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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
spring 2008| 36 |buddhadharma David Brazier were talking about, what are you stopping? Andrew Olendzki: I think it is the fire that you’re stopping. the three unwholesome roots of greed, hatred, and delusion—these three fires are blazing across the whole field of experience. awakening and nirvana has to do with extinguishing the fires. and yes, you can bank the fires and you can keep them under control. It is a very tantric approach to take something like that and use the power of the defilement for transformation. GAylOn ferGusOn: It’s there in mahayana as well. Andrew Olendzki: Yes, mahayana as well. But we also have to be careful not to be too hard on our- selves. Just because the Buddha says it’s possible for these fires to go out, it doesn’t mean we should expect it to happen by tuesday. more to the point, he’s saying this fire is burn- ing in almost every moment of your experience. You are craving, and therefore you are suffering. Just come to know it, understand it, befriend it. You’re not encouraging it to continue per se, but rather you’re being at home with it. It’s not so much about an ideal state where this just doesn’t happen, although that is a placeholder at the end of the path, but it’s more about what is happening every moment. Notice that. Look at it. Learn from it. Under- stand it. experiment with how you can hold your- self differently in any given situation, to diminish its effect. It’s really a matter of how to play with fire, rather than how to extinguish it. But when you play with it long enough and skillfully enough, it goes out. GAylOn ferGusOn: It’s very helpful not to set up that carrot and then beat yourself if you’re not getting to it. If we are contemplating our experience and inquiring into our experience, we will notice it, just as the historical Buddha did when he remembered a time sitting under a tree at the plowing festival, when he had a moment of cessation, stopping. BlAnche hArtmAn: that’s true. most students, most of us, have had some taste of that. GAylOn ferGusOn: People can recall a glimpse. I’m not saying they’ve had full or final cessation, but they can recall a moment of not struggling. BlAnche hArtmAn: and because they’ve had some taste of it, they turn to practice and they can breathe freely in the world. they have a taste of dropping the boundary that separates me from other and can feel that expansive inclusiveness, the interconnectedness of everything with everything. We have experiences like that, but we don’t know what they are or what to call them. BuddhAdhArmA: the third noble truth has sometimes Happiness isn’t just the limited positive states we strive for, but rather there is a larger openness that includes sorrow and joy. That’s true happiness. — Gaylon Ferguson in the day-to-day world, there are ways in which the experience of dissatisfaction can be contained, through stress reduction and wiser choices, for example. But what’s radical and inspiring about the Buddha’s message is that the fundamental mechanisms in our mind and body that con- struct suffering on a regular basis can in fact be dismantled. the roots can be pulled up from the lowest levels, such that the suffering is no longer constructed at all. It’s nice to be able to treat the symptom, and the more effective the medicine for treating it the better, but how much better to reach a little deeper and be able to cure it entirely? BlAnche hArtmAn: What I like about the contain- ment image, though, is that we can talk about the fire of passion and not wanting to put it out, because fire is useful. If it can be contained and controlled, if you put it in the oven, you can cook with it. But you want to protect it, to keep the wind of greed, hate, and delusion from blowing it out of all proportion. at the same time, you don’t want the embers to go dead. You want to employ them for useful purpose. BuddhAdhArmA: But doesn’t that sidestep the notion of extinguishing? GAylOn ferGusOn: Can’t we have both? Yes, there is pulling up by the root and extinguishing, but in the Lankavatara Sutra it says, “Skillful farmers don’t throw away their manure. they use it.” they spread it on the field of bodhi. So the containment is the sense that the basic energy could be used for waking up. trungpa rinpoche said that the tibetan equivalent for nirodha is gokpa, which literally means “preventing.” So in addition to “containing” as an alternative way of describing it, there is this notion of preventing, the quality of vaccination, so to speak. once the problems are prevented, it is for good. BuddhAdhArmA: It’s very helpful to hear these other terms for “cessation,” which is not a word we find in common parlance. that very fact can make the idea of cessation seem a bit obscure, if not philo- sophical or mystical. Andrew Olendzki: It just means stopping. GAylOn ferGusOn: Yes, ending. I wonder why we don’t just say stopping. Why did it become ces- sation? that’s probably polite Victorian english. Andrew Olendzki: It may well be, yes. maybe we need to update the translation a little bit. GAylOn ferGusOn: right. Andrew Olendzki: the stopping of wobbliness [laughter]. BuddhAdhArmA: If it’s stopping, then, and if you’re not stopping the fire that Blanche and ©kusougallery