the manure of experience
i earmarked this excerpt from MEDITATION IN ACTION by chogyam trungpa. it’s a little sliver of a book. shambala publications (here in boston) published a 40th anniversary edition in 1991 and i found a copy buried in a discount box at borders on boylston street. the translation is a little funky but it has so many pearls of wisdom. this is a portion of one of my favorite chapters entitled “the manure of experience and the field of bodhi”. i read it over and over and it can apply to almost any situation in life. enjoy…
It is said, I think in the Lankavatara Sutra, that unskilled farmers throw away their rubbish and buy manure from other farmers, but those who are skilled go on collecting their own rubbish, in spite of the bad smell and the unclean work, and when it is ready to be used they spread it on their land, and out of this they grow their crops. That is the skilled way. In exactly the same way, the Buddha says, those who are unskilled will divide clean from unclean and will try to throw away samsara and search for nirvana, but those who are skilled bodhisattvas will not throw away desire and the passions and so on, but will first gather them together. That is to say, one should first recognize and acknowledge them, and study them and bring them to realization. So the skilled bodhisattva will acknowledge and accept all these negative things. And this time he really knows that he has all these terrible things in him, and although it is very difficult and unhygienic, as it were, to work on, that is the only way to start. And then he will scatter them on the field of bodhi. Having stuided all these concepts and negative things, when the time is right he does not keep them anymore, but scatters them and uses them as manure. So out of these unclean things comes the birth of the seed which is realization. This is how one has to give birth. And the very idea that concepts are bad, or such-and-such a thing is bad, divides the whole thing, with the result that you are not left with anything at all to deal with. And in that case you either have to be completely perfect, or else battle through all these things and try and knock them all out. But when you have this hostile attitude and try to suppress things, then each time you knock one things out another springs up in its place, somewhere else. there is this continual trick of the ego, so that when you try to disentangle one part of the knot, you pull on the string and only make it tighter somewhere else, so you are continually trapped in it. Therefore the thing is not to battle anymore, not to try and sort out the bad things and only achieve good, but respect them and acknowledge them. So theory and concepts are very good, like wonderful manure. Through thousands and thousands of lives we have been collecting so much rubbish that now we have a wonderful wealth of this manure. It has everything in it, so it would be just the right thing to use, and it would be such a shame to throw it away. Because if you do throw it away, then all your previous life until today, maybe twenty, thirty or forty years, will have been wasted. Not only that, but lives and lives and lives will have been wasted, so one would have a feeling of failure. All that struggle and all that collecting would have been wasted, and you would have to start all over again from the beginning. Therefore, there would be a great feeling of disappointment, and it would be more a defeat than anything having been gained. So one has to respect the continual pattern. One may have broken away from the origin and all sorts of things may have happened. These may not be particularly good things. They are rather undesirable and negative. At this stage there are good tings and bad things, but this collection contains good things disguised as bad and bad disguised as good.
One must respect the flowing pattern of all one’s past lives and the early part of one’s present life right up to today. And there is a wonderful pattern in it. There is already a very strong current where many streams meet in a valley. And this river is very good and contains this powerful current running through it, so instead of trying to block it one should join this current and use it. This does not mean that one should go on collecting these things over and over again. Whoever does that would be lacking in awareness and wisdom, he would not have understood the idea of collecting manure. He could collect it together and acknowledge it, and by acknowledging it he would have reached a certain point and would understand that this manure is ready to be used.
…and i thought i liked run-on sentences! great, though, huh? apply these words to your own life and revisit as you wish… and in the meantime, know your shit.
peace, love, gratitude,
November 13, 2011 entry from my blog Everything Old is New Age Again