By Leatrice Evanne Asher
Reality is that which is, as opposed to what the mind can conceive. Because reality is knowable but not conceivable any constructs of mind will be irrelevant to the experience of this authentic state, referred to in Buddhism as “original mind”.
Beliefs are opinions or convictions about something that is accepted as truth. When one comes into knowing, through direct experience of consciousness, beliefs are unnecessary. Awakening is nonrelative. It exists independently of anything; thus, requires no system of belief or person believing to testify to its validity. It is itself complete and absolute truth. As truth, it can reveal that which is untruthful. In a consciously awakened state, one becomes the knowing of that experience. Since that knowingness is complete in itself it stands alone from the thoughts or opinion of anyone else. This is intrinsic to the very truth of that which has been recognized—it doesn’t require consent.
Attention is called to belief systems not only to point out what awakening to consciousness is not but to shed light on how attachment to ideas, even lofty ones, will stand in the way of directly experiencing. For a belief or a belief system to have continued relevance, it needs proponents who subscribe to that belief. If those advocates fasten themselves to the postulates of that ideology they may then want those principles to be favorably received by others. If this is the case, that information is not given freely. It can’t be because it isn’t free. It’s tethered to the desire for what is offered to have approval. If dearly held beliefs are challenged or rejected and the adherents of that belief take offense to that opposition, likely it is because the concept of a personal I has been bound to that belief. Thus, any questioning of those convictions would also call into question that which is referred to as I.
The I figure that we’ve fashioned into existence and continue to maintain wants to be relevant. It wants not to be an indefinite something. This may be our greatest fear—that what we regard as a significant self doesn’t exist. It doesn’t. That which we identify with as “I” is made-up. It’s not an eternal truth. When this is perceived we will no longer need to adhere to a particular identity. We will still be a Tom or Sue individual but not encapsulated in a story that needs to be hung onto for dear life lest the vastness engulfs us. Death of the body we may understand. Letting go of that which we think fundamentally defines us may be terrifying. It takes a brave soul to face feelings of possible non-existence of that I creation and remain steadfast in pursuit of the truth. Once that truth of the false I is directly experienced, there will no longer be a need or much less of a need, to defend, champion, or add more attributes to this already overburdened identity that we’ve wed ourselves to.
The outer representation of our being does have a purpose. It is the personification of how and why we continue to be a journeyer on this earthly plane. It’s when we continually add layers of images and self-importance to our human that we solidify that which separates us from what is authentic. The human body with its senses and cellular components is our animal. Its rightful place is the habitat for the on-goer who takes up residence in it for its earthly journey. It’s because we think that we are this animal form that we have relinquished management of it. Instead of controlling the animal and its appetites for food, sex, power, and such; it controls us. The confusion that exists about this human is what has led to the abdication of our rightful place in relation to the body. Either we don’t know or don’t believe that there is another truer reality or we sense there is but don’t know how to access it. This mistaken concept about who and what we are is what keeps us in a darkened place where our storyline and view of the world continues to be concocted.
It’s not just our perception of the human that isn’t in accord with reality. Erroneous interpretations apply to other nature images as well. Reality is before us but our description stands in between. How might a tree, the sidewalk, or a garbage can be looked upon if we stopped defining and describing these things to ourselves and in the process conferring judgment—a flower is beautiful a garbage can is not. As everything is the expression of its distinct consciousness nothing is better or worse than another. Each thing is the essence of what it is, the sum of itself. The tendency though is to look outward while assigning a value of good or bad, acceptable, or not acceptable. Value judgments come from a grave misperception of this earthly world and how and what we are in it. These false reckonings have nothing to do with reality. They only add additional layers of dross to our concept of self and the nature world making it even more difficult to access inner vision; that which can connect us to truth. Our true state is unfettered, boundless, unaffected by what we do, and in another sense, because it is the All, is affected by everything we do.
