Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on August 5, 2014

Perhaps I can finish up this series on purity. It is a touchy subject because on the one hand, in order to develop the awareness needed to recognize the true nature of the mind, various purification practices may be involved. It is like cleaning a dirty pair of glasses. On the other hand, once we can see clearly (so I am told), everything is seen as pure. Obviously, here I am focusing on the first part, purifying out view.

I admit I am still on this kick of tracing back my own struggle with purity and how I got there, which for me required holding my feet to the fire -- some kind of purification process. I was already somewhat jaded early on, just by living in this world, but a lot of it was artificial coolness, you know, being "cool." I guess I got that from "The Beats" back in the late 1950s. We listened to Cool Jazz and did our best to be or at least appear "cool." No, I never wore an actual earring, but I wore a lot of figurative earrings, all kinds of them.

In truth, I was a kind of magnet for attitude, little twists of the straight view, just enough so that you knew I was no square. I was determined to be cool, man. And I never realized I was polluting my own naturalness, probably because I didn't know my own nature. Thank goodness it was mostly surface noise. On the inside, I was not so cool; I was hot and totally enthused with life. After all, I was young! In fact it was when my generation realized that we were in fact not cool at all, but warm, that we threw off the Beat attitudes and the European shtick to become hippies, happy enough to just be happy enough. At the same time we stopped watching Ingmar Bergman films and allowed ourselves to enjoy American films again, which we always secretly loved anyway. I have to remind myself that I was raised on the original Disney cartoons and fantasies.

But all of these out-of-the-ordinary (and exotic) trimmings add up, and many of us were walking caricatures of normal people, different in every way we could think to be from just being average. That was the last thing we wanted to be: normal. Looking back, I can see that it was much easier to accumulate all of these add-on attitudes than it is to get rid of them. They were self-adhesive.

And it was pretty late in life that it dawned on me that none of this artificial "unique" persona-stuff did one damn thing for me. On the contrary, it only obscured my view of seeing who I was and being seen for who I am. So I came late to the party when it comes to straightening-up, purification. I also had a basic confusion with purity, about being pure. Perhaps I confused it with the flaunted purity of the various fundamentalist faiths, where their so-called purity masked their intolerance for anything but their own kind, and like that I did not want to be. Purity was kind of a dirty word.

So when I finally was willing to divest some of my attitude, it was kind of a tall order, a little late in the game for me to simply shuffle off all that layered veneer. As mentioned earlier, thank goodness that all of this was mostly external, just personal. My inside was still innocent or pure, but getting rid of or neutralizing all that attitude takes work. As the Tibetans point out, inside we all have Buddha Nature, which is pure. We can never lose that.

And if I want to consider my whole "Self" as a bit of attitude, that requires yet another approach. One doesn't get rid of one's self, not ever. Instead, we learn to see through the self to what is beyond and has been masked from us all these years by, you guessed it, our own self. And that too is not an easy task. We stop taking ourselves so seriously.

My point here is that purification is not a mystery, but very straight-forward once we are aware and take a look at our own attitudes and quirks. We created our attitudes and we are the perfect ones (not to mention the only ones) who have the key to take them apart. Once I realized that all of my so-called "unique" attitudes amounted to just a pair of dirty spectacles, I was more willing (and finally eager) to do something about this. They had to go, at least until I could clearly see what they were all about. So here is where the virtues of the dharma and mind-training really kicked in.

Society had not given me any methods to "de-attitude" or deconstruct myself other than perhaps the Christian-style "flailing of the skin," feeling ashamed and punishing myself to get rid of my "sins," and that was for me a non-starter. When I finally got around to wanting to take my attitudinal-mask off, it was habitual, stuck-on, and I needed help. And the "mask" I am talking about is a lifetime of fairly cynical views, purposefully warped perspectives based on being different for difference sake, and generally choosing to be a smart-ass -- that kind of thing. I am not even mentioning the incalculable harm done by witnessing politics and the viciousness of business, in general.

Socially, all of that attitude (at least back then) can be kind of fun, even attractive, and certainly cool. But I no longer wanted to appear cool. I now wanted to appear as I had always been inside: warm, enthused, and game, everything I had done my best to hide up until then. It was like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. I was pretty jaded from all of that attitude I had so eagerly adopted.

Well, there you have the general idea. I had worked so hard to accumulate a persona that it had become like one of those heavy vests that the dentist lays on us to protect us from X-rays, from being seen, and I didn't know how to remove it.

It took time to put on all that veneer and it takes time to remove it, layer by layer. I am not trying to convince you to do the same, only relating that finally I made that attempt, but I didn't know where to begin. I am talking about exposing qualities in myself like simple goodness, and all of the traditional virtues. It is not that I didn't have some of that, but rather I had gone out of my way to hide it or at least give it an earring or two. And now I wanted to straighten out that bent nail. I hope you understand what I am pointing at here.

It was the basic dharma purification techniques that came to the rescue, not only basic meditation and Tong-Len, but the whole dharma boot camp which is called the ngondro, being all the tools needed to purify our personality and to actively begin to accumulate merit and (forgive me) virtue, as in "The bad boy becomes a good boy" sort of thing. Make sense?

[Photo taken yesterday of some Yarrow stalks.]