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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
fall 2 0 1 5 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 65 insight will heal the impasse. We all know as teach- ers that we move at the speed and timing of the student. To move beyond the fixed position of self, most practitioners need to know the options avail- able. First and foremost, the teacher supports the student’s decision on whether to move in this direc- tion or not, but supporting that decision does not conflict with clearly presenting the alternatives so that a conscious choice can be made. There is a counterintuitive shift in perception that occurs once we awaken to the emptiness of form, and it can be helpful to actually practice this shift prior to the change occurring. In other words, it can be useful to practice being selfless before we realize that fact. This is because of the nature of how we perceive. The world is perceived as divided and separate because our assumptions hold that conclusion. Literally, the assumptions form the perceptions. If our perceptions were simply a mat- ter of how the brain received the sense data, we would always be seeing an inverted image—that is the actual way light enters the eye. But we do not see reality upside down. That is not what we expect to see, and our expectations have a more powerful influence on perception than do physical facts. I believe this is the reason wise view is so essen- tial to dharma practice. When we start embodying the view of a selfless, interconnected universe and begin realizing that truth, perceptions of oneness and emptiness follow. This new selfless view has to come from a realized certainty and not from a wish or conjecture; the ability to steady that view is usually successful only after a number of insightful incursions into the selfless dimension. This may be why the spiritual journey seems to take so long. We simply do not believe that emptiness is ultimately true, and therefore our perceptions tend toward the conditioned and conventionally held view of sepa- ration. Meanwhile, we split our energies between the fixed and solid worldview we predominantly inhabit and the interconnected view we are practic- ing toward. Our insights slowly nudge our perceptions for- ward toward a quiet and selfless presence, but our everyday knowledge and confusion counter those revelations and send us back to a disconnected world. It is between these two worldviews that the majority of our spiritual lives unfold. At times, we become enthralled with the world of emptiness only to have our heavy and persuasive psychological pat- terns draw our perceptions back to the conventional worldview. Loving-kindness can be very helpful in relieving the reactive assumptions that govern these patterns, thereby encouraging a deeper level of inquiry. After repeated exposures to emptiness, the cer- tainty of the selfless view wins out and the student is no longer fooled by the old conditioned view of separation. But the harder work of cleaning up our conditioned self-beliefs remains. Our spiritual prac- tices are usually aligned with our perceptions, and as our perceptions move away from the conven- tional worldview, our practices must be encouraged to follow this new vision of emptiness. The skillful means of loving-kindness must now be replaced by stillness of being if the perceptual shift toward non- separation is to be completed. All of this presupposes that the student is receiv- ing teachings that encourage a complete alignment with selflessness. Many of our earliest instructions in meditation actually come from that selfless view: nonjudgmental awareness, nonresistance, letting be, relaxing, and allowing all mental phenomena. The problem seems to be that these instructions are used as a way to practice but not necessarily as a way to live. The teaching must be inclusive enough to hold the whole of the student’s life and reframe every aspect of that life within the view of nonseparation. What, then, is the face of a practice when it is completely aligned with selflessness? It is a total shift in paradigms. The paradigm of self has its own conditioned set of rules and laws. For example, the strategy within the conventional realm is to discon- nect and flee under aversive situations; to overcome, bypass, or surmount problems; to rely on our own effort and will to acquire the contentment sought; to seek to offset momentary unhappiness with more positive states of mind; to rely on thoughts and