From the perspective of the Mahayana teachings of buddhism, as far as my understanding goes, there are as many paths as there are beings to walk them; as many ways to walk the paths as there are atoms in all the cosmos, as many teachers as there are moments in and out of time. These paths, ways of walking, teachings and teachers are all revelations of true, untouched goodness, the primordial essence, thusness of all things.
Within the paths of the lineages of wisdom that I have been exposed to there seem to be some similar experiences in the process of revelation. We have been exploring these in the last several weeks:
- practice as concentration and insight
- revelation of obstacles on the path as the three poisons of passion, aggression and ignorance
- awakening to the causes and conditions of these obstacles: karma
These are by no means a complete summary of the experiences on the infinite paths nor are they the only commonalities on the paths. These are the ones that have been most prominent in my experience and understanding of the wisdom lineages that I am familiar with.
Faith: At some moment in a life or in pre-birth, everyone seems to have had an experience of complete ease, free from suffering and fear, with a non conceptual connection with all beings and an experience of unconditional goodness. When this experience passes, the imprint on the whole being remains and is like a permanent beacon that reminds us of the experience as being the true nature of all beingness. Regardless of what path one is on, it seems that there is faith in this experience, and the knowledge that arises as a result of the experience, that is guiding us or calling us to return to what we know, from that initial experience, to be the true nature of beingness.
Practice: All practices seem to have two core constituents; contemplation and insight.
Contemplation is the practice of quieting unconscious and habitual thoughts, feelings and actions. It is most often practiced as focused attention on one thing: the breath, an object, an inner picture, a guardian, a prayer, god. In this practice, what is thought of as a self separate from other and all the constructs that make it, begins to diminish and a stillness that sometimes manifests as a presence or presence remains. There is a taste of the experience of the nature of beingness in the quietude of the mind, emotions and body.
Insight is what sprouts, grows, and blossoms from that rich soil of quietude. It often a surprise and is rarely what one thinks they are looking for or needing because it arises, not out of the habitual mind, but the still, open mind of contemplation.
Obstacles on the path: The light of insight shines brightly on the path, not only illuminating the way of return, but the obstacles or unconscious, habitual and conditioned ways of being, that have diminished our inherent capacities and our nature of goodness. This light also illumines how one diminishes and hinders others on their path. When one contemplates the obstacles they seem to congeal into three types, referred to as poisons in some buddhist texts: passion, aggression and ignorance. ( See the links for more on these. )
Karma: The revelation of the obstacles leads to the understanding of the causes and conditions of these unconscious habits of being or karma. In the contemplation of these causes and conditions one begins to see the how and why of their existence. This knowledge also reveals the insight of how they are perpetuated in, and perpetuate, an unending cycle of suffering. Upon further contemplation, one may begin to see that there is no reality in these poisons as such; that they are fabrications of early life or pre-birth imprints and resulting, conditioned habits. As a greater understanding of the mechanism that runs the engine of karma develops, mind, heart, and body, in their natural brilliance, begin to effortlessly drop the habits that have burdened us in the path to return.
Liberation: First in an instant, in moments, in periods, in days, weeks, lives, past and future, in timelessness, through the experience of a path, the suffering and obstacles on a path, and the glimpses of reality on a path, one arrives where there is no path and never was; where there is no arriving and no leaving; our omnipresent nature as goodness.
These words are dedicated to all wisdom elders and wisdom teachings and to bringing about the end of suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.
May it be so.
The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for a safe, inclusive, free, virtual community contemplative practice. Everyone is welcome regardless of meditation experience or spiritual lineage.
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Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM PacificTime
Monday: calm abiding, Samatha, Tuesday: body awareness, Thursday: Tonglen
Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time: Four Brahmaviharas
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