Friday, December 16, 2011

Letting Be I

Scott Bradley

Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher and "eleventh incarnation of the Trungpa Tulku" (whatever that is), offers a very simple description of his meditative technique: letting be.

There are numerous explanations on proper meditative technique, many of them explicitly contradictory of each other. We, as presumed novices, are often told that meditation is not what we think it to be. It then becomes clear that neither is it what other practioners of millennial-old traditions think it is. It would seem sometimes that in order to actually commit ourselves to any one technique, we would either have to become narrowly sectarian believers or, ironically, so spiritually mature that we could make that commitment while realizing it to be but one among equals, and, truly, merely technique.

I have made clear that I am a dabbler. I have made no commitment to any one technique. Consequentially, I have made little 'progress' in any technique. To do so would, I believe, require such a commitment.

In any event, like the proverbial promiscuous butterfly, I have dabbled with the 'letting be' school of meditative technique and, having found some especially sweet nectar there, thought I would share it with you.

A great deal of the debate on meditative technique has to do with thoughts; since they are the most predominant feature of our mental experience, what are we to do about them? Chogyam Trungpa tells us to let them be. This is in harmony with the spirit of Zen which tells us to neither oppose nor pursue thoughts; the point is to not engage them on their own terms. To do so, is to claim them as our own, to be them.

To let be is to not be. To let thoughts be is to not be thoughts. Thoughts arise. I let them. I do not try to stop them. I am indifferent to them. I do not pursue them. I am not them; they are not me. Who am I? It does not matter. To ask is to pursue a thought. I simply am. Without content. There is freedom here.

The very difficulty of such an exercise is in itself incredibly instructive. To be other than the discursive mind, even for a moment, can seem an impossible goal. And thus we begin to see just how that possibility might be radically transformative.

There is, of course, a contradiction in the idea of letting go. We cannot let go, since to do so, is to do something, and that is not letting go. To do requires a doer, and it is the doer that requires letting go. So we say we must let go of letting go. And, of course, we must let go of that, as well. It's curious how these cognitive constructs always lead to infinite regress. And this brings us right back to that place where only something unimaginable and unthinkable can make a difference.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. While I certainly don't object to anything Scott has said, which is a little discourse on meditation, I would point out that in context of a blog that is supposedly about Taoism, this ignores completely the style of meditative practices (neidan) found in that tradition, which is about qi and dantians and such. It is indeed a very different practice, perhaps more physical or body-oriented than mental, and with certain kinds of visualizations, than found in Tibetan Buddhism or Zen or any of the Indian traditions. (Although the end result might be quite similar.)

    I am also aware that in meditation as taught by some Quanzhen/Longmen practitioners, there is incorporated some concepts from some of the Tibetan lineages and Zen (Chan). But as for just watching thoughts, letting be, mindfulness, there is something other or more than that going on.

    I am wondering if we are all wandering off, like children on a field trip, in the worlds of advaita, zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and have lost touch a little with the Taoist xin of this blog? I feel a post coming on.

  2. For me, I am not a fundamentalist Taoist. I resonate with the Tao thinking, but I am not locked into that tradition. In "my about" rap, I mention that I am not a traditional Taoist. I have no plans to stay in the perimeter lines of Taoism, Advaita, Zen, or Tibetan Buddhism, for that matter. I speak from my experience, like a free butterfly, that is not caught in a net. Or that is at least what I wish to do.

  3. like a teatherd bird longs for it's old forest and pond fish it's deep waters.



Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.