on dzogchen and spontaneity
Nestling in shit is the “spontaneous” behavior of dung beetles in accord with “uncontrived” dung habit.
The 19th century writer John Jay Chapman once said of politicians that when forced to decide between "lucrative malpractice and thankless honesty" they usually chose the first. I thought of this because in response to your most recent questions it would certainly be easier, and more pleasing to us both, to simply tell you what you wish to hear! Like most so called Lamas, I myself, am merely a politician offering disciples false security and sham superiority in exchange for nice cars, high thrones, good meals and a little warm friction. Somehow these days, despite my efforts to the contrary, the Buddha’s teachings seem to be affecting me and I feel compelled to answer your question honestly, even if not pleasingly.
You ask about the conflict between natural spontaneity and stilted contrivance in ones behavior. Your concern that, if you are coerced into consideration of others (by being polite and considerate), or asked to be mindful of habits, you will become stilted and contrived is not uncommon. Teenagers, trapped in their parent’s home, find demands of mutual co-operation, respect and politeness to be an oppressive dictatorship cramping their ‘uncontrived style’. When you worry that in not “being yourself” you will become uptight and lose your Dzogchen ease, I suddenly find myself laughing as I remember Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s answer to a similar statement. When asked about why we are embarrassed about faith and devotion and tend to hide it around others he replied, “How can you hide what you do not have?” I would say to you, “How could you lose what you do not have?!”
In the Khyentse Yeshe Dorje’s commentary on the confession practice called “Stainless Crystal” it says, “Even though no flaw or habit has touched unconditioned natural awareness, we yogins ensnared by seeming dualistic phenomena must follow the path.” Until such time as mental fabrication’s very last restrictive habit is severed, we must practice to purify samsara’s temporary want. To follow in the groove of repetitive patterns may take little effort, but this is not the same as uncontrived behavior of an authentic Dzogchenpa. To never resist the patterns of our habits my allow us to not feel stilted, but it will not purify the seeds of suffering contained in those habits. In White Sail’s chapter, “Cleaning Deviations,” Thinley Norbu Rinpoche wrote, “The teachings of Buddhism reveal that mind is the basis of the infinite variations of phenomena, encouraging us to influence our own phenomena so that we can try to create positive energy through positive intention in order to go beyond our habits and recognize natural awareness.”
In fresh natural mind’s stainless open space, not only do habits not exist, but even the essence of mind cannot be said to exist. It is only in the context of primordial purities spontaneous presencing, outside the stain of habit, that we can speak of true uncontrived spontaneity. What is called “uncontrived” from the point of samsara is merely following after samsara’s temporary habit patterns without resistance. Where no effort at mindfulness is made, no effort to purify habit then habit’s unrelenting flow is felt to be “spontaneous.” Because you have become accustomed to your habits they feel “natural.” Because you don’t have to be mindful in order to follow habit’s dictates, you call such behavior “uncontrived.” Because it seems “spontaneous,” you think it is the great ease of a Dzogchen. Sadly, many so called Dzogchenpas today simply attempt to hide their shabby behavior, arisen from samsara’s variegated habit patterning, behind the words “spontaneous” or “uncontrived.”
Nestling in shit is the “spontaneous” behavior of dung beetles in accord with “uncontrived” dung habit.
Wallowing in mud is the “spontaneous” behavior of pigs in accord with “uncontrived” inability to sweat habit.
Miserliness is the “spontaneous” behavior of rich people in accord with “uncontrived” impermanence’s anxiety habit.
Violent beatings are the “spontaneous” behavior of abusive people in accord with anger’s “uncontrived” fearfulness habit.
Cheating on wives is the “spontaneous” behavior of wandering husbands in accord with lust’s “uncontrived” hard cock habit.
Yelling and screaming is the “spontaneous” behavior of wives in accord with jealousy’s “uncontrived” territoriality habit.
Not understanding the teachings, no matter how often they are repeated, is the “spontaneous” behavior of some students in accord with ignorance’s “uncontrived” stupidity habit.
Low slung jeans are the “spontaneous” behavior of teen-age girls in accord with flirtation’s “uncontrived” spider and fly habit.
Secret glances are the “spontaneous” behavior of monks in accord with sexual frustration’s “uncontrived” volcano habit.
Shamelessness is the “spontaneous” behavior of Ngakpas in accord with debauchery’s “uncontrived” promiscuity habit.
Mercedes Benzes and silver tea sets are the “spontaneous” behavior of Lamas in accord with pompousness’ “uncontrived” vanity habit
Ass kissing is the “spontaneous” behavior of sycophantic disciples in accord with self-seeking’s “uncontrived” personal advantage habit.
Lack of respect is the “spontaneous” behavior of pseudo-Dzogchenpas in accord with arrogance’s “uncontrived” overbearing pride habit.
