A Little Joke

We are usually much too busy to recognize it, but prior to our engaging adventures in consciousness – that ever-changing theater of desire, knowledge, and experience — there is only awareness, the same state in which we now exist.

Somehow, in the scheme of things, a kaleidoscopic realm of time and space miraculously appears. It’s a wild, whirling world of endlessly modifying phenomena, in the midst of which I find myself just sitting, or just standing — localized in any case as the immediate matrix of attention.

Just as in deep sleep, there is no actual “myself”, no awareness of a person, until a thought manages to dredge itself up from the back lot of oblivion and create the sense or facsimile of a subject. That subject wasn’t there previously, and yet here it is now — here “I” am.

Upon inspection, we can recognize that subjective sense for what it is — a mental construct, a fabrication created out of thin air, like a rabbit pulled from a magician’s hat. Nevertheless, our habitual assumption is to take it as our personal identity, because that is how habits work — they are simply the mind’s default position in the midst of this infinite mystery. However, when we turn our attention back to the mind itself, there is nothing there that we can grasp – no mind, no thing at all. There is definitely something humorous about that – a kind of little joke — though few are those who get the punch line.

Well and good, but beyond our contrived individual self-sense, what about the “Absolute”, one might ask. Upon some investigation, what we can notice is that humans play feed-back loops of their own mental accumulations and somehow sort out from that vast collection of sense impression files and filtered memory programs one particular fantasy of interpretation on perception which they subjectively determine constitutes the “Absolute”, “God”, the “Self”, etc..

Subsequently, they are prone to indulge their imagination with that mentally fabricated construct until another more appealing fantasy of interpretation is formulated, based on a new set of sense impressions and filtered programs arising as perception and designated as “Transcendental”.

Because the mind cannot grasp itself, it is claimed that this so-called “Absolute” cannot be known, and that is true to the extent that it has never been other than the mind itself, in the same way that the eye cannot see itself except as a reflection. For an auditory reference, the “Absolute” is the sound of one hand clapping.

Just so, when we awaken from sleep in the morning, for a moment there is only pure awareness. Then we get busy again, weaving and superimposing an increasingly complex story line on the bare bones of existence. It’s an extended narrative centered around this fictional character with whom we are habitually identified, merely by the nature of our seeming appearance in space time, which is actually a compounded mental event too, and a humorous one at that.

Now, when there is just sitting, or just standing still, there is no history of a person, no anticipation of some future for a person, no sense of a person present here, nor regrets for past indiscretions perpetrated by any such person. There are no time calculations or projections, no creation or destruction, no wanting or avoiding, nor any Absolute to be known, felt, worshiped, or denied. None of that arises to confirm a personal identity which is subject to any of it. It is not happy or sad, nor can any quality or emotional flavor be pinned on it, since it is all transparent, like empty sky.

I love the sky, I truly do, and because it is so empty I can disappear in it, as if I never was, as if none of this ever happened, as if nothing ever happens at all. Maybe suffering means to linger on, and not disappear. How dreadful! In any case, what is there to even disappear? Nothing can actually come or go, except as a kind of cloud, a cloud of moisture’s imagination. Really, there is just the vastness of sky, stretching infinitely in all directions, and yet, we all love the first signs of rain. Just so, when we hear the phrase, “Once upon a time . . .” we anticipate a good story will follow.

Beyond all stories of rain or shine, there is awareness, but it is not self-conscious. There is no “I am the sky” or “Here comes the sun.” It is all just standing still, as the sky, as aware space, as clear light that does not even think of itself as light. It does not reflect back on itself, and so there is no “itself”, any more than there is “myself”. It is not bliss, it is not anything with a name. Some say emptiness, but it is empty of emptiness too.

Why? Because, paradoxically, it is filled with everything, everything is here. It never goes away. Things seem to come and go to the mind entangled in a duality of subject and objects, but that is only the play of consciousness, which is a kind of miracle too: that there is anything at all, rather than nothing whatsoever.

Yes, it is like a little joke, a quiet and relaxed bit of lighthearted humor that is barely noticed at all, and only mentioned because it is a good reason not to take anything seriously, especially the character called “myself”, the one sitting or standing still and just staring out into itself.

Maybe there is a slight hint of a smile, because that is all there is, this nameless mystery filled with everyone and everything — all just fervently going about the humorous business of characters juggling props in a dream theater of itself, the totality of the universal existence, both manifest and unmanifest, absolute and relative, and so forth and so on, right up to the end of this run-on sentence.

