Emptiness, Perception, Heart Sutra
Q. Yesterday you said “Perception without location is a most unique thing and delightful.” In the Heart Sutra it is said “ therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feeling, no perception …….” What is this perception you refer to?
t.k.: When the mind and heart are immersed within the great deep profound well o
, Reality – when Beingness drowns in Truth – then language becomes a sticky phenomena. If I speak according to me there will only be Silence. My words are meant to trigger consideration, and refinement of conceptuality so that it is/you are/ inspired to practice. Words flow forth from Silence in a most mysterious way. For the one who knows wisdom, where there is no “point of view”, and there is also speaking, communication then that communication will take the form of a very fluid shifting of multiple possible points of view at once. When I teach formal aspects of the Vajrayana path then I use words very formally within a defined context. Here in these little conversations for fun it is up to you to shift with me as I careen through the endless possibility of perceptions. Here we are just being play-full and perhaps it will provoke you in a beneficial way.
For instance: I am very clear that the aggregates are indeed empty and that there can be no such thing as “perception” in a “real” sense. This is the standard second turning point of view displayed in Prajnaparamita. Prajnaparamita is the realization of wisdom emptiness and in this emptiness is a pure absence of conceptualization. It is a mere nothingness. In the third turning of the wheel of Buddhism, the Vajrayana, emptiness becomes more subtle and profound. Here in the sublime pure view of Vajrayana emptiness is not a “mere emptiness” but a luminous spaciousness. To understand emptiness here you must understand the stages of the path and meaning of empowerments.
The solid delusion stance is a closed loop and there is no chance of breaking the hold of mediocrity. For this reason we are very lucky that the intrinsic profound Buddha Nature which pervades appearance the way sweetness pervades sugar, the way warmth pervades love, intervenes in the humdrum of our ordinary lives. How does it do this? Via the Guru, the empowerments, the practices. The path of Vajrayana is the single most powerful disruption of delusion ever seen on this earth. When you practice the mahayoga phase and anuyoga phase first you transform all ordinary view. Here the aggregates are not simply seen or understood to be empty they are also understood to be the self-display and self-presentation of emptiness’ luminosity. They are the play, the rolpa tsal, of Buddha’s and Boddhisattvas in union. This is another way of seeing, speaking about perception.
The mahasiddha Virupa once sang “Worldlings are arrogant! Quoting all sorts of scriptures and vedas, they say “I’ve gotten to emptiness!” But they have not reached the heart essence. For emptiness is empty too.” One day understanding ripened within this old body and I went out to the woods and climbed a birch tree and wrote on the paper white bark “When consciousness dissolves in space then luminous awareness with no location crosses space in an instant. When there is no location to perception then perception, perceiver and perceived are Happiness only!” Much later a silly person calling themselves my disciple cut this bark out of the tree and it has since been lost. Long before perception resolves its subject object delusion into luminous space the notion perception as a ordinary aggregate has been subsumed in the wisdom vision of perception as Buddha’s in play. Oh how those Buddhas frolic and cavort, dancing in space with their erotic joy.
In Anuyoga’s subtle completion phase, within the fourth joy, the union of luminosity and emptiness is realized within the surging bliss emptiness ocean. Then the nature of perception is known as nothing mysterious self-cognizing awareness wisdom light shattering itself in itself as itself. There is nothing that perceives and nothing to be perceived and no one perceiving and this solid mass of intangible substanceless wisdom mystery is engaged in a mystery beyond words.
In Atiyoga, the king of all paths, the intrinsic wisdom light manifests endlessly, unimpededly, ceaselessly as play. This play, is a singularity without the notion one or two so who will “perceive” what? When my dear heart friend Sangchen first looked deeply within the mystery of the essence and nature of wisdom she exclaimed “Nothing has ever happened. Nothing is ever going to happen and nothing is happening now!” and I laughed and said “Yes!!! And yet Here it all is.” – but without a here, a “is” or an “all”. When Khandro first saw into this she simply laughed and laughed. What a lark, what a joy, that no word can touch this and yet words flow forth as teaching, as poetry as song.
There is within the mystery of Suchness as communicative thrust. This body is exactly that thrust. So I speak. Sometimes I speak from my stronghold of pure nothingness. Sometimes I speak as this body mind. Sometimes I speak as this or that other mystery. I am none of them and yet they are not other than me – and by “me” I mean the total nothingness that is me. Sometimes I speak from perfect identitylessness and sometimes I speak from this or that temporary identity worn as an ornament.
See this hair on my arm? This hair is not other than me but if I pull it off and toss it away (Rinpoche does this) I am not effected. The hair is not other than me but I am not the hair. If all appearances, the universe and its beings, both container and contained, disappear right now I will remain utterly unaffected. If a billion more universes appear I will remain unaffected. Appearances are not other than me but I am not appearances. Appearances are a bit of a bit of straw blown of the roof into Nothingness. If I was to say any identity existed it would only be the identitylessness of Nothingness. But even this is not a mere nothingness for it allows the infinite play of appearances.
So, I use the word “perception” the other day in a play full way. We are gonna have to stretch streeeeeeetch language a but if we are going to communicate. When I said “perception” I meant whatever this mystery is that is generally called perception by sentient beings. Later by yogis it is called Buddhas in union. Later it is called potency of mind’s essence. Later is not called anything in the Silence of mystery. And finally it is called whatever it is called in the responsiveness of compassion attempting to share.