Sunday, September 7, 2014

Being Self Aware: On Holding the Principal Witness

This is a tenet I need to hear:
Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.
The translation from is a little different, and adds a layer of understanding for me: "Two witnesses: rely on the important one." And the commentary added even more:
Feedback from others is unreliable. You know when you are clear and present. Rely on the witness of mind itself.   
After going that far, the commentary on this teaching from Judy Lief at Tricycle didn't feel necessary, but I always go there and I'm glad I stuck to my pattern. One phrase in particular stood out to me: "within a [community] of one hundred members, there are a hundred different paths." I sometimes worry that I'm doing this Buddhist thing wrong, that I'm not present enough or kind enough to myself and others, that I'm off the path. But this key phrase reminded me that I'm never off my own path - even if it goes by the woods and then through a garbage dump and finally along a highway, it's still my path.

I read on and found another passage that resonated strongly:
"It is hard to accept this kind of existential aloneness in ourselves or in others. We want people to really know us, and we want to have some way of truly understanding others. But no matter how much we bare our hearts, we can never convey the fullness of our experiential reality. And no matter how much we probe, we can never fully penetrate another person’s experience."
And that's the moment when that silly marmalade kitten seeing himself as a lion came to mind. I don't think I should always disregard my friends' observations, but really I'm the only person who can know when I'm present and in my skin - and being present is the whole point of my studying lojong.

Lief's parting advice in her piece about this tenet is a perfect way for me to navigate between needing the reflection my friends present and needing to trust my own experience: "Pay attention to the loneliness of experience. Notice the difference between seeking for confirmation and direct witnessing. What makes you trust or distrust your own experience?"

So that's what I'll be doing for a while. Until next time, namaste and all that.

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