Learning to hear the voice of our true nature

I recently posed a question to Chong Go Sunim about how our foundation guides us.  His answer is insightful and I’d like to share it.

(The Korean word Juingong (主人空)means that which is really doing things, and which has no fixed shape or form. It can also be read as true nature or Buddha-nature.)

Question: How does our true nature, Juingong, answer, guide, and direct us?  What should I be looking for?   How do I know what is an answer from, my foundation and what is just noise from my busy mundane mind. Specifically, do answers ever materialize in dreams?  Do they show up in circumstances in daily life?

Answer:  I’ll break this down into two parts:  “What form does an answer take?”, and “How do I distinguish it from ordinary, conditioned thinking?”

For me, so far in my practice, the answer takes a huge variety of forms. It can be a phrase from a sutra or a ceremony that suddenly pops into mind, it can be a feeling, or a sudden understanding of what needs to be done. Once, it was even a voice that seemed to be coming from outside me. (Okay, that was a weird experience! I thought it was a friend goofing with me.) It often comes out as “my” thought, or some variation thereof. A lot of times I suddenly seem to understand things exactly just before I wake up, and have even given myself really good Dharma talks while asleep, that I couldn’t remember upon awakening.

I think one of the things to be careful about, regarding our true nature, is looking for an answer that’s separate from myself. (A voice from the sky would be SO convenient!) Because what I think of as myself is also part of Juingong, it speaks through my own consciousness. Even if my understanding is hazy, Juingong is still there. Because my faculties are clouded with habitual perceptions, I may not be able to understand/perceive the answer as clearly as a better practitioner, but it still is pointing me in the right direction.

Sometimes the answer comes in results, such as a situation that seemed intractable suddenly resolves itself in a flash. People who seemed to be a huge obstacle are suddenly very flexible and amenable.

So, the question becomes, “What is coming from my true self, and what is coming from a bit of moldy cheese or a fragment of undigested potato?”  What is arising from true nature, and what is just a bit of conditioned consciousness. I’ll admit this one is a bit tricky, and probably for truly advanced practitioners the difference is much clearer. But one thing I’ve learned is that things arising from our true nature are harmonious, wise, and tend towards the generous side. If it’s harsh, negative, and violates the precepts, you can be pretty sure that this is just the karmic echo, a bit of conditioned consciousness bouncing back.

At any rate, in practice if we cling to the idea that “I know” even if it’s something about our true nature, that act of clinging will lead us astray. So even when we know something, we need to respond as best we can, and entrust even that back to our true nature. It’s that act of letting go and entrusting that’s really magic, because it automatically corrects any delusions or misguided ways or dualistic tendencies that we may attach to the experiences we have, and to the things that seem to be arising from our Juingong.

Thank you Chong Go Sunim.

Gratitude

If you are grateful,

Grateful for you root,

The entire Universe and Dharma realm feel that gratitude

And move and work together

And manifest your intention into the phenomenal world.

The entire Universe looks after you;

Is there anything that can’t be done.

Daehaeng Kun Sunim

As we enter a new year and reflect on the old one, I find myself thinking about the importance of gratitude in my daily practice.  I personally, have found plenty to be grateful for and can attest to the blissful state that easily arises as I nurture a grateful heart. Gratitude, however,  is more than just a feel good state and  I would echo Marcus‘ sentiment that it is a virtue that could easily find itself among the six perfections of practice.

Daehaeng Sunim’s words speak to the transformative and creative powers of gratitude.  In cultivating a grateful heart, we acknowledge the generosity of our root, even before our needs manifest.  This softens ours hearts, making them lighter, more receptive and generous; hearts that humbly acknowledge the gifts bestowed on us and boldly recognize the potential inherent in us.  With gratitude we open a portal to the eternal, omniscient source of our creativity and sustenance. A whole universe of possibility becomes available to us with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration drawn from our collective Being.  Anything and everything becomes possible.

So as you go about your daily activities, take time to cultivate this beneficial virtue.  When you sit in meditation or prayer, let the corners of your mouth curl up in a gentle smile of gratitude, confident that your foundation is looking after your every need.  On your next out-breath, be grateful for the next in-breath, that brings life and energy to animate your desires.   As you contemplate your circumstances, be grateful for the experiences that will serve as lessons for growth and development on your path.  Be grateful for your foundation.

As we close the door on 2010, lets give thanks and gratitude for everything 2011 will bring.

With palms together.

My Practice is Doubt?

As long as I can remember I’ve believed in our fundamental innate wisdom. It made sense that the Creator would build a self-sufficient organism, endowed with all the elements necessary for its journey through life, including and especially the knowledge for self-realization .

Despite this conviction, however, I have struggled to manifest this wisdom in my own life and for years I have struggled with doubt.  I questioned my own wisdom, in favor of that of others.  I questioned my self-worth, such that I was often led down paths not suited to me. In questioning my character I would reinforced those traits I desired least. Doubt has certainly played a less than beneficial role in my life, although one could argue this point, if it brings me to this place of insight.

The Sakyamuni Buddha and many other wisdom teachers have encouraged us to test their teachings in order to realize our personal Truth.  This admonition would certainly seem to encourage fostering a certain degree of doubt as part of our practice.  Yet the Buddha also warns that there is nothing “more dreadful than the habit of doubt”,  and doubt is listed among the five hindrances that impede successful practice. So where is the balance? When do the questions stop being fuel for our journey and instead become hindrances to advancement.

The answer, I believe, is in the practice of letting go.  We let the questions come and release them into the emptiness that is constant change.  Then we observe what comes and let that go too. Into the emptiness. Into our fundamental mind. We practice listening to our inner Wisdom and applying its teachings in our lives.  This is not an easy practice, I’ve found.  I often find myself questioning the still, small voice and wishing it were a little more earth shattering and perhaps not so small.  This is where we engage our faith and trust in our essential Being, God, Unity.  We trust that the appropriate questions will arise for our particular path and just as surely, the right answers will manifest in us. Daehaeng Sunim calls this true, great questioning.  

“When you wholeheartedly believe in and entrust everything to your foundation, questioning bursts forth.  When you let go again of even these questions, the answer will arise from within”

Doubt opens up a space for exploration, a space of non-grasping where, in the words of Martine Bachelor, author and meditation teacher, we can creatively engage the present moment and let our wisdom blossom. Doubt is ok.  The questions will come.  My practice will be let them go and trust my innate wisdom to take care of me as it has through this and many past lifetimes.