Photo: Josh Wolf
In the early 70’s my life seemed fresh, wide open, but, having arrived in Boulder to be Trungpa Rinpoche’s student, it also seemed directionless and uncertain.
Like many early students, I went to ask Rinpoche for advice. I had an interview scheduled with him in his office at 1111 Pearl Street.
Rinpoche listened to my discursive verbal meandering and then said,
“Deal with the lack of resolution, which is life!”
My mind stopped. I sat there realizing that I was deluded into thinking, “If I did this… then I would be happy”, or “If I didn’t do that, but did the other, it would be the right thing to do.”
His statement stunned me. He was simultaneously lovingly and ruthlessly showing me that there was “no guarantee”—another one of his favorite expressions. I continued to sit there, stunned, but beginning to recognize that life was indeed an endless cycle of causes and conditions coming together, samsara in other words, and that this cycle of samsara was endless. As long as my happiness was dependent upon these causes and conditions, I would neither be content nor happy.
I continued to just sit there in his office. It was like a long, silent, sustained “Oh”… after all my previous jabbering. Maybe it was just a minute, but it felt longer.
When I rose to thank him and leave, he was smiling one of his huge Cheshire cat smiles. As I left his office, I felt light and completely groundless, without reference point. I had asked for direction, and all directions suddenly ceased to exist. But I felt more open than ever, but without any urgent grasping for purpose or relationship.
As I continued to walk down the stairs and out of the building, I began to sense that joy couldn’t be dependent upon the ever-changing factors of life. And that Rinpoche was throwing me back on myself to decide. He wasn’t going to play Daddy for me. He trusted me to choose what direction to take, and that whatever I chose, there would be “no guarantee.”