Gautama's message

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THE BUDDHA GAUTAMA’S MESSAGE

              You have a complex nervous system that is aware of your body directly and its environment through a set of senses. You can interpret and plan your reactions to what you perceive using your intellect [all “thinking” - all conscious mental activity – CMA]. CMA is the perception, accumulation, recall and association of all the data you receive from your environment and your body together with the direction of action in response to any stimulus, based on your recorded experience..

              But a fault has developed in our thinking. All thinking [all conscious mental activity] is the indispensable tool we use to satisfy our appetites solve our problems and achieve our goals, but once it has performed those functions it becomes redundant; it plays no part in our being happy [at peace]. If we don’t lay that tool asede we become trapped in an unending round of random and habitual thinking; of obsessive compulsive CMA. We never experience peace-of-mind; we are never truly happy.

              A remedy for this has probably been found many times over the millennia by insightful contemplatives. In his book “Zen Flesh Zen Bones” Paul Reps gives us one example in a quote taken from the  Vigyan Bhairava and Sochanda Tantra.{compiled 4000 years ago] and the Malini Vijaya Tantra [probably compiled a 1000 years before that].

 “thinking no thing, will limited – self unlimit.”        

Another more familiar  person who solved the problem and gave us a cure is  the Buddha Gautama  who gave us the psychology of happiness [later incorporated into Buddhism] when he said,    “Nirvana is the extinction of Dukkha.”

              Much of what the Buddha Gautama is reported to have said is apocryphal, but I think we can safely rely on this central tenet as being what he actually taught because it can be shown to be true.

              If you interpret nirvana as some kind of blowing out you get, “extinction is the extinction of dukkha,”  which is meaningless.

              Translating it as happiness [peace-of-mind] makes more sense.

Nagarjuna's  Mulamadhyamakakarika.  Chapter 25 - Examination of Nirvana. Verse 24:
“The bliss consists in the cessation of all thought, In the quiescence of plurality.”

 Huang Po lived in the 9th century he is thought to have been the third in descent from Hui Neng, the sixth and last of the Chinese Patriarchs of Zen (Ch'an). He said:

 “Our original Buddha-Nature is, in highest truth, devoid of any atom  of objectivity. It is void, omnipresent, silent, pure; it is glorious   and mysterious peaceful joy -- and that is all.”

Huang-po also says [on page 117 of Professor Suzuki’s Manual of Zen Buddhism]:

"The Buddha-essence is.....illuminating, peaceful and productive of bliss."

From the Mahaparinirvana Sutra we get;

 “All formations are impermanent, this is the law of appearing and disappearing, when both appearing and disappearing, "disappear" Then the stillness is bliss.”

And from the Lankavatara Sutra

“Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of Buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.”

              Happiness is the common human goal.  No matter what our aims are in life, we imagine that achieving them will bring us happiness. It doesn’t always work out that way because of the aforementioned fault. The mental condition we describe as happiness {peace-of-mind] is fundamentally the reward for successful action. The tool we use to achieve that success is “thinking” [all conscious mental activity – CMA]. But this, like any other tool, should be laid aside once it has done its job.

              Dukkhahas been interpreted as “every worldly appetite” and forced some to the conclusion that Nirvana is not attainable in one’s lifetime. Others have taken that interpretation literally and starved themselves to death in the hope of entering Nirvana.

              To interpret dukkha as “suffering” results in the tautology, “Happiness is the extinction of unhappiness.” Gautama would not have impressed his contemporaries with that statement.  

              My interpretation of dukkha as CMA is suggested  by Dr M. Carrithers who,  In his book on "The Buddha", researches the meaning of dukkha in the Samyutta NIkaya and eventually finds the definition of it to be, “all aspects of experience in the mind and body", which unfortunately rules out all the good experiences, like happiness. All our experiences are stored in the brain; they are inactive until recalled and cannot cause anything until we do recall them; the action of recalling them is “thinking”. Therefore a more meaningful interpretation of dukkha  is “all conscious mental activity - [CMA].

So, from Gautama’s psychology we can infer:

 “Happiness [peace-of-mind] can be accessed directly by abstaining from conscious mental activity.       [While staying intensely alert and passively aware.]

              Gautama was explaining the mechanism of  happiness in creatures with our sort of central nervous system.

               It has become traditional to practice abstaining from conscious mental activity [all thinking]  in meditation, which, when done properly, is rest from mental work..

              This interpretation is supported by what the coherent Zen Masters say, when they advise us to abstain from  “discrimination”, “mentation”, “making preferences” and , “intellection” etc. In meditation.

The great Zen Master ” Dogen Zengi  (1200-1253) was more direct; he used the phrases, “without thinking "

And: “ Cut off thought by the power of meditation.”
and in the Zazen-gi he writes: "Think the unthinkable. How to think the unthinkable? Be without thoughts--this is the secret of meditation."

              It is also supported by Asvagosha, [an  Indian philosopher of the first century C.E.] who said: "All kinds of ideation are to be discarded as fast as  they arise; even the notions of controlling and discarding are to be got  rid of.”

              Meditation is designed to give us direct access to happiness so that we will get our proper reward for solving the problems life continuously present us with. The invaluable tool we use to solve those problems is CMA, [without using our intellect we would never have even entered the Stone Age.] But paradoxically CMA  has no role to play in our being happy.  Happiness [peace-of-mind] is our proper reward for our successful actions.  

              As you have to learn how to walk and talk, you also have to learn how to be happy. The practice of abstaining from CMA in meditation while staying intensely alert and passively aware will reacquaint us with extremes of that semblance of peace-of-mind we had as children. Those who know call it bliss. Being without thoughts means any thoughts, which includes desires, expectations, controls or anticipation of prospective goals.                Meditation is rest from mental work. There really isn’t anything to do.