There are many theories on Selflessness & Emptiness. In some Buddhist schools emptiness may be regarded as the same as selflessness.
Quotes & short articles:
A wave in the sea, seen in one way, seems to have a distinct identity, an end and a beginning, a birth and a death. Seen in another way, the wave itself doesnt really exist but is just the behavior of water, empty of any separate identity but full of water. So when you really think about the wave, you come to realize that it is something that has been made temporarily possible by wind and water, and is dependent on a set of constantly changing circumstances. You also realize that every wave is related to every other wave. Sogyal Rinpoche
We too should make ourselves empty, that the great soul of the universe may fill us with its breath - Lawrence Binyon
If you realize what the real problem is - losing yourself - you realize that this itself is the ultimate trial. - Joseph Campbell
The perfect man has no self, because he has transcended the finite and identified himself with the Universe - Chuang Tzu
Forget about being separated from others and from the Divine Source - Lao Tzu
To be selfless is to be all-pervading. To be all pervading is to be transcendent. Lao Tzu
To embrace all things means also that one rids oneself of any concept of separation: male or female, self or other, life and death. Division is contrary to the nature of the Tao - Lao Tzu
What is springs from what is not - Lao Tzu
To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders - Lao Tzu
If there is no other, there can be no I. If there is no I, there will be none to make distinctions - Chuang Tzu
To embrace all is to be selfless - Lao Tzu
The man who is not divorced from the great source is the natural man - Chuang Tzu
What is this place where thought is useless?
Knowledge and emotion cannot fathom it! Yumen
SELFLESSNESS - SUFI WISDOM
"When "I" and "You" are absent, I've no idea if this is a mosque, synagogue, church or temple. Mahmud Sahbistari
When you lose yourself, you find the Beloved." There is no other secret. I don't know any more than this. Ansari of Herat
"In the state of fana, which is also called ittihad, Lord and Worshipper, lover and Beloved, bith disappear. If there is no lover there is no Beloved. If there is no devotee, there is no Lord. The two are an inseparable polarity, so the disappearance of one is the disappearance of the other." Abd Al Kader
God has stolen my false,"I" and brought me close to the true "I". All colours have returned to pure white. The journey is over and nothing but God exists. All attributes and relationships have been erased. The primal state has been reestablished. Abd Al Kader
Don't say, "I am nothing,"
but don't say,"I am something."
Don't say,"Nothing concerns me,"
but don't say,"Something concerns me,"
Just say "Allah"- and you will witness wonders. Sidi Ali Al-Jamal
see also -Sufi page
"On the Doctrine of Non- Self," with John Snelling -- from Elements of Buddhism, John Snelling (Elements Books, Inc., 1990)
Central to the Buddha's teaching is the doctrine of anatman: "not-self"." This does not deny that the notion of an "I" works in the everyday world. In fact we need a solid stable ego to function in society. However, "I" is not real in an ultimate sense. It is a "name": a fictional construct that bears no correspondence to what is really the case. Because of this disjunction all kinds of problems ensue. Once our minds have constructed the notion of "I," it becomes our central reference point. We attach to it and identify with it totally. We attempt to advance what appears to be its interests, to defend it against real or apparent threats and menaces. And we look for ego-affirmation at every turn: confirmation that we exist and are valued. The Gordian Knot of preoccupations arising from all this absorbs us exclusively, at times to the point of obsession. This is , however, a narrow and constricted way of being. Though we cannot see it when caught in the convolutions of ego, there is something in us that is larger and deeper: a wholly other way of being.
John Snelling was a British Buddhist scholar and writer. His 'Elements of Buddism' is a fine introduction to the Buddhist path.
Joseph Goldstein on "Non-Self" -- from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. VI, #3
The Buddha described what we call "self" as a collection of aggregates - elements of mind and body - that function interdependently, creating the appearance of a woman or a man. We then identify with that image or appearance, taking it to be "I" or "mine," imagining it to have some inherent self-existence. For example we get up in the morning, look in the mirror, recognize the reflection, and think, "Yes, that's me again." We then add all kinds of concepts to this sense of self: I'm a woman or a man, I'm a certain age, I'm a happy or unhappy person -- the list goes on and on.
When we examine our experience, though, we see that there is not some core being to whom experience refers; rather it is simply "empty phenomena rolling on." It is "empty" in the sense that there is no one behind the arising and changing phenomena to whom they happen. A rainbow is a good example of this. We go out after a rainstorm and feel that moment of delight if a rainbow appears in the sky. Mostly, we simply enjoy the sight without investigating the real nature of what is happening. But when we look more deeply, it becomes clear that there is no "thing" called "rainbow" apart from the particular conditions of air and moisture and light. Each one of us is like that rainbow - an appearance, a magical display, arising out of our various elements of mind and body.
