When I was a junior in college, I took a senior level course in Buddhist Philosophy. It proved to be both an interesting and annoying course. It was fascinating because it introduced me to several ideas and doctrines that I've been struggling to integrate into my own open-minded Roman Catholic belief system ever since. It was extremely annoying because I discovered that the discipline of philosophy is as much about semantics of thinking as it is embracing actual spiritual belief. Therefore, the process of discussing the how many Bodhisattvas can dance on the head of a pin bores me to death.
One of the better ideas I took away from this course though referred to an idea in a commentary on Nagarjuna's classic Buddhist text, the Madhyamaka Karika. In that commentary, a later Buddhist monk mentioned that Enlightenment occurs when "the head falls off". This does not mean that we must all be decapitated in order to be Enlightened beings, at least not in the literal sense. Instead, it refers to a way of being that is completely in the moment and lacks a sense of self that is tied to the past or the future.
I sometimes wish that my head would fall off. My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTJ. A partial description of this personality type runs something like this: "INTJs focus their energy on observing the world, and generating ideas and possibilities. Their mind constantly gathers information and makes associations about it. They are tremendously insightful and usually are very quick to understand new ideas. However, their primary interest is not understanding a concept, but rather applying that concept in a useful way." All this observing, generating, associating, and applying tends to keep my head rather crowded, noisy, and busy with inner voices -- some loud, some soft. I wish I could make them stop more often and experience a sense of stillness and focus that washes over me only occasionally.
At those moments, I feel a profound sense of submission and surrender. I am no longer think about the past or the future. I no longer worry about anything. I lose any sense of self as a separate, active entity. I merely confont the reality in front of me, without choice or judgement, and get thoroughly lost in it.
These moments of surrender can come on me in so many small and odd ways. I often find that strenuous physical exercise sometimes cultivates the feeling; I used to love running (before my feet could no longer take the repetitive stress) because it allowed me to simply become the wall of air pushing against my body as I ran around a track. I still have that feeling occasionally when I work out at the gym. At the start of a workout, I sometimes feel as if I am vessel full of momentary thoughts, anxieties, and passing perceptions. The workout slowly burns or pours away these most impermanent thoughts and sensations, leaving me feeling emotionally clean and wonderfully empty.
I've also taken a yoga class or two during the last few years, and I must say that regular practice of yoga produces a more mixed sense of submission and surrender in me. I say this because the results can be highly variable. I found that yoga left me feeling very peaceful on some days and frustrated and angry on others. It left me with the idea that our bodies truly are repositories for our emotions, and that yoga is tool that empties those repositories on a deep, deep level. I can see why it was developed as a part of spiritual exercise; it empties you out in preparation for other spiritual discipline. Casual practice for me means facing a lot of emotional baggage, and can therefore be rather intense.
I need to submit and surrender more. It is a pathway to the perfect emptiness of peak experience. No perception of self. No analysis. No rehashing the past. No imagining the future. No psychological avoidance of the perceptions of the present moment. No sense of hiding from myself. Simple limited being, limited but profound, within the silence of a perfect moment.
ps.Thank you Dark and Deviant for the inspiration.
on 2003-03-10 at 5:41 p.m.
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