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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
FALL 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 11 IT STARTS WHERE WORDS RUN OUT Acclaimed essayist and novelist Pico Iyer reflects on the spiritual life. I must admit that whenever I see the phrase “spiritual life,” I reach for my revolver (which is to say, my defenses). Such a thing exists, of course, and we do need words for it, but I suspect it begins only at that place where words run out. It is—not to sound too much like Wittgenstein—that whereof we cannot speak or claim to understand. Words bear the same relation to a spiritual life as baubles on a Christmas tree do to the heavens. Everyone has a “spiritual life,” of course, but to me it really manifests in a hand extended to a stranger or a sudden encounter with death. A few years ago, on a 12,000-foot mountain road in Bolivia, the taxi I was in drove at high speed into a mountainside and rolled over, and over—and over. The sudden confrontation with mortality, the kind bishop who stopped along the road to take us to the nearest hospital two hours away, the long trail of meetings with nurses and patients, and the terrors that followed—all that spoke to me of the “spiritual life” much more than the cathedral to which the bishop was heading to deliver a New Year’s Day mass. I’m in Times Square as I say this, and my sense (or prejudice) has always been that a spiritual life is whatever brings the clarity and stillness, the sharpened awareness of the mountaintop, into the rush and confusion and congestion of right now. FROM “READING TO THE THRESHOLD OF THE GREAT UNANSWERABLE: AN INTERVIEW WITH PICO IYER,” INQUIRING MIND, SPRING 2013 VAJRAYANA AND SOCIAL MEDIA Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche cautions Vajrayana practitioners about discussing their guru or practice on social media. If you think or believe that you are a student of Vajrayana—whether or not that’s true is another matter—but as long as you think you are a Vajrayana practitioner, it becomes your responsibility to protect this profound tradition. It’s important to maintain secrecy in the Vajrayana. The Vajrayana is called “the secret mantra yana” because it is intended to be practiced in secrecy. It is not secret because there is something to hide, but rather it is in order to protect the practitioner from the pitfalls and downfalls that ego can bring to the practice. In particular, practitioners tend to fall prey to “spiritual materialism,” where ILLUSTRATIONS ERIC HANSON FIRST THOUGHTS