Discussion, reading, meditation, prayers will not enlighten us. The traveller on the journey needs to walk with one-pointedness, mindfulness and ceaseless determination. The rest is Grace.
There are as many paths as there are travellers. The Knowers have all pointed the Way. Ultimately, we travel alone. Alone, on the razors edge, between insanity and fear, beyond the five senses and the intellect. The Buddha taught the Path of Mindfulness. And when wisdom is fully awakened, we are as the Buddha, the all enlightened one. He, who did not describe the state of enlightenment.
Maya is the primal substance of which nature is formed. Its principal quality is that it is form producing. Yet, while it creates form it also veils the truth. When the mind starts to identify with the form instead of the underlying Reality, it experiences a diminishing of intuitive and intellectual capacities. The truth hides behind this veil. Maya is illusory but not an illusion. We have to go beyond the veil. Through the Path of Mindfulness.
The sages saw three Gunas, (qualities) in, Prakriti, the phenomenal universe. Sattva the force of truth, harmony and purity. Rajas, the tendency towards power, desire and energy. Tamas, the inclination towards inertia and stagnation. It is said that when the Gunas were in disequilibria the Godhead manifested the known universe.
Clarity of Perception
If we want to experience life joyfully, without the sorrows that attachments bring, we need not disassociate ourselves from the world. We need to practice Mindfulness. We need to practice living in the here and now so that each moment is experienced as unique. We begin by unlearning. And what do we unlearn? We have to let go of our persistent habit of interpreting what our sense impressions bring each moment, as though it is being experienced by a separate and enduring self. We unlearn the ego, the sense of separate self.
Sometimes we meet people on the Way. Often they can teach us something. The idea is to associate with those who enhance our sense of harmony. One type of company energises, another detracts. As we walk along the path we notice that we cling to some people out of habit even though they no longer energise. Drop the attachment which makes us cling.
Right observation and right perception is experiencing ‘as it is’. This is the path of Mindfulness. This makes all unnecessary attachments fall off, be the attachments towards people or towards thought processes. One has to practice being detached and being a witness. The constant practice of awareness brings clarity of perception and a sense of harmony and balance.
Visualise the Goal
To detach oneself from the desires of the senses, one must distance oneself from illusory objects and fancy. Withdrawal by itself is not enough and will lead to frustration and anger. Even as the sense objects lose their power over the man who practices restraint, yet desire remains in his heart and dies only when something higher than sense-life can be envisioned. Ultimately, nothing but the vision of the Atman causes the burning of desire. The Atman, is the Inner Self, which is part of the universal Brahman, the Eternal Truth, the absolute Universal Principle. Detachment means to centre one’s gaze upon the Atman within, unseen though it may yet be.
The interactions remain, only the attachments fall away. We need to alter how we interact with the world. We must walk softly and create no ripples. Walk without leaving footprints. Create no fresh karma. Discipline is all. The time before “awareness” will be preceded by intense effort.
To use the symbol of the chariot from the Bhagavad Gita, the horses of the senses are held back by the reins of the mind, but it is not intended that they should be unyoked from the chariot or that their movement be stopped altogether. The aim is to have the senses cease to assert their unique viewpoint at every moment.
The first lesson that the Buddha gave after his awakening was simplicity itself. He did not speak to the learned, nor to a group of monks. But to a small gathering of children. They were the children of Uruvela who had looked after him while he meditated in the forest. These were his companions. He did not describe the Great Awakening. He only spoke of the Path.
He showed them how to eat a tangerine in awareness. With mindfulness.
“The path I have found is the path of living each hour of the day in awareness, mind and body always dwelling in the present moment.
The opposite is to live in forgetfulness. If we live in forgetfulness, we do not know that we are alive.
We do not fully experience life because our mind and body are not dwelling in the here and now.
Practice awareness and you will deepen your understanding. With understanding, you will have hearts of love.”
A finger points to the moon. The finger is not the moon. The sages and the masters point the Way, as does the guru within. On the Way there will be immense suffering as the sense of self we have created struggles not to be slain. We kill a familiar friend, the only self we have known. As we traverse the path, we watch the suffering born of habit. The body we associate as the self is impermanent and we must let it go. Sometimes attachment to friends and relations impede us. We must kill attachment to them as Ramakrishna killed his attachment to Kali.
What of this ego self? How will it die? What is this self anyway? The “self” is but a programmed and conditioned consciousness. Programmed by others. By teachers, parents, peers, society. Is there but one thought or realisation that we can truly call our own? We have to seek and find our original face. You have taken the first step when you acknowledge “I do not know”. The last step before awareness too is “I do not know”.
Meanwhile we walk. Awakened and otherwise.
Old Path White Clouds Thich Nhat Hanh book-review
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