Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reality and Zen Buddhism: A Lay Perspective.

[Draft form, under Editing]

The basic issue in all mystic contemplation of our existence is the premise that

our mundane reality arising from our perception of the world is an illusion. It has a
dreamlike quality when viewed through the proper perspective of the truth that
indeed at every moment it is changing. Even we are changing to the effect that even in
our everyday reality there is nothing fixed or permamnent that may be defined as "we". The illusion is precisely that of an unchanging "I" or "myself". In fact there is really no unchanging "I", at best an "I" or "myself" is actualy a process which is intricately linked to the ambient existential conditions each one of us is exposed to. Neither "we" nor the conditions are "permanent".

Yet if there is no real basis to our familiar mundane reality then what is "true reality".
Most mystic world views tend to describe this true reality as completely incomprehensible
from our usual perspective. But the mystic perspective of Zen Buddhism, which originates
from the Mahayana School of Buddhist philosophy, differs in this contention. Zen Buddhism
which rejects the trappings of philosophy and the confusing thicket of concept, words, faith
dogma or scriptural knowledge relies on direct pointing at the heart of existence. Zen bases
itself on an experiential comprehension of true reality through intense contemplation and an
infinitely alert awareness of existence to intuit the essence of true reality.

Zen asserts that the great secret of true reality has never been hidden at all and far from being incomprehensible, is continualy manifested in every blade of grass and every turn of the breeze. Entire creation manifests the secret of true reality at every moment yet we do not posess the fine awareness to penetrate the mists of our delusion and directly perceive it. It is because we lack true awareness of the simplicity and directness of this truth. But Zen does not stop there but points directly at our own existential experience to distill the essence of true reality in our everyday
language. Zen Buddhism unhestitatingly asserts that we have all experienced the dazzling radiance of the shining jewel of true existential reality unknowingly many times.
Either in a moving poetry a haiku, Tanka or a Waka, in the startlingly bold brushtroke of a haiga or in the bright lights of an impressionist painting,
in the exhilaration of the spring wind, in sunbeams split by the
water, a glorious sunset, in the growing darkness of a rain cloud,
in the flowing beauty of a river, in the clear limpid eyes of a child, in the
exceptional beauty of a woman, in a moment of calm and peace with our
family, in some beautiful aspect of nature, in a moving piece of
music, in the scent of a flower or the light of a glorious moon, in
the throbbing hearbeats of our first love and many more times.

Some of these openings are brief and fleeting and others far deeper and enduring. We have felt such experience strangely tug at our heartstrings and our emotions and we have come away with a strange sense of happiness and an inexplicable bewilderness unable
to explain or conceptualize the experience. A moment of pure beauty is without
thought or conception. At that instant there is only pure experience
and awareness. The conceptualization and the framework of thoughts
follows afterwords. And in most cases the conceptualization destroys the spontaenity of
of the experience. Yet in many such instances we are unable to explain
our strange joy. Something left unspoken and unthought. Such fleeting moments of awareness
is what Zen points to and asks us to probe deeper.

Zen states that these insights actualy provides us a glimpse of that radiant suchness of true reality. Such experiences arise from that source. Our analytical mind dissolves in that instant. That suchness is the source of all creative impulse. Depending on the sensitivity and
state of the mind these experiences could go deeper and be more intense. They are called *kensho* in Zen. They are short lived but deep. Often it goes deeper in meditation or in contemplation and such deep insights of a far longer duration are called *Samadhi* or *Satori* in Zen.

Such experiences may even happen to ordinary people in moments of great happiness or
great stress when the usual conceptual ordinary mind is frozen and
unable to function. It is then that sometimes one achieves a deep
experience of that radiance. I call it radiance but its not simply
physical light but the light of true understanding. It can also happen
when one is exceptionaly calm and contemplative.

Imagine progressively deeper versions of these insights
of increasing intensity, a thousandfold, tenthousand fold, million
fold and yet it would not equal the the radiance of the true and
undifferentiated primordial reality. Nameless, faceless unqualifiable
beyond all thoughts and actions, not conceptualizable. Tibetans call it
*Rigpa* and liken it to the calm moonlit surface of an
ocean undisturbed by the winds of thought. All creation are like waves
which rise from the sea and dissapears back into it. Karma is likened
to the wind which bring forth the waves.

This is what is true reality as set forth by the core of almost all religions
starting from the pagan parctices, african mysticism, the primitive religion of american and south american indians to organized major world religions. It is enmeshed in
mystery and incomprehensibility to ordinary individuals. Yet Zen asserts that all of us have had glimpses of it. Unknowingly for an instant but the framework of the conceptualizing
ordinary everyday mind a product of Karma forced us back into
delusion. Some have these have been deeper than others depending on the state of
the minds its clariy and receptivity to that experience. Masters are able to continualy abide in the clear state of the true reality. Its not that the world ceases to exist in such a state
it does exist but with a completely different perspective and

One must remember that the great Hindu sage Sri Ramakrishna had his first Samadhi at a very young age when he saw a flight of cranes across the darkened sky of
impending monsoon. Nature is a great teacher and if one is aware and
alert such magical moments abound and may be deeply experienced. But
we are pre occupied all the time to be aware. Samsara our everday life forces all of us
deeper and deeper into the arms of the illusion of Maya. Hiding from us the true
radiance yet it shines forth everywhere blazingly but we are unable to
perceive it in our confusion and delusion.

