The following excerpt is from that wickedly ground-breaking, and in his day highly controversial teacher–the first bona fied Tibetan to come to America and establish a community of meditation practitioners– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. CTR died in 1987 at the age of 57, and as the years have passed he as become more and more his words, and less and less the Crazy Wisdom Rider personality that brought him so much of both servile adoration and impassioned criticism during his life time.
I first met Trungpa the year that this quote was written, in 1972. He tried to trade a ball of hashish for me. My ‘old man’ Tom Thompson, the Tim Leary of Colorado, went for the deal, but I did not. It would not be the last time Trungpa tried to ‘get’ me, but that’s not really the only thing that this quote makes me think about today.
I have found myself utterly drawn to CTR’s teachings, more and more every year, especially these early teachings, in the decades since his death. I read them today with wonder: at the wisdom inherent in brief utterings, and at the precision of his articulation about issues that are more relevant now, at least in my personal life, than ever before. But also amazed because the same guy who uttered such profundity was also that guy in the royal blue windbreaker who tried to trade me for a ball of hash, propped up in his brocaded bedroom at a wild hippie party up Boulder Canyon in 1972! Baffling indeed.
We are all so many different people it is phenomenal that we are able to recognize ourselves from one day to the next.
The Meaning of Life
All of us are concerned with discovering the meaning of life. Some people say that the meaning of life is found only in spiritual practice, and some people say it is found only in human dignity. From some, the meaning of life is becoming a successful person in relating with the world. So the meaning of life is under dispute, subject to philosophical struggle and metaphysical doubts. What really is the meaning of life? The question still remains. We do not know. The meaning of life is uncertain. We have something in common. Both the speaker and the audience are baffled by the meaning of life. We do not know. We are completely uncertain as to what really is the meaning of life. I could make up some things…but I feel that is not a particularly kind thing to do. We, both as audience and as speaker, are at a loss regarding the meaning of life. Yet we have something else in common. Quite possibly, we don’t have to solve the problem as to the meaning of life, as such. We could start on something we have in common. That is confusion. We are completely baffled. We could start from that confusion, which we have in common.
From Talk One, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, “Work, Sex, and Money,” Burlington, Vermont, April 1972. Edited from an unpublished transcript.