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Buddhadharma : Winter 2011
91 WINTER 2 01 1 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY gives the character of clarity—of pure knowing—to our visual experience of the tree. Each moment of clarity and knowing in the continuum of our consciousness is caused by a preced- ing moment of clarity and knowing. The substantial cause of a moment of consciousness cannot be something that has a different substantial quality from clarity and knowing. If the continuum of our mind had a first moment, it would have had to arise either from no cause or from a cause that was not substantially commensurate with the nature of mind itself. Since neither of these possibilities is acceptable, the con- tinuum of consciousness is understood to have no beginning. This is how we explain past lives and reincarnation, given that the continuum of moments of consciousness of each of us must extend back infinite moments. And, just as the con- tinuum of consciousness has no beginning, the identity of a self designated to that continuum is beginningless. This is cor- roborated by the many cases of people who recall experiences from their past lives. And what of an end of consciousness? Some Buddhist schol- ars of the past maintained that upon attaining the state of nirvana the continuum of one’s mental and physical existence would cease. However, an absurd consequence of this view is that there would be no one to experience the state of nirvana. The individual instances of consciousness that we experience throughout life—perceptions of all we see and feel as well as thought processes we’ve engaged in—will cease when our physical being expires at death. However, our fundamental quality of clarity and knowing— the essential nature of con- sciousness—does not end at death; its continuum is unceasing. There also exists a very subtle physical body, referred to in Buddha’s Vajrayana or tantric teachings, that acts as the basis for our most subtle consciousness. Just as the continuum of our subtle consciousness has no beginning or end, so the continuum of this most subtle physical aspect of self is also beginningless and endless. I find beauty in the idea of no beginning or end to the continuum of self. If there were an end to self, there would be a total annihilation, a complete darkness. For someone des- perately wishing to escape the torments of life by committing suicide, such an end might seem desirable. I believe, however, that most of us prefer the idea of continuity, as it suggests a fullness of our experiences and emotions. From A Profound Mind by the Dalai Lama; edited by Nicholas Vreeland. Published by Harmony Books, September 2011. Reprinted with permission of The Crown Publishing Group. ➤ continued from page 39 A Peaceful Refuge a inthe b Heart of New York City New York Insight offers evening talks and sittings, workshops, courses, and daylong retreats for the integration of meditation teach- ings in daily life. PLEASE VISIT: www.nyimc.org New York Insight MEDITATION CENTER 28 West 27th Street, 10th Flr., NYC 212-213-4802