Removing Perceived Blockages
The Heart Sutra
I believe that when we undergo the process of change what occurs is that we run into what we perceive to be a blockage on our path. If we didn’t hit those so-called blockages or opposing energies, it seems to me that change would be less likely to occur. Those obstacles in life, those polarities, are there for a reason. Without them there’d be no growth at all.
Often we hear people say something like, “How do I remove blockages so that I can experience what I desire?” My thought about this (on this really cold and windy winter’s evening) is that something needs to change first. That’s why the experience of blockage is apparent in the first place–it’s because something needs to change.
In addition, when we are stopped in our path in these ways, it creates opportunities for awareness. Through self-observation we can ask our self, “What needs to change?”
Emotions (feelings which stem from thought) are the same way. I’ve been writing about emotion quite a lot lately. Observing them, allowing them, and actually inviting them in. It is said that the Buddha did such a thing on his path to enlightenment. He danced with his shadows and even made friends with them.
“To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
Pema Chodron (Buddhist Nun)
It’s natural for me analyze the mind and to learn from emotions; it’s just the way I’m wired. The Dalai Lama says that Buddhism is often compared to Science of The Mind. Anyway, this analyzing quality is in harmony with Buddhist teachings that promote the understanding of the nature of the mind and the realization of emptiness and non-self.
This way of approaching life by looking at things from many vantage points or from different angles and perspectives is one way to release emotional attachments and it therefore promotes happiness.
“Encountering sufferings will definitely contribute to the elevation of your spiritual practice, provided you are able to transform calamity and misfortune into the path.” ~H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama
To see the mind as something “real” and the resulting emotional experiences that the mind creates via attachments as reality is a mistake. As one reaches this realization, it eventually becomes clear that behind all of the analyzing is a greater consciousness. It is often called “the thinker behind the thinker” and that part of our consciousness–that greater consciousness–is already in a state of perfect awareness or luminosity. Eventually, with contemplation on these matters, one becomes aware not only of It (the non-self) but receives the deeper understanding of what needs to be changed.
There are polarities in life and life is in constant adjustment, always changing. The opposites of hot/cold and dark/light are in constant flux and action in this world. For example, when the temperature is cold and I make a fire in the fireplace, the temperature rises–when the heat increases, the cold decreases. In this simple example, we see that with an adjustment of one polarity point, the other also changes.
So-called blockages work that way I believe. If we ask what needs to change on one side of the polarity, the other side changes in response. Some may call that karma/action. Without constant adjustment of the polarities, no change would occur. See the point?
There is a unity consciousness that potentially can occur through realizations of this nature. Beyond that, one can see clearly what is meant by the words in the Heart Sutra — The Mahaprajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra which I will reproduce at the bottom of this post. It so beautifully describes the nature of reality and I adore those words which always seem to “set me straight” no matter what’s going on in my life.
When we can understand life in both ways–the illusion that it is and the reason for the conditions at the same time, true emotional and mental liberation occurs. Yes, there are apparent blockages but their reason has to do with conditions being present for the purpose of change. And that change always, in my humble opinion, has to do with achieving enlightenment or nirvana.
And I share these views here in order to help the reader consider the nature of reality and perhaps also to encourage a look at Tibetan Buddhism as well. Yet, I’m in agreement with the Dalai Lama in that not everyone is wired for Buddhism just like not everyone is wired for any other religion or philosophy. He’s fond of saying that we need variety and that the purpose of all philosophies and religions is to help us to be better humans.
The main obstacle to achieving happiness, peace and liberation is in our clinging to what we think is “real”. Opposing forces or “blockages” are present until we can reduce our ignorance and understand the nature of the mind.
No matter how much we cling to solid existence or no matter how strong disturbing emotions are, they have no real power in relation to the true nature of reality. Liberation occurs when disturbing emotion does not obstruct us any longer. And it is through lucid self-awareness that we can reach a state of peace. This state is already present within us all and we don’t have to remove anything or add anything, we just have to understand the nature of reality.
Clear awareness of what is, already exists within us. And, again, sometimes conditions in the outer world, which are drawn into our life experience subconsciously to promote change is our own attempt to understand the nature of reality as well as, at the same time, realizing our attachments. Some would refer to this by using the famous phrase, “being in the world, but not of it.”
It is probably a good practice to ask one’s self (regarding a perceived blockage) these questions. What needs to be abandoned? What needs to be released?
It is said in the Guhyasamaya, “No one will give us Buddhahood.” That means that it is not held or guarded by anyone else, it belongs to us. We already have luminosity, in other words. We just need to remove the impurities of the mind to realize it.
The power of our own awareness enables us to achieve this state of nirvana or luminosity. When we know our own activity completely, it becomes Buddha activity.
And now, another log goes on the fire here at 3 AM as I recover from shoveling a foot of snow out of my driveway by myself to experience christmas with the family, and now prepare to start the new year in a few days. The wind chimes outside are playing loud and wild music while they dance with the strong winds. I think of the 4 elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire and think how one modifies the other the way perceived blockages modify change. Air increases Fire and Water softens Earth–change! It’s constant in this World and we don’t have to look far to find numerous examples of the changing nature of this reality. Here’s the Heart Sutra mentioned earlier.
Mahaprajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra
(The Heart Sutra)
Bodhisattva, practicing deep prajna paramita,
clearly saw that all five skandhas are empty, transforming all suffering and distress.
Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form.
Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form.
Sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness are also like this.
Shariputra, all things are marked by emptiness –
not born, not destroyed,
not stained, not pure,
without gain, without loss.
Therefore in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness.
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind.
No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, object of thought.
No realm of sight to no realm of thought.
No ignorance and also no ending of ignorance to no old age and death and also no ending of old age and death.
No suffering, and also no source of suffering, no annihilation, no path.
No wisdom, also no attainment.
Having nothing to attain, Bodhisattvas live prajna paramita with no hindrance in the mind.
No hindrance, thus no fear.
Far beyond delusive thinking, they attain complete Nirvana.
All Buddhas past, present and future live prajna paramita and thus attain anuttara samyak sambodhi.
Therefore, know that prajna paramita is the great mantra, the wisdom mantra, the unsurpassed mantra, the supreme mantra, which completely removes all suffering. This is truth, not deception. Therefore set forth the prajna paramita mantra, set forth this mantra and say:
GATÉ GATÉ PARAGATÉ PARASAMGATÉ BODHI SVAHA
[Beyond, beyond, totally beyond, perfectly beyond: Awakening ….Yes!]
a few final thoughts, quotes that I resonate very much with:
“Since everything is but an apparition, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, one may well burst out in laughter. ”
~ Longchenpa, Tibetan Buddhist Teacher
“My religion is to live and die without regret.”
~Milarepa, Tibetan Yogi
“Like it or not, if you look at your own mind you will discover it is void and groundless; as insubstantial as empty space.”
Padma Sambhava, Tibetan Sage/Guru
“When Buddha spoke about suffering, he wasn’t referring simply to superficial problems like illness and injury, but to the fact that the dissatisfied nature of the mind itself is suffering. No matter how much of something you get, it never satisfies your desire for better or more. This unceasing desire is suffering; its nature is emotional frustration.”
~Lama Yeshe, Tibetan Buddhist Teacher
“If you know the psychological nature of your own mind, depression is spontaneously dispelled; instead of being enemies and strangers, all living beings become your friends. The narrow mind rejects; wisdom accepts. Check your own mind to see whether or not this is true. By renouncing samsara, we renounce our habitual grasping, unhappy minds. And by renouncing samsara, we embrace our potential for enlightenment. “
~Lama Zopa Rinpoche