Beyond Awakening

We have never been so polarized as we are today in all walks of life. Conflict and wars occur when two seemingly opposing sides draw lines in the sand, when two apparent realities are seen as separate and threatening to one another. It is happening in all areas of our society, religious, political, economic, racial, and moral. When we make these artificial separations we are already at war with the other, and also within ourselves.

The moment we separate our self from an other, the other becomes a threat. We do this not only with so-called external reality, but internally as well. This is why we are at war not only with others but also with our selves: the part of us that wants to take care of our health and well-being and the part that wants to overindulge in eating, drinking and other unhealthy practices; the one who wants to do good and the one who doesn’t care about others; the one who is run by the three poisons of ignorance, greed and hatred and the one who is not. These internal conflicts suck up all our energy and cause stress and illness.

Before the mind creates the notion of other, it is whole, complete and perfect. The moment dualistic thinking arises heaven and hell are separated by thought. Before thought arises there is no separation to begin with. True reality is not two, not dual. Realization of this true reality is called awakening. To think that by awakening something is attained is delusion, since the separation never existed to begin with. That was the delusion we created with thought.

Because these two apparent realities are one to begin with, there is no need to try to connect or transform them. We can appreciate that both are just fine as they are. The apparent reality of an ego-self is just perfect as it is, and the absolute reality of the absence of self, or Buddha, is just perfect as it is. The self can bow down and revere the Buddha and the Buddha can love and have compassion for this contracted and ego-centered self. This is enough. Nothing needs to be done to change the other. The ego-self is just what it is in all its imperfections and the Buddha is perfect, complete and whole just as it is.

It is like two pillars holding up the roof of the temple.  If they are too close the roof falls; too far apart it collapses. Not too near, not too far apart, just the right distance. Our misunderstanding is often that the self should become the Buddha. However, when the self does become the Buddha there is no self, there is only Buddha. When the Buddha becomes the self, there is only self. From the Apex or the Zenith we can appreciate self as self and Buddha as Buddha. The self can honor and bow to the Buddha. The Buddha can love and have compassion for the self just as it is, with all its struggles and screwed up-ness. Not two, not one either, yet two and yet one. From the Zenith both ego-self and Buddha are aspects of me and I love and appreciate them equally. No preference for Buddha over self or self over Buddha.

If we use the Big Mind/Big Heart technique it might look something like this:

Facilitator:   May I speak to the Buddha that has not yet been awakened or realized yet please?

Self:   Yes you may.

Buddha:   I am the Buddha and the self has not fully awakened or realized me yet.

Facilitator:   Why do you feel that that the self has not yet awakened to your presence?

Buddha:   He doubts that I actually exist within him. He believes that I am a historical person who lived some 2,500 years ago in India. He doesn’t believe he can simply ask to speak to me, and that it is so easy. He has struggled for so long, trying to find me in all the wrong places. It is so ironic that I am right here, so near and intimate with him. He believes he must practice and pursue me with great effort and discipline. His very seeking and trying are just getting in his way. The more he pursues me the further astray he goes. It is his delusion that effort, practice and pursuit will eventually result in finding me.

Facilitator:   Since he has not yet fully awakened to you how do you manifest within him?

Buddha:   I come out in him as a hungry ghost or in a hell realm or as a fighting spirit or jealous god. He is always seeking me and yet falling short of actually finding me. When he can’t grasp or find me he becomes frustrated with himself or others very easily. This turns to anger or even worse, hatred or blame towards others or himself, which eventually flips into self-destructive tendencies such as overdrinking, overeating, drug or sexual abuse of himself and/or others. If only he would realize I am ever present within him he could stop this crazy and deluded behavior. But he doesn’t and therefore he becomes more self-destructive and abusive.

Facilitator:   What would happen if the self were to wake up to your presence within him?

Buddha:   He would immediately realize that I am present and he would relax completely. He would stop seeking me outside himself. However, because of his deeply rooted patterns he would probably continue to seek me within. He would most likely try to become me, which would be another problem because he could spend years trying to either become me or integrate me into himself.

Facilitator:   What do you mean? What’s wrong with that?

Buddha:   He can never be me or integrate me into his own image or self. I am perfect, complete and whole, he never will be! He will always be imperfect and incomplete. He is the self and the self is not me. When I am present he is gone, when he is present I am inaccessible to him. It is only when he is dropped that I am here, now obvious within him. All he needs to do is ask to speak to me. When he calls on me I instantly appear. Otherwise it is him, the self, which is running the vehicle aligned with fear, doubt, anger and greed. I call this his ignorance.

