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Going Beyond the Stick
2022, December, Issue 22
It is no coincidence that I speak about looking inwardly, not looking outside yourself for answers. My Near Death Experience revealed, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that everything we need can be found through inner Spiritual Practice. This is not to say that we should ignore appearances, it is to say that we do not, or really should not, look outside of ourselves.
Everything and beyond is right here, now, perfect, as it is. When we look outside of ourselves, we gaze at what can only confuse us, creating strange obsessions, much like chasing a stick. It’s a comical act of futility. By looking inwardly, we begin to clear confusion, we begin to understand the ineffable. This is why meditation is so powerful.
Although meditation is taught by many traditions, I am biased. I consider Buddhism to be the best way to learn meditation. I am also biased that Tibetan Buddhism is best, when it comes to explaining the intricacies of mind. When I started to meditate regularly, many years ago, which, by the way, was at the advice from my doctor as a way to reduce stress, I wanted to learn the best of the best way to do that. As a Type-A personality, someone always pushing myself to be the best at everything, naturally I would want to pursue what is best.
This is a personal bias of mine. It does not mean that I reject other methods and teachings, regarding meditation. I thought you should know that, if you did not know that already.
One of the most important things we can learn is how to not chase thoughts. For those of you who have read The Frog: A Spiritual Autobiography, Spanning Many Lifetimes, you already know about a fantastic spiritual experience I have had with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. I am just incredibly grateful to him, as well as all he has done for the world. His teachings sometimes come to mind.
As ordinary beings who really don’t understand our real condition, we find ourselves chasing thoughts, which is very much like dogs chasing sticks. We find ourselves clinging to objects, fixating on all sorts of imaginary notions, thinking that material existence is real. Quantum physics has demonstrated that nothing in our local vicinity can be proven to be real. By this, I believe they mean our universe, or maybe this multiverse neighborhood that is within our theoretical grasp. The point is, Western scientists have determined that we cannot actually demonstrate that anything is real. Our observation changes the results.
This is actually nothing new. Buddhism has said basically the same thing, that all appearances are illusory. This observation came from a fully enlightened being; and, as such, this knowledge was passed down to many schools of Buddhism that came and went, to lineages of students and teachers who followed such profound teachings, throughout much of the world. This knowledge is meant to be discovered through a process or a path leading to awakening. In this context, it’s not meant to be blindly accepted, or even believed. It’s meant to be discovered by a person who sits in meditation, gazing at mind.
One of my dogs is absolutely obsessed with sticks and shiny objects. My outdoor meditation time is also accompanied by this one barking at me, wanting me to throw the stick for her to chase. I can also distract her from this by reflecting light from my phone. She’s obsessed by light reflections, and loves to chase that as well. This is really no different than most humans.
Dilgo Khyentse once quoted the great yogi Milarepa, as part of a most perfect teaching:
“When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick: every time a stick is thrown, you run after it. But if, instead, you look at where your thoughts are coming from, you will see that each thought arises and dissolves within the space of that awareness, without engendering other thoughts. Be like a lion, who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower. One only throws a stick at a lion once.”
Well, what if we have the courage to be serious? What if we go beyond, simply finding ourselves liberated from all such constraints? This is a scary thought, well, for most people. People want exterior appearances to govern their lives, rejecting total freedom. If no one is there to keep throwing the stick for us, what would we chase? What would happen?
To become liberated, we must face reality. We must be courageous about it. Awakening is essentially liberation. If we are attached to anything whatsoever, then we are not liberated. Awakening requires that we let the stick go, that we go beyond the stick. This stick is just an appearance of mind, not anything substantial. If we cannot face what that is, then we will continue in this act of futility. We must face reality in order to awaken. This means going beyond the stick.