LWD= Lone Wolf Dharma
1. not geolocalized/migratory, no home
LWD does not emerge solely from a particular geographical or cultural locale. It is translocal. This is particularly relevant because of the rapidity in which information is shared across cultures in this particular era. Instantaneously we can be connected with someone from across the world and see their face on a computer. Additionally, with this sped up rate of interfacing, what I might refer to as “culture,” and thus identity is becoming increasingly hybrid. The ideal of Purity is seen as impossible to achieve, and ultimately fallacious. Example: one may be a diligent practitioner of Buddhism, yet have practiced for decades intermittently (interchangeably) with specific Zen, Tibetan, and non-denominational Buddhist communities and teachers. In this case, does one identify as a Zen Buddhist? Tibetan Buddhist? Just a Buddhist? Unknown. LWD validates this practice, and does not see that one needs to practice “solely in one lineage forever,” in order to experience authentic transformation. LWD recognizes the argument set forth by orthodox traditions for doing so, however seeks to validate individuals who have had a variety of Dharma experiences. Validation happens self-evidently, which will be discussed in the next point.
2. realization is authenticated pragmatically, not solely on lineage
For LWD the question isn’t necessarily who gave you lineage transmission, and when you received it that is most important. Nor is it necessarily how many retreats you have been on. Rather, the belief that realization self-evidently manifests in one’s life through one’s own actions; in this way we might say that realization is empirical. In other words, true realization is pragmatic because one demonstrates it through their compassionate and wise action in the world- this is the ‘best’ validating criterion. Now I know you are thinking, “well then what defines wise and compassionate action?” For the purposes of this distinction it is not so important to define those actions, rather I want to highlight what I mean by ‘self-evidence.’ For example, when Shakyamuni was asked by Mara “what right do you have to attain supreme enlightenment?” What did Shakyamuni do? Instead of responding vocally, he simply touched the earth. What was symbolized in that moment was the self-evidence of Buddha’s right to attain enlightenment. This does not mean if we go around touching the earth that we will miraculously attain the realization of Shakyamuni. Rather, it is to say that when we are embodying wisdom and compassion truly, there needs to be no explanation, no proclamation. Realization thus is not about some lofty attainment, rather it is about simply acting through our heart of self-evident compassion and wisdom in relationship to “the world,” and others. Here there is nothing to prove, because everything that needs to be proved, proves itself.
3. realization as the simultaneous co-emergence of self, other, and no-self
I don’t really want to introduce the concept of enlightenment. I don’t know what enlightenment is, nor if it actually exists in any ‘objective’ sense. As I said in the previous point, for me realization is pragmatic, it is related to our action and the residue our action leaves in the world. At the same time, from what we might call an “ontological” perspective, it is possible to recognize that what we call our “self” both exists relatively as the amalgamation of our experiences, memories, thoughts, feelings, actions, relationships, beliefs, and has no actual definition. What we consider our self to be is significant in relationship to others because it is through self and other that we share all of the experiences of life. So when I say simultaneous co-emergence I am pointing to how we can be totally aware of the relative existence of self and other and at the same time be totally aware of the ultimate inability to define self, and thus other. Existence and non-existence of self are not mutually exclusive. Which brings me to the next point.
4. being a Lone Wolf does not necessitate hyper-individualism, and at the same time does not eschew the individuality of one’s Dharma path. Individualistic expression is not antagonistic to realization so long as one does not mistake self for non-self and individualistic achievement for realization. No matter what degree of isolation we practice in, we still depend on society in some form – rapprochement with the pack.
For those who believe that the great yogis in caves manifested enlightenment totally alone (self-sufficiently), if that is true how did you hear about their awakening? I am willing to bet some yogis gained realization in total aloneness and were never heard about or known. Yet, while aloneness, solitude, yogic practice, are all contextually significant, it seems particularly important for most of us to recognize our relative dependence on the cultural/societal systems from which we arise symbolically. There is no need to idealize isolation. Yogis and sadhus in ancient and present India were and are culturally normative. Even outside of society, they have a place within the collective. LWD embraces the unique gifts we all have to offer through our embodiment, and at the same time recognizes that we can never do ANYTHING truly alone in the relative world. This is symbolized as rapprochement with the pack- where we move from isolation into connection with others, dharma communities, the outside world, etc. In this way we can value creating connection through whatever realization we have to others. We give ourselves an opportunity to be supported by others, in our sanghas, in our families, without compromising our Dharma values. LWD also recognizes that we are totally responsible for our lives and realization- no one else can live it for us, no one else can practice for us, and yet at the same time we can be totally dependent on each other. We depend on others to reflect to us our true nature, and they depend on us for the same. The symbol of the mirror is relevant here. Alternatively, we may otherwise name that there simply is no other- but we urge caution with this. It is easy for this to become some abstract cognitive sense such as “we are all one.” Living with this recognition is different than pontificating about it, which creates further imagined separateness. Oneness implies separateness insofar as in order to be “one” there must have been two in the first place, revealing the inherent dualism within the “oneness” concept. If neither of us ultimately exist we aren’t one, we are none. At the same time, we can totally exist relatively, where we also are not one but unique and separate.
