The core of Buddhadharma has to do with unfolding the miracle of meaning itself. This dynamic has both a knowing (mind) and a concerned resonating (heart) aspect to it. –Hokai Sobol
I have a series of posts I’m writing this week in which I’ll share my experiences so far as well as instructions and teachings given to me by Hokai Sobol during the 100 Day Vow I’m currently doing. He has encouraged me enthusiastically to do so and I’m extremely grateful for him for taking so much time to guide me in my practice, and to share that with you as I walk this path.
As a quick note, these posts will include paraphrases from Hokai’s instructions, and I won’t always quote them simply to make things easier to read. On occasion I will quote word for word and note that for anything that I felt particularly stood out. So, basically, if you read anything that blows you away, that’s Hokai 😉
Over the last year or so I have embraced a strong second person relationship to the divine, and in that, surrender and receiving have become important. (And even that has now started to evolve beyond itself, but I’m trying to begin at the beginning here in recounting this). At the same time, practice and my experience has become more and more subtle, and with that the form my practice takes has mirrored it, allowing me to deepen it. Hokai has been invaluable in this process since I started to work with him over a year ago, and particularly in creating this practice vow and the practice itself.
Now, I could and might write an entire post on DIY in buddhism. And it’s been happening since the original DIY-er, Buddha, started dishing out the dharma. But, I’m not going to go into that in this post. Suffice to say that the practice I’m doing, described here, is very traditional in its structure and essence, but was taken apart and put back together by Hokai and I, much like Lego blocks, in order to serve, support, and challenge me.
One thing I brought to Hokai is that I wanted to feel the power of this 2nd person relationship in the practice, and I told him that the simple gross form of refuge wasn’t bringing the thunder and really seemed too gross in nature compared to how my experience felt in practice. And really, this is already addressed in the vajrayana having three levels of refuge: outer, inner, and secret. One of the reasons for this is to match the practitioner where they are at in deepening their practice. Slowly but surely, the form of practice and every aspect of it will become subtler in nature, and refuge, at least in the Vajrayana is important and follows suit.
Given that, Hokai gave me the refuge you see here, which he had mostly written before, but to which we also added. An important aspect for me was the refuge and practice feeling personal, so personal that even taking refuge in something that had form seemed too much. To my delight, Hokai shared that refuge originally was meant to be something very personal and a symbol so vast that it had no limitation and included itself. And in that refuge there is a tension between the personal and the vast openness, within which something profound can happen. That hit my heart and mind with a big YES! I could and still feel the paradox and truth unfolding, and I was quite amazed to see that come through in something as simple as refuge. What had once been something almost trite, was/is now something powerful in my practice.
An important line is “through this practice I realize my true nature and bring benefit to all”. This is powerful in setting an intention. The practice ITSELF is the accomplishing and the accomplishment. This was powerful for me to see and to embrace more and more, that practice is the portal to realization, is the realization, and is also the benefiting of others. No where to go but here.
Grace, Inspiration, and Buddhadharma
Reality always matches your actions when aspiration meets devotion and resolve. There’s a mirroring of authentic actions. –Hokai Sobol
When I first started exploring this practice with Hokai, he rocked my world with a deepening of what I understood grace to be. This term isn’t used in Buddhist circles, but it’s there just called by other names. What hit me the most was his explaining that grace, receiving, comes from within. Now, this sounds simple as I write this and perhaps as you read it, but I find that quite powerful. It is by my very nature of engaging practice and opening that the receiving happens, and what is received comes from what I already am. What unfolds is not a result of my actions, but the actions allow it to take place. As Hokai said, my movement forward is a proof of my openness to that response.
So, that being the case how could I SEEK inspiration or grace?? I am already moved and inspired. Hokai instructed two things with respect to this: Recognize basic goodness and purity, which means already everything is present and received and there are no obstacles, only a bright mind and bright heart. And two, this brightness is active in wanting to unfold my potential. There is a deep intimacy and trust that reality wants to unfold and recognize itself. And so, when taking refuge and doing the practice, I only need to relax deeply and to be mirrored and accommodated by the practice. For most of the first 50 days, this has been my practice. The practice within the practice.
And the practice then becomes about balancing what my mind can accept and what my heart can embrace as meaningful.
Om Ah Hum
I just briefly want to share some meaning behind Om Ah Hum which is a mantra in the practice I’m doing.
Om in Vajrayana symbolizes the vast open nature of reality. Hokai has come up with a nice western way of explaining it. O = openness. M = mystery. Through Om I recognize my mind is a field of openness and mystery, and in the practice I allow it to permeate my mind. Om is visualized as a white ball behind the forehead.
Ah is considered primordial, and in English, it is the first letter. It symbolizes the source of all manifestation. All truth, lies, whispers, shouts, communications is the nature of Ah. It allows us to share what we have discovered in this open mystery, to hear and receive. Ah is visualized as a red ball in the throat.
Hum is visualized as a blue ball in behind the chest, in the heart. It is the embodiment of the previous two, I am allowing them to become my own embodiment. It is not something abstract, but something lived and felt. It confirms this body as a vessel for realization and expression.
Holding a mudra during this takes our body, what we normally consider dull and profane, as a vehicle for subtle energies, and to bring the subtlest down to the heaviest parts of our nature.
Lastly, the dedication is from the Shingon tradition, Japanese Vajrayana, in which Hokai is a teacher, called the Three Powers. This is by far the most meaningful dedication I have used in practice. The first line recognize my own actions as being important and having an impact on others. The second line recognizes that reality is matching my actions, that there is a response from reality that allows for this to occur. The third line recognizes that even before the other two, there is the dharmadatu, the reality expanse, as Hokai calls it, the entirety of reality. It is before I am. The last line states that there is no need to dedicate anything to anyone. Simply being the embodiment of my realization IS the offering, the practice also IS the offering. Nothing needs to be done.