Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on April 5, 2015

Working with a qualified dharma teacher is a lot like those old jigsaw puzzles I did as a kid, the ones that spread across the whole table and seemed, at first glance, almost impossible. Any two pieces have to fit together, and looking for the matching piece can take a little or a long time, mostly a long time. There are said to be 84,000 dharmas, thus 84,000 approaches to the dharma, and perhaps 84,000 kinds of teachers. We each have to find that one particular way (and teacher) that will work for us. It only takes one, but it may take time to find that one. And here is another point.

It’s not only about finding the teacher that fits us, it is also about our becoming a fit for a teacher. A puzzle piece has two sides, and one of them is our receptivity to fit a matching piece. We too have work to do. I don’t want to get overly cute with this analogy, so let’s leave it go at that, but I will add this:

A being like His Holiness the 17th Karmapa is, well, not an ordinary puzzle-piece. Like some of the hot video games my son likes to play, there are puzzle pieces that have special qualities, and the Karmapa is one of those. He represents a piece that will magically fit just about any other piece in the puzzle. And like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you only have to be in his presence to make the connection. Perhaps we only have to bring him to mind, but to do that it helps to know who it is that is being brought to mind.

I am actually friends with many of my Facebook friends, so please trust me when I say that connecting with a being like the Karmapa can be a life-changing experience; it was for me. And, as I have pointed out again and again in other blogs, the word I am reaching for here is “realization,” realization not of who the Karmapa is, but realization of who at heart we are. It is that realization that is the life-changer. Unlike a simple spiritual experience, which comes and goes, a realization of our own inner nature takes place and never goes away. It is permanent – evergreen.

So of course I am going to drive across the country to be in the mandala of the Karmapa once again. I will tell you a simple story of a previous Karmapa-visit to our monastery. I believe that at that time (as with this visit) I was also then working on the video team. One night, after our work at the monastery (which is up on the mountain), a bunch of us went down into Woodstock and had dinner together at a Mexican restaurant. We had a good time and I know something about Mexican food. I can cook it pretty well. However, that restaurant had the best Mexican food this side of San Diego. It was so good that for months afterward, I thought about that meal.

In fact, I couldn't wait to get back to the monastery and go out to eat there again. Many months passed before that was possible, but when we finally did make that 800-mile drive again, I went right back to that restaurant to have another meal. I even ordered the exact same meal I had before, and here is the punchline:

The food was not even average, more like a little terrible. I was shocked. And then I finally put two and two together. That first meal was when the Karmapa was visiting the monastery, and we were with him as much as we could be. Everything I ate back then was a little bit of heaven, not because the restaurant was special, but because the Karmapa is special. But that second trip, as nice as it was of course, did not have the flavor of the Karmapa. He was not there that time. You get the idea.

[Photo from last summer.]