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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
spring 2006| 60 |buddhadharma For Trungpa, faith is a task that we can carry out by ourselves, because in spite of our neurotic ten- dencies, confusions, and bewilderment, we already possess the innate intelligence and ability to extri- cate ourselves from our samsaric entanglements. As he says in Meditation in Action: “you see, you are your own best friend, your own closest friend, you are the best company for yourself. One knows one’s own weaknesses and inconsistency, one knows how much wrong one has done, one knows it in all detail, so it doesn’t help to try and pretend you don’t know it.” This kind of conviction in oneself represents a tremendous act of courage. Being hopeful, on the other hand, only indicates a cowardice that is intimately associated with feeling helpless. By establishing trust in ourselves, we also simultane- ously develop the ability to trust others, particu- larly our teacher, spiritual friend, guru, and so on. not having faith in ourselves or trusting our own innate basic goodness only leads to a sense of des- peration that is veiled in a thin layer of hopeful- ness and an obvious mistrust of others. All that we have is hope. For Trungpa Rinpoche, this kind of hope is simply wishful thinking and should be rejected as useless and demeaning. Many readers may find this provocative, but it is worth pursuing Trungpa Rinpoche’s explanations of how this lack of cour- age and trust in ourselves can manifest as arro- gance and egoism, ensuring the interminable neurotic habits that conceal our vulnerability, meekness, and ultimate lack of faith. As Trungpa says, “Our problem all along is that we have been too smart, too proud.” We do not want to relate with anybody else because we have become com- pletely fixated on enlightenment. In fact, we may eventually find any kind of trust exceedingly hard to generate. These attitudes ensure that we remain in a state of perpetual immaturity. As Trungpa was fond of saying, we must take stock of ourselves and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. nothing external is going to come along and change things for us. While Trungpa was aware that this mes- sage might initially seem bleak, he knew it was ultimately uplifting. Realizing that we can turn our lives around by accepting our utter hopeless- ness will bring joy rather than despondency and desperation. Once we have given up hope, we can really traverse the spiritual path instead of con- structing fantasies or recoiling from doubts. As he makes clear in The Myth of Freedom, joy “tran- scends both hope and fear, pain and pleasure. Joy here is not pleasurable in the ordinary sense, but it is the ultimate and fundamental sense of free- dom, a sense of humor, the ability to see the iron- ical aspect of the game of ego, the playing of polarities.” A genuine experience of hopelessness, Trungpa assures us, is an unfailing defense against the dan- gers of spiritual materialism because it brings about fearlessness. Fearlessness is another essen- tial element of Trungpa’s vision, for both hope and fear must be confronted on the spiritual jour- ney. The lure of spiritual materialism lies in its empty promises of an eternal, paradisiacal exis- tence or of selection by a divine being for special favors. In the end, however, these ideas only cre- ate the conditions for a perpetual state of infantile dependency. COOl BOREDOM Trungpa Rinpoche warns that while sitting medi- tation is rewarding in itself, we should not become too excited about our meditation experiences. Instead, we should concentrate on becoming aware of a less celebrated state of mind, which he terms cool boredom. This boredom is a sign that our meditation experience is developing and is something we should embrace with enthusiasm, rather than grow dejected about a perceived lack of progress. This seems to me a very helpful instruction, because many meditators understandably expect their meditative efforts to bring new experienc- es – if not continually, then at least intermittently. When we have the experience of cool boredom, we may interpret this as a symptom of reaching an impasse in our spiritual progress, because it has none of the characteristics of a good meditation experience. According to Trungpa Rinpoche, how- ever, it is necessary for us to go through this kind of boredom. This experience is unique to medita- tion, and it is described as cool because it is actu- ally quite refreshing and has many beneficial aspects. He explains in The Myth of Freedom: “Boredom has many aspects: there is the sense that nothing is happening, that something might hap- pen, or even that what we would like to happen might replace that which is not happening. Or, one might appreciate boredom as a delight. The prac- tice of meditation could be described as relating with cool boredom, refreshing boredom, boredom like a mountain stream. It refreshes because we do not have to do anything or expect anything. ... As we realize that nothing is happening, strangely we begin to realize that something dignified is hap- pening. There is no room for frivolity, no room for speed. We just breathe and are there.” lACK OF CREDEnTIAls It is a testament to Trungpa Rinpoche’s integrity as a meditation practitioner and teacher that he emphasized the importance of eschewing creden- tials of any kind as an integral part of the spiritual