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Lions Roar : July 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2013 53 This is the root of all confusion, the moment in which grasping arises. Grasping is both internal and external. Internally, it creates the sense of an unchanging “I.” Externally, it projects the concept of “other,” seeing everything as a challenge to its existence, either a threat to be overcome, an object of desire to be seized, or some- thing to be ignored in the hope that it will go away. Having deceived ourselves into believing in the existence of ego as subject, we project a world of objects. In the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s graphic expression, we have “solidified space.” Instead, he suggests, we could dance with space as our partner. In this dance we ourselves are part of the ever-changing magical display of appearances, ungraspable, transparent, and luminous as rainbows, which arise spontaneously and unceasingly as the creative activity of space. The buddhas, who remain always in this state, do not need the senses; they experience directly with jnana, the five wisdoms. These include the ability to see everything throughout all of space and time simultaneously, as in a mirror, and at the same time to focus on each individual part of the display. For us, though, the senses are part of our manifestation as sentient beings, and, in the way we normally experience them, they are obstructions to genuine knowledge. Trungpa Rinpoche called them “unnecessary complications of existence.” Yet he wrote of another way of experiencing, in which: All the miracles of sight, sound, and mind Are the five wisdoms and the five buddhas. For the doors of perception can be cleansed. Blake said, “The whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy, whereas it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.” He gives us a clue as to how this can be accomplished in his much-loved verse: He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy, But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sunrise. Infinity. Eternity. These are the words Blake uses to point toward an indescribable state where space and time collapse. Space (or place): the sense of location, direction, and distance. Time: the sense of flowing from the past to the future. These are powerful basic assumptions that we make about the world, but that in fact only limit our knowledge. For we do not really know what the world is at all. We each create our own world through our sense perceptions and mind, with all its conditioning, memories, expectations, reactions, and so forth. When we look at a tree, we do not actually see a tree. We know only our own experience of it, arising from the complex physical processes of sight and the equally complex operations of our mind. A “tree” is a concept of our human consciousness. Blake would have seen its spiritual form, perhaps as an angel; this is an intermediate level, corresponding to the Buddhist samb- hogakaya imagery. Behind that is the ultimate level, the totally mysterious and ungraspable aspect of openness, the inherent nonexistence of all that seems to exist. Yet it is only through the senses that we can penetrate beyond the surface appearance of things. The Buddha himself gave a meditation on the senses to the wanderer Bahiya: In the seen, there is only the seen, In the heard, there is only the heard, In the sensed, there is only the sensed, In the cognized, there is only the cognized. Meditating in this way, the Buddha said, Bahiya should realize that “there is no thing here ... no thing there ... nor in any place between the two. This alone is the end of suffering.” There is no longer the illusion of a grasping ego, nor any object that can be grasped. There is simply pure perception itself—“the miracles of sight, sound, and mind” that are the living expression of the primordial awakened state. We can begin to move ourselves in this direction by focusing on the simplicity and immediacy of our perceptions—just the bare experience of sound, color, shape, smell, taste, and bodily sensation. Then we can notice the ways in which we obscure this directness: how we immediately label every sensation (how unsettling we find it to catch a glimpse of something and have no idea what it is!); how we continually react with attachment, aver- sion, or indifference to whatever occurs; how our expectations and preconceptions affect what we perceive; and how habitua- tion dulls our responses. But since awakening is our natural and original state, ego is not nearly as powerful as it thinks it is. Our day-to-day experi- ences are never entirely confused. Although we may perceive the world in a distorted manner, even that distortion points to the reality that lies behind it. Trungpa Rinpoche often spoke of “nat- ural symbolism,” meaning that everything points to this deeper truth of its own being. He said that the universe is always trying to tell us something, but we do not listen. Or, as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in a Christian context, but in words so beautiful that they surely transcend religious differences: The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flare out, like shining from shook foil; Music frees itself from the laws of time, suspended in a beginningless and end- less stillness. Floating in dimensionless space, forms become transparent and interpenetrating. PHOTOBYBILLBRANDT©BILLBRANDTARCHIVELTD