A Brief History of the Dream

tiny grass is dreaming

Our true and original nature is the Supreme Source of the universe and all of its infinite energetic manifestations. Everything we see and experience, including the body and its conditions, is a projection of that Source energy as radiant holographic light, which assumes the forms of you and me and everything. There is no “external” reality separate from our own activity as Source, nothing appearing outside of us — no “objective world” — that is not a figment of our own dreamy Source energy projections.

As shards of Source energy, we “co-create” the illusion called “the universe”, along with its dazzling variety of props and experiences, tests and challenges, loves and losses, victories and defeats. The Hindus use the term “lila” for this immense display, commonly translated as “creative divine play”. In any case, it is all a truly awesome mirage, birthed in an act of indescribable love. Though far beyond the comprehension of our limited human intellect, it is still a kind of magic trick all the same. When we turn our attention from the magic to the magician, we make a radical discovery. We’ve been pulling a rabbit out of our own hat!

Somewhere down the road we might become weary of the production, or indifferent to its elaborations, and so create the teacher and the teachings that point back to who and what we truly are, which we’ve pretended to have forgotten when we entered into the game of time and space (which is also our own mental creation). We’ve played all the roles, we’ve seen their effects, garnered the laughs and applause, endured the boos and thumbs down, but now we are ready to lift the curtain. Perhaps we are ready to wake up and See.

Our view as a child is not the same as our view now, but what has changed? For the person, nothing is remembered, but for Source, all is known, because Source is beyond the confines of time. Omniscience is our natural condition, which this human amnesia only temporarily obscures (for the purposes of the game, the play, the theater of action). Source imposes such forgetfulness on Itself, mostly for the joy of remembering Itself once again. As expressions of Source energy, we each provide Source with unique vantage points from which to enjoy Its creative play, as well as vehicles by which to recognize Itself when the causes and conditions ripen.

The individual we take ourselves to be, the sense of “me” in the midst of a particular human incarnational story, is but a momentary modification of this luminous Source energy, typically misperceived as being trapped within a dense material vibration. However, because it arises dependently, it is empty of any inherent and substantial “self” that could ever be truly bound or free. This realization becomes apparent in the course of a sincere and focused inquiry into our real identity. In that conscious process, we notice that all of our emotional suffering, our sense of self, our delusion and frustration, exist only in our “inner” thought world, and moreover, we come to recognize that world is not who or what we are. As we awaken, the whole narrative of “me and mine” is undermined, and eventually seen for the fraud it really is.

Thoughts perpetually arise and dissolve, but do not affect our real being. So too do forms come and go, stories come and go, self-images come and go, but what we are is beyond those transient and non-binding modifications of consciousness. We are them, but they are not us. All angles of vision are nothing but Source, looking out of every eye. Although all eyes are equally Source, some views are cloudy and obscured, while some are crystal clear. Most are somewhere in between. Whatever the view, it has no impact on our immediate awake awareness, the primordial presence of reality itself.

Nevertheless, by habitually granting attention and reality to our passing thoughts, we tend to identify with them to the point of distraction from our free native state, and what ensues is an alternating cycle of desire and fear, craving and aversion. It’s not that there is some separate inner world that exists independently, but rather that the fantasy realm of appearances is only reified when our distracted attention creates it and maintains it. In that way, we are the authors of our own sense of suffering. We are our own jailers.

When we sleep at night, we populate our dreams with all sorts of imaginary creatures and characters. In much the same way, so too does Source populate its dream universe with an infinite variety of dreamy entities and action figures, in order to experience all of the infinite aspects of Itself in every kind of situation. Direct recognition of this process, or seeing the dream as a dream, is called by some “Awakening”, although there is no actual person that awakens. When our attention turns around and rests in the silent space between thoughts, Source recognizes Itself through the open lens of its dream character, remembering its original nature and identity, from which it has never actually been divided.

There is the seed of that true recognition (also called Buddha Nature) within all experience. It is not enhanced, corrupted, or manipulated in any way by the play of consciousness. Just as a mirror is not affected by its reflections, so too does our true nature of transparent awake awareness remain unmodified by any projections in the dream. There is nothing appearing in the mirror that can be grasped or clung to, there is no argument to be won or perfect state to be achieved, nothing requiring figuring out or fixing, nothing in need of redemption or salvation. All of that is just flashing reflections and dream projections.

The flowering of this seed of our original innocence yields the realization that there are no others, and that such dualism is an inaccurate way of perceiving phenomena altogether. Indeed, all conceptual designations or mental fabrications, such as self and other, subject and object, good and evil, light and dark, inner and outer, yin and yang, male and female, old and young, even liberation and bondage, or samsara and nirvana, are simply our own compounded projections flashing in the mirror-mind of Source, and are no more or less real than a fleeting day-dream.

As Nisargadatta Maharaj remarked: “If you seek reality, you must set yourself free of all backgrounds, of all cultures, of all patterns of thinking and feeling. Even the idea of being man or woman, or even human, should be discarded. The ocean of life contains all, not only humans. So, first of all abandon all self-identification, stop thinking of yourself as such-and-such or so-and-so, this or that. Abandon all self-concern, worry not about your welfare, material or spiritual, abandon every desire, gross or subtle, stop thinking of achievement of any kind. You are complete here and now, you need absolutely nothing.”

Indeed, any attempt to liberate anything is superfluous, since everything is already self-released into the open spacious freedom of primordial awake awareness. Nothing has ever been lacking. Delusion and enlightenment are not two. All of our problems have arisen solely because we believed that we were an independent doer, when in fact that has never actually been the case.

Even now, we can recognize the changeless ground of the Great Perfection that we always already are. In practice, when we observe a thought appearing in mind, we need not follow it, but instead we can notice the clear aware space in which that thought is appearing. By relaxing and resting in that sky-like spaciousness, instead of running after thought, the thoughts themselves and their implications naturally self-release. By repeating this process again and again, the angle of vision will clarify, and the direct recognition of our original nature as Source Itself will move from the silent background to the forefront.

As the great Adept Saraha noted: “The root of the whole of samsara and nirvana is the nature of mind. To realize it, rest in unstructured ease without meditating on anything. When all that needs to be done is to rest in yourself, it is amazing that you are deluded by seeking elsewhere! Everything is of the primordial nature, without its being this and not that.”

At such a juncture, the distance between the arising thought or emotion, and the awareness of it, dissolves, and there is simply awareness experiencing itself as thought or emotion, memory, or perception. The dreamer and the dream are not separate. The ocean is the wave and the wave is the ocean. There is only One, mysteriously appearing as everything and anything, and joyously experiencing Itself as all and nothing. When It recognizes its own empty nature as transparent awake awareness, all its expressions are spontaneously self-liberated.

For this recognition, there is no need for complex mental acrobatics, no need to run away and sit in a cave, twisting body and mind into contortions, or chase after every guru on the satsang circuit, hoping that somehow they will provide some special enlightenment ingredient which we believe is lacking in ourselves. We can let go of any sense of limitation right here and now.

