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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 33 How do we properly relate to a nyam? Let’s say that you have an experience of bliss in your meditation. It’s okay to celebrate it. Give yourself a pat on your back. But then let it go. Reinstate the conditions that brought about the experience in the first place. In other words, most of these experiences arise when the mind is open, spa- cious, and relaxed. William Blake, in Songs of Innocence and Experience, wrote: He who binds to himself a joy Doth the winged life destroy But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in Eternity’s sunrise. If you grasp after the event and try to repeat it, that contraction around the experience ironically prevents it. In order to let realization come, we first have to let experience go. Another aspect of improper relationship is talking about the experience. It’s very tempting to share, proclaim, or even advertise your awak- ening, but it’s important to check your motiva- tion. Ask yourself, why do you want to do this? Do you want others to know how realized you are? If so, let your actions speak louder than your words. Live your awakening. Don’t voice it. Spiritual experiences often arise in the sanc- tuary of silence, and they should be kept in that sanctuary. There is a reason for secrecy in the tra- ditions. If you remain silent, the experience tends to stabilize and mature. The nyam evolves into tokpa. If you talk about it, the experience trick- les away. The nyam degenerates into a distant memory. Don’t be a leaky container and dribble onto others. Keep your experience hermetically sealed so it doesn’t spoil. It may be okay to share your experience with intimate spiritual friends; after all, it could inspire them. But even here, always check your motivation first. When people talk about their experiences, they usually just want them to be confirmed. The one person you should talk to is your teacher or meditation instructor. An authen- tic teacher will keep you on track by telling you the experience is neither good nor bad, or by ignoring you, or encouraging you to let it go. During one long retreat, I had another nyam. When I came out of retreat, I raced to share my “realization” with my teacher, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. As I shared my enlighten- ment experience, he yawned and looked out the window. My so-called “awakening” was putting him to sleep! When I was done, he spoke about a topic that had nothing to do with my experience. I came in all puffed up with my nyam and left punctured and deflated. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was exactly what I needed. When you talk about your experience inappro- priately, you transform opportunity into obstacle. The blessed event flips into a cursed one. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche said that talking about spiritual experiences is like being in a dark cave with a candle and then giving your candle away—you’re left in the dark. This is one way to tell the dif- ference between a truly realized master and one stuck in a nyam. True masters never talk about their realization; those infected with a nyam are happy to talk. As Taoism puts it, “He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak.” The essence of a proper relationship to spiri- tual experience is silence and release. Keep your mouth closed and your heart open. Use the expe- rience to inspire you to keep going, but go for- ward without the nyam holding you back. Relate to whatever arises—the good, the bad, and the ugly—with equanimity. That’s how experience matures into realization. Since spiritual experiences can be so ecstatic, and the grasping correspondingly extreme, some- times our fingers need to be pried away from the nyam. Khenpo Rinpoche said that you nurture meditative experience by destroying it. Patrul Rinpoche echoed this advice: The yogin’s meditation improves through destruction... When experiences of stillness, bliss, and clarity occur and feelings such as joy, delight, or pleasant sensations arise, you should blast this husk of attachment to experience into smithereens. —from Lion’s Gaze: A Commentary on Tsig Sum Nedek, by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche What’s blasted is not the experience itself but our grasping onto it. Tsoknyi Rinpoche also ANDREW HOLECEK teaches in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and has completed the traditional three-year meditation retreat. He is the author of The Power and the Pain, Preparing to Die, and, most recently, Meditation in the iGeneration (Maitri Publications, 2014). CINDYWILSON