November 24, 2012 § 6 Comments
“Conveying oneself toward all things to carry out practice-enlightenment is delusion. All things coming and carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization.” Genjokoan by Dogen.
Sitting in meditation the mind slowly frees itself from the torment of thoughts gone wild. A certain degree of calmness arises but habitual thoughts are not easily dislodged. Going out into the world you look across a crowded room. An impulse arises and you think, “Something’s wrong.” Follow the thought and you convey yourself towards all things. A tension arises in the stomach. Thoughts spin. Once again you’re in turmoil and your peace of mind has fled. Trying to contain the whirlwind only exhausts you. After a time the storm subsides and you are discouraged that once again you have succumbed to delusion.
Whether in meditation or daily life thoughts will arise. If you believe they are real you will either be drawn to them as a source of pleasure or shun their pain. You may ask, “How can I obtain this pleasure? How can I increase it?” Or you may ask, “How can I resolve this difficulty and put an end to this misery once and for all?” In that instant the arising thought has taken form. It has become a dilemma. Prior to that the thought had no form. It was just a thought.
Once the thought has taken form it becomes a problem to be solved and you may spend lifetimes climbing mountains, crossing rivers or seeking knowledge or material gain to resolve the dilemma. Yet the entire effort would be in vain because the dilemma is a delusion. It only became a dilemma when you carried yourself toward it through desire or aversion. But when you stop engaging with the thought it slowly winds down to where you can again look at it in a state before it became a dilemma. Simply looking at thought without becoming involved is “All things coming and carrying out practice-enlightenment.”
Seeing the thought as just a thought is seeing it without form. The thought is empty because you have not turned it into a complicated structure by conveying yourself toward it.
Sit in meditation and when a thought arises simply look at it, as you would look with detachment from a boat at a passing shore. The thought is there but like the distant shore you have no need to attach to it, no need for involvement. You just sail on by and the shore just continues to pass.
Every thought that arises is an invitation to enter delusion. That delusion may be a lifetime of pleasure and you are certainly welcome to convey yourself toward that form, if you choose. But if you’re life is more pain than pleasure, as is most lives, then make note that every arising thought is also an invitation break free of delusion. You can choose thought without form. Yes. The habits of a lifetime or many lifetimes will not dissolve instantly. For a while you’ll still find yourself trying to solve some unsolvable dilemma. But as you continue to practice letting thoughts arise without giving them form you’ll become accomplished at letting them drop. As you let thoughts just be thoughts and let all things come and go as you carry out practice-enlightenment, they will flow through the self. And that is realization.
November 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
“O nobly-born, listen. Now thou art experiencing the radiance of the Clear Light of Pure Reality. Recognize it. O nobly-born, thy present intellect, in real nature void, not formed into anything as regards characteristics of colour, naturally void, is the very Reality, the All-Good.
“Thine own intellect, which is now voidness, yet not to be regarded as of the voidness of nothingness, but as being the intellect itself, unobstructed, shining, thrilling, and blissful, is the very consciousness, the All-good Buddha.
“Thine own consciousness, not formed into anything, in reality void, and the intellect, shining and blissful, –these two,–are inseparable. The union of them is the Dharma-Kaya state of Perfect Enlightenment.
“Thine own consciousness, shining, void, and inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth, nor death, and is the Immutable light—Buddha Amitabha (i.e., Boundless Light, Source of Life and Light).
“Knowing this is sufficient. Recognizing the voidness of thine own intellect to be Buddhahood, and looking upon it as being thine own consciousness, is to keep thyself in the state of the divine mind of the Buddha.”
The above passage from W. Y. Evans-Wentz’s translation of “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” serves as a reminder that no matter who we encounter in life, be it the Dalai Lama or prime minister, murderer or thief, drug addict or homeless person, enemy or friend, we are all in our true essence the All-Good. We are all the Clear Light of Pure Reality.
In memory of my brother, Bob, 1947-2012.
November 4, 2012 § 3 Comments
What is wide and vast? What is it that is great? How can it compare? Can wisdom be small? These are some questions Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku asked in his discourse on the Heart Sutra, perhaps the best known Mahāyāna Buddhist writing.
To the casual reader the Heart Sutra appears to negate all of the Buddha’s teaching. But commentaries written on it assert it takes the teachings of Buddhism to a level the Buddha intended but felt his followers of the time could not grasp. In asserting ‘form does not differ from emptiness and emptiness does not differ from form’ the Heart Sutra declares all form to be empty, not in a nihilistic sense but in the manner of transcendence of all form.
We are not thought, feelings, perceptions or ego-consciousness states the Heart Sutra. Individual essence comprehends these and all forms. We are identical with emptiness that is paradoxically also fullness. As Hakuin writes, emptiness is:
Ten million Mount Sumerus in a dewdrop on a hair-tip
The billions of space-time worlds in a fleck of foam on the sea;
Yet in spite of this identification of emptiness with fullness Hakuin states that those who think their true nature is “wide and vast” are wrong! Why is this?
Over the centuries Buddhism has renewed itself by stripping away false interpretations that have obscured its core message. Buddha’s original teachings were renewed by the Heart Sutra’s “form is emptiness and emptiness is form”. Centuries latter Dogen renewed the teachings by asserting, “form is form and emptiness is emptiness”. When Buddhism began to stagnate under Dogen’s interpretation it was again renewed through the teachings of Hakuin.
Hakuin saw that people were interpreting emptiness as a subtle concept. In doing so he knew they would never understand their true nature as absolute emptiness and would subsequently fail to achieve enlightenment. To counteract this tendency Hakuin negated all interpretations of emptiness. He asked how it could be called great if there were nothing in the universe to which it could be compared. He said that those who called it wide and vast were wrong because as a description it leaves emptiness as no more than a concept that exists relative to something else. He stated that even though a Superior Man has a love of wealth (i.e., desires enlightenment), the Superior Man knew the proper way to get it. And that is by abandoning all subtle conceptualizations of emptiness that leave it as a ‘this” or ‘that’.
The intent of Hakuin’s question and assertions was to have us abandon subtle errors of thought that turn true nature into a subtle object. The intent was to have us abandon the false images or idols that we have placed before true nature. The intent is to have us realize that prajna paramita, the perfection of wisdom that “sees” true reality, cannot be measured in relative terms as big or small because the reality such wisdom sees is, Itself, neither relative nor absolute.
Drop all expectations of what Enlightenment is, states Hakuin. Uproot all concepts as you’d uproot weeds in a garden. Abandon all notions of it, even those of love, if you want to Know. Stop everything then drop even that stopping. And don’t say these words are cold and indifferent or that they are not to your taste for as Hakuin wrote, “One bellyful eliminates hunger for all time.”