16 The Dreaming Mind The duality of all things Issues from false discriminations. Some exa

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

16 The Dreaming Mind ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The duality of all things Issues from false discriminations. Some examples of dualities, or opposites, are: you and me, the Buddha and sentient beings, nirvana and samsara, wisdom and ignorance. In the Platform Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch enumerates thirty-six pairs of opposites. One who seeks wisdom and rejects ignorance as if they were opposites is deluded. A person who thinks of himself as wise is full of self-pride. On the other hand, a person who thinks of himself as ignorant is full of self-pity. The Heart Sutra says: "There is no wisdom and no attainment; with nothing to attain, bodhisattvas,[1] relying on prajnaparamita,[2] have no obstructions in their minds." This is why you should come to retreat -- not to attain anything, but to practice. Some people approach retreat as if they were a caterpillar hoping to transform themselves into a beautiful butterfly. This kind of motivation is an obstacle to practice. During retreat I use various means to inspire you to practice, including harsh language. To take this to heart and consider yourself a worthless, incapable person, or else to fight back and deny what I say are both incorrect attitudes. My aim is to whittle down your self-pride or self-pity. However harshly I may seem to treat you, do not dwell on it and feel sorry for yourself. Nor should you feel happy if I praise you. However, from my point of view, I have to discern between the types of practitioners. Some do not react well under pressure. They are like tender bean sprouts that have to be treated gently. Others, whose practice has matured somewhat, can handle more forceful techniques; the more they are pressured, the better they do. A dream, an illusion, a flower in the sky -- How could they be worth grasping? From the age of ten, I have always seen flower-like images in the sky. This is due to a malfunction of my eyesight. But I have learned not to pay any attention to them. Whatever you consider to be solid or real are only flowers in the sky. Even genuine achievements are still false in the sense that they are not permanent. There was an aerospace company that advertised an innovative way to continue on after death. They would shoot a satellite containing your ashes into orbit around the earth, and there it would spin for about 36,000 years. Even though this seems like an eternity, about nine times the length of civilized history, the time will eventually pass. The earth itself will disappear. There is no sense in trying to pretend otherwise. From the time we were born, up to the present moment, not much time has elapsed. Not too long from now, we will die. Nothing much has really transpired in that period of time. Faced with this situation, and seeing how temporary everything is, we are impelled to seek something permanent and real. But there is nothing like that to be found. People sometimes ask Ch'an masters, "What happened to you? What did you realize?" And the master will often give a cryptic reply, such as "Cows eating grass," or "I wonder where this clothing was made." Why don't they just say something like: "I had a great enlightenment experience! I really did! Now I understand what the Buddha is all about."? They do not answer this way because the idea of a special, incomparable enlightenment is an illusion, and they know that. At a retreat once a student had a small experience, and later I asked him, "How do you feel now?" He said, "Ah! The rice is really tasty." But if nothing is real or lasting, what is the point of coming to retreat and practicing Ch'an? The point is that during the course of practice, you may come to realize that everything around you, as well as whatever you seek out of life, are illusory. The ordinary person does not know this. Even if you convince yourself intellectually that everything is illusory, you may still have a lurking concept of the reality of things and be attached to them. To be able to actually treat them as transient is another thing entirely. Gain and loss, right and wrong -- Discard them all at once. Some of you had pleasant experiences today, and others just ended up with aching legs. If you spend your time hoping that a pleasant experience will return, or trying to avoid pain, you will become more aware of the passing of time. You will feel restless and think, "Today has gone by already and I've wasted my time." Some people have this attitude when, after a day or two, they feel they have not made any progress. They tell themselves that they could be doing so many other things at home, or furthering their career. If you feel you have not gotten anywhere, discard this attitude immediately. If you continue to dwell on these things, you probably will give up and go home. If the eyes do not close in sleep, All dreams will cease of themselves. "The eyes" are your awareness. The instant you lose awareness of just what you are doing at the moment, you are dreaming. Dreaming means being carried away by your wandering thoughts and unable to stop them. As in actual dreams, these wandering thoughts are either connected with the past, or anticipate the future. They are not concerned with the present, because the present is just keeping your mind on your method. People often concentrate intensely on the method for a short time and then say, "Well, I'll take a break now. I'll just put the method aside and let my mind wander a little bit." This is a wrong way to practice. Using the method can be likened to pumping air into a tire. The minute you stop pumping, the air starts to leak and the tire will eventually go flat. You may think that by putting down the method and relaxing for a while, you are re-charging your energy. In fact what you are really doing is letting the air out of your tires. This is common among beginners. They often make the mistake of exerting physical energy to fight against wandering thoughts. As a result their bodies become tense and the blood rushes to their heads, and after a time they feel a need to relax. But those who know how to work well summon up their concentration in a clear, relaxed manner. They do not belabor themselves with an excess of physical energy or struggle with their method. Instead, they maintain a natural moment-to-moment awareness. This lucid awareness should not only be practiced while sitting, but also when you are eating and working. Let everything else drop away and concern yourself only with the method. If you can do this uninterruptedly for a period of time, I guarantee that all of your dreams will disappear, including your method. But in fact your mind is totally on the method then. It is common for people to want a vacation after working hard. But during the vacation, their minds will scatter and their concentration will dissipate. If you alternate work and vacation in this way, you will never get beyond a certain level of practice. By practicing daily meditation and going on retreats, at least you are pumping the air into the tire to some extent. But you should be aware that this kind of interrupted practice is not the ideal approach to Ch'an. * * * Notes ~~~~~ [1] bodhisattva: (sanskrit, "awakened being"). In Mahayana Buddhism, an enlightened person on the path to Buddhahood, who renounces entry into nirvana until all sentient beings are saved. Contrasted to an arhat, who passes into nirvana after complete enlightenment. [2] prajnaparamita: (Sanskrit, "perfection of wisdom"). One of the ten paramitas, or perfections, i.e., virtues practiced by bodhisattvas; refers to the perfection of the virtue of wisdom (prajna). * * * * * * * *

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank