Previously we have discussed dependent origination and how we get entrapped in the cycle of conditioned existence. It may seem hard to determine how we can apply these teachings to our life, what their usefulness is to us right now and especially how to apply them at times when we are caught up in the cycle.
There are two points at which we can attack this cycle, 1) fixation and 2) ignorance. There is some debate about this within different Buddhist schools, but we can say that if we cut through fixation then we can indeed be free from suffering because we cut through the rest of the process of birth, aging, sickness and death. Now, this is not to be equated with being a Buddha, because even though we may be free from suffering, we still have the conceptual veils which obscure our vision, we still have duality, subject and object.
There was the question, what would life be like without any fixation, is that even possible to conceive of? Indeed, that is difficult to conceive of, but we should contrast fixation with enjoyment. We can conceive of a situation where we enjoy in something without being fixated on it. Normally, in our process of enjoyment we reinforce our fixation, further craving to have that experience again and again. But it is indeed possible to enjoy whatever it is that manifests, free from trying to make it better or worse, just enjoying in things as they are. It is this process of spontaneous enjoyment. The manifestations never stop. In fact that is part of the nature of the mind- that arising is unceasing- but we don’t need to cling to that, we can spontaneously enjoy whatever manifests.
The Metaphysical Scientist
The easiest way to attack fixation is in our meditation, or own personal laboratory. When we meditate we want to have an open, expansive mind. We want to have control over our mind so that we can work with situations in our life. Normally we grasp at all the appearances of mind, whatever it is that is arising- thoughts, feelings, sights, sounds- we always make these subtle investments into them, like adding pennies to your saving account. It doesn’t seem like they are adding up much, but by fixating on those appearances of the mind, we are never going to be able to recognize and rest in the nature of the mind. We are instead stuck in this process of taking births, again and again. I want to make a little disclaimer here about the nature of the mind. You are never going to ‘see’ the nature of mind, you are never going to be able to say ‘Aha, this is it.’ In fact, you can examine in the context of this discussion what proclaiming ‘this is it’ would imply. The nature of the mind can only be experienced, we can talk about chocolate all day, but until you taste it you don’t really know it.
In our meditation, we can discuss two methods so far, 1) resting in the natural state and 2) riding or watching the breath. Both of these methods can be used to attack fixation, in the first it is non-referential and without an object which is much more difficult at the beginning. Right now we have this mind that has this tendency to fixate on things, this monkey mind that is constantly jumping from object to object, never sitting still. So we can use skillful means, we can intentionally choose an object like the breath to fixate on. When meditating on the breath, if we are distracted and fixate on something else like our thoughts, the moment we recognize that distraction we cut through our fixation and bring it back to the breath. It is through this process that we tame the mind and develop a strong meditation, continually cutting through fixation. But we also want to practice resting in the natural state, which is without any particular object.
Using this technique, we are still having thoughts, feelings, sights and sounds arising, but we are not grasping at them. We are letting our mind rest naturally- an open, expansive mind- in which we are aware of appearances but not fixating on them. Simply by shining the light of our awareness, or illuminating appearances as they arise, they naturally subside on their own. This method is more difficult, but we want to get started on it, laying the foundation for this type of meditation. If we always use an object for our meditation, eventually, we are going to need to cut through that object.
That is fixation, the second place we can attack the cycle is at ignorance, the root. This is much more difficult and takes a lot of studying, contemplation and meditation before the wisdom of non-duality can arise. When we are meditating in the natural state, any time that we are correcting or fixing our meditation we are in fact moving away from our true, authentic condition. In fact, if we continue this type of subtle fixation we will never find genuine lasting freedom. Our tendency is to always create something anew, this addiction to taking births that we talked about before. If we think about how we treat addicts, the first thing is awareness or to recognize that there is a problem. Most of us are completely unaware we even have a problem, we just go on investing in conditioned existence and turning that wheel. There is a key instruction from the masters of the past and present- Let it be, as it is. This exemplifies what we have been talking about, letting whatever it is that is manifesting be just as it is.
Buddhas, or awakened beings, always recognize and abide in the authentic condition, the true nature of mind in which there is no duality. Before we talked about dependent origination and this vast web of interconnectedness. That is the vision of Buddhas, they see that everything, all beings and all environments are this vast web. They abide in spontaneous fulfillment, fulfilling their own benefit and the benefit of others at the same time.