We are so sure of illusion, of unhappiness, anger, depression, and fear, but doubt the reality of compassion, joy, happiness, freedom, and peace of mind.
— Roy Charles Henry
In the context of philosophy, the definition of reality is: the sum of all that is real, absolute and unchangeable. Until we experience Simple (Absolute) Reality and learn to distinguish it from the relative or illusory world, we know that we are not experiencing “true” reality. That which is real does not change. The word reality is at the heart of the answer to the First Great Question—Where am I?
The definition of the word “realize” is: to comprehend completely or correctly. When we are able to have a profound “realization” we will be able to answer all three of the Great Questions profoundly. We will know where we are or what the nature of reality is. We will know who we are. We will have an identity beyond any illusions. And finally, we will know why we are here. We will hear the universe calling us to express our True self by choosing response over reaction day by day, moment by moment.
The ultimate human attainment is to experience reality as it really is, not striving to create the reality that we crave or avoid the reality that we fear. Most people create a story or a context for their lives that is an illusion. This happens, in part, because the intellect is not capable of comprehending reality, it can only be intuited.
Gerald Heard also accepted that the nature of this reality is essentially a mystery but not beyond our experience. Nevertheless, Heard said, “Such a Reality existed which was the first cause, the source of all diversity we seem to apprehend through the five senses and which, pervading the diversity and containing it in itself, could be experienced, that it had been experienced by others, and that to experience it was the sole purpose of a human existence.”[i]
Hence, we will not satisfy the intellect in this article in defining that which is “the sole purpose of humanity.” We must then enter into a non-intellectual, circuitous route to our experience of Simple Reality; we must set aside our intellect or at least give it a role subordinate to our intuition. Ken Wilber is among the best of guides into this admittedly “Zen” realm. “Reality is Void because it is void of conceptual elaboration.”[ii]
Any attempts on the part of the intellect will be “futile attempts to define or discuss reality which will ‘not submit to analysis or codification.’ ‘And what will you find?’ asks Zen Master Rinzai. ‘Nothing but words and names, however excellent. You will never reach [Reality]. Make no mistake.’”[iii]
“Reason generates illusion, never Reality. Reality is thus Void of reason! But by now, the fact that whatever we can think about is not Reality, should come as no surprise; that, in the words of the Lankavatara Sutra, the ‘highest Reality is the eternally unthinkable.’ An idea—any idea that one can possibly conceive—has meaning only in relation to its opposite: up makes no sense without down, left makes no sense without right, being makes no sense without non-being, boundless without bounded, truth without falsity, good without evil, dark without light. Yet, as John Scotus (Erigena) pointed out, Reality as a whole has no opposite and thus it can never be thought about. Suzuki put it simply. ‘As [Reality] is beyond all forms of dualism, in it there are no contrasts, [and so] no characterization is possible of it.’”[iv]
“Thus, when I reach the point where I realize that I cannot be perceived, where I look within and see nothing objective whatsoever, then I, as Perceiver, have been returned to my ‘original abode.’ It was Mind that was looking for Mind and not finding itself as an object! And not-finding was finding!”[v]
“Looking for me, looking for looking, is finding my absence [the Void or Mind].”[vi] I am not in the world, the world is in me. The following “joke” illustrates Wilber’s “looking for looking:”
Baseball umpire #1: “I calls ‘em the way I sees ‘em.”
Umpire #2: “I calls ‘em the way they are.”
Umpire #3: “They ain’t nothing till I calls ‘em.”
In short, we may think we control the creation of our own reality, but our role is simply to embrace Simple Reality as it is.
Simple Reality from the perspective of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, probably the most influential Buddhist teacher in the latter part of the 20th century in the West, compounds the challenge to our intellect. Trungpa Rinpoche uses the term psyche as a psychologist would, meaning the mind functioning as the center of thought, feeling, and behavior and consciously or unconsciously adjusting to and relating the body to its social and physical environment. “Our psyche translates and perceives realities belonging to the world of the ego, which interprets and understands them. Hence, realities have nothing to do with the level of consciousness called Emptiness or the Void, since in the Void, there are no manifestations. Our psyche translates and perceives realities as symbols, but since this process of reading and understanding realities takes place in a world of duality, then realities belong to the world of the ego, which interprets and understands them. Hence, realities have nothing to do with the level of consciousness called Emptiness or the Void, since in the Void, there are no manifestations.”[vii]
“Then what can we say about mind or reality? Since there is no one to perceive a mind or reality, the notion of existence in terms of ‘things’ and ‘form’ is delusory; there is no reality, no perceiver of reality, and no thoughts derived from perception or reality. Once we have taken away this preconception of the existence of mind and reality, then situations emerge clearly, as they are. There is no one to watch, no one to know anything. Reality just is, and this is what is meant by the term ‘shunyata.’ Through this insight the watcher which separates us from the world is removed.”[viii]
“How then does belief in an ‘I’ and the whole neurotic process begin? Roughly, according to the Madhyamikas, whenever a perception of form occurs, there is an immediate reaction [emphasis added] of fascination and uncertainty [remember clinging and aversion] on the part of an implied perceiver of the form. This reaction is almost instantaneous. It takes only a fraction of a second. And as soon as we have established recognition of what the thing is, our next response is to give it a name. With the name of course comes concept. We tend to conceptualize the object, which means that at this point we are no longer able to perceive things as they actually are. We have created a kind of padding, a filter or veil between ourselves and the object. This is what prevents the maintenance of continual awareness and the presence of the meditative state, because again and again we are unable to see things as they are. We feel compelled to name, to translate, to think discursively, and this activity takes us further away from direct and accurate perception.”[ix]