At times he believes he is me, or that he can become me. But it is impossible for him, the self, to be me. The delusion comes from the fact that he and I occupy the same body. We both stand 5’11 inches and are both 185 lbs. We were both born in Brooklyn NY to the same parents. However I am unborn and undying. He on the other hand is mortal and was born at a certain moment in time and space.  He will die at a certain moment in time and space, I will not. I am his true, unborn nature, he is my creation. I am Mind, he is merely a creation of thought and a concept. He doesn’t really exist but holds on to the notion that he is real, substantial and permanent.

Since I was never born I will never die. I am not a mere concept but reality itself, forever ungraspable and unattainable. When he disappears I am here and I can speak to you, but he and I can’t be here at the same moment. He would like nothing more than to be me, or become me, but he simply cannot. He can prostrate himself to me and ask for my love and compassion and even pray to me. However it is not necessary since I always love and have compassion for him. He is like my child whom I love unconditionally all the time.

The more he seeks me the further astray he goes. He cannot know me because I am beyond knowing and not knowing. Knowing is his delusion and not knowing is his ignorance and blindness. I am beyond both knowing and not knowing. When he believes that he knows, he is deluding himself; when he doesn’t know he is blinded in not knowing right from wrong, good from bad. Both knowing and not knowing do not belong to me but to his ignorance.

Facilitator:   I would like now to ask the self if I may speak to the voice of fear abiding in the self.

Fear:   I am fear and it is my job to be fearful in order to protect the self from others, from himself, and others from him and what could happen to him if I failed to watch out for him.

Facilitator:   Why are you afraid of him acknowledging, embodying, awakening and empowering the Buddha?

Fear:   I am afraid if I allowed that to happen the self would disappear, that it would lose control and not be in charge any longer. I’m also afraid that he can’t do it or maintain it. I have a lot of fear around fully empowering and embodying the Buddha. However, I am also afraid of not fully empowering the Buddha lest he remain forever in the dark, completely deluded and confused. Maybe I am even more afraid of this than I am of awakening and empowering the Buddha. When I really think about it I am truly more afraid of not awakening and empowering the Buddha than I am of empowering him.

Facilitator:   Then would you allow me to speak now to the Buddha fully awake, embodied and empowered?

Buddha:   I am now the Buddha fully awake, embodied and empowered. I have always been here, present and aware. Though he has long been searching for me, I have been silent and not had a voice in his life because he has not asked to speak to me up till now, this present moment.

Facilitator:   Please tell me about you.

Buddha:   I am awake, fully present, whole, complete and perfect as I am. In fact from my perspective everything and everyone is perfect, complete and whole as is. There is nothing lacking or in excess. The self sees himself as imperfect, incomplete and unwholesome. This is his delusion and ignorance. When I look at him and all others I see only perfection and wholeness. When he looks at himself and others he sees his and others’ faults and shortcomings. He sees imperfection, incompleteness and unwholesomeness in both himself and others.

When he looks at a tree or a sunset he doesn’t compare and judge. However when he sees himself and other people he does compare, judge and condemn. He becomes competitive and feels either superior or inferior to them. Either way he loses. These comparisons make him feel bad about both himself and others. It is all because he creates a separation between himself and others and the world. He sees things in a dualistic way, which causes fear of the other. This fear causes a lack of self-confidence and therefore he suffers and is basically dissatisfied with himself and his life. From this he tries desperately to be one up and feel superior to others. Greed, fear and frustration become his way of coping with life. The three poisons, greed, anger and ignorance are creating his life of dukkha, dissatisfaction and suffering. He wanders through the six realms lost and confused. He tries desperately to escape into alcohol, drugs, work, social media, TV, food and sex. It is discomfort with his life that he is trying so hard to escape.

Facilitator:   How do you feel about him and all this?

Buddha:   I only feel love and compassion for him and all beings who are caught in this trap of ignorance, living in fear and dissatisfaction. I recognize that even in this and their ignorance they are all perfect as they are, he too. This is just the nature of “self.” The self will never be me, perfect and whole. He will always see himself as a separate entity, therefore incomplete and imperfect. As long as he is identified with himself, he will always feel this way. When he ceases identifying with self he disappears and self is dropped. Then he is no longer and there is only “I.” He then tries desperately to become “me,” but he doesn’t realize that is forever impossible. He tried for years to integrate “me” with himself, which is simply impossible since he can’t be present when “I am.”

