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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 78 And when we talk about the truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering, we are also talking about various levels of mind, various levels of realizations. So in order to understand the Four Noble Truths, one has to understand the primary role that mind, or consciousness, plays in determining our experi- ence of suffering and pain. The actual process by which mind creates our unenlightened existence and the suffering we experience is described by Cand- rakirti in his Guide to the Middle Way, where he states, “An un- disciplined state of mind gives rise to delusions which propel an individual into negative action which then creates the negative environment in which the person lives.” When trying to understand the nature of freedom from suffer- ing (nirvana) that Buddhism talks about, we can look at a passage in Nagarjuna’s Fundamentals of the Middle Way, where he in some sense equates unenlightened existence (samsara) and enlightened existence, or nirvana. The point Nagarjuna is making in equat- ing unenlightened and enlightened existence is that we should not have the impression that there is any kind of intrinsic nature or in- trinsic being to our existence, be it enlightened or unenlightened. From the point of view of emptiness, samsara and nirvana are equally devoid of any intrinsic reality or intrinsic being. What differentiates an unenlightened state from the enlightened state is the knowledge and experience of emptiness. The knowledge and experience of the emptiness of samsara is what can be called nirva- na. Again, we see that it is a state of mind—an understanding or knowl- edge of emptiness—that differenti- ates samsara and nirvana. Given these premises, it is very fair to raise the question: is Buddhism suggesting that everything is noth- ing but projection of our mind? This is a critical question and one that has elicited different responses from Buddhist teachers. In one camp, great masters have argued that in the final analysis, yes, every- thing, including our experience of suffering and happiness, is nothing but the projection of our mind. But there is also another camp, which has vehemently argued against that form of extreme subjectivism. This second camp maintains that although one can, in some sense, understand everything as creations of mind, this does not mean that everything is nothing but the mind. They argue that one must maintain a degree of objectivity that things do exist. Although the consciousness, the mind, plays a role in creating our experience and the world at the same time, they maintain there is an objective world that is accessible to all subjects, all experiences. There is another point that I think one should understand with regard to the Buddhist concept of freedom, or nirvana. Nagabuddhi, who was a student of Nagarjuna, states that, “En- lightenment or spiritual freedom is not a gift that someone can give to you, nor is the seed for enlightenment something that is owned by someone else.” The implication here is that the poten- tial for enlightenment exists naturally in all of us. Nagabuddhi goes on to ask, “What is nirvana, what is enlight- enment, what is spiritual freedom?” He answers, “True enlight- enment is nothing but when the nature of one’s own self is fully realized.” When Nagabuddhi talks about the nature of one’s own self, he is referring to what Buddhists call the ultimate clear light, or inner radiant nature of the mind. He says when this is fully actualized, that is enlightenment, that is true buddhahood. When we talk about enlightenment, buddhahood or nirvana, which is the fruit of one’s spiritual endeavor, we are speaking about a quality of mind, a state of mind. Similarly, when we talk about the delusions and the factors that obstruct our realization of that enlightened state, we are also talking about states of mind, the deluded states of mind. Particularly, we are referring to the deluded states that are grounded in a distorted way of perceiving one’s own self and the world. The only means by which one can eliminate that mis-knowing, or distorted way of perceiving the self and the world, is through cultivating the right insight into the true nature of mind, and the true nature of self and the world. In summary, the essential point in the teachings of the Buddha is on the one hand, equating an undisciplined state of mind with suffering and unenlightened existence, and on the other hand, a disciplined state of mind with happiness, enlightenment or spiritual freedom. This is the essential point. — MAY, 1999 The Mind’s True Nature by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche IN ORDER TO CONQUER the high ground of the uncreated nature of mind, we must go to the source and recognize the origin of our thoughts. Otherwise, one thought gives rise to a second thought, the second thought to a third, and so on forever. We are constantly assailed by memories of the past and carried away by expectations for the future, and lose all awareness of the present. It is our own mind that leads us astray into the cycle of existences. Blind to the mind’s true nature, we hold fast to our thoughts, PHOTOBYMARVINMOORE Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche