Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The icon of purity and unification.


Buddhism employs many icons of important significance. One of these is Akshobhya who is considered as the embodiment of mirror knowledge. As such he symbolizes the mind itself—clear as the sky, empty yet luminous. According to the teaching of Zen, what is ordinarily considered our mind is merely a fabricated illusion spawned by a host of biases, preconceived notions and cherished beliefs. And this fabrication is then constructed in the form of thoughts and emotions to which we cling. This clinging to illusions dominates our lives. Instead the true mind is pure knowledge of what is real, and what is illusion—a mere reflection of actual reality. Akshobhya represents the eternal mind holding the images of space and time, yet untouched by them all. In Sanskrit his name means the immovable one.

In my last post “Reflections of Reality” I began to illustrate the nature of the true mind and quoted Bodhidharma...“‘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 (sic, dependent origination). 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 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.”

It is peculiar that in the West we define mental health by the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is a delusion. Yet according to Zen our grasp of reality is the flip side of reality. Instead, here in the West reality=illusion: we mistake the illusion as reality instead of a reflection and never consider the means whereby we can distinguish between reality and illusion. If you think deeply about this conundrum it is obvious that there must be an immovable mental faculty capable of making distinctions between one thing and another. If this were not true everything would blend into an indistinguishable mess.

Movement and non-movement are mirror aspects of each other and both must arise (and be distinguishable) from a base of nothing. Einstein dealt with this in his thoughts on relativity. We, for example, are moving through space on the earth at a given speed and anything else that is moving at the same speed appears to be not moving. If this base of immobility and emptiness contained something (instead of nothing) then we could not distinguish between that something and other things. Contrast is fundamental to the ability to distinguish anything. For example, an image of black depends on a backdrop of something not black. If everything is black there could not be a perception of anything other than black. Likewise, unless there is a backdrop of nothing, we couldn't perceive anything with discernible qualities.

Akshobhya is that immovable aspect of the eternal mind holding the images of space and time, yet untouched by them all. And since he illustrates this empty quality he also defines the unconditional true nature of us. Anything that is unconditional is not subject to definition or discrimination. Akshobhya is the icon that represents the quality of pure consciousness that unites us all.

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