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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 57 |spring 2006 Trungpa Rinpoche to speak for himself, by includ- ing examples from his books to illustrate my points. In these teachings, Trungpa Rinpoche presents a direct and explicit Buddhist method for discover- ing our own basic sanity. His writings provide a methodical approach for prevailing over our neu- rotic tendencies, which he regarded as the funda- mental method for realizing our basic sanity on the spiritual path. According to his understanding of the human condition, neurosis is the result of acquiescing to egoistic domination and the conse- quent entanglement in a variety of predictable self- deceptions. He highlights how calculating, shrewd, and resourceful the ego can be, and how willfully we thereby misuse our emotions. He also clearly elucidates Buddhist methods for cultivating com- passion and wisdom – the two essential qualities for attaining enlightenment, or for realizing the basic sanity that is our natural inheritance as sen- tient beings. BAsIC sAnITy This notion of basic sanity is one of the central and recurrent themes in Trungpa Rinpoche’s thought. Throughout his teaching career he tire- lessly returned to this topic, emphasizing its sig- nificance for our times. Perhaps the best way to understand what Trungpa Rinpoche meant by “basic sanity” is that it is a particular attitude or distinctive state of mind – an unencumbered open- ness characterized by the absence of hope and fear. As he explains in Transcending Madness: “you could have a basic sound understanding of the logic of things as they are without ego. In fact, you can have greater sanity beyond ego; you can deal with situations without hope and fear, and you can retain your self-respect or your logical sanity in dealing with things.” It should be acknowledged at the outset that the notion of transcending hope and fear is pre- dominantly associated with the teachings of the Kagyü and nyingma schools of Tibetan Bud- dhism. Trungpa Rinpoche made liberal use of cer- tain fundamental concepts from these two schools to convey the principal Buddhist teachings, even when the subject did not directly involve Tibetan Buddhism. something of the flavor of tantric Bud- dhism can also be detected in all of his discourses, such as this extract from Cutting Through Spiri- tual Materialism, which is typical of Trungpa’s teaching style: “somehow we lost the unity of openness and what we are. Openness became a separate thing, and then we began to play games. It is obvious that we cannot say that we have lost the openness. ‘I used to have it, but I have lost it.’ We cannot say that, because that will destroy our status as an accomplished person. so the part of self-deception is to retell the stories. We would rather tell stories than actually experience open- ness, because stories are very vivid and enjoy- able.” Basic sanity in Trungpa Rinpoche’s thought represents the attitude of enlightenment, which is free from hope and fear. The implication here seems obvious enough: the attitude of ignorance, if it can be put that way, dominates our deluded, samsaric mind through the inveterate afflictions of hope and fear. In the idiom of Trungpa Rinpoche’s teaching style, this would be termed neurosis. Trungpa Rinpoche’s view was that in order to appreciate our basic sanity, we should not endeavor to disassociate ourselves from these afflictions or neurotic tendencies, but learn to work with them as the actual basis of our spiritual journey. As he states in Crazy Wisdom, “Developing basic sanity is a process of working on ourselves in which the path itself rather than the attainment of a goal becomes the working basis.” Traleg Kyabgon rinpoche is The spiriTual direcTor of The Kagyü e-vam buddhisT insTiTuTe in melbourne, ausTralia, and of The newly esTablished e-vam insTiTuTe in upsTaTe new yorK. he is The auThor of mind aT ease: self-liberaTion Through mahamudra mediTaTion. miKeholmes