Sunday 02 Aug 2020
(‘How it creates & How it lets go’) --- (‘How it begins & How it Ends’)
Consciousness is a condition. We can know this because it can be objectified. We can make an object of it. We can get above it, below it, and see all around it but most importantly we can see it begin and end. When I say, ‘see it’, I am meaning we can experience all this with our knowing. Knowing is an important delineation. It is not a constructed condition like a belief. Conditioning is always aggregated or compounded and because we can ‘know’ consciousness, we can know that it is a condition that begins and ends inside our knowing. Understanding this is one of the most important things for a meditation practitioner on the path of the Buddha to understand. The realisation of what consciousness is, brings the teachings of the Buddha to resolution and completion. We can then understand why he set the four Noble Truths out in the way he did. The arcane way in which the Buddha made the First Noble Truth that of ‘Dukkha’. (A beautiful Pali word, hard to translate) then the Second Noble Truth that Dukkha has a beginning, followed by the Third Noble Truth that Dukkha has an end. The fourth noble truth is the beautifully balanced and nuanced pathway of practice to understand the first three truths. In a very powerful statement, the Buddha proclaimed that he teaches nothing more than the Beginning and Ending of Dukkha. Dukkha has the potential to build and aggregate discrete conditions for us to attach to, at all scales, right through from the quantum to the universe. All this comes together when we can understand and objectify consciousness.
THE REALM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Consciousness is insidious and we are enchanted by it. It is the playground of the Buddha’s First Noble truth of Dukkha. He made us aware that it is full of ‘Greed Hatred and Delusion’. Another way that he expressed this habitual conditioning, was to refer to it as “Desire (Grasping) Aversion (Rejection)and Fear (Delusion)”. Because our consciousness and the aggregated conditioning that arises from it is all habitually formed in a dualistic framework, it defines the Dukkha and unsatisfactory nature of consciousness. These three things express what the Buddha saw as poisons or defilements and they can be balanced with Generosity, Loving kindness (Metta) and Wisdom. In fact, all that we can think, or all that we experience as physical in this universe has a dualistic balance. Matter and Anti-matter in the physical realm, along with an opposition or shadow to all we can conceive of in our mind. It is instructive to contemplate the Buddha’s answer to a question he was asked by his monks. The question was, “Where does consciousness begin”. The Buddha’s answer was, “I have been back in my mind over twenty-four Kalpa’s, (A Kalpa is the Pali word for a Universal cycle), and no beginning can be seen”. This answer sits well with the Christian idea of Eternity, to illustrate extremes of duality, and clearly defines the Buddha’s path as the ‘Middle Way’. It very clearly eschews any idea of Theism or Atheism, and grounds the practitioner back very solidly into the reality of the present moment, balanced firmly between the past and the future.
In saying all of this, I am in no way trying to denigrate consciousness. Its dualistic nature sets up an absolute perfection for our world. Whatever condition we grasp, it is balanced with duality and as such, our world is always in a state of perfection. We try to make our world more perfect from our humanistic point of view but it cannot be, because the world will always be balanced to create perfection from the point of view of duality, no matter how we are experiencing it. The truth of the serenity Prayer is what comes to mind here. The genius, the beauty, and the joy of the Buddha’s teaching is that he showed us how to let it all go. To let go of the Dukkha and allow it to finish. His teachings are all about how to go about doing this. He gave us the ‘Noble Eight-Fold Path’ in his ‘Fourth Noble Truth’, and this path is a recipe to find the peace of enlightenment inside this perfection we all live with. Each one of us have our own individual universe to work with, and we can make peace in our personal universe.
To help us make peace and to help us understand what the concept of a personal world means, now is a good time to introduce the concept of fungible consciousness. Consciousness can be shaped and formed to present a situation that is conditioned and built up to suit what is required for individual perception. It builds up habitually and dependently personal for every individual mind stream. Pure still consciousness has a nature to shape-shift to suit and meet the individual perceptions of us all. The ‘Many Worlds Model’ of Quantum Mechanics encompasses the earlier ‘Copenhagen Convention’ to demonstrate that individuality is present and discrete right down to the most fundamental of elementary particles, and remains discrete and fundamental for each and every build-up of particles through to the planets. stars, galactic clusters, and Universes. Every discrete and fundamental phenomenon whether by itself or compounded, is built from the beginning of the universe and will be there until the end of a universe. The conditioning continues as both a discrete, individual collapsed particle view of the universe, or as a wave of probability inside us all. The same thing applies to our thoughts and beliefs. This is how we can live individual lives while connected to the whole. It all comes together in countless dimensions layered on top of each other in the present moment. This is the power of pure fungible consciousness, it can create our dreams into what we see as reality, building the movement of our minds into perceptions and feelings created in the mind. The gravity and density of the experience then habitually fuses the pull we feel into what we understand to be the physicality of the world ‘out there;’--- ‘the other!’ The process is so habitual that we cannot see that it is all a mind made delusion, that is, until we start to work with and understand the Buddha’s Eight-fold noble path.
The pathway to this enlightenment is all about uncovering and understanding the reality that is there in the present moment. With the practice of focussing and clarifying the mind we learn how to use mindfulness to see the movement of our lives as the various scales of conditioned factors that make it up, are moving from past to future through the pure consciousness that is always there in the heart of the present moment. Then as we observe more deeply, we start to intuit and realise that it too, the pure consciousness itself, is beginning and ending “countless times in the blink of an eye”, as the Buddha said. As our mindfulness becomes stronger, we eventually see that the realm of consciousness finishes, the same as any other condition. Here we see the grasping nature of our enchantment with consciousness and how it keeps us from being real. Here we are totally in the ‘Knowing’, beyond the conditioning of consciousness. We know that if, and when our life finishes in death, with this knowing present; there will be no more rebirth. This is the realm of peace, pure and simple, the realm of the ‘deathless’, it is beyond the realm of conscious birth and death. It is here that we can truly understand why the Buddha labelled his First Noble Truth as Dukkha, we understand why the Second Noble Truth, that Dukkha (conditions) have a beginning and the Third Noble Truth, that Dukkha (conditions) have an ending. And finally, we celebrate the Fourth Noble Truth, that of the Noble Eight-fold path that has made us real as we move from the insanity of enchantment to a place of reality. Our work is done!
The Serenity Prayer
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. ... Give me courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other