April 9, 2017 at 11:49 pm #1893
I really enjoyed Culadasa on Buddha at the Gas Pump, really illuminating interview! I had a couple of questions relating to his answers which I would love to hear more on:
1. He mentioned Dzogchen/Mahamudra practices at stage 9. Do you know whether he means the ‘resting method’ or the directing awareness on awareness ‘active’ approach? Does he place much emphasis on this in insight practice or more on object focussed choiceless awareness?
2. In the section on what he is working on he mentioned compassion. Did he mean practicing metta as per instructions in his book and then practicing this in life through kindness?
3. Also in the section on what he is working on he said ‘the implications of his death’ I wondered what this meant, as he is such an advanced practitioner I was very interested in this as it is an area I would like to develop in myself.
Thanks in advanceApril 10, 2017 at 11:43 am #1897
Hi Full Circle,
I too enjoyed his interview!
I’ll take a gander at answering your questions:
1. The practice he referred to was “Meditating on the Mind,” p. 331. As you may know, traditional Mahamudra practice is divided into three phases: ground Mahamudra, in which one recognizes and learns to abide in the knowing and empty quality of spacious awareness; path Mahamudra, which involves examining the mind when it’s both active (“moving”) and at comparative “rest”; and, finally, fruition Mahamudra, which is when the investigation produces permanent transformative insight, or Awakening. In “Meditating on the Mind,” the process of fusing attention and awareness until one is able to experience the entire landscape of the mind at once from that mode is essentially ground Mahamudra. Distinguishing and examining between the active and resting/receptive states is path Mahamudra. And if the examination produces permanent transformation/a cessation event (see p. 332-334), that is fruition Mahamudra.
2. I believe Culadasa would say that cultivating lovingkindness as well as the other divine abodes (compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity) on the cushion and through daily life activity lays the essential foundation for the kind of work he’s talking about: being a bodhisattva-in-action, who is capable of immersing himself in human relationships, social work, dharma teaching, etc., while at the same time remaining free from craving, aversion, and delusion. Basically, he objects to people who say Awakening necessarily entails a quietistic, ascetic, and equanimous withdrawal from human involvement.
3. You may have heard Culadasa’s health has been poor. For the last several years, he’s had to continuously face the prospect that he could die within a matter of months. (Given how forthcoming he was in his interview and elsewhere, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind my saying this here). As the English writer Samuel Johnson once said, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” While a serious health challenge may quicken insight, we as practitioners of course don’t have to wait for a crisis to start understanding the implications of our own deaths. After all, in a sense, the entire spiritual path is about coming to terms with the fact of impermanence.
Yours in the Dharma,
DT TeacherApril 10, 2017 at 1:25 pm #1899
Thank you for your answer it clarified a lot. Also going back to the pages you recommended I got a lot more re-reading them, I think I need to re-read the whole book based off that experience!
I had picked up that Culadasa had health issues but I didn’t know that it was that serious, very sorry to hear that and I hope his health continues to improve. I guess even with deep insights into no self that nothing would prepare you completely for having to face that reality until you are there.
Thanks againApril 10, 2017 at 1:36 pm #1900
Hi Full Circle,
You’re very welcome. Yes, it’s interesting to consider the attention-awareness paradigm in light of Mahamudra/Dzogchen. It opens a whole new perspective on TMI.
By the way, I didn’t mean to suggest equanimity equals asceticism and social withdrawal. The bodhisattva path is also one of equanimity.April 11, 2017 at 2:04 am #1902
That makes sense.
I guess what prompted my question on what Culadasa meant by preparing for death was that I’m dealing with a lot of anxiety and fear in my own life and practice and a theme that comes up and links to it is death anxiety. I’ve been struggling with any practices other than metta/brahmavihara’s with other practices triggering a lot of fear, disorientation, depersonalisation and sometimes fear of death. Any suggestions greatly welcomed, for now I have decreased my practice and focused only on metta
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