knowing one thing liberates all

 

Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) said,

Although hundreds or thousands of explanations are given, there is only one thing to be understood – know the one thing that liberates everything – awareness itself, your true nature.

We can gain knowledge about hundreds and thousands of things, yet there is only one thing that can liberate us. That is, directly seeing one’s own nature, the nature of one’s own awareness.

 

When that one thing is understood, that one thing alone liberates everything. Then, there is nothing more in the entire world that can bind us. Seeing the spacious expanse of one’s own mind, free from borders and direction, unimpeded by whatever arises, there is nothing that can harm. In that vast openness, there is nothing to accept and nothing to reject, as everything arises and vanishes as a pure play!

 

Knowing one thing liberates all

Explanations about hundreds and thousands of things can help us clear layers of delusions that we holdGuru Padmasambhava’s quote on “Knowing one thing liberates all”. Yet, unless this one thing is directly seen and understood, there is no liberation. And, when that one thing is directly seen and understood, everything is liberated and understood!

 

A lot can be told about the world around us. We can explain it outwardly as made of atoms of matter. Or, we can explain it experientially to be the projection of our own mind. We can explain and experience it to be mere illusion (maya). We can also explain and experience it to be the brilliant play of pure awareness. No matter how the world appears, there is no liberation unless you directly see and understand your own nature, the nature of your own awareness. And, when that is directly seen and understood, everything is liberated!

 

A lot can be told about the beginning and end. We can explain that the universe started with a big bang. We can also explain that we live in a pulsating universe with the repeated rise and fall of universes. We can have grand experiments to prove each of these. We can speculate on how consciousness arouse in this world for the first time. We can also speculate that it had been here forever. We can also go subtle and recollect what happened for many lifetimes. No matter how sophisticated you get with your observations and experiments, there is no liberation unless you directly see and understand your own nature, the nature of your own awareness. And, when that is directly seen and understood, everything is liberated!

 

A lot can be told even about the mind and awareness. It can be explained as the source of all pain and pleasure. It can also be explained as the source of Samsara and Nirvana. It can be explained as a continuum of the rise and fall of consciousnesses, feelings, perceptions and various habitual formations. It can also be explained as the alaya ocean of continually accumulating habits, where the wind of karmic currents stir up the ocean, causing various waves of consciousnesses to arise as the experiences of myriad displays of the world. No matter how subtly it is explained and grasped, there is no liberation unless you directly see and understand your own nature, the nature of your own awareness. And, when that is directly seen and understood, everything is liberated!

 

The Nature of Mind

What is that one thing to be directly seen and understood? Though hundreds and thousands of explanations can be given about the nature of mind, that is not same as directly seeing and understanding it. And, when that is directly seen, realized and completely understood, one reaches the citadel of Buddhahood, where there is nothing to accept and nothing to reject, in the vast expanse of which whatever arises is spontaneously perfected!

 

The mind is empty in essence and luminous clarity in nature. Empty in essence means a vast openness like the free space. There is nothing substantial about it. Nothing can impede it. It is never born and never ceases. There are no boundaries or reference points. There is no texture or characteristics. There is nothing in the mind to cling on – neither as a thing, nor as, “I am this”. Just as there is nothing in the free space to point and say, “this is it”, so is the nature of mind. Yet, it is luminously clear in nature. Unlike free space, the empty space of mind is at the same time aware. The clarity of awareness is a quality of that space of mind. Whatever rises up in that space is spontaneously compassionate. No matter what else one knows, unless this is directly realized, there is no liberation. And, when that is realized, everything is liberated.

 

Deluded Mind

When this is not realized, there is deluded mind. Experiences appear substantial. There is something to accept and something to reject. Then, even one’s own experience as well as knowledge, of mind and awareness, can be a cause of delusion. Something seems like ‘I am’. Once there is ‘I am’, then something seems pleasing to that ‘I’, and something else displeasing. In the absence of the direct seeing of the vast expanse of openness and luminous clarity, no matter what else we know, there is always a tendency to cling on to something as ‘I am’. That is the very root of bondage. That very notion of ‘I am’, propels forward the vicious circle of Samsara!

 

Speculations of Deluded Mind

The tendency to cling on to ‘I am’ haunts not just the ordinary folks, but also meditators and philosophers. This also leads to many speculative theories and many right and wrong views. No matter how subtle one meditates and how complex and sophisticated one philosophizes, there is no liberation unless you directly see and understand your own nature, the nature of your own awareness. And, when that is directly seen and understood, everything is liberated!

 

Many people cling to the body. Others cling and speculate, “I am consciousness”, “I am pure Self, different from what I experience now”, “I am the Cosmic Self and substratum, and everything rise and fall in me”, “Only one thing is there, and everything else is an illusion”, etc. No matter how grandiose it may sound, there is no liberation unless you forgo clinging to even that one thing that you hold as ‘I am’. Even the most sacred experience is a support for clinging, and a cause of bondage. Until and unless one directly sees and understands one’s own true nature, the nature of one’s own awareness, one remains bound to the proliferation of concepts both inward1 and outward2, and claims one or another thing to be ‘I am’. And, when that is seen directly and understood, everything is liberated!

 

Going deep into meditative absorption, cutting off from the normal turbulence of mind, some exclaims,  “I am the awareness, the source of all phenomena”3 . Going further deep, some exclaims, “I see nothing, as I have exhausted everything”4. Even deeper, some exclaims, “I am even free from the perception of nothing and non-perception of the same”5, etc. No matter, how fine you go with that, there is no liberation unless you are truly free from the sense of ‘I am. And, when you are truly free from the sense of ‘I am’, there is freedom right here and now, not just in some deep states of absorption.