All we need do is pay attention, and stop allowing ourselves to be led around by the nose by our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, memories, positions, and conditioned interpretations on perception. Nor do we need to go looking for love – we are love, we are grace, we are beauty and freedom. There is no other place we need to be. Our very appearance in this world, or any world, is the blissful dynamic play of Source, and we are That.

Let’s stop believing otherwise, and let the dream be.

“You are the Supreme Reality beyond the world and its creator, beyond consciousness and its witness, beyond all assertions and denials. Remember it, think of it, act on it. Abandon all sense of separation, see yourself in all and act accordingly.”

~Nisargadatta Maharaj

mirror

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Saving the World

“Millions eat bread, but few know all about wheat. And only those who know can improve the bread. Similarly, only those who know the self, who have seen beyond the world, can improve the world. Their value to private persons is immense, for they are their only hope of salvation. What is in the world cannot save the world; if you really care to help the world you must step out of it.

Who was born first, you or the world? As long as you give first place to the world, you are bound by it; once you realize, beyond all trace of doubt that the world is in you and not you in the world, you are out of it. Of course your body remains in the world and of the world, but you are not deluded by it. All scriptures say that before the world was, the Creator was. Who knows the Creator? He alone who was before the Creator, your own real being, the source of all the worlds with their creators.”

~Nisargadatta Maharaj

From the absolute perspective, there is no need for any story – things are what they are. What is, simply is. However, while immersed in the relative, objective sphere of time and space (as all of us are), there will be narratives, because that is how humans organize chaos. Even several levels above this vibrational frequency, there are still narratives, just more subtle.

The question is: to which narrative will we grant reality? Depending on our choice, so is the world created. We are not so much in the world as the world is in us. It is a compounded product of our own projections, both individually and collectively. On the macro level, the current world is the result of stories we have collectively fashioned, and so will be the world which follows.

When the mind moves, stories are spawned. Be before mind, and stories will take care of themselves. However, how many are able to drop off the mind? Certainly not the mass of humanity, or even the mass of spiritual practitioners. Consequently, we need to be very discriminative with our story-making.

The following consideration has been touched on previously, in essays such as “To Do Something”, “Shaking Others Awake”, and “Fighting the Powers That Be”, which are archived here. However, given the multiple alarming flash points that threaten humanity of late, it seems appropriate to inquire into the matter once again.

For most of us at our current level of awareness, the story of this realm is to a very large extent about a dedicated theater/training ground for soul evolution. In that respect, it functions perfectly, just as it is. It perfectly serves the various actors/students who appear here, who do so based on various causes and conditions which ripen into human birth on this planet (and countless others throughout the multiverse which provide comparable curricula).

Briefly, it is because conditions here are so different than what we experience in our natural state as immortal beings of light that we are curious about and thus attracted to the possibilities of human incarnation. Among other reasons, it provides a unique opportunity to find out how we would react when faced with the kinds of challenges specific to realms like this one. It is a particular kind of stage with particular kinds of props, and although the props will always be changing, the stage remains the same.

Essentially, the focus of this Earth drama/curriculum revolves around issues of love, integrity, and freedom from ignorance. Consequently, the fundamentals of both right view and right conduct are at the heart of most of the dramas and tests souls are subjected to here. These tests specifically entail such challenges as ignorance, greed, envy, hatred, and pride — the chief impediments that characterize rudimentary levels of soul developmental adaptation. Thus, the main emphasis in this screenplay is on how we treat each other in our lives and relationships, particularly in the midst of the challenging conditions that pertain on a war planet such as this.

Yes, a war planet. For the overwhelming mass of humanity, that is what it was designed to be, that is what it has been for as long as it has been here, and that is what it will likely remain (regardless of any attempts to have it be otherwise) . Throughout its history, there have been many who would like to modify this realm in order to have it approximate their subjective fantasy of what it should be and look like. However, since this realm itself is more in the nature of a virtual reality, any efforts to have it correspond and conform to our ideals are not unlike trying to change a dream. No matter how passionately we may strive, it is still a dream.

We accept a kind of amnesia when we come here, in order to give the story more impact, and so allow us to more fully glean the experiential lessons implicit in the adventure. If we were to retain our natural soul knowledge, it would defeat the purpose of incarnation. We love the mystery of the Unknown. Nevertheless, to one degree or another, most who arrive here will eventually want to change the dream/story in order to have it be more agreeable to their personal conditioned preferences.

Just as one might identify with a movie character to the point that they forget it is merely a movie they are watching, so too do we forget that our own human story is fictional too. Hearing that it is a dream, and even having some intellectual understanding that it is a dream, is not the same as directly realizing that it is a dream, and that is what constitutes the wisdom of awakening — directly seeing the illusion as illusion.

Nisargadatta Maharaj made an excellent point when he noted: “There is nothing that can help the world more than your putting an end to ignorance. Then, you need not do anything in particular to help the world. Your very being is a help, action or no action.” As long as we take the world to be real, we will be operating under a false assumption. We will run around trying to fix Samsara, locked in a vicious cycle of desire and fear, rather than recognizing how we are prolonging our stay in it by continuing to grant it some enduring and substantial reality. Moreover, as long as we cling to our human identities, we will not be able to move on to our true inheritance beyond this dense dark plane of interminable conflict. Our very ignorance will trap us. As such, the metaphor of having to repeat an elementary class over and over again is not inappropriate.

Does this mean things will never improve here? Of course not — things will improve, and then they will un-improve, and that cycle will alternate perpetually, because that is the nature of this realm. The Awake among us have always stressed the fact that we need to change ourselves first, before we run out and try to change others. Great changes can be made and have been made, no doubt, but Samsara is still Samsara, and that fact has not changed. Suffering has not changed, nor has ignorance. Human behavior is still dominated by desire and fear. A brief glance at the current world headlines demonstrates that fact amply enough.

Does that mean we just ignore suffering? Of course not – -we do what we can whenever the opportunity presents itself for us to be of service. However, our altruism needs to be tempered by the realization that we are not here to change the world, but to be changed by our experience of it. We are not here to perfect elementary school, but to learn its lessons and then move on to more advanced curricula.

Until all the notions, wishes, demands, and beliefs that things should be other than they are, and that this world should be other than it is, are seen through and understood in the light of real awakening, we will only be spinning our wheels, and doing no real good for anyone. Indeed, we will only be creating more suffering, in the conceited guise of being some sort of bodhisattva or savior.

Just so, who better than the Buddha to clarify exactly how the true Bodhisattva regards sentient beings? In the Vimilakirti Sutra, an essential Buddhist scripture, he begins:

“A bodhisattva should regard all livings beings as a wise man regards the reflection of the moon in water or as magicians regard men created by magic. He should regard them as being like a face in a mirror; like the water of a mirage; like the sound of an echo; like a mass of clouds in the sky; like the previous moment of a ball of foam; like the appearance and disappearance of a bubble of water; like the core of a plantain tree; like a flash of lightning; like the fifth great element; like the seventh sense-medium; like the appearance of matter in an immaterial realm; like a sprout from a rotten seed; like a tortoise-hair coat; like the fun of games for one who wishes to die . . .”

