us to our suffering. And so the wheel goes round, and we are ever more bound to the wheel, tighter and stronger.

Sometimes it takes an act of courage to not grasp at the samsaric straws, and have faith in the methods of the Buddhas, however seductive the straws seem.

Then the more we reject the attempted quick fix, the straw, the more we see that the true path works, the more confidence we gain in the teachings and the more faith we experience for this path.

And this too builds up, a 'non-vicious' circle, empowering our actions and thoughts. A pressure builds up which pushes us onwards, even when we falter, a momentum which guides and supports us.

Step off one wheel, and step onto the conveyor belt!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Reflections on Padmasambhava - View and Conduct

Do not lose the view in the conduct;
If you lose the view in the conduct, you will never
have the chance to be liberated.
Do not lose the conduct in the view;
If you lose the conduct in the view, you stray into black diffusion.


This seems to be an ongoing theme for me, working with the interplay of Relative and Absolute Truth. What resonates in Padmasambhava's teaching for me is that one-sidedness greatly diminishes our practice and progress.

The view for me is fundamentally rooted in the 'openess' of how things are, Shunyata, the ineffable, indefinability of all. As I look, all melts away before the gaze of minds eye, including minds eye. And yet, things certainly 'seem' to appear, dancing and entrancing - the play of appearance.

So what is conduct? Conduct is skilful action, which is rooted in understanding of Karma. Without understanding karma, then there's no way to act skilfully, for the benefit of oneself or other beings. Actions have consequences, so acting skilfully brings benefit all round.

And yet, this is the level of Relative Truth ... the level of how things appear to be. Karma 'appears' to be, it 'appears' to be true. But when we look deeply, no karma is seen, no consequences are seen ..... indeed, no action is seen either.

Karma certainly seems to take place, and yet, it is ultimately empty.

Loosing the view in the conduct would mean believing, fundamentally believing that your actions exist, yourself and the recipient of your actions exist ... and their consequences too. And you'd be reduced to doing good deeds .... which is great, but will not allow you to put a end to Samsara through seeing through the whole wheel which turns. You'll do a great deal of good, but not attain liberation.

So acting with skilfullness, ultimate attention to skilfulness, but not caught up in believing in an actor, and action, and those acted upon. All are empty.

But once again, if you loose your conduct in the view .... if you think that as all phenomena are ultimately empty then nothing matters, it matters not which way you act, then again you'll fall into error and the path will be lost. Padmasambhava calls this 'black diffusion' ... a wonderful expression for being lost in the mists of directionlessness.

In another teaching Padmasambhava talked of keeping your view as high as possible, but your actions as fine as can be .... neglecting neither.

Though your view be like the sky, let your conduct be as refined as flour.

Clear enough, but in practice for me, an interesting locus. Without a definitive realisation of emptiness, I constantly slip and slide across the twin errors mentioned in the quote. The middle path .... acting with perfect conduct, yet not caught in the three-fold error of projecting a doer, a done to, and that which is done .... this is a fundamental challenge. My focus changes moment to moment, and day to day. Now more on conduct, now more on view .... like a sheepdog corralling the sheep ..... nudging view and conduct into better alignment .... working in harmony, and working more deeply. Depth and harmony. Working on both, and keeping them hand in hand.

View and Conduct.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Fiddling With Samsara

More car stuff - I've noticed this tendancy I have in the car to fiddle with the controls - not just when I set out, but pretty much all the way through a journey. I diligently adjust the heater - hot, cold, up, down - the wipers and windowscreen washer .... the radio - volume up and down .... demisting the back window ..... somehow there seems to always be something which isn't quite as it 'should' be, something in need of a tweak, an adjustment, an increment up or down.

What am I doing?

Yes, I'm making sure my arthritic joints in my leg don't get too cold, whilst not making the car hot enough so I feel sick from the stuffy-ness.

But the constant fiddling, the restlessness of it, the attempt to 'control' the environment?

There's a strong sense of trying to 'fix' Samsara, to make it right, to make it perfect. I'm trying to get on top of it, to make it how it 'ought to be', to somehow turn it into what it isn't .... to make imperfect somehow perfect.

I sense this 'control freak' tendency, which wants to make the world right, to set things straight. And my car is an arena where this tendency is clearly seen and felt. A microcosm world where my controls are all within reach, and whilst I can't get everyone else to drive properly - at least within my bubble I can try to get ahead, get a grip, and get control!!!!!

But somehow, it never is quite the right temperature, the windows are never quite clean, or at least, in both cases, they may be for a moment, then the winds of Impermanence sweep them away, and they settle again, imperfect and not as desired.

More opportunities to let go, to loosen the grip which wishes to do the 'God' thing and set everything right .... and allow things to unfold a little without my vice-like mind trying to control .....

Letting go!