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Lions Roar : May 2015
In Sanskrit, the word for these poisons is klesha, which has the connotation of something that obscures or covers. Kleshas are said to be like clouds that cover the sun, which is always shining but is sometimes hidden from view. They hide the real- ity of our buddhanature from our conscious awareness. The three poisons can combine to create all kinds of unhap- piness, and they seem very real when we are in their grip. The way we are driven by these elemental forces can be seen easily when we look directly at our behavior, thoughts, and inner feel- ings. We notice that there are all kinds of thoughts that begin with the phrases “I want,” “I hate,” and “I don’t care.” It’s hard for us to see beyond these habits of mind, which of course lead to even more destructive habits of behavior. All the kleshas are based on dualism: me and you, happiness and suffering, good and bad, right and wrong. From the nondual viewpoint, the mind that only sees opposites is distorted and can’t comprehend the reality of pervasive, awakened nature without falling in and out of dualism. We cling to the “everything sucks” view until it seesaws into “everything is beautiful.” Without a nondual view, we go back and forth endlessly in dualities. There are many names for this nondual, awakened nature. We can describe it as unborn, free from categories, free from cling- ing, and free from self. It is always present. It cannot be opposed or attained. It can’t be understood by the discursive mind. It can only be known by the awakened heart/mind. Bodhidharma, the fifth-century Indian teacher who is said to have brought Zen to China, says that buddhanature is “inconceivably wondrous.” There is more good news. Buddhanature is not just limited to human beings. There is nothing in the universe outside of this awakened nature. In the undivided reality that holds all opposites, everything reveals the truth of awakening. Animals and plants, tiles and walls, trees and stars all demonstrate buddhanature. For the mind that endlessly creates dualistic thoughts and views, this is hard to understand. But once it is seen, it is indeed wondrous and profoundly reassuring. Although awakened nature sounds special, it is actually profoundly ordinary. And it is not something we have to cre- ate. It appears naturally from the ground of our being, poking through our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors like blades of grass growing up from the ground. The entry point to knowing our own awakened nature is very simple—it is experiencing who are we without accepting, rejecting, or judging anything. But while simple, it’s not easy, because our usual way of being is based so strongly on the dual- ism and distortion of self-improvement. We try so hard to be good and wise. We are addicted to striving. We decide that the parts of ourselves that we don’t like are not us, and we work really hard to eliminate them. All of us carry some image of who we should be, and we try to kill the unruly parts so we’ll become our idealized selves. In denying parts of ourselves, we miss the continuing aris- ing of the awakened heart, which is the source of passion and delight. We are fooled by the three poisons, which we see as per- manent and believe we must oppose. But all these adventitious arisings are not permanent, and they can’t help but disperse if we stop interfering with them. Instead of trying to kill off parts of ourselves, we can practice nondual meditation. We can uncover what has been hidden by our adventitious thinking but is always present. Through this practice our buddhanature is revealed. It is always here, but we can’t know this until we embrace our whole being, including the delusions and the parts of us that are unwanted. How do we practice this uncovering? We watch all the arisings in the body and heart/mind and see them for what they are: tem- porary phenomena, taking shape as thoughts, feelings, percep- tions, opinions, and sensations. Because we have seen them to be impermanent, we learn to stop trusting and relying on them. If you want to set up the conditions to recognize your awak- ened nature, all you have to do is sit down, be still and upright, and stay awake to whatever is here. Whenever anything arises in awareness—whether a thought, feeling, or sense perception— don’t run after it. Don’t fight it or try to transform it either. This practice takes a while to get the hang of, because it’s essentially doing not-doing. Dogen describes it as thinking not- thinking. Be curious: just watch what happens to all of these arisings when you stop meddling with them. But be careful: there is a trap that can appear even when we are doing uncovering meditation practice. The dualistic mind wants to make a fixed concept of everything, including buddhanature. This includes any fixed idea of awakening or attainment you may have as you begin to recognize the undeniable fact of buddhana- ture in yourself and in the world around you. In nondual practice, there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. There is nothing to try to figure out or eliminate. Again and again, recognize that what arises is simply what arises. Gradual- ly, what is at first merely glimpsed as the space between passing thoughts begins to have a stronger presence in your conscious awareness. You recognize something that is not limited to or by thoughts, sense perceptions, or physical sensations. This sense of spaciousness is the recognition of your awak- ened nature. You also see without a doubt that compassionate action arises naturally from this. You realize that you have al- ways been filled with the tremendous energy of bodhichitta, the awakened heart/mind of the Buddha. But as much as you’d like to, you can’t make this transformation happen. You can set up the conditions for it to be realized, but as Nothing to do and nowhere to go, nothing to figure out or eliminate. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 52