Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Awakening Part 6

“It is the Unformed, the Unconditioned, the End, the Truth, the Other Shore, the Subtle, the Everlasting, the Invisible, the Undiversified, Peace, the Deathless, the Blest, Safety, the Wonderful, the Marvelous, Nirvana, Purity, Freedom, the Island, the Refuge, the Beyond.” (Samyutta Nikaya 43: 1-44)
We continue our reflections on the Buddha’s above description of awakening, or enlightenment, by examining Purity and Freedom. The heart of these reflections are not the words themselves, nor the exercises imbedded in the text, but the experience to which they point. That the Buddha used so many different and differing words to describe awakening – he used many more than in the above paragraph – reveals the diverse expressions of it, and the many Dharma Gates to ‘enter’ it. Hopefully, we may stroll through such a Gate together and bask on the other Shore, in the Everlasting contentment of enlightenment.
·        Purity (Suddhi) Buddhism has been defined as ‘the Path to Purification’ (Visuddhimagga in Pali) by such luminaries as Buddhaghosa, the fifth century monk-scholar. Now, we can define purity in a moral sense, or an aesthetic sense. Different societies and cultures have varied ideas on the exact forms that moral purity should take, but some basics are not to kill, steal, commit sexual misconduct, and lie. These four moral concepts form all but one of the Five Precepts of Buddhism, which are the foundation of living a virtuous life, according to the Buddha. (The fifth precept is to refrain from intoxicants, which also allows for a ‘pure’ mind.) If we define purity in terms of aesthetics, that is to say beauty, we may judge life on its appearance, and how it appeals to our notions of what is attractive or not. From this perspective, a rose may be deemed beautiful or ‘pure’ in an aesthetic sense, whereas a weed may be considered ugly and impure.
These kinds of purity are changeable however, not only dependent on the particular society or culture they come from, but also from one individual to another. Furthermore, even individuals can alter their moral or aesthetic standards depending on what stage in their lives they’re at, or even what mood they’re in at that moment. Are your morals exactly the same as when you were a child or a youth, and do you listen only to the same music you did when you were a teenager? For most of us, at least, our sense of purity alters through life, sometimes minute to minute. This is because we change as we age, year to year, second to second. Naturally, as we evolve through this life, so do our opinions of what constitutes purity, as this too is based on our personality and its likes and dislikes. But, what if purity is not defined in terms of ego or its preferences, but on that which precedes it? If this seems somewhat obscure, we can investigate it more clearly by actually discovering this selfless purity and then comparing with egotistically-developed notions of what is pure or not.
Listen to the sounds arising in this moment: do you consider them pleasant, unpleasant, or a mixture of the two. Perhaps they are neutral for you and inspire no particular response. So, would you consider them to be pure sounds, that is to say truly beautiful, or not? Take some time to really listen to the noises in the present, and also note your reactions to them. Now, shift attention away from these sounds to that which is listening. Is it a particular sound or set of sounds, or is it a pure silence in which they are heard? Does it have any qualities at all that can be responded to? Listening here, this spaciousness in which all sounds occur is without any audible qualities itself, but instead takes on the particularities of whatever noises are in it. There’s no gap between spacious Purity and sounds, just the fact of noise existing in this Silence. Is it the same for you upon reflection?
Well, now that Purity has been revealed, how does it compare with our previous ideas of what constitutes it? Looking at morality, it’s clear that living a morally good life – as represented by the Five Precepts listed above – is a positive and worthwhile way to conduct ourselves in society. But there’s a kind of forced aspect to this kind of purity, for it is ultimately a falsity in that it isn’t a naturally occurring pureness. In contrast, the compassion and wisdom that can arise out of recognizing the Purity at our heart is wholly natural and unforced. It is a pure virtue, born of recognizing and living form Purity. Similarly, ideas of an aesthetic purity that lifts us and inspires us with its beauty is all too often short-lived, whereas this inner Purity never fades like a rose; it never decays turning pulchritude putrid. Purity exists wherever we are, whatever our scenery, and whatever cacophony may be going on. We just need to listen.
