Sunday, February 24, 2013

What is underneath your feet cannot be seen

It is said that when Bodhidharma set out to spread the wisdom of Gautama Buddha, he headed East towards what is today, China. As he approached a large open space on one Full Moon night, he saw nothing except a barren piece of land. There were no bushes, no trees, nothing. It was a place where nothing could be perceived. It looked empty because there was nothing to see, or hear. There were no animals or creatures. It appeared as if it could be the most desolate place on Earth.

Suddenly, in the bright moonlit night, a perimeter guard, a warrior protecting his Emperor shouts from across the barren piece of land, : "Stop, or I will kill you". To this, Bodhidharma replies: "I am here to speak Buddha's Words of Wisdom. I come in peace. I can feel no pain if you kill me. Please kill me if you wish at this spot where I had to stop and could not proceed."

Feeling challenged, the angry warrior proceeds to cross the barren land. His brisk walking is slowed down quickly by his feet sinking in the ground. Every step he took made him sink under the ground by a few centimeters. As he began to sink, he screamed for help. Bodhidharma held out his hands and pulled him out of quicksand. It is said that the warrior was enlightened.

The philosophy behind this is for one to think things through before committing to do something that one wishes to achieve. One must have an extraordinary sense of awareness to perceive our environment.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Removing the grip of Mara from one's Mind

Regardless of the task that one wishes to undertake, it is good to realize that you are at the base of a small mountain and about to trek your way up to the top. When you get to the top, you find nothing is impossible.

It is the persistence and perseverance to reach a desired goal that gives a sense of personal satisfaction. It is a self-experienced understanding that cannot be shared with anyone. Words of expression do not convey our internal feelings of joy and happiness, or the sadness of experiencing mental anguish, in ways that the other can fully understand and experience those feelings the same way. No one can show a clear path in life to another. One must seek this path oneself. The Koan "If you see a Buddha on the way, Kill him" suggests such a rule. It simply means do not merely accept what others suggest that you should do. Do whatever you think is best and follow your own true instincts towards your goals. This would lead to finding the Buddha in oneself. This is the awakening of oneself.

It is said that Gautama Buddha while pointing his finger at the beautiful full Moon said to his five disciples that one must to see where the truth is. What could he be hinting to? - I have wondered.

Early AD painting of Mara's attack on the mental state of Gautama Buddha



Segment of the Bhavachakra shows Gautama Buddha pointing to the Moon, and Mara controlling the five senses that form the aggregates of the human Mind

False color image of the Moon made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, and what appears to be a Buddha form with a mask that envelops the Mind
I suppose all the pain and suffering we experience is because of our desire to perceive and see things in our life that are pleasurable. What if one thinks that it is in fact a sense of greed to see more and more.

For the cessation of all pain and suffering, the Heart Sutra is clearly a prescription for self-transformation. The Sutra epitomizes a state where nothing can be perceived. In such a state, the Mind itself does not exist. The Sutra states, "Mind is the Void, and Void is the Mind". The Manthra makes the transformation happen. The chant in one's Mind is synchronous with the thought of losing perception of one's own Mind. It does not matter in what language one chants.

The original Sanskrit text "गथे गथे पारगथे पारसम्गथे बोधि स्वाहा "written in English is "Gathe Gathe Para-Gathe, Parasam-Gathe, Bodhi Svaaha". Equivalently in English it is "Going Going, Gone away, Gone Forever, Enter Divine Buddha". The resonant power embodied in this Manthra is of such a nature that it can transport one's state of Mind from its present state in to a state of emptiness. The instantaneous power produced is of such a magnitude so as to enable one to observe one's own Mind and to control it. This is indeed the principle characteristic of all autonomous systems. It is the ability for complete self-control.

To overcome pain and suffering in our life, we must first understand why there is pain and suffering in the first place. The cause and its effect must be identified. We have to know what caused the pain and put an end to it. Suffering is the effect of pain. To counter the pain, it may appear easy at first to ignore the pain. But, ignoring pain leads to ignorance and more suffering. It is easy to perceive that our Mind is playing a game. It is a fierce battle of wits that must be overcome. Finding the way to enter the state of emptiness is analogous to removing oneself from a thick jungle of trees, wild bushes with prickly thorns, and where wild animals exist, and clearing a path through the jungle, chopping down thick bushes and vines that block our path.

