Posted by: Soh
Good article I read many years ago by David Loy: 

Posted by: Soh

Realization of “One Sense”

(by James M. Corrigan)

Filed under Prose
What leads one to the realization that there is truly only one sense, not five or six as we normally understand experience?
Answer: One way that this realization arises is out of the process of “turning hearing around,” which is both a deconstruction of the subtle structuring of experience that is normally overlooked, and ultimately a direct experience.
Even though we may understand the emptiness of thoughts and other sensations, which arise without any intrinsic self-reality, and though we may also have direct non-conceptual experiences, what is still present is the perspective, even if there is no inferred, actual, or imagined observer/knower involved. This is the normal perspective that we all have, because it is our familiar way of experiencing things. So, in hearing something that is arising impersonally, we still understand it to be “heard,” even if we know there is no one to hear, nothing to hear, etc. But instead of taking that perspective, turn it around: “you,” which is that perspective even when it is stripped of all the concretions of ego and identify, is still a false structure. “You” are confusing, through a subtle structuring of direct experience, what is actually happening. “You” are doing this because you understand hearing to be structured as a perception, therefore encompassing something perceived and the perception of it.
Sound is a manifesting experience that is empty of an intrinsic self-nature like everything that manifests is. You neither create it, nor hear it in a dualistic sense. Instead it is experienced because all that is manifesting is the process of knowing. This knowing is not self-centered, so all the problems of shared knowledge are not present, but a perspective still exists. So which way, truly, should the perspective be pointing? From an illusory “you” that, lacking an intrinsic self-nature, isn’t real at all, toward a “sound” that is just as illusory? Or from the source of the manifestation towards the manifestation? That latter perspective is our normal perspective turned around. When we realized that there is no “me” or ego “here” we forgot to realign our more fundamental understandings of perceiving and experiencing, leaving this subtle error to trip us up, and leading to a proliferation of identified types of perceptions and senses.
Once you understand that there has been that subtle misunderstanding of the experience of hearing sound, every time you experience sound, note the error and force yourself to understand “sound” as just something arising in mind, and by that I mean being selflessly natured, so really not having a source at all. Done with some dedication, suddenly you will experience it directly, without effort, because that is how it truly is. And once you have that direct experience you will understand that all of the senses are like this, and they will all collapse into the only sense there truly is—selfless naturing, which is the process of knowing.
It’s easiest to do this with hearing “unstruck sound,” in my experience, because the overpowering attraction of a source, like a tree falling in a forest, is absent with “unstruck sound” which has no source in what is manifested.
Unstruck sound has been referred to in many ways, even by me. Some of them are: unborn sound, Anahata Nada, Chönyid kyi rangdra, Dharmata Swayambhu Nada, Divine Tremoring, Shabd, Eternal Sound, Music of the Spheres, Primordial Sound, Sound of Creation, Soundless Sound, the Word of God, Autogenous Resonance, and others.
Question: It is difficult to comprehend that sound isn’t dependent on a source. How can this be?
Answer: In my experience, there are two ways that sounds can arise: as sympathetic resonances in the mind based upon manifest conditions, and autogenous resonances in the mind. I use the word “resonance” so as not to confuse what I am speaking of with normal “sounds” that we understand we hear in a dualistic sense, and the difference between sympathetic and autogenous must be fleshed out below. But note that the word “autogenous” is being used, not because its meaning is accurate, but because, properly understood, it’s meaning can be clearly intuited. Once one clarifies their understanding, the “auto-“ prefix is seen not as indicating a relation to a self-entity, but to the “essence of self-less naturing,” i.e. “emptiness.” So, onward…
Since everything is empty of an intrinsic self-nature, everything that arises does so spontaneously and uncaused. I experience a self-less (actor or agent-less) naturing and mindfully do not infer a cause or source of that naturing as many do, because that is intellect trying to impose rational order on our understanding. Thus, for me, there is nothing to be known apart from this naturing, and that necessarily includes the understanding that there is no entity such as a “nature” that is naturing.
In all cases, this naturing is the event-horizon between the intelligible—all that we experience, and which can be puzzled out, to make sense of—and what is beyond the intelligible. And of what is beyond the intelligible, there is nothing that can truthfully be said, although interpretive explanations abound in religious and spiritual traditions. But the fact that the naturing itself, as well as what is natured, is intelligible, at least in some respects, provides a hook into a more subtle understanding, as I will explain. By this I mean, for example, that we can note that what manifests is coherent—things go together—so we can say something like: “this naturing, while spontaneous and uncaused, is conditioned by what has already manifested.”
First, this naturing is viscerally known. It’s not a knowing of something, and it’s not a knowing by someone, it’s just an awake/aware naturing, so while ultimately empty of selfhood, it is also ultimately pregnant with infinite possibility of visceral presence.  If this was not the case, then nothing would or could be known, given that what manifests has no intrinsic self-nature, and reality is an inside without an outside, so there are no other forces, causes, actors, etc. at play here.
But in our experience, it is noted that what arises is somehow coherent with what is already the case. At least, that is how intellect orders experience. I understand our idea of “time” to be just such an ordering placed upon what appears in the eternal (i.e. timeless) Now, in which there is no time, so no past, no future, no present—only presence. I have noted that the coherence is not the result of causality, but of conditioned freedom, thus what arises is coherent with the range of possibility opened up by what is manifest Now, but it is not caused directly by it—how could that be, since there is no “it” and no separation, nor “self-causality,” and thus without such bounds, there can be surprise, novelty, range, awesome serendipity, etc.
What is experienced is always arising in mind (i.e. naturing), and what we experience arises sympathetically (coherently) with current conditions—the state of the universe, so to speak. The perspective, the “I” and the “we,” is what is imposed upon reality by intellect, and intellect is the acquired habits of conceptualization and thought, a kind of karma I suppose, that imposes a narrowing down of focus. That narrowing can be overcome… but that’s another subject.
And in the case of sound, everything up to, but not including, the magical idea that consciousness arises from some quantity, configuration, or function of physical matter, that scientists have observed, holds. Yes, a tree falls and it’s falling conditions the arising of pressure (sound) waves that travel through the air, striking our ears, which are so structured that when the pressure changes condition a vibration in the eardrum, those vibrations condition impulses that move into the brain, which conditions further electrical and chemical activity in the brain, which conditions the arising of sound. But all of those steps, are just intellect imposing ordering upon the dichotomized conditions that are selflessly natured.
So, “sound,” properly speaking, arises only in the naturing (called “mind”) based upon manifest conditions. Sound is thought of as a kind of vibration, but the time and space that vibration requires are also impositions of order by intellect upon this naturing—they are our way of conceptually explaining experience, ordering it, and showing where we have cut things up with our distinguishing thoughts.
What we are trying to do with such orderings is explain what is beyond the event horizon of self-less naturing. But given that we cannot truly succeed, what happens if we just step back and don’t impose an intellectual order? What is “sound?” It can only be the visceral (known) presencing of this self-less naturing, and specifically one kind of presencing that our intellect distinguishes from all other kinds (the concept of “kinds” itself shows this to be the result of intellection). Vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell, and thinking are all just subtle structures of distinctions that intellect imposes on self-less naturing. And light, sound, tastes, kinds of physical touching, and smells, as well as thoughts, are all just distinctions that the ordering intellect imposes upon what selfless naturing is manifesting, in this case pointing to the content of the distinguished experiences.
Thus, what is manifest is intelligible in this way. We can, through habit of thought, whether self-developed or learned, make all these distinctions and order all the conditions and coherency in such a way that we build this whole edifice of a world of separate things somehow interacting together through causal relations. And we do this without intent, thoughtlessly! These habits are the very structuring that we have become so accustomed to.
But there are manifestations for which there are no conditions, such as a source for a particular kind of sound that we can experience. We can distinguish these sounds into kinds, but cannot relate them to any conditions that, such as a tree falling, open the possibility of these sounds arising, so they can be called “unconditioned,” or “unstruck”. And in our normal, sleepy way of being, we don’t even notice them, but in deep meditation we can. And when experienced in meditation, they are called “nimittas,” or “meditation signs,” also “siddhis,” and “charismata,” among other names.
When they are experienced, and clearly so as unconditioned sound, they can be referred to as the “resonances of selfless naturing” as well as all the other names from different traditions that I gave earlier. I call them “autogenous resonances.”
We tend to screen these out of our awareness (i.e. we do not turn our attention to them even when they become apparent), or we immediately think, upon hearing them, that we are ill and run to a doctor for drugs or therapy to make them go away. But being that they are unconditioned, there is no intelligible link between them and current conditions in or around us, and so the intellect can’t jump in and say “over there, over there! that’s where they are coming from” thus imposing a subtle conceptual structuring, and even a dualistic perspective, on what we are experiencing. Thus these are the easiest way to see through the dichotomization of our experiences into kinds of phenomena perceived by kinds of senses, collapsing it all into just self-less naturing, which we habitually call “mind.”
I don’t know if this is helpful, without a direct experience of these sounds. Just stay vigilant and if you notice them, follow them. The trail leads to surprising experiences and insights.
Question: What is this “non-conditioned” referring to? Buddha taught that all that arises does so contingently, which is referred to as “dependent origination” in Buddhism, so doesn’t this go against his teaching?
Answer: No, this doesn’t go against what the Buddha taught. It’s comes out of a subtle point about the truth of Dependent Origination—which is that while what arises originates in dependence upon conditions, this truth is not itself dependent upon anything. Dependent Origination holds independent of conditions—there is no contingency upon which it is or is not true.
And what I am saying reflects a more wholistic understanding than Dependent Origination when it is emphasized out of the context of Emptiness.  Dependent Origination and Emptiness are not two truths, they are two perspectives upon nondual reality. On its own, Dependent Origination could be just a codification of the conceptual idea of Causality, and that is how it is often understood, in my experience with others, given the tendency to speak about “causes and conditions” as if they are they same thing. What I am speaking of as non-conditioned is useful for seeing that sound arises solely in mind, and this insight originates in a direct experience I’ve attained and is not the result of speculative intellection. I am presenting this explanation to overcome the absence of first-hand experience of it, pointing others to the possibility of using unconditioned sound as a meditation support, and its superiority as a support.
So, what is non-conditioned is the naturing itself… this processual unfolding is unborn, timeless, and immortal. There is no condition that allows it to be, or not be. What is conditioned is the contingent arising of coherent manifestation, which is called Dependent Origination. That which is unconditioned can also be found in the spontaneous freedom of naturing—because conditions don’t cause anything to arise, they are merely the conditioning of possibility, so that, what arises is not specifically caused, but is dependent upon the conditions that made it possible for them to arise.
The unconditioned sounds that I speak of arise as the resonance of this naturing in the same fashion as the universal ether, the Akasha, is conventionally understood to be both the medium for vibrational movement (sound), as well as, more subtly, nothing other than the vibrational movement. Thus self-less naturing—“dharmata” in Buddhism—can be directly experienced as resonant sound, as well as the manifested appearances. These unconditioned sounds are the naturing of what manifests, thus we can turn towards the naturing in its bare essence as resonance empty of a cause—the non-conceptual emptiness of all that manifests—or toward the formal, structured experience of all that manifests. This is unconditioned sounds’ importance as a meditational support, and the origin of its power to heal and transform.
Posted by: Soh