·        Freedom (Mutti) Freedom is a widely desired state. Nations like America and Thailand consider themselves ‘Lands of Freedom’ (despite the experiences of so many to the contrary in both countries!). Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of eating spaghetti – there are so many kinds of freedom sought after and cherished. Political prisoners, convicted criminals, abused children, battered wives, battered fish, all seeking freedom. And, yet, when these freedoms are gained, within a generation or two, or even within the same generation, they become taken for granted, or even criticized as faulted or not that important. Why is this? What is it within us that can desire something so deeply and then dismiss it as almost irrelevant to our happiness? In a word, self. Or, in four words, the sense of self. The sense of being a self, in other words the ego, can never be satisfied by its very nature. This is why so many millionaires and billionaires cannot rest on their wealth and simply enjoy it (or enjoy sharing it for that matter). The illusory ego drives them on to gain more and more, pushing them ‘till the day they die; darn rich but darrn unsatisfied!
So, if neither freedom to express one’s political views nor the freedom to buy half of the Caribbean make one satisfied, what freedom does? The freedom from the delusion of self, that’s what! As long as we associate with these limited and limiting illusory personalities we will never be free from their propensity to suffer. True happiness is never experienced by an individual because a) the individual doesn’t really exist, and b) happiness is the absence of the delusion of there being a self. The question may arise, if there’s no self, who’s having this delusion? The answer is no one. There is the delusion of being a self which occurs in spacious awareness, contracting its otherwise free and endless expanse into either a tiny frame called the human body, or worse, the human mind. Atheists are in a prison that defines them as a series of psychophysical processes, whereas those that believe in eternal souls are trapped in the prison of believing that the self is just this. Either way, suffering arises out of the delusion of being a self, whether it’s a kind of automated bone bag, or a wispy ethereal ego.
Are you the body? Take a few precious moments to explore this question, answering it honestly based on the evidence. Look at ‘your’ body; see its various shapes and colours, feel its itches and aches, the textures of its skin and hairs (if you have any hair, that is!). Do they respond to your every command? Well, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. You can order your arm to rise up, and you can instruct your eyes to close. But, can you tell those aches to stop, or your nose to cease smelling? And what of the mind: surely that obeys your (its) commands when told to? Nah! Yes, you can conjure up specific images in your imagination, and you can repeat a word mentally for at least a short time, but when depressed, can you direct your mind to be happy, and if obsessive thoughts keep returning, can you dismiss them with just one wish? Not on your life! Both body and mind go their own ways more often than we like to admit because they are nor self. They are natural phenomena following their natural patterns and processes: we just imagine that we in charge! Furthermore, imagining thus, we create the illusion of being a self in charge of a body and a mind, and (for some of us) a soul. What dreams the mind can produce – as there was ever such a thing!
We can see beyond these imaginary selves if awareness is recognized as that which is the background upon which they are painted. Body and mind (and ‘soul,’ if taken to be a separate, distinct self) are data appearing on the monitor screen of awareness, the latter preceding and following on from the former. And yet, while there is both awareness and consciousness of phenomena, there is no gap between them; No-thing and everything are unified in this present moment. The fundamental difference then, is whether awareness and its contents are both recognized or not. If only awareness is experienced, we have a kind of awake void with nothing to focus on (but No-thing itself, of course), and experience of this is attested to in some Buddhist meditation traditions. Indeed, some of these traditions consider the experience of naked awareness in absorptive meditation a necessary prelude to full awakening. We cannot remain in these absorptions all the time, however, and what would be the point of living if we did? On the other hand, to only be aware of mental and physical happenings (the world) is to live in suffering ignorance of our deepest nature. (And, this is what most of humanity seem to do most of the time.) The simultaneous recognition of what’s ‘there’ with what’s ‘here’ results in simply what is in this moment, free of the bondage of taking these egos to be permanent entities. This is Freedom.
In truth, beyond the delusion of selfhood, we are both the Purity that lies at the heart of every apparent thing. This Purity is pure awareness itself, full of the world, but ultimately untainted by it. It is untainted because it is free of any egoistic surface upon which anything might alight, and has, therefore, justly been called Freedom by the Buddha. Isn’t it wonderful to realize that no matter what impurities we previously might have attached to our sense of self, we are in fact Purity itself, and this because there is no self in the first place! Furthermore, this lack of self means that we can never be imprisoned in the chains of suffering, because there is no one here to suffer. Sadhu, Lord Buddha! Sadhu!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Buddha & Eckhart: On Good Practices

"Any one devotional practice has things which others lack, but the effectiveness of good practices comes from God alone and is denied to none of them, for one form of goodness cannot conflict with another. Therefore people should remember that if they see or hear of a good person who is following a way which is different from theirs, then they are wrong to think that such a person's efforts are all in vain. If someone else's way of devotion does not please them, then they are ignoring the goodness in it as well as that person's good intention. This is wrong. We should see the true feeling in people's devotional practices and should not scorn the particular way that anyone follows. Not everyone can follow the same way, nor can we follow all the different ways or everyone else's way." (Davies p.29)

Eckhart's wisdom was not limited to theology, but included the practical side of the spiritual life. And, in the above quotation, he displays his wisdom with regard "devotional practice," advising people not to look down on others' practices, simply because they differ to one's own. Because Eckhart was a Christian, he advises on devotional practices rather than meditative ones, as the Buddha did, but this does not mean that this advice is useless for Buddhists, because what Eckhart has to teach is as equally applicable to the buddhist way of life as it is the Christian one. For example, when he says that "Anyone devotional practice has things that others lack," this is also true of Buddhist methods of meditation. There is anapanasati (mindfulness-of-breath-meditation), cankama (walking meditation), and metta-bhavana (cultivation of goodwill), all found in the earliest known Buddhist scriptures, the Pali Canon (or Tipitaka). Now, each meditation has different techniques and results associated with it, but they all result in goodness, promoting qualities like mindfulness and kindness. It is unhelpful and unwise for someone that practices anapanasati to criticize or belittle someone that practices metta-bhavana; there is no evidence that the Buddha did so, and surely Buddhists would be wise in following his example on this, for just as Eckhart speaks of various devotional practices coming from God, so these meditative practices came from the Buddha.

This principle can be extended, as Eckhart says, to those good people who are "following a way which is different" from our own. For, anapanasati, cankama, and metta-bhavana originate in the Pali Canon, and most Theravada Buddhists will recognize them as valid practices within their tradition. But, what of those that follow a different "way" to Theravada Buddhism? Zen buddhists practice zazen, which whilst a form of Buddhist meditation, it is not one found in the Pali Canon. Is it good for Theravada Buddhists to look down upon or criticize those that prefer zazen? On the other hand, a Zen Buddhist might frown upon Theravada Buddhists' practice as being out of date or superseded by Zen methods. Furthermore, in Shin Buddhism devotees recite the nembutsu (the mantra 'Namu Amida Butsu'), which is even further away from the Pali Canon teachings than Zen Buddhism. (Indeed, it might be argued that Shin Buddhism is more akin to the devotional practices referred to by Meister Eckhart, reflected in the rosary-based-prayers, for example.) Actually, even amongst some Theravada Buddhists the possibility of criticizing others' meditation practices might occur, as in Thailand, for instance, where there is the mantra meditation that uses the word 'Buddho" (a variation on 'Buddha'), which is not found in the Pali Canon nor its commentaries.

