March 29, 2010

Tango with the Dancing Bear.

If it displeases you, leave it alone. Terchen Barway Dorje

I’m having a hard time getting this article past my wife, the editor. I suppose my tone is spoiling for a fight.

It’s times like these that I find myself discovering a whole new level of appreciation for the teachings of the whispered lineage.

Every week I do my best to engage my little audience here (either Karma Kagyu or sympathetic enough to consider a lineage-holder-based transmission of the dharma).

But as inevitably as mud beckons an eight-year-old boy come the first mild day of spring after a winter stuck indoors, I can’t resist messing with people.

Someone gets hurt, or offended, or simply doesn’t take a shine to me, and the trolls come out (love my trolls: like hitting pay dirt, it never gets old for me).

I readily admit that I am who I am, and not much has changed over the past half-century of my life since I took refuge, I’m afraid.

No surprise then that Taming the Wolf author Greg Stone (conflict resolution consultant) is so pissed at me (thank you Greg for making me so popular).

Call me whatever you like, the dancing bear a favorite (an interesting approach to conflict resolution): like Atisha taught, I’ll keep you in my mind.

More than a few here can distinguish between the swan song of a Karma Kagyu and the siren song of someone making it up as he goes along, and I write for those more than a few.

Like the 17th Karmapa said, we aren’t looking for converts to our lineage, so step off or step up; it makes no difference to me (both equally empty as far as I’m concerned).

As Terchen Barway Dorje (1836-1918) sang, “cast praise and disrespect to the winds.” My path is clear, regardless of whichever you choose.

All of my life I’ve had awkward encounters with people who can’t deal with me personally, or with the dharma of lineage holders (and, therefore, I must be a fraud).

It’s a bit like the government of Sri Lanka using Buddhism to justify suppressing the freedom of expression (there’s some dharma involved but it’s mostly personal).

I can’t speak for my readers, but I get a kick whenever trolls pop up calling me names (as if I actually cared what they think—this old bastard too far gone to care).

First it begins with talk of ego as if my beloved trolls would want to live in a world in which nobody has an ego.

In the seventies we had a problem with cults during the New Age epidemic before teachers such as Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche arrived to instruct us.

You always knew you were dealing with a cult when you began to feel your self-esteem being undermined.

At first they are nice but then they really begin to rag on you, going on about your ego and how it would so much easier if you didn’t have one.

It’s called psychology, and as Traleg Rinpoche has noted, whenever some cult goes off the deep end there’s always a psychologist leading the way.

We have no need for such nonsense as Buddhists unless our audience is made up of a bunch of shrinks in search of a deeper understanding of the mind.

“There’s nothing that needs to be discarded or abandoned and nothing that needs to be cultivated or added onto,” according to Kyabgon Traleg Rinpoche.

That’s always been my approach and the approach of every Karma Kagyu lineage holder from whom I’ve ever received the dharma.

Last appointment, my cardiologist called me the poster child for severe congestive heart failure (having lived to tell of the hell I’ve been through the past year).

In truth when he asked how I was doing all I could say was “I’m alive but I have no life” (which prompted his remarking how amazing it is that I’m even alive).

I credit the blessings of all of the ripening empowerments I’ve ever received from lineage holders (and their pointing-out instructions) for surviving it all.

If I didn’t have my ego, if I wasn’t who I am and didn’t have complete confidence in everything I’ve been taught by my teachers, I don’t know what I’d do.

In the end, as Barway Dorje sang in his day, “there are no words here meant to irritate anyone.” Step up or step off; the choice is yours.

Either way I’m more than glad to be a bear dancing for your amusement (writing about my life and times as a Karma Kagyu for my friend Waylon).

All I ask is that instead of spitting in my tip jar, make your voice heard politely and respectfully (and enjoy the conversation here that I hope I’m responsible for starting).


Karmapa Chenno

Bill Schwartz (@RyderJaphy on Twitter)

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