“THE GREATEST OF ALL THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 20TH-CENTURY SCIENCE has been the discovery of human ignorance.” Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell. “OUR IGNORANCE, OF COURSE, HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US, AND ALWAYS WILL BE. What is new is our awareness of it, our awakening to its fathomless dimensions, and it is this, more than anything else, that marks the coming of age of our species.” Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The awakeness of those who are awake


A student asked her spiritual guide, “What is the enlightenment of the Buddhas?” (This is the same as asking, “What is the awakeness of those who are awake?”)
            “The enlightenment of the Buddhas,” her teacher answered, “is the nature of ordinary awareness.”
           
          What is the nature of ordinary awareness?

  1. Our real nature is not any knowledge that must be learned.
Studying the Pali language, for example, or learning about the “chakra system,” is not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever can be learned (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) is not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not anything that is hidden or secret.
Being intitiated into a secret practice, a secret mantra, a secret text, and so forth, is not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever can be kept secret and must be discovered or revealed (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) is not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not any experience or state that must be attained. Archetypal visions, ecstasies of energy, “rising through the lotus of light,” and so forth, are not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Subtle visions,[1] energies, inner lights and other higher psychic phenomena that may occur (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) are not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not any body-mind condition that must be held in place. Manipulating and controlling the body-mind and life-force by intellectual effort, or by celibacy, diet, or yogic practices (such as concentration on energy channels, or continuous prayer, or breathing techniques) are not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever conditions must be maintained through effort (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) are not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature can only be that which is always, already real.
We are not identical to any object or changing state of the body-mind, no matter how subtle or glorious. Our truth must be the ever-present capacity of all possible states of body and mind, “low” and “high.” Our original nature is not bound to time (not a matter of becoming), nor bound to space (not “within” or “without”—indeed, not locatable anywhere). Our reality is the Irreducible Mystery that undermines the seeker and all seeking. It is the awakeness of those who are awake, the nature of ordinary awareness, the timeless conscious being, who stands already free as the Heart, the Real Person, depending on nothing.


[1] A Zen fable goes: A beginning meditator exclaimed to his teacher in a gush of emotion, “I had a vision of the Buddha, seated on a lotus throne, surrounded by beatific beings!” His teacher replied, “Don’t be concerned. Just keep on meditating and such stuff will go away.”

"Knowledge and Certainty"


Jacob Bronowski's "Ascent of Man" video series is decades old, but still wonderful. The quotes below are from the episode "Knowledge and Certainty."

“One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an exact picture of the material world. One achievement of physics in the 20th century has been to prove that that aim is unattainable."

"There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition; and that is what quantum physics says. I mean that literally.”

"Whatever units the world is put together from, they are more delicate, more fugitive, more startling than we can catch in the butterfly net of our senses."

"All knowledge, all information between human beings can only be exchanged within a play of tolerance.”