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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
buddhadharma| 29 |summer 2005 about our ability to practice. Coupled with open- minded questioning, challenging circumstances can help deepen and clarify the purpose of our path because they expose how far our practice has penetrated to the core of self-clinging. Although these experiences often shock or disturb us, they bring our attention to the immediate experience of clinging and the pain it generates, and we begin to think about letting go. We may have had the experience of letting go of our clinging and resting in the nature of emptiness many times in the past, but have not yet developed trust or conviction in that experience. We may feel certain in the moment of seeing our ordinary confused perceptions collapse, but unless we trust that experience, it will not affect the momentum of our ordinary confused habits. Quickly we will return to believing in our experience as solid and real. However, if we are able to trust the direct experience of emptiness, we can, through hindsight, bridge that understanding with our present experience. We rely on the recollection of our direct encounter with the view to change the way we ordinarily respond to difficult situations. On the other hand, even if we do have some conviction, it is not as if because we have let go once – “That’s it!” – we’ve let go completely and we will never cling again. Habitual mind is like a scroll of paper: when you first unroll it, immediately it curls back up. You need to continually flatten it out, and eventually it will stay. Our constant challenge as practitioners, the true focus of our practice, is reducing the attachment we have in the core of our mind. As we approach the haunted dominion with less fear, we may actually find some intelligence in the experience of being haunted: although we continuously try to secure the self, instinctually we know that we cannot. This instinctual knowledge comes from an innate intelligence that sees the dynamic, ungraspable nature of all things. It observes things arise and fall away, both happiness and suffering, and the changes of birth, old age, sickness, and death. When we cling to self and other, our mind feels deeply conflicted and fearful, because clinging is at odds with our inner intelligence. Of course, we are not clinging because we want to suffer; we are clinging because we want to avoid suffering. But clinging by its nature causes pain. When we let go of grasping and turn toward our innate intelligence, we begin to experience a sense of ease in our minds, and we begin to develop a new relationship with that which ordinarily haunts us. As practitioners interested in going beyond delusion, we may find ourselves intrigued by the haunted dominion of mind. We may find that, rather than trying to avoid pain, we want to move closer to that which haunts us. Emboldened by the experience of emptiness, we can question the solidity or truth of our fears – maybe things don’t exist as they appear. In fact, each time we see through the haunted dominion of mind – when we see its illusory or empty nature – we experience the taste of true liberation. This is why the great yogis of the past practiced in haunted places such as charnel grounds. Places that provoke the hidden aspects of mind are full of possibilities for liberation. In this way, the haunted dominion – whether it is a charnel ground or the dominion of fear that results from our own self-clinging – serves as the very ground of our realization. We don’t need to cling to the self to enjoy life. Life is naturally rich and abundant. There is nothing more liberating and enjoyable than experiencing the world around us without grasping. We do not deprive ourselves of experience if we forsake our attachments. Clinging actually inhibits us from enjoying life to its fullest. We consume ourselves, trying to arrange the world according to our preferences, rather than delighting in the way our experience naturally unfolds. We can find so much appreciation of life when we are free of the hopes and fears related to self- clinging – even of all the problems we generally try to avoid and dread, such as old age, sickness, and death. The ability to appreciate all aspects of our mind really says something about mind’s magnificent potential. It shows us that the mind is so much greater than the confusions, fears, and unrest that so often haunt us. It shows us that our personal suffering and the world of suffering “outside” of us are nothing more than the inner and outer world of our own delusion – samsara. Nyensa chödpa is cutting through the mind of samsara. What could be much more haunted and fearful than samsara? What could be a greater benefit than getting beyond samsara and our own self-grasping? What could be more meaningful than recognizing that samsara – that which has made us so fearful and shaken – is by nature the nondual nature of emptiness itself? If we do the practice of nyensa chödpa in our everyday life, it is a wonderful way to live this life, and the work we do will measure up in the end. Through loosening the clinging we have to our small, constricted notion of self, we begin to relax into the true nature of all phenomena: the nondual state of emptiness, which transcends both self and other.