When we pay close attention and relax into any unfolding inner feeling like
Joy, love, wonder, anger, courage, peace, sadness, grief, disgust, fear
– fetid cesspool, putrid sewer, whispered moan of pain or pleasure
– chronic fatigue, exhaustion, ache or anguish, a simple touch, taste, sound or smell
– blue jungle butterfly fluttering aslant golden sunbeam
– white daisies of detail in willowing green meadow of awareness
Through the portal of any such particular we plunge into an ocean of experiential infinity…
Highlighted in bold are what is known as the nine rasas – with grief added in because of a family tragedy which occurred during the composition of this text.
The key dynamic in this passage is the last line, namely: ‘through the portal of any such particular we plunge into an ocean of experiential infinity.’ The ‘experiential infinity’ came up in the beginning of the Preamble in that since time is infinitely subdivisible and thus lacks duration it has no beginning or end. Similarly space is essentially non-divisible and therefore one cannot find any such thing as a definable or permanent place. Reality being without time or place it is thus an ‘experiential infinity’ because we definitely experience being alive even though on examination we cannot find a permanent or solidly definable basis for the ‘reality’ in which it happens.
Which leaves us with: ‘through the portal of any such particular we plunge into an ocean…’ Note the obvious contrast between the vastness of the ocean being plunged into and any given particular to which attention is being paid. The particulars in this passage are the nine rasas which are emotional states, though any occurrence can be a particular which is why the text offers various examples after listing the official nine + grief.
The idea is simple: when any sort of turbulence, difficulty or intensity comes up rather than distance ourselves from or try to manipulate it we turn into it by paying attention which means simply feeling it. That paying attention makes it ‘particular’ for any time we pay attention to anything there is a moment of immediate perception involving some type of detail, something specific; and in that moment of paying attention to detail, of feeling, there is awareness, clarity. So when anger comes up, feel the anger rather than acting it out or rejecting it and that feeling is paying attention rather than viewing it from afar as if separate and judging, reacting or trying to control. That simple experience of paying attention becomes a portal to vastness which is the basic awareness-field that is always there just like the sun always behind the clouds.
This is one of the essential mechanisms of tantra which means union or continuity. The union is that fundamentally both confusion and wisdom are equally in the same continuum and thus are ‘not two;’ continuity is a different way of saying the same thing, namely that we don’t go first from confusion and then into wisdom, rather they are always and continuously together, part of the same thread or weave.
This passage is intimating that even negative feelings and situations – including those involving the vicissitudes of chronic illness – are opportunities for waking up, for connecting with awareness and therefore also for healing.
It’s that simple. In the Dzogchen, or Maha Ati, tradition of Buddhism which deals with direct wakefulness from the point of view that it’s always there and always has been and always will be, this sort of process is described as like that of a knotted snake uncoiling itself. Here is a description found from an internet search posted on a Reddit forum called r/Dzogchen:
“The most advanced capacity of self-liberation is called Rangdrol, which means ‘of itself it liberates itself’, and the example used is that of the speed and ease of a snake unwinding a knot made its own body. This is completely non-dual and all-at-once, instantaneous self-liberation. Here the illusory separation of subject and object collapses of itself, and one’s habitual vision, the limited cage, the trap of ego, opens out into the spacious vision of what is. The bird is free, and can finally fly without hindrance. One can enter and enjoy the dance and play of energies, without limit.”
They don’t explain the snake all that well in the subsequent discussion but the point is simple: the snake has one body from head to tail and even though it is entangled in a knot (representing confusion-ignorance) actually this is an illusion because it’s still just one body and ultimately you cannot really entangle yourself any more than you can split your own self-nature into two so all you have to do is relax instead of gripping and the knot untangles itself naturally. This is another example of continuity or union if you will in that the snake’s body is continuous and the knot doesn’t change that even if it appears to do so from a confused point of view; and union because it’s all one body all the time.
In this Liturgy, the suggestion is simply to turn into any sort of emotion and ‘pay close attention and relax into’ it. This is sometimes referred to as ‘transforming confusion into wisdom.’
And it’s that simple.