Freedom From Tyranny
Warm Independence Day greetings, dear friends,
May this note find you well, free from the tyranny of the kilesas.
Or well on the way to this freedom.
For it is the kilesas that are the tyrants whose oppression we feel in our day-to-day lives more than any other. And they can be overcome. This is the true great victory worth rejoicing over in human life, because inasmuch as we overcome the kilesas, our hearts become free from bondage and affliction.
the freedom of conscious intentionality
In reflecting on the images shared with us by Ayya Sudinna recently for the coming Asalha/Esalha full moon (please see here), i think first of the image of the bodhisattva's -- the Buddha-to-be's -- coming to birth, specifically, his conception. According to the stories and legends, beyond the other lovely and special aspects of the story, the one that stands out in my mind with regards freedom, is his coming to birth willingly, fully intentionally. This is a kind of freedom.
Many of us will have doubt at one time or another in our lives about why we are here, why we were born. Sometimes, in grave despair, we even blame our parents for our being born, for our coming into this world. This is a terrible suffering, the kilesas having (temporarily) taken over our hearts. When we touch into our meaning, when we act willingly, purposefully, intentionally -- we know this first kind of freedom, a freedom of meaning and purpose. The freedom of mindful, conscious intentionality.
In accordance with the Buddhist teaching on karma, all of us have our meaning, our reason, and our purpose in being born. Some thing (or things) that we desire, that we long for. Things not yet perfectly settled in us, that we still feel further need of working out. Things to be developed, shared, offered, experienced, perfected, known. When we look deeply into our own sense of meaning and purpose, and know the things that do not yet feel perfectly resolved; that need more care, more work, more effort; then our meaning and our purpose becomes conscious. As we become aware, the kilesa of ignorance and the concurrent attachment in the mind loses its grip. And as it loosens and falls away -- there is this freedom of fully knowing, conscious intentionality.
And this is a great freedom. An unwilling prisoner living in a small cell may suffer great depression, darkness and oppressive heaviness of heart. A monastic or retreatant living in a small cell, willingly and according to their heart's intent, may know great freedom and joy. Even living in a mansion may be so, for it is not so much the external circumstances, but the harmony and accordance of one's intent and meaning. When we are willing, even climbing tall mountains becomes a joy, as does traversing the valleys. Our tear ducts let flow tears of joy--not only sorrow.
This is the freedom of fully conscious, willing and purposeful, intentional action. And it can be a limited freedom or an unlimited one.
the freedom of letting go
The next image i reflect on is that of the Bodhisattva's Great Renunciation.
Those who are savvy readers may be thinking about what was written above: "yes, full intentionality is good -- but what about when you don't get what you want, you are attached, you get disappointed, and you suffer?" And they might be right.
In the image of the Great Renunciation, i see a letting go and walking away. A letting go of all that has been known, loved and attached to as self, and a moving into a space of openness and exploration, interested in knowing and exploring the true nature of things in a way that frees the heart. Mindful intentionality is present together with an opening and letting go.
One time, in my presence, a Buddhist teacher was asked:
"What is renunciation? Is is only for monastics?"
The teacher laughed and said:
"The first thing to be renounced is the cause of suffering. The only things to be renounced are the causes of suffering. For everyone, equally. Of course, if you don't do this as a Buddhist monastic [looking at me], someone might think you've missed the point."
This is something to be mulled over, and to be looked into and investigated carefully oneself. So, i won't write more about it here.
the freedom of generosity
The final form of freedom that i see exemplified in the memorial images of the Esalha/Asalha full moon, are the images of generosity, of sharing the Dhamma. It is interesting to me that, in time, the first people the Buddha thought to share with after his enlightenment -- his great and final freedom from the kilesas -- were his fellow seekers. Those with shared intent. Those who had been trying to practice renunciation. Those with little dust in their eyes. This is where the stone was dropped in the pond, its ripples then spreading outwards throughout the world and, according to the first Discourse on Turning the Wheel of the Dhamma, throughout myriad world systems as a great and spreading light, bringing joy and illumination to myriad realms of existence.
And in time, this progress of sharing led the Buddha back to the one who had been his mother, Maha Maya, whose former body had been the place where the conscious energetic patterning of his intention had coalesced together with elemental matter within a human body. With her, he is said to have shared the matrix of his teaching. Some Buddhist traditions even hold this teaching as the epitome of his shared Dhamma.
It seems to me a kind of poetic circle, this returning to the mother, and the return to heaven -- in gratitude. For this returning of the blessings of our lives, this bringing these blessings back to our origin, our source, where we have come from, is a kind of completion.
For those not yet fully awakened, who still have attachments, dana is an opening of the heart, a wholesome and virtuous unbinding and release of positive energy, expecting nothing in return, but knowing its goodness and its joy in the experience, which nurtures the heart. For those more awakened, or fully awakened, generosity is the expression of a heart that is free, healthy, and whole. Of the path complete.
the freedom from the kilesas - independence
This path of the Buddhas' is one of seeing and knowing the tyranny of the kilesas in oneself foremost. But just as in oneself, also known in others and in our world. This path is abundantly rich in means to this end. In oneself, in our own hearts and everything of the fabric of our lives, we find the ground in which we can work with, reduce and eliminate them -- to know our own freedom and independence. Knowing the way, by example, we are become free not only ourselves, but to share with others. With those who are fellow seekers, those with little dust in their eyes, those who we love.
When our love spreads out over the entire world, there is no place and no one exempt from our heart of freely-given generosity, neither internal nor external, neither above nor below. All being part of our freedom of intention, of our freedom of release, and of our freedom of generosity. This we can truly celebrate :-).
Wishing all such freshness and joy,
freedom and independence,
on this Independence Day,
Ven. (Ayya) Tathālokā Therī
July 4, 2012