Seeking, Wandering, Practicing

While the nature of beings has always been full enlightenment,
Not knowing this, they wander in endless samsara.
For the boundless suffering of sentient beings
May overwhelming compassion be born in my being
.            ~ Trn. Ken McLeod

This stanza, toward the end of Rangjung Dorje’s Aspiration of Mahamudra has pierced my heart for 20 years. This teaching has left me in speechless tears for hours. In fact on one month-long retreat, I did little more than cry and memorize the third Karmapa’s twenty five stanza teaching. What could be more important than this?

Samsara continues to unfold in its usual way. Quickly we can forget what we know is important for the details of samsara. Perhaps it is our nature to get lost in the confused fog of daily life? When practicing on the cushion; simple, uncomplicated. When working in daily life; muddled.

How is your meditation practice when on the cushion and when mixed with daily activity? Can you feel the movement from uncomplicated to growing confusion? The ritual of daily meditation practice does renew commitment & intention. It is a reliable foundation. A clear initiation allows movement to be set up to follow an intentional path. Then in comes the fog of complication. How do you move through the fog without forgetting that commitment?

Recently I was in a place where there were many spiritual seekers all shopping for the best teacher, the best method, the most life changing ‘ah hah’, the quickest shift of energy, the organization with the highest level of practitioners & the most promising results. Where there are spiritual shoppers there are spiritual marketers, each with a different catchy line, name, group, study plan… It was like entering a muddy fast moving river, once caught in the current, difficult to swim to the shore. Look at us! We have a catchy name: Mahakala Radio! What is that? What does it say about our method of teaching, our catchy courses, our retreats?

Even in the muddy current of seeking, if you have developed some ability on the cushion, you can experience the motivation & effects of the movement. Are you are seeking to be seen, to be heard, to learn, to meet like-minded people, to have a deep spiritual experience, or to have someone trustworthy to follow? Consider that seeking is a phrase, not good and not bad. It is simply one phrase in a line of music, in a whole dance. Is this phrase of seeking motivated by your commitment and intention? Does the seeking grip your heart, open your heart or shield your heart? How can you know when to move on from seeking into wandering or practicing?

While the nature of beings has always been full enlightenment,
Not knowing this, they wander in endless samsara.
For the boundless suffering of sentient beings
May overwhelming compassion be born in my being
.

Another movement phrase is the experience of wandering. One definition of wandering is: walking or moving in a slowly, leisurely, casually or aimless manner. There is this phrase: “All who wander are not lost.” What images & experiences do you associate with the word wandering? In meditation, when mind wanders we are taught to bring it back. Does that mean that a wandering mind is ‘not good’? In mahamudra, when the mind unifies, there is no wander, no tight, yet there is definite vivid unbound rest.

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche says, “Do not try to adjust your state of mind; let it be as it is naturally.” Does this mean that we allow the mind to wander & seek this idea and that? In my limited experience, the instruction is closer to: Do not create an artificial state and do not prevent anything from arising.  This is an instruction to not wander and to not stay. It is an instruction to not seek and to not neglect.   It is an instruction that can only be known by practicing. The result is: awake deeply relaxed. That sounds like a contradiction, but it only appears that way in writing. This instruction suggests to you to move from seeking and wandering to practicing.

When I was 24, I spent a year locking myself in a wood floored room for 3-4 hours every morning. My intention was: to move from the inside; allow the movement to unfold without controlling it with my idea-driven mind; be present to what arises & the quality of space. When I have mentioned this to others, they ask me variations on the question: “What were you hoping to gain?” I usually answer with a variation of “Nothing.” The conversation ends there. I never tell them that I did this again when I was 26, 28….

When the waves of gross and subtle thoughts have spontaneously subsided,
The river of unwavering mind naturally abides.
Free from the stains of dullness, sluggishness and conceptualization,
May we be stable in the unmoving ocean of shamatha.

When looking again and again into the unseen mind,
The fact that there is nothings to see is vividly seen as it is.
Cutting through doubts about its nature being existent or nonexistent,
May we unmistakenly recognize our own essence!  

~ Aspiration of Mahamudra, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

What does it mean to be practicing meditation? I suggest that you can only learn this by giving it a try. There are many instructions available.  You who are seeking or wandering read them & take them to heart.  You who are practicing, give them a try.

Milarepa said to his student Paltarbum,
“If you sincerely wish to practice the Dharma, in my tradition you don’t need to change your name. Since one can awaken to buddhahood as either a monk or layperson, you don’t need to shave your hair off or change your dress.” Then he sang this song on meditation guidance in training the mind with four meaningful analogies.

Listen here, you lay girl Paldarbum,
Listen well, you rich and dedicated maiden.

Take this sky as your example,
And train in the meditation state without center or edge.

Take the sun and moon as your example,
And train in the meditation state without increase or decrease.

Take this mountain as your example,
And train in the meditation state without shifting or change.

Take the great ocean as your example,
And train in the meditation state without surface or base.

Take your own mind as the meaning,
And train in the meditation state without worry or doubt.

Teaching her the key points of posture and mind, he set her to practice meditation.

~ Trn. Erik Pema Kunsang

Copyright® Gail Gustafson, Mahakala Radio, April 2016

 

 

 

 

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