The True-Self: Impersonal and Individual.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Apr 12, 2011
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“When life flows through us in such a pure and powerful way, utterly beyond any preconception or idea that we may have, we have found our true life.”

“…When we abandon the idea that what we ‘really’ are is a centralized self corresponding to our ideas, we discover ourselves as the unceasing, ever-changing kaleidoscope of experience that arises as our life. So we discover that we are, in each moment, a truly individual phenomenon, not limited even (or especially) by any notion of a continuous or coherent ‘self…’

At this point, we begin to sense that our experience, and thus our immediate life, is ultimately not about us nor is it for us. We begin to sense that we are vessels or vehicles for something much larger—in fact, reality itself, in all its vastness—and that our lives are unfolding rather completely independently of our own personal sense of ‘self,’ with its various hopes and fears, its ambitions and agendas. We begin to realize, in other words, that our life is ultimately not a personal phenomena at all.

Ironically enough, the realization that our life is not a personal phenomena marks the birth of our true individuality…

This realization, of course, can only occur when any self-conscious “I,” even any sense of ‘me’ being me, has ceased, if only for a moment. When it does occur, this realization is accompanied by a very powerful and life-changing awareness. Undeniably and astoundingly, we discover that, when life flows through us in such a pure and powerful way, utterly beyond any preconception or idea that we may have, we have found our true life.” ~from Touching Enlightenment With The Body by Reggie Ray

Change is the only constant. It is in the unsettling or unexpected moments of “our” life that we realize the inevitable and unavoidable truth that we are not other than life. In fact, we are an example of life.

If we have the courage to move beyond “our” interpretation of life, and rest in a direct experience of the eternally unfolding present moment, there we will find our True-Self. It is the impersonal and individual awareness—the enlightened mind—underlying this eternal revolution. ~from Life Is Verbing by Ben Riggs


Dr. Reggie Ray currently resides in Crestone, Colorado, where he is Spiritual Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the practice, study and preservation of the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and the practice lineage he embodied.

The Dharma Ocean Foundation has an online media store where you can download “theme-based affordable bundles of talks, as well as complete program recordings.” Right now they are offering a free MP3 or PDF download, a talk from Reggie Ray entitled, “Emotional Awakening.” Click here for this free download.

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About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


26 Responses to “The True-Self: Impersonal and Individual.”

  1. TamingAuthor says:

    Astoundingly wrong. Buddhism in the West has been so altered that it no longer resembles anything taught by the Buddha Shakyamuni — then or now. Those ideas that are easiest to cling to will always become the ideas most loudly proclaimed in Samsara. If not, more would have achieved liberation.

    Does it matter? I am beginning to think not. Those who truly desire liberation will find it … most likely in the bardo stages …. and those who hunger and thirst for samsara will cling to wrong views. There is a reason the bramble bush patch is filled with suffering souls.

    Am always curious about how people come to embrace the Reggie Ray's of the world. Always wonder what triggers, what karmic imprints, draw them to the message. Fun to sort out but perhaps not all that valuable to most people, who concentrate on seeking that which provides the most comfort.

    Rambling… I am beginning to think that Buddhism in the West is indeed "comfort food." It is no longer seen as a real discipline and challenge but rather a kind of teddy bear we can take to bed, a sweet bite of comfort food so that we can sleep at night. Am I too harsh in my analysis?

  2. Joe A. says:

    I'd much sooner embrace Reggie Ray than a bitter pedant like TamingAuthor, one that pontificates on — nay, shrieks about — the lack of "true" dhamma in someone else's teaching. Pfffffth!

  3. BenRiggs says:

    Surely you are not suggesting that Reggie Ray is without lineage?

  4. BenRiggs says:

    Do I think you are too harsh in your analysis?
    Hmmmmm…. No, not necessarily.

    I will tell you what I think though.

    I think your analysis and the harsh tone is a symptom of your perspective.
    I think your perspective is that of a sophisticated fundamentalist.
    I think fundamentalism is a doctrine of self-preservation, and the harsh tone is the expected tone of a threatened ego.

