At this moment what more need we seek?
As the eternal tranquility of truth reveals itself to us;
This very place is the land of lotuses,
and this very body is the body of the buddha.
What buddhism and the dharma means to me
These past couple of days, my mind has been spinning in the direction of motivation and inspiration towards writing and painting. I feel creative again, after many, many months of having a huge creative blockage in my system. I’m painting and writing letters to people I care about. I’m not feeling as critical towards my own ability to create, and therefore I am able to play around more without being too hung up on the result. I even found the courage to go ask an art studio and a gallery in town if they wanted to display my paintings, and they did! What an adrenaline kick.
Anyway. I felt like writing about my buddhist path. Two nights ago, I was at a small get-together, a moving-in-party at a buddhist friend´s place, and the conversation steered towards spirituality and religion. Me and this friend were the only practicing buddhists in the room, and it became evident to me that there are a lot of assuptions about buddhism that I just don’t find true at all, in my personal experience. For example that the (historical) Buddha Shakyamuni is looked upon as a God, above other people/followers, that enlightenment/buddhahood is something mystical only available to certain people and that spirituality is in the culture, not necessarily in people’s heart and mind.
To me, it only makes sense that since we all have a mind, that means we all have the same ability to transform it, to step out of the wheel of suffering and confusion. And since we all have a heart, we all have the potential to open it towards all living beings, and develop a compassionate heart without disrimination. The Buddha Shakyamuni showed us it’s possible, and so did many other dharma practitioners and teachers, like Yeshe Tsogyal, Padmasambhava and Jetsun Milarepa – to mention a few. I believe it is true though, that some people have a stronger connection to dharma (the teachings and the practice) than others, but still the possibility is there.
I think it’s important to remember that when we are practicing dharma, it is not to become a part of Tibetan or Indian culture, or to belong to any other culture with a strong tie to buddhism. It is “simply” to be a kind of scientist who looks closely at our own minds, and to be able to use the samsaric (cyclic) mind as a tool to tranform it into an enlightened one. Training our minds through meditation. In this sense, I feel buddhism has much more of a spiritual approach to it, than a religious one. There is a lot of religious and cultural baggage attached to buddhism that I personally don’t agree with, for example putting young children in monasteries, away from their families, blindly believing something just because a robed person said it without using common sense to check it for yourself, and the still-existing patriarchy that’s going on in some areas of buddhism.
Despite this, I still call myself a buddhist because I feel a strong devotion in my own heart to practice the dharma and a motivation to transform my mind using the buddhist teachings. I feel lucky to not live in a poor country and to have time to practice and to be able to go on retreats 3-4 times a year with a wonderful sangha and a very capable teacher. I also feel like the basic buddhist principles of ethics, honesty and being of help and benefit to others is such a beautiful and transformative thing.
Having been a practicing buddhist for about two years now, I definitely feel like I have a more clear mind and a more pure heart. Still long ways to go, but feeling progress is golden. If you’d like to check out the tradition I am practicing in, go to openheart.fi 🙂
“A thorough, experiential understanding of emptiness is the only antidote to the belief in an “I,” in a truly existing self. Once you recognize emptiness, all your attachment to such a self will vanish without a trace. Realization will blaze forth like a brilliant sun rising in the sky, transforming darkness into light. At first, until you actually recognize emptiness, you have to gain an understanding of it through deep and careful reflection on the teacher’s pith instructions. Then, when you first recognize it, your experience of emptiness will not be stable. To improve it, blend meditation and postmeditation periods. Try not to fall back into ordinary delusion, but to maintain the view of emptiness in all your daily activities. Meditation and the path of action will mutually enhance each other. Finally, you may reach a point where there is no difference between meditation and postmeditation, a point at which you no longer ever depart from emptiness. This is called the realization of great sameness. Within that great sameness, compassion for all beings will arise spontaneously—for the more you realize emptiness, the less there will be any impediment to the arising of compassion.” – Dilgo K. Rinpoche, excerpt from Heart of Compassion
Thunder, lightning, and the southern clouds, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the sky itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the sky itself.
Rainbows, mist, and fog, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the earth itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the earth itself.
Forests, flowers, and leaves, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the mountain itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the mountain itself.
Rivers, bubbles, and waves, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the ocean itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the ocean itself.
Habitual tendencies, clinging, and fixation, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the All-Ground itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the All-Ground itself.
Natural awareness, natural lucidity, and natural liberation, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the nature of mind itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the nature of mind itself.
The birthless, the deathless, and the expressionless, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the nature of things itself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the nature of things itself.
The appearance as demons, the apprehension as demons, and the conceptualizing as demons, these three,
Although they arise, they arise from the Yogi himself;
Although they dissolve, they dissolve into the Yogi himself.
Tara 💎 ‘She who liberates’
‘She is considered to be the deity of universal compassion who represents virtuous and enlightened activity; a female bodhisattva.
The word Tara itself is derived from the root ‘tri’ (to cross), hence the implied meaning: ‘the one who enables living beings to cross the Ocean of Existence and Suffering’. Her compassion for living beings, her desire to save them from suffering, is said to be even stronger than a mother’s love for her children.