Joseph Goldstein is a senior student and teacher of Theravadan Buddhism and Vipassana meditation in the West. He is Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA. and author of 'Insight Meditation' and other fine books
"Selflessness," Mark Epstein and HH Dalai Lama in Thoughts Without a Thinker
"One of the most compelling things about the Buddhist view of suffering is the notion, inherent in the Wheel of Life Image, that the causes of suffering are also the means of release; that is, the sufferer's perspective determines whether a given realm is a vehicle for awakening or for bondage. Conditioned by the forces of attachment, aversion, and delusion, our faulty perceptions of the realms -- not the realms themselves--cause suffering. (pg. 16)
"Selflessness is not a return to the feelings of infancy, an experience of undifferentiated bliss, or a merger with the Mother -- even though many people may seek such an experience when they begin to meditate, and even though some may actually find a version of it. Selflessness does not require people to annihilate their emotions, only to learn to experience them in a new way." (pg. 96)
"Selflessness is not a case of something that existed in the past becoming nonexistent. Rather this sort of "self" is something that never did exist. What is needed is to identify as non-existent something that always was non-existent."
Dalai Lama, (pg.98) "It is not ego, in the Freudian sense, that is the actual target of Buddhist insight, it is, rather, the self-concept, the representational component of the ego, the actual internal experience of one's self that is targeted." (pg.98) "Conceptual thought does not disappear as a result of meditative insight. Only the belief in the ego's solidity is lost. Yet, this insight does not come easily. It is far more tempting -- and easier -- to use meditation to withdraw from our confusion about ourselves, to dwell in the tranquil stabilization that meditation offers, and to think of this as approximating the teaching of egolessness. But this is not what the Buddha meant by Right View. (pg.99)
Mark Epstein is a senior student of Vipassana meditation and a practicing psychiatrist in New York City. He is author of 'Thoughts Without a Thinker' and 'Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart'. The XIV Dalai Lama is the political leader of Tibet-in-Exile, a great spiritual teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, and author of many fine books.
"No 'I'," Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
"When we practice zazen (Zen Meditation) our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitlness and the outer world is also limitless. We say "inner world" or "outer world" but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think "I" breathe, the "I" is extra. There is no you to say "I" What we call "I" is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no "I", no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door."
Shunryu Suzuki Roshi was founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, and a highly influential teacher of Soto Zen in the West. His Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is regarded as a classic of Zen Buddhism in the West.
WHO IS IT THAT SUFFERS?
Take away your opinion and there is taken away the complaint ,'I have been harmed.' Take away the complaint, 'I have been harmed,' and the harm is taken away. (Aurelius)
Spontaneous comprehension - Krishnamurti
We never say, "Let me see what that thing is that suffers." You cannot see by enforcement, by discipline. You must look with interest, with spontaneous comprehension. Then you will see that the thing we call suffering, pain, the thing that we avoid, and the discipline, have all gone. As long as I have no relationship to the thing as outside me, the problem is not; the moment I establish a relationship with it outside me, the problem is. As long as I treat suffering as something outside-I suffer because I lost my brother, because I have no money, because of this or that-I establish a relationship to it and that relationship is fictitious. But if I am that thing, if I see the fact, then the whole thing is transformed, it all has a different meaning. Then there is full attention, integrated attention and that which is completely regarded is understood and dissolved, and so there is no fear and therefore the word sorrow is non-existent. Krishnamurti
Q.What is the best way to work for world peace?
A. What is the world? What is peace and who is the worker? The world is not in your sleep and forms a projection of your mind in your jagrat [waking state]. It is therefore an idea nothing else. Peace is the absence of disturbance. The disturbance is due to the arising thoughts in the individual, which is only the ego rising up from pure consciousness.
To bring about peace means to be free from thoughts and to abide in pure consciousness. If one remains at peace onself, there is only peace everywhere.. Ramana Maharshi
Paradox of the Essenceless Self by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
But how, if the individual of the individual is pure, empty awareness, can a conventional self and a moving mind exist at all? Here is an example based on experiences we all have: when we dream, an entire world manifests in which we can have any kind of experience. During the dream we are identified with one subject, but there are other beings, apparently separate from us, having their own experiences and seeming as real as the self we take ourselves to be. There is also an apparent material world: the floors hold us up, our body has sensations, we can eat and touch.
When we wake, we realize that the dream was only a projection of our mind. It took place in our mind and was made of energy of our mind. But we were lost in it, reacting to the mind created images as if they were real and outside of ourselves. Our mind is able to create a dream and to identify with one being that it places in the dream, while disidentifying with others. We can even identify with subjects that are far different than we are in our life.