    I doubt that you have the relative or experiential credentials that Reggie Ray posses…Or, for that matter, many of the other well established teachers you have regularly refuted. On what basis do you refute them? Because you do not like what they say? Teachings are established as valid or invalid through experimentation, not "rambling"… If what the "Buddha said" doesn't check out in my daily life, then i don't give a damn what the Buddha said!

    Sure there are "comfort food" tendencies in American Buddhism. But there are comfort food tendencies in Tibetan and Indian Buddhism as well. I have seen them.

    I believe that Reggie Ray is making a necessary and appropriate contribution to Buddhism when he translates it into an American context. I am not Indian or 2,500 years old… I do not speak Pali or Tibetan… Buddhism has to be extracted from the Asian backdrop and put in a modern context.

  5. TamingAuthor says:

    Joe, that is the choice. Does one go with Buddhism as comfort food or does one take the route laid out by the Buddha? No bitterness involved in laying out those choices. One can look at the teachings and then look at Ray's words and see the difference. The only bitterness is in the fruit one harvests if one rejects the teachings. That was the point the Buddha made—ignorance brings samsaric suffering. And he charted a path out of that suffering. One can take it or not take it.

  6. TamingAuthor says:

    Padma, that was the point. The mainstream does not uphold (or even teach) Buddhism and the result is something quite different. It becomes a version of western pop psychology. Or comfort food.

    I agree there are a few teachers who are authentic lineage holders — my evaluation is more on the quality of their work than official status. Trungpa was legitimate. Sogyal Rinpoche teaches valid concepts. Kenchen Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche is excellent. Am not too familiar with Geshe Kelsang Gyatso but some of his writing reflects a deep understanding. There are others but it seems they are the exception rather than the rule. Would be interested in hearing about the teachers you found.

  7. TamingAuthor says:

    Absolutely, my perspective drives my analysis and harsh tone. Who believes it is okay to mislead people with regard to the teachings? That would not be my perspective. The Buddha himself was not a happy camper when he met those who altered what he was attempting to teach.

    Would agree I am a fundamentalist if that means adhering to the fundamentals of the discipline. If one uproots the fundamentals, one cannot deliver the results. That is all that matters at the end of the day. Was the student helped in their effort to achieve liberation and enlightenment, or not?

    Fundamentalism has zero to do with "self preservation" or "ego." It is simply a question of does one provide valid teachings or does one alter fundamentals so you no longer present what the Buddha taught? If the Buddha showed a prisoner the location of the key and how to unlock the gates and now a teacher hides the key and claims the gates cannot be opened, then that is a problem. Pretty straightforward concept.

    As for credentials Ray is not even close. The basis on which I refute them is having studied with the Buddha during the entire time he has been teaching. (He continues to teach to this day. If one does not understand that, one has missed the entire subject.)

    The teachings are not established by "experimentation." They are established by following the discipline and the concepts conveyed in the texts and putting them into application. One then observes firsthand the results the Buddha promised. This is not experimentation in the sense of making it up as one goes. The teachings, when followed, work in daily life. If one has actual experience with the discipline one cares deeply what the Buddha said, as one knows the value of his instruction. At that point there is no need to be cynical about the teachings.

    There may be comfort food tendencies elsewhere as well, but they are pronounced in this culture where western pop psychology has tainted the student (and teacher) pool. There is sense of the discipline being an escape rather than realizing it is a tough, tough go. The practice causes great discomfort and challenge. It is an uphill slog of considerable magnitude not a matter of how do I find comfort and ease in today's world.

