Friday, September 16, 2016

The ubiquitous gift.

Some time ago I wrote a post titled, The destination. Far away? and toyed with the thought that it may be far beyond where we presently stand. For sure it appears that way. All we have to do is look around to see a growing wasteland of moral degeneration and hostile, polarized alienation.

The Dalai Lama wrote recently, “The paradox of our age is we have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences but less time; more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgment; more experts but more problems; more medicines but less healthfulness; we’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble walking across the street to meet new neighbors; we’ve built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies, but communicate less; we have become long on quantity and short of quality. These are times of fast food but slow digestion; tall men but short character; steep profits but shallow relationships. It’s a time with much in the window but nothing in the room.” Step by step we seem to be drifting further apart and losing our way. We live in a magnificent world with great abundance yet remain insatiable, and perpetuate violence. The question is why? Perhaps the answer is that we lust for a far away Heaven or fear a Hell too close for comfort. It has been said that religion is for those who fear going to Hell but spirituality is for those who have already been there.

For most of human history, people of the Western world have understood our ultimate destination as either a Heaven in the sky or a Hell in the bowels at the pit of the earth. Nobody in that lengthy history has ever gone and returned with any convincing evidence to either so the matter remains a concern of religious belief. However, at least two of the greatest and wisest men to ever exist—Jesus and The Buddha, maintained that Heaven and Hell were the eternal room within which we continuously exist. All of the necessary ingredients for making one or the other are forever in our midst. If this unorthodox, yet profound, view is true then it is beyond dispute that our greatest challenge is to make our collective lives into one or the other by virtue of what we think and do.

Just for the sake of consideration, imagine that Heaven or Hell is the result of what we think and do, and both are what we ourselves create within the eternal presence of our Mind. The Sūraṅgama Sūtra is an amazing portrait of the already present, omnipresent Mind. And here is what the Buddha wrote about the conundrum of an imagination gone wrong: “...All things in all worlds are the wondrous, fundamental, enlightened, luminous mind that understands, and that this mind, pure, all pervading, and perfect, contains the entire is everlasting and does not perish.”

In the commentary on the Diamond Sūtra, Huang-po said, “Buddhas and beings share the same identical mind. It’s like space: it doesn’t contain anything and isn’t affected by anything. When the great wheel of the sun rises, and light fills the whole world, space doesn’t become brighter. When the sun sets, and darkness fills the whole world, space doesn’t become darker. The states of light and darkness alternate and succeed one another, while the nature of space is vast and changeless. The mind of buddhas and beings is like this. Here, the buddha says to save all beings in order to get rid of the delusion of liberation so that we can see our true nature.” If you look at the top of my blog, you’ll read, the essence of this thought: Birds and thoughts fly through the sky of mind. When they are gone we’re left with the sky of wisdom and compassion.

The cause of suffering is, in the end, quite simply that we don’t realize that we are already at our destination and will never be anywhere else. We lust for what a never-arriving tomorrow might bring and dwell on a past that lives on only in our imagination. The path forward or backwards takes us to exactly where we are, each and every moment. We will never be anywhere else. Everywhere we go, there we are within the universal mind and it can never be otherwise. The how to answer is not so hard. The hard part is accepting what is and realizing that if we want a Heaven we will make one, right where we stand by what we think and do. And the same holds true for Hell.

There are many prescriptions for methodology of how to (and I could redundantly add my own) but you could follow any and all and still come to the same place. When you awaken, you understand this simple truth: you are already home. All we need to do is open our eyes and accept the greatest gift of alllife, with everything needed to make either Heaven or Hell. If we don’t feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happier with more of the same?

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