The Essence of Wisdom and Compassion: Blazing in the Fires of Sunyata

On Tue, 13 June, 2017 - 23:16
akasajoti's picture

The theme of today has been the connection between metta and wisdom - the realisation of metta. Saddhaloka gave a presentation this morning where he spoke of the dual aspects of the path – samata and vipassana, wisdom and compassion, merit and insight – and described how they are really a part of a single process. There is an aspect of seeing into the truth of things, where ultimately there is no knower, or known, or act of knowing, just pure awareness; and there is an aspect that is characterised by love, metta, and joy, a movement into freedom from clinging, grasping, and aversion. 

A life in the dharma has many variations, many patterns, he said, and we can come into the path through strong experiences of vision and insight and, as with the image of a pyramid, need to grow a broad base; whereas for others there can be a broad base of healthy humanity and a gradual tipping into deeper awareness and understanding of the way things are - and countless variations in between those two. 

Throughout the presentation, I can only describe as feeling like vast vistas opened up. I felt deep faith, as I sat before this broad-based pyramid and it seemed to me that his voice resounded as he read these words from the Door of Liberation, teachings from the lineage of Atisha:

Again, the three brothers questioned the teacher Drom, “In order to work perfectly for oneself and others, which is important, right view or deeds?”

The teacher Drom replied, “One who has obtained the necessary foundation for practice and has entered the gate of the Mahayana, must unify pure wisdom and pure deeds so that he may do perfect work for self and others. Wisdom alone or deeds alone is not enough… One who produces in himself the two-aspects of bodhi-mind will naturally produce pure wisdom and pure deeds.”

The disciples then asked, “Is it wrong to have pure wisdom alone or pure deeds alone?”

Geshe Drom replied, “If you have pure wisdom but do not have pure deeds and lose yourself in impetuous behaviour, not being careful of the causes and effects of karma, you will be of no benefit to yourself and others, and even your pure wisdom will go wrong. Should you have pure deeds but lack the perception of the fundamental voidness of all things, you will not be able to benefit yourself and others and your pure deeds will begin to go wrong. If you do not unify pure wisdom and pure deeds, you will inevitably fall into mistaken paths. Therefore, you must learn both.”

This afternoon Parami guided us in the Bodhicitta practice, another variation on the theme, and this evening Saddhaloka led through the Avalokitesvara Sadhana. I think having such a team is a really special thing – to benefit from a range of voices, perspectives, exemplars of the path. I feel a lot of faith in the Order and in Triratna today, and take that to be a fruit of the conditions of this retreat and the gifts I’m receiving; as well as the ever-deepening connection with my fellow retreatants, and with the wider community through sharing these glimpses with you. I am grateful for the context to nourish my experience of faith. Faith is a condition for an openness and sensitivity, and has the taste of freedom. It’s not straight-forwardly pleasurable either – I feel more acutely in touch with my harsh edges and self-reference, there’s a heightened sense of shame, but there is love present too, and a softening of the heart to take in that shadow and breathe it out as moonlight, on and off the cushions.

In another moment which stays with me from Saddhaloka’s presentation, he told the story of the Buddha on the night of his enlightenment assailed by Mara’s hoardes, an account of the Buddha facing the primordial forces at play in us as human beings in their most twisted form. He invited us to consider the vastness of the love, the metta, that is going to be needed to encompass and transform those forces and put them at the service of the good - and that this is what we’re actually committed to in committing ourselves to the Buddhist path.

True wisdom never rests in itself very long, there is always this movement towards suffering through compassion.” – Saddhaloka

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