Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 4: Loosening the "I"

We began today with a dharma talk by Richy using Tsoknyi Rinpoche's Four Types of "I". This is a Tibetan teaching on the construction of a solid sense of "I" where none exists.  He actually starts with what he calls the "Mere I."  This is the actuality of our functional sense of self.  It is what Mu Soeng calls "a provisional floating center."  This is, of course, neither solid nor enduring, but fully functional and integrated. With just a tiny bit of grasping however, we then move to "Ego Fixation." It is here that the sense of self starts to become frozen. There is no more flow or sense of the dance of phenomena.  There is always an "I" as the reference point in life.  This, of course, results in subject/object fixation - we want happiness and must maintain the "I" in that pursuit. This tends to lead to the next level of "Self-cherishing." We are always putting ourselves first, consuming in the service of "I", increasing the amount of investment in preserving the self.  Life becomes more complex. Next comes the "Social I."  This is the coarsest sense of "me" generated by social role, work, and identity. This is very well developed and highly valued in the West. The "Eight Worldly Winds" appear at this level because they are what buffet the ego about. I will mention them here although there is much more to them and they deserve a more complete teaching than I can offer in a brief blog post.  They are: gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and obscurity.  These are the guiding forces that push around the Social I.  They are not hard to understand are they?

What happens when we release back through these four senses of "I" to the Mere I?  Here is a tiny taste - more of a portal into the release to the Mere I - but a beautiful example nonetheless.  We did practices today to help us experiment with releasing into Mere I.  Below is an report from one of our sangha members in Austin following a recent intensive. I read it to the participants here on Molokai as an example of the fruit of these kinds of teachings. This is what I really love, assisting students so that the teachings emerge from them and then pointing out that they have arrived through them, not me.  This is thrilling.  Take a look:

"Since the Intensive, I have been experiencing everything through the lens that "nothing is what I call it."  It has impacted everything, whether I am sitting or speaking or watching the world around me.  I've gone back and listened to talks and read poetry that I thought I "got" and in doing so realized this dimension that was there all along - something I've spoken to other people about but now actually realized instead of interpreting it in words which I heretofore thought defined life.  For example, "all things have Buddha nature" turns into "all things share a reality and a life before and after any reference we can make to it."  Then, before I name the moon as beautiful, it is already true - active and fully responded to in me and all others in a communication that far exceeds any verbal expression.  Then, Dogen says we are "actualized by the myriad things;" speech and thought are just name tags that are just one infinitessimal acknowledgement of the whole and is already flowing through us as vibrating expressions of this ever expansive truth. It has been breathtaking and makes the notion of separateness an organic impossiblity."

What can you actually say about the picture of the flower above (thanks to Cassie Weyendt)?  Do those six letters - "flower" - contain the explosion you see? What about the light - not to mention the smell?  What about you, or what you call you?  Is it really so solid or so necessary?  These are good questions.  Just to be mindful helps us begin to penetrate the ways we cling to the self, cherish the self, and maintain a social I.  Here is the final poem of the day by Mary Oliver.  
Mindful : Mary Oliver
Every day
I see or hear 
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for -
to look, to listen,
to loose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant - 
but the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can I help
but grow wise 
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?


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