Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Becoming Vajrasattva... or there is a god and I'm not it

Recognising that it's not my job to run the world has been a vital part of my recovery. So much so that, despite studying within the Vajrayana tradition for a decade now, until recently I wouldn't even consider taking any kind of initiation, I was totally content with ngöndro practices.

So content that I didn't even go in for the so-called blessing initiations whereby - in Lama Thubten Zopa's words - "without a great initiation, you receive some blessing rather than the actual je-nang". Quite how the full je-nang and other aspects of initiation work is a complex question as Tibetan Lama's meet the West and broaden traditional practices of bestowing je-nang as blessings.

Just thinking about the complexities of initiation... or should I call it empowerment?... makes my brain hurt... not good for this addict who needs to "keep it simple". So... some of my avoidance of initiations of any kind was just the absence of "auspicious circumstances". But if I'm rigorously honest, mostly it was because - at heart - I'm shit scared of any practice that might have me identifying myself with a fully enlightened being. What if I go and forget that I'm not God/Buddha/Higher Power or [insert ultimate reality designator of choice here]? Surely I'll relapse?

Why the jump from initiation to relapse? For those unfamiliar with it, Vajrayana encompasses both the study of sutras and mind-training techniques and also Tantric visualisation practices. You might think of the visualisation as "acting as if" for wannabe buddhas. I was cool with the first two... it was the latter that's got the potential to have me lying awake at night, staring into the dark with my brain obsessing about "people, places and things". Though I'm glad to say I didn't have to fuss over why Vajrasattva's humping some chick or why those swastikas cos when in factual doubt, there's always wiki ;-)

I'm not exagerating about the insomnia... my sleep pattern lately has been almost as infrequent and disrupted as in early recovery. As someone who's great in bed (sleeping has always been a talent of mine) this is unprecedented when not in physical withdrawal. Actually, that's been one of the strange things about this whole meditation retreat... my body seems to think I'm detoxing off something. Right enough, Vajrasattva is a buddha of purification but going on Lama Yeshe's comments that VS's thing was more mental purification than physical I really wasn't expecting to find myself at detox central just now.

Despite Lama Yeshe's kind retreat advice in "Becoming Vajrasattva" to eat well and get plenty of sleep I find myself functioning on a couple of hours or so sleep a night. And - another similarity to early recovery - my energy consumption is unpredictable and I can suddenly find myself ravenously hungry at two am. Fortunately the foundations to my abstinence from compulsive eating are firmly in place and so with no trigger foods in my system I do know that I am genuinely hungry. I couldn't be doing any of this work without a few years of solid recovery under my belt (and the preceeding few years of rocky recovery it took me to get to the "happy, joyous and free" sort of recovery). Spot the nervous recovering addict anyone?

So... all this shenpa is telling me that something about this meditation practice has me feeling that I'm somehow breaking a taboo in my head. It goes something like "Thou shallt not assume the mantle of a Higher Power for any purpose... and if thou sinnest thus thou shallt suffer in the pits of active addiction forevermore, amen." My insomnia seems to be based on an expectation of fiery retribution... and judging by the language it's going to come from a punishing Judaeo-Christian figure I don't even believe in. Hmmm... worse, my husband - an alcoholic in recovery and active in the Anglican church - is totally comfortable with the thought of me visualising myself as Buddha Vajrasattva. So it's starting to look like all these fears around putting my recovery at risk are red herrings and maybe it's me that's got the problem... no doubt more will be revealed.


Bill said...

I wonder if this reluctance isn't actually about something else.

Look deeply.

Spider63 said...

Don't get caught up in religious mumbo-jumbo and keep in mind that in their own nations, these humble and kind folks have regularly engaged in mass genocide.

That goes for every religion. Stick to the Steps, that is what matters.

Bill said...

It's fairly clear that S63 is not on the Middle Path, and not well-acquainted with it.

Still, in re-reading your post, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between your dilemma and the newcomer who gives lip service to the group, the steps and a sponsor, yet is deathly afraid of becoming totally immersed in a program of recovery.

It is clear that this is causing a lot of stress in your life (or was, given the time lapse since the post). Perhaps it is time to make a decision not to decide and to do as S63 suggests, concentrating for a while on the program and less on what's happening in your head.

Best of luck, namasté, and all that...

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Cure for Sweaty Feet

Anges Lopez said...

Very informative article. Anyone who’s battling with the question, Am I alcoholic can also find the comprehensive list of AA meetings at very helpful. I’m not affiliated with this site, I just want recovering alcoholics out there to find a comprehensive list of AA meetings just in case you are relocating or searching for an AA meeting in your new place. For the complete list of AA meetings, here’s the link: