Saturday, December 20, 2014

Gone Beyond Individualized Consciousness #6

What is the difference between gone beyond personal identity and gone beyond individualized consciousness?  Personal identity has to do with our psychological responses to life based on our desire system of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral.  It is also holding on to our karmic stories as if they were solid and permanent sense of our identities.

Gone beyond Individualized consciousness is a level of practice and Buddhism that few have the aspiration to want to realize.  It is very difficult process to actualize and demands a strong attention to meditation and mindfulness.  It is the existential level of Buddhist wisdom. It asks that we see through our “solid bodies” and “I” minds, and discovering what is the source of each moment.

The Gate, Gate mantra is the last line of the small sized Heart of Great Wisdom Sutra.   The Prajnaparamita Sutras come in various sizes.  From the Mahaprajnaparamita sutra at 100,000 lines, down through 6 different sized versions until the smaller Diamond Sutra at 300 lines.  We chant an even smaller sutra – The Heart of Great Wisdom Sutra, daily at Soto Zen temples.  The “heart” is actually the “essence” of the larger sutras.  And the mantra Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi, svaha, is really a small chant at the end of the sutra that encompasses the whole of the essence.

In order to practice with non-self, we have to understand what a being is.  It is not a solid thing as we usually think of our “being”.  We think it gets born, lives through a life and then dies.  But in Buddhism a “being” or a “self” is actually a functioning dynamic of many elements energizing together.

In the Five Skandhas or the Five aggregates, these are the elements that come together in a being.
1.     Form – a body
2.     Feeling- pleasant, unpleasant, neutral
3.     Perceptions – the sense gates, sense objects, sense minds
4.     Formation – the putting together of all the perceptions, Katagiri Roshi called it the together-maker
5.     Consciousness

One image from Science has helped me understand this idea about solid and non-solid-ness.  When I was in elementary school, we learned that an atom was made of a nucleus and electrons and the scientist used to call the nucleus and electrons as  solid bodies.  As their instruments advanced, the scientists can see more subtly now.  Now they say, there is nothing solid there.  As they go in more and more subtly, they only find space and energy but no form.  This is very much like our idea of a “self” and our understanding of the non-self.  As we look for a solid self, we can’t find one, only the dynamic functioning of the energy of the five Skandhas.

In reading the Diamond Sutra the other day, I was struck with its unpacking of the idea of individualized consciousness, far beyond just our personal psychology.  In that sutra it emphasizes this teaching of gone beyond Individual consciousness.

The Diamond expounds:

“And yet although immeasurable, innumerable, and unlimited beings have been liberated, truly no being has been liberated.  Why? Because no bodhisattva who is a true bodhisattva entertains such concepts as a self, a person, a being, or a living soul.  Thus there are no sentient beings to be liberated and no self to attain perfect wisdom.”

Skipping a paragraph or two:

“The Buddha said to Subhuti, “All that has a form is an illusory existence.  When the illusory nature of form is perceived, the Tathagata is recognized.”

Another section:

“So, Subhuti, all bodhisattvas should develop a pure, lucid mind that doesn’t depend upon sight, sound, touch, flavor, smell, or any thought that arises in it.  A bodhisattva should develop a mind that functions freely, without depending on anything whatsoever.”

That seems like a good description of Awakened Awareness or Direct mind without attachment as Huineng has pronounced.

Or in the Heart Sutra that we are most familiar with:

“Therefore given emptiness, there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no formation, no consciousness;
No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no sight, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of sight … no realm of mind consciousness.”


These are words and images that are pointing verbally at what it means to go beyond individual consciousness.  And in doing that, our minds can start to function in a pure and lucid state, directly meeting the moment without attachment.

excepts from "The Diamond Sutra, Transforming the way we perceive the world" by Mu Soeng

Monday, December 15, 2014

Awakened Awareness gone beyond individualized consciousness #5

What does it mean to be awake?  To truly be in the present moment where the truth happening place resides?

Awareness is to be present in each moment and to accept each moment exactly as it is.  In order to do this, your mind has to be tamed.  You place your mind and mindfulness to right here, right now.

Awakened means to have a view that is coming from the universal truth of life and from the Universal perspective as Katagiri Roshi would say.  Out of emptiness or the source of life, out of the dharma position, each moment is born.  In order to come from this place, our personal desire systems and our attachment to our personal stories have to be lessened.  “To the minimum” as Katagiri Roshi would say.

