Buddhists are reluctant to talk about the ultimate nature
of human beings. But those who are willing to make descriptive
statements at all usually say that our ultimate essence
or Buddha nature is pure, holy and inherently good.
The only reason that human beings appear otherwise is
that their experience of that ultimate essence has been
hindered; it has been blocked like water behind a dam.
The hindrances are the bricks of which the dam is built.
As mindfulness dissolves the bricks, holes are punched
in the dam and compassion and sympathetic joy come flooding
forward. As meditative mindfulness develops, your whole
experience of life changes. Your experience of being
alive, the very sensation of being conscious, becomes
lucid and precise, no longer just an unnoticed background
for your preoccupations. It becomes a thing consistently
passing moment stands out as itself; the moments no
longer blend together in an unnoticed blur. Nothing
is glossed over or taken for granted, no experiences
labeled as merely 'ordinary'. Everything looks bright
and special. You refrain from categorizing your experiences
into mental pigeonholes. Descriptions and interpretations
are chucked aside and each moment of time is allowed
to speak for itself. You actually listen to what it
has to say, and you listen as if it were being heard
for the very first time. When your meditation becomes
really powerful, it also becomes constant. You consistently
observe with bare attention both the breath and every
mental phenomenon. You feel increasingly stable, increasingly
moored in the stark and simple experience of moment-to-moment
your mind is free from thought, it becomes clearly wakeful
and at rest in an utterly simple awareness. This awareness
cannot be described adequately. Words are not enough.
It can only be experienced. Breath ceases to be just
breath; it is no longer limited to the static and familiar
concept you once held. You no longer see it as a succession
of just inhalations and exhalations; it is no longer
some insignificant monotonous experience. Breath becomes
a living, changing process, something alive and fascinating.
It is no longer something that takes place in time;
it is perceived as the present moment itself. Time is
seen as a concept, not an experienced reality.
is simplified, rudimentary awareness which is stripped
of all extraneous detail. It is grounded in a living
flow of the present, and it is marked by a pronounced
sense of reality. You know absolutely that this is real,
more real than anything you have ever experienced. Once
you have gained this perception with absolute certainty,
you have a fresh vantage point, a new criterion against
which to gauge all of your experience. After this perception,
you see clearly those moments when you are participating
in bare phenomena alone, and those moments when you
are disturbing phenomena with mental attitudes. You
watch yourself twisting reality with mental comments,
with stale images and personal opinions. You know what
you are doing, when you are doing it. You become increasingly
sensitive to the ways in which you miss the true reality,
and you gravitate towards the simple objective perspective
which does not add to or subtract from what is. You
become a very perceptive individual. From this vantage
point, all is seen with clarity. The innumerable activities
of mind and body stand out in glaring detail. You mindfully
observe the incessant rise and fall of breath; you watch
an endless stream of bodily sensations and movements;
you scan a rapid succession of thoughts and feelings,
and you sense the rhythm that echoes from the steady
march of time. And in the midst of all this ceaseless
movement, there is no watcher, there is only watching.
this state of perception, nothing remains the same for
two consecutive moments. Everything is seen to be in
constant transformation. All things are born, all things
grow old and die. There are no exceptions. You awaken
to the unceasing changes of your own life. You look
around and see everything in flux, everything, everything,
everything. It is all rising and falling, intensifying
and diminishing, coming into existence and passing away.
All of life, every bit of it from the infinitesimal
to the Indian Ocean, is in motion constantly. You perceive
the universe as a great flowing river of experience.
Your most cherished possessions are slipping away, and
so is your very life. Yet this impermanence is no reason
for grief. You stand there transfixed, staring at this
incessant activity, and your response is wondrous joy.
It's all moving, dancing and full of life.
you continue to observe these changes and you see how
it all fits together, you become aware of the intimate
connectedness of all mental, sensory and affective phenomena.
