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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
SPRING 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 17 be obscured. The mind can be affected by causes and conditions, but the nature of mind cannot be affected. The mind is changeable. The nature of mind is not subject to birth or death. So the essence or nature of mind is unchangeable and primordially pure. The teacher points out this essence to the student, because awareness of this essence can be developed through medi- tation. Recognizing the nature of mind is wisdom; when one fully realizes the nature of mind, suffering is extinguished. Failing to realize the nature of mind is ignorance, the root of all suffering, and the mind that fails to recognize this nature is driven to take rebirth after rebirth. What takes rebirth is shé zhin, or individual consciousness, the mind- stream driven by the reactivity that has not recognized the nature of mind. Sepa- ration of body and mind is the defini- tion of death. When death happens, the mind continues, driven by the lack of recognition of the nature of mind. This mind endlessly takes rebirth in a variety of realms, and this is the definition of the suffering of cyclic existence. Liberation from rebirth is the exhaus- tion of what obscures the nature of mind. Liberation is the dissolution of the veils of ignorance. When a bud- dha or higher bodhisattva reincarnates, they are not obscured by ignorance nor driven by the causes and conditions of karma but are born through the power of their compassionate prayer to benefit others who are suffering. For the meditation practitioner, it is important to know that mind can evolve and purify its reactivity and karmic traces, transcend pain and conflict, and overcome duality. In any given moment, we can recognize the unbounded, answer this question. All of the teach- ings guide us toward the ending of suf- fering; the Buddha seems to have been more interested in helping living beings find their way out of bondage than in theories. I believe realized beings choose to come into this world for our bene- fit. For you and me, it’s a bit different; rebirth is the consequence of clinging. Words such as “consciousness” and “awareness” are just words. Your ques- tion can’t really be resolved by using more words. Is there an intellectual answer that will satisfy? Who among us really knows? And yet there is a resolu- tion, which is liberation from fear and confusion. An unshakable faith emerges natu- rally out of meditative inquiry and inner silence. In the vow to face all of our experiences, including the most dif- ficult ones, with openheartedness and curiosity, questions such as these cease. You may not be able to articulate what change has occurred, or when or how, but the question dissolves instead of being resolved. Theory takes us only so far. We have to meditate if we want to find an end to confusion. What animates the body now? This is more to the point than what animates a being in a moment that has not yet come. If we can look very deeply at things as they are right now, whether we like what’s happening or not, we may find ourselves able to meet death with clarity and courage. Try not to struggle against your early religious upbringing, but rather take up this idea of an eternal soul and look into it. The Buddha’s teachings encour- age investigation, not blind belief. When we come across an authentic question and are willing to look into it with a silent mind, it provides access to a life of wonder. I invite you to inquire into this question with your whole heart. TENZIN WANGYAL RINPOCHE: In the Dzogchen teachings of my tradition, we make a distinction between mind and nature of mind. The mind is impure and can be obscured, but the nature of mind is primordially pure and cannot What takes rebirth is individual consciousness, the mindstream driven by the reactivity that has not recognized the nature of mind. —Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche primordially pure nature of mind. This recognition is like the sun shining in the clear, cloudless sky. The warmth of this realization gives birth spontaneously to qualities of immeasurable love, compas- sion, joy, and equanimity. From the point of view of Dzogchen, there is no moment when we cannot rec- ognize the nature of mind and liberate suffering, including the great moment of the separation of the body and mind we refer to as death. ZENKEI BLANCHE HARTMAN: This ques- tion of “What happens when we die?” or “Does anything continue, and if so, what?” has been very compelling for many thoughtful people over the cen- turies. In Zen literature we encounter it, among other places, in the Blue Cliff Record, Case 55, “Tao Wu’s Condo- lence Call”: Tao Wu and Chien Yuan went to a house to make a condolence call. Yuan hit the coffin and said, “Alive or dead?” Wu said, “I won’t say alive and I won’t say dead.” Yuan said, “Why won’t you say?” Wu said, “I won’t say.” Halfway back, as they were returning, Yuan said, “Tell me right away, Teacher; if you don’t tell me, I’ll hit you.” Wu said, “You may hit me, but I won’t say.” Yuan then hit him. Later, Tao Wu passed on. Yuan went to Shih Shuang and brought up the foregoing story. Shuang said, “I won’t say alive and I won’t say dead.” Yuan said, “Why won’t you say?” Shuang said, “I won’t say, I won’t say.” At these words Yuan had an insight. In my opinion, the principal teach- ing of this story is that each of us must