Friday, March 04, 2005

Samsara and Nirvana are One

One of my old favorite dharma texts is the Zen Teachings of Huang Po, translated by John Blofeld. It is the type of book one takes on hiking trips in the Sierras, for it contains very heady thoughts such as this which need solitude in nature to properly absorb:

"The Master said to me: All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One-Mind, beside which nothing exists. This all that you see before you--begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error...The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient beings, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood. By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind."

Of course this kind of speculation can lead to misty Theosophy or Transcendentalism, cute romantic offshoots. But the main point Huang Po alludes to is skepticism about the nature of duality itself. While duality is a necessary component of conceptual thinking, that does not make it real. In all mystical traditions, duality is overcome by some sort of integrated sense of oneness, or, as Chogyam Trungpa preferred, zero-ness. In our practical day to day life, if we can overcome the rigidity and concreteness of our dualistic thinking habits, we can perhaps gain an insight into the "wholeness" or "interdependence" of situations, and act appropriately. As is often said in Chinese buddhist texts, all things are interconnected in the Net of Indra.

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