Dharma Ocean on Sacred Mysteries

Dr. Reggie Ray

This is adapted from a podcast of a talk given by Dr. Reggie Ray, the Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation, at the Blazing Mountain Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado.

We talk about pain in this lineage. We talk about the pain of our lives. The Buddha talked about pain. He said it was the first thing, the personal truth.

The important point is the way one would talk about pain from the viewpoint of Vajrayana or Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, and the ordinary way ARE completely different. We have to give the relative world room to be what it is. Sometimes, people don’t want to talk about pain, and they feel talking about pain is degrading or depressing, or, “Let’s not talk about death. Let’s not talk about illness. Let’s not talk about the tied-up claustrophobic feeling of neurotic upheavals. Let’s not talk about the heartbreak of being in relationships.”

What we have to realize is that talking about pain is a celebration. It’s a celebration of life. It’s acknowledging that there is nothing wrong with anything, whether it’s life or death. There is nothing wrong with anything. In fact, quite the opposite. Whatever we go through in life, we’re in the presence of sacred mysteries, always.

Pain, pleasure, taking a breath, these are all independent entities. They’re sacred mysteries. Any idea that we have to have an attitude toward the sacred mysteries is ridiculous, and yet we do it. We have all kinds of attitudes. We separate the sacred mysteries. We take them, and we put some of them here and some of them there. Some of them are me, some of them are you, some are pleasure, some are pain, some I like, some I don’t like, and we’re manipulating all the time. It’s ridiculous. It is so lost. It is so mistaken.

The more deeply we discover and rest in the immeasurable expanse of our own being, the more inspired we are to allow our relative life to have its own way, and the more inspired we are to give room to the anthills and the trees and the dung heaps and the stars. Our forebears, the indigenous men and women from all the different social levels and circumstances, held all of life within a sacred compass. They talked about life from this standpoint. They talked about their pain, and they talked about their pleasure. They talked about their hope, and they talked about their fear. But the way they did it was completely different because rather than trying to figure something out or control something or establish some zone where they felt safe, and all the talking was a celebration of what life is.

Suppose that the purpose of speech is to celebrate life and nothing else. So, when we talk about pain from the standpoint of the awakened state, of the unborn awareness, we’re not complaining. We’re not trying to get out of it. We’re not criticizing. When we talk about pleasure, it’s not to celebrate ourselves and how great we are. When we talk about how unspiritual we feel and how screwed up we feel, it’s a celebration. It’s an expression of the sacred mystery of feeling that way or of having that thought or that experience. Your heart can be utterly broken, and it’s a celebration. The journey is the ever-deepening letting go into the natural state, our deepest nature, our eternal awareness.

There isn’t anything more to it because the natural state knows how to live and knows how to receive experience. It knows the moment of compassion and love. It knows the words that need to be spoken. Truly, our life does flow from the unborn emptiness. Our problem is that we somehow along the line got the idea that actually there was something more to it, that there’s a solidified self behind the scenes, that kind of Wizard of Oz. But just the way the Wizard of Oz turned out to be a total fraud, so does that notion that there’s more to it. There isn’t more to it. In fact, there isn’t more that there could be to it. The natural state is the source of our life, and we don’t need to add anything to it.

Maybe last week, your therapist told you that you’ve got a long way to go, and you’re really screwed up. The only way that’s going to hem you in is if you think it hems you in. There are possibilities here, and it isn’t because of us personally; it’s because of the world. Human beings can go along to a certain point, and they can kind of define their reality up to a point. Then at a certain point, at a certain moment, the world reality takes over, and it goes, “No, that’s not how it is. It’s going to be different,” and we are all living in that moment, especially now.

So, the more you can open to yourself, your deeper self, and the more willing you are to not go by what you’ve been thinking about yourselves, the more is going to happen. The world that existed yesterday doesn’t exist anymore. It may be that we’re physically alive, but that our circumstances or the world circumstances will change, and we won’t be able to practice anymore and will be taken over by the river of karma. We have to realize that there may not be very much time at all for us and the opportunities. If the world goes in a certain, slightly different direction, all of us are going to be out of luck. We don’t know what’s coming. It’s the comet phenomenon that at any time, we could be hit by a comment and wiped out as a planet. Nobody really knows.

So, we go from that, the level of sort of cosmic events, all the way down to our own personal life, and it’s very uncertain. Please don’t waste any more time. Please don’t get involved in things that aren’t meaningful in the ultimate sense. We don’t have time to be slightly meaningful and to do things that everybody else thinks are really great, but in our heart, we know it is basically a complete waste of time. We just really don’t have that luxury anymore. We just can’t do it. So, whether you’re 20 or whether you’re 85, please don’t waste any more time.

We have to move on, and we’ve got to take an approach to life that humans have not taken, at least for a long time, which is to focus on what’s the most meaningful and the most real in our lives and let the rest of it go. We have a lot of excuses not to do it in our culture, but we have to do it. We have to turn away from conventional thinking. It doesn’t mean that we don’t live the same life we lived yesterday. But we have to have a completely different approach to it and a different understanding. We do have to pare away the things that are not essential and make room for life. The world’s dying because people haven’t made room for life in a long time. That’s why the world’s dying. It’s very straightforward.

About Dharma Ocean

Dharma Ocean is a non-profit global educational foundation that focuses on somatic meditation as the way to help students – of any secular or religious discipline, by teaching them the importance of embodiment in both meditation and their daily lives as taught in the “practicing lineage” of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The foundation was established in 2005 by scholar, author, and teacher Dr. Reggie Ray, and is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Southern Colorado.