Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Own the Darkness, Feel the Light

If I sit long enough, the sensation lets itself known, made up of frustration, dissatisfaction, right there in the pit of the stomach. It's been with me for the longest time, I feel. No matter how much I pretend otherwise, deep down, my attitude towards it, has been one of distrust, unease, or at best, tolerant coexistence. Not surprisingly, all my efforts at wishing the unpleasantness away, either through manipulation, or clever   labeling, have only served to strengthen it even more.

This is when a good teacher, along with timely study, can make a difference . . .

Last night, Gil talked about importance of two legs that allow one to walk well on the Buddhist path:

Analogy of clasped hand. If hand is clasped for a long time, it hurts. Hurt leads to desire of ungrasping. Once hand is open, one can either focus on pain one is getting away from, or one can focus on the wonderful feeling of open hand.

Similarly, the spiritual process can be viewed from many different angles. Two perspectives in particular should be considered:
1) samvega: feeling of profound dissatisfaction, associated with meaningless life and suffering, of being in the darkness.
2) pasada: feeling of profound satisfaction, associated to faith in possibility of light, and a whole bunch of qualities from the heart, such as clarity, purity, tranquillity, etc

The Buddha tended to focus more on suffering and how to get away from it (samvega), and less on light at the tend (pasada). While it is important to have clear understanding of conditions that cause the darkness, so as to find way to the light, it is also important to not dwell exclusively in the darkness. And vice versa, one is to not dismiss the inherent dissatisfaction with life's conditions, for the sake of  pursuing the light. Otherwise the risk is that one ends up walking lopsided on the path. Need to lean on both legs for balanced practice. (my notes from talk, not Gil's exact words)

Along the same line, when reading the Verses of the Elder Nuns, yesterday, I was struck by the constant interplay between darkness and light throughout their stories. Never one without the other.

This morning, while sitting, in the coolness of mostly breath, and hardly thoughts, I felt the presence  again. Things were different however. Gil and the Elder Nuns still fresh in my mind, I no longer viewed the abrasive sensation, as an unwanted intruder, but instead as a legitimate friend, to  include in my life. As I did, feeling dropped some of its gritty edges off, and transformed into huge desire, filling my heart with determination, and joy.

I was left with beautiful feeling of being reconciled with myself.


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  2. I am confused, dear. You were left with "huge desire" for something unspecified. Desire's unfulfillment is the source of suffering. Whence came your joy and reconciliation? How were you helped?

  3. desire to continue on the path . . . no suffering there.

  4. As the Buddha said:

    "But one who dwells thus ardently,
    Relentlessly, by day, by night —
    It is he, the Peaceful Sage has said,
    Who has one fortunate attachment."

  5. Yes, Ian! :) I feel so incredibly grateful.

    Deep bow,


  6. hello Marguerite, since reading your post earlier today about 'The Real Cause of Mental Pain' i have been trying to sit in contetemplation.. there i came across darkness and light, and am now a little suprised to come across this post randomly.. very fitting anology of clasped hand..:)

    the momentary release felt like i'd hugged the intruder..the start of friendship perhaps..:)

    your blog, as well as being interesting, it's also very helpful.. thank you.