Conditioned and Unconditioned

I used to get a little uptight whenever I come across the word “conditioned” in Buddhism and felt so “lofty” when the meaning “unconditioned” came to mind – though at those times I don’t really get what it means except whatever limiting ideas I put upon it, thus seeing conditioned as wrong and unconditioned as right. What an ignorant judgment!

And throughout those years I was so attracted to the word “unconditional love” – trying so hard to be one but failing most of the time :(

The wiser part of me (or Holy Spirit, if you come from a different faith) came up with the following illustration to let me see that there is no right or wrong to both words except its definition. And there is no better way of illustrating it other than Darkness and Light.

Darkness Is, Light Exist.

Darkness is unconditional as it always Is. Darkness needed nothing to make it exist, for in reality, it does not “exist” except is. Are you following me? It will be easy to see this truth when we come to Light. Now for Light to come into existence, it must have something for it to arise, for example, the Sun or even the collision of meteor etc. In other words Light is been conditioned by something. Once it is been conditioned, it has the nature of ending for the word “conditioning” already implies a situation that can only come into existence due to a certain nature. For instance, fire can only exist when a matchstick and a source of friction comes into contact. Fire is not hidden somewhere awaiting for contact. It just arise due to conditioning, and thus temporal by nature.

In the modern new agy stuff we are been encouraged to view Darkness as evil and Light as purity – I am not disputing what are been shared but we missed the point of Reality when we see something as good and bad. Everything has its essence of Truth – only when we give opportunity for enquiry. I wish to share with you here a teaching on Tao about Darkness:

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

– Tao Te Ching (A New English Version) by Stephen Mitchell

Coming back to the topic of Conditioned and Unconditioned, it is logical to say that all existence are conditional by nature and thus not lasting, devoid of self and unsatisfactory.  All existence are unreal, so to speak, for it only exist due to conditioning. What is it beyond existence, you may ask? Unconditioned, my friend, as spoken by great sages like the Buddha or Yeshua (he uses the word eternity).

I invited you to consider the following which may invoke repulsion, defense or disillusion but allow yourself to enquire, deeply – Your existence is unreal. Beyond your existence lies the Unconditioned.

Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed, they will marvel, and they will reign over all.
– Yeshua

May you see this Truth. Peace be unto all.

Ego Exist, Wisdom Is

I used to take for granted that the opposite of darkness is light but as the wiser part of me grew I start to see the falseness of this so-called truth. In reality, darkness has and will always be, or, in other words, is. The whole entire universe is dark except for a few blob of lights here and there. Light is in existence amidst darkness. Relatively light is impermanent as it is in existence. The word “to exist” means, to be sustained and thus temporal by nature. Whereas darkness need not be sustained as it always is and thus no need for existence.

I like this analogy very much as it reminds me of the statement made by Yeshua: There is no necessity to seek for Truth but it is necessary to seek what blocks us from the Truth. Truth is, and will always be. Ego exist amidst Truth. As such I am not wiser than you or you are wiser than me. Truth or Wisdom, Is. What disallow me to see this are the blocks which I need to work on. The meaning of non-separation is based on this analogy. What separate us from each other is the illusion of Ego – but beyond (or amidst) the Ego is Truth, or Wisdom, which has and will always Is – thus the word Infinite Wisdom. There is no such thing as Infinite Ego as ego exist! And each existence is limited by its conditioning.

And that too reminded me back of what the Buddha said when he mentioned that he found the Truth. Truth can’t be created except to be found. To find darkness, you just need to dim or extinguished light. Darkness is always there, awaiting you. So it is interesting to note the word “ignorance” frequently been used in Buddhism – ignoring what is already here for one to recognize.

Putting the Cart in Front of the Horse

Seeing everything as illusion, experiencing Truth, or even acquiring wholesome mental qualities are all effects rather than causes for one to work on.  In other words you cannot practise “seeing everything as illusion” as they are effect of a certain causes that need to acquire first. In the same way you cannot experience Truth directly, nor try to be “compassionate”, “loving”, or non-judgmental. You can, except an imitation.

Imagine you have not eaten a durian before and someone came along telling you how nice the taste is. Without tasting it would it make any sense for you to keep repeating how nice the taste — whether to yourself or to others? That is what makes knowledge and wisdom a huge difference. One is a lie, the other a truth. When I use the word “lie” I am not saying a conscious expression but rather an unconscious experience that is totally devoid of essence.

Thus when one proclaim “everything is an illusion”, without experiencing it directly, one is only adding another baggage to the mind, an idea that is of no difference than seeing everything as real.It has far reaching implication than just baggage. Firstly, it creates conflict to the mind, as in reality the mind has yet to experience it and yet one tries to make the mind in believing in. Now that is a mission impossible as you can’t lie to the mind except lying to yourself. It is like telling a lie and yet ignoring it is a lie. That is compounding lie.

Belief and Realization have different effects altogether. Both don’t arrive at the same destination, though at times we are been convince that belief is the beginning of faith. Belief do lead to faith, but blind faith. Understanding leads to faith, a different kind of faith that sometimes refer to as confidence.

Secondly, misguided view leads to the strengthening of ego. Ego arises from ignorance of what is, an unconscious choice we made in our intent and action. Whenever ego is present, there is no possibility wisdom can arise, unless and until you recognize the presence of ego in you. Even then, it may not be as simply as we think it is. Try recognizing anger, when it arise and you will get what i mean.

In summary, understanding is key to spiritual growth. Specifically, understanding the principle of cause and effect. For example, to come to the result of seeing everything as illusion, one’s cause is realizing its opposite as as unreal. In the same way, to experience Truth, one has to recognize the falseness of things in perception. Or to develop wholesome mental qualities, one has to understand the aspect of the unwholesome mental qualities.

Recognize, realize, understand are all aspect of a wisdom mind. They are the causes to breaking open from what is not to what is, in other words from ignorant to wisdom. Wisdom is the beginning and yet the end of the journey.