A Path To Consciousness

Let objects refer to all thoughts (images, memories, anticipations, and so on), feelings (anger, frustration, and so on), sensations (itches, tickles, twitches, and so on), and perceptions (touches, tastes, smells, sights, and sounds).

Step 0: See that almost all of your waking life can be regarded as a discontinuous series of fascinations with objects. You’ve been absorbed in thoughts–be these startups or mathematical concepts; in feelings–be these anger, desire, or fear; in sensations–be the coldness or heat on your skin; or in perceptions–be these the sight of a beautiful looking person or the sound of someone sneezing. See how it’s seemed as if your life has been one drama after another, with unnoticed intervals between the last drama and this one. It has appeared to you that there is nothing but this, nothing more than this, nothing other than this.

Step 1: Let the mind be absorbed in a single object: a candle at which the eyes are softly gazing; a mantra recited time and again; a count to 10 of the kind recommended by Zen. Soon it becomes clear how wild the mind has become in terms of its haphazard involvement with sundry objects. After having assiduously developed focus on a single object, one sees that the mind has become less rowdy and, in turn, is able to gently focus its attention on this single object.

Step 2: See, then, that Step 1 is just a subtler version of Step 0. Now instead of leaping from one object to the next, one is able to lovingly maintain one’s attention on one object in particular. Where the former was gross and distracted, the latter is subtle and one-pointed. But, from a formal point of view, can we not also understand just now that no new development, no rupture (as it were), has occurred? The focus has remained on objects as if the latter exhausted the totality of reality.

Therefore, newness and freshness can only come when one asks, “What is the source from which these one-pointed concentrations on objects emerges? Indeed, what is the source of all objects?” Or more simply: “Who am I?” The latter question, perhaps the most potent introspective one there is, cannot be answered by the mind; see that what I just said is true. And yet, that same question has energy in it; it’s meant to convey, transport, or take you somewhere. Where does it take you? It begins to lead you back to the source.

Or, rather, it doesn’t take you anywhere because, strictly speaking, it cannot take you to any place but yourself. Instead, it allows concentration on objects to relax and thus for objects to temporarily transpare or to recede into the background and therefore for the source to seemingly emerge in the foreground.

Step 2, in any case, refers to going back to your true home (or to being knowingly as your true home), to that from which all forms and names arise. If one rests not just in That but also as That without even a residue of limitation stemming from the body or the mind, then this could be called enlightenment.

Step 3: As objects arise again out of the source, one could either return to Step 0 and forget the source, or one could begin to see and feel that every object arises out of the source, is made of the source, and is nothing other than the source. The former is indeed a kind of forgetting. The latter, by contrast, could be referred to as getting established in one’s felt understanding of reality. Therefore, the Heart Sutra says, “Form is no other than emptiness [sunyata], emptiness no other than form.” Any thought arises out of emptiness, temporarily resides in emptiness, is made of emptiness, returns to emptiness, and is nothing but emptiness. So too feelings, perceptions, and sensations.