I study, practice, contemplate, and enjoy the BuddhaDharma because it is non-deceptive. An example of this is that the Buddha Dharma will encourage analysis of a situation and of the self experiencing a situation rather than wishing for a being to fix or ameliorate the situation. One will be directed to examine the causes and conditions that conflated into a current result, some laughingly obvious and others quite subtle. The current resultant situation would also be understood as a new condition which is, unto itself, causal in a variety of ways. Through such examination, everything is recognized as dependent, interdependent, non-isolated, and also as a manifestation of myriad factors some of which one had control of, created, or willingly denied. The key word there is some.
The BuddhaDharma declares that everyone is good at essence, wise by nature, and has limitless capacities to meet all needs, mundane and sublime. That might sound deceptive. The key phrase here is at essence. My guess is that we all have experienced these qualities in some measure when we are selfless, non-distracted, or non-beguiled by the lower vibrating enticements of modern life. Culture or society can even take advantage of these truths. For instance, innate goodness of women has been usurped by most societies for a very long time precisely because that goodness, caring of others, intuitive responsiveness, and creative problem solving is selfless and is innate. And, because the BuddhaDharma can be temporarily high-jacked by social customs, cultural traditions, and the morays of countries where BuddhaDharma is being practiced, women have endured prejudice in the name of Dharma practice. Yet, the buddha Padmasambhava reported when asked that a woman with the right support and conditions can achieve enlightenment quicker than a man.
I also appreciate and value the expansive view of the BuddhaDharma. Limitless universes, limitless buddhas and bodhisattvas, innumerable methods of awakening because there are innumerable types of beings and uncountable karmas involved in each one’s illumination and liberation are examples. Inconceivable qualities of Being, ineffable joyful awakeness coupled with tireless-beyond-time faithful dedication to support and offer instruction to all beings in all the universes turns me back to myself. “Am I living from my fullness?” If I am, then beings known and unknown are benefited each second, as am I. If I am not, why not, since mediocrity is merely its own hell realm.
Lastly, I find the BuddhaDharma practical in that it is applicable every moment. It fosters my well-being through examination, analysis, and discovery of where I am off the mark in my thought forms or assumptions, in my projections and habit of consciousness. As a result, insight and in-the-moment self-liberation is happening or available all the time. That might sound selfish but is not. Like a body of water which if clear and pure benefits countless beings, as I clarify myself through truthfulness, honesty, and a wide view of reality, then like pure water, I trust that more beings benefit.
So … I’d like to begin a series of posts focused in or on facets of the BuddhaDharma that I have found eye-opening and useful. I am not a roshi or rinpoche or Theravada master but I think that’s a good thing. One of the gifts of the Dharma having filtered into the west is that our cultures are historically non-Buddhist. Therefore, if a westerner is to understand the Dharma, one has to contemplate. If we are to explore the Dharma, we have to explore widely. If we are to experiment with practicing the Dharma including meditation, we have a choice: to do it freshly inclusive of the expert guidance of the masters of the various Buddhist traditions over centuries and those alive today while knowing that I, an American, can never be Japanese or Tibetan or Thai and therefore don’t try to be. Secondly, one can begin understanding that the BuddhaDharma was given 2600 years ago by Shakyamuni Buddha to shake one free from the somnambulism that is called life. Contemplation will change how one’s mind thinks. Exploration will illumine how much one does not know and how small one’s frames of reference are while simultaneously widening them. Experimentation with processes of Path will inform one of what is and is not viable for one as a Path of awakening.
I want to begin with an excerpt from the Prajnaparamita Sutra texts, of which there are numerous. All were given by Buddha Shakyamuni and their focus is Perfect Wisdom (prajna paramita). Perfect Wisdom is a vast subject in BuddhaDharma and can be approached, explained, expounded, and illustrated from a number of angles and pertain to various levels of understanding. However, none of the explanations, expositions, or illustrations will actually report what Perfect Wisdom is because Wisdom, in BuddhaDharma ever refers to emptiness (śunyata) which is not phenomenal yet is the womb source of all displays of phenomena. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyenste Rinpoche says that “Wisdom is the heart of the Dharma, is the brain and backbone of the Dharma. Wisdom is its core. Without wisdom Dharma is another worldly entanglement.”
