Lojong: Liberate Yourself By Examining & Analyzing. ~ Linda Lewis

Via on Dec 8, 2009

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Buddhadharma in Everyday Life.

What makes the Mahayana “maha,” or great, is that it is both profound and vast.

Its profundity comes from the prajna (insight) that undermines the tendency to take everything as seriously real—as permanent, solid, and unchanging. By exposing the notions of “I” and “mine” to the light of prajna, we find neither a self nor any phenomena. Instead we are left with selflessness and the essence-lessness of ever-changing phenomena. This discovery is liberating because, if we are not imprisoned in fictional identities or images, it is possible to extend genuine compassion to everyone. And that compassion is what makes the Mahayana vast.

There are three traditional analogies for those on this profound and vast Mahayana path: there is the bodhisattva shepherd who guides the flock to enlightenment by putting himself or herself last; there is the ferryman who arrives with the passengers at the other shore at the same time; and then there is the king who decides to enlighten himself first. These are all valid stages in the bodhisattva path.

In the beginning it’s good to be like the king, to work on ourself first, to learn to meditate and practice tonglen (giving and taking) in order to erode our habit of clinging to “me” and to “mine.”

An additional skill at this beginning stage is analytical meditation, which sheds even more light and can be an insightful boost to practice.

Thus the slogan:

Liberate yourself by examining and analyzing.

This is an invitation to look at the mind. Just look. Do you find anything? Although we may find neither a “mind” nor a “self,” there is this clear, ready cognizance—the ability or capacity to know. In other words, it is not a blank; the looking is bright. But because there is no object to know in the moment of looking inward, there is also no subject. There is just this bright, non-dual gap that interrupts any emotionality, thinking, or fixation—at least for that moment.

That experiential moment is a basis for faith that practice works. The not-finding aspect is the momentary experience of emptiness or shunyata. Sometimes those words scare people. If so replace them with the word openness. These are all just words trying inadequately to point to a powerful and undeniable, if brief experience. The bright energy of looking reveals that the empty or open experience is in fact not blank, but is charged with possibilities.

It is an awake moment, not a nihilistic one.

The erosion, even momentary, of self-fixation enables compassion to flow. The less we cling to self and our agendas, the more we are able to be like the ferryman—generous, patient, motivated to help others get to the shore of liberation. Likewise, the repeated experience of profound emptiness motivates us to compassionate activity, which occurs spontaneously, not laboriously.

When the habit of ego-cherishing re-arises, we turn again and again to the daily practice of meditation and tonglen, reinforced by these moments of repeated looking and investigating. Through examining and not finding anything, we begin to see that “self” is no more than a fabricated, fictional character like Scrooge. Seeing this, we feel liberated from the old story lines and self-centered dramas and can be open to the people in our world.

By stabilizing this realization of selflessness, we fully enter the Mahayana. We are no longer merely aspiring to do so. This is the stage of the shepherd bodhisattva, who vows not to attain enlightenment until everyone has been liberated. This is the full fruition of tonglen, realizing that there is no separation between seeming self and seeming “other.” (And of course, this complete and genuine selflessness is enlightenment!)

There is a wonderful story that illustrates this in Words of My Perfect Teacher. Evidently Patrul Rinpoche encountered a mother struggling to carry her child up and down the rocky mountain paths on her way to a monastery to hear a great teacher. Patrul Rinpoche, who often looked dusty and rumpled, came upon this woman and immediately offered to carry her child on his shoulders, telling the grateful mother that he was headed the same way.

When they arrived at the monastery, the child scampered in and the mother quietly took her seat beside him in the back—until, to her amazement, Patrul Rinpoche walked to the front and took his seat on the teaching throne and began to teach!

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5 Responses to “Lojong: Liberate Yourself By Examining & Analyzing. ~ Linda Lewis”

  1. Hilary Lindsay says:

    Hey Bob,
    What an interesting response! The fact that you chose between Buddhism and Yoga shows what a hard thinking guy you are and I know where you're coming from. I've grown up there as the rogue experimenter in a community of high achieving thinkers. Most of my thinking has just made me crazy. I think you can incorporate tenets of any philosophy without having to lock into one thing. I can't feel no self and no mind right now sitting at this computer, engaging on elephant but I have known it at times. There is so much offered by thinkers before us. I enjoyed this post and will take away the possibilities indicated by Linda's experience of Buddhism.

    • Thanks, Hilary. I wrote that over a year ago. But everything I said is even more true today. Yoga takes me dramatically beyond my natural hyper-analytical self, while at the same time making me infinitely more appreciative of my hyper-analytical self. Does that make any sense?

      Buddhism causes me personally to get more analytical, because it is itself, to me, so analytically reductionist. For the next person, they may need exactly what Buddhism offers. It's all just individual need and preference.

      Bob W.
      Yoga Editor

  2. Linda-Sama says:

    Bob, why do you feel you "had" to choose anything? Why do you always put these two subjects in an either/or dichotomy?

    As for your statements "Buddhism made me feel small and illusory" and "Buddhism causes me…" with respect, Buddhism has nothing to do with how you feel. You make yourself feel that way. That's like saying "X makes me feel X" or "he/she makes me feel like shit" or worse, "he/she made me do it." No…we make ourselves feel the way we do, ultimately.

    • Hi, Linda.

      I just meant I had to choose where to put my time in, what to read, what to practice, what to learn. I didn't and don't feel I can practice both Yoga and Buddhism deeply, or even a lot of variations of either. Maybe over a lifetime I could. But I don't have a lifetime anymore!

      You're absolutely right that Buddhism didn't do anything to me. You rephrased it exactly right. I "reacted to it" in this way. It didn't "do this to me". That's what I meant all along, but your way of putting it is much better. I was clearly just describing my individual personal experience.

      The flaws you've identified in my thinking are exactly what I mean by my "hyper-analytical" nature which Yoga helps me balance. My mind always wants to slice and dice and categorize and evaluate, by deep-seeded nature, and so I also love intellectual debate, even argument.

      Nothing wrong with this. But it needs to be balanced by music and Yoga and kind-hearted critics like yourself.

      Thanks for writing.

      Bob W.
      Yoga Editor

  3. [...] or a bad thing. In Buddhism, judging is viewed as essential, a potential positive. It’s prajna, or discernment, the sword of wisdom that pierces confusion or neurosis [...]

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