Monday, February 15, 2010


Yes they can but it is not easily understood. It is not logical. It has never been an issue of clarity of explanation or the skills of the speaker. The mystics and sages are not withholding anything from us. Even the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, renown for his gentle, non controversial and accommodating approach, referred to all of this as "the truth that cannot be described". This is very tough stuff because we are trying to use our minds to solve the very same problems the existing perspectives of our minds have created.

Let's try though. Short and sweet. This is, after all, one of the goals of Contemporary Enlightenment.

One of the great 20th century Buddhist teachers, when asked a similar question, supposedly laughed and said simply, "No self, no problem." And that was it. Get it or don't get it. I am sure he probably also promptly dismissed the questioner.

I like how the great sage Ramana Maharshi put it: "The wrong knowledge of 'I am the body and the mind' is the cause of all the mischief. This wrong knowledge must go. That is Realization." It is that simple but simple in this case certainly is not easy.

Why this answer? Because this wrong knowledge makes you think you are a separate self (no self), confronting a universe made up of infinite amounts of matter and energy (duality), shut off and even hostile to the real nature of things (emptiness). This knowledge obscures and blinds you to the true nature of being. Most of us cannot even conceive that we are more than a body and mind. Our dualistic mindset allows us to consider the religious, the spiritual, the metaphysical and even the supernatural beyond mind and body, but always separate from and acting upon mind and body. Dualistically. Never the same. Never one, not two.

So what really are the sages saying when they say no self and no mind and body? We believe we are a body and a mind dwelling in an external, material universe filled with other bodies and minds and an infinite number of other material objects that are permanent and real. However, this permanent and real external universe is an illusion. What we see as real and permanent and external and material are appearances only projected by our senses, like images projected on a screen. What is real is the screen itself. The screen is there whether there are images projected or not. The screen is our true is awareness...emptiness itself. The projection is our mind and all the sensory objects created by it. The screen is unchanging and real regardless of the images projected upon it. The projections are impermanent and in constant flux...appearances only...mind objects. When you forget this and delude yourself into thinking you are only a mind and body and the material world is real and permanent, you have narrowed and limited your awareness and very being itself similar to a viewer of a film so lost in the projected images that he believes himself only to be a participant in the film and has forgotten the world at large. These thoughts are difficult and seem profoundly counter intuitive. But as the earlier postings explain, everything that happens happens in your awareness and most of what you experience are representations only created and projected by your senses. Further, as the scientists begrudgingly admit, the so called real and fixed material world is anything but that
and is made up of primarily space and rapidly moving particles bearing no resemblance to what we actually experience. As one great physicist put it, the closer you look, the less the universe looks like a thing and the more it seems like a thought. We have simply confused appearances for the real and looked for permanency where there is none and forgotten that the dance of the universe is projected on the screen of our awareness. So what is the solution? Be the screen of your being, not the ever changing projections. Try and challenge yourself to live your life from that perspective in everything you do. Look for it in every moment of your awareness, even in deep sleep when all objects have subsided. Remind yourself of it constantly. Make it your mantra and an object of contemplation. And after you have done that, really done that, I promise you, no matter how strange it may sound right now, that you will begin to intuit that they and you (the projections, the screen, the mind objects and your awareness) are all really one and your perspective will expand immeasurably...form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

This website is dedicated to trying to apply in contemporary terms the concepts of impermanence, no self, non duality, and emptiness. Read the earlier postings, then the quotes of the masters and other reflections above and let it sink in. Remember, these are the truths that cannot really be described. It is instead intuitive and wordless.


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