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Lions Roar : March 2019
process of actualization of enlightenment is none other than the process of integrating the identity with the original enlightenment.” Practice, then, is both a sudden (we have flashes of insight) and a gradual (it develops over a life- time) identity shift. We stop seeing ourselves as the child of our parents, a poor lonely soul in a difficult world, with various conditioned imperfec- tions, drawbacks, desires, and hopes, most of which remain unfulfilled. Instead we have confidence in our original enlightenment, which is and has always been at the center of our lives, despite our limita- tions and pain. The Awakening of Faith: “The state of enlightenment is not something that is to be acquired by practice or to be created. In the end, it is unobtainable, because it has been there from the very beginning.” This teaching about mind reminds me of a con- versation I had with my mother toward the end of her life. She was dying. I knew it, everyone in our family knew it, but we didn’t talk about it because my mother didn’t like to think about it. But once, when we were having bagels and lox at a little deli near where she lived, she said to me, casually, as if it were a matter of mere curiosity, “What do Bud- dhists think happens after you die?” “Well,” I said to her, “ it depends on who you think you are. If you think you are just this body and mind, just these memories and experiences and relationships and thoughts, then death is very bad news. Because when you die you will lose all that. But if you think you are also more than this, some- thing you don’t understand but somehow feel and have confidence in, then when you die that some- thing—which was never born and so can’t die— never goes away. And that would make it easier and happier to die.” I am not sure my mother got any comfort from those words. As I recall now, she looked more bewildered than comforted. But perhaps what I said did help toward the end, when her consciousness faded and her mind was quiet. Certainly, the intention of the great Buddhist teachers who over the centuries have detailed these teachings on mind is not only to comfort us. They offer us these teachings on what mind really is to give us a sound basis for a way of practice that can transform our lives, and the world. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2019 56 PHOTOBYKOSALLEY