ch. 12 Bodhi Svaha



   There are many ways of expressing an idea. Dialectic is one format which has proven very efficient and it is sometimes presented as a discussion using logic and reasoning in a dialogue, or through question and answer, as a systematic investigative procedure.   Our Heart Sutra has used this sort of question and answer to good effect as a method of disciplining the power of reason for philosophic and spiritual realization.   Certainty is the requirement; theory and conjecture can never prove anything and can only provide possibilities. But dialectic can deliver us to a more perfect reason and clarity of thinking by analysis through which, at the very least, reality can be indicated.  Prajna-wisdom is the superb virtue of the paramitas and can be induced through the use of dialectic as a means to determine the validity or invalidity of any question, any statement, or any answer.   “Dia” means “through” or “across”, dividing something into two parts, or investigating something from two different standpoints in order to expose wrong and incomplete conclusions and see the deceptions of an errant mind that lets one sink into illusion, hypnosis, bias, and even insanity.   The dialectic method can cut through delusion by investigation into language, which provides descriptions through the use of opposite terms or by association with similarities. So each concept provided by language becomes mind-structured and dualistic.   The method of the Heart Sutra transcends even the best logic because logic becomes contradictory since it is limited to the mental categories of dualistic language.   Because any statement always uses a term or terms that are supported by their opposite term, any affirmation of what something is can be understood only in a relative and dependent context with its implied opposite term — or what something is not, apoha.  In this way, any statement has to be understood by what it is not.   Thus, one must finally admit ignorance of understanding what something really is since it can only be defined by what it is not.   Reality is beyond any format of expression by language or conceptual elaboration because reality does not have an opposite and cannot be defined by what it excludes. Reality is perfectly all-inclusive.

     Another way to express an idea so that a realization can “go beyond” the limitations of logic is through the use of paradoxical language.   Any kind of a statement or proposition, insofar as it may be presented as an attempt to define reality, will be found to contradict itself. For example, this statement:  “Reality is absolute, infinite, unbounded.” Absoluteness, however, excludes whatever is limited, partial, incomplete, or separate. So then, absoluteness must exclude limited objective relativity, and exclusion is the obvious standard for limitation, or what something is not.   Exclusion is a delineation of an excluding boundary between two things — what is supposedly there and what is not there. Thus, absoluteness sets conceptual boundaries. Calling the absolute “unbounded” becomes a contradiction because the absolute has to be thought of as unlimited — which excludes all limitation. As relative phenomena each have boundaries and limitations, they cannot be termed absolute and must be excluded from the definition. But in actuality, there is nothing excludable from the absolute; it is absolutely absolute.   In the same way, infinity must actually include all finite phenomena, which appears paradoxical.

    Once we find the right way, the skillful means, of seeing reality, no more questions and statements and answers need be made.  The usual forms of concept-making are the very limitations which create the obstructions in the first place.  So here in our Heart Sutra we find paradoxical statements that go against the grain of conventional language and thought. Why should we try to attain prajna-wisdom or bodhi when the Sutra tells us there is “no attainment”? The paradoxical language of the Sutra is intended to unite the opposites of conditioned relative reality and the ultimate truth, thusness, or the absolute truth.  There seems to be a tension between the two truths, relative and absolute. This is because conventional language and conventional thought separates everything through a mind that grasps each thing in terms of its distinct characteristics.  The Sutra tells us there is no difference between form and emptiness which is the same as saying there is no difference between the relative and the absolute. The absolute is unconditioned, yet it has to also include the totality of conditioned states.   So when the truth is realized it is because mind can only conceptually grasp relative and conditioned form, but because form is not separate from the absolute truth, thusness, then the ultimate truth is indicated through conventional form, which is also thusness.

    Prajna is an in-seeing or a direct and immediate knowing, an experience of emptiness. This is completely different and beyond any sort of conceptual fabrication, perception, or knowledge which is “attained” through reasoning, philosophical thinking, or logic.  The Heart Sutra teaches about a trans-conceptual experience that is beyond anything that could be revealed or indicated through words, symbols, or ideas.  It is this prajna-wisdom that dissipates all mental delusion, the mother who gives birth to all bodhisattvas and all buddhas.

     There is a mystical profundity in this Perfection of Wisdom that shows us the fact that all phenomena are empty of their own substantial self-existence. The revelation is that all sentient beings are already beyond the limitations of self-existence and all the stress of entanglement within the world process. There really is nothing to attain.   Striving and seeking are ego-based and will only keep the wheel turning. Identifying oneself with the skandhas is the primal mistake, the ignorance of emptiness.   Only by seeing into the truth of it all, as did Avalokitesvara, will it be possible to jump off the wheel.

   Everyone has gradually accumulated habitual notions of ego and separation.  The dichotomizing way of the common intellect has become the standard, and this becomes the base for disharmony and the continuity of lack of true discernment.   So to become aware of how and why misconceptions originate is the way to be free from deluded thought. When someone is able to get the vision, or see that which is beyond all thought, then he moves through prajna-wisdom to bodhi.   Ordinary beings have so far not proceeded along the right path, so they are tangled in a continuous stream of conceptual delusion, never free from dichotomous thoughts. If someone reaches to insight into that which transcends the thought stream, then he knows how and why deluded thoughts arise, and he also knows he is that which is beyond thoughts.  He comes to know he has been existing as a mistaken identity, fulfills the skillful means used to put an end to the deluded thought stream, and manifests prajna-wisdom and bodhi.

      All phenomena have the same essential nature, that is, each phenomenon is empty of its own self-existence.   All phenomena are nondual, meaning that apparent diversity is only an illusory appearance.  In whatever way any thing may seem to appear, its real essential nature cannot differ from every other thing (dharma), and this sameness is not concept but the true fact of nonduality.  All phenomena are beyond any sort of thought fabrication because the limited human mind is not capable of conceiving correctly all the details and characteristics of everything in existence, of all the infinite causal and relative correlations and endless potentialities and possibilities inherent in the totality of conditional relations.  What is ultimately real is beyond thought constructs since it is both immanent and transcendent, within and beyond each particular objective form.  Elaboration by means of concepts and ideas cannot ever truthfully or completely represent the infinity of form or emptiness.  The one word that indicates this inconceivability is “thusness”.

    We do not have to create or change anything; all that is necessary is to just recognize our real essential nature of thusness, of what-really-is, and see all as-it-really-is.  What is beyond and behind our nearly incessant thoughts is the unaltered state of awareness, the amalavijnana, or the mind of thusness.    Alterations and corrections in the thought processes are functions of the dichotomizing mind absorbed in the delusion of dualisms. Whether pertaining to conscious awareness or to phenomena, thusness means things as-they-really-are.   When we examine the primal, unaltered state of awareness, we are re-identified as what-we-really-are, the mind of thusness.  This is the state of being Avalokitesvara was in when he saw that the five skandhas were empty.

    When the true state of phenomena or mental factors are closely examined, it is found that without exception all are empty.  Everything is stamped and sealed with the truth of thusness and no thing can be excluded from thusness.   True thusness permeates all places without boundaries; reality is thusness-essence, always retaining its own nature without change. Its nature is the self-essencelessness of all things. The mark of true thusness is markless, signless, non-conceptual, and unconnected to any limit of boundary or realm, yet the nature of thusness always adapts and establishes sentient beings. Thusness is omnipresent, eternally pure, and pervades all times, but cannot be explained in words. Thusness is not something that can be cultivated or attained.

    When everything is realized and experienced as pure thusness already, there is no need to cling or act upon ego-based motivations.  All is in harmony already; everything is as it should be because of the causal chain.  Mental contractions, called thoughts, are just fabrications so there is no need to get absorbed in the delusion of them; just stay in the unfabricated state.  This is a spontaneous continuity of presence and can be known in one’s primal being. Freedom from the influence of mental constructs is the freeing of constricted attention, the de-programming of constriction habits.  This is the entry into the heart of existence. The lack of this understanding is the defilement to be overcome.

    Pure knowing experience comes about by letting everything be in its reality of thusness; there is no need to add or remove anything. Even so-called defilements are already perfect defilements, so there is no necessity for transforming them. Just recognizing them for what they really are makes them disappear as what they really are not.   The goal of contemplative exercise is the eradication of unwholesome seed impressions from the storehouse consciousness. These seeds are the base of subverting and hindering tendencies and proclivities. When attention is passive, not willfully active, these proclivities are allowed sanction to arise in the mind-stream of reactive thinking and behavior. Abandoning attachment to this passive process of automated reactivity is the practice, but this cannot be performed without first recognizing what is almost continually arising from the depths of alayavijnana.   Passive attention must be remade into active vigilance.   Actively vigilant, then distractions have no effect when they are recognized as thusness.

