Nuts and Bolts 2

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Any other questions? From this morning. Speak now or forever hold your peace, because I’ll launch into bunch of other stuff. Yes?

Just hold for the mic, for a moment.

Student: Yeah, I’m not sure I really completely understood your pencil example about the eraser and the…and missing the middle and if you could maybe give a different turn at that?

Ken: Okay. You have the experience of seeing this, right? Seeing this piece of paper is something you experience. What’s the experience made of?

Student: Sight, physical sensations in my body, thoughts.

Ken: No, the physical sensations those are other experiences. What’s this piece of paper made of? Do you want me to make it a little bit easier? What is a thought made of?

Student: I don’t know if it’s made out of this but there seems to be an energetic charge at times.

Ken: Yeah, certain thoughts, definitely. But what’s a thought made of?

Student: Memory?

Ken: Well, that just leads me to ask what’s a memory made of; it doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s very interesting you know…how often do you wrestle with thoughts in your meditation? And you can’t even tell me what they’re made of? Strange, isn’t it? Yeah. So, what experiences a thought?

Student: Intellectual images.

Ken: Intellectual images experiences the thought? No, I’d say that was the experience of the thought. That isn’t what experiences the thought. What experience the thought?

Student: The experiencer.

Ken: It’s a little difficult to say, isn’t it?

Student: The mind that thinks it’s the experiencer, the mind [unclear]….

Ken: The mind, yeah okay. I’ve heard rumors about that. [Laughter] What’s the mind made of?


Student: It’s thinking stuff.

Ken: I like that. [Laughter] I say the same thing: “It’s thinking stuff.” You know, and we can say that the thought is made of stuff. So what’s the relationship between what the thought is made of and what the mind is made of? Do you have two different kinds of stuff or is it the same stuff? You say?

Student: Same.

Ken: Same. How many vote for same? Can’t say what it is, but there it is. Experience arises. In each moment of experience, there is experiencing and experienced. Because of our conditioning, we appropriate the experiencing to ourselves, and thus relegat the experienced to an object. Touch the back of your hand with your finger. There’s a sensation there, right? Do you feel it in the back of your hand or in the finger?

Student: Can’t say.

Ken: Just so. It’s exactly like that. We make this division but actually there’s just the experience. The awareness aspect we appropriate for ourselves, thus we experience a dead world in which there is no awareness. Because we’ve appropriated the experience of awareness to ourselves.

In the exercise we did this morning where we just opened to everything, how was that for you? Some people said the world become brighter and more alive.

Student: That’s just, for me that’s very hard that I’ve…yeah, I got into the trip of, “Am I doing it right?” Am I…

Ken: Oh, yeah so you’ve got to work a little bit at increasing capacity so you can actually stay in it. Okay, well keep working there.

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Student: Hi Ken. I have a question about the meditation you just gave on increasing your capacity. Basically, when I do that and dissolve inside and outside, I sit there, and it’s almost all I see is experience. It’s like experience, experience, experience. And it brings to mind the prayer–the mahamudra prayer–Aspiration for Mahamudra,All experience is the manifestation of mind. As for mind, there is no mind.

Ken: Mind’s nature is empty.

Student: But if you just stopped at is no mind, then you’re sort of…you…’cause during the meditation I don’t see mind either. All I see is the experience. And so what I’m wondering, is mind and experience the same? Are they different?

Ken: Let me remember elsewhere in the mahamudra prayer–which you can find on the website, of course–It doesn’t exist, even buddhas do not see it. It doesn’t not exist, it is the basis of all experience. This is the mystery of being.

And you ask, “Is mind experience? Is experience mind?” Yes, my teacher–rinpoche–Kalu Rinpoche used to say, “mind is experience.” And, even though we can understand that, the habitual way we approach the world is, I stand apart from experience in some way. Experience is there and I am here. That’s the illusion. And as you said, when you do this opening practice that I described in the previous question, then that dissolves the sense of separation, and you find yourself in the field of experience. The only thing that I would add here is that being aware is also an experience. So you include that as well.