The story of Tara’s origin, according to the Tara Tantra, recounts that aeons ago she was born as a king’s daughter. A compassionate princess, she regularly gave offerings and prayers to the ordained monks and nuns. She thus developed great merit, and the monks told her that, because of her spiritual attainments, they would pray that she be reborn as a man and spread Buddhist teachings. She responded that there was no male and no female, that nothing existed in reality, and that she wished to remain in female form to serve other beings until everyone reached enlightenment, hence implying the shortfall in the monk’s knowledge in presuming only male preachers for the Buddhist religion. Thus Tara might be considered one of the earliest feminists.’
I got a question in my comment section if I could write a little bit about what effect tantric yoga has had on my health, and this made my head spin with ideas about what I should write because I think I have something to share and I am always happy to talk about my yogic and dharmic practice, it being a big part of my life. I wrote a post earlier this year about my health/illness, but I will just mention again what kind of health struggles I have to make a context.
So, in 2010 I came down with a serious viral infection (mononucleosis caused by Epstein-Barr virus) which left me very ill. I have had some health issues almost all my life (IBS, migraine, eczema), but this was a big blow to my immune system and gave me lots of symptoms: brain fog, muscles pain, headaches, worsening of IBS (more stomach problems), sleep problems, weight loss, hair loss, extreme fatigue, vision problems, terrible memory, numbness in certain areas of my body, dizziness, mood swings, adrenal exhaustion, thyroid imbalance, dry itchy skin, cold extremities….the list goes on, but lets just leave it at that 🙂 Losing my energy and health also made me lose most of my social life/relationships and this of course made me very isolated. So no doubt it affected my mental health/mood as well.
In 2011 I started doing physical yoga, more specifically hatha yoga. I signed up for a course in town and I remember feeling really good afterwards! It was like I found back to an old activity I had done many times before. I loved the asanas (poses/movements) and the pranayama (breathing exercises), and I came in touch with my body for the first time in….well, forever. What is also so great about physical yoga is that you work with the body and not pushing it too much like you would pumping iron in the gym. I adopted the exercises to my daily routine, even if I was bedbound I could do something simple like yoga nidra (systematically going through and relaxing the body in your mind) or just moving hands or feet to make the blood flow.
I did hatha yoga on and off for many years, until I stumbled upon awakening and tantric yoga in January 2016. It was quite different from the yoga I had been doing so far; mostly focusing on the body and not so much the mind. As I understand tantric yoga in my own experience, you work with mantras and vizualisations to transform the dualistic mind. You ‘invite’ energy into your body, mind and aura through specific practices so that karmic imprints, patterns and subconscious mindstates can be processed and thus cleared. This sounds strange at first, at least I thought so. But still, there was no doubt that it worked, and still does, as I do the practice every day.
After I started doing tantric yoga, the illness has been easier to handle; it’s like I see it from a very different perspective because doing these kinds of energetic practices transforms a lot of my feelings around the illness, but also deeper stuff. And as the lid of fear and feelings about being ill slowly has been lifted, the illness itself is easier to address. It is also my belief that chronic illness is not necessarily forever. “Chronic” means “long term”, and I don’t think or hope I will have these health issues for the rest of my life. I also think that the practices has a direct impact on transforming how the illness acts in the body, as I have felt lighter and not as fatigued after starting tantric practice.
When it comes to long term illness and dharmic/yogic practice, I’m going to very cliché and say that balance is key. If you feel too sick some days to practice for 2 hours then maybe 15 minutes is enough. But I feel it is very important to do at least a little bit every day, not lose practice completely (which I have in some periods) and to always keep in mind why you are doing it. I often think about my own motives for doing anything, perhaps sometimes also overthinking it, but I feel when it comes to this, it is becoming easier to find the discipline to practice as the years pass because I see the benefits and my motivation is simple and clear: I wish to get well so that I may benefit others. And I don’t wish to be ill anymore.
Lately, I have not had much routines in my life; sleep has been either poor or way too much. Like 14 hours at a time. Always waking up with a headache and needing a nap after a few hours awake. Procrastinating things and not eating often enough/not had much appetite. Hasn’t been a full-blown ‘dark night’ – at all – but still not functioning as well as I know I can.
I started doing hatha yoga in 2011, but the last few years I’ve been doing much more sitting meditation than asanas (poses), but been wanting to start again because I know how beneficial it is. So today I started 🙂 Did a few sun salutations (surya samaskara) and some simple stretching. Not too much at once. When I saw my own video I see how stiff I am and not much flow in my movements. This will improve, I know, if I keep it up. Which is my plan!
Four years ago, when I was bedridden, simple yoga movements was something that really helped. Just sitting up in bed moving my joints or doing yoga nidra on my headphones, getting the blood flowing and getting the body into deep relaxation has been a life saver when it comes to chronic fatigue and chronic pain.
Very happy to have finally started again! I know posting this will make me more motivated to write/film an update later on 🙂