Just so, we may be both asleep and awake simultaneously, though we tend to imagine that we are this or that exclusively, based on ideas that have no real source anywhere but in our own mind. Perhaps it might seem as if others appeared who implanted programs and filters that conditioned our perception along the way. However, even that illusion has been part of the play, the convincing drama of self and others and all the stuff they get up to — tears and laughter, and sometimes just sitting or standing, like imagined characters in a dream.

We love our dream characters, because creators love their productions, and thus time enters the picture, just so that all these various interdependent stories can unfold at their perfect pace, allowing for ingenious subplots to modify consciousness and reveal the endless nature of experience as it expands, smoke-like, to infinity.

Then, once upon a time, a temple bell in primordial space reverberates at the break of dawn, and we immediately forget everything all over again. This too is part of the little joke, barely noticed in the scheme of things, the source of that smile on the Buddha’s face, the unfathomable gift of an amazing grace.


About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: http://www.pbase.com/1heart Essays on the Conscious Process: https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/ Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: http://feelingtoinfinity.wordpress.com/ Verses and ramblings on life as it is: https://writingonwater934500566.wordpress.com/ Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: https://themindthatneverwas.wordpress.com/ Verses on the Play of Consciousness: https://onlydreaming187718380.wordpress.com/ Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: https://themysteriousexpanse.wordpress.com/ Poems of the Mountain Hermit: https://snowypathtonowhere.wordpress.com/ Love Poems from The Book of Yes: https://lovesight.wordpress.com/ Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: https://travelsindreamland.wordpress.com/ Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: https://freetransliterations.wordpress.com/ Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: https://westernmystics.wordpress.com/ Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: https://spiritguidesparrow.wordpress.com/ Thank You!
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14 Responses to A Little Joke

  1. Bob OHearn says:

    “The Absolute cannot be experienced. It is not an objective affair. When I am unicity then that is pure awareness which is not aware of its awareness, and there can be no subject and object – therefore there can be no witnessing. Any manifestation, any functioning, any witnessing, can only take place in duality. There has to be a subject and an object, they are two, but they are not two, they are two ends of the same thing. When consciousness stirs, duality arises. There are millions of objects, but each object, when it sees another, assumes the subjectivity of the Absolute, although it is an object. I, as an object, perceive and interpret all other objects, and I assume that I am the subject, and the witnessing takes place.”

    ~Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
    Prior to Consciousness

    • garyhorvitz says:

      If awareness is all there is, blue sky mind, unicity, no history, no witnessing, no “myself,” then who or what is having the sense of humor? All that you have said here, and said so well, is summarised in my favourite Longchenpa quote: “When you realise how perfect everything is, you will lift your head and laugh at the sky.” It is the shift back into duality that permits the humour to arise, is it not?

  2. Hariod Brawn says:

    This is quite wonderful Bob, and so beautifully crafted. I liked the line: “. . . localized in any case as the immediate matrix of attention” as it brings an immediacy into the understanding. “Maybe there is a slight hint of a smile” – yes, and I think the Orthodox Buddhists refer to it as ‘Smile Producing Consciousness’, a kind of non-intellectual knowing that somehow the body embraces in the trace of a smile.

  3. gigoid says:

    Beautifully written, and, all true, as far as I can tell. But, then, that’s the “I” talking, so, take that as you will.

    I remember the first time I lay on my back below the midnight sky, hearing the music played by the Universe, in a grand symphony of everything all at once… wonderful cacophony!….

    “Are we having fun now?” — Zippy the Pinhead

    Just got referred here by a friend; I’ll be back, to echo a certain ex-governor of ours… (I live in Northern Cali, too…by the Bay…)


    gigoid, the dubious

  4. Rob O'Hearn says:

    Hey Bob, I found your blog because of your name, and find it very interesting as an ex-Catholic, Buddhist with similar ideas/yearnings and similar name! Good stuff!

  5. Jeremiah Weser says:

    Hi Bob! Just re-read your Little Joke from last Spring, what a gem, thank you!

  6. Deeptation says:

    “However, when we turn our attention back to the mind itself, there is nothing there that we can grasp – no mind, no thing at all. There is definitely something humorous about that – a kind of little joke — though few are those who get the punch line.”

    Mind = Blown Absolutely correct analogy.

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