Giving Up

Some people still consider Chogyam Trungpa a great teacher. I have never understood why. Trungpa was a teacher in the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism and highly controversial. I’ve always felt that he used (abused) the Tibetan concept of “crazy wisdom” so that he could misbehave. (I blogged about one notorious incident here.)

But recently ran across this Trungpa quote and I liked it:

In order to become Buddha you either have to give up the idea of Buddha or give up the idea of you.”

This is one of those paradoxical statements Buddhism is famous for, and it’s similar to the Zen saying, “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

I would take it a step further, though, and suggest that in order to become Buddha you must give up both the idea of Buddha and the idea of you. There is no “or” about it.  To surrender both is crucial. What’s more, you probably have to give up the idea of becoming a Buddha, too.

In my opinion, one of the critical first steps on the path is to rid ourselves of the notion that Buddha is someone or something outside of our own lives. The real Buddha is the inner one. We need to “kill” or give up our tendency to form attachments to external objects, and therefore, it is important that we not turn Buddha, awakened beings, or even awakening itself, into opportunities for grasping.

The concept of you is already a prime opportunity for grasping.  Buddhism teaches that the concept of “self” is the root of suffering. You, me, the ego, self-being – all are simply designations for something falsely imagined.

The you that you think you must promote and protect is not the real you, rather the real you is the Buddha within. It’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the gist of it.

And with this understanding, we begin to realize that so many of the Buddhist statements that we may shake our heads at and classify as just some sayings riddled with paradox, actually point to an objective reality that is highly paradoxical.

You must give up you to find the real you. That’s a logic that is sometimes hard to wrap our minds around, but we would do well to put some effort into it.

Dogen put it this way:

To study the Way is to study the Self. To study the Self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and ever.” *

When I read passages like the one above, I think to myself, “I know this so well.” Then I observe my own behavior and see how I have forgotten the principle so easily. I find that I must keep trying to improve – one thing I can’t afford to give up.

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* Hee-Jin Kim, Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, Simon and Schuster, 2004, 125

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7 thoughts on “Giving Up

  1. our existence is an expression, at any particular moment. Expressionless is possible, but I believe the idea was not so much to become expressionless, but rather become pure (bodhicitta). Any way, this notion is similar to non-duality/advaita, I believe this is full of pitfalls for beginners. But never the less a powerful , and ultimate state.

    1. It’s full of pitfalls for lots of folks . . . I agree, the idea is not to become expressionless or nothingness. It’s about something and then understanding the inherent emptiness of that something.

      1. David, I know you covered these aspects in your previous posts, just wanted to highlight we cannot ignore the other two: sila (ethical conduct), samadhi (concentration). These things are not focused enough in some advaita/non-duality schools.

        I believe Karma works with mathematical certainty, and like physics/biological-evolution, it produces (mental) inertia/force, with out which one cannot properly establish (or become) the ultimate state. Mind is one cunning organ.

        1. I don’t know which advaita/non-duality schools you’re referring to – I suspect you are coming from a slightly different philosophical orientation than I, but that’s okay. I have a few doubts about karma. Mind is one cunning organ? Couldn’t agree more.

          1. I my view karma is skillful action (sila + samadhi), like accomplished golfer playing golf, one has to fully “become it”. I am not referring to some western meanings of karma, which can be misleading.

            As you know, we need panna+sila+samadhi (Noble 8 fold path) for ultimate state. Whether buddha meant equal balance among these 3, of if panna trumps eventually, i am not sure. But i do know panna is heavily a mind thing, where as the karma (sila+samadhi) are habit driven (mental inertia, involuntary). I would bet on karma any day, than the cunning mind (which has a big role in panna).

            In my previous comment, I was referring to the modern neo-advaita movement/schools, where the focus is extensively on panna (jnana) alone. And to a lesser extent, some of the hindu advaita schools also fall into this.

          2. When I am not doubtful about karma, I see it as skillful and unskillful action. Ethics and meditation swing the pendulum between the two toward the skillful side. I think balance is always a good thing to strive for, and since a wayfarer on the 8 fold path must journey the whole path, I think equal emphasis on each of the 3 is crucial.

          3. There is conscious and unconscious action. With conscious, we can actively strive for “skillful” karma. This will eventually/automatically purify the unconscious karma (mental inertia, habitual force).

            There is unskillful action, but it falls under conscious karma, thus we are in control and can strive to convert it into skillful (sila with samadhi).

            For all practical purposes, we can ignore the unconscious karma, and focus extensively on “skillful action” (sila+samadhi), it is said to perfect, or make one’s non-dual world wholesome.

            If one accepts there is no self, everything is you (non-duality), then logically, they can accept “karma” (everything that happens, or done, is you) too. Its all about making one’s world wholesome (samma).

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