Friday, May 6, 2016


There is nothing as good, and as useful, as the ancient wisdom. We think we are so smart today, but have we really discovered anything as important and wonderful as what was known to the wise and holy men and women of old? I think not.

Mindfulness is all about being choicelessly aware of what is happening, inside and outside of us, from one moment to the next. Unless we are capable of doing that well, we are not truly present, that is, living in the now.

Here’s a snippet of wisdom from Tao-hsin (Dayi Daoxin) (Japanese: Dōshin) (580-651) [pictured right], who was the fourth Chán [Chinese Zen] Buddhist Patriarch:

Constantly be aware,
Without stopping.
When the aware mind is present,
It senses the formlessness of things.
Constantly see your body as empty
And quiet, inside and outside
Communing in sameness.

Constant awareness. Hmm. How often we drift off into mental movies of our own making! You know what I mean. We see something, or think of something, or something happens, and … a mental movie begins in which we are the star, bit player, director, producer, writer, cinematographer and editor. The result? We are no longer aware. Yes, we have lost direct and immediate contact with the here-and-now. We have stopped observing. However, if we can just look and see, that is, observe … without judgment, analysis or interpretation … what happens? Well, as Tao-hsin says, when the aware mind is present—choicelessly aware---we come to see the ‘formlessness of things’.

Now, what does ‘formlessness’ mean, I hear you ask? Well, ordinarily, the conditioned, undisciplined mind wants to attach itself to something, that is, some object or thought. It is wants to grab hold of something. Actually, your mind is pure consciousness or awareness in it pure, unconditioned state, so that when you truly observe there is not you, the observer, as well as the thing observed, there is just awareness—pure unadulterated awareness. Is that possible? Yes, indeed, but it takes practice. That’s where the practice of mindfulness comes in handy. When you learn to give your full attention to this moment—by simply removing the hindrances or obstructions to your so doing---you will find that your mind is really formless as are all things. You see, that is, really see … and perhaps for the very first time in your life there is just the seeing! That is what Tao-hsin is talking about. When we attach ourselves to things—including our very own thoughts and feelings—we are living in a world of forms. However, if we can look and see without attachment, that is, give our full, undivided attention to what is directly and immediately present, we come to see and experience what Buddhism refers to as the formlessness of things, including the formlessness of our own mind. Emptiness is another word.

Begin now. There is no time like the present. When you look, just look. When you hear, just hear. When you smell, just smell. When you taste, just taste. When you touch, just touch. Avoid the temptation to grab hold of something, that is, attach your mind to something. In truth, your mind can never attach itself to the present. If you try, you will always end up losing direct and immediate contact with the present moment as it unfolds ceaselessly into the next present moment, and so on.

And what of ‘communing in sameness’. What the hell does that mean? What is ‘sameness’? Is it something like formlessness or emptiness? Well, yes, more-or-less. Actually, in both Buddhism and Taoism (Daoism) sameness and difference go together. You can’t have one without the other. They coexist. In a very real sense, they are one and the same. Things are many and yet one; they are one and yet many. I am not you, and you are not me; and yet we are all one in essence. We all live and move and have our being in the one life which flows through all things and is the very ground of being itself. Non-duality, some call it.

Stop seeing yourself as separate from all other living things. In truth, you are not. We are all part of life’s self-expression. The life in you, expressing itself as you, is the very same life that is in me, expressing itself as me. It is the very same life that is expressing itself in and as all other living beings as well. The form that each one of us presently takes has changed many, many times in our lifetime, and it will change many, many times hereafter as well. Forms come and go, wax and wane, but the life in us … well, it is ceaseless …

Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever.

Those wonderful words come from Sir Edwin Arnold’s beautiful poetic version of The Bhagavad-Gita dubbed ‘The Song Celestial’. I often use them at funerals. The words are very powerful ... and very meaningful, and true, too.

The spirit of life is indeed formless and empty. It is the same wherever there is life, animate or inanimate. At its very heart, life is consciousness, and mind is consciousness. Look beyond the forms. True reality is formless. All things are interdependent and commune in sameness. We are immersed in a world of largely indeterminate flux‘mind stuff,’ or ‘dream stuff’ in the words of the Polish-American physicist Wojciech Zurekconsisting of seemingly endless possible actions and a quantum field of potentialities. What emerges from that quantum field depends to a very large degree upon---consciousness! Yes, mind or consciousness is primary and fundamental, ‘the creator and governor of matter’, in the words of that great English physicist of yesteryear Sir James Jeans. And mind is formless and emptywell, the unconditioned mind is. How conditioned is your mind?

In the words of Tao-hsin, start sensing the formlessness of things. See your body as empty … and quiet inside and outside. Commune in sameness.

Calligraphy [below]: Emptiness.


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