Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Self . . . An 'Imaginary Center' as the 'Cause of Suffering'

"As LONG AS (one's subjective 'self') is centered in a phenomenal object, and thinks and speaks therefrom, (one's) subject is identified with that object and is bound."

"As long as such condition (applies), the identified subject can never be free—for freedom is liberation from that identification."

"Abandonment of a phenomenal centre constitutes the only 'practice', and such abandonment is not an act volitionally performed by the identified subject, but a non-­action (wu wei) leaving the noumenal centre in control of phenomenal activity, and free from fictitious interference by an imaginary 'self'."

"Are you still thinking, looking, living, as from an imaginary phenomenal center? As long as you do that you can never recognize your freedom."

Preface to "Open Secret" by Wei Wu Wei

 self / n., adj. & verb (pl. selves) 1 a person's or thing's own individuality or essence (showed his true self). 2 a person or thing as the object of introspection or reflexive action (the consciousness of self). . . .

ego / n. (pl. -os) 1 Metaphysics a conscious thinking subject. 2 Psychology the part of the mind that reacts to reality and has a sense of individuality. . . .

[Source: Concise Oxford English Dictionary.]

"(An) event," Wei Wu Wei points out, "only occurs in the mind of the perceiver of it, singular or plural as the case may be, and no event could be anything but a memory when we know it. No event is anything but a psychic experience. Events, or memories of events, are objectivizations in consciousness."

Our lives, our histories - personal and collective - the "who" we identify as, are manifestations of consciousness. Indeed, as many physicists point out, at the most basic level, the entire universe must be manifested (or "real-ized") through an act of conscious observation, through an observing consciousness. Some, like the late David Bohm, might agree with Gary Zhukav's conclusion that "modern physics has become the study of the structure of consciousness."

Buddhist teacher, Tulke Urgyen Rinpoche, would say that 'reality' ("as it is") - including the basic nature of a realized Buddha and that of ordinary sentient beings - is a fundamental and complete emptiness unified irrevocably with an infinite ability to 'cognize.' I suspect he would agree that the 'events' of our lives, and our 'memories' of those events, "are objectivizations in consciousness," albeit objectivizations that are misperceived because we are unskillful in realizing the unity of our empty and infinitely cognizant nature.

One must ask, given the 'misperceptions' of our own individual and collective group consciousness, just how functional we are as many billions of individualized 'selves.' How well does an overwhelmingly narcissistic, post-modern dualistic perspective work for us?

It is important, I feel, to realize just how much unnecessary mayhem, harm and suffering this misperception of separate individuality perpetuates if we are ever going to make the necessary efforts to be free of 'self.'

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

"(I)t becomes obvious," writes spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, "that the human ego in its collective aspect as 'us' against 'them' is even more insane than the 'me,' the individual ego, although the mechanism is the same. By far the greater part of the violence that humans have inflicted on each other is not the work of criminals or the mentally deranged, but of normal respectable citizens in the service of the collective ego. One can go as far as to say that on this planet 'normal' equals insane. What is it that lies at the root of this insanity? Complete identification with thought and emotion, that is to say, ego."

Eckhart Tolle, best-selling author of
"The Power of Now" and "A New Earth."
"Greed, selfishness, exploitation, cruelty, and violence are still all-pervasive on this planet," Tolle observes. "When you don't recognize them as individual and collective manifestations of an underlyin dysfunction or mental illness, you fall into the error of personalixing them. You construct a conceptual identity for an individual or group and you say: 'This is who he is. This is who they are.'"

"All this," he notes, "is enormously satisfying to the ego. It strengthens the sense of separation between yourself and the other, whose 'otherness' has become manifested to such an extent that you can no longer feel your common humanity, not the rootedness in the one Life that you share with each human being, your common divinity."

And, he points out: "Fighting (such) unconsciousness will (only) draw you into unconsciousness yourself. Unconscious, dysfunctional egoic behavior can never be defeated by attacking it. Even if you defeat your opponent, the unconsciousness will simply have moved into you, or the opponent reappears in a new disguise. Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists." (Emphasis added.)

