Seeing Sameness

One way to recognize intrinsic awareness–the original wisdom we were born with–is to see if there is something that is always the same. The sameness that is being pointed to does not exclude difference or change. It is a nonconceptual awareness that transcends the opposites of permanence and impermanence, of difference and sameness. It is a sameness that is seen in difference, a permanence seen right within this world of impermanence, a stable presence that pervades all states of consciousness whether peaceful or disturbed, happy or sad.

Seeing this sameness is a doorway to the simple recognition of one’s own awareness as primordial wisdom.

In this short meditative talk (about 20 minutes long), Hal points to the possibility of recognizing innate nonconceptual sameness. This talk was given at Real Dharma Sangha on May 1, 2012. To listen, use the flashplayer, below:

or download or listen by clicking here.

Mahasiddhas, Mahamudra and Awakening in the West

Mahasiddha Saraha The Mahasiddhas were unclassifiable and often eccentric yogis of medieval India and Tibet who pointed out ultimate reality in direct and unconventional ways. Non-monastic, and not depending on dogma or ritual, their approach toward Mahamudra and Dzogchen teaching may hold the key to the transmission of genuine awakening to the West.

Hal Blacker gave the following talk on Mahamudra, the Mahasiddhas and their inspiring example and potential significance for the modern West at Real Dharma on November 29, 2011. To listen, use the flash driver:

or download or listen by clicking here.

Earth touching awakening

Since we recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, this might be a good time to briefly reflect on the relationship between our mother the earth and awakening.

Legend has it that when Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, he was challenged by Mara, the voice of limitation, death and delusion. Mara asked the Buddha by what authority he could claim awakening. In response, Buddha extended his right hand, touched the earth, and said, “The earth is my witness.” These words and this gesture have been immortalized by countless images of Buddha touching the earth, showing the earth-touching mudra.

The meaning of this symbolic story is profound. Many forms of spirituality claim descent from immaterial or “higher” spiritual realms, and set up an opposition between the spiritual and the material. In contrast, Buddha was a human being and he taught that his awakening came from the earth itself. This earthly orientation to awakening permeates the Buddhist teachings. For example, in contrast to the traditional yogic technique of withdrawing the senses—pratyahara, the fifth limb of ashtanga yoga as taught by the father of yoga, Patanjali—Buddhist meditative techniques commonly teach the development of mindfulness and awareness of the senses and their objects.

According to Buddhism, the earth and the objects of the senses are not themselves an obstacle to awakening. It is only a wrong relationship with them, based upon craving and ignorance, that creates our suffering. In the innermost essence of real dharma, the earth and all its forms, when seen without craving or ignorance, perfectly reflect and embody awakening. This wisdom teaching implicitly underlies Buddhism’s many manifestations—from the early Buddhist practice of mindfulness; to the Prajnaparamita teaching that form is emptiness, and emptiness is form; to the Third Turning teaching  that Buddha Nature pervades everywhere; and beyond to the secret teachings of Tantra, Mahamudra and Dzogchen.

Seen with the eye of wisdom, the earth, its forms, all of its beings and we ourselves are embodied awareness, and are all worthy of reverence and love.

Sticking to what I don’t know

As an experiment, I thought I’d see if  I really knew anything with absolute certainty. This might help unmuddy the waters and trim away the fat.

When I look deeply at what I know absolutely, I find precious little. I can’t say for sure if my own ideas about myself are true. In fact, I suspect that they probably aren’t. I also don’t know for sure if what I think about others has any accuracy. Again, I’d put my money on pretty much everything that I think about other people as being biased, untrue and based on my own subjective interests, likes and dislikes.

I don’t really know if others like me or not. And my likes and dislikes for others are so subject to alteration depending on how they treat me, that I can’t really draw an absolute conviction as to how I stand with respect to my affections or disaffections for them.

I’m not sure if anyone really understands anything I say. And I certainly can’t be sure I understand others, even though I often act like I do.

When I really look, I can’t actually find an opinion I have about anything that I know to be true with absolute certainty. I suppose that’s why they are just opinions.

Even on this issue of what I really know, I lack complete certainty. Maybe there are some things I do know with absolute conviction, but I just can’t think of them right now. Then again, maybe not.

If I were forced to put my money on one thing I was certain about, I guess the only thing it would be is that I am a conscious, aware being. But on further examining this proposition, I find that I’m not completely sure what I mean by “I.” Nor am I completely certain exactly what “am” means either.

All right, then. I guess the only thing I can be sure of is awareness itself. Its depth, breath, borders or boundaries, its origin, duration or exact nature escape me. But at least I know that awareness is. If it weren’t, I could not even discuss it. Even if I don’t know what awareness is, it’s the one thing I’ve got for certain, and I’m sticking with it.