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Breaking the Illusion of Certainty

Published on 25/04/12
by randy

The greatest truth is deeply coming to see the nature of time.  We struggle with our restlessness, grasping for conditions to be what they were or what we hope them to be.  Yet, the Law of Impermanence continues to work, moment by moment, constantly in change.  We struggle to ‘fix things’ but change is movement, nothing fixed.  Pema Chodrin writes:

“As human beings we are as impermanent as everything else.  Every cell in the body is continuously changing.  Thoughts and emotions rise and fall away unceasingly.  When we’re thinking that we’re competent or that we’re hopeless—what are we basing it on?  On this fleeting moment?  On yesterday’s success or failure?  We cling to a fixed idea of who we are and it cripples us.  Nothing and no one is fixed.” p. 31 from The Pocket Pema Chodrin

So we’re repeatedly brought back to cultivating a greater appreciation for the gift of time (change).  This gift is opportunity.  Human beings are unique because of consciousness.  We have the capacity to reflect and this inevitably causes suffering/restlessness.  This reflection creates our illusion of separateness.  This separateness is fed by our greed (craving for more), fear (stagnation to move), and our ignoring the interdependent nature of life (ignorance).  We want to be at peace, free from greed and fear, yet consciousness is not capable of fully grasping the interdependent Source of Being.  So we suffer, since we can’t get rid of consciousness.  Yet, life works us and deeper reflection creates deeper suffering and pain that “gives you many chances to investigate the root of life and deepen your life in dharma.  That’s why the Buddha said that suffering is truth.”  (p. 48,  Each Moment is the Universe by Dainin Katagiri).

This suffering is our greatest teacher as we learn to be one with this truth itself.  Katagiri describes it as touching the truth that’s always present at the depth of your life and then ‘bouncing’.  He refers to this momentary realization of truth (suffering/nonduality) as deepening wisdom, that experience of no ego and emptiness.  It’s a wondrous feeling of profound knowing that’s impossible to stay with.  Poof!  Back to consciousness and the dualistic realm.  Yet, the wisdom from these fleeting moments, once touched, is what sustains Big Hope (faith).

Brother David Steindl Rast says, “Hope is what’s left when all your hopes are fallen by the way.  Faith is what’s left when your beliefs have been shown to not hold up.”  He references a poem by T.S. Elliot:

We must be still and still moving

Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion…

Brother David suggests we forever realize the surprise within the surprise, that there’s always more to be discovered.  Hope is what keeps us open to a fresh future, in awareness to wholehearted action to the present moment.  We touch the moment’s arrival, motivated through our suffering, only to bounce back to consciousness and dualism with a deeper faith for having touched it.

Having touched this peace, can we move past greed, fear and ignorance?  Is there a place where all this suffering stops?  While many religious traditions portray a time moment where change stops, a lasting state of nirvana or heavenly paradise, the Law of Impermanence can’t conceive of ‘stopped time’.  The Law of Codependent Origination can’t conceive of ‘separateness’ or ‘aloneness’.  Stillness in prayer/meditation seems to deepen the truth of these laws, providing an abiding faith…a Big Hope.  Now, each moment is seen as birth/death constantly working.  Katagiri writes:

Just like everything that exists in the phenomenal world, your suffering is a being that arises from the original nature of existence, and every moment it returns to its source.  So when you see suffering, all you have to do is accept it and offer your body and mind to ultimate existence.  Then you and suffering return to emptiness and there is freedom from suffering.    p. 51, Each Moment is the Universe

This practice is what gives us the courage to embrace uncertainty, to smash past the notions of ‘fixed’ things and certainty, tasting the surprise in each arising moment.  It’s where we find our motivation to experience wonder and awe, to find the gift in the given.

The illusion is that others don’t suffer.  We somehow think accumulation of material goods or worldly achievements will stop suffering.  We polarize, separating ourselves in reflection that causes much unnecessary suffering and pain.  Yet, cultivating a deeper stability gives us courage to open, to move as water, in a deeper caring for one another.  This practice gives us greater awareness to the thoughts, emotions and actions that come up through our moment to moment living.  Either they serve to reduce suffering, hold stillness in no harm, or increase suffering.  Either they are kind or unkind.  Either they hold wisdom in the truth of the Law of Impermanence and Codependent Origination or they ignore them.  Up and down.  Rise and fall.  Poof!  Consciousness and emptiness, forever at play in a deepening practice.

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