Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Reflections on Machig Labdron - The Material Devil

In reply to a question from her son, Gangpa Muksang, as to "what is the meaning of 'devil', Machig Labdron replied:

Machig Labdron"That which is called devil is not some actual great big black thing that scares and petrifies whomever sees it. A devil is anything that obstructs the achievement of freedom. ... Most of all, there is no greater devil than this fixation to a self."

Machig teaches that there are three further devils born from the fixation of ego, all of which are to be severed.

The Material Devil

The Material devil is the form that is seen with the eye. Attraction arises in relation to fine form, and the attitude of aversion arises towards bad form. In the same way, good and bad sounds, smells, tastes, and textures occur as the sense objects of the ear, nose, tongue, and body, and produce attraction or aversion. This is called the devil of dualistic grasping. One is attached to the [perceived] real existence of a sense object, and the sense organs get caught in the actual object of [attraction or] aversion. This creates the condition for harming sentient beings and thus becomes the cause of bondage to cyclic existence. For that reason it is called a devil. And it is called a devil because one is caught in the good and bad objects that really exist. Hence, 'material devil'.

Therefore, son, and good or bad thing that one clings to with attachment is a devil. Whatever the case, you must get rid of attachment and clinging. And as for form, the very essence of form is by nature empty. Therefore, son, since that form is by nature without real existence, you should meditate on that natural emptiness without attraction or aversion to form. You cannot stop form from appearing, [but realise that it is] mere appearance without grasping on to its valid existence. By elimating clinging to that mere appearance, you will be liberated from form, noble son. It is the same with sound, smell, taste and texture. Keep this in mind. This is the way of being of the material devil, and this is the way of liberation from that material devil.

Machig Labdron

How easy it is to mistake the mere appearances that arise to the mind as objects which are worthy of attachment and aversion! How easy it is to lose the perspective of their emptiness, and allow those appearances to fill the mind with their seeming solidity, until they take on a life they don't really posses, as solid, full and self-existent 'things'.

When mind rests in its own nature, then all is seen for what it is - as the play of mind, as the natural effervescence of mind, as mere appearances that dance and gyrate, but which lack any substance whatsoever. How easy it is to be seduced by appearance, and allow appearance to seemingly expand and solidify, until your awareness seems to lose its natural openness and expansiveness. And you are lost in the dark turgid solidity of forms, which oppress the mind with their seeming tangibility.

Yet when mind rests in its own nature, those very forms, those very objects which arise to the senses become the cause of realisation to arise. They become the basis on which we can let go and rest in expansive openess, and see the wafer-thin vaneer that is appearances, which merely seem to play across the field of awareness.

We can't stop those appearances from arising, though many try. Realisation isn't to be found in stopping appearances. But appearances naturally subside when mind is allowed to rest in its own nature.

Form is the material devil that seduces the mind into losing its ability to self-recognise, and to rest in itself. From is the material devil which invites awareness to shrink down and ossify, granting existence where there is none, and granting power where power brings difficulty. Not giving illusory existence to the mere play of appearance, the material devil cannot lead one astray. Not becoming entranced by the material devil, we are not led to harm living beings by our attraction and aversion to forms.

When the material devil is seen for what it is, empty appearances, then naturally compassion arises, and our actions are helpful and kind.

When the material devil entrances, then all actions become ego-centric, and along with help goes harm.

Tangible objects entrance, but are merely appearance. Without accepting or rejecting, allow what is to be. Merely as it is, yet wondrous indeed .....

1 comment:

Meredith said...

The notion of devil, as Christians speak of it, something like, "some actual great big black thing that scares and petrifies whomever sees it," has always seemed ridiculous to me. The notion of devil I learned more recently seemed to be more understandable - the devil is that which separates you from light, or from your buddha nature, or divinity. Actually in this way of seeing, the devil then is that which obstruct the achievement of freedom. And yes, fixation to a self is perhaps the greatest restriction to freedom.

The material devil seems to be the way our minds create judgements about the things we see as being good or bad. To let go of all these judgements is so difficult - our minds continually come back to the duality, and the judgement. When we are able to rest in our true nature, such as in silent meditation, this fresh moment comes when "we can let go and rest in expansive openess, and see the wafer-thin vaneer that is appearances, which merely seem to play across the field of awareness." That is an expansive moment where freedom is felt.

Thank you Chodpa