    If you do not realize you are much more than 2,500 years old then you have not begun to touch the most elementary aspects of Buddhism. If you are thinking "modern context," you are already off on another path. Reggie Ray, as lovable a fellow as he may be (?), expresses non-Buddhist concepts in the above excerpt. It is easy to do. Frankly, one attracts many, many more adherents if one slants the teaching away from what the Buddha taught to something with the sweet smell of samsara. All the better to cling to…

  8. BenRiggs says:

    "Fundamentalism is strict adherence to specific set of theological doctrines typically in reaction against the theology of Modernism."
    So, I, in fact, did not mean that you stick to the fundamentals… I meant you cannot see the fundamentals expressing themselves in modern terms because you cling so tightly to tradition.

  9. TamingAuthor says:

    Then I would have to reject your analysis. It is not applicable. In fact, sounds kinda like an off-the-shelf post modernist intellectual diatribe. Which further makes my point — these ideas are not Buddhism but rather some other concoction.

    In Buddhism, one does not have modernism, post modernism, theological doctrines. And the teachings of Buddhism span a tremendous period of time, on the order of thousands of trillions of years. (See the Lotus Sutra Chapter 16 for a short introduction.)

    Fundamentals, in terms of Buddhism, are not set in a particular century, but rather undercut all existence. They are the fundamentals that are timeless, that stand outside the temporal markers such as modernism. The existence of Buddhas, enlightened ones, is not an invention of a particular culture and period, but rather stands outside all time. One can study with the Buddha today just as one did 2500 years ago. Modernism does not figure into the picture in any way.

    It is not difficult to locate the teachings that make this clear — the Buddha taught liberation from the aggregates, which are temporal fabrications. Thus, when you attempt to define and limit or alter Buddhism based on ideas of modernism and post modernism, it is clear this is not Buddhism, as it involves using temporally constrained concepts to limit that which has no such limits.

    One can clearly see concepts that are not part of the fundamental teachings being used to limit and alter the teachings. Do you see why it is so easy to say that is not Buddhism?

  10. Padma Kadag says:

    No Ben…Excuse my inference…I am not suggesting that Ray does not have a lineage. I am not familiar at all with him. My comment was for Taming's comment.

  11. BenRiggs says:

    Of course my analysis was relevant::

    Ego identifies with ideology & idealogical language, etc… (materialism)
    Ego clings to these things, as it is dependent upon these things…
    Ego seeks to defend the ideology by preventing it from assimilating to the relative time and place. (self-preservation)

    Milarepa was charged with much of the criticism you bring to bear on Reggie Ray.
    The fact is that many of the mahasiddhas did not speak of dharma in traditional terms. In fact Chogyam Trungpa had a bit of a modern tongue!

  12. BenRiggs says:

    "For all we know, he, too, was a student of someone who took the teachings and altered them. "
    Ray was a student of Chogyam Trungpa. I posted a short bio of him at the bottom of the page.

  13. Jay N says:

    The realm of the absolute is timeless, beyond time. The relative world of form evolves, yet they are not two. If Buddhism had to rely on the harshly pedantic hollering head school of fundamentalist religion, a la FOX TV, then I suspect it would have died off long ago. Instead it has managed to stay vital and relevant precisely because what it points to is timeless, and Embodiment is the expression of the veracity of any practice. We look around and see for ourselves.

  14. BenRiggs says:

    I posted a short bio about him at the bottom of the comment section. He is a qualified teacher!

  15. TamingAuthor says:

    All irrelevant and non-applicable.

    In fact, the ideologies in question, such as modernism, post modernism, materialism, are what I am objecting to. And it is the clinging to materialism (also discussed by the Buddha) that makes the turn away from the Dharma into the ignorance that generates samsara.

    Buddhism is timeless. It can be assimilated into any era. That differs from altering Buddhism to meet the wrong views of a particular era. For example, the Buddha clearly dismisses materialism as a wrong view. It would still be a wrong view today, even though the culture as a whole and many individuals cling to materialism.

    It is not a matter of "a modern tongue." That is twisting my words. I have no problem with speaking of Buddhism in clear, contemporary vernacular. That has never been my objection. I simply object to altering the fundamental concepts. Was Milarepa criticized for embracing wrong views? Maybe you could be specific on that.