He continues on with these similes for a while, pointing to the truth of emptiness and the dream-like nature of all beings, and when asked how a true Bodisattva rouses great compassion for sentient beings, he replies:

“He generates the love that is truly a refuge for all living beings; the love that is peaceful because free of grasping; the love that is not feverish, because free of passions; the love that accords with reality because it is equanimous in all three times; the love that is without conflict because free of the violence of the passions; the love that is nondual because it is involved neither with the external nor with the internal; the love that is imperturbable because totally ultimate, a love that that causes living beings to awaken from their sleep . . .”

In other words, the highest form of compassion is not involved in schemes and strategies to save or improve the world, but rather is geared towards the awakening of all beings, because all beings are recognized to be none other than oneself, and furthermore, that self is ultimately recognized to be empty of any inherent substance or solidity – a character in a dream. Thus, in Mahayana Buddhism, wisdom and compassion are inseparable.

The Sage Nisargadatta once noted, “Helping others is mere imagination, however noble. In truth you do not help others because there are not others.” To truly awaken to the nature of reality is also to recognize that the whole concept of separate entities in need of being saved is a delusion, and yet it is paradoxically just such a recognition that qualifies one as a true Bodhisattva – one who is able to respond to suffering in the most effective fashion, based on an enlightened balance of love and wisdom.

A contemporary Chan (Zen) teacher, Guo Gu, clarified this matter when he wrote: “Remember: those who are suffering are precisely you, but you are not them. If you only have the first part, then you’re simply suffering. If you only have the latter, then you’re deluded.”

In any case, if we sincerely inquire into our motives, we might come to recognize how arrogant our assumption is that we know what is right for somebody else, much less the world. The fact is, we are never in any kind of position to comprehend the bigger picture, at least as long as we are encased in these meat suits, and are operating at this dense vibratory frequency. That being so, why go about making assumptions about others’ fate that may be merely a product of our own delusion? An old cliché that is nevertheless rings true, especially in this regard, is that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

The various crusades that humans have undertaken can serve as cautionary tales in that regard, because they invariably make things worse. Clearly, we need look no further than places like Cambodia, China, and Russia in recent times, where people imagined they could make things better by imposing a more just ideal of society, but instead ended up with dictatorial regimes that slaughtered millions in the name of progress.

Indeed, this planet has seen countless civilizations rise and disappear, long before our current one began recording its own brief history. All sorts of actors and dramas have played out their roles and scenes on this stage, and that will continue, as long as there are sentient beings who wander in the delusions of “me and mine”, self and other. In the course of time, more trouble than good has been perpetrated on humanity by well-meaning but ignorant missionaries, blinded by their own zeal and uninspected beliefs. Given that, true compassion may very well mean that we let others have the experience they came here to have, without any meddling interference from us (based on our limited filters and idealistic but biased programs).

Does this mean we stop caring? Of course not — there is no end to caring, but few ever bother to deeply inquire regarding who or what exactly is doing this caring. That’s the key the sages are pointing to. They do not urge us to go out and take up social work, suggesting that we become professional “do-gooders”. Rather, they ask us to find out who we truly are (and aren’t). The rest will unfold naturally from that liberating recognition, though without it, we are just endlessly pushing Sisyphus’ rock up a hill — a rock that is bound to roll right back down again.

Perhaps the two complementary aspects of love and wisdom were best summed up by Sri Nisargadatta when he said: “When I see I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I see I am everything, that is love. Between these two my life moves.” Just so, true love is selfless in that it embodies the principle of loving others as oneself, because that is the literal truth. In other words, when we awaken to the Real, we realize that there is no other, and there is no world, separate and divided from ourselves. We are that! The mystical epiphany that there is only God actually reflects this recognition.

True wisdom is likewise selfless, because it recognizes the essential emptiness of both the self and the world. We are neither this nor that – self or world – but rather the open spacious transparency of awake awareness, in which both self and world appear and disappear. It is this union of love and wisdom that defines the authentic Bodhisattva — the one who hears the cries of the suffering, and responds with enlightened compassion (Bodhicitta). It is only That One who truly “saves the world”.

“No doubt, striving for the improvement of the world is a most praiseworthy occupation. Done selflessly, it clarifies the mind and purifies the heart. But soon man will realize that he pursues a mirage. Local and temporary improvement is always possible and was achieved again and again under the influence of a great king or teacher; but it would soon come to an end, leaving humanity in a new cycle of misery. It is in the nature of all manifestation that the good and the bad follow each other and in equal measure. The true refuge is only in the unmanifested.

Once you realize that the world is your own projection, you are free of it. You need not free yourself of a world that does not exist, except in your own imagination! However the picture is — beautiful or ugly — you are painting it and you are not bound by it. Realize that there is nobody to force it on you, that it is due to the habit of taking the imaginary to be real. See the imaginary as imaginary and be free of fear.

When you realize that you are the light of the world, you will also realize that you are the love of it; that to know is to love and to love is to know. Of all the affections the love of oneself comes first. Your love of the world is the reflection of your love of yourself, for your world is of your own creation. Light and love are impersonal, but they are reflected in your mind as knowing and wishing oneself well. We are always friendly towards ourselves, but not always wise. A Yogi is a man whose goodwill is allied to wisdom.”

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

meditaciya

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The Paradox of Inherent Perfection

Monk protests: “But Master, yesterday you said that Mind is Buddha.”

Ma Tsu: “That was like offering yellow leaves to a child and telling him it is gold — just to stop his crying.”

Monk: “And what about when the child has stopped crying?”

Ma Tsu: “Then I say, Not Mind, Not Buddha, Not things!’

The Mind is the Buddha’ is like medicine. ‘No Mind, no Buddha’ is the cure for those who are sick because of the medicine.”

Ma Tsu’s teaching above is one effective method the Masters employ to tear away any lingering remnants of borrowed support, leaving the disciple with nothing to fall back on, no comforting religious consolation or conceptual crutch to cling to. The purpose is to fully plunge them into the Unknown, or “the Realm of the Real Dharma”, as Huang Po poetically calls it, beyond philosophies and partial realizations, and into the direct realization of the two-fold emptiness of self and phenomena.

The late great Sage Ramana Maharshi proclaimed that the final truth consists of the fact that there is no path, nor any such thing as progress. In other words, Reality is not some sort of attainment to be gained by a progression from state to state. There is no final, triumphant union to be attained, because there never was any separation from the no-beginning. There is simply the unfathomable expanse of spontaneous presence, pure unborn awareness, regardless of any intermittent mental content which might appear in that sphere of being. Recognizing the empty nature of both the dreaming as well as the dreamer is considered by the sages to be liberation, though paradoxically, there is nobody being freed or bound. There is simply awakening to that which has always been the case, even as we daydreamed.

