On June 1, I drove up to Barre, Massachusetts to meet Cameron at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. Cameron had been at the Forest Refuge for two weeks and we both were taking a course at BCBS by Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia called “It’s All About View: The First Stage of Awakening.”
It used to be that the retreat centers at IMS, both the big Retreat Center and the smaller Forest Refuge, carefully segregated the sexes. Now, everyone gets their own individual room. But at BCBS, Cameron and I get to room together in what they call the “Farm House.” It must have been a farm house initially, but it’s long been remodeled to include a dining hall, a library reading room, a classroom, library stacks, and the BCBS staff offices.
There are four rooms in the Farm House and more under the beautiful Meditation Hall, pictured below.
The Buddha Rupa in the hall is atypical in that it has a distinctly female gender.
In a lovely mixture of meditation, silence, Taraniya’s talks, questions, discussions, we focused on the first three “fetters” of the ten said to “tie beings to the wheel of existence.”
These are ten obstacles to what’s called “stream entry,” an irrevocable movement towards the total awakening the Buddha experienced. Let go of these, and freedom from suffering is guaranteed, either in this lifetime or a future one.
Whether or not you believe this (please note that the Buddha did not require his followers to believe anything just because he said it), these first three fetters, or views are worth a close look. In this post, I will address the first.
The first is “personality-view.” This is seeing the world through constellations of attributes with which we identify. Gender, race, age, income, education, nation, tribe, family, tall, short, skinny, fat, smart, dumb, wise, foolish —the list goes on and on. Some of these characteristics depending on our emotional state at the moment. Others we habitually anchor our identities to.
But the Buddha taught that we are more than all the aspects with which we identify. If we take a metaphorical step back from all that goes into the story of ourselves, we can see it with compassionate dispassion. (That only sounds paradoxical.)
The awareness that observes is both more fundamental to who we really are and at the same time transcends it.
Go figure that out and next time I promise to include some ‘toons.