Monday, June 02, 2008
Moving into un-knowing without anything is actually the truth of our lives.
This unacceptable truth is what we evade with our brilliant and colourful imaginations. I think that this is the acceptance that the Buddha speaks of – not a resignation to fate as it is often misunderstood but the acceptance of the way things are, or as Suzuki put it "things as it is."
We call a conglomeration of ideas, memories of our pasts, our sense of self, of our perceived relationships to others, of our jobs and status, our likes and dislikes - we call this our personalities and the movement of this entity through space and time we call our lives.
Buddhists notice that this is not in fact our lives, this is only a conglomeration of ideas which are always relative and subject to change, to revolution in fact.
What is not subject to change, not subject to division and always undeniably our lives is the instant in which we experience our lives.
Because we construct this multi-faceted elaborate illusion of our lives, we also secretly can imagine that we are living a false life but our real life can never be false no matter what we think about it. I think this creeping sense of falseness that people often feel is very healthy - it is the truth creeping out that this crooked and teetering edifice of thought may be based on very shallow foundations. It is the deep knowledge that the lives they have constructed are somehow insubstantial and unreal.
It's a bit like vertigo to notice the truth of this initially, that the carefully rationalised and constantly elaborated, safe and knowable planes of our life are just that, constructed. But then, the question remains, there is something happening here and now and only here and now but what is it?
The kesa that we wear as Buddhists is the opposite of the escapism of the constructed life, of the hard carapace of ideation we can cocoon ourselves in. It is the antithesis of a costume. It reveals us as real and true to all and all that is real and true to us.
Simply sitting still the revolutions of will cease - something indescribable remains - something which we do not habitually notice, hidden as we are inside our shells - but which is always present - It is always present.
Both one thing and many, both thought and non-thought, created and uncreated, real and unreal are contained within it. Master Dogen’s ‘One Bright Pearl.’
Some imagine this un-creation to be a dissolution of knowledge, a kind of negation of the driving force that we feel is the engine of life.
Some call Buddhism like this - nihilism - a belief in nothingness.
But this is the voice of the constructed self - it tells us that we must hold on to our opinions, our sense of self, of others, of our place in the universe or there will be only the terrifying vastness, the absence of meaning….Godlessness.
Conversely, when we throw everything away for nothing, we discover that our original lives have already filled our hands. Our true lives were always waiting to be inherited. We discover that the expansive vastness of the eternal present was always our home.
This original state leaves us completely free in the instant of the present.
This instantaneous awareness, this lack of creation is called enlightenment.
Uncreated, we were/are/will be and beyond each of those temporal constraints.
Being without - conscious, only that.
(Given as a talk at Bloomsbury Zen Group 29/06/2008)