Wisdom River

Although it is adjacent to a neighborhood, one can still hear the Deschutes softly whispering as it flows along a popular hiking trail. It is an urban river at this point, but one can still have an experience akin to hiking a more wild stretch—until you reach the shopping district. A small bit of wildness clings to the banks there, but river sounds are drowned by the din of human activity. A large concert venue increases the sound by many decibels throughout the summer.

But now I am overlooking a more natural part of the river from the deck of a home in a wooded subdivision. I can hear the river sing and the wind whistle. An evening breeze sends good wishes from a long strand of fluttering prayer flags strung between two tall pines. This is a very good place to host the Lama. He can do practice in sync with the wind and river.

As Lama chants, the mantra syllables blend effortlessly with natural movement. The sway of trees and warble of river currents seem to mirror his voice. No one sound predominates and I have to listen closely to discern one from another. I notice this when Lama is teaching. There are words—but the river of truth behind them is subtly hidden. I think this is why the traditional way of offering teachings can sometimes  numb the discursive mind so the listener can recognize wisdom behind the words.

The Western mind seems to have little patience with the old way of Tibetan Buddhist teaching. There is so much background and history before a lama gets to the point, so to speak. But if we wait until he or she gets to the point, we lose the point of the teaching. There is an energetic transmission going on and the mutterings are simply carrier frequencies. If the decibels of our reactive mind exceeds a certain level, we cannot discern what is really happening.

Think of words of Dharma as little boats floating on a river of wisdom. Like someone who leads river raft trips understands, the boat can only take you somewhere (beneficially) if you know how to listen to the river. Otherwise you crash or maybe fear to take the trip. If we float with a quiet mind and experience the cadence of words as rapids in a stream or droplets in a waterfall, we experience a shower of blessings. Of course, this takes a bit of practice.

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