Archive | February, 2016

Limitless Life

Almost all of us live our life thinking and feeling that we are enclosed in a container of self that we call ‘me’.  Usually there is a sense of an entity somewhere in our head out of which we relate to the world as outside and separate, and as the physical body as our possession.  We believe our thoughts can act as a controller, and the body as our container.  Looking closely and thoroughly, we can’t actually find the container or controller; we can’t find separation other than in our thinking mind, we can’t find it other than in our thoughts of being separate.

The following is a guided meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh on Limitless Life.

Lord Buddha, I see that this body made of the four elements is not really me, and I (the supreme ‘I’ we share with all beings) am not limited by this body.  I am the whole of the river of life of blood and spiritual ancestors that has been continuously flowing for thousands of years, and flows on for thousands of years into the future.  I am one with my ancestors and descendants.  I am life that is manifest in countless different forms.  I am one with all species whether they are peaceful and joyful or suffering and afraid.

I am present everywhere in this world. I have been present in the past, and will be there in the future. The disintegration of this body does not touch me, just as when the petals of the plum blossom fall it does not mean the end of the plum tree. I see that I am like a wave on the surface of the ocean.  I see myself in all the other waves, and all the other waves in myself.  The manifestation or the disappearance of the wave does change the presence of the ocean.  My spiritual life and Dharma body are unborn and undying.

I am able to see the presence of my Self before this body manifested, and after this body has disintegrated.  I am able to see the presence of my Self outside of this body, even in the present moment. Eighty or ninety years is not my lifetime.  My lifetime, like that of a leaf or of a Buddha, is immeasurable. I am able to go beyond the idea that I am a body separate from all other manifestations of life, in time and in space.

Lord Buddha, I touch the earth three times to see the no birth, no death nature of myself and to let go of the idea that I am a body separate from all other manifestations of life.




Finding the Radiance Within


I visited my first Zen teacher, Richard Baker Roshi last April, where he gave a seminar in Boulder. One thing he said that has stuck with me: “I won’t tell you there is no separate self.” I was at first taken a bit aback by his saying this. I was thinking that I do indeed say to people that there is no separate self. And Buddha said this to people over and over again throughout his 50 years of teaching.

However we need to remember that Buddha also told people over and over again that he doesn’t expect people to believe him when he says there is no separate self. He said we need to deeply question everything that any teacher tells us about the truth. The truth of any teaching can only be deeply realized by direct experience. Attaching to the belief that there is no separate self can be a way to unconsciously try to create a superior separate self that pretends not to believe in separation. And it can be a way to repress and disown our anxiety from our deep conditioning to believe we are a separate self when we are threatened with suffering.

So Baker Roshi saying ‘I won’t tell you there is no separate self’, doesn’t mean he’s saying there is a separate self. He is asking us to own up to, and be aware of our conditioning to believe in a separate self. Being aware of our belief in a separate self, frees us to deeply question if we can actually find any separation in the experience of thinking we’re separate. The willingness to not find anything, to not find separation is a key component of our spiritual inquiry into truth. Of course we will always find ideas about things being separate, ideas about things having ‘an own being’. But do ideas have any separate substance, are they anything other than just expressions of our awareness, like our fingers are just expressions of our hands?

I still find myself aware of the belief in my separateness all the time. But the more I allow myself to deeply question this belief, the more it’s obviously devoid of any substance whatsoever, and the less it has any effect. More and more there just isn’t anything here other than just the alive awareness of being present, absorbing and revealing the no-thingness of all thought.

So by just coming back to the sense of our being here and now, we learn to not cling to our beliefs in self or no self. The thought of being here and now dissolves, but the actual sense of being here and now remains. Attachments begin to fall away, and illusory boundaries begin to dissolve. Then life becomes what it was meant to be: pure radiance from an inexhaustible and boundless source.

I think it was Yogananda who said, “God is the electricity, human beings are the light bulbs.” As we begin to surrender to the radiance of our actual being, we realize we don’t have any more control over the life force illuminating us, than the light bulb has over electricity. We agree to surrender, to rest and be taken, and to be guided from the timeless spaceless radiance within.