 

Until and unless one directly sees and understands one’s own true nature, the true nature of one’s own awareness, one moves on and on through the vicious circle of Samsara with the thought of ‘I am’. Or, abandoning the thought of ‘I am’, one comes to rest outside Samsara. And, when one’s own nature is directly seen and understood, everything is liberated – both Samsara and Nirvana! Rest and movement comes to one taste!

 

 

Yogi Prabodha Jnana
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Yogi Prabodha Jnana
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7 thoughts on “Knowing One Thing Liberates All

  1. You mention two points about One thing that needs to be understood about nature of mind – “directly seen and understood” and you seem to be suggesting that ‘directly seeing’ is More important than Understanding.

    I can see that directly seeing part is experiential; but I don’t quiet get what do you mean by Understanding that seeing? Doesnt that understanding requires reading, contemplation or does it come spontaneously after seeing?

    Is it possible to experience or directly see the nature of mind; but Not understand it? As per my limited understanding we experience our nature when we go in deep sleep and also at the time of death but we don’t understand it right? So isn’t study also important?

    1. Dear Atul,

      Thanks for posting your question.

      By ‘understanding’, I mean prajñā. Though we may ‘see’ something again and again, it is understanding that shifts the view. The barest and the most crucial of the understanding is the ‘recognition’ of what you see as it is.

      Though prajñā could be based on conceptual understanding or direct seeing, here I mean the one from direct seeing. I could have used the more standard term, ‘wisdom’ instead of ‘understanding’, but I felt understanding conveys a sense of depth of direct knowing. In common parlor, wisdom may sometimes be taken as bookish. (e.g., “She understands her child” vs. “She has a lot of wisdom, she is a living encyclopedia.”)

      The nature of mind can be seen and understood anytime. However, there are occasions when the conceptual mind dissolves into the expanse naturally. But, an untrained person hardly recognizes it. Also, there are times when, due to conceptual clinging, one does not reach the bare of nature of mind no matter how much one meditates. Instead, as explained in the article, upon hitting an experience of the expanse of awareness, one stays there with the monistic thoughts such as, “I am the cosmic Self”, or “I am the boundless awareness, the source of all phenomena”, etc. Someone could even philosophize, “Everything is the play of awareness”, and yet completely miss the point by not understanding what that awareness is – without familiarizing with its emptiness and qualities directly. Because, when we use the word ‘awareness’, conceptually it takes an exaggerated form as if it is another ‘thing’, and not just the naked quality of being aware. Then one tends to hold on to it without going deeper.

      In the correct recognition of the nature of mind, one not only sees the nature of mind – the vast expanse of empty-luminous clarity, but also sees how thoughts and various appearances arise and vanish without ever parting from that nature. There is no clinging to one or many, and thought or thoughtlessness. This is not a conceptual understanding from theoretical learning, but an understanding one develops by seeing and being aware of what is happening. That understanding develops as the disciple follows the pith instruction of the Guru.

      Now, coming to your question of “Is study important?”. It is not as important as the direct recognition of the nature of mind. There are at least some rare cases where a disciple was able to follow the pith instruction of the Guru without any distraction and without much theoretical study and arrived at Buddhahood. However, for most of us, we need some intellectual study. Since we are already stuck at some many concepts and find it hard to let go of that, we have to break it with intellectual understanding (listening, reading and reasoning). Study and contemplation can reveal the absurdity of our philosophical positions. Also, for those who are easily carried away by gut feelings and experiences, it is important to understand the fallacy and limitedness of their experiences. Thorough study is important to break beyond that. That is why hundreds and thousands of explanations are given and are important.

      Yet, without driving to the crucial point of understanding one’s own nature, the nature of one’s own mind, if the conceptual study focusses on accumulating more and more concepts, degrees and status, it can be completely off-track. It would be like knowing a lot about the rules and tricks about soccer game, but not knowing how to kick the ball in the court.

      Regards,
      Prabodha

  2. Venerable Prabodha!

    My earlier comment might not be clear; here is what I mean.

    When dogs, some birds look into mirror they think that some other dog or bird is in the in the mirror. Now Humans have the awareness that what they see in mirror is just their own reflection and NOT something different. Is it something like this in case of Buddhas and us?

    We tend to take phenomenon as real and act as if they are real and do everything to make it look good etc. Buddhas and Bodhisatvas keep telling us that is not the case they are empty and there is no point in getting overworked and all emotional about them. So when they experience this for the first time i.e direct seeing does the understanding comes with it or is it acquired as a result of their practise?

    All the teachings talk about everything being projection of our mind is like – we are looking at phenomenon in our minds mirror and thinking something substantial is there in what appears to our mind?

    1. Dear Atul,

      It is not only about recognizing the reflections as reflections, but also recognizing that there is no mirror (no mind)! Knowing that everything is a projection of mind, is just part of the hundreds and thousands of explanations that lead the disciple. Further, when you directly see and understand (recognize) the nature of yourself, the nature of your own mind, only then you see and truly understand the meaning of even the statement, “everything is projection of mind”.

      Regards,
      Prabodha

  3. Greetings Yogi Prabodha Jnana- I would like to know if you have written any books and if not, Could you please list where you publish your writings. Thank you and sorry for the bother.

  4. Seeing things without seer. Doing things without a doer. In all this exists only awareness. Awareness that is completely free from the self. Always living in the present movement through spontaneity:)

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