Message from Henry: The Force of Awakening

…we can awaken to the fact that all aspects of our experience, and our responses and reactions to experience, are empty, hollow and insubstantial…

Once our practice has passed a certain point, it’s as if nothing can withstand the force of the present moment, of the Dharma, of now. It’s as Tahui said: the Dharma is a hot stove, and all phenomena are snowflakes that vanish when they come near it.

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To be Buddhist is to be concerned with “budh” — awakening. But awake from what, to what?

From the four noble truths we know that it means to awaken from a state of suffering caused by thirst, desire, craving. Thirst and concomitant suffering can cease, and be awakened from.

From the teaching on the three marks we know that we awaken to the fact that all phenomena are (firstly) impermanent, changing, non-lasting, and are (secondly) therefore not capable of offering durable satisfaction. Moreover, all things are (thirdly) without selfhood, without thing-ness. Even while they arise and endure and pass away, they are nothing but a temporary meeting of conditions, insubstantial, empty of self – a magical display of appearances rather than solid entities. We awaken to these three characteristics.

Thus we can awaken to the fact that all aspects of our experience, and our responses and reactions to experience, are empty, hollow and insubstantial as a mirage, as a hollow banana tree, as a ball of foam on a river, a bubble on a stream, as a conjuring trick. These are similes by which Buddha expressed his own awakening and liberation.

The whole plenum of experience can be seen through. It may then become much less convincing. Yet nevertheless, as a paradoxical result, our caring for it can grow much keener.


Message from Henry is from our January 21, 2019 Newsletter
Image: Forest Girl by Dark Moon 1968,  CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay.com
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