Poetry: Know thyself

swan reflection

Not that which comes and goes,
But that which knows both comings and goings;

Not that which is confused or clear,
But that which sees both confusion and clarity;

Not that which is happy or depressed,
But that which knows both happiness and depression;

Not that which swells with pride, or is deflated by humiliation,
But that which sees both pride and humiliation, and their effects;

Not that which is damaged by disease or benefited by medicine,
But that which knows both disease and health;

Not that which has desires and fears,
But that which sees both attraction and aversion;

Not that which judges or is open-minded,
But that which knows judgement and open-mindedness.

Not that which thinks or acts,
But that to which both thoughts and actions appear;

Not the ear, tongue, skin, eyes or nose,
But that to which smell, taste, sensation, vision and sound appear;

That which, in our experience,
never changes,
is always present,
and unblemished by experiences;

That which
looks with constancy,
is ever-patient,
always seeing things as they are;

That which
cannot be lost or removed,
is effortlessly present,
totally secure,
and is the innermost essence of your experience;

Know yourself to be that.

Tibetan Buddhism: Free and Easy by Gendun Rinpoche

Gendun Rinpoche.jpg

This is a beautiful and profound ‘vajra poem’. It was given spontaneously by Gendun Rinpoche, a late Tibetan Buddhist rinpoche (‘precious teacher’), during a talk to his disciples. A book of his teachings called Heart Advice from a Mahamudra Master is highly recommended and teaches all the essentials of Tibetan Buddhism from someone who has a genuine experience of the truth that lies behind the words. Sometimes expositions of Tibetan Buddhism become overly structured and conceptual, but Gendun Rinpoche has a way of not only teaching the concepts, but also of indicating that which is beyond concepts and is also immediate and vital.

Happiness can not be found
through great effort and willpower,
but is already present,
in open relaxation and letting go.

Don’t strain yourself,
there is nothing to do or undo.
Whatever momentarily arises
in the body-mind
has no real importance at all,
has little reality whatsoever.
Why identify with,
and become attached to it,
passing judgement upon it and ourselves?

Far better to simply
let the entire game happen on its own,
springing up and falling back like waves
without changing or manipulating anything
and notice how everything vanishes and reappears, magically,
again and again, time without end.

Only our searching for happiness
prevents us from seeing it.
It’s like a vivid rainbow which you pursue
without ever catching,
or a dog chasing its own tail.

Although peace and happiness
do not exist as an actual thing or place,
it is always available
and accompanies you every instant.

Don’t believe in the reality of good and bad experiences;
they are like today’s ephemeral weather,
like rainbows in the sky.

Wanting to grasp the ungraspable,
you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you open and relax
this tight fist of grasping,
infinite space is there –
open, inviting and comfortable.

Make use of this spaciousness,
this freedom and natural ease.
Don’t search any further
looking for the great awakened elephant,
who is already resting quietly at home
in front of your own hearth.

Nothing to do or undo,
nothing to force,
nothing to want,
and nothing missing –

Emaho! Marvellous!
Everything happens by itself.

Tibetan Buddhism: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar


Above is an excerpt from a text called ‘The Concise Mind Instructions Called Naturally Liberating Whatever You Meet’ by Khenpo Gangshar, as found in the book Vivid Awareness by Khenchen Thrangu.

In this short text Khenpo Gangshar goes on to say:

Directly, whatever arises, do not change it – rest naturally. This fulfils the essence of all creation stages, completion stages, mantra recitations, and meditations.

This is the heart of the highest Tibetan Buddhist teachings: to rest naturally and be vividly aware. Just be. I would add that in this no sense of self is being created, and this is the practice. To simply be, and not to take yourself as being a ‘self’ or ‘doer’. To use a commonly used phrase in vedanta: do not take yourself to be ‘this or that’.

Khenpo Gangshar goes on to give advice on how to deal with difficulties along the way:

You must take sickness as the path, afflictions as the path, the bardo as the path, and delusion as the path. The heart of all these applications is to rest naturally in the essence.

This advice is very much in line with most of traditional Tibetan Buddhist teachings, but here it is stated in very concise form. When difficulties come along, just rest in your natural being. Don’t identify as being ‘this or that’, don’t start to create or believe in the concept of being a doer. This is the false concept that is rooted out and seen through in this practice.

When life throws us a challenge, don’t simply fall back into your old habits of self-identification. It is from this creation of an imaginary doer/self that all other afflictions and suffering follows. Instead, just rest, just be. Let your awareness shine, let it shine brightly. If the thought ‘I’ arises, let it, notice it, notice that it is empty and does not describe or pertain to any reality. There is no ‘I’, there is no self. Only the bright expanse of phenomena.

One final thought from me, a question:
Does any of this have anything to do with Freedom? Does Freedom depend on any practice? Does Freedom depend on any of this?