Student: The thoughts and the awareness?

Ken: Not…not only the thoughts, but also the awareness of the thoughts.

Student: Oh, okay.

Ken: You include that.

Student: Right, right.

Ken: You just keep including. You see, there are many, many approaches that…just to simplify things a little bit. One is to reduce, and reduce, and reduce. So you keep looking into things. What’s that? What’s that? And you keep…the deeper you go, the emptier things get. You can’t find anything–you know that from your practice.

Student: Right.

Ken: We can also go the other way. We can include, and include, and include. And we just include more and more. Every facet, every aspect of our experience. When we reduce, and reduce, and reduce, we come to experience everything. When we include, and include, and include, we become nothing.

Student: Right.

Ken: Both are fine.

Student: I see.

Ken: Okay?

Student: Okay. Thank you.

Ken: Very good.

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Student: Ken, I have two possible questions, as follows. Here’s the first one. If there is no shared experience and separation is an absolute, please explain this in terms of dependent origination.

Ken: I’m going to start with the first part of your question. One of the perspectives that we’ve been discussing in class is, there are in a certain sense two worlds. There’s the world of shared experience. And there’s the world of individual experience.

Let’s talk a little bit about the world of individual experience. You’re sitting in this room, with me, with a number of other people. But what most of us actually experience is a set of sensory impressions. Different colors, shapes, light, sound, so forth. We also experience emotional sensations. Maybe anything from frustration to pleasure, to joy, to sadness, grief, the whole range. And a set of cognitive impressions, thoughts, ideas going on in our heads. As I speak, more thoughts come up in your mind, probably. But our experience actually consists of these sense impressions, emotional sensations, and the cognitive activity.

Now, I would like you to share any one of those, or any part of one of those, with me.

Student: As in “I’m experiencing in this room right now?”

Ken: Yeah, share it.

Student: Well then, sensory experiences of the redness of this rug, the presence of several people looking at us as we engage in this dialogue.

Ken: That’s plenty. But now I want you to share with me your experience of the redness of the rug.

Student: That leaves me on…I could describe it, but as far as actually sharing that experience on an individual level, it’s…I can only do it by describing what the rug looks like, on a sensory level.

Ken: Yes. Yeah, you can describe it and ask me to look at it, but I will have my experience, and you will have your experience.

Student: We’ll have different emotional connections with the rug.

Ken: And it’s very difficult to say whether we’re having the same experience or not. Now, what I would like you to do is to open to everything that you are experiencing right now, knowing, that this is your experience, and your experience alone. No one else can experience what you are experiencing right now. Okay? What’s that like? Even the sound of my voice is simply an experience in your world of experience. What’s that like?

Student: A combination of things going on. Emotionally, my hands are sweaty. At the same time, I’m hearing you very clearly and understanding what you’re saying. So there’s some resonance, I feel… not the intimate resonance that I would say characterizes the shared connection when we’re on…with…what brought my question was the feeling that when we connect with others, are we actually connecting? I have the impression in intimate friendships, relationships, especially when you think the same thing at the same time, that there’s some kind of connection.

Ken: Yes, I know. But I want you to go back to just opening to what you were experiencing.

Student: [Pause] Okay.

Ken: Okay. How is that?

Student: It’s rather pleasant.

Ken: And when you open to “this is what I’m experiencing,” do you feel separate from what you experience?

Student: Not really.

Ken: No. Okay, but when you and I are talking, and you move into the world of shared experience, and you look around this room, it’s a different experience, isn’t it? Everything seems more separate. Right?

Student: Yes.

Ken: Okay, that’s what I’m talking about–

Student: There’s a recession of the–

Ken: Yeah. So, when I talk about not being separate from your experience, it’s having that very intimate relationship with what we are experiencing, and the experience of other people, the experience of conversations, all arise within that. When we move into the world of shared experience, yes, then when something resonates with another person, it moves us actually out of the world of shared experience to something which is closer to individual experience because of the resonance and so forth. So–

Student: In other words, I’m having a closer individual experience now even though I’m more resonant with you, because what I feel we’re having now is what I would call a shared experience.

