Wednesday, December 20, 2006
"Eternal existence is momentary" said an eternal Buddha.
All we can say with real confidence is that we exist now, here, in this place, at this time. The attempt to conceptualise this truth is the futile attempt to grasp the moment of the present as it is devoured by the future to become the past. In the act of grasping we are infinitely unsatisfied, always chasing something just out of reach.
In each moment we construct the world over and over again. We've given names, function and form to each element of our existence but in ‘actuality’ it is much more mysterious than our conception. So what is it that we are doing in this life? What is this entity that perceives? That very process of knowing is so instantaneously reductive as to destroy what we’re trying to know. The immensity of existence cannot be conceptualised. But we can ‘experience’ reality, fully, profoundly. We can experience it far beyond the limitations of knowledge and this experiencing is the meaning of our lives. This is the simple truth that Gautama Buddha realised, revealed to his followers and practised assiduously until his death.
Even if we understand and recall scores of books and teachings we still let go of them all in the moment of attention. We can’t help but study and describe our practise but our practise is the act of letting all that go again. So why did we study it? Because we can’t help it. Back and forth we go, in and out of the zendo, studying / forgetting studying, this is our human lives. Morning and night we sit on the cushion, the beating heart of our Buddhist life, breathing, seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting, talking and thinking in rhythm with our real lives, living realistically in the present. When we get up from our cushion, we simply act, we proceed, in accord with reality.
Many people have practised zazen and penetrated the meaning of their real lives, existing complete with all things in real time. The understanding that they all have in common is that body, mind and phenomena are not separate, they are one whole and past and future do not exist outside of the present. People who have understood and practise this self-evident truth in experience are called 'buddhas.' It is not abstract or esoteric, it is a real state, available to everyone and everything.
The past has already gone, the future isn’t here yet. When we pay attention, we notice that the present is the only real time which actually exists, we can notice that there is no body separate from our mind, and no mind separate from our body and neither are separate from the phenomena sharing our existence in this moment of the present, nor is any of this separate from the moment of the present. With prescience, this inclusive moment of existence seems somehow vivid, illuminated, invigorated by the attention we bring to it. It has not changed in any way and neither have we, we are merely looking deeply. So we are sitting at one with our lives, at one with the only existence there is. Look around, you and the objects or people surrounding you now are both identifiably separate by your conscious mind but beyond this superficial observation, one indivisible whole 'thing' existing in this moment, constantly shifting, constantly changing. Indeed it goes beyond our being a part of one whole existant moment – we are this moment of existence. This wholeness here, in this moment, complete with all of existence is what we are.