We do not consider how we are going to vomit we just vomit. Ch gyam Trungpa was a charismatic and controversial figure in the Western popularization of Buddhism As a teenager in Tibet, Trungpa fled the Chinese in an escape that involved swimming across a river under gunfire, climbing the Himalayas, and running so short of food that he had to eat his leather belt and bag Eventually he emigrated to the United States, where he founded several schools, and pioneered a secular interpretation of Buddhism, Shambhala Training You may be surprised to learn that Trungpa, far from being an ascetic monk, also had notorious penchants for bedding his female students and for going on drunken debauches.My interest in Trungpa was sparked by reading a book on meditation by his disciple, Pema Ch dr n, which I thought was excellent Spiritual Materialism, Trungpa s most famous book, contains two series of lectures Trungpa gave, in 1970 71, about the pitfalls of the spiritual path and how to overcome them As such, this series of lectures is largely theoretical rather than practical how to think about the spiritual path rather than what to do once you re on it even if there are practical ramifications Spiritual materialism is Trungpa s term for the ways that the ego co opts spirituality for its own benefit Ego is our sense of self In Buddhist thought, this sense of self is illusory the self is a process, not a thing Ego is the mind s attempt to create an illusion of solidity where none exists Put another way,ego is the mind s attempt to reject impermanence This attempt takes many forms We modify our environment, manipulating the material world and bringing it under our control, in order to create a perfectly comfortable world that never challenges or disappoints us We create intellectual systems positivism, nationalism, Buddhism that rationalize and explain the world, that define our place in the world and dictate to us rules of action We also attempt to analyze ourselves we use literature, psychology, drugs, prayer, and meditation to achieve a sense of self consciousness, an awareness of who we are All of these are the ego s attempts to solidify both itself and its world, to see the universe as a series of defined shapes rather than an endless flux.This project of solidification can even use spiritual techniques in its own benefit The goal of meditation is the dissolution of the ego and the absence of struggle And yet many who embark on the spiritual path see meditation as a battle with the ego, an attempt to break certain habits, to overcome certain mentalities, to free themselves from illusions If spirituality is seen in such a way as you against something else then you will hit a wall and this wall will only get stronger the harder you push against it Only when you give up trying to destroy this wall, when you stop struggling, does the wall disappear for the wall was the product of your own dualistic thinking once again, you against something else and ceases to exist when you stop trying to destroy itThere is no need to struggle to be free the absence of struggle is in itself freedom This egoless state is the attainment of buddhahoodIt is no use, therefore, to practice acts of extreme asceticism, forceful acts of self denial It is no use to try to overcome your own negative qualities to strive to be good, kind, caring, loving It is no use to accumulate vast amounts of religious knowledge nor is it beneficial to accumulate religious titles or honorifics True spirituality is not a battle, not a quality, not an ultimate analysis, and it is not an accomplishment All of those things belong to a person, whereas enlightenment contains no sense of me and not me.This is my best attempt to summarize the core message of this book And please excuse the ponderous style I ve been reading Hegel Yet I m not exactly sure how to go about analyzing or evaluating it Indeed, such criticism seems totally antithetical to the ethos of this book But I ll try, nevertheless There is an obvious contradiction between Trungpa s stance on intellectual analysis as the ego s vain attempt to solidify its world through intellectual work and the analysis that he himself undertakes in this book If all analysis is vain, what makes his any different To this, I think he would respond that analysis is fine if we take the right attitude towards it namely, as long as we keep in mind that our analysis is not identical with the reality it attempts to describe, that we can never describe reality perfectly, and that there s always a chance we are wrong More succinctly, I think he d say analysis is fine as long as we don t take it too seriously By his own admission, there is no final analysis of the human condition and enlightenment is characterized by the absence of any need to analyze.Still, there does seem to be the idea in Trungpa s system that, in attaining this ego less state, we are experiencing the truth of reality, whereas before we were mired in the illusions of the ego In this, you might say that the system is esoteric true knowledge is the purview of only the truly enlightened True knowledge, in other words, is not transmissible through speech, but is the result of privileged state which only a few achieve Bodhisattvas become authorities through their enlightened states, beings who must be listened to because of their special, higher perspectives Again, I think Trungpa would respond that even the ideas of knowledge and truth are dualistic they involves the sense of me knowing something else , and thus this idea is not applicable to the enlightened.Putting all this aside, it s worth asking whether this ego less state is even desirable Could we have science, technology, literature, or love without a sense of self An ego less world might involve less suffering but isn t there something to be said for suffering Trungpa describes the ego as a monkey creating various worlds creating for itself its own heaven and hell, a world of animal desire and human intellect and moving through these self created worlds in a vain search for perfect happiness, only to have each of its own worlds collapse in turn And yet, even if I accepted Trungpa s premise that this struggle is vain, I still think it s an open question whether perfect tranquility is preferable to vain struggle.All reservations notwithstanding, I still thought that this book was an enlightening read While I may be skeptical about the prospect of enlightenment and ego death, I do think that meditation, as a method of slowing down, of savoring one s own mental life, and of learning to accept the world around you, is an extremely useful technique And as a technique, its end is an experience or perhaps, better yet, an attitude and the theory that goes along with meditation does not constitute its substance rather, theory is just a pedagogical tool to help guide less experienced practitioners It is in this light, I think, that these lectures should be read. I find that most of my pursuits are spiritual in their ends, but that they are contingent upon material winnings I took an aura photograph and saw a chakra reader recently, most of my friends having gone and received a lower chakra and being a color like orange or red or indigo at best I got a white color aura photo and was told that I have a crown chakra the highest, most enlightened of them all It seemed fishy to me because I feel just as full of anxieties and self doubt as any other person, I know just about as much of the truth of the Universe as anybody else Well, maybe than most people my age, I tell myself I catch myself, and that is where I feel I am taking a bit of a left turn always telling myself that I am not of the flesh than others, even though I use material means to achieve my spiritual goals, and then I re use these spiritual experiences as if they were gathered like money or something tangible, rather than being mindful, and open, and in the present.This book is a good read for those of us who have hit the spiritual high our whole lives, often using not fraudulent, but just very accumulative, sometimes spiritually arrogant, methods of getting us there I just hope I don t read this and unconsciously use it to reinforce my already run amuck self deception about how experience can be turned like water into the gold of spiritual gain. Ego is able to convert everything to its own use, even spirituality Spiritual materialism can be defined as a self delusion that some people have, when what they believe to be spiritual development is in fact strengthening their ego It s a very common trapping for students of Buddhism but not exclusively it actually occurs in all spiritual disciplines , and by publishing the notes from his talks, Chogyam Trungpa wished to help his students understand how they could avoid falling into it.Shallow spirituality can seem paradoxical, but it s common than we might imagine Many people are drawn to the esthetics of Eastern traditions it is beautiful and exotic and because they feel glamorous integrating parts of that in their lives it does make one sound special and worldly, doesn t it , but in those cases there s rarely any depth or honesty to the practice Sometimes the delusion is subtle, like believing that following a teacher absolves the student of any kind of responsibility and power, that once there s been an enlightenment experience one doesn t need to work on themselves any, or simply the arrogance that having encountered insight makes one better than other people.Trungpa was a Tibetan monk, and while he loved the tradition he was initiated in, he also understood that some aspects of it could be distracting traps, especially for Western students who live in a society where physical materialism is incredibly sophisticated , and he wanted to give them a strong understanding of the core of Buddhism which really isn t about pretty flags, bells and other shiny things He had an immense respect for Japanese Zen, and it shows in those lectures, and he emphasizes a lot of elements of Zen philosophy.Since this book deals with pitfalls of the spiritual path and how to avoid them, it is much a theoretical book than a practical manual This book feels to me like the warning leaflet that comes with a new medication watch out for these side effects, if you experience them, call your doctor I ll be honest I think everyone studying Buddhism though maybe newbies would find it a bit tough , regardless of tradition or school, should read this and then re read it occasionally It is one of those books that will only get better as it is revisited, and I m pretty sure I ll catch things on my next read that went 6 feet over my head on this one I also think it is a necessary and thought provoking read, because