Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Karma and the Wheel of Dharma

Yesterday we looked at the causal links that produce bad karma. Today we’ll look at the other side—TheWheel of Dharma leading to good karma and emancipation. One of the essential points discussed yesterday was, “Acting on faith…” The question is, faith in what? And the answer is faith in the other side of form. Faith, that there really is this thing called emptiness (otherwise known as pure consciousness): a dimension that contains truth, rather than inversions of truth.

To remind you, the inversions of truth were suffering, impermanence, non-self and a life of impurity. The reason that faith is required is due to the fact that emptiness is not accessible through our ordinary sensory faculties and to get to that place of truth we must let go of that manner of discernment. The path to truth is spiritual rather than perceptual. When we follow that path then we experience the opposite of truth inversions. The dimensions of truth are bliss, permanence, our true self and a life of indiscriminate purity: the realm of consciousness without conditions and the concomitant action of choice and judgment. This is the realm where everything is unified before and after consciousness takes shape or form. That being the case there is no such thing as this or that. No choice, no judgments and thus no error.

When we make choices we believe those choices are right and in an ordinary way we attach these choices to our unenlightened sense of self and become self-righteousness, defensive and often times hostile in our defense, which can at times lead us to being close minded and violent. There are numerous problems with this approach and all of these put dust in our mouths and force us to see who is to blame: our deluded sense of self.

When most people think “compassion” they think Buddhism. And in fact this is an accurate portraiture. Unfortunately our idea of compassion, without transformation of our idea of self, is usually a way of gaining the accolades of others and fueling our egos. We may do the right thing but desire the applause. Unlike today, the Buddha didn’t recommend fueling our self-image or anesthetizing ourselves through drugs or make-nice-ego-building therapy. That’s what we think of today but more than likely that is not what the Buddha had in mind. He did not seem to be in favor of sustaining long term suffering through indolence. Quite the contrary he may have been the original tough love advocate. What he seemed to have recommended was to take off the rose colored glasses and look deeply into how we create our own suffering. He prescribed harsh medicine, which was designed to make it crystal clear who was doing what to whom and recommended 20 chains of interdependent causal links that pointed the finger at us. As Pogo said, “We have seen the enemy and it is us.”

Tough love for sure, but his wisdom was flawless. None of us will take the necessary leap into the void of pure, unconditional consciousness until we see beyond a shadow of doubt that the dusty road is intolerable and we’re not going to take it anymore. More than likely he wanted us to see beyond any doubt that we alone create our own path of self-destruction. When we follow the conditional path leading to the choice and judgment of one thing versus another thing (in this case life versus death) we get clear of the futility of our presumptions and beliefs. And what exactly did he want us to see?

What do most of us believe? We believe what we perceive: the four inversions of truth—life is impermanent, dominated by a false self (which we call ego), completely impure and over the top with suffering. Why is that? Quite simply perception is designed to choose between one thing and another thing and when we couple this to a false self we become self-righteous. Now pause here and think about a serious question. Does anyone reading this really believe that Buddhism could last for 2,500 years as a significant force for emancipation if it was based on these four? Even the village idiot could come up with that list and the whole proposition would evaporate before it reached anyone’s perceptual capacities. So why did he want us to see the futility of those patently obvious facts? Because combined they define how to keep eating dust and he wanted us to be very clear about that. Only when we stand at the precipice of the abyss will any of us choose a new path.

So if that combination doesn’t work—and it never has and never will—what will get us off the dusty path? Well how about the opposite: faith in the unseen realm of indiscriminate unity. This prescription is the ultimate form of dependent origination. This is the Wall that the Ladder of form rests against. Form is empty consciousness applied; Empty consciousness is form without application. The eternal, pure, blissful self is what has gone by the name of Buddha-Nature: our true nature—pure consciousness, which flows across the mythical bridge of form. In truth there is no bridge since Buddha-Nature/consciousness is undivided. The separation is just imaginary. We imagine separation because we can’t see the void and thus assume that it doesn’t exist. We have too much dust in our eyes and clouding our mind and don’t realize that without consciousness no detection of any form would be possible. The entire universe is a function of consciousness, or said another way: the universe is nothing other than the primordial mind in manifestation. The Buddha taught in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, “Seeing the actions of body and mouth, we say that we see the mind. The mind is not seen, but this is not false. This is seeing by outer signs.”  Of course the mind is the source (consciousness) and as such can’t see itself. We can only see manifestations.

So how exactly do we awaken to this awareness? How does it function? The same way that the other tree functioned from the tap root upward into branches of good karma. At the bottom is a tap root without doubt which we call faith—faith in the unseen source. Faith grows upward into four truths instead of inversions. These truths then move up to the opposite of indolence, which is openness, receptivity, and confidence, which in turn destroys ignorance and turns a mind that is miserly, greedy and jealous into a joyous mind that is giving, and sharing.

When this turn-about takes place we meet our true self for the very first time. The Buddha says this about this transformation: “If impermanence is killed, what there is, is eternal Nirvana. If suffering is killed, one must gain bliss; if the void is killed, one must gain the real. If the non-self is killed, one must gain the True Self. O great King! If impermanence, suffering, the Void and the non-self are killed, you must be equal to me.” He was speaking to King Ajatasatru in the 25th chapter of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Now comes two big questions: if we understand this message correctly, isn’t the Buddha saying that when this transformation occurs, doesn’t that eliminate discrimination and make us equal with one another and with the Buddha? And which of those two types would you rather be with? A loaded question for sure but the answer should be crystal clear. Bad karma flows from one path (the dusty one) and good karma flows from the other path (one lined with gold). Never let it be said that our presumptions and beliefs don’t dominate us. What we believe will radically transform our lives.

I’ll end for today with a parable of two sons:

There once lived two sons of a king. Each of the sons became gravely ill and the royal doctor was summoned. Upon a thorough examination the royal doctor prescribed an unusual medication. Not being familiar with the medication, the sons were apprehensive. The first son clung tightly to conventional medications normally prescribed, became worse and died. The surviving son clearly saw what had occurred with his brother because of doubt. Upon witnessing his brother’s death he became desperate and in spite of his preconceived beliefs and the unconventional nature of the doctor’s prescription, he overcame his doubt and decided to follow the advice of the royal doctor. To his amazement, his leap of faith resulted in an unexpected outcome: what began as apprehension developed into a trusting relationship with the doctor and he soon became well. In time the relationship between the wise son and the doctor blossomed and the son was rewarded: the doctor shared his cherished remedies not known to conventional doctors. And thus his knowledge survived through the wise son who passes such knowledge to all who can likewise overcome their seeds of doubt.

The son who doubted and died is everyman. The royal doctor is the Tathagata and the wise son represents all who hear of the unconventional remedy, overcome their doubt and live. These will carry on and pass to others the good and certain medications of the doctor.

In my lifetime I’ve been both sons. I spent a lot of time on that dusty path and in my egotistically, blinded state of mind refused to take the unorthodox medicine. The truth is that I was ignorant and was not even aware there was any medicine, orthodox or otherwise. I nearly died (literally) but while standing at the abyss I stumbled upon the good doctor and figured I had nothing to lose by ingesting unorthodox medicine and that saved me. Now I pass it on to you. So the ending question here is this: how does the dust taste? And are you ready to take a leap of faith into emptiness and start living well?

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