As ordinary beings, we are in the same way, identified, right now with a conventional self that is also a projection of mind. We relate to apparent objects and entities that are further mind projections. The base of existence (Kunzhi) has the capacity to manifest everything that exists, even being that become distracted from their true nature, just as our mind can project beings that are apparently separate from us in a dream. When we wake, the dream that is our conventional self dissolves into pure emptiness and luminous clarity.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, a Lama in the Bon tradition of Tibet, presently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the founder and director of The Ligmincha Institute, an organization dedicated to the study and practice of the teachings of the Bon tradition. He was born in Amritsar, India, after his parents fled the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and received training from both Buddhist and Bon teachers, attaining the degree of Geshe, the highest academic degree of traditional Tibetan culture. He has been in the United States since 1991 and has taught widely in Europe and America.
The Doctrine of No-soul - Anatta
Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul, Self, or Atman. According to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of 'me' and 'mine', selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems. It is the source of all the troubles of the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.
Two ideas are psychologically deep-rooted in man: self-protection and self-preservation. For self-protection man has created God, on whom he depends for his own protection, safety and security, just as a child depends on it's parent. For self-preservation man has conceived the idea of an immortal soul or Atman, which will live eternally. In his ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire, man needs these two things to console himself. Hence he clings to them deeply and fanatically.
....The doctrine of Anatta or no-soul is the natural result of, or the corollary to, the analysis of the Five Aggregates and the teaching of conditioned genesis (Paticca-samuppada).....What we call a being or an individual is composed of the Five Aggregates, and that when these are analyzed and examined, there is nothing behind them which can be taken as 'I', Atman, or Self, or any unchanging abiding substance. That is the analytical method. The same result is arrived through the doctrine of Conditioned Genesis which is the synthetical method, and according to this nothing in the world is absolute. Everything is conditioned, relative, and interdependent. This is the Buddhist theory of relativity.
The principle of conditionality:
When this is, that is
This arising, that arises
When this is not, that is not
This ceasing, that ceases
On this principle of conditionality, relativity and interdependence, the whole existence and continuity of life and its cessation are explained in a detailed formula which is called the twelve factors.
REALITY, FORM, PERCEPTION, EMPTINESS, AGGREGATES, 12 LINKS
The "five skandhas" (groups) refer to the physical and mental elements that determine the characteristics of a person.
They are: form (rupa), feeling (vedana), perception (samjna), impulse (samskara), and consciousness (vijnana). The Bodhisattva Chenrigse told Shariputra that the five skandhas are just emptiness.
Emptiness refers to the nature or characteristics of the five skandhas, etc. which exist temporarily and not permanently. "Suffering, cause, cessation, and path" is called the Four Noble Truth.
In Buddhism, it is deemed that sufferings of human beings stem from cravings or desires (cause).
To get rid of sufferings, it is necessary to get rid of cravings or desires (cessation); and to get rid of causes, it is necessary to follow the right path (eight fold path).
"Eyes, ears, nose, body, tongue, and mind" are the "six roots".
"Form, sound, smell, taste, touch and dharma" are the "six contaminations" which are the result of the six roots.
The twelve links are also emptiness; thus, do not exist. The twelve links refer to ignorance, feeling, perception, impulse, conciousness, form, avarice, possessiveness, contamination, birth, six roots ( eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind), old age and death. ("Ignorance" in the twelve links, in the Han language translation sometimes also refers to "admiration of the opposite sex or falling in love. Ignorance here means lack of knowledge.)
Avalokitesvara uttered the mantra of perfect wisdom (Prajna Paramita):
"Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha."
A mantra is the speech of a deity or a magical incantation for creating a certain metaphysical effects.
In the mantra of perfect wisdom, "gate" means "gone"; "para" means "beyond"; "sam" means "altogether"; "bodhi" means "enlightenment"; and "svaha" is an interjection or an exclaimation. Svaha is a term of blessing used traditionally by the Brahmin priests in their rituals. It is an ecstatic shout of joy, expressive of a feeling of complete relief. In the Tantric system the word svaha is reserved for mantras addressed to feminine deities.
Thus, the mantra "Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha." can be translated as: "Gone, gone, gone beyond, together gone beyond. Oh what an enlightenment! All Hail!"
Usually mantras are not translated because of the sound effect of the original pronounciation. The vibrations from the sound create certain beneficial effects for the mind and body. In the above mantra, the word "bodhisvaha" is pronounced as "bodhi so ha". The "V" is pronounced as between a "V" and a "W". The word "Bodhisattva" should be pronounced as "bodi sat tua". Some scholars erroneously think that it was an established practice in the past that names when deciphered into Latin from Sanskrit during translation that the letters "u" were written as "v". Actually the original Sanskrit writing was not "tua" but "tv". The combination of the letters "tv" is pronounced as "twa" in a low tone.
Are You and Where Can You Be Found?
Lama Thubten Yeshe
Excerpted from Lamas
commentary on the yoga method of Divine Wisdom Manjushri, Manjushri Institute,
Ulverston, Cumbria, England, August 1977. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom
Archive by Nicholas Ribush. Printed in the June 2001 issue of Mandala Magazine.
