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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
32 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 3 In keeping with that, we no longer make a distinction between subject and object. This is not so much because the plurality of things begins to dissolve into oneness but because when we reflect on our own experiences properly, we see things are not really presented to experience as solid entities. And we are not solid entities either. What we experience as “other” and what we experience as “self” are not completely dis- tanced or separate from each other. To think the world exists separately from our experience of it is the product of some kind of belief rather than fact. Beliefs are just something we believe; they usually have nothing to do with fact. The moment we fall into a belief system, we have fallen into the realm of fiction rather than fact. The idea that there is an external world exist- ing as a separate thing out there totally separate from us is a belief rather than a fact. But because of our preconceived ideas, we don’t know how to distinguish fact from our own interpretation of that fact. We mistake the two and no longer recognize fact from fiction. The classic Buddhist example of this tendency is mistaking a rope for a snake. Our immediate perception of an elon- gated, striped form lying on the road is a fact, but our assumption that it is a snake is mistaken. To mistake the rope for a snake is a fiction because it has nothing to do with the actual thing that has been presented to us. It has nothing to do with our immediate perception. When tantrikas talk about the union of the cognizer and cognized—of mind and the phe- nomenal world—they are talking about our immediate perception of the phenomenal world before any kind of subjective interpretation has taken place. Seeing that striped rope would be the immediate perception, but before we real- ize it, we have seen it as a snake and may never know that it was otherwise. We just think it’s a snake and run away as fast as we can. That kind of misperception takes place continuously in our interactions with the world. A genuine appreciation of the world—sacred outlook—is impossible unless that superimposition of subjec- tive interpretation is cut through. These are just the basic ideas of the tantric teachings. We could regard these ideas as ground tantra because they are the starting point of the Vajrayana journey. Then there is the path tantra of how we go about the whole thing and how we relate to the qualities we already possess. Finally, there is the fruition stage of tantra. This is what we attain through utilizing our neuroses and pas- sions, which could be expressed as transmuting lead into gold. Q&a In the Mahayana path, neurosis is seen as giv- ing us an indication of the potential of our basic buddhanature. Here, you seem to be say- ing that neurosis is actually a manifestation of buddhanature. On the Mahayana level, all of our dissatisfaction, despair, and emotional upheavals are some kind of guideline about what we should be doing. We are not managing the whole thing properly, so those experiences give us an indication of the discovery of buddhanature. However, the Mahayana still makes some distinction between our neurotic tendencies and the buddhanature they are trying to trigger. The greatest hindrance on the tantric path is fear of our own incompetence. You need to have a sense of healthy ego and healthy arrogance.