existential anguish

 

 

 

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We are supposed to be upbeat and full of optimism about how wonderful this world can be once we are liberated from all outer and inner bondage. And it probably can indeed be wonderful, but is that the point? How can I be released from bondage if I am not ready to face reality?

So what is reality? First of all it is the fact of Eternity with a capital “E”. This has all been going on for millions and billions and quadrillions of time. It did not start and there is no way it can end.  Continue reading

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the Heart Sutra – Interbeing

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from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Commentary to the New Heart Sutra:

INTERBEING

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not heretime, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word interbe should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.

Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements.” And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without “non-paper elements,” like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.

But the Heart Sutra seems to say the opposite. Avalokitesvara tells us that things are empty. Let us look more closely.

EMPTY OF WHAT?

“The Bodhisattva Avalokita, while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding, shed light on the five skandhas and found them equally empty.”

Bodhi means being awake, and sattva means a living being, so bodhisattva means an awakened being. All of us are sometimes bodhisattvas, and sometimes not. Avalokita is the name of the bodhisattva in this sutra. Avalokita is just a shorter version of Avalokitesvara. The Heart of the Prajnaparamita Sutra is a wonderful gift to us from Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. In Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese, we translate his name as Kwan Yin, Quan Am, or Kannon, which means the one who listens and hears the cries of the world in order to come and help. In the East, many Buddhists pray to him, or invoke his name. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva gives us the gift of non-fear, because he himself has transcended fear. (Sometimes Avalokita is a man and sometimes a woman.) Perfect Understanding is prajnaparamita. The word “wisdom” is usually used to translate prajna, but I think that wisdom is somehow not able to convey the meaning.

Understanding is like water flowing in a stream. Wisdom and knowledge are solid and can block our understanding. In Buddhism knowledge is regarded as an obstacle for understanding. If we take something to be the truth, we may cling to it so much that even if the truth comes and knocks at our door, we won’t want to let it in. We have to be able to transcend our previous knowledge the way we climb up a ladder. If we are on the fifth rung and think that we are very high, there is no hope for us to step up to the sixth. We must learn to transcend our own views. Understanding, like water, can flow, can penetrate. Views, knowledge, and even wisdom are solid, and can block the way of
understanding.

According to Avalokitesvara, this sheet of paper is empty; but according to our analysis, it is full of everything. There seems to be a contradiction between our observation and his. Avalokita found the five skandhas empty. But, empty of what? The key word is empty. To be empty is to be empty of something. If I am holding a cup of water and I ask you, “Is this cup empty?” you will say, “No, it is full of water.” But if I pour out the water and ask you again, you may say, “Yes, it is empty.” But, empty of what? Empty means empty of something. The cup cannot be empty of nothing. “Empty” doesn’t mean anything unless you know empty of what. My cup is empty of water, but it is not empty of air. To be empty is to be empty of something. This is quite a discovery.

When Avalokita says that the five skandhas are equally empty, to help him be precise we must ask, “Mr. Avalokita, empty of what?”

The five skandhas, which may be translated into English as five heaps, or five aggregates, are the five elements that comprise a human being. These five elements flow like a river in every one of us. In fact, these are really five rivers flowing together in us: the river of form, which means our body, the river of feelings, the river of perceptions, the river of mental formations, and the river of consciousness. They are always flowing in us. So according to Avalokita, when he looked deeply into the nature of these five rivers, he
suddenly saw that all five are empty. And if we ask, “Empty of what?” he has to answer.

And this is what he said: “They are empty of a separate self.” That means none of these five rivers can exist by itself alone. Each of the five rivers has to be made by the other four. They have to co-exist; they have to inter-be with all the others.

In our bodies we have lungs, heart, kidneys, stomach, and blood. None of these can exist independently. They can only co-exist with the others. Your lungs and your blood are two things, but neither can exist separately. The lungs take in air and enrich the blood, and, in turn, the blood nourishes the lungs. Without the blood the lungs cannot be alive, and without the lungs, the blood cannot be cleansed. Lungs and blood inter-are. The same is true with kidneys and blood, kidneys and stomach, lungs and heart, blood and heart, and so on.

When Avalokita says that our sheet of paper is empty, he means it is empty of a separate, independent existence. It cannot just be by itself. It has to inter-be with the sunshine, the cloud, the forest, the logger, the mind, and everything else. It is empty of a separate self. But, empty of a separate self means full of everything. So it seems that our observation and that of Avalokita do not contradict each other after all.

Avalokita looked deeply into the five skandhas of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, and he discovered that none of them can be by itself alone. Each can only inter-be with all the others. So he tells us that form is empty. Form is empty of a separate self, but it is full of everything in the cosmos. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

source

“The Insight that Brings us to the Other Shore” translation by Thich Nhat Hanh (2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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New Heart Sutra -Thich Nhat Hanh

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The Heart Sutra

The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

New Translation

By Thich Nhat Hanh, August, 2014

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Avalokiteshvara,

while practicing deeply with

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,

suddenly discovered that

all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,

and with this realisation

he overcame all Ill-being.

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Continue reading

floating awareness

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Go to the source. I observe images being formed in consciousness and then how they translate into manifest reality. Where do these images originate? To whom do they appear? I feel how I allow energy to flow into those images, almost as a compulsion. I can hold back the energy with fine restraint and hold it in a place before it streams out into the outward-turned mind. It is like turning the handlebars of a bike 180 degrees and going back on the path I came and then staying there. This occurs at some times unexpectedly. I suddenly notice that I am holding the energy of manifestation in a place of “holding”, in a “holding zone”. Even the thought “I am noticing” feels like an intrusion at that moment (which is out of time). It is such, though, that the thought of noticing doesn’t disturb that state of “holding”. Continue reading

face this emptiness

 

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Can the mind face and live with this emptiness and not escape in any direction?

