“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated form the rest---a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves form this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
“A wave in the sea, seen one way, seems to have a distinct identity, an end and a beginning, a birth and a death. Seen in another way, the wave itself doesn’t really exist but is just the behavior of water, “empty” any separate identity but “full” of water. So when you really think about a wave you come to realize that it is something that has been made temporarily possible by wind and water, and is dependent on a set of constantly changing circumstances. You also realize that every wave is related to every other wave.”
This is not only a profound way to contemplate our own lives and deaths, but also to understand the empty nature of all of our thoughts. A thought is really just the movement of the mind, and every thought is connected with every other thought. Also, there are physical correlates as well as linguistic/cultural/environmental backgrounds that support and make our thoughts possible. Put in another way, the whole universe is actually thinking about itself through you. You have no free thoughts at all, for thoughts are interrelated with every other changing phenomenon in the universe. And there is no separate “you” to have a thought to begin with. You are also a wave appearing briefly on the surface of the ocean, a wave seamlessly connected with every other wave, and made of the exact same wetness as every other wave.
Which makes me think of the idea of no-self. Early Buddhism has as one of its central teaching the idea of no-self, or “anatman” in Sanskrit. The mental stream is said to be composed of five aggregates or “skandhas,” none of which is or has a self or independent existence of its own, but together the aggregates give rise to the illusion of a separate, grasping, desiring self. A careful investigation or analysis of this self or mind stream, which is done in the beginning stages of meditation, reveals that the skandahs do not constitute a real or enduring self, but are instead transient elements of experience. The self is then seen to be a sensation that comes and goes like every other sensation in awareness. This is a very liberating discovery because it is a momentary release from the pain, or suffering (dukha) of defending an entity that isn’t even there.
The realization of no-self then gives rise to the discovery of the Great Self, or maha-atman, which is the only enduring presence that remains constant. So, while the skandhas and the self they seemed to construct are indeed “empty” of inherent existence, the become ”full” of Presence, or the Clear Light of Pure Being or Emptiness that is the Ultimate Identity, or True nature of the mind, as well as the true nature of everything; the wetness of all the waves.
Moreover, about the moment of death, Sogyal Rinpoche says “Stripped of a physical body, the mind stands naked, revealed startlingly for what it has always been: the architect of our reality.”
Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche writes “From the day we are born until the day we die, our life experience is an ever-changing relative truth that we hold to be very real. It is not, however, absolutely real or permanent. This is very important to understand. When you wake up from you dream of life, all of your experiences which seemed true were not really true in the absolute sense.
“The criterion we can use for understanding truth is permanence. If something is permanent, it is true. If it is impermanent, it is not true, because it is going to disappear. To wake us up so we can see the illusory quality of our relative reality and understand our fundamental absolute nature is the goal of Buddha Dharma. A completely awakened state is enlightenment, the unwavering recognition of the absolute nature of our being. Absolute nature pervades everything and is separate from nothing, but we have gone so far into mind’s dualistic delusion, that we have lost sight of what is absolute. Seeing separateness where there is none, we suffer in our experience of relative truth, quenched only by the unchanging, deathless absolute, the unchanging bliss of enlightenment.
And finally, Namkai Norbu Rinpoche: “There is a great deal of difference between a sensation of pleasure and one of voidness, but the inherent nature of both the two experiences is one and the same. When we are in a state of voidness [or no thoughts] there is a presence that continues all the time, a presence which is just the same in an experience of pleasurable sensation. This Presence is unique and beyond the mind. It is a non-dual state which is the basis of all the infinite forms of manifestation.
“All that appears to us as a dimension of objects “out there” is not, in fact, really something concrete at all, but is an aspect of our own primordial state appearing to us. Different experiences can arise for us, but the presence never changes.”
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