How can one achieve such power, I have wondered. We are in a constant battle with our Mind. It is a debate for whether or not we should do something. The good side of one's Mind is constantly opposing the bad side of the Mind. At times it appears as a fight between the two. It is synonymous to the predator and prey characteristics of all biological systems. One cannot allow one's own Mind to be dictated by the unconscionable Mind. It is the evil spirit of Mara attempting to dominate the good nature of the conscious Mind. We see the pros and cons, positive and negative consequences, favorable and unfavorable outcomes, beneficial and non-beneficial results, and yet proceed to do things which go against the grain of commonsense. There is a sense of chaos where no decision seems possible.

Meditation tames the mind. Meditating brings extraordinary awareness to all things happening at this very moment. It enables enhanced perception of images formed in the Mind. It brings clarity in thought. It brings out the truth in oneself. It allows one to concentrate deeply on only one thought such as emptiness, for example, if that is the only thought we wish to focus on. Meditation allows one to become deeply focused on a thought process -- a chain of interlinked thoughts.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fear

Fear is very hard to describe. It is in one's Mind. I suppose it could be described as a feeling of apprehension to do something, and that something bad will happen. It is an unpleasant feeling caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, and that which is likely to cause pain or even death. A dare devil who performs death defying acts is fearless knowing very well that something can go wrong. The fearlessness of the individual indicates that any amount of pain may be tolerated. So how can one overcome fear I wonder.

On a recent visit to Vietnam we stayed for one night inside a floating cottage on the Mekong River. About 150 km from Saigon, we arrived at the transfer port in My Tho to be transported by boat to the cottage. It was past sunset and pitch dark. Although I could not see anything, I could somehow feel the immensity of the river. It was so dark that we had to shine a light near our feet to see where we were walking. 

Going up the river, I could feel the resistance of the motor boat trying to overcome the water flowing towards the boat. Other large and small boats passed by from the opposite direction. Some boats had no visual indicator such as a small light for others to see and to navigate safely. Of course these were thoughts that anyone who is foreign to the land would feel and develop a sense of fear. After just a few minutes in the boat I felt there was nothing I could do other than stare into the dark. Taking any pictures would just cause a bright flash but nothing was captured in terms of an image. I did take a couple of pictures. After that, I just sat back, listened to the roar of the diesel engine, the splashing of water caused by going upstream, and did not think about any possibility for collision. I felt safe in the hands of the boat driver, who seemed to see everything in the dark while I could not see a thing, nothing, in the pitch dark. We arrived at the floating cottage safely.
Sitting at the front of the boat and staring into pitch darkness on the Mekong River
Inside the floating cottage, a feeling of excitement and mystery
A light meal for four prepared elegantly
There was nothing we could see beyond the dimly lit cottage property. I could feel the flow of the River and yet was not sure how to perceive the breadth of the environment. 

I could not wait for the first light in the morning to take a look at the immensity of the river tributary on which we were staying.
A family drifting down the river 

Later in the morning we visited a small commune. Of course, it was a tourist spot. As I wandered around, I saw a cage approximately 4 meters long and a meter wide with a huge python.

I asked a person standing nearby if this is found in the Mekong River region. His answer was that there were many more in the past, but now there are not as many because hunters have killed many. The thought that the python is an inhabitant of the Mekong River brought chills through my entire body, and a deep sense of fear in my Mind. I could not help but think how I could have slept in the floating cottage knowing that such a huge snake could be present in the waters below.
Five floating cottages




Monday, January 21, 2013

Happiness returns

When happiness returns, all the sadness that had enveloped one's Mind suddenly disappears in one split-second. The transition between sadness and happiness is a feeling that something vicious had grabbed your Mind, gripped your Mind so tightly that you felt incapacitated in rational thought, and not knowing a way out. And when its effects such as the feeling of loneliness, built-in anger about oneself, frustration, everything, disappears suddenly, sadness is completely gone. In fact, the feeling is such as that prescribed in the Heart Sutra. 

