Saturday, September 17, 2016

The true you and me.

The Ancient Greek aphorism to “know thyself” is familiar even today. Most people throughout time and place believe they know themselves and can go to great length to describe their attributes, personality characteristics, along with strengths and weakness. Of course as we age our comfort with these definitions changes and we seem to have an evolving self that morphs as the world changes around us. In that sense we seem lost to the vagaries of life, and are like sponges, soaking up the dimensions of our conditioned world and that method is the standard way of “knowing ourselves.”

There is, however, another way of coming to self-understanding that was articulated by The Buddha in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra. The dialogue in this Sūtra is between The Buddha and his cousin, Ananda. And one of the principle teachings in the Sūtra concerns this alternative way of knowing. In the process of the ensuing conversation, The Buddha identifies two types of minds; one that leads to unending suffering and the other that leads to genuine self understanding. Here is what is said:

“The Buddha then compounds his cousin’s confusion by stating that there are fundamentally two kinds of mind:
  1. First, the ordinary quotidian mind of which we are aware and which is entangled, lifetime after lifetime, in the snare of illusory perceptions and random thoughts;
  2. And second, the everlasting true mind, which is our real nature, and which is the state of the Buddha.
Ananda, what are the two fundamentals? The first is the mind that is the basis of death and rebirth and has continued for the entirety of time, which has no beginning. This mind is dependent upon perceived objects, and it is this that you and all beings make use of and that each of you consider to be your own nature.

The second fundamental is enlightenment, which has no beginning; it is the original and pure essence of nirvana. It is the original understanding, the real nature of consciousness. All conditioned phenomena arise from it, and yet it is among those phenomena that beings lose track of it. They have lost track of this fundamental understanding, though it is active in them all day long, and because they remain unaware of it, they make the mistake of entering the various destinies.”

The first mind is responsible for all the suffering of the world and the second is the one the vast majority of humanity has missed. The obvious conclusion to this observation is that the solution to our contemporary troubles must begin with a proper grasp of our true mind, because we are prone to understand ourselves and others in the same fashion as this first kind of mind understands anything: as mutually discreet, perceived objects, all different with no connective spiritual tissue, only. Beneath our bodily form lies our true spiritual nature which never dies and is connected to all.
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