Monday, December 22, 2008

TATA (Things As They Are)

The Buddhist community in New York lost a good friend and teacher this year, when Dolores Katz passed away after a long illness. In memory of Dolores, I share these thoughts here, culled from notes I took during a weekend Shambhala Training course (“Drala”) she taught in February 2004.

As human beings, we have seemingly endless ways of denying and avoiding reality, of not facing up to the truth about our own minds and the world in which we live. The path of meditation, and the spiritual path as a whole, is largely about waking up from these habits and clearly seeing Things As They Are (a.k.a. TATA).

When we see the world through our habitual filters and preconceptions, we are not really seeing the truth, and because we do not see things accurately we are limited in our ability to bring about a positive outcome. To see things as they are, or TATA, we need to drop the filter of hope and fear that usually clouds our vision, and relate with openness to our experience.

In meditation, we learn to rest in wakefulness, to be authentically present for our experience without adding anything to it or subtracting anything from it. We learn to recognize and let go of our habitual storylines about Things As They Used to Be, or Things As They Ought to Be, or Things As They Will Be Someday, and relate simply with Things As They Are. Instead of spacing out, we begin to ask: What is happening in my experience right now, in this very moment, and how can I relate to it without artifice or delusion?

As we drop the storylines and the pretense that things are (or ought to be) something other than they are, we begin to touch into the principle of drala, which is the energetic, living quality of everything. To experience the energy of drala, we need to give ourselves tremendous space, space free from our habitual, cramped preconceptions, in which our mind can be open to simply noticing what is.

Our ego-based fear is that, if we were to drop all our habitual patterns, we would no longer be ourselves. But from the perspective of awakened mind, quite the opposite is true. It is when our habitual patterns fall away that we are most genuinely ourselves.

Relating to the principle of drala means seeing things as they are and leaving things as they are. It requires great bravery to do this, the bravery of non-deception. The energy of drala is attracted to what is true, what is non-deceptive. In relating authentically to things as they are, we enter a virtuous cycle that is based on tenderness and presence rather than expectation and aggression. Telling the truth (to ourselves, for starters, and then perhaps to others) is a compassionate way to live. It’s much more convenient, and habitual, to look away and not tell the truth.

There is often a sense of sadness in letting go of our habitual patterns. We have been attached to them for a very long time, and they have been our dysfunctional but loyal companions. But as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche says, “Sadness is the only thing that keeps us incorruptible.”


Anonymous said...

TATA reminds me of that Swahili phrase (of "The Lion King" fame) "hakuna matata," loosely translated as "no worries." Seems more or less fitting :)

The part I get caught up on is: what is TATA? Is what I perceive to be TATA TATA or is it just another projection of my subjective ego? I'm sure it's unanswerable (though my money would largely be on the latter case). I guess there is something to be said for having the space to entertain the question at all...

Dennis Hunter said...

I have always wondered what "hakuna matata" meant. It would make a great nom de plume....

I think we mere mortals are privileged to see occasional glimpses of Things As They Are, or unconditioned reality beyond concept and duality (which, as it happens, may be just another concept, along with the concept of transcending duality, and so on). In "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying," Sogyal Rinpoche talks about how sometimes these glimpses happen in the most ordinary way -- when listening to a particularly moving piece of music, for instance, or when suddenly noticing the beauty of the way a shaft of sunlight is falling on the floor. For just a second or two, we catch a glimpse of something that we don't know how to put into words -- but our culture and our habitual patterns give us little context for understanding the significance of these moments, and so we brush them off.