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An excellently articulated discussion about Being of the World… while freeing the self from participating in (what is optional) suffering. Profound!
“Seeing all things as naked, clear and free from obscurations, there is nothing to attain or realize. The nature of phenomena appears naturally and is naturally present in time-transcending awareness. Everything is naturally perfect just as it is. All phenomena appear in their uniqueness as part of the continually changing pattern. These patterns are vibrant with meaning and significance at every moment; yet there is no significance to attach to beyond themselves.” ~ Khyentse Rinpoche, Tibetan Master
How does the Buddhist’s philosophy of the twofold Emptiness lead to the full understanding of the transience of life and happiness?
A method many Buddhist Masters employ to help students understand the transience of happiness is to tear away any lingering remnants of support – no comforting religious consolation or conceptual crutch to cling to – leaving the disciple with nothing to fall back on. The purpose is to fully plunge them into the Unknown, beyond philosophies and partial realizations, and into the direct realization of the two-fold emptiness of self and phenomena.
There is no path, nor any such thing as progress. Reality is not some sort of achievement that occurs by a progression from state to state. There is no final, triumphant union to be attained, because there never was any separation. There is simply the unfathomable expanse of spontaneous presence, pure unborn awareness, regardless of any intermittent mental content which might appear in that sphere of being. Recognizing the empty nature of both the dreaming as well as the dreamer is considered by the sages to be liberation, although paradoxically, there is no body being freed or bound. There is simply awakening to that which has always been the case, even as we daydreamed.
This challenging realization forces the aspirant to let go of all gaining ideas, along with all the interpretive dualities of the intellect that represent fixation, reification, and solidification of perception, thus opening them to direct and immediate re-cognition of the prior freedom of the Real.
And what is “the Real”?
Of course, such appealing notions as inherent perfection are easy for beginners and casual practitioners to misconstrue, especially when they hear that there is nothing that needs to be done, and no effort is necessary, because “enlightenment” is always already the case. However, if we do not want to fall into that trap, all we need do is take a good honest look in the mirror at our own character. Are we free, for example, from greed, envy, hatred, ignorance, and pride? Do we always live a life characterized by integrity and loving kindness? If not, then there is still work to do, even though, paradoxically, it is also true that there is nothing to be done.
If we rely on the verbal, conceptual mind to make sense of that seeming contradiction, we will just end up going this way one day, and that way the next, while getting nowhere in the process. That is why we practice, to go beyond conditional second-hand reason and logic programs, and recognize the truth that is always right here, staring us in the face. In that conscious process, we don’t need to point some accusatory finger at ourselves, or wring our hands in self-concern, but simply wise up to exactly who “that one” is that we have taken to be “me”. Who is this character believed to be either perfect, or in need of some serious adjustments?
Another good example of the paradox being considered here is the common phrase: “We must forgive ourselves first, and then forgive everyone else.” Of course, in this human drama, forgiveness is not only appropriate, but critically necessary for our relationships and personal happiness. If we carry around unresolved traumas, wounds, regrets, and resentments, we will always be fueling an internal conflict, and never achieve psychological healing and mature adaptation to the stage of balanced and un-contracted emotional adulthood.
On the other hand, from the point of view of the higher wisdoms, there is actually nothing and nobody that needs to be forgiven, since at the absolute level, all is indeed perfect just as it is, and without qualification. Even conceiving the existence of a self, some solid and enduring character that requires fixing or forgiving, can be an impediment to fully awakening to the truth of our prior nature, which has never required modification or remedial attention.
Another contemporary Dzogchen Master, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, puts it this way:
“From the very beginning everything, whatever appears and exits, has never been anything other than pure perfection. There has never been a single day, a single moment when everything was not complete purity, pure perfection. It’s not that everything has to be brought to a state of purity at some point, but rather that it always was and is.”
Indeed, the paradox of our prior freedom and inherent perfection is that, “You are all perfect the way you are, and you could use a little improvement.” (Zen Master Suzuki Roshi). If we examine our own life and relations, including our thoughts and behaviors, most of us might readily acknowledge that “a little improvement” would probably be a good idea.
How then to explain this paradox? A good start would be to understand that we are both human animals, with all the positive as well as negative attributes the word animal implies, and yet we are also immortal spirit, forever free, awake, and unconditionally loving. Our souls chose to inhabit human life in order to experience the kinds of adventures and challenges characteristic of the human species. By testing ourselves to see “what we are really made of”, we enhance our levels of self-awareness in our soul evolution.
