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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 08 26 non-virtuous actions. And it is free from the result of emotion, the five aggregates. So therefore the emotions are like clouds. 159 The defilements are said to be like clouds, karma is likened to the experience in dreams, and the full ripening of karma and defilements—the aggregates—are likened to conjurations. The nature of beings is primordially pure, and that’s why we call it buddhanature. Although emotions are seemingly apparent and seemingly stubborn, seemingly like a second nature, they are never a second nature. They are like clouds— they are adventitious, and not a true part of you. This point is quite important. In Buddhism we always come to the con- clusion that these emotions and defilements are temporary. When we’re looking at a grey cloudy sky, we might call it a cloudy sky, but it’s not really a cloudy sky. The clouds are never the sky. The clouds are temporary or adventitious. The next part is very important for our understanding of karma. Since emotions are temporary, so-called karma or action is like a dream. This is very important because many people think that karma is almost like a substitute for God. They think it’s like someone who punishes you, rewards you, and decides your fate. But it’s never like that in Bud- dhism. Karma is actually like a dream. In a dream, you might experience all kinds of ecstasy, but no matter how much you pant and sweat, it’s just a dream. When we say, “It’s just a dream,” there’s sometimes a con- notation that we despise it, because it’s not real. But it doesn’t work like that either. If you become enamored with a dream- elephant, then in the dream you go through the ecstasy of meeting the elephant, the sadness of missing the elephant, and eventually the agony of no longer having the elephant. That’s how karma works. This stanza is a big summary of Buddhism. Emotions are temporary, so action is like a dream, and therefore the aggre- gates—the result of emotions and action—are like a mirage. The five aggregates are like a mirage, because the closer you approach them, the more futile or essenceless they become. We try so hard to get close to the elephant, but even if there’s an engagement, the exchange of rings, a marriage ceremony, or whatever, the elephant remains a mirage. To emphasize this, the Buddha taught emptiness in the earlier turnings of the wheel of dharma. For example, in the Prajnaparamita Sutra, he said that form is emptiness, empti- ness is form, and everything is like a mirage or a dream, and so forth. Then after that, in order to dispel the five kinds of obstacles or downfalls, the Buddha taught buddhanature in the third turning of the wheel of the dharma. anaMae