Simply Being With Nothing to Be: A Commentary

Simply Being With Nothing to Be: A Commentary

Simply being

Over the course of the last six months or so, we have been gradually populating the ‘Spiritual Songs and Poems’ section of this blog. Included in the ‘Spiritual Songs and Poems’ section are what in Buddhist language are known as ‘vajragitis’. Vajragiti is a Sanskrit term that comprises the word vajra which means ‘indestructible’ or ‘diamond’ and the word ‘giti’ which means song. So the vajragiti is a form of ‘diamond song’ that can be used to transmit what are often very profound and essence tantric teachings. Within certain Buddhist traditions, and as is the case with the vajragitis composed by ourselves, these songs often reflect the spontaneous expression of a person’s understanding or realization in relation to an aspect of the spiritual path. Given that such transmissions are generally intended to be digested at the intuitive rather than the ‘academic’ level, their intended meaning may not always be apparent. Accordingly, and in response to a number of requests we have received for further elucidation in relation to several of our own vajragitis, today’s post takes the form of a commentary upon the four-verse vajragiti called ‘Simply Being with Nothing to Be’. The full 16-line vajragiti is presented first followed by a commentary on a verse by verse basis.

 

Simply Being with Nothing to Be

 

Nowhere to go, nothing to do
No reputation to build, none to defend
No possessions to amass, none to protect
This is fearlessness born of Apranihita.

Simply here, simply now
Simply birth, simply death
Simply content, simply aware
Simply abiding, simply being.

 

No space, no time,
So no here, no now.
No self, no other,
So no attachment, no aversion.

 

Letting go with nothing to let go of
Practice with no path to walk
Simply being with nothing to be
This is the all-pervading wisdom of Dharmadhatu.

 

Commentary

 

Nowhere to go, nothing to do
No reputation to build, none to defend
No possessions to amass, none to protect
This is fearlessness born of Apranihita.

The first verse of this vajragiti is concerned with renunciation. In order to enter the spiritual path we need to renounce unskilful paths. Renunciation of unskilful attitudes and behaviours is therefore a prerequisite for entry onto the spiritual path. Many people believe that spiritual renunciation means forgetting about the world and everything we know. However, this represents a mistaken understanding because rather than forgetting about or turning one’s back on the world, true spiritual renunciation means completely surrendering oneself to, and becoming fully immersed in, the world. In order to surrender ourselves to the world we have to let go of all our attachments and all our aversions. We have to let go of hope and fear. If we harbour hopes then we leave ourselves exposed to suffering. Hope means that we are not content with the present moment and that we wish to try and change it. However, the only way to really change the present moment is to immerse ourselves fully in it – hope stops us from doing this. If we have hope, then we automatically have fear. We are fearful that our hopes will not be realized. Many people think that in order to be happy they need hope. But this kind of happiness is very conditional and is reliant upon the presence of external factors.

When we completely surrender ourselves to the world, and when we completely surrender ourselves to ourselves, then life becomes much less of a struggle and grind. When we renounce the path of always wanting to be somewhere else, be someone else, or have something else, then deep spiritual peace can take root in our mind. It is at this point that we can make the present moment our home. There is nowhere else we need to be and there is nothing else we need to do. If we have a good reputation, that’s just great but if we don’t then that’s great too. It really doesn’t matter. The same applies to material possessions and wealth – if we have them then it’s really marvellous and we can enjoy them – but if we don’t have them it’s just the same. Because we are not attached to things like wealth, career, or reputation, then we don’t have to spend all our energy being stressed and worried about these things. A lot of people are so caught up with these things that they never get to know who they really are, and before they know it they are old, at death’s door, and full of regret at having allowed their life to fly by meaninglessly.

It is letting go of our attachments that allows us to truly experience spiritual freedom and taste what it means to abide in fearlessness. This newfound fearlessness is completely unconditional and even extends to concerns such as death. We experience the spiritual fruit of fearlessness because we have absolute contentedness and are totally without desires. The Sanskrit word for ‘desirelessness’ is ‘apranihita’ – it means we have renounced worldly ways to such an extent that if need be, we are actually free to wholeheartedly engage in so-called worldly activities.

 

Simply here, simply now
Simply birth, simply death
Simply content, simply aware
Simply abiding, simply being.

 

Being without fear and desire means that the mind is left with no alternative other than to dwell in the here and now. There is nowhere else it can go and nowhere else it would rather be. There is nothing left for the mind to do other than be present with itself and with the unfolding present moment. From the state of authentic renunciation, we can sit with total contentedness at the centre of all universes and observe the birth and death, the becoming and dissolving of all phenomena. We can observe the beings who are born and who pass away – one moment they are present but the next moment they are gone. One moment they are happy but the next moment sad. One moment they are in the company of friends and family but the next moment they are all alone. We see that beings come and go, planets come and go, and even the universes come and go. We observe the passing of time and the passing of space. Ah la la, what joy to abide in the present moment!

 

No space, no time,
So no here, no now.
No self, no other,
So no attachment, no aversion.

