I’m trying to write this while my dog is keen to play. She keeps on bringing various things up for me to throw for her, or she wants to wrestle, or just generally get in my face and stop me doing the boring stuff I do all day!
But I am determined to get a post out tonight, and to teach my cheeky dog some “rules boundaries limitations” as Cesar Milan calls them.
She’ calming down a bit now. I may even be able to type with two hands!
Earlier today I was reading Brad’s latest post on Hardcore Zen. He just got back from a month retreat at Tassajara and by all accounts, he had a colourful time.
It made me think about ideas of what a retreat is supposed to be like. Quiet, pure, peaceful – the way we wish life was all the time so we could get some proper practice done. But the world arrives wherever you go, and your mind has to deal with it.
Mahayana/Vajrayana: dirt is purity
From a Buddhist perspective, or at least from a Mahayana/Vajrayana one (i.e. the later phases in the development of the Buddhist tradition), there is no difference between Samsara and Nirvana. The realm of the unenlightened and the realm of the enlightened is identical. The only thing stopping us from seeing this is our own mind. To think otherwise is to create an artificial duality and that in itself is an obstacle to experiencing Nirvana.
Early tradition: purity comes from dirt
In the earlier tradition, the symbol of the lotus flower is an important one. The lotus flower is born in the gunk at the bottom of the pond. Intruitively, it grows up towards an air that it has never experienced, and opens out in the sunshine. The most beautiful of flowers. And all the time it is connected to the gunk at the bottom of the pond, and gets its nutrition from there.
How to make use of the dirt in your life
What I’m saying here is, to quote a friend of mine, ‘grow where you’re planted’. Whatever your current situation, you can make progress within it. You can achieve full and perfect enlightenment within it. Even though you have no idea how to get where you’re going, there’s a good chance you’re already on your way.
I’m not saying you should sit indefinitely in the gunk. I’m saying don’t wait. Whatever lotus pond you’re currently sitting at the bottom of is the perfect incubation ground from which to go and live your dreams. Begin!
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