One of the essential practices of tantra is that of deity yoga. When we practice tantra, we have to arise as the deity were practicing. In order to do this properly, we need to experience a certain degree of non-duality. If we dont, well think that our arising as the deity is the same as arising as a flower or a wall. It will make no sense. In fact, theres incredible sense in arising as the deity and theres a vast difference between arising as a flower and arising as a deity.
Its essential to dissolve the normal ego projection of the physical nervous system body; to absorb the image that our conception of ego instinctively feels--that Im somewhere around here; Thubten Yeshe is somewhere here. Where is Thubten Yeshe? My egos instinctive interpretation is that Im here, somewhere in my body. Check for yourself. See what comes up in your mind when you think of your name. The huge mountain of your self will arise. Then check exactly where that mountain of me can be found. Where are you? Somewhere around your body. Are you in your chest, in your head?
You feel this instinctively. You dont have to study philosophy to learn it; you dont have to go to school; you parents didnt teach you. Youve known this since before you were born. Buddhism describes two kinds of ego identity: kun-tag and lhen-kye. The one Im talking about is lhen-kye, the simultaneously born one; the one that exists simply because you exist. It was born with you; it needs no outside influence for its existence. Like the smell that comes with a pine tree, theyre one. The pine tree doesnt grow first and then the smell comes later. They come together. Its the same with the innate sense of ego; it comes at conception.
Kun-tag means the sense of self thats philosophically acquired. Its something that you learn through outside influence from teachers, friends, books and so forth. This is the intellectually derived ego. Can you imagine? You can even acquire an ego through reading. This one is easier to remove, of course, because its more superficial. Its a gross conception. The simultaneously born sense of self is much, much harder to get rid of.
This instinctive conception of ego is really convinced that around my body is where youll find Thubten Yeshe. Someone looks at me and asks, Are you Thubten Yeshe? Yes, I reply, Im Thubten Yeshe. Where is Thubten Yeshe? Around here. Instinctively, I feel Im right here. But Im not the only one who feels like this. Check up for yourself. Its very interesting.
Until I was six years old, I was not Thubten Yeshe. That name was given to me when I became a monk at Sera Monastery. Before that time, nobody knew me as Thubten Yeshe. They thought I was Döndrub Dorje. The names Thubten Yeshe and Döndrub Dorje are different; different superstitions give different kinds of name. I feel my name is me, but actually, it isnt. Neither the names Thubten Yeshe nor Döndrub Dorje are me. But the moment I was given the name Thubten Yeshe, Thubten Yeshe came into existence. Before I was given the name, he didnt exist; nobody looked at me and thought, Theres Thubten Yeshe. I didnt even think it myself. Thubten Yeshe did not exist.
But when one superstitious conception named this bubble, my body--Your name is Thubten Yeshe"--my superstition took it: Yes, Thubten Yeshe is me. Its an interdependent relationship. One superstition gives the name Thubten Yeshe to this bubble of relativity and my ego starts to feel that Thubten Yeshe really does exist somewhere in the area of my body.
The reality, however, is that Thubten Yeshe is merely the dry words applied to the bubble-like phenomenon of these five aggregates. These things come together and thats it: Thubten Yeshe, the name on the bubble. Its a very superficial view. The egos instinctive feeling that Thubten Yeshe exists somewhere around here is very superficial.
You can see that the relative reality of Thubten Yeshe is simply the name thats been given to this bubble of energy. Thats all Thubten Yeshe is. Thats why the great philosopher and yogi Nagarjuna and the great yogi Lama Tsong Khapa both said that all phenomena exist merely in name. As a result, some early Western Buddhist scholars decided that Nagarjuna was a nihilist. Thats a conclusion that could be reached only by someone who doesnt practice and spends all his time dealing in concepts and words.
If I were to show up somewhere and suddenly announce, Youre all merely names, people would think I was crazy. But if you investigate in detail the manner in which were all merely names, it becomes extremely clear. Nihilists reject the very existence of interdependent phenomena but thats not what Nagarjuna did. He simply explained that relative phenomena exist but that we should view them in a reasonable way. They come, they go; they grow; they die. They receive various names and in that way gain a degree of reality for the relative mind. But that mind does not see the deeper nature of phenomena; it does not perceive the totality of universal existence.
Phenomena have two natures: the conventional, or relative, and the absolute, or ultimate. Both qualities exist simultaneously in each and every phenomenon. What Ive been talking about is the way that bubbles of relativity exist conventionally. A relative phenomenon comes into existence when, at any given time, the association of superstition and the conception of ego flavors an object in a particular way by giving it a name. That combination--the object, the superstition giving it a name and the name itself--is all thats needed for a relative phenomenon to exist. When those things come together, theres your Thubten Yeshe. Hes coming; hes going; hes talking. Its all a bubble of relativity.
