Through the process of silent illumination we are digging through levels of delusion that are accumulating in our hearts and minds. This is like a spiritual excavation.
These layers involve our delusions and the preconceptions that shape our view of reality; these layers also involve our tendency to bifurcate reality, to think in terms of ‘self’ and ‘other’ or ‘this’ and ‘that’.
Some of what we are digging through are acquired delusions and preconceptions—some are innate, affecting all human beings.
If we can dig through these layers, then we can see the empty mind ground. This is sometimes called ‘no mind’ or ‘beginner’s mind’ or ‘mind before thought’.
This is said to be ultimate reality, the way things are before we start labeling and categorizing and judging things.
Because of our layers of delusion, sometimes instead of knowing what’s really going on, we get caught up in our labels and judgments about the situation. We can spend a lot of time locked in our delusions, not seeing reality.
But we can do something about this. Enlightenment is the goal of Buddhist practice—a healing of our delusion. An excavation into our minds to discover the jewel of our true natures.
So, I sit on the cushion in silent illumination—this is my shovel. There are other tools available, like chanting or koan practice, but silent illumination is the tool I choose to use.
I see a layer of greed and I dig through it, pushing away the dirt that has collected. I want many things. I want a better house and a better car. I want a better computer. I want to be able to go out and blow my money without having to worry about anything. But, when I really look at my life, when I dig through my greed, I realize that the truth is that I really have enough.
Then I see a layer of aversion and I dig through that too, sweeping away the dirt and grime that’s collected there. There are many things that I do not want: I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want my car to break down. I don’t want to feel tired or upset or anxious or unfulfilled or let down. I want to feel perfect all the time.
Of course, that’s ridiculous.
We can tend to be as attached to our negative feelings as our positive ones, if not more so. We can even feel aversion for the things in our life that are positive. When my kids are too loud and I get annoyed, that’s aversion too. That’s something for me to dig through.
Then I see a layer of delusion—that’s the hardest one to penetrate. The labels and categories I put things in are arbitrary and create many distractions. I sometimes think I’m not good enough for the path—or at least that I’m not qualified to write about it. Or that no one would want to read it.
For the longest time, the biggest delusion in my life was a delusion of loneliness. From the age of about eight, I was afraid no one would ever love me and I’d be alone forever. I don’t need to tell you why that’s ridiculous. (It’s ridiculous for a lot of reasons.) No eight year old should have that fear, but I did because I have anxiety problems. But loneliness is a delusion, albeit a very common one.
Ram Dass said, “We are not alone, not because there are so many others….but because there are none.”
The delusion of separation is the most powerful one that I face. Some people struggle more with Greed and some struggle more with Aversion.
The truth is we all struggle with all three.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
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