"There is a vast store of energy which is not
centered, which is not ego's energy at all. It is this energy which is
the centerless dance of phenomena, the universe interpenetrating and
making love to itself"
-- Chögyam Trungpa
Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche
eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me;
my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.
-- Meister Eckart
Sitting here, I realized, yet again, that I'm a strange old coot. (If you've been following this blog for awhile, you probably have known that all along. LOL)
inveterate bookworm, a perpetual student, I'm a Spiritual Geek of the first
order. There are several full bookcases, and stacks of books on a number of horizontal surfaces in my apartment.
Lately, I've been thinking it's about time to re-read Chogyam Trungpa's The Myth of Freedom: and the Way of Meditation.
There's nothing like a little light reading, right?
This book was my first exposure to Trungpa Rinpoche. and his presentation of Tibetan Buddhism. I first read it back in 1976.
By then, I'd already been swept up in the collective kensho of the late
sixties and early seventies. Yet most of my actual contact with Buddhism at that point had been
with the Zen tradition and the Hippy Zen of Stephen Gaskin. Along the way, I'd already experienced a number of openings and peak experiences -- as had many of us. By then, I knew that there was a spiritual dimension to life.
I was recently asked how I "got into" the a life of spiritual study and practice. As best as I can tell, I didn't get into it. It got into me. My teen years and young adulthood spanned the 1960's and 1970's. This was the era of the Civil Rights Movement, the Peace Movement, the Summer of Love, and Woodstock. I was born at the right place and in the right time.
The Good Old Daze
Riding on the waves of what was called "the generation gap" at the time, I was one of many. A large number of
youth throughout the world rejected "business as usual." Yearning for something
beyond the nationalism, racism, materialism, senseless violence, and
warfare, we intuited that there was more, much more, to life. And, just like the Beatles, many of us turned to the teachings of Eastern religion to better understand just what that "more" might look like. This cultural revolution was so widespread that by the early 70's, I was practicing yoga and meditation, and was able to buy paperback books like "The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta, How to Know God, and a translation of the Bhagavad Gita right off the bookshelves in the local supermarket! I was also able to read the works of Father Thomas Merton and other Christians who were establishing an interfaith dialogue.
In this Hippy Pentecost, a lot of us had mystical experiences. Although some of these were related to the various psychedelics and medicinal herbs available in those days, many emerged from meditation and other spiritual practices. It was an amazing time. Whether it happened in a meditation hall, around a
campfire in the Rockies, in a rock hall, or elsewhere -- for at least a few moments -- many of us touched the Sacred and the Sacred touched us.
With those experiences, we knew: There is an Ultimate Reality. We discovered, first hand, that there is a dimension in which we are not only all in this together -- we are all this together. We saw that the Universe is a unitary field of energy, an interconnected web of
life dancing in an infinite expanse of luminous space. Inseparable from
all that is, we knew we were each like waves dancing along the surface of an
I have come to call this Ultimate Unity the One Love.
Yet, glimpses of the One Love were one thing. Actually becoming an unconditionally loving human being is quite another. Although the systems of ethics and morality that were embedded in
every religious tradition provided some guidance, I came to understand that there was a lot more
involved. Although I sensed that commitment to a life of service was essential, I discovered that it was going to take commitment, study, and specific tools and practices to really get my act together. I needed to uncover, and then heal, the conditioning that prevented from actualizing the Love in my heart and bringing it into my day to day life. It became clear that Moksha, the liberation alluded to in the Eastern traditions, just like the "Truth that shall set you free" proclaimed by Jesus, wasn't just about a set of beliefs. It was beyond belief and dogma. It called for a way of being.
|Chogyam Trungpa 1939-1987|
I had been exploring meditation for about seven years, and had just turned 30 when, I first came across The Myth of Freedom: and the Way of Meditation in 1976. As a young man who had entered the Hindu, then the Buddhist paths of Practice with the goal of
"liberation," the title that Trungpa chose was mind-blowing.
The MYTH of Freedom? WTF? Wasn't Freedom the ultimate goal?
As I remember it, I poured through the book, intrigued and haunted
by the imagery, but mostly confused. I didn't yet understand the frame of reference, and I wasn't able to grasp the subtleties of his descriptions of various meditative states.
Having heard via the grapevine of Trungpa's "unconventional"
lifestyle, I was also quite skeptical. Then, when I got to the final section of the book, which proclaimed the importance of devotion to a guru, I put the book down. Although I revered the folks that I considered to have been my teachers, I had come to believe that all hierarchical structures were fundamentally dis-empowering and could lead to exploitation and abuse. (Jesus had reportedly said that we should call no man Teacher, no man "Father," which certainly challenges the way most religion is institutionalized. )
I didn't get back to The Myth of Freedom for another thirty years.
During those decades I stumbled my way forward through relationships, numerous jobs, successes and failures, even homelessness. Yet, through the peaks of valleys of my life, I continually returned to meditation as the foundation of my spiritual practice. And, although I maintained a connection to other spiritual traditions through study and shared worship services, my primary focus continued to be Buddhism. Like institutional Christianity, Buddhism had evolved into separate several different branches, and I practiced with both Theravadan and Zen Buddhists. Along he way I spent time in residence at Insight Meditation Society and Zen Mountain Monastery before again launching off to continue a daily meditation practice and my own interfaith exploration of the Bodhisattva Vow, and a life of service.