Books: Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism”

If you are looking for a spiritual practice to take you higher and higher into bliss so that you can bypass things in your life or yourself that you do not like, be warned: this month’s featured book may pop the bliss bubble. It may challenge you to look at what you are hoping to gain from your meditation practice, and what you are willing to surrender in order to reach the attainment you aspire to. If you wish for your spiritual life to remain comfortable and unchallenged, you may not want to read this book. But if you feel a genuine thirst to go beyond the ego and become a boddhisattva, fully enlightened and fully surrendered to serving the world, this book could be a dear friend.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was an occasionally controversial teacher seen by many in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as embodying “crazy wisdom”. It’s said that only one enlightened person can recognize another enlightened person. Being far from enlightened, I am in no position to comment on Trungpa’s level of attainment or his actions. But what I find in the writing of those considered to be enlightened masters is a clarity that leaves nothing for the ego to hang on to. So it is with Trungpa Rinpoche’s “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism”. Reading such books is to engage with spaciousness, vibrant and alive yet at the same time devoid of solid form for the ego to grasp and name.

Spiritual materialism, as Trungpa explains, is a pitfall on the spiritual path in which one becomes attached to the form of their practice, and their identity as a practitioner, instead of being willing to completely surrender. It is a subtle way in which the ego can hide and grow instead of being eradicated. Trungpa reminds us of the importance of openness and dropping the mental structures of self-projection. He notes, “Eventually we must give up trying to be something special.” The boddhisattva way is made possible by compassion, generosity and openness, without trying to prove anything.

Trungpa also discusses the formation of the ego and the skandhas, the five aggregates of the sentient being, in a manner that is informative and understandable without feeding an acquisitive egoic search for more knowledge. He warns against accumulating too many teachings without deeply imbibing them.

The teachings shared in this book cut through the egoic projections of spiritual materialism, upsetting the apple carts of comfortable assumptions. It is not for nothing that the symbol on the cover of the book is the dorje (in Sanskrit, vajra, meaning thunderbolt or diamond). This book can be a thunderbolt to shake the reader loose from their attachments. Highly recommended.

pranadawithhostasmallerPranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects. Recently, she edited Parvati’s new book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie”, which has gone on to sell out its first two printing runs.