Thursday, December 23, 2004

Samsara and Nirvana

Where does the unsatisfactoriness of life come from? How is it that we experience pain or sorrow, frustration or unhappiness? What is the cause of experience of life as being imperfect?

It’s all just a matter of perspective!

Misunderstanding the nature of things we experience suffering. This is the experience of Samsara. We mistakenly view phenomena as having an enduring existence, and a sense of solidity or selfhood that they do not possess. Whatever we perceive, whether seemingly within our minds or objects outside, we imagine they are discrete and enduring. We experience an emotion, and grasp at it as though it truly exists, that it is solid and real – a solidly existing entity. We see a car and again imagine ‘car’ – we think there is a thing there with ‘car-ness’, and that that is what we see.

But all phenomena are composite … they can be divided up into constituent parts, and the ‘thing itself’ can never be found. Dividing up a car, we see wheels, doors, engine – where is the car?

Dividing up the emotion, we see physical sensations in the body, and flavours in the mind.

But looking deeper, we can divide up the wheel, into tyre, rim and nuts. Looking deeper, the physical sensation isn’t one, but a multitude of shimmering aspects, flowing ever one. There is no end to the way we can look more deeply into the composite nature of a phenomena, and nowhere in any of it can the ‘thing itself’ be found. It’s just a label we project onto what we perceive.

Looking at the car, it comes together through all manner of causes and conditions, all that has been needed for that car to be there in that moment. But that is not fixed – the conditions constantly change. And so does the car. It rusts, the paint fades, the parts wear out, the seats get dirty. Always changing, never the same. The causes and conditions constantly change, and so does this what we label as ‘car’. Nothing fixed or solid there, only process and flux.

And with this wrong way of viewing phenomena, this projection of a solidity or selfhood which it doesn’t possess, comes the consequence for us …. We suffer.

We suffer as we try to grasp onto those ‘things’ that we find pleasant. We suffer as we try to push away those that we find unpleasant. Given them a reality they don’t possess, we then end up acting on them as though there was inherent value in that mistaken selfhood. Feeling that things are much more solid and real than they actually are, we push and pull at them, hoping to rearrange the world to make us happy. As nothing has the nature that we imagined, our hoped for result goes awry, and suffering is the inevitable result of this mistaken perception of phenomena.

This mistaken way of viewing things is the cause of all our suffering, the cause of Samsara. Seeing things as they truly are means the end of suffering, and is known as Nirvana. No longer mistakenly seeing ‘things’ where things do not exist, we view all phenomena as empty, empty of solidity and selfhood. Seeing the composite nature of all phenomena, we no longer try to grasp or reject. Seeing the conditioned nature of all, we no longer imagine a fixed and isolated selfhood, free of dependence on conditions, and changing as those conditions change.

Seeing things as they are, suffering can never return, as the roots of suffering – mistaken perception is forever banished.

Seeing things as they truly are, we can never again experience Samsara. Once this topsy turvey way of viewing the world is dropped, then our unsatisfactory experience goes with it. View phenomena incorrectly, we experience Samsara. View phenomena correctly, we experience Nirvana. Though it’s a simple change, it’s one which is profound in consequence.

Not places or realms, Samsara and Nirvana arise in dependence on conditions, in dependance on correctly seeing the nature of phenomena. Rather than it being somewhere, a plane of existence or thing, it’s simply the mistaken view of what is, and arises in dependence on that mistake.

May all beings view all phenomena as they are, and no longer transmigrate in Samsara, forever freed from its sufferings and imperfection!

No comments: