The Noble Truth of the Path that leads to Awakening. The path is a paradox. It is a conditioned thing that is said to help you to the unconditioned. Awakening is not “made” by anything: it is not a product of anything including the Buddha’s teachings. Awakening, your true nature is already always present. We are just not awake to this reality. Clinging to limitation, and attempts to control the ceaseless flow of phenomena and process obscures our true nature.
The path is a process to help you remove or move beyond the conditioned responses that obscure your true nature. In this sense the Path is ultimately about unlearning rather than learning – another paradox. We learn so we can unlearn and uncover. The Buddha called his teaching a Raft. To cross a turbulent river we may need to build a raft. When built, we single-mindedly and with great energy make our way across. Once across we don’t need to cart the raft around with us. In other words don’t cling to anything including the teachings. However, make sure you use them before you let them go. It’s no use knowing everything about the raft and not getting on. The teachings are tools not dogma. The teachings are Upaya, which means skillful means or expedient method. It is fingers pointing at the moon – don’t confuse the finger for the moon.
Beyond grasping and control and conditional existence is the Path to Nirvana – true Awakening. The concept of nirvana may be beyond our limitations and definitions and may not be fully achieved in this lifetime, however the beauty of the Path it is that we can grasp the concept and run with it in our limited fashion anyway. If there is any skill at which we excel as humans, it is the ability and aptitude to grasp a concept and utilize it for our own benefit, even if we do not fully understand or appreciate the internal workings of that which we put into service in our pursuit of our own goals. For example, we need not be mechanics to appreciate and effectively utilize the automobile. And we also need not be programmers in order to effectively use the computer as a tool. We are creatures that learn through story and metaphor and use the tools at our disposal to move much larger blocks of understanding into place within the window of our imaginations. Just as the contemplation of the swirl of hot coffee and cream on the surface of our morning cup can lead to imaginings of galactic spirals billions of miles beyond what we can see with the naked eye presently. As we follow this concept, the distance each may travel on our M/s journey between our humble origins and our Awakening will be commensurate with the talents and abilities of the individual and also the caliber and quantity of the tools to which we are exposed. All this contemplation of tools and individual journeying also leads to another observation; Humans are extremely competitive. We should all be mindful that this is in NO way a contest or a race. Grasping the reality of your own personal Awakening is its own reward and you are not to be compared to the Master or slave across the street or in the same group or area where you are. While this is simple and obvious, most of the time it is neither in practice. Actually this is an extremely difficult concept to understand, let alone master. Why? A number of reasons – lets look at two of the most basic;
First, we are perpetually adrift in a sea of images and words in our society that urge us toward excellence. Excellence is typically defined as ‘better than the competition’ – better than our neighbor, the guy in the next lane, the adjacent office, whomever we define as our competition whether real or imagined. It is difficult to resist the temptation to “prove” our Mastery or slavery through competition with our neighbor. Being better than the competition is at the root of our society, the core of how we transact business and fundamental to how we measure success. Our society in response celebrates excellence in practically any form – and conspicuous excellence is especially celebrated. One of the enduring paradoxes in our society is the rise of celebrity as substitute for excellence. The achievement of notoriety of some kind is a serious driver – there need not be prima facie or ‘first cause’ evidence in place as to why someone or something is celebrated, the celebrity itself is now seen as evidence of excellence. Our Leather community as subculture within our society is not immune to this phenomena and pursuit of this sort of validation is a constant lure away from Awakening.
Secondly, many of us are hounded by our own internal critics that offer a running commentary of our most recent failures of any sort along with a panoramic historical retrospective of any and every time our efforts have fallen short. Rather than face that internal critic head on and learn how to deal with the internal criticism, many of us have chosen to try and run faster and jump higher in the future instead. As if future success will somehow make up for past failures of any type. We then find ourselves in a perpetual competition with US – our most idealized internal standard and it drives us relentlessly to the point that we are unaware of the paradox inherent in this type of struggle – how can we be ever be better than our own selves? We would ordinarily dismiss out of hand the boasting of a competitor concerning the outcome of any contest who told us that because they ‘would have’ or ‘could have’ have beaten us if things were different, they were now declaring victory in an actual contest! Because we know that nobody wins based upon what might have happened. Yet many of us are unable to silence that internal critical observer that is always looking in the rearview mirror of our lives exclaiming “you should have, you could have…but you didn’t.” And as a result we perceive ourselves to have “lost” and the only thing that will make us feel better is to make up for that loss by ‘doing better’, whatever that means. Or we waste time reviewing events and conversations in our heads over and over, whipping ourselves over our failure to say or do the ‘correct’ thing. We cant go back and re-run a race that has ended or re-do a conversation that has finished. We’ve forgotten that nobody wins based upon what might have happened. Every decision, every thought is subject to an onslaught of ‘you never, you always, how could you?’ Every past decision carries the ache of ‘if I would have only” and every future decision is uncertain and tentative.
