Friday, December 19, 2008

Advice from Me to Myself

Modeled after the poem of the same title by Patrul Rinpoche

Listen up! Absent-minded Dennis,
Your time is running out!
How much longer will you continue
To be half-assed in your spiritual practice?
When death comes for you, will you be prepared?

You regard study, meditation, and action
As if they were hassles, just more things on your To Do list.
Yet how will they benefit you or anyone else
If you fail to rejoice in them?

You sit in shamatha like a sumo wrestler
Sits on his opponent – your mind squashed
Beneath the weight of your own effort.
But how often do you remember to relax?
You relax well enough, though, in front of the TV screen,
But are you really present?

When you’re on the cushion, you can’t wait to be walking;
When walking, you think only of sitting again. Ridiculous!
Stop leaning forward into the future.
Pay attention and be content where you are.

Or, you sit reviewing the past, reliving old conversations,
Imagining new outcomes – pointless!
The past is gone – give it up!

You try to investigate the nature of things
But your mind lacks stability and focus
So you jump from thought to thought
Like a puppy in a room full of strangers.
You study texts and reasonings on emptiness
But are your opinions and theories any less solid than before?
If you’re not becoming less arrogant
What is the point of more emptiness studies? None.

When you have a glimpse of something,
You instantly think of how you could share it with others.
But is your motive really to help them,
Or to prove your own cleverness?
Your bread is really only half-baked, so
What is the point of taking it out of the oven now?
Just relax! Leave it there for a while.

You talk about compassion and lovingkindness,
And your Refuge name is Patience.
But on your way to the Dharma center today,
How many people did you silently curse
For getting in your way on the sidewalk?
What is the point of speculating on compassion
When hostility still wells up so automatically,
Poisoning your view of other beings?

You talk about equanimity, but you still care deeply
What other people think about you.
You talk about non-attachment and freedom
But you live in a self-made prison of desire and daydreams.
Your quest for sexual and romantic fulfillment
Is neverending, like drinking saltwater
That only increases your thirst.
Constant craving for pleasure only saps your energy
And keeps you distracted from your real purpose.
Give up the chase! If pleasure comes, enjoy it –
But drop the compulsion to create or maintain it.

When you receive a practice from your Guru
You begin it with enthusiasm.
But soon you lose steam, and doubt creeps in.
The honeymoon is barely over, and already
You’re thinking of leaving your new spouse.

I must be a special case,” you say,
That’s why I’m having trouble with this practice.
Surely another practice would be better suited
To my unique personality and disposition.”
So you go back to your Guru and ask for guidance,
Secretly hoping he will give you something else to do.
But he tells you to keep doing the practice,
And try to stop intellectualizing so much.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Stop looking for a way to make yourself comfortable,
Just follow your Guru’s instruction.
Give up your terminal uniqueness, and sacrifice
Your laziness at the altar of diligence.

Even if you aren’t able to put all this advice into practice,
Be patient with yourself. Remember that everything
Is far more open and spacious and workable than you think it is.

In a word: relax!

This advice was written by Zopa Tharchin (Dennis Hunter) for his good friend Sonam Rapga (Dennis Hunter). The inspiration for this poem and its structure were drawn liberally, with great respect, from the poem “Advice from Me to Myself” (tr. C. Wilkinson) written by the great Patrul Rinpoche (1808-1887). May it be virtuous.


Anonymous said...

This haiku's for you.
I enjoy reading your blog.
Thank you for sharing.

(Now look what you've done... You made a blogger out of me!)

Unknown said...

I love your blog. And what a lovely smiling photo, Dennis. I will read and re-read your insights. Thank you, Dolores