Part 9 - She Knows That She's Not Real
The scene: a large Buddhist conference in Berlin. Amongst the many dialogues, speeches and presentations, some teachers have come to give workshops and perform pujas. One such teacher is an eminent Tibetan lama; he has been giving instruction on The Praise to the Twenty One Taras, both to his experienced students and to a small crowd of other attendees. After a long puja and a series of visualizations and explanatory teachings, it is now time for questions and answers.
A young man with furrowed brow requests to speak. He asks in broken English, “Rinpoche, for many years now I have been your student. I am committed to the practice but I have the doubt. I am very willing to do the pujas, the visualizations, the prostrations, but it is very hard to have the whole heart in it, because I have this doubt: Tara, is she really there? Sometime you talk like she is a real person, but sometimes you say she is the wisdom of Buddha Amoghasiddhi, or just a skillful means.
“If I could know for sure, I would redouble my efforts. So, Rinpoche, Tara, does she really exist or does she not?!”
For a few moments the lama rests his chin on his chest, then raises his sparkling eyes to meet those of his inquirer. A smile spreads across his broad wrinkled face. He responds, “She knows that she"s not real.”
When we bring our mind to that place of realization, we can see that, conventionally speaking, there"s a reader here and a page out there, but we can also recognize that this is a complex web of sight, sound, taste, touch, images appearing/disappearing, sounds coming/going and changing. This is just the play of phenomena happening within awareness. They have no substantial reality.
The more that we practice and learn to hold the play of forms in that gentle way, there"s an attunement to what"s going on. Then we begin to get the feel.
The Middle Way is appreciated as a finely felt sense – it"s nothing to do with geography or splitting the difference – as when a piece of music moves us and the heart goes "Aaaahh…" it is carried by the music. We can"t describe what that is except to say, “Oh, it"s perfect!” But even in saying “it"s perfect” once again we"ve almost lost the feeling. Equally, if the rational mind is still struggling to get some more precision, as Louis Armstrong, when asked, “What"s jazz?” responded, “Man, if you have to ask what it is, you"ll never know.”
The Middle Way is that wordless quality of pure and vibrant harmony.
January 20th, 2008