Apologies for the late post! Tonight we will take up the last 2 aspects of the Four Practices Are The Best Methods slogan. We will explore what it means to make offerings to the dons and dharmapalas or as Norman Fisher says – appreciate your lunacy and pray for help. I think these two weapons support us is reconsidering how we relate to life; especially how we relate to bad circumstances. The first two aspects from last week point us towards seeing life through a kinder lens. We intentionally cultivate kindness in difficult times and through this cultivation we see the truer nature of what we call “bad circumstances” This is our internal practice. Practicing within our own minds when we are faced with bad circumstance.
The second two aspects can be thought of as our external practice. It is practicing with the external conditions that show up in bad circumstances. First we make offerings to the dons. From my understanding, dons are like what my native friends call “coyotes” and what I grew up calling “gremlins”. Its like the negative energy that disrupts, destroys and/or complicates life. It makes us crazy. Every time it shows up we get caught in some neurotic temper tantrum, crying fit, bitterness, depression, worry – you name it. It is our go to neurosis. It feels like someone out there is laughing at us. In trauma, it is called “crazy-making behavior” and is associated with the fickle, uncontrollable nature of a perpetrator. When we look at life, we see this similar pattern. Life is uncontrollable, unpredictable and ever-changing. When we try to control, predict and make it permanent, we get crazy; neurotic. Making offerings to the dons is like bowing to the craziness of the whole thing. It helps us see the “lunacy” of the whole thing. It lightens the weight of life, puts humor, laughter back into it, and helps us not take everything so serious.
The final aspect is similar except it’s a little more abrupt. I like that Chogyam Trungpa says this is when we stray from the path and life hurls us back. Dharmapalas are actually thought of a protectors. They are the people and things that wake us up. We can consider that whatever gets us “back on the cushion” is basically a blessing. We can began to see dharmapalas because they show up over and over in our lives. I spent a life time trying not to be angry and I kept noticing how angry I got. I was always angry about something. After practicing with this slogan awhile it finally dawned on me that this life was all about anger. Understanding anger is my practicing and in order to understand anger I needed to be in situations where I was angry. I gradually became least resistant to the people and things that “made me angry” and more appreciative for the opportunity to see through the fog of anger. I suspect we will need to explore this a little more tonight. Until then…