October 11, 2014

This Ever Now That Takes Up Form

*This ever Now that takes up form
as yesterday, tomorrow, now and never,
as both the dream and as the waking eye within the dreamer
as both the one and as the two and many
and yet remains beyond:
Be just this pillar, be still,
and nonetheless aware, in the midst
of all these lovely and horrendous dreams
-a mere witness, motionless, but ever watching
the sublime
of the tragedy of forms.
This pillar is the doorway unto the abyss of the thoughtlessness’ realm
wherein lies the root of both no-things and things.
When facing, untroubled by fear, regret, desire and duty, fame and achievement,
just the emptiness
which is the playground of thoughts,
stay as this witness as they arise and they die.
That which is beyond the waking, the dreaming and the dreamless states
and yet pervades them all:
that is to be experienced as non-mind.
So, try zazen as
this lifeless emptiness, beyond all forms, beyond all pairs of opposites, which blows
the energy of life and death into the realm
of the transience of forms.

* In response to Suresh Gundappa’s post Song of Zazen ~ Hakuin; Photo also by Suresh Gundappa


October 4, 2014

We All Have Our Own Bodhi Tree

Under the Bodhi Tree, Prince Siddhartha Gautama was just sitting, in absolute silence. He lost any interest in any purpose whatsoever and gave up any desire of reaching awakening.

This is why we now have the Buddha.
Each of us has their own Bodhi Tree.
Any quest for understanding is a quest for liberation in disguise.
The same principle applies in the Buddha’s case. The need to understand conditioning/limitations arises in humans, not out of simple curiosity, of course, but out of the need for deconditioning. Unfortunately, we have this strange persistent determination: in our journey toward deconditioning, we create new mind patterns and so we add new layers of conditioning between us and the final liberation that we seek, always pushing it forward in a future that never comes.
We forget all the time that, by definition, the future never comes.
What actually could have happened to the Buddha?
First: A traumatic event: he crosses the threshold of the paradisiac, protective environment as he steps out of his comfort zone and acquires this straightforward visualization of illness, old age and death. These moments of despondency equate with the call to adventure, to a heroic endeavor, and with a new type of mindset, that is: a new type of conditioning.
Second: he accepts the challenge, starts questioning everything and leaves the protection of the environment, the mirage, the world of appearances and so he sets off for a seeking adventure that we all are very familiar with, because there are so many seekers around us and there is a seeker in each of us as well.
This is his philosophical and ascetical stage. During the quest, he becomes acquainted with all major philosophies of India and with all religious belief systems of his time. In addition, he gets along well in yoga practices.
Nevertheless, this is not the Buddha yet, this is only an exchange of IDs.
He just traded the illusion of a prince who is terrified by illness, old age and death for the life of renunciation. Not only did he see the appearances of suffering, but also, he found himself ensnared by the illusory powers of a monk, whose meditative demeanor would have seemed, back at the moment of his departure, as the only way out of suffering.
Illumination is now the last desire that he’s got left, an ardent desire that makes him push every spiritual practice beyond the limit. This is his new hope, his new dream and his new kind of expectation. Namely: the enlightenment that will happen sometimes, soon, in the future, as a result of renunciation and constant practice.
Henceforth, he exchanges the identity of a prince for the identity of a philosopher and a wondering monk. He is in this stage a seeker of enlightenment; he is seeking a state of mind where there is no suffering.
Now, don't get me wrong, this effort was necessary, like the training in the ballet. The movements in ballet seem effortless because there is such a great deal of effort behind, that is -all those years of hard work and exercise. Therefore, this need for understanding was a preparatory stage to both the Enlightenment and to the later doctrine of the Eightfold Path.
The last stage, under the Bodhi Tree, is that stage where the former prince Siddhartha and present mendicant leaves the vehicle behind: the seeking, the effort, the journey, the idea of a purpose, the idea of identity, the idea of idea, the need for understanding, the path itself.
He now comes to this realization:
How could there be a path, when there is no tomorrow?
I have come to realize that only when the human being that we know call the Buddha was able to give up the effort (the need to understand, to explain, to achieve awakening etc.), then and only then he actually awakened.
This supreme renunciation, which is giving up the desire to reach enlightenment, made him capable of looking at himself with an equal eye and in a state of utter equanimity. Prince Siddhartha, the monk, the philosopher, the Awakened One and "this body" and "emptiness" – they all are the same thing. In other words, he was able to assume each of these evanescent identities and, at last, to look at himself from the highest perspective, which is the radiant core of the consciousness of the entire Universe. This means that at this final stage he doesn’t care that much about any of these identities because, in essence, he comes to the realization that there is no identity whatsoever.
There is no clinging, no fear, no attachment, no duty and no identity, besides the functional-relational one. Of course, he remains fully aware that this is a human body, this is its masculine gender; this body must be fed and so forth. However, there is no subject of suffering anymore there to be found, there is no longer an "I" and no duality. The body is going to encounter pain, old age, illness and death, BUT there is a still point, a motionless place within, and he is now capable to seal off this center of pure awareness from any suffering, as the sense of the “I” has vanished. Nirvana is the pure and peaceful awareness that has remained after extinguishing the flame of the “I”.
There is no suffering anymore because there is no longer a sufferer.
This is what happened when the ego dissolved completely, as the need to reach Enlightenment was the last barrier between him and Enlightenment.
For both conventional and teaching reasons, he might have continued to act in the world in this or that way, but the sense that there is an "I" was no longer active in him, even when he would speak in first person, delivering sermons and so on.
The stage after the last stage: teaching - return journey and the necessity of a map
The Buddha did not follow and did not need the Eightfold Path for himself. He creates this kind of design in order to make this process of deconditioning accessible to others and I don't think that in creating this (let's say) therapeutic doctrine he has to struggle too much. It just pours out. He doesn't make any additional effort, the understanding is there, so complete, that the entire Universe is now speaking through his mouth. The effort is purely physiological: he just has to open up his mouth and speak.
The Buddha has ventured into uncharted waters by himself and when he later "returns" to the community, he draws up a map for the rest of the humankind. Therefore, we now think that the map is necessary, and there is a yonder shore. Nevertheless, for him, no map had been necessary and in the last stage of his quest, under the Bodhi Tree, he discovers that when the effort comes to a halt, the yonder shore is everywhere and everything. All this adventure of the Buddha was necessary maybe in order to prove that the center is everywhere.
The center is total awareness.
 We all have our own Bodhi-Tree
There is a tree of enlightenment for every one of us, waiting for us, ready for us, specially designed for us. We spend our entire lives running and running to get there and sit down under our own Bodhi Tree.
Eventually, we realize that it can’t be somewhere out there, but it’s in here and everywhere at the same time. There is no need to plan, to go or to run in order to grasp it sometimes in the future. We can give up the path altogether.

We just have to open up to the suchness of any given experience and thereby sanctify the place and the moment we are in.