This book deals in narrative form with the theme of recovering lost wholeness witht he perennial question of beginnings and what role a human being must play in order to find meaning in his or her life.
This work deals with very important materials as yet neglected in Western scholarship, and it does so in a typically brilliant and insightful manner. It evidences interpretive sophistication ans an instinct for contemporary relevance that is rare in Asian studies books. Guenther is a thinker ofthe first order
In a journal entry for June 21, 1852, Henry David Thoreau wrote: ‘’The perception of beauty is a moral test. ‘’A test, he meant, of character – a test of character, moreover, not only in its ethical formation, but also in its spiritual vocation. That dimension of human existence in which we put into practice a commitment to cultivate our capacity for openness and wholeness. In the rDzogs-chen tradtion of Buddhism that has flourished in Tibet, the cultivation of this capacity is the essence of growth and maturity. It is, indeed, at the very heart of the enlightenment process.
The ‘’openness’’ in question, here, is our openness to what is other: different, outside, and beyond us, even absolutely other, different beyond measure. But this openness is also --- for such are the ways of the spirit – an openness to what is already, and has always been precisely ourselves: an openness, therefore, to being ourselves, being true to ourselves. But who are we? What kind of being are we? Do we know? Do we really know ourselves?
If we are not necessarily, and as a matter of essence, the self-contained, self-sufficient, self-grounded, self-centered individuals that our modern culture has long imagined, then perhaps openness in the sense of being true to ourselves does not mean growing up in obedience to a fixed, pre-existent, pre-determined essence or nature, but means, rather, understanding our inherence in the world, understanding the dynamics of our interdependence in relation to other beings, and indeed in relation to the world, the multidimensional matrix within which we exist, s a whole. Thus, being true to ourselves would involve being true, being open, to all that is other in relation to ourselves. It would mean extending the reach and range of our experience, extending our natural capacity for perception, sensibility, compassion, and intelligence to include what is different, even radically different, from ourselves: extending ourselves, and to the limit, perhaps even to the point where the conventional boundaries that, with the support of society, we have constructed to defend the ground and center of our being, are breached and forever shattered.
The spiritual development of character also involves wholeness. The desire, or say need, for wholeness is what motivates our openness. What, then, is called for in the cultivation of our capacity for ‘’wholeness’’? there are many conceptions of wholeness. However, most of them base wholeness on a principle of exclusion, a principle of delimitation. Wholeness then becomes a function of our defensiveness: defensiveness rather than adventure, anxiety rather than jay, inhibition rather than freedom repetition rather than experimentation and growth. Such wholeness is accordingly achieved only by closure and the price for this security is extremely high. But here, in the two ancient texts that Herbert Guenther has translated, the ‘’wholeness’’ in question is a condition that depends, instead, on a principle of alterity, a principle of difference: our openness in relation to what is other. Although wholeness motivates openness, in relation to what is other. Although wholeness motivates openness, it is this openness that makes wholeness possible. For wholeness is possible only insofar as individuation becomes a way of participating in the whole of being, a way of integrating our individual identity into being as a whole, a way of identifying ourselves with the whole. And this is a process that requires us to experience ourselves, not as self-contained, self-sufficient, essentially independent beings, but rather as beings whose lives are intertwined with the lives and histories of all other beings ---- intertwined with the living and the dead, the sentient and the non sentient, the present and the absent. We are, in a word, essentially interdependent. Thus, it is in learning to practice this interdependence in relation to all beings that we find our way to wholeness.
This book is intended for all those who are interested in the perennial task of coming to know themselves ‘’holistically’’ in a non-reductionist and non-divisible manner. Such a quest for wholeness is intimately and intricately intertwined with a phenomenological exploration of the dynamics of psychic life as it expresses itself in images as symbolic descriptions of itself and in this self-presentation remain a challenge for further explorations. In this sense, they have little to do with philosophical speculation that inevitably ends in a theoretical construct from which, carrion-like, all life has been excluded. Viewed from another angle, this book reflects my own interest in a person’s growth, as the case may be, into his or her humanity that is not gender-reducible; and also it must not to be confused with some pathological ego-identity. Rather, such growth is tantamount to an expanding of the boundaries of self-knowledge involving intellectual and emotional integrity so sadly lacking, if not to say, deliberately suppressed, repressed, and destroyed in the contemporary scene by ready-made answers to questions that have never been asked by the vociferous fundamentalist – dogmatists of every provenance.
This interest, in good part, was aroused by my specialization in Indian (Brahmanical and Buddhist) and Tibetan (mostly Buddhist )thought based on my avid reading of Indian and Tebetan literary works (in the original languages, of course ) as well as by a rapt contemplation of the visual arts as their quite literally tangible expressions. Whether we look at Indian sculptures in all their sensuous and often sensual richness or at Tibetan paintings in which the humanly divine or, what is the same, the divinely human figures have been resolved into fluid lines there is an intense quality about them that seems to lend added significance to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s dictum Sinnlichkeit ist sittlickeit (sensibility implies morality) morality’s dynamics working within and through us as our capacity for being sensuously and emotionally (spiritually) affected. In so being simultaneously sensuous and spiritual the meaning of Indian and Tibetan art is accessible only to and appreciable by the beholder’s immediate experience; it is quickly lost as soon as it is misplaced and distorted into objective postulates or sub ejective (ego-logically prompted) affectations. So it is with the quest for wholeness or, as C.G. Jung has called it, the ‘’process of individuation’’ that is neither some intellectual (deadly reductionist) enterprise, nor some sentimental flight into an ultimately sterile phantasy. Individuation must be experienced in order to be comprehended and that means that, in the present case, what started as a mere interest, in the course of time, intensified by Martin Heidergger’s and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenological and C. G. Jung’s psychological probing, culminating in the latter’s vision of humanity’s spiritual integration, soon turned into a joyous and active engagement reflecting, on my part, an elective affinity with the emphasis on light that, as the reader will notice, is the leitmotiv of the stories in the present study.