Ken: Yeah. But it’s a more intimate connection with your own experience. Because in the world of individual experience there’s no possibility of separation. Separation is only part of the illusion of the world of shared experience.

Student: Explain this…can you articulate this in a buddhist sense. Like in the buddhist world we–

Ken: Well, this is one of the sources of confusion, because buddhism really only talks about the world of individual experience.

Student: Exactly what I was thinking.

Ken: Right. And so when you asked about dependent origination. How do things arise in your world? Well, this happens, and that comes about. And when these conditions come about, that happens.

Student: That’s where I…now, with your explanation that you just gave me, and then we talk about dependent origination–

Ken: Yeah.

Student: –Then I become confused.

Ken: Because how do things arise? What produces a thought?

Student: A lot of things.

Ken: That’s dependent origination.

Student: Uh-huh.

Ken: All of those things, and this thought arises.

Student: But from the standpoint of all of the energies of my past history, separate from anything that’s ever happened with the people in this room or…culminates in the now, and then–

Ken: I’m going to play a little game with you now. What other people in the room?

Student: Well, Susan.

Ken: I see a shape in blue.

Student: [Pause] Okay.

Ken: You know, that’s my experience.

Student: I see a face on the blue, but…

Ken: You see, Susan is a concept. And you and I may agree–

Student: [Sighing] All right.

Ken: –that we’ll call that set of experiences Susan. But who’s there?

Student: Well, a lot of different things, you know, that happened before, so with all that compendium of things that creates Susan–

Ken: Now…now I have to–

Student: Do you…do you understand what I’m saying? Do you understand my confusion?

Ken: I do.

Student: I feel like I’m groping in the dark a little.

Ken: Well, I’m putting you in the dark, so you’re allowed to grope around a little bit. But I’m going to quote one of my favorite lines from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, because you just referred to the past, right?

Student: Yes.

Ken: Okay. And this is a wonderful line, saying, How do I know the past isn’t simply a mental creation to account for the discrepancy between what I’m experiencing physically and what I’m experiencing mentally?

Student: Mmm. All right.

Ken: So, this brings us right into a present, a present which actually stands outside of the three times.

Student: The three times being?

Ken: Past, present and future.

Student: Oh. Okay.

Ken: This is the world–

Student: So where does dependent origination come into all of this? Can you s…? Am I…

Ken: –What’s your interest in dependent origination?

Student: Well I understand that nothing exists in and of itself. It has to do with karma, it has to do with–

Ken: And it gets very elaborate. But okay. Name one thing that exists in and of itself.

Student: Nothing does. Well there are some absolutes, but that might be theory, but not like there’s…god doesn’t exist in and of itself, if there is a god. Nothing does.

Ken: Okay. The way Thich Nhat Hanh explains it is, you take a piece of paper, like this. We call this a piece of paper, but many things had to go into that. Tree, people’s work, various chemicals. A lot of different things. And so in this one piece of paper, we can say the whole world is present, because the world has produced this piece of paper in our experience right now. That’s one way of understanding dependent origination. And it’s very powerful way of looking at the world because we cease to regard things as entities in themselves and we see things in terms of their connections and interrelationships. And you and I are similar products of all of those interconnections and interrelationships. Yet you and I insist on talking about you and Ias if we were entities. What if you regard yourself as simply a set of interactions? What difference would that make? And you didn’t regard yourself as an entity that existed apart from everything else?

Student: It would just be a different perspective of seeing things.

Ken: And what kind of actions, what kind of differences would that make in your life?

Student: I would hope that if I could, I would become more compassionate towards others.

Ken: Why?

Student: Because I would not see myself as different.

Ken: Exactly.

Student: I would see myself as connected and not separate.

Ken: And that everything you–

Student: Or less separate…you know?

Ken: –yeah, and everything you did had effects on them, and everything they did had effects on you.

Student: You’re right.

Ken: Yeah. And that’s the point of dependent origination.

Student: Right. So that’s why I’m…

Ken: But that’s all there is to it.

Student: Yeah, that’s kind of worth thinking about.

Ken: It’s very helpful.

Student: Yeah. It is something you can think about for a long time. I…I could.

Ken: More important than thinking about it is actually operating in your life from that perspective.

Student: So that kind of brought me to the second part of the question. Should I segue into that?

Ken: Sure.

Student: Please explain awakening mind and conventional minds in terms of its practical application to meditation in every day life.

Ken: [Laughs]

Student: So that brought us to the piece of paper, which is the conventional way of looking at a piece of paper so I can ask Susan for that piece of paper. But in an awakening mind, which is an awareness of emptiness and so forth, then I’m understanding and I’m…in my meditation I’m starting to think, oh, maybe there’s just not really a piece of paper here. It’s…so that’s kind of where my question was.

Ken: Okay.

Student: But I still don’t understand in theory. There’s specific route in this question.

Ken: Okay. I’m going to shift your question a little bit, but I hope it’s a response. Our ordinary way of experiencing things is in terms of I and other. And so there’s a piece of paper, and here am I. Right? When we go much further than that, the thoughts and emotions that arise, “I experience the thought. I experience the emotion.” There’s always the separation of I and other.

And when we experience things that way, it is completely natural to want to appropriate those parts of our experience that reinforce or support the sense of I and to push away those parts of our experience that threaten or undermine the sense of I. It’s a completely natural way of responding to experience. But we all know that when we are subject to that kind of attraction and aversion, somehow things never work out right. It just creates more and more of a mess.

Awakening mind is holding or opening to the possibility that I am not what I think I am. That is, something that exists apart from everything I experience. And this takes us right back to where we were with your first question.

If we just sit for a few moments and open to our world of experience. We can do this in stages. The first thing we do is open to everything we’ve experienced visually. Then we can include all the sounds. Then we can include the tactile sensations, everything that we experience in our body. And if you want, we can include taste and smell. And that’s kind of how we experience the world outside of what we call our body. Maybe have some tactile sensations inside.

And then we open further. We include all of the emotional material. All of the stories, all of the thoughts that are going on all the time. And we experience all of that at the same time. Now things get a little interesting because we have a field of experience that we ordinarily call outside of us, and we have another field of experience which we call normally inside of us, our thoughts and emotions.

So the next step then is to just drop the sense of outside and inside, and just be in that whole field of experience, all the sensory impressions, all the emotions, all the thoughts. And when we do that, the sense of I and other diminishes quite a bit.

And then we can take one further step. We can ask ourselves, “What experiences all of this?” And we find that there’s another shift right there. The point of asking that question is not to come up with an answer. It is to experience a shift or raising the level of energy in attention. And when we rest there, the sense of I and other sometimes completely goes, but is seriously attenuated. And now–strangely–we can function, but we’re not functioning from that ordinary mind of something…I standing apart from my experience. We have a more intimate relationship with our world of experience. No separation, if you wish. And that is actually in the direction of awakening mind. Okay?

Student: And meditation is one way of cultivating an ability to bring yourself more and more to that awareness?

Ken: What I’ve just given you is a form of meditation practice.

Student: Mmm-hmm.

Ken: It’s not a form of meditation practice that’s–

Student: –sitting–

Ken: –limited to sitting. You can do this as you walk down the street. It’s wonderful to practice this in shopping malls at Christmas time.

Student: What I heard was, a lot of what my ego does is appropriating territory based on sensory or conditioning. So I’m appropriating out there even though it’s all originating here.

Ken: Yeah.

Student: But if I can just bring myself almost to the middle ground between here and there, like a point.

Ken: Mm-hmm.

Student: I have a chance of not being run so much by that–

Ken: –yes–

Student: –ego territory.

Ken: Yeah. And I’ve given you here a technique by which to do that, which is progressive opening. Okay?

Student: Thank you.

Ken: You’re welcome.

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