Monday, June 1, 2009

Something we can learn from a Awakened Aids Patient

Source : "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" - Sogyal Rinpoche.

This is the story of Rick, a real life story, where even under difficult life situations, he lived the life with grace and richness. Despite facing the imminent death, he faced the death gracefully. But facing the death with open arms became possible for him, only because he lived the life in gratitude for the whole planet, feeling the oneness with it. The following are the excerpts from this book :-
Rick lives in Oregon and has Aids. He is forty-five, and used to work as a computer operator. Sometime ago, he came to the annual summer retreat I lead in the United States (I refers to Sogyal Rinpoche), and spoke to us about what death, and life, and his illness meant to him. I was amazed by Rick, who had only studied the Buddhist teachings with me for 2 years, had taken them to heart. In this brief period he had, in his own way, captured the essence of teachings: devotion, compassion, and the View of the nature of the mind, and made them a part of his life. Rick sat in his chair and faced us all and told us how he felt about dying.

I hope that these excerpts of Rick will give you some flavour of this moving occasion :-

When I thought I was dying, two years ago, I did what was natural: I cried out, and I was anwsered. And it took me through several weeks of horrible fevers, where I thought I was going to go in the middle of the night............This devotion, this crying out............When this is all you can do, we have that promise from Padmasambhava (Seen has a every embodiment of all the Buddhas in Tibet) that he is there. And he doesn't lie: he has proved himself to me many times.
If it were not for Padmasambhava, whom Rinpoche teaches us is the nature of our own mind, our own buddha nature, if it were not for that glorious shining presence, I couldn't go through what I'm going through. I just know I coundn't.
The first thing I realised was that you must take personal responsibility for yourself. The reason I am dying is that I have AIDS. That is my responsibility, no one else is to blame. In fact there is no one to blame, not even myself. But I take responsibility for that.
I made a vow to myself and to whatever god there may be, before I came into Buddhism, that I just wanted to be happy. When.........I made that decision, I stuck to it. And this is very important in doing any kind of training of the mind. You must make the decision that you really want to change, no one is going to do the work for you.
Our to work with the daily aspects of our situation. first is to be grateful that you are in this body, and on this planet. That was the beginning for me - realizing the gratitude for earth, for living beings. Now that I feel things slowly slipping out, I am becoming so much more grateful for everyone and everything. So my practice centers on this gratitude, simply a constant offering of praise to life, to Padmasambhava, who Is living all of these multitudinous forms.
Don't make the mistake I did for so many years, that "practice" means sitting straight and saying mantras, thinking "I'll be glad when this is over". Practice is much bigger than that. Practice is every person you meet; practice is every unkind word you hear or that may even be directed at you.
When you stand up from your practice seat, that's when practice really begins. We have to be very artful and creative in how we apply the practice to life. There is always something in our environment we can connect with, to do the practice. So if I am too dizzy to visualize Vajjrasattva above my head, I stand up, and I go and wash my morning dishes, and the plate I'm holding in my hand is the world and all its suffering beings. Then I say the mantra........OM VAJJRA SATTVA HUM...........and I am washing away the suffering of the beings. When I take a shower, that's Vajrasattva above my head. When I go out in the Sunshine, it is the light, like the hundred thousands suns, shining from Vajrasattva's body and entering me, and I just take it in. When I see a beautiful person walking down the street, I might in the beginning think, "What a nice looking person", but the next instant I am offering that up to Padmasambhava with my full heart, and letting it go.. You have to take real life situations and make them your practice. Otherwise you will have only an empty belief that gives you no solace, no strenght, when hard times start. It's just a belief: "Oh. Someday I'll go to heaven. Someday I'll be a buddha. You are a Buddha, now. And when you practice, you are practicing at being who you are..............

It's very important to take situations that are occuring in your life and use them. As Rinpoche keeps saying, if you have practiced calling out and asking for help, then in the bardos(After-death situations) it will be natural to do the same............. I made a mantra out of this line by Dudjom Rinpoche: "Lama of unrepayable kindness, I only remember you." Someday, it is all I can manage to think; it is the only practice I can get out. But it works great.

So.............Happiness, self-responsibility, gratitude.......don't confuse a dead, ritualistic practice for a living, ongoing, changing , fluid, opening, glorious practice. Because, and it's my experience right now - and I know it sounds like words perhaps, but I know in my heart it's not - I see Padmasambhava everywhere. That's just my practice. Every person, especially the difficult ones, that are making life difficult for others around them, to me that is the blessing of the master. To me this illness is the blessing of the master. It is grace. So much grace, I can chew on it.

