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To Do or To Not Do, that is the question


dwai
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Been going into this a bit more with some friends of mine (who I'm meditating with every day). As is expected, most of us have preconceived notions about our "true nature" and how complex or how simple "attaining/realizing that" would be. 

Because usually as beginners we start with a method, and then as time progresses, we go on to more methods (more in number, more in complexity, more in details), it is, therefore, natural to assume/expect that the "truth" can only be attainable by an immense feat of effort, which would entail some immensely complicated method (or combination of methods), and that, (methods and truth) are as of yet unattainable to us. 

The natural instinct is to think, "I'm not good enough for this...I don't deserve to know the truth, because I'm not disciplined enough/I've not put in enough time and effort into it yet/and or variations of such notions."

Also along with the above assumption, it is quite natural to expect that the Truth will be immensely complicated too. I mean, this is the truth behind our entire manifest universe of infinite complexity and variety...how can it less complicated than it's 'sum total'? It only has to be more. 

To exacerbate this, we also have an ecosystem around the spiritual teachings, being passed down through time which romanticize the truth as being a earth-shattering, sky-exploding fruit of extreme valor/labor/effort/etc etc. The truth is indeed is earth-shattering and world-exploding, but not because it is complicated. It is so because it is so simple, so simply ordinary that we never consider it as being the truth.

So when a friend of mine objected to the notion that we are all, already the truth (Self) and no effort is needed to "become" that, I had to ask this oft-repeated question. "How far do you have to travel, to become your Self? How long do you have to try, in order to become your Self?" 

The Self/True Nature/etc etc is right here and right now. There is no where to go, nothing to do to attain it from outside. All we have to do, is let go of the concepts and labels we cling to, and we'll find ourselves resting in our true Nature. 

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Barb Ortega
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Nice post, Dwai!  As I see it, the motivation to spiritually grow comes from within.  That 'thing' that keeps pushing us upward toward the light.  It brings us through the situations we need to learn from - and repeatedly, unless the causation is removed.  And that causation is within ourselves too.  We can tell from the kinds of people and situations that we draw to ourselves.  We find out that our outside life is a reflection of our inner motives.

And then comes the reading, or the instruction.  And that goes on for years and years.  And you're right - because there is so much to learn one assumes that the final answer will be complicated.  So many structures and paths to choose from.  So many swamis and yogis and rinpoches to listen to.  Certainly this must be some huge, complicated reward we get.

So we add all this knowledge to our psyche.  We assume that by studying and studying that this will get us there.  And then, one day if we're lucky, we realize that the study was necessary, but not the end.  That takes us as far as our mental capacity will allow.

But then we discover that adding more brain knowledge isn't the end of it.  It's just the beginning of it.  From this point on, it's a process of elimination of undesirable tendencies within us that impede our progress.  Old snowballs that have been rolling down a hill since childhood, and have now gotten huge.  These tiny things in childhood which still remain with us - those little incidents and feelings cast a huge shadow over our adult lives.  Until we become capable of looking at ourselves impartially, fearlessly, unafraid of what we'll find.  Because through this will come clarity.  When clarity is achieved and we realize who we really are, the heart is able to relax and find peace.

What a gift.  My whole life I've felt that I didn't fit in anywhere, leading to alcoholism and ultimately recovery.  I didn't realize that I was walking around with a clenched heart when it came to meeting new people or walking into a crowded room.  The change first appeared very subtly and I hardly noticed it.  Now I have access on demand to retreat to that soft, warm place in my heart - to rest there, in the knowledge that this is the same Dao or I Am or Buddha-mind that we all have access to, because that same awareness lies dormant in everyone's heart, often undiscovered.  It gives me the realization that we are all the same animal, and remembering that alone immediately unclenches any part of me that's tangled that day.

Yes, the true nature is simple and uncomplicated.  And I've had to come to grips that some of my traits are just there and they're just part of 'who I am'.  Accepting that was growth for me too, because my default dynamic is to shoot for perfection, and I realized that I would never obtain perfection.  So the expression 'Return to Yourself' is meaningful to not only know who we really are, but to accept our human traits as well.

Being mindful of character(which I define as 'what you do when no one is watching), being mindful of what we say, being mindful to not make judgments when they're not necessary - for me, this is the path now.  Chopping wood and carrying water.  And learning to wear the robe and follow the inner voice as to how to wear it wisely.  What a blessing this is, to be fore-armed with the knowledge that sometimes Not Doing, not messing with the dynamics, is the very thing that will achieve the perfect outcome.

We have truly been gifted.

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steve
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I'll share here my reply to the same post on "the other forum."

I think it's important to keep in mind when we may discussing the "absolute view" or "our true nature" with those who may have not yet discovered that view.

 

As you know, this is also essentially my view and practice - dzogchen.

 

And yet I think it is extremely important to recognize and acknowledge that this approach simply doesn't work for everyone.

In fact, it works for a very small number of individuals based on their karma. Others may never get this view throughout their lifetime. One of the reasons that dzogchen has traditionally been highly secretive is someone not karmically connected to this view and teaching can find it confusing, frustrating, even harmful. They may denigrate the teaching or it may lead to reckless behavior, or loss of confidence in the dharma. I've seen that happen. In the history of Buddhism there are countless criticisms and arguments against the dzogchen view by highly accomplished masters, it's not just a matter of laypeople "not getting it." It is a precious and priceless teaching but just sharing it with people is no assurance they will "get it."

