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Sunny Side Up

SAKYONG MIPHAM explains how cultivating bravery gives us the confidence to live in the brilliance of the Great Eastern Sun.

Bravery is a highlight of the Shambhala teachings that were introduced to the West by my father, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. My last two columns dealt with the first two forms of bravery—freedom from deception, and the willingness to leap beyond our habitual patterns. Now I am focusing on the third form of bravery—vision. To live life with bravery, we need a game plan that’s not based in shallow inspiration or lukewarm conviction. It must have genuineness that stems from deep internal wisdom that is constantly radiating forth.

The Shambhala teachings call such vision the Great Eastern Sun. It is the mental conviction and prowess to engage in life with precision and purpose. When we remove deception and cultivate the willingness to leap into our own inherent brilliance, the forthright, clear intention of the Great Eastern Sun shines through. This form of bravery keeps us always moving forward.

The word “forward” is conventionally understood to mean “onward, so as to make progress toward a successful conclusion.” In Shambhala, our conclusion is to practice living life with enlightened attitude and conduct in every activity. Forward can also mean “toward the future.” Thus it is linked with the word “continuous,” meaning that when we have this kind of vision, the continuity of our intention is not severed.

Forward can also mean, “at or to a different time, earlier or later.” An interesting twist in Shambhala logic is that in order to have the Great Eastern Sun shining in our life—and thus to be always journeying forward—we must first turn back to our origin: the primeval ground of basic goodness, the unconditional purity and confidence of all. That reverse journey happens through the relaxation we cultivate in meditation. As we continue to practice, awareness of our nature arises. Intellectually and intuitively, we know we are not wrong or bad; rather, we are good. Such awareness gives rise to doubtless precision about our basic goodness, which simultaneously illuminates the basic goodness of the world, allowing us to perceive the multitude of individual experiences within our sense fields, bringing incredible precision to our warrior’s mind.

“Great” is the discovery of our basic goodness. “Eastern” is realizing that our goodness was always there. “Sun” is the illumination that occurs once that discovery has been made.

The illumination of the Great Eastern Sun inherently shows us what is directly in front, and thus forward. It might feel threatening because it does not allow the wiggle room to put on the brakes. On any journey there is the assumption that we should be allowed to avoid danger along the way—at the minimum, to be a little careful. But if we think there is a reverse gear in Shambhala vision, we are misunderstanding a basic reality: life is perpetual motion. We cannot suddenly apply the slow-motion feature, or push the “save” button and deal with it later.

Life is always coming at us, or more accurately, we are always heading into life. Being hesitant—standing still or looking backward instead of forward—creates an immediate ripple effect. Life buckles behind us and builds up pressure, blasting us forward. We are then coerced into dealing with issues at an accelerated rate, beyond what is comfortable or convenient. Such hesitancy, which is a form of cowardice, stems from doubt in relation to our basic goodness.

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