The Four Reliances

Rely on the message of the teacher, not on his personality;
Rely on the meaning, not just on the words;
Rely on the real meaning, not on the provisional one;
Rely on your wisdom mind, not on your ordinary, judgmental mind.

– The Buddha

Am I Ignoring the Obvious?

Ideas rule the world. So long as there is a mind, it is subjected to ideas. All thoughts and perceptions are conditioned by ideas, resulting and reinforcing future ideas. If the beginning ideas are wrong-mindedness, what follows are wrong in all aspects, until right-mindedness intervenes, correcting the erroneous views. Wrong-mindedness leads to dis-ease, right-mindedness leads to freedom and peace.

There is no possibility of non-idea, as that itself too is an idea. When I say I don’t have any idea, I am to mean my idea of that time is not coherent with what is at that moment. My existence is based on ideas. And as I observed my ideas closely, I am amused by the predictable events that come with it. For instant, the experience I had when I opened the car boot after my usual morning walk. I have this idea that the car boot is unclean. This unclean idea makes me feel uneasy when people are passing by the car, worrying how they will judge me. When I have the idea that it is unclean, I am already seeing it as wrong. And each wrong will be balanced by the right – it should be cleaned, it should not be seen, it should not happened. Now the mind is in conflict, fighting between having it cleaned and embarrassed by the uncleanness. Well, to resolve this conflict I just have to clean the car. Is that true? If it is true, then I will no longer be bothered by the issue of uncleanliness in the future – but it does not work that way, as I will have to keep cleaning it so as to put uncleanliness at bay. Is there any difference between this and the former? The only difference is that I like cleanliness and dislike uncleanliness. Both are targeting at the same object, not seeing that my idea is the culprit that makes me do this and that – never at peace with myself. It is an addiction. An addiction of doing and doing. My unaware interpretation begins the drama of my storyline.

I may not realize what I am experiencing as uneasiness, as I am continuously addicted to rectifying what I think should and should not be. I should keep the house clean, I should not be complacent, I should do something, I should not rest, I should see my parents, I should not do these or do that. And my should goes further than just me – you should not have dirtied the place, you should apologize, you should have drive carefully, you should mixed with friends, you should, you should. you should. The should is occurring within me, not what is truly out there. I bought in an idea and that idea conflicts me. If my idea comes from right-mindedness I can be sure there wont be any conflict or dis-ease.

Throughout the day there are amazingly countless of ideas interacting and bridging me with the world. The world too brings in ideas that may influence my ideas, either strenghtening or weakening what I am already in. If I am not open to inquiries, what I accept will matches my own ideas. Whatever that is detrimental to my ideas will be automatically rejected.

Ideas too are subjected to the check and balance principle. Each wrong idea has the potential for right idea to spring forth. The way of right idea arising is by the triggers that I get from wrong-mindedness. It is a calling for the correction of an error. I may or may not listen to that call. But it is ok. The more I ignore, the more I will face the trigger until I take time to inquire. Thus nature is benevolent. Each trigger is a rectification of an error. It is by no means a punishment but a benevolent act of Nature bringing me back to peace.

It has the balance of ying and yang in Tao. When I am too ying, I will be attracted to yang and viceversa. When I attack, I am subjected to defense. When I defense, I am subjected to attack. They are interplay of duality, occurring every moment. Am I in-charge? No. I am been pulled by the forces of Nature. My control only seems to make Nature is going against me. In truth it is me that is against Nature.

Nature of Existence is Non-existence

Everything in existence has its own check and balance processes – a natural law that governs everything that exist, from the micro to the macro level, including the universe itself. It is like an in-build mechanism found in everything – whether be it tangible or intangible, animate or inanimate – all has the inherent nature to arise and cease by itself, moment after moment. Conditioned by its ceasing, it arises again. Conditioned by the arising, it ceases again, in continuum. This conditional principle is spread unconditionally throughout existence – not one is spared from it.

There is no wrongness in this movement of processes, neither is there possibility of things going wrong – for everything, from the minutest level, is taken care of in itself, moment after moment, in perfect harmony. How could it ever go wrong when anything that comes into existence perishes immediately? There is no chance for it to move further into any conflict or entanglement other than to cease instantaneously. If ever there is an entanglement, it will only be a perceived entanglement occurring between ego towards nature. Even the mind is subjected to perish – how else could it be possible for it to be entangled? The misconception of what things really are from the viewpoint of ego is the cause of the illusion of entanglement. What is ego? Misperception.