This challenging realization forces the aspirant to let go of all gaining ideas, along with all the interpretive dualities of the intellect that represent fixation, reification, and solidification of perception, thus opening them to direct and immediate re-cognition of the prior freedom of the Real. And what is “the Real”? The late great Tibetan Adept Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche pointed to its essential realization when he noted:

“Seeing all things as naked, clear and free from obscurations, there is nothing to attain or realize. The nature of phenomena appears naturally and is naturally present in time-transcending awareness. Everything is naturally perfect just as it is. All phenomena appear in their uniqueness as part of the continually changing pattern. These patterns are vibrant with meaning and significance at every moment; yet there is no significance to attach to such meanings beyond the moment in which they present themselves.”

Of course, such appealing notions as inherent perfection are easy for beginners and casual practitioners to misconstrue, especially when they hear that there is nothing that needs to be done, and no effort is necessary, because “enlightenment” is always already the case. However, if we do not want to fall into that trap, all we need do is take a good honest look in the mirror at our own character. Are we free, for example, from greed, envy, hatred, ignorance, and pride? Do we always live a life characterized by integrity and loving kindness? If not, then there is still work to do, even though, paradoxically, it is also true that there is nothing to be done.

If we rely on the verbal, conceptual mind to make sense of that seeming contradiction, we will just end up going this way one day, and that way the next, while getting nowhere in the process. That is why we practice, to go beyond conditional second-hand reason and logic programs, and recognize the truth that is always right here, staring us in the face. In that conscious process, we don’t need to point some accusatory finger at ourselves, or wring our hands in self-concern, but simply wise up to exactly who “that one” is that we have taken to be “me”. Who is this character believed to be either perfect, or in need of some serious adjustments?

Another good example of the paradox being considered here is the common phrase: “We must forgive ourselves first, and then forgive everyone else.” Of course, in this human drama, forgiveness is not only appropriate, but critically necessary for our relationships and personal happiness. If we carry around unresolved traumas, wounds, regrets, and resentments, we will always be fueling an internal conflict, and never achieve psychological healing and mature adaptation to the stage of balanced and un-contracted emotional adulthood.

On the other hand, from the point of view of the higher wisdoms, there is actually nothing and nobody that needs to be forgiven, since at the absolute level, all is indeed perfect just as it is, and without qualification. Moreover, even conceiving the existence of a self, some solid and enduring character that requires fixing or forgiving, can be an impediment to fully awakening to the truth of our prior nature, which has never required modification or remedial attention.

Echoing the previous comment from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, another contemporary Dzogchen Master, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, puts it this way:

“From the very beginning everything, whatever appears and exits, has never been anything other than pure perfection. There has never been a single day, a single moment when everything was not complete purity, pure perfection. It’s not that everything has to be brought to a state of purity at some point, but rather that it always was and is.”

Indeed, the paradox of our prior freedom and inherent perfection is that we all may be perfect in the ultimate sense, and yet the eminent Zen Master Suzuki Roshi makes a pertinent comment in this regard: “You are all perfect the way you are, and you could use a little improvement.” Certainly, if we were to spend some time reviewing the day’s headlines in the news, we might recognize that Suzuki was being rather kind and generous in his assessment. Moreover, if we examine our own life and relations, including our thoughts and behaviors, most of us might readily acknowledge that “a little improvement” would probably be comparable to taking the first few steps up Mt. Everest.

How then to explain this paradox? A good start would be to understand that we are both human animals, with all the positive as well as negative attributes that the human incarnational circumstance implies, and yet we are also immortal spirit, forever free, awake, and unconditionally loving. As light being souls, we choose to inhabit human creatures in order to experience the kinds of adventures and challenges characteristic of the human species. By testing ourselves to see “what we are really made of”, we thereby enhance our levels of self-awareness in our soul evolution.

We enter into the virtual reality of this 3-D realm in the same way one might engage a video game. The trick, however, is that we generally assume a kind of amnesia about our true nature for the duration of the game, in order to get the full impact of the experience. In doing so, we take the human identity to represent who and what we really are, and this (mistaken) identity is rarely questioned in the midst of the adventure. By fusing with the human bio-vehicle, we thus become subject to its complications, which include less than perfect qualities.

If we apply our innate soul power to improve the host, we will likely see the development of soul-like qualities, such as compassion and expanded consciousness. However, if we choose instead to not interfere, and just remain a detached witness to the human’s life, then the human will follow its animal course, which is often filled with violence and selfishness. Again, all we need do is review current world events, characterized as they are by blood lust, interminable conflict, blatant self-interest, and outrageous inequality, to recognize what kinds of choices are being made these days, in terms of efforts to effectively train the animals with which we are identifying.

There is more to this story, however. Ultimately, we are not only not the human animal, but we are not even the soul being. In reality, we are dream characters in the Mind of Source, being lived by Source in a drama of unfathomable love. It is unfathomable, because it is beyond the human capacity to comprehend, and so is typically misunderstood and misrepresented by the religions that humans have created to provide explanations for the Mystery.

Source wants to explore Itself, in much the same way we want to explore our own breadth and depth by incarnating as humans, for example, among the countless possibilities we may and do choose. Thus, in our role as immortal souls, we afford Source the perfect vehicles for such exploration, and as such, we are in a sense co-creators of a movie entitled “Infinity”.

In any case, as dream characters, there is nothing in need of forgiveness or improvement. Just as we are, with all our seeming faults and foibles, we are perfectly fulfilling Source’s desire to know Itself, in all the possible permutations of Itself which It can manifest. Source does not need to improve or forgive us, any more than we need to enter back into last night’s dream to improve or forgive our own dream characters, once we have awoken. It was, after all, a dream. There is no judgment, no blame or punishment — only a thirst for experience, in whatever way it might happen to present itself, or in whatever form it might happen to manifest, as we enter into the compelling illusion of time and space as shards of Source’s own divine light, playing our parts perfectly.

“This is Perfect. That is Perfect.

From the Perfect springs the Perfect.

Take the Perfect from the Perfect

and only the Perfect remains.”

~Nityananda Bhagavan

Meher_Baba

See also:

http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/self-improvement-projects-2/

http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/school-of-life-play-of-light/

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The Mechanics of Unhappiness

“Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides, hordes, harms. Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals. Fear wraps our bodies in clothing, love allows us to stand naked. Fear clings to and clutches all that we have, love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close, love holds dear, Fear grasps, love lets go. Fear rankles, love soothes, Fear attacks, love amends.”
~Neale Donald Walsch

The condition which we commonly call “unhappiness” is a psycho-physical state of negative reactivity originating from a complex contraction in the being itself. Moreover, this contractive activity spawns an ongoing internal conflict which we are habitually reinforcing, based on uninspected programs that we have incorporated in the course of our human experience. Although these afflictive programs are as diverse as there are humans, they all derive from a fear-based reaction to life and relations.

For that chronic fear reaction to maintain its prominent position in our mental and emotional life dramas, a level of identification with a solid and enduring self-sense is necessary. In other words, a “me-story” must be created and preserved, in the form of an ongoing narrative in which the survival and validation of the central character is always the prime concern. There’s an old Buddhist saying: “If you want to be unhappy, think only of yourself”. Is there any emotion more associated with such self-interest than fear?

