Thursday, November 6, 2014

Taking after the Sky

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche SkyEveryone possesses the potential to awaken to their intrinsic nature. Some are just temporarily lost in their greed, delusive thoughts, ignorance, and the myriad temptations. Some, however, are able to exert all their strength to utilize such potential as well as external and internal conditions to reach uninhibited perfection and help countless sentient beings around them. Whether good or bad, this state manifests naturally from within us. Such is the nature of inner radiance: it overflows from our self-nature, unbound and unrestrained. No one can despise or scorn it. Even people with devious streaks or those who have fallen to rock bottom have the right to gasp for breath, to see the sunshine and to trace their way back out. The key lies in "awakening."

Our mind is just like the sky. We rarely pay attention to the sky, but this is understandable, because we simply cannot live our life with our head constantly tilted upwards. However, with just a brief glimpse, you will be surprised to observe its many characteristics — sometimes it is a bright azure blue, sometimes overcast, drifting clouds occasionally come and go, and at times you can hear the rumble of thunder and lightning in the distance. From observing the varied nature of the sky, the wise are able to arrive at the realization that humanity, similar to the sky, can be as innocent as a newborn baby and at the same time as devious as a raksha or asura demon. Sometimes humans can be as desirous as the heavenly beings, while at other times they have to endure all the various hardships of our world.

The mental torment experienced by some is akin to the struggle undergone by those on the edges of the hell realm. Some suffer from both mental and material poverty not unlike those in the hungry ghost realm. Some are as ignorant, cunning, mean, crafty, and feeble-minded as the beings in the animal realm. When we observe the sky, is it not also like this? When your mind is clear and free of mental obscurations, it's like the azure sky that captures your gaze and leaves you wishing you could stay there forever, for in that state you are actually unable to dig up any mental filth. When your mind is full of anger and hatred, they sometimes rage beyond your control, like a flash of lightning and thunder that catches you off guard. Sometimes, even though you feel perplexed, you are unable to find a way to slow the turbulent tide of thoughts or the surge of worries and emotions, which is just like the sudden comings and goings of the drifting clouds.

How should we manage our mind, which is intrinsically like the sky? It's actually quite simple: just indulge it and let it be, as you would let go of a naughty child struggling to get free from your arms. As long as you know you can keep your eyes on it, never try to tie it up or confine it. Never ever try to get its attention with candy, biscuits, or toys because, as with all naughty children, it’s only natural that it will eventually return to its mother’s embrace. When mother and child are together, that is similar to when your mind is back to where it should be.

This is a proper attitude to adopt when facing and observing any and all problems; nothing at all need be done to deal with them. At such a time, to sit in meditation would be redundant, as would be the recitation of sutras. Reading would simply be a way of covering your eyelids, and watching TV just one more burden upon your mind. Perhaps you think you can use different ways to shift your attention and transform your afflictions but let's not forget the fact that, as anyone who observes the changes of the sky would know, it is utterly impossible to grasp. Does the sky remain in the same state at all times? Is it possible to remember very clearly what the sky was doing at any given time and place in the past, what role it was playing? Let everything come and go naturally, without any meddling of our own - this is the way to regard the sky, and the way we should treat our mind.
Even though flying birds and roaming animals are not the most obvious companions, at least they don't get in each other's way. Although they are living under the same sky and move in different directions and routes, and have different appearances; although they cannot change their karma, when they soar or run free and unimpeded, we are rapt in admiration and absorbed in the spectacle. Every being in the six realms has a set place and responsibility; there is no need to complain. Likewise, your mind should also be free like a bird, freely and fearlessly spreading its wings into the sky. Your mind should also be like this, unbound, without a second thought, free of attachment, free of the self in any given moment. This is the method of non-attachment, and also the key to being in the present moment.

As the late French writer Romain Rolland put it, even if the world doesn't provide you with happiness, does it mean that you can't create happiness for this world? If a person is dominated by the reality of their environment, then this person is destined to live a mediocre life. One should endeavor to do as Confucius said: even an upright gentleman can be poverty-stricken but it's his moral fortitude that counts. Those who continuously encounter obstacles have the greatest opportunity to foster a dauntless personal character. When you are mentally and physically trapped, you need to remind yourself that your opportunity to attain enlightenment and success is knocking.

This came out spontaneously from I, Shang Longrik Gyatso, while speaking of the six realms of samsara to a couple of entry-level fellow practitioners.

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