Kundalini Splendor

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More on Yeshe Sogyal 

When I read the wondrous poem by Yeshe Sogyal, which I posted yesterday, I was struck by two things: the obvious parallels with our own times (both in world conditions and underlying spiritual concepts) and her seeming emphasis on retreat from the world in order to pursue personal enlightenment. And so I changed the poem (in my rendition) to include service to society as well as personal spiritual achievements.

I loved Ivan's discussion of the poem, but did a bit of further research about this remarkable woman, who was Tibet's most famous and revered female teacher, and indeed is considered one of the most important female religious exemplars.

The Supreme Being is the Dakini Queen of the Lake of Awareness!
I have vanished into fields of lotus-light, the plenum of dynamic space,
To be born in the inner sanctum of an immaculate lotus;
Do not despair, have faith!

These lines in effect sum up the aim of much of contemporary spiritual practice, including various kinds of meditation, where the primary intent is to surrender ordinary consciousness in order to enter "cosmic awareness." Ordinary consciousness is filled with the details of the mundane. Our mind is busy with the details of ordinary existence. In meditation we attempt to let these thoughts go, in order to participate in "cosmic consciousness," the awareness which does not focus on objects but is totally unattached to objects or symbolic representations of objects or activities.

When you have withdrawn attachment to this rocky defile,
This barbaric Tibet, full of war and strife,
Abandon unnecessary activity and rely on solitude

Tibet was indeed a "rocky defile." And, before it had been transformed into a Buddhist society, it was manifestly "barbaric," torn by "war and strife." Now, our own times are also beset by widespread "war and strife," as if the world were threatened by a return to barbarism. Yeshe counsels a "return to solitude." How many of us today yearn to withdraw completely from the world's confusion into a safe haven, a forest retreat or cave, there to practice spiritual contemplation in uninterrupted serenity. This is the part that concerned me most in her message, for I feel that the life of the solitary, however attractive, is not what we (for the most part) have come here to pursue. But, when I read more of her biography (which is itself more or less mythical) I learned that after she had completed many years of spiritual purification and training,including three years in solitude, she did indeed focus primarily on aiding others through her own wisdom and compassion, and no longer exclusively pursued her own spiritual progress.

Practice energy control, purify your psychic nerves and seed-essence,
And cultivate mahamudra and Dsokchen.

These are wise counsels for anyone pursuing a spiritual path, especially those experiencing kundalini awakening or stabilization. Kundalini can become a very wild ride. If the energies run amok, the body and psyche (emotions and psychological well being) can suffer. We "purify our psychic nerves" in many ways: through meditation and prayer, through right action, through diet, through yoga and other energetic practices, through devotional activities, including ritual, through associating with others who are spiritually evolved, through reading spiritual literature including poetry, through being in nature--the list is numerous. But we must dedicate ourselves to this task: to purify our inner being and so prepare ourselves for further service to the world.

I am uncertain what she means by "seed-essence," but the term suggests that it is the primal stuff of the self--the core of who we are, both physically and spiritually (our bodies as well as our very souls and spirits). However, elsewhere she states that in the later stages of her practice, she practiced the seed essence of "coincident pleasure and emptiness." Here, I would guess this to mean that whatever we experience, even moments of high bliss, are perceived as passing phenomena, endowed with no permanence or final reality.

The Supreme Being is the Dakini Queen of the Lake of Awareness!
Attaining humility, through Guru Pema Jungne’s compassion I followed him,
And now I have finally gone into his presence;
Do not despair, but pray!
When you see your karmic body as vulnerable as a bubble,
Realising the truth of impermanence, and that in death you are helpless,
Disabuse yourself of fantasies of eternity,
Make your life a practice of sadhana,
And cultivate the experience that takes you to the place where Ati ends.

I am not sure who Guru Pema Jungne is, but we do know that Yeshe had several consorts who taught her the deep and hidden truths of tantric practice. (Earlier, she was the consort of the great Padmasambhava, the supreme teacher who brought Buddhist practice into Tibet.) These relationships were sexual in nature, based on the premise that a deeper transmission would thus occur. In Tibetan practice, balance of male and female energies was of supreme importance, and women occupied a place of equality with the male partner.

She ends by telling us that we, like all things of this world, are impermanent. Thus we should devote ourselves constantly to our practice and so reach the place where practice is no longer needed, presumably when we depart the earth plane.

We should all study the life and teachings of this great woman more closely, for she has much wisdom to impart.

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