If right now you can see that Thubten Yeshes a bubble, thats excellent. It helps a lot. And if you can relate your experience of seeing me as a bubble to other concrete objects you perceive, it will help even more. If you can see the heavy objects that shake your heart and make you crazy as relative bubbles, their vibration will not overwhelm you. Your heart will stop shaking and youll cool down and relax.
If I were to show you a scarecrow and ask if it was Thubten Yeshe, youd probably say it wasnt. Why not? Because its made of wood. Youd have a ready answer. You can apply exactly the same logic to the argument that this bubble of a body is not Thubten Yeshe either.
I believe very strongly that this is me because of the countless times from the time I was born up to now that my ego has imprinted the idea this is me on my consciousness. Me. This is me. This bubble is me, me, me. But this bubble itself is not Thubten Yeshe. We know its composed of the four elements. However, the earth element is not Thubten Yeshe; the water is not Thubten Yeshe; the fire is not Thubten Yeshe; the air is not Thubten Yeshe. The parts of the body are not Thubten Yeshe either. The skin is not Thubten Yeshe; the blood is not Thubten Yeshe; they bone is not Thubten Yeshe; the brain is not Thubten Yeshe. The ego is not Thubten Yeshe. Superstition is not Thubten Yeshe. The combination of all this is not Thubten Yeshe either--if it were, Thubten Yeshe would have existed before the name had been given. But before this combination was named Thubten Yeshe, nobody recognized it as Thubten Yeshe and I didnt recognize it as Thubten Yeshe myself. Therefore, the combination of all these parts is not Thubten Yeshe.
If we call the scarecrow Thubten Yeshe and then analyze it to see exactly where Thubten Yeshe can be found, we cant find Thubten Yeshe in any of the parts or on all the parts together. This is easy to understand. Its exactly the same thing with the bubble of my aggregates. Neither any single constituent part nor the whole combination is Thubten Yeshe. We also know that the name alone is not Thubten Yeshe. So what and where is Thubten Yeshe? Thubten Yeshe is simply the combination of superstition flavoring an object with the words, Thubten Yeshe. Thats all that Thubten Yeshe is.
Beyond the name, there is no real Thubten Yeshe existing somewhere. But the simultaneously born ego doesnt understand that Thubten Yeshe exists merely as an interdependent combination of parts. It believes that without question, around here, somewhere, there exists a real, independent, concrete Thubten Yeshe. This is the nature of the simultaneously born ego. Therefore, if we do not remove conceptions like, Somewhere in this bubble, Im Thubten Yeshe, we cannot release the ego.
The conception of ego is an extreme mind. It holds very concretely the idea that somewhere within this bubble of the four-element combination body there exists a self-existent I. That is the misconception that we must release. If the ego mind assessed the situation reasonably and was comfortable and satisfied perceiving that superstition giving the name Thubten Yeshe to this interdependent, four-element bubble was enough for Thubten Yeshe to exist, that would be a different story. But its not satisfied with that. It cannot leave that alone. It wants to be special. It wants Thubten Yeshe to be concrete. Its not satisfied with Thubten Yeshe being a mere name on a collection of parts. Therefore, it conceives an imaginary, unrealistic, exaggerated, concrete self-entity. The method we use to remove that conception is to transform our bubble of relativity into light.
Twelve Links of Interdependent Origination
by Geshe Rabten Rinpoche
Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, one of Sera monastery's most renowned meditation masters, was appointed a spiritual assistant to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the mid-1960s. Upon the request of His Holiness he began teaching Westerners in Dharamsala in 1969, and went to live and teach in Switzerland in 1975. He passed away at his Swiss center, Rabten Choeling, in 1986. This teaching was given at Tushita on April 11th, 1980.
To practise Dharma is not merely to carry the name of being a buddhist. Nor is it to make certain superficial alterations in our lifestyle. Dharma practice means the total integration of our minds and the Dharma.
For this to become possible we must first prepare ourselves by cultivating spiritual stabilitya sense of pure renunciationwithin our stream of being. The Tibetan term for this, nges-jung, implies that we should first realize that we are caught in the rebirth process of cyclic existence, or samsara, a state of being characterized by a great many sufferings. Therefore at the beginning of our practice we must realize the true nature of samsara itself and the way in which we exist in samsara. We must become aware of the unsatisfactory nature of samsara, the condition in which we find ourselves. This is very important. Once we have recognized the true nature of samsara and become disillusioned with it, from the depths of our hearts we should generate a spontaneous aspiration to attain liberation from it. Such a pure and spontaneous aspiration of seeking liberation is the meaning of renunciation.
Generally there are two ways to develop the renounced mind. The first of these involves meditation on the two aspects of samsara: the suffering nature of samsara and the causes of samsaric suffering. The second method of developing renunciation is based upon meditation on the twelve links of interdependent origination (Sanskrit: pratityasamutpada). I would like to speak briefly on this second technique.
