Coming down to earth
The following may sound a little controversial but is meant kindly, in order to clarify: you may not see this the same way, but that’s ok… Realisations can be a shock in their obvious simplicity.
Before I go any further, we have to understand that Dzogchen is beyond what is called “Buddhism”: Dzogchen is beyond words and descriptions, being empty, compassionate cognisance.
In Buddhism – and especially Tibetan Buddhism – words and translations can cause problems. They can divorce us from the reality we seek. The problem is that a word or name can produce the opposite effect from the one intended Let’s take the word ‘merit’. It is said that if we walk around a Stupa – known as “circumnambulating” – we gain merit. Doing pujas, giving, going to holy places, chanting, meditating, playing instruments, Tibetan dancing, mudras etc all gain merit. We accumulate merit. It’s like an inner wealth – an inner, magical wealth.
It’s like the film “Karate Kid”. While the ‘kid’ is painting the fence or waxing the car, he is practising the correct karate movements without realising it.
The idea of ‘merit’ has the same effect, or should do. Merit is a reminder. The more reminders we acquire, the easier it is to recognise reality on the path. Therefore, merit is a means to remembering, and not a badge we collect. If we regard merit as something magical that does something all by itself, we may forget to remember what it’s all about; our own pure awareness, rather than something otherworldly. There are many such words that can throw us off the scent.
Bodhichitta is another of these. Bodhichitta means altruistic attitude, which means kindness; relative kindness and ultimate kindness. If we do not understand the meaning of words for ourselves, we may push the true meaning further away from us…I sit on an ordinary cushion, not a zabuton 😉
Everything we do is a reminder; we accumulate more reminders and therefore recognise more easily. Merit is a storehouse of reminders, and not a magic in itself. Conditions must be right for magic to happen, and conditions rely on the accumulation of wisdom and purity.
We live in an earthly realm, and so should keep our feet on the ground – the earth – and not keep looking for something beyond. We are that which is beyond! When the Buddha was attacked by Mara, he touched the earth, which bore witness to his realisation.
My understanding is that the earth, being relative truth, is the witness to the Buddha’s enlightenment because the earth represents the first noble truth of the recognition of suffering. When we recognise suffering, we embark on the path to eliminate suffering.
One’s own suffering is thus the reminder. A personal example: when I am attacked (usually in the form of indifference), doubt is thrown at me. As a result of this, there is a subtle suffering: this suffering is a reminder of my ignoring my true nature. In that moment, that suffering is a reminder…through clarity, the suffering ceases, and all is well (although, being sentient, it’s only a temporary reminder!)