Friday, September 19, 2008

Three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of virtue

From "Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness" by Chogyam Trungpa

"This slogan is connected with the postmeditation experience which comes after the main practice. Relating to passion, aggression, and ignorance in the main practice of tonglen* is very intense, but the postmeditation practice is somewhat lighter.

*tonglen: "Sending and taking is a very important practice of the bodhisattva path. It is called tonglen in Tibetan: tong means "sending out" or "letting go," and len means "receiving," or "accepting." Tonglen is a very important term; you should remember it. It is the main practice in the development of relative bodhichitta.

"These two should ride the breath."

The practice of tonglen is quite straightforward; it is an actual sitting meditation practice. You give away your happiness, your pleasure, anything that feels good. All of that goes out with the outbreath. As you breathe in, you breathe in any resentments and problems, anything that feels bad. The whole point is to remove territoriality altogether."

The three objects are friends, enemies, and neutrals. The three poisons are passion, aggression, and ignorance or delusion. And the three seeds of virtue are the absence of passion, aggression, and ignorance.

The practice of this slogan is to take the passion, aggression, and delusion of others upon ourselves so that they may be free and undefiled. Passion is wanting to magnetize or possess; aggression is wanting to reject, attack, cast out; and ignorance or indifference is that you couldn't be bothered, you are not interested, a kind of anti-prajna energy. We take upon ourselves the aggression of our enemies, the passion of our friends, and the indifference of neutrals.

When we reflect on our enemy, that inspires aggression. Whatever aggression our enemy has provided for us - let that aggression be ours and let the enemy thereby be free from any kind of aggression. Whatever passion has been created by our friends, let us take that neurosis into ourselves and let our friends be freed from passion. And the indifference of those who are in the middle or unconcerned, those who are ignorant, deluded, or noncaring, let us bring that neurosis into ourselves and let those people be free from ignorance.

Whenever any of the three poisons happens in your life, you should do the sending and taking practice [tonglen]. You just look at your passion, your aggression, and your delusion - you do not regard them as a problem or as a promise. Instead, when you are in a state of aggression, you say: "May this aggression be a working base for me. May I learn to hold my aggression to myself, and may all sentient beings thereby attain freedom from aggression." Or: "May this passion be mine. Because it belongs to me by virtue of my holding on to it, therefore may others be free of such passion." For indifference, you do the same thing.

The purpose of doing that is that when you begin to hold the three poisons as yours, when you possess them fully and completely, when you take charge of them fully, you will find, interestingly enough, that the logic is reversed. If you have no object of aggression, you cannot hold your own aggression purely by yourself. If you have no object of passion, you cannot hold your passion yourself. And in the same way, you cannot hold on to your ignorance either.

By holding your poison, you let go of the object, or the intent, of your poison. You see, what usually happens is that you have objects of the three poisons. When you have an object of aggression, for example, you feel angry toward it - right? But if your anger is not directed toward something, the object of aggression falls apart. It is impossible to have an object of anger, because the anger belongs to you rather than to its object. You give your compassion to the object so that it doesn't provoke your anger - then what are you angry with? You find yourself just hanging out there, with no one to project onto. Therefore, you can cut the root of the three poisons by dealing with others rather than by dealing with yourself. So an interesting twist takes place."


It is important to know that we are responsible for our own "poisons." Our emotions and reactions are our own. Other people may do things, circumstances may occur but the phrase "So and so made me so angry!" is not true. So and so may be the biggest jackass in the world but no one can "make" us anything. It is important for us, our well-being, our relationships, our view of reality, that we take ownership of our own emotions... the same is true for our expectations, resentments, cravings, desires, attachments, motivations, and delusions.

With this in mind, tonglen practice and an understanding of how the three poisons act in the world... our own personal world... begins to make a great deal of sense and becomes a very powerful tool towards transforming those three poisons in the three seeds of virtue.

Talking about power

Great Power, not clinging to power,
has true power.
Lesser power, clinging to power,
lacks true power.
Great power, doing nothing,
has nothing to do.
Lesser power, doing nothing,
has an end in view.

The good the truly good do
has no end in view.
The right the very righteous do
has an end in view.
And those who act in true obedience to law
roll up their sleeves
and make the disobedient obey.

So: when we lose the Way we find power;
losing power we find goodness;
losing goodness we find righteousness;
losing righteousness we're left with obedience.

Obedience to law is the dry husk
of loyalty and good faith.
Opinion is the barren flower of the Way,
the beginning of ignorance.

So great-minded people
abide in the kernel not the husk,
in the fruit not the flower,
letting the one go, keeping the other.

Tao Te Ching #38 - Ursula K. LeGuin's rendition

LeGuin's note:
A vast dense argument in a minimum of words, this poem lays out the Taoist values in steeply descending order: the Way and its power; goodness (humane feeling); righteousness (morality); and - a very distant last - obedience (law and order). The word I render as "opinion" can be read as "knowing too soon": the mind obeying orders, judging before the evidence is in, closed to fruitful perception and learning.

LeGuin's translation notes:
The series here is of familiar Confucian principles: jen, li, i - "good, humane, human-hearted, altruistic"; "righteous, moral, ethical"; "laws, rites, rules, law and order." But Lao Tzu reverses and subverts the Confucian priorities.

Chien shih in the fourth verse is "premature knowledge" in Carus and "foreknowledge" in Lau, Henricks, and Waley (who explains it as part of Confucian doctrine). Henricks interprets it as having "one's mind made up before one enters a new situation about what is 'right' and 'wrong' and 'proper' and 'acceptable' and so on." Prejudice, that is, or opinion. Buddhists and Taoists agree in having a very low opinion of opinion.

My comment:
There is a ton of political and social commentary packed into this particular chapter. It is well worth considering at great length and using as a method for observing where people abide... the husk... the flower... the fruit.... It is even more useful for observing where our own thoughts and reactions are coming from... the husk? ... the flower? ... the fruit?

The nuance in translation of chinese into english is also very, very interesting and instructive. Opinion as "knowing too soon" or "premature knowledge." Very interesting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Over all

Over all

The Way never does anything,
and everything gets done.
If those in power could hold to the Way,
the ten thousand things
would look after themselves.
If even so they tried to act,
I'd quiet them with the nameless,
the natural.

In the unnamed, in the unshapen,
is not wanting.
In not wanting is stillness.
In stillness all under heaven rests.

Tao Te Ching #37 - Ursula K. LeGuin's rendition

LeGuin's comments: "Here the themes of not doing and not wanting, the unnamed and the unshapen, recur together in one pure legato. It is wonderful how by negatives and privatives Lao Tzu gives a sense of serene, inexhaustible fullness of being."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Congratulations Paul Tonko

Congratulations to Mr. Paul Tonko on his victory in the Democratic Primary in New York's 21st Congressional District. Paul brings with him a long and strong record of progressive legislation and achievement and as well as a well deserved reputation as a fair, good and respectable man. He will be a good addition to the House of Representatives next year.