Everything in experience is fruition. The fruition of billions, trillions, an infinity of causes and conditions which are also fruitions of causes and conditions without beginning. In this moment of experience, this fruition is the seed for billions, trillions, an infinity of causes and conditions leading to fruitions without end. It is like an uninterrupted avalanche of dirt, pebbles stones, boulders on an unending slope, that reveals a path that transcends the slope. This is my understanding of the karma of cyclic existence as well as the path of liberation from suffering.
Some of us have had the experience, when we first began to practice meditation, of the thoughts, feelings and sensations being like an unending avalanche or an immense, overwhelmingly loud waterfall. It seemed impenetrable. Over time, with practice, the avalanche or the cataract of water seemed to diminish, either in their volume or in their impact on experience. These lessenings or quietings are, in a sense, the fruitions of the practice.
I have been playing with the simile of the avalanche in an inquiry into fruition of the paramitas and the beatitudes.
When I am caught up in the day-to-day habitual mind stream and trappings of the three poisons of greed/attachment, hatred/aversion, and delusion/ignorance, it feels like I am on a slope that has no visible top or bottom. The thoughts and experiences are like dirt, pebbles, rocks, and large boulders tumbling down the slope toward and past me. I am entranced by some and repelled or fearful of others. I am ignorant of their origin or where they come from or what they are made of. My relationship to each one is different, and I react accordingly.
I am attracted to the shiny colorful ones, or the ones that seem to have deep meaning, and I run around the slope trying to gather them up so that I can keep them someplace and not let them cascade down the infinite slope. I even try to build storehouses with bigger boulders to hoard and protect them from the constant bombardment; trying to fix them in place. Inevitably the slope of beliefs and the concepts that built the fortress deteriorates underneath, or a massive boulder of life experience or emotion crashes into it and all my possessions and concepts go tumbling into the abyss.
“Well!” I say to myself, “I will go out and prevent those big ones from crashing into my fortress”. This is my habit of trying to protect who I think I am; my self-identity. So I run around the slope hurling my hate and anger, pushing away and trying to destroy everything that I think is trying to destroy me and what I have. Or I try pushing the debris back up the slope or try holding it in place so it won’t crash into my fortress.
During all of this I am so caught up in grasping and holding on to, or diverting and destroying, that I think that this is life. “This is just the way things are.” I am completely unaware of the constant suffering that I am experiencing and ignorant of the futility of my efforts not to mention that all of these doings and thinkings are the very causes and conditions that bring about this suffering. I am unaware that my suffering is the fruition of all of my thoughts and actions and these are the seeds of my suffering.
At some point, I am so exhausted by the effort, that I stop and for a moment, I have time to breathe and look around. I get a glimpse of something off to the side. A trickling brook, a stately tree, a foraging agouti, or someone sitting still and at ease. I realize for an instant that the avalanche still continues, but it is not coming at me. It seems to be going around where I am in my stillness. Then I see an especially beautiful gem tumbling down out of reach and I get up from my seat and run toward it to get it and while trying to find a safe place for it, the assault of the avalanche begins again. And so it goes, ad infinitum
Until again, out of exhaustion or being knocked down by the avalanche, I stop and see. This time in addition to the still nature scene, the person is dancing with the wind or adorning themselves and their surroundings with garlands or beckoning me with a calm smile and eyes filled with understanding. I have a sense of rightness or okayness and an aspiration blossoms to join them in their dance. I may even sense the potential of “life without avalanche”. And I notice, or the person invites me to walk, a path that seems untouched by the falling debris of thoughts, reactions, and emotions.
I begin to walk the path responding to the invitation. I remember my gem and I go back and put it in my pocket. “I’ll keep this one thing.” It is heavier than I remembered and as I walk, its weight causes me to stumble off the path, but I cling to it and the inevitable happens again. Then, in the cascade of suffering, there is understanding. I relinquish even this most prized possession and continue on the path. The avalanche still goes on and I am drawn to some things and fearful of others. Boulders cross the path and even block it. When I try to move them, I become embroiled again in anger and the desire to destroy it but to no avail. After repeated attempts, there is a realization of the futility of trying to force it off the path, so I sit again and wait and see. Eventually I notice that the soil is giving way and the boulder is slipping to continue down the slope on its own without my efforting.
While walking the path toward the calm stillness and the beckoning friend, I notice that when I direct my attention toward the focal point of the path and the aspiration, that the avalanche seems to diminish and that it increases when I let my attention be distracted toward the activity of the avalanche of thoughts and feelngs. This is even more evident when I stop where I am and rest in calm abiding. A wake of space seems to form around me and the appearance of the debris of the avalanche doesn’t approach at all. While just sitting there without moving toward or away from the goal, there is the appearance of a little sprout of green in the earth nearby, untrampled by the avalanche of habitual thinking and afflictions. Directing complete attention to this present experience there is now a stream of coolness, and garlands of flowers strewn in the boughs of a great sheltering oak, and the beckoning friend is sitting there with me, as if this was the way it always was.
I can still hear the echoes of the avalanche and sometimes feel its rumblings in my belly but when I look there are only the shadows of dirt, pebbles, rocks and boulders. I notice that the more I attend to them the more real they become and vice versa. When looking more carefully I may see that there are other folks on the slope, dodging, attacking, collecting, and building in a flurry of suffering. My heart is shaken with compassion so I rise and wave and dance and even venture out onto their debris field, beckoning them to stop and see.
Fruition and Seeds of Fruition on the Path
Suffering on the field of avalanche debris of habituation of thoughts, feelings and actions, is the fruition, of ignorance of the natural state of beingness. It is also the seed of greed and hate. Trying to gather and keep the preferred debris and hating or trying to destroy or deflect the nasty stuff is the fruition of this seed and these ways of being are the seeds of continued suffering, ad infinitum. Paradoxically, this suffering is also the seed of exhaustion and helps develop the capacity to sense stillness. Stillness is the fruition of noticing suffering and the seed for the aspiration to end suffering. This aspiration is the seed for beginning the path; in this case the path of the paramitas and the beatitudes. The first fruitions are the practice of the paramita or beatitude of generosity or poverty. These are the seeds that yield the fruit of the discipline of doing no harm. Doing no harm is the seed that yields the fruition of patience or discarding anger. Patience is the seed that yields the fruit of diligence to act, think and speak in goodness, which permeates all of the fruitions. These four fruitions and seeds, give rise to the fruition of focused attention, meditation or prayer. The calm abiding of focused attention, meditation or prayer yields the ultimate fruition that is also the ultimate seed: the wisdom and insight that the true nature of reality and all beingness is unconditioned goodness and love.
With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings.
Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than sitting solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome.
We practice on ZOOM:
- Mondays – Calm abiding and insight meditation. 6 AM Pacific Time
- Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6 AM Pacific Time
- Thursdays – Tonglen, 6 AM Pacific Time
- Sundays – Brahmavihara. 7 AM Pacific Time
- Monday and Thursday. Contemplation and meditation. 4:30 PM Pacific Time
ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789
Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to leave comments or participate in ongoing discussions about a blog, go to the end of the individual post or click on the little green box floating on the page.