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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 45 These are not abstract philosophical statements. They tell us that our wisdom and our defile- ments, our path and our everyday life, are not different things. Our attention need not be split. Our energy never is. The path expresses itself in part as openness, receptivity, and continuity. These energetic holdings are different than our usual ones, and more conducive to unfolding optimally. Ordinary energy will fuel our patterns if we do not recognize the energetic conversation, the interwoven dynamic, between them and our path. Such palpable recognitions gradually allow the path energies, which are not materially different from the ordinary ones, to reshape or dissolve our patterns. Water is already present in ice, we just can’t drink it in that form. Our wisdom is already present in ignorant patterns, we just can’t recognize it until the obscuring pat- terns dissolve. But their energy is always there. Everything is either wisdom or a distortion of wisdom. Once we see this, we can relax enough to let the path lead us to the disturbed energies of our habitual ways of reacting. Then we can dissolve them. Practically speaking, it takes quite a bit of maturity and commitment to sweep where the dust is. But the path isn’t functioning unless we do. And it’s helpful to recognize that the path functions in two distinct, mutually complemen- tary and absolutely necessary ways. On the one hand, the more access we have to wisdom, nonduality, and compassion, the more our patterns begin to dissolve. So sometimes we emphasize cultivating those enlightened quali- ties. Fueled by our love for these qualities, we meditate on impermanence and emptiness, we do foundational practices, we cultivate the giving- and-taking by practicing tonglen. We cultivate love, equanimity, and wisdom. On the other hand, our dualistically based patterns prevent us from experiencing these qualities right now. So we also practice to recognize, feel into, and slowly thin out these patterns. (Ken McLeod’s detailing of this process in Wake Up to Your Life is an outstanding example of how to work with this on the path.) In this way we become aware enough of our anger to dissolve it, we notice how our minds create the six realms right in this life, we feel into the distasteful energies of our hungry ghost envy or sense of inadequacy, our godlike pride, our animal dullness, and so on. Especially for those of us active in the world, those of us who don’t sit in solitary retreat for months or years, it is essential that we work the path in both of these ways. Gautama Buddha said so too. From the very first discourse on the four ennobling truths, Buddha made it clear that we practitioners must carefully and experientially identify our suffering and its causes down to their most subtle mani- festation. Only then are we ready to cultivate the causes of its cessation. The wholeness of the path is evident in tra- ditional presentations of the four ennobling truths. The first truth includes everything that is or could be unsatisfactory and painful, includ- ing the habits that bind us. Not only do we see that it is painful, but that these experiences are impermanent, empty, and selfless. Together, the first and second describe our current condition, and what we can realize to be free from it. Right from the first, Buddha showed that these are not separate. Similarly, if we consider all four ennobling truths, the first pair, suffering and its causes, describes the process of samsara. The second pair, suffering’s cessations and the path to that state, describes the process of nirvana. Nirvana comes only through seeing what goes on in samsara. In this way we see that the path, like energetic sensibility, is a wholeness. It is not a dualistic emphasis on nirvana to the exclusion of sam- sara. Whether we speak of the path’s emphasis on nirvana, liberation, buddhanature, or empti- ness, all these terms are ways of naming what we really are. And our love for what we really are, our most intimate possible knowing, gives us the power and confidence to, as Rumi put it, “burst open”—to acknowledge and feel all the elements, however miserable, now operating in our lives. Then the path becomes real. And we realize our all-encompassing love for it. Like sunshine on ice, love melts away self-holding, and our patterns along with it. Having melted, the water flows and then evaporates. Our inner radiance remains, ready to share warmth with everyone. OSCARFERNÀNDEZ