CHAPTER FOUR: FOURS

IV. 2. THE TRUE

THE DIVINE AND THE TRUE

THE BUDDHA AND THE HOLY ROOD

DIVINITY AND EVERY DAY LIFE

THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

IV. 2. THE TRUE

When drawing distinctions between dichotomies such as the True and the False, just as with the Real and the Imaginary, if we are not to lose track of the values we attribute, we must remain aware of the ground upon which we are standing while doing the distinguishing. In performing this self-aware action, it may be helpful to follow some guidelines from mathematics. Since our "ground" is at least as complex as algebra--that is, since we have a variable function, whether TRUE or FALSE, GOOD or BAD, etc.--then, to establish the True we might think it appropriate to use a demonstration, proceeding in a finite number of steps and following specific rules. That is to say, just as demonstration is the procedure by which one confirms the consequences of an algebra, so too (and not, at first, by "proof") might we seek to establish values within a dichotomy such as the True and the False.

Now, suppose we immediately apply this sweet reasonableness to the problem of solving the riddle of With Hidden Noise. In order to determine the true nature of the secreted object inside Duchamp's piece of sculpture, a demonstration would properly proceed by undoing each of the four nuts, backing them off their respective threads far enough to enable us to peek inside, and thus--by inspection--to determine the true and real answer to the question, "Just what is it that makes the hidden noise?"

In such a demonstration, what rules would have to be obeyed? The order in which we undid the nuts would not matter; nor would it be of any great significance how far we backed-off the nuts, so long as--from the empirical point of view--we allow the clear light of day to shine into the secret-containing space, permitting inspection of the object. Never mind, for now, Bishop Berkeley, David Hume, and quibbles about trusting the data from our senses, nor whether what we thought we saw was REALLY there, etc. No, for when this kind of DEMONSTRATION is proposed for solving the problem, the limiting rule that comes into play is defined by the curatorial practices of the public institution with immediate control over (that houses or "owns") the real object, the material piece of sculpture. This would probably be a rule in the form of museum policy, not in that of mathematics.

The wishes of the artist himself do not even bear greatly on the issue: Duchamp seemed not to care very much about knowing what the secret object was. Still, he might have respected Arensberg's secret, for he went along with the game in "authorizing" Walter Hopps to peek. Suppose we just checked with "Chico?" That would be hearsay--maybe OK for casual writing about art, but not sufficient to supply rigorous verification--not admissible, for example, as evidence in a court of law. Anyway, Hopps might fool us, string us along, as it were. Some doubter could say, "That Hopps fellow...what a sense of humor!" Even having been authorized once, would the curators consider his peeking authority as abiding in perpetuity, even after Duchamp's death, down to the present? If so, then Walter Hopps could just walk into the Philadelphia Museum of Art and say, "M. Duchamp told me I could peek." Of course, we would have to be there with him for the inspection; but since M. Duchamp did not tell anyone that WE could peek, there would be no similar good reason for the museum staff allowing us to do so. We would be right back where we started, taking an authorized peeker's word for it; and that could mean anything from the simple truth to an elaborate, leg-pulling, arm-pulling, pulled-at-four-quarters joke.

We would find ourselves in the same position no matter who took the peek for us: whether it were the Chief of the Conservation department, or the Director of the Museum, the head of the City of Philadelphia Police Department Bomb Squad, (Herr- or) Hizzoner the Mayor, the Director of the FBI, or the guard in the Museum's Duchamp room. If the rules allowed us a demonstration, the matter would be simple enough: we would loosen the nuts and bolts of the sculpture and take a peek. But if not, then taking ANYONE's word for it is certainly no better than taking the word of that inimitable comedian/scholar Chico Hopps. If we suppose that nothing short of a demonstration can convince the committed art agnostic or stubborn skeptic, then nothing can be done about it; and since nothing short of direct inspection would qualify as a demonstration, we must take another tack: inventing proof.

