Friday, July 27, 2012

Dance Standing Still

The ultimate bodhicitta slogans are instructions that are meant to allow one to recognize and cultivate ultimate bodhicitta in meditation.  

2. Regard all dharmas as dreams.

Normally, our reality and day to day affairs seem very concrete.  Our experience feels very real as we are going through it- the whirlwind of our thoughts, surging emotions, feelings of joy and our aches and pains.  We usually don't examine our experience and we just take it for granted.  Life in a nutshell.  

As we move away from our experiences, in the following hours, days and weeks we find it increasingly hard to remember what it was exactly that we were holding onto.  What did that wine and steak taste like again?  What were we arguing about?  What was it that we were so desperate to uphold, reaffirm or prove?  Was it worth all the effort?  

Regarding all dharmas- all experiences, sense objects and activities- as a dream means that we relate to them with less fixation, more openness.  Dream here doesn't mean hazy or unclear.  We can have very lucid dreams, dreams that evoke very real emotions and feelings while we are caught up in them.  The key is that when we awake from a dream we know it was just a dream and that the experience was temporary and fleeting, that it was just something that we were fixating on in our own mind. 

We can experience this sort of insight in our own meditation.  When we take our seat in meditation we become aware of an endless dance of thoughts, sights, sounds and feelings.  Our habitual tendency is to fixate on these phenomena in all their variety, but in meditation we just let them be as they are without following after them.  As we begin to relax into that illusory dance we begin to discover an underlying stillness.

Within the space of meditation, without grasping at the dynamic display that is arising in all its variety, we begin to notice and appreciate this unchanging quality.  Despite movement there is stillness.  It is here that we can look at the next slogan.

3. Examine the nature of unborn awareness.  

When we look at this awareness, we are aware of this unceasing dance of phenomena that is occurring, but since we are not getting caught up in that display we are also aware of this calm stillness.  Look at that.  Where does this come from, where does it go?

When you look at the dance you find there is nothing to hold onto, it is an endless play that can take any form at all and yet never exists as a single thing whatsoever.  When you look at the mind, there are all these things we are aware of, yet there is an underlying stillness that is lucid and alert.  When you look at that mind, you cannot find anything.  There is nothing there to hold onto, mind is unborn, yet there is this awareness that perceives very clearly.  From here we can address the next slogan.

4.  Self-liberate even the antidote.

When we look at the dynamic dance of phenomena, we find that despite the unceasing play there is this unchanging stillness which could be interpreted as nothing ever really happening.  When we look at the mind we find that while it is aware, we cannot find any particular 'thing' that is actually mind. 

The danger here is that we could come to the conclusion of 'Well, what's the point? Nothing matters, nothing ever happens.  Who cares, it doesn't matter what you do'.  This is very tricky, for we risk becoming nihilists- heartless narcissistic bastards.  Don't do that. 

Self-liberate the antidote means not to get caught up in that experience, don't solidify that experience of emptiness.  Don't fixate on that experience of not finding anything that is truly lasting.

5. Rest in the nature of the alaya, the essence.  

In meditation, we seek to move beyond our coarse level of mind and learn to rest in a more subtle level.  There are eight types of consciousnesses- five sense (sight, hearing, olfactory, taste, touch), conceptual consciousness, emotional consciousness and the alaya, or foundational consciousness.

The idea of resting in the alaya is that we are not supposed to get caught up in the dance of the other seven consciousnesses.  We don't want to follow after all the sights, sounds, smells, feelings and thoughts we are experiencing as we sit in meditation.  Learn to rest in a calm, clear, non-discursive awareness.  As we familiarize with this place of natural rest, free from coming and going, we also familiarize ourselves with ultimate bodhicitta.

It is important to understand that the alaya is not ultimate bodhicitta, but it is a much more subtle level of mind where we can begin to appreciate the qualities and characteristics of the nature of the mind.

Resting in the alaya we can see the dreamlike nature of all phenomena.   Not getting caught up in the dynamic dance of phenomena, we are able to examine the nature of unborn awareness.  Without clinging to that experience we self-liberate even the antidote, which is the empty nature of awareness.  We rest in lucid clarity, the mind open and expansive.  All of this is something that we are not creating in meditation, it becomes self-evident as we continue to sit with the proper instruction.

6.  In post-meditation, be a child of illusion.

At the end of the meditation session, don't just get up and go about your day.  Carry whatever insight or experience you have from meditation into your daily life.  Let it infuse your relationships, your work, your good times and your bad. 

Regard all situations and activities as dreams.  Don't get caught up in the dance.  We need to participate in the dance, we don't really have a choice here.  We cannot be a wallflower in the dance of life.  But as we dance we can adapt, respond; we can lead or follow; show strength or vulnerability.  We can affect the shape and the form the dance takes, a miraculous display that can appear in any way whatsoever

Go dancing, be a child of illusion. 

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