Of course, there are many who claim that the fear-response is hard-wired into our very molecular structure — our DNA — for a very important and even critical purpose, directly related to the ancient challenge for physical survival. Although most of us do not currently live in an environment in which we need to be on the lookout for predatory animals, nevertheless there are still plenty of threats all around us. Because of that, a certain degree of prudent concern and attention is certainly necessary.

For one example, on a societal level, we employ a criminal justice system in order to protect the populace from those who would do us harm in one form or another. For another example, on a personal level, we have learned to avoid participating in unprotected sex, considering the looming dangers of sexually transmitted diseases that are potentially deadly, such as the virus associated with AIDS.

Therefore, given that some degree of fear may still be a necessary component of living in this human world, at what point does that energy become the basis for the persistent mood and assumption of unhappiness that seems endemic to our present civilization? When does appropriate caution transform into a neurotic prison, in which the future is dreaded and we are eaten alive by worries and cares? And perhaps most to the point: does the appearance of fear energy and the accompanying sensations confirm the reality of the solid, independent, and enduring person most of us imagine ourselves to be?

Upon investigation, we can notice that there is a specific mode of perceiving that makes it seem as if there is an actual person implicated by the arising of sensations such as fear. This same mode of perception creates the appearance of self and other, and when an “other” appears (a not-me), so too does the seed of fear take root. This mode of perception is called “dualism”, and it is the usual way we humans apprehend the world, based on a division between what we identify with as our “self”, and all that we take to be “not-self”.

By carefully observing the actual nature of perception itself, we can eventually (or even immediately) come to realize that that there is no actual subject or object in direct experience. Such a breakthrough recognition reveals that the subject-object model of experience consists of an essentially arbitrary and non-binding modification of consciousness, a mental fabrication strictly dependent on the reality and belief we grant it. On one hand, it may seem to be a convenient and even useful way of seeing things in the objective realm, but on the other hand, why are we so unhappy?

Indeed, for most humans, life is one long experience of stress, dissatisfaction, and suffering, only rarely punctuated by pleasure, relief, and fleeting happiness. Hanging over our very heads, there seems to be an ever-present sword waiting to drop, and this sense of apprehension infects all of our relations. Poets may rage against the fact of impermanence, and yet is there anything in life that is not subject to change? Even so, the fear of change most of us share is one of the main obstacles to accepting life as it is, and that fear itself is rooted in a distrust of the unknown.

However, it is only in fully relaxing and coming to rest in the unknown that we are able to find the space for our natural happiness to emerge from the shadow of fear. In reality, we don’t know. In fact, by incarnating in the human realm, we have purposely set aside our universal knowledge in order to fully appreciate living in the unknown, with all the uncertainty that such an adventure implies. Not knowing is a fundamental human condition, but accepting that fact need not provoke some sense of dread and insecurity. Rather, we can shift from our typical fear-driven dualistic perception to one wherein experiencing the unknown is no longer fraught with inherent divisions in consciousness between a “me” that needs to be protected from whatever appears as “not-me”.

In order to make such a shift, however, we need to see through and discard all limiting conceptual and emotional overlays, as well as all dualistic superimpositions, that obscure reality as it is. Rather than fixating attention in some conflicted view of self and other, based on a felt contraction in the being, we can directly recognize ourselves as one indivisible flow of phenomenal reality itself. As the Buddha noted in the Bahiya Sutra, “In the seen, there is only the seen, in the heard, there is only the heard, in the sensed, there is only the sensed, in the cognized, there is only the cognized.”

In practice terms, even when primal-type fear arises, we need not add our usual conditioned interpretations to it, and in turn confirm some distinctly separate and concrete self-sense as a result. Rather, we can simply allow it to arise in the light of naked awareness, and also let it dissolve accordingly, without trying to change, name, or claim it. In this way, the fear is not given a chance to gain a foothold – it has no place to land. Moreover, if we continue in this shifted mode of free-flowing non-dwelling perception (rather than falling back on the dualistic default of a subject-object illusion), we can notice that our prior nature of aware spaciousness moves correspondingly to the forefront, like the sun melting away the clouds of unhappiness.

In other words, what is not used becomes obsolete. Consequently, by not indulging the mechanics of unhappiness (which is after all a foreign installation), we have opened the space for our true happiness to shine through. Such genuine and heart-felt happiness naturally illuminates all that it comes in contact with, thus raising the frequency of vibration for the whole collective in the process.

Both happiness and unhappiness are infectious, just as are fear and love. Regardless of how things may appear in any situation, we always have a choice about which mode of perception we will feed, and therefore what kind of influence we will manifest in this realm. Since we live in a world of interdependence, the choice we make is for all. In choosing love over fear, we are also choosing freedom over bondage, and by remembering and embodying that liberating truth, we support the grounds for an increasingly sublime evolutionary advancement as a species.

To love or fear –
that’s the test.

At the core
the heart knows best.

Open your eyes and
you will see,

fear is
the malignancy.

The fearful mind is a
conflicted thing, obscuring
the songs that love would sing.

Let the healing begin within —
don’t prolong a war that
no one can win.

Give up the fight with yourself
before it begins, why struggle
in vain with your own
best friend?

Our nature is to be at peace,
to know ourselves,
to let fear cease.

Only love can liberate
entanglements that we create.

If you want to be happy
let go of yourself, and
offer your best to
somebody else.

There’s no heart math
more plain than this –

the more selfless the love,
the more lasting the bliss.

Relax your fears
and enjoy life’s play.

Above all, love,
and you won’t go astray.

 

love-and-fear

 

See also:

http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/the-pursuit-of-happiness/

http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/the-pursuit-of-happiness-part-2/

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Just Be

“The mind is not other than Buddha.
Buddha is not other than sentient being.

When mind assumes the form
of a sentient being, it has
suffered no decrease;

when it becomes a Buddha
it adds nothing to itself.”

~Huang Po

 

Back in the Diamond Sutra days, the Bodhisattva Manjushri once asked the Buddha, “What do you mean when you say not a single being is liberated?” The Buddha replied, “Our nature is ultimately pure and subject to neither rebirth nor nirvana. Thus, there are no beings to be liberated, and there is no nirvana to be attained. It is simply that all beings revert to their own nature.”

If it is really true, that our nature is ultimately pure and transcendentally illumined, that we are not inherently different from the Buddhas and the so-called enlightened ones, that the concepts of liberation and bondage are only imaginary fantasies of interpretation on perception, and that there is no nirvana to be obtained beyond what is present right here right now, then why is it that we seem to encounter so much suffering in the midst of our lives?

After pondering this conundrum for many years, I came to recognize that the challenges and obstacles which we encounter in life are actually our own creations. They simply represent the way we set it up for ourselves, prior to assuming these virtual reality forms that we now take to be who and what we are. In short, we needed the theatrics of life’s seeming dualities in order to remember the non-dual.