In an algebra, since the consequences of a formal relationship can be demonstrated, in a sense they are easy to see. That is the case because such relationships are relatively superficial: they are seen, as it were, from the outside. We know that every algebra has its "inside" or underlying arithmetic, and that what may be easy (though complex) in the algebra is harder (but simpler) at the relatively deeper (mathematicians might say "degenerate"--closer to the origin) level of the arithmetic. To distinguish the True at this (literally) more "important" level, where a demonstration cannot be provided, we may seek to prove the True by employing a theorem. The word THEOREM, we may recall, has the same root as THEATER, from the Greek verb theasthai "to watch, to look at," and the noun thea "a viewing."

A theorem is an intuitive spectacle. A theorem cannot be demonstrated; in order to see the proof of a theorem, we must use insight.

Our present text does indeed propose an answer to the riddle. The problem is to persuade or convince the reader of the truth of our proposal. This we shall attempt by proving our case: by offering a proof, or several proofs. For our theory to be successful, only one proof needs to be believed. This theory about the truth of the matter is based on certain insights about Marcel Duchamp and his art, on the study of art in general and the history of twentieth-century sculpture in particular, and on intuition derived from a contemplation of sundry other subjects and the respective secrets with which they have been associated. It is not just a quirky hunch, a wild guess, or an irresponsible opinion. But who is to tell? Anyone could simply choose NOT to believe that our theory is true, no matter what proofs we might submit. We cannot invoke here--as in a court of law--such standards of clarity as "beyond a reasonable doubt." The skeptic could be as unreasonable as whimsy might dictate. But in this instance, there is something to be done about it for--unlike the situation with demonstrating consequences which, if not followed, can only be repeated, step by step, inch by inch, according to the rules-- here we can, if met with incredulity, devise new proofs or divine new theorems, and use all manner of means to cajole, elicit or reveal the True. Of course, the answer we have in mind could be wrong.........Naaaaah! The reader who believes us can skip over the Excursus without missing more than a beat--provided there is clarity about the distinctions to be drawn between demonstration and proof, with respect to the True.

Establishing a critical, formal distinction--in particular, between the words "demonstration" (incidentally, spelled the same way in both French and English) and "proof"--poses dicey problems for the casual reader or unwary translator. But this topic (with its several complications) was of cardinal interest to Marcel Duchamp. Unfortunately, most writers on Duchamp and his art have been either unable or unwilling to pursue this central issue for style and methodology. We must approach the subject if we wish to come to terms with Duchamp's own thinking, with his unique contributions to bona fide intellectual issues in art, with the influences Duchamp had on other artists and--emphatically--on writers about art, and thereby with the position of art history and aesthetics not only in the world of letters, but also in the academic curriculum. Upon this distinction also rests the basic rationale, we could say the PROOF of the truth, of the present text.

In one of the important notes for The Large Glass, Duchamp sets forth his approach to the Real and the Imaginary (in the sense of a logique d'apparence, or "logic of appearance"), to be "expressed only by the STYLE of mathematical formulas, etc." The paragraph begins with lexical difficulties concerning "demonstration," problems occasioned both by comparative orthographies and by semantics (French/English):

Donner au texte l'allure d'une demonstration en reliant les décisions prises par des formules conventionelles de raisonnement inductif dans certain cas, déductifs dans d'autres. Chaque décision ou événement du tableau devient ou un axiom ou bien une conclusion nécessaire, selon une logique d'apparence. Cette logique d'apparence sera exprimée seulment par le style (formules mathèmatiques etc.*) et notera pas au tableau son caractére de melange d'événements imagés plastiquement, car chacun de ces événements est une excroissance du tableau général.

*(à côté)* les principes, lois, ou phènom.
seront écrits comme
dans une théorème
dans les livres de géometrie.
soulignés. etc.

Paul Matisse, perhaps with his own bit of trepidation for the deep waters of lexeme, semenem and syntax, wrestled the following translation from this passage:

Give the text [the] style of a proof by connecting the decisions taken by the conventional formulae of inductive reasoning in some cases, deductive in others. Each decision or event in the picture becomes either an axiom or else a necessary conclusion, according to a logic of appearance. This logic of appearance will be expressed only by the style (mathematical formulae, etc.*) and will not deprive the picture of its character of: mixture of events / plastically imaged, because each of these events is an outgrowth of the general picture.

(on the side)* the principles, laws, or phenom.
will be written as
in a theorem
in geometry books.
underlined. etc.

[ Marcel Duchamp, Notes, Arrangement and Translation, Paul Matisse, G. K. Hall & Co., Boston (1983), No. 77; very similar is No. 69. ]

This marginal note describes a style of writing that, long ago, was discovered to serve with excellence the idea of clarity. To achieve clarity is Duchamp's explicit concern, as documented by another of these notes in the French original of which Duchamp has underlined the initial word, clarté.

Clarity i.e. choice of words whose
meanings don't lend themselves to ambiguity.
(do not confuse this clarity with
the etymologism of the
word.) Avoid etymological research
and approximate the current meaning of the
words. ---
Repeat, as in logical
proofs, entire
phrases to keep from falling
into the error of hermeticism. that
every idea, even the most obscure
can be clearly understood.

[ Matisse, Duchamp, Notes, No. 71 verso. ]

Ah, if only it were so easy! But not even Duchamp followed these strictures, nor could he. Which words, after all, do not lend themselves to ambiguity? As we saw, even the word listed on the first page of the French dictionary, provided one of Duchamp's favorite writers, Raymond Roussel, with a virtually endless source of linguistic operations exploiting outrageous ambiguities. Duchamp's appreciation of a word's current meaning is analogous to his choice of glass as the ground for The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even: both serving as articulations of duration in the flow of time. And it should be abundantly clear that we have no intention to abide by the strictures that Duchamp, in this note, set for himself. Rather, it is our intent to bring to this process of mutual artistic interaction precisely those complements Duchamp was eager to avoid: the etymologies and occasional associations with hermetic traditions (and still other would-be inscrutibilities). We also hope to provide some references that will lend real substance to the meanings we search for in Truths which aspire to express the eternal and divine.

THE DIVINE AND THE TRUE

The discipline of mathematics in the Western academic tradition is considered to be an art within the late antique and medieval province of the Liberal Arts. The practice of any art requires the formation or formulation of wholes from parts, whereas science, with its sword of truth, slices up whole things in drawing those distinctions without which it could not proceed. And like the other arts, mathematics ultimately depends upon divination: a vision of the whole, or some kind of otherwise ineffable perception of the fundamental ground of being, however called and by whatever forms symbolically represented. The charming writer James Keys makes the process of divination seem rather matter-of-fact, yet even the classic accounts of spiritual heroes often indicate a simple, straightforward process of "making certain deductions" and then seeing what they lead to.

Divinity was never a monopoly of the church, although all churches have, in their time, established and maintained fundamental divinities. And obscured them, in the end, with the inevitable incrustation of doctrine. What is divine, as the word tells us, is simply what is underneath: what is, therefore, not apparent on the surface, but has to be divined.

Because the heavens are supposed to be exalted, but we have to dive deep to find them, there is confusion in all the literature about whether the divine is up or down. It is, of course, in every direction and in no direction at all, because it is here with us now at the very centre of things, as well as everywhere else which, when we get there, we find is the same place.

[James Keys, Only Two Can Play This Game, pp. 96, 132. ]

Certain of the varied traditions of Buddhism display the same high respect for clarity of mind and precise intellect as the "exact" sciences in the West. Yet most Buddhists have shown a notably non-Western style in applying the True to Real life, seeking thereby to achieve the Good, thus to embody the luminous radiance of the Beauti-ful. Following such a path, Buddhists the world over, down through time, have been inspired by the resplendent example of Gautama, a former Prince of Kapila, in the Northern India of some 2500 years ago.

While he was still a young prince, so the story goes, Gautama lived a precious and protected life, carefully walled away from the Real of the outside world, enjoying the treats and pleasures of his royal abode. The canonical accounts all agree that a day came when the prince, curious about the world, slipped out of the palace in order to have a look at reality for himself. Three things that he had never seen before astounded him as he encountered, in turn, a sick man, an old man, and finally a crowd carrying a corpse. On each occasion he asked about the person's prior state of being. In some versions the sequence varies, but the gist of the interrogatories remains very much the same. The following account, for example, inverts the sequence; it is also unique in certain other ways, since it was preserved as an Arabic text with three other stories in the form of: a long excerpt inserted by the tenth-century Shi'ite theologian Ibn Babuya in one of his works.

[ S. M. Stern and Sofie Walzer, Three Unknown Buddhist Stories in an Arabic Version, Bruno Cassirer, Oxford (1971), pp. 3, 29. ]

One principal source of lore about the Buddha during the middle ages was transmitted to the Western world as the Legend of Barlaam and Joasaph, traditionally attributed to Saint John of Damascus, who died about 750 A.D. But as we now know from the testimony of the Arabic text and related evidence, this was much too early to account for the marked Christianization of the story. One form of the legend in which there are to be found no such (obviously later) incursions had been translated into Middle Persian--probably by Manicheans, considering their parallel interests in asceticism. This version was rendered into Arabic by an unknown translator around the beginning of the ninth century A.D., and in turn was paraphrased into Georgian by the late ninth century, with the addition at that time of some Christianizing elements more fully carried through in a subsequent Greek version.

The Greek text then becomes the source for the various Christian versions in East and West. In this way the Buddha and his instructor, Budasf and Balawhar, were transformed into Joasaph and Barlaam, apostles of Christianity in India.

[Stern and Walzer, "The Book of Balawhar and Budasf," Three Unknown Buddhist Stories, pp. 1-3. The original Arabic text with the translation en face provides the basis for the following rendering. ]

One day, when he had grown up, he slipped away from his nurse and guardians and went to the market. Behold, there he met a funeral procession, and he asked,

What is this?

This is a man who died.

He became old, and his days dwindled, and his appointed time came, so he died.

But was he once alive and healthy, walking around, eating and drinking?

Yes.

Then he met a very old man and looked at him in astonishment, and asked the people around him,

What is this?

A man whose youth has vanished, and he has become very old.

But was he once healthy and young, and then became grey?

Yes.

Finally, upon seeing a sick man, lying on his back, he looked at him with great astonishment and asked,

What is this?

A sick man.

Was the sick man once healthy?

Yes, but then he became sick.

Verily, if you are telling me the truth then people are mad.

So far, the story follows classic lines. People must be mad because if real experience in this life leads to sickness, old age and death, then how to explain the suffering that goes on even before the appearance of those inevitabilities? Or, put more simply, why do not people give more appropriate attention to preparing for their end?

Then follows an account of the fourth thing Gautama saw that day. In some ways this is the most telling and marvelous detail because it shows that the future Buddha had begun an irreversible process of contemplative self-observation, transforming his own consciousness. Moreover, this crucial passage extends the notion of awareness beyond projections of sentimental self-interest, and beyond identification with the animal kingdom, to a more expansive view which includes special notice of the plant kingdom and therefore extends the thought to embrace the whole of life. But it appears in no other known version of the legend except in the "unknown" Arabic manuscript:

And the youth was missed at that time and they searched for him and lo, he was in the market, and they came for him and got hold of him and took him away and brought him home. When he entered his home he threw himself on his back and he looked at the wood of the roof of the house and said: "What was that one day?" They answered him: "It was a tree which grew, then it was wood, then it was cut to pieces, then this house was built, then this wood was laid upon it.

Now while he talked like that the king sent for his servants to whom he had entrusted him (and said) "Look, whether he is talking or saying something." They answered him: "Yes, he has started saying things which we consider to be nonsense."