There are two main ways of explaining the twelve links: a scriptural presentation, which explains the twelve as a general mode of the nature of samsaric evolution, and an experiential presentation, which speaks of the twelve links in terms of how they are experienced by an individual over a continuum of lifetimes. The order of the links differs slightly between these two systems. I would like to focus on the twelve links in the context of how they are experienced.
The first of the twelve is ignorance, the root of all samsaric sufferings. In Sanskrit, this is avidya, which means "not seeing." An obscuration of the mind is implied. To explain precisely what this ignorance is and how it functions would require a great deal of time and energy. Therefore, let's concentrate on the central principles.
People who go to a specific teaching or discourse gather with the intention, "Today I will go and listen to the teachings." We all have certain conceptions about our "selves," about this "I". This conception of "I" is the ego. It is something present in us at all times, becoming more obvious on certain occasions. For example, when you encounter very positive circumstances or, conversely, face a great difficulty, your conception of the "self" becomes more intense and visible than usual. Each of us is subject to our own concept of "I" in this way. We can see this quite easily without lengthy theoretical reasonings. It can become clear in our daily experiences.
When circumstances cause this ego-concept to arise with great strength, we are grasped by it as if the "I" existed within us as something very solid, very vivid, and totally uncontrollable. Such is the way the false self grasps us. However, whether or not the self exists as it appears to the ordinary person is an important subject of contemplation. If we search within ourselves, from the top of our head down to the soles of our feet, we come to the conclusion that normally neither the physical body itself nor any of its individual parts can serve as the "I" which arises so strongly in traumatic experiences. There is nothing in the body to represent our sense of "I". The bodily organs and so on are only parts of the body. The body sort of "owns" them. If we analyse our minds in the same way, we find that the mind is but a stream of different thoughts and mental factors. This brings us to the conclusion that there is nothing in the mind to actually represent the "I" that we have conceived. Moreover, there does not exist any separate entity outside the body and mind to represent the "I" or self. We should meditate like this and see how it is so.
When we analyse, we don't find anything to stand for "I". This does not mean that we do not exist at all. Complete non-existence cannot be the situation, for we are presently analysing how we exist. Although we do not find an entity to represent the self when we search the body and mind for one, we find our situation is very subtle. We do not exist as simply as the ignorant mind supposes. To understand the true nature of the self requires thorough training and sustained meditational practice.
This factor of the mind that holds a wrong view of the self, a fabrication of the self, is what is meant in Buddhism by ignorance. It is this ignorance that is the first of the twelve links of interdependent origination. On the foundation of this false concept of the self rest all the other delusions, such as attachment towards ourselves, our friends and possessions, and aversion for things and people foreign or alien to us. The development of these attachments and aversions in turn causes us to accumulate a great number of unwholesome karmas. Unwholesome thoughts lead to unwholesome actions of body and speech.
The distorted actions of body, speech and mind that are produced by ignorance, attachment and hatred stain the mind with what are called volitional formations. This is the second of the twelve links. The moment after we produce a distorted karma, the action itself has passed and is gone, but an imprint has been left on our stream of consciousness. That imprint will remain with the consciousness until it manifests in the future as a favorable or unfavorable experience, depending on the nature of the original action.
The base upon which the imprints of karma are left is the continuity of the stream of mind. Therefore the mind which serves as the basis of the imprints of karma is the third link, the link of consciousness. This stream of consciousness carries the imprints, and later helps them to ripen and manifest. This process may be likened to sowing a seed in the earth, which serves as a cause of the growth of a crop. However, as well as sowing seeds in the ground, favorable conditions are required for the seeds to grow. Contributory causes such as water, fertilizer and so forth must be present in order for the seeds to ripen and reach maturity.
The attachment which evolves from ignorance helps to cultivate the karmic seeds which have been sown in our stream of consciousness. This attachment is the fourth link. There also exists in our mindstream a type of attachment which has a special function in bringing karmic seeds to fulfillment. This is the fifth of the twelve-linked chain. This particular attachment, which is called craving, manifests at the end of our life and gives an anticipation of our future existence. Although both above types of attachment have the nature of desire, each has its own function. One helps to ripen karmic seeds, whereas the other brings them to completion and connects us with our future existence.
The sixth link is 'becoming.' When we come to the end of our present life, a certain mental karma arises and immediately directs us towards our future existence. This special mental action which appears at the final stage of our life is called 'becoming.
These six links are generally associated with this life, although it is not necessarily the case that they should manifest in this life. In particular situations some of them may develop in other lifetimes, but in most cases they belong to this life.
