Last weekend, I took my Refuge Vow. So for a week now, I’ve been a Kagyu Buddhist named Jigme Tsöndrü–the name is Tibetan (Jigme means “without fear,” Tsöndrü means “exertion“). I decided to take my Refuge Vow six or eight months ago (around the time I shifted from saying things like “The Buddhists believe…,” to saying things like “It seems to me that…”), and it felt like an obvious step. Yet as often happens with me (given my incredibly poorly developed ability to accurately predict my emotions in just about any situation), I had a much stronger reaction than I expected.
At the end of this week, I got a promotion. I’ve already been doing the work of my new title for a month or two, but its being official carries more meaning. To this, I’ve had very little reaction. My practice has led me to see through so much of what I had been attached to, to see the illusory nature of, well, everything. That is, after all, the aspiration of my vow: to eschew the comforts of accomplishments, possessions, or diversions; to be awake to all that is happening, without distraction or distinction.
The cumulative effect of this is that I’m now, without qualification or caveat, an adult. I’m not the kid in his twenties that I still see in the mirror. Nor am I the teenager with poor impulse control and a grudging attitude toward anything I don’t want to do who has filled my iTunes library and left all of my chores undone. And I’m certainly not the much younger child I see looking out at the world from deep inside. All of these selves, and any others I may develop in their place, are illusory. They are all attempts at defense, attempts to ground myself in something, and they only lead to further suffering. There is just the present and my undeniable interdependence with it. I can no longer feign separateness, pretend it’s not my concern, or deny the effects of my actions on everything around me.
This is a hard truth to integrate. For my part, it’s not the truth I wanted, but I’m convinced that it’s the truth nonetheless. I set out (for reasons that still aren’t clear to me, by the way) to find the reality of reality, and I won’t set it aside just because it says that I won’t enjoy an afterlife of endless frolic with all of the dogs I’ve ever had. That, I suppose, is how I’ve earned my new first name. Still I suffer. I accept the Buddha’s truth, but I don’t yet act in accord with the reality that it indicates. I haven’t renounced this illusory self for which I now feel so sorry. I’m still capable of taking offense, both on my behalf and on behalf of those I care about (which are really the same thing). In fact, stripped of the illusion that the suffering of others isn’t mine as well, I find the world around me that much more uncomfortable. And it’s by living up to my last name that I’ll see through that clinging.