Sunday, February 9, 2014

Stillness and Motion: On Resting in the Nature of Alaya

Rooms by the Sea, 1951, Edward Hopper
I sorta kinda maybe actually have a handle on self-liberating the antidote. Weird, I know, since I usually start these posts by saying something like, "Um, yeah. Not so much on last week's tenet." I'm placing all the credit for my sorta kinda maybe success with my newest source of lojong commentary. Judy Leif gave a specific exercise for working with that teaching, and that specific practice really moved me along. 

So what's my antidote? For me, it's all about planning. It's my answer to everything. Of course, letting go of planning is going to be hard, since you've got to plan if you want to get anything done. However, I think if planning is a small part of my day-to-day, instead of my whole existence (which it sometimes can be, almost like an addiction) that it's okay to plan. Thus the "antidote" is being liberated, because now I'm aware of it.

Anyway, onto the fifth lojong slogan:
Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence.
That's a bit boggling, since I'm very familiar with a homonym of alaya, aliyah, which comes from the religion in which I was raised. Undeterred, I moved on and read's translation. They present the fifth slogan as: "The essence of the path: rest in the basis of all experience." (Source.) The slightly different perspective this presents helped me. Then their explanation was even more illuminating:
"You are clear knowing that is beyond intellect, empty clarity in which experience arises unceasingly. This is buddha nature. When you recognize it, rest right there and do nothing." (Ibid.)
Finally, I spent some time looking at my new source of commentary, and I found one more quote to help my thinking about this tenet fall into place:
"The alaya, or essence, is the open unbiased expanse of mind. It is stillness. It can be envisioned as an expanse, or simply as a gap in our ongoing preoccupations, activities, and concerns." (Source.)
Okay, enough with the quotes already, right? Get with your own thinkin', Jessica! Well, since you asked so nicely...

The first thing that sprang to mind after I was done reading and researching the fifth lojong teaching was the work of one of my favorite painters - Edward Hopper. I know what you're thinking, or at least I think I know. You're wondering how the guy who painted Nighthawks, of all pop culture points of reference, would be the one to come to mind when I'm thinking about Buddhism. The thing is Nighthawks is actually my least favorite of his paintings [pause for the audience to gasp]. Instead, his seaside paintings, such as Rooms by the Sea up there, are my pop culture touchstone this week. There's always such a sense of stillness in Hopper's work, stillness even when things are obviously in motion. And it's that stillness, even when in motion, that seems to me to be the embodiment of alaya.

So that's what I'll be doing this week - working on staying in those moments of stillness, even as I rush through my days.

Until the next time, namaste and all that.

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