Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Footprints of Birds in the Sky

I sit constantly with the nature of Samsara. In awe. The wheel of revolving forms and names. The shapes that arise from the ocean and dissolve back into it. I am fascinated by the forms, the patterns, the appearance. Why dissolve forever when I am continually created anew moment after moment after moment...

Yet the teachings of many of the ancient wisdom traditions often appear to condemn samsara. They seem to tell us something which apparently contradicts the movements of creation, existence, and destruction which endlessly cycle in blinding displays of brilliant light.

Gaudapada, the teacher of Shankaracarya's teacher, says in the Mandukya Karika, "Neither the mind nor the objects perceived by the mind are ever born. To see their birth is like seeing the footprints of birds in the sky." (verse 4.28)

Nagarjuna, the famous Buddhist philosopher says similar things. Vedanta is riddled with this apparent mystery of why in truth, creation, existence, and destruction are void of actual truth.

What are these ancient teachings attempting to say and why do their teachings go against all experience and appearance of what seems to be so true before our very eyes and through our very skin?

The sages say it is due to confusion. What we ascribe to be permanent, in other words a "thing" such as a thought or form as being real, discrete, solid, is actually not permanent. Nagarjuna goes so far as to say that these "things" have never actually come into being nor are they ever destroyed.

What is form? What is name? When we discover what these things truly are, do the forms remain or do they disappear?

Om Prajnana Brahma. Consciousness is Brahman. Om aham Brahmasmi. I am Brahman.

I am Consciousness.

So what? To me, this only indicates a beginning. This is not the end of practice. This is the starting point. The bindu. Now it is time for the yantra to explode...

If you understand the nature of wave as water, does it cease to present itself as wave? No. It doesn't. Does this somehow destroy our innate sense of beauty if it can somehow not be permanent or abiding? No.

The implication that seems to come, at least the feelings that I received from many of these traditions  for many years was that the world itself, because of its impermanence was thus tainted or imbued somehow with suffering.

I don't buy it anymore. Whether "I" appear for some time and then cease, or whether "I" do not experience myself as "I" and only declare my oneness with the ocean doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter.

The ocean is the ocean, and the wave appears as the wave. Choosing sides with language is the real bondage.

In utter disregard to self limiting language which appears to me as if from some distant sage like the footprints of birds in the sky, I cast it all off and, with every cell of my being, I smile at Her, who is "as brilliant as a 1000 rising suns" (Lalitha Sahasranama 6).

As the Heart Sutra says, emptiness is form, form is emptiness. In fact form "arises" from emptiness, it "dissolves" back into emptiness. Emptiness only being that potential from which all is possible.

Brahman. Ever expanding.

Tantra. Expansion.

Interesting this word expansion. It implies the meaning of the mantra Hrim, which is the bija sound of creation. Creation is ever expanding. But if nothing is ever created, what is expanding? Is the dance of the waves on the ocean becoming like a symphony? I for one, know it is not still. At least not all of it. The eye of the hurricane is different from its arms.

What is this divine pulse throb of that which they call Brahman? Is it just an illusion? An effect? A dream? A by-product? Inert? All of these words are used to describe her veil, the cloak that apparently covers and binds us.

But we ARE Her. She is Us. The ocean is one. Can the ocean appreciate its own beauty? Can it create? Can it bring forth a symphony for its countless children to hear? Why do we refuse to listen to that symphony and instead dissolve ourselves so deeply that we cannot hear any longer?

I find that the source of a lot of the difficulty in the old traditions is embedded in the fundamental reliance on a noun based language. Quantum mechanics ripped apart traditional notions of particles when they encountered wave/particle duality. I think ultimately the same thing is required here is one is to truly understand creation, existence, and dissolution. From an ultimate noun based perspective, discrete entities cannot be found to exist according to Chandrakirti and many others. We all know we are "supposed" to ultimately live without ego, and many have declared, "the ego has never actually been."

Of course it hasn't! At least not as a "discrete entity"! So what? Does it matter? Truly?

When we throw out the noun based attachment in our languaging, then we are "becomings", "dissolvings", and in fact truthfully, even these words become hard for defining us as verbs as well because no matter how we slice it, language always attempts to limit and define our experience.

The trap I fell into for many years was to despair, to contract in on myself, to negate, to dismiss, to fall into the trap of the blank state. An empty blackboard with nothing to draw on it.

I laughed one time when I read a story of Jean Klein's in which he was in a symphony concert. A monk came to visit him and sent an attendant in to get him. Jean came out of the symphony and asked why the monk didn't just come in and enjoy the symphony. The monk responded that he avoided distractions like that. Jean was puzzled by this and felt sad for the man and his inability to see and understand the fullness of what he was. Jean asked the monk, "what is there to be distracted from?"

Although the footprints of the birds in the sky are sometimes so wispy, ethereal and transparent, are they any less beautiful? Although they will not be here tomorrow, yet they are born again in the sky of mind as a memory. That memory is another footprint which gives rise to another. The dance or symphony of the ocean continues to play.

Why do we insist on making the requirement of non-suffering being something permanent and lasting? The ocean that we are has already fulfilled that requirement. We are infinite beings. And the world is perfect just as it is.

The scriptures simultaneously piss me off with their language and yet make me laugh as I witness their truths. There is indeed a very strange paradox at hand. I love to throw them far across the room and then go outside to smell the air.

Some days I definitely prefer the storms. The contraction of even my preferences becomes expansion. I think white robes on me would fast become muddy. Maybe black suits this footprint more...

Most days I choose to leap from the waves and witness their undulating dance. I often choose to surf on their forms, in oneness with their expansion.

As "I" do that, footprints smile in the sky in the radiance of the morning sun.