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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
buddhadharma| 39 |spring 2007 take measures to relieve it or we can explore it. the choice is ours. If we encounter pain in daily life that cannot be relieved, then we have no choice, since the only alternative to experiencing it skillfully is to experience it as abject suffering. In this life we must sometimes spend time in purgatory, an uncomfortable place of spiritual purification. If we understand how to meditate, then the purgatory won’t turn into hell, a terrify- ing place of meaningless suffering. From the per- spective of spiritual growth, there’s a big difference between hell and purgatory. either way, the idea of voluntarily staying with pain may still seem a little radical. Please remember that we are talking about working with small, manageable doses of subjec- tive discomfort that do not objectively harm the body. and yes, this is a radical thing to do. From Latin, “radical” means addressing an issue at the root, the most basic level. When we sit and meditate, we may sometimes be subject to discomforts, aches and pains, sleepi- ness, body sensations of agitation and impatience, itches, and awkwardness from the posture. these discomforts are real but quite manageable. In the meditative state, we can experience them with more mindfulness and equanimity than we do in daily life. In meditation the mind and body go through a natural change, a deep learning process that affects the unconscious levels of neural pro- cessing. the deep mind learns a healthy way to deal with pain. as a result, when we encounter real pain in the real world, we discover that we are not suffering the way we used to. by not suffering, I mean that the pain does not obscure the perfection of the moment, does not distort our perception or behavior, does not alienate us from our spiritual source or from our fellow beings. the three kayas of pain From the perspective of ultimate awareness, says reginald A. ray, physical pain is a valuable tool for discovering the three enlightened bodies of the Buddha. the MahaMuDra LINeaGe of Vajrayana buddhism in tibet teaches us how to approach physical pain from within the context of ultimate awareness. this body of oral instructions begins with the direct pointing out of unborn mind, or ultimate awareness. the lineage holder’s trans- mission opens the practitioner to the unborn mind as a matter of his or her immediate, direct experience. Such awareness is empty of anything definite or solid, brilliantly illuminated like sun- drenched space, and pregnant with supercharged possibility. through meditating again and again on this natural state, we are able to let go into it for increasingly extended periods of time. It is from within this “ordinary mind,” or rigpa, that we can begin to make a nonego-based relationship with our relative experience, including physical pain. It involves approaching pain just as unborn aware- ness itself would see and work with it. When we do this, we are able to discover the way in which physical pain, far from being any kind of problem, actually has the possibility to liberate us into the three enlightened bodies of the buddha: dharma kaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. Physical Pain as Dharmakaya When physical pain arises, we are instructed to rest within the natural state. then we look directly into the physical pain. this is not “us” looking from ego’s dualistic, self-centered consciousness. rather, it is us having surrendered our vantage point, letting awareness itself hold or reflect the physical pain that is arising. So it is a looking that occurs from within the primordial awareness. reginaLd a. ray is a pro- fessor of Buddhist studies at naropa university and the author of SeCret of the vajra worLd and iN the preSeNCe of maSterS (shamBhaLa puBLications). he recentLy cofounded the dharma ocean foundation in crestone, caLifornia.