After Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, this book by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche has effected the latest great change in my life. Whereas Quinn got me to resolve to “Save the World”, Trungpa Rinpoche has gotten me to give up any hope, desire or expectation of saving anything – including myself! A surprising reversal is it not? Since it has taken me at least 65 years to get to this point, as simple as this lesson might be, I fear it will be most difficult to describe. Perhaps the best I could do would be to say “Read the book”.
I had been meaning to read Trungpa Rinpoche for a number of years and a couple of months ago I finally got to the library and, almost at random, chose this book. In the middle of August, my best friend Little Miss Twig and I took a trip to NYC and with her I had the opportunity for the first time to attend a meditation / discussion session at The Independence Project led by its founder Ethan Nichtern. At the beginning of the session, seeing a few new faces in the group, Ethan had us each say our name, a bit about us, and – by the way – “…name a good book you’re reading”. When it came to me I said “Well, Trungpa Rinpoche’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, and when I got it out of the library I had NO idea it was the subject of this series of classes!” “So where are you in the book?” Ethan asked. “I’m at the chapter where he describes how ego arises” I replied. “Well, that’s exactly where we are tonight!”
I will make a futile attempt to describe what I’ve learned from this book: There is nothing wrong with me except that through my ambitions, desires, goals and expectations I’ve managed to get right in my own way. That if I am willing to let all of that go, to just see what is actually here in front of me at this very moment, there is tremendous wisdom and energy at my disposal. That the wisdom and energy have always been there and I have been mostly asleep to it. That I will never become enlightened as long as I’m trying to become enlightened. That after 243 pages (not to mention the 65 years) it is a lesson I am learning again and again at every moment. That though we may study the sutras for many life-times, there is only one lesson:
– Ram Dass