I purchased this book in 2016. Two years later, I’m starting it again.

In 2016, our Buddhist Book Club finished:

1: The Path of Individual Liberation: The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, Volume One

I have to tell you, studying book 1 with a group of dedicated Buddhists changed my life forever. It set my foot on the path, for real. There’s no backing off the path once you’re on, and I love that in chapter one of the second book, Chogyam Trungpa says exactly that:

“Once you step into the mahayana, you do not have much control. It goes by itself and there is no reverse, none whatsoever. Everything goes forward. Furthermore, there are no brakes and no steering wheel, and the vehicle does not need any fuel. In fact, the road moves rather than the vehicle. We could say that about life: life itself moves rather than you moving through life. So once you get onto the path, the path moves and you are stuck with it. There is no way of getting off or taking a break. The journey takes you over.”

SO, it’s like working the steps. You realize you’re just not in control of  your trajectory. You’re on the path and the path is going to move you. Here’s what I’ve learned: if you chose to step onto the path and then forgot that you’re on the path and start making choices that have nothing to do with the path; the unrest you will feel will be strong.

I started reading this Mahayana book with the group in Phoenix, but I had to quit. It wasn’t sinking in. I was not absorbing it and I knew I just wasn’t ready for it, yet. I backed out.

“Oh wait,” I ask myself, “are there any choices you can make that are not on the path once you’ve started on the path? Can you really direct yourself off the path?” It’s like an inner alarm sounds: “This choice is wrong for me.” I redirect, and then I feel at ease again. Choosing not to teach yoga: wrong. Choosing to live with Mark: wrong. Choosing to not attend Shambhala Sangha meetings: wrong. Choosing to run to Denver: right. But the path… any choice you make opens up your understanding. So, if you choose something that’s not right for you, it doesn’t make it wrong, necessarily. It makes it an opportunity for greater understanding and compassion. This thrills me. This gives people like me (who’ve made so many painful choices in life) hope that it’s okay that you’ve made bad choices because basic goodness still prevails and even all the painful choices were made with good intention.

I am so glad for Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and the wisdom he brought from Tibet and Europe. So glad he had a son to pass along the lineage; and so glad that women seem to be drawn to the lineage. It’s a strong, healthy field of study for independent women and I would not be on the path if not for Pema Chodron and her audio book “Awakening Compassion.”

Today, I offer my gratitude for the wisdom that has been passed through time by adherents to the teachings. May the discovery of Bodhichitta continue on as long as humans walk the Earth. May all sentient beings lose ignorance and exist in profound, brilliant glory.

Chapter 1 is called “A Glimpse of Wakefulness” and here are the sub-headings with my executive summary of each – call this a shared individual and independent book study:

  1. The Great Vehicle: Basically the word mahayana is broken down. Maha means “great” or “powerful” and yana means “vehicle” – so Mahayana is the great vehicle that actually ‘lifts you up.’ The journey takes you over.
  2. The Discovery of Bodhichitta: Ahhhh. Mahayana is marked by the discovery of bodhichitta – the awakened heart. This happened for me before I finished the Hinayana book. In fact, I think I discovered Bodhichitta the moment I first listened to Pema speak. Rinpoche says we are awakening from the three poisons: passion, aggression, and ignorance (or delusion). See my photos of the wheel of life in past blogs – and notice the center holds images that are reminders of the three poisons – the chick (representing passion or that which we truly desire) that bites the snake’s tail, the snake (representing aggression) that bites the pig’s tail, and the pig (representing ignorance) blindly has his nose stuck up the chick’s tail. All intertwined. The poisons feed off each other and our lives are especially confusing when we’re blind to the three poisons. Rinpoche says that passion leads to possessiveness which is our attachment to pleasurable things. I could write several pages on this. But Rinpoche concludes simply with: “…passion, aggression, and ignorance are not regarded as deep-rooted problems; they are simply phases we go through…they are obviously obstacles. The problems with such situations is that they occupy your time and space, so they prevent you from being in a state of wakefulness.” 
  3. Relative and Ultimate Bodhichitta: Relative Bodhichitta has a long Tibetan name that means (basically) that you manifest friendliness, benevolence, fearlessness, and kindness. It’s relative to the nature of those who are UN-awakened, I think. If you’re un-awakened and are dealing with people, you may handle things from a purely self-protective standpoint. If you’re awakened, you’re manifesting the desire to spread kindness and benevolence in the world, so you’re not worried about protecting yourself (affecting your agenda or gaining some leverage), you’re intending to better the world by bringing light rather than just dealing in the darkness of ignorance and self-interest. How is this different from Ultimate Bodhichitta? Ultimate Bodhichitta is based on an enlarged sense of egolessness. It’s based on emptiness, or the shunyata experience. Basically, there’s no world separate from yourself – it’s total nonexistence of your own personality. You lose your aversions and attractions to be totally brave, heroic and crazy. This can only happen by giving up the struggle. Bodhichitta is the basis of being awake and open.  I feel like my words don’t convey any of this well enough even though a lot of my words are Chogyam’s words too. For me, personally, Bodhichitta is the desire to serve humanity’s best interests because you realize that you are humanity. You begin to understand that the attainment of your will isn’t really as important as you thought it was. My will in 2012 before Pema’s words sunk into me was to get educated so I could land a nice public servant job and give back by being a good servant to my community. Now, I lack will. I marvel daily about what my real work is. It’s undefined. It’s rich. It’s elusive. It has to do with loving and serving everyone through the practice of being open, kind, and understanding; through the process of cultivating my own presence by losing my passion, aggression, and ignorance, I help to alleviate the suffering of the world.
  4. A Taste of Enlightenment (still not done)
  5. Appreciation and Humor (still not done)
  6. Developing Fearlessness (still not done)
  7. Opening to Messages: Rinpoche indicates in this segment that we will be receiving messages from the universe about our paths – how far you’re going or not going. The key is to be open to messages. If you experience confusion, it’s best to lean into it because confusion is the essence of wisdom. From confusion, comes wisdom, in other words (if you’re patient enough to see your way through it). So, notice your confusion, sit quietly with it, feel it out, and begin to understand what it’s about. You may get very bad feedback or very excellent feedback. If you do not react either badly or excitedly to that feedback, but just keep going, you are beginning to get somewhere. …gradually, stitch by stitch, step-by-step, you will finally become a good Bodhisattva. 


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