Blog 4: Self-Liberate Even the Antidote

A Year of Atisha Slogans

4. Self-liberate even the antidote.
The problem this slogan addresses is the tendency to cling to the insight uncovered by the previous two slogans. That is, you may have recognized the dreamlike nature of the world and the ungraspable nature of awareness, but you still cling to that recognition itself, and the sense of having figured all this out.

The need to find solid ground is so strong that you can even make the groundless nature of inner and outer experience into some kind of ground. You can make emptiness into a catch-all explanation for everything. It is almost instantaneous—as soon as one thing slips away, you have already grasped onto something else. You may have all sorts of realizations, but as soon as you make a realization yours, it is no longer a realization, but another obstacle to overcome.

A rather shallow hanging on to the notion of emptiness is quite common. It can be an excuse for a kind of nihilistic laziness, since if everything is empty, why bother? It can be used to deny painful emotions by imagining that the realization of emptiness can take away their sting. It can serve as a source of pride based on the feeling that you are tuned into something profound that other people are missing.

The point of self-liberating the antidote is that you don’t need to do anything to liberate it. You just need to realize that there are no antidotes. When you do so, the antidote liberates itself. It is because we keep trying to latch on to each and every meditative experience, realization, or insight that arises that this slogan is so important. It is a reminder not to do that.

Today’s Practice

Pay attention to what antidotes you cling to, to take the bite out of experience. When you have a spiritual or meditative experience, how do you relate with it, and what is the result?