In this final post of this series, I will try explain how I practice in the meditation break what I consider to be the most profound part of emptiness, namely how all phenomena are by nature mind.
First, what does it mean to say that all phenomena are mere karmic appearances “of mind”? “Of mind” means that the conventional nature of all phenomena is mind. The term “by nature” in a Dharma context roughly means “made of”, or “substance.” In other words, all conventional objects are “made of” or are comprised of the “substance” of mind. The nature of a gold coin is the gold, and its aspect is that of a coin. In the final view of emptiness, we go one step further saying that objects are not just by nature mind, they are by nature our very subtle mind of great bliss. It even goes one step further, by saying the ultimate nature of all objects is the emptiness of our very subtle mind of great bliss. The emptiness of our very subtle mind of great bliss is like the gold of the gold coin of all phenomena. Put in other terms, the emtpiness of our very subtle mind of great bliss is like the Play Dough that gets shaped in the apsect of each and every object. Just as you cannot separate the coin from the gold or the object from its underlying Play Dough, so too you cannot separate any object from its ultimate nature of the emptiness of our mind of great bliss.
So how do I practice this knowledge in the meditation break? First, I try train myself where I remember this wisdom every time I look at an object. For example, I know with certainty that the World Trade Center is no longer in New York. So when I see an old picture of the NYC skyline, the mere appearance of the World Trade Center buildings instantly reminds me that they are no longer there. In the same way, I know for certain (intellectually at least) that all phenomena are nothing other than mere karmic appearances of mind, so the very appearance of any object “actually being there” reminds me that in reality nothing is actually there and it is just the emptiness of my very subtle mind assuming the form of (disguised as) the object. Like any subject, the more I remind myself of the meaning of emptiness, the more familiar I become with this wisdom, and the more deeply I undestand and the more easily I remember it in a virtuous cycle.
The second way I practice this is I try stop thinking of myself as somehow separate from everything, but rather to consider Ryan as merely a single wave on the ocean of my the emptiness of my very subtle mind of great bliss. We naturally identify with our mind. If we see all of reality as being by nature our mind, we start to identify ourselves as being the nature of everything. Put another way, we see the entire universe as being by nature us. I cease to be just Ryan and instead I feel as if I am the ocean of everything. Every single phenomena is a wave on the ocean of my mind. Samsara is my mind in the aspect of a turbulant, uncontrolled stormy ocean. The pure land of my self-generation practice is my mind in the aspect of Keajra (Heruka’s pure land). This is why it is called a “yoga” of self-generation. In normal yoga, we put our body in certain positions (sometimes strange and uncomfortable positions) and then hold that positition and learn to relax into it. In the same way, in our self-generation practice, we put all of our mind into the “mental position” or shape of Keajra, and then hold that position and learn to relax into it. By adopting this ocean view, the duality between ourselves and all phenomena falls away and we experience reality as if all phenomena were inseparably one (and this oneness is ourselves).
On the basis of this experience, all of the vast path of Sutra comes effortlessly. In says in the Lamrim texts that bodhichitta, or the wish to become a Buddha so as to lead all beings to freedom, is the quintessential butter that comes from churning all of the Dharma. When I see all phenomena, which includes all other living beings, as waves on the ocean of my very subtle mind, each and every being becomes an aspect or a part or a limb of me. This doesn’t mean all beings are parts of Ryan, rather it means Ryan is just one aspect or part or limb or wave of the bigger me which is the ocean of my mind. The same is then true of all other beings – each is a wave, but we are all by nature the same ocean. There is nothing about the Ryan wave that is more important than any other wave. So just as I strongly wish for the Ryan wave to never again experience suffering and to attain enlightenment, so too I naturally wish for every other wave to attain the same state. If all of my body were in acid, but my nose was not, my nose would not be satisfied with this! I would want all of myself to be free. Bodhichitta becomes not some distant mind, but it becomes an issue of simple complete self-preservation. If I am no longer just Ryan, but am instead the ocean of all living beings, since I naturally wish for myself to be free, if I am all living beings then wishing for my true self to be completely free is the same thing as wishing all beings were free, and vice versa. I naturally then feel a feeling of deep and natural responsibility for the welfare and freedom of everyone.
This post is already too long, but I will just throw out one last way in which I try practice this. The practice of pure view is a mental ‘yoga.’ I put my mind in the mental position or shape of viewing myself and all beings as being already Buddhas in the pure land and then I engage in the mental action of believing this to be true. This mental action actually functions to re-shape the Play Dough of my mind into this new aspect. Each time I engage in this action, I plant the karma on my mind which when it ripens causes the ocean of my mind to take on the form or aspect of the pure land. With enough training and enough familiarity, the shape of my mind is gradually transformed from samsara into the pure land. Both are the same nature of the emptiness of my very subtle mind of great bliss (equality of samsara and nirvana), but one is by nature suffering and the other is by nature great bliss. Bliss is better! 🙂