So, whether another Buddhist practices anapanasati, cankama, metta-bhavana, zazen, nembutsu, or any of the multitudes of esoteric practices found in Tibetan Buddhism, are we to see their disciplines as inefficacious, simply because they are different to our own? If we are wise, we will follow Eckhart's lead, and at least suspend judgement until we find out more about those practices of which we know very little. And, if we do enquire into the results of many of these meditative practices, we will find that they promote peace, kindness, compassion, wisdom, and the like, all qualities praised by the Buddha. None of them make their practitioners more violent, selfish, ignorant, or stupid. (Not if they're being practices well, that is!) As Eckhart says, "Not everyone can follow the same way," but we can be open to the possibility that other ways have good results. This principle can be extended beyond Buddhism, as well, for it seems a bit churlish to not view other spiritual practices with the same openness, given that it is not a Buddhist that has encouraged us to do it in the first place! (Of course, it may be argued that Eckhart was only addressing Christians when he wrote this advice, but given his generally positive attitude towards 'pagan' teachers, it isn't too much of a stretch to think that he would have sympathy with Buddhist meditators.) The Buddha gave us many different meditative practices, and Buddhism has developed many, many more; if they are applied wisely to our lives, it is surely the case that we will increase in wisdom and compassion. How wonderful!

Note: Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) was a Christian Dominican priest that wrote about the spiritual life in terms that many Buddhists would find both interesting and inspiring. The quotation used in this article has been taken from 'Meister Eckhart: Selected Writings'  translated & edited by Oliver Davies, and published by Penguin Classics.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reflections on Bankei's 'Song of the Mind' Verses 36-38

“It’s the Buddhas I feel sorry for:
With all those ornaments they wear
They must be dazzled
By the glare!

Still too soon for you to be
A Buddha in the temple shrine
Make yourself a Deva King
Standing at the gate outside!

If you search for the Pure Land
Bent upon your own reward
You’ll only find yourself despised
By the Buddha after all!”

Bankei Yotaku (1622-1693) was a Zen master that never stood on ceremony when he felt it obstructed the truth of enlightenment. Neither was he a man to engage in empty rituals simply because everyone around him did so. He also had a lack of fear which is a characteristic of fully enlightened ones, who no longer take themselves to be a self that needs to fear for its safety. This transcendence of both ritualism and fear are wonderfully illustrated in the three verses above, and I will do my utmost to expand on them in as enlightening manner as is possible. Hopefully, the old Zen master will not spit on me from on high!
“It’s the Buddhas I feel sorry for:
With all those ornaments they wear
They must be dazzled
By the glare!”

Bankei had wit and knew how to use it; he was also no idolater. In this verse he pokes fun at those people who focus too much attention on statues, and not what such images symbolize. In Buddhist countries to this day, temples are full of statues of buddhas, bodhisattvas, arahants, and the like. All of them prayed to and pleaded with to help people with their personal affairs, rather than used to contemplate the qualities that they represent. Bankei feigns sympathy for these highly worshiped idols, suggesting that they are sorry beings trapped in ostentatious prisons built by overzealous acolytes.

As hinted at above, there is a place for images of the Buddha and other Buddhist figures in the Buddhist way of life. Although some Pali Canon enthusiasts will correctly inform us that there were no such images during the Buddha’s lifetime, and apparently for several centuries afterwards, others will tell us that if used skilfully, they can be an important aid to our practice. And, this is surely the more important approach to Buddhist imagery; use it wisely to cultivate positive mind states and wisdom. We don’t need to be a kind of Buddhist Taliban, destroying statues to prove our own sense of righteousness, but neither should we misuse them, making them into false gods.

“Still too soon for you to be
A Buddha in the temple shrine
Make yourself a Deva King
Standing at the gate outside!”

