When looking out of our window one cold winter’s day, we see that the leaves and branches of the trees are moving. We automatically infer from this that there is wind although we don’t feel it—not until we go outside.
This kind of deduction becomes more problematic when we are asked to have faith in a yet unrealized animative principle deduced from perceptually based knowns such as the movement of our physical body, the use of language and speech, and thought. We can accept that wind is moving the branches of the trees and is scattering leaves but does the movement and life of our psychophysical organism infer further a mover—a life giver?
Ancient Indians would answer in the affirmative. It is the atman which is the life giver or as I am in the habit of saying in many of these blogs, the animative principle which both describes mind (citta) and atman. Buddhism, on the other hand, takes a different track. It denies the life giving atman to conditioned phenomena. In other words, the branches and leaves are not the wind. Look all you want at the trunk or branches of a tree, including the leaves or pine needles—you won’t find the wind there. But does this mean there is no wind? Of course not. That would be absurd.
What animates us, moving our body, speech and thought including our physiological system is not something the modern Western mind wishes to take up since it has no basis in the senses or sensory based reasoning (empiricism). Yet for those of us aware of this animative principle who can even share it with others it is a cold, hard, magnetic fact! This, I hasten to add, is what the Zen adept will be introduced to during kensho. And from that moment on, will go through an expansion process where this life giving light becomes much stronger as time goes on.
When Bodhidharma said:
The Buddha said people are deluded. This is why when they act they fall into the River of Endless Rebirth. And when they try to get out, they only sink deeper. And all because they don't see their nature. If people weren't deluded, why would they ask about something right in front of them? Not one of them understands the movement of his own hands and feet.
Bodhidharma was alluding to the animative principle; not the physical body which deluded people cling to, and by clinging to such undergo endless rebirth. And yes, from my perspective and those who have experienced the principle, people are deluded who have no idea what gives them life. In this respect, they are like toddlers who understand next to nothing about what animates them.