Malcolm Smith (Lopon Namdrol) wrote:
"I never maintained that N had no views at all. I have always maintained that he had no view concerning existence and nonexistence."
"He (Nagarjuna) states in the VV that he has no propositions/thesis concerning svabhāva as defined by his opponents. He does not say he has no views at all. For example, he clearly states in the MMK that he prefers the Sammitya view of karma.
Your claim is similar to the mistaken assertion made by some who claim that Candrakirti never resorts to syllogisms, which in fact he clearly does in the opening lines of the MAV. What Candra disputes is not syllogistic reasoning in its entirety, but rather, syllogistic reasoning applied to emptiness.
Likewise, he clearly asserts the view in the VV that there is no svabhāva in phenomena. Madhyamaka is not a simple minded "I have no view" proposition."
"There are only two of those views, i.e., "It exists" and "It does not exist." Nāgārjuna negates these two because he has a view — dependent origination, which he calls the "the pacification of views.""
"You are confusing emptiness with dependent origination. Emptiness is a negation, but dependent origination is a statement on how conditiond things function, i.e things do not arise from themselves, from other, from both or without a cause.
You are also making the mistaken argument that views cannot be antidotal, that they are invariably pathological. Thus, Candrakirti states that right view, emptiness, is the antidote for wrong views.
I think you are getting a little too carried away with your anti-view view."
"As long as we understand, as I pointed out at the very beginning here, that "all views" simply means views of existence and nonexistence.
Is it possible to express anything concerning this truth? Perhaps this:
"There is no distinction whatsoever between saṃsāra and nirvāṇa.
There is no distinction whatsoever between nirvāṇa and saṃsāra."
MMK 25.19
Or perhaps more apt:
This pair, samsara and nirvana, do not exist.
However thorough knowledge of samsara is nirvana.
But of course, all of this concerns the objective state of phenomena, and not how we subjectively experience the path and its realization."
"But it clearly is a view: "Where this arises, that arose; with the arising that, this arose; where cease ceases, that ceases; with the cessation of that, this ceases."
How does dependent origination function? It functions because entities are empty of existence and nonexistence. That emptiness is what is not to be taken as a view. But dependent origination is acceptable as a view. Why? This is the question you need to ask yourself. If Buddha taught no views at all, then there is no need for Dharma, a path, nor could there be a result."
"The Buddha did not teach emptiness as a view, indeed, but he certainly taught dependent origination as a view. In fact it is what is called "right view.""
"Ummmm...Nāgārjuna held the metaphysical view that sentient beings take rebirth, that past actions ripen, that merit must be accumulated in order to earn the marks of a buddha, etc. So obviously this is not the case."
"He is saying precisely that the reality of phenomena is dependent origination and emptiness, depending on which way one is seeing things.
For example, in the 70 he says:
The nature of all things is empty.
For what reason? The nature of all things
is an assembly of causes and conditions.
or, because there is neither being nor nonbeing
in each and every thing, they are empty
He is here declaring that the nature or reality (the state of being pertaining to things) of all things is emptiness.
He says,
Having realized things are empty,
one will not be confused because of seeing correctly"

Reminded me of what Thusness said in 2014,

"I m not into no view...but actualization of right view. We all know views r only provisional and r approximate of "reality" but some views r better representations of "reality" than others. I m not into "no view", that will lead us into taking "non conceptuality" as the goal of practice. I hv no issue adopting "right view", "non conceptuality of view" to me simply means not to let "view" remains intellect and conceptual but have experiential insight and actualized it in daily activities."
Posted by: Soh
in INNER KNOWLEDGE by James Corrigan%s Comment Part Two of REALITY AND EXISTENCE.

