The Parakalein

Chiron instructing Achilles in the art of drawing the bow

Chiron instructing Achilles in the art of drawing the bow

Over, under, around and through.
mepa, chigpu, chelwa, lhundrup

There is a thread of truth that runs through all the various spiritual teachings of this world. The endless bolts of exquisite brocade called Buddha Dharma display an infinite interweaving of that single thread in such a perfusion of meaningful patterns that liberating relevance can be found by all living beings.

This single thread of truth is so incomprehensibly fine that if it were possible to braid together 84,000 such threads, and then take 84,000 of those braids and braid them together, the result would still be infinitely finer than the web strand of the Golden Orb Spider. In fact, the thread of truth is so fine that it would not be wrong to say that it is far beyond the threshold of substance. Being so insubstantial, it is tempting to consider it altogether non-existent. And yet, it proves itself absolutely unbreakable as it continuously supports, by suspension, the unfathomable weight of all the densely congealed substantiations of reified thoughts, that is, the entire phenomenal universe.

The ultimate context of all and everything is primordial spaciousness. How can we understand this space? To be practical in regards to liberating ourselves from confusion, there are various ways to go about working with our own misunderstandings. These different ways differ only in that they begin at different points and proceed in different arcs of directedness. The more circuitous ways are appropriate for those who have more patience or who still have some nostalgia about their own suffering. The more direct ways are good for the impatient ones whose weariness has turned to laziness and a preoccupation with short-cuts. Accordingly, the practice of Dzogchen is said to be the most direct path. Even within the practice of Dzogchen there are different styles of practice that accommodate different temperaments, aptitudes, lifestyles, etc. The Dzogchen style transmitted and epitomized by the incomparable master Padmasambhava represents an esoteric approach that is as relevant today as it was a thousand years ago. To approach the practice of Dzogchen in the style of Padmasambhava there is a particular way to orient yourself.

Space is the context of all potentialities. Pristine awareness is the primordial state of that space. So, space and pristine awareness are not different — they are indivisible. Furthermore, space is not static. It is a process that is unceasingly creating the dimension of openness. It is impossible and pointless to imagine a beginning to the process of space because, by definition, the openness that is created by space is always in the process of opening. Pristine awareness is a quality of one’s own mind and has always been present, regardless of whether it has been recognized as such. The main feature of pristine awareness is its luminous radiance which naturally and spontaneously organizes itself into five waveforms of color. This awareness-space is the primordial condition. Since it is primordial, it is prior to and unaffected by the conditions of Nirvana and Samsara. Moreover, all of the details and aspects of both Nirvana and Samsara are essentially never anything other than the primordial purity of pristine awareness. So, even those things that are commonly characterized as erroneous are never separate from pristine awareness because as soon as the error’s energy is exhausted, everything returns to the primordial condition. This is like the water in a pond that becomes murky when agitated but automatically becomes clear again when left undisturbed — or like an albatross that flies away from the mast of a ship that is far out to sea. Although she can fly for many miles in any direction, there is no place to land other than by returning to the ship.

Another way to understand this is to understand that every falsehood presents itself exclusively in the form of interpretation. In other words, falsehood results from misinterpreting that which is true. Interpretation is all about how things seem. So, all error could be understood to arise from one’s own tinkering with reality. The important distinction to be made here is the difference between interpretation and understanding. Interpretation is a hypothesis about meaning, whereas understanding is a spontaneous auto-cognizance of relation. The fact that relation is the context of one’s own understanding is the inner meaning of Buddha’s doctrine of interdependence. One’s degree, or level, or depth of understanding, however, is commensurate with one’s level-of being — the highest level (figuratively) being buddhahood. In order to enjoy the highest level of understanding we must be at the highest level-of-being.

In general, we don’t understand very much. And what little we do understand we contaminate with interpretations. The negative connotation of the word contaminate is only tentative because interpretation is only a glitch if you are interested in becoming an enlightened being. Otherwise, becoming more adept at interpretations is an advantage in ordinary life — an advantage not to the individual, mind you, but to the relentless process of world-systems coming and going, and our minute and arbitrary role in that process. So, in order to liberate ourselves from such cosmic exploitation we need to have a change in perspective. To begin in the Dzogchen method of Padmasambhava, you simply relax and see if you can notice how it is, inside and out, without any interpretation. If we do this, before too long, we will understand that things are what they are but not what they seem. With this genuine understanding it becomes possible to liberate oneself very quickly by working exclusively within the energy-wake of one’s master. In this very way, Yeshe Tsogyel attained the level of enlightenment in every way equal to her master, Padmasambhava.

We are always in the primordial condition of is and isn’t. How this condition is mediated depends on whether we are in a state of awareness or unawareness. Unawareness is a going astray from pristine awareness but never diminishes the pervasiveness of pristine awareness. This is like running and jumping in a beautiful open meadow. We can run and jump and become completely integrated with the limitless spaciousness. We can also spin around and get dizzy and fall to the ground, even getting some dirt and grass in our mouth. Falling down due to dizziness is what is meant by going astray. Samsara is the state of having gone astray. Nirvana is running and jumping in a beautiful meadow. The primordial space of pristine awareness, our own real condition, is where all of that happens. The tension arc of Achilles’ bow is the primordial is and isn’t. Achilles’ motivation in drawing the bow is the mediating force that determines the arrow’s meaning.

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