Into the Deep End of the Lake: Retracing my Path to the Dharmakaya (and diving in)…

On this path I’ve trod in the past few months to dig a it more deeply into my practice and understanding, I’ve returned to where I started: emptiness and spaciousness. As I opened the pages of the Uttaratantra Shastra, the words spilled off the page and into my mind as I read about the Fifth Vajra Point: Enlightenment. I have covered this well-trodden ground before and struggled with understanding and meaning. In some ways, I reached the end of my journey as I hit a kind of brick wall in my knowledge and struggled to ascertain what exactly I was reading.

When I first came across these words in this Mahayana text, I struggled to grasp the ways in which the instructions complied with my understanding. Honestly, it was like reading a foreign language written in the words of my tongue. I was taken back to my days reading Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and her understanding of Marxist thought and feminism. Her essays were sometimes impenetrable and I had a hard time understanding the basic concepts. In fact, it looks YEARS for me to grasp the basics of her analysis. Those days in graduate school came back to me as I grappled with this new text, the Uttaratantra Shastra.

However, this time, something in me woke up. I’m not sure why or how, but as I read, and did more reading and research on each point in the commentary, I started to grasp the ideas. It was like origami unfolding and I slowly gained some knowledge and what it all meant. In particular, I focused my study on two terms and two ideas in the reading: vimulktikaya and dharmakaya.

I’ve read and heard extensively about dharmakaya and knew, basically, what it meant. I didn’t understand it or, frankly, didn’t attach to its meaning. I had read the words, but, clearly, did not understand. What changed? Personal experience.

Years ago I took a course called Full Catastrophe Living and practiced meditation each class of this eight-week course. At the end, during a long silent retreat weekend, I sat in the meditation room and experienced emptiness in my awareness/mind. I can only describe the sensation/feeling/view as being able to see forever….to have a sense of infinity or forever in my mind. The emptiness was not, as the texts tell us, fearful and nihilistic; it was glorious and I remember so clearly having taht moment and laughing out loud in the silent retreat. Joy filled my body and I truly felt at home in this fleeting moment. As the meditation came to an end, the awareness ended and my mind was back to the thoughts and emotions I had felt for so long…the awareness, that brief glimpse of complete stillness, was gone.

In my meditative fits and starts, I’ve worked to go to a place that allowed for the rise of that spaciousness. For a long while, it eluded me and I’ve recently realized my fault: you cannot desire and seek out that experience. It comes to you when your mind is prepared.

Now, I’m better prepared for meditative awareness. As I sit in a quiet space, that sense or awareness can now emerge and reveal itself. The question I have is simply this: is THIS the dharmakaya that I’ve read about? Is that emptiness and clarity what the texts refer to?

Here’s what I do know; I cannot maintain that spaciousness without meditation. It simply ends. It’s my understanding, in the Uttaratantra Shastra, that awareness can only be maintained by one who is enlightened. Now, I can see a glimpse of what enlightenment could be; I also know that enlightenment as defined by the Buddhist texts and teachings I’ve read or heard, is difficult to grasp for someone in my position: a householder deep in the complexities of samsara.

The cool thing is that these personal changes have set me on the path, again, to awareness. It has taken a damn long time to get back to this moment and now I understand that what it takes is not effort, exactly, it’s discipline. In fact, I’ve come to believe that effort is the one thing that prevents me from progressing on the path. With effort comes desire and with desire comes all the negative crap that hangs on to that idea. I cannot operate within a place of desire and reach awareness. Strangely, I don’t think you can desire enlightenment, nor do I think you can work toward enlightenment. It emerges on its own when the ground is properly prepared. At this point, I wonder if that dawning of true awareness will come at the moment of death? So interesting and kind of wonderful as well.

Where does that leave me now? I’m pushing forward with some study of vimuktikaya or “the kaya of complete liberation.” While it’s mentioned in the Uttaratanra Shastra, the text is vague. What I keep reading is basically this: that as the clouds (representing thoughts and emotions) in your mind part, the two kayas will be revealed. The key, it seems, is that the vision of the dharamkaya has to remain stable…once a stable awareness forms, then the kayas are revealed. Based on my current state of meditation, I do not have a lot of what can be called “stability”….the sensation comes and goes.

Finally, I feel…different, somehow. I’m not really sure why; maybe it’s another ego clinging thought telling me to stay here in the feeling! “Don’t abandon me! “(says the ego mind) I wonder? I do know this, I have a real sense that I need to meditate….that sense has become powerful, formidable, in fact. I guess we’ll see where this all leads!

May you be happy, May you be well.

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