Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sow's Head

In a few weeks somewhere in Brooklyn there will be a ceremony honoring Varjavarahi, a Tibetan goddess often depicted with the head of a sow, symbolizing ignorance in that culture. I think in this culture maybe it would be more inclined to symbolize desire, but those two things are related. Though I haven't been feeling inclined to align with any religious tradition in particular, this ceremony is on my mind.

She's usually shown as a red figure dancing on a corpse. Western religious figures are never depicted while dancing, you only see that in the East, am I wrong? What to make of it? In Buddhism reality doesn't exists independently, it's interdependent with the viewer and fluidly changes. In the West a more rational standard is sought and things are to be defined rigidly. It becomes tedious as people insist on their definitions of trivialities and toss labels onto everything believing that those definitions come from outside themselves. Continually indulging in a made-up universe that they ask others to bow down to.  In Buddhism enlightenment begins when someone perceives a continuum of nothingness, realizing that all causes are coming from them internally, that is to say, their experience is subjective and shapes all they react to. Realizing this can involve a terrifying free fall.

Challenging circumstances appear as real, so many try to change them outwardly and fix it. Most of us react against our experiences. There is an opportunity to quit fighting and sit with trouble (which is always our trouble) exactly as it is, with love and acceptance.

In Buddhism there's a ceremony called Chöd in which practitioners address illness and maladies by honoring them and making space for them instead of fighting them. Some believe that we are going through exactly what we need to go through in order to learn what we need to learn. The ceremony speeds that process by creating a ritual in which experiencing the malady as an expression of mind is a central motif.

In this day and age there are still some who would say that mind doesn't matter but many know that it does. Have you ever had the experience of attaining something you wanted only after you accepted not having it? Sometimes allowing hope to die and sitting in the misery we'd hoped to avoid is what we need to expand in our love and compassion for life as it is and grow in humility and wisdom. Vajravarahi's sow head mocks us as we stubbornly insist that what will make us happy is something we can put our hands on, and her dance tells us that, in reality, nothing can restrain our power and vitality unless we let it.

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