Bankei continues in a playful mood, teasing his reader that they are not ready for enlightenment just yet, neither to be considered a Buddha nor worthy of residence in a temple shrine! If we are wise we will not take offence at such remarks, but use them as a source for reflection: is this true or untrue? Are we as enlightened as we think we are; are we enlightened at all? (On the other hand, he may still be toying with the statues themselves, remarking that despite all their outer glory, inwardly they posses no enlightened awareness, and are therefore not as important as the people that like to worship them.)

Bankei next makes reference to the ‘Deva Kings’ that can be found at the temple gate, who are there to act as guardians of the temple, preventing evil spirits from entering the temple grounds. These are a common sight in Japan, and equivalent statues of similar beings, often ferocious in appearance are found in other countries’ Buddhist temples, as well. These beings are not enlightened like the figures to be found further in the temple, and are therefore not so generously decorated. Bankei seems to be suggesting that these more worldly figures are freer than the buddhas within that are weighed down with all their ornaments.

There’s a slightly deeper point here, of course, as we might expect from a wise Zen master like Bankei. Zen Buddhism has always promoted a somewhat worldly view of Buddhist awakening, with the well known idea of ‘marketplace enlightenment,’ where wise ones take their realizations out from the temples and monasteries into the ‘real world.’ Whilst the statues of the Buddha may be taken to symbolize the highly-lauded monastic and priestly lifestyles, the Deva King images can be seen to represent the lay may well be that Bankei is encouraging us to live the awakened life in the midst of the marketplace, or the World Wide Web, for that matter!

“If you search for the Pure Land
Bent upon your own reward
You’ll only find yourself despised
By the Buddha after all!”
Here we return briefly to the subject of the previous verses covered in Reflections on Bankei’s ‘Song of the Mind’ Verses 33-35.’ But now the master is more explicit, mentioning Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land by name. Bankei makes it clear that to spend our time and efforts in the hope of personal salvation in Amitabha’s heavenly realm is basically a selfish endeavour – unless of course we do so with other people’s benefit in mind as well. Knowing us as he does, however, Bankei brings into focus our usual selfish motives when wishing for heavenly rewards.
Even in this verse, we are treated to Bankei’s wit, when he sates that if we practice with our own salvation as the main motivation, the Buddha will despise us! (Does the Buddha ‘despise’ anyone?) Presumably, he does mean the heavily ornamented Buddha in the shrine hall, but the inner Buddha that is found in the heart of us all. In other words, we will despise ourselves if we are motivated by purely selfish means. Perhaps this resentment will be subconscious – negative feelings towards one’s self are often repressed – but it will be there, for deep down we all know that we are one and that your salvation is my salvation and my enlightenment is your enlightenment. Please take a few moments to complete the following exercise – you might find it enlightening!
Look at a statue of a Buddha. (If you don’t have one, a picture will do.) Take in the expression on its face; what qualities are reflected in that facade? Serenity? Contentment? Wisdom? Compassion? Look at the overall posture of the image. If sat, is it relaxed, alert, and/or peaceful? If standing, is it dynamic, graceful, and/or mindful? Now, where are these qualities perceived – in that image or in you? Who is aware in this moment – that image or you? Who is enlightened right now – that image or you?
So, was Bankei correct? Are Buddha statues often over-decorated? Should we worship them, and hang expensive ornaments on them or cover them in gold? Does the Buddha reside in such images, and if not, what are our motives for bowing to them? Are they to be treated with the utmost respect, or is it okay to occasionally poke fun at them (and those that worship them)? And what of you – are you a Buddha or a Deva King...or neither?

