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July 18, 2017


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Yeti; Is “the mind of birth and death” our ordinary mental activity, including sensation, perception, emotions, thoughts and awareness as I think you mean; or is it something different? Of course, the point of the Buddha’s teaching was to see things as they actually are and that includes the Three Marks (annica, dukkha, and anatta).

I agree that we all have “illuminative principle” (Buddha-nature) and I have had direct experience of the “illuminative principle”. So, let’s keep any dialogue focused on our practice and how we view our experiences, both ordinary and non-ordinary.

It’s my observation that often the differences in people’s views are based on their differing understanding of terms; hence my question in my previous post: Do you understand “hsin” as heart-mind or if, as it seems to me, you identify it with an “innermost consciousness”, an unchanging essence?

Take care.


My understanding is not as you describe.

I understand the mind of birth and death arises with conditioned phenomena – a mother and father, food and water, senses and feelings, all brought into being by karma. It is in this realm of karma that cause and effect occur, the same causes and effects that lead to birth in another body. The mind of birth and death mistakes such unreal things as real. It is much like a dreamer mistakes the images, places and sensations perceived in his dream as real, or that one might perceive the images in a mirror as having substance when they do not; and because this mind exists solely conditioned upon such phenomena, and is endowed with various forms of consciousness that arise with them and can perceive such experiences as pleasurable or unpleasant, it begins to attach to them. It no longer recognizes its original nature and instead grasps to illusory phenomena as the real. In this way it entirely ceases to identify with its original unmoving nature even though that nature is never absent. Because it is never actually separate from samsara it cannot be lost, and for this reason I say that the Buddha did not awaken to it via causes, even though causes are readily discernible in samsara.

Clyde, my understanding is the perceptions of the mind of birth and death are like a magic trick, an illusion, an image in a mirror or reflection of the moon on water. Though you may have some image or intellectual understanding of what this means, such understandings are not your mind! I think you have not yet understood what is meant by the nature of this original pure essence of nirvana, even though this “illuminative principle” is active in your innermost consciousness day and night and continues without interruption throughout your entire life and is the means by which you read these words. That mind has no cause, and no conditions. It does not arise from birth. It is entirely beyond any category of conditionality or phenomena, but because sentient beings are unware of it they are born into a new body after death and subject to the various things that occur.

As the Buddha said to Ananda, “It is merely your mental processes that assign false and illusory attributes to the world of perceived objects. These processes delude you about your true nature and have caused you, since time without beginning and in your present life, to mistake a burglar for your own child — to lose touch with your own original, everlasting mind — and thus you are bound to the cycle of death and rebirth.”

Yeti; It seems we agree that there were causes and conditions which led to the Buddha’s awakening. But regarding “the realization of mind”, it depends on how you understand and use the term, “mind”. I’m not a linguist or scholar, but my understanding is that the Chinese word which is translated into English as “mind” is “hsin” which can best be translated as heart-mind. Is that your understanding?

Also, I don’t know why you raised “heresies” or the particular heresy of “we are already Buddhas”, but that arises from the Mahayana teaching that all human beings have Buddha-nature, so we are all ‘potential Buddhas’. And (based on my understanding) from a Buddha’s view, there is no fundamental difference between Buddhas and ordinary people.

Be well.


What I would say the Buddha awakened to was the transcendent principle of Mind. Having thoroughly investigated the nature of existence (also called “becoming” or “bhava” – the tenth of the nidanas) he realized existence was empty because it arose as a function of ignorance and desire. When the mind system ceases phenomena also cease, the fires of samsara “go out”, thirst ceases, there is nothing more to gain, nor any truth to posit since truth itself is already inherent in the realization of mind as the only reality. Thus the Buddha, who renounced his worldly self of body and consciousness, and gave up grasping/desire for form and sensation by closing the sense doors and dissembling the aggregates of existence, thereby realized the unconditioned/nirvana/Buddha principle as not dependent upon any cause or thing. In other words, I would argue he awakened to the unborn principle that mind itself IS reality and not dependent on the world of form (rupa), and certainly not predicated upon birth (jati) which is the unfortunate result of ignorance and to be abandoned.

Clyde, there are many heresies taught as Buddhism today but I think one of the most pernicious is that “we are already Buddhas”. If this were the case, there would be no suffering but I think we can agree this world has much suffering. However, by removing the cause, we can see the effect is not produced. Surely you are familiar with the Daoist concept of “doing by not doing”. But this is not to say that nothingness prevails because how can something come from nothing? It is very easy because of dualistic habits of perception to become trapped by notions of cause and effect, and descend into externalist views. Mind, which through the production of karma gives rise to thought forms and the false perception of individual existence and worlds, does not depend on any “thing” including most especially a physical body, any more than a mirror depends on the images that are reflected in it. Once awakened from a dream, does it profit the dreamer to hold to those images and places as real? I think it does not.

Yeti; There is a Zen saying that “Enlightenment is an accident, and practice makes us accident prone.”

But analyze the matter and you’ll see enlightenment is conditional (and empty of inherent existence). Consider, if the Buddha hadn’t been born, hadn’t seen the Four Messengers, hadn’t abandoned his wife and child, hadn’t studied with the best spiritual teachers of his time and been dissatisfied, hadn’t practiced ascetic practices and seen their futility, and hadn’t sat down under the Bodhi tree – he wouldn’t have awakened. Simply, without sentient beings there would be no realization.

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