Vulnerable But True

Too scared to let go
 Reckless in what is fearsome
Deluded, we cling to false freedoms
To delusion itself.
The monarch’s epic pilgrimage

Is fearless
We too are stronger than we know –
So, sip the nectar of this moment
Vulnerable but true.

This world is populated with countless views about everything, including how to be free, and how to let go, and what it is that we wake up to. So ‘who’ is right? And what is this ‘who’ that is empty of any substance?

Delving deeply, we realize that we are not the body, not the mind, nor any of these mental and physical phenomena. So let us not cling to the vacuous views, opinions, attitudes about or by a self or selves, and all their fabricated characteristics. When what we hear about the teachings and techniques fails to ring true for us, then look inward.

See how things are and what they are. Stay within, intuitively aware of our own reality. Clearly and directly know the impermanent, imperfect and impersonal nature of it. Observe with patience, care and devotion. As we forgive conditions, again and again, the path gradually opens for us. We are trainees and we stay with what is present right now, supporting the uprising gifts of insight.

We are on a path, and we persevere faithfully to stay on it. Mere ideas about the goal and the results of the journey can dissipate our energy, distract us, and lead us astray. So let us focus on our commitment to the Path and the revelations that come not by thinking about walking it with our own feet but by actually doing it – conscientious and contemplative.

The Buddha’s younger cousin, Nanda, became a monk just after being wed to a beautiful princess. Infatuated with her, he could enjoy no spiritual happiness. The Buddha came to know this through his psychic powers, and took Nanda on a trip to a heavenly realm where he saw magnificent celestial nymphs that far surpassed the beauty of his betrothed.

The Buddha was truly wise. Understanding the frailty and potential of human nature, he promised those nymphs to Nanda if he kept up his meditation practice. The other monks ridiculed Nanda for his mundane aspiration. Nevertheless, the promise of those divine nymphs fired up his zeal enough for him to focus on his practice and he soon became an arahant. He realized the Deathless.

Purifying our actions, speech, and thought habits, and researching the states of the mind – these are the Path.  Whereas being critical towards others because of their views about waking up or where the path leads is not the Path, is not the Deathless. It is more of an obstacle for us than what anyone might think or say about the goal of the holy life.

A junior astronaut may want to know what it feels like to be in space before ever going up into space. You can’t know until you sit in a rocket and blast off. Then you can really know. You feel the weightlessness, you embody the experience of it. Before going into space, you do all the preparations for it and then set out on the journey to find out for yourself.

So it is with treading this Noble Eightfold Path. No one can walk it for us. We have to walk this path one foot in front of the other, consciously taking in one breath upon the other, until we realize the Truth where this path leads. It only leads in one direction, to the sacred – right here within our own visceral experience.

Then we know for ourselves what is real and what is not, what is true and what is not. With the Buddha as our supreme incomparable mentor, we follow the Dhamma he taught, keeping the Buddha, the Blessed One, in the forefront of consciousness, as our best friend, teacher, guide and refuge.

Trust the Buddha. Trust the Dhamma. Trust the Noble Sangha who have completed this path. We follow them – alone but courageous, vulnerable but true.

Actually, we are always alone even when we are with others. And yet, spiritual friendship is a must for this work to strengthen our inner seclusion. So choose spiritual friends, guides, teachers, and spiritual community according to what resonates for you – with discernment and, necessarily, with consummate compassion and tolerance that can overcome all forms of our ignorance such as greed, ill-will, aversion and fear.

Insights gained from a technique are but frail without consummate compassion. Wisdom, yoked to compassion, helps us to hone our practice not through our concepts about the goal or our expertise in a particular technique, but according to what we excavate and learn from within.

We are students of the moment, of the breath, of the sufferings held in the body –  examining everything that arises for us, and refining how we live and practise all eight limbs of the Path, namely right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

There could be a million views about how to wake up. This should not concern nor distract us. We stay in the middle, wary of attachment to views – our own or those of others. And wary of attachment to opinions, to judgments; to the ever-emerging mental fabrications that are subtly critical attitudes.

If we want others to be perfect, turn the mind instead to here, now. Where right view brightens into a clarity from within – not from anywhere outside of us – that is the seed of compassion for all beings, as to ourselves.

Otherwise we become stuck in wanting, believing in, and seeking perfection in the world – both the world of ideas and the outer world, or in the body. That is not possible. Why? Because “all that has the nature to arise, has the nature to cease”, and is not ‘me’ nor ‘mine’ to control. Nothing of the world is permanent, therefore it cannot be perfect.

Stay grounded with things as they are and know that true perfection is realized in clearing the heart-mind. Then the heart grows quiet. It touches all – encompassing all – never moving away from anything or anyone.

So may you follow the Way of the Dhamma with joy and ease. The whole world is in your heart.

Ayyā Medhānandī