Friday, January 9, 2009

Discrimination


Discrimination is understood as both an aspect of reality and something we should avoid. On the one hand we are taught to be discriminating—to choose wisely one thing and not another. On the other hand we are aware that to discriminate unwisely—as against one group of people in favor of others—is a form of undesirable bias. The obvious key to these opposite perspectives is discernment guided by wisdom.

One of the premier Mahayana Sutras—The one Bodhidharma considered as foundational—is the Lankavatara. The surprising teaching of this sutra is that there is no such thing as discrimination within the framework of genuine Nobel Wisdom (Ultimate Reality)—these are presented as polar opposites. This teaching clearly states that discrimination (of any kind) is a manifestation of ignorance; of misinterpreting what we perceive as real and not understanding that perception occurs in the mind. The Buddha said that it is like seeing one’s own image in a mirror and taking the image as real, or seeing the moon reflected on the surface of water and taking it to be the actual moon. To see in this way is dualistic whereas to see truly is a matter of Oneness revealed within inmost consciousness.

However, short of this unity, our fashion is to grasp the illusions and become attached, forever discriminating and thus never attaining tranquility. “By tranquility is meant Oneness, and Oneness gives birth to the highest Samadhi which is gained by entering into the realm of Noble Wisdom that is realizable only within one’s inmost consciousness.”

Not realizing that the perceived world is only something seen of the mind itself, the “ignorant and simple-minded” cling to the infinite vastness of external objects as this vs. that, imagining that they have a self-nature of their own, and fall into habit-energies based on false imagining. The result of this ignorance is minds which “burn with the fires of greed, anger and folly, finding delight in a world of multitudinous forms, their thoughts obsessed with ideas of birth, growth and destruction, not well understanding what is meant by existence and non-existence, and being impressed by erroneous discriminations and speculations since beginningless time, fall into the habit of grasping this and that and thereby becoming attached to them”.

When, by virtue of our discriminating minds, we are attracted, we cling. And when we are repulsed we resist. In our mind the world is ordered by objects which we like and don’t like; actions which we endorse and those we repudiate; thoughts which we desire and bring us joy and others we wish to avoid. We see the external, objective manifestations (forms) and go completely unaware of the unseen emptiness which undergirds all forms. Because of this, our nature is to cling to objective symbols of reality—names, signs and ideas; as our mind moves along these channels, feeding on multiplicities of objects and fall into the notion of an ego-soul and what belongs to it; making discriminations of good and bad among appearances and cling to the agreeable. As we thus cling, we oppose the truth of our ignorance, and therefore are trapped in karma born of greed, anger and folly. The accumulation of karma then goes on and we become imprisoned in a cocoon of discrimination and are unable to free ourselves from the rounds of birth and death.

The beginning chapter concludes in this way... “In this world whose nature is like a dream, there is place for praise and blame, but in the ultimate Reality of Dharmakaya which is far beyond the senses and the discriminating mind, what is there to praise?”
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