Small Song of Small Realization?

I wrote the following (do they still call it blank verse, or has poetry changed since I was in high school a zillion years ago?) while on a 10-day retreat last week with Sogyal Rinpoche, the Tibetan lama who wrote the best-selling Tibetan Book of Living and Dying a few years ago.  My wife and I have been attending his West Coast retreats for 25 years or so, working on understanding and practicing the Dzogchen Buddhist path to spiritual growth.  I alternate between the extremes of sometimes thinking I basically understand the Dzogchen approach, it’s like (but not identical to) Gurdjieffian self-remembering, and often thinking I have no idea what Dzogchen is all about!  I was feeling pretty good about understanding at least part of Dzogchen last week, and the following expression of that understanding arose in me.  I’ll slip out of would-be poet role and back into psychologist role and elaborate on the technical terms after the poem.

Small Song of Small Realization?

Ordinary samsara.

A moments stimulus, sixth consciousness

Fast reaction, seventh consciousness

I like, I dislike, which reminds me, which I like or dislike which reminds me….

On and on and on.

My endless story of ME, MY FEELINGS

New stimulus

Not noticed much or clearly

I’m busy with my story…..

New stimulus: added into my Story, twisted to fit,

Seventh rules sixth, believing is seeing…..

I think I’m aware, but

Just deeper into samsara, moment after moment, hour after hour.

Many brief moments through the day

A few seconds of just being here, noticing what’s happening

Nothing special, just here, now

My story is interrupted, I’m calm, present

Stimulus comes along, sixth consciousness

I notice it

Perhaps think no further about it

Perhaps think just a few helpful thoughts, don’t get carried away

Radiance of rigpa?

Stopping once in a while, turning mind in

No big deal

Yet I don’t add my crazies to my ongoing crazies for Big Crazies….

Less samsara in my day…..

Elaborating….

Samsara:  Buddhist term for ordinary consciousness, which is seen as a badly distorted form of consciousness.  Our perception of world and self is badly distorted by the three main driving forces of greed/attraction, aversion/rejection and ignorance (of reality and of one’s true Buddha nature).

Sixth Consciousness:  Traditionally each of the main five senses is considered a kind of consciousness, and (ordinary) mind is considered the sixth kind of consciousness, a consciousness which takes the input of the senses at any one time and simply and objectively names their object and perhaps brings up some immediately relevant, objective information about them.  Right now, my sixth consciousness says “computer screen” as I look straight ahead, “coffee cup” as I look to my left, “bookcase” as I look to my right.

Seventh Consciousness: This is an almost completely conditioned, automatic elaboration of the simple perceptions of sixth consciousness into our personal “stories,” our hopes, fears, etc.  So there is a feeling as I notice the computer screen in front of me of satisfaction, of pride, I’m a writer, I’m good at it, and an undercurrent of anxiety – this monitor has been acting a little flaky lately, suppose it breaks, it will be expensive to replace it…..That coffee cup, I need to take it to the kitchen and wash it, I’m so tired of washing out coffee cups, maybe it I just leave it out my wife will wash it for me, oh damn, how can I think that, I’m a lazy person, why can’t I be more responsible?  Ah, the bookcase, look at all those books!  I’m so smart to read so many books, I’m happier thinking about how smart I am rather than how lazy I am…..

According to Buddhism, greatly supported by the discoveries of modern psychology, we almost never stay with simple sixth consciousness perception, automatic seventh consciousness reactions take over almost instantly and can be strong enough to effectively blot out or distort simple, objective perceptions.  I’ve used mild illustrations of this here, but the emotional dynamics and psychological defenses of our individual selves can have us dwelling in our “stories,” our dramas, most of the time.

I like, I dislike, which reminds me, which I like or dislike which reminds me….

On and on and on.

A perception, my like or dislike, which triggers associated likes and dislikes, which triggers more, on and on and on, the original sixth consciousness perception lost in the drama.  New events, new stimuli which are strong enough to get our attention are often almost instantly distorted by the seventh consciousness to fit right into our ongoing story…..And our illusory existence, samsara, continues and builds…..

Many brief moments: In Dzogchen turning the mind inward to notice what’s there, in Gurdjieffian terms self-observation or self-remembering.  Succinctly expressed in Buddhism as samsara is the mind turned outward, lost in its projections.  Enlightenment is mind turned inward, directly seeing its own true nature.  Rigpa is one of the names for the true nature of our minds, our Buddha nature.

So I’m in samsara, then I turn mind inward for a moment.  A sensory event, a stimulus comes along then and it’s just sixth consciousness perception, it’s just a bookcase, no activation of my personal “story” about how wonderful I am, how much I know.  I glance at the bookcase again, notice a book sticking out, close to falling off the shelf, I’ll push it in next time I go over that way, back to the moment.  Here’s my mind, here, now, nothing “special” about it, just calmly here – but that’s pretty special compared to the usual ongoing, self-stimulating drama of ME!

Radiance of rigpa:  It’s not that the goal of Buddhism is to stay forever in a state of mind that’s absolutely calm, where nothing ever happens.  That’s not our nature.  Our nature of mind, our rigpa, moves, thinks, creates, like the sun radiating light and heat.  But to have it stay close to sixth consciousness perception, not get twisted into my story…..that’s something!

I called this a small song of small realization, question mark.  No big deal, yet very fundamental.  Coming back to the moment every once in a while during my day, I don’t get so carried away, I don’t have fantasy building on fantasy, amplifying samsara.  Perhaps not a big deal insight, but I like it….

So once again:

Small Song of Small Realization?

Ordinary samsara.

A moments stimulus, sixth consciousness

Fast reaction, seventh consciousness

I like, I dislike, which reminds me, which I like or dislike which reminds me….

On and on and on.

My endless story of ME, MY FEELINGS

New stimulus

Not noticed much or clearly

I’m busy with my story…..

New stimulus: added into my Story, twisted to fit,

Seventh rules sixth, believing is seeing…..

I think I’m aware, but

Just deeper into samsara, moment after moment, hour after hour.

Many brief moments through the day

A few seconds of just being here, noticing what’s happening

Nothing special, just here, now

My story is interrupted, I’m calm, present

Stimulus comes along, sixth consciousness

I notice it

Perhaps think no further about it

Perhaps think just a few helpful thoughts, don’t get carried away

Radiance of rigpa?

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