Saturday, January 21, 2012

Paravritti 2

by Tenabah c2012

I wanted to share a little more about the word "paravritti". The word appears in the Lankavatara Sutra in Buddhism. This sutra was the one that Bodhidharma, the sixth lineage holder of Zen Buddhism, studied and felt was the only sutra that a person needed to study in order to gain enlightenment. The word "paravritti" is a word used as a synonym for enlightenment. But like each synonym for enlightenment, it has its own unique gift and unique meaning. The Buddhist scholar Edward Conze translates this word as "a deep turning within the innermost consciousness".

I found this interesting because Jesus, when he starts his own Dharma teaching, says, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." In ancient world of Jesus and Buddha, a teacher would usually sound a summary theme early in their teaching life. It would be like the four notes of Beethoven's fifth symphony upon which all kinds of more complex musical themes would develop off of or spin off of. The word for "repent" in the New Testament Greek of this summary theme is "metanoia" which literally means "go above (meta) your usual consciousness (noia)" and which also has the implied meaning of a deep turning within consciousness. In Jewish mystical writings, the idea of repentance is usually associated with changing direction, of moving in one direction with our lives and then turning completely around to go another direction. It is sometimes framed as living an "unrighteous" life to moving "towards God" who is seen as the source of love, compassion, and mercy (and who automatically forgives all sins when we do so).

The phrase "Kingdom of God" is a curious one in this passage, because it is in the present tense and is described as something within reach. Later passages describe this place as "within us and among us" (Luke 17). It is never used as identical to the word "heaven". In the Aramaic, the word translates as "kingdom" is "malkutha" and connects with the first of the ten spheres of life in the Qabalah. It is used to describe the Earth. In the prayer of Jesus has "te te malkutha" (part of "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven"). It has the meaning of stepping into a kind of new Earth, living trust of the Divine, letting it organize synchronicities to support how your life unfolds, and taking all events from this point onwards as meaningful and purposeful, within the hands of one higher power that rules over all lesser powers and which does not struggle with evil or need to struggle with evil. In short, Earth is part of heaven in this vision, just as Earth is part of the solar system. It is about stepping in faith and with free choice into a new heaven and a new Earth instantly, in the here and now, by entering into "metanoia", a transformed consciousness. In this new world, there are only two commandments that are "like unto" each other, "love God with all your heart (aka your everything)" and "love your neighbor (aka everyone) as your self". There is an implication that these two commandments are really the same commandment, that we are meant to love our neighbor and ourselves "as God" and to love God through loving our neighbor. It fits John 17 where Jesus prays that all his disciples be one "just as" he and God are one. In this passage, too, he talks of "gnosis", a special kind of knowledge that can only come from direct living experience, and which cannot come through conceptual analysis or dogmatic belief in some assertion being true. Both are experientially blind (the word "revelation" in the Greek of the NT having the meaning of "removal of scales from the eyes"). He uses a form of the word "gnosis" in this chapter in a sentence that talks about "eternal life" (which in the Gospel of John seems to be a synonym for "kingdom of God") IS knowing God. This word for knowing is also used to describe how two lovers know each other in intimate loving sexual union. It is obviously more than intellectually believing your lover exists or dogmatically believing that your lover exists, and must necessarily be experiential.

Buddhism usually avoids theistic God language. It sometimes avoids it so much that many religious scholars in Christianity have categorized Buddha as an atheist or an agnostic. Others have assumed that Buddhism has some kind of idea of ultimate Divinity since in the experience of "nirvana", the third noble truth of the Buddha ("Nirvana is peace"), one experiences something the Buddha called "the unborn, the unchanging, and undying" (aka the Eternal). The Buddha used a lot of negation language, because he wanted to cut through every concept to reach a nonconceptual truth that the Zen Buddhists called "the Great Affirmation". In the Prajnaparmita set of sutras, there is a theme where even "Buddhist concepts" are also negated to reach this nonconceptual truth ("If even the Buddha's thoughts are meant to be transcended, how much more so even worldly thoughts"). This is a theme that I find a lot of people do not always "grok" about Buddhism, that it is more of a anti-philosophy than a philosophy and a non-belief system rather than a belief system, and even a kind of minimalist religion in that it is a way of life that is stripped down to something very essential. It does not mean either "atheism" (not believing in the existence of God) or theism (believing in the existence of God), because it is not about settling for any kind of belief at all. It is an insight into all conceptual beliefs and how they are not enlightenment. To use a metaphor to describe the view, if you liken the mind to a room full of furniture (with the mind being the space, and the concepts being the furniture), then a theist is one who has a beautiful giant statue in the middle of the room and an atheist has the same statue upside down. A Buddhist is one who notices what is in the room when all the furniture is removed.

What I got is that "paravritti" could be described if we assume we have two minds (we actually have about 12 different kinds of minds with 48 active factors and 52 peaceful factors). These two minds could be labelled "thinking mind" and "aware mind". The first mind focuses on interpreting, analyzing, testing, believing, and disbelieving. This mind eventually forms a belief system and out of this belief system comes a certain kind of "feeling of self", of who we are. This feeling of self is a mental construct which can react to other mental constructs. This mind "identifies" itself with the concept it has of itself and attaches to things that reinforces its sense of self, resists what negates this sense of self, is confused about what it has not figured out one way or the other, or ignores what does neither. Aware mind does not "think" at all. It is a silent mind that looks at everything and allows everything to be experienced. It is not merely a sensory mind that channels itself through the five senses. It is what "notices" all the sensations of the sensory mind. Without the aware mind, we would not experience anything at all, not even nothingness (which would be like "noticing" a blank).

In a person who is not enlightened, the thinking mind dominates and the aware mind is functioning unconsciously, behind the thinking mind, and is not noticed. I have always thought it a kind of curious paradox that the aware mind that notices literally everything and without which nothing at all could be noticed is the most not noticed thing. Objects of attention are constantly dwelled upon, but the act of attention itself is hardly ever focused upon. If you want to get a very immediate feeling of what could be a very deep form of meditation, place your attention on attention and do not think or analyze attention. Just hold steady on attention watching attention in silence. If you can keep the thinking mind out of it for five minutes, you can go very deep very fast (and then imagine what it would be like if you did a whole hour or even 40 straight days of this, the Buddha said if you could watch every breath without bringing in thought for one whole hour, then you would be enlightened).

If one even tries to meditate then one notices that "the thinking mind rules" and that the thinking mind, even though it creates our feeling of self, is "not us". If I decide to move my right hand upwards and then my right hand goes upwards, then my right hand "obeys me" and therefore in some sense expresses who I am. But if my right hand does not obey me and never does what I want it to, then I would not consider it a part of me. It would feel like something alien took my hand over. Yet our thinking minds are like this and we do not notice. Although I can control and direct my thinking to a certain extent, it usually is running thoughts without me. This shows up very strongly when I decide to "not think" and feel a massive traffic of thoughts running through my mind. My thinking mind can only be considered "mastered" or "an extension of myself" when I can do four things with my thoughts, (1) starting a thought, (2) modifying my thinking, (3) sustaining my thinking, and (4) stopping my thinking. Many people have not ever experienced the fourth aspect of mastery. It would be more true to say that thoughts are thinking them, that they identify with all the conditioned thoughts poured into them from teachers, peers, family, and religions. What replaces real thinking are just reactions of one thought to another. It is one of the more interesting and not so pleasant experiences one has in meditation to notice how much thinking runs oneself, rather than the other way around. What is curious is that this is the earliest experience one has when one first tries to do some serious meditation and tries to sit for one whole hour just watching the breath. The intention to just watch the breath and not think any thought other than holding the intention to watch the breath for one hour is never fulfilled (often for even years). What happens instead is that the mind wanders back to "thinking, thinking, thinking" and forgets to watch the breath, so much so that an honest appraisal of how long a person can sustain "no thought attention" is about five minutes out of the whole hour. Even this level of accomplishment can do miracles in consciousness.

There is a kind of reference point or "anchor" that feeds our thinking mind and defines how we feel ourselves and what we feel ourselves to be. This point is our "identification" with our thinking mind and our building up of a personality around what we think and what we feel about what we think. We are usually thinking a massive number of thoughts every day and even running them through to form all our dreams and our reactions in waking life and dreaming life. This reference point is our most subtle ego self and it is a complete delusion. This reference point is constantly anchoring itself in certain thoughts, then other thoughts, then the body, then a sensation, then an emotion, and so on. In some it is more fixated than others. But if we try to look for this "anchor" point, we do not find anything there that we can call a "real self". Most of the time we are not looking for this reference point, but just assuming it and living from it without question. We live from our thinking mind and its massive antique shop of collected beliefs and disbeliefs. We constantly clash beliefs with each other, both inside us and with others. We think our beliefs are nifty things and judge others with our beliefs, and our judgments are also beliefs.

