Friday, August 23, 2019

Constellations of energy.

You probably recognize this:

       *       *         *           *
*                             *

That pattern was imprinted in our minds when we were still children gazing up with wonder at the night sky. With some repeated searching, it became easier and easier to recognize this constellation of stars, and now when we see the pattern we don't even think about it- it's the big dipper.

Constellations reveal a lot about the way our minds work. We try to organize information in such a way that it is easier and more efficient for us to work with it in the future. There is no big dipper. From the vantage point of Polaris the constellation of the big dipper would look completely different. The only reason we recognize this constellation is because we have been trained to identify it and it resembles objects with which we are familiar.

This same training and shaping of our perceptions and the concepts that we apply to them shapes our understanding of the world and our identity. Reality is itself a continually unfolding process. The amount of information that we can process and manage is quite limited, so we train from birth in recognizing certain patterns and events. These patterns and events form constellations of concepts in our minds, so that we can develop and better orient ourselves with the world around us.

Understanding the constellations of reality is a useful tool, but it is not without its side effects.

What happens when we confuse the constellation of events? What happens when we get caught up in negative mental states or are anxious about some perceived event in the future? None of those constellations is fixed or lasting, and yet we get caught up in reifying the constellation that we can't see how much space is left in there.

This is fundamentally what the Buddha was talking about when he introduced selflessness or the concept of emptiness. There is an appearing aspect to the world around us, but it is our minds that create the conception of an identity.

There are no lines in the night sky. Our minds draw the lines.

There is no truly existing self. Our minds merely connect the constellation of phenomena we call a 'self' into something we can try to hold onto and call our own.

Same goes with all phenomena. This cup, computer, table, house. They are all constellations of dependent origination in the form of energy.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Mindful presence.

Being present and aware we are open to directly experience the world.

The world is filled with suffering. Being present and aware allows us to fully understand that suffering, to be responsive and receptive to our own needs and the needs of others.

The world is filled with wonder and awe. Being present and aware allows us to fully enjoy that wonder as it unfolds around us.

When we are present and aware, we encounter the world as it is, while understanding that everything is connected and impermanent. That is the outlook of mindful presence.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Buddhahood is a testable proposition.

You are a Buddha.

All the scriptures of the Vajrayana and particularly Dzogchen assert this to be true. As it says in the Hevajra tantra:

All beings are buddhas, 
but this is concealed by adventitious stains.
When these stains are purified, their buddhahood is revealed.  

As we find in the Dzogchen semde tantra, the All-Creating King:

The three kayas are subsumed within me, the all-creating one. 
All phenomena, however they manifest, 
have three uncontrived aspects- nature, essence and responsiveness.
 I reveal these three kayas to be my suchness. 

If we accept the proposition that this is our authentic state, our natural condition and birthright, then in order to test whether that is the case we need to go out and find all the evidence and criticism that shows that this is not the case. We need to go out and find all the situations in which things go wrong. We need to prove to ourselves all the ways in which we are not actually Buddhas.
The philosopher of science Karl Popper claimed that if a theory was falsifiable, then it is scientific. In his theory of science as falsification, he asserted that the true scientific method was to develop a testable proposition and then to find the ways in which that is false.

If we approach our practice in this methodical and systematic way, we can directly encounter what is preventing us from actualizing our natural condition, our innate buddha heart. When we know the obscuring factors, we can seek out innovative and creative ways to eliminate those obscurations. 

Our practice becomes a laboratory for a new and better approach to living.

When you combine a testable proposition with a practical method of inquiry, you create a self-sustaining system of improvement. If you encourage sharing knowledge and creating meaningful connections to others who are on a similar journey of exploration, you create a supportive culture in which dramatic change can flourish.

I am a Buddha. And of course, so are you. Our practice is to work with all of the ways in which this is simply not the case. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

What is wisdom?

It is often stated that all of the Buddha's teachings were taught for the sake of wisdom. But what is wisdom?

Wisdom isn't nebulous. It isn't the wise old man sitting up on top of a mountain waiting to answer people's questions.

Wisdom is insight into the human condition. Understanding it's impermanence, the pervasiveness of suffering and dissatisfaction, how thoughts and actions shape our life and the precious opportunity to make this life meaningful.

Wisdom is insight into who we are. Understanding how we are all connected, the nature of our minds and the way in which that understanding deepens our presence and gentleness in the world.

Wisdom is insight into the nature of reality. Understanding how all things are interconnected and transient in nature, how the outer world exists and how to best care for the world.

Wisdom is insight into our place in the world. Understanding how we can be authentically present and share our gifts with the world, how we can contribute, and how a culture of awakening develops from people showing up and acting in alignment with wisdom.

Wisdom is insight into the human condition, who we are, the nature of the world around us, and our place in it. It is not far out or far flung, it is the very ground of our being.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The opposite of egotism.

When we move away from rigid notions of who we are and our preoccupation with the self, we start to appreciate our interconnectedness and our lack of a truly existing, independent self. Realizing selflessness eliminates our sense of separateness and loneliness and replaces it with a sense of awe and connection.

Living out the wisdom of selflessness is what we call living a spiritual life. The opposite is to live a focused on me and mine.

There is nothing magical about living a spiritual life. Nothing to believe or imagine. Living a spiritual life means to be more humble and down to earth, more human.

A life of egotism revolves around a fabrication and a fantasy of the self. A life of selflessness requires that we are authentic and true.

.   .   .   .   .  

Still time to register for the upcoming meditation workshop on Exploring the Mind. See you this Sunday at 10am in Capital Hill!