We had to forget who and what we truly are in order to enjoy the eventual recognition of our supreme nature, as in a game of “hide & seek”. Indeed, without this amnesia concerning our true identity with which we arrived here, we would not be able to experience the full impact of being human, and it is precisely that experience which we came here for in the first place. Furthermore, it is the experience of being human (in whatever way that happens to play out) which creates the fascinating tales we can then share with our soul group upon returning to our natural state of awake awareness, thus advancing the evolutionary data base of the whole family. As the Buddha said above, “All beings revert to their natural state.”

Just so, we need not beat ourselves up for not realizing our true identity while fused with the bio-vehicle (although to do so — also called “awakening — certainly can make a big difference in the level of stress we put ourselves through). In any case, while identified with the human character we take ourselves to be, we tend by habit and conditioning to cling to the belief that there is some sort of special state that is other than that which we are currently experiencing. We persist in this assumption because we look at our current condition and find it somehow lacking. Perhaps it would be a useful inquiry to examine exactly what is lacking about it.

Certainly, if we investigate the traditional literature about spiritual enlightenment, we encounter all sorts of claims about the raptures of bliss and ecstasy to be found in advanced meditative states, but what we rarely hear about is the fact that no state is permanent, even satori and Samadhi. Eventually, one must return to normal consciousness and deal with traffic, weather, the body’s quirks and foibles, and especially other people (most of whom stubbornly refuse to accept how advanced and wisdom-imbued we now have become, at least in our own minds).

Rather, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we might notice how we still habitually tend to crave pleasure and avoid pain, and in fact still have within us a whole menu of software programs based on confirming the solid and enduring existence of our favorite self-image, regardless of the effect that such activity might have on our fellow ignoramuses. Indeed, the ego-mind loves special experiences, because it provides the perfect opportunity to feel special, to feel enlightened, and to feel real. The more such experiences the better. What it especially loves is the experience that it doesn’t even exist, because that comes with very high points on the scale of human spiritual accomplishment. Indeed, it is particularly proud of its new and exalted status as an advanced entity that is liberated from itself. That’s a real feather in its cap!

Conversely, what the spiritual ego-mind can never abide by is the suggestion that the most ordinary experiences of life — getting out of bed, brushing one’s teeth, going to work, coming home and having dinner, washing the dishes, playing with one’s children and watching TV, kissing one’s spouse and going to sleep — are all perfect manifestations of complete and unexcelled enlightenment. No, it thrives on the glamor of the extraordinary, just like an addict craves the next high. In that regard (and to dispel such illusions), the contemporary western Dzogchen teacher Jackson Peterson makes a good point when he notes:

“Everything that is happening is exactly It. Thoughts, images, sensations, emotions, feelings, stillness, movement, emptiness, awareness, actions and perceptions are 100% It. There is no other option because there is zero distance between experience and the knowing of it. That being so, how can you say your “practice” is not going well? That being so, how can you say you sometimes “lose” It? That being so, how can you say that you are sometimes distracted, when the object of your distraction is also it? Is the Absolute or Buddha Nature ever being something other than This? If not, why keep looking elsewhere?”

Of course, to the aspirant hooked on the spiritual merry-go-round of increasingly subtler realizations and deeper, more dramatic spiritual insights and so forth, the usual life is scorned as some sort of delusion which needs to be transcended and then discarded. This type of seeker tends to idolize the legendary characters in the spiritual literature, seeking to emulate their lives. Little do they realize that these personalities are typically the product of devoted hagiographers who attribute extraordinary feats to their heroes and heroines, often at the expense of the real truth about these exalted individuals. And what is that truth? Essentially, they were no more special than any of us. It’s just that they (might have) realized that, and we don’t.

We are all dream characters in the heart-mind of Source, and Source makes no distinction in terms of superior or inferior, so why should we? Each one of us is a unique vehicle for Source to explore its own nature, which is de facto also our own nature. We are, each of us in our own way, the universe in the process of becoming increasingly self-aware, and whether we climb the highest mountain or just look after our pets at home, makes no difference. It is all perfect fuel for self-awareness, and one dream adventure or virtual reality game is no better or more enlightened than the next.

As mentioned above, the only value in truly “awakening” is to let go of the stress of trying to make things be other than they are, trying to figure the magnificent mystery of life out, trying to make it conform to the way we imagine it should be, based on second-hand opinions and idealistic speculation. What is, is. Just letting that sink in, just letting that be the case, can be eminently relaxing. Letting go, surrendering the need to have it all end in some triumphant march through the streets of heaven, is not really so difficult, except to the one who takes their fictional self-image seriously.

Moreover, there is nothing wrong with that position either. It is all good, all food for the God who is exploring itself through every appearance, every effort, every creature it dreams up to love and recognize itself through and as, from the most humble to the most ineffable. In truth, we have never lacked anything. As the great Chan (Zen) Master Lin Chi said to his monastic disciples:

“I tell you, there’s no Buddha, no Dharma, no practice, no enlightenment. Yet you go off like this on side roads, trying to find something. Blind fools! Will you put another head on top of the one you have? What is it you lack?”

Just so, when we become more interested in the Dreamer than the dream of seeking, something interesting can be revealed. When we turn our attention back to its Source, and abide there without trying to modify consciousness in the slightest, then something will happen, and we will know without a trace of a doubt that the Source of all the universes and ourselves are not two. We will no longer be moved to seek outside of ourselves for some special something to compensate for our chronic sense of lack, because that feeling of lack will have dissolved in the process of recognition. The joy of just being will trump all craving for things to be other than they are, as well as all fears that they will never be.

The good news is, we don’t have to wait for that to be the case sometime in the indefinite future. The truth that will become obvious then is the same truth that applies here and now. It’s just that we expect it to be elsewhere, and never right where we are. This is the main obstacle – to imagine that this that we have here now (in whatever form it may seem to be appearing) is not the supreme perfection, just as it is. Instead, we call it “delusion”, “sin”, “ignorance”, when in fact, there is no other reality, no greater reality, than that which is present and obvious, right before our eyes. All we need do is let it be This. After all, it is never other than This anyway. It is exactly why we all came here — to experience ourselves as This, so why knock ourselves out trying to make it be otherwise, now that we’re here in the midst of it? When you stop to really think about it, that’s kind of foolish, isn’t it? Still, playing the fool is also “It”, so there’s really nothing to complain about after all, is there.

“There is nothing to practice. To know yourself, be yourself.
To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that.
Just be. Let your true nature emerge.
Don’t disturb your mind with seeking.”

