Thursday, September 27, 2007

Transformation and consistency

Today we are going to revisit yesterday's subject, expanding the allegory, and beginning with a picture of the Shawangunk conglomerate-- seen above in somewhat a larger context, after a few glaciers got through with it. (Transformation never ends.)

Let's look at an abbreviated version of an old Zen saying:

Before enlightenment, mountains are mountains. On the way to enlightenment, mountains are not mountains. After enlightenment, mountains are mountains again.

Our conglomerate went through the same process. It began as a mountain, went through a radical process of transformation that destroyed it, heated it, melted it, and reformed it. It ended up right back where it came from. The physical state, which began one way, deconstructed itself and was reborn in its own image. Like the events in our life, these appear to be a series of separate events: sequential bits and pieces of reality.

In fact, they are one whole and seamless thing. This is perhaps the very reason that Dogen includes all of the state before, during, and after enlightenment as the path. He does not even necessarily formally separate Buddhahood from non-Buddhahood, thereby birthing an inscrutable philosophical complexity. ...Hence his delightful reference to us all as "Buddha ancestors."

Why does he do this? Well, maybe he's not as complex as he seems to us. Perhaps all of the expounding turns around one single grand idea.

The first step on the path is just as much a part of the path as the last step on the past. Without a first step, no last step. Dogen's myriad, challenging excursions into the is-ness and not-ness qualities of all and sundry are all aimed at helping us to dispel within ourselves the impressions of fragmentation and to see that wholeness, fragmentation, and reunification into wholeness again are all part of one single thing.

It is a matter of perception that forms fragments and mountains, and it is here in the nature of the relationship between awareness and discriminating mind that reality goes on the chopping block. Awareness is whole, one seamless experience of Truth; discriminating mind, on the other hand, cuts reality into little bits, in the relatively vain hope of understanding it. This activity is a lot like the biologists who feel that we are going to ultimately understand how cells work by separately analyzing every one of the billions of chemical reactions that govern them.

Those who fear that this type of activity represents a potentially serious pitfall of Gurdjieff's practice of self-observation will not find themselves alone; Trungpa expresses exactly the same reservations in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.

Here's the crux of the matter as I formulated it to Neal this morning, while walking the famous dog Isabel:

We all somehow start out believing that transformation arises from mind and alters our perception of the physical state, and all too often, we get stuck there.

In fact, exactly the opposite is true: transformation only arises from a change in the physical state, which alters the perception of mind.

And we learn this from the pebbles and mountains.

Dogen's difference between forcing a person to enter and leave the gate of liberation, and getting the gate of liberation to enter a person, is the difference between mind transforming physics and physics transforming mind. The origin of everything lies within the physical roots of reality, and not within the forms constructed by the mind that encounters them. So if we wish to seek transformation, transformation begins within the body, within the physical reality.

Backbone comes from backbone.

Remember Gurdjieff's adage that everything is material; and, as one of the readers of this blog reminded me yesterday, everything is alive. Materiality itself is a living thing.

We cannot think our way to God. We can, however, break our mountains down and reconstruct them. There is a big risk here; if we want to do this, the beautiful white cliffs of quartz have to go. Everything has to be smashed down into pebbles.

What a horrifying prospect, eh?

In order to seek transformation, we must seek it within a careful study of the machine -- that is, the organism we live in. Of course, many may object to this contention. There are a lot of psychic or psychological practices that people dearly love to indulge in, such as visualization techniques in meditation. One older person--a close friend and teacher of mine these days-- who knew Jeanne DeSalzmann well and worked with her for many years told me that she used to visualize all the time.

It didn't turn out to be all that productive for her. She talked to Madame DeSalzmann about it, and DeSalzman's comment was, more or less, "It won't do for you. You are too thick."

We have to work with our thickness, that is what we have and where we are. If we were meant to inhabit astral or psychological realms right now, we would not be incarnated in bodies. The whole point of work on this level is that we are in bodies. Trying to get out of the body -- out-of-the-body experiences, visualization, astral travel, and so on -- misses the point of why we are here. In our rush to reach the astral plane, we seem to forget that we have a permanent out-of-the-body experience coming up.

That one they call death.

Until that enforced and inevitable moment arrives, the locus of our work is always within the body. Our opportunities for transformation began within the physical foundation, the root reality of our sensation, the connections between the six inner flowers. Not in the thoughts that arise about them.

Chemistry and physics change mind; mind can't change chemistry and physics.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

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