by Ngakpa Rig'dzin Dorje

Originally written for the 'Buddhism in Life-crisis' issue of Ursache und Wirkung (Cause and Effect), the magazine of the Austrian Buddhist Society.
"Confusion in dealing with the situation of life as a fixed thing seems to be a sane approach. So what seems to be insane is enlightenment". - Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
When some monstrous towering tidal-wave of Form erupts out of Emptiness, and hurtles towards one up the narrow gulf of karmic vision; or implodes thunderously down into its own empty nature, sucking like a maelstrom at the quaking core of one's being; there is a choice. It is always the choiceless choice, between compassion and compulsion. One could simply remain in the clear open dimension in which one is not separate from the ocean, the wave and the maelstrom; because they are the self-luminous nature of Mind, which joyously communicates itself. Or one could follow the wavey grain of ingrained coping-strategy, up its ever-dry river-bed into the arid back-country of the Six Realms, where the ripples of one's wake coalesce, rebuild and relaunch the identical hungry wave of one's nightmares.
A Sanskrit scholar recently brought to my attention the word pritagjana, which he had found in the commentaries to the Prajnaparamita Sutras. It is a reference to unenlightened people, and it literally means 'separate people' or 'separation people'. In the words of the Heart Sutra, the heart of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen: "Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form. Form is not other than Emptiness; Emptiness not other than Form." If one tends to lack confidence in the open dimension, the reflex is to look away from the vastness of one's inherent enlightenment, in the hope that one might be able to locate some more concrete form of security elsewhere. To possess that would mean separating Form from Emptiness, which is impossible; but the effort in itself is what curdles the ever-youthful freshness of ecstatic atheism into a search for happiness 'somewhere else'. This is taking refuge in activity which ironically divides one against oneself. Such is the characteristic nature of what is called samsara, 'circling'; because, as the English playwright Tom Stoppard put it, "A circle is the longest way back to the same place." There is no life-crisis which is not fundamentally this.
Whether Buddhism can offer any kind of resource in the circumstances has to depend, first of all, on whether one is a Buddhist. This is not an idle point: it depends on whether Buddhism is one's Refuge. "The Refuge that one may recite is not the Refuge itself". The ultimate Refuge would be never to lose confidence in self-knowing inseparable Mind-and-Space. Then, attraction, aversion or indifference could only arise as non-dual experience within the nature of mind, one's essential condition, beyond the tension of trying to keep subject and object divided. Only the liberated karmas of the Buddhas would then apply: increasing, pacifying, controlling and destroying, directed spontaneously towards whatever situation arose, whatever beings were in need. That option would be actual compassion, appropriate activity, the spontaneous, choiceless reflex of Wisdom-Mind.