” Above my head and above the heads of all beings throughout space is a white lotus bearing a moon disc. Upon it is the syllable HRIH, which becomes the most sublime chenrezi. He is white, bright and radiating five-coloured lights and gazes, smiling, with such great compassion. He has one face, four arms, the upper two held together and the lower two holding a crystal rosary and a white lotus. Adorned with fine silken clothes and precious gems, wearing a gazelle skill as a mantle. He is seated in the vijra position with an immaculate moon for a backrest. This is the essence of all the refuges fused into one.”
Translated from the Core of Chenrezig Sadhana
This past Monday was the eighth session of my Buddhist course and it was the first session that really made me uncomfortable and question how far I can go down this path myself. For the first time it felt like I was in a state of worship rather than in a state of reflection or peacefulness. We meditated as normal but this time we had to keep our eyes open and look at a picture of chenrezig. We did a long set of mantras in Tibetan and I had no idea how to pronounce the words or what the tune was and so felt self conscious. What I have written above this is a translation of one of the mantras and I found it hard to visualise. I am not sure if I found it hard to visualise this dramatic and colourful image of chenrezig because I was concentrating so hard on saying the mantras or because I did not feel comfortable worshiping anything, no matter how awesome that thing or person is.
I have been on a Buddhist path now for a couple of years but the focus has never been so much on the actual Buddha’s themselves but has been much more on the values and philosophy that underpins what it means to be a Buddhist. I was aware of the incense, candles and rosary beads but did not fully appreciate the significance of each thing to a true Buddhist. When I am moving my rosary beads around in my hand I am actually pulling beings out of the lower realms for example. The four arms of the chenrezig are there to represent the four Immeasurables. Now this is actually really interesting and I have no problem with these concepts. It is just that it is clearly similar to all the other religions I have studied in these respects. It is organised and there are clear rules as to what you can and cannot do. For example as I have not yet taken refuge, I was not allowed to visualise chenrezig in front of me or as a part of me. Instead I had to keep his image above my head or else bad karma would come my way.
It was just this idea of punishment and the clear hierarchy between so called enlightened beings and others like those of us in the group that sat uneasily with me. It seems that this is my problem with all organised religion. It ultimately feels like in all of them you are being judged at the end of your life and your next life will at least partly decided by how you lived in this one. Now in Buddhist philosophy it based on many past lives, so much so that every person on earth has been your mother at some point. This is why we need to show compassion and understanding to everyone no matter how cruel their actions or evil their behaviour. Now this is one hard pill to swallow. Actually it is impossible for me to swallow but that is because I am so far from being enlightenment. I am just going around realm of samsara right now feel so much pleasure but also so much pain. Now this I can accept somehow but the whole mother concept is just a step too far for me right now.
Having said all that we did discuss some really interesting ideas and I still feel that I want to go down a spiritual path even if I can only go so far down this path. This course has made me see very clearly how fear and vulnerability come from my fragile ego. I see how much I try to ignore and supress things which only makes me suffer more. It also prevents me from appreciating and savouring the wonderful things I do have in my life.
In the past few weeks I have also learned a new appreciation for courage and clarity. For years and years I have been doing things that were compulsive and often reckless. I kept doing them without ever trying to understand why I was doing them. By seeking the truth as to what is actually going on, I am slowly finding little ways out of my suffering. I have a slightly bigger picture on the world just now and that is proving so helpful. In particular this bigger picture has helped me se how much I have lived my life with a sense of entitlement and expectation. If I could start to live my life as if I am going to get nothing in return then I think I would be so much more content. It is so basic and yet so hard to do.
Finally the course has made me consider my deep need for some kind of legacy. Why do I need to make my mark on everything? Is it because I know how tiny and insignificant my little life is? Does this terrify me? Yes it does and each day I feel like I have wasted this one little life I had. I need to get away from this kind of thinking. All I am doing really is writing on water as my teacher says. Nothing lasts and this very blog comes almost entirely from my ego needing some kind of proof that I exist and I am here in the world.
It sometimes feels like most of us are constantly shadow boxing with ourselves. We get attached to things and thoughts even though both will dissolve and neither make us who we are. We are constantly craving things we don’t have and desiring more of what we do have. Endlessly distracted by shiny and glittering illusions and then longing for these illusions when things do not seem to be going well. I want to believe that there really is an ocean of knowledge that we can access if we just sit still for long enough and concentrate deeply. I want to spend more time looking inward but I am just not yet ready to visualise some dude with four arms, a deer skin wrapped around him and a moon disc under his butt. Maybe in time but not just yet. Thanks for reading.