While stories about individuation are widespread in the folk tales of many countries, they have practically disappeared from the Tibetan scene for reasons not far to seek. The literary form most suitable for depicting the individuation theme is an allegory that carries a second meaning along with the surface story. In the Buddhist context, the use of allegory (brda’) with its wealth of sensuously symbols is found only in the older (rnying-ma) tradition in works associated with the enigmatic figure of Padmasambhava and his circle of followers. From what we can gather from his own writing he was too independent a thinker as to fit into the emergent intellectualistic trend of the new (gsar-ma ) tradition that became ever more concerned with upholding ideologically restrictive myths and models, rather than furthering an experiential understanding of an individual’s striving for wholeness. Hence, the older works were rigorously excluded from the standard version of Buddhist texts compiled and approved by the new sectarian mood that swept. Tibet because they did not conform to the demands set by its orthodoxy and, as a consequence, they fell into oblivion. Therefore, the two stories of this study are ‘’forgotten’’ tales in the strict sense of the word.
The plan of this book is such that it can be read by anyone whose main interest is in the unfolding of a story and therefore might prefer to skip its documentation in the notes. It can also be read by anyone whose interest extends further into the background against which the stories were told and whose tremendous wealth they ‘’reveal.’’ In this case, the notes are indispensable. Needless to say, they are based on the undeservedly neglected and mostly forgotten sources of the ‘’older’’ tradition, here presented in the English language for the first time.
This book owes a great deal to my life and to those under whom I have studied as well as to those with whom I am still working.
Special thanks are due to David Michael Levin for Invaluable comments and or his willingness to write the Foreword; to Brian new man and Reinhold Ortlepp for drawing the diagrams. I am also grateful to Mariana Neves for her supportive interest in the book’s growth and to my daughter Edith Kimbell for her polishing the draft through her writing skills. To the editorial staff of SUNY Press I am particularly grateful for the sensitive care [he/she/they/] bestowed on the editing and final production.
Last, but not least, I have to thank my wife Ilse for more than what can be expressed in words.
To the stories that form the basis of the following study have been selected from one of the oldest extant texts belonging to what has became known as the rDzogs-chen tradition in Buddhist thought. By the time this text was set up in its present form, the rDzogs-chen tradition had already passed through several stages in its development and was still evolving. In order to appreciate the richness of this essentially spiritual tradition and its reflection in basically elucidatory stories it is necessary to draw attention to some of the more important ingredients that went into the formation of this line of thought that, as far as Buddhist thinking is concerned, is quite unique. The tradition can be traced back to the early centuries of the present era and the internal evidence point to an origin at a time of intense intellectual activity in a region where. Hellenistic ideas (Pythagorean Platonic and Neoplatonic-Gnostic ) and Buddhist ideas (Indian –Buddhist and Chinese-Buddhist)met and certainly had an impact on each other, even if, finally each thought system followed its own momentum in dealing with the ideas it encountered to build its respective model of reality. Thus, one set of ideas, the Hellenistic one, stressed the philosophical-speculative (rational aspect and, by necessity, remained structure-oriented, resulting in a vertically and rigidly hierarchically determined order of the universe that stayed intimately connected with the Limited (paras) as contrasted with the Unlimited (apeiron ) of which Plato had spoken as the Indeterminate Dyad; the other, the Buddhist one, stressed the contemplative-experiential (mystic) aspect and, in being process-oriented, conceived of structures as process structures that involved both vertical (hierarchically co-ordinated ) and horizontal (field-like) dimensions.
The difference in perspective may be elucidated by quoting from the outstanding representatives of both. In the Hellenistic framework, Pythagoras and Plotinus attached paramount importance to the nation of the ‘’One.’’ But whether Pythagoras and he Pythagoreans believed in the one as existing above the Monad and the Dyad, as claimed by Eudorus of Alexandria, is doubtful. For Plotinus, the one is the eternal source of all being of which in his enneads he says; ‘’Generative of all, the unity is none of all, neither thing nor quantity nor quality nor intellect nor soul.
rDzogs-chen thinkers, for whom the universe is not only intrinsically ‘’intelligent’’ but also a self-organizing whole of intensities, too, refer, to what superficially books like a or the One (nyag-gcig). However, they do not mean by it some entity or other set absolute, rather they attempt to convey by it the fusion of two contrary notions into a single dynamic one expressing, if we may say so, the experience’s psychophysical continuum. This becomes evident in the frequently used combination tbig-le nyag-gicg, a term that defies any simple translation and may best be paraphrased as ‘’the whole’s uniquely auto poetic dynamics.
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