The Dilemma Of Receiving The Pointing Out Instruction
The dilemma is that we may either expect too much and miss the simplicity, or it may go over our head and we miss the point – but nevertheless, a good seed has been planted. Much depends on the teacher – and probably the translator – and much depends on the student.
I have been given the pointing out instruction alongside people who have come to Buddhism for the very first time (lucky individuals!) and people who have been practising for forty years (slowcoaches like me).
It may just be about being in the right place at the right time. For most, the pointing out instruction is like a good seed, and will give us a sense of direction. Sometimes, after much searching and heart ache, it is seen unexpectedly.
When one of my teachers was young, he crept out from his monastery one night to visit a lama who had a very scary reputation (some teachers are like that – they talk straight, which means that if you ask a question, you cannot ignore the answer, and so you have to be careful what you ask!). This lama did something unexpected – he served tea and said nothing. After they had drunk their tea, the scary lama just said, “It is done!” and my teacher thought, “What did he do? What did he do?” – he couldn’t think of anything. That was transmission by gesture. Years later, when my wife and I were his students and doing some building work for him, he put his arms around us and said, “You are more like friends than students.” We left and went for tea, and just stared at each other: we couldn’t think of anything. Perhaps it was the tea! 😀 (the scary lama was Khenpo Goncha).
It was only years later that I recognised that same feeling when receiving the pointing out instruction formally. The pointing out instruction is a little shock to the mind. We may or may not notice it.
In theory, it is awareness looking at itself and finding nothing – emptiness – but these are just words. The pointing out instruction is an experience. The experience is silence of sacred space. (maybe the sacred space came first!). That sacred space is clarity, and the pointing out instruction is dropped in so that that clarity is recognised: it is a direct transmission, and is clearly seen.
Incidentally, a few years later, the teacher who called me ‘friend’ suddenly – after eleven years – threw me out! That was one crazy shock 😉
There is a difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘pure knowingness’.
Expect the unexpected.