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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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On the art of awareness, by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist lama who also paints very striking, abstract art. He was featured in the current issue of Buddhadharma, and a small excerpt from an article he wrote on his abstract painting begins with some striking points about meditation and the nature of mind.
As Buddhists, we are taught that the natural state of mind is pristine and enlightened in itself. To embody this view of the natural state, first we need to work with our mind through discipline. In our meditation practice, sometimes we are present with this experience of the natural state and sometimes we are not. When something pleasant arises, we often grasp at it, and when something unpleasant arises, we may reject it. Our discipline is to transcend these grasping and rejection tendencies that cause us so much suffering.

Over time, as we feel more self-confident and secure in our practice of meditation -- and in our understanding of the true nature of mind pointed out by our teacher -- we will see that the true nature is pristine and stainless. In the traditional analogy of the ocean and its waves, it is said that however large or small the waves, all are essentially made of the element of water and cannot be separated from the ocean. Similarly, in the view of meditation, all our thoughts and various feelings arise out of the natural state of mind and are ultimately made out of the same "material." That material is empty awareness itself. If we do not succumb to habits and insecurities, or preconceptions about meditation and how our mind should be, we can then recognize that everything that arises is simply a manifestation of this very nature. Any expressions that arise from this enlightened nature can be understood as enlightened expressions when we do not approach them through the habits of acceptance and rejection.

Realizing this, we can begin to experience relaxation, as well as a lessening of judgments and reactivity. We experience more openness and acceptance. Slowly, and naturally, we begin to see the world as pure -- not as in "pure" versus "ugly," but pure in the sense of seeing the perfection of its existence. This existence is not determined according to some concept or idea of the way it should be; it simply has come to exist naturally. Its beauty is found in it being just the way it is. The world has found its own shape, form and colour. All of it arises out of the nature of mind.
These are such wise words. But I can imagine that one reason so many of us might not jive with this is that it seems to say that there's nothing wrong with the world as it is, that we should accept everything as it is without trying to change it. And it seems to many of us like there's so much wrong with the world right now, how could we possibly accept it as it is? But the point he's making is subtler than that, and more specific as opposed to general. Despite how much we might want to, there's very little that we can each do today that will affect something like the situation in Darfur, for example. But there's a lot we can do to affect our own lives today, our own life situation. By getting in touch with the equanimity that he describes, we can resolve the conflicts in our own minds that result in conflicts with our family and other people in our lives. By looking at our immediate outside world without judgment and reactivity, we can successfully embody the Tao, weaving our way effortlessly through our own external world without fighting it.

In this way, we attain peace and enlightenment in this very moment. It's as simple as that.