Last night as I was making the long drive home, I left the radio off and thought about things for some time to clear my head. As I was thinking to myself, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the current inavailability of much in the way of personal instruction via a lama, master, Dharma Center, even webcast. A combination of a geographical location, personal finances, daily/weekly obligations, etc. currently make such personal instruction nearly impossible. This impossibility caused me to despair of my ability to ever truly be able to practice any form of Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana/Tantra, and this inability to practice caused me to question the authenticity of both Tibetan Buddhism and Vajrayana/Tantra.
A series of thoughts occurred to me then which completely altered my negative, frustrated outlook.
Earlier in the day, I attended Mass with my girlfriend. Though she knows I have no interest in being Catholic and that I'm studying Buddhism, I explained to her that I supported her in whatever faith decisions she made and I would attend Mass with her since our time together is limited as is but that I wouldn't receive communion. For the past several months, she's not attended Mass - so I've gotten off the hook, so to speak. Yesterday was her birthday, it was also the first morning of Daylight Savings Time, so we both woke up early and she wavered on attending Mass until she decided she'd like to go. I was uneasy about going, but I decided to stand by my decision to support her. We sat next to her parents in church - who also realize that I'm no longer practicing - but knowing that they knew I was no longer practicing made me all the more uneasy since I was now in the situation to not practice. During Mass, I observed - and what I noticed was a ceremony that, in a lot of ways, made a lot of sense because it primarily appeals to the senses, it draws you in, it gets you involved on a complete psycho-physical level. Having once been an astute student of Catholicism, I knew all the movements, prayers, hymns, etc. by rote. It was hard not to get involved even though I no longer felt the conviction of Catholic dogma. The Lord's Prayer would have been meaningless on a soteriological level, but yet it such beautiful poetry. I could then understand why I decided to convert to Catholicism so many years ago: it wasn't that I was convinced of the existence of God or divinity of Christ or infallibility of the Pope; rather, I enjoyed the pomp and ceremony of the Mass. So, as I stood there not wanting to get involved, I realized that I felt this overwhelming sense of fear. Though I knew that I would rather take refuge in the truth of the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha, it was because of this devotion that I felt afraid to let my guard down and enjoy the ceremony taking place around me. And in that moment, I "heard" the voice of Trungpa Rinpoche say, "What are you afraid of?" And his words came flooding back to me: this is dharmakaya, this is what is happening, and look at the beautiful sambhogakaya energy in this room manifesting itself as the nirmanakaya. And as I gradually let my guard down, I saw all of these beautiful people trying to make sense of the world around them through the ceremony that took part in either willingly or unwillingly. And I felt a sense of calm compassion towards them all and felt glad that I could be there with them even if I no longer shared their faith.
So, again, as I was driving and becoming frustrated, the voice of Trungpa Rinpoche came back to me: "You are the path." And it was then that I realized that the Dharma isn't something out there to attain, but it's something that I already have within. I am the path, I make the path, the path is the goal and the goal is the path. Even if I'm stuck for the rest of my life reading Trungpa Rinpoche's books, reading the life of the Buddha, and performing shamatha meditation, that's my path. It's what I have to work with.