As humans, we enter into the virtual reality of this 3-D realm in the same way one might engage a video game. The trick, however, is to recognize that we generally assume a kind of amnesia about our true nature for the duration of the game, in order to get the full impact of the experience. In doing so, we take the human identity to represent who and what we really are, and this mistaken identity is rarely questioned in the midst of the adventure. By fusing with the human bio-vehicle, we thus become subject to its complications, which include less than perfect qualities.
There is more to this story, however. Ultimately, we are not only not the human animal, but we are not even the soul being. In reality, we are dream characters in the Mind of Source, being lived by Source in a drama of unfathomable love. It is unfathomable, because it is beyond the human capacity to comprehend, and so is typically misunderstood and misrepresented by the religions that humans have created to provide explanations for the Mystery.
Source wants to explore Itself, in much the same way we want to explore our own breadth and depth by incarnating as humans, for example, among the countless possibilities we may and do choose. Thus, in our role as immortal souls, we afford Source the perfect vehicles for such exploration, and as such, we are in a sense co-creators of a movie entitled “Infinity”.
In any case, as dream characters, there is nothing in need of forgiveness or improvement. Just as we are, with all our seeming faults and foibles, we are perfectly fulfilling Source’s desire to know Itself, in all the possible permutations of Itself which It can manifest. Source does not need to improve or forgive us, any more than we need to enter back into last night’s dream to improve or forgive our own dream characters, once we have awoken. It was, after all, a dream. There is no judgment, no blame or punishment — only a thirst for experience, in whatever way it might happen to present itself, or in whatever form it might happen to manifest, as we enter into the compelling illusion of time and space as shards of Source’s own divine light, playing our parts perfectly.
https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/the-paradox-of-inherent-perfection/ (edited for readability).
“Do we always live a life characterized by integrity and loving kindness? If not, then there is still work to do, even though, paradoxically, it is also true that there is nothing to be done. ”
I think this really sums it up. We can recognize those human qualities that argue with – and so separate us from – our oneness/nirvana/enlightened states. The skill of observing ego as well as the body sensations that tell us we are not in reality, are cues to re-center. Once you have the skill-set, I think you have the flowing choice.
What are your thoughts?
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5 thoughts on “The Transience of Life and Happiness – A Buddhist’s View”
I know very little about Buddhism, and I found the article interesting, although I don’t know if I could embrace these paradoxes as a way to live. However, living a life of integrity and loving kindness toward everyone is something to aspire to, and would greatly benefit humankind.
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I think that’s it – aspiring to loving kindness is , usually, an ongoing endeavor. “they are perfect… but… they are perfect…” – on and on. Self -observation is the key!
(P.S. Thanks you for sharing! :)
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Um…err…ya, there it is in a nutshell. I sat Zen for 10 years and I thought I was giving it a good go. Weekend retreats every month. Daily sitting, bowing, chanting practice. Some week long retreats tossed in for good measure. The teaching and reason for all this practice is to ‘find our true nature.’ The other teaching is, ‘Try Try Try for 10,000 years, get enlightenment and save all beings from suffering.’ I bought into it hook, line and sinker. One day I stepped back and asked, Have I changed? Am I a more compassionate person than when I started? I asked people I knew if they thought I had changed. The answer came back as, “no, not really. Pretty much the same guy.” Do I need to keep at it for 10,000 years? Buddhist, Zen teaching will tell you words are a trap, yet I’ve never met a more chatty group that love to chat it up about ‘true nature’ etc. as witnessed by the above article.
Then I stumbled upon Nathan Gill, Already Awake where he says all this practice might be a fun thing to do, but it’s not going to bring you liberation. I had to agree from personal experience. Nice people in Zen, the practice is very hard and it’s something to do. I could take up bowling with the same results. So, I quit Zen. Too much pain and trouble. I’ve got a 180 bowling average now!! Yeah, me…or yeah, illusion of me…or Yeah, me the 3D character in the play of me.
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LOL. I totally agree. “There are many paths to God, yet…” they all lead to the same place. Bowling? Coloring, singing, doing the dervish-dance… we know when we have found the zone….
Have you read Gurdjieff? He states that it IS work. Devotion to un-doing false beliefs is a precursor to liberation. Perhaps your years of zen have prepared you after all! :)
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I have not read Gurdieff, but I’ll check him/her out. To be honest, I have no interest in enlightenment or liberation. That was never a goal, never even in my vocabulary until I ran into Zen where I heard that teaching. I really just started this whole ‘thing’ because I would like to be OK with life, with myself. Simple, no big deal. I had read meditation is a good tool to help with this. I had no interest in ‘going deep’, uncovering layers and layers, or learning how I was living a life of illusion and how messed up I really am. I was pretty much OK with being in the Matrix. I was just looking to be a tad calmer. LOL. Surprise, surprise!! I’m going back to take the blue pill.
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