Rules To Live By II

The Ten Commandments. The Five Pillars Of Islam. Maimomides’ Thirteen Principles. Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings. The Four Agreements.

A short list of the numerous rules to live by – moral codes that have been passed down through the ages from the many spiritual and philosophical traditions – wisdom to guide us in our everyday life, and, if all goes well, to lead us to the land of the pure after death.

Originally, these edicts described the qualities of an Awakened Being. They were not a list of goals to aspire to in order to become someone other than, better than, more perfect than ourselves, but the qualities of our essential being – who we inherently are.

Instead of starting from the point of view of a limited separate self that is always involved in the act of becoming, how about starting from the point of view of that which is always present, aware, and unchanging? From the point of view of that which has no agenda, no desires, and is inherently peaceful and happy? It can be such hard work trying to become a perfect person, and, in any case, impossible to maintain. The separate self is never satisfied – it can never be perfect enough. And beside, perfection is a relative concept, so what is perfect to one is imperfect to another.

Start from the place prior to any concept of good or bad, compassion or indifference, perfection or imperfection. It is from this limitless placeless place, the source of our being, that all these rules of proper conduct, these moral codes, have arisen in the first place. In fact, it is the place from which all appearances arise.

Setting aside the illusionary separate self – for who can identify with something that by its very nature comes and goes? – something like the Buddhist Eightfold Path – Right Understanding, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration – is revealed not as a collection of qualities you have to seek, or a path to follow, but as qualities that you, we, all seven billion of us, already embody as infinite and eternal beings.

And the sweet thing about something that’s infinite and eternal is that there is only room for one. Not two.

I Fall To Pieces

When I, the separate self, take an honest look at my makeup, I fall to pieces. All I see, all I find, are fragments. Nothing of any substance can I call my own.

It turns out that the I that I have always thought I am is the wrong I! It is not an individual I made up of passing thoughts, emotions, sensations, and perceptions. How mistaken could I be?

It’s the only I there is. The only I that can be. The I that knows all things, yet itself cannot be known. The I that cannot be found, yet is everywhere. The I that is beyond thought, beyond appearance.

This I cannot fall to pieces, cannot be divided in any way. It would be like trying to cut the sky in half.

The Flute Does Not Know Music

“The flute does not know music: it does not know ‘G’ from ‘B flat;’ it does not know tempo or emphasis, and cannot make music come out of itself: it’s just a hollow bamboo stick with holes in it! It is the musician who has the knowledge and the skill and the intention and the dexterity, and whose breath blows through the instrument and whose fingers manipulate the openings so that beautiful music flows out. When the music is ended, no one congratulates the wooden stick on the music it made: it is the musician who is applauded and thanked for this beautiful gift of music.

It is precisely so with what we think of as our ‘selves.’ We are instruments, hollow sticks, through which the Breath, the Spirit, the Energy which is Presence, All That Is, Consciousness, flows. Just as it is not the flute making the note, but the Musician making the note through the instrument, so it is the breath which is Presence which animates this mind and body and comes out through this mouth to make it seem that this mouth is speaking words.

The basic misunderstanding, the basic ignorance, is this unwitting usurpation of the role of Musician by the instrument. This inversion of the truth is spontaneously realized when the Understanding occurs. It becomes obvious that there is no individual, that there is ‘nobody home,’ no entity here to be the doer or not. Because awakening is simply the Understanding that there is no one here to awaken.”

~ David Carse, Perfect Brilliant Stillness