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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 35 WHY DO WE miss the nature of liberated mind? Not because it is too dif- ficult to understand, but because it is too obvious. Maybe we cannot find what we are searching for because it is in plain sight, like the spectacles that rest unnoticed on my nose. According to the Zen master Hakuin, the dif- ference between buddhas and other beings is like that between water and ice: as without water there is no ice, so without bud- dhas there are no sentient beings—which suggests that deluded beings are simply “frozen” buddhas. “Let your mind come forth without fixing it anywhere,” says the most-quoted line from the Diamond Sutra, prompting the great awakening of the sixth Chan patriarch Hui- neng, whose Platform Sutra makes and remakes the same point: “When our mind works freely without any hindrance, and is at liberty to ‘come’ or to ‘go,’ we attain liberation.” Such a mind “is everywhere present, yet it ‘sticks’ nowhere.” A mind that dwells upon nothing is the unborn buddha-mind itself, according to Chan master Hui Hai: “This full awareness in yourself of a mind dwelling upon nothing is known as having a clear perception of your own mind, or, in other words, as having a clear perception of your own nature.” Although the true nature of awareness is formless, it becomes trapped when our attention is conditioned—that is, when we come to identify with particular forms. Such identifications happen due to ignorance of the essential “non-dwelling” nature of our attention. Most students of Bud- dhism are familiar with such teachings, so this point does not need to be belabored. Yet an im- portant implication is not usually considered: the danger of what might be called collective attention- traps. Meditation practices make us more sensitive to our attachments, the places where our awareness is stuck. But our problems with attachment are not just our own. We all tend to have the same problems because as members of the same society, we are sub- jected to similar condition- ing and tend to get stuck in similar ways. How different is our present conditioning from the social conditioning in the time of the Buddha? How has the development of the modern/post- modern world affected human attention generally? Not only what we attend to, but how we attend to it? The constriction or liberation of awareness is not only a personal, individual matter. What do contemporary societies do to encourage or discourage its emancipation? This issue is an important one for Buddhists because today our awareness is conditioned in ways that did not afflict previous Buddhist cultures and practitioners. THE FRAGMENTATION OF ATTENTION Buddhist practice evokes images of meditation with minimal distractions. The IT revolution—personal computers, the Inter- net, e-mail, cell phones, Walkmans, and iPods, etc.—encourages an unremitting connectivity that pulls us in the opposite direc- tion. As we become attentive to so many more people and so many more possibilities, is less attention available for the people and things most important to us? The Attack on Attention Liberating the mind’s attention from attachment and distraction is the essence of Buddhist practice. But that’s a lot more difficult than it was in the time of the Buddha, says DAVID LOY, because powerful technological and economic forces impel us to do exactly the opposite. DAVID LOY is Besl Professor of Ethics, Religion, and Society at Xavier University in Cincinnatti, Ohio. His latest book, written with his wife, Linda Goodhew, is The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons. ILLUSTRATIONBYRAYFENWICK NOV 18-39.indd 35 NOV 18-39.indd 35 8/29/07 2:05:52 PM 8/29/07 2:05:52 PM