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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 29 |spring 2006 even with a sitting practice, the solidity and isolation of nihilism is best punctured through the kindness of a personal teacher or meditation instructor. We need direct contact with someone who sees both our basic goodness and understands our confusion. When I first met Trungpa rinpoche, I asked him why we needed a teacher. Looking into my eyes, he answered, “Because we are so hard on ourselves.” Stranded in nihilism, we need someone to help us open our hearts, soften our concepts, and abandon our secret hideouts. It helps to meet someone who sees and experiences our fundamen- tal nature, the empty and luminous qualities of our basic goodness. Then, as we emerge from our cocoons, we have the possibility of trusting some- thing besides our concepts. The direct meeting, mind-to-mind, with a teacher is a pivotal moment in the shedding of nihilistic armor. I still experience the dark shadows of nihil- ism, but as a visitor. as I pulled up my stakes from that terrain, I asked myself, am I prepared to be happy? Can I allow myself to emerge from the self-imposed exile of my nihilistic patterns into the true open space of my humanity? Can I abandon the constant dilemmas perpetuated by a mind escaping from eternalism into nihilism? and then I think of my teacher, how he sat con- stantly in the nakedness of the present moment, enjoying himself, doing nothing. he asked us to make friends with our desolation, and to come to know our terror, and to sing. I sing with him whenever I can. Today when I look at the vast wastes of the nebraska Sandhills, I realize that they are very much like Tibet. They are open and vast, with great simplicity. Monotony is not a problem for the practitioner. rinpoche loved those land- scapes – the unfettered qualities of the slightly roll- ing hills, the uninterrupted horizon, and the huge sky. The landscape has not changed at all – but my mind has. us to generate the awakened heart of bodhicitta. The irony of this is that bodhicitta is the genuine experience of emptiness accompanied by limitless compassion for all beings. Insight into emptiness is the insight of the interdependence of all beings, and we feel their pain as our pain, their joy as ours. according to my lineage, the true experience of emptiness is confirmed by the arising of unbear- able compassion for others. When we sequester ourselves from others, we close off the possibility of the experience for which we yearn. In sum, nihilism is a spiritual cul-de-sac mask- ing itself as the goal. This can be overcome by coming to know the emptiness, compassion, and basic goodness of our own humanity. We must see that the fundamental nature of the buddhas and great teachers of the three times differs not one iota from our own fundamental nature. This must become an actual experience and conviction, not an intellectual tenet. and we must see that this nature is not ours alone – it is shared with all other sentient beings, whether they know it or not. The first method to abandon nihilism is through the practice of meditation. While sitting may place us first in the desolate landscape, its method points beyond it. We are instructed to begin with posture, erect with a straight back and an open heart. We place our attention on the breath, not too tight and not too loose. We are asked to notice our thinking, and to let it go, and this sets up the possibility of a paradigm shift in our relationship with thoughts. This change in relationship is crucial for the nihilist, who is held hostage by subtle thoughts. Previously, we have identified with thoughts and believed their content. Sitting practice allows us to entertain a thought without identifying with it. Instead, we rest in the space in which thoughts arise, pass, and go like clouds in a vast blue sky. frankly, no amount of study, contemplation, or ritual practice can have the effect of this simple method, especially for the nihilist. The inner desolation began to melt, like ice in the sun. I glimpsed the basic goodness at the heart of the world, and I was included within it.