Because what is real must be simple, it must be nondual. This nondual oneness of reality is the great mystery at the heart of all things. It’s why people who talk about it are called mystics and what they’re talking about is called mysticism. You might think that saying non-dual or One captures reality, but it doesn’t at all. That expression I used above when describing my experience as a young man, unseen loving light, fails to capture what was, at that moment, and similarly, non-dual and One fails to capture what is real.

The best explanation of why that is, that I’ve ever read, is from a 3rd Century Neo-Platonic mystic named Plotinus. I’ll quote what he said, but don’t get lost in it. Why? Because it is often more helpful to use a visual or allegorical depiction when dealing with a difficult subject such as that of the nonduality of reality. Speaking of the nature of reality necessarily introduces errors that cannot be overcome, unless one uses a technique designed to mitigate such structural errors which are introduced by everyday dualistic language, since all language is unsuited for metaphysical and spiritual discourse in the sense that it was created for the marketplace, according to the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.

One such technique used almost universally by mystics is apophasis, which means unsaying or saying away. In apophasis all statements are signs in a most indeterminate way, since they are used to point to that which can only be apprehended in a flash of illumination, or gnosis. It must be noted that apophasis is a linguistic performance and is different in intent than apophatic, or negative theological statements, with which it is frequently confused. Those kinds of statements say what something isn’t. That’s not what is going on in the quote below in which Plotinus explains the problem that necessitates his use of apophasis in this section from his “Enneads:”

“Since the substance which is generated from the One is form one could not say that what is generated from that source is anything else – and not the form of some one thing but of everything, so that no other form is left outside it, the One must be without form. But if it is without form it is not a substance; for a substance must be some one particular thing, something, that is, defined and limited; but it is impossible to apprehend the One as a particular thing: for then it would not be the principle, but only that particular thing which you said it was. But if all things are in that which is generated from the One, which of the things in it are you going to say that the One is? Since it is none of them, it can only be said to be beyond them. But these things are beings, and being: so it is beyond being.
“This phrase beyond being does not mean that it is a particular thing, for it makes no positive statement about it, and it does not say its name, but all it implies is that it is not this. But if this is what the phrase does, it in no way comprehends the One: it would be absurd to seek to comprehend that boundless nature; for anyone who wants to do this has put himself out of the way of following at all, even the least distance, in its traces; but just as he who wishes to see the intelligible nature will contemplate what is beyond the perceptible if he has no mental image of the perceptible, so he who wishes to contemplate what is beyond the intelligible will contemplate it when he has let all the intelligible go; he will learn that it is by means of the intelligible, but what it is like by letting the intelligible go.

“But this, what it is like must indicate that it is not like: for there is no being like in what is not a something. But we in our aporia, complete befuddlement, do not know what we ought to say, and are speaking of what cannot be spoken, and give it a name because we want to indicate it to ourselves as best we can. But perhaps this name One contains only a denial of multiplicity. This is why the Pythagoreans symbolically indicated it to each other by the name Apollo, in the negation of the multiple. But if the One, name and reality expressed, was to be taken positively it would be less clear than if we did not give it a name at all.”

The second guide I have adopted, is to see a kind of event horizon between the real and what exists. It’s an expression taken from Science where it is used to explain an hypothesized character of Black Holes. An horizon, as we all have or can experience, hides what is over the horizon from us. In the case of the expression event horizon, what I mean is that experience, which is easily analyzed into events, something we do all the time, still doesn’t show us what is over the horizon because the other side of that horizon cannot be directly experienced.

As Plotinus mentions, the intelligible must be let go of, if one is to reach enlightenment, in the same way that in order to reach the nature of the intelligible, one must meditate in a way that is free of all mental formations, mental images of independent things. What is the intelligible? Why, all experience, of course! Including all our theories, hypotheses, dogmatic assertions, and mental attempts to seize something that can never be within reach. We cannot understand what does not exist. But we can accept the reality of that which is evidenced, necessary, simple, and not contingent on anything for reality.

Yes, this is mystical. And that may grate our Western mindset even if we think we are better than that. We do so love our terminology! There will still be those that believe that they have the final answer to the riddle. But I learned from the example of Aristotle, renowned as The Philosopher in Western history, who, always looking to the material world for what was real, in the end realized that the only answer his exquisite powers of observation and reasoning could arrive at, was that God put everything in motion.

