Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Learning lessons from Gen-la Samden’s story

It is entirely natural that we want to be close to others.  In reality, we are all inseparable interrelated.  There’s no fault in wanting to be close and wanting relationships with others in which we are inseparably one.  There’s nothing wrong, quite the opposite, it seems quite natural, really, to want to be close to others.  There’s a yearning for close relationships with others because it is only our ignorance that grasps at a separation. 

It is unnatural to want to be separated. Being separate from others is unnatural when there is a dependent relationship. It is like an independence which we know does not actually exist. There is no independent object existing anywhere. We long to be close to other people and we cannot bear to be separated.  That seems natural since we are in fact inseparably interdependent with one another.  Being close with others is our natural state, actually, because there is a dependent relationship.

Because we do not understand the nature of things, in response to this natural feeling we suffer.   We think things exist from own side, so feel separate.  Due to our self-grasping, we feel like we are separate from one another.  Due to the force of our self-grasping then we experience fear and mental pain due to the feeling of separation.  There’s a distance, isn’t there, between ourselves and others, so naturally there is some fear in our mind.  Why is it, why do we experience so much suffering?  It is because what we experience at the moment is a separation due to our self-grasping, and with that a fear or an attachment arises?

This is where the problems start.  Because we are attached – we want to mix with the other person or the objects of our attachment.  I believe this is how people in the past have gone down the wrong road with allowing their sexual attachment to hijack their Dharma understanding to then pervert the teachings.  How far is it really from recognizing we want inseparably close relationships with others to breaking our moral discipline all under a rationalized pretext of engaging in “tantric practice” with an action mudra?  I think, but of course do not know, that this is how Gen-la Samden, Gen Lodro, and others eventually lost everything.  There is no way they would intentionally do anything against their vows.  They just got tricked by their attachment into thinking they were able to eliminate that sense of “separation” from others by engaging in Tantric union.  It was all in the name of realizing emptiness, so certainly that’s not breaking our vows, right?  Well we all know how that ended. 

This is how our delusions work.  They take our Dharma understandings and then subtly twist them over a long period of time until what was once “unthinkinable” becomes “natural,” and pretty soon we have lost our spiritual life and brought the entire tradition into disrepute.  The same is true for the rest of us, just in our own way.  How many different ways have our delusions hijacked our Dharma understanding?  How many different ways have we been willing to sacrifice our spiritual life, even if only on the margins, for the sake of following the “logic” of our delusions.  Are we really that different?  If not, then we are in no place to cast stones.

Venerable Tharchin said that our primary refuge must be in the Dharma, not the person.  If it is in the person, and the person does something stupid, then we lose everything.  But if our refuge is in the Dharma, and the person does something stupid, then we learn powerful Dharma lessons.  For me, when I look to the stories of Gen-la Thubten, Gen-la Samden, Gen Lodro, and others, I see powerful Dharma warnings about how all this works and can quickly go off the rails.  In many ways, we can say that these were their most powerful teachings to us.  Whether they intended them to be their most powerful teachings is actually irrelevant, for us they can be.  We can then generate a strong, compassionate wish that they realize and learn from what happened and find their way back. Gen-la Thubten has.  I heard former Gen Lodro has (I don’t know his lay name).  I pray one day former Gen-la Samden does as well.  He was an amazing teacher and had a very pure heart. 

But we need to be careful to not over-learn their lesson in the sense of allowing separation to remain so as to avoid it getting kidnapped by our attachment.  They are right – we do need to get to this stage of inseparability with all living beings – but we need to do so without attachment.  Attachment is the problem, not our longing to be inseparably one with others. 

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