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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
42 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 3 We should also know that experience is not the same as realization, however. These glimpses help us genuinely experience our practice, but they are limited, undeveloped, and seen through the lens of our dualistic vision. Realization is possible if it is based on both intellectual certainty and experiential certainty. Without these two, realization is just something that we read about in a book or hear about in a teaching. It isn’t within our reach at all. How do intellectual and experiential certainty give rise to realization? Based on intellectual certainty, we are able to sit down and focus on a practice such as bodhichitta and catch glimpses of uncontrived and impartial loving-kindness and compassion. However, this experience is fleeting and unpre- dictable; we encounter it only by accident or by chance. Although it is larger than our ordinary, day-to-day state of mind, it is limited. We cannot sustain it, and we forget what it feels like when it isn’t there. According to the canon of Buddhist teachings, our momentary, uncontrived experi- ence falls short of authentic realization, which is a thorough, complete, and lasting transformation of our ordinary mind. Another way to understand the difference between experience and realization is that in the beginning we may feel the experience of the prac- tice in our body. For example, when cultivating bodhichitta, we call to mind a being who is suf- fering and we may have a visceral reaction. We may feel a deep sense of connection and com- passion toward that being, which we can extend outward to other beings. However, this is not true realization. Realization penetrates the mind. It colors our entire physical, mental, and spiritual experience, and does not simply arise from a vis- ceral experience. It is, by definition, all pervasive. We can apply threefold certainty—intellect, experience, and realization—to any practice. For example, when we learn about tonglen practice, we receive teachings and reflect on how the prac- tice works. Then, based on listening and contem- plation, we start to engage with the practice by and ultimate. Conventional bodhichitta is the twofold wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of self and others. Using our intellect, we can learn more about bodhichitta and deepen our certainty about what it means. We need at least a functional idea of bodhichitta to get beyond the charade of pretending to practice with it. But to go beyond doubt and skepticism, we need to deepen our experience so we can change from having mere intellectual certainty to hav- ing experiential certainty. How does intellec- tual certainty give rise to experiential certainty? Intellectual certainty can be described as “under- standing.” It can even be a deep and profound understanding of our practice. Taking again the example of awakening bodhichitta, we may develop the intellectual certainty that bodhichitta is beyond any partiality and contrivance; how- ever, bodhichitta isn’t an intellectual experience. It is a genuine experience of feeling completely connected to each and every sentient being. As ordinary practitioners, we can’t expect to experience the meaning of the dharma directly at every moment, but we may have glimpses of gen- uine experience. In the beginning, we may think to ourselves, “I understand what conventional bodhichitta is. It means that I could feel the same impartial compassion for each and every living being.” Sometimes, when we are sitting on the cushion or engaged in daily activities, we come across a situation or state of mind that moves us very deeply, and in those moments we may actu- ally have the experience of impartial compassion for sentient beings. We’re able to recognize those experiences because we have the support of intellectual cer- tainty. Without the support of our intellectual understanding, we could have an experience like that, but the moment might pass by without our being aware of it. So intellectual certainty is the basis for both an experience and the ability to recognize the experience. Catching a glimpse of the true meaning of our practice in this way gives rise to experiential certainty. Many of us mistake intellectual certainty for wisdom and realization. They are not the same.