(Krishnamurti – The Urgency of Change)

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To escape from the emptiness is fear. I fear the emptiness. As soon as I begin some ‘doing’ I have begun to fill the emptiness. What is the emptiness? Is it the sense of everything going on and on forever into all eternity? I see that everything has been going on for billions and billions of years, billions of cycles of the earth around the sun and, of course, even before and beyond that.  

How can achievements and goals hold any validity in that immensity of space without measure? The sages speak of being in the space free of concepts like space and time and free of the sense of being a center as ‘me’. Here where I am, however, there is still the compulsion to move and create those fascinating (and sometimes horrific) patterns in the mind-stuff. Those I can hold on to, those I know and those give me a sense of the familiar. 

It is said that the way out of the compulsion of the ‘love to be’ is to relax into the ‘mere being’. He said: “Although this body is lying lifeless like a corpse, I know that I am. Unaffected in the least by this death my being is shining clearly.” (Ramana) This is the fact: My being is NOT one with the body, but is of its own, eternal, changeless, self-shining. The words come out onto the page easily now, but the realization of this “fact” is still not steady and continuous. It comes in flashes and then it is gone. 

Yes, I had my own extended episode of realization that time in the hotel in Colombo – when was it? Sometime around 1982… I was on my way back from my tour of Tamil Nadu and my sojourn at Ramana’s Ashram in Tiruvannamalai. The entire hotel, all physical surroundings were palpably ‘the Heart” that was ‘taking care of me’. Now Mooji says: “The Heart is what we are.” This ‘something’ that has no form but pervades all forms – how it escapes my awareness!

My awareness is hard-wired to rely on the data-input from my physical sense organs. Is there a marriage of the two? or as the Yoga Sutras say: The energy of Pure Seeing is distinct from the energy of the Seen, the Observed. When they mix, there is avidya, confusion.

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have no-mind

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My Comment:

This is living life without forethought and always letting go of the now in the now. This is life without the mind clogging up the works by wanting to create a vision for the next moment. It clogs up the free flow of vital energy and of the Mystery of creation because it holds on to what is pleasurable in the present moment and repels what is uncomfortable in the present moment. What we call ‘the mind’ is no more than impressions in memory of these things to avoid and those we want to attract into our lives.

However, by feeding this tendency to create security and safety for itself, the mind is continually strengthening past impressions of memory. These are like grooves in the brain, or, some say, like scars in the brain. Vital energy, the life force, cannot move through our psycho-somatic organism smoothly because of all of these barriers to the new, the now. When we understand the importance of destruction as a part of creation we can then let go and die to the present moment again, again and again. We trust in the mystery to create the most suitable form for its energy to flow into at any given moment.

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Zen Master Linji:

“Monks, what are you looking for? In the present moment you are standing before me listening to the Dharma. It is luminous and clear. You do not need to depend on anything and since you lack nothing you have nothing to search for. As I see it, there isn’t so much to do. Just be ordinary  – put on your robes, eat your food, and pass the time doing nothing. “

“If you want nothing to stand between you and the Buddhas and masters, you have to see this. Do not doubt anymore, do not be mistaken anymore. If you can maintain this insight, you are living masters. If you cannot maintain this insight, then there will be a difference between nature and appearance. When the mind does maintain this insight, nature and appearance are not two different things.”

source: Thich Nhat Hanh, Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go, p. 40

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related article: “ordinary monk”

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quiet, peaceful, benign shade

 

the deep, dark blue state

dark blue

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Nisargadatta:  You must come to a firm decision. You must forget the thought that you are a body and be only the knowledge “I Am,” which has no form, no name. Just be. When you stabilize in that beingness it will give you all the knowledge and all the secrets to you, and when the secrets are given to you, you transcend the beingness, and you, the Absolute, will know that you are also not the consciousness. Having gained all this knowledge, having understood what is what, a kind of quietude prevails, a tranquility. Beingness is transcended, but beingness is available. Continue reading

the anomalous blip of “me” and “mine”

 

 

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Whatever there is to say I do not know. The latest revelation of Myself to Myself was the view that we are programmed to allow ourselves access only to pragmatic data regarding our survival. That is why there is such comfort and a feeling of familiarity when an activity presents itself to “do” on a practical level. There is a blanket to fold and put up into the cupboard; teeth are to be brushed; food for the jays is to be got out of the garage and put outside onto their feeder; coffee to be made and drunk, and so on. The day is filled with “things to do”. Even “sitting doing nothing” becomes a thing to do. Continue reading

let “I am” do its thing

 

 

Thetis-- One of the Nereids:

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June 29, 1980

Nisargadatta Maharaj: Whatever concept you have about yourself cannot be true. The “I Amness” is the prime concept, and it has to be satisfied by letting it do its normal work in the world. The important thing is the realization of the fact that it is a concept.

Questioner: In the world this concept is always trying to be at the top. Even to the children we say, “You must be first in the examination.” Is it wrong to push your personality and individuality on others?

M. What is wrong is that you consider yourself to be limited to this body and shape. What knowledge I try to give is given to the knowledge “I Am” in each of you, which is the same. If you try to get that knowledge as an individual you will never get it. Continue reading