Who wants true freedom? The cost may be far too high. For this freedom means betraying everything we think we are—our myths of identity, virtue and aspiration—and awakening unimaginably as the Buddha we are right now. Chögyam Trungpa calls this path “open heart surgery without anesthesia,” and he devoted his life force to showing how we might properly practice it.
Whereas other Asian teachers struggled to penetrate, or hid behind, the barrier of American popular culture, Trungpa Rinpoche spoke English with a perfect Oxford accent and was so intimate with our world that he could have written soap operas. His Myth of Freedom is the eerily precise description of our self-imprisonment, the embarrassing details of ego’s resourceful mutability and disguise. Yet in offering this display of American selfhood, Trungpa Rinpoche demonstrates how each obsessive act is already suffused with space, the primordial space of enlightenment. When we are willing to look directly in, to plunge into its heart, we tumble into that space of love. Every self-constriction contains the nature of its self-release. He reveals our myths—not quite false or quite true, our dreams—and lets them evaporate in the heat of wisdom.
If we hold to the myth of suffering, we are urged to dissolve completely into its Noble Truth, “the reality of dissatisfaction.” But “In Buddhism, we express our willingness to be realistic through the practice of meditation. Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve . . . tranquility; nor is it attempting to become a better person. It is simply the creation of a space. . . . We provide space through the simple discipline of doing nothing.”
If we hold to the myth of distinguishing wholesome and unwholesome mental states, he gives us painful descriptions of our insanities and their conditions. Yet he dedicates his book to something beyond clean and unclean, “to Dorje Tröllo, the Crazy Wisdom form of Padmasambhava, the father and protector of all beings,” whose playful sweetness holds us in its unerring, compassionate grip.
If we hold to the myth of sexual desire, he reveals the sun that shines within us: “There is a vast store of energy that is not centered, that is not ego’s energy at all. It is this energy that is the centerless dance of phenomena, the universe interpenetrating and making love to itself.”
And if we hold to the myth of freedom from suffering, he offers us his own life, holding nothing back. I was told this story by a friend:
One evening Trungpa Rinpoche was sitting in his garden. The head of household approached and asked if he would like a consort’s company for the night.
“Yes,” Rinpoche replied.
“And who might that be, sir?” asked the servant.
“Someone who truly loves me.”
“And who might that be, sir?”
And Rinpoche began to cry. He cried for half an hour.
There is a myth that since Buddhist teachers aren’t sissies, they don’t cry—that they have transcended their humanity, the joys and sorrows, all of that bothersome trash, in order to inhabit a bulletproof terrain. But Chögyam Trungpa fell in love, fell out of love, engaged our myths completely, and was completely available to everyone.
Chögyam means “ocean of dharma.” Here, in this world-realm, it also means ocean of tears. And always, it is the ocean of true love, of true freedom. Those tender tears are still contagious, as is the presence of Trungpa Rinpoche’s enlightened mind. The Myth of Freedom provides ceaseless access to it, but it is we who must realize it fully.