~ Sri Nisargadatta

just be

See also:

http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/the-myth-of-enlightenment/

 

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The End of the Seeker

“Letting everything end means to stand in the moment completely naked of attachment to any and all ideas, concepts, hopes, preferences, and experiences. Simply put, it means to stop strategizing, controlling, manipulating, and running away from yourself — and to simply be. Finally you must let everything end and be still. In letting everything end, all seeking and striving stops. All effort to be someone or to find some extraordinary state of being ceases. This ceasing is essential. It is true spiritual maturity. By ceasing to follow the mind’s tendency to always want ‘more’, ‘different’, or ‘better’, one encounters the opportunity to be still. In being still, a perspective is revealed which is free from all ignorance and bondage to suffering.”
~Adyashanti

For as many people as are appearing in this psycho-physical realm we call “the world”, there are at least as many reasons for incarnating in these particular forms to play the human game. What just about all of these players have in common, regardless of make and model, is that they are here seeking for something – some “thing” that they believe will increase their happiness, peace, and contentment once it’s found. This “something” will obviously be specific to each individual seeker, but commonly will revolve around some desired modification of consciousness, necessitating an effort to acquire greater material, social, or so-called “spiritual” benefits, enhancements, or attainments in the process.

Moreover, with very little variation, these efforts are prompted and thus characterized by the belief in oneself as a separate and substantial person, an individual somebody appearing in the midst of many others, others with whom one must invariably compete for the desired goals. In any case, the belief that we are somehow separate from Happiness, in need of Salvation, and at odds with Existence itself are the common assumptions that in turn motivate the search for things to be other than they are.

These types of beliefs are inculcated by the conditioning of a culture which is firmly committed to convincing us that what we need is outside of ourselves, that we were cast out of Eden via some kind of original sin or delusion, and consequently that we must initiate and commit to some kind of special life strategy in order to return “home”. For each person, this strategy will take its own unique form, but all such schemes are generally founded on the same premise: a simple case of mistaken identity, derived from amnesia about who and what we truly are.

Just so, how do we wake up from the dreamy trance of false identification and realize that we already are what we seek? How do we come to understand that any effort to manipulate causes and circumstances in order to grasp happiness, salvation, and existence is the very thing that obstructs the recognition of the truth of our original nature, which is Happiness itself, beyond any need for salvation, and never threatened by the alternations of existence and non-existence?

Well, we can start by dedicating ourselves to the conscious process of investigating the nature of the seeker we have taken ourselves to be. Are we really that one, or is this whole narrative that we have been telling ourselves actually more in the nature of a fictional creation? Perhaps we have relied so much on others to define who we are, and what we need to be doing while we are here, that we never were moved to question otherwise. After all, our parents and school teachers provided us with our identity cards right from the beginning. These cards came encoded with all sorts of information which we were supposed to accept without challenge – information about our name, our gender, our age, our nationality, our religious affiliation, and our body’s various characteristics. Our whole story was detailed right there on the card of personhood we carried around with us everywhere. Of course, as children, we naively believed that all of the statistics were true, and that they totally accounted for who and what we were.

Our personal identity was thus firmly established, and as we gained some experience, we learned that we needed to polish that identity in order to make it loveable and employable. Consequently, we followed the advice of helpful advertisers and marketing specialists, refining our costumes and hair styles, employing the preferred personal hygiene products, customizing our presentation before the mirror, and attending the right indoctrination facilities where we discovered how to best present a convincing and effective persona in a world populated by other actors such as ourselves.

All along, the goal was to survive and prosper, even if that meant jumping through hoops at others’ commands. These commands were not always verbal, moreover, but instead consisted of the peer pressure that comes from being a herd animal, the pressure to conform to a consensus description of reality. Primary within this description was the tacit and sometimes not so tacit encouragement to improve oneself, in order to be a better player and accumulate more points in the game. Such improvements take many forms, but all rely on us buying into the story of “me and mine”, and all require that we take our given identities seriously.

Furthermore, this me-story demands constant work, in response to the vagaries of existence. For example, we must make career adjustments here and fine tune our relationships there, all of which implies a perpetual search for satisfaction. Such a search is indeed never-ending, because any accomplishment or acquisition that we can claim as “mine” is always impermanent, and so we become like a hamster on a wheel. We are always moving, but not really getting to where we really want to be, and never really arriving at a state of rest. Nevertheless, we persist, because, after all, that is what is expected of us, and we are unable to imagine any viable alternative that is not merely another variation of treading along on the same spinning wheel.

At a certain point in life, the search itself might begin to lose both its fascination and inherent imperative. Some might say that this is a moment of Grace. The seeker just can’t seem to generate the same old “juice”, or enthusiasm, for the game, whether it be the pursuit of money, food, sex, power, bliss, knowledge, God, or whatever object of acquisition that once promised happiness and peace. Here the former seeker may fall into a kind of dark night, where the primal afflictions of boredom, doubt, discomfort may come to dominate one’s attention, now that the search is winding down.

Paradoxically, there can be a unique opportunity at this juncture, a kind of open space that presents itself, in which true inquiry finally becomes possible. While the search was on, this was not the case. All the bets were placed, and the payoff was just around the corner. That is, there was the assumption that, if I only do this, then I will get what I really want. If I only work hard and pay my taxes, if I only take these vitamin supplements and eat vegan foods, have this career, marry this lover, find the right guru, chant to the Lord and do no harm, then I will find peace and freedom.

In other words, happiness is envisioned as some future reward for following the arbitrary rules borrowed from somebody else’s experience. As such, it can never be a present event. Consequently, when that whole artificial game and its accompanying stressful effort is eventually recognized for the futility that it is, there arises in that conscious process the possibility for true realization to replace the chronic amnesia with which we arrived here. In other words, we become available to a transformative grace. When the seeker really sees how the dog has been chasing the tail, a shift can occur, and in this shift the seeds of awakening can really take root. As they do, the potential for free attention to the ever-deepening inquiry finally comes alive.

And what does such an inquiry reveal? When we begin to intuit that the seeker we have taken ourselves to be is nothing but a bundle of thoughts and impulses, memories and emotions, sensations and perceptions, all packaged together like a customized software program and conditioned by arbitrary factors which have no ultimate reality, then the façade of our carefully constructed identity begins to wobble and crumble. Now what?

Fortunately, when we begin to see through the illusion we once took to be “me”, there is a simultaneous emergence of our true nature from the background, where it has been waiting patiently for us to sober up from the intoxication of seeking. What was never lost need not be sought. When we realize directly that we have been like a wave searching for the ocean, the momentum of the search is undermined, and we can finally exhale.

In that blossoming ripeness we can welcome life’s embrace, and also see what it is that we are still unwilling to allow in. In doing so, we begin to feel the Mystery at the heart, rather than relying solely on the thought energy which constitutes the mind. Moreover, in seeing through and discarding any lingering struggle and recoil, it at last becomes obvious that this Mystery, this Life, is who we are, have always been, and will always be. Indeed, there is no longer any motive or movement to have it be anything other than what it is. The war with ourselves is over, the seeker has disappeared, and all the relatives rejoice!

Q: The search will come to an end. The seeker will remain.

Nisargadatta: No, the seeker will dissolve, the search will remain. The search is the ultimate and timeless reality.

Q: Search means lacking, wanting, incompleteness and imperfection.