But this has happened because I have trained my mind..............When I srarted, I used to judge things constantly in my mind. I would judge this person; I would judge that one. I would judge the way he looked; I would judge the way she sat; I would judge, "I don't like today, it's too rainy, too gray. Oh poor me.......Oh love me.......Oh help!. So I started with that. It was just a constant commentary in my mind. But I made a start. I would write myself little notes and stick them into refrigerator. "Don't judge".

When you live in your mind-that is choosing between this and that, "This is good.........This is bad, I don't want it," between hope and fear, between hate and love, between joy and sorrow, when you are actually grasping for one of those extremes- the essential peace of your mind is disturbed. A Zen patriach says "The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences." Because your Buddha nature is there. Happiness is everywhere.

So I began to work with my conceptual mind. At first it seemed like an impossible thing to do. But the more I practiced at it........I found out; If you leave the risings on their own place, they are perfectly fine, where they are. Just be with them, and be happy, because you know you have the buddha nature.
You don't have to feel like you have the buddha nature. That's not the point. The point is trust, which is faith. The point is devotion, which is surrender. That, for me, is the essence. IF YOU CAN TRUST WHAT THE MASTER IS SAYING, and study and try to bring the teachings back to yourself in difficult times, and train your mind not to fall into its habitual patterns, if you can just be with what is happening, with bare attention, after a while you notice that nothing stays around very long. Not even negative thoughts. Especially not your bodies. Everything changes. If you leave it in its place, it will liberate itself.
In a situation like mine, when fear becomes so obvious to you, and so predominant, and you feel like you are being swallowed by the fear, you must take your mind in hand. I have realized that fear is not going to kill me. This is just something that is passing through my mind. This is a thought and I know that thought will liberate itself, if I keep my hands off. I also realise that's what happens in the bardos, when and if you see a vision coming at you that might be frightening; it's not coming anywhere other than you! All those energies we have kept damped down into our bodies are being released.
Some of you have been dearer to me than my family. Because you allow Padmasambhava to come to me in just another way, through your care and your concern and your love. You don't seem to care that I have AIDS. No one has ever asked me "Well, how did you get it?" except a old friend of mine who called me a week or so ago and said "Aren't you afraid that this is God's curse on you?" After I stopped laughing, I said "You believe that God has cursed the earth and the human body is impure. I , on the other hand, believe that blessing is the original starting point, not a curse." From the beginningless time, everything has already been accomplished, pure and perfect.
So what I do now is just rest in radiance. It's everywhere. You can't get away from it. It is so intoxicating that sometimes I feel like I am just floating in the radiance. I am letting Padmasambhava, as he flies through the sky of mind, just let me tag along.
Now If i were sitting out listening to this, I would say "OK then, why aren't you healed?" People have asked me that. It's not that I haven't tried: I bought a whole suitcase full of pills. But I stopped that question quite a while ago. I guess the reason I did was because it seemed it would be manipulating and interfering with the process that had started. This process is very cleansing for me. I know there is a lot of karma being burned up. It's cleansing perhap's for my mother, because I offer this for her. She suffers quite a bit. Then there are spiritual friends in this group whom I love like brothers and sisters, they suffer to. I have made this covenant with Padmasambhava: If I have to stay around and suffer so that some of it could help cleanse and purify you as well as me, what a blessing that would be! This is my prayer. And I'm not a person who likes to suffer, I can guarantee you that!. But I feel that grace, that blessing, pushing me gently into that suffering.
And at this point, from studying what I have studied of Rinpoche's teaching on the bardos, death is not an enemy. Just like our thoughts are not to be seen as enemies.........And life is not an enemy. Life is something glorious, because in this life we can awaken to who we truly are.
So I beg you - from the bottom of my heart - not to waste the opportunity you have, while you are still relatively healthy, to work with what Rinpoche is offering you........He knows how to get the point in speaking and teaching about what Dzogchen is, and he knows how to take you there in the heart. That is so important: and especially when you are getting ready to die.
So I'm here to say goodbye. Atleast for this time around...........I want to say goodbye to all those of you who have become my brother's and sister's, those of you whom I know not have not had the privilige of getting to know better, those of you I have not even met................I have a feeling that within the next 6 months I may die. It could be within the next 3 months. Si I hold you all in my heart, and I see you all bright and shining. There is no darkness. It is just light from Padmasambhava's heart, pervading all of us. Thank's to the master's blessing.

TO BE CONTINUED.....................................................

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