With about two months to go before Bodhi Day 2020, December 8, 2020, I want to share a little hint for you to meditate upon in the meantime.
The Heart Sutra begins:
Avalokiteshvara, while practicing deeply with the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore, suddenly discovered that all of the five Skandhas are equally empty, and with this realization he overcame all Ill-being.
So what is that insight Avalokiteshvara was practicing deeply that lead him to something as grand as overcoming all ill-being? The beginning of that insight is this:
The Universe is One Big Process. Things seem real to us because it changes much slower than the process of our brains.
The process of our brain is much faster than the process of some thing like Mt. Everest eroding away. It’s also much slower than lightning. Think of watching a time-lapsed film of a rose bud in the process of blooming. It’s easy to see from such a sped up film that a bud is a process. Conversely, think of a photograph of lightning. In that photograph, time stands still, so the lightning seems like a solid object.
Every Thing we see, feel, touch, smell, or hear is a just a little process within the One Big Process. That One Big Process is the Universe. No Thing exists. Even if you hurt your fist banging on some thing to demonstrate how real it is, every thing is ever-changing.
My step-father banged his fist on the refrigerator years ago as I attempted to answer his question about Buddhism. “It’s real! How could this be a figment of my mind!” He did, however, accept Heraclitus’ notion that we never step in the same river twice. Yes, the water is different, the fish are elsewhere, a few pebbles have turned. But an ethereal refrigerator is too much to take.
As we gaze at a mountain off in the distance, our bodily senses don’t pick up on the little chemical reactions going on, how the roots of plants slowly pry rocks apart, or wind and water eroding it a rate imperceptible to us. Our senses and brain evolved to notice things at a much different scale of time and space – other animals, places we can hide, things that can make us more comfortable. From the big process that is Life on Earth, our brains picks out parts of that process and assign symbols to it. Those symbols live only in our brains and in the brains of other people we share it with.
Things are data structures in our brain. It’s no different from a row in a customer table in some corporation’s database that represents you … but last updated a year or more ago. Are you still living in the same place? Still working at the same place? Still look the same? Is your household made up of the same people?
For our brain’s sake, it might be more helpful to say, “No Thing is Permanent”. Whether something exists or not is relative to the “processing speed” of the perceiver. If Mt. Everest has a soul, relative to that soul’s “life span”, my life on Earth is less than a flash, far from a solid thing that exists. Remember, to flies, our attempts to swat them with our hands are laughingly slow.
Internalizing that the Universe is one Big Process is just Part 1 of that insight Avalokiteshvara is deeply practicing. Over the coming weeks until Bodhi Day, I will post more parts of the insight to help this to be your Bodhi Day. 2020 is a particularly great year to make Bodhi Day about more than Rice Pudding. For the moment, it’s enough for you to fully appreciate the impermanence of everything and so all things pass.
In Part 2, The Universe Between #000000 and #FFFFFF, we’ll look into things being two sides of the same coin.
Faith and Patience,
Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku