There is a Taoist insight that tells us that something is never truly yours until you let it go. And that has, over the years, seemed to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for students I’ve taught.
One of the things the feral wisdom tradition has always included was the experience of the teacher challenging the student’s attachments, in what often appears (to the student) to be an attempt to take away those things they most cherish.
Sometimes, it occurs by appearing to chastise the monastic, who spends more time in front of the TV or their computer, playing, than they do serving the poor, studying the Dharma or engaging in meaningful spiritual practice.
Other times, it involves asking a student to step outside their comfort space, and to undertake a new project with focused intensity, which might mean less time for doing the things they’re accustomed to doing with their spare time.
And then there are times when the opportunity to make a financial commitment to support the Dharma work, or take care of someone in financial need presents itself as that challenge, because it means less money for happy hour, that bag of weed, or the latest tech toy or shopping spree.
And it’s often disappointing to see that when students and monastics, who will always occupy a precious place in the heart of the guru, refuse to let go, and many times, simply walk away from the teaching, or in more extreme and self-sabotaging cases, to sever their connection with the teacher entirely, pretending the teacher was too demanding, or not respectful of their unhealthy, unwholesome choices and lacklustre commitment to personal and spiritual development.
Imagine if you were that you lived somewhere in Middle Earth, as an apprentice to a wise and powerful wizard, who possessed the secrets of the universe, and the key to your never suffering again.
Imagine that this wizard told you that all you would need to have a happy, satisfying and meaningful life was contained in the little silk pouch, he was about to entrust to you.
When you returned to your home, deep in the forest of Spiritual Practice, you opened the pouch, and discovered in it were a handful of seeds, and small piece of paper with the words, “It’s not yours until you let it go…” emblazoned on it.
Now you have a choice…
You can cling to that pouch, containing the greatest and most powerful magic in all the land, and you can hide it where no one else will see it… You will know that you possess the secrets of the universe, and the key to universal happiness. It’s yours. The wizard gave it to you.
You can then go on with your mundane existence, buying things, over-indulging in food, sex, drugs, or whatever, never acknowledging that the only reason you’re doing those things is to either seek some external form of happiness or to avoid having to deal with something you perceive as painful and unpleasant.
And in so doing, you will, in reality, possess nothing.
Or you can do what very few have the wisdom and courage to do…
You can read that scroll of paper, and awaken to the simple truth that in order to truly possess the secrets of the universe, and manifest real happiness in your life and the lives of others, you have to let it go…
You have to drop that handful of seed into the fertile soil of the Dharma, and then nourish it with sunshine (meditation), water (spiritual study with a qualified master) and tend to the soil itself (serving those who are suffering). Only then will those seeds become anything of real value, and provide you with the secrets of the universe.
Fortunately for us, it doesn’t matter if we’ve lost that bag of magical seeds, or somehow betrayed or rejected the qualified teacher, who entrusted them to us. When the time has come for the student to re-engage, and to take their practice to the next level, a truly compassionate and qualified Dharma master will always welcome them back.
So ultimately, as with all things in this life, the responsibility and point of power is within YOU. When you are ready to possess the secrets of the universe, that realisation is within your grasp. You need only be serious enough to get your priorities in order, and be ready to let it all go.
Don’t worry, letting go doesn’t deprive you of your precious recreational time. The television will still be there. And you will have time to watch it. Your bars, your bong and your other recreational diversions will still be ready for you to indulge, if you so desire. Those things will not have changed… But YOU will have changed…
…and that is where the MAGIC begins.
Note: You can plant that first seed by showing your appreciation for and support of our work among the poor, the marginalised and the hurting, by making a donation here.