Friday, March 4, 2011

On Awakening Part 5

“It is the Unformed, the Unconditioned, the End, the Truth, the Other Shore, the Subtle, the Everlasting, the Invisible, the Undiversified, Peace, the Deathless, the Blest, Safety, the Wonderful, the Marvelous, Nirvana, Purity, Freedom, the Island, the Refuge, the Beyond.” (Samyutta Nikaya 43: 1-44)
We continue our reflections on the Buddha’s above description of awakening, or enlightenment, by examining the Marvelous and Nirvana. The heart of these reflections are not the words themselves, nor the exercises imbedded in the text, but the experience to which they point. That the Buddha used so many different and differing words to describe awakening – he used many more than in the above paragraph – reveals the diverse expressions of it, and the many Dharma Gates to ‘enter’ it. Hopefully, we may stroll through such a Gate together and bask on the other Shore, in the Everlasting contentment of enlightenment.
·        The Marvelous (Abbhuta) There are many things to marvel at in this universe: the Grand Canyon, a mother’s love, Saturn’s rings, a humming bird in flight, the Himalayas, and an beehive, to name but a few. All these are natural phenomena, but there are other marvelous things made by human hands to consider: Stonehenge, Homer’s Odyssey, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Great Wall of China, silicon chips, and van Gogh’s Sunflowers, as a brief sample. Which is the most marvelous and awe inspiring? The majesty of the Himalayas or the ingenuity of the Hubble Space Telescope? How would we begin to compare them? Each of the marvels mentioned above is astounding in its own right, and worthy of our appreciation, but there’s a sobering point to be remembered. This point is that all them are subject to change, deterioration and eventual destruction, as evidenced in the current condition of the Great Wall and Stonehenge. Neither natural nor manmade beehive last forever, and the Himalayas will wither away in time. All of the amazing things are ephemeral because they are things. No thing lasts forever.
What is it that is aware of the marvels written of above? It is awareness itself, and it is the contention of this article that awareness is the Marvelous that the Buddha referred to, and which not only encapsulates the things above, but also outlasts them. Awareness can know a van Gogh painting just as it can the Grand Canyon. With the assistance of the Hubble Space Telescope and other such devices, awareness can know distance stars and the rings of Saturn. By contrast, a humming bird cannot be aware of the Hubble Space Telescope, and Stonehenge cannot know Homer’s Odyssey. In addition, whereas all things are impermanent, awareness (which we may call No-thing because of its incorporeal and empty nature) is not a thing in the first place and therefore cannot die. No-thing lasts forever.
To illustrate the nature of the Marvelous in practical terms, we can utilize the scent of a rose. If you don’t have a rose to hand, another fragrant flower will do, or anything with a nice smell for that matter. Unwashed socks are probably a bad idea – at least not just yet! Close your eyes and focus attention on the pleasant aroma, taking in its marvelous ‘bouquet.’ Now, reveres your attention to that in which the smell is known – does that have a particular scent associated with it? Is it not the case that awareness – for that is what we are discussing here – is without any smell, and is therefore able to be aware of smells, just as it is without appearance, and is therefore able to be aware of sights, the same with thoughts, sounds, tastes, and tactile sensations. Awareness is the marvelous in which all the marvels of existence are given space to be known; no awareness and no knowledge of the wonders of the world. Awareness is the marvelous backdrop to our existence, and is therefore the Marvelous, without which, life is impossible.
·        Nirvana/Nibbana (Extinction or Unbinding)
Now here’s a word every self-respecting Buddhist should know – or should that be no-self-respecting Buddhist?! That’s a deliberately humorous opening to this brief exploration of this central Buddhist concept, for it seems here that too many Buddhists are somewhat po-faced about it, especially those learned types who probably haven’t even experienced it. Moreover, perhaps it is the fact that Nirvana remains at the conceptual level for so many Buddhists that they are so darn serious about it. Nevertheless, if we’re to be thorough in our quest to understand Nirvana, we should at least investigate the descriptions of it that are found in Buddhist literature before attempting to actually experience it. (And don’t be fooled by the light mood of these words – Nirvana is indeed awaiting our discovery right here and right now. Read on and hopefully it will be experienced in due course.)
