Samaya, Devotion & Beliefs that Alter Perception
The love in the room is palpable. It flows directly from the man on the dais at the front into my heart, and into the heart of the other 300 people sharing this experience. He swivels on his chair and scans the room, looking at each of the students in turn. He does not rush. He holds us all with his wisdom mind. He looks at me and our minds connect. Heart-mind in one. Transformative power flows through him from his masters and from their masters before them. He is a light bulb plugged into the socket of devotion, and the blessings of the lineage flow through him into me. He is all the lineage masters in one. He is Guru Rinpoche. He is also a mirror. He mirrors and evokes my own wisdom mind. I recognise it and smile. His eyes twinkle and the corner of his mouth rises just slightly, then he turns to the next person. I remain in spacious awareness.
In that moment, I hear and see all and every single sound and sight in its own place all at once, in one glance—panoramic awareness—and I hold it all in my heart, aware of every interconnection that brings it all into being and keeps it always changing. The world is luminous, alive with being. Like my lama, my Vajra brothers and sisters are perfect in their primordial nature. This is without a shred of doubt the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect teacher, the perfect teaching and the perfect students. It still is. It always is.The atmosphere in the room is vibrant with awareness. It is he that has awakened it in us all. For that I am eternally grateful. That gratitude will never die, cannot, for to deny that experience is to deny the very nature of my own mind. To deny that would indeed plunge one into a darkness of denial that could take lifetimes to dissolve before one could see ones true nature again. Or it could dissolve in an instant of seeing that this experience was real, that in that moment a true student met a true teacher with true devotion, in the realisation that no matter what horror, grief, anger and even regret occurred afterwards, this moment can still be honoured.
It’s a tangible thing this samaya that is created in the moment a teacher introduces and the student sees the nature of their own mind and the nature of everything. It’s like sharing a child with someone; you are henceforth always connected.
This man had my devotion: a simple openness and receptivity to the truth, along with a deep appreciation for the lineage and the person who brings the sublime teachings. Though I saw his enlightened being when teaching and in particular in those moments of introduction from wisdom mind to wisdom mind, I never believed he was enlightened when not teaching formally. Clearly he was not perfect, because he appeared, at the very least, to push his teams too hard. I saw him demand a ridiculous degree of precision one day and criticise that very precision when executed the next day. I saw public humiliation, but I was told it was a teaching, that the person saw it as a blessing, a fast way to dissolve ego. I simply watched without mental comment or opinion. That was my practice—or was it denying what I saw and felt, pushing it aside?
I held two views at the same time and figured that the fact that his harshness still bothered me somewhere deep inside meant that my perception was simply not pure enough—or was it too pure, too connected to my inner teacher, the wisdom and compassion inside me, to completely deny my gut feeling. In light of his transformative power when teaching formally, I believed he was indeed a crazy wisdom master, a mahasiddha, and so what I saw as harshness was really love, that my perception of what love is was limited, that it took an enlightened being to see the full picture and recognise that these actions were for the benefit of the person at the end of his anger—oh, no, not anger, wrath. Mental correction. Do not criticise the lama. See his every action as a teaching. See it in a positive way. It is not a sign of someone unable to manage their emotions, but a sign of a master so enlightened that he is beyond ordinary ideas of good and bad.
Wait. What did you believe? You believed that what appeared as bad was really good? That anyone could be ‘beyond ordinary ideas of good and bad’? Is this not a very dangerous belief to hold? Is anyone above the law? What happened to your critical thinking? Your discernment?
Like a good little student, I offered up my discernment on the altar of devotion, to please the lama so he would give me the precious nectar of the Dzogchen teachings. Like a little girl pleasing her father for the reward of an ice-cream.
I was trapped in spiritual materialism, held captive by the “The Lord of Speech” which refers to, “the inclination on the part of ego to interpret anything that is threatening or irritating in such a way as to neutralise the threat and turn it into something ‘positive’ from ego’s point of view. The Lord of speech refers to the use of concepts as filters to screen us from a direct perception of what is.” (Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism , Chogyam Trungpa, pages 5-11.)
Not only that, but as an instructor, I also helped others to see the way I did. I pray that none of them ended up close to the fire.
After all, I rationalised, sometimes I must speak firmly to my child or she does not understand how important it is to correct herself. And there are stories of the unconventional crazy wisdom approach helping students in Tibet in the past. Fine beliefs, except that I had no idea what was really going on, that the behaviour supposed to ‘correct’ or awaken the student was not in the ‘occasional’ category but was a relentless daily regime of emotional, physical and sexual abuse far beyond what I, and the majority of the Western world, could ever accept as right conduct.
My gratitude goes to the ‘Courageous 8’ for waking me up to my spiritual materialism.
I would like to believe that this belief system was not intended to control and coerce, but we have certainly used it this way, not just the lama, but all those, like I, who didn’t listen to those who cried out to be heard. Forgive me for my complicity.
Some students are still not listening. Some are still telling me that ultimately there is no good and bad (conveniently ignoring the relationship of interdependence and emptiness which mean, essentially, that the laws of cause and effect do operate in conventional reality and so ethics are always important), that SR is an enlightened master and that therefore everything he does is perfect, and that if I criticise him, it means I have no pure perception and I will go to Vajra Hell—the worst of the hell realms (whose existence I never believed in except as a mental state)—as if I hadn’t already had these ideas drummed into my skull. As if these weren’t the ideas that allowed this to happen in the first place and continues to allow it to happen.
Wake up, my friends, wake up. The Lord of Speech has you in his thrall.
This is part one of Confessions of a Devoted student. Part two Why I didn’t See will be posted tomorrow.