 

So I say all this because while some are extremely fortunate to have connected with this view, there needs to be a degree of sensitivity that many people will not connect, maybe never. When they do not connect, those continuing to espouse this view can come across as arrogant or demeaning. It can be frustrating and painful to listen to others proclaim how simple and effortless it all is when to any given individual, it may not feel at all simple or effortless. We see that here from time to time. For this reason in both Buddhism and Bon there are many other paths - sutra, tantra, all the causal paths of Bon; all of which are there to allow those who cannot connect to the simple path to find a way forward, a way out of confusion and suffering.

 

I post this not to be critical but to be supportive of those who may be interested in this type of view but not be able to connect with it yet. Not being able to connect with this, or any other, view does not mean the view is not correct; nor does it mean that we are lesser practitioners or mistaken. It simply means the view is not correct for ME at this moment in my life due to the complex interaction of causes and conditions that are my karma. I can, and hopefully will, remain open to the possibility that I may "get it" at some point in the future but I may need to go through other things before that occurs - life experiences, practices, receiving of blessings, etc... I think that's a valuable way to approach anything we don't understand - remain open and it may become more clear at some point in the future. This is far better, IMO, than shutting it out and labeling it "wrong."

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dwai
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Another tendency I've observed (including in myself) is that we tend to gravitate towards a binary logic filter. I attribute it to our modern propensity for things digital.

 

In a binary logic filter, if "A" is true, then "B" is not true. A and B are mutually exclusive. 

Binary logic doesn't work very well with things spiritual, where we frequently encounter paradoxes.

So is saying "The Truth is simple and no effort is needed to remain as the Self" the same as meaning any effort is not required? Of course not. Effort might be required to realize that no effort is required :D 

As @steve points out, that might indeed be the case for the majority of us. 

So Self-realization and Effort are not mutually exclusive. Effort is needed until it is no longer needed. 

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Naveed Chaudhry
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Really like your point @dwai: "Effort is needed until it is no longer needed".

I'm more of a person who chases after freedom. First I thought it came from the external, then I thought it came from the internal. Just now I'm realizing it comes from neither, as freedom was always there and never need be created. I wrote a poem regarding this matter of to do or not to do, and the quest for enlightenment/liberation/finding the self.

 

Fly Freely

You who has ripped your wings,
bound your legs,
dulled your talons,
and covered your gaze

You who has,
tied those chains,
grasped those acids,
and drawn those covers,

You who,
captured that desire,
tainted that beauty,
and accepted that darkness

You,
the infinite,
the unchanged,
and the omnipotent

 

In this case, I find that the most dangerous chains/bindings are those that were never there. Physical chains can be seen and broken. Spiritual chains cannot be broken, they must be dropped by he that is bound or made invisible by disuse. Still, its hard to find the "to do or to not to do", as one like myself finds their lives wholly mundane with the illusion keeping a steady appearance. But as I contemplate more and more, it becomes more of a passing moment.

@manitou I remember you mentioning how even though we can know the truth, it is another to understand it through ones heart. I believe we all drift in this same manner. Some understand through meditation, others through contemplation, etc. That's where the doing comes in as it seems to take effort to fight against the tide, but tbh most of that effort happens without my input/control; like a leaf flowing down a stream. Moving regardless, it's actions and doubts all accounted for towards the destination.

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Barb Ortega
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What a wonderful way life has of bringing us to the light.  Regardless of how close to the light we may or may not get in any one lifetime, perhaps the next.  What amazes me is that people all around the world, and in all times in the past - have been propelled to try to understand this upward force inside, which is only proof to me that no one religion is any better than any other one - which includes atheism too.  What I do see it proving, is that the force inside which propels us is common in people around the world.  And listening to that silent voice that impels and draws to us that which we need for growth - that to me is the 'primal intelligence that just doesn't stop'.

And depending on where we were born in the world and our early conditioning, a template is often laid out in front of us - usually in the form of the religion of our parents.  We are molded into that thought pattern, possibly only to have to shed it later.  Or shed it - and return to it when it becomes a matter of choice and comfort with the old setting.  There's just something about those old Christian hymns - Old Rugged Cross, I Come to the Garden Alone....that transports me back to a simpler time, a time that feels like Home.

What a beautiful poem, @mithras.  Your soul shines through.

 

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Naveed Chaudhry
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Is the to do or not to do, all in conjunction with home? Do the templates we take on obscure where this home really is? Is all righteous action in direction towards our true home, where we feel, well 'at home'? Do those who already find themselves at home, resting in fulfillment, need 'to do'?

 

In your mentioning of home, I find that seekers tend to search for that home they've forgotten. They may experience life and death, worlds upon worlds, but they panic when realizing that they have forgotten where they can return to and rest. Hence like a blind man, searching for his home within his vast manor, they become familiar with the truth (self knowledge): the stairways, doors, halls; all these things which they first mistook for something else. With the halls becoming forests, kitchens becoming hell, dining rooms becoming heaven. Is all righteous action then to familiarize ourselves with this truth?

*this illustration, is admittedly is not the best and there are many flaws such as how in truth there is no seperation between subject (blind man) and object (manor)*

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