Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Privacy. Completion.

Chögyam Trungpa said something to the effect that Westerners would never attain enlightenment until they abandoned their fetish for privacy. The hardest Buddhist teaching I ever heard, and not one that will ever make the feel-good Buddhist self-help bestseller list. Abandon privacy? Do you know how much that entails?

Take Luisa's last – we are into Holy Week, now, and the Christians are swarming. She imagines Jesus wintering over in the tomb, considering, in his privacy there, the work to come. It's a short poem, only ten lines, and so closely woven that quoting a bit of it would be idiocy. Just go read it, and come back. I'll wait here.

Luisa Igloria: Vigil

I try to imagine a life of the spirit that has no such withdrawals – in fact, I try to imagine any life at all without them – and come to a blank: my cultural inheritance gives me nothing to work with. And yet: the moment I heard those words of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche's – probably second- or third-hand, as one does with such teachings – I felt the hammer fall. Sometimes truths fall with such weight, and ring so clear, that you know that simply hearing them has doomed you to a journey. You may put it off for years, or decades, but sooner or later you are going to have to pack your things and go.

Let me hasten to add, that doesn't mean the teacher is right. That's a different matter. They may be disastrously wrong. You want guarantees, you go to some other shop.



I drove south some fifty miles, up the Willamette Valley, yesterday. It's slightly warmer there than here: the middle valley is sheltered from the east. Here only the fruit trees have flowered: the larger trees are having none of it. Standing pat: not a bud, not a gesture. But up in the valley all the trees are pointillist clouds of new spring green.



Compline: the completion of the day. Prayer, wrote Seon Joon, becomes an enlarging ache echoing in the space between voice and silence.

5 comments:

Kristen Burkholder said...

Love love love. thank you for writing. I do seek your posts out and am never disappointed. The buds standing pat was a tasty visual. Now I know what all that is outside my window, here in Maine...
best to you...

Dale said...

Thank you dear Kristen! Might you by any chance be coming to the Seattle AWP next year?

marly youmans said...

Is that becomes privacy assumes an individual "self," and Buddhism discards that concept? Actually there are many poems by Asian Buddhists that praise solitude and the hermit's life, so I'm not sure what it means.

The example of Jesus is of crowds repeatedly contrasted with withdrawal into wilderness to be tested or to commune with God. The Transfiguration seems to be a fairly lonely business.

Liked the way Luisa's poem closes, and how that fuses closing and opening.

Dale said...

I was trying to expand a little on what I thought Trungpa Rinpoche meant on Facebook, & said: "Privacy isn't about being alone: it's about treasuring an inviolable, unobservable inner space. & It's dearer to me than life itself. Which makes me think that old Crazy Wisdom drunk was on to something. Oy."

marly youmans said...

I saw that comment just now...

Was thinking of all the wild poets who abandoned their proper jobs and lived in a hut by some waterfall, somewhere in China, long ago. That's inner and outer space...

And now I go find a little dark space to take a nap. Stayed up too late with taxes.