Dilgo Khyentse on “Sitting”

UnknownThe whole concept of making people sit perfectly still without making any noise for hours on end is really a a form of social control practiced by the white western upper-class, not based on an authentic Buddhist spirituality. Read what Dilgo Khyentse has say to say about “sitting”:

“When engaging in meditation practice, we should feel it to be as natural as eating, breathing and defecating.  It should not become a specialised or formal event, bloated with seriousness and solemnity.  Mediitation transcends effort, practice, aims, goals and the duality of liberation and non-liberation. . .Therefore we should simply sit.  Simply stay in your own place, in your own condition just as it is.  Forgetting self-conscious feelings, we do not have to think “I am meditating.”  Our practice should be without effort, without strain, without attempts to control or force and without trying to become ‘peaceful.’ “(Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, “Dzogchen Practice in Everyday Life.“)

The class-based culture of “sitting” is one of the key forms of contemporary Buddhist culture that eliminates the working class and non-white minorities from Buddhist practice and Buddhist organizations.

By contrast, I go on occasion to the Vedanta Ashram Society of Halifax. The congregation is 98% ethnic Hindu minorities from India and South Asia, mostly immigrants. During the service, most people sit on the floor. There are no cushions, no gomdens or zafus or zabudans. There’s a nice carpet with padding. There are chairs on either side for people who can’t sit on the floor.  There is no special way to sit; most people sit on the floor in whatever way feels comfortable—exactly as Dilgo Khyentse said. They do not think, “I am meditating” or “I am being super sombre and humble so that I look like a good HIndu.” The whole service is sung from start to finish, accompanied by harmonium, tablas, and various percussion. Everyone sings and claps. They grab their kids who are always rolling around on the floor. They say hello and touch each other and even chat during the service. In other words, they act like human beings who are kind and loving to other human beings. It’s a remarkable contrast to the bitingly cold seriousness of most white, upper-middle class Buddhist sanghas. No wonder ethnic minorities and the working class don’t want to come to our sanghas. They’re intolerable to anyone who is not accustomed to that tighty-whitey upper class culture.

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