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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
WINTER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 63 word these days, but it can be a real gift. Allow yourself to actually be present, to feel the earth under your feet, to feel your breath and the world that you’re in rather than being in a constant state of electronic communication with others. A deliberate taking up of a simplification practice is mak- ing a choice to go against the currents of your habits. Choose the areas where there is the deepest entanglement and think creatively. Explore ways that you can put aside or diminish the focus on that obsession, then carefully and attentively watch the results of that relinquishment. ELIZABETH MATTIS-NAMGYEL: I was thinking of a quotation from Paltrul Rinpoche in The Words of My Perfect Teacher, where he says, “If you have a horse, you have a horse’s worth of problems. If you have a bag of tea, you have a bag of tea’s worth of problems.” If you say that to anyone, anywhere—if you go into a bar and say that—people will laugh and know exactly what you’re saying, because everybody is struggling with what they have and what they want, with what they can’t get, and the burden of just having and needing. I do have a horse and a horse’s worth of problems, actually, and sometimes I wonder, is this attachment? Or am I just putting myself in a situation where I’m loving and can extend care toward another being? How do we make those discernments? As Tilopa said to Naropa—these are the two great siddhas in our tradition—it’s not the material, outer things that bind you. It’s all your wanting and not-wanting (shenpa in Tibetan). Start with your shenpa—your preferences and grasping and rejecting. That’s really what binds you. BUDDHADHARMA: As Buddhist practitioners, are there things we must give up in order to deepen our spiritual practice? Or can we have it all? GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD: I think the answer to the question “Can we have it all?” is “Yes, but it’s not what we think.” As is said so many different ways in the buddhadharma, in order to discover the wealth of the treasury of the true dharma eye, we have to experience the absolute loss of everything—inside, outside, nose, tongue, body, mind—in other words, the deep, direct experience that was the Buddha’s enlightenment and that is the lifeblood of Buddhism. Times change. Language, culture—all of that changes. But this basic truth, which has been understood across many religious traditions, doesn’t change. I think our current time is a huge and rather dan- gerous experiment in not living in accord with our spiritual nature. One possible outcome of the current path is our own demise, and the other is a much larger awakening—realizing the fruitlessness of the self-inflicted wounds we’re creating, not just materially but on a deep spiritual level. Our time- honored spiritual truths and practices are still demonstrating an alternate path to chaos. ELIZABETH MATTIS-NAMGYEL: Members of our sangha used to go to India every year and make offerings. We have a dana program; we make offerings in all kinds of interesting and cre- ative ways. Sometimes, for his teachings, people offer jewels to Rinpoche, so he collects them and keeps them in big bags. One of the offerings he made was in Bodhgaya. As we were circum- ambulating around the Mahabodhi Stupa, Rinpoche put his hand into the bag and picked up handfuls of jewels, throw- ing them in the air. There were so many different reactions: the beggars were picking up the jewels; some onlookers were really disgusted. That moment affected me very deeply—it was such a deep expression both of renunciation and of feeling the richness of the world. I felt so wealthy in that moment, as my teacher was throwing those jewels up into the sky. That scene encapsulates the feeling of renunciation for me. AJAHN AMARO: The “Can we have it all?” question, to me, hinges on the attitude that we have toward “all” and also toward “having.” There’s a mysterious chemistry that hap- pens: when you let go of everything, then everything belongs to you. There’s a passage in the Sutta Nipata where the Bud- dha says that the wise see that nothing belongs to them, and nothing doesn’t belong to them, either. When there is a real letting go, the heart of nonattachment is completely attuned to the world and yet is not entangled in it. When renunciation is truly enacted, there’s a beautiful sense in which everything is yours. Renunciation is actually like the experience of punna, of fullness. There is an infinite fullness of being, a completeness that only comes with arhatship. On the outside it looks to the world like you’re doing without a lot of things, but inside you’ve got everything. Renunciation is like the experience of fullness. There is a beautiful sense in which everything is yours. —Ajahn Amaro