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Poison Arrows | The Truth Is You

Poison Arrows

Tibetexpedition, Volksfest, Bogenschütze

"It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him." — Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta: The Shorter Instructions to Malunkya", Majjhima Nikaya

I have a confession to make. The seeker in the Buddha's parable above? That was totally me! For the longest time in my seeker phase I wanted to understand how a particular teaching, or pointer, was going to work to get me the awakening I was looking for. (Put aside the issue that I also had a very sketchy and dysfunctional conception of what awakening was even supposed to be, for the meantime.) I wanted to know all the mechanics of the situation, the formation of delusion, and how a method was to do away with my confusion and the lie of the separate self.

Then I came across John Sherman. As I talk about in my book, his words just *clicked* for me, and I took his suggested action straight away. Essentially, the message bypassed the "poison arrow" mind and I simply did what I was told. However, it did that on an unconscious level. On the surface I was still trying to understand all the ins and outs. I spent the time to re-read my library of books, scriptures, koans, and commentaries. I found the message everywhere. This compounded the issue. Now, not only did I want to understand how it worked, I also wanted to know why I had missed it!

It's taken me several years to drop the "poison arrow" mind. I still craved certainty about how awakening teachings worked. I was relieved of the longing for a "safe bet" by receiving the message of the looking, but I still was driven to understand the "mechanics" of the situation. All the while, the looking did its work of dissolving the lie of the separate self in my system.

Because of the effect of the looking, I slowly began to see the situation more clearly. There does not seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution. The different teachings work for different people based on the proclivities and characteristics of the particular seeker. I also got really clear on the "how to be" versus "what you are" distinction, which let me see that a great many of the teachings are in the "how to be" realm. The whys and wherefores are much easier (and more profitable) to sort out for teachings that deal with "how to be." In the realm of "what you are" it became increasingly clear to me that a policy of "shut up and do it" was much more sensible.

One need not know why the looking works. That it works is more than enough. Really you don't even need to think that it will work. All that matters is doing it, and it will work, given time.

The antidote for the poison of the lie of the separate self cures the lie. How, or why it does that really don't matter. With the lie gone, life is much better. Trust me on that one. Take the medicine. You will see.

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