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Kannon (Guan Yin)

Buddha Nature and Archetypal Dynamics

Happiness must never be thought to consist in anything exterior to ourselves: not in any person, not in any place, and not in any thing. Heaven and hell exist and they exist here and now and in our own minds. We can live in one locale or the other; and, unless we've been decapitated, we carry our heaven and our hell with us wherever we go. The problem is always in the mind.

Religions are civilizing enterprises. At their base levels, they take disparate groups of xenophobic savages and impose union and order on us whether we like it or not. Precepts or Decalogue is imposed and our instinctual drives are steered by promises of reward or threats of punishment.

At their higher levels, religions provide the so-called "mystical ladders" by which we can climb out of Samsara's snake-pit. The rungs are the ethics, the humility, the methodologies of mind management, and any of the other means by which we siphon-off energy from outwardly directed instinctive force and redirect it towards our interior life, in service to our Buddha Self. Though the terminology varies, the objective is everywhere identical: the individual soul's ecstatic union with the Divine Self. To be content with anything less is to settle for mere subsistence, to cultivate a tolerance for absurdity.

To Buddhists, Hell is life in Samsara, the world we encounter in the Six Worlds of false Chan, the world of the ego. In Samsara, all things are constantly changing and always conditional. We need to be needed even by those we do not care to serve, to be loved even by those whom we reject, to be admired and respected even by those whose opinions we consider worthless, and all this while we grovel at the feet of heroes who care as little for us as we care for those whose allegiance we require.

The Seventh World is the beginning, the place we are when we wake up and look upon ourselves objectively for the first time, when we are seized by the impulse to change, to transform ourselves and our environment. We want to be free of needing the people, places and things of this world. We have had them and they did not make us happy. We need to simplify existence and to find in that simplicity peace, joy, truth and freedom.

The Eighth and Ninth worlds of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas constitute the Tushita Heaven's precincts, the worlds of Divine Marriage, the Mysterium Coniunctionis or Union of Opposites, i.e., Spiritual androgyny, and the worlds in which the Divine Child is created. After our these worlds, we strive to achieve complete kenosis, the saintly empty-of-ego state in which we simply live out the life of our Buddha Self - The Tenth World's Void. We enter what in modern parlance might be termed Cypherspace: Zen's Empty Circle.

In Chan, the psychic matrix is called the Buddha Nature, the Original Face, Mind, or the Self. This Self is the core and essence of our being, at once its totality and that part of it which is divine. In Western societies people are used to referring to this divinity as God. Buddha Nature may therefore be referred to as God providing it is not regarded as a supreme being which exists external to the individual, except as it exists in all other living individuals. The facts of creation are simply outside our area of spiritual interest, at least in the beginning stages of spiritual life.

Chan Buddhism is non-dualistic. We do not believe that there is God and man. We believe that there is God in man. The Self, then, may be seen as the difference between a sleeping man and a fresh corpse. The Self is present in the sleeping man. In the dead man, no matter how recently dead he is, there is no Self. A dead man is a stone. And as there is no lord of the stones there is no lord of the dead. (Rhapsodic claims about finding Buddha Nature in clouds, mosquitos, dog feces, and atomic nuclei are pantheistic drivel.)

Further, the Self never judges. The Self, if he be in the body of a murderer, sees no murderer, or if he be in the body of a saint, sees no saint. To our Self or Buddha Nature there is neither good nor evil, there are no praiseworthy beliefs or blameworthy beliefs, there are no meritorious actions or unmeritorious actions. These moral determinations are for humans to make in regard of social contracts, implied or expressed. Good and evil are necessary civil designations, but they have no spiritual applications.

In Chan, the dead have no Buddha Nature (and most assuredly do not find their egos reborn in another body) and the living have no God who stalks the universe planning, creating, punishing, rewarding or ignoring as suits his inscrutable will. The Kingdom of God is truly within; and the Kingdom of God, in its sublime entirety, is for the living.

Most of all, we think of our Buddha Self as a cord or artery or vine which connects us to each other so that we all live a single life.

The Self is also the organizing principle which regulates our body and provides for our development. It contains the general genetic formula that determines that we are men and not carrots and the specific genetic information that determines our individual physical and mental characteristics or tendencies thereto.

The Self is privy to all sensory data, including that which we consciously acknowledge and that which is received subliminally. Due to evolutionary preferences, consciousness has raised the human threshold of sensory awareness. We isolate an object or event for study and tune-out everything we deem extraneous. Whether we are subjecting something to rational analysis or are simply daydreaming about it, whenever our attention is thus engaged, many odors, tastes, sounds, visual and tactile stimuli pass unnoticed through the portals of awareness. They are, however, recorded in the unconscious brain where they are accessible to the Self.

The Self is also the producer and director of our dreams and visions; and since the fund of data at its disposal is far more comprehensive than is available to ego-consciousness, the dreams which it produces can be particularly instructive.

Based upon Jung's description of the psyche, we can construct a rudimentary model of the psyche. In this model the mind is visualized as a bowl which contains three layers of consciousness.

The bowl is the Self in which the entire psyche rests. At the bottom of the bowl is the collective unconscious which functions as the earthlike repository of all our genetically ordained instinct seeds; the middle layer is the personal unconscious which contains our memory banks; and the top layer is consciousness, the domain of the ego. The ego can be seen as an outgrowth, a kind of center sprout that rises up out of the bowl's own material.

Each archetype rises into the personal unconscious until the layer becomes forested with treelike complexes. Above these trees, and interfacing with them, is the tree whose branches and leaves constitute the complex of ideas and associations that is the individual's identity or ego. Two of these archetypal trees, the Persona and the Shadow, grow around the ego and in this exterior position act as an obscuring mask, a protective visor, or a lens.

Normally, we have access only to the contents of the personal uncon- scious. All sensory data, even those upon which we have not focussed conscious attention, are stored there. These recordings may be yielded to us at will, as when we retrieve information through an act of remembrance, or non-volitionally, as when we experience dreams, subliminal messages or other associative influences or ideas.

Using again our model child, we can say that at his birth the seed of the Mother archetype has sprouted into the personal unconscious but has, as yet, no leaves on its branches. The instinctual force must be transferred or projected upon a specific person, a mother, who will then supply the needed data leaves.

Our baby experiences the pain of hunger and quickly learns that it is mother who relieves this pain. The first leaf on the mother tree is the association of Mother = Relief of Pain. If he is cold and mother holds him close to her, the leaf of Mother = Warmth will appear on the tree. If he is frightened and mother soothes him, he will associate Mother = Safety. Other sensual data will enfoliate the mother tree. He will quickly learn the pattern of her face and distinguish it from those of other faces. He will recognize the sound of her voice and distinguish it from other voices. If she rubs her body with mimosa flowers, he will not only know her scent but for years to come he will associate mimosa with his mother whenever he smells it. If she sang a certain lullaby to him, he will think both of her and of peaceful sleep whenever he hears the melody. Memories of mother and the feelings of love, pride, anger, security, jealousy, and so on that these memories engender, will fill out the tree. The contents will depend not only on the quality of the events themselves but on the quality of his perceptions of them and on his ability to understand, relate, integrate and respond to them. If there are congenital flaws in his brain or if he is otherwise impaired by injury or malnutrition, spring may never come to his mother tree.

The enfoliating process, then, constitutes a complex of ideas, memories and associations which adhere to each archetypal structure, giving it its peculiar characteristics. Through its many interfacings with consciousness, the complex transfers its data, thus influencing the ego to comply with the instinctive function.

The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism
Chapter 9: The High Price of Desire, Page 1 of 4