Paravritti is about "a deep turning of our innermost consciousness". It is about flipping the two minds around so that the deeper silent one rules and the thinking chattering mind submits, rather than the aware mind being merely a passive onlooker and the thinking mind ruling. When these two minds reverse the relationship, then we have paravritti, enlightenment. Then we live from "aware mind", identify with aware mind, and, finally, use the thinking mind, rather than get used by it. This is the deep turning within us that brings us into the realm of enlightenment. To me, it is the only revolution that really matters. Everything else is really rearranging the furniture in the room, throwing out some furniture, and getting new furniture, but never really noticing the room itself and what the room itself really means.

In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the final discourse of the Buddha before he releases his physical body in the consciousness action called "phowa", shared that we get at least four gifts from enlightenment. They are "love bliss, eternity, self, and freedom". This simple sharing is important in so many ways, because a lot of people assume that Buddha did not believe that any self at all existed. But he did not teach that. He taught that the "belief in self" that we had was a complete fiction and that what we assumed was our self did not exist and that if we looked for this self we would never find it because it did not exist. We would not find it inside the "skandhas" (our cognitions, thoughts, emotions, sensations, and our body), in any combination of the skandhas, or outside the skandhas. The key word in the teaching of no self is "looking" and "not finding" (emphasis on "looking" aka "awareness" aka "directed attention") because what we are looking for does not exist. There is no self that is like what we "think we are" (emphasis on "think"). What I find curious is that when this teaching of no self is presented, people think, think, think about it, usually negating or disbelieving what Buddha said, and never wondering how such an advanced teacher could propose such a weird idea. But if one actually "followed" the path of looking that Buddha actually taught, went within, and noticed that every thought has "no self" attached to it, every emotion has no self attached to it, every sensation has no self attached to it, all our impulses to do have no self attached to it, and our bodies have no self attached to it. There is nothing that even looks like a self anywhere to be found (I always wondered what such a self would even be imagined to be looked like, but no one even goes this far). Thoughts, emotions, and sensations are too fleeting to be related any kind of permanent abiding self. To use the room metaphor, they zip in and out of the room so fast that they are not in any way permanent to the room itself. Their very transitoriness clearly shows them to not be part of the room. What we normally think our self to be is something intrinsic to who and what we actually are, something that is always in the room and never leaves the room.

After Buddha shows that thoughts, emotions, and sensations are too fleeting to be a permanent self or even a basis for a permanent self, then he goes on to analyze the body in a similar manner and does not find any self there either. We already have a sense of some difference between an alive body and corpse and assume the latter has no self in it. We associate the self with something that is only there when the body is "alive". If a person is "brain dead" then the self has gone from the body. This shows that what we feel is our self is not related to the mere existence of the body. Yet when we try to find some kind of body characteristic that is the self, we find none. If we look for an electric pattern in the brain or chemical pattern in the brain, or a combination of both, there does not seem to be one. It seems that our "waking self" disappears when we sleep, our "dreaming self" disappears when we wake up, and both disappear when we are in nondreaming sleep, and both are different from when the body is a corpse and there is no dynamic electro-chemical activity in the brain at all. What we call our personality is a pattern of mental and emotional reactions that people usually identify with us, and some continuity of this pattern as it often changes dramatically over time. Yet if some evil vile demonic personality was to "take over" our body, we would assume that something alien kicked us out of our body or at least the command center of our bodies, and started to live "in our body". Sometimes mental illnesses look like this or sometimes certain powerful drugs can do this, even against the will of the person, and even sometimes electrodes stimulating different parts of the brain can do weird things inside, like activate very vivid memories "against our will". The cognitions of various events, our noticing them, seems to be pulled around by sensations drawing us into them. Where is any self in this?

