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Lions Roar : January 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 33 claustrophobic. And yet somewhere in there, a little space, a little glory peeked in. The path began. This foundation undergirds Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings. If you sit with yourself, with no project other than to follow a sim- ple technique of paying attention, you will gradually familiarize yourself with the texture of mind. Over time, the technique falls away and you’re left with mindfulness of the details of life and awareness of the surrounding space. It’s nothing other than what the Buddha himself taught, but Trungpa Rinpoche presented the Buddha’s message in a new vernacular he was discovering. As he crisscrossed the country, setting himself up in Boulder, Colorado, and teaching in city upon city, he changed the terms on which dharma had been approached. In an earlier period, Buddhism had been taught as philosophy or religion. He expressed it in terms of its insights about the human mind, bor- rowing terms from Western psychology and develop- ing fresh ways of translating the Buddhist lexicon. He spoke of ego and egolessness (which the Oxford Eng- lish Dictionary credits him with coining), neurosis and sanity, conflicting emotions, conditioning, habit- ual patterns, projection, the phenomenal world, and so on. His teachings intricately described processes of mind more than doctrines. The message was that by becoming familiar with mind in an intimate way, seeing it in the relaxed space of sitting meditation, we meet ourselves fully for the first time. Rigorous Buddhist practice, as he described it, is scientific and exploratory. We learn what is true— that clinging to an ego is the cause of all our prob- lems—through our own efforts, not because we’ve been told what is true. Because it’s our own discov- ery, it has more power. He trusted that any human being, regardless of cultural background, can engage in sitting practice fully and attain what the Buddha attained. He was the best-known and most prolific of a body of teachers—such as Ajahn Chah, Mahasi Sayadaw, Suzuki Roshi, Maezumi Roshi, Lama Yeshe, Kalu Rinpoche—who began teaching Westerners in the belief they were equipped to take on the rigors of practice, not just sit on the sidelines with an intellec- tual appreciation of what the real practitioners were doing. Buddhism in the West was off and sitting. 4. The Soft Spot One of the dichotomies in Trungpa Rinpoche’s life was his dogs. He had a large dog, a mastiff named Ganesh, and a small dog, a Lhasa Apso named Yumtso, or Yummie. Ganesh intimidated and Yummie ingratiated. Hard and soft. When Yummie toddled along behind Rinpoche on his way into the shrine room to teach, you couldn’t help but laugh and when she jumped onto his lap while he was teaching, it touched your heart—not in some big spiritual way but in the ordinary way we’re all familiar with. Trungpa Rinpoche called that the “soft spot.” We all have it. It can be as simple as a love of ice cream, some way in which we’re human, passionate, vulnerable. EMMANUEL GALLERY, DENVER; FIRST SOLO IKEBANA INSTALLATION, 1982 PHOTO BY ROBERT DEL TREDICI