Last week, I wrote about how we all must uncover what we believe is the “way to be” in order to free ourselves from that idea of “goodness”. We may know intellectually that our “way to be” is wrong—even that it is destructive—yet on an emotional level we are still sure it is good. But the truth is, the “way to be” is what hasn’t worked.
We have to be ready to not be the “way to be”. This can only be accomplished by digging in and being with our experience and letting whatever comes up come up. We cannot intellectualize and then think we have it. We do not have it then, because what is doing the thinking is not us.
So our wrong understanding is our garbage. If we want to be clean and clear within ourselves and in the world, we have to be willing to get rid of our garbage. We have to see our own crazy logic and let go of it.
Our idea of the way to be, our goodness, is a particularly nasty piece of our garbage. We have to put it out and let it be taken away. We have to participate in the removal of that garbage. Isn’t that what a student is supposed to do: put out the garbage for its removal and incineration?
I’m an internal sanitation engineer. I can remove and incinerate a student’s garbage—if the student is willing to work with me to actively and consciously separate the garbage from what he must keep. But I watch people say, “No, I want to keep my garbage. I can’t tell difference between the garbage and what I need to keep, so I’m keeping it all.” They are hoarders of garbage.
If a student believes that her garbage is pure, is she going to allow for its removal? No, and so she’s going to resist getting to this place because she’s so sure she’s pure, sure of who she thinks she is.
The responsibility of the student is to speak up so that she can get clear and to know what the garbage is. We can’t see unless we open up and show what we have. If we sit in a corner and are miserly, our garbage is not going to be removed.
If the garbage is removed, what do we get? Peace. And what do we find? Was there anything to attain? Was it always there? Yes, always there. And the teacher says, “It’s there. Just remove this. If you just let go of that…it’s there.”
Some people turn sādhana itself into garbage. They approach sādhana because they feel they are not successful at life; once they do sādhana, they can now feel that their inadequacies are karmic and are just lessons on the path. They then divinize their “way to be” and never have to change. So instead of healing their brokenness, they exalt it as a spiritual virtue, and see their failures as signs of their spirituality.
Once we resort to that delusion, it will take tremendous vigilance to catch it and root it out of our lives.
Ultimately, our garbage is our attachment to the vehicles as being the individual self. And though we must let go of all attachment to a separate self, the individual is still going to manifest and appear to be the individual. The Guru, which is the Shakti, is going to funnel into and through the vehicles unimpeded—but it is still flowing through those vehicles. As soon as the individual, if there’s any individual left, takes ownership of the Shakti, everything is shrunken and deflated, and the source, the Guru, is cut off from the individual. We are back in our pile of garbage. Hui-neng explains this:
The existence of state refers to the four phenomena of self, person, and so on. Unless you get rid of these four phenomena, you will never realize enlightenment. If you say “I am inspired to seek enlightenment,” this is also self, person, and so on, which are the root of afflictions. (Hui Neng’s Commentary on the Diamond Sutra, trans. Thomas Cleary, 126).
People living the “way not to be” are rare. As Hui-neng says, these people will have “no image of self, no image of person, no image of being, no image of liver of life”. They are fully living their lives without obstructions of any kind. They are not attached to their wrong understanding; they have given up their garbage. They are living life and are truly alive.
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