We must experience the feeling of something which can vanish to conclude that the transformation between sadness and happiness is by a Mantra prescribed as "Gathe, Gathe, Paramgathe, Parasamgathe, Bodhi Svaaha", "Going, Going, Gone, Gone forever, Enter the Divine Buddha".

Instantly we feel transformed. It is as though we have been struck by a ray of Enlightenment in a manner causing an awakening. It is a feeling of having come out of pitch darkness into a bright opening at an instant. One can only imagine if that feeling could stay with you indefinitely. 

I was feeling sad yesterday, but today how can it be so different? How? -- I kept thinking repeatedly. How could it happen so quick, and what did I say, or do, which could have caused my sadness to vanish? -- These questions rang loud in my Mind. 

I felt a deep sense of elation, choked that I could see what I had desired so much to go back to, and feeling so happy that I was able to climb to the top of the mountain. I had no idea standing at the base of a mountain where the top of the mountain could be, and how long I should feel and experience mental anguish, and the pain and suffering caused by our natural Karma. 

This experience makes me conclude therefore, that the Heart Sutra is the prescription for the complete cessation of all cause and effect. If there is no cause, then there is no effect. If there no perception of any kind, there is no cause or effect.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sadness


To appreciate and admire the beauty in happiness we must first experience sadness, understand what the sadness means, and find ways to remove the sadness. To be happy we have to overcome sadness. This gives the feeling of standing at the foothills of a mountain, and asking oneself "how am I going to climb this mountain of sadness and stand on its top to see happiness again?" 

One beautiful morning, a mother talking to someone on the phone, hears the father talking to the daughter. While still on the phone, the mother immediately gestures to her daughter to move her things and to come sit with her. The mother walks away with her daughter.  The father sees everything, forcing himself not to blink, tears begin to form, he feels choked and waits until the mother and daughter are not in sight.


Stories are told so that some day others who read can visualize how society has evolved in to a highly complex society with multitudes of cultural, social, ethical, moral, and ethnically built-in values. The meaning of one's own feelings of sadness varies across cultures and in their social acceptance of certain facts which could be counter to, for example, a western thought. Therefore one person's sadness cannot be compared with another's sadness. We all experience our own sadness which can never be fully shared. There is a cause for sadness, and there is an effect of being in sadness. 

How one can conquer and eliminate sadness is perhaps one's thought. The answer might be for one to just follow their own natural instincts truthfully. If one believes that a Manthra could be the solution, then one has the power to use it. 

The Manthra is a reinforcing agent which is a constant reminder to do things in the manner it must be done. Enlightenment does not happen by magic. Enlightenment is a result of hard work that is aimed towards success. In research and in engineering, enlightenment is the success in  building a prototype  of some device, which proves the need for that technology in the future.

The thought of the Mantra kept ringing in my Mind. I wished so much for my sadness to go away. It is the constant feeling of "going, going, going, going, going, going, going, going, going, going,... it will go, it will go, it will go,...". At times I felt how, and in what form I must cause something for it to have any affect to spin me out of this sad feeling.

The anatomy, of the constant chant in one's Mind, is that if one wants to achieve a certain form, a state of Mind that allows greater perceptive abilities, then one must begin the task with the highest confidence that the desired objective or goal in life is achieved. Naturally at the beginning of the task everything appears impossible, it is as though there are mountains ahead in our path that have to be overcome towards greater knowledge. The feeling is such that one is taken towards an attractor and captured in time and space.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atractor_Poisson_Saturne.jpg
How could one spin out from a strange attractor that has gripped your mind with thoughts that are chaotic, and feels weird -- one wonders. Strange thoughts go through your Mind. The paths are unpredictable, and there are no rational thoughts. How would you get out? One wonders how and when such a transformation can occur. 

I suppose that is indeed the message from the image of the Buddha form on the Moon. 



Old Laotian painting showing Gautama Buddha's battle with Mara the demon King