figuring out one s motivation to be on this path is important if one is to avoid self delusion and lose the plot completely. The spiritual path is lonely There is nothing to fall back on It could be a terrifying experience to have no one to relate to, nothing to relate with Yep.I love this book I first read it in the context of a reading group, and the collective feeling of discomfort in our discussions was palatable As it moves along, the book becomes a little complex Trungpa goes further into Buddhism, to its psychology and understanding of mind, to the four noble truths, techniques of meditation, shunyata nothingness , Buddhist ontology and epistemology a philosophical turn , to compassion and even a brief bit on the tantra This book is rich, and introduces a great deal Any ideas of spirituality as something out there to attain, or as some kind of self improvement will be quickly struck down This is definitely not a book for the new agey, feel good crowd But on second thought, maybe it is Disappointment is the best chariot to use on the path of the dharma This book is a record of a series of talks Trungpa gave to students in the early 70 s At the end of each of his talks, there is a QA with students, which produces some interesting questions and illuminating answers Occasionally, readers are reminded of the times At one point, a student asks Trungpa what would happen if the monkey the metaphor he uses in explaining the 5 skandhas and the development of ego took lsd Overall though, the student dialogues bring a greater clarity to the topics at hand.It s hard not to walk away from an initial reading feeling paranoid and deeply questioning one s motives in spiritual practice I would say that looking into oneself is a good thing, but too much self awareness can be paralyzing and counterproductive The use of the word cutting in the title is apt for this reason It could be thought of as an example of Trungpa s ruthless compassion or crazy wisdom Reading this book is certainly a jarring experience the reader is severed from the comfort of previous ideas and hopes Pre conceptions and motives are exposed This is not done to be cruel, though it is a matter of being open and aware, and of using humor and wisdom in relating to the world as it is.Once again, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Buddhism, meditation, or matters of spirituality it is an excellent and refreshing introduction that begs multiple readings It s certainly one of my favorites. This book is the most plain English explanation of the path of spirituality from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective I have ever read It does not contradict what is taught by theistic religions and it describes all religions to be different methods of attaining the same goal It has nothing to do with spirits or afterlife It has everything to do with our subjective reality of the present moment This book shows a path to a state of mind that allows you to flow like water through space and time rather than violently thrashing and splashing against the current as many of us currently are.The first talk is all about the common pitfalls of trying to attain realization These delusions are especially prevalent in the West, where the interest in these teachings is fairly new and we are deeply entrenched in a materialist worldview.Spiritual materialism is when you have the thought, I m working on myself or I m bettering myself It is when, instead of gaining any insight into the universe as it is, this act of spirituality becomes just another thing you add to the collection of your identity The goal of spiritual progression is to understand and see the eternal sameness of all things to give up the notion of duality Spiritual materialism is ego reinforcing and becomes itself another form of duality.In the second half of the book, he broadly describes the path of Bodhisattva I would say this is a very good book for anyone who has been interested in or practicing mindfulness or Vipassana for a little while and finds themselves thinking, Well what now Discovering Vipassana is like the first little glimpse into what s possible through this practice Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism is like the intermediate step the next step being to find a spiritual friend who can teach you how to meditate That was one thing the book was explicit about You can t do it by yourself At best, you will be able to catch momentary glimpses, but you have to learn how to meditate from someone who is very experienced. This is my 100th read of the year Obviously, boasting about this is a form of spiritual materialism Sigh.In a nutshell, spiritual materialism is that which accumulates within ourselves that obscures our ability to see things as they really are and hampers our ability to live within that context, without all the baggage of expectation and stress and judgment and egocentricity and so on.This is a good, clear, non jargon heavy if repetitive explanation of the concepts of Zen and how to begin the process of putting them into practice, or, precisely, how to start on the path of living in the now instead of in the past, the future or in a false and unfulfilling realm marked by our myriad confusions A lot of this I have already found useful in helping me see things with a open, forgiving, less possessive perspective.Now, do I