Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Purview of Buddhism is the Mind of Living

The purview of Buddhism is the mind of living.

Books abound with Buddhist philosophy. Walk the aisles of your local bookstore and you'll find shelves of books discussing Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, Chan teachings, and dissections of the sutras. These books aren't Buddhism. Buddhism has no Bible, no book that expounds the Truth for its adherents. To be a Buddhist is to experience life, in all its wonder, in all its pain, in all its beauty, in all its horror. There is suffering in life: people die, people lose their jobs, predators hunt, and kill, their prey. There is complete joy in life: puppies are born, children dress up in adorable Halloween costumes, people embrace in loving relationship. To be a Buddhist is to recognize, honor, and be thankful for EVERY SINGLE EXPERIENCE, pleasurable, painful, or neutral.

All those books on the shelves do nothing but point at our lives and beg us to remove the filter we maintain between what we think of as our "selves" and the lives we lead in the world. In the Heart Sutra, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara proclaims, "All dharmas [objects, events, and beings] are defined by emptiness, not birth or destruction, purity or defilement, completeness or deficiency." [1] This teaching isn't a sermon proclaiming the Word. When we read this line, it hooks itself in our minds and impels us to look at all objects, all events, everything in our lives, with fresh eyes. It implores us to experiment, to test our views of everything, at all times. In the words of Suzuki Roshi, we train to keep Beginner's Mind at all times. In the mind of a beginner, everything is new and fresh, and the beginner is open to all experiences, all teachings. In contrast, the mind of the expert is closed off to fresh viewpoints, trapped in seeing all things in terms of his past experiences rather than what is presenting itself in this very moment.

The purview of Buddhism is the mind of living. All of our practices have a clear purpose--to remove the filter we continuously erect that prevents us from seeing all things, including ourselves, as they really are, in all their majesty, in all their painful reality. "[We] take refuge in the [Perfection of Wisdom] and live without walls of the mind." [1] We train our minds to live.

[1] Heart Sutra. Translated by Red Pine. 2004