As a reflection of our inner radiance, the energy of the Great Eastern Sun, if we allow it, will melt away the solidity of our cocoon like fire melts wax.
Chogyam Trungpa was the 11th descendent in the line of Trungpa tülkus, important teachers of the Kagyü lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. In his book, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, one chapter is entitled “The Cocoon.” He speaks of soothing ourselves through darkness, “…enclosing ourselves in a familiar world in which we can hide or go to sleep. It is as though we would like to re-enter our mother’s womb and hide there forever, so that we might avoid being born. When we are afraid of waking up, and afraid of experiencing our own fear, we create a cocoon to shield ourselves from the vision of the Great Eastern Sun.”
Trungpa’s Great Eastern Sun is a metaphor for the powerful energy of fully awakened mind reflecting itself in the phenomenal world. It points directly to reality. The sun is always here, its energy always giving life, shining equally and unconditionally on all phenomena. The Great Eastern Sun shows us “…there is a natural source of radiance and brilliance…which is the innate wakefulness of human beings.”
We believe we abide only in the world, but when we connect to our innate wakefulness, we realize the sun and the world arise together as an expression of our true nature. If we disappear, so does the world and the sun. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book called The Sun My Heart. In it he sees the sun in us reflecting the shining qualities of the world. The deep inner currents of our being naturally want to flow from our source and dance in the radiance of the world of sentient beings. This is Trungpa’s Great Eastern Sun. The vision that reveals our oneness with the world.
The beauty we see in the world is an expression of what we actually are. But we cannot own beauty. What we think of as ‘me’ and ‘mine’ is not this beauty. In a documentary on his life, Leonard Cohen said he would often pray for a response to the beauty he saw in the world. His music is clearly divinely inspired. Through prayer, Cohen allowed his art to issue forth from him, to create itself. He did not take credit for it or try to own it.
We are dominated by desire. We feel the acute pressure of wanting to satisfy our desires and assuage our fears. Yet our efforts to do so, even if fleetingly successful, only reinforce and illustrate the power desires have over us. Take the serial dieter, for example, losing and re-gaining the fat and the weight, time after time. Fat is another kind of cocoon.
As experienced meditators, we begin to feel how our efforts to protect ourselves can create and perpetuate what Trungpa calls the cocoon. “It’s a perceived safe place where we can keep the difficulties of the world at bay, and rest in our habitual patterns of self protection.” The child’s pose in yoga is also a cocoon — dark, inward-looking, soothing. Yet if we attempted to stay there, our bodies would cramp. A natural habit of humans is to find a way to possess and indulge in the beauty we see around us. But if we have the courage that self inquiry takes, we will realize that we suffocate ourselves by such clinging.
However, let us look kindly on these feelings of suffocation, for they are our karma, rooted in our wounds. Of course we want relief from the suffering. But at the same time, our feelings of suffocation are our resistance to the energy of the Great Eastern Sun. We may fear its power could destroy our fragile cocoon. And for this we are not ready. We constantly re-spin the cocoon to avoid its penetration by imaginary outside forces.
As a reflection of our inner radiance, the energy of the Great Eastern Sun–if we allow it–will melt away the solidity of our cocoon like fire melts wax. We can sit smack in the middle of our fear. We can combine spiritual toughness with the tender spirit of inquiry into the real nature of self. It is then that we may feel the melting. The warm radiance from inside us is no threat at all. On the contrary, our fears and desires dissolve in the heat of willingness. Sometimes we perceive this heat as the fire that purifies.
The sun within us peacefully shines on our resistance, and we offer up our protective efforts to its radiance. Our resistance, too, arises out of our own radiance, transformed into energy we can use to reflect our love. Thus we allow the solid fortress of our cocoon to dissolve. The process may be painful and anxiety producing, but if we are willing to abide in the midst of our pain, our pain will metamorphose into the fullness of being.