Samsara and Nirvana Part 2

Samsaric confusion is explained under seven categories. The innate dharmadhatu is the basis of confusion. The dharmadhatu is without limitation of existence or nonexistence, like space. But within this space the clouds of confusion of duality arise. It is like mistaking a friend for an enemy. The cause of this confusion is fundamental ignorance. We fail to see the fundamental nature within the tangle of afflictive emotions and the habitual tendencies of conceptual thought. All of the activities of samsara are to protect and defend this body that we cherish. The countless mental afflictions create our afflictive existence. As soon as afflictive emotions arise, they themselves are suffering and are the cause of even more suffering. They discourage and exhaust us. They support one another. They are criticized by noble beings. We should make every effort to eliminate these afflictions. Afflictions do not weaken, get sick, or die. They cannot be removed by diet or exercise. Only through the union of shamatha and vipashyana can they be eliminated. Even reciting 100 million mantras will only generate merit, not eliminate confusion.

The ground wisdom is the buddha nature. Everyone has it and it is not better in one than another. When we realize the suffering of samsara, we are motivated to reveal the ground wisdom, so we engage in the path wisdom. When we achieve this, we have the fruition wisdom. But whether revealed or unrevealed, samsara and nirvana have the same nature.

So first, what is samsaric confusion? I discuss this under seven topics. The first is the basis of confusion. Emptiness is the basis of confusion. Emptiness is the reality of how things are. When we do not see this, we are confused. So the second topic is the cause of confusion. The cause is the fundamental ignorance of not knowing things as they are. Out of this arises the countless afflictive emotions. As a result, our life is in disarray. But the afflictive emotions never age and die. That is why dharma is indispensable. Dharma is the path to handle our predicament.

The third topic is when confusion began. It had no beginning, any more than space. Wisdom is present in us like butter in milk, or oil in a seed. All manifestations arise from the dharmadhatu as the result of its expressivity. But because of the patterning of ignorance, it is misperceived as real. Through dualistic thought patterns, the sky, which is free of ceasing and arising, is obscured by the clouds of concepts.

The fourth point is the entity of confusion, which is grasping at a self. The self has no independent reality, but we regard it as having it, and so we are confused. From this arises the duality of subject and object and afflictive emotions arise that grasp at them. But when analyzed, not even a particle of true existence is found. All things are like mirages. We fall under the four perversions: seeing the unclean as clean, impermanent as permanent, suffering as happiness, and the selfless as possessing a self. Some people think that selflessness is nihilism. That is not right. When a table is analyzed into parts, no table is found. But it is still subject to causes and conditions. Through fixation on a self, we are bound to samsara.

The fifth point asks in what way is it confused. When uncontrived mind is not realized to be free of elaboration, it is perceived as inner and outer, container and contained, and one designates it as self and other. Based on this dualism grasping and aversion arises. As the Heart Surat says, form is emptiness and emptiness is form. In emptiness there is no separation, yet we make the separation through ignorance.

The sixth point is the result of confusion. The afflictions are the result of confusion. Karma arises from the afflictive emotions. Different degrees of karma arise from the afflictive emotions, causing the six realms to arise. Even within a single family you will see the children have different characters. From karma the three types of suffering arise: the suffering of suffering, which is obvious, the suffering of change, which is the suffering caused by the loss of what is enjoyed, and all pervasive suffering, which is the unsatisfactoriness of all conditioned existence. Thus the variegated wheel of existence does not arise causelessly, but from confusion.

We all have experienced all the joys and sufferings of each of the six realms, but they are no more than dreams to us now. All things are possible with technology, but trying to obtain happiness from them is like trying to quench thirst with mirage water. But technology is good, because it has enabled all children to get an education and Buddhism depends on having an education. In a dream we enjoy meeting people and going places. Manifestation is like a magician's show. Until we have abandoned our karma and afflictions we must investigate phenomena. When we achieve enlightenment, we will find the nature of confusion is only wisdom. Our mind is Buddha's mind. Then all that will remain of suffering is its name. The great lamas don't experience the suffering of aging. The purpose of dharma is not to make us rich and successful, it is to free us from samsara.

The seventh point is analogies for suffering. It is like the happenings in a dream, or a cocoon that a bug wraps around itself. Nothing that appears to the senses is real. It is like a dream state. We may not be successful in Vajrayana as seeing everyone as an enlightened being, but if we can see everyone as having buddha nature, that is very good. In illusory life we seek for illusory happiness, but through our grasping we take it as real. All phenomena are like a dew drop, a bubble on the water, like the reflection of the moon in water. It is like a magician's trick.

There are three natures: the imputed, the dependent, and consummate natures. When the sun has set, but before it is totally dark, you will mistake a stick for a snake. That is the imputed. When you see it as a snake, you feel fear. Then you investigate it, and see it as a stick and your fears dissolve. That realization is the consummate. That is how you tackle samsara.

So how is that confusion purified? There is no magic. You have to go practically and conquer all the confusions step by step. Sometimes you chant mantras and hope you will get a vision of the deities. But the point is to see your own mind. By seeing all phenomena as impermanent, we remove our attachment. A lot of people think of impermanence as kindergarten, but understanding of impermanence is needed as the beginning, middle, and end.

Q: Does enlightenment end suffering?

A: When confusion dawns as wisdom, no confusion exists. If you ask the Buddha whether old age and death are suffering, he would say no. as he is not attached. Great bodhisattvas show signs of suffering, but only to lead beings to the path. We experience the fires of old age, sickness, and death and our afflicted skandhas suffer, but the buddha nature is not affected by these adventitious defilements. It is like space, which cannot be destroyed by the four elements. Similarly, the afflictions cannot affect the buddha nature. Mahamudra practitioners are taught to look at the nature of mind when they are sick as it is unaffected by suffering. Buddhaood is beyond the afflictions and so Buddha dwells in great joy.

Q: Is it enough to understand the dharma to become enlightened, or do you need a special power?

A: Understanding is the start, but you need to practice and purify the afflictions. That is how you progress.

Q: When will you know to move on from shamatha to vipashyana?

A: It depends on how well your shamatha is established.

Q: Which practices develop bodhicitta?

A: Contemplating impermanence and suffering and realizing suffering is only ended by buddhahood.

Q: Does understanding science help the dharma?

A: Yes, I think it does. When you scrutinize phenomena it helps you understand interdependence. For example, the study of psychology.

Part 1  Part 3