Living the Life,
Our small Buddhist Sangha had a 2 day retreat in the country near the edge of Austin this Easter weekend. It had been a little over 3 years since we had any retreat to sit, meditate, chant and reflect upon teachings from Anam Thubten, our Tibetan teacher. http://www.dharmata.org/teachers/
If there was a theme, it was becoming human in difficult times. Anam Thubten grew up in Chinese-occupied Tibet, where the monasteries were closed from 1960 until 1978, and the monks, nuns and Lamas were imprisoned in re-education/concentration camps. Though he did not dwell upon this, he told the story of his heart-teacher having lived in one of those camps a long time, and how he approached it as a chance to be of service to everyone else in the camp, including the guards. He did his assigned work the best that he could, rather than doing it reluctantly and shirking it. One evening after work the guards came to say that the prisoners could have a "treat" to watch a movie in the hall. Out of 1000 monks at the camp, he was the only one who went to the Chinese-Communist propaganda movie (deadly dull lies), and sat alone there for the film. When he returned to opprobrium he related having been at something like a transcendent display of the spiritual truth of life.
This Buddhist monk saw everything as the manifestation of his own path to awareness and service to others, broadly and in every specific.
Anam also spoke of Viktor Frankl https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl , who wrote "Man's Search For Meaning" , an autobiographical journey through his life as a psychoanalyst, Neurologist and concentration camp inmate,, which he wrote in 9 days following the end of the war. Frankl's wife and most family members died or were murdered in the concentration camps. Breaking from both Freud and Adler, Frankl posited that the search for meaning was core to human existence, and the key to becoming fully human.
Becoming fully human is not to transcend human experience, but to fully engage it, to be fully aware, fully experiencing, neither grasping in desire, nor rejecting in revulsion, but living fully, living every aspect of human experience willingly and in service to others.
That can seem disappointing, that there is not some higher-plane of transcendence, because there is so much that we really would like to transcend, realizing somehow that suffering is not real or necessary, but suffering is core to the nature of life itself. Anam gently returned to the times being more stressful, and he certainly has a broader context for this than most people in our society. He was a boy who wanted to be a Buddhist monk when the monasteries were allowed to re-open in 1978. He studied hard, and meditated diligently, seeking to know and experience all of his life on a higher plane, as transcendent wisdom. This was very difficult for the earnest boy-monk. He felt unsuccessful to be experiencing life ordinarily so much of the time. Through several other stories of "awakening" experiences of Buddhist monks and lamas, Anam portrayed the realization, so long sought, to be the complete experience of life itself, realized at some opportune moment of not searching for it. The "awakening" is to being-a-living-human, working to fully engage life through helping others, not only in some specialized way, but through doing whatever needs to be done in the moment, freely in the giving.
Some of us stayed and cleaned up, taking up the cushions and the large tarps under the rented tent, folding them, being human together in the unpressured cooperative work. We got to practice a little bit. We were feeling pretty human.
Typically Human (pictured in garden with birthday Godzilla t-shirt from prior weekend, Thanks Tom)