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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 43 one moment, tasting the fruit of the kingdom, and hungry ghosts the next, not even able to swallow it. How confusing—and how fantastic! This confusion is the raw material of wisdom. Our path is to find presence in each of these experiences. In the case of the bardo, when presence is the only real thing left, if we are searching for security instead, wisdom can be elusive. It’s no wonder that religion becomes so poignant during times of crisis; suddenly, presence is all we are. Everything else recedes except what is right in front of us. Recognizing this opens up the potential to experience life with awareness of impermanence and the presence it illuminates. So the first essential point is rupture. The second is emptying out the contrived self. And the third is the recognition that our experience is based on dynamic, responsive presence. Our goal as vajra yogins and yoginis is to know that ground, become familiar with it, and learn to relax into the inher- ent peacefulness of not knowing what comes next. When we do—and to the extent that we do—every- thing changes. We are no longer slaves to primor- dial anxiety. Experiencing a loss can be freeing. When we are free of all our psychological heaviness, the accumu- lated weight of our usual momentum, we have an opportunity to know the raw presence that remains. To be a Buddhist is to dedicate our lives to abid- ing in that impermanent, empty, visceral presence. We can bear with greater ease those losses that we know we will inevitably face, because we identify with the thread of wakefulness that we meet in all of them. And then perhaps, when death draws near, we can relax with ease into the ground of being as we shed this skin, finally let go of this body, and experience liberation—undefended being in ground- less space. the play of experIence Longchenpa described the fourth essential point as “majestic utter sameness—the pure fact of being, where mind and what appears are primordially pure.” The fourth essential point, put simply, is that the world we produce from loss can be created with a light heart as a state of play. Thinley Norbu Rinpoche wrote, “Fish play in the water. Birds play in the sky. Ordinary beings play on earth. Sublime beings play in display.” In the raw, broken-open state, this place where we let go of all games, there is actually a great sense of relief available to us, a knowledge that we don’t have to do that anymore, to be that. When someone dies, don’t we suddenly see how unreal so many things are and how visceral the present space is? There can be a feeling of get- ting to the heart of things, a juxtaposition of real and unreal. That’s the beauty of not grasping onto an inherent reality. If we can find ways to disrupt our own habit of clinging to our continuity story, to just strip it all down—without having to wait to lose a loved one, or get that terminal diagnosis from our doctor, or lie on that gurney—then what we find there in any bare moment is creative, instanta- neous playfulness. It is this raw energy that spoke directly to Longchenpa: “All that is has me—uni- versal creativity, pure and total presence—as its root. How things appear is my being. How things arise is my manifestation.” Emerging from the bardo, we reenter the flow of life with a new sense of groundlessness: it is clear that “later” is not always a luxury that will be available to us; we are also disconnected from the past. That makes nowness starkly available. The perspective gained in the bardo cuts through petty concerns. It cuts through delusions so that whatever we contact, we do so with a raw presence, without the denial of impermanence. As long as we remain in this illumined state and still remember that grasp- ing is futile, a new kind of openness becomes avail- able to us. We have lost our delusions; to love and live now is to do so with nothing to lose because, for the time being, what really mattered has already been lost. The Vajrayana idea of death, birth, and reincar- nation is not just a matter of preparing for physical death, or dealing with the loss of our loved ones with rituals and prayers, or having the right atti- tude in mourning and grief. It is the messenger of our own uncontrived being, delivering us into the basic space of pure being. It shows us what comes after rupture. What may be the most poignant thing about the loss of a loved one is that after they have passed away, life simply keeps going. It just keeps going.