actually buy into all of this stuff Maybe not or maybe that s just my ego defenses talking.I suppose a world of people working hard communally to provide for the basic good and nourishment of the self and one s neighbors while living without tremendous ambition in the now and engaging in frequent meditation has a certain appeal, given how we ve fucked over ourselves and everything else But, I mean, if we took Buddhism to its ultimate extreme, how could language even develop We can t label things or conceptualize Hmmm And I wonder how in a world entirely imbued by Buddhism could the better things of our industrialized society have even developed Would there be wine, casual sex, electric guitar music and so on I don t think so, and I kind of like those things, not just because they are possessions or opiates, but because they are beautiful I m skeptical that the human mind and body has evolved just to jettison a lot of its intellectual capabilities and other drives as Buddhism seems to want us to do I just can t help but think that a Zen Buddhist world would be a really, really boring one. When I first began to delve into Buddhism I though, Ah ha Here it is The TRUTH At first I thought that I would now just be able to read a few words and Wham, bam, thank you , Stan, I m enlightened I thought that the truth was supposed to be simple, profound and sublime If we had to talk about it too much then it couldn t be the TRUTH Well, I was wrong.Yes, the truth is simple but the way to it is ever unfolding It takes time, skill and effort to get to it We must read about it, study it, discuss it, practice it and apply it Over and over and over again This is what I have gotten out of Chogyam Trungpa s book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.The first part of the book deals with the fact that ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality Trungpa Rinpoche explains how this fundamental pitfall along the spiritual path can be avoided by being ever mindful of the trappings of the ego discursive thoughts, negative emotions, desires and judgements Paradoxically, we must also embrace our inner strength and cultivate a great confidence that we will be able to see this path to the end As Trungpa says, You must allow yourself to trust yourself, to trust in your own intelligence We are tremendous people, we have tremendous things in us We simply have to let ourselves be The second half of the book dives deep into Buddhist thought and philosophy which, of course, he shows to be non philosophy Aaarrghhh He clearly elucidates the topics of developement of the ego, the six realms of existence an important aspect of the Buddhist understanding of reality , the Four Noble Truths, and the concept of emptiness All of the chapters, each of which was transcibed from a lecture series he gave in the early 70 s, is followed by a question and answer section which clarify the topics even further.Great book Amazing teacher I recommend this one to anyone who has at least a beginning understanding of Buddhism. It was not until I moved to Boulder Colorado, Trungpa s last home after his Tibetan exile that understood why he was so insitent on teaching Americans about how shallow we are in our various approachs to the embodying the wisdom of the East This text is designed as a sort of feedback mechanism for all the smarmy, new age, old school, rightous Americans who might be confusing the soil of India with Nirvana or the black robed Zen Roshi with the definative expression of kindness Hard reading for the honestly inclined Materialism in this text is not described so much as a thing but often an attitude, such as, she GOT enlightened. The Now Classic Cutting Through Spiritual Materialismis The Record Of Two Series Of Lectures Given By Trungpa Rinpoche In First Discussed Are The Various Ways In Which People Involve Themselves In Spiritual Materialism, The Many Forms Of Self Deception Into Which Aspirants May Fall After This Tour Of The Sidetracks Along The Way, The Broad Outlines Of The True Spiritual Path Are Discussed The Approach Presented Is A Classical Buddhist One Not In A Formal Sense, But In The Sense Of Presenting The Heart Of The Buddhist Approach To Spirituality Although The Buddhist Way Is Not Theistic, It Does Not Contradict The Theistic Disciplines Rather The Differences Between The Ways Are A Matter Of Emphasis And Method The Basic Problems Of Spiritual Materialism Are Common To All Spiritual Disciplines The concept of Spiritual materialism is very powerful Not sure I fully understand it yet After reading the book I immediately wanted to go back and reread it, because I know I will get a lot out of it Seldom do I read a book twice and then it is usually because I have forgotten I ve already read it.This may be a volume I pick up and add to my library so that I can high light passages in it If I understand it right, Spiritual materialism applies not just to Buddhism, but to all spiritual practices It is were the Ego gets bound up in the rewards of the practice and then gets in the way of making real advancement Recommend this book to spiritual seekers.
Meditation in Action , the first of fourteen books on the spiritual path published during his lifetime The following year he married
- 250 pages
- Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
- Chögyam Trungpa
- 06 June 2018 Chögyam Trungpa