Tibetan Buddhism says that the clear light or the rigpa rises just
after the blackness of our final extinction and death but unless it is
practised in life it passes by the mind conciousness which is confused
and perturbed with Karmic impressions. It fails to recognize the
*clear light* and the Karmic impressions forces the consciousness
stream to evolve into one more Samsaric existence through a linked
chain of cause and effect called *dependent origination*. An infinite
repetitive cycle, the wheel of Samsara called *Kalchakra* the wheel of life.


At 15:29, Blogger Hrishikesh said...

hey...u ought to be a zen master...
a roshi...

what else can u say about zen 'presence'...about zen 'immediacy'..??

At 13:40, Blogger gautam said...

Dear Hrishikesh,

Its very difficult to become a Zen Master
or a Roshi. Mainly because the direct experience of true reality which is the aim of Zen is deceptively simple. Most of our minds are so agitated and so caught up in the delusion of our mundane reality that it becomes almost impossible to experience that deceptive simplicity.

There is nothing realy to say about your questions. Words only fill up pages not our experience. Seek and also read, and
your own Buddha nature will bring answers to all your questions. Above all
look at life and the existence all around yourself. All answers lie there
just waiting to be found if our minds are still.



At 11:30, Blogger mohitparikh said...

How can 'reality' be comprehensible? Isn't it mind that needs to understand? Isn't it mind that asks questions and searches for explainations? and isn't it No-mind when one experiences reality?
Why does Mahayana School differ?

At 06:53, Blogger mohitparikh said...

how can the reality be understood in its totality for the reality is experienced by No-Mind and understanding is a need of mind?
what does Mahayana-buddhism say?

At 11:56, Blogger gautam said...

Dear Mohit,

Zen relies only on direct experiencing. Words and concepts are like crutches
experience does not need words. Mind and No-mind are also words. Yet one needs
words to communicate. They are only pointers to the experience not to be confused with the experience itself.

Zen differs in the sense of direct pointing. have you seen the flash of colour when the Indian Kingfisher launches into flight ? The perception of that flash is timeless. Its also mindless without conception or explanation but is experienced nonetheless.

If you wish to read and understand more about mind read the Surangama Sutra and the words of the Buddha Tathagata himself. Its easily available online
through a Google search.
But one word of caution reading or understanding has little to do with experiencing.

Best wishes


At 01:55, Blogger mohitparikh said...

I dont know how much i really understand but i fell like i do now.
Why have u stopped blogging? It wld be pleasure reading u.

At 10:29, Blogger gautam said...

Dear Mohit,

Thank you for the nice words. It was also
a pleasure to read your comments. I have been occupied with many commitments. I am
a theoretical physicist by profession
(link to my home page on the blog) and a
Professor so often professional pressures
and family responsibilities do not allow other activities. I would certainly write
soon. You can directly communicate wit myself if you wish at my gmail ID given also in the blog and over here. Its nice to know that you like my writing.

Best wishes and luck

Gautam Sengupta.

At 09:56, Blogger mohitparikh said...

thank you sir, i would certainly bug u with my queries as and when they do arise.
As such, i hav talked to u personally...only briefly. I did a summer intern under Tapobrata Sir in 2007. I came all inspired by Tao of Physics and Dancing Wu Li Masters...and i thght physics wld help me get some asnwers. But I was highly disappointed particularly by the academic nature of it...also it was so much maths tht it was hard to relate to the physical significance and so all the fun was lost.
Anyhow i absolutely love that period for i gained new insights then.

At 22:37, Blogger gautam said...

That very nice. U are always welcome to communicate. I find that for a young guy of your age you think quite deeply. Dont worry your thoughts and feelings will lead you to the right direction. To realy get the high pleasure and perceive the beauty of Physics there is no other way but through Maths. It is the language of Physics just as conventional language is the vehicle for the beauty of sublime Literature. do keep in touch . Best wishes.

Gautam Sengupta

At 16:45, Blogger khushi said...

Dear Gautam,

Again, it was easy and natural to like this post of yours. Its a compilation of some of the most beautiful thoughts. I liked your expression of how we all connect to cosmos through simple things in life at some or the other point.I could relate to it.
I have not read all your posts but i intend to.

I'd also like to thank you for the encouragement and appreciation. really, it feels great. Since, you mentioned, i checked out Salvador Dali's paintings.Undoubtedly, he is a fine artist and i liked his use of bold colors but i found his paintings (atleast the ones i saw) dipped in pain and misery.

as far as i m concerned, i use my brush only when a thought really overwhelms me because at all other times i fare pathetically on patience.

anyway, a good write
keep posting!

At 08:41, Blogger gautam said...

Hello Khushi,

Thank you again for visiting my blog and your appreciation. Its also a lot of encouragement and inspiration for myself to read the comments. I would suggest that you read the "summer musings" post. Many liked it and its also my favourite.

Yes Dali is often depressing but his Surrealism is a very different and powerful artistic perspective. I can understand the artistic inspiration
that you mention for your painting.
My eagre creations are often driven by an absolutely feverish frenzy of expression. When that happens I know its good because there is a spontaneous flair to the piece. "Summer Musings" came a bit like that at 5 am in the morning.

Warm wishes



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