    Presence is an active and willful silence of thusness. When presence is compromised, there is a slip back into a hypnotic passivity where automated reactivity of mental effluents can resume. The onlooker, stabilized in presence, can look on through the mind of thusness, with no preference, no prejudice, just seeing thusness.   Hindering proclivities will gradually fade away due to this contemplative practice, a return to primal, free consciousness.  Pure receptivity in pure presence is an open attentiveness, not to what was or to what might be, but to what is, here and now, with no particular fixation, just the free consciousness of the knowing onlooker.

   Vigilantly receptive, waiting patiently for the next thought to manifest, then no thought will arise.  This is the gap between thoughts. In this gap there is a mental silence with no words and no images disturbing or distracting pure presence. Mental functioning becomes quiescent.   The gap will not last more than a few seconds at first, but those few seconds are enough to recognize what pure presence is.   And it is a knowing awareness, not just a vacant reflector.

    There are two fundamental ways that thoughts usually arise: as concepts described by words or as concepts portrayed as images. Images, mental pictures, are more subtle than discursive, word-laden ideas, but the practitioner progressively gets more and more acutely aware of these images.  Both types of mentation are conceptual fabrications and when they are caught arising they are just dismissed as soon as one becomes aware of them. They then subside back into their source.   This process is one of active and attentive detachment from rising thoughts, and with each practice session the seeds in the alayavijnana wither away more and more so that the mechanical arisings have less and less power to arise. The automatic and habitual mechanism of passive mentation and daydream imagery is thus slowly de-energized.   The power of relaxed lucidity is all that is required and a sustained and stable presence in the gap between thoughts is possible.

    No matter what kind of thought appears.   Be aware of it as what-it-really-is, thusness, and let it go its own way; just let it go.  Continue with diligence in attentive presence until attentive presence is the normal state of awareness at all times.  This is the right kind of effort, but keep it relaxed.   This kind of right effort is equated with proper discernment, or the ability to distinguish skillful from unskillful mental qualities.   To be alert and vigilant means being clearly aware of what is happening in the present moment.   Being mindful means to be able to remember to do this. The task is twofold: remaining focused on thusness and putting aside or dismissing all distractions.   Just stay with immediate experience without slipping back into an automated mental narrative. Thus, one becomes more aware of the potential to slip back into distraction. This contemplation is a monitoring of attention, being alert and attentive to movements of attention.

    All phenomenal events arise and pass away. External events and internal events, such as physical objects, mental objects, and events of attention are all temporal; they all come and they all go.  Just be aware of them as thusness events and let them follow their natural course unimpeded. Watch for the factors which accompany them and lead to their origination and dissolution. This is the mind of thusness, and the more one can get stabilized in this attitude the more skillful mental qualities will be maximized.  This must be mastered, rather than just being a complacent and passive witness.  Thusness recognition is an acute sensitivity to conditionality.  It is easy to just let things be thus.

   Sensitivity to the present moment requires sufficient training in concentration.   When a thought from the past or a thought for the future arises, it must simply be dismissed.  Not that thoughts, or thinking, reflecting on past events, or thinking and planning for the future here are being relegated as worthless; they are not worthless.   What is worthless and a waste of life is letting habitual mentation, like daydreams, take over the mind.   Since we are heirs of our individual actions and thoughts, care should be taken to detach from worthless mental activity in every moment.  Just keep the awareness of what is happening in the present moment, what the habit of the mind in the present moment seems to be.  Being really in the present when mind finally settles down is an adjustment toward contemplative proficiency; this is the movement of prajna.  But this does not mean that we will arrive at some projected goal at some future time.  The present moment is already present; it only remains to stabilize awareness in this presence.

      Dismissal of an arising thought is possible only after vigilance has waned and lucidity has been corrupted by falling back into distraction. In the absence of vigilant concentration, which permits a thought, and then a multitude of thoughts, to arise, only then can thoughts be dismissed.  One merely remembers again that distraction has happened and then again distraction ends and vigilance is restored. This is the practice.   When vigilance is restored, then thoughts can be dismissed.   We are not trying to kill out all thoughts.    Right thinking is necessary, but it is a willful activity of a properly discerning mind.   What we are after is to eliminate habitual delusion based on errant discriminations.  When habitual thoughts and daydreams start up again, just return to presence and dismiss them. This, done many, many times during the day, sets up a sort of alert system in the mind itself, the alert to awakening.

