Lineage Invocation: The Journey Begins…

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Prayer of Lineage Blessing

From the dimension of the Supreme Ultimate your healing love and wisdom flows into our world in the form of the Realized Masters, their teachings and texts, oral and direct transmission.

Breathe into me the inspiration to follow the Path.

Bless me as I follow in your footsteps.

Bless me to overcome the obstacles of ignorance and limitation.

Bless me to attain realization, to see and experience reality as you do and recognize my own True Nature. 

I dedicate my life and all activities of body, speech and mind to the welfare of others.

From deep in my heart I offer all my gratitude and respect, and request of you – make your presence felt.

Guide and protect me.

-Adapted from Trika Foundation Practices

(written by Dharma Bodhi Saraswati)

I am a doctor of ancient Chinese medicine and an alchemist.

Now, hold on for a second…don’t give up on this blog just yet in favor of ridiculously cute Youtube cat videos (like this one) – I’m not obsessed with turning lead into gold. In fact, I’d bet true alchemists were most likely never really all that concerned with such outward forms of success. That was merely the historical cover story to hide what they were really up to: the great experiment of self-realization. But even that definition may hold the wrong connotations for many, as it implies some selfish undertaking that recluses one from active participation in the world. Again, nothing could be further from the truth – many of the greatest historical alchemists both East and West were also some of the most influential figures of their respective times. In fact, if we go far enough back to the great civilizations of old, we find that these two roles were fundamentally one and the same; inner cultivation was viewed as the essential path to achieving the fullest expression of success in one’s outer life. We might venture to call this now antiquated pursuit the development of integrity and character.

The great irony of the whole situation is that the end goal is not just the revelation of one’s individual True Nature, but the True Nature of all things that are, ever were, or will be. The journey is essentially a fool’s errand as the answer to the very question lie right there under one’s nose from the very beginning. Now if you have been exposed to New Age versions of spirituality you’re probably thinking, “Well duh, even I know that I am a micro-version of the Universe.” And you would be right. But knowing this as a mental construct with the mind alone never quite succeeds in delivering the unconditional satisfaction and radiant bliss promised at the end of the rainbow. Ancient cultivators sought to attain a state whereby they could marinade in the essential soup stock of all creation; to feel it ooze through their pores and flow through their veins in every awe-inspiring breath. For that, they required something greater than themselves. They needed a path, or a method that would lead them there; they needed someone to show them the way to walk that path – a teacher; and they needed the power of transmission that enlivens the path and drives one to overcome all obstacles, including themselves – a lineage.

The great surviving alchemical lineages of the world all seem to share one feature in common – a desire for direct dialogue with this universal substrate on ever increasingly intimate terms. It is described as both the source AND the manifestation of its power, for nothing could ever exist outside or independent of it. Over centuries of experimentation, fully realized adepts decided it was too difficult for one to directly and reliably bridge this division of the material and nonmaterial; it is akin to a wizened old street mutt trying to teach a spoiled house puppy the ways of the world – the wisdom of experience is not so easily imparted. Instead, the method became to focus on the dynamic energy that binds the physical and non-physical aspects of Reality in their interplay of emergence and return – the fabric of the finely woven net of Reality itself, so to speak. If one could harness oneself wholly to this subtle energy, he or she could simply surf the wave back to Source.

Now, you may be wondering what this all has to with medicine. This focus on the various dynamic patterns of energy and their resonance both externally in Nature and internally within the human body and psyche led to a new phase of nuance and complexity in the historical evolution of traditional medicine. Rooted firmly in the dream world of shamanic commune, medicine now began to flourish under the guiding insights of these naturalists. For whether you study ancient Chinese medicine, primal Ayurveda, their beautiful Vajrayana infused lovechild, Tibetan medicine, or some other extant system of native healing, they all represent the great science of life in a fundamentally different way than our so-called modern day life sciences. Whereas the modern sciences depend on the dissection and analysis of the isolated material functions of life on an ever-smaller scale (something akin to “The Movie of Life” paused on the television screen for you to zoom in on), ancient life science posits man, the microcosmic energetic field of possibility, firmly within its natural context of direct relationship-ing to the macroscopic cosmic forces of time, space and environment. It demands first-hand, subjective experience of these forces and their impact on the human system. As the Ratnasara Tantra so succinctly states, “Know the truth of the body, know the truth of the Universe.”

