I have encountered something of unsurpassable value—something I have found to be utterly dependable and infinitely resourceful. In Buddhism, we call it the Dharma, but it could just as easily be called the Tao or God or the Source of All Things or Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong.
*David Rynick. This Truth Never Fails: A Zen Memoir in Four Seasons
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When one would inquire as to how we know when encountering the Something many call "God" that such encounter has occurred, I could reply ineptly, "There is the knowing of a quiet, subtle bliss, free of thought and emotion." Yet, not to give reply to such an inquiry would be more true, even if less helpful.
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All kinds of experiences float in and out of awareness during meditation. Many of these are distasteful belches of neurosis, simply for we have constantly chewed on our subtle to gross fixations outside meditation. These arise to awareness more so in the quiet, for we are not blocking the arising of such experiences, which we may do most of the time outside our silent time.
Then, thankfully, we have tasty experiences that captivate our attention in meditation. While we may wish to push away the distasteful, we like to grab onto the fleeting treasures of pleasure and hold them close. We may grieve when one vanishes. Or we may find we rush from the pleasant to the unpleasant, for we are habituated to be more comfortable with suffering. If, however, we notice closely, the distasteful and tasteful each leave quickly, regardless of any effort for or against.
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Some persons are against spiritual practice, saying it blocks the natural arising of clarity and bliss. I am not. I think practice is, for most of us, essential to create a lab-like setting to experiment, so all these experiences of I-like and I-don't-like can arise, be looked at, for us to learn wisdom in relating with them and what they are ~ not merely what they appear to be. That is, meditation is a means to draw close to, become intimate with, our suffering and non-suffering. Most of us engage in a lifestyle that does not provide a lab-like context for such intimate experimentation, at least not until we grow to be able to utilize our moment-to-moment life in that way. Of course, I am aware many persons engage what they would call meditation, it being a means of avoiding these experiences and rushing to create some pleasant oasis of emotional calm and happiness; "meditation," as I use it, is directly opposite that supposed-meditation. That is not meditation ~ likely some semblance of self-hypnosis ~, for meditation is not an escape, not a mere managing of experience to an oasis of relief.
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One means of inspiration not to give up on this spiritual pilgrimage is the faith in Something that is the background of all the comings and goings in the mind. We may have fleeting experiences that we see to be this Something that encourage us. Also, we receive affirmation from others who testify of this Something, and they use different words and titles and images to refer to it. We may have a favorite way of alluding to it also and it may encourage us, so good.
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Today, I will use the word Presence for this Something. Presence is the background of all experience. So, we see, over time, Presence comes more to the fore in consciousness as the experiences of pleasant and unpleasant become less able to captivate the attention. We see, likewise, we have more equanimity, less preference leading attention. Attention is open, rather than running after one style of experience as opposed to another. We are not moving to or away from. We are learning to see what appears, even as we see it leave. We come to appreciate that the unpleasant is not inferior to the pleasant, the latter just feels better. That is, our functional is not superior to our dysfunctional, even though the former is more advantageous practically, and, likely, those we live among prefer our acting functionally.
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Of the pleasant experiences, we come to know we had oft mistaken an experience not of Presence for Presence. Possibly, we had the ultimate pleasing experience and thought such must be Presence. This is usually a positive experience, though not necessarily a pleasurable one. Some link Presence more with suffering, with pain, with death.
One devout Christian contemplative remarked that what most experience as God in church is actually an experience of himself or herself. I agree. We seem designed to link a certain spectrum of experience, as told to us by others, as Presence itself. So, a feeling arises, and we say we felt God, when we had a feeling we called God. This is worth reflecting on, if you will to know beyond experience ~ No experience is Presence, so we cannot have an experience of Presence. Rather, Presence is the voidness of experience. In a way, one might logically inquire, "But could we not rightly say, 'The experience that cannot be experienced is the experience of Presence'?" But, then, we are back in experience, and experience is always personal: Presence is impersonal.
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From the Discourse Record of Chan Master Hongzhi...
Being empty, it leaves no trace;
in illumination there are no dusts of emotion.
*In Chan Master Sheng Yen. The Method of No-Method: Then Chan Practice of Silent Illumination.
Sheng Yen observes, in "Chan [Buddhism], the preferences, feelings, impressions, and emotions that the 'I' responds to are referred to as 'dust'."
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So, when the dust settles, so to speak, what remains? What remains is what made possible the dust. Presence remains, for always is. The dust of trying to get an experience of Presence or attain Presence itself is part of the dust that fills the space. In the non-grasping of pure space, then arising-of-Presence for Presence is the space in which the dust came and went, and will continue to due to our humanness and its conditioning.
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Some say, therefore, Presence and we are two. Others say Presence and we are one. Some say Presence and we are one and two. I will not divulge my thought on this matter. I will pose the question, however, "How can anyone be sure?" For again, can we have a knowing of Presence apart from that knowing being touched by experience? And, yet, is not Presence, again, not an experience, not any experience, even of Presence? Possibly, to claim any answer as to our ultimate relationship as or with or as and with Presence is simply more dust. And, anyway, any response would be within the framework of our structures of thought, emotion, image, and word. Simply put, "Dust cannot speak or think or feel what is present in the absence of itself, for in the absence of dust is the absence of dust."
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Thankfully, Presence is beyond our ideas of Presence, even as who we are beyond the appearance of ourselves is beyond any idea. Presence, you, I are unthinkable. And if we encounter Presence, we know so only through, not emotion, but something more subtle. Call this Pure Feeling, if you wish, but, again, this Pure Feeling would be free of emotion. Call this bliss if you wish, but bliss is not happiness, for happiness is an emotion.
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So, we move to an openness to see that even to try to put into thought what this Presence or what we each are is more dust. This is why all eminent spiritual guides value so highly silence. As Ramana Maharshi said, "Silence is eternal eloquence." The most eloquent thing I can say of Presence is not to say anything. And, yes, we might be able to appreciate the opening words of David Ryder, and voice with him: "I have encountered something of unsurpassable value—something I have found to be utterly dependable and infinitely resourceful.... the Dharma, but it could just as easily be called the Tao or God or the Source of All Things or Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong."
*The vision statement for Lotus of the Heart is Living in Love beyond Beliefs.
*All material, unless another source is cited, is authored by the presenter of Lotus of Heart, Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Use of the material is permitted; Brian only requests that credit be given and to be notified at firstname.lastname@example.org .
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union, is available through major booksellers.
*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.
The Sacred in Me bows
to the Sacred in You