It is said that action can “arise spontaneously from the non dual state.” Because I teach so much about habits and spontaneity, it’s probably a good idea for people to think about what spontaneity is, and what it does. I’m inviting you to do that now, and won’t give you a clear answer right here, as unfair or strange as that may seem. I assure you that part of it is that I don’t know myself, have no definite understanding to share. One clue is that it is, I think, the impulsive materializing of purified intent. That purified intent is in line with the basic nature, the soul.
Buddhists, meditators, yogis- we’ve seen the proliferation of many shapes and sizes of so called mindfulness over the last five years. One is this thing, which actually has roots in the counterculture and peace movements, so is older, this thing called engaged Buddhism. I’m not against it. I have my qualms, but I respect people who are brave, want to help, and have a vision for connecting the spirit with lay life. Because engaged Buddhism tends to focus on relative reality and making positive changes in that reality, results are key. So, we will see what results come of it. And if there have already been tremendous results, I apologize. Because I’m not well educated re this, I could have missed many things, and, of course, time will tell. It could be that ten or one hundred or one thousand years from now, we will look back and talk about how much help this movement did.
My issue is that we are nonduality practitioners, at least in aspiration. The supposedly radical nature of mindfulness and awareness lineages is that they’re nonconceptual. They don’t fit within any models. You will find this if you do some reading, then ask a master teacher about any of the systems or structures you learn about- they won’t answer directly. It will be direct, but not linear, not following a logic of “yes” or “no.” How would this kind of energy fit within political structures and well meaning groups of strangers? Religion is magic, interlocking complex systems of magic with a strong basis in love. The connection of love to politics is clear enough, if maddeningly corrupt and tricksterish. But magic? That is it, I think. If engaged Buddhism is fulfill its promise, which can never be liberal, never be that limited, it has to rise to the level of magic, the level of working around logical confusion.
There is a constant push and pull of duality trying to coopt the realized. One of Trungpa’s students relates the story that he said, in person, “there’s a war on.” I take this to be about spiritual materialism, the constant burrowing in of dualistic logical limited views to the vastness of the big mind, soul. Of course, I’m not talking about violence or actual war- the constant state of war for profit we are in is horrific mostly because it has become commonplace, as commonplace as knowing that buying your morning cup of coffee means knowing you’re supporting a bad company who mistreats workers where you live, and across the world where they grow their stuff.
I’ve said it before, and other people have too- mindfulness has stolen the fire of the real thing. That’s fine. We shouldn’t be jealous or petty. But the objection is one hundred and ten percent valid if the watered down version is lulling people into a false sense of understanding or practice. Sometimes you hear mindfulness or Zen used as adjectives. This is what I mean. It’s terrible. They’re not adjectives.
This happens because we’re ambivalent about enlightenment. That’s to be expected. I’m sure longtime practitioners or yogis will agree, you never get fully past the resistance and the temptation to turn the path into a security blanket. Spirituality is not safe. If it’s safe, it’s not spirituality. But what about times when we’re hurting so much, and solace or refuge seem like the only thing we need? Those moments when we’re about to give up, in the bardo, are fantastic, and I can say this having been there many times. The next step is complicated, and there is room for comfort in some forms. Just not for cocoon, and you know it when you see it.
When is it okay to manipulate others? Being evilly manipulative is gross, and we’ve all been disgusted by people, at work, or in our personal lives, who do this. Sometimes it’s as clumsy as a robot, sometimes we only see it months or years later. Either way, it’s foul. But this doesn’t mean some kind of commitment to being removed, always letting others have their way, or turning into a pale living dharma ghost. Here is what I think. Manipulation is about actual gentleness, the first of the two warrior’s disciples. If you want to manipulate time and space, good. If you try to manipulate others, as we all do, it can become compassion if it is nonaggression, so, gentle. Then again, the actual meaning of gentleness can be tricky in this context.
Action can and does arise spontaneously. It is, for most people, their wildest dream. When it does, gentleness tempers it, like cream in the coffee.