I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere in any literature, but it is something worth noting.
There are twelve deeds of a Buddha. The first nine consist of a Buddha taking birth and then embarking on the path to awakening, culminating in a fierce battle with their own demons.
The tenth deed is to gain complete awakening.
The eleventh is turning the Wheel of Dharma, or teaching.
The twelfth is passing away into parinirvana.
The scriptures recount that upon the Buddha gaining complete and utter enlightenment he rested in equipoise for seven days. Afterwards, he hesitated to teach, thinking that their would be no way to communicate his realization and no one to understand the truth he had realized.
For a moment, the Buddha was faced with uncertainty about the work he was about to do, the work that he needed to do as a Buddha.
For a moment, the Buddha entertained the thought of holding back, of not sharing the boundless joy that he had realized first hand.
That was the last trick that Mara had left to play. It was a subtle trick, playing into the Buddha's human nature, but it was the only move he had left. The Buddha was already free, his mind liberated, but there was an opportunity to prevent him from being generous.
But the Buddha did not bite that hook.
It is said that the Buddha sat for seven weeks in samadhi after his enlightenment to formulate his teachings. The rest of his life was spent sharing generously.
The last demon to overcome on the path is the resistance that we are all faced with to hold back.
What is the work that you came here to do? What is holding you back?
The story of the Buddha's quest for complete awakening and fulfillment reaches its climax under the Bodhi tree. It is here that Siddhartha Gautama formed a firm resolve not to get up from his seat until he was enlightened.
When Siddhartha took his seat and entered into meditative absorption he entered into battle with Mara, who was trying to prevent and derail his quest. Mythologically, Mara is a powerful demonic god, but metaphorically anything that exerts a negative influence and creates obstacles and problems on our spiritual path is considered a demon, or Mara.
As a practitioner, Mara symbolizes our own self-cherishing and our preoccupation with the eight worldly concerns. These are what we enter into battle with on our own path. As these powerful armies rise up against us, we must sit firmly and not waver in our practice. We must remain unhooked by these clever and mischievous demons.
We get hooked by hoping for pleasure and fearing pain.
Our minds ensnared by hoping for fame and fearing disgrace.
We become trapped hoping for praise and fearing criticism and blame.
We are totally caught up in hoping for gain and fearing loss.
All of these are the self-cherishing habit of ego, caught up in hope and fear, attachment and aversion. These are what keep us stuck in the cycle of samsara.
Waking up from ignorance and delusion isn't easy. The path isn't easy. At some point you need to turn and face your fear. You need to learn how to work with these demons, see how they hook us. We need to understand how they how they shade our perception and influence our decisions and actions.
These demons are not real. They are intense, but they are not real. Knowing that we can start to work with them.
We are rational, reasonable people. We make choices and chart a course based on the best information available. We use critical thinking, we weigh the pros and cons, and we make a decision knowing that we are the ones responsible for our path.
We know this, but what really motivates our decisions?
Often we have goals for the future. We have bigger plans for ourselves and try to make sure that we can enjoy our future. We think that the underlying motivation for our decisions is based on our future goals, but what if it was actually from our present fear?
What if our decisions are influenced by a fear lurking in the shadows of our mind that we haven't even acknowledged?
What if all of our goals and plans are based on this unspoken fear?
We live our lives charting a course, thinking that we are making our way to happiness, but what if every choice and every action is really just another maneuver to escape our fear? If we never turn and face it, will we ever truly be free?
What does it mean to be self-reliant if our minds are always preoccupied by fear?
Pure vision is a unique aspect of the tantric path and the student-teacher relationship.
As a westerner we approach the student-teacher relationship with skepticism and doubt. We tend to be critical of every thought, word and deed. We are used to bringing judgement into our relationships, setting firm boundaries of what is right and what is wrong. We are ready to pounce on every minor flaw that we see, confirming our own rightness and position.
The result is that we are not impacted. We are not changed. We continue on our righteous way.
In order to be impacted by teachings, we need to be open minded and receptive. We need to be present. It is important that we show up ready, attentive, embodied.
We have to show up with a receptive and strong mind of initiative in order to be impacted. Our habitual tendencies, negative thoughts and emotions are simply too strong otherwise. It is too easy for us to slip back into negative feedback loops. Too easy to fall prey to judgement, skepticism and arrogance.
Pure vision is the process of entering a teaching with a sense of wonder and awe. It is a fresh, receptive and curious perspective. When we sit for a teaching in such a way, we actually hear and receive the teachings.
Pure vision isn't about creating a make believe experience, it is about seeing things as they truly are for the first time, as they are now.
There are countless vows that the Ngakpa promises to uphold, but the root of all of them is the samaya they have with their root teacher.
The teacher is the source of all blessings. We receive those blessings when our minds are transformed. That transformation can take many forms, such as feeling more compassionate, more open minded. It can take the form of finding one's purpose or finding meaning in one's life. Ultimately that transformation is our ordinary samsaric mind transforming into the awakened mind of complete enlightenment, our inherent buddhanature.
Transformation can take many forms, but it is always personal. It impacts your mind and your life.
The confirmation that we have received the blessings of the teacher is that our mind and life are transformed by their kindness. We have been impacted, changed.
That transformation engenders a deep gratitude and respect. It is something to honor and to uphold. That heartfelt connection that has been forged is called samaya. It is the basis for all the other commitments that one makes.
Blessings, transformation and samaya. They are all linked between the student and the teacher. The come together as a seed and they ripen as the path, bearing fruit as complete awakening.
Spending ten years wanting to start the practice,
Ten years trying to figure out how to fit it in your schedule,
And another ten wishing you did the practice when you could have.
That is truly a wasted opportunity.