Katagiri Roshi –
“To learn the Way you have to be learning about something that is larger than your little life.  It is no small matter, it is boundless.”

Right View comes from our understanding of Prajna or Wisdom.
Here are some of the important points of “coming from Wisdom”:



In the Three Dharma Seals, we learn to say “No” to our mental constructions of
·      Permanence or solidity
·      Living as an isolated unit
·      Feeling that we are independent
We have to learn to come from a different point of view entirely.  We have to say “yes” to systems theory.  That everything is working in Total Dynamic Functioning or Zenki.  Underneath our evaluations of good and bad, right and wrong, underneath our personal desire system, the universe is working in peace and harmony.  It is an expression of the simultaneity of the principles of emptiness or interbeing, and karma or cause and effect.  We hold the view that we can entrust ourselves to universe life.  With that sense of trust, we can let go into presence or awakened awareness.

In the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, this view is brought forth in the Wisdom Tetrad.



So again,  Impermanence is the first contemplation.  Then moving into the fading away of all dharmas which relates to No Self and No Form of the Three Doors of Liberation.  Releasing our very constricted view of life into more openness and interdependence.  Boundary-less-ness. 

Cessation is a word that has been hard to grasp.  I think it begins with learning to “go beyond thought”.  It is stopping our over-working minds.  Sometimes I just say, “Stop” to myself.  Stop and come back to now.  In this regard, I have been working with the duality of production and non-production.  We human beings, love to produce.  Look around us.  Civilizations, skyscrapers, arts and culture, wars.  All an expression of our desires and their manifestations.  But few of us know how to truly stop, rest and be silent.  For a harmonious life, this activity and resting needs to be balancing each other, dynamically working together.  Our activity pushes us to the point where we need to rest.  When we rest, we cannot stay there forever or we die.  Our resting in non-producing, rejuvenates back into activity.  Part of the emphasis on meditation practice is to truly learn how to non-produce.  Not to produce with the activity of our bodies, and not to produce with our conceptualization, our minds.  Just to be quiet and to merge and let go, trust, the universal inter-being.



Putting this all together, we can rest in Presence.  If there can be a goal in a no-goal situation it is to Rest in Presence.   To bring Awakened Awareness to all our moments.  The more we practice as in practice/realization, we can hold the larger view more and more as we go through our day.  Our concentration and mindfulness is strong enough that it is not even distracted by activity.  We can do our human activity and our daily life, gone beyond individualized consciousness.  That is what makes the great spiritual heroes of our time.

From Katagiri Roshi:

Our practice is to manifest perfect tranquility within each form our everyday life takes – getting up in the morning, having breakfast, going to work, walking down the street, and so on.
Take care of each moment and return to the source.
Take care of each moment from a universal perspective.
It’s completely beyond good or bad, right or wrong.
So put aside all kinds of imaginations, fabricated by your consciousness.
Don’t attach to thoughts and emotions; just return to emptiness.

Just be present there and swim in Buddha Nature.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Beyond Constructions of Time #4

This blog is about the section in the Gate, Gate, mantra which says:  going beyond constructions of time.  In the past few years, I have practiced a lot on breaking open my "idea" of linear time.  This practice has been one of the most powerful for me in terms of letting go of the obsession with my historic story and "selfing".   In letting the solidity of linear time go, even a little bit, I have begun to be more present and aware in this moment.  It feels, indeed, like a path to liberation.

First off, Katagiri Roshi taught that the present moment is at the intersection of time and space.  In that intersection is where the "real life" lies.  Here's one of his charts:


In that moment of the intersection of time and space, which is constantly changing, we are where we want to be.  He calls it the Pivot of Nothingness.  The pivot is the constantly swirling world of the opposites and the functioning of activity of life.  The nothingness is the eternal now that is silent and still right at the center.  Both of these dynamics,  activity and stillness are occurring in each moment and represent the totality of life in all dimensions and all times.  Katagiri Roshi's book title:  Each Moment is the Universe.

In studying with Okumura Roshi, he has another beautiful chart explaining how linear time and eternal time work together.


This chart shows the karmic working of cause and effect.  That one moment produces the next moment through cause, development and result.  It also shows on the bottom how each moment is the eternal moment itself.  Complete and independent.  A Whole arising and disappearing in 1/62 of a fingersnap.  Dogen-zenji calls it a "dharma position".  Each dharma position is completely the whole and completely the now!  In understanding this non-dualism, this oneness, the way we approach our life can really change.