On a wider perspective, these conditioned states are what we called Nature – they are the natural workings of existence. Conditioned states are unconditional by nature as it goes beyond all forms, without any exception. It is like implying that the only permanence is impermanent itself. When I am in the space of stillness, of beingness, of surrendering – all not exempted from change itself – the flow of this nature is experienced – the natural state of change, of impermanence, occuring at all levels, including awareness itself. These phenomenon of change can be directly experience as something that is devoid of self, of doing. It is not something I can hold on to, as holding on itself is subjected to change too. Thus in existence there is not a permanent entity that can be called the same at any moment. Observing and understanding this nature is wisdom at work – a kind of experiential realization.

Do “I” really exist? Yes and no. Not as a permanent entity, but as Nature – subjected to the conditioning of arising and perishing, moment after moment. Consciousness, perceptions, feelings or mental formations, perish as it arise, and conditioned by perish, it arise again.

Like a dream, I cannot say it does not exist, neither is it in existence. Only when I do not understand and realized the principle behind these experiences that I took it personal – and from that arises the misperception of control; of holding on and resistance – all springing from the ignorance of this nature. That is where delusion works.

I Don’t Give a Damn

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” is a line from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. It was spoken by Gable, as Rhett Butler, in his last words to Scarlett O’Hara.

I probably would not use such a profanity statement in my vocabulary, but if I have ever said “I don’t care” I can be sure that statement evolves around a convoluted expression of what is truly in my mind – I don’t give a damn. I am just not being real.

Whatever it is, can I don’t care? Can I don’t give a damn? I can’t not don’t care unless I do not know its existence. I can’t not say I don’t care about the world, as I need to know its existence before I can not-to-care. The moment I know about its existence it has already entered my space, so to speak. How can I not-to-care?

When I said I do not want to see you anymore, can I? You have never left me, though physically you did. I carry the anger towards you and thus I can’t not care, simply because that don’t care is stuck in my mind. The more I do something to get rid of it, the more it hangs on to me – the good news is that it cannot be get rid of. Like a boa constrictor, the more I resist the more I get strangled by it. Each time my anger increases, I am holding on to you more. But it is the other way round, my dear – my holding on to you is the cause of my anger. Arrrggh…. ! I may even resort to harming you in an unwise way. If I did, I would have got it all wrong. It is my anger that I am not seeing. It is my holding on to you that I have mistakenly see you as wrong. If I harm you I would have harmed an innocent being. I am actually harming myself. You did what you have just did and that is perfectly what it is. It is only my reasoning that I think what you did is wrong. And what has my reasoning got to do with you? My reasoning created my pain. How can you be responsible for it? When I held on to you, I am holding on to my sorrow.

Talking of holding on, when I love you I am also holding on to you. When I don’t love you, I am also doing the same. My attention is always 100% on you. What a delusion. Is there truly love in it? Can I caused you pain? Or can I cause others pain, except myself? The more I see myself, the more I see how ridiculous and comical the mind can be.

What I am running away from, I am exactly doing what the dog tries to do – chasing after its tail, not realizing the tail is its own. Whatever I don’t care, I am already caring it, unconsciously until I wake up to it.

The world has never left me. If I think an earthquake is a problem, the problem is me. There is no problem in earthquake, neither is there problem in death. As Byron Katie puts it aptly – whenever there is a problem I am always there. Nothing can escape my mind, unless I am oblivious to it. But the irony is this – whether I am oblivious or not, it has never left me as the world is me. Just like I will never know whether I will get jealous or not, until someone comes along. The jealousy is not caused by someone out there but rather a latent state awaiting its arising which I am holding on to. So when I am oblivious to what is, it does not mean that I am totally vulnerable to it.

The mind has no walls, neither are there windows. The mind is totally open to picking up everything that comes through the sense doors. There is no filtering, neither is there censorship. What changes is how I response to it. Since I can’t beat it, let me have peace with it.

The Gold Fish in the Glass Bowl

I, the goldfish, amidst my friends, live happily each day, enjoying every moment of our time. One day I started to notice that the “one” that feeds me food is not like me – not in the sense of appearance, as shapes are obvious to me by observing the friends that comes and goes around me. This “one” that feeds me seems to be in touch with the ground wherever he goes – whereas I don’t. I need not be at the bottom all the time but yet this “one” seems to have the need to fix himself to the ground. Hmm.. I start to realize I am floating and he is not.  That keeps me wondering why. I checked out with my friends and they too starts to see the obvious. Some are interested and some are not. Some just brushed me aside. Some are intrigued but did not go further than that. Me, being me, become curious and wanted to know why. The “one” out there seems oblivious to my calling, no matter how hard I tried. Is he deaf?

