Spring is often for us the arrival of a renewal: the budding of the trees, the reappearance of the heat (the sun is back from vacations!), the call of next trips, are the occasion to sense a new strength, the advent of an aggiornamento of our life. Even when we are old, spring reminds us of our youth; even when we are sick, it brings us a comfort whose sweetness makes us happy.
The arts of all cultures have celebrated spring as a time of celebration and rebirth. One thinks of the haikist Issa:
My shadow too
Springs with life!
In Tibetan, spring is called dpyid (pronounced “tchi”). As a noun, it is translated as “spring” of course, but as an adjective or adverb (dpyid du), it can be transformed into “printanier”, “jaunty”, or “vernal” (it comes from the Latin vernum, “spring”). It is thus close to the semantic field of the primordial base of the Great Perfection, primary since it is the source of all outpouring of experience: in this sense, it is the primary youth of all formal illusory manifestation.
Scholars say that the great Dzogchen master, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, frequently used the word dpyid in his early writings. The term indeed gives to the sentence it animates a connotation of vitality, between freshness and pleasure, shiver of the breeze and ray that warms.
But it is true that in Tibetan, dpyid also designates the vital essences of the body’s subtle physiology: white and red, father and mother, they are the primary constituents of a body’s manifestation. Note that the term designates two realities: not only the renewal of the external forms which are adorned with a new floral attire, but also the vital force which animates this dynamic of ornamental change.
How could it not be perceptible, it being the ultimate basis of all perception? How could it be perceptible, since it is beyond all determination? Evident, it is, since it manifests itself in everything and through everything. Primordial, it is, because like spring, it is first at all times, in its naked simplicity.
It is a characteristic of spiritualities and myths: we find, in the old background of legends and contemplative techniques, the ambition to reconnect with the deepest essence of the living, to unearth the heart of reality in its most ephemeral manifestations. As if it were a well-kept secret and yet there, present to our eyes?
In Dzogchen, much emphasis is placed on the notion of impermanence, a key-meditation on the transient and brief nature of our existence. It is part of the fundamental practices (tib. sngon ‘gro, pronounced “ngön dro”, “that which comes before”: here too, these practices are first and therefore springtime), because it is the foundation of our entire path. In a way, we could say that all the other practices that will follow, with their various forms, will only be the deepening and transformation of this cardinal meditation on the transitory and the intermediate.
Indeed, if it begins on the common observation of the perpetual change in our life (cycle of the four seasons, cycle of life and death, cycle of youth and old age, cycle of rest and activity, cycle of creation and destruction), this meditation deepens little by little in the contemplation of the departed beings and of our forthcoming death: for the poets, it is the meditation of the ubi sunt, the tireless questioning of the disappearance of those who have gone before us (“Where have they gone?!”). It gives rise at once, in a paradoxical way, to the certainty of our finitude, but also to the profound joy of leading a life full of meaning and turned towards the common good.
Then our meditation on impermanence is further refined to lead to the direct contemplation of the absence of existence of phenomena, their great original freedom, the foundation of their masterful but illusory ballet. The permanent flow of the impermanence of things reveals their non-self and frees them from the weight of all conceptual determination: neither things nor non-things, their very appearance is the presence of the emptiness of existence; and their very form, the appearance of an impossibility.
Our eyes musing in the air, watching the gnats fly and the clouds pass by, we discover that yes, “it was there from the beginning”, and that, like Edgar Poe’s stolen letter, the most hidden things are the ones that are brought to light the most. The experience of the natural freedom of reality is an unguarded secret.
I listen: -
It is thus that one passes from the transitory to the liminal, that is to say to what is just at the level of the threshold of perception, close to the imperceptible, in the in-between zone of the perceptible and the imperceptible: that of the nature of the mind. How could it not be perceptible, it being the ultimate basis of all perception? How could it be perceptible, since it is beyond all determination? Evident, it is, since it manifests itself in everything and through everything. Primordial, it is, because like spring, it is first at all times, in its naked simplicity.
And the Dzogchen masters repeat:
“the Great Perfection is so simple, we are so complicated”.
Thus, the experience of the natural freedom of phenomena in the nature of mind is a “self-secret” experience, as Mila Khyentse often explains, in the sense that it is a do-it-yourself experience, not a rhetoric that simply repeats that “everything is perfect”.
Thus, the update proposed by spring reveals to us the secret depth of the most obvious sensations, it makes us admit that the most visible of our daily life offers a precious teaching: there is, in the universal movement of things going to death, the possibility of a spiritual rebirth. For those who know how to detect it.
And lose sight
Of the lark.