He failed. Why? Because he was trying to do something that is impossible. Not beyond our abilities; just impossible. He was holding onto the intelligible, searching for The Answer that he thought was there somewhere, and because he thought of Nature as an actor that had to be put into motion somehow. He also thought reality was populated with substantial entities, so he didn’t need to distinguish between what’s real and what exists. He didn’t realize that naturing is possible without a nature doing it, and that there was no need for the answer to why there is something, rather than nothing, there just is, and you and I cannot deny it, because in doing so, we affirm it. Nor can we point to a Nature that truly exists. It’s just idea that we have.

The tricky part is letting go of all those mental formations. There comes a point, the event horizon, when language, and ideas, just obfuscates our way completely. Which leads me to the point of this essay: What is known can only be known by appearing, in showing up the knowable is known. It’s that simple. But we are not the ones knowing. Let me explain this insight. If there is no observer and no true entities to be observed, then knowing cannot originate on this side of the event horizon which consists of that which exists, and therefore knowing cannot be structured as a seizing hold of, or grasping with awareness which is dualistic in the sense of involving a perceiver and the perceived a consciousness.

Frankly, there really can’t be any awareness on this side at all, which might explain why scientists can’t find it, but even speaking of awareness or knowing causes dualistic understandings to slip in because awareness is usually understood as being aware of something, as is knowing. This imputes a perspective into our understanding that is misleading and wrong. We may not see it as a perspective because we have removed the illusory me and you and it, so that it is now a perspective from nowhere; but that is still a perspective, and thus is still wrong.

This view from nowhere is widely found in science, where it is the basis for objectivity. But that kind of structural perspective can’t be real because it exists in experience. So this is my third guide: no views from nowhere. Any explanation that permits such a view to creep in, is defective in at least that way. This fundamental problem we have to confront, these perspectives, is exemplified by our tendency to speak of mind and body. This is yet another dualistic distinction we make because of our habitual failure to recognize our true nature, and that there is no entity in body, nor in mind, nor in the whole of both. Everything we think of, feel, and perceive is also lacking any independent reality. I could not, and I believe, nor can you, ignore what becomes so clear in deep meditation, that there is nothing other than this spontaneously creative naturing going on, and that is the true essence of Reality.

What we think of as mind or Mind is just the spontaneously creative naturing of forms, feelings, perceptions, consciousnesses, and mental constructions, the five Buddhist skandhas. We confuse the naturing of what exists with a mind that we lay claim to having, which finally dissolves in the clear light of meditative insight. Yet, if we adjust for the lack of an entity that we can call our mind, calling it instead, and grandly doing so, Mind, that is again a misconstrual of what is the case, because we think that Mind also knows or is aware in a conceptually dualistic sense, in most cases.
Naturing is not limited to the internal skandhas. Everything that exists has the same origin. This includes all forms: including the five skandhas, mountains, planets, galaxies, hummingbirds, trees, bacteria, quantum particles, wind fluttering leaves on a tree, a musical note, a kiss, a thought, etc. There is no mind entity in reality, neither is there a Nature entity. There is no place for knowledge to reside. That which is known is not known through cognizing in an awareness of sense, as if through reflection or contemplation of something, but directly through naturing. It’s the great mystery, of course.

I can think of an allegory to help you get over the initial difficulty that occurs as you try to swallow this argument, if you are hearing it before actually experiencing it: it’s something called the Piezo Electric effect. You make use of it all the time, in microphones, earbuds, even old phonograph pickups, as well as the clickers that ignite gas stoves today. A certain kind of crystal can create an electric field when sound vibrations strike it, causing it to slightly compress its structure. This is how a microphone works. The same crystal can vibrate and thus create sounds, when an electric current is passed through it. This is how earbuds work. In fact, the same crystal can be deformed in such a strong way by a large enough force that it can produce an electric spark in the kilovolt range. Using a small piston to strike the crystal is how a stove clicker works to create a spark. Think of the electric field as knowing and the crystal deformations as the known. They are not two things, they are the same process.

In a way, this allegory sits on the top of every Buddhist stupa in the form of the sun and moon, the Bindu-Nada void-point and vibrational emanation that our brains interpret as sound and which is the support of my meditation. I can only imagine what stupas would look like today, if they had had earbuds back in the day.
Posted by: Soh
Coming Home
By John Crook
Mahamudra Retreat 2005 - Session One

When we were introducing ourselves last night, several of you remarked on how valuable you found it just coming to the Maenllwyd and how much you valued the place.

Let us begin then by asking why that might be so. I have a good story that helps us here. Some years ago there was a practitioner, Jane Turner, whom some of you might remember, who used to be a regular retreatant at the Maenllwyd, driving herself here from north of Glasgow. One year she got the dates wrong and arrived here after her long journey in the wrong week! She told me about it afterwards. In those days the track, was largely undriveable so she had walked up the track only to find the place deserted; there was nobody here! The Maenllwyd was completely silent; not a soul! Locked up! Yet she told me that she was so radiantly happy just being here that when she went back down the hill and got in her car and drove back to Glasgow, it was almost as good as if she had done a retreat!