Dogen says that there are 6 and a half billion moments in a day.  Katagiri-Roshi says, that each moment is a creative opportunity to produce your future life.

Our practice is to completely receive the moment.  Both its timelessness and the karmic aspect of human life together.  Which moves us right along to Awakened Awareness which is the next section.

Here is another chart from Rohatsu, that is one of the Tibetan instructions about time and I received from Ken Mcloed's book, "Wake up to your life".

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beyond Personal Identity #3

Continuing my series on gate, gate, paragate mantra.  If you are new to this series, look at the two previous blogs for the overall translation into english of this mantra.

Beyond personal identity means that we stop living our life and our motivations through the screen of our personal desire system.  This is corresponding to the Second Noble Truth, which teaches that are suffering is caused by our desires, our cravings and our attachments.  If we live our lives initiating our actions from the three poisons; greed, anger and ignorance, we are constantly turning the wheel of life and death and the wheel of our suffering.
                             Greed -  Like - attachment
                             Anger or hate - dislike - aversion
                             Ignorance - ignoring the truths of life
                                        also can be thought of as
                                        being on automatic
                                        or being in denial



In Zen, we often talk about non-preference.  This is the ability to accept both things we like and things we dislike.  In a phrase - May I be at peace with the ups and downs of life.  Equanimity.  If we always attach and want more of what we like and push away what we don't like, we are always stuck in the suffering of the view of our own desires.

In order to have this type of equanimity, we have to increase our capacity to hold our negative emotions.  That means we can hold our emotions without acting out or repressing.  We can digest our emotions and act, not from reactivity but from awareness.

From the Trust in Mind Sutra attributed to Seng-ts'an, third ancestor, died in 606
The way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose.

This brings to mind Radical Acceptance.  Our practice is to receive each moment as it arises and exactly the way it is.  It also brings to mind Katagiri Roshi often used phrase - You have to see things from a huge perspective, not from your personal telescope.

Katagiri Writes:
The most important meaning of emptiness is that we are not obsessed with the results of our actions whether good, evil or neutral.  Don't create attachment - which doesn't mean to ignore attachment.  There is always attachment.  The important point is how to use attachment without creating too much trouble.  Confine attachment to the minimum.  Understand Attachment. Using your knowledge and capacity, consider what to do.  Then just do it.  Immediately see the results and accept it.


We can't ignore our historic/karmic storyline.  We need to take care of it by considering carefully and acting in accordance with our principles.  And yet, the more we study and practice, the more our decisions are informed by our practice and understanding, by using a very large universal telescope. To me, this is living and acting beyond our personal identity.  In our ordinary life, we take care of our karmic life but see it in the perspective of a huge universe with set principles exemplified by the precepts and the teachings.

By our understanding of our personal karma and seeing it from our universal mind, we can make decisions that, as Katagiri Roshi says, will create a new life in the future.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Beyond thought.#2

During rohatsu sesshin, I worked with the gate gate mantra.  I got this explanation from Dan Brown who is a Tibetan teacher and i have really enjoyed contemplating it:


Let's work with "beyond thought".  this is part of the three bases under samadhi.  Learning to concentrate is one of the essential tasks.  Can we learn to place our mind where we want it to be rather than be a slave to the director/mind.  Meditation practice of returning to your object of concentration is the practice that starts to cultivate one-pointedness.

In the sutra of the full awareness of breathing, there are wonderful phrases that help you calm the mind into stabiity.  They have a formula of: breathing in I ......., breathing out I.......
Here are some of the phrases that are used to stabilized and ultimately liberate the activities of our minds.  The calming of the monkey mind.


Now when I sit down to meditate, the first thing i say is "stabilize your mind".  How to do that?
Observe and notice the mental processes and thru breathing try to calm the mind.  I particular like "gladden the mind" which is part of en-LIGHT-enment.  Making the mind lighter.  To gladden and open the mind actually is fairly easy.  One turns the mind to connect with the mystery and awesomeness of life itself.  Add to that, contemplating your gratitude, and usually the mind will gladden.

To stabilize the mind moves us into non-thought.  Where are minds are basically quiet with an occasional thought floating through which is not grabbed on to.  This is a very restful place.  It is a place of non-production and is a place where we can "just be" or "return to silence" as Katagiri Roshi would call it.  Very still.

Samadhi or concentration is very important and yet, it is only one aspect of actualizing our life that is already there.  There is also the understanding of wisdom (prajna) and the incorporating that into our actual expression and behaviour.(Sila)