Nisargadatta: No, it means refusal and rejection of the incomplete and the imperfect. The search for reality is itself the movement of reality. In a way, all search is for the real bliss, or the bliss of the real. By search we mean the search for oneself as the root of being conscious, as the light beyond the mind. This search will never end, as long as there remains a restless craving for anything else, and only then can real progress take place.
~I Am That, Nisargadatta Maharaj

seeking

http://www.pbase.com/1heart/image/73532175

 

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Nobody There

Based mostly on rumor and hearsay, spiritual seekers tend to imagine that there is a long, arduous path winding up some metaphorical spirit mountain, at the summit of which a rare lucky few might finally attain an exalted state of Cosmic Illumination. A similar prevalent myth circulating in spiritual-type venues consists of the notion that those who, despite intimidating odds, do manage to scale the sacred peak are subsequently rewarded with all sorts of wonderful perks that are traditionally claimed to accompany such a magnificent feat. These include inscrutable wisdom, exotic powers, and a generally luminous vibration that spontaneously transmits the sense of deep peace and happiness to all who come in contact with such a recently-minted transcendental character.

Aspirants are continuously encouraged by all sorts of hopeful literature and “enlightenment porn” – extraordinary tales in which legendary individuals endure imposing challenges and daunting hardships in pursuit of the sacred goal, traveling to remote places and undergoing all sorts of remarkable experiences before finally being rewarded with the grand prize of perfection and grace. What’s rarely mentioned in these fables, however, is the truth that, rather than representing the pinnacle of one’s personal story, real liberation instead marks the end of that fanciful narrative – its utter collapse.

If there is a “person” still hanging around after some sort of profound experience, then it is not true liberation. It is merely a profound experience. All experiences are modifications of consciousness, but liberation entails recognizing the emptiness inherent in both experience and the experiencer, and indeed of consciousness itself. Rather than being the crowning jewel that many seekers expect, it is actually a beheading! Far from representing the triumphant event projected in its idealism, the revelation of the utter nothingness of the self-image renders a crushing blow to the ambitions of the ego mind – the ruin of its plans.

Moreover, rather than being the result of some ferocious, long-term struggle with our inner demons that the traditional mystical literature depicts, the emptiness of the self-idea can be recognized immediately. Reality is not far off, but present and obvious. All that is required is paying attention. We need to simply turn the light around, turn our attention back on its source, to notice that there is nobody there, there is no self that can be found, no solid and enduring entity. All along, we have been going on the assumption that there is some inner person, a matrix of perception, an organizing principle that is running the show – a “me” that must be asserted and even defended – but when we try to find that one, we cannot. It has all been a fantasy of interpretation on perception, and nothing more. How amazing!

Of course, when most of us encounter the absence of any center of consciousness, it can be quite disorienting, and so we quickly fall back to the default position composed of the safety and security of the known. It is after all very threatening for the seeker to find at the core, “vast emptiness, with nothing holy in it”, as the Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma once pointed out. It wreaks havoc with our personal narrative, the carefully constructed story of “me and mine” which we have been telling ourselves and others since we first learned how to talk.

Nevertheless, there are those of us who may become intrigued by the discovery of that space between our thoughts, and so return to that recognition again and again, until that space gradually becomes more of the dominant home for attention, rather than the fleeting parade of thought energy that normally occupies it. In the process, a silent, sky-like, selfless awareness emerges from the background, unbound by previous patterns of habitual and obsessive thinking and self-referencing, of identity games and masquerades.

Moreover, we recognize that this state is not something new which we had to acquire, some reward for passing through fire, but on the contrary has been our natural and native condition all along. Before the first movement of effort, we have already been free. The only problem has ever been the fixation of identity on the unreal, the impermanent, the masks and costumes which we were told and gradually came to believe amounted to a self.

Of course, merely seeing through the charade is a fine first step, but upon reflection, we can notice that we have picked up and indulged in some questionable patterns of behavior along the way, conflicts that have infected our lives and relationships. Consequently, we are now called by the power of that clear seeing to root out the chronic fixations of selfishness, such as greed, envy, hatred, ignorance, and pride which have contributed to the lack of authentic integrity and compassion that has previously characterized our life.

Before we jump ahead with all of that, however, let’s be clear on the initial glimpse that precedes the collapse of the house of cards which we have mistaken as our actual address. Although there may have been a lot of preparatory practices, the glimpse of recognition is sudden and unmistakable. Paradoxically, it is nothing special, because the inherent selflessness of consciousness has never been hidden. Rather, our true nature has always been obvious – right before our eyes. Indeed, a good part of the hindrance in its realization entails the stubborn belief that it can only be obtained as the result of some tremendous spiritual effort.

Again, the key is in paying attention. Do we need to jump through hoops to simply pay attention? Perhaps in these days of mental, emotional, and sensory overload, it does take a bit of effort to just sit down and shut up. However, it doesn’t have to constitute some big deal to stop and turn attention around on itself in order to discover who’s who and what’s what.

The great contemporary Dzogchen master Namkhai Norbu simplifies the matter when he asks: “If we look at an object to our right and then shift our gaze to an object on the left, in the moment in which our first thought vanishes and before the second one arises, don’t you sense a fresh awareness of the instant, untarnished by the mind, clear, limpid, naked, free?”

The whole process of recognition need not be any more complicated than that. It is just such noticing that becomes the basis for our ongoing liberating practice – that clear realization of the absence of any limiting self-idea in the first moment attention is revolved back on itself. Paradoxically, that recognition of the absence of the conditional self occurs simultaneously with the intuition of what he calls the “authentic condition of instantaneous presence”.

In other words, it is our own true nature of spacious and transparent awake awareness which emerges from the background and radiates in all directions. Because of our shift in attention, all thoughts can now be recognized as soon as they arise as simply the uninterrupted energy of emptiness. They need not be accepted or rejected, manipulated, blocked, or invited. We need only persist in non-dwelling on any object of consciousness, clinging to none of them. That is all. In this way, all thought is left to dissolve on its own, and is thus self-liberated. Remaining relaxed as that pure, instantaneous presence, free from grasping or aversion, analysis or conceptuality, is what is known as “the fundamental union of view and meditation”, and begins with the recognition that there is “nobody there”.

Moreover, what applies to thinking can also be applied to emotions, memories, and perceptions of any kind. In the midst of all of our ordinary activities, we can embody this instantaneous, spacious presence. In fact, to do otherwise is an artifice and superimposition, and serves as the main cause of our stress and dissatisfaction in life and relations. We have driven ourselves crazy by investing our energy and attention in the unreal, maintaining the story of a fictional character we mistook ourselves to be. Really, the only sane thing now is to stop doing that. That is the gift of true, unconditional love – a refusal to be anything other than what we really are: nothing and everything

.

“The everyday practice . . . is just everyday life itself. Since the undeveloped state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any special way or attempt to attain anything above and beyond what you actually are. There should be no feeling of striving to reach some “amazing goal” or “advanced state”. To strive for such a state is a neurosis which only conditions us and serves to obstruct the free flow of Mind. We should also avoid thinking of ourselves as worthless persons – we are naturally free and unconditioned. We are intrinsically enlightened and lack nothing.”

~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

 

 

nobody there but shadow

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