“Who am I?”, is a question that has guided my very existence. As a child, I grew up outside of my own culture and felt the differences in the way people interpret their experience. In my youth I continued to seek an answer to what really makes people tick, by continuing to explore different cultures and all of the different mindsets in adventure travel. It helped me loosen the mental grip my own culture may have still held over me.
Along the way, I learned the practice of Reiki which helped me quiet the mind and raise the life force energy. I am certain that the growing silence within me, due to my Reiki practice, helped me later in seeing through outer appearance and to recognize a true saint when I met him. It is through grace, that my travels eventually led me to India and to the feet of the sublime Sat Guru Sri H.W.L Poonjaji in 1992. “Papaji” was one of the main disciples of Sri Ramana Maharshi who fully woke up in his presence. Under his loving care, I learned a different way to approach my query.
By questioning Papaji with all of my doubts, they were mirrored back with the still movement of emptiness, similar to an Aikido Master who present and centered, can never be touched when parried by his students, but effortlessly deflects all the energies which try to attack with present still mind. Papaji modeled a fullness, with the presence of here and now, a presence of heartfelt devotion and love. Through this pure spaciousness, unadulterated by ego identification, I learned to listen to the song of silence.
Through the vehicle of Vichar, a form of direct self inquiry, Papaji taught many disciples to see through the labels we had become identified with. By noticing identification with a variety of masks (another kind of label), the different emotional reactions to them and finally, the fluid bodily sensations constantly flowing through, the realization dawned that all labels are mere descriptions of something that is beyond description.
Further, through enough self inquiry directed to the real source of thought, it became apparent that there is no real answer to the question,” Who am I?”, and that that is the answer. There is no answer!
To get to this point however, I had to feel through the karmic residue which is the accumulation of conditioned patterns: essentially a combination of left over unfulfilled desires and resisted experiences stored internally as energy blocks which is an accumulation in the mind stream which takes birth, from many past lifetimes.
By inadvertently helping me make these connections, what Sri Poonjaji helped me realize, is that freedom is not something outside of me, it is what I and all others are. He helped me see that there is no birth and death, for what we truly are, is awareness playing as form.
This body called Paula (and all other bodies) are an appearance that we as consciousness have learned to label, and as a number of body/minds all cooperating in this play of awareness called life, we have agreed on common labels. The fact is however, these labels are what create a sense of separation and cause us to view life from the vantage point of a subject, always acting in regard to outside objects. In other words, because of the five senses which rule the bodies we as awareness have dreamed into existence and now identify with, we have come to believe in ourselves as separate.
Padmasambhava, the great yogi from Odiyana, (the area in Kashmir and Afghanistan which was once one of the foremost spiritual and cultural exchange center’s on the Silk Road), who is probably most responsible for propagating Buddhism in Tibet, once gave an important teaching to his consort, the Lady Yeshe Tsogyal when she questioned him in regard to the origin of all that appears and exists.
The master replied: “All that appears and exists, the phenomena of samsara and nirvana, arise from the three types of labeling: mental labels, cognitive labels, and verbalized labels. Mental labels make thoughts move; cognitive labels build up habitual tendencies; and verbalized labels manifest the manifold objects. It would therefore be better if you stop labeling.”
This is advice that is contrary to what the present law of attraction proponents preach. In other words, great yogi’s understand the law of attraction quite well. It is true that whatever you think you will become, thus beware of what you focus on, especially material objects and such, for you will be forever drawn into the quagmire of the material world and never come out of it.
This is not to say that you should resist your desires, for they would then only persist. What is important is to not identify with them. To just let them come…..and then let them go, while remaining deeply imbedded in the silence of your own heart. As you do so, the labeling and the constant manufacturing of ever more desires to replace the ones which are fulfilled, will dwindle.
As Padmasambhava further stated: “When you are free from the thought activity of mental labeling, you will be free from the cognitive labels “good” and “evil”. And when free from that, you will also be free from attaching the names of verbalized labeling. By being free from the multitude of dream habits, you are free from labeling names. By being free from that, you will be free from the label “bardo”, and free from that, you will be free from the label “birth and death.” By being free from these, you will have stopped the stream of samsaric rebirths. All phenomena are names labeled by thoughts. These names are not real so it would be better to be free from labeling.”
I owe many thanks to the great Vajrayana masters who have helped me to continue this process of “de – labelling” since Papaji’s passing. It is due to the strong foundation which Papaji instilled in me to see through ego’s grasping nature and the continued help of these sublime masters, who have kept me sane in a world in the midst of break down.
Today each one of us has our own challenge to call in the fragments of our lost awareness, distracted by lifetimes of identification with what really isn’t so. Kali Yuga, this time of degeneration with all its difficulties and challenges, also provides us with a unique opportunity to wake up. May each one of us foster this intention for the benefit of all beings.
(Laxmi Dechen Wangmo)