I hear jam jars “popping” their successful sealing while I sit and consider what to write about on my first week of teachings at Deer Park. I just finished my second batch of black raspberry jam from this year’s abundant crop. Also made banana-black raspberry bread and blueberry-raspberry pie. And there are still many berries waiting to be picked.
A loud “pop” again is heard and I am brought back to this moment – what to share about my first week at Deer Park? On a personal level I feel much gratitude being able to take these teachings and from such a master as Gesha Lhundub Sopa. The first day, I confess to thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” The topic, which in simple terms is on the wisdom of emptiness (shinyata), is advanced and complex. Fortunately, Geshe Sopa offers us an introductory teaching each morning session, which I soak in and record. These have also helped prepare my mind for the more complicated teachings that follow.
I am not certain how much of the teachings on “emptiness” I will grasp but the introduction to each day is worth it alone. On the first day he began with a story about a turtle that after one hundred years comes up from the depths of the ocean and surfaces to the light. Most of the time, like the turtle, we are at the bottom of Samsara (cyclical existence) and in the dark, as it where. But on rare occasions in our human life we come up like the one hundred year old turtle and receive some Light. Even then when we reach the top many do not take the opportunity and waste the chance.
Geshe Sopa further reminds us that life is short, like the bubbles on the ocean. Our life is impermanent and everything in our life is also ephemeral and impermanent. Rare is the opportunity to wake up. Rare is the opportunity to learn and practice the dharma.
He suggests that when we rise in the morning we say to our self, “I have an opportunity to wake up today.” Why waste this time? Each day we are given another chance to receive the light, to take the teachings, practice the dharma, and pay attention. Each day we can meditate and cultivate such qualities as wisdom, presence and compassion.
So I know I am like that turtle coming up for light and air, and that this day (and these teachings) are an opportunity not to be wasted. He suggests that saying to our self each day, “I have an opportunity to wake up today,” helps prepare us for such teachings.
More so, we would benefit going forth into each of our days, “prepared.” Prepared to receive the lessons this day will offer up to us as a way to wake up. But in particular to take the opportunity to read, study and practice the dharma. After all, this opportunity (perhaps due to aging or hindrances such as poverty or illness) will too pass. Each morning prepare your self for the opportunities that are there to study and practice the dharma.
As I finish this entry, the last jar of jam “pops.” I imagine much like the abundance of berries this year – much in these teachings waits for me to pick and transform into something I can use to wake up. However, they too, like the teachings will only be ripe for a short while. The opportunity now arisen will pass. So, off I go to pick more berries, and in my picking I will consider what a rare opportunity I have here.
“Much of our planning is like waiting to swim
in a dry ravine.
Many of our activities are like housekeeping
in a dream.
Delirious with fever, one does not recognize the fever.” –Paltrul Rinpoche’s Sacred World
Next week I will attempt to share my rough glimpses into the teachings on emptiness. For more information on Deer Park and other teachings and classes go to there website: http://www.deerparkcenter.org/
“You have to recognize, at least in a rough way, what you are falsely superimposing on phenomena before you can understand the emptiness in its stead.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama, How to See Yourself As You Really Are