When pure gold is covered by dirt it is not obvious that it is gold, even though this dirt is temporary. But once it is removed we realize that the gold is gold. In the same way, when our confusion is purified, the wisdom which is our basic wakefulness is made manifest.
Even though we don’t consider ourselves to be so desperate, and believe that we are well educated, sane, and sober, when we see and feel that everything truly exists, we are behaving like the man in the desert. We rush to find authentic companionship, security, recognition, and success, or simply peace and quiet. We may even succeed in grasping some semblance of our desires. But just like the wanderer, when we depend on external substantiation, eventually we are disappointed. Things are not as they seem: they are impermanent and they are not entirely within our control.
In terms of our nature — our constant yearning to be happy and to be free of suffering — we are profoundly the same and close. Yet through habituation and conditioning, we grow distant. We invest tremendous importance in our differences — our different beliefs, different cultural assumptions, and different identities. We cover our sameness up with layers of difference. No wonder we then find it hard to connect and feel close, although a wish to connect is grounded deep in our being. What can we do to protect and enhance our innate ability to connect with others? I will talk later about strengthening our basic empathy, but I also think that connecting and staying connected with our own good qualities is a powerful step we can take to be able to feel close to others. What’s more, we are always surrounded by others, and connected to others, including people we do not see and will never meet but who have contributed to who we are. Reflecting on interdependence and consciously training ourselves to identify it at work in our lives allows us to cultivate an awareness of others’ presence as part of us.
In meditation we discover our inherent restlessness. Sometimes we get up and leave. Sometimes we sit there but our bodies wiggle and squirm and our minds go far away. This can be so uncomfortable that we feel’s it’s impossible to stay. Yet this feeling can teach us not just about ourselves but what it is to be human…we really don’t want to stay with the nakedness of our present experience. It goes against the grain to stay present. These are the times when only gentleness and a sense of humor can give us the strength to settle down…so whenever we wander off, we gently encourage ourselves to “stay” and settle down. Are we experiencing restlessness? Stay! Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay! Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay! What’s for lunch? Stay! I can’t stand this another minute! Stay!
Whether or not we have great responsibilities to fulfill, whether or not we are very busy, whether or not we are rich, whether or not we are scholars, or whether or not we do menial labor, none of these things has any bearing on the practice of Mahamudra. Under any circumstances, we can always practice Mahamudra, and we can accomplish supreme siddhi.
I understand that there is no self, but still have gross concepts of “I.”
I have decided to renounce duality, but am beset by hopes and fears.
Bless me and all those like me who believe in a self
That we may realize the natural state, the absence of self.
Master Padma said: When practicing the Dharma there are seven types of corruption.
The lady asked: What are they?
The master said: if your faith is small while your intelligence is great, you become corrupted by considering yourself a teacher.
If you have many listeners while your self-regard is high, you become corrupted by considering yourself a spiritual friend.
If you assume superior qualities while not having taken the Dharma to heart, you become corrupted by considering yourself a leader.
If you give oral instructions while not practicing them yourself, you become corrupted by being an insensitive “Dharma expert.”
If you are fond of senseless babble while lacking the Dharma in your heart, you become corrupted by being a craving charlatan yogi.
If you have little learning while lacking the oral instructions, you become corrupted by being a commoner though your faith may be great.
A genuine practitioner who acts in accordance with the true teachings should liberate his being with intelligence, tame his mind with faith, cut misconceptions with listening to teachings, cast away social concerns, mingle his mind with the Dharma, perfect his knowledge with learning and reflecting, resolve his mind with the oral instructions, and gain final certainty through the view and meditation. That, however, is difficult.