Wednesday, July 29, 2009

16. The 24/7 love monkey

This is part of the Mind Training series

16. Work with whatever you encounter, immediately.

To do something special you need to prepare in advance. Packing your bags to go on a vacation. Scrubbing up to perform open heart surgery. The right time has to be decided, the right circumstances have to be created.

Training the mind is not like that. In stead of preparing in advance you just have to be prepared. There's a subtle difference there. Being prepared, in this context, means you have "let the mind become", semkye in Tibetan. Raise the mind of enlightenment, or bodhichitta, The Heart That Is Not Fooled Into Thinking That Others Don't Need To Be Happy.

Now, bodhichitta is not something you can force yourself to have. But when it unexpectedly appears (which is does, again and again and again*), recognize it. Nurture it. Don't try to sweep it under the carpet because it feels a bit weak, sad and unmanly. This enlightenment mind is the most precious thing you will ever have.

The lojong, then, is not about doing something special, in a special way and in a special time and place. In most of life's situations there are no real options available anyway. You just do what you do anyway, infused with attention and bodhichitta. Don't fret about getting it right or wrong. Allow yourself to make mistakes. If you make a mistake (e.g. if you notice yourself trying to find something/-one to blame for something), just correct and continue.

Having your bodhichitta at the ready means opening up your mind and pulling away the curtains of expectation and self-importance. Let the birds of your own and others' feelings fly in and out as they please. Have a bed ready for when anything wants to stay. Leave the door unlocked for when anything wants to leave.

Time to take one to the spiritual nut sack, my friends: the real teaching of slogan 16 is that dharma practice is not special. It does not need special circumstances. It will not make you a very special person. (It probably won't leave you a four-armed, luminous freak like Chenrezig [which would have definite social disadvantages, anyway. Imagine trying to find a decent T-Shirt...]). No waiting around for the "right" moment, in other words.

Nope, training our minds in openness will not change the fact we are bipedal, opposably thumbed primates with (most likely) rather unremarkable lives. But it will give us more sanity, relaxation and kindness.

The real bodhisattva is a 24/7 chilled-out love monkey.

*) Like a flash of lightning, revealing all the dark had hidden, as Shantideva has it.

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