This false world

March 25, 2016 § 1 Comment

Morning Commute III

I wish to briefly touch upon my assertion that thought does not represent anything real.

Certainly no one should think this remark applies to simple statements like, “The sky is blue,” or “It is spring.” Such descriptions are quite proper. Nor should one think it applies to abstract thought as expressed in fields of logic, science or mathematics where thought is rigorous and precise. The remark applies to false thoughts the ordinary mind has when it attributes qualities to things that they do not properly have, qualities that ultimately result in unnecessary suffering.

We may call the world experienced via the senses primary. When we give this world qualities that it doesn’t actually possess we superimpose an imaginary secondary world upon it.

If we suffer abuse, that is a fact of the primary world. If we then conclude that the abuse arose because we are bad or unworthy, we begin to create a false world. The trauma of the abuse may lead us to further superimpose a vision on the real world that it is unsafe and lead us to conclude that we must protect ourselves at all times. This engenders life strategies to which we cling out of the belief they will keep us safe. These strategies, however, only add to our suffering as they isolate us from others and our self.

We do not have to suffer trauma or abuse to create a secondary world. Any time we attribute qualities to the world that it does not have we create a false world. In fact, the greater mass of humanity lives in a shared secondary universe that is entirely false and causes much of humanities suffering.

The very assumptions we make about our selves and the world go to create the false universe that we all share. Assumptions like, “I am this body,” or “ Things exist outside me.” These lead to beliefs and actions that the universe must be controlled and dominated lest it overwhelm and destroy us.

It is this false, secondary world that is destroyed when our true nature is realized and that is why mystics and seers say; “Everything’s different, yet nothing has changed!”

So the statement that “thought does not represent anything real” refers to the ones that create and sustain the invidious secondary universe that we all live in, and the personal one we have created for our self, alone.

Much of our thinking is of this secondary type and if we could quit it now we would know a freedom long since forgotten. But over the years it has become second nature. So rather than spend time trying to figure out which thought is true and which is not, approach all as if they are false, especially those around your core issues and habits. Do not waste time trying to figure out which part of your dream is real when the solution is to just wake up.

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Non-attachment

March 20, 2016 § 3 Comments

Hakuin Monkey 2

The monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him
He’ll never give up.
If he’d let go the branch and
Disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine
With dazzling pureness.

– Zen Master Hakuin.

 

The ordinary mind believes thought and feeling to be it’s natural state. Thought represents real things that the mind races toward to make its own, or, if the thought is painful, to suppress and deny. Buddhists call this process of running after thought “monkey mind,” after the frantic antics of monkeys they observed in the forest.

In meditation practice we learn to distance ourselves from the monkey mind and thought. This is begun by repeatedly turning attention away from all but one thought called the object of meditation. This process helps us develop concentration and a disciplined mind but we soon discover that it is not that easy to let go of thought.

Attention strays to various thoughts as, for example, we relive some pleasant memory or feel compelled to act when fear arises. Even though both the pleasant and fearful imagery exist solely in the imagination, we follow after them because we believe they have substance.

It has been said that if we can maintain attention on our chosen object of meditation for twelve seconds, without being distracted by competing thoughts, that we have obtained concentration. If we can do this for twelve times that amount, or two minutes and twenty-four seconds, that is meditation. With this measuring stick in mind, how many of us can say that we have truly achieved one-pointed concentration, let alone entered a meditative state?

As the clock does not rule our practice, we need not be deflated if we  do not remain focused for more than a few seconds. Practice, after all, is not just concentration. It is also non-attachment, a state wherein we neither cling to pleasurable thoughts, nor run from painful ones.

We cannot stay focused if we continually run to or away from thought, but we can observe this process as a part of our practice to discover its hypnotic appeal. As a theme of August Meditations is the assertion that thoughts do not represent anything real, it should come as no surprise that realizing thought’s illusory nature is beneficial to attaining non-attachment.

As we learn to discriminate between that which is solely in our imagination and that which is actually happening, we begin to see that we’ve been running from nothing, to nothing. This realization comes slowly but even in its initial stages we may get glimpses of a freer, less fear-filled life. These moments serve to motivate and remind us that non-attachment is not an austere practice but one that leads to liberation from monkey mind. And that brings us one step closer to realizing our true nature and enlightenment.

Our mental homes.

March 15, 2016 § 2 Comments

Barnston Island 0002

At the start of spiritual practice, ordinary mind is like a house built on thought and experience that over the course of time has come to be seen as our natural state. Even if the weeds are encroaching and the powers been cut off we are often reluctant to leave this house because it feels like home.

We construct our mental homes to serve our individual needs. If the need is to acquire, then the house is designed to amass what it desires. If the need is self-protection, then the mind operates to keep us safe. If we desire approval, then the mind seeks approval. But in doing the one, the mind necessarily rejects the other.

The mind that seeks approval, for instance, will shy away from disapproval. Over time it may come to find that avoiding disapproval becomes more important than finding approval. In abstract terms we may think of this as the mind rejecting a negative to obtain a positive, only to find all it’s energies becoming consumed in the negative.

For example, a person seeking harmony may find him or herself spending the rest of their life avoiding anger. Or one with low self-esteem who may originally have desired acceptance comes to find him or her self focused only on their self-defined unworthiness. This is obfuscation at its worst yet many of us believe that this is the way to stay safe and achieve our end goals!

The ordinary mind as just described is not our natural state but we do not see this. Our true state is open and boundless but over years of obfuscation we have become closed and constricted. This condition is compounded by a tendency to select bits and pieces of the outer world to confirm our false beliefs.

In meditation we come to see how the ordinary mind asserts the world to be one thing by infusing it with “evidence” it finds in the outer world. Someone who believes the world to be a violent place, for example, will point to scenes of violence in the news. Another who fears being judged will cling to memories of those times when they were criticized. There is no doubt that this evidence is real but it is selective. It ignores contrary evidence and, in so doing, locks us into a false view of the world and ourselves.

Through the spiritual practice of just observing the ordinary mind we come to know its obfuscations. As we see them more and more clearly we learn to stop following these thoughts. In doing so, we start to awaken from false belief and come to know mind without restriction. This is not something that magically happens but comes about through continued effort and courageous self-honesty. This is true practice that leads to enlightenment.

Where Am I?

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