Emptiness, Selflessness and The Two Paths

1. Sunyata

Nothing, that which is worthless. It is sunyata. It is empty of worth, meaning. All grasped at and craved phenomena are sunyata, worthless.

2. Selfless

2.1 Gross

The soul, self, I, is not permanent because its bases are impermanent. Vaibashika.

2.2 Subtle

All persons and objects lack self or selfhood. Where self here means actual, outstanding self, independent of all around it; part of the world, but existing in a different individual causation continuum. Spawned or PRODUCED from a previous continuum or creator (who can be human).

This self has to be shown to be dependent on parts and causes and conditions. Thus not independent continua but part of one, illusory-like appearance continuum of continuous, spontaneous causes and created moment to moment. Hence the Prasangika view on subtle impermanence. Not distinguishable from one moment to another, but a play, or sea, of continuous causes. Thus Buddhahood ‘writes’ this script from the nature of the spontaneous now. This is buddhahood, the Tathagata that ‘writes’ or ‘produces’ all things. Not a person, not a god, but a potential of all. More than a person, a deity – a whole, (definitive). Now,  we arrive at the Shentong (and the Tantra) from the Prasangika in a natural progression.

3. Existence

If something exists it exists as a part of the great continuum (all causes, all existence, the play of buddhanature) or as independent nature. This latter is denied by the Prasangika as false. The former is realised as conventional nature.

This existence (profound path) does not differ in any way from the Mahayana (method path) realised experience. Thus Tsongkhapa’s view that there should be a union of the two schools may be seen as an indistinguishability of result, method from profundity.

Now, in both, the ultimate is the creative buddha potential. Dharmakaya, Dharmadhatu and Tathagarbha are seen as synonyms from this realised point of view. The conventional is the manifest appearance of cause, karma, joy, or dependence-related mind and cause.

These cannot be separated anymore than the motion of water can be separated from water or the play of light through that water can be separated from its motion.

This does not include archetypes, the idea that forms already exist in some way that can affect the play of manifestation. For the nature of buddhanature is ultimately unknowable in that it cannot be described and exists as a base for the mind; a base that cannot be separated, or distinguished, from the play of appearances itself.

Absorbtion of the self into the ultimate tathagarbha is the gone, the tathagata. The existence of the body in the play, the wisdom, is the nirmanakaya – the gone; gone into the immediate being of existing. The joy arising is the sambhogakaya, the union of self and existence. The all, the whole, all three is the svabhavikakaya (the entire nature, buddhahood).

The Mahayana (method) arrives at this through merit, purity and blessings. The profound arrives at this through the contemplation above. In the first, it is the mind seeing non-existence in the play of form. In the second it is the realisation of seeing the space of existence. Therefore by concentrating on the conditional the Mahayana method finds the delightful existence of non-existence, dependent-related mind phenomena. And the profound, by concentrating on the non-existence, the emptiness of space or things, – uttermost selflessness of the most subtle, finds its glorious existence of nonindependent-related phenomena, the play of existence. That which it looked at, the ultimate, is the buddhanature, and is not found separate from the play of existence. Thus the madhyamaka prasangika dwells finally in existence and the Mahayana Cittamatra first finds the ultimate, the emptiness of wisdom, in phenomena; phenomena utterly non-independent of the mind, and finally dwells in the tathagarbha, the union of the divine.

non, je ne regrete rien…

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.

But to be young was very heaven…

William Wordsworth, writing about his first reaction to the outbreak of the French Revolution

Back in 1993, when I first entered the tribe of the Enkaytees, still then in its dawn-time, everything in the heavenly world the tribe’s Spiritual Guide had created was new and fresh and his disciples were full of innocent enthusiasm, willing to work body and soul for the spreading of his doctrine throughout the world. That generation was truly blessed, able to live in his holy presence and hear his actual words. For me, travelling to the city of Enkiti in the frozen (or rainy, or both!) north was like a holy pilgrimage, and hearing him teach felt, so I imagined, like it must have felt hearing Jesus teach his Beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount. His words were truths echoing within the heart’s faint memory of a wisdom it thought completely lost. But much of that generation has gone now, disappearing into the merciless maw of history, either dead, in their dotage, or sidelined and purged by the various ‘scandals’, ‘palace coups’, and changing of the guards that have occurred over the years. The history of the Enkaytree tribe has been rewritten many times, and will be rewritten many times again in the future to airbrush out all the darker pages of its past, and the tribe’s identity as defined by the city of Enkiti will continue on in this world. But it will endure crippled by its unacknowledged shadow-self , its public reputation increasingly degraded as the years go by. The tribe I knew in its glorious beginning does not now exist. It has changed, changed utterly and now, to quote W.B.Yeats, ” a terrrible beauty is born”. The autocratic, bureaucratic leviathan that the tribe has become is now utterly different from the open, tolerant, spontaneous, creative, organic movement it once was. The new order the tribal chieftains wish to impose without debate upon all its fiefdoms amounts to nothing less than a constitutional coup d’etat, a crushing of all local autonomy and democracy and the creation of one vast legal entity in which everything is controlled from the top-down. The city of Enkiti will eventually be the new Rome, exerting papal-like authority outwards across a global empire of faith.

But faith is a deeply personal, heartfelt feeling that is ultimately free from any external law or rules. And faith in a Spiritual Guide, once it has taken root and become integrated with faith in one’s own spiritual potential through the realisation that reliance upon a spiritual guide is the mirror image of the discovery and cultivation of one’s inner wisdom, is something that cannot be taken away from one no matter how damning the condemnation of one is from either the spiritual guide’s supposed colleagues or even the spiritual guide himself. Faith can survive even betrayal and disillusionment, because faith is a purity that comes from within, from one’s own heart, and that faith can never die. Once faith has created a vision of the Pure Land within the mind, that faith is a pure seed that does not ultimately need watering from outside oneself. Only the life-giving water of one’s own spiritual practice is necessary, a practice that can be continued outside any institutional framework or organisational arrangement if necessary. The solitary wandering yogis and yoginis of India and Tibet proved that; even the life of the Buddha himself, wandering the dusty roads of India as a beggar wearing rags and sleeping in the wilderness of forests, proved that. It is in the nature of samsara anyway that ultimately no friend or organisation – no matter how spiritual they purport to be –  can be  relied upon as a totally pure refuge; only a purity that is born from within can be totally relied upon. Already that inner Spiritual Guide has provided me with a new tribe, one without chieftains, without any formal hierarchy or set of rules, one that joyously meets in harmony and the spiritual communion of deep meditation, and one that accepts the teachings of the outer Spiritual Guide we all grew up with without needing to apply them any more within the constraints of an autocratic, hierarchical organisation. I do not regret one single moment of having been in the tribe of the Enkaytees and I cherish every word of the teachings of the Spiritual Guide of that tribe. But I, and many others, have now outgrown the need to be a part of that tribe because we now know there is a vast world of opportunity beyond the tribal boundaries and with the teachings and our faith as refuge, we can step out confidently into that brave new world. We have grown up, even if the tribe has not, not yet anyway. Non, je ne regrete rien…