Being at Home


One day I was complaining to Tara Tulku about something. At the moment I cannot remember just what it was, and actually it does not matter.  What matters was his response when I said that if only things were different I would be happy, if only I was doing something else and doing it somewhere else, then I would be happy.  He looked at me and said "You know, samsara is known to be everywhere." He stopped me in my tracks. At that moment I understood clearly that I could not escape unhappiness by being somewhere else, that elsewhere does not equal happiness, that happiness was not to be found anywhere if it was not to be found here --- wherever here was and whatever here was.

But it will come as no surprise that most of the time I forget this simple truth.  I keep thinking that if I just change something everything will be ok.  Actually, if I am honest, it seems that when I change something because I want it to be better it seems to end up worse. But then I am one of those guys who sees a glass half empty rather than half full.

When I asked ZaChoeje Rinpoche if his constant travel was not a bit tiring he said no it was not because he felt at home everywhere he went. He takes his happiness with him wherever he goes.

This makes me think about what it means to be at home and the sort of happiness which comes from truly being at home. To be honest, no matter where I am I do not feel at home. Not even in my home. In fact I don't think I have ever felt at home since I left my childhood home. But if I think about that deeply, I must conclude that even there I was pretty much just an alien in disguise. I had to leave home for the disguise to fall away and for my deep alienation to express itself.  What does this mean? I've been on the spiritual quest pretty much ever since I left my childhood home. Are these two things related?

One way I think about the Two Truths of conventional reality and ultimate reality is that if we are even a little bit self-aware we will realize that we live in two worlds simultaneously. We live in the world of who we really are and the world of who we are constrained to be. They don't seem to line up. Earning a living, dealing with household finances, taking care of health problems, mowing the lawn -- this is the conventional world of constraints.  But in the very same moment I am paying the bills my Buddha nature is watching what is going on.  I think it must be smiling while my forehead is frowning. 

I suspect that the reason I don't feel at home is because I've not integrated these two worlds, have only intellectually accepted that the one is in the other, that they depend on each other. Sometimes when I meditate I can see how they line up and interpenetrate; I can experience it. Perhaps ZaChoeje has made this integration on a more consistent experiential level, realized their interpenetration more organically and sustains himself with one while he negotiates the other. I am reminded that of the five bodhisattva paths, the Path of Preparation is where one begins to transform the intellectual understanding of emptiness and the two truths into a more direct perception and experiential recognition of them. 

And I am reminded of the Zen teaching that our true nature is right here right now, whether I am mowing the lawn, sitting in meditation or writing this blog. If I think about my childhood, and about when I felt at home, I must admit that I was at home whenever it did not seem to me that I was not myself. In times past people used to say that some people who grew old became more child-like. In fact sometimes really old people were disparaged for actually being child-like. Now that I am retired from my university career, perhaps I can dispose of the constraints I placed on myself to be the person I thought I needed to be and return to myself.  Perhaps I will find my home again.

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