"Our happiness and the happiness of those around us depend on our degree Right View. Touching reality deeply -- knowing what is going on inside and outside of ourselves -- is the way to liberate ourselves from the suffering that is caused by wrong perceptions. Right View is not an ideology, a system, or even a path. It is the insight we have into the reality of life, a living insight that fills us with understanding, peace, and love."
--Thich Nhat Hanh, pg. 54, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
"Peace isn't an experience free of rough and smooth; it's an experience that's expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened."
-- Pema Chodron
"Know that whatever task you do is God's task. He is giving you the interest, the capacity, and the knowledge to do it. If you think of yourself as an instrument in the hands of God, you will always succeed in whatever you do."
-- Swami Satchidananda
During the month of August, we have contemplated Right View during our yoga classes and in our lives. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches part of practicing Right View is recognizing whether we are watering wholesome or unwholesome seeds in our consciousness with our thoughts, words, actions, and livelihood. We try to recognize that we have both a store consciousness and mind consciousness. We all have the same seeds in our store consciousness (love, compassion, joy, mindfulness, anger, irritation, jealousy, hatred, etc). Our ancestral lineage, life circumstances, and habits determine which seeds when watered sprout more readily into our mind consciousness. If we use the four noble truths to recognize our suffering and the root causes of our suffering, we may be more likely to selectively water our wholesome seeds. With the support of the energy of the sangha and the teachings of the dharma, we notice our habit energies that keep us stuck in our suffering and work to change our habits to more quickly and easily restore well being and peace.
Interbeing is another foundational teaching in Buddhism and is at the heart of Right View to help us work with our Right Thinking and Right Mindfulness. I was delighted to hear this beautiful example stated by Lorian and Sebastian in the Childrens' Program at the Day of Mindfulness this weekend at Blue Cliff Monastery. The children were having their snack and when the sister asked the children what they tasted as they ate their apple, Lorian said a cloud and Sebastian said dirt. Do you know why? Because without the cloud, there would be no rain. Without the rain the apple tree would not grow and without the apple tree, there would be no apple. (We could have also noticed that the apple tastes like rain and sky.) And, the seed needs the dirt along with the rain to grow into the tree. This is the practice of interbeing. The apple is made up of non-apple elements. It is empty of a separate self. It inter-exists with everything...the farmer who tends and harvests the apple, the mother and father who conceived the child who grew to be the farmer. Do you see? We can make the same connection between you and me, between all beings. It is a deep and wonderful teaching. Don't worry if it is just beginning to root in you. It continues to grow with selective watering : )
In Saturday's class we discussed more about the historical and ultimate dimensions. I shared a reading from Thich Nhat Hanh's book about The Two Truths, relative and absolute truth, which to me, in a sense, parallel the concepts of the historical and ultimate dimension. Again, this is a deep teaching, so I'll try to describe briefly. Just know that this is the beginning of watering the manifestation of understanding of it. We have our whole lives to let it sink in and root to grow. That's why we have each other in the sangha and our dharma teachers to keep discussing it and applying it in our lives.
We live in the historical dimension. Our speech, actions, livelihood, and diligence are examples of how we exist here and now. When we get stuck in our suffering, we may tell ourselves stories about life and the others in our life and even ourselves. We narrow our view and perception because we are stuck in attachment or aversion. We think we know what is true. But what we are caught in is relative truth. Sometimes we may find ourselves stuck in suffering and all of a sudden a bell of mindfulness may open our eyes to nature or to another perspective. That bell can be setting foot outdoors, seeing the eyes of your child or beloved in a new way, catching a glimpse of the mountains or sky while driving as if for the first time, etc. We wake up and see that there is more to life than our limiting thoughts and views. There is a grander bigger existence. We see the solidity of the tree and know that solidity is in us. We see the freshness of a flower and know that freshness is in us. We see the expansiveness of the sky and we know that expansiveness is in us. We taste it when we sit still and breathe or stand in nature and take a deep breath, when we really absorb the joy of a child, the beauty of a sunset, when we do our yoga practice with pranayama (breathing practices) or asana (postures) that balance us, restore us, open us up to these absolute truths -- interbeing. We find that we can touch the ultimate dimension even though we are walking in the historical dimension. We don't need to go anywhere, just arrive fully in the present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh says the Kingdom of God can be found in the present moment.
We look deeply into our suffering in the historical dimension to notice the patterns (habit energies) that exist within us and recognize this as our relative truth. In naming our suffering and working to identify the root causes of our suffering insight can arise to help transform the suffering. Perhaps with insight we touch the absolute truth of interbeing which fortifies and eases the way back to well being, the cessation of that moment of suffering. So we don't belittle or dismiss the historical dimension or relative truth. We live in them and we need to look deeply into them to touch the ultimate dimension, the absolute truths, here and now -- in this lifetime, in this body -- that we might exist more often or navigate our lives more often from these more expansive places and more fully enjoy this historical dimension.
I will close with the lyrics to this Plum Village practice song. You may have heard me sing it in class.
I have arrived, I am home, in the here and in the now.
I have arrived, I am home, in the here and in the now.
I am solid, I am free. I am solid, I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell. In the ultimate I dwell.