Awakening and what’s left

Chogyam Trungpa and many other spiritual teachers have shocked, puzzled, and baffled their followers with their apparently unenlightened behavior. It may be drinking, drug use, frequent affairs, bullying behavior, abuse of their followers, and more.

In our culture, we tend to have an image of awakened people as perfect. And yet, they so often are not. Why is that?

To me, it doesn’t seem so puzzling. In a way, it’s to be expected.

There can be a relatively clear awakening, and yet a lot left to heal at the human level.

If the person is receptive and open about it, then it can become a very helpful part of their teaching. It also helps their students know what they are getting into, and it helps the teacher to work on it if they are ready to do so.

And sometimes, there can be some degree of defensiveness around it, both on the part of the teacher and his or her followers.

The teacher may try to live up to an image or expectations from others. Admitting ordinary human flaws and hangups may not fit this image.

They may feel they are above criticism. (And perhaps lash out if they perceive criticism.)

They may justify their behavior, for instance as crazy wisdom or that they are above conventional expectations.

And really, they are just scared to admit it and look at it, as we all sometimes are. And they use all sorts of tactics to avoid facing it for themselves.

This is pretty universal. We all avoid facing certain things in ourselves because it seems too scary, and we use different tactics to avoid it. And this continues to some extent whether there is an awakening or not, and whether we happen to be in a teacher position or not.

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Love behind denial

Denial is one of those things that (a) may not be quite what it looks like and (b) has an undeservedly bad reputation.

What is denial really? Any belief includes a form of denial. As soon as an image or thought is held as true, there is a “denial” of (i) the validity of its reversals, (ii) the limited validity of the initial image or thought, and (iii) what reality really is, which is quite different from what any thought can point to (alth0ugh it could be said to be awakeness, presence, God).

Denial is inherent in any belief, in mind identifying with any image or thought, and it comes from an innocent with to protect this me, the image of a me as a human self in the world. It comes from love for this image of a me.

Denial also serves to portion out seeing so it doesn’t all come at once. It holds some things at bay until there is a readiness to take a closer look and address it.

So denial may not be exactly as it first appears, it may come from innocent love, and it serves to portion out seeing.

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