When [God] Dawns …
Hello everyone, I know it’s been a bit since I last posted. I’ve been busy with starting the Sutrayana Study program with the Dharma Ocean Foundation. Now mid way through week 2, there was a profound question this week that I thought I’d reflect on and share with you. With that, “When God Dawns”:
Chögyam Trungpa’s “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” is perhaps one of the masterpieces on the spiritual journey. It is one of the books where Trungpa Rinpoche was in tune with what I would call his ecumenical spirit. His insight on the spiritual journey, whether from a theistic or non-theistic point of view, was piercing. He went further, showing that some of the Buddha’s basic teachings are a deep window into every human soul, and how the Buddha’s teaching could enrich the lives of those who are seeking, or walking the path.
Trungpa Rinpoche identifies our ambition for spiritual progress, and attainment as a problem. But what’s wrong with wanting enlightenment, or perhaps union with God? Well, this drive, this desire for spiritual attainment, as it turns out is similar to our drive and desire for other things: career, money, security, a desirable partner, and so on. In an effort to get what we want we keep life busy. We work, we exercise, we invest, we buy, we pray, we meditate. What we often don’t realize is once we have that “thing”, whatever it is, we still feel incomplete, unfulfilled, anxious. This feeling of dissatisfaction and anxiety keeps coming back.
Spirituality is often like that, we give chase to whatever it is we think is out there waiting for us. Be it God, or in a non-theistic sense, the ultimate attainment of enlightenment. We want the next level, we want to prove ourselves as great spiritual practitioners. Once we receive that next teaching, go to that long retreat, pray that hundredth rosary, we may feel great for a few days or a couple of weeks, but then we find ourselves feeling empty again, needing to do more and more and more. When does it all stop, when can we just find the end of the seemingly endless cycle? Well, it comes when we transcend the cycle, in one unassuming, but powerful moment.
This moment is perhaps something like Paul experienced on the Road to Damascus, or like Buddha experienced at the Bodhi Tree, for just a split second. It’s an unassuming moment that we’ll find to be ordinary, but later discover that it was perhaps the moment that turned our life around. We find that moment of “just being”, we just “are”. That simple moment of being points us to what Trungpa Rinpoche calls the gap, a moment where we can just be, right here, right now. It’s a wonderful moment, but it’s not so much the moment, but the realization, that we can have a gap in the struggle. Trungpa Rinpoche said that freedom is the absence of struggle. So, for a theist, it’s the moment where one can bask in the presence of God, where God himself dawns, for a non-theist, it is the moment where one can simply be in the moment.
So what next? Well, when God dawns, we want the sun of his presence to rise. Similarly, Buddhists want the present moment to rise. Through the discipline of practice, walking on the path, we can learn to struggle less, to not take our spiritual lives too seriously. The anxiety that we have is hard-wired from our upbringing as western people. We’re taught to think that we’re not good enough, and never will be. But as we bask in the moment, and discover that there is freedom in the absence of struggle, we find that God dawns, and that’s a beautiful moment. And it’s a moment that we want to experience again, and again.
Sarva Mangalam – May all beings benefit.