Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Assembly 2019

This past weekend, Assembly 2019 was held. I'd long since made a production for the Graphics Compo, so I had been eagerly awaiting it for some time already. However, the picture was not qualified to be shown on the big screen. A disappointment. Apparently, there were 15 entries in the competition in total, of which 13 were shown. I find it very difficult to come up with a reason not to show the remaining 2 images. Showing an image in the compo only takes a few seconds of screen time. I do not understand what a maximum of one minute more time for the compo's showing would've hurt. However, as it went, I am hurt, because I read this as "your work is not worth a few seconds of our screen time"; "your work does not deserve to be seen by human eyes", etc.
Anyway, here is the ineligible picture:
Anuttara samyaksam bodhi
Here is the work on RedBubble, so that you may order prints.
The picture is made with my Canon Ixus 170, Inkscape, Flame Painter, Gimp and vvvv. The theme of this work is enlightenment and buddha nature. To quote Wikipedia:
The Chan master Mazu Daoyi (709–788) developed a radical interpretation of buddha nature, famously stating that it was nothing less than ordinary mind and that all beings were already enlightened from the start
I would not necessarily take such a radical stance, but I basically agree that buddha nature is the basic, fundamental nature of mind, and enlightenment is a process of removing illusions and defilements rather than developing the mind into something it was not originally. The process of enlightenment is more about removing than about adding. The "naturally pure true nature of the mind” is emptiness. Crucially, the mind is also empty of a Self, in particular. Buddha nature does not mean that there is a true Self whose nature is Buddha; buddha nature is more about suchness. However, it is also dangerous to think that there is no self; this is a "thicket of views". Other such views are described here on Access to Insight. Personally, I have been most subject to the view that "It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self", here the perceiving self being buddha nature, capable of seeing its own true nature as emptiness and not-self. But this is still wrong, just maybe somewhat more subtly than "I have a Self" or other such statements, and therefore harder, at least for me, to shake. To quote the Buddha, "If one’s mind accords with the true reality of dharmas and does not differentiate between self and no self because one knows that “self” is but a false name, one attains nirvāṇa. Attaining nirvāṇa is attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi". Instead of harboring or even cultivating views, I like to let the mind just rest in absolute emptiness, although striving after right view as part of the Noble Eight-fold Path is, of course, still a relevant part of the practice. I do this through meditation, and the more my mind dwells in emptiness, the more it feels like that truly is its primordial nature. The Buddha said: "Knowing that the self is only a hypothetical name is the attainment of calm-extinction. If one attains calm-extinction, one attains anuttarasamyaksambodhi". This is why I like buddhism: the Dharma is "visible here and now, immediate, inviting to be seen for oneself, onward leading, and to be personally realized by the wise". Direct knowledge instead of blind faith. It is the awakening to this knowledge, bodhi, that is the core essence that this picture is about.
The nature of emptiness, itself, is not easy to grasp. Emptiness is also empty; it is not a fundamental, truly existing essential nature of everything, although it is correct to say that all conditioned phenomena are empty. However, emptiness itself is beyond existence and non-existence; to truly grasp its nature is Bodhi; to dwell in it is Nirvana. Nirvana is close to ineffable - it literally means "blowing out", but is beyond production and extinction. It is not attained or entered into, even at death. Like the Heart Sutra says, "no attainment with nothing to attain". To quote the Buddha, "If someone claims that his mind attains, abides in, or sees something, he has not attained anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi". But, it is dangerous to get obsessed with emptiness, especially without understanding its true nature. The enlightened do not dwell even in Nirvana - their nature is non-abiding. The Shurangama Sutra has this snippet:
suddenly he may veer towards the view of eternal extinction, deny cause and effect, and take everything as empty. The thought of emptiness so predominates that he comes to believe that there is eternal extinction after death
The sutra also lists many other pitfalls on the way to enlightenment.
Although Nirvana is like the blowing out of a flame, it is less like extinction and more like unbinding thereof. Does the flame exist in an unbound state, still? It is the same as to ask whether a Buddha exists after death: it is unanswerable by any of the propositions of the Catuṣkoṭi. About life and death, the same sutra describes a view that I regard as very common today: "Existence is also nonexistence. But within nonexistence there is no existence". This can be put into other words as "Death is a part of life, but in death, there is no life". This is a view I've heard often, with the second part usually left unsaid but included in thought anyway. I find it wholly unsatisfactory and truly empty of any substance - as the sutra says of it,  "It is all sophistry and does not stand up under scrutiny". As for birth and death seen through the Bodhi mind, the Buddha says it best, as usual:
The essential, true, wonderful brightness and perfect purity of basic enlightenment does not admit birth and death, nor any mundane defilements, nor even empty space itself. All these are brought forth because of false thinking.
The emptiness of Shunyata is not an emptiness as in a space: it is entirely empty of self-nature and essence.

1 comment:

  1. The master Te-shan has also said that "Samyak- sambodhi and subtle perception are nothing but ordinary human nature freed of fetters".

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