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Buddhahood Without Meditation

Teachings of Avalokiteśvara

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Teachings of Avalokiteśvara

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a. Determining the Manner of Nonexistence

i. Determining the Apprehending Subject, Your Personal Identity, as Identityless

First, to determine the manner of nonexistence, there are the determination of personal identity and the determination of phenomenal identity. First, as for so-called personal identity, the mere appearance of the existence of a self during waking experience, dreaming experience, the intermediate period, and future lifetimes is called personal identity. As soon as this appearance occurs, there is a latent consciousness that takes it to be “I,” and this is called subsequent consciousness or discursive thinking. This consciousness clarifies [the appearance of the self] and then stabilizes and fortifies it.

HERE IS THE etymology of the term person: a person is one whose mindstream is filled with the two obscurations and their habitual propensities, and who is contaminated due to acting as a basis for the contaminated, closely held aggregates.32 As for the term self, this latent consciousness of the mere appearance of the existence of a self where none exists in waking experience, dreaming experience, the intermediate period, and future lifetimes is called personal identity. As soon as this occurs, a latent consciousness grasps that which is not an “I” as being an “I” and that which is not a self as being a self. This subsequent consciousness and discursive thinking clarify, stabilize, and fortify [the appearance of the self], [36] and this is called grasping at the apprehending subject, personal identity.

This consciousness that grasps at the “I” is called the causal ignorance of yourself alone. From it emerges the ignorant consciousness that reifies the70 distinction between objects and subjects, and this is called connate ignorance. From it emerges the individual naming of all phenomena appearing in the external physical world and its internal sentient inhabitants. Grasping at the referents [of these names] as distinct and the fortification of them as separate things is called speculative ignorance. Due to the functioning of these three kinds of ignorance, the three realms appear as saṃsāra, and there is delusion and bondage. The cause of this is the demon of grasping at the “I” and the self. The supreme paṇḍita and siddha Karma Lingpa wrote:

The demon of grasping at the “I” and self

is the great demon of the three realms of saṃsāra.

Accordingly, it is imperative to cut the taproot of grasping at the “I” and the self.

Investigating the source from which the so-called “I” first arises leads to the conclusion that no such source exists.

If you wonder whether the so-called “I” descends from the sky above, consider: If this space were the “I,” then the “I” would emerge from the “I.” Dust particles emerge from the earth, water drops from water, sparks from fire, and cool breezes from air. Likewise, if this space were the “I,” [37] then the “I” would emerge from the “I.” But the “I” does not emerge from space that is not the “I”; dust particles do not emerge from something that is not earth; water drops do not emerge from something that is not water; sparks do not emerge from something that is not fire; and cool breezes do not emerge from something that is not air. Likewise, the “I” does not emerge from space that is not the “I.”

Further, if you wonder whether the “I” emerges from the elements of earth, water, fire, or air, consider: If the elements of earth, water, fire, or air were the “I,” the “I” would emerge from the “I” just as dust particles emerge from earth, water drops from water, sparks from fire, and cool breezes from air. If the elements of earth, water, fire, and air were the “I,” then the “I” would emerge from the “I.” But the “I” does not emerge from the elements of earth, water, fire, and air that are71 not the “I,” just as particles of dust do not emerge from that which is not earth, water drops do not emerge from that which is not water, sparks do not emerge from that which is not fire, and cool breezes do not emerge from that which is not air. Accordingly, the “I” does not emerge from the elements of earth, water, fire, and air that are not the “I.” Likewise, the “I” does not emerge from the domain of the five outer elements.

If you wonder whether the “I” emerges from something substantial, consider: It is impossible for something insubstantial to emerge from something that is substantial. If the “I” emerges as something substantial, then the form, shape, color, and so on of the “I” [38] should be directly visible to the eyes and really graspable by the hands. But this is not the case.

If you wonder whether you emerge from within your own body, examine and investigate from the tips of the hair on your head down to the tips of your toes, and you will absolutely find no objective “I” that emerges from these places. Therefore, it inevitably turns out that the so-called “I” has no initial source.

This is how to investigate whether or not the so-called “I” has a location and is an agent bearing real characteristics that can be individually identified in the interim period [between its origin and cessation].

The head is called the head; it is not the “I.” Likewise, the scalp is called skin; it is not the “I.” The bones are called bones; they are not the “I.” Likewise, the eyes are eyes and not the “I.” The ears are ears and not the “I.” The nose is the nose and not the “I.” The tongue is the tongue and not the “I.” The teeth are teeth and not the “I.” The brain, too, is not the “I.” Moreover, regarding the flesh, blood, lymph, channels, and tendons, each has its own name and is not the “I.” This is revealing.

Moreover, the arms are arms and not the “I.” The shoulders are likewise not the “I,” nor are the upper arms, the forearms, or the fingers. The spine is the spine and not the “I.” The ribs are not the “I,” nor are the chest, lungs, heart, diaphragm, liver, or spleen. The intestines and kidneys are not the “I,” nor are urine or feces. Furthermore, the word “I” is not attributed to the legs. The thighs are called thighs and not “I,” and the hips are similarly not the “I,” nor are the calves, the soles of the feet, or the toes.

In short, the outer skin is not called “I”; the intervening flesh and fat are called flesh and fat, not “I”; the inner bones are called bones and not “I”; and the innermost marrow is called marrow and not “I.” Consciousness, too, is so called and is not named “I.” Therefore, emptiness as the nonexistence of a72 ­location and agent during the interim [between the origination and cessation of the self] is certain.

If you think there certainly must be some place where [the “I”] is located during the interim period [between its origination and cessation], consider: The “I” is not located in the domain of the five elements. If it were located there, when the elements are destroyed or damaged, you should experience pain within, but that doesn’t happen. If you investigate your own body inwardly, the head is called head, not “I.” Likewise, the scalp is called scalp; it is not called “I.” Bones are called bones; they are not called “I.” Similarly, the eyes are called eyes, not “I.” The ears are called ears, not “I.” The nose is called nose, not “I.” The tongue is called tongue, not “I.” Likewise regarding the teeth, brain, flesh, blood, [39] lymph, channels, and tendons, they are all called by their own names and are not called “I.” Similarly, the arms are called arms, not “I.” Regarding the shoulders, upper arms, forearms, and fingers, each is called by its own name and is not called “I.” Likewise, the spine is called spine and not “I,” and the same goes for the ribs, chest, lungs, heart, diaphragm, liver, spleen, intestines, kidney, urine, feces, legs, thighs, hips, calves, soles of the feet, and toes. The outer skin [40] is called skin, the intervening flesh and fat are called flesh and fat, the inner bones are called bones, and the innermost marrow is called marrow and not “I.” Moreover, consciousness is called consciousness and not “I.” Therefore, emptiness as the nonexistence of a location and agent during the interim period [between the origination and cessation of the self] is certain...

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