Sitting Zazen and Considering the Teachings of Dogen
This is about Buddhism and meditation. It’s Super Bowl day and there’s a jazzercise type party on the basketball courts at the gym. I grab for another kleenex. It’s also Family Gameday at my daughter’s house. And the expectorant cough medicine seems to be loosening up chest congestion. A head-chest cold causing a week of missed workouts at the gym is one thing but a forced retreat today when there are places to go, people to see and things to do . . . darn. A need for equanimity and another opportunity presents for practice.
So zazen on the cushion again today on and off when the body tells me to stop and rest, I do so on the meditation cushion Zazen to Shikantaza or Shamatha to Vipassana, whatever — its alert Continue reading →
I was somewhere peaceful. Not really a dream you see? It was rather a space of no stress, no time, lovely floating. I was a non-self –sort of I guess or how I’d image it to be a non-self… I wasn’t me. Where I was there was no “me” as I am accustomed to knowing it.
In coming back (and I don’t even remember leaving by the way), there were the following impressions. I didn’t see anything that I can recall – no form of any kind but I was not in the body and not in the space my thoughts usually occupy. No time, I say, because when I slowly returned to my body that was on the cold hospital Emergency Room floor the first impression was that I didn’t know how long I was gone but it seemed to me like I was gone for a long while. There, where I had just been, time was huge or non-existent; it had no meaning or significance.
I think that the reason that it felt like I was gone a while is that I had to remember myself again and what was happening. Like I’d been away for a long time and had to jump back into a life that I could hardly remember—like that life was a long, long time ago.
Voices and shouting brought me back. The cold floor on the side of my face made me wonder what the body was doing here. I had to work really hard to re-enter the point and time and re-join the body and the life circumstances… to come back into being a “me”.
This is IT for me, you know? Contemplating the nature of the mind and reality makes it all bearable. No. Not right. Much more than bearable; it makes life a total celebratory event.
You see, we all think (or feel) that we have our own personal single mind that is so very real because it experiences and recognizes things. Yet, how often (if ever) do we stop and examine those experiences that the mind thinks are so real? Break them apart, open them up, see what’s there at the core–do people do that?
Trauma or crisis can help us contemplate this type of thing (or not)–happiness too; any intense experience. Many times doing that drives us to addictive distraction instead of some level of enlightenment and joy. But if we really examine the experiences that the mind is having and we do so carefully, and we really contemplate this experience that this mind has and we look for that mind that has this crisis or happy experience, we cannot find a single thing! Not one single thing but a blend of many components that we call “consciousness’. It’s NOT YOU!
Here’s what I mean–there is no solid mind or self at the core of the experience or no real experience-ER. I know, it sounds crazy if you’ve never thought about it but give me a chance to explain.
Consciousness has many various components–parts! You know like a car, a vehicle has many components, parts–engine, tires, frame, door and so forth. Is not our mind and our consciousness the same? Consciousness has awareness of visual objects (forms, shapes, colors) and then there is awareness of sound, touch (tactile consciousness), taste consciousness and all these are separate parts or functions of the mind. It’s like the car analogy–separate parts, gas tank, gas pedal, speedometer, steering wheel and so forth.
Consider the experience of anything for a moment–it doesn’t have to be crisis or trauma. Anything. Happy experience let’s say. If we consider that each type of consciousness recognizes a particular field of experience (sound awareness or consciousness recognizes sound and visual consciousness is aware of shapes and colors of forms)… if we consider this as part of any experience we see that each of the types of consciousnesses function in an independent way from the others.
So the mind is a blend of consciousnesses and not one single unit or not one single, unitary thing. Rather it is a compound object just like the car, the vehicle.
The ground consciousness stores information from all other levels of consciousness and accumulated past lives. You can see how this level of mind would easily support the idea of an individual identity called “me”. It would seem so ‘real’ but it is a grouping of consciousness; a grouping of experiences.