You watch one thought leading to another, you see destruction
giving rise to emotional reactions and feelings giving
rise to more thoughts. Actions, thoughts, feelings,
desires -- you see all of them intimately linked together
in a delicate fabric of cause and effect. You watch
pleasurable experiences arise and fall and you see that
they never last; you watch pain come uninvited and you
watch yourself anxiously struggling to throw it off;
you see yourself fail. It all happens over and over
while you stand back quietly and just watch it all work.
of this living laboratory itself comes an inner and
unassailable conclusion. You see that your life is marked
by disappointment and frustration, and you clearly see
the source. These reactions arise out of your own inability
to get what you want, your fear of losing what you have
already gained and your habit of never being satisfied
with what you have. These are no longer theoretical
concepts -- you have seen these things for yourself
and you know that they are real. You perceive your own
fear, your own basic insecurity in the face of life
and death. It is a profound tension that goes all the
way down to the root of thought and makes all of life
a struggle. You watch yourself anxiously groping about,
fearfully grasping for something, anything, to hold
onto in the midst of all these shifting sands, and you
see that there is nothing to hold onto, nothing that
see the pain of loss and grief, you watch yourself being
forced to adjust to painful developments day after day
in your own ordinary existence. You witness the tensions
and conflicts inherent in the very process of everyday
living, and you see how superficial most of your concerns
really are. You watch the progress of pain, sickness,
old age and death. You learn to marvel that all these
horrible things are not fearful at all. They are simply
this intensive study of the negative aspects of your
existence, you become deeply acquainted with dukkha,
the unsatisfactory nature of all existence. You begin
to perceive dukkha at all levels of our human life,
from the obvious down to the most subtle. You see the
way suffering inevitably follows in the wake of clinging,
as soon as you grasp anything, pain inevitably follows.
Once you become fully acquainted with the whole dynamic
of desire, you become sensitized to it. You see where
it rises, when it rises and how it affects you. You
watch it operate over and over, manifesting through
every sense channel, taking control of the mind and
making consciousness its slave.
the midst of every pleasant experience, you watch your
own craving and clinging take place. In the midst of
unpleasant experiences, you watch a very powerful resistance
take hold. You do not block these phenomena, you just
watch them, you see them as the very stuff of human
thought. You search for that thing you call 'me', but
what you find is a physical body and how you have identified
your sense of yourself with that bag of skin and bones.
You search further and you find all manner of mental
phenomena, such as emotions, thought patterns and opinions,
and see how you identify the sense of yourself with
each of them. You watch yourself becoming possessive,
protective and defensive over these pitiful things and
you see how crazy that is. You rummage furiously among
these various items, constantly searching for yourself--physical
matter, bodily sensations, feelings and emotions--it
all keeps whirling round and round as you root through
it, peering into every nook and cranny, endlessly hunting
find nothing. In all that collection of mental hardware
in this endless stream of ever-shifting experience all
you can find is innumerable impersonal processes which
have been caused and conditioned by previous processes.
There is no static self to be found; it is all process.
You find thoughts but no thinker, you find emotions
and desires, but nobody doing them. The house itself
is empty. There is nobody home.
whole view of self changes at this point. You begin
to look upon yourself as if you were a newspaper photograph.
When viewed with the naked eyes, the photograph you
see is a definite image. When viewed through a magnifying
glass, it all breaks down into an intricate configuration
of dots. Similarly, under the penetrating gaze of mindfulness,
the feeling of self, an 'I' or 'being' anything, loses
its solidity and dissolves. There comes a point in insight
meditation where the three characteristics of existence--impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness and selflessness-- come rushing home
with concept-searing force. You vividly experience the
impermanence of life, the suffering nature of human
existence, and the truth of no self. You experience
these things so graphically that you suddenly awake
to the utter futility of craving, grasping and resistance.
In the clarity and purity of this profound moment, our
consciousness is transformed. The entity of self evaporates.
All that is left is an infinity of interrelated non-personal
phenomena which are conditioned and ever changing. Craving
is extinguished and a great burden is lifted. There
remains only an effortless flow, without a trace of
resistance or tension. There remains only peace, and
blessed Nibbana, the uncreated, is realized.
BOOK ENDS HERE]