[ Stern and Walzer, Three Unknown Stories, p. 29-30. This rendering by Stern and Walzer follows the Arabic version of the story very closely, so we have chosen to repeat their text accurately, because of its uniqueness and importance, rather than to polish the gloss. ]

This secret account of the traditional Buddist legend, by virtue of providing reference to a fourth revelation, emphasizes the process of self-awareness as the crucial key to transforming one's ownconsciousness. It would have been quite natural for the prince, upon emerging for the first time from his cloistered palace existence, to ask about those other human beings whom he could imagine easily enough as projections of himself. But then, upon Gautama's return to his room within the palace, lying on his bed, he divined a more general principle of time and change. His expedition outside the walls had given the future Buddha a glimpse of the living truth, a part of which was the eventual, inevitable reality of his own death; yet this still had to do only with human beings. When, however, he realized the emblematic connection between the roof beam and the once-living tree, there was kindled a compassion transcending the usual species-centered understandings of common philosophy. So, little wonder the courtiers declared him to be talking nonsense.

Ironically, the literal truth may often be mistaken for nonsense. Yet, by exploring the etymologies of words like TREE, TRUE, and TRUTH, we discover that they all derive from the Indo-European root deru. Other words sharing this same root are TRUCE, TRUST, TRYST, TRAY, TAR, and words with the sense of hardness, such as DURA MATTER. Also from deru comes the verb to ENDURE. The capacity to endure is the sublime evolutionary achievement of trees, as "the living truth" and epitomes of the plant kingdom. That is, they endure very well if uncut: up to four thousand years for a bristlecone pine or a baobab tree, all the while generating oxygen for us and the other animals of the earth. Through Greek, the combining form DENDRO- as in PHILODENDRON, and the term drus, referring to the genus of oak trees, derive from the same word root, as do the nymphic DRYADS and HAMADRYADS of the trees. Hence etymological research also identifies as cognates the Celtic compound DRUID meaning a knower of trees, and finally the Sanskrit daru "wood," yielding DEODAR, or the timber for the beams in the Buddha's bedroom!

We may also conjecture that the prince as a future Buddha spoke in a prophetic sense the Truth, or dharma as it is called in Sanskrit, originally meaning "statute" or "law" ("that which is established firmly"). The roots of this word, however, are differently derived by etymologists from the Indo-European dher(2), meaning "to hold firmly, support." Interestingly, the word group associated with this dher(2) root include FARM, FIRM, FIRMAMENT, AFFIRM, and THRONE. One of the nine orders of angels in The Divine Names of Dionysius the Areopagite is therefore given the name of Thrones.

A fuller discussion of all these nine angelic names--although there IS a correspondence with the five-part structure of eternity, since there are four spaces between the five parts, and 4 + 5 = 9--belongs to some future study of the many marvels associated with "Number nine, number nine, number nine...," as the Fab Four sang.

[ The translation by C. E. Rolt of the Pseudo-Dionysius text (which was published by Macmillan) is discussed by James Keys, Only Two Can Play This Game, Julian Press, New York (1972), p. 108 f. Keys characterizes this as "a more or less descriptive account of the archetypes in western religion. I recommend this particular edition for the translator's spectacular introduction, without which I find the text almost unreadable...." ]

THE BUDDHA AND THE HOLY ROOD

What then follows in the traditional account of the future Buddha is the same old story, featuring one of the classic ways of avoiding the problems of spiritual growth. One of the courtiers suggests:

Oh King, if you marry him off he will get out of that state in which you see him and will become intelligent and reasonable and will get insight.

Despite this maneuver, the prince on his wedding night piously plied the bride with food and drink until she fell asleep. Not only the beautiful woman chosen to be his bride, but neither the talented band of "players and musicians" who sought to entertain him, nor (we are not told how many) the "noisy crowd" of wedding guests was able to distract Gautama from his contemplation of mortality and impermanence. Then he escaped into the city, traded clothes with another "young man," and under cover of night exiled himself from that kingdom. Other sources identify this particular human being as a monk, presumably one whose way of life inspired the prince eventually to seek illumination by following a path of asceticism, practicing austere disciplines among the yogis of the forest, far removed from polite society. We see from the Arabic lineage of transmission that not just the canonical three human beings in their respective states of sickness, old age and death, and the fourth exemplar, the monk, led the future-Buddha to renounce the world, but that his encounters with any number of people--including players and musicians and the most oblivious of fun-loving revellers--could not seduce him away from a single-minded concentration on the enigma, as it were: The Meaning of Life.

