Samsara is the wandering-in-circles world. When people say, “the world is going
crazy”, we are talking about samsara.
It is the human world, which is driven by the hub of the Wheel of Life
and Death, the three poisons: greed, hatred, and ignorance. This wheel turns
round and round endlessly. As
far back as we know, the historic world has been crazy. This is what Buddha means in the first
noble truth when he says the human world has suffering in it. Another translation of suffering or
dukkha that I like is dissatisfaction.
In our ordinary heads, we are always dissatisfied.
This is why I say samsara is already broken. Samsara is a view that sources from the
idea that things are solid and that appearance is everything. Its nature is to be broken, corrupt or
ultimately dissatisfying. Samsara is the world of form, self and story and that
story always end in a tragedy – we die.
In our ordinary minds, we perceive this death as an annihilation of a
self that was actually never solid in the first place.
Years ago, when I studied Pema Chodron for the first time
and she was teaching Tonglen and the Lojong slogans, she said something that
really broke me open and stayed with me.
Her sound byte was: "Unrequited love is the heart of the world." She called it our ‘soft spot.’ The Rolling Stones sang, “you can’t always get what you
want.” This “soft spot” is very
important to spiritual life. To
see the world through the eyes of our ‘soft spot’.
We can learn to stay with our “soft spot” instead of running
away. Katagiri Roshi's first words to me
were, “You can’t escape pain.” Our
brokenness, through the many losses in life, can open us to our tenderness and
vulnerability. From that point, we
can cultivate compassion for the human condition. This brokenness becomes the source of our practice. We go beneath the story and narrative
of life and touch in on the “original mind”, the mystery of life, present in everything and including
everything, giving us a new 360 degree perspective. If we can interrupt our linear, historic thinking, we can
hold a different view altogether.
One mindfulness practice I have is to say “samsara, samsara”
in the back of my mind in a soft and loving voice when things are hard and
difficult in the surface of my life.
I can remind myself that this is samsara right now. The story I’m upset about, the story I
want to fix is already broken and cannot be fixed.
One of our impermanence verses is:
Birth will end in death
Youth will end in old age
Wealth will end in loss
Meeting will end in separation
All things in cyclic existence
Are transient and impermanent.
In order to handle these difficult experiences of life, I
have to dig deep down into a place in myself that can see each moment with
equanimity. I have to accept my
soft spot and use it to cultivate wisdom and compassion and to respond to the
broken world and myself as wisely and lovingly as I can. We dig deep down and find what Katagiri
Roshi called “universal perspective”.
It is a place that goes beyond self into the boundlessness of
bodhi-mind. With this huge
perspective, I can find peace even in the midst of the unrequietedness of
life. With our spiritual
awareness, we can see the complete within the incomplete.
Labels: compassion, dukkha, Impermanence verse, Katagiri Roshi, Pema Chodron, right view, samsara