Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Charnel Ground

Photo courtesy of Himalayan Arts

The charnel ground is a very evocative image used by Buddhist practitioners.  

It is disgusting, filled with disease and pestilence.  It is strewn with carnage and lifeless, wandering souls.  

Your emotions and senses run rampant in a charnel ground.  The only way to survive is to stay on high alert.  The charnel ground would love to claim you as its next victim, to bend your will and seize your heart.  Your head might be the next one hanging at the gates as a symbol of its conquest, left to rot and grow old as a reminder for those that might come near.  

Some practitioners actually choose to practice their sadhana in this environment.  Of course they could retreat to peaceful forest groves, alpine meadows or glacial peaks, but they choose the charnel ground.  For these yogins, the very fabric of their day to day life is the path of liberation.  They look to first hand experience to transform their own obstacles and poisons, constantly battling the gods and demons of their own hopes and fears.  It is a direct encounter with wisdom, through insight transmuting poison into a healing nectar that pacifies their own and others ails. 

We all live in a charnel ground of our own thoughts and emotions, hopes and fears.  Our habit since beginningless time is to turn and run, to seek out better conditions and a supportive environment.  And this works, for a little while.  Then we start to meet more resistance and the charnel ground gates start to creak open, beckoning you. 

The nice thing about the charnel ground is that you always know where you stand.  If you are struggling to reconcile your internal conflicts, fighting against yourself and your environment, then you still have more work to do.  If you are able to transform all situations into insight and can use this to bring about the welfare of beings, then I think you have found your calling.  

Either way, better get to work.

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