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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 61 |spring 2006 path. He spoke of this as “buddhadharma with- out credentials,” and no teacher before or after him has underscored this point so forcefully. Trungpa brings this issue back to meditation practice, explaining that it is the experience of cool boredom that will assist us in overcoming this hankering after credentials: “Boredom is important because boredom is anti-credential. Credentials are entertaining, always bringing you something new, something lively, something fan- tastic, all kinds of solutions. When you take away the idea of credentials, then there is boredom.” This seems to be an extremely important atti- tude, in light of the fact that most of the world’s great spiritual traditions speak of levels of attain- ment, gradations of consciousness, and so forth. They distinguish between superficiality and depth, ascending or descending, and different paths and stages of development. One could therefore be forgiven for wondering, What stage of develop- ment have I reached? What level of meditative concentration have I developed? How close am I to attaining a particular level of spiritual realiza- tion? This is not to deny the importance or reality of some of these stages of spiritual attainment, but the obsession with credentials is an attitude we must relinquish for our own benefit, because it actually inhibits our spiritual growth. As Trungpa Rinpoche says, the search for credentials is a sick- ness we have to eliminate from our meditation experience, while still fully experiencing our neu- roses. In The Myth of Freedom, he likens this pro- cess to having an operation without an anesthetic: “We begin meditation practice by dealing with thoughts, the fringe of ego. The practice of medi- tation is an undoing process. ... so the practitio- ner who is involved with credentials begins with an operation. Credentials are an illness, and you need an operation to remove them. ... They prove that you are sick so that you can have attention from your friends. We have to operate on this per- son to eliminate the credential sickness. But if we give this person an anesthetic, he will not realize how much he has to give up. so we should not use anesthetics at all.” This idea of no credentials figures significantly in Trungpa Rinpoche’s thinking. He continually points out that we should always remember the importance of engaging in spiritual practice with- out the desire for any form of recognition or acknowledgment, because such desire only rein- forces the deluded tendency to define our territory, solidify our existence, and prove our worth to our- selves and others. It therefore limits and corrupts any spiritual insight we might attain in ego’s claus- trophobic domain. The temptation to pervert our experiences with credentials arises from the fact that ego has no real solidity, as Trungpa Rinpoche emphasizes in the following passage: “In order to cut through the ambition of ego, we must under- stand how we set up me and my territory, how we use our projections as credentials to prove our existence. The source of the effort to confirm our solidity is an uncertainty as to whether or not we exist. Driven by this uncertainty, we seek to prove our own existence by finding a reference point out- side ourselves, something with which to have a relationship, something solid to feel separate from” (from The Myth of Freedom). COnClusIOn Trungpa Rinpoche’s instructions in Buddhist prac- tice are designed to help us realize the reality of our innate capacity for awakening, or sanity, with- out succumbing to any illusions, unrealizable expectations, or bogus spiritual promises. By sim- ply allowing ourselves to feel our pain and con- tinue to work with our discomfort, embarrassment, resentment, emotional conflicts, fear of existence, and so forth, we will assuredly transform ourselves over time. That seems to be Trungpa Rinpoche’s fundamental message of basic sanity. Trungpa called this approach “buddhadharma without credentials” because it enables us to be genuinely ourselves, without needing to fear our own pain or to hope for salvation from outside ourselves. We no longer require patches to conceal our insufficiencies or avoid challenging situations. If we acknowledge everything in our world as it is, without labeling something as good or bad, we can work with our immediate experiences simply and directly. We will have no need to aggrandize ourselves with credentials or bolster our failing spirits with unrealistic expectations. Thus every- thing goes toward enlightenment, according to Trungpa Rinpoche; nothing can obstruct it. Even our own neuroses hasten the dawning of basic san- ity if we know how to regard all psychological and emotional states as workable. It is for this reason that the fearlessness of the lion’s roar can be pro- claimed. adapTed from recalling chögyam Trungpa, compiled and ediTed by fabrice midal; © 2005. published by shambhala publicaTions. The result of genuine hopelessness is the faith that we already possess the innate intelligence and ability to extricate ourselves from our samsaric entanglements. This kind of conviction in oneself represents a tremendous act of courage.