Traveling the Buddhist Landscape in search of Nirvana - Sunyata
First view of the landscape: observe familiar concepts of karma and samsara, and even concepts of "heaven" and "hell," and of "mind."
- An insight in traveling the Buddhist landscape is literally in names of various branches of the Buddhist tradition. All contain term, yana - "vehicle," a "ferryboat," e.g., Mahayana ("Greater" - focus on masses - Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan and Vietnam), Hinayana ("Lesser" or Theravada - oldest - focus on monks - primarily in Southeast Asia), and Vijrayana (Diamond - Tibetan Buddhism) - all suggesting travel via a boat, from somewhere, over something, and to somewhere?
A. So at the start of our journey, to assist along the way, there is "gear" await you, such as methods, art, music, mantras and others, and you need a "raft" to cross the river, you need a yana:
Three Schools: Hinayana ("Lesser Vehicle" or Theravade "Way of the Elders"), Mahayana ("Greater Vehicle"), and Vijrayana ("Diamond Vehicle")
B. On the yana, the "ferryboat," especially by the time you reach mid-river, you gain a more reflective view of the landscape, what is most essential to your vehicle are "the Three Jewels of Buddhism":
The yana of the Three Jewels are:
dharma - teachings of the Buddha
Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path; Buddhist Doctrines, Sutras, and Sermons
sangha - community of followers
which today includes nuns, monks and laity
the example of the Buddha himself
seeking Truth and expressing compassion for all sentient living beings
And you begin to reflect and delve deeper into the meaning of reality, and the ultimate meaning of your life's journey? And you might be awaken to three essential aspects of that reality:
1 - anicca = "impermanent world" - all is transitory, temporary, changing. What is not changing, what is absolutely permanent?
The Buddha suggests that "death" is like a "cloud" (in one state, clouds are powerful winds, yet transitory and impermanent; "death" nothing more than transition of Clouds into Rain or Snow, falling from the sky, and the Cloud no longer visible, but essence continues in another state, as Snow Pack or Ice, then as Runoff into a Creek, Stream, River and Sea; then Evaporation returns it to the sky and Clouds.
And continuing the metaphor, what is the meaning of "water" itself? But an ever changing essence, depending on context and interplay with others. Is it not devoid of meaning itself without a context? Water is made meaningful for a drowning person, a person thrusting in the desert or on an ocean, a dirty person needing a bath, a person ice- fishing on a lake, water meaning something different for each! Water's meaning does not stay permanent.
Reality a constant and changing series of bardos.
2 - paticcasamuppada = "dependent origination" of reality; the transitory (anicca) events make up a vast field of mutually conditioning interplay of cause and effect relationships (paticcasamuppada) - (consider the Rock and Life inter-causal relationship, and the Copenhagen Theory of Quantum Physics).
And what causes those Clouds, but the amount of wind, evaporation and available water from creeks, rivers, oceans, from runoff, from snow pack, from falling snow, etc.
There is no "fire" without "fuel," and fuels such as wood and natural gas cannot even be conceived of as "fuel" without the concept of "fire." As there is no "fire" unless there are "fuels" and no "fuels" without "plants," and no "plants" without "soil" and "water" and "nutriments," etc. And the quantity and nature of each influences the others.
The same could be said of our opinions and beliefs, which also arise and fall in a great chain of cause and effect.
3 - skandhas = "aggregate bundle of forms" of: 1. material forms, 2. sensations, 3. perceptions, 4. predispositions/moods, and 5. consciousness/thoughts, "skeins that hang together as loosely as yarn," not patterned tightly - (consider modern String Theory)
All we have are just "thought-coverings" - linguistic conventions/social constructions to create illusion of "my car," of "independent objects" - (consider Postmodern Social Constructivism)
Consider the example of a "wave" (Smith page 78), can name and seemingly identifiable, yet in constant mix of interacting water molecules.
Or consider such things as a cup, plate or fork, which appear to be unto themselves whole and independent. But everything is made of something else, an aggregate bundle, and is always in the process of becoming something other than what it now appears to be. Before the fork was a fork, it was a sheet of stainless steel; before it was a sheet of stainless steel, it was iron, chromium, and other metals buried in rocks underground (though not, of course, conceived as such by the rocks nearby). And even this fork in my hand is only a "fork" among English speakers, i.e., "thought-coverings." In a culture of chopsticks unacquainted with Western place settings, it is simply an oddly shaped curio.
THUS at mid-stream of your journey, awakened to Reality is in a state of process, of becoming, and is not made up of independent objects - it is as series of bardos or transitions, of anicca - "impermanent world," of events in interaction with the all others paticcasamuppada - each interdependent on others for its origination, all conventionally loosely bundled skandhas.
Consider the example of "your car," made up of metal frame, axles and wheels, combustion engine, seats, steel, mining ore, rock, etc., fuel, refineries, oil wells, dinosaurs, etc., roads, asphalt, oil and rock, etc., driving rules, governments that create rules, etc., drivers, traveling lessons, food for drivers, cultivation, plants, living organisms, proto-life and proteins, beginning of the universe, and the "Big Bang" and . . . etc. and all cars end up in junk yards!
An implication: as there is no objects, independent, unchanging phenomena, and thus there is anatta = no "self" no "you" no "me" no "I"
As the "car" or the "wave" is a transitory interplay of cause/effect bundled together linguistically, and so your "self" has no objective, permanent, independent reality. Then who or what is traveling the raft to the other shore?
This is the world of dukkha, of suffering, e.g., Dhammapada 13:4-9 (The World)
As we are not independent beings, but interdependent. . . . As we do not exist among permanent, unchanging "objects," . . . Hence we suffer because we close our eyes to this reality, pretending we are independent and cling to things and attachments as if they were unchanging and independent themselves, as "objects" of possession, or "objects" of our affection. So suffer when we can't obtain that new car, or a loved one dies.
The Great Liberation (from the Tibetan Book of the Dead (video 45 min.)
And you begin to ask more Questions, as there is no Selfhood, then what is the nature of the Gods and Demons? And what am I left with ?
C. Upon reaching the other shore, to nirvana or sunyata - "liberation, flame extinguished and boundlessness," - e.g., Dhammapada 26:1-3 (The Brahman) and 7:1-10 (The Enlightened One), and Buddhist Doctrines n. Nibbana p. 8
your responsibility - to see your own "mind" and make choice - not a day of judgment by God - e.g., Buddhist Doctrines o. Bodhisatta p. 10
AND the Buddha asks the key question, once upon shore, "would you continue carrying the raft on your back?" For beginners and even advanced pupils, need the raft to cross the river, but once on the other shore, upon reaching nirvana is the raft needed? (from his "Medium-length Dialogues")
the Buddha's responses to his own questions are the "greatest and boldest of all paradoxes" - "the most startling reading of reality every whispered into the human ear" Heinrich Zimmer. Philosophies of India. 1951:481.
Questions: what is this Great Paradox and Now what is Real?
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