Sooner or later, if you have not done it already, you will ask yourself "Who am I?"
When man comes out of his slumber, and becomes aware of himself, he asks this most important question. One becomes aware of his body,
of other people just like him, his environment, of life itself, the role one plays in it all, and what it is all about.
More important, what is this 'I', this 'me'?
We like to give fancy names to philosophical questions, like existentialism, but this will not take away the root of the questions.
The awareness of being alive and all the questions that go with it, remain the same over space and time, and one will have to find
the answers for himself.
My search for answers at times brings about dramatic and profound spiritual experiences for which I am not always ready.
Life sometimes decides otherwise and makes you undergo what is in the plan. Some time ago, still in my thirties, I was lying in bed not yet asleep
when my consciousness shifted and I became aware of another reality, if that's the right term to use here. At any rate, I just floated elsewhere…
In fact, the sense of being in my bedroom and even of being in my body disappeared.
I expanded in a spherical way and finally found myself in an unlimited space.
Imagine yourself being somewhere in the universe. You can see the stars all around you.
Then take the stars away, that was the space I was in. Just me and unlimited space. It impossible to describe it accurately,
don't have the capacity or the words for it. I have to resort to mundane language to give some idea what it was like.
The vastness of that space is beyond description. My perception was spherical and centrifugal, with a strong sense of duality
of me and that infinity. There were no directions, there was nothing else.
Nothing to grab on to. That made me extremely loose and open. But I could not deal with the sense of unlimited emptiness deriving from the opennes.
It was a moment of nullification and amalgamation with the aether, requiring all my willpower to return to my 'practical' reality.
This experience repeated itself the next couple of evenings. I wanted it, so I experienced it. In the initial phase I sometimes felt like a big expanding blot, a splotch, a widening stain of perception.
The more I expanded the stronger the sense of unlimited infinity. Because of the fear for nullification, I managed to break off
the experience sooner and sooner. Finally I was able to stop it from in the beginning. Having done that, I perhaps ruined something because after some evenings it did not happen anymore.
I did not ask for explanations from anybody, but just mentioned it in a whisper to my partner at night, in bed naturally.
Although the experience stopped, it did change my consciousness profoundly. Every time I was back into my body,
I literally felt the walls of my room, the physicality of it and the enclosure they formed. This was a tremendous, strong feeling, very close to claustrophobia.
I became aware that I was locked up in my physical body for the rest of my life. It felt like a prison term.
I was in a physical body and I could not liberate myself from it whenever I wanted. I had to accept "my time" here on Earth
until the moment of death whenever that might come. From that moment on I was different. For the first time in my life I became
conscious of myself, an "I" as a single unity, in contrast to the unlimited universe. It was deeply felt. I could not understand
the duality. Furthermore I could not understand that there were other "I's" around, other people who also have a central "I".
Why was I "me" and why was I not somebody else? Questions, but no answers.
From that moment on I was a new man, a new Self. I looked at the world with a new consciousness. I stepped out of the dream of life
in which most people live. I began to watch the people around me, what they were doing and why they were doing it.
I became sensitive to the energies of people, looked behind their masks.
Because of this change in consciousness and the many questions I had about life, I became irremediably obsessed with "searching", questing...
I started exploring everything alternative, travelling extensively, as I still do.
In search for answers, I studied everything that had to do with life, and who we are: the world religions, western philosophies, esoteric doctrines,
occult teachings, wicca, nature religions, psychology and so on. I learned that the essence of all the different religions
is the same and that many people before me had tried to find out who we are. I found the most appealing, the most instructive,
the most clear, and the most comprehensive explanation in MYSELF, my WHOLE Self, my MIND.
Yes, indeed, my MIND, whatever that may be and however you want to define it. My MIND all the same.
And no, I did not become a Buddhist, nor a monk, nor am I currently associated with any esoteric practices or go to special monasteries, temples or retreats.
However, what I learned from my religious and philosophical searches is that the ultimate truth can be looked at from many different angles.
First of all, there is quite a difference between what we, Westeners, think reality is and what Easterners believe it to be.
So, now you will have to stretch your mind with me and extend your limits whilst reading this:
I'm going to probe the Buddhist Mind...
In fact, the first concept you need to have a good understanding of is 'mind'. Forget about the Western concept of mind as being the intellect:
let’s dedicate ourselves to understand the Eastern concept right here and now… and Buddhism seems to do it best.
In Buddhism 'mind' is like a primal thing out of which everything that exists came and comes forth. I like that.
The nature of mind is empty and without foundation whatsoever. It is unobstructed and therefore there is a continuous arising
of appearances out of itself. Thus it is the source, the origin of the diversity in the universe.
Mind is primordial, self-arisen, spontaneous and transcends space and time. Mind is the basis of everything in the universe,
including you and me.
So, first we have mind, and then out of mind thoughts arise. Thoughts is another important concept, because it is thoughts
that create all the forms in the universe. In essence, forms by themselves do not exist, they are actually composed out of thoughts.
When Buddhism say that everything is 'maya' or illusion it does not mean that it is not there. It means that what we perceive
and what we think the world around us is, is not what it is in reality. Everything in the universe is a thought form.
We perceive objects as being solid and made of matter, but that is because we have been accustomed to looking at it in this way.