    The vigilant sustaining of attentive presence is not another habit; it is the interruption or breaking down, breaking apart of the structures that sustain the automaton mind.    Acute vigilance allows attention to remain active, falling not again back into passivity. So the practice of vigilant presence is concerned with the state of attention itself.   Passivity of attention is inattentiveness, whereas active attention is willful direction of attention. Wakeful contemplatives monitor the status of their attention. When automated thoughts flow in the mind-stream then attentiveness has once again waned into passivity. The unbiased dismissal of automated thought is the disassembly of the proclivity patterns they exist in, and the re-activation of clarity, insight, and lucidity.

    What it boils down to is whether or not we are distracted and dreaming.  All the implications of distracted semi-awareness result in non-awakening, non-bodhi.   So basically there is either distraction or there is awakening.   The correct and most profound and efficient practice is the repeated recognition of distractedness, over and over until a subtle change in the awareness occurs, one that is overtly vigilant and actively attentive.   Once this change becomes more and more continuous, then stability in the primal state of bodhi becomes securely established and distractedness becomes more and more absent.

     The perfect and spontaneous recognition of thusness is the correct standpoint of practice.  This naked awareness is called naked because it is not clothed with overlays and superimpositions made by mind.    Superimpositionless awareness is that nondual apperception poised between Being and Becoming, the two truths.   Being and Becoming are both facts and neither exists alone. Form and emptiness do not differ.   Both are thusness and when seen and understood without delusion, overlays, or superimposed ideas — this is the samadhi of thusness.  The only difference between a common person and a buddha is that the common person lives in a mind continually projecting and superimposing, not knowing his real condition.   On the other hand, a buddha does not live subservient to a projecting and automaton reactive mind, and he knows his real condition, and he knows the real condition of the common person. He understands perfectly. The common person does not realize he is asleep and dreaming.    A buddha knows he is awake and that the common man is asleep.

   How does one get stabilized in the vision of thusness?  There will, of necessity be a protracted ordeal because of habitual propensities and attachment to results, or to the fruit of practice.  Ego-based motives are always concerned with the fruit. So we deceive ourselves until we can consciously be on guard against our base propensity, the ego-notion and the non-understanding of emptiness.  Through study, thoughtful reflection, meditation, and certainty we can learn to see beyond ego and acknowledge the truth.   All biased discriminations, like beautiful and ugly, vulgar and noble, fast and slow, pleasant and unpleasant, are perceptive distortions.  The truth must be sought for behind whatever happens to be its transitory phenomenal expression.

   Thus it is.   The machine of karma is a spinning wheel of spatiotemporal conditioned causality, unrelenting, unyielding, and uncompromising. Karma is also thusness; it is as-it-is.  The only thing necessary to remember is to never be distracted.  Keep checking to see if distraction has once again taken over; if it has, that’s karma, that’s thusness, that’s how it is. Return to the mind of thusness, seeing the karmic cycles roll on and on.   Just cease to get entangled in them. Recognize things as-they-really-are and recognize distractedness as habit-energy to be conquered.   That is why the bodhisattva warrior is a warrior, and when having conquered, he is a conqueror, a tathagata, gone into, disappeared into thusness.   This is bodhi svaha!   Such it is.

  The power and influence of karma and interdependent conditioned arising is a vast and complex cycle.   The structure of the cycle points to its possible end.  Karma causes birth into cyclic existence.  Ignorance is the foundation for all false projections and errant discriminations; from these all kinds of conflict and afflictions arise.  Conceptual thought structures are developed in the midst of all the errant mentations and delusions which sustain themselves and promote further delusion, particularly about the notions of intrinsic selfhood based on identification with the five skandhas, and on the presumed intrinsic existence of objective phenomena. When concepts based on errant discrimination cease through insight into emptiness, the whole karmic nexus is transcended and made impotent. Understanding this sequence of the thusness of the matrix of existence, the process for conquering it can be fortuitously understood.  Thus the samsaric cycle comes to rest.

Sariputra, bodhisattva mahasattvas should train in the Profound Perfection of Wisdom in just this way.”

Bodhi Svaha!

The End


© S. R. Allen 2013



 Also by this author:

Gnosis A Philosophical Psychology Concerning the Emergence of Individuated Holistic Intelligence

click here

get it

Enlightenment Philosophy Books Advaita Consciousness Psychology Wisdom Contemplative Science