Monday, October 31, 2016

The road to nowhere and everywhere.

This post is designed to explain some important differences between spirituality (particularly Zen) and religions, one of which is Buddhism. To insure we are beginning on the same page, since we are coming from such a wide spectrum of backgrounds and experiential differences, I need to start off with a few pedantic definitions, the first of which is abstraction. The definition of abstraction that seems most germane to my purposes is considered apart from concrete existence,” or “difficult to understand, such as an abstruse concept.” An abstraction is thus an image or idea about something but not the something itself. It’s a representation that may be interpreted in a host of ways by anyone who considers the image or idea. When we consider any idea we all bring with us our own biases, preconceived notions, beliefs, experiences and points of view, which serve as very effective filters that govern our understandings and alter our sense of reality. All of these factors shape our thinking that may shut, or open the door of our minds and you can notice these filters functioning when you have a conversation with anyone. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this sense of beauty (or ugliness) is determined mostly by these tightly held preconceived ideas.

Some time ago I posted an article called The Man in the moon: a whimsical expression about the discriminatory impact of labels, which cause us to make inappropriate judgments about others. Those labels serve the purpose of forming filters that quite effectively close that door of our minds and keep us trapped within dogmatic thought processes where we convince ourselves that such and such is true, simply because we have been conditioned by those biases, preconceived notions, beliefs, experiences and points of view.

Contrast this process of filtering against a fundamental aspect of human nature that we remain mostly unaware of: suchness—things as they truly are cleansed of these filters. This term, suchness is not your everyday term, but mystics have used it across the ages to articulate a state of seeing that bypassed, or transcended bias. The Buddha used this term and he considered it to be essential to awakening to the true aspect of reality, as being non-dual. To the mystics all things have a foundation in pure, uncontaminated awareness: a state of elementary or undifferentiated consciousness, which came to be known as Buddha nature (sentience). And sentience means reflexive, mirror like awareness, a state of consciousness prior to perception or thought. In essence sentience=emptiness; there is nothing present in elementary or undifferentiated consciousness, just as there is nothing in a mirror until an image appears before it. The mirror doesnt move but what appears in the mirror comes and goes: the reflected images are transient.

Perception produces abstractionBefore, things as they are.  At that very instant the universe appears as dualistic: there is what is perceived and one perceiving: a false self that is imagined as the seer seeing objective things. This state of sentience is thus an indefinable subject: who we truly are, prior to any cognitive processes. Thoughts are abstractions: illusions. The Buddha called these illusions “dreams,” and said that he had awakened from the dream and experienced sentience. He thus referred to himself as the Tathāgata: the Sanskrit name that means beyond all coming and going–beyond all transitory phenomena/objective forms. Consequently he recognized that every conceivable perceptible form or subsequent idea was grounded in sentience, which has no beginning, ending or limitation of any kind. Sentience has no definable properties and as such is without conditions: exactly the same among all sentient beings. Therefore it is the ground of all being which is the place of non-discriminate unity.

What is transitory, however, are the perceptions and ideas that appear before our empty faculty, and consequently The Buddha said there is no difference between form and emptiness; they are one and the same. Without sentience there could be no perception at all and consequently these two: perceptible forms and empty sentience dependently originate each other. All things emanate from that empty source. The images look real, but they are just phenomenal images, which are transitory. Since we remain unaware of our true source, the only reality we can grasp are the transitory images, to which we cling, and by which we define ourselves. Since the images are here one moment and gone the next, our sense of self: false self/ego rides the waves of suffering and bliss.
Post a Comment