As we near death our body and mind begin to weaken. Bodily strength and the grosser levels of thought dissolve until finally we enter a most subtle level of consciousness, which the scriptures call the clear light state. That is the final stage of our life. That is the actual consciousness of deaththe most subtle level of consciousness. After remaining in that state for a certain time, there occurs a slight movement of consciousness and we enter the intermediate stage. We shoot out of the body and enter the bar-do, the realm between death and rebirth. This stage of being has its own body and mind. However, the body is not made of the same gross elements as ours, so bar-do beings do not have our gross form. The bar-do body is composed of a subtle energy called "wind," which exists on a dimension different to ours. We should not think this is a very wonderful or beautiful state, however, for it is characterized by great suffering and difficulty. One undergoes a total loss of free will and is driven here and there by the forces of karma, until finally one finds an appropriate place of rebirth. The beings in this state subsist on smell rather than on ordinary food and it is this search for food that eventually leads them to seek rebirth. After a certain period in the bardo state they take rebirth in accordance with their karmic situation.
There are many different realms into which one can take rebirth, and each of these has its own causes and conditions. For example, in order to take rebirth as a human being, the future parents must unite in sexual union, their white and red cells (sperm and ovum) must combine and enter into the womb of the mother, and so forth. Then when the bar-do being, driven by the force of his own individual karma, reaches his karmically determined parents, there arise certain circumstances which cause the end of bar-do life. After this death of the bar-do body, the consciousness enters into the mixture of the two cells of the parents.
The moment the wind leaves the bar-do body and enters the united cells of the parents the link of rebirth is instituted. This is the seventh link. Mere union of the parents, however, is not a sufficient cause for engaging this link. As well, the womb of the mother must be free from obstacles which can cause interference to the birth of the child; the material causes of the physical body of the child, that is the cells of the parents, should also be free from the defects; and the three beings involved must have a karmic connection with one another in order to establish this kind of father-mother-child relationship. When all these circumstances are complete, rebirth takes place.
The moment the consciousness enters into the seeds of the parents the actual seventh link is established. From then until the sensory organs of the child are developed is the eighth link, which is called 'name and form.' Why is it called 'name and form'? The particular material substancesthe elements which constitute the cells of the parentsart the form, and the consciousness which dwells within that material basis is called name.
After all the sense organs of the child have developed into a mature, functionable state one enters the ninth link, the link of the six senses. This is like the construction of a building in which the finishing work, such as windows and doors, has been completed.
The tenth link is contact. After the outer senses have evolved, they function through the inner senses to establish contact with outer sense objects, such as visible forms, sounds and so on. This contact gives rise to the eleventh link, sensation. Pleasant sensations arise from contact with pleasant objects, unpleasant sensations from unpleasant objects, and so forth. This produces the aging process, the twelfth link of the chain of interdependent origination, which is called 'aging and death.
All of us are locked in this process of repeatedly circling on the wheel of birth, old age, death, bar-do and rebirth. The process is not a special situation that applies only to a few types of beings, something which happens to somebody else. It is a process embracing every one of us. We are in that process and going through that process at every moment. This is a very important point to contemplate. If we are aware of this constant process of evolution, we will come to a correct realization of the problems of samsara.
By meditating in this
way we gradually generate a very sincere aspiration to achieve liberation.
That aspiration is pure renunciation. However, it is not enough merely to
have this aspiration; one must work further and practise the methods which
bring about liberation. On the one hand we need the help and guidance of the
objects of refuge, but from our own side we must learn and put into practice
the actual methods that have been taught. By the combination of these two
the assistance of refuge and our own self- effortactual liberation from
samsaric suffering can be achieved.
Edited from an oral translation by Gonsar Rinpoche. From Teachings at Tushita, edited by Nicholas Ribush with Glenn H. Mullin, Mahayana Publications, New Delhi, 1981. A new edition of this book is in preparation. Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre is the FPMT centre in New Delhi, India.
Master Namkhai Norbu:
In the same way, throughout limitless time we have been suffering from
the serious illness of being subject to the dualistic condition, and
the only remedy for this illness is real knowledge of the state of
self-liberation without falling into limitations.
When one is in contemplation, in the continuation of the awareness
of the true State, then it is not necessary to consider one's way of
behaving as important, but, on the other hand, for someone who is
beginning to practise, there is no way of entering into practice other
than by alternating sessions of sitting meditation with one's daily
life. This is because we have such strong attachment, based on
logical thinking, on regarding the objects of our senses as being
concrete, and, even more so, based on our material body made of
flesh and blood.
When we meditate on the 'absence of selfnature', examining
mentally our head and the limbs of our body, eliminating them one by
one as 'without self', we can finally arrive at establishing that there
is no 'self or 'I'.
But this 'absence of self-nature' remains nothing but a piece of
knowledge arrived at through intellectual analysis, and there is as
yet no real knowledge of this 'absence of self-nature'. Because,
while we are cosily talking about this 'absence of self-nature', if it
should happen that we get a thorn in our foot, there's no doubt that
we'll right away be yelping 'ow! ow! ow!' This shows that we are still
subject to the dualistic condition and that the 'absence of self-
nature' so loudly proclaimed with our mouth has not become a real
lived state for us. For this reason it is indispensable to regard as
extremely important the presence of awareness which is the basis
of self-liberation in one's daily conduct.
