23 August 2010

Fundamental Guidance on Practice: Taking the Goal as the Path

This is from the 2009 Buddhist Text Society translation of the Surangama Sutra. Shakyamuni Buddha is speaking to Ananda, who has asked for advice on how to transform everyday experience into the stuff of enlightenment:

you must pull out the root of death and rebirth and rely on that pure and perfect nature that neither comes into being nor ceases to be. Use the purity of your true nature to make disappear the distinction between your original state of enlightenment and the illusory state of what comes into being and ceases to be. The original enlightened understanding, which neither comes into being nor ceases to be, must be the basis of your practice. Then you will attain the awakening that will be the result of your practice.

When you hear me use the phrase "taking the goal as the path," this is what I am referring to: this practice of recognizing and trusting the enlightened potential within ourselves as a path. The goal of enlightenment and the practice of enlightenment are of the same nature, and according to this understanding, identical in function. The Buddha continues his explanation with an analogy:

The process may be compared to the settling of turbid water. If you keep it undisturbed in a container so that it is completely still and quiet, the sand and silt in it will settle naturally, and the water will become clear. This may be compared to the initial stage of subduing the afflictions that arise from transitory perceptions of objects. When the sand and silt have been removed so that only clear water remains, then fundamental ignorance has been eliminated forever. When the water is quite pure and clear, nothing that may happen will be a cause of affliction. All will be in accord with the pure and wondrous attributes of nirvana.
(pages 174-175)

Our meditation routine here at Great River Ekayana Sangha mirrors this two part process: we begin with Shamatha, which calms and settles the mind into clarity, and then proceed with Vipashyana or the discernment of the real, intended to clear away the nonsense.

With effort in practice, confidence builds; with confidence in our practice, our practice gains in power. This is a path of trust in that we must learn to trust the only thing about ourselves that is absolutely trustworthy, and then trust it absolutely. Let us direct our efforts accordingly.

No comments:

Post a Comment