The Juncture of Boredom

December 29th, 2008

Here in Orissa there is an evolving question of how to be at the Rinchen Terdzo, how to receive these abhishekas day after day knowing it’s unlikely we’ll do many of these practices. The answer to the question is simple on one hand, but it has an interesting layer beneath the answer. The simple answer is just that His Eminence is passing on what he received from the Vidyadhara to the Sakyong. All one has to do is have devotion during the empowerments and fulfill the requirement a recitation requirement of 100,000 mantras of Padmasambhava, the guru who embodies all the gurus, and 100,000 mantras of Vajrasattva, the yidam who is the embodiment of all the yidams. One has opens one’s heart in the abhishekas, does the mantras and that’s that.

But telling oneself to have faith and do the mantras can seem a little naïve, especially when one is here for weeks on end. I suppose this is a combination of healthy western skepticism and being thrust deeper than usual into a Tibetan cultural context. The background to this is an instruction many of us in Shambhala have heard, “Don’t run after empowerments for practices you’ll never do.” Although this is a historic event and everyone attending has that reason to be there, we are still faced with how to place our minds without feeling somehow blind.

I don’t exactly know how to explain this, but it’s like I have been burning through the consequences of avoiding receiving lots of abhishekas. There is certainly a neurosis to going to lots of them, to hunting out teachers in a search for blessings. But at the same time, in sitting in the shrine room for more than three weeks and participating in well over 200 empowerments I have relaxed and opened my mind to the idea that there may be contexts when receiving a lot of abhishekas has more to offer than just a credential. Prior to coming here I had a frozen understanding of what this situation is about. There is more going on than just receiving a lot more practices.

The crux of this has to do with repetition and boredom. Whether sitting on a cushion, reciting a mantra, or struggling to memorize a text, the aim of repetition is to soften the mind and work it towards more openness along with better habits like patience and generosity. Abhishekas in the west are infrequent at least for me and I have not had the chance to relax into the experience for very long. At the Rinchen Terdzo abhishekas have become the norm and as a group we are hitting what the Vidyadhara called cool boredom. There is a phase of being bored where one gets past mental fidgeting and starts to genuinely sit and look at one’s world. Buddhist practice emphasizes repetition in order to provoke insight. I never would have thought this could apply to the process of abhisheka until coming here.

At this juncture I am making a connection with what it is during a dathun or when in retreat doing a daily liturgical practice with visualizations and mantras. Walking into monastery every day seems to be about thinking of the teacher, contemplating virtue and relaxing the mind much in the same way that I’ve experienced things in regular daily practice. Only here the practice session is very organic and participatory in terms of relating with a teacher. There is time to actively explore with what it means to be humble and open. It’s really wonderful to see the Sakyong doing this in the front of the room. Maybe all this description of slowing down doesn’t read like a big deal on paper, but personally speaking, this is a big deal.

The schedule of late has been quite tight with evening talks that sometimes take us close to 10 o’clock. Consequently it has been hard to write as much as usual. Last night’s talk was Jigme Rinpoche’s first about vajrayana topics and it turned out to be a real tour-de-force of useful information on view and practice. We have one final talk tomorrow night and the next night there will be a new year’s party at the Ripa family compound. We are wondering what a new year’s party at a monastery looks like. For the guests it will be a celebration with the Ripas and Mukpos along with a farewell party for the western students who’ve come for the Dzogchen Retreat.

We are still receiving the empowerments of wrathful forms of the guru, and the focus continues to be on the form of Padmasambhava known as Guru Trakpo. Soon we’ll shift to Dorje Trollo. In a day or so we’ll move to an entirely new section of the Rinchen Terdzo, the empowerments of the yidams and the famous grouping of them, the Eight Logos.

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