Tuesday, August 25, 2009

a New Naropa Student

Well, I am now officially a Naropa student. I just finished my first two classes: Buddhist Journey of transformation, a kind of "Buddhism 101", and Contemplative Learning Seminar, which is an introduction to the particular pedagogic style pioneered by Naropa University. We have heard the story of the school's namesake, the siddhi Naropa, and how, when he was a famous scholar at Nalanda University, circa 11-12 centuries, he was visited in his study by an alarmingly ugly old hag. The hag is said to have asked him:" Do you understand the words you are studying?" to which he replied in the affirmative. At this the hag broke out laughing and expressed great joy. She then asked:"Do you also understand the inner meaning of the words?"

When Naropa answered again, that of course he understood the deeper meaning, the hag's attitude changed abruptly. She began weeping and wailing uncontrollably, falling on the ground and clutching herself; expressing great sadness and despair.

Naropa asked "why were you so happy at my first answer and so sad at my second?"

The hag replied: "when you answered my first question, you told the truth, but when you answered the second question, you lied!" At this the hag dissolved into rainbow light and was gone. Naropa realized his understanding was insufficient, and gave up his place at the university and embarked on a years-long journey to find a teacher who could help him understand "the inner meaning".

I too, like Naropa, have studied and practiced for many years, and many people consider me a source of knowledge and experience. But, like Naropa, I don't know nuthin'! I am starting at the beginning and I hope I can accept everyone as my teacher. Even the ugly, poor old woman, or a child with bare feet.

With humility, I ask for the presence to pay attention every moment to the teachings that constantly surround me. My footsteps have led me back here after decades of seemingly aimless wandering, and I aspire to take what comes with equanimity.

My friend and Dharma brother, Hakubai Martin Mosko, Zenji has invited me to act as caretaker at his temple in Boulder, which is also a memorial garden for our teacher, Kobun Chino Otogawa, Dai-osho and his daughter, Maya, who tragically died in 2002. I am honored and humbled to serve in that position, and grateful for the trust that Martin has shown in me.

I am also thankful for all the support that has come from my friends and family, without which this would be impossible. I am keeping you all in my heart.

So this is my first post as a Naropa student. I will endeavor to write regularly on my experience here. The writing requirements will be pretty heavy for classes: it's looking like I'll have to write 3-4 papers a week this semester, so I may cheat and recycle some of that for this blog. I'll keep you posted. Gassho!

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