I’m thinking about a question on this post, whether or not “adaptations performed by the unfixed self indicate something other than emptiness.” I was trying in that post to convey my experience of life, not a theory. I’ll say more about the experience, but first a bit about theory.
Philosophy and religion are how we try to explain our world. Philosophy is “the study of reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language systematically and based on rational argument.” Religion is “an organized collection of beliefs that relate humanity to existence.” Belief is “when one feels certain that something unprovable is true.”
Somewhere in my teens I began to wonder about reality. I was quite discouraged to realize early on that a definite answer cannot be seen from inside a human body. We can only see what’s visible from a specific perspective with limited tools. But the feeling returned that even so, it is worthwhile to study and reflect.
Religion never appealed to me because it requires feeling certain about things that are unprovable. Also, I was horrified that both British and German church leaders in WW1 had exhorted their followers to go forth and kill in the name of the same God. Religion can be dangerous because religious establishments, like all large organizations, amplify power.
After more reflection, I realized the problem is abuse of power: organized religion can be very helpful. But it still did not seem an effective approach to understand the world.
At last I realized what I was seeking was a training practice to help me interact in the world more helpfully and a system of studying reality based on rational argument.
Returning now to my experience of life, my Tibetan Buddhist practice is helpful in the way I hoped. Perhaps if I continue searching I could find a still more effective practice but it’s best to use what time I have to do what works.
My practice does include study and reflection on reality, and what Buddhists term “enlightenment” does seem attainable, but it is not yet clear enough to me to articulate. All I can say is what I tried to express before, that I have less experience of “self” and what’s masked by my apparent self does not feel like an individual.
The analogy that struck me this morning is tumbleweed, “the above-ground part of any number of plants that disengage from the root and tumble away in the wind.” Looking at all I do, I see only echoes of my past experiences and those I’ve been close to, habits triggered by circumstances outside my body that all arise in the same way.
It’s like watching tumbleweed, which is empty of intrinsic nature just as I seem to be. This tumbleweed blown against a fence is also a collection of smaller pieces, each made up of still smaller pieces. And so on.
But there’s a big difference. The tumbleweed has no capacity to act — it can only be blown by the wind. I can act and because my body is alive, I will keep taking action, so I must do all I can so those actions are increasingly helpful. Study is part of the process, but the goal is better action.