If the unusual Arabic version of this famous tale shows a unique aspect, it has not so much to do with human beings as with the parable of the tree. From the same source, in a continuation of the account, the disguised or renunciate prince meets yet another king, and his daughter, of course, falls in love with Gautama and wants to marry him. To avoid this, the erstwhile royal, but soon-to-be-enlightened wanderer tells that court further parables. One of these accounts--into which we shall intersperse what, among Buddhists, would be quite a conventional set of associations--also prominently features a tree, when one of the characters, in a near-death experience,

fell into a hole in which was a dragon [the cycle of death and rebirth] and above the hole was a tree firmly established [the dharma] and he looked at the tree and, behold, at the top of the tree were twelve demons [Time, Zodiac?] and at its lower parts were twelve swords [the path of Truth, leading--as in the Tarot--to Buddha samadhi] and these swords were unsheathed, hanging up. He tried to hold fast and find a way out, until finally he got hold of a branch of the tree ["Refuge"] and he hung on to it and he saved himself [indeed!]. So he went on until eventually he came to the sea [the dharma dhatu of the "real world"] and he found a ship ["vehicle"] which had been prepared for him by the side of the shore [life/death] and he sailed in it [meditated] until it brought him to [paramita, the "other shore"] his family [the sangha, the community of those on the Bodhisattva Path].

[ Stern and Walzer, Three Unknown Stories, p. 35 f. ]

In the standard frame story, when austerities of the sadhu's yogic practice didn't seem to produce any definitive results, Gautama came once again into the presence of a tree, sitting beneath the sacred Bo tree to receive his full Enlightenment. As Joseph Campbell so eloquently relates--in those last, rich conversations of his, recorded on video with Bill Moyers--the mythic power of the tree is one of the archetypes that link the stories of Jesus and the Buddha.

The Christ story involves a sublimation of what originally was a very solid vegetal image. Jesus is on Holy Rood, the tree, and he is himself the fruit of the tree. Jesus is the fruit of eternal life, which was on the second forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. When man ate of the fruit of the first tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he was expelled from the Garden. The Garden is the place of unity, of nonduality of male and female, good and evil, God and human beings. You eat the duality, and you are on the way out. The tree of coming back to the Garden is the tree of immortal life, where you know that I and the Father are one.

Getting back into that Garden is the aim of many a religion. When Yahweh threw man out of the Garden, he put two cherubim at the gate, with a flaming sword between. Now, when you approach a Buddhist shrine, with the Buddha seated under the tree of immortal life, you will find at the gate two guardians--those are the cherubim, and you're going between them to the tree of immortal life. In the Christian tradition, Jesus on the Cross is on a tree, the tree of immortal life, and he is the fruit of the tree. Jesus on the cross, the Buddha under the tree--these are the same figures. And the cherubim at the gate--who are they? At the Buddhist shrines you'll see one has his mouth open, the other has his mouth closed--fear and desire--a pair of opposites. If you're approaching a garden like that, and those two figures there are real to you and threaten you, if you have fear for your life, you are still outside the garden. But if you are no longer attached to your ego existence, but see the ego existence as a function of a larger, eternal totality, and you favor the larger against the smaller, then you won't be afraid of those two figures, and you will go through.

We're kept out of the Garden by our own fear and desire in relation to what we think to be the goods of our life....

What you get in the vegetation traditions is this notion of identity behind the surface display of duality. Behind all these manifestations is the one radiance, which shines through all things. The function of art is to reveal this radiance through the created object. When you see the beautiful organization of a fortunately composed work of art, you just say "Aha!" Somehow it speaks to the order in your own life and leads to the realization of the very things that religions are concerned to render.

[ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, p. 107. ]

DIVINITY AND EVERY DAY LIFE

In the Chrisitanized legend of Barlaam and Joasaphat, the latter's father, like Prince Gautama's, tried to keep him shut off from the real world in a palatial paradise. This ploy was intended to prevent the fulfillment of a prophesy--delivered by Chaldean oracles--that the boy would one day leave home to embrace true religion.

But the Christian hermit Barlaam (alias the Buddha) revealed the true nature of the world to Josaphat [also spelled Joasaphat], who followed him to the desert where they both led the lives of Christian hermits....The name Josaphat was derived from Bodhisattva [which in Sanskrit means "one who is brave enough to walk on the path of the bodhi," i.e., the "awakened state"], which the Arabs rendered Bodasaph, the Greeks read as Ioasaph, and the Europeans as the more familiar Josaphat, and it was under this name, all traces of the orginal Bodhisattva forgotten, that Cardinal Baronius included "The Holy Saints Barlaam and Josaphat, of India, on the borders of Persia, whose wonderful acts St. John of Damascus has described..." in the standardized Martyrologium of 1585...resulting in the unwitting canonization of the Buddha as a Christian saint.

[ Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narratve History of Buddhism in America, Shambhala, Boulder (1981), p. 19. For an introduction to the Bodhisattva path, see Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, edited by John Baker and Marvin Casper, {The Clear Light Series}, Shambhala, Berkeley (1973), p. 170. ]

The following account about how Gautama came to the sacred Bo tree has been handed down by a very great teacher, a venerable Tibetan Lama who was instrumental in transplanting the practice and teachings of Buddhism to the Western world following its drastic persecution by the People's Republic of China in the second half of the twentieth century. The late Chögyam Trungpa held the title of Rimpoche, which means "precious one" in Tibetan, and is bestowed out of respect to those extraordinary individuals who are recognized as incarnations of the spirit of a previous Lama, great teacher, or Bodhisattva. Although he delighted in demonstrations of his exuberant humanity, with such an enormous capacity for humor that some timid seekers surrounding him were occasionally blown away, Trungpa himself was regarded by many who studied with him, heard him speak, or who merely watched him in the process of pouring a cup of tea or arranging flowers, as one who had embodied the several inspiring attributes and enlightened qualities of the Buddha.

When he discovered the Awakened State of mind, he realized that leading an ascetic life and punishing oneself did not help, so he got up and went to beg for some food. The first person he met, near Bodhgaya, was a wealthy woman who owned many cows. She gave him some boiled condensed milk with honey in it, and he drank it and found it delicious. Not only that, but he found it greatly enhanced his health and energy, as a result of which he was able to make great progress in the practice of meditation. The same thing happened in the case of the great Tibetan yogi, Milarepa. The first time he went out and received a properly cooked meal, he found that it gave him new strength and he was able to meditate properly.

Buddha then looked around for somewhere comfortable to sit, having decided that sitting on a stone seat was too hard and painful. A farmer gave him a bunch of kusa grass, and Buddha spread it under a tree at Bodhgaya and sat down there. He had discovered that trying to achieve something by force was not the answer, and in fact for the first time he accepted that there was nothing to achieve. He completely abandoned all ambition. He had his drink and he had his seat, and he made himself as comfortable as possible. That very night he finally obtained Sambodhi, the fully Awakened State. But that wasn't quite enough, he hadn't quite overcome everything. All his hidden fears and temptations and desires, the last lash of Ego, came to him in the form of Mara, the Evil One. First Mara sent his beautiful daughters to seduce him, but without success. Then came the fierce troops of Mara, the last tactic of the Ego. But Buddha had already achieved the state of Maitri, loving kindness. In other words he was not just compassionate in the sense of looking down on Mara as stupid --for Mara was his own projection--but he had achieved the non-resisting state, the state of non-violence, where he identified himself with Mara. In the Scriptures it says that each arrow of Mara became a rain of flowers falling down on him. So finally the Ego surrendered and he achieved the Awakened State of mind....

