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. There is nothing to accept and nothing to reject in that vast openness, as everything arises and vanishes as a pure-play of essenceless awareness!
Knowing one thing liberates all
Explanations about hundreds and thousands of things can help us clear layers of delusions that we hold. 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, it can be explained experientially to be the projection of our own mind, like an illusion (maya). We can also explain and experience it to be the brilliant play of pure awareness. No matter how the world is explained, 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 and theories to prove each of these. We can speculate on how consciousness arose 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 end. 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. Some people call it ‘I’ and stop at that without knowing it deeply – without seeing its empty openness and momentariness. Some non-Buddhists speculate and make grand theories of the Self, but fail to experience the very naked presence of awareness they use to make those theories. Alas! They keep speculating about the awareness using awareness. Some Buddhist scholars explain it as a continuum of the rise and fall of consciousness, feelings, perceptions, and various habitual formations, and devoid of a permanent Self. Some Buddhists explain it as the alaya ocean of continually accumulating and modifying habits. The wind of karmic currents stirs up the ocean, causing various waves of consciousnesses to arise as the experiences of myriad displays of the world. But, no matter how subtly it is explained and grasped, that is not enough. 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.
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!
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