If we follow by "looking" and negating anything that is not a self, then we enter into "emptiness". Something releases its grip on consciousness, we are freed from a curious illusion about something, the thinking mind and its constructs are broken through, and we awaken to a deeper mind which feels like an "aware wakefulness". This deeper mind does not need to reference itself through any thought (including the thought of self), any concept (including the concept of self), any belief, any sensation, any emotion, or even any body. All these things are "content" (furniture in the room) which whether there or not there does not change the nature of the room or container. It is as if we have always been looking out a window to see a mountain, see the sunrise and sunset, see rain clouds and rain, trees turn green in the spring and brown in the fall, and yet did not ever notice the window we were looking through, or even the eye that looked through the window, or even the looking itself. If we notice the looking, rather than what is looked, and enter into the looking, we can enter this "awake awareness" and abide there. We can still use the thinking mind. In fact, unless we abide in aware mind, we are really used by the thinking mind rather than actually thinking. In order to maintain aware mind, learning how to engage thought without getting lost in thought becomes important and necessary. Zen usually focuses on mastery of thought by learning how to "not think", while Tibetan Buddhism focuses on mastery of thought by extensive visualizations and then erasing those visualizations. Thoughts are very powerful. They are even more powerful when we learn how to focus thought from our silent aware mind and "intend". A kind of telepathy becomes stronger over time. There is a feeling of self, of a kind of ground identity, as luminous presence. There is a feeling of this being "eternal". There is a kind of peace and happiness within this presence that is not a pleasurable sensation sustained indefinitely, but something deeper, calmer, and which is consistent below the pleasant and unpleasant sensations, all the craving and resistance games that come from those sensations when the mental construct self rules us. There is also a freedom that arises. When the previous self before the shift is looked at, it feels like we were a basketball dribbled all over the court and getting passed around all the time by our thoughts, emotions, sensations, and impulses to do, bouncing off of all kinds of boards, and never stopping to rest. When I looked back at my previous mind, it felt like all my thinking was just reactions of reactions to reactions with nothing really intentionally starting, focusing, following, and stopping any contemplation. It was like thought had a will of its own or was running on autopilot, and no one was really there. It felt like a fever had ended, and all the feverish thoughts had calmed down to zero, and something simple, wonderful, and obvious appeared.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Emptiness of Money by Tenabah c2012

The Emptiness of Money
through Tenabah, c2012

I wanted to apply one of the deeper teachings of the Dharma to the current political events. In the Heart Sutra, the Bodhisattva of Compassion sees "the emptiness of all the five skandhas and cuts through the very root cause that keeps us in sorrow". In later Mahayana teachings, the theme of emptiness is applied not only to all the five skandhas (consciousness, thought, emotion, sensation, and body), but also to the entire material universe and all the mental, emotional, sensory, and material objects within this universe. The key word in this passage is "seeing the emptiness". It is not an intellectual conclusion but something that is done through awareness, direct experience, and intuitive wisdom. However, later Buddhist philosophers, mainly the Madhyamikans, found that through a kind of intellectual contemplation of mental, emotional, and material objects that one could deduce their emptiness and open the path to realizing emptiness. This contemplation is considered valuable to do, because the solidity and existence of material objects has been an illusion reinforced by mental interpretation and has never been validated in actual direct experience. It is like an optical illusion which can be seen through, but also analyzed mentally first to prepare for this "aha" experience. If the illusion is mentally challenged, the delusion is "loosened" enough for direct perception to happen more easily.

