The Teacup and the Skullcup

I had a new book arrive today, The Teacup and the Skullcup: Chogyam Trungpa on Zen and Tantra. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while. This book is a drawn from two seminars that Trungpa did on Zen and Tantra in 1974, early in his teaching career.

Much of his later work with the Shambhala Tradition drew on his love of aspects of Japanese culture. I’ve known quite a few people that did not appreciate this but I’ve always found it to be interesting and, in a way, perhaps echoes the situation that we find ourselves in today where people often have a background in multiple Buddhist traditions or have teachers from different schools. The 21st century has the potential to be a renaissance in Buddhism through the diversity of the various traditions coming together in our more global age. I felt that Trungpa was ahead of the curve in many ways here.

Just randomly opening a page, I found an emblematic quote:

"The practitioner's work is communication, relating with energy and so forth; and that brings the notion of visualizations and mantra practices. Visualizations are not regarded as developing magical powers, nor is visualizing regarded as imagining. But you begin to associate with such basic truth that you automatically have a sense of the visualization you are practicing. The visualization becomes a natural situation rather than something specially imposed on you, as if you were trying to imagine another culture's view og God. Everything has to do with seeing the nature of reality as it is. Mantra, for example, is just the sound or utterance of the universe, which has been developed in a certain formula. But that formula has nothing to do with repeating the divine and sacred names of God, particularly. The sacredness of the vajrayana tradition is being there, being true, rather than something other than what you have and what you are." (24-25)

I’m a large fan of Trungpa’s work as a teacher, partially because of and partially in spite of the manner of his life and death. For those that don’t know, Trungpa died of alcohol related issues and was known for some rather extreme behavior at times. I’ve always found a lot of value in his teachings concerning Buddhism and I’ve been able to relate to him, at least when I read his work, as a human being, flawed as all of us are, because of the issues concerning his life and death. Given my current connection with Japanese traditions and my background in Tibetan ones, I expect that this will be an interesting work.