I looked around me and find that everything is familiar. Suddenly it strikes me that I have never gone further than where I am in. What I saw afar is only as close as I can see but not there. Strange, I never thought of this before. I wondered why. As I move around I find that I have never left where I am though I thought I am around the space where I can see. There seems to be some kind of boundary that separates me from what is around me “out there” What is it that I do not know?

I become frantic and start moving around more and more and out of a sudden I realized that there is a space between where I float and above me. I took a peep out and felt that I am out of breath. Weird, why is it so, I wondered again. A few trying convinced me that I am in some kind of material that helps me to float, and out there, there is none. So I am actually being supported by this material rather than thinking that I am floating. I am getting more curious. Why am I being supported by this material?  What is this material than I am dependent on?  And what material is this that I can’t see but only knows when I felt the contrast without it.

I investigate further and came to a conclusion that the material that supports me and the space out there can only be found above me but not around. There seems to be some kind of separation between where I am and what is out there. Could it be I am contained by this material? If that is so, am I in some kind of a space, never gotten out of it – am I trapped? Is there something that I am not knowing? What is it like to live without this material around me?

. . .

I am that goldfish. The water is the mind. And the glass that separates me is the delusion that separates me from the world. In the beginning of time, the one million dollar question of who am I does not arise in me. I live each day oblivious to this thing call “mind”. I have never known what is the mind, except to experience its function like feelings, thinking, etc. Like the goldfish, it will never know what is water until it gets out of it. Breathe is the same too. I never know I am breathing in air except breathing alone until I am told about it. In the beginning I never question what the mind is except being with it. Only later do I realized that the mind is another.

Have you ever seen a dragonfly trying its best to fly out of the glass window? Or a bird looking puzzled why it could not get out to the “other side” – the trees that is outside the house, separated by the the glass window. Consider that the goldfish is not aware that it is in the glass bowl, separated from us. The fish may not know that there is such a thing call water, neither does it know that there is no water surrounding outside the bowl. More importantly it does not know that it is separated by this thing call glass. To the goldfish vision, what it sees is what the world is all about. If I put the goldfish in a small room, it see the room as the entire world – nothing beyond that. Worst, it is not even aware that it is in the glass bowl looking out – as wherever it swims it only sees the room but not the glass. Metaphorically, it is in the room but yet it is not, except in the glass bowl. Who cares? That is the conspiracy of delusion.

I thought I am with the world. But in truth I am with the mind. I have never left the mind. I am playing out all my actions with the mind. I have never, never, touches the world. The mind touches me.

Until one day I am being told to be aware of myself, I start to observe what the mind is. I have never left the mind. Only when I am aware can I notice the mind. Without awareness there is only one – me.

When I am unaware of the mind, I am one with myself. When I am aware, the situation becomes two – me and the mind. And when I am able to be aware of myself and the mind, there are three. Each situation allows me to look at the world differently.

Once I get to know the mind well, I begin to see the nature of delusion – the goldfish need to know the existence of water first before it knows the bowl that contains it.

Delusion is not an option. Delusion separates me from the world. When delusion is realized, Truth reveals. In truth, delusion does not exist. It exist because of the mind. There is no need for the bowl if not for the water. There is no need for the water if not for the fish.

The mind has no need to exist when “I” ends – not only at death, but in the Now.

Being Whole and Complete to What Is

Answers or realizations comes a calling when I open up to inquiry. It may not be immediate, it may not be later, but that is none of my doing. My “doing” in the Now is to remember to be here, in the now, so as to facilitate observation instead of allowing the mind to be idle in status quo, taking everything that comes its way for granted.

And that needs proactive attitude in me – to see things afresh and anew. Not just giving attention on the objects but also keep guarding myself from falling into the complacency attitude. I learn to be ahead of time, so to speak, to keep recognizing what has just arisen in me. Am I judgmental? Am I concluding? Am I wanting? As I observed, I don’t make them wrong – I use them as an opportunity to understand their nature – how they arise and why they arise. The more I observe in this way, the more I will recognize a consistent pattern in all of them, thus understanding the mechanics of the mind work.

I observe the play of conditioning in each pattern – the cause and effect of it. Recognizing this, the wise part of me chooses what is to my highest good – the good that brings about peace, love and freedom. I don’t choose them – wisdom chooses. My job is just to keep recognizing the unwholesome attitude that is detrimental to my wholeness. My job is just to inquire openly through observation.