When reality has been experienced our earthly life is still the same; yet, not the same. Most beings who have awakened to reality do not live perpetually in that state. As the earth is a testing ground, lives will continue to be lived with any lessons that still need to be learned. Although realization does not guarantee obviation of further lessons, one’s response to those arisings certainly may change because truth, once known, cannot be unknown. With this knowing, anything that feels unsettling is less likely to create a prolonged disturbance when placed in the larger context of what has been realized.
There is a part of one’s being that may sense or remember, even if vaguely, a freedom once known . . . and longs to return— to that ancient remembrance. The false I, not understanding itself, may then mistakenly equate that glimmer of truth with what can be achieved through a “personal” I happiness—relationships, money, power. When we awaken from our self-induced hypnosis we will know that we have always been right here . . . in reality. We have unremembered because our desire to be a particular someone is stronger than our desire not to be that someone . . . or not to be anyone! It is this deep-rooted intention to preserve this fabricated image that has made us impervious to reality, so we continue to see things as they are not.
Every instance in which we take things personally, want to defend ourselves (even if only in our mind), brag (even just thinking ourselves superior in some way) we pad the persona. We can’t change our behavior until our habitual reactions to life events are actually seen. If our primary desire is for clarity, it’s possible to develop a witness, that which stands back and observes the various postures we adopt that obscure that clarity. This willingness to inquire, to question our version of reality, is how we deprogram our self from those habitual responses that give the false I material to shore up its imaginary existence. Every human being on this planet has the innate potential to do this— to return to what is. If the desire is to restore oneself, the question that needs to be asked and answered truthfully, is; what do I most desire? Whatever the answer, that is where our attention and focus will be.
Thoughts are fluid and always passing through the earth’s atmosphere, and that is all that they are doing. When we grab on and add them to our storyline, our concept of self, it becomes more difficult to see that they are just fleeting forms, transitory appearances that become enduring through our welcoming embrace. When we quiet and feel without expectation we train our being to let be. Meditation offers a respite from the activity of the outer world. Here, like a sentinel, we can observe the process of mind. This isn’t cogitating or pondering about something. It’s how we bring awareness to the frequency with which we entertain thoughts that arise and enthrall us. In this stillness of bodymind, passing thoughts can just be noted and the impulse to respond to them noted as well. Without continually parenting these thought-forms into existence we diminish the power of these fleeting impressions to govern us. We are also developing the ability to restrain our operating system, maintain focus, develop inner perception. Without all that inner chatter occupying our attention, without the imaginings and naming of things, the nearer to realization we will be.
Learning to center our attention is vitally important if we wish to know who and what we are. Focus is how we center our attention and it is also how we keep that intention to stay focused in place. We already do this in more mundane situations when we want to understand or resolve something, like trying to decide which car to purchase. We think about such things as make, model, color, cost, used or new, lease, or purchase. You probably didn’t know exactly how your focused thinking was employed to assist you in a situation like this, but it did. And that same process is no different than if you would like more clarity about larger issues such as the nature of our being and this world we inhabit. Focus, then, is a powerful way to expand our awareness. Ultimately, maintaining the focus faculty without generating thoughts is directly related to the Knowing of reality.
Self-knowledge is not just the method of stoic philosophers or monastics. Self-knowledge can coexist with any ordinary life-activity because self-knowledge is not an alternative activity but a way of using all of our ordinary activities to access wisdom. Thus, all matters of life, even the most mundane, can be the medium for our applied attention. If our intention is to be in accord with the truth of what we are . . . or what we are not, if it is to be in accord with what is inherently authentic, our everyday life is the fertile field for these realizations.
Consciousness is presence. It has no degrees. It is only Thusness. However, there are degrees of being conscious of consciousness – from experiencing the truth of self to fully awakening to the All— to become Consciousness. Psalm 46 states: “Be still and know that I am God.” We could say this another way: Be still and Know God
This world of dew
Is only a world of dew
And yet . . .