Quantum physics will also tell you that matter does not exist. The so-called quantum particles out of which all matter is composed of,
are actually energy packets, and even with those energy packets we can not really put our finger on it. For example, a quantum
particle can not be defined in space and time at the same time. They are kind of elusive. This is what our present state of science
is telling us. Spiritual masters have always told us that there are many more subtle particles/energy forms that make up the universe,
but underlying it all is the concept of thought forms. Thoughts are created out of mind and then take shape by creating subtle
and gross particles, which we eventually perceive as 'matter'. Take the thought away and the form will cease to exist.
We presently live in a physical world, and our consciousness has to adapt to the experiences within this world.
So it 'forgets' about the thought forms and looks at the world as being 'solid'. It is just a matter of perception,
and we have become accustomed to it.
Where does this all tie in with who we are? Well, in essence we are all thought forms. This thought form comes out of (our) mind
and takes shape into a physical body. Buddhism teaches that everything does not exist by itself. Everything is a manifestation
of that all-encompassing universal mind. When mind is compared with an ocean, then everything and everyone is a wave on the surface
of that ocean. A wave arises up out of the ocean, travels along the surface for a while and dissolves again in the ocean.
The wave seems to be a separate unity, seems to have a separate individuality and seems to move independently,
but it actually is part of the ocean and defined by the ocean. It is a temporary manifestation. So it is with a human being.
What you call 'you', the totality of your body, emotions, thoughts and so on, and the name which you are given so we can identify
you by a personal name, is actually a temporary thought form that came into being, lives here for a while, and will cease in the future.
Here we refer to the being of this incarnation, because Buddhism teaches reincarnation. So, if the wave dissolves into the ocean
and then rises up again in another form (another incarnation), what is it that has remained the same and caused another wave
to rise up again? This is called the Dharmakaya, the body of realty, the essence, the absolute. This is the essence of our being,
it is always there, it will always be.
Dharmakaya cannot be expressed in words as it transcends everything. Nevertheless Buddhists have described it in many words,
but one has to take into account that these are only approximations. Dharmakaya is not an abstract concept, it can be experienced
here and now at any time because it is always here. The reason why people do not experience their true essence is because they are
habituated to the thought forms that make up this world. People are preoccupied by their bodily needs, are swept away by their
emotions and constantly following their thoughts. All this has become such a strong habit that it takes a lot of time to change it
and start experiencing the true essence again. So how do Buddhist describe Dharmakaya? It is beyond mind, and it is void.
It is often called empty, but this does not mean that there is nothing there, on the contrary it is the totality of all knowledge.
It is all-encompassing, and lucidly clear. It is without any conceptions or conceptual limitations. One might think it is clear
consciousness, but even consciousness is a temporary thing. Dharmakaya is clear, unceasing awareness. It is self-originated and
spontaneously present. It always has been clear and luminous, from the very beginning, and is unceasing.
Is Dharmakaya, the true essence, the clear awareness, or is it the ego, the self, or the higher self? Well, it is none of them,
and this is hard to grasp for most people. We identify so much with our ego, and the stronger the ego the better, we think.
The ego or self, Buddhists say, is nothing but a construct of the mind, to give us a sense of a unity, of a self, of being
different from others, something that makes us feel separate from others. It does not even exist, it is an idea, a concept,
a label in which we believe. The most we can say about an ego is that it is the sum of all your personal characteristics.
The ego by itself does not exist, nor does the idea of a self. This is one of those paradoxes that have to be experienced
because the intellect by itself might not be able to grasp or understand it. The fact that we see ourselves as separate
from others makes us believe we must have a self, a self that is unique and different. But when you look for this self,
it cannot be found. Buddhism is strongly based on meditation and experience, and this has revealed, and everyone can experience
that for himself, that there is no ego, no self to be found in oneself. It is just not there. Not even a higher self.
So, when one meditates and tries to figure out what one is made of, what the true essence of one is, what does one find?
Meditation is a gradual process of stilling the bodily energies, the emotional ebb and flow, and especially the continuous flow
of thoughts. Now, there are many ways to approach meditation and the biggest obstacles are
the thoughts. They come and go and distract us continuously. When we break through the habit of following the thoughts
we experience mind directly. The mind is the basis of our manifestation, or our incarnation, here. Can we say it is 'my' mind.
Yes and no, you could say it is as you are experiencing it, but it is not 'your' mind as the ego or self does not exists
and thus cannot even be experienced. So what you experience within yourself is not 'your' mind but just mind.
We already gave a description of what mind is in its universal aspect, but the same applies here. You could also say we all
share the same mind. When thoughts no longer hinder us, then we experience empty mind. Like we said before empty does not mean
that there is nothing there, it is an experience of emptiness, it is unlike anything we experience in our daily world.
When we have attained this state of consciousness in which we experience the emptiness of mind, and when we are able
to continuously dwell in it while continuing our daily life, one is called enlightened, an often misunderstood word.
An enlightened being does not float around on clouds, but is still an ordinary being living an ordinary life, however,
he has found the inner peace and tranquillity that goes with the attainment of the inner emptiness of mind.
The experience of emptiness goes together with clarity of awareness and the feeling of unlimited inner space.
At this point one is free from the karmic cycle of birth and death. But there is one more step to take, and that is liberation.
Most Westeners think that enlightenment is it, the ultimate, but it is not. Liberation is the final step.
As long as the enlightened person holds on to the idea of emptiness or clarity, he is holding on to a thought form,
and thought forms belong to the manifested universe. It is a question of dropping any conceived ideas and then
transcending them to experience directly the Dharmakya. Then one is completely liberated.
There is not much we can say about liberation because it transcends everything we know.
If you have not given up reading this logorrheic outburst by now, you have shown great courage.
The nature of being is not easy to explain or to understand.