…when a master asks…about… “true nature,” perhaps she is not expecting description… she may be waiting for a shift in experience… even, possibly, an end to experience.
Some teachers (this one included) maintain that their Buddhism doesn’t make ontological or metaphysical claims about reality. But it can surely sound like it.
Even the word “kensho,” for example, means “seeing into your own nature.” In other words, it would seem to claim that there is such a thing as your “true nature,” ordinarily obscured.
But I’d like humbly to offer the possibility that terms such as “true nature” or “true self,” as sometimes heard in this practice, do not denote ontological entities or metaphysical facts but rather serve as cyphers for other ways of experiencing – ways in which our ordinary sense of things is opened up and changed.
We “see”, we “discover”, we “realize” that in the core of our experience, beneath the ways we have been seeing and living and experiencing, there is a great and marvelous vacancy, an absence, a vacuum, that although it has no space or dimension is nevertheless infinitely spacious in as many dimensions as one could conceive, and more.
Yet as Nansen said, this discovery, this realization, is “not a thing, not mind, not consciousness, not Buddha.”
Indeed, when a master asks a student about their “true nature,” perhaps she is not expecting description. Rather, she may be waiting for a shift in experience. Or even, possibly, an end to experience.
But if so, then why bother with this practice? Why not just wait till death?
Because such an “end” can positively adjust our ordinary ways of living – from reactive to responsive, from grumbling to appreciative, from defensive to more generous, from fearful to more loving and compassionate – and grant an intimacy with the sense-experience of this very moment that is simply unimaginable, and a source of much gratitude, a gratitude commensurate with the unfathomable gift of being human.
Message from Henry is from our August 28, 2017 Newsletter.