Saturday, November 16, 2013

Feeding the Ghosts

There is a teaching in Tibetan Buddhism about "feeding the ghosts." One can think of this as the forces which cause harm- illness, misfortune, etc. In Tibetan, these are called döns. The idea is that these things come along in order to wake us up. 

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche explains, "Whenever any difficult situation comes along, you begin to feel grateful. At this point, you regard anything that can wake you up as best. You regard anything that provides you with the opportunity for mindfulness or awareness, anything that shocks you, as best, rather than always trying to ward off any problems."

This is the same idea as regarding obstacles as path. We use all of these seeming upheavals as opportunities for practice- to hone our awareness, to look more closely at our mind, to work with ourselves. This a very rich and fertile ground for transformation. 

We can let go of the idea so ingrained in Western culture, that things ought to be smooth and lifeless. We as a society somehow aspire to float seamlessly through life, and then die in our sleep. But the utter truth of the matter is that very few of us have such an easy time of it. And it is in trying so hard to arrive at some smooth existence, struggling so hard against calamity, that we amplify our own suffering. We think something is wrong- that we should fix it! That if we were better people or had better jobs or were more attractive or meditated more, that then we could enjoy some easy sailing. And we are running around like mad trying to get there. Attain that. 

Even enlightenment isn't about attaining something. There really is no place to go. We refer to enlightened beings as realized beings. This manner of speaking invokes the relaxation that is required- to realize something implies that it has been there all along, and one has finally noticed it. It is not acquired. The word realize is itself derived from the root real or actual. It is what actually is. Beneath it all. One need only to relax around all that resistance.

We can relax around our idea of obstacles too. Around the döns that arise. In fact, we can embrace these fluxes of life as the richest opportunities for us to learn about relaxing.  It's like the cliché: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'd even go so far as to say that death is the ultimate learning opportunity, but that's an entirely different discussion.

Once we get used to the idea of obstacles actually helping us along the path to clarity and awareness and our relationship with our own mind, we can even begin to invite obstacles into our life. We know that we want to do all the work we can in this life of strengthening the mind, understanding ourselves, and ultimately using this to benefit all beings. So we ask for it. We invite it. We say, "I am here, and I want to do as much work as I can with my own mind and my own being so that I can benefit as many beings as possible in the best ways that I can." We stop thinking about ourselves- about our comfort or discomfort, or about what is inconvenient to our cozy little lives. Instead we think, if this is what it takes for me to wake up, then I accept it wholeheartedly and with great joy. We cultivate incredible gratitude for those things that knock us upside the head. We see how liberating they are. We see how we can use them.

In the same light- we surrender to the idea that whatever is most beneficial be what occurs. We can rest in that. Perhaps the most beneficial thing is smooth sailing. We don't write that off. We just don't assume that one is always necessarily better than the other.

The three lines of encouragement sum it up best:

Grant your blessing if it is
better for me to be sick
Grant your blessing if it is
better for me to survive
Grant your blessing if it is
better for me to be dead 

And then, we trust. 
May whatever is of the most benefit to all beings, be what happens. I joyfully accept that.



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