Confused and Curious

I often receive blank stares when I am teaching some of the more esoteric aspects of Vajrayana Buddhism. It is like looking at a room full of stunned deer looking into headlights. I remember when I first embarked upon this path—I was one of those deer. Of course, I still experience a bit of a zombie response to some teachings. But now I know I don’t need to be concerned. If I remain steadfast in my practice, everything becomes clearer when I am ready to see clearly.

It is important to remember that confusion and clarity are two sides of the same coin. If we stay curious in the face of our confusion, clarity naturally dawns. Dharma practice is naturally a curious pursuit, a kind pure unfiltered inquiry in the face of the unknown. If we expect to know, we will have a difficult time remaining steady on the path. The distilled essential teachings are free from conceptuality. The grasping mind cannot know but the natural unfiltered mind can experience realization.

When Buddha began to teach at Varanasi, he turned the symbolic wheel of the Dharma. At that moment, out of the forest came a male and female deer. The deer is also referred to as the “krishnasara antelope” of compassion. With unblinking gaze, the pair of deer looked at the Dharma wheel with joy and delight. Subsequently, Buddha taught the noble eightfold path referring to the wheel with eight spokes. The deer listened without wavering. The deer’s gaze is not so much confusion as it is quiet devotion.

So if you ever feel a bit confused on the path, remember the deer. Maybe what you are experiencing is gentle, stunned awareness. If you remain curious and present to that awareness without falling into judgment and conceptuality, you may realize the headlights of your true nature. But, if it is an automobile—get out of the way!

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