Jane, perhaps, was a slightly extreme case, but a lot of people make remarks along such lines, I myself sometimes arrive here and discover myself smiling; and, as is my wont, I sometimes ask myself, "What on earth are you smiling about?" I have often gone into that because I have found that if I just sat and allowed the smile, as it were, to seep into my bones, then I began to experience a move beyond smiling, into something really very blissful. And of course on such occasions, it isn't necessary to know why; Something is happening, which is bringing about a feeling of bliss. And indeed that bliss ... that joy ... at thinking about Maenllwyd or being here is, in many ways, a very important component of Dharma. Many people experience bliss in the course of meditation, but in this case it simply arises out of the smile at being here, or maybe even just thinking about the place.
So what is going on here? Well, Shifu gave me a clue to this many years ago when I was talking with him about the fact that sometimes in meditation blissful feelings arise. I had been experiencing bliss on retreat in New York with Shifu; and I went to him and I said, "What is all this bliss about?" So he said, "Well, bliss arises out of gratitude". "How come?" I said. "Well, what it means is that, without really knowing it, in meditation there has been a moment of stillness ... silence. You've got yourself out of the way. And because you did that, you feel gratitude; and gratitude produces bliss."

I have contemplated those remarks of Shifu's ever since .... and tested them out. And I find it to be true. When one experiences those moments of bliss in meditation, it emerges from a process of which one is not fully aware. One has dropped the cares of everyday life for a little while, and the fact that they have gone gives one a freedom and a clarity. And spontaneously, out of that freedom and clarity comes a feeling of thankfulness, gratitude; and that expresses itself in bliss.

I think something like the same thing happens when some of us arrive at the Maenllwyd ... or perhaps when one even thinks about the Maenllwyd, or maybe one does a visualisation which might involve the place. And it is not, of course, only Maenllwyd. Those of us who travel around and visit various monasteries or power places for meditation sometimes find the same thing happening there too. In fact it has to do with the fact that what we have been doing here is creating a little monastery. Maybe not exactly a monastery as a place, but rather a monastery of the mind, in that when we come here we practice a certain " dropping of attributes"; we let go. Maybe we're not always sure about that, and maybe some of us find it very difficult, but essentially the key thing that happens here is the letting go of care. When you arrive here you let go of something; you let go of the troubles of life. And you find yourself arriving and you find yourself smiling, and you say things like "coming to the Maenllwyd is like coming home". Many people say that. Home, of course, is a place where there is no care because one is 'at home'.

This is a very interesting discovery to reflect upon, because we may ask what is going on when one "drops care"? What's happening? One could say "Well, it's just that I'm away from the kids for a bit", or " I've left the office and don't have to worry any more about the bloody finances",., or "Thank God I'm away from him or her for the weekend" .... a bit of rest from the relationship. Any of these things might be, as it were, the stimulus, but that's a fairly shallow response. Because, of course, in problems of relationship, in problems of work, in problems of looking after the children, it is actually one's own performance that one is most worrying about and monitoring. "Am I a good enough Daddy?" "Am I a good enough friend?" "Oh, dear, I wasn't very nice on the phone last night." "Oh, I'm always stressed when I go to work; I'm no good at my job." Many of these things which we attribute to outside calamities, pressures, strains and stresses, are really actually internal strains and stresses. It is self concern.

So I put it to you that one of the things that happens when we arrive here, when we find ourselves "coming home", is that we drop self concern. And in dropping self concern, what does one find? Well, if you drop your self, then you allow a great space to appear; a great space for just appreciating precisely what's in front of your nose, namely: the yard; the clouds glowing in dawn light; a kite flying over; the sound of chanting. All of those things can then make a immediate and direct impression because 'You' are not in the way. You're not worrying about, for an example, "Am I meditating well today?", because you've dropped self concern. There is then no worry about whether you're meditating well or not! You're just sitting there. And if you're truly Just Sitting ... to use that Japanese expression ... if you are truly just sitting and not being there as a 'me', then everything is present to you, for you, of you ... in a kind of special freedom. It's what is called "emptiness" in the Buddhist jargon, the psychological experience that is thus named.

Unfortunately, 'emptiness' is also a technical term in the Buddhist philosophical vocabulary and this may be confusing. Whenever one wants to try to understand what emptiness is, one has to say "What am I or what is it ' empty' of? What is it that's 'gone empty'? And, if you've dropped self concern, that's marvellous: you're empty of self concern. And that's well on the way to enlightenment! We are smiling on arriving at the Maenllwyd because we have actually, unbeknown to ourselves, dropped care. And particularly , for a little while, dropped self concern.

So there's a very useful lesson in this; because, of course, dropping self concern is precisely what the Buddha was talking about in his first two Noble Truths. That's really quite a discovery. If one has found, as it were, an indirect way into understanding the Noble Truths, that's really very useful indeed. So how come? Well, let's just remember the pattern of the Buddha's fundamental thought here. The Buddha, as you know, was concerned about suffering, and suffering, of course, is self concern ... or in a very large measure, self concern. So suffering and self concern go together. So at the moment when self concern is dropped there is no longer suffering ... or, at least, a big alleviation of suffering. And Buddha called that a dropping of "ignorance": we are ignorant of the fact of self concern and the reasons for it. The Buddha worked out why. Self concern is usually concerned with time. It is usually about something I did in the past, or the fear of something in the future. Self concern is time bound. And time, of course, is the measure of impermanence.

