“Suffering (Skt. Dukha) is not an illness. You can not go to a doctor or pharmacy and get a pill to get rid of suffering. You can escape from it for a while by numbing your mind but cannot purge it”, said Tashi, a Ngakpa (Himalayan Shaman). The only way to get rid of suffering is by transforming it. Suffering like happiness, is a state of mind. The way we become happy is the same way we become unhappy. The process is same.
Happiness happens to us when we live meaningfully. When we loose the meaning in our life we begin to suffer. There was a big smile on Tashi’s wrinkled face and his tiny shiny eyes were staring deeply into mine. As if they were telling me, look living in America you lost the meaning of life and and now here sitting in the lap of great Himalayas you have found happiness in our conversations and in exchange of myths. This reminded me a quote of Jung, from Psychology and Religion, who says “a psychoneurosis must be understood, ultimately, as the suffering of a soul which has not discovered its meaning. But all creativeness in the realm of the spirit as well as every psychic advance of man arises from the suffering of the soul, and the cause of the suffering is spiritual stagnation, or psychic sterility.”
The raft of inner knowledge swiftly takes the worst sinner to safety – Bhagvat Gita
“We both are happy in the present moment because we both have found meaning”, said Tashi. Life’s meaning can only be found in the present moment, not in the past or future. And happiness is indication of congruency between our inner and outer world and this only happens in the meaningful moment of present. The incongruence originates from not being in present moment.
In another words suffering is a door which if opened correctly can transform our awareness and heal our psyche to create more meaningful life for us. “You can not fight the state of suffering”, said Tashi. You can only surrender to it. It is only by surrendering we become open to the true meaning of suffering. If you can not surrender, then start by just being still.
There is a way between voice and presence
where information flows.
In disciplined silence it opens.
With wandering talk it closes. ~ Rumi
Tashi continued, “as you learn to become Shaman you must understand that the Shaman’s main goal is to help people find meaning in whatever they are doing. When you ‘see things clearly’, you will feel the intrinsic awareness of it and your heart will be filled with a feeling of richness, feeling of fullness and light, free of all judgments and analysis, full of compassion and love. It is this ‘intrinsic awareness’ that transforms suffering and gives meaning to life.” Do not expect to hear the ‘true meaning’ from others, nor to see or find mystery in the books. Look for truth and mystery within yourself. Do not believe in external miracles, expect miracles only within you. I talked to him about the poem by Franz Kafka, who says:
You need not leave your room,
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, simply wait,
You need not even wait,
just learn to become quite, and still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
The work of Shaman is like an alchemist, who transforms the ‘lead’ of suffering into the the ‘gold’ of ‘meaningful life’. The philosopher’s stone (Skt. Paras) is the act of ‘surrendering and going within’. Alchemical transformation begins in the chaos and darkness of suffering. The prima materia is not something physical but it is the ‘mess within our heart’, the broken dreams, worst nightmares, suffering of horrific experiences – the shadow aspects of our life. So, don’t throw away your doubts rather follow them until they transform into revelations.
“One does not become enlighted by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious” – C. G. Jung
The key to this is in our attention. Using attention our consciousness interacts with inner and outer world. When we start paying attention to our attention then we start to become aware. This is the basic aspect of any meditation and first step in enhancing our perception. Our perception of something is determined by what it means to us. If we focus our attention more on our needs and ourselves we experience the perception of separateness and we will loose the perception of others and the whole.
The central core of shamanism is the realization that everything is alive and part of One. Dharmkaya in Buddhism (‘Archetypal Energy’ of Jung, and the Nad or ‘Infinite Ocean of Consciousness’ of Vedas) is the foundation ground that supports and infuses all matter, from the tiniest speck of dirt to the most complex being, with some degree of consciousness. In the eyes of Eternal Goddess no one being or thing is any more important than another, only forms and destiny differ. There is no judgment that makes one flower prettier than other or one being more deserving than other. All life is equally precious. And all life is One interconnected whole.
“Since we are all one, let us
Call out to each other from our hearts
Without mouths or lips…
Let us give up conversation made with our tongues
and vibrate our hearts.” ~ Rumi
When you experience the intrinsic vision of Oneness, the deep and boundless experience of Unity, in your heart, it opens the meaning of symbols and rituals. The symbols and rituals do not generate a spiritual experience, nor can one force or grab it because it is as delicate as the whisper of the wind. The only thing we can do is surrender in our heart. The purpose of all the sadhanas (preparation, training and practice) is to purify our intention and heart and be receptive in the present moment free from dependence on the physical appearance or ‘ego clinging’.
“A great Yogi”, simply means being free from ‘ego clinging’ – Guru Padamasambhava
Tashi and I exchanged our understanding of Chöd, of course my understanding is based more on conceptual and his comes from deep practice. Chöd is a Tibetan Buddhism practice to transform the suffering from demons (anger, fear, grief, hate, jealousy, narcissism, etc..) and demi-gods (runaway desires, aspirations, and hopes that consume our happiness) into to wisdom and compassion. ‘Chöd’ is Tibetan word which literally means “cutting through” or “letting go”.
“It is wonderful you demons came today.
You must come again tomorrow.
From time to time, we should converse.” ~ Milarepa sang to the monsters
Chöd works because its practice reveals the intrinsic awareness that is devoid of polarities and ‘ego clinging’. In simple words, it is a practice to stop the ‘chatter of delusional mind’ and to ‘see’ the reality “as it is”, without any preconception and ‘I-ness’. To realize this perception (of “as it is” or ‘suchness’) and to equanimiously sustain it throughout all aspects of our life is the very essence of creating a meaningful life and is the heart of Himalayan Shamanism and Buddhist Tantrik practice.
Suffering dissolves when there’s nowhere left to hide. – Pema Chödrön
PS: If you are interested in gaining more understanding on Chod then, ‘Feeding your Demons’, by Tusltrim Allione is a wonderful book to begin with.