Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Eliminating pain and suffering from oneself -- Enter the Ordinary Mind

Among all the flowers I have ever seen, the Lotus is the most beautiful. No matter how hard we try, the beauty of the Lotus cannot be fully described. We can admire its beauty, but cannot tell why. This gives meaning to the phrase "Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder". What purpose does this serve to know why the Lotus is unique in its shape and form?

Nature has unique ways to stimulate one's perceptions of the environment we live in, and for us to think, understand, gain more knowledge and reach a higher state of the conscious Mind. In Buddhist philosophy the giver of knowledge, Avalokiteshvara, holds a Lotus flower in a gesture which symbolically epitomizes the transfer of knowledge between the giver and receiver. In fact, the living environment around us is Avalokitheshvara. It is Avalokiteshvara who generates the thought in our Minds. The Lotus is a symbol for attracting the attention of the curious and inquisitive, by its enchanting beauty. Avalokiteshvara is referred to as Padmapaani, which means Holder of the Lotus, or Lokeshvara which means Lord of the World.

The Lotus is a symbol of purity in Mind and Body in many cultures, and is admired throughout the World. It is used in worship by several Eastern cultures, most notably in Hinduism and Buddhism.

In Hindu and Buddhist cultures, the Lotus is the seat for godly figures. It has a heavenly aroma which no synthetic perfume can mimic. The layers of petals, their shapes, and the geometrical arrangement, exhibit extraordinary symmetry. The Lotus is soft to touch and is extremely beautiful in its "form". It has medicinal values that match the requirements for basic life-support. Its ability to flourish with radiance in a harsh, beastly underwater environment of mud, algae, tadpoles and frogs, fish, and biodegradable decaying matter, is truly remarkable. It gives meaning to the term "co-existence" and analogously draws a parallel with the "Beauty and the Beast".

Color, shape, geometry and size integrate towards its beauty. There can be no other flower species as resilient, as highly tolerant, and one that can liven-up the harsh underwater environment by its extraordinary radiance. The leaf of a lotus plant is equally admirable. Its surface is 100 percent water repellent. Drops of water roll over the surface carrying dust and dirt with it. The flower and its supporting habitat serve as a Model to define the characteristics of sustainable environments. All these characteristics of the Lotus plant serve as a source for several bio-inspired concepts that are required for building self-sustainable environments. What makes the underwater World so extraordinary and biologically diverse for the Lotus to show such beauty? -- I have wondered. 

If a Lotus had a Mind of its own, and there were no other lotuses nearby,  wouldn't the Lotus feel extremely lonely? Is this the beginning for pain and suffering? If there a desire to have other lotuses nearby, can the desire be removed from the Mind of the Lotus? 

The harshness we see in the underwater World of a Lotus, is indeed its strength and soul-mate. With the strength of its root structure and the nourishment provided by natural underwater environment, the Lotus radiates its full beauty. It does not feel the need for other lotuses nearby. This means the elimination of pain and suffering.

Our life is filled with anxiety of one form, or another. This anxiety causes one to feel stressed until the expected outcome, or desired results are obtained. We therefore experience many ups and downs in our mental state, which almost feels like a roller-coaster ride. In a family relationship, the anxiety is due to two or more  independent expectations that could all be in conflict, thereby making it impossible to take decisions. This is the beginning of at least one form of human pain and suffering.

I have wondered how one can block pain and suffering in our Minds, if at all possible. Can we just block the mental pain? Can we block the effects of suffering from penetrating in to our Minds? How do we block pain and suffering from all the things we experience? What gives us the power to block any perceptions of pain and suffering? These and many more questions arouse our curiosity and inquisitiveness to understand why there is pain and suffering in one's life.

The answer of course is simple. The Heart Sutra is a prescription for the type of mental transformation that one must experience to understand why pain and suffering exists, in the first place. The significance of this, is that it allows clear examination of one's own Self, an inner Self. We can see our innate imperfections that caused such anxiety, and put an end to it. We can understand others' imperfections as well, given that there are uncertainties in everything we try to understand. We have a path towards bringing joy and happiness to replace the pain and suffering. It is a self-experienced understanding for a path towards enlightenment.

A well known 7th century Koan affirms such a thought process and reads as follows: "If you see a Buddha on the road, kill him". It simply means, do not take the words of others as "final". Explore and experience the path on your own. It is this Koan, which draws parallels with any task we undertake, and has the effect of creating a self-driven force towards success. 

"Ga-the', Ga-the', para-gathe', parasam-gathe' , bodhi svaaha" "Going, Going, Gone forever, Gone forever fully, Enter Divine Buddha".

Whether one utters this Manthra in Sanskrit or in English, or for that matter in anyone's native language, the outcome is the same. Anyone can enter the state of emptiness if they are willing to cut-off sensory perceptions of pain and suffering of any kind. In the process of seeking the empty state of Mind, we begin to see all those instances which one needs to eliminate -- all instances that can cause, or have caused pain and suffering.

I said in my previous writing that I have understood a bit more of the significance of the Buddha Form on the Moon. What did I mean by that? I have come to understand that the Form on the Moon shows how one's own consciousness of the Ordinary Mind can be overwhelmed by the illogical and unconscionable Mind . This is synonymous to Mara attacking the Buddha Mind. The power to overcome pain and suffering, and the suffocating feeling of a "mask" trying to distort our perceptions by squeezing one's Mind, are indeed the messages from the Buddha Form on the Moon. 

Early AD Tibetan artist's perception of what Gautama Buddha was pointing to on the Moon

What is on the Moon
seen from many hundred thousand nautical kilometers away

And then from a few thousand kilometers away

And finally from a few 100 kilometers from the Moon
The Mara King appears to grip the Buddha Mind epitomizing Pain and Suffering in the human Mind 
Painting from a Laotian Monastery depicts Mara King attempting to distract Gautama Buddha in his meditative state.
(Reproduced under Wikimedia Commons Licensing)

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