To explain further, it is fairly easy to grasp that the visual consciousness perceives objects–that’s the potential of the visual consciousness. If you look at a red cloth, you see red. If you look at snow on a mountain, you see white. We are able also, quite obviously, to see things in succession–first seeing one thing and then the next with one thing disappearing and the next thing appearing in consciousness. So visual consciousness is multiple and successive and has the potential to see many things at once and so is not single or solitary or one thing. Nor is it one single solitary unit of time.
Even if we could isolate a single solitary unit of time, it would only occur within the framework of ongoing consciousness because awareness is never static–its fluid. So every moment has to relate to a previous moment and a future moment—meaning, it is not any more singular than we ourselves are. The future moment is the present being the past in relation to it. Yeah, I know that last sentence is pretty deep; but the point is that time is not solid, solitary and static and neither is consciousness and neither are we!
There is no single unit of identifiable reality in either the external world of appearances or in the subjective mind. Even space does not have a fundamentally real, inherent existence. Space is not a compound, and does consist of various parts like the car or like our mind. Space is not a thing–it seems to exist but it is the negation of a particular appears of anything else. Even the space in a room only exists because of the walls–take away the walls and the space that you thought existed in the room is not there and only depended upon the walls around it to appear as if it existed.
So the whole point in this blog post brings me to the point of liberation–even if I can’t fully understand it all in a way to describe it in words; in an experiential way I’ve known this truth from meditation… it’s all true.
For example, in a contemplative meditation last evening, I tried to find… well, I asked, “Where is Joy? Where am I located?” It took less than a nano-second to realize I’m not my body and once you get past that basic truth, look for the location and you will find it’s everywhere! And now here! and nowhere!
And this, my friend, helps me to chill-ax (chill out and relax) and to see the humor in it all…. appearances are empty forms! And again, quoting the Beatles once more, in the Strawberry Fields song, “Nothing is real; and it’s nothing to get hung about.”
DEDICATION:May this post help another in a way that is in divine order when they come upon this post–for this is my true intent in writing it today!
This whole ground consciousness and latencies or latent imprints is totally fascinating. That information comes from deeper study of Tibetan Buddhism which is really, in my humble terms, the study of the mind and the nature of reality. They say that the imprints are not the experience itself, but more like dormant seeds.
I think about wildflowers when I think of dormant seeds that are not receiving the right conditions to bloom. And yet, when they do (especially in the northeastern part of the country where I currently reside), they do not last long. The summer sun and rain bring the conditions for the blooms and then in the fall and winter, they are dormant again.
I think the comparison to wildflowers is an okay or and adequate association in that these imprints are positive, negative or neutral depending upon whether they originated from a positive, negative or neutral thought or action.
Some things grow in summer but do not contain flowers—some contain thorns or brambles. As weeds and wildflowers grow, so go our own imprints–positive, negative or neutral. And we are creating new imprints all the time–reality.
I really like comparing psychological, spiritual, philosophical aspects of ourselves to nature. The natural world is a fertile ground for this type of relating.
Anyway, we are told by the Tibetan teacher (s) (the Rinpoche) that these seeds or imprints are activated with experiences in the here and now. Those everyday types of experiences in life are then activated like the Sun and water and soil conditions activate the wildflowers in the summer.
And here’s the kicker!
These activated imprints are what give us the impression of solid reality (it is all energy vibrations and reflections in actuality and a quantum physicist will agree that a table or a wall is nothing more than very faSt moving neutrons, electrons, protons. Horray for physics! Anyway…
Back to latencies…. these are associated with external sensory experiences and give rise to the belief in dualism. What that means is a belief that I am separate from other or interpreting everything in terms of “I” and “other”. It is these sensory experiences provided by the dormant seeds come to bloom (so-to-speak) that give rise to a sense of individual ego or separation from All That Is. And then we create actions based on that belief in dualism that create more and this is how we go round and round in the world of illusion.
There are those who believe that if there is a self that it is a conceptual stream of consciousness that receives these latencies and projects them as external phenomena.
Just consider that a moment as you contemplate your reality! your life! A stream of consciousness projecting latencies! And in every moment we are creating more latencies based on how we respond to any ‘now’ moment! Mind blowing! 🙂
Well, it has to be extremely more complicated than this; but what if it’s not?
Sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, body) receive input and then process and transmit it to the brain–and when reading the word ‘input’, think energy vibrations. The mental consciousness receives something like, “red, round, moving to the left, sharp edges” and then interprets it.
When you think that this has been going on in our stream of consciousness for eons of lifetimes, consider the amount of latent tendencies we have stored which create our reality as we experience it!
No wonder we have developed a belief that external objects are solid and real… and no wonder we perceive what the latent tendencies tell us, which is that the external phenomenon is solid and real rather than empty.
Psychic residue containing diverse thoughts rooted in past lives creates the forms. The mind is transitory (fleeing, passing through, temporary, brief, in flux and in movement)–such is our life . And eternal reality is actually nonexistent.
Conventional Reality vs Ultimate Reality
But then again, conventionally it is, meaning that conventional reality does exist. Especially when you think of explaining to your landlord or mortgage holder that your external reality does not it exist and therefore you don’t need to pay your rent or mortgage!
We have all agreed upon this reality due to these latencies and karmic actions and therefore conventional reality exists but ultimately, as just explained, it does not. So it’s a paradox that the Buddhists call “The Two Truths”.
One reason I believe all of this is that of my personal experience of it in meditation is just as has been as described by the Buddhist teachings and long before I read the Buddhist teachings–so, therefore, I know the truth of this via my own meditative experience. Not intellectually.
There is what the Buddhist call shamatha meditation and this will show you the true nature of reality as one turns to look at one’s mind directly.
Well, enough for now. Understanding these latencies and even just a wee bit can help a good deal in relieving ourselves or releasing our grasp on our attachment s and aversions.
Contemplate this and fear dissolves and aversions become laughable and attachments, too, seem ridiculous.
And the last word in the paragraph above reminds me of the brilliance of the scene in the Harry Potter movie (The Prisoner of Azkaban) when the witches and wizards in-training worked with the spell to transform the Boggarts. The word of the spell used was “Riddikulus”.
(A Boggart, by the way, is a shape-shifting non-being that takes on the form of the viewer’s worst fear.)
The image to the left is the result of a wizard student projecting an image of his grandmother onto a Boggart ,transforming the professor he fears into a comical image of his grandmother.
Learning about the mind and nature of reality from the Buddhist perspective helps us to transform our own Boggarts realizing they are no more than mind projecting latent tendencies… what transforms a Boggart after all is humor, laughter! (according to author J.K. Rowling anyway)
So, keep it Light!
Aspiration: May this post help someone in cyber world who comes upon it at a time of need to help ease suffering, enhance happiness and renew their sense of freedom and true liberation!
I really like that this blog has no main theme so there is freedom to write whatever suits on whichever day. Today its the ‘no self’ or non-self or ego-less-ness of self that’s knocking around in my noggin. People misunderstand this concept and for good reason; it’s not an easy one to consider much less accept. People are very attached to the idea of self and it’s dramas.
I tried to speak about this just a wee bit with my oldest daughter who is suffering mental anguish over an injury to her hand… what I tried to convey was distinguishing the mind-body-spirit. At the mention of non-self her eyes glazed over and I totally lost her. She seemed to grasp it a bit when I said that ‘the hand has a problem but you don’t have a problem’ and she let go a little bit then, but anyway… I was trying to lead up to the fact that when we try to look for our self… well, once we can let go of the idea that we are our body, then we think we are our thoughts.
And when we try to look and to see from where the thoughts arise, from where they originate to start with and where they go when we’re done with them, we cannot find the beginning or the end.
But even more to the point, when we try (in earnest and in meditation) to find the self or the one who is doing the thinking, we find nothing is there— well, nothing but a never-ending and continually changing stream of thoughts and feelings. But we find no solid self. (You are not your body.) And even if you look to your body to try to find your self, you will (at its basic core energy) find a lot of body parts and then empty space and protons, neurons and still no solid self.
This is the realization of non-self. And this is Buddhism.
And then, after that, we realize we are everywhere — or nowhere — now/here — now here sort of like that drawing above.
May we all release our dramas and suffering and the causes of those and come to the contented peace of true liberation!