Though at the time I may not have been able to put it into so many words per se, it was with this feeling of wonder that I first set off for Asia in 1999. I studied everything Japanese; I took part in purification rites at ancient shrines; I practiced Aikido; I drank tea in ancient temple gardens – and that place in me I felt I was somehow trying to get back to said, “Hey, I think we might be on to something.” So I made arrangements to return to Kyoto in 2001, and from there on to the so on and so forth, the contents of which this blog will explore in greater depth. Until here I am, now back on native soil for six months letting those fifteen years spent de-contextualizing contextualize their way back into life here in Portland (which still counts as kind of the USA). Though not always the most comfortable ride in the amusement park, I can now clearly appreciate the single most invaluable yet completely intangible aspect of the whole adventure – putting myself out there opened me up to the unfathomable beauty of the many shared cultural and individual lineages of the Far Eastern and Himalayan worlds in ways that continually refined, challenged, and destroyed many of the preconceived and limiting notions I held about – well, just about everything.

Some say meeting a teacher who can take you beyond yourself is kind of like falling in love; it can be one of the most wildly enthralling and potentially nerve-racking experiences you can ever hope the Universe to drop into your lap. To really take in what they have to give, you have to let go of a lot of your private little games of give and take. You can’t expect to pay your tuition, show up to class and receive your well-planned syllabus on day one that ensures a timely graduation with honors if followed to the tee. It is a brush with the accumulated power of generations of a direct call to action made by one human being and heeded by another. The teacher presents you with both the shortcut to progress and the excruciatingly difficult hard work it is going to take to make it; one without the other just ain’t the real deal. And so it is with deepest gratitude and respect that I begin this small, but hopefully beneficial piece of my outer work as a practitioner of these traditions, with a humble bow to all those who have directly and indirectly contributed to making it all possible. All that I am or will become, I owe to you.

Beginning with my very earliest teachers, my parents and grandparents and all the other lovable and crazy members of my extended clan – the curiosity and strength to travel so far from home could have only thrived in the context of such a supportive environment. To Muranaka Kiho Sensei, who introduced me not only to the art of Taiji, but also to the shared message of Laozi and The New Testament and who showed me another side of the power of qi developed through martial arts practice; I still remember those other worldly dream filled naps during the subway rides home from our practice sessions. And to my Shifu, Master Chen Yu – from our first meeting, you redefined my image of a true warrior. The late evening practices in the Temple of Heaven and the many local South Beijing meals where few tall-noses dare to roam are some of my fondest memories of that city.

To James Heinritz, who knowingly changed the course of my life with a quick glance over my shoulder and an amused observation (“Hey, I noticed you’re studying anatomy – in Chinese?!“). You opened me up to many new possibilities when life was starting to put the clamps on. To the late Jacques Pialoux – what can I say about the pure joy and inspiration I feel in my heart even now when I think of you? The word acupuncture is not anywhere near adequate to describe the work you did and the way you touched so many lives. And to the inheritor of his incredible body of work, Sylvie Martin, thank you for your unending patience as a teacher, confidence as a colleague, and good humor as a friend. Family is the best word that comes to mind to capture all that our talented group from around the globe has done together.

This brings me to a special acknowledgement of gratitude to a healer of truly rare and exceptional talent, whose work and influence will be featured prominently in these postings, Dr. Li Xin. At a time when I had almost given up on finding someone truly grounded in the ancient roots of Chinese culture that I knew in my heart to be essential to the study of this medicine, you took me for a walk in the park to converse with the bushes and the trees. Eight years later and that dialogue still ongoing, I continue to see the seeds of those early lessons unfolding in my life with ever-increasing depth and clarity. Thank you for being a true mentor in every sense of the word.

Finally, to Dharma Bodhi, tantrik acharya and Dharma hero – you were the influx of energy at a time of need, that snapped me out of the fog of complacency. As human beings, we are blessed with the freedom to choose the organizing principles around which our identity will take shape – and not choosing is in and of itself a choice. I know now without any doubt what those core principles are for me, and that is in large part due to your example of unwavering authenticity and dedication to living life nothing short of fully engaged. You have my unending gratitude.

Now without further ado (no doubt there will be many other key figures whose stories will emerge over the course of future postings), I would like to welcome you, the reader, to this forum – founded for the sole purpose of giving voice to a small piece of the timeless wisdom of these human traditions. Let me also state for the record that essentially none of what is to follow is my original creation; please don’t mistakenly bestow upon the messenger any credit for the poetic beauty of the letter he delivers. I am just a  go-betweeen in a centuries old game of telephone, and an overly verbose one at that. So on that note, please forgive me any places where the details of that message may have been slightly misinterpreted. Like this blog, I too am still a work in progress.

May all True Wisdom Teachers, Healers and Great Siddhas of the Light-Body Traditions smile upon this undertaking; may the content we generate here within be of service to all those in need; may it bring us fuller expression of our Essential Nature of love and compassion!

Lead me from the unreal to the real,

Lead me from darkness to light,

Lead me from death to immortality,

May all beings reside in good circumstance, 

May all beings know peace.

Om – shanti, shanti, shanti!

-Excerpts from the Shantipata Mantras

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