Two Necessities: Distilling the Essence
For anyone following the way of Mahamudra, Zen or Dzogchen, two aspects of a methodology to release the hallucination of samsara, are seemingly necessary.
At first, a reorientation of consciousness that breaks the all absorbing trance of duality takes place, which is then followed by an inward transformation of those same dynamics which are producing the samsaric trance.
If you look at the glowing point of an incense stick in a pitch black room, you are seeing its true natural condition clearly with no confusion. But if we begin to rotate the stick rapidly, the point of light “seems” to turn into a circle of light. The “circle” of light is a type of hallucination, because it doesn’t actually exist at all, not even slightly. Hold on to this example.
Our conscious moments of experience present themselves as individual moments of consciousness, whatever the content. There is this moment, next moment and next moment in an endless series.
It’s possible when the mind is relaxed and somewhat still, to notice each moment of consciousness or thought, one moment at a time. These are like seeing individual frames of a movie reel as they pass through the projector’s light. Seeing or knowing an individual moment of thought or consciousness, is like seeing the natural condition of the unmoving, glowing point of the incense stick.
These individual frames of thought cause no binding or suffering. But when the thought moments “speed up”, an hallucinatory story or narrative begins to arise. This hallucinatory mind-story is like the imaginary “circle of light” that arises when one spins the incense stick rapidly.
The hallucination in our mind contains not a “circle of light”, but an imaginary self and imaginary objects that seem to exist independently and on their own. There is no real self and no real material objects “as believed” appearing in actuality.
This can be pointed out and explained until fully understood. Profound insights can occur.
Next, by sitting alert and attentively in meditation, the “non-meditation” of Dzogchen, where no topic is held in mind, like Soto Zen “shikentaza”, the mind will slow down until only individual thought-moments or individual moments of perception appear, unlinked to the past and future thought-moments. In this slowed-down mind condition, it’s like the movie being reduced to its individual picture frames. This is like seeing the individual glowing point of the incense stick, absent the hallucination of the “circle of light”.
When the mind is reduced to its fundamental nature of single moments of consciousness flashing into consciousness, slowly and disjointed from the mind’s chain-like continuum, the hallucination of samsara disappears along with a self, it’s narratives, and the perception of separate objects existing apart from the “moment of consciousness” itself.
Samsara is the hallucination that naturally arises when the continuum of thought moments hit a certain threshold of rapidity. Slow the mind down and the dualistic hallucination of a self, a suffering self; a self that can live, do and die, suffering beings, and its world of imaginary separate objects actually existing in space and time, all disappear.
It seems both steps are necessary; the “pointing out instruction”, and the contemplative exercise of letting the mind slow down to the point where the hallucination of samsara suddenly vanishes, just like the “circle of light” suddenly disappearing when the rapidity of the spinning falls below its necessary speed to sustain it.
The reality of conscious experience, without the samsaric hallucination, is itself nirvana.
This is the highly distilled essence of all the Buddha’s teachings.
By Dzogchen Teacher Jackson Peterson