Perhaps everyone who chooses a path, chooses a kind of struggle, or perhaps attempting to adhere to a path is one sure way in which a fundamental pervasive struggle (with “ego”?) is continually exposed – I’m not sure. But whether it is a religious path, a no-religion path, a family path, a single person’s or couple’s path, a work/s path (more likely various combined), struggle seems to be ‘what’ this life is about. One struggles to stay on a path, to leave a path, to abandon hope, to generate hope… and when one is really sure they should stay, the path may leave, or really sure they should go, they may not be let go.
When in a very friendly mind, I would say life is dialog rather than struggle, and see consciously chosen traditions as one way to tap clarity beyond personal agendas. This is how it feels to my own experience – certainly how it felt to me over much of the last few days while attending Buddhist teachings. With all teachings there are generalities made, and examples given that one may take personal exception to, but I found myself choosing to accept of a balance of resting the scrutinizing intellect appropriately engaged ‘first’ when in other contexts, to listen in a different manner. There is support for that quieting in a setting such as this one, and I was reminded of a line in a book based on a famous Tibetan master, where he was quoted as saying that some were noisy, full of gossip, about people another person had heard say nothing at all.That’s how it is: words aloud aren’t necessary; one can drop deeper to a level of intention and hear what is ‘really’ being said, see something else going on, take part in what tonight I’d phrase a transcendent context.
So I tried to do that over the last few days, appreciating the Rinpoche’s smile lines and hearty laugh, his earnest aspirations coming forward as he plead for everyone to take the work of better establishing the dharma center seriously. There was a great sense of presence in the room as he spoke and told stories, and one couldn’t help but see not just him in his expressions but so much coming through, as though other teachers were looking through his eyes at times. I may have heard the forms of these stories before, and may have felt at moments that such were not very marketable in today’s world (part of the intellect that I let rest when it popped up – the “I” that is always writing and parsing), but I’ve never heard more sincerely.
What he was saying was ‘true’ in a heart-of-the-matter way… a way that can only be pointed to… not named, and blooms forth in one’s own understanding rather than being grasped at and earned. Yet, there is merit… one of the biggest aspects of Buddhism that secular friends take issue with, and I think rightfully so, as at times it feels the work of spreading the dharma is as ‘busy’, and about accomplishment, as the world the dharma encourages us to question and reevaluate our loyalties to.
I can’t even explain to myself entirely, why there is such pleasure in what others might see as religious trappings, and so far I still wrestle with strict hierarchies. Simultaneously, I think that although there is a rightful reaction against rigid class structures and privilege, there is too, such a thing as what I’ve heard called “supportive hierarchies” that can be cultivated well, understood to be impermanent and questionable forms. For instance it benefits a child to know there is a teacher to turn to, and we are smart to submit in particular contexts, to one with more expertise, be they doctor, pilot, or Compassion.
Will I attend the temple on a regular basis, take it on as my personal work? I’m not sure yet. I can’t in good conscience entirely check my scrutiny at the door… there are things I’m not comfortable with and may not want to become comfortable with. And after all, Buddhism is highly appealing for its intellectual astuteness and demand to turn the light inward. Both sides of the coin have value, but only when taken together.