The Buddha realized that absolutely the root for understanding suffering is to understand impermanence; because it is the fact that things are impermanent which causes us distress. Something beautiful happens, a lovely holiday on a Greek beach, and then it's gone and Winter comes. Spring comes, but then it goes again. The joyful love affair is over and one is left by one's self. One gets older and one realizes that, as somebody said last night, the idea that one is going to go on for ever (which one takes for granted when one is young) begins to fade, and one realizes that Time is shortening. It's all impermanence and, of course, what we do with impermanence, through our ignorance, is to grab onto things that we like and try to hold onto them and make them permanent, because then we can be "safe" and 'happy'. The reason why that is so ignorant is that we fail to face up to the fact of impermanence: things cannot be made permanent; nothing is permanent. The universe itself is not permanent; it's endlessly moving and God knows where it's going to ... and probably He doesn't either!

In our stupidity we try to make the things that we like permanent and to annihilate or get rid of the things that we don't like sometimes, even the people that we don't like. And this is ignorance, and the root of suffering. The Buddha called it anicca, But then the Buddha said, "Well, what is it that is so worried about impermanence?" Well, of course, it's Me. I'm worried about Me because I am impermanent; I am going to die one day. I'm going to get old; God knows what's going to happen. As somebody said yesterday, arriving on the retreat, "God knows what's going to happen here!" Quite Right! Goodness knows what's going to happen here!
It's scary, very scary; impermanence is scary ... if one is holding onto permanence. Of course, if one isn't holding onto permanence, it's not scary, obviously. The two go together. But time flies, troubles come, troubles go. Nothing to hold on to ...if one tries to hold on, it's like trying to grasp the wind. You can't do it. The Buddha's truth however, was to say "Well, who are you anyway? What are you? What is it you're holding on to?" Well, the Buddha realized that he was holding on to Siddhartha; I have to realize that I am holding on to John; you have to realize that you're holding on to Rebecca, or whoever it might be; Eddie. That's what we're holding on to. This thing which appears to be here; John, which appears to be here, is what I am holding on to because it is that which is changing, it is that which is fading, going away ... it won't be here much longer! So scary. But then, "What is this John?", asked the Buddha. This is where he made a very important discovery. Because when he examined himself through yogic meditation he was able to see very clearly that, actually, what was going on, what was called "John", was a process; not a thing, a process. And it could be divided up into five different aspects. Very simple; very simple psychology; but a very, very good model. It still works. It still works better than a good many modern models.

First of all, there is Sensation. Obviously, you feel something, a sensation; something happens. You sit on a drawing pin Ooooh!: a sensation.

But then there's Perception. Perception is "Oh, what's this? Have I sat on a scorpion? ... Oh, no. No, it's just a drawing pin; that's not so bad." That's perception. You perceive what the sensation is.
And then there's Cognition, which is working out why there happens to be a drawing pin on your chair: "Did someone put it there? Who could have done that? Somebody hates me, and put a drawing pin on my chair so I'd sit on it ... or is it just that I dropped one out of the box yesterday?" Or if it actually is a scorpion, "Oh, my God: scorpions! Better put down some DDT or something. Let's be nasty to scorpions for a change." That's cognition: working it out.

And then there are the so-called samscaras: we have to use the Pali word because it's rather difficult to find an English word for it. The samscaras are, as it were, the habit formations from all one's previous thinking, so you think now "What about scorpions? Yes, I remember about scorpions; well, they are supposed to occur in the South of France, so what is one of them doing here in England? It must have escaped from the zoo. But I haven't been near a zoo, so how can there be a scorpion here?" And so you start working out, by referring to the past, by referring to karma, why the present situation might be as it is. And of course it is these samscaras which become what you might call the "habit formations", because they determine what you worry about next. Thus karma is built up out of these samscaras, these past habits. So a mind, this John, is actually a complicated functioning of Sensation, Perception, Cognition, and habits of the past, which as it were make one decide what is good and what is bad. And all of it has a certain form: and that form ... bodily form ... bodily presence, that is what we call "John". But John is just a name; there is no John, there's just this process; the process of Sensation, Perception, Cognition and habits, going round and round and round. Quite temporary; moving through time, but no fixed entity, no John. John is just the name. So if John is just a name, where is John? Is John the perception? Well, no, that's not enough. Is it cognition alone? No, not enough. Is it the history? Is it the past? No, that's not John. So where is John? There is no John as a thing! It's just a name for the process. The Buddha called that anatta, No Self.

