Q: In the last Q&A in which you talked about being stuck in the dyad of consciousness, vijñâna, it stuck in my mind. I remembered that the fifth aggregate consciousness was like a magician’s illusion. Considering how important consciousness is in our day and age, the subject and object dyad, to use your words, are you saying that awakening to pure Mind is the collapse of consciousness, seeing what it is really made of?
A: You could say that. It is the collapse of being bewitched by consciousness. As a result we see the magician’s illusion for the first time. It’s not an intellectual realization. It is a real seeing or gnosis. There is a lot of confusion about the intellectual acceptance of various Buddhist ideas such as illusion and emptiness, and full realization which transcends the intellect. Meditation is about the latter. All of Buddhist meditation aims for the collapse of consciousness and the subsequent seeing of pure Mind which is known by many metaphors. This collapse is, at first, sudden and somewhat unexpected. Eventually it become the manifestation of the Mind that is bodhi or bodhicittotpada. And that is one super event which I described in another Q&A, Paranormal Buddhism.
Q: Would you say that the current practices that most Buddhist practitioners are involved with are coming out of the magician’s illusion?
A: Yes, especially zazen. If we are supposed to think outside of the box, then sitting in zazen is like sitting in the box believing there is no outside. When the Buddha talks about the Five Aggregates and says they are not my self, Western Buddhists take the Five Aggregates to be a box that has no outside—even though the Buddha just said that he is not an aggregate! Western Buddhists are sometimes crazy! If a five room house is on fire and you run outside to escape, are you not outside the house? When consciousness collapses, and Mind appears, you’re outside of the illusion of consciousness.
Q: So are you conscious anymore?
A: Let me explain it this way. The strange thing is that when, as a conscious being, I look for pure Mind I can’t find it—believe me I can’t. On the other hand, I am pure Mind. All that I behold is a configuration of it, including the subject sitting in front of you. Buying into the consciousness dyad of subject and object we cut ourself off from the truth and any possibility of attaining it or escaping from samsara.
Q: But this sounds dualistic. Is it?
A: There is no dualism of a single substance, the One Mind, just like there is no duality of gold even though there are millions of different gold pieces. Duality is always an illusion of the one appearing as opposed by others, or as subject facing an object. Let me touch on rebirth for a second. When consciousness transmigrates, the propensity for subject-objectness existence transmigrates. But in truth, nothing from the standpoint of the One Mind is transmigrating. However, we don’t realize this. The worldling is clueless as to the way things really are. The clueless transmigrant, who is always implicitly consciousness, wants the conscious life again: to be a particular subject with a particular body living isn a world of other such beings. For a Buddha it is totally different. The subject and object illusion is gone and with its collapse so is consciousness. What is left is the One Mind with its limitless configurations.
Q: Would you describe this as nirvana?
A: Yes. But there is no blank or big void. Nor is nirvana a form of mystical death. When the Buddha tries to describe nirvana to worldlings bewitched by consciousness, it sounds like nothing or just absence. How do you explain something to creatures hooked on the subject-object dyad of consciousness? Nirvana is no object-thing for a subject. The subject cannot achieve nirvana, either. Forget that!
Q: I see why the realization of pure Mind is so important and how it can be confused with the subject. It seems like, from what you’ve said, nirvana is just seeing nothing but pure Mind in which everything is just this Mind’s form.
A: That is sort of true. But it is not seeing with the subject. I can look at the world through the eyes of the subject and can’t see anything except suffering. When you first see the world from pure Mind, sustained by the Buddhas, which is bodhicittotpada, you might as well be in another dimension it is so profound. I would go into it in more detail but the bulk of Buddhists, regretfully, are not ready to learn just how profound Buddhism really is. I dare say, these people are only at the level of being able to understand the book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that Richard Bach wrote way back in the early 70s.
Q: So they have to wait for Maitreya Buddha?
A: Even if he or she showed up, who would recognize such a Buddha? Thank goodness, there is another more mysterious way beings are saved. It all relates to pure Mind. It is not powerless.