Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Couple

by Keith Kachtick
relationshipsIn Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke makes clear that a loving, romantic relationship is the practice for which all other mindfulness practices are the groundwork. “Love is high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become world for himself for another’s sake.” The ancient Tibetan tantric practice of Yab-Yum recognizes that romantic coupling is as an opportunity for profound spiritual awakening, a practice that invites us—deeply challenges us—to love our way to enlightenment.

Traditionally, in Buddhist thangkas and sculptures depicting Yab-Yum, the confluence of “masculine” compassion and “feminine” wisdom is presented metaphorically in the sexual union of a male deity, seated in Padmasana (lotus pose), with his female consort facing him on his lap. The symbolism is two-fold: Yab-Yum (literally “father-mother” in Tibetan) implies a mystical union within our own individual nature—the two Dharma wings that lift each of us to buddhahood; united, the two awakened beings (regardless of gender) then give birth to a romantic communion embodying the blissful, non-dual state of enlightenment.

Much easier said than done, of course. But for anyone in a committed relationship, the Yab-Yum ideal of unconditional love—borne out of opening our hearts and fine-tuning our communication skills, as well as deepening our understanding of our partner’s needs and desires—is an opportunity and wonderful challenge to recognize and celebrate the highest in ourselves and in each other.

Ultimately, it’s all about soulful harmonizing. “We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is a certainty that will not forsake us,” Rilke reminds us. “It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult. That something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it. To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. This more human love resembles that which we have prepared for with struggle and toil all our lives: a love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute one another.”

Keith Kachtick and his partner Camilla Figueroa will be teaching the retreat Loving Your Way to Enlightenment: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Couple September 13-15

Happy birthday, Allen Ginsberg!

“I met Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa, on  a street corner in New York with my father, by accident.”

Allen Ginsberg and Trungpa Rinpoche

 

From June 3rd, 1926 to April 5th, 1997 Allen Ginsberg (AKA Lion of Dharma, AKA Heart of Peace, AKA Carlo Marx in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road) roamed the earth, taking inspiration from every facet of life and giving it right back to those who would have it. One of the most controversial public figures of his times, among the most outrageous of poets, Allen Ginsberg was also a friend, lover, photographer, peace activist, king of May, and meditation practitioner in the Vajrayana tradition. At Shambhala Mountain Center, where Ginsberg’s teacher, friend, and guru Trungpa Rinpoche is buried in the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, one third of Allen Ginsberg’s earthy remains are interned in a polished granite memorial in the shape of a lion, backlit by the Tibetan letter for “Ah”, the shortest form of the perfection of wisdom, and just a short distance from the remains of his life partner, Peter Orlovsky. Visitors may visit this site with a steep climb near the Stupa.

Shambhala Mountain Center staffer and graduate of Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics Jennifer Lane shares a memory of Allen Ginsberg in 1995 when he was being honored at Naropa and reflecting on his life’s endeavors. The video tells the whole story.