Pema Chodron is a buddhist nun and teacher who has been a great inspiration to me. I first started listening to Pema’s teachings in 2007 and had the good fortune to meet Pema in 2009 at Shambhala Mountain Center.
This Sunday, I watched a talk Pema gave at Gampo Abbey in 2009. In the first part of the talk, Pema defined the “fundamental ambiguity” or “fundamental uncertainty” of being human as the fundamental reality that things are impermanent, we are impermanent, we are going to get old and die, and that things are in flux and always changing.
At the conclusion of the talk she gave the “punch line”. I was so moved by what she said, I spent the time to transcribe it. Pema said:
“So, here is the punch line. The fundamental ambiguity if resisted gives birth to ego clinging or fixed identity. The fundamental ambiguity if followed and rejoiced in or embraced is called Buddha Nature or Basic Goodness or True Nature. How ironic, isn’t it? It is so ironic, that the very thing that keeps us as a consensus realm where we all have in common [is] resistance. It’s as if you got programmed. It’s as if all computers got programmed in a certain way. It is called Human Realm. And part of the evil programmer’s programming of us, was resistance to the true nature. And feeling it as threat. Because it is a threat to anything that wants “fixed,” “certain,” “predictable.” But doesn’t it seem odd that we all come in wanting what’s impossible? And spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are? It is mind boggling, really, when you think of it. But the beautiful thing is, if you can relax (and this is what I would like the purpose of this retreat to be); if you can relax; if you can find your way even for one and a half minutes a day, if not periodically over and over, to embrace or to relax with the open ended-ness of the human situation, that’s called contacting your basic goodness or contacting Buddha Nature. Because Buddha Nature, Basic Goodness is always described as “open”, “dynamic”,” alive”, “unfixated”, “unbiased”. I hear these words and I say, “Wow!” But the ego does not like” open”, “uncharted”,” un-fixated”, “unbiased”. The ego likes “biased” (sooo comforting); “fixated” (hmmm, you know where you are at). So, I’m talking about me and I’m talking about you. This is where we live. So, I think the challenge is to notice it when it is happening. Usually, there will be a big, “I don’t like this” happening or a subtle one. And then to abide with it for one and a half minutes without the story line. And just do this over and over and over. As they say, many times throughout the day for short periods. This is called unmasking, shedding, letting go, opening the heart and mind.” Pema Chodron from the 2009 Yarne Retreat.