Somehow I'd read a lot of books on Buddhism without ever becoming familiar with Chögyam Trungpa. I'd heard the name before, but had no idea who the guy was.
Recently one thing led to another, which led me to buy his "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism." I'd read a short essay of his in a book on mindfulness.
That spurred me to Google him, where I found that Trungpa was a Buddhist meditation master who, among other things, had sex with students, abused alcohol and cocaine, and had other endearing qualities (to someone irreligious like me).
So I bought the above-mentioned book. I'm liking it, though parts of it don't appeal to me.
Trungpa, though dismissive of many aspects of traditional Buddhism, still believes that a guru is necessary for spiritual development. Not in any esoteric supernatural sense; the guru simply is a "spiritual friend" with no special qualities other than an ability and willingness to help someone realize that, basically, there is nothing to realize.
The meeting of the two minds really takes place very naturally. Both the instructor and the student meet in a state of openness in which they both realize that openness is the most insignificant thing in the whole world. It is completely insignificant, truly ordinary, absolutely nothing.
OK. Having a spiritual friend sounds fine.
It just seems to me that in this instance, Trungpa is a captive of the Tibetan Buddhism teachings. He had a teacher; he acted as a teacher himself; so he feels it is necessary to have a spiritual friend. I don't agree. And other themes in Trungpa's book argue against his "must have guru" advice.
For example, here is a Q and A where Trungpa does the answering.
Q: What guides you on the path?
A: Actually, there does not seem to be any particular guidance. In fact, if someone is guiding you, that is suspicious, because you are relying on something external. Being fully what you are in yourself becomes guidance, but not in the sense of vanguard, because you do not have a guide to follow. You do not have to follow someone's tail, but you sail along. In other words, the guide does not walk ahead of you, but walks with you.
ln another place Trungpa says:
Reinforcement is provided by the situation automatically. When things must be conducted in a tough manner, you just do it because the situation demands your response. You do not impose toughness; you are an instrument of the situation.
Now, this probably sounds like just common sense, and it is. For those sucked into strange Buddhist beliefs though, or esoteric religious beliefs of any sort, Trungpa offers up some antidotes to what he calls "spiritual materialism."
We have many expectations, especially if we seek a spirtual path and involve ourselves with spiritual materialism. We have the expectation that spirituality will bring us happiness and comfort, wisdom and salvation. This literal, egocentric way of regarding spirituality must be turned completely upside down. Finally, if we give up all hope of attaining any sort of enlightenment, then at that moment the path begins to open.
...Self-deception is a constant problem as we progress along a spiritual path. Ego is always wanting to achieve spirituality. It is rather like wanting to witness your own funeral.
...Self-deception seems always to depend upon the dream world, because you would like to see what you have not yet seen, rather than what you now are seeing. You will not accept that whatever is here now is what is, nor are you willing to go on with the situation as it is.
Thus self-deception always manifests itself in terms of trying to create or recreate a dream world, the nostalgia of the dream experience. And the opposite of self-deception is just working with the facts of life.
If one searches for any kind of bliss or joy, the realization of one's imagination and dream, then, equally, one is going to suffer failure and depression. This is the whole point: a fear of separation, the hope of attaining union, these are not just manifestations of or the actions of ego or self-deception, as if ego were somehow a real thing which performed certain actions.
...So the real experience, beyond the dream world, is the beauty and color and excitement of the real experience of now in everyday life. When we face things as they are, we give up the hope of something better.
...You drop searching for anything altogether, drop trying to discover anything, trying to prove yourself.