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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 21 not there. It’s like rediscovering our true home, which has always been present. It has a kind of naked beauty that is potentially very rich, yet at the same time utterly ordinary—nothing has to change or be modified. Of course, clear and precise language is tough here and much too coarse to describe this essentially indescribable experience. The Buddha said: My dreamlike form Appeared to dreamlike beings To show them the dreamlike path That leads to dreamlike enlightenment. —from the Bhadrakalpa Sutra Experience is dreamlike because appearances are a product of many kinds of causes and con- ditions temporarily coming together, such that nothing ever remains the same; everything is dependent on other things for its existence and is compounded, made up of many parts. In this sense, appearances are absolutely empty and relatively mere, which in Vajrayana is called “appearances devoid of inherent existence.” It is not easy to know how things actually exist because our normal everyday experiences seem so vivid and compelling, and everything around us feels real—as if it truly existed inde- pendently. We get confused because our lim- ited conceptual mind cannot grasp the view of the absolute, and yet we can use this mind to a certain point in our practices. But eventually we have to shift our practice and include other methods, such as samadhi meditation and con- templation. Through these practices, the concep- tual grasping mind recedes, revealing the natural and luminous mind, which has the capacity to know the indivisibility of the two truths, a state of simplicity free from all kinds of conceptual limitations. It is important to understand what egoless- ness means at both the relative and absolute lev- els. Relatively, our mere I exists and functions in the same way as other things merely exist, such as forms, smells, and sounds. We do have a mere I that acts, has relationships, takes refuge, and makes decisions, in the same way that the earth, sky, and water function and have a rela- tive existence. The mereness of things actually allows us to intelligently, compassionately, and creatively engage in the drama of life without a lot of attachment and grasping. It is the light touch: open, fully present, flexible, and gutsy. This I is neither something truly existent (perma- nent, independent, singular) nor nonexistent—it is simply mere. What is refuted in the dharma is the solid or reified I, not the mere I. When we try to find the essence, or true nature, of the mere I, we run into problems. No matter how hard we try, we cannot find it upon investigation; this also applies to all phenom- ena—whether subjective, such as our feelings of self, or objective, such as objects of perception. Even if we look at one of the billions of cells that make up our bodies with a sophisticated micro- scope, we see that no ultimate or true cell can be located, nor can the label “cell” be found. Any label we apply to the next level of complexity also falls away. We can’t find an object (or sub- ject) that is permanent, singular, or independent. It just keeps changing into smaller and smaller parts swirling into smaller and smaller parts. In this sense, the deeper we look into what we It is not easy to know how things actually exist because our normal experiences seem so vivid and compelling, and everything around us feels real.