THE PURE LAND
from the remarkable book: "Open Secret" by Wei Wu Wei
Hong Kong University Press
Is IT possible to be rid
of the concept of other without at the same time being rid of
the concept of I, or to be rid of the concept of I'
without at the same time being rid of the concept of other?
¤ It is not possible.
With which should one
¤ With neither. An identified subject cannot rid itself of either concept.
That is news, bad news!
I thought that was what is required of us?
¤ As well be required to scoop up the moon by baling its reflection out of a puddle!
¤ Until an identified subject knows what he is, he cannot be expected to realize what he is not.
Cannot I say also that
until he knows what he is not, he cannot realize what he is?
¤ You can. You should. You must.
There seems to be no way
¤ That is why we are not all Buddhas. If it seemed to be possible should we not have done it long ago?
But there must be a way
¤ There is no 'way', and nothing 'out'. It is here and now.
Then what is it?
¤ What it isis quite obvious.
Not to me.
¤ If you can't find it by lookingdon't look, if you can't find it by thinkingdon't think! It is where there is no looking, and no thinking.
Because it cannot either
be seen or thought?
¤ Not at all.
¤ Not because it cannot be seen or thought, but because there is no 'one' to look or to think!
Then what does one do?
'¤ One' does not do. 'One' does not even cease to do.
¤ It is better for you to tell me. Is what your identified subject isanything he can know?
¤ Is what he isanything he can not-know?
What he isis not
likely to be an object of knowledge.
¤ Can he see, know, or find what he is or what he is not?
I do not think so.
¤ Why is that?
Probably because what
he is looking for, trying to know, seeking to find, is what is looking, trying,
¤ Exactly. That is the answer.
But is it an answer?
¤ It is the only answer. Finding no 'thing', he finds that he is what he is, which is also what he is not.
So that what he is not
is what he is?
¤ In so far as words can suggest it.
But does that answer my
¤ You asked me how to be rid of the interdependent concepts of 'other' and I. They have been mutually abolished.
So that. . . ?
¤ No 'other', no I.
And what I am is also
what I am not, and what I am not is also what I am! No room for self, no room
for other-than-self! Is that not a definition of Nirvana or of the Pure Land?
¤ It is also a definition of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Is there a historical
precedent for such an approach?
¤ There are many. For instance when Hui K'o had 'his' supposed mind tranquillized by Bodhidharma, by being unable to find itthat was not the result of his having no mind to find, but because there was no 'he' to have anything. The mind was not missing: it was he that could not be found.
It was mind that was looking
for mind and not finding itself as an object?
¤ And not-finding was finding!
An excerpt from the remarkable
book: "Open Secret" by Wei Wu Wei
Hong Kong University Press
A meditator keeps his mind open every second. He is constantly investigating life, inspecting his own experience, viewing existence in a detached and inquisitive way. Thus he is constantly open to truth in any form, from any source, and at any time. This is the state of mind you need for Liberation. It is said that one may attain enlightenment at any moment if the mind is kept in a state of meditative readiness. The tiniest, most ordinary perception can be the stimulus: a view of the moon, the cry of a bird, the sound of the wind in the trees. it's not so important what is perceived as the way in which you attend to that perception. The state of open readiness is essential. It could happen to you right now if you are ready. The tactile sensation of this book in your fingers could be the cue. the sound of these words in your head might be enough. You could attain enlightenment right now, if you are ready._
You find nothing. In all that collection of mental hardware in this endless stream of ever-shifting experience all you can find is innumerable impersonal processes which have been caused and conditioned by previous processes. There is no static self to be found; it is all process. You find thoughts but no thinker, you find emotions and desires, but nobody doing them. The house itself is empty. There is nobody home. Your whole view of self changes at this point. You begin to look upon yourself as if you were a newspaper photograph. When viewed with the naked eyes, the photograph you see is a definite image. When viewed through a magnifying glass, it all breaks down into an intricate configuration of dots.
Similarly, under the penetrating gaze of mindfulness, the feeling of self, an 'I' or 'being' anything, loses its solidity and dissolves. There comes a point in insight meditation where the three characteristics of existence--impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness-- come rushing home with concept-searing force. You vividly experience the impermanence of life, the suffering nature of human existence, and the truth of no self. You experience these things so graphically that you suddenly awake to the utter futility of craving, grasping and resistance. In the clarity and purity of this profound moment, our consciousness is transformed. The entity of self evaporates. All that is left is an infinity of interrelated non-personal phenomena which are conditioned and ever changing. Craving is extinguished and a great burden is lifted. There remains only an effortless flow, without a trace of resistance or tension. There remains only peace, and blessed Nibbana, the uncreated, is realized.
Abridged from 'Mindfulness in Plain English' By the Venerable Henepola Gunaratana
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