I used to spend quite a bit of time perusing the stacks of the New York City Public Library and each year I would look forward to a give-away the Library conducted to get rid of old and used up books and manuscripts that they had collected over the many years. These give-aways were attended by thousands of people like myself, hoping against hope to find something amazing and even valuable among the heaps of old, deteriorating papers.
Just several weeks ago I was going through some of this “junk” when I came upon something really quite amazing. I love maps and when I fought my way to the heaps of ancient manuscripts, I would grab as many items that either looked like maps or were actually old maps. Well, I stumbled upon what appeared to be a short hand written manuscript, which I found, sandwiched between several dirty and grimy maps of what appeared to be somewhere in Central Asia, These notes dated 1913. Although the writing was not easy to decipher,
I deduced that what I was looking at was a translation of a text, originally in French describing a long conversation between a French wanderer or vagabond and a Tibetan Lama with the remarkable date of 1791. The Frenchman, who went by the name of just Collard, was, it seems, exploring trails high in the mountains of western Tibet when he encountered a “great master” living in a cave by a narrow brook. Although most of the writing is too smudged to read, it seems that this “great master Lama” lived with several women, rather advanced in age, who were his companions.
What follows is my transcription taken directly from these notes. I think that you will find them fascinating, if not, truly enlightening. I certainly did. Also, please remember that these are just fragments. Most of the text was undecipherable. The style is very terse, but it is my surmise that whoever translated these conversations was only providing us with a summary. This is just my guess.
C: Can you tell me about the self?
L: May I ask you several questions? Who are you before small tasks?
C: I am capable. I can do them.
L: Then such is the self before a small task. Who are you before vast and difficult tasks?
C: I am he who is not capable before the vast and difficult.
L: Then such is the self before the vast and difficult. It is he who cannot perform such difficult tasks.
C: So then the self is real?
L: To whom or what does the self appear?
C: To me.
L: So then the self and you are different entities?
C: Are they?
L: Tell me what you think?
C: They would appear to be separate.
L: Are they separate?
C: Please master I am lost in this conversation.
L: To whom or what does that narrow brook appear?
C: To me.
L: Then tell me is this me who perceives the brook the same or different from the self that is capable before the small task and incapable before the vast task?
C: They would appear to be different.
L: Are they?
C: One possesses the identity of the seer, while the other assumes the identity of the doer.
L: Is the one who sees the stream with his eyes and performs the task with his body, and he who is here with my family speaking with me, are they they the same or are they different?
C: Yes – quite definitely – they are the same.
L: Does not the seer perceive them all – each one of them?
L: Is the Seer your companion in every circumstance?
C: Yes – but when I am the Seer, then I am no longer the person who speaks and performs work.
L: When, as you say, you are the Seer, is this fleeting identity the exact same as that which sees, but cannot be grasped?
C: No. It seems not. This underlying Seer is elusive, like an entity that side-steps the mind itself.
L: Please describe to me this seer?
C: It is without form or substance.
L: Ahhhhhh. Then is he who speaks with my family and I, is this one the Seer?
C: Clearly not. It is Collard with his past, with his language, and with his body. Tell me how can I touch this Seer that lives in my core?
L: No one ever has touched the Seer. How can you touch that which has no material, no substance. The Buddha Body is the formless through which all form forms and devolves.
C: Please tell me how I can know this?
L: See what cannot be seen, hear what cannot be heard. See with that which cannot see. Listen with that which has no ears. Move with he who has no legs or body. You say that this Seer is in your “core”. Are you very certain of this? Even to call it a Seer would seem to confuse more than it clarifies. Could we say that it is the suchness that is ever-present in all places at once? This presence we seem to touch and, at the same moment, are touched by it. Such is the formless that forms all objects.
Unfortunately the text is too badly smudged and dilapidated for me to read at this point, but there is another brief interchange I was able to make out toward the end of the notes.
C: Do you live knowing the meaning of this simple life?
L: Yes, my friend. How could I not?
C: Could you say more? My confusion returns.
L: I live just as you live, but perhaps I have fallen out of the trance with the thought form that sees, hears, and toils. I am blind to his vision and deaf to his noise. I allow the breath to go in and out, how could I not? This moment is as it is, how could it ever be different from what it is? Can you change this moment? If your wishing seeks it to be different than what it is – will that wish change what has been? If you can see, fully and completely, the world of this wish, then you are free of its trance. This wish creates a universe that is alternative and unreal to the Dao. This one who wishes, is the only fallacy. See that, then have something to drink with us, then hold all the mountains and great waters within yourself. Maybe, my friend, it might be best to just laugh and fill the belly.
This is as much as I have been able to transcribe. There are several more pages with which I am currently struggling to make sense of. If I am able to put together any more of this fascinating interchange, I will post it to the Liberation Blog.