Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reflections of Reality


Study Zen for some time and you’ll begin to see the world in a very different way. You’ll discover there are two realms of life governed by opposite dimensions—mirror opposites—that are irrevocably riveted together. And these two are so conjugated they can never be taken apart. To remove one side removes the other, bring one into existence and the other side is there as well. I’ve written about this principle many times but I can’t stop trying to refine and clarify that message because it is the essential crux of clear thinking. In truth they are not two, just two sides of the same thing, thus One thing.

The principle goes by the name “dependent origination,” which explains itself but seems most difficult to convey. It’s easy to fathom this with simple examples, which cause us all to say, “Well of course that is true.” But the logical end of this principle entails the true nature of us. We too have these two dimensions (which is One). One side of us is apparent and objective. The other side is invisible and subjective; both of these dimensions are two different aspects of the mind.

The father of Zen (Bodhidharma) said, “The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included.” And he said this to illustrate these two aspects. One of these is an endless illusion (that looks real) and the other is non-illusory and empty. The first is always moving like clouds moving across an immovable sky. What Zen teaches is that our only true mind is that sky that never moves. Instead it functions like a mirror reflecting whatever comes before it.

Of course the sky can’t see itself and our true mind can’t see itself. Instead our true mind perceives what alone can be perceived: an infinite, perceptible realm of objects. The Buddha pointed out that, “We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”

The sky of mind is empty (otherwise known as void or Śūnyatā) and without this empty nature nothing could ever exist due to this principle of dependent origination. For that reason the Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra teaches that form (objective things—everything) is emptiness itself.

This is a most abstruse notion to put your head around. How, we reason, could perceptible and objective matter be the same thing as nothing? How can we be essentially empty when we feel full? That’s a difference sort of full. Here we’re speaking about root essence and the opposite, or manifestations of root essence. And then we have to raise the question, what difference does it make—this seemingly esoteric nonsense?

And the answer to that question changes you and the world, because the true we IS that unseen, imperceptible reality: that true immovable and unconditional void, which is mind. And being such there is not an atom of difference between anyone. At that level of existence, discrimination ceases to exist and everyone is identical (and empty). Unfortunately the perceptible everyone is discriminate and boy do we enjoy discriminating against others. Our ego loves to feel superior and it does that by placing one head higher than another (our egotistical own).

When we remove this illusory ego we gut the power of evil and join the rest of the human race—ALL unconditionally the same. And that changes the entire game of life from despair to unified victory. This Zen stuff is critically practical and absolutely necessary for a world of equity and peace. 
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