The principle of emptiness is a middle path between "eternalism" and "nihilism". The eternalist fallacy is that things are substantially real and existent from their own side. The nihilist fallacy is that nothing exists at all and that nonmaterial things like a soul are completely nonexistent, are merely epiphenomena of brain activity or something like this, so that when the brain is annihilated that the soul is annihilated too. The seeing of emptiness is to see that all things have a kind of dependent existence, arise within an interdependent field of energy, are subject to cause and effect, are the result of convergent lines of cause and effect, and are defined as existent in relation to other phenomena. If all the causes for arising are eliminated, then the phenomena also ceases. Yet the "life continuum" of any object is always changing, within a kind of historical flow, and this continuity flows almost eternally. If we take the human personality, it is never the same for any two moments, thoughts, emotions, sensations, reactions, impulses to do, and behaviors are always changing. Even the body itself, arising from the formation of the zygote and ending up being a decaying corpse that is compost for trees (and even a wider array of possible patterns than this), is a continuum of snapshots that are very different from each other, and how this convergences and joins that personality is another interdependent set of causes and effects. Inside this field of interdependent causes and effects that are constantly converging and diverging is "no thing" that exists independently of those things and no combination of phenomena that adds up to a "thing". There is only the flux of phenomena always woven together, within this field, and the field itself is nothing but this vast series of interdependent processes and is itself not independent from all these processes, and therefore does not "exist from its own side" as well. In short, there is nothing that exists separately from this field, but only existences that are dependent on this field contantly recreating them in a moment by moment process. This all can be verified by looking at how everything is in constant change on every level of perception (visible level, organ level, chemical level, subatomic level, quantum level, and the spinning vortexes arising from empty space level). In short, nothing is "absolutely existent", but everything is "dependently existent". The realizing of this truth is ccompanied by a feeling of oneness with everything and a relaxation into the creative process that is birthing us moment to moment, and an entrustment of ourselves to this process that has always sustained us. If we contemplate "money" in this light, we can easily see how it is not substantially real for its own side, how it is dependent on a vast array of multiple causes converging in each moment for its meaning, purpose, and existence, and how it is not "real for its own side" and how it is even different in its meaning depending on how each of us individually relates to it, and how this individual meaning is not arbitrary or absolute. None of us is right or wrong about how we relate to money and how it feels to us and for us, each of us has a different feeling about money, and money does not exist independent of what we feel about money and how we use it. Money is different from the material form of paper dollars and yet not separate from the paper dollars. It has a historical continuum of transformations where it becomes "electrons" stored in a bank main frame within an internet server system and then gets converted "back to dollars" when we make a withdrawal, either through a an ATM or a bank teller or through vast array of other means. The "value" of money has more than one side. One is the "mental imputation" of a value by our consensus consciousness of certain papers being "one dollar" and other papers being "20 dollars", etc. This mental imputation is then translated into electron form when making a deposit and is "separated from the paper" during this time, yet it also continues to be the same amount on this level, even though the "20 dollars" is "added" to the electron totals in our server file (which is protected by all kinds of magical barriers and enchantation passwords and designated key keepers and guardians), and yet continues to be used by others once it is released from our "ownership". This ownership is also not an absolute thing and can be transfered from us to someone else by all kinds of magical acts from "losing pocket change by having it fall through a hole in our pockets", to "donation", to "theft", to "investment", etc. All these operations have a strange kind of dependent existence that is not separate from our mental imputations of what they mean and how they are anchored upon some material process whether it is ink printed pieces of hemp or electrons pumping through the internet server system or even transfered via handshakes and trades.

To further deepen the feeling of how empty money is, even if we "do nothing" with the money, but "leave it in the bank" (where is it actually?), it is constantly changing its value by all kinds of events, from the Federal Reserve printing 7.7 Trillion paper dollars, from how these dollars are being manipulated in the stock market, from how "world events" shape our lives, from how gold and silver dance in relationship to money by various exchanges, including how "paper silver" and "paper gold" (which is only paper with the word "silver" or "gold" written on them and being exchanged "as if" it were "real" silver or "real" gold, and which drive up or down the "real" price of silver and gold in relation to the phantom dollar that is going through all these changes too. There is something very magical about how money works and how many emotions we have about money and how it relates to so many things, including how happy, sad, afraid, or angry it makes us. Money is floating around many deep fears that people have, it is tied up in how "successful" people feel they are, it is tied up in how much people have feel they have "failed", how "secure" people feel, and whether or not people are in "survival mode". It "pays the bills" and if you do not have "enough" then people believe that they are kicked out on the street and become the "homeless" (the outer bardo ring for people in capitalist society). Money has replaced older forms of punishment of previous eras of society, where physical torture was once used. You now get "fines" instead. Judges arbitrarily assign the "fine" or "punishment" for crimes according to what "legislatures" determine is appropriate, with the judge using "judicial discretion" to determine what is "the appropriate application of law". These processes are also vastly interdependent upon all kinds of phenomena and causations, lines of cause and effect rippling through our world since the big bang and earlier. With "Occupy Wall Street" people are protesting unfairness, because these paper and electron dollars are being "controlled" by and "pumped" to a small number of people called "the one percent", and who want more accountability and justice in how these processes have formed. What is called "corruption", too, is "emptiness", with nothing substantially real from its own side or truly existent about it, but yet it not nonexistent either, but arises in interdependence with a vast array of processes that form our society and our global community.

When we delusionally feel that money is substantially real or existent from its own side, then we feel it was the same thing it was in times past, that there is something of "essence of money" that is eternal going through all those changes and that "money should always be this". We want to impose this feeling on the money and insist on being something that no longer exists. Or we believe that money is a complete illusion (the nihilist fallacy) and that it is totally arbitrary or that it "no longer exists" when the money essence never did exist or never did not exist. What happens is that we are not flowing with the endless changes that money is making every moment. We could be attaching to money for security and then experiencing anxiety when it changes, and are resisting our death and fearing our death when the "money is gone" or "runs out" (aging).