So. We have Impermanence; no self. Very radical; a very scary teaching. Because, of course, what we want is John, this thing, to be loved by everybody all the time (at least John likes that, to be loved by everybody all the time); John wants to be permanently young, permanently beautiful, permanently clever ... whereas, in fact, he is becoming increasingly idiotic, falling apart and getting dotty, and generally becoming absurd. That is the truth about John, it is the zen truth, total absurdity; one big dottiness after another! But that's not how we want things to be: that's because we get attached. So, ignorance is made up out of this attachment to something, which is a flowing, ever moving, process. There is no Thing to be attached to; there are just names. Language fools us: technically it is called "reification"; the making of things out of concepts. Just as another example, take the word Spring. We speak of Spring as a thing; but actually, of course, it is just a period in time, in which all sorts of other things are happening: we know there is Spring because the flowers flower. But we can't actually see Spring; Spring is just a word which refers to the period of time within which flowers flower. There is no Thing called Spring which you can grasp hold of. That's another example of reification. And me, John; you, Betty; whoever it might be, are just like that.

So, the Buddha's thought is very subtle here. But the problem is the illusion that there is a thing to which we can be attached, which we must be protective of. Now, in common sense terms, of course, conventionally, we do look after ourselves; that makes sense. But we don't have to be obsessively attached to the ego in the way in which we usually are; that's where self-concern comes in. Self-concern is actually illusory. Now this message of the Buddha is not so easily taken on board, because we are so easily convinced of the normality of John being John. This is why, in order to really understand the Buddha's message, we have to investigate the mind, to explore and find out whether these things are true or whether it is just the Buddha's fantasy. That's why we meditate. Meditation as it were is always the testing of a hypothesis. The hypothesis is "Where am I? I exist. Am I here?"

Am I here? Well, let's investigate it. And of course, what you find in meditation, as you calm the mind, as you practice, is that gradually the attachment to things begins to fade. You begin to find a kind of openness emerging. Something which is much more difficult to characterise; you can't find words for it. Language begins to fail because you're actually going beyond language. You're going into that which language tries to express but never entirely succeeds. Because it's just language; it's not the thing in itself. So we work at that and in our meditation we begin to test the Four Noble Truths for ourselves. In Buddhism, it is said you should never accept things on trust. There is faith in Buddhism, yes; but it's a faith in the method of exploration. It is not a faith in a thing; it is not an attachment. Faith is often an attachment to a concept. This is more like faith in an investigation, *an unending investigation, because there is no end to it. The universe goes on; we go on ... for as long as we're here. Then we disappear. But what an exciting adventure!

And the moment of smiling as you arrive at the Maenllwyd is a hint that there might be something in this. Because if it's true that you're smiling and enjoying being here because you've dropped your self, even for a moment, and just allowed the space of the place to impact upon you directly, you've actually tested the hypothesis. For when you drop attachment to self, the universe is there in all its wonderful turning, in all its manifestation as a place: Maenllwyd in December. "Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat" .... whether you're a vegetarian or not, the goose is still getting fat!
So we have then in this very simple beginning; this simple recognition of happiness at arriving home at a place we call Maenllwyd; the being open to the monastery and all that the monastery is for, we discover that we drop something. We can either investigate what it is that we have dropped or we can just enjoy the fact that we've dropped something, and let it take care of itself. That's fine also, although it may not allow one an understanding of what one is actually experiencing. So the letting go is an absolutely key thing in Buddhist practice. The Buddha himself discovered his insight through letting go, through the process of letting go. He didn't discover what eventually he knew by adding , as they say in zen, adding a head on a head, more ideas on top of more ideas, more philosophies on top of more philosophies. Intellectual construction isn't it at all. You drop the intellectual constructions and there It is the thing in itself; the Thing In Itself, which can never be quite caught by language, or fixed in philosophy. The experience of Being.

The experience of being is the experience of flowing. Being, in fact, is always becoming. It is never stationary; there is never a halt; there is never permanence. The challenge of Buddhism, the challenge of the words of the Buddha, is whether one can actually allow one's self to enter the flow of being, the flow of time, without trying to grab on to things which keep one safe. That's the challenge. And that's why an entry into Buddhism can be quite painful.

* There are people who come in interviews and meditation and say, "A strange thing happened today: I seemed to be about to fall into nothing". So I say, "Yes?" And they say, "... very scary". So I say, "Why?" "Well, I might not exist". And I say, "Yes, you might not exist."

It requires a certain nerve to say, "Okay, I'll fall into that nothing". So that, in your meditation, you let go of your attachment to your little self, just let go of it, and then you find the extraordinary freedom of the flowing of time without attachment. But it is not easy to do. One has to have a certain nerve to jump off the high diving board; as I know, having jumped off the top of high diving boards. I've done it, but I must say it was quite difficult! And I'm not talking about diving; I'm talking about just jumping into the water: "Oooooh! All the way down there!" Big splash! Yes, big splash, but rather nice.

So maybe out of this comes a key message for this retreat; in fact, for all retreats. Jump!

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