By John Author
The mind is big. Like really, really big. “How big is it?”
Imagine the biggest thing possible. Now multiply that by a gajillion. It’s so big that it doesn’t take up any space at all. It’s like what the TARDIS asked the Doctor on an episode of Doctor Who: “Are all people like this?” “Like what?” “Bigger on the inside.”
The mind is the sole creator and destroyer of your entire world; it’s the substance of your reality. Emptiness is its nature, and activity is its function. By activity, I mean everything you experience, whether it’s perceived as self or other.
In the Bodhisattvic mind—vast and clear, like space, yet naturally luminous—there’s room for everything. That’s why we don’t need to mute thoughts while meditating, we just need to give them room, and there’s plenty of room to give. This is why a sentient being can hold conflicting or paradoxical views, some of them so contradictory that they just spin like tops; there’s room for that. You could say “yes” to everything, agree with and find truth in every possible view, and there’d still be room.
We could say “no” to every possible view and there wouldn’t be any more space than there already was. Less doesn’t increase it, and more doesn’t decrease it. We can neither add to it, nor subtract from it. We can feel conflicting emotions without dissonance if we let them have their own space. Mind isn’t a straight line; it isn’t a continuum where B can’t occupy the same space as A. It’s a plane, an empty boundless field where everything happens and where anything can happen; where space-time and all its creations unfold and unwind.
A and B can coexist in a field. You and not-you, enlightenment and ignorance, being and non-being can all coexist in your mind. Mind and no-mind can both coexist in the mind.
The four seasons and 24 hours could all occur simultaneously in Mind, and there’d be no conflict because there’s oodles of space for all of that to occur in. Space is potential, limitless potential. If you create space in a room, anything could happen in that space. Mind is the same, except space doesn’t have to be created, just ventured into.
The fundamental cause of dukkha is not having Right View. Without Right View, we fixate on things and suffer. The nifty part is that there several different Right Views, any one of them could take you to the mountain top. “All things are impermanent;” “All things are interdependent;” “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form;” “All is Mind;” “All beings are already enlightened.” There so many Right Views. There’s something for everyone in the Buddhadharma. Anyone can practice if they find the view and practice what’s appropriate for them.
One Right View that’s been tickling me for awhile is what I’m calling the Open View. The Open View is when we’re able to see all possible views without fixating on any of them, without dubbing any of them absolutely, unequivocally true or untrue. As a meditative experience, it’s a lot like being submerged in water, floating around with no set position. There are shining orbs floating around in the deep, each of them is a view, belief, thought, feeling, or perspective. Above the water, there’s an empty boat with a fishing rod hanging over the side. The yellow moon hangs high above, and fog plays across the water.
That wasn’t a vision I had; it’s a description of the feeling that can accompany the Open View. The Open View is itself mirrored in a little orb, but that orb isn’t the View itself. So me talking about it and describing it isn’t the same thing as It.
Ignoring the Open View causes dukkha, suffering, because without it we’re conflicted creatures. We’re always caught up in some kind of fight between is and should be, want and don’t want, have and don’t have. Most of us have complex, or even contradictory, views on things. Having more than one view on something causes cognitive dissonance, which could be another translation of dukkha.
The problem is, we’re making our minds 2-dimensional; we’re squares haha. Objects can’t occupy the same spot in 2D space. If you’re looking at a 2D picture that has a tree with a horizon as a backdrop, the horizon doesn’t continue on behind the tree—the tree cuts it off. That’s what dissonance is like in the mind. We want all the aspects of ourselves and the world to coexist harmoniously, but they can’t—they just keep cutting each other off mid sent…
If we add another dimension to this scenario, the entire situation changes. If we let go of the picture and wander to where that tree is, then we’re looking at 3D space; the tree no longer cuts off the horizon—the two coexist without hindering each other. In 4D space (width, height, depth, and time) things don’t only non-interfere with each other spatially, but they all change at their own pace, so they don’t interfere with each other temporally either.
Our experience of the present moment is actually lagging behind by a few milliseconds, and that’s okay. That means my view of the present moment and the present moment itself aren’t occurring at the same time. So no matter what our views are, they can’t catch up to Now. Thus, they never actually interfere with it.
The Open View is, in a way, the result of bringing our attention filter closer to the source of our experiences. Meditation is kind of like time travel: it’s an attempt to experience Now as it is prior to the mind creating it. Trippy, right? That’s why we see all this non-arising or Uncreated talk in Buddhism. We’re trying to go back to the origin of our experiences.
This origin precedes the entire universe, and yet it’s always one millisecond away. With each millisecond, Mind creates our experiences from pure potential, then that experience dissolves back into potential before arising again as something new. So to get to the Open View, we find the gap between the present moment and perception. Then we close the gap.
For the more logically minded among us, on a 2D graph, two objects can’t occupy the coordinates (7, 5) and retain individuality. On a 3D graph, they can since we also have the Z-Axis. So the view “there are no absolutes” could be at (7, 5, 3) and “that’s an absolute” could be at, (7, 5, 2) and there’d be no trouble. They’d just keep orbiting each other like binary stars without getting in each other’s way.
This is probably all really tough to digest, but I think it’s important and I don’t believe in treating people like they aren’t intelligent or unable to understand. If we really want to get into the Buddhadharma, we have to let go of linear, absolutist thinking. Every angle of Right View calls for thinking outside the box, that’s how we realize that that square is actually a cube with not only two dimensions, but 11; six sides, four corners, and time.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak
John practices the "Outer Way" which he describes as, "I guess it's fundamentally DIY Buddhism and Taoism with a huge focus on autonomy, introspection, experiential learning and real world applicability. It isn't traditional or secular. I only call it the Outer Way for convenience, it doesn't actually have a name since it's just about doing what comes naturally."
Feel free to check out his blog, Outer Way Zen.
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