We finally come then to the goal of The Point of Power Practice which is living life in the present moment or as Trungpa Rinpoche implies, our life will become a meditation. “So shunyata is not merely awareness of what we are and how we are in relation to such and such an object, but rather it is clarity which transcends conceptual padding and unnecessary confusions. One is no longer fascinated by the object nor involved as a subject. It is freedom from this and that. What remains is open space, the absence of the this-and-that dichotomy.”[x]
Vipassana meditation, translated as “insight meditation,” is a good beginners practice to embark on the process of transcending or letting go of P-B. “To penetrate the nature of reality, our mind needs to be stable enough not to get entangled in emotions like anger or jealousy. We strengthen our mind by focusing on the breath. In vipashyana, we begin by using a particular thought as our object—impermanence, suffering or selflessness. We could say that each of these thoughts reflects a facet of the nature of reality. In vipashyana we use it [the breath] to penetrate the nature of reality. As we do this, we might notice that in general we’re convinced that things are solid and real. We live our life trying to force appearances to be real, to make them exist. Once we are fixated in this way what happens? Samsara and suffering.”[xi]
Vipashyana is a Sanskrit word that means “to truly see.” “Our usual motivation is to suppress the suffering and uncertainty that permeate everything. Vipashyana meditation teaches us to do something different. To work with our mind and bring it to its full potential is to see what’s at the core of our being. Clearly seeing reality is the best way to overcome suffering. Truly seeing is a process of letting go.”[xii]
The perspective of a Western mystic like David Hawkins might be helpful to those of us who grew up with more of a Western perspective. “Without belief in its appearance as defined by perception, the world we thought was real disappears. When one chooses to be at one with the inner, ever-present potentiality of joy and peace, the world transforms into a humorous amusement park and all the drama is seen to be just drama.”[xiii]
“Man is so used to worry, fear, anxiety, remorse, guilt, conflict, and distress that they are accepted as normal life, with negative emotions, attitudes, and feelings. Mankind (the patient) is advised to seek a therapist to ‘get in touch with their feelings.’ Rather than ‘getting in touch’ with these fermentations of illusion, it would be more beneficial to liquidate them by uncovering their source as perception itself.”[xiv]
“All reality is subjective. Every other position is an illusion based on duality. The subjective and objective are one and the same, just different descriptions from different points of perception. Reality is not based on perception, duration, description, form or measurement. All such attributes are those of perception itself which is, by its very nature, transitory, arbitrary, limited, illusory, and dualistic.”[xv]
“With awareness of Reality, all learning stops. The mind becomes silent. In peace and stillness, all that exists radiates forth its own meaning and truth and reveals that the nature of existence is stunningly divine.”[xvi]
“In Reality there is only identity; there is no cause of anything nor is it required in the Newtonian paradigm of linear causality of ‘this seems to be causing that’. In Reality, everything is already complete, and the total oneness is beyond time, space and separation or definition. It is obvious that nothing is the cause of anything else as that would require a dualistic separation in time and space, which is impossible.”[xvii]
“The manifest becomes manifest by creation. All things are because of their essence in its expression as existence. All we can observe are conditions. It is relatively easy to see that the ‘cause’ of anything is the totality of the entire universe throughout all time, being what it is in all its expressions as existence. All things exist as an expression of identity, and the essence of all things shines forth by its presence. All things are self-created by divine expression as existence. Therefore, each ‘thing’ can only be what it is because of the totality of the entire universe. A speck of dust cannot be where it is positioned without air currents which require a room, which requires a building, a lot, a continent, a planet, a solar system, a galaxy, a universe, and so on.”[xviii]
“All statements made by the mind are subjective. There is no linear progression of events, sequences, or causations. All shines forth as it is in its expression of existence. All is self-existence and therefore not dependent on anything outside itself.”[xix]
“It is merely necessary to select any simple spiritual principle that is appealing and then proceed with its application without exception, to every area of life, both within and without. For example, one could therefore choose kindness, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, or noncritical acceptance. One could choose to be unconditionally loving or committed to seeing the innocence of life. Whatever principle is chosen then has to be applied to everyone, including oneself, without exception, and with absolute persistence. This process will bring about spiritual purification as the obstacles to these spiritual principles are brought up for examination.”[xx]
The Point of Power Practice is an expression of unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness, understanding and noncritical acceptance of thyself, thy neighbor and Creation.
[i] Heard, Gerald. Training for the Life of the Spirit. Blauvelt, New York: Steinerbooks, 1975, p. 26.
[ii] Wilber, Ken, The Spectrum of Consciousness. Wheaton, Illinois: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1977, p. 45.
[iv] Ibid., p. 55.
[v] Ibid., pp. 321-322.
[vii] Trungpa, Chogyam. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Boston: Shambhala, 1973, pp. 197-198.
[xi] Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham. “Deep Seeing.” Shambhala Sun. Boulder, Colorado, May 2003, p. 15.
[xiii] Hawkins, David. The Eye of the I. Sedona, Arizona: Veritas Publishing, 2001, pp. 49-50.
[xv] Ibid., pp. 175-176.
[xvi] Ibid., p. 178.
[xvii] Ibid., p. 183.
[xviii] Ibid., p. 184.
[xx] Ibid., p. 224.