Is functioning in a dysfunctional world dysfunctional? This is a question that I would like to leave unanswered, because each person will find for himself the answer that is appropriate. And this answer will govern his whole life. And will determine the moment of his death.
It is too deep a question to be answered by anything other than one’s own life experience. In the tradition, many masters have spoken of the dysfunctional nature of conditioned existence, and the cyclical nature of this dysfunction. Yes, not only is the world a permanent flaw, but it is a ritual of bugs and problems. Sometimes, there are some quiet periods that are like drug shots: they make us dissatisfied, and we struggle to get more. It is the dissatisfaction born from a moment of happiness. A sublime paradox on which a large part of our existence is based. Finding other moments of happiness makes us gold diggers in the mine of conditioned existence: always on the verge of asphyxiation, and always hoping for a new nugget, rather than going back up to breathe in the open air, in the daylight.
And it goes on like that until it ends.
The end is in the beginning, and yet we go on,” writes Beckett in Endgame.
The flawed nature of our conditioned existence assigns our lives to this perpetual sequence of pleasures and displeasures, of seeking praise and fearing blame, of happiness and pain: we want the Instagramability of our fame, but not the Instagramability of our shame; we want followers, not haters.
“Beings would criticize even a perfect awakened being” they say in Tibet.
This cacophony of bumps and jumps, we follow and pursue it, we participate in it by our actions. Not content with being patient, we are agents of it. We want our enemies to fail and our friends to triumph, we want our loved ones to live forever and those we consider to be terrible monsters to disappear. This is the crazy song of the conditioned world, this crazy ride! A rain of harsh wishes on seeds of self-centeredness, it gives birth to an ever-renewed harvest of suffering. We suffer for not getting what we want, we suffer for getting what we don’t want.
Knowing their unique beyond, he remains there peaceful and alert, lively but serene, established within the non-grasping of haters and followers, success stories and finished losers, star system and supreme anonymity, like and dislike.
Mila Khyentse once said that when you really think about this frenzied round, this endless entanglement of the clashes and consequences of the chain of causes, you come to vomit, to vomit your guts out, to vomit everything you have.
Yes, we really vomit from this straight line prison which is only our mind. We vomit to see that we are to ourselves our own invisible and unbarred encagement, manifested in each of our emotional reactions, in each of our “ideas-of-genius”, in each of our “acts-of-pure-freedom”.
“The world is an island of cannibals who eat each other” wrote Patrul Rinpoche (The Heart’s Treasure of Awakened Beings).
For us, it is worse:
Our prison manifests itself everywhere as our world and we see it as freedom.
We must therefore distinguish our illusory and conceptual freedom from an ultimate liberation beyond our concepts.
In the Semde, the first series of Dzogchen teachings, it is said that the introduction to the nature of mind takes place when a perfect balance between the understanding of the inexorable causes of one’s imprisonment and the understanding of the infallible cause of one’s liberation emerges in the practitioner’s mind.
From then on, the dzogchen practitioner who has obtained perfect knowledge of imprisonment and liberation, knows their total equality. Knowing their equality, he can only go beyond these two conceptual oppositions: conditioned suffering and its end. Knowing their unique beyond, he remains there peaceful and alert, lively but serene, established within the non-grasping of haters and followers, success stories and finished losers, star system and supreme anonymity, like and dislike.
Remaining in this equality where the non-partial nature of phenomena is revealed, he can realize the spontaneous presence of the ultimate nature of all things, their natural state.