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Meditation on the ultimate nature of things

March 08
22:46 2016

Greg GoodeWhen I was about ten years old, my friends and I would throw rocks at each other. This led to a kind of self-inquiry, as I later found out. Smack! My friend’s rock hit my arm. “I got you,” he said with glee. “No you didn’t,” I retorted smugly, “You only got my arm.”

Then he went for something closer to home. Bonk! The rock landed on my head. Now I got you!” “No, that was only my head.” Later, I thought a lot about this, for many years in fact. There was no place a rock could land that I thought was truly me. In fact, whatever “X” could name was not me, because it was “My X.” But where was the “I”? It’s not as though I didn’t have a strong sense of it. I did, especially at first.

This is why I looked so hard for it for so many years. But no matter where I looked, it seemed to keep shifting around, almost as though it was always in back of me! Even as a youth, years before I had ever heard of Buddhism or nondualism or Chandrakirti, the inability to find the “I” really did begin to weaken my sense of its reality.

The Sevenfold Reasoning is a Buddhist meditation on the ultimate nature of things – persons (the “I”) and phenomena. In the traditions of Buddhism that utilize the Sevenfold Reasoning (such as the Dalai Lama’s sect, the Gelukba Madhyamikas), the ultimate nature of things is said to be emptiness.

The Sevenfold Reasoning is based on the teachings of Chandrakirti, an 8th-century Indian Buddhist teacher.

Chandrakirti provided a way to inquire into the ultimate or final nature of things, as a way to help relieve suffering. In doing so, he extended the arguments of Nagarjuna (2nd-3rd century), whose monumental Treatise On The Middle Way had systematized the teachings in the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras (100BCE – 100CE). According to these sutras and teachings, it is the ignorance or misconception about the way things exist that keeps sentient beings in suffering and cyclic existence.

Sentient beings have the conception that phenomena (as well as they themselves!) exist in a very solid, independent way, whereas nothing really exists in this way. When this conception ceases, ignorance ceases, and suffering ceases.

The Sevenfold Reasoning is a set of inferences that one contemplates deeply. Even though they are an intellectual process, it is known as a meditation in the Buddhist Middle Way teachings. The reasonings are to be gone into intensely, with the full force of one’s feelings about how things are. The reasonings are not a method of “no-thought” or of turning the mind away from objects. Instead, objects are taken full-strength, faced directly and forcefully.

When these powerful reasonings are gone into fully, one’s view of one’s self and the world is deeply shaken. For a moment it might feel as if the earth has turned upside down, or one has fallen into a huge crevasse. Thereafter, things, including one’s sense of self, do not really have the same inert heaviness any longer.

New York based Greg Goode is a philosophical counselor who has combined the ancient “direct-path” method of self-inquiry with modern electronic media

Greg Goode

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