This kind of perception of money fits in with the more usual Buddhist understanding that the world is transitory, not secure, and nonsubstantial, and that if we attach to anything in the world for security then we will suffer as a result and already have a subtle anxiety in the moment. The subtle anxiety is really a confused wisdom energy that sees the truth of how insecure and insubstantial money already is. The alternative is to rest in the flow itself and live within the guidance of intuitive wisdom. When money is seen as emptiness, then sharing it and being generous with it makes more sense. It can serve compassion while it always frustrates greed. It is a paradox that it can function in the moment to address immediate needs as part of the interdependent flow of what is happening.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Curiosity: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

I thought it would be good to post something about my favorite book. Out of what seems like a thousands of books, it is my favorite. When I was in college I took a free speed reading course that promised to double my reading speed. It actually quadrupled it, going from about 250 wpm to 1000 wpm. It was mainly done by eliminating a lot of bad reading habits and creating two simple new ones (taking in words in natural groups, rather than one word at a time and picking up the groups both left to right and right to left, eliminating pausing between each word, eliminating the need to subvocalize every word, and eliminating the need to move the eye to the very beginning and the very end of each line). After taking this course, I plowed through about 30 books in less than one month, until I hit this book, where I would get so blown away by what it was saying that I was reading sometimes one sentence a day, because I wanted to just keep rolling the deep thought over in my mind and/or let the thought lead me to deep nonthought.

Part of what I learned from this book is to always keep the attitude of the beginner, the curious child, to shed all the presumed learning from the past and look at everything fresh again, without all our thought analysis. If you look at how an infant looks at a flower, you can see Zen Mind in action. Or when I saw my youngest brother in his crib looking at his hand and in wonderment about how it moved to his very new thoughts about how to move it, endlessly making it open and close, finger by finger (which works well for him when he plays Racquetball and instructs others). One of the signs that we have lost this mind is that we move from curiosity to impatience or pushing for results. When we are really curious, we are deep in the moment and have the fertile ground for insights to flash across our minds. It was this kind of mind that allowed the Buddha to realize the nature of sorrow and how to end it.

This beginner's mind is also related to "dana parmita" the first of the "crossing over attitudes" that leads to supreme perfect enlightenment. The word "parmita" is usually translated as something like "virture" but we really have no equivalent in our language to this. The very attitude itself, which we can take on and live from in any moment, leads us immediately across into our enlightened mind and enlightened heart. It translates as "open hearted generous giving". The one gift we can give to everyone always all the time is curiosity. It always opens our heart to others and is always compassionate and playful with the circumstances of our lives and the lives of others, always wishing that things be good for everyone, always willing to tweak things so that they are better, and always feeling how good things always are.

This attitude is behind the teachings of Krishnamurti, though he hides it well sometimes. But one simple meditation that he led people into was to be curious about their own sorrow and then to see what it would be like to just remain curious about everything in general ("curiosity without an object"), and then I would add what would it be like if we were curious about curiosity ("curiosity squared" as in E=MCsquared). It seems that the comet Lovejoy has this curiosity and playfulness (as in "What would be like to dive into the Sun?...and then come out playfully spinning...I realize I might be personalizing an impersonal phenomena, but in the realm of metaphor, at least, it seems valid).

Shunryu Suzuki discoursed about how we lose this mind when we become "experts" and how we lose all kinds of possibilities when we do this. We lose the ability to think outside the box and even paint ourselves into a corner. If we notice we do this, then we can become curious about seriousness and notice what it does to us. We can become curious about "expert mind" and how it locks itself into one reality tunnel and does not see the light of day after a while.

I read the book in college and when I would need to go into a problem of any kind I found this book guiding me through it. The first thing that I would do is to go into "I do not know" and look at the problem fresh. Very often the problem was created by the interpretation of life itself, by the thoughts and expectations I was putting on everything. When they were identified and removed, then there would be, again, the "Great Affirmation", that life is good, very good, and everything is unfolding perfectly. Sometimes I would be stripped down to the very essence of a "sensation of hurt", some tension would be felt in the body, and I would simply look at the tension, just embrace it and feel it. The first thing I would find is that the "looker" would disappear and with it a kind of duality. Then I would discover a kind of innocent mind that could look at it new, just as the Buddha did when he was in his 40 days of meditating into enlightenment, when he stripped his own mind down to this also, and just watched with no agenda, curious about the movement of sorrow itself, and found that it "spontaneously self liberated" (went away by itself with the dawning of an insight). The rigorous analysis of the Abhidharma is really a left over, words and notes, of 40 days of deep curiosity about the movement of sorrow.