5. respects beauty and wisdom of lineage traditions and unbound by orthodoxy sees through authoritarian dynamics/dogmatism to the “great equalizer” of emptiness.
Lineage is an important concept in Buddhism, and for good reason. Traditionally, lineage ensures the authenticity of realization, as well as the proper interpretation of text and practice. That being said, we have also noticed that often times authoritarian dynamics have been acted out to the detriment of practitioners under the guise of lineage. While to some extent this may have been culturally normative in ancient times, currently we understand from relational psychology the potential relative ramifications of such dynamics for all involved. There is a laundry list of examples in Sanghas of unhealthy/abusive relational dynamics, which we don’t feel the need to cite specifically here. With adherence to a pragmatist and empirical understanding of realization, we need not solely rely on “because master said,” which is not to say that we can’t have serious disciple based relationships built on foundations of healthy trust- but that trust need be distinguished from “idealizing transference.” Furthermore, we view the utilization of most types of shame as a way to condition ourselves into enlightenment as spiritual negligence. We consider this a manifestation of ego clinging- or fear- and we challenge any teachers and teachings who utilize shaming as a tactic to demonstrate to us how we are incorrect in this interpretation. At the same time, we recognize our own shame-based tendencies/conditioning and consciously work on moving beyond them, and beyond “power-over” relational dynamics. Authority and hierarchy are not inherently bad, we are served by “looking up” to people who we see genuinely embodying the principles of wisdom and compassion. There is relative directionality/growth- and there is emptiness “the great equalizer.”
6. transforms fear through awareness and compassion
The Lone Wolf consistently dances on the edge of life and death. Thus, we have taken it to be our responsibility to do our best to respond to fear with spaciousness and self-love. Behind this is the recognition of fear as a survival mechanism, and the intention to slowly release ourselves from allowing fear to dictate our action. Be gentle and kind, as this survival conditioning goes deep. Try not be victimized by death, rather prepare for it by living each moment you can with the recognition that you don’t know how long you will be present in this body. We try our best to live as if we were totally fulfilled and complete in the sense that if we were to die in 20 minutes, we could say “I did the best I could with what I had.” The goal here is to be able to let go radically into our dying, whenever that time may come. This is the attainment of peace, and the ultimate test for us all. We do our best because nothing else is possible.
7. socially engaged and fierce in stewardship for cyclical life - recognizes ‘self’ as part of whole
LWD acknowledges the cyclical nature of sentience (samsara) and cultivates responding to cyclical life with inexhaustible compassion (bodhisattva principle). It would be naïve and dualistic, to think we could relieve the suffering of the world in any objective sense. Life is defined by such dissatisfaction and discomfort- it is our ‘job’ to discover and share unconditional joy in the midst of this. Our intention is to learn to respond to all experience with complete, and radical openness. We recognize this is an ideal, something that we are working towards, without putting some unrealistic expectation on ourselves. Furthermore, LWD recognizes that there are situational and systemic challenges that are unique to our period of time. We want to use whatever sphere of influence we have to stand up for wisdom and compassion, which means advocating to use our collective resources to minimize the suffering of others, so that they may have the opportunity to manifest their potentiality of unconditioned joy.
8. recognizes the importance of both spiritualizing life (the generation of meaning/ the heroes journey), and leaving behind spiritual concepts (deconstruction)
Living a meaningful life is significant to us. We have found that being of service to others, and authentically being with others offers us the greatest joy and meaning in our relative lives. Furthermore, being able to make meaning out of the challenges in our lives helps us to cope with the pain of them, and helps us to feel connected to something that is far larger than who we think we are- this is a processual orientation to our growth. At the same time, we recognize that spiritual concepts can also be utilized in a way to numb our dissatisfaction, and dissociate from our challenge. We have found that this unconscious romanticization, while normal, does not help us to further ourselves on the path to embodied compassion and wisdom. We do our best to name when we are utilizing such concepts to reify our sense of identity so that we may avoid some pain. However, at the same time we recognize that sometimes we do this without knowing. We have faith that our intention to become aware will help us know what is necessary for us to know on our path of continued growth and development.
9. recognizes timelessness which has no beginning or end (no finality)
Cyclical existence is ultimately timeless. When we get myopic in our view of who we are and the problems in our world, we have found it helpful to remember the vastness of time, and its beginninglessness and endlessness. Again this is not a dissociative process, but meant to expand our sense of the importance of our relative conditions.
10. willing to courageously and vulnerably expose ones heart in situations that call for this- howl at the moon
We have never found that our spiritual practice has made us less sensitive individuals. Sure, perhaps we don’t get as attached to experiences or thoughts, but in our experience we are becoming more sensitive through our practice. It is not always necessary that we reveal our hearts to everyone all around, but allowing ourselves to feel and express our fears, and hurts can help to not have them “stick.” Furthermore, when we express ourselves we often find that what is highlighted is our common humanity with others. This helps us find our compassionate hearts together. We can share our feelings, and at the same time be ardent practitioners who can also see through self and into emptiness. We are utterly human, and do not need to try and make ourselves into Gods who rest in bliss. Even if we don’t know who we are or what we are, this is who we are.