from The Prajnaparamita text: The Questions of Suvikrantavikramin, pg. 71-72 in Perfect Wisdom translated by Conze
“… the Bodhisattva who courses in the perfection of wisdom does not course in the origination of form, nor its stopping; nor in the idea that form is deep or shallow, empty or not empty, (with) sign or signless, wish or wishless; or that form has been put together or has not been put together. And so for the other skandhas (feeling, perceptions, mental formulations, consciousness). Why? (Because) all these are imaginings, vaporings, futile discoursings, forms of craving. ‘It is I who course’ is a vaporing. ‘It is here that I course’ is a futile discoursing. ‘It is through this that I course’ is a form of craving. ‘It is in this that I course’ is an imagining. …”
Though I had read this sutra more than once before, the teaching bolded by me stood out last autumn and I took it on as a practice. I watched my mind and emotions, cravings, attachments, avoidances, likes and dislikes, judgements, projections, and all manner of emotion or thought processes to see if the Buddha was right.
“Oh one day …”, “Only if …”, “I wish I had …”. Such type of thoughts are vaporings.
Consider what vapor is. It is kind of air, kind of moisture, has a sense of temperature to it – usually heated but is ethereal and nondescript. For human beings, vaporings are meaningless things that we say to others or ourself. These include social pleasantries which are actually vacant of relating or relatedness.
Futile discoursings include a) we don’t know what we are talking about but are talking, b) are not clear in or with our thought, c) the recipient of what is being said can’t take in what we are saying or meaning (futility on both sides), or d) what one is scheming or planning is nothing but talk and can not eventuate or manifest. The term futile is significant. For someone to try to convince me that there is personal benefit living in a city would be futile discoursing; similarly if someone told me that the American medical model works regarding health and well-being. Likewise, if someone thought highly of the American medical model and I explained that his or her newly diagnosed diverticulitis could be easily cured with herbs coupled with dietary changes. Probably futile. For all I know, this post is a futile discoursing.
Imaginings include projections onto other people, cultures, and things. Therefore all forms of bias, prejudice, judgement, and assumptions are imaginings. As this quotation is within the Prajnaparamita Sutra texts, we are reminded that if analyzed, our daily reality is an ongoing set of imaginings. For example, we imagine that each of us is the same person as yesterday and will be so tomorrow. We imagine a variety of scenarios vis a vis covid, some benign, some not. We imagine that a chai would taste good right now; we imagine a world transformed through benevolence or raped by greed.
Imagination is used in all creative processes, those that bring beauty or harmony into the word and those that don’t.
Forms of craving
Basically, every thought and action that a person performs or experiences is a form of craving. Making a chai or purchasing one results from a craving. That’s obvious. So isn’t the quietude that I long for and abide in most days. From wanting a child or not wanting one, desiring a particular outcome about anything, to having our needs met, or the car or the weather or social systems to be reliable are forms of craving. Fulfilling a craving seems easy in an affluent country. Want water? Turn on the faucet. But in other locations, it’s not that simple. Or in some locations, the faucet delivers poisoned liquid. The habit of desiring something is usually also a habit of denying the causes and conditions necessary to accomplish the desired outcome. Craving also denies the outcomes of fulfilling said cravings. People in the far past did not suffer from arthritis, for example, because sugar was not available to them. Once sugar started to be exported from the New World (due to the slaves imported or forced from the indigenous populations) arthritis, cancer, and all manner of inflammatory diseases began to creep into the common person’s life. Now, these afflictions are accepted as part of life – just as is one of their major causes: sugar.
Each of these four categories and observations of our self are stated neutrally by the Buddha. They are an IS for unenlightened beings. We don’t notice that we are living from these are processes or that we are caught in these woven strands of the net of illusion. However, through noticing we come to realize how incessant these emotion-mind processes are inside us, how driven we are by them. Only rarely is there is any virtue or merit to our imaginings, discoursings, or forms of craving. Vaporings? They are simply an expenditure of air.
I found taking on this teaching very valuable. It brought insight and clarity to myself about myself. What might you discover by observing your mind, listening to the musings and wishing or judgements, shoulds, woulds, coulds?
If you are a person who gets engaged in creative projects or can focus attention in meditation or contemplation, observe how most of this chatter quells when so engaged. If you are a question asker, notice which questions are vaporings or have the ground of futile discoursings, which is to say that reflexive curiosity is the activity of the ego-mind and not much else.
Everything a human being does is driven by desire, including lofty desires or aspirations. To recognize this ubiquitous driving factor (craving or its opposite: avoidance/repudiation) helps us release ourselves from lesser desire-drives and hone in on actualizing higher aspirations.