Contact Living Tantra Living Tantra Consultations Living Tantra Store Living Tantra Resources Ayurveda Essential Practices About Living Tantra Living Tantra Home Living Tantra


Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I bet many Living Tantra readers won’t feel so jazzed about reading a post titled “Modesty.” Check in with yourself and see. Perhaps some of you are considering moving on right now, without clicking or reading. Modesty is, well, a modest topic. Maybe it’s even a little bit boring, you might feel.

A couple of times here on Living Tantra, I’ve mentioned Chogyam Trungpa’s poem in which he satirizes the excuses students use to avoid having to sit in meditation for forty-five minutes a day. In his poem, a student offers “to build a Buddhist Disneyland” if she can only NOT do this modest amount of daily seated practice.

Most of us have no trouble tackling what we consider to be a really grand task, especially if we believe we will be rewarded financially, emotionally or by public acclaim.

This grandeur syndrome carries right over into our spiritual practice. We seek, and like to talk about, the big experiences, the big breakthroughs, the big spiritual dramas. “Ahhh-maaaz-ing!” “Un-bee-leeeve-able!”

Students often cook up ahh-maaaz-ing spiritual experiences or super-dramatic emotions and serve them to teachers thinking that this is what teachers want. I’ve taken to telling some students not to come to me with any positive pronouncements about the practice. “Only complain,” I tell them. Students who whip themselves into a froth of over-the-top enthusiasm are not prepared for the everyday realness of Tantrik sadhana.

In the Zhou Yi, the ancient precursor to the I Ching, “Qian” (sometimes spelled Ch’ien) is the name of the hexagram for both Heaven and Modesty. Each of these hexagrams has myriad meanings, associations and resonances.

Heaven is celestial Yang - the creative, active force, and in this system, the male principle.

Modesty is governed by Yin, the trigram for “Earth,” or the Mother-female principle. She is supported by the trigram for “stillness,” often translated as “mountain.” The supporting, bottom trigram is the symbol for nonconceptual meditation.

Unimpeded, an adept human being is one who joins creative power with adaptability, a disposition of “following” nature, and the equanimity of nonconceptual meditation. Only this human being can live with consummate appropriateness - in the way that is most attuned with the totality.

Modesty is more challenging for most Westerners than “building Disneyland.” We are better at big, gross gestures.

The foundations of modesty are holding to a total attitude of open listening, compliance with what is truly heard, uncomplaining adaptation to ever-changing circumstance–the supreme detachment, and the ability to laugh about one’s own failures, foibles and fixations.

Modesty goes lightly through the world. Modesty does not make a fuss or a scene. Modesty does not need to be seen, approved of or right. Think of giving up the fuss, or the search for approval, or being right. Now you see the quality of strength that modesty entails.

“Anything can be accomplished with modesty,” the Zhou Yi advises. Think of how a simple stream of water, continuously flowing, adaptable and constant, shining only with reflected light, can wear away solid rock.

More than grandness, modesty wears away the rock of our self-involvement, limitations and fears.

In Ma’s love,

Related Posts