  16. TamingAuthor says:

    That makes perfect sense and, if anything, verifies my objection.

    I met Trungpa in 1973 when he first came to Boulder. His hosts, acquaintances of mine, were psych grad students at CU. The people who founded Naropa, with Trungpa, integrated western psychology into the curriculum. To this day, one finds this to be the case. This is where one finds the western psych views (contrary to Buddhism) tainting what is delivered at Naropa, and eventually, after Trungpa's passing, at Shambhala. This was the open door to alteration with views of materialism and, of course, comfort food (a must in Boulder).

    The quality of instruction at Shambhala after Trungpa passed plummeted with perhaps the exception of Pema Chodron, who, of course, is not in Boulder but now in Canada. (Where Waylon's mom also takes part in the Shambhala community.)

    The Boulder community was a major challenge, and in many ways a disappointment, for Trungpa. The stories of the problems and shortcomings of the Shambhala community are, of course, legendary. And they, unfortunately, tarnish the reputation of a teacher of considerable merit.

    I can see that bias and emotion are filtering out my words so there is not even the slightest understanding of what I am writing. So be it.

  17. TamingAuthor says:

    Perhaps you could educate me about the scope of lifetimes in which you have studied and practiced Buddhism. As you looked around and saw for yourself the scope and history of Buddhism ( as laid out in the Lotus Sutra, for example) what did you notice? How does the Buddha speak to materialism today? Perhaps you could help me understand the last verse in the Dhammapada, as you get the concept of not being tied to one time, one culture. Here it is…

    "Whoever knows all his past lives,
    Sees both the happy and unhappy realms,
    Is free from rebirth,
    Has achieved perfect insight,
    And has attained the summit of the higher life.
    Him do I call a Noble One."

    How does that work with the comments from Ray?

  18. BenRiggs says:

    Ray's comments do not disagree with this.
    I have met people who suggest that "knowing all your past lives" means that you can recall every single existence. Would you agree?

  19. BenRiggs says:

    Reggie Ray makes no bones about his affection for the likes of Jung. He didn't, as you assume, get introduced to Jung in Boulder though… This introduction took place in Europe.

  20. BenRiggs says:

    I am saying that you cling, not to Buddhism, but to the Buddha's words, i.e. a fundamentalist.
    The Buddhist path is one of experimentation, not memorization.

  21. TamingAuthor says:

    I know that is your accusation, but it is inaccurate.

    As noted elsewhere, Buddhism is not about experimentation, but rather practice. The very name defines it as following the path of concepts and practices laid out by the Buddha, designed to take one from a state of attachment and ignorance into a state of liberation and enlightenment.

    Buddhism is not "whatever, dude."

    And it is from that practice, from that firsthand experience, with the Buddha, that I offer notes on what the practice is … and what it is not. Nothing memorized. All from firsthand experience. At times, it helps to refer to the sacred texts he left behind in order to provide others with a way to verify if what they are doing matches with his advice. He left a road map. Why not follow it?

  22. TamingAuthor says:

    Doesn't matter where he was introduced to Jung, the fact is that Naropa, from its inception, incorporated western psychology with Buddhism, and thus tainted its offerings. Pretty simple history to research and verify.

  23. BenRiggs says:

    I am not arguing that Naropa offered courses in Western thought… It is in the west, so I believe it. I do not need to verify that. I do need clarification, as to why that is bad thing. Nalanda had non-Buddhist studies?

  24. TamingAuthor says:

    If you buy a new Porsche and the instructions tell you it runs on gasoline you would not then put sugar water into the tank and expect it to run.

    Buddhism is based on certain axioms, which then can be verified by the practice. If one inserts the axioms of western psychology, which are the antithesis of Buddhism, one crashes the practice. One has introduced wrong views that inhibit successful practice.

    It is all at a very practical level.

  25. […] Chapter 3-a: The True-Self: Impersonal and Individual. […]