Friday, February 05, 2010

When you believe in cause and effect, there can be no accidents.

At my Wednesday night Dharma class, we'd been studying meditation according to instruction given by Pabongka Rinpoche in his superlative Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, a book which I must recommend to absolutely everyone.

Then in December, at Genla's Dharma class at the tiny chinese Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Chinatown, we started the same passages we'd been reviewing on Wednesdays for a few weeks. The first of these includes instruction on the benefits of developing single-pointed concentration. One way to develop this is to try to hold a specific visualized image very clearly in your mind, as if seeing it in a mirror.

Here for instance is Genla's favorite sculpted image of Buddha Shakyamuni, from the museum in Sarnath.

The image you try to hold is supposed to be given to you by your precious Teacher. Very often, it is an image of the Buddha--perhaps one they give to you or show to you. Sometimes--as in mahamudra meditation--you are instructed to pay particular attention to your own stream of consciousness, as if watching it from outside.

In my own meditation, I often vacillate wildly in my visualization, something Pabongka Rinpoche specifically warns against. So on the subway on the way home, I got up the courage to ask Genla for specific instruction:

"Genla, what should I meditate on, while I'm working to develop single-pointed concentration?"

His single-pointed answer: "Garbage!"

I laughed out loud, but inwardly I was shocked. After a long silence, I screwed up my courage again and asked: "As a visualization? I should visualize garbage?"

"Have to visualize garbage. Have to pick up garbage. Every piece of garbage you pick up, you clear an obscuration. You pick up two pieces, even better. No more garbage, no more obscurations. This is called nirvana."

In his Himalayan accent, it sounds even better. Nirvana becomes "neer-wanna."

The subway door ping!-ed open at 14th Street, where we had to walk through the underground tunnel from 6th to 7th Avenue to make our transfer. I followed Genla out of the car and up the stairs to the passageway, pondering what a trash Buddha would look like.

And there, at the top of the stairs, sitting cross-legged on the floor, accepting offerings from passersby, was a homeless man dressed--entirely--in garbage. Literally wearing shreds of newspaper all over his body and on his head, with a billowing skirt of black plastic garbage bags.

What seemed like a thousand Angels paraded by him, disguised as businessmen, handing him, one after another, what seemed like an endless supply of dollar bills.

We walked fifty yards up the passageway before I recovered my composure. I managed to ask Genla, "Did you see him?"

"Who?" he said.

"That man," I replied.

"What did you see?"

"There was a man sitting there, wearing garbage."

"I did not see him," Genla said, not needing to look at me. "I saw a deity."


At 5:39 PM, Blogger jfischer said...

Wow. I'm so glad I decided to check in on your blog today. This most recent blog blows me away in its beauty and in the wisdom that was shared. I will come to NY for you to meet Sky. I must meet Genla.


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