Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on October 2, 2014

What follows is a lot of words strung together hopefully to convey meaning. My apologies if this writing does not make sufficient sense to keep your interest. Please understand that this is not everyone's cup of tea.

When it comes to sensitive subjects, one of them has to be our own "worthiness." If I ask for a show of hands of those of you who are working toward enlightenment, many of you reading this would respond. However, if I ask how many of you feel you are worthy of enlightenment, the response could be much less. Why is that? Why do we tend to not feel worthy?

Perhaps it is because we automatically assume that worthiness of any kind is something that is conferred on us from the outside, not by ourselves. Worthiness comes from above. We are not used to empowering ourselves. Our own (perhaps misguided) sense of humility prevents us from asserting that we are worthy. In a sense, we could be the victims of our own unworthiness. We may be too quick to assume or confer unworthiness on ourselves.

Yet the Buddha's teachings make it very clear that he is asking us to enlighten ourselves, and to do that we have to be worthy of the dharma and own that. We have to stand up and be worthy. There is a distinct point in our dharma practice when any feelings of unworthiness actually work against us. Apparently there is a time for humility and a time when we must each find ourselves worthy of our own dharma path. IMO, worthiness is a quality every bit as necessary as patience (and the other five paramitas) on the road to enlightenment. We don't get enlightened without it

How do we become worthy? Every son and daughter seeks the blessing of their mother and father. Certainly this son felt that way; I can attest to it. And dharma students seek the blessing of their teachers. It is true that in Tibetan Buddhism much of what passes for worthiness or confidence does come from what are called the "blessings of the guru." Teaching after teaching state that the blessings of the guru is the sine-qua-non of dharma practice, at least in Vajrayana Buddhism. All spiritual progress depends on that blessing and that blessing alone. That is a statement that took me a LONG time to understand.

And such blessings are not something you and I can just rig or manufacture through cleverness. We can't set ourselves up to be blessed because someone would know that we have done this, mainly ourselves. I always like the analogy that you can't sneak up on a mirror. And it seems that we can't just "bless ourselves" and be done with it either, at least in the beginning.

If you read between the lines you can see that I have left a crack in the door open as far as getting our own blessing, i.e. blessing ourselves. It does happen, but like so many things in life, it happens when we no longer need it.

Our ingrained habit is to look for blessings to come from the outside, preferably from the top down, so to speak, and they can and do. That is the whole idea of the dharma practice that is called "Guru Yoga," where we gradually learn to mix our mind with the mind of our teacher. And that practice is appropriately called "Mixing." The eventual result of a successful Guru Yoga practice is to internalize our teacher and the teachings, so that what once was outside of us is now inside; the two are one, and there is no longer any difference between inside and outside. When we receive the guru's blessing, that is, when we CAN receive the guru's blessing, our sense of worth and worthiness improves.

My point is that true confidence in dharma practice is hard to come by in the beginning. And our teachers do actually shower their blessings on us, if we can receive them. Like snow falling on a warm rock, the blessings melt into us until such point as they stick to us and accumulate as confidence and worthiness. However, for most of us that accumulation takes a while.

In Summary:
If we are lucky enough to find a dharma teacher through whom we can actually learn something more than we already know, it is auspicious. We can have many teachers, but sooner or later there will be one teacher, and only one, who can successfully point out to us for the first time the true nature of our own mind so that we can see it. The Tibetans call this teacher our Tsawi Lama or root guru. We can have many dharma teachers, but only one root guru.

Once we have had a glimpse of the true nature of the mind, this is called "Recognition," which is a major event that relates directly to our discussion here on confidence and worthiness. Recognition is not enlightenment; far from it. However, once we have "recognition," we progress more rapidly and begin to actively internalize the teachings. This is when "Mixing" really takes place.

What was once thought to be out there and way beyond us is now seen to be in here and part of us. And "recognition" is a real empowerment and with it comes true confidence and a growing sense of worthiness. After recognition, confidence is no longer a matter of belief or faith; we are confirmed within ourselves in our practice for perhaps the first time.

With "recognition" we finally see for ourselves something about just how the mind works and we can authentically respond and assume responsibility for our own dharma practice. Our teacher's job is basically done. Simultaneously with that, we are no longer just "practicing" meditation, but actual meditation begins. From that point onward we are responsible for our own enlightenment and intuitively know just what we must do to attain it. And we finally feel worthy.

As mentioned, along with "recognition" comes real confidence and true worthiness, not conferred from above, but conferred from within ourselves. We then know that we are indeed worthy. There is no question about it and no one can tell us otherwise. We are no longer attached to our teacher in the same way. We are independent in our inter-dependency.

In other words, our sense of "worthiness" is something conferred on us from our teachers until such time as we get a glimpse of recognition of the mind's true nature, after which we know for ourselves our own worth. At that point we begin to internalize not only the teachings, but mix our mind with that of our teacher as well.

From that point onward we become worthy in our own eyes and act accordingly. We are no longer just taking from above and the outside, but also from within. The Christian New Testament states "Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way." When it comes to worthiness, the dharma is similar. Recognizing for ourselves the true nature of the mind is the straight gate and narrow way through which we empower ourselves and know our worthiness. In other words, "worthiness" is no longer an option.

[Graphic done in pencil-style based on a photo.]