Buddhism has never postulated a “Truth” existing apart from experience itself. The respective lineages offer tools for a more mundane aim: to know whatever arises in experience, free from the projections of thought and emotion. Whether through the Theravadan practices of bare attention (mindfulness), the Mahayana practice of awakening to experience (bodhicitta), or the Vajrayana practices of direct awareness (mahamudra, dzogchen), the aim is one and the same: natural knowing that is not separate from experience.
Many people don’t know what to make of this possibility. Unable to fit natural knowing into their usual frame of reference, they react with suspicion and fear. In looking for a reference point that is more familiar, they conceptualize the result of practice as “The Truth” or some other ideal. Modernist tendencies kick in. “The Truth” becomes an object, either of scientific investigation or of belief.
To counteract this objectifying tendency, students are often told just to trust the lineage as the guarantee of transmission from an enlightened master to a perfectly devoted disciple. Two problems now arise. First, the sanctity of transmission sends a hidden message: what was once discovered cannot now be discovered again. Second, disillusionment inevitably sets in when the teacher turns out to be something less than their idea of an enlightened master and the student fails to be the perfectly devoted disciple. Unable to trust either their own experience or the lineage, they succumb to the bitterness of post-modern cynicism and despair.
Lineage is not the passing on of “The Truth” from one generation to another. It is the passing on of the methods, the tools, with which you uncover and live this natural knowing. Then you see that things are neither true nor not true, they just are. You see that things always change, that emotional reactions to change are suffering, and that you are not an entity that exists in opposition to experience.
You see that this knowing is there for anyone who makes the same efforts. It is not the result of reasoning. It is not the result of belief. It is not the property of those in power. Nor can it be used to oppress or control. Increasingly you appreciate not only the wisdom and understanding of those who have come before you, but their courage and efforts in letting so much conditioning and projection fall away. In this way, a clear open appreciation of lineage arises in you and a door to still deeper knowing opens.”
Ken McLeod, Buddhist teacher and writer
- elaine4queen posted this