Sunday, March 18, 2007

longing

These posts are read by a varied audience - my Dharma brothers and sisters, some of whom I have never met, friends from different times and places, people I may never meet and my family from this very life. Diverse in age, culture, geography and beliefs, yet somehow linked through this precious valley and my presence here.
As i began today to trim the disorder from the garden, in preparation for Jetsunma, I thought about how foreign it can be to understand the relationship to a Teacher, in the sense of the Tibetan Buddhist path, which I have embraced. There was no framework in my up-bringing to prepare me for the life I chose - if indeed "choose" is the right word to describe the unfolding of events, the sense of knowing that arose from a place beyond articulation. Before asking Jetsunma for her blessing to take robes, I wrote a short essay - for myself, and for her - reflecting on the journey which had led to that request. I wrote "it is required of me" - not by anyone or anything external, but from some internal recognition that spoke as my heart. Just as I know that my breath - one after the next - occurs without thought, and provides me with life, so was, is, the connection of my life with Jetsunma.
I know some people have thought perhaps I was in a cult. In our world, there are such relationships, which cause havoc and destructive behaviours that bear no good fruit. But this is not the case. My commitment to - and deep devotion towards - Jetsunma and all she represents arises through reflection, critical thinking, contemplation, making choices and trying to understand the results. Although it its well-spring is an undeniable, indefinable bond, it is nurtured by the process of hearing her teachings and applying them, as best I can, in my life. There is no great mystery, really, this Path in essence is profound in its simplicity. And, for me, Jetsunma is the presence who can enable me to unravel the layers of confusion, to live this simplicity of compassion and wisdom, purely.
I cannot explain devotion; words somehow fail me. It is as if the heart sees its own reflection in a clear, still pond - sharp, vivid, wondrous. And in that spontaneous, indescribable recognition is the certainty that this bond, this connection is the one thing - beyond all else - that has meaning or value of any consequence. It is neither only of the intellect, nor the heart. It is deeper, wider, fuller, less tangible than either or both of these. Yet both are involved in allowing this relationship to realise its magnificent potential.
This does not mean I never have doubt; I am, after all, a very ordinary being, and doubt is a frailty of being human. It's not a billboard sort of doubt, of thinking this is untrue or invalid or crazy. Its a much more insidious subtle doubt, whereby I make choices that do not honour my commitment and devotion, my vows - not perhaps in an outrageous way, but still it's what I do. For if I had no doubt, if my faith was infallible, there would never be a moment - not one - where my mind was not turned to the clarity and certainty of this spiritual path, and the belief in cause and effect.
So doubt is a sidekick who trails along, and I acknowledge its presence and work to reduce that habit. With the certainty that the more I engage in what my heart tells me is true, the less potent the doubt will be.
In a beautiful teaching she gave over a decade ago, Jetsunma spoke of longing for the Guru. It is a teaching I refer to - especially in difficult times - because it reminds me of that moment when I first knew with certainty that I had discovered something that had never been lost, my relationship with my Teacher. She speaks of the longing we may know, but do not know how to name. Perhaps a spiritual search for happiness, or meaning, which within our cultural frame of reference we could not realise. She says:
"You were born with the longing to awaken. You were born with a longing to know your own nature, to taste that nature. You were born with a longing and homing instinct to find your Teacher. You were born with a longing to find a pure path and there were no words for it when you grew up."
In connecting with Jetsunma - although I was on another continent, and had only seen her on video tapes - it was as if I had stumbled into a stream which flowed through my heart, yet of which I had never been really aware. Not so much a great big ahhah!!, as simply knowing here was someone who spoke to me in a language inscribed on my cells, in my mind, to the very core of my existence. I was fortunate to follow this stream, to immerse myself as best as I can, for it has become a journey of such immensity, beyond imagination.
Before his untimely death, John Kennedy Jr. interviewed His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Although I cannot remember his exact words, Kennedy noted that when HH left the room at the end of the interview, it was as if we were in a darkened room, and the man holding the light had left.
This so eloquently describes the Teacher; the room is our life, the Teacher the illuminator to enable understanding of that life. The light will have different shapes, forms, colours and intensity for each and every one of us. It is a very intimate relationship. And by honoring this intimacy, by treasuring its potential, we can can come to know that the light is really the flame in our very own hearts.
Not every one will choose a Path such as I have. Yet its source is present in all of us - it is the call of compassion, the wish to live our lives fully, with joy. It is wanting to make the world safer, kinder. It is the sponataneous urge to give a gift to a friend, to stop and smell the scent of spring. It is the ocean of basic goodness in each and every heart. However we may respond to its call, may its brilliance shine forth for all.

4 comments:

Tooky said...

Oh, how I enjoy your writings, Kunzang! They speak so much truth. Alhough I espouse a different belief tradition, the similarities are profound. Faith, in spite of doubt, is a constantly and mysteriously flowering thing, and I believe compassion for all creation is the purest expression of it.

bruce said...

I cannot put to words what I am thinking and feeling right now. I barely have the clarity to sit still for a minute at a time, the move really pulling my focus to shreds. But, I understand with some certainty what you describe about your relationship with Jetsunma. Maybe I don't understand the depths of the connection, but feel I once had something similar with my first (and only) Sifu. Our paths came together when I was perfectly ready to search for my own inner truth and could not have happened too soon nor too late. My Sifu has since stopped teaching. I believe I will find another Sifu someday, but waiting for that time to reveal itself to me.

I am thankful to read your words and find them inspiring. Thank you for the wonderful gift of blogging and putting to words what you are experiencing.

Tia and I received your beautiful and most unexpected gift late last week and it now hangs in front of my sashes, under my banner for heaven & earth. It was a beautiful gesture and we appreciate it greatly!

Tia said...

Each time I begin to write a comment to one of your beautiful entries I find myself just simply wanting to smile and bow in gratitude.

The words of your wise teacher ring true indeed. I recognize that longing, and at times have thought that I would want to devote my life to a path such as yours - but the calling is faint and muffled by the much louder voices of doubt and fear. Perhaps in this lifetime my path will unfold in a different manner, but serving that which is highest and purest in all of us nonetheless.

Alana said...

Kunzang, my sister,
thank you for sharing your heart and reminding me.....