Eckhart Tolle, "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose," pp. 73-75

As Wei Wu Wei asks: ""Are you still thinking, looking, living, as from an imaginary phenomenal center?" "As long as you do that," he points out, "you can never recognize your freedom."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Buddha Nature: Empty Cognizant Capacity

The following is condensed from Tulke Urgyen Rinpoche's "As It Is," vol. II, chap. 1 ("The Inheritance"):
* * * * * * *

Tulke Urgyen Rinpoche
"We think, we remember, we plan - and the attention thus exerted moves towards an object and sticks to it. This mental movement is called thinking or conceptual mind . . . extroverted consciousness unaware of its own nature. This ignorant mind grabs  hold of objects, forms concepts about them, and gets involved and caught up in the concepts it has created about them. This is the nature of samsara, and it has been continuing through beginningless lifetimes up to the present moment. 

This dualistic structure, together with the disturbing emotions and the karma that is produced through them, are the forces that drive us from one samsaric experience to another. 

(O)ur natural state is the indivisible unity of emptiness and cognizance. We miss the recognition because our mind is always searching somewhere else. . . . Shantideva said:"Unless you know the secret key point, whatever you do will miss the mark." The secret key point of mind is that its nature is a self-existing, original wakefulness. To identify the key point we need to receive the pointing-out instruction, which tells and shows us that: "The nature of your mind is the buddha mind itself."

Even though our nature is primordially enlightened, we are oblivious to that fact. Therefore we need to become re-enlightened. First, we need to recognize; next, train in that recognition; and finally, attain stability. Once we are re-enlightened, we no longer need to wander in samsara."
. . .
"The buddha nature is the very identity within which the body, speech, mind, qualities and activities of all buddhas are complete. . . . Our speech became wrapped within the movement of breath to become voice and words. It appears and disappears. Consciousness began to hold a perceiver as separate from the perceived. In other words, it became a fixation on duality, a stop-and-start process that arises and ceases each moment. Thoughts come continuously, one after the other, like an endless string. This endless string of thought has continued from beginningless time and just goes on and on. . . . While we are governed by this involvement in thought, we are truly helpless.

. . . If we truly recognize buddha nature, in that very same moment, any thought will vanish by itself, leaving no trace. This is what brings an end to samsara. . . . Once you recognize your own natural face, you have already transcended the six realms of samsara. . . . Receiving teachings on how to recognize the essence of mind and correctly apply them is called 'the Buddha placed in the palm of your own hand.' That analogy means that at the moment of being introduced and recognizing, you don't have to search for the enlightened state anywhere else.

. . . 

. . . Our buddha nature . . . is like a wish-fulfilling jewel. If we don't use this wish-fulfilling jewel, endless samsara lies before us. Isn't it just incredibly stupid to throw away our fortune - and troublesome too?
 . . . 

 However, like Jamgon Kongtrul said:
Although my mind is the Buddha, I don't recognize it.
Although my thinking is dharmakaya, I don't realize it.
Although nonfabrication is the innate, I fail to sustain it.
Although naturalness is the basic state, I am not convinced. 
We need to understand what mind essentially is. . . . (I)n this world, mind is the most important, for the simple reason that it is the mind that understands and experiences. . . . In truth, there is nothing other than mind that experiences. . . . A sentient being is basically made out of nothing other than mind. Apart from the mind, no thing in this world experiences anything at all.

The mind essence of sentient beings and the awakened mind of the buddhas is the same. Buddhahood means to be totally stable in the state before dualistic thought occus. A sentient being like ourselves, not realizing our essence, gets caught up in our own thinking and becomes bewildered. Still, the essence of our mind and the very essence of all awakened buddhas is primordially the same. Sentient beings and buddhas have an identical source, the buddha nature.

Buddhas become enlightened because of realizing their essence. Sentient beings become confused because of not realizing their essence. Thus there is one basis or ground, and two different paths.  
 (Emphasis added.)

A buddha is someone who recognizes the essence itself, and is awakened through that. A sentient being is someone who doesn't, and who is confused by his or her own thinking. . . . Thinking takes place because of not seeing the essence of this mind itself. It thinks of something, makes thoughts and emotions about it - the process goes on and on . . . like  beads on an endless string. This is called samsara.

It is the thinking that perpetuates samsara. Samsara will go on endlessly unless the thinking stops.
. . .
(I)f in this life we don't attain realization by recognizing our own nature, we will continue again in some other state within samsara. If we recognize and realize our buddha nature, we can go upwards to enlightenment. If we are careless and ignore it, we don't have to try to go deeper into samsara - it happens automatically. Negative karma doesn't require much effort. the normal mind thinks mainly in terms of being against something, being attached to something and not caring about anything. This automatically creates negative karma, further perpetuating samsara.

