Zen master Bodhidharma said that the quickest and most effective way to awaken is to behold the mind. For the mind is the root of all things.
He said that the mind has two aspects: one gets caught up in all the dramas of being a sentient being. It finds itself enmeshed in greed, hatred and delusion. Rampant with self-centred thoughts, wants and not wants. We’re all pretty familiar with this aspect of mind – let’s call it the small mind.
Now that we’ve calmed the karmic currents of mind we may be able to see a little more clearly right now the other aspect of mind. Your mind hopefully appears to be open, clear and empty. This aspect of mind delights in good deeds. Compassion, equanimity and awareness naturally flow from it.
Right now in this moment, as you’re experience this unattached state of mind Zen master Shen-Hui said that, “A seeker of the Tao resembles a bird hovering in the air.”
When we stop, rest and release all our clinging we discover that all that’s left is this pristine awareness. There’s just an innate clarity, openness and luminosity that remains. There’s a stillness and brightness that seems to pervade everywhere. When we let go of clinging we can start to see clearly spacelike awareness.
Zen master Shen-Hui said when we look at our minds now we can see and know that they’re tranquil and guileless.
“Not being attached we are tranquil and guileless.
This state underlying all motions and passions is called samadhi.
Penetrating to this fundamental state we encounter a natural wisdom that is conscious of this original tranquility and guilelessness.
This wisdom is called prajna.
The intimate relationship between samadhi and prajna is thus defined.”
This reminds me of one time when I was meditating with my teacher. He was about to give a dharma talk and he turned to me and asked,
“Right now your mind is clean and clear, empty and free like space – isn’t that right?”
I had to agree because that was exactly how my mind was: empty, clean and clear like space. It seemed like all of existence was arising in it but this awareness was unaffected but whatever was arising in that moment.
And I’ll ask you – your mind right now seems to be clean and clear, empty and free like space – isn’t that right?”
Doesn’t it seem like this spacelike awareness has been present your whole life?
Zen master Hongzhi said, “This vacant and open field is intrinsically present from the very beginning. You must purify and wipe away the various deluded conditioning and illusory habits. Naturally you will arrive at a place that is clear and pure, perfect and bright. Totally empty, without any image, resplendent and outstanding, it does not rely on anything. Only this vastness can illuminate this fundamental reality as external objects are relinquished.”
Zen Master Nansen called this innate open clarity “Ordinary Mind”. One day Joshu who would become an outstanding Zen Master asked his teacher Nansen, “What is the Way?” Nansen answered, “Ordinary mind is the Way.”
This open clarity is the way. Bodhidharma called it “Nurturing Awareness” and here we call it “Resting in the Radiance”.
This natural innate awareness is open and free like space. Zen master Nansen said, “When you have really reached the true Way beyond all doubt you will find it as vast and boundless as outer space.”
When we’ve settled the mind and body down we can see this open clear freedom more easily.
When the mind becomes lost in its own projections we get caught by the three poisons and it’s as if this empty clarity gets covered over and obstructed.
In buddhism we get curious about this covering over process of the innate radiance of mind. We look into the mandala of being to see what’s going on here. What is it that’s clouding over this natural clarity that we are now experiencing.
And when we get curious and look we can see that what clouds over the innate open luminosity of mind is our clinging to the human experience. This clinging and grasping at experience clouds over this empty, selfless clarity that we all can clearly see right now.
And buddhism breaks that clinging experience down into five streams or currents of energy and information. I call this the Mandala of Being.
So let us look into this phenomenon…. In Buddhism one way to look at what covers over the innate clarity of mind is via the Five Skandhas. In the heart Sutra this is the meditation the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara did to become free.
The Mandala of Being
Body: So first we experience the body
Sensations: The body is made up of sensations. It’s always sensing. Always on alert
Feelings: Those sensations are then interpreted as feeling tones – pleasant, unpleasant and neutral
Perceptions: Those feelings get enhanced through our perceptions.
Volitional Formations: Perceptions are shaped by wants, not-wants and don’t cares which are shaped by all kinds of things like habits, memories, ideas, traumas, past experiences, conditioning (both personal and societal) which are stored in the storehouse consciousness
Mind, Sense Gates and Sense Consciousnesses: Volitional Formations and our present moment experience is ripened as the scene of experience unfolds and takes shape through one of the sense doors of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and finally minding. This includes thoughts and judgements on what this moment is.
We all can see this mandala of being now right?
At this point the Buddha would ask a question like,
“Does what is constantly changing cause us stress or ease?”
And we all can answer that pretty easily I think: We all want things to be steady and stable so anything that is always changing would be stressful.
Then the Buddha would say something like,
“If something is always changing and causing us stress
would this be a proper thing to call our true self?”
And the answer would be no. Because we’d want our true self to be unchanging, and stable.
So let’s go back and look at the Mandala of Being
Body: Is the body stable or is it constantly changing? It’s always changing.
Sensations: Are sensation stable or are they constantly changing? Sensations are always changing.
Feelings: Are feelings stable or are they constant changing? Feelings are always changing.
Perceptions: Are perceptions stable or are they constant changing? Perceptions are always changing.
Volitional Formations: Are volitional formations (are our impulses of wanting, not-wanting and not-caring) stable or are they constant changing? Volitional Formations are always changing.
Mind, Sense Gates and Sense Consciousnesses: Are the sense streams stable or are they constant changing? Is what we see the same or constantly changing? Mind and what appears to mind is always changing.
So none of these ever-changing aspects of your experience can be called your true self.
The Buddha would now say something like, “Now, that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard that as: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”
The answer is no.
The Body Spaceship
There is this body but I am not this body. This body is not me, not mine, not myself.
There are these sensations but I am not these sensations. These sensations are not me, not mine, not my self.
There are these feelings but I am not these feelings. These feelings are not me, not mine, not myself.
There are these perceptions but I am not these perceptions. These perceptions are not me, not mine, not myself.
There are these volitional formations but I am not these volitional formations. These volitional formations are not me, not mine, not my self.
There are these thoughts, ideas, memories and even this sense of I but I am not any of these thoughts, ideas, memories and even this sense of I . These thoughts, ideas, memories and even this sense of I are not me, not mine, not my self.
I am what remains – this unchanging pure centre of awareness – an unmoved witness of the body, sensations, feelings, perceptions, volitional formations, thoughts, memories and even this sense of self.
The Buddha said after going through this process of negation,
“All that remains is consciousness and equanimity: pure & bright. Consciousness without feature, without end, luminous all around.”
This is the same aspect of mind that was discovered earlier that was clear, clean and empty.
Healing the Mandala of Being
Now we can see the mandala of our being. And we take the wish we made for happiness and freedom from suffering and then experience this mandala of being from that place.
Body: So we see the body and we nurture the body. Rest. Meditation. Good food. Sunshine.
Sensations and Feelings: We see our feelings and hold them tenderly like a mother holds a child.
Perceptions: We see our perceptions and we do our best to clean those perceptions through clear seeing that we now experienced through resting in the radiance and the practice non-clinging.
Volitional Formations: Here we practice non-grasping and putting down our strong likes and dislikes.
Mind and Consciousness Streams of Seeing, Hearing, Tasting, Touching and Thinking: We allow the consciousness streams to flow unhindered from our grasping.
Meditation is the greatest practice that nurtures and heals all the aspects of our being.