version of:   September 12, 2004

Chapter 21: A Sketch

Let go of what has passed.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don't try to figure anything out.
Don't try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.

These are some words of advise from Tilopa, a Buddhist practitioner who lived a thousand years ago in India, to whom the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism traces back its lineage. They form a pithy summary of the most direct approach to the type of insight that contemplation aims at. As such, they can guide us in drawing up a sketch of what an exploration of reality could mean, here and now.

Seeing Directly

We have talked about freedom from identification, about dropping hope and fear, about viewing life from a no-problem perspective. Tilopa's words wrap up these suggestions in a radical way. He asks us to drop any notion of time and self, any notion of doing anything at all.

We are not asked to change anything, ourselves or our situation. We are not even asked to search. We are only asked to let go. After that, the suggestion is to resist picking things up again: don't become a repeat offender; just rest.

To the extent that we are able to follow this simple advice, we'll see directly how much we have been living a second-hand life, filtering what offers itself through the narrow windows we maintain on the world. Behind these slits in our ego fortification, we have been trying to hide from what is real, while trying to build up a comfortable picture of what the world looks like, with ourselves as the central players.


What joy, to be able to drop the inertia of the past! We can walk up to a person who we thought of as our biggest enemy, smile and say hello. We can walk into a situation that we have been avoiding with all our might, seeing it with fresh eyes.

We can let go of our convictions that we are lacking this and that, and we can let go of our elaborate schemes that explain in detail why what we are lacking is so important, so central and essential.

We can let go of our personaly history. We can even let go of the notion that we are persons, and of the notion that there is a history at all.


What joy, to be able to drop the burden of the future! We can live and act responsibly, as a matter of fact, naturally, without any worry about what the future may bring.

We don't have to strive for any improvement, since on the most basic level everything already is what it is, and any attempt to add something is superfluous. Instead, we can just celebrate what is.

We can let go of any notion of future success and failure, of reward or punishment. With peace in our heart, and grounded in what is, we can confidently face whatever may appear.


What joy, to be able to drop the straitjacket of the present! No longer hemmed in by past and future, we can finally drop the notion that we are prisoners of a time line.

We can discover what has been called eternal life, or timeless time. With this discovery comes a recognition that any other notion of time we ever had was just a fiction.

At this point it becomes so obvious that we can just live spontaneously, letting timeless time do our doing, plan our planning, live our living.

Figuring Out

What joy, to be able to drop our attempts to pocket the universe! We can drop our insecurity that has propelled us to make a stick-figure picture of the world, and then to stick to that picture, in order to find safety.

We can drop our habit to suck a perceived essence out of what offers itself, so that we can carry that with us as knowledge to rely on. Opening ourselves for the knowledge that is, in and as everything that appears, we can naturally drop our sucking addiction.

Letting our natural intelligence roam freely, we see to our surprise and delight that what we used to view as rationality and inspiration were but dim shadows of an innate capacity of direct seeing, innate not in persons or things, but innate in the very fabric of reality.

Making Happen

What joy, to be able to drop our addiction to action! Once we realize how we can act by not acting, we are cured of the fever that has propelled us to do, and we can finally be.

The taste of non-doing, of wu-wei, is something that cannot be found in a world of action. It cannot even be described in any meaningful way. It can only be experienced to the extent that the urge for action starts melting away.

Fighting our tendency to make things happen is yet another subtle way to make things happen. This too, we have to let go of. Just don't.


What joy, to be able to relax, right now, and rest! Silence appears, and stillness, a stillness that may feels like a healing stillness, until we realize that nothing needs healing. We smile.

Can't wait for later. Have to relax right now, since there is no other time. And given that there is no now either, just rest.

Rest. We have heard the word before. But when we learn to truly rest, this is something different altogether.


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