A Definition of Liberation

I see my “spiritual” path as being extremely practical in that the practices I engage in require a deep and direct investigation of all aspects of my life in a subtler way.
  • What is your definition of spiritual?   What is your definition of liberation?

    Response: I try not to use the word spiritual too much because it often seems to refer to that which is not worldly – it often seems to imply a separation between our notion of the divine and the grittiness and earthiness of life that we experience each moment. I see my “spiritual” path as being extremely practical in that the practices I engage in – the Buddhist practices – require a deep and direct investigation of all aspects of my life in a subtler way.

    However, just as a raw experience, as far back as I can remember, I have had moments where I experience a sense of awe. I don’t see this as anything special, but rather something we all do or can experience by virtue of being human. I suppose you can describe this kind of experience as a spiritual one…but you can also call it an experience of liberation too. Perhaps spirituality just refers to an interest or path of allegiance to a more authentic experience of clear seeing and liberation describes the clear seeing itself.

    People describe these moments of clarity in so many beautiful ways. Sometimes someone will say they feel infinitely connected to everything around them; or use words such as ineffable or fathomless. One might describe liberation as stepping out of delusion – a respite from ordinary reactive mind and neurotic attachment. There is a famous Buddhist text, The Uttaratantra Shastra, which describes liberation as seeing the nature of things directly. It is written that when one sees the nature of things without confusion, one sees that “there is nothing to add or nothing to remove.” In other words, there is no divine as opposed to ordinary, just gratitude, appreciation, and a sense of humility present right there. So this implies that these deeper encounters of mind with its world is not something outside of us but how we understand who we are in relationship to experience.

    Learning to cultivate this kind of clarity and make it practical is the path. On the path we may have moments of liberation. For instance, when we can directly experience loving kindness for others, we are liberated from self-clinging. When we have the wherewithal not to react to things in an ordinary way, we experience the liberation of profound patience. When, for even a moment, we are able to see that the world around us is not limited to what we think about it – that we are not so “right” after all – we may have a moment of seeing the fathomless nature of things. This sense of awe liberates the mind into openness and humility. When we have an unconditional acceptance of things as they are, we find liberation from our own preferences. The great teacher Patrul Rinpoche calls this,The ability to bear the profound truth.” When this is where someone lives, we call that enlightenment, which is extremely rare.

    This response is an excerpt from an interview that Elizabeth did with Olivia Clementine in October, 2014.
    Read full interview…


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