Profound teaching (dharma) is revealed in the fullness of our living.
At Orgyen Hermitage, we have shelves of books from various schools and traditions. Each of them grew from a view of the world. Each of them conveys a particular angle or breadth of understanding. Many of them seem to be saying very similar things.
Some writings are dense with intricate lists and persuasive argument yet, in attempting to absorb such detail, the reader risks loosing sight of how the subject matter is relevant to their actual living. Other writings are short and pithy, but can suffer from appearing to be deceptively simple, as if there we should be able to explain things with a simple metaphor. In this post, I shall try to feel my way towards being pithy and poetical in a way that is not overly burdened with Buddhist terminology. I do sense that, if we could become familiar with this vision of a world of interdependent co-evolving communion, we would discover the fulness of our living to be a great middle way – an inherently balanced journey or path, of living exploration. This would be a fulfilling way to live and a meaningful contribution to the world.
Question: How do I begin to practice/explore dharma?
Answer: Begin with your immediate lived experience, whatever it is and however it is occurring. What is going on here? Look into this with all your intelligence and all your sensitivity.
Such living is likely to be flavoured by a general on-going tendency to evaluate experience using terms that fall somewhere between: good and bad, right and wrong, valuable and useless, work and play, liking and disliking, worthwhile and meaningless, and so forth.
Look into this,
as you are reading.
Look into the experience of you looking.
See for yourself.
Of course, in order to do this,
you need to be interested.
Your immediate lived experiencing – whatever it may be – is a seamless intermeshing with other beings’ experiencings: atoms with atoms, molecules with molecules, cells with cells, organ systems with organ systems, organisms with organisms; you and your friend, you and a tree, you and a thought, a feeling, a memory, or a surrounding environment. Whether co-operative or conflictive; whether physical, emotional or conceptual; experience will always appear to be a nesting of interweaving relationships, collaborations involving innumerable domains and dimensions of activity, all channeled through lenses of earlier experience.
A common facet of this way of living is dualistic distinction making. There are many examples of this: subject and object, self and other, inner and outer, material and mental, conscious effort and letting be. As soon as we see one side of the dualism, the other side is automatically implied. Recognising this is the beginning of a life of dharma.
Here, in the midst of the rich matrix of our collaborative living, we cultivate skill in harmonizing relaxation and effort, acceptance and attentiveness, serenity and clarity – a robust balance of total relaxation/acceptance/ surrender, interwoven with actively engaged curiosity.
Consolidating Our View of Wholeness
Energised by this easeful presence and vibrant curiosity, continue to study/investigate/ explore the flow of interdependent relating that is your ongoing living. Investigate everyone and everything that you meet in ways that soften the sense of separation between self and other, good and bad. Learn to integrate intellect, emotion, bodily sensation and action, and intuition, until these seemingly separate ways of knowing, which are actually continuously morphing in and through each other, become deeply and stably integrated as ongoing living wholeness – an un-pin-downable expanse of inter-being/inter-knowing.
Now we cultivate our skills of resting in and as, this evolving integrated wholeness in action. With experience, with persistence and patience, cultivating this view of inter-being again and again, we gradually acclimatize to living this way in a widening range of situations and circumstances. This process of familiarization is true meditation.
More and more, we recognise that our ongoing experience – this activity of a universe as an expression of being/becoming – this collective activity which comprises our conscious and non-conscious experiential functioning, is all that we have to work with. It is what we do, what we experience, what we are trying to understand, and what we are. In this stage of meditation/practice, we familiarize with being this dynamic activity resting in and as itself.
Buddhist descriptions of meditation recognise two essential qualities. Samatha, often translated as tranquil abiding, is the acceptance/ surrender/beingness aspect of lived experience. Vipassana or insight, is the vivid detail and multidimensional appreciating/ discernment aspect. Refining our capacity for recognising this co-emerging samatha/ vipassana, without any compulsion to elaborate or justify, while at the same time compassionately engaging with a world of ‘others’, is a natural expression of dharma praxis. In Tibetan traditions this praxis of naturalness is sometimes referred to as mahāmudrā. The third Karmapa characterized this way of living as, “learning the subtle teaching of mind practice” – entering the subtle praxis of the immeasurable expanse of inter-knowing.
Fruition of Natural Abiding
Surrendering into this learning, this spontaneous creativity-in-action, we discover the fruition of practice – a natural way of abiding.
Abiding where there is no abiding,
A praxis of no practice,
A groundless grounding,
A seamless mystery/blessing of wisdom, compassion and non-clinging awareness.
This flowering of communion is dancing forth myriad radiant worlds.
Is there anything more wondrous to do?
Primordial Middle Way
Ah . . . such balancing!
One side, my physical experience,
Rich, present, vibrant and multi-dimensionally dynamic.
Another side, my thinking – thinking about objects, or thinking about you.
Rich, timeless, no-dimensionally dynamic
Where minding seems to be the only real thing.
Yet you – all you you-s – organic and inorganic alike,
Are continually shaping my visceral life,
Continuously adjusting my course,
Chameleon dancer that I am.
Focussing on you, I risk loosing me.
Focussing on me, I risk loosing thee.
Needing each other, we learn our individual togetherness.
And so we feel possibilities in translucency
Softly, gently, translucentizing
Everything and everyone,
And feeling this dancing matrix of I and you – all of you,
I-s and You-s
Eyes and ‘U’s
Expanding into and through and by means of each other.
Travelling with molecules, cells, organs, and process,
Baggages of talent,
Nothing left behind.
Reverberating in reverence, wonderment and wide eyed awe.
A balancing going nowhere,
While being everywhere.
This ever refreshing poised-ness
Delicate, detailed, exquisitely encompassing
Yet strangely demanding,
Requiring all of our being and all of our beingness,
All our talents and intelligence,
The total cost of a life.
The price of our total life.
And so we find ourselves
Opening to include the stars,
And the unknown space between the stars,
And the unknown space between these thoughts.
Love, opening to embrace the universe,
This universe embracing itself
An unimaginable welcome-ship.
So utterly simple
And blessings abound
In the singing of birds
And these three passion-hoppers on this curving leaf.
And the distant phones ringing
Announcing myriad yet to be’s
This mystery . . .
This balancing . . .