from a talk given by Sensei Genyo during the Winter Intensive, 4/17/2018
In the flow of experiencing, we encounter what seems to be self and other, inside and outside in a dance of interaction. When we relate freely and compassionately, not stuck in our preconceptions, our lives go better, we create less harm. It’s not that we do not encounter pain, it’s just that we learn to live and respond skillfully in the midst ot it. When we are caught up in the pain, seemingly a victim of it, or a perpetrator or it, what can we do?
We have been asking these questions throughout this winter intensive: What is this reality we encounter? How do we respond? Why do we react unconsciously sometimes, and how do we learn to respond freely without creating harm?
* There is a model in Yogacara called the Three Natures which is useful to contemplate. In encountering reality, any situation or phenomenon, we can see: 1) It’s imaginary nature 2) it’s other-dependent nature, and finally 3) its complete, realized nature.
- Imaginary nature is when things are conceptualized by conceptualization, in other words, are perceived purely in the realm of our minds, our imagination.
- Other-dependent nature is a conceptualization arising from conditions. This is a recognition often prized in Buddhist practice, seeing how all things are in fact interdependent with all other things. Thus we see the clouds in the water we drink, the tree in the cutting board we chop our vegetables on.
— The complete, realized nature to begin can be thought of as the other-dependent nature free of conceptualization. Thus we recognize the infinite interdependence of all phenomena with no conceptions layered onto it. But this is just a starting point which is still within the realm of conceptualization. In reality the completely realized nature is even beyond all such descriptions: it is none other than the inconceivable vast presence, or suchness of experience, of things, and arisings, and their interdependent web. As commentator Ben Connelly writes: “A state of pure non-dual awareness, where there is only interdependence.”
These three natures are all without self, simply ways of experiencing.
The Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers remain a highly useful guide for how we might practice. By practicing Not-knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving Action as we encounter life’s myriad realities, we are able to encounter situations more freely, less caught up in the delusions of the imaginary and conditioned, more able to be present with the complete reality as it is.
We can never avoid or escape conditions, pain, and loss. But in this practice we are invited to “rest” right in the middle of it all. Learning to rest the mind in the midst of life’s situations is the Mahayana understanding of nirvana. In the midst of any and all conditions (the inner conditions of our emotions, and our personal storehouse consciousness, as well as the seemingly external conditions of our lives), in the midst of our unfolding Karma, we rest our minds, even as we are active and engaged. This is how to remedy afflictions, this is the only real nirvana.