Our life story as our path to Awakening: How does our story go from life to life?

A student writes:

In your talk on Saturday, you talked about the relationship of one’s life story to the Personal Mandala, and suggested that it is that story that passes from life to life.  I am interested as to what this story actually is?

I can tell multiple versions of my life:  there are large stretches of it that I don’t remember, and those I do remember are clouded by projections, biases and omissions. And yet, on a good day, I believe my life has value. And I do believe that, in some sense, this story exists as part of my ‘namtar’ (Skt: vimoksha, life story of liberation.)

What then is my “story” in the sense you mean? Is it something which exists in the connections made, which exist outside time, rather than in some narrative? 

Lama Shenpen responds:

The story passes from life to life in the sense that it is still your story however you tell it.  You are the person and the story is basically your path to Awakening be it fast or slow. The stories we tell ourselves all fit into the whole in some way or another – the whole thing is not in time or space – time and space and the story emanate on the surface of the sphere – the intermediary sphere – as what manifests between the inner and outer sphere*.

As you say it is all the story of your liberation – your path to Awakening. Your story tells how you did it or are in the process of doing it. Choose the narrative that is conducive to Awakening. For example – ‘I was cruelly treated and now I hate people’ – is not a very helpful story, whereas: ‘I suffered so much that it taught me how to rise above difficulties and turn them into stepping stones on the path’ – that is a great story! So the story could be told as ‘I used to hate people but now I love them because I see things differently’. 

It is all ‘my story’ – without any story there is no movement and no person. I love the person with their story – the story and the person are not separate but also the person is not stuck in any particular aspect of their story. It’s the movement of their person through time or just the essence of their person – inseparable from my essence – and I am enjoying the connection and the unfolding of their story.

I am still thinking about all this – it seems very significant somehow.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

*Lama Shenpen’s teaching touched on the ‘the three spheres‘ – a teaching and article by Rigdzin Shikpo that relate to what a person is.

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