Friday, November 26, 2010
Never Let Me Down Again
"Taking the Refuge Vow is taking a vow in yourself. Your own Basic Goodness."
This is what my preceptor (person who gives the vow) told me before I took my Refuge Vow, the "first" vow you take as a formal Buddhist, to say out loud that you will aspire to look to the Dharma first for solutions, clarity and sanity. Of course, sometimes I still look first to chocolate or TV or books, but setting one's intention in this way can help - and has helped me. Especially when I remember to do it. That can be the hardest step - remembering to do sitting meditation, to take a walk even, when the shit hits the proverbial fan.
Because it does. It will. Inevitably, and not just during potentially - loaded holiday season, I get cranky, sad, off. I express anger meant for the world at large at my lover, I focus on what is not working over what is. And you know what? A lot isn't working, doesn't work, won't work. This isn't a feel-good message that nothing will ever go wrong again or even that I won't suffer because it is going wrong. It's faith that I can endure that, that I am bigger than that.
The title of this post is from the Depeche Mode song of the same title. I used to take it quite literally, dedicating it to my best friends, people who didn't let me down. But over time, I let everyone down at least once, as they did me. No longer could any of us promise each other we were "safe as houses, as long as we remember who's wearing the trousers." I started to see the parody in the song - the ridiculous rhymes pointing to the absurd expectation that we can actually protect anything - ourselves, others - from hurt, from pain. That we could ever not be let down again. On the literal level, this is impossible. We will fall, we do. And hurt ourselves and others.
And yet, we can never let ourselves down again. I can. Not be let down. Because if I understand that it is not about me, then there's no me to be let down. Reading Sutrayana Seminary transcripts in preparation for my month retreat at Karme Choling in Vermont next February, it comes up again and again - this is the Four Noble Truths, this is the truth of perception, this is what is actually going on - that there is no "me" in the way we think of there as being, and if there is no me, there's no letting me down again. It's the ultimate, infalliable grief and the ultimate ineffable joy - nothing to fix and no one to fix it for. It's all Good.
For today, I can get this. I can remember this, on a literal level. While eating my coconut curry soup, while talking with a friend, seeing a movie, I might remember my vow for awhile and default to clarity and honesty instead of self-deception. Even when I forget, and turn to sleep or eat as avoidance, or try to hide in my own fear, it is still "me" - a different me, a more expansive and ever present me - who can help me remember again. That's who will never let me down again - the "me" who took the vow - who may not show up all the time, but who is never gone, regardless. This is on the Ultimate Level - not literal, not daily, but Ultimately.
This Ultimate non-abandoning me was never gone. The vow just called her up from the depths, and we promised to keep our heads above water together. Never let each other down again - in the biggest and most important way - by remembering our vow to take Refuge in what is, again and again, as often as it takes.