Bohemian Buddhist Review

No Self, No Problem by Anam Thupten

"Enlightenment ... in an instant."
I first met Anam Thubten many years ago at Lama Tharchin Rinpoche's retreat center in Santa Cruz.  At the time, Tulku Thubten (as he was called then) only barely spoke English but was instantly, warmly engaging as a person, presence, and practitioner.  A bardo retreat I took with him was truly transformative, his English having improved by leaps and bounds in a few short years.  Anam Thubten's command of his second language is now complete, and completely amazing. 

So it is no real surprise that his first dharma book, "No Self, No Problem," is a winsome winner.  Each short chapter shows us the instant accessibility of our true nature.  I was still recovering from major surgery when I read it and found it of invaluable help with my practice, even with post-op pain and mind-dulling meds. 

Anam Thubten's main teaching is that "enlightenment can happen right now in a single instant."  His book is exemplary in pointing out how to accomplish this (a personal caveat:  the word accomplish may imply too much mental effort). 

It's a tricky business, even referring to awakening.  Obviously, one's merit must be vast for instantaneous realization.  Yet Anam Thubten, like many other meditation masters, encourages us to see how small moments, repeated many times a day (he suggests trying for 108, but isn't doctrinaire about it), can help break the karmic ties that bind us to samsara -- and our own mind-made suffering.  The boon of this book is that his words are so vivid, clear, and comprehensible, they pierce through our doubt and resistance like a laser.

"Our mind can be our greatest adversary, especially when [it] chooses to live in unenlightened perceptions of reality."  This after a discussion of perceptions of failure, in which "No Self, No Problem" points out that all "failures" are concepts and as such empty of true content.  "The true failure is that we have lost our unity with our true nature.  Beyond that there is no failure." 


Of course the difficulty is, for those of us on the path, that "ego jeopardizes our entry into the great liberation because ego doesn't want to give up control."  So -- how do we free ourselves?  "The method of transcending is maintaining what meditators call 'awareness' . . . the miracle, the function of awareness, is that it actually burns down all of our silly concepts, each and every moment." 

The above (much-abbreviated) paragraph, and particularly the next, kicked my practice back into gear even when I was at my lowest ebb, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I received an almost visceral jolt with his quoting of the pithiest of pith instructions, i.e., "Don't wobble." 

Thubten elaborates:  "It means don't lose awareness.  I love that expression . . .  be still and sturdy and strong and disciplined in terms of maintaining that fire-like awareness in each and every moment.  Once awareness is achieved then [it] is self-sustained . . . [awareness] becomes effortless." 

While it rarely happens without dedicated practice, awareness is the tool that will enable us to transcend and eradicate "all of our concepts and limiting ideas."  We first must realize that "whenever we believe that we have a problem, whenever we believe that we are real, the mind is actually lying to us . . . ego is tricking us into believing" in an illusion. 

Anam Thubten talks about "having affairs" with our concepts - which is probably why they're so hard to give up.  Quite frankly, a lot of them are pretty sexy.  They seduce us and we keep falling for them.  But even this isn't cause for despair because we can tame them - with our own intrinsic awareness (or dare I say enlightenment?)  Emaho! 

Anam Thubten now heads the Dharmata Foundation and teaches at the Dakini Temple - a Julia Morgan-designed former church in Point Richmond, California.


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