Buddha never claimed that he was an Incarnation of God, or any kind of Divine Being. He was just a simple human being who had gone through certain things and had achieved the awakened state of mind. It is possible, partially possible at least, for any of us to have such an experience.

[ Trungpa, Meditation in Action {The Clear Light Series}, Shambhala, Boulder (1969), pp. 15-17.]

THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

He then walked for about seven weeks, alone, almost deciding not to speak, and instead to remain silent in the jungle. But then true compassion came and he began to teach, first "spinning the Wheel of Dharma," or Truth, in the deerpark near the city of Benares--the modern Varanasi--possibly the oldest continuously inhabited holy city on the face of the planet. He taught for about forty years, walking around India among ordinary people, manifesting the most wonderful example of simple, clear communication.

A profound sense of unity is shared by practicing Buddhists no matter which of the three principal paths differentiated by tradition they happen to follow. This basis of oneness rests squarely upon the common deep respect for the Four Noble Truths, realized and embodied by Gautama after he resolved to obtain, by his own efforts, absolute clarification of consciousness in one lifetime.

The Four Noble Truths are: the truth of suffering, the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of the goal, and the truth of the path....If we enjoy pleasure, we are afraid to lose it...somehow we pattern life in a way that never allows us enough time to actually taste its flavor. There is continual busyness, continual searching for the next moment, a continual grasping quality to life. That is duhkha, the First Noble Truth. Understanding and confronting suffering is the first step.

[ As Trungpa notes elsewhere, the Sanskrit word duhkha means "suffering, dissatisfaction," or "pain," to understand which we must actually confront the neurosis of our own mind.]

Having become acutely aware of our dissatisfaction, we begin to search for a reason for it, for the source of the dissatisfaction. By examining our thoughts and actions we discover that we are continually struggling to maintain and enhance ourselves. We realize that this struggle is the root of suffering. So we seek an understanding of the process of struggle: that is, of how ego develops and operates. This is the Second Noble Truth, the truth of the origin of suffering....Many people make the mistake of thinking that, since ego is the root of suffering, the goal of spirituality must be to conquer and destroy ego. They struggle to eliminate ego's heavy hand but...that struggle is merely another expression of ego. We go around and around, trying to improve ourselves through struggle, until we realize that the ambition to improve ourselves is itself the problem. Insights come only when there are gaps in our struggle, only when we stop trying to rid ourselves of thought, when we cease siding with the pious, good thoughts against bad, impure thoughts, only when we allow ourselves simply to see the nature of thought.

We begin to realize that there is a sane, awake quality within us. In fact this quality manifests itself only in the absence of struggle. So we discover the Third Noble Truth, the truth of the goal: that is, non-striving. We need only drop the effort to secure and solidify ourselves and the awakened state is present. But we soon realize that just "letting go" is only possible for short periods. We need some discipline to bring us to "letting be." We must walk a spiritual path. Ego must wear itself like an old shoe, journeying from suffering to liberation.

So let us examine the spiritual path, the practice of meditation, the Fourth Noble Truth. Meditation practice is not an attempt to enter into a trance-like state of mind nor is it an attempt to become preoccupied with a particular object....This sort of practice is not conducive to openness and energy nor to a sense of humor....Inasmuch as real meditation practice is a way to step out of ego, the first point is not to focus yourself too much upon the future attainment of the awakened state of mind. The whole practice of meditation is essentially based upon the situation of this present moment, here and now, and means working with this situation, this present state of mind....

If you practice in this way, a feeling of space and ventilation automatically comes, the expression of the Buddha-nature or basic intelligence that is working its way through confusion. Then you begin to find the understanding of the "truth of the path," the Fourth Noble Truth, simplicity...there are many, many details of action involved in the simplicity and sharpness of being in this very moment, here, now....

One begins to realize that whatever we do in everyday life is beautiful and meaningful....Every act of our lives can contain simplicity and precision and can thus have tremendous beauty and dignity....When you see the nowness of the very moment, there is no room for anything but openness and peace.

[ Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism pp. 152-157.]