Fighting for Clarity: Finding Awareness

I’ve tried for a while to reconcile the notion that once buddha nature dawns and awareness is revealed that stillness pervades and one’s mind, finally, is at peace.  While that idea is so pleasant and wonderful that how can it NOT be true?  Isn’t the goal of meditation and practice to achieve that state of mind, completely void of causes and conditions, awake and aware in such a way that thoughts are not chased, ideas don’t provoke anger or resentment, and that emotion is in check.

I am now of the opinion that none of that is true about awareness and enlightenment.  OK, yes I do think enlightenment and awareness does dawn and that one’s mind open…it’s clear from all of the information that such an awakening happens.  While I am not adept practitioner, moments of awareness have dawned and I have felt the bliss that comes with the experience.  What I also know is that maintaining that moment is a constant vigilant struggle.  One cannot just stop and say, “Whew, I’m enlightened!  It’s over!.”  There is a maintenance plan that comes with the process.  Without maintenance enlightenment can be lost.  At least that’s what appears to be the case.

According to Terry Reis Kennedy on Jun 21 2017 in the Deccan Herald, the Dalai Lama commented that “in essence, enlightenment is the awakening of the mind’s true nature by the process of purifying thoughts, removing obscurations, and dispelling dissonant emotions.”  Once purified, we are in that state of being.  No longer attached or chasing thoughts…we are freed from attachment and aversion.

In my practice, the attachment and aversion piece is still operating like a well-oiled machine.  I am attached and averse.  In moments, however, those attachments dissolve and awareness dawns for a moment.  A moment….then it all collapses.  Why?  Because I haven’t completed the work; I’m only gaining these small glimpses and my mind is still consumed with samsaric thoughts.

So how do I and all of us clear those thoughts and establish a permanent place for the awakened mind to reside and stabilize?  That is the question.  My ngondro practice is one place I have begun and I believe many practices can lead to the same location.  I am reminded of the readings I did years ago on Thomas Merton.  Merton’s book, The Seven Storey Mountain, describes a process for understanding that many Buddhist practitioners would understand.  Very briefly, the book is autobiographical describing his conversion to the Catholic faith.  The struggles Merton experiences come very close to the whole idea of how attachment leads us to excess and a permanent place in samsara.  Once we apply the antidote, in Merton’s case Christian philosophy, we can clear the  mind and find the source for our practice and life.

Thomas Merton

What is that source that Thomas Merton wrote about and the source that I seek in my own practice?  For Merton the source is G-d; a spiritual connection between human and the divine.  In my case, I’m looking for the source in my mind; the buddha nature that is constant, clear, and luminous.

But I haven’t answered the question, have I?  How to get there?  First, there is no there; the clarity I seek and we seek is always present.  That’s the real irony of the whole thing.  We go looking for the elephant by following the tracks when the elephant was always present, right here.  We try to search and search around the world, talking to teachers, friends, relatives, whomever only to recognize that the answers are in us, always.  It does’t mean, however, that we can rely only on our own mind to seek for buddha nature.  As I have found out the hard way, the path to understanding requires a teacher.  Someone who can help us reveal the path to enlightenment.  In Vajrayana, that path goes through love and compassion for all beings.  We (I) have to be willing to give completely of myself with no thought of gain.

Until I can truly put all sentient beings before me AND accept their suffering as my own, I won’t make a whole lot of progress.  Too, without a stable, informed practice, I’m like anyone else wandering in the dark trying to find my way by using my senses to orient my body onto the path.  As we all know, our senses can be fooled.  We face the kinds of delusions and illusions that distract us. My leg hurts, I can’t practice.  I have a headache, I’ll practice tomorrow.  On and on.

I leave today’s thoughts with just this notion: that my course of action has to be based in bodhicitta.  Thomas Merton found this concept in December 1968, days before his eventual death.  He said,”The rock, all matter, all life is charged with dharmakaya … everything is emptiness and everything is compassion.”  His insights on this truth he came to him after years of meditation and reflection.  I choose this same path in the hopes that I too can gain some measure of understanding and realization for the benefit of all sentient beings.

May you be happy, may you be well.

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