Nirvana – also known by the Pali equivalent Nibbana – has an interesting etymology. Usually it is explained as meaning ‘extinction’ or ‘blowing out,’ which has given it a negative image in the eyes of some. This understanding of the word comes from taking its component parts as nir (‘un-’) and va (‘blowing’), which is rendered as to ‘cease blowing’ or ‘extinction’ in English. To think that the goal of Buddhism is to extinguish the self is a pretty disturbing idea, not altogether appeased by the usual explanation that the self never existed in the first place. The point here is that it is not the self that is extinguished, but the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion which cause the arising of the illusory suffering self. Another, less well-known derivation of the word Nirvana is from the Sanskrit words nir (‘un-’) and vana (‘binding’), which makes ‘Unbinding.’ This inspires the image of being released from restraints, or becoming free from the causes of our suffering. Promoted by the fifth century commentator-monk Buddhaghosa in his monumental ‘The Path of Purification’ (Visuddhimagga), this explanation of the term Nirvana suggests freedom from the bonds of attachment.
As touched upon above, if we look at these (and other) definitions from an intellectual point of view, we will find much to debate about, and may spend the rest of our lives arguing about the real nature of Nirvana. Unfortunately, this will get us no nearer Nirvana itself; merely spin us in ever-entangling circles of thought. No, if we genuinely wish to know what Nirvana is, we must put all these kinds of sophistry to one side, and look at the facts with a fresh, unbiased eye. Perhaps one or both of the definitions of Nirvana given above are correct, but it will benefit us more if we verify this via experience first and then look to define it.
Look at the objects in front of you at this present moment. Closely observe their constituent parts as they appear to you right now; their shapes, sizes, colours, etc. Now do the same with your own body, noting its various elements as presented at the present time; legs, arms, belly, and whatever else is on view! After doing this, turn your attention to that which is doing all this looking, right where your eyes are. What do you see there? Obviously, your eyes are not visible, because they are what you’re looking with, but put this to one side for a moment and actually recognize what’s there where you would normally place yourself. Is there a self where you are, or is there a spacious awareness that’s taking in all that’s on offer?
And, it’s not only physical phenomena that are in contrast to what you really are. Take a look at the thoughts and emotions in your mind at this present moment. Note what you’re thinking about and what your thoughts make of it all; also examine your emotions and notice if they are steady or fluctuating, positive, neutral or negative. Having seen the various contents of your mind, now turn your focus to what they are arising in. Is that a thought or series of thoughts? Is it an emotion of any kind? Or, again, is it a spacious awareness that’s room for every thought, emotion, memory, or any other mental phenomena to occur in?
When ‘I’ look here where ‘I’ took my self to be, ‘I’ lose my self, and yet this is not a negative experience at all. It is a cooling, calming experience that feels ‘just so’ and just right. Accompanying it is a quiet bliss that colours everything arising in it with an equanimous balance of mind. Moreover, where ‘I’ used to think ‘I’ was, the world is seen to be arising in its myriad forms, without any gap between here and there; ‘I’ am in fact not ‘I’ but everything else instead. This is true wisdom which recognizes the interconnection between different elements in the world, and also sees the absence of any separation between here and there. Indeed, without the sense of ‘I,’ there’s no sense of being a separate, suffering self lost in a big, bad world. The world may well be both big and bad at times, but there’s no ‘I’ to be found here to be lost in it; it appears in the spacious awareness.
To experience this spacious awareness is Nirvana, the blowing out of the delusion of being a separate self, an ‘I.’ It is also the ‘unbinding’ of the complicated psychology of egotistic separative existence, releasing what’s left into the unifies awareness of pure being. All this knowledge is not taken from books or heard at the feet of some renowned teacher, either; it comes from direct knowing of what it is to awaken to our true nature in this ever-present present moment. Living from this realization, we may find confirmation of it in Buddhist texts, or we may decide to simply be and see what happens, if anything. And, if we cultivate this awareness, our enlightenment will benefit whomever we encounter, for ‘we’ will no longer be in the way, and whatever we do or say will be right for that person in that moment. Marvelous…