In Magic Dance, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche wrote, “Even if we only have one conception left, only one phenomena, whether good or bad, it is still residual habit which obscures.” Buddhists transform gross unvirtuous habits into virtue habit in order to go beyond all habit rediscovering the stainless sky of wisdom mind empty, yet replete with qualities. Certainly not resisting or transforming habits feels more natural and easeful when we are under habit’s tyranny. If we shun mindfulness so that we do not even recognize habit as habit, then habit will seem like spontaneously arisen activity! This however is like a free man who locks himself in jail and then throws away the key. All of the varying paths and schools of Buddhism teach mind must be purified of habit’s stranglehold on awareness. Nowhere will you find any teaching suggesting that blindly following dualistic habit is the same as the uncontrived activity of the Buddha.
The process of not following after samsaric mind’s habits is called mindfulness and can take many forms depending upon the level of practice one is doing. Changing habit is always uncomfortable because habit is momentum. Ego is not a thing, it is an activity. Ego is the vectoral momentum of habit. A vector is any quantity, such as force, velocity, or acceleration, which has both magnitude and direction. Buddha’s Wisdom Mind has no direction and no substance. Sentient being’s mental fabrications are the origin of direction, momentum, and substance! Even these are only habit. A vector can be symbolized by an arrow pointing in the direction of its movement. The arrow of mental fabrication’s habit points toward frustration and suffering. The arrow of the Vajrayana’s sublime path points toward the extinction of suffering. Buddha’s directionless vector of substanceless wisdom phenomena is beyond pointing. Because we are already moving with great momentum in the direction of samsara’s arrow, it is not easy to stop. We must make an effort to be mindful and transform samsara’s suffering habits into Buddha’s stainless compassion. If we are traveling fast in a car and we put on the brakes suddenly we might hear screeching and smell smoke from the tires. When you try and stop gross habits, which bring yourself and others suffering, you too might feel a dynamic tension from opposing forces. In the Sanskrit tradition this is called tapas, the heat generated by the spiritual friction between intention towards virtue and the habit of non-virtue.
Even ordinary beings of every culture understand that it is best to change bad habits into good ones. Buddhists cultivate positive energy through positive intention and virtuous action. This releases bound up energy of negative habits so that a single wisdom spark might blaze up and burn away mountains of confused habit like a California wild fire. Giving up or transforming our habits, creating spiritual friction, is hard work. We don’t want this. We want what is easy. What we wish is to “go with the flow” of mind’s fictions so that we do not have to feel constricted by the spiritual path’s contrived demands. We wish to be spontaneous and relaxed about acting out delusion’s dualistic habits so that we might feel, for a brief moment, light and buoyant. Demands to change make us feel burdened and oppressed. I began with a quote from John Jay Chapman and I will give you another one now, “A vision of truth which does not call upon us to get out of our armchair – why, this is the desideratum of mankind.” In other words, if it is hard, most people will not want to do it.
In The Wizard of Oz, the pseudo-wizard does not give the tin man a brain, he simply gives him a diploma. No four years of university needed, no study, no exams, no course loads. We would all like a diploma with words such as “spontaneous” and “uncontrived” on it but we also would not like to attend university. Changing habits is hard. Learning to drive a car feels very unnatural and contrived at first. There are so many things to remember and we are not born with clutch, gas, and gearshift habit. In the beginning it feels so unspontaneous. After some time, we develop clutch, gas, and gearshift habit, and driving not only feels uncontrived but also offers us great freedom.
This discussion began because you felt that the demand to consider others in your actions, and way of being, might cramp your uncontrived style. A teen is deeply motivated to learn to drive in order to escape his parent’s oppressive environment and run off to play with friends at the mall. The yogi is motivated to amass positive energy and break free from samsara’s oppressive environment.
When non-virtue habit is transformed to virtue habit, tremendous energy is released. This positive energy fuels the tantrica’s path. When all habit is released in vast uncontrived wisdom space, the explosion of energy, the apocalyptic wisdom blazing, destroys dualistic samsara’s habit beyond even the smallest particle. Then subject/object, inner/outer, existence/non-existence habit collapsed upon itself, leaving only the vast substanceless luminous wisdom mandala. The yogi wishes to escape oppressive parental samsara, like a teen escaping their parents home, to drive as swiftly as possible to this naturally arisen wisdom playground.
So please do not take habit lightly. Please do not call giving into samsaric habit “uncontrived” activity. Often what is sweet in the beginning is bitter in the end, and what is bitter in the beginning is sweet in the end. Following after samsara’s habit tastes sweet in the beginning, feels uncontrived and spontaneous, but samsara’s suffering is bitter pill in the end. The path of wisdom’s irritating argument with samsara may taste a little bitter in the beginning, feel a little stilted, but it’s deathless celestial pureland is sweet in the end. Perhaps this path is harder than learning to drive a car, but the palace of uncontrived wisdom luminosity is significantly superior to the mall! Thinley Norbu Rinpoche has said it very nicely in White Sail’s chapter on “Cleaning Deviations.” Whether one wants to make one’s own phenomena into dualistic habit or the enlightened appearance of wisdom deities is not decided outwardly; it is one’s own choice.