Ignorance chooses too but out of a perceived idea of the past – hence judgment and conclusion. I am on guard to recognize whether wisdom or ignorance is present. I may not be able recognize both in the beginning and my tool is only to bring in more information from those whom have gone through this pathway. With those background information as my tools, I watch for any pattern of resistance or holding on to what is. I have to be authentic with myself. Authenticity reveals the truth that may not be sightly to me, from years of ignorance, but I trust that there is always an opportunity of transforming what I experienced to understanding. I just need to bear witness without stepping into the process of unfoldment.  The more I observe the more I see the causal relationships of mind states – how each states are conditioned by what I intent. This insight is the beginning of seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Creating new pathways become easier once I know what is detrimental to my peace, love and freedom. Before that can come into my space, I open up myself to inquiry, appreciating each moment of awareness and inquisitiveness to what I am observing in life. I am on my inward journey home.

Wherein Open Inquiry?

Just as ego has many disguise or relatives, wisdom too has its own retinue of wholesome states. The most basic wisdom is common sense. And yet common sense is not that common these days. Not that we are dumb, but conditions are such that it does not encourage us to ponder or to reflect whenever a situation were to arise. It is the pondering and the know-how to resolve a situation that brought about common sense. It is an irony that the more advance the world is, the more ignorant we become.

Open inquiry is the basis for the arising of wisdom. If I were to read a phrase and it strikes me that the author is trying to convey a message, I will ponder upon it. I will not give a presumptuous answer to it and do my level best to understand which angle the author may be coming from. My ability to ponder is already an indication that I am opening up to inquiry. And if I don’t get any satisfactory answer from whatever knowledge I already have, I will leave that statement aside without brushing it off as unimportant. A day will come when another point of view from another writer may strikes me to revisit what I have read or probably what I have shallowly understood at that point of time. This revisiting may be something automatic that is occurring in the mind, without me needing to try remembering the connection of both. How can this happen? It is because I have directed the mind to put the meaning aside first, allowing the mind to match my future data. In other words, I am putting the mind on call, instead of a presumptuous judgement or idea that kills the possibility of a future understanding to arrive. I can’t force wisdom to arise except to plant the condition in the mind for it to take its course.

The mind is simply a tool for growing wisdom. If unattended it will remain status quo and thus ignorance sets in. It is the nature of the mind to hold on to where it is. Clinging to what is is the basic instinct of the mind – simply because perception in the past determines what is in the now. If I don’t bring up an openness to inquire, I am simply living an old ideas. The mind only works when it is directed. As such an untrained mind can achieve nothing. What kind of training? Worldly training is one, spiritual training is another. In spiritual training, the key purpose is to understand oneself better and to develop qualities of mind that brings about peace, love and freedom.

In the meditative factors of enlightenment there are seven in number commencing with awareness as its foundation. To be able to open to inquiry, I am invited to be fully present to what is without resisting or holding on to my own personal views or ideas. Only then can I look at what is in a new perspective and inquisitiveness. Thus inquiry or investigative nature, is second after awareness. When inquiry is introduced to the mind, my past understanding will naturally look through its data bank to match its own understanding with what is. That is effort in action. I don’t give what I inquire an answer. I allow understanding to do its work – searching for clues and information of that inquiry. When there is the natural effortless effort of inquiry, joy arises due to inquisitiveness. And the joy propels deeper observation that has stillness in it. In the stillness there is wise attention to what is being observed – simply bearing witness without trangression of any sort to the nature of what is. Stillness culminates in concentration – the ability to prolong the observatory state. And concentration leads to equanimity to things as they really are – being impartial to what is.

In daily living the seven factors take on a different form. They are the basis of wisdom. There is presence to what I am in. In the midst of presence, I inquire what I am not understanding. Inquiry leads me deeper in searching for the truth. There is keeness in it. As I reflect keenly on what I am inquiring, inner silence arise in me. Inner silence brings about attentiveness and in that attentiveness there is impartiality to what I am reflecting – not making any conclusion out of what I am not understanding. In that space, when I am out of my own way of reasoning and concluding, understanding unfolds naturally. Answers in the form of realization, are always in hand, only when I do not interfere nature with my own conclusions.

The above factors are merely information to show that when I begin the journey of wisdom, the relatives of wisdom follow suit. My job is just to initiate wisdom – through open inquiry. 

Not because of wanting realization I put myself in the pursuit of inquiries. But because of inquiry, realization comes to me. Inquiry facilitates wisdom. Wanting leads to ignorance.