 

Although being able to maintain an unbroken flow of present moment awareness means that we can truly taste great spiritual peace, there are still subtle levels of ignorance and attachment associated with the state. So the third verse of this vajragiti is where we completely leave behind and transcend relative concepts such as the present moment. This is where we fully realise that time and space are nothing other than man-made concepts, and that consequently, there can’t exist a here and now. It is also where we fully understand that ‘self’ and ‘other’ are also concepts born of ignorance, and that accordingly, even notions such as attachment and aversion must be rejected. The mind that transcends notions such as attachment and aversion dwells in total equanimity and sees the all as one. At this point, all things are equalised in the expanse of unconditioned truth. There is no good and there is no bad. There is no self and there is no other. There is also no non-self.

 

Letting go with nothing to let go of
Practice with no path to walk
Simply being with nothing to be
This is the all-pervading wisdom of Dharmadhatu.

 

Having transcended all concepts including that of a spiritual path, we can enter the path of no-path. This is where we realise that there never was a path to walk, nor was there a fruit to obtain. It dawns on us that, all along, we were the Buddha, that every sensory object we have ever experienced was the Dharma, and that every being we have ever met was the Sangha. We understand that the only thing that kept us from experiencing this was our own mind, and that we only need undergo the slightest shift in perception in order to become a fully-enlightened Buddha.

When we try to let go, we see that there is nothing to let go of, and nobody to let go of it. This is because an inseparable part of the whole can’t let go of the whole – however much it tries the wave can never separate itself from the ocean. When we try to practice we see that there is no path to walk – we already are the path. And even if we let go and just try to ‘simply be’, we see that ‘simply being’ also constitutes an implausible concept. We find ourselves with no alternative other than to relax into the all-pervading wisdom of ‘Dharmadhatu’. The Sanskrit word ‘Dharmadhatu’ means the realm of truth or the realm of unconditioned truth. By simply being with nothing to be, not only do we enter the realm of unconditioned truth, but we actually become it. Our awareness pervades the entirety of existence and becomes the very fabric of reality. There is no more action and nothing left to do. Compassionate activity manifests effortlessly wherever there are suffering beings. Finally, we have returned home.

 

 

Further Reading

Dalai Lama. (2001). Stages of Meditation: Training the Mind for Wisdom. London: Rider.

Gampopa. (1998). The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The wish-fulfilling gem of the noble teachings. (A. K. Trinlay Chodron, Ed., & K. Konchong Gyaltsen, Trans.) New York: Snow Lion Publications.

Khyentse, D. (2007). The Heart of Compassion: The Thirty-seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Sogyal Rinpoche. (1998). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. London: Rider.

Trungpa, C. (2002). Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Boston: Shambala.

Tsong-Kha-pa. (2004). The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Vol. 1). (J. W. Cutler, G. Newland, Eds., & The Lamrim Chenmo Translation committee, Trans.) New York: Snow Lion Publications.

Urgyen Rinpoche. (1995). Rainbow painting. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications.

Author: Dr Edo Shonin & Ven William Van Gordon

Dr Edo Shonin Dr Edo Shonin is research director of the Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness Research, and a chartered psychologist at the Nottingham Trent University (UK). He sits on the editorial board for the academic journal Mindfulness and the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. Edo is internationally recognised as a leading authority in mindfulness practice and research and has over 100 academic publications relating to the scientific study of meditation and Buddhist practice. He is the author of ‘The Mindful Warrior: The Path to Wellbeing, Wisdom and Awareness’ and primary editor of academic volumes on ‘The Buddhist Foundations of Mindfulness’ and ‘Mindfulness and Buddhist-derived Approaches in Mental Health and Addiction’. He has been a Buddhist monk for thirty years and is spiritual director of the international Mahayana Bodhayati School of Buddhism. He has also received the higher ordination in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Edo regularly receives invitations to give keynote speeches, lectures, retreats and workshops at a range of academic and non-academic venues all over the world. Ven William Van Gordon Ven William Van Gordon has been a Buddhist monk for almost ten years. He is co-founder of the Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation, Mindfulness, and Psychological Wellbeing and the Mahayana Bodhayati School of Buddhism. He has been ordained within Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions and has extensive training in all aspects of Buddhist practice, psychology, and philosophy. Prior to becoming a Buddhist monk, Ven William Van Gordon worked for various blue chip companies including Marconi Plc, PepsiCo International, and Aldi Stores Limited where he worked as an Area Manager responsible for a multi-site £28 million portfolio of supermarkets with over 50 employees. Ven William Van Gordon is also a research psychologist and forms part of the Psychological Wellbeing and Mental Health Research Unit, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University. His area of research expertise is the study of ‘authentic spiritual transmission’ – within mainstream Buddhism itself as well as within contemporary Buddhist-derived clinical interventions. His current research projects are concerned with evaluating the effectiveness of meditation and mindfulness for the treatment of various health conditions. Ven William Van Gordon has numerous publications relating to the clinical utility of meditative interventions including in leading peer-reviewed psychology journals. As a separate undertaking, William is currently writing-up his doctoral thesis which relates to the effects of meditation on work-related wellbeing and performance. Ven William Van Gordon enjoys fell running, martial arts, DIY, reading and writing poetry, caring for cancer patients, and studying civil litigation. He is a keen mountaineer with some arctic expedition experience.

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