It may appear sometimes that we aren’t drawn so much toward the seeking of awakening in our M/s dynamic as we are driven toward the somewhat intangible benefit of being Thought Well Of. Like the story of the individual that owned a life sized map of the US and took an entire summer to fold it, it is all too easy to confuse the roadmap for the actual journey when we perceive ourselves to be in competition with each other with the result that we become ensnarled in the tight, unsatisfying spiral of living up to what we perceive as the expectations of other people. We want them to think well of us so we try to appear to be that which we think they want. This is deception of an insidious sort -this is literally clinging to our limitations and as such this practice obscures and delays our Awakening.
It feels good to be thought well of – but a closer look reveals that ultimately the pleasure generated by adulation is a false nirvana – akin to spiritual flash cotton – it burns hot but its usefulness is consumed in an instant and it doesn’t satisfy long term. The outwardly successful but inwardly miserable Master or slave is common both in our Leather subculture and in our overall culture at every level. The solution to the problem of not being satisfied with success most often seems to be to do more, get busier, work harder. However, trying harder does not seem to bring our goal of Awakening any closer to our outstretched hands. I believe that many Masters and slaves alike understand this on an unconscious, inarticulate level. And we literally don’t know what to do about it – as a result a part of us always lives in fear of being uncovered, being found out to be the pale, weak imitation of the vibrant Master or slave persona we try to project as forcefully as possible to the outside world.
We are oblivious that what we dream about in our heart of hearts is already present. We literally are that person we seek to become – and we have always been. We’ve always been that Master, that slave. We are merely unaware of how close we are to this awakening. Our true nature is always present – we are just asleep to that reality. We are unaware in the truest sense of the word. What can we do then? How can we wake up to our true nature without striving to make it happen? Especially when work = reward has been part of our worldview since infancy? One way might be to seek the stillness within and to stop striving to conquer, instead opening up ourselves to what the Path is trying to teach us, as counterintuitive as that might seem. Approaching life with our arms wide open – not reaching in futility, but embracing and perhaps more importantly, cultivating a quiet expectation or an internal spirit of willingness and patient waiting to embrace. Consider the simplest act of hugging another person – if one approaches the act with arms wide open and a welcoming spirit, the activity is devoid of anything approaching grasping, working or trying to ‘force’ the issue to completion. I believe that it is this attitude that will ultimately lead to the true Awakening of Master and slave in our M/s dynamic. As we seek to embracing our true nature we get closer to Awakening to the fact that fully being ourselves is the greatest gift we can give to the Universe, our lives and the lives of our slaves as Masters.
As slaves embracing your nature with neither external shame nor internal reproach, submitting yourselves to the will of another as an expression of your simplest and most profound internal truth then becomes the highest expression of who you truly are inside. Let each therefore awaken to your own Mastery, your own Dominance. Your own slavery. Your own submission. You are unique and there has never been another like you – but that is irrelevant to your awakening. There’s nothing you can do to learn how or to earn it or force the Universe to give it to you. Even ‘trying’ to receive it is at cross purposes to where each of us is going on this journey, because we literally cannot try to go where we already are. Be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself. If you absolutely must try something – try this; Try to live a life of authenticity, of integrity. Fully being you… at peace with yourself and in harmony with your surroundings, watching as the Universe unfolds around you. Cultivate a sense of quiet wonder and an internal spirit of willingness and a patient waiting to embrace the next step in your personal journey. Awakening is just up ahead.
Master Obsidian (c)