Some Subtle Dharma

Polly, my friend, and moderator of the awakening-centered website Dharma Overground, makes the following observation:

A small observation: a new tendency is that during challenging times, subtle pleasant vibrational sensations by the nostrils stand out more in my experience. It’s like a gentle reminder from my body to be more present and less narrowed down. Even though the nostrils are in themselves a narrowed down area “geographically”, for me it wakes me up to how what I’m currently caught up in and identifying myself with is equally narrowed down, so it results in a widening. It gives perspective. Both the thing I’m caught up in, causing suffering, and the pleasant nostril sensations, are small focuses compared to the totality of what is aware. I can zoom in and I can zoom out. I can zoom in unskillfully or skillfully. I can also zoom out. What I can’t do is stay zoomed in or zoomed out. That’s not how it works.

There’s lots of Buddhism in this here. Polly, I think what you’re seeing is a natural, automatic inclination of your mind toward God, away from objects in the world. In the beginning of practice this is not what happens- you go toward objects and look for refuge in objects of the world. 

When we have wisdom and insight and instead of moving toward objects of the senses and gross objects of the world, your mind is starting to prefer more subtle types of refuge. This is related to the idea and the practice. turning stress into bliss, it’s a skill and you should use it. It’s nothing special or mystical, it’s what a good dharma practitioner recognizes as skillful  what I see as a genuine sign of insight. 

This is autovipassana and advanced practice and you’re starting to see it in your direct first hand experience. The fact that your mind is tending toward this I see as progress. The way it manifests, like you describe, is not intentional at first, and it’s also not clinging or avoidance. Your mind moves in relation to objects, that’s simply how the mind works. What matters is how your mind moves in relation to objects, and when there is automatic release of dukkha, even if it is subtle and not impressive at first- you are practicing correctly. What good is enlightenment if it’s not a superpower? Turning stress into bliss and clarity is a super power. 

I only mention this because I noticed the exact same dynamic develop in my own mind at a certain point- and it was just like you describe- a subtle, semmingly small but clear inclination of the mind- automatically. Now, while it’s important to recognize that all phenomena are impermanent, it’s also important to recognize that impermanece is how things manifest in our subjective experience- not exactly that everything is impermanent or that there is some subjective reality and some objective meansure of time against which to measure impermanence.  

I’m about to talk about some very subtle powerful dharma and I don’t know if this is too subtle but it’s very powerful. It might go right over your head but no worries if it does. The three characteristics themselves, as qualities of experience, are also conditionally arising phenomena which are conditioned by each other. And you can directly see this. When your mind is powerful enough through concentration the mind starts to see the 3C’s as conditioned arising objects or qualities just like any other object. Because they are, but the thing is, these qualities are deep basic assumptions and that’s why this is the subtlest of dharmas. Now. Let’s say that objective conditioned reality to manifest in the normal way, you have to have some level of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and non-self. This is true and check out according to dependent origination. But that’s only from the perspective of time being a thing by which we can measure impermanance (it’s a simple fact that impermanence is a concept involving time and change) Time and change are both experiences that can be known (expereinced) to be empty. If you see the emptiness of time and change then impermanence, non-self, and dukkha also are empty. The whole thing falls apart.

So in the higher sense, impermanence and suffering are two conditions that must arise for a self or else we would always be one with God, i.e. cessation, Nibanna.  Therefore Polly if you see the emptiness of the 3C’s and properly recognize their conditional nature and be able to use it ( Please take a second to think about this because it’s useful information. If you take the antithesis of the 3C’s – the assumption that self is permanent autonomous, and things are also permanent and satisfying – do we have any basis for dukkha as we now know it? When you move beyond a basic understanding of the 3C’s you can see that they reveal something inherent about the nature of mind. Basic qualities of conditioned experience – (subjective, mental experiences) are themselves conditionally arising. Because the 3C’s are supposedly “ultimate” in the sense that all conditioned arisings have those qualities (in our subjective, mental experience)- the relationship between those qualities reveals something inherent about the mind- beyond the stuff of conditioned reality. A heavy focus on the 3C’s of experience, with the assumption of sensations themselves being discreet knowable things, is a basic assumption that can be broken but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion. 

What’s important is me point out this thing your mind does and I would invite you to let that same process continue and consider that a good process, a process that you can directly and consciously cultivate.

One response to “Some Subtle Dharma”

  1. […] See Also: Signless perception […]

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