Sunday, September 18, 2016

Praise and blame: the perception of differences.

Happiness or madness? Once  we’ve considered thinking, let’s take a look at not thinking. And the very first issue that needs to be explored is a question: what difference does this matter of thinking or not thinking make? So what, we should ask? As established in the post Thinking, The Buddha considered thinking so important that he said: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” On the other hand the father of Zen (Bodhidharma) defined Zen as Not thinking. How do we put these two, apparently contradictory statements together? And, so what?

What do we know about Zen and how it influenced The Buddha? Zen was the means employed by The Buddha to realize his enlightenment. Having experience enlightenment he understood the root of all thinking and not thinking was his true, indiscriminate Self (or mind), where all is united⎯the wellspring of both nothing and everything. At this level of consciousness there is neither this, nor that (thinking or not thinking). You would be right to say such things as, I must deal with everyday craziness; I have a job to which I must attend and am surrounded by disagreeable people; I’m a practical person, the world seems to be going to Hell and I don’t have time or patience for esoteric, useless nonsense. 

In the Breakthrough Sermon, Bodhidharma said, “The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included. It’s like a tree. All of its fruit and flowers, its branches and leaves, depend on its root. If you nourish its root, a tree multiplies. If you cut its root, it dies. Those who understand the mind reach enlightenment with minimal effort. Those who don’t understand the mind practice in vain. Everything good and bad comes from your own mind. To find something beyond the mind is impossible.”

So how then is the mind to be understood? To begin to fathom the mind we must first consider which mind is up for consideration. I addressed that issue in a previous post True You and Me. Then we need to acknowledge the difference between a source and a manifestation. What we ordinarily consider our mind are manifestations (ideas, images, emotions: fleeting psychic phenomena, in other words thoughts and what results from thoughts). When such thoughts are rooted in fantasy, and the image of self, they are always unreal reflections that are self-centered. These thoughts emanate from the wrong root; the root of ego, and that emanation is self-centered bad fruit. The world created from this root is expressive of the nature of the root.

In the seventh chapter of Matthew, Jesus is on record of having said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”  The point here is that the world we create with our thoughts is always a reflection of the root. The parallel here is that thoughts can grow into very different kinds of manifestations. The critical key is the nature of the root. If the root is the ego there is only one kind of fruit. To grow better fruit, it is necessary to dig deeper, down to the source of all thought or non-thoughts: our true mind.

From the same Breakthrough Sermon Bodhidharma said: “If you use your mind (your rational mind) to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind (your true mind) or reality. If you study reality without using your mind (your rational mind), you’ll understand both.”

It becomes clear after reading Bodhidharma that he acknowledged both the true mind (where there is no discrimination) and the “everyday, quotidian rational mind” of discrimination. These two are present in us all. One is virtual and based on being able to discriminate one thing from another thing (and becomes the source of all conflict), and the true mind: the source of everything, where there is no discrimination and thus no conflict. For conflict to exist the perception of difference has to exist. If there is no perception of difference, there is no conflict.

So how is this understanding supposed to help us in everyday life? It helps us to recognize that we are all the same (conflicted at one level of consciousness that is actually virtual) and not conflicted or different at a deeper level of consciousness that is real. It puts everything into the proper alignment and perspective. When we find ourselves embroiled in conflict and adversity we need to notice which mind is the cause of the conflict. It can’t be the true mind since for conflict to arise, the perception of discriminate differences must exist. In the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra it says, when referring to the true mind, “In this world whose nature is like a dream, there is place for praise and blame, but in the ultimate Reality of Dharmakaya (the true mind) which is far beyond the senses and the discriminating mind, what is there to praise?”

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