True virtue, real goodness, is created through recognizing our buddha nature, our natural state. Recognizing our own nature is itself the path of enlightenment. Not recognizing buddha nature is itself the path of samsara. . . . The basis for these two is the same: it is buddha nature. There are two choices, two paths. One is the path of knowing, the wakefulness that knows its own nature. One is the path of unknowing, of not recognizing our own nature, and being caught up in what is being thought of, through the consciousness connecting with sense objects via the senses. This process continuously puts the wheel of samsara in motion. That is why the famous statement goes:
To recognize is the path of nirvana;
Not to recognize is the path of samsara.
 There is knowing. The mind of any sentient being is both empty and cognizant, and it is the cognizance that can recognize its own nature. In the very moment of recognizing, you see the empty essence.
. . . 
Recognize your mind, and in the absence of any concrete thing, rest loosely. After a while we again get caught up in thoughts. But, by recognizing again and again, we grow more and more used to the natural state. . . . Through this process, our thought involvement grows weaker and weaker. The gap between thoughts begin to last longer and longer. At a certain point . . . there will be a stretch of no conceptual thought whatsoever, without having to suppress the thinking.

We need to train in slowly growing more and more used to the recognition of mind essence. This will dissolve our negative karma and disturbing emotions. In this recognition it is impossible to be tainted by karma and emotions, just like you cannot paint in mid-air.
All sentient beings are buddhas,
But they are covered by temporary obscurations.
 This temporary obscuration is our thinking. If we didn't already have the buddha nature, meaining a nature that is identical to that of all awakened ones, no matter how much we try we would never become enlightened.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thich Nhat Hanh on 'The Five Precepts'

One commentator observed that a fundamental difference between Christianity and Buddhism lies in the nature of their respective proscriptions. Christianity has the famous "Thou Shalt Nots" of the Ten Commandments, whereas Buddhism has the "Refrain Froms" or the "Avoids" of the Five Precepts that constitute Right Action. The defiant streak in human nature, the commentator pointed out, makes it tough for us to avoid the wrong actions covered by the Ten Commandments (or, at least, the milder of them). One might also point out that violation of the Ten Commandments can allegedly end one up in Hell, while it is through non-observance of the Five Precepts that we create a hell on Earth.

One of the most comprehensive and astute renderings of the Five Precepts (avoid or refrain from killing, from taking what is not freely given, from sexual impropriety, from harmful speech, and from taking intoxicants) is set out in the following "Five Mindfulness Trainings" recommended by Thich Nhat Hanh in his helpful book "Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames," (Appendix B) pp. 209-212:

"The First Mindfulness Training:
Reverence for Life
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life.
The Second Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving-kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on earth.
The Third Mindfulness Training:
Sexual Responsibility
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.
The Fourth Mindfulness Training:
Deep Listening and Loving Speech
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
The Fifth Mindfulness Training:
Mindful Consumption
 Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest food or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

William James: On 'Inner Religion'

Wm. James
In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James, one of the acknowledged "fathers" of modern psychology, distinguished between outer and inner religious faith. To him, "outer religion" was the province of rituals, sacraments, vestments and bells, while "inner religion" was a state of consciousness. In the true sense of the word, he viewed "inner religion" (from the Latin ligare, meaning to 'tie' or 'unite') as a state of natural, unitive and acceptive consciousness in which "religion comes to our rescue and takes our fate into her hands."

"There is a state of mind, known to religious men, but to no others," he observes, "in which the will to assert ourselves and hold our own has been displaced by a willingness to close our mouths and be as nothing in the folds and waterspouts of God."

"In this state of mind," he notes, "what we most dreaded has become the habitation of our safety and the hour of our moral death has turned into our spiritual birthday. The time for tension in our soul is over, and that of happy relaxation of calm deep breathing, of an eternal present, with no discordant future to be anxious about, has arrived. Fear is not held in abeyance as it is by mere morality, it is positively expunged and washed away."

"This enchantment," he points out, "coming as a gift when it does come - a gift or our organism, the physiologists will tell us, a gift of God's grace, the theologians say - is either there or not there for us, and there are persons who can no more become possessed by it than they can fall in love with a given woman by mere word or command."

"Religious feeling is thus an absolute addition to the Subject's range of life," he concludes. "It gives him a new sphere of power. When the outward battle is lost, and the outward world disowns him it redeems and vivifies an interior world which otherwise would be an empty waste." "There are plenty of men," he adds parenthetically, "in whose religious life this rapturousness is lacking. They are religious in the wider sense; yet in this acutest of all senses they are not so."

[Wm. James, "The Varieties Of Religious Experience," pp. 47-48.]