I am on a quest to understand what it means to be a human being. What are we humans “being”?
At this juncture in my conscious evolution, it is my understanding that the ultimate truth is that “being” is an experience of an emptiness that is actually everything and nothing simultaneously or pure potential.
We will obtain enlightenment when we can transcended suffering by fully practicing and understanding this truth.
As I have ascended the spiral of expanded awareness, I’ve encountered initiations in my awakening that have caused me to review my relatedness to various states of nature and to more fully understand the value of suffering as a means to transcend it.
In the Yoga Sutras, Pantanjali describes the dancing states as the building blocks of nature or the gunas – sattva (creation), rajas (preservation) and tamas(destruction/transformation). These are part of all of nature, or prakrati.
With each major conscious restructuring, I’ve traversed these states and they have caused and various emotional states as well such as exquisite joy and concurrently traumatic pain. As I like to say… “And, so the pendulum swings”.
These states of nature and my resulting emotions have tested my reactivity and sharpened my ability to practice discernment, non-attachment, and presence.
Sometimes it feels like navigating all of this is enough to drive me crazy. I catch myself joking that it would be a heck of a lot easier to have stayed “asleep”.
What I have learned through this pendulating is that my mind and ego get caught up in labeling particular states as being good or bad.
Even as I type the gunas on this page, I find myself labeling them from my own experience of life. When in fact, none of them are anything, but what they are.
Everything in Nature dances with various states in motion throughout each minute, day, week, year and lifetime. And, the judging mind wants to label everything from its experiences.
Pema Chodron asks us to be “free from the labels of right and wrong, and good and bad. It has to be that you just keep letting those labels go, and just come back to the immediacy of being there.”
The “immediacy of being there” is presence.
In a recent workshop with Richard Miller, he guided us into a meditation that brought me to a “no-state” – a place beyond the “I-ness” of it all. In this place of no mind or ego, thoughts were irrelevant and there was no particular color, location, or visual, but a neutrality that was quite profound.
This experience was that of a “state-less” “no-thing” void or emptiness and it was absolutely peaceful.
This awareness of “being-ness” is what Richard Miller was teaching us about – complete presence in the emptiness beyond the gunas.
What I’ve been realizing after this experience is so much about what I read in the sacred texts of Buddhism and the Yoga Sutras, about the ultimate reality being the oneness that is emptiness and everything. It’s a concept that is beyond mental understanding or projection.
In the Sutras, Pantanjali talks about the vrittis, the types of thoughts or fluctuations that color our outer consciousness. One of the first Sutras, Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodah translates to “Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of the consciousness”. In the practice of Yoga, we are always trying to still the mind and see beyond its misperceptions, so that ultimately we experience self-realization and abide in our own true nature, the soul or purusha, beyond the gunas.
We are all seeking peace. Peace does not resemble joy and it does not resemble pain – both are changeable and can lead to suffering. We can attach ourselves to joy and chase it just as much as we can avert pain at all costs. We create more suffering for ourselves when we attach ourselves to anything that is moveable, changeable and variable.
While we are dancing with the gunas, we are really educating ourselves in how to practice non-attachment, non-reactivity and ultimately trying to still the mind to experience present awareness or a state of simply being. (The doer in me just despises this!)
As I’m trying to grasp all of this I’m asking myself why I don’t just move in with Richard Miller and meditate all day?
Recently the term “self-grasping” has come into my framework several times – in Buddhism and in the Yoga Sutras as a framework for ignorance. In Sanskrit, avidya or ignorance is the root cause of all suffering.
In an article by the Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, “Ultimate Truth is Emptiness”, he describes the idea of self-grasping ignorance:
“There are two types of self-grasping: self-grasping of persons and self-grasping of phenomena. The first grasps our own or others’ self, or I, as truly existent, and the second grasps any phenomenon other than our own or others’ self as truly existent. Minds that grasp our body, our mind, our possessions, and our world as truly existent are all examples of self-grasping of phenomena.”
The main point of meditating on emptiness is to reduce and finally to eliminate both types of self-grasping.
“Self-grasping is the source of all our problems; the extent to which we suffer is directly proportional to the intensity of our self-grasping. “
In tying this back to Richard Miller’s teachings to drop below the surface of the “I” and to tie this similarly to the Yoga Sutras, we will always suffer as long as we are attaching ourselves to the changeable nature of prakrati, nature, of which the ego and the mind exist within. Believing that this world around us is real is the illusion, or Maya.
Believing that we need anything outside of ourselves is the self-grasping ignorance.
According to the Sutras, the soul, is that which never-changes and never-dies. According to Buddhism, the ultimate truth is emptiness. So I might conclude that the truth is that our soul is emptiness. Self-realization of this is enlightenment.
As described by the Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso,
“Emptiness is not nothingness, but is the real nature of phenomena. Ultimate truth, emptiness, and ultimate nature of phenomena are the same.”
We should know that all our problems arise because we do not realize ultimate truth. The reason we remain in samsara’s prison is that due to our delusions we continue to engage in contaminated actions.
All our delusions stem from self-grasping ignorance. Self-grasping ignorance is the source of all our negativity and problems, and the only way to eradicate it is to realize emptiness.
Emptiness is not easy to understand, but it is extremely important that we make the effort. Ultimately our efforts will be rewarded by the permanent cessation of all suffering and the everlasting bliss of full enlightenment.
I’ll invite you to join me in a practice of meditating on the concept of emptiness to release the misconceptions of our minds and create a canvas for pure potential. Let’s practice what it means to simply “be” and to understand the emptiness that is actually nothing and everything.