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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
fall 2 0 1 5 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 67 emotions for a correct orientation to the world; and spiritually, to think in terms of escaping samsara for nirvana. The laws that manifest from the belief in separation are the laws of death and suffering, the law of impermanence, the law of distance and time, the law of individuated appearances, of selfishness and conceit, and the law of polarities—to mention just a few. The rules that govern the sense of self are derived from the logic within the paradigm of separation. Practicing the view of nonseparation is meant to counter the conditioned influence of this logic, and we proceed by doing the opposite of our habit pat- terns. This makes sense when we understand that we are moving from the perception of separation toward an intrinsic unity that is not derived from conditioning. So in an aversive situation, we now move toward the difficult; in lieu of surmounting a problem, we drop all resistance to it. As an alterna- tive to using our own will and effort, we surrender our control. Instead of offsetting one state of mind with another, we relax within each and every state of mind, and we counter our reliance on thought by accessing a quiet, discerning awareness. Finally, instead of depicting the spiritual journey as a move- ment from samsara to nirvana, we arrest all move- ment and become still. The laws that form the paradigm of separa- tion seem fixed and determined, but they are only perceptual views imbedded within the logic of our assumptions. These laws can be subjected to our questioning until they are seen through com- pletely. For example, the belief that everything is impermanent is only relatively true, and survives as a truth only within the paradigm of separa- tion. Such a belief denies the deathless realm of the unconditioned, where nothing could or ever has changed. Focusing on impermanence is a phase of practice used to divest our energy from form, which ultimately allows an easier access to the formless. Many students, however, hold on to the idea of impermanence as if it were the goal they were seek- ing, and in doing so actually miss the way forward, which is to release all concepts. To change percep- tions away from a conclusive, impermanent uni- verse, the student might ask, “What is unchanging in this moment?” This questioning starts inclining the student’s mind toward the deathless, as the Bud- dha often suggested, and opens the student beyond relative truths. Another means of challenging the laws of the consensus paradigm is to investigate death. Death arrives on the scene in tandem with separation. Death, as I am using the term, is the ending of expe- rience. This includes the ending of the experience of life as we know it, which we call physical death, but it also includes the moment-to-moment falling away of all aspects of life, at every sense door, even as our bodies continue to live. This definition allows a thor- ough examination of death in life. When we enter quietly into death, there is not much there. It is our fear of death that has made it so confusing and dif- ficult. We see that death is only the passing away of form, while formless awareness remains untouched. We begin to understand that the need to ➤ Hermann Mejía, Artist (detail) Woven vellum photographs, 2014 (2015) There is a shift in perception when we awaken to the emptiness of form, and it can be helpful to actually practice this shift in advance. In other words, it can be useful to practice being selfless before we realize that fact.