There were recently two weeks of intermittent blissful rain here in the high desert, always a time when the natural world is vivid and compelling. When it rains I want to be there, to be present to the display of Nature’s beauty; to be no one, only a listening, a seeing, a witness of what is occurring now, which may open into sahaja in a direct perception of reality. This is a refuge for the soul, requesting of me the quiet space and time to be contemplative.
The dramatic interplay of downpours, sky and clouds, lightning, rolling thunder meshed with a growing sense of the need for change in the landscape of my day-to-day life, which will emerge, hopefully, as a simplification of everything. The exponential tangles of every day—a complexity that we blithely call “life”—become more and more stressful and future-oriented (a future based on the past) as time goes on. The complications experienced in our postmodern lives buffer us from a direction connection with our own true nature, which reduces the underlying truth of sahaja to nothing more than an idea or mental construct—wishful thinking—rather than the vivid, transformative ground of reality.
If we want to experience the truth of our own nature, we will need to craft a way of living that is rooted in simplicity. Nature calls me into the moment, but I am often too busy, with too many obligations, to heed her call. I can hear the call in the depths of my heart, but I am not free to respond. If you have tried to simplify your life (more time for exploring that creek trail, or making a pilgrimage to a sacred site, or for gardening or creativity or human relationship), you are aware of how hard it is to carve out time to live in way that feed the soul.
Simplifying one’s life is no easy process because everything in our contemporary lives works against the intention to have a simple life. Life in the 21st century is complicated. By complications, I mean all things that proliferate and obscure the elegance, beauty, and innate sahaja of the moment. For example, we are catapulted daily from one bardo to another—shopping malls, grocery stores, workplace, home, entertainment, restaurants, movie theatres, airports, cars, and so on and on. These bardos are “in between states,” as Vajrayana Buddhism teaches us. In between what? In between what is actually true—reality as it is. Some bardos are more attractive than others, for sure, but all are bardos, in which one may easily get lost, stupefied, our awareness glazed. In other words, we fall asleep there and entirely forget our true purpose in life.
In the 21st century the drive to survive is enormously complex. Meeting deadlines, attending to burgeoning details, handling correspondence, staying in the loop, getting ahead, planning for the future, hoping and praying things will get better and doing everything we can—dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s… Worrying, fretting, obsessing… All focused on the future.
While one might hope that human interactions would bring some relief, often the opposite is the case. The constant interruptions of cell phones, and juggling the life that is engendered by these little computer-creatures, becomes all-consuming. Most social events are complicated entanglements of interrelationship—dynamics of intrigue and innuendo, competition, envy, pretense, power, superficiality, ennui. Family relationships suffer in all of this, and may be problematic to begin with…
Vacations are notoriously stressful excursions into more complexity. Travel logistics are fraught with problems, errors, delays, and expenses. Communications of all kinds involving technology by internet, email, fax, cell phone…again, complicated. Responsibilities that involve co-operation with others, group processes, verbal interactions, teamwork—peoples’ need to work out their neuroses on each other by jockeying for position, interjecting opinions, judgments, push back and interference, usurping attention, being the star of every show—all the seed beds of more stress, complexity, frustration, and eventual burn out.
One begins to crave a simpler life.
Of course, I’m only pointing out the obvious pitfalls. There are also moments of beautiful flow in life: there is true intimacy, communion with loved ones, feeling deeply the interconnectedness of life, union with all that is, miracles, the arising of love and compassion, insight and gratitude and joy… There is Grace.
There are even occasions when cell phones, emails, or the internet save a life or play a vital role in accomplishing something for the good of all. And yet, suffering is the dilemma. Suffering, as the Buddha so clearly stated, is the underlying hum of our complicated, striving, speedy lives, in which we are hurtling toward our destined date with death.
Where to find refuge? We could begin by simplifying our lives to make a little room for Grace.
I recently watched a DVD titled “Blessings,” about Tibetan nuns of the Vajrayana Buddhist path. The simplicity of their lives and their commitment to dharma and path touched me. They were a potent reminder that a life of simplicity and spiritual practice is, in fact, my heart’s wish. While I am not a Buddhist but a Baul, practicing with the blessings of the lineage of Yogi Ramsuratkumar, I was spiritually nourished by the emphasis these Buddhist tantrikas place upon three essential dimensions of the Path, in which they take refuge for the benefit of all beings: study of dharma, chanting, and meditation.
To be continued next week…
On Sahaja and Simplicity: Snakes, Death, and Freedom