June is off to a good start. On Saturday when only four people were scheduled, I was caught by surprise when ten people walked in during the last fifteen minutes before closing. Things got a little bit wild, but in the end, everyone floated out the door on an invisible carpet of Chi. Just prior to the walk-in tsunami, I had been doing some internet research at the Washington Secretary of State’s web site, reading up on the rights and responsibilities of non-profit Board Directors (I was recently elected President of my Buddhist meditation center) and discovered that in this state, Board members are protected by an immunity clause if a lawsuit is filed, even in cases of negligence, although if gross negligence occurs, the protection doesn’t exist. Anticipating a question from other Board members, I wondered where lies the dividing line between ordinary and gross negligence. I found a page that explained it and there I left it – in big letters – “negligence versus gross negligence” on my screen, forgetting all about it as I tended to the needs of my patients.
Fifteen or thirty minutes later, while racing back to get charts for another patient, I noticed my…ummm…negligence. Imagine yourself a patient at a medical clinic and you walk in and see “gross negligence” in big print on the computer screen at the receptionist desk – would you wonder if the clinic was facing a law suit for….say…gross negligence? I chuckled to myself at yet another humorous glimpse of life, minimized the screen and restored my computer’s saved background image of Medicine Buddha, with the deep blue body symbolizing primordial mind and the radiant halo of rainbow colored light surrounding his body. No matter what happens in life, it’s possible to shine with radiance and serenity. Yes, that is definitely a better image to put on display as people walk in the door.
Someone recently asked me why Medicine Buddha is blue? Because he (or she if you prefer)….symbolizes primordial mind, the nature of emptiness and wisdom, the supreme medicine curing all worldly ills according to Buddhist psychology. And how does one uncover this primordial mind? In brief, it occurs (so I am told) through a process of internal inquiry where one uncovers in stages one’s own innermost nature, and the nature of all phenomena. It goes something like this – ask yourself: “Who is the person reading this blog now?” Perhaps your name – Jane or John or whatever it is – comes to mind. But that is just a label. Who or what is the person or thing that existed before the label Jane/John was given – before your parents named you? Well that was – ME of course, your ego chimes in. But “me” is just another label, posited on a collection of constantly changing parts.
Of course, in our habitual world view, our body parts look and feels pretty solid, but if you were to look at them using one of the high tech machines of modern medicine – you would see that our body is composed of cells, molecules, atoms – bits of matter and fluid constantly pulsing, whizzing around, spilling out of orifices, and actually mostly we are just empty space according to quantum physicists. Fine enough, but uncovering your deepest nature requires that we use the intellect to transcend the intellect. We use logic and reason up to a certain point, then we let go, resting in the experiential conclusion that we’ve arrived at through our inquiry. So where is the me? Analyze carefully here. Don’t simply jump to a conclusion. Be willing to drop all the answers you’ve been told and see if you can experience the truth directly, non-conceptually.
And if we are going to discuss parts, where does this mental part of me fit into the composite and fixed conceptual image we hold of a substantially, inherently existent I or Me? What is a mind? Buddhists say that it is mere clarity and knowing. Brain is part of body. Mind manifests via our brain and nervous system, but it is not something limited to this body or this life. Okay, I’ve bombarded you with several paragraphs of concepts which are now whizzing around as thoughts through your mind. Let them all go and just breathe for a moment. Yes – there is a you, that does exist, that experiences pain and pleasure. We can’t deny that. But how that person exists is the supreme riddle that we’ve never fully answered.
Just breathe. Come back again and again to that nameless and pure awareness – seeing things in their true nature, constantly changing, and lacking any inherent find-ability. And if you think you’ve got the answer, that you’ve discovered IT, that you are now awakened – there is a good chance that you’ve missed it by a mile. Play with this best of riddles – or should I say non-play with it, the next time you tip your recliner back for an acupuncture treatment. And by the way – acupuncture besides helping calm your stress, helps to quiet your mind. By quieting your mind, your stress is calmed, and your true nature naturally begins to shine, like a still forest pool of water when the changing winds have finally died down, revealing the entire universe on its mirror like surface.