J. Krishnamurti

J. Krishnamurti

Some forty years ago a friend gave me a copy of  The Urgency of Change by J. Krishnamurti (here is a copy for you). This book profoundly changed my life. At the time I was suffering from a depression that had cast a fog of malaise over my entire life. Here I was barely 20 I had no idea who I was, where I wanted to go or what direction to take. It felt like I was in quicksand. Reading the book I came to understand that the only way out was to discover truth about this suffering business (at that point it was my suffering I was interested in), perform whatever steps were necessary to overcome the suffering and seek the advice and counsel of others that have been down the path and made profound changes in their lives. The source of this resolve was simple enough. In reading the book I realized that it is the space between realizing that something is amiss and undertaking to do something about it that one slips into depression, craving and loss and I was very much stuck in one of those

“As we have said, it is only in knowing oneself completely that sorrow ends. Do you know yourself at a glance, or hope to after a long analysis? Through analysis you cannot know yourself. You can only know yourself without accumulation, in relationship, from moment to moment. This means that one must be aware, without any choice, of what is actually taking place. It means to see oneself as one is, without the opposite, the ideal, without the knowledge of what one has been. If you look at yourself with the eyes of resentment or rancour then what you see is coloured by the past. The shedding of the past all the time when you see yourself is the freedom from the past. Sorrow ends only when there is the light of understanding, and this light is not lit by one experience or by one flash of understanding; this understanding is lighting itself all the time. Nobody can give it to you – no book, trick, teacher or saviour. The understanding of yourself is the ending of sorrow.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Urgency of Change

Rimpoche Tarthang Tulku

Tarthang Tulku

A few months later I was walking near my apartment in Berkley and wandered onto the grounds of Padma Ling, home of the Tibetan Nyingma Institute and enrolled in a beginning meditation course. It was my incredible good fortune to be taught by Rimpoche Tarthang Tulku. From Rimpoche I learned the basics of mindfulness meditation but the thing I remember most were his few short words to me at my darshan at the end of the weekend. He said, words to the effect, don’t think you can find out who you are and what the meaning of your life is by immersing yourself in a tradition, teaching or monastery. Live your life, ask questions, find out who you are. You are young, take advantage of the life ahead of you to know yourself completely. He dismissed me and I left the grounds of Padma Ling and walked down from Highland Avenue and back into my life.

“At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original [true] self.” – from Dogen’s Genjo Koan as translated by Robert Aitken

I have had 40 years to reflect on those few moments with Rimpoche and for a long time have known that at that moment the Dharma was correctly transmitted and the result left me devastated. There is a Zen story that goes like this, “The young monk approached Roshi and said, “Roshi, I have attained enlightenment. Ever since my life has gotten worse. Nothing is going as I had envisioned it would. Why am I so miserable?” Roshi replied, “Enlightenment, whoever said you would like it when you got it.” Roshi turned and walked away.”

Enlightenment is not the light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t the final destination. It is the empty gate and what lies immediately beyond is ones true self, the essence of the the human condition, your face before you were born and if one is not prepared to bear witness, awakening to the truth won’t be pretty. I left the grounds of Padma Ling keenly aware that I was the source of my fears, my suffering and frailties. This would be the first of many, to use a Zen metaphor, descents of the mountain.

“Quiet your thoughts and behold your Original Face before you were born!” – Daito

So what do you do? Integrating these trans-formative flashes (satori) into ones life is where the work begins, it is what practice is all about. For me it starts with meditation, a very particular meditation. By sitting quietly on a square mat and round cushion the contents of my mind comes to the foreground. As this happens, I have an opportunity to reclaim bits and pieces of my self. I can reintegrate. This meditation is not about detachment it is about re-connecting.