Matt: I am struggling with this one right now: I don’t know if it is good to talk about realization because of the subtle pride it can create?
In a sangha that I am part of, I know of many folks that a free, but they only hint at it and never miss a chance to make a joke about being realized.
One teacher I heard speaking said it like this: “In Tibet, the yogis said don’t praise your wife, your horse or your meditation experience too much in public because it is a subtle type of pride of how great you really are.” Of course, this was delivered with humour and gusto!
To some degree, I believe there is merit in this. But on the other hand, I like the approach of openly confirming if there are results, but then again does this not go against the non-essential nature of what realization is?
Alas! The paradox.
But for sure, I think the biggest hindrance I think is that many practitioners don’t have the fruit of liberation and enlightenment enough in their crossroads enough as an aspiration because of its non-graspable nature.
Kim: I am very familiar with what you say but to me the logic of that never made sense. Let’s think this through.
Buddhist path is about insight into the empty nature of phenomena of the mind. We have these big and small insights or awakenings or openings through the practice of sutric or tantric vipashyana. These insights reduce and remove self-based reactions and habits, such as anger, pride or jealousy.
So, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that the person in this example understands how buddhist practice works (or doesn’t work) and has a clear idea about the scope of awakening or realisation that culminates in emptiness of all phenomena which is when full liberation or buddhahood is attained. Many times people, not necessarily buddhists, have one or two mind-transforming openings and they think that they are “done” and completed the path but let’s assume that the person in question understands the practice and has a clear idea of the whole arc of insight, and therefore doesn’t fall into delusions about being done when he actually isn’t.
I certainly don’t deny that people with little insight, who typically start their own teaching activities and come up with their own special sensational interpretations about things, fall into this trap but this pitfall can easily be avoided by the two mentioned points.
So, we have a practitioner who has done some practice for some time, practices in a local group and joins retreats with a teacher, and then has his/her first awakening experience. Depending on how long the person has been practicing, the depth and quality of this shift varies. The shift can be “dry” or shallow, or it can be “wet” or rich and deep in the case of those who have watered the ground well with long practice prior to the first insight. I know some people who had their first shift after 20 years of engaged meditation practice and it really made them clear, soft and grounded for up to 2 years before the samsaric conditioning started again. I also know lots of people who didn’t have such background and whose awakening had a much shorter sobering effect on them but nevertheless made a change. Anyway, regardless of which one it is, the shift changes the way the person sees him/herself, the way he sees others and how he reacts to things.
So, that person tells his/her sangha friends that he has had this shift and describes how his mind has changed. If this happened in a community that practices pragmatic dharma, that person would already know that others have these experiences too and that they belong to the path or that they actually are the path. That person might go to their teacher or instructor to have it recognised and verified which is a very useful because through teacher’s verifications one comes to understand which experiences are proper shifts and which aren’t, i.e what buddhadharma is about. In the case of proper insight, the student would be congratulated of successful practice, given some context and encouraged to go further to the next milestone.
With this I am really describing a typical scene from secular education that we all have seen in school. Students are taught essentials, are given clear instructions and off they go writing their own essays, and some of them produce great works that are acknowledged by the teacher. I am simply suggesting to do the same in dharma.
So, I ask, where in all this is the great danger of falling prey to pride? Truly, how relevant is this concern of not talking about experiences because of the fear that it might make us especially proud or ego-centric in any other way?
Before or after awakening and throughout the path, self-based states keep arising, so if pride arises due to getting awakened it is nothing out of the ordinary. That is samsara but it gets reduced as the bhumis get purified one by one. So, my view is that if one gets proud or arrogant at any stage, it is simply an opportunity to keep going and again look through the selfing. Until buddhahood is attained, the samsaric mind keeps making us small and contracted but this doesn’t reduce the effect of had awakenings.
It is better to expose the inner potholes and possible pitfalls than to avoid them, no? So you simply engage in practice until you no longer need to, and along the way you have both sober and deluded periods alternating. There is no avoiding that… or actually I could go on (again) talking about false practices that basically keep folks in samsaric state without insights but won’t go there now.
Further about statements of attainments.
Whatever people might think about it, I have no problem to say that I have finished my practice and that I no longer need to do purification practices. I have realised emptiness of all phenomena fully and completely, like countless generations of yogis and yoginis before me. To me, this is a simple fact and there is no doubt about it. I know perfectly that through my many years of trial and error and about 30 thousand hours of practice, I have purified and perfected my bhumis. To me stating this is as normal as it is for an electrician to say that he is an electrician, or how a doctor states that he is a doctor. Why would or should I be shy about saying this aloud when it is how it is? It doesn’t make any sense to me because there is nothing special in me or in this attainment.
I am stating this, like many buddhas and mahasiddhas before me, to demonstrate and to encourage others to take practice seriosly and to get out of samsara. Awakenings happen through proper practice and purification advances until it is finished and there is nothing left to purify. Vows become fulfilled, the whole promise of vajrayana becomes fulfilled. This is simply what vajrayana can deliver.
My reply might seem radical but to me buddhism was always yoga, and never a religion. I won’t have anyone tell me what I can or cannot do, or what I am allowed to think or not. So, all in all, your comment is based on a cultural feature and like all cultural features, they change or are changed over time. About anything, we have the freedom to agree or disagree.