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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
46 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 5 Rituals performed without appreciation have little effect. We need to watch our motivation. —Tulku Thondup Rinpoche don’t be naive dzogchen ponlop rinpoche reminds us that we mustn’t confuse Buddhist cultures for Buddhist wisdom. WE MUST LOOK at what will help us benefit from this path today. Just as it makes no sense to hang on to the countercultural forms of the sixties, it is senseless to hang on to the forms of a traditional Asian Buddhist culture and pretend we can fully inhabit that experience in a meaningful way. Since we’re only in the beginning stages of developing a genuinely Western tradition of Buddhism, naturally we still need to rely on the cultures that are already old hands at this. They have much to teach us, but we must not be naive about it. We shouldn’t mistake their cultures for the wisdom itself. We shouldn’t regard any particular form as sacrosanct. The ancient Buddhist traditions of the East gave rise to elegant and power- ful cultural forms. These forms are, in many cases, exquisitely expressive of the wisdom they contain. In style and substance, they’re so integrated with that wisdom, so in tune with it, that the forms themselves can transmit an experience of wisdom to those who speak its language. But this didn’t happen overnight. It took time and the insight of countless generations to discover and then refine these forms, some of them quite elaborate, which can open a door for us. Once we walk through that door, however, we’re met with a paradox: the forms disappear. On the other side, there are no statues of buddhas, no incense bowls, no sound of gongs or chanting, no tatami mats or brocades, no meditation cushions, and no meditators. Why? These forms and activities are simply the means to enter the open dimension of our own mind. The wisdom they point to has no tangible form of its own. You can’t hold wisdom in your hands, admire its brilliant colors, and put it on a shelf with your other prized possessions. You can’t be sure of its color or shape or even where it really is. The mind that knows—our wakeful awareness—is formless. The Buddha said long ago that when anyone in the future met with his teachings, it would be the same as meeting him in person. Therefore we can “meet the Buddha” today in the form of teachers, teachings, or our own practice. Saying we want to meet the Buddha is like saying we want to meet the awakened state of our own mind. We don’t have to change who we are in order to meet the Buddha in this way. The purpose of our meeting is not to become a student of another culture or to discover someone else’s wisdom. We’re not practicing Indian culture to become Indian, or practicing Japanese or Tibetan culture to become Japanese or Tibetan. Our purpose is to discover who we truly are, to connect with our own wisdom. Adapted from Rebel Buddha from Shambhala Publications, 2010. PHOTO | wonderlane fLICKR