The confusion comes from the fact that he and “I” occupy the same vehicle, this particular body.

Facilitator:   What can be done about this?

Buddha:   The self can honor and respect “me” as the perfection within him, but cannot become me, be perfect, be complete and whole. Just allow “me” to love him as I do, appreciating him for all that he is. If he would just be comfortable with being him and not try to be “me” all would be good.

Facilitator:   May I now speak to the self?

Self:   Yes I am here.

Facilitator:   What do you think of all this?

Self:   I am confused!  I don’t understand what just happened. I am very disturbed by all this. Why can’t I become the awakened one? I want more than anything to be enlightened. I have spent my life trying to integrate my previous experience of being the Buddha. I know I am more loving and compassionate when Buddha is present. I feel better and happier when I identify with Buddha. Why can’t I feel that way all the time? What am I lacking? Maybe if I sit and practice more, or pass more koans, or just bow more, or spend more time practicing good deeds then I will become Buddha all the time and then I will be happier. What is wrong with me? Why am I not satisfied with my life and myself? What should I do?

Facilitator:   I feel your pain and frustration. May I speak to you, the self that is unawakened, please?

Self:   Sure you may. I am the self that is unawakened.

Facilitator:   Please tell me about you.

Self:   Since you asked to speak to me, I am not awake as you said. I feel very frustrated and confused. I want nothing more than to be awakened. I think you were already speaking to me a while ago. Why are you now asking to speak to me as the self that is not awakened?

Facilitator:   Because I feel it is extremely helpful to acknowledge the fact that you have been speaking as the unawakened self and not as the awakened “self.” All that you have been expressing is coming from the part of you that is still unawakened. Now, if you visualize or imagine speaking as the awakened “self” what would you say?

Self:   I would say I realize that all I just said was because I had not yet awakened to my ignorance and just how deluded and foolish I have been. I have been trying to be the Buddha, ignoring the fact that I can only be me and allow the Buddha to be the Buddha. I can cease trying to escape from my life of dissatisfaction and suffering, and just be dissatisfied and suffer,  own and awaken to me, and be one with my suffering, dissatisfaction and loneliness.

Facilitator:   That is very good. May I now speak to fear please?

Fear:   You are speaking to fear.

Facilitator:   I am asking to speak to you because I feel that possibly you may have some fear of allowing me to ask to speak to the “self” completely awake, owned, embodied and empowered to be the self.

Fear:   Yes that’s true. When I look in I realize that I do have some fear around allowing you to speak to the “self” awake. I am afraid that the self will disappear if he is owned, embodied and fully awakened. It is my job to protect the self from death, pain and hurt. This looks to me like suicide. I am afraid if he is fully awakened he will disappear.

Facilitator:   On a scale of one to ten, what is your fear of allowing me to speak to the self awakened?

Self:   About a six or seven.

Facilitator:   What is your fear, from one to ten, of never allowing the self for all eternity to be fully realized and awakened?

Self:   That is far more than a ten, maybe twelve to fifteen.

Facilitator:   OK then, do I have your permission to speak to the self awakened, owned, embodied and empowered?

Self:   I am fully awake and empowered — and I can’t find any “self!” I don’t know what happened but I feel like I just transcended my “self.” From this place I don’t have the same cravings and desires that I had before. I feel content and satisfied with life and others as well as myself.

Facilitator:   From here how do you feel about the Buddha?

Self:   I have great respect and reverence for the Buddha. I can honor and bow to the Buddha and I have no need to become him. I can simply allow the Buddha to be the Buddha and for me to be me. There is no integration necessary. I am just absolutely fine being myself with all my stupidity and ignorance. I can be happy with being flawed and clumsy. I don’t need to become perfect and whole. I can just relax, be natural, be “me.”

Facilitator:  That’s great! Now I would like to speak to the Zenith please.

Zenith:  You are speaking to the Zenith. As the Zenith or Apex I embrace both the self and the Buddha within me and yet transcend them. I am both the Buddha and the self and all its manifestations and aspects. They are two aspects of me and I love them both equally. I have no preference for one over the other. I can discern right from wrong, good from bad, wise from unwise. I act and speak freely and appropriately in each situation — in accord with position, time, place and amount — present without preconceived ideas or notions of what is right or wrong. I have no agenda in any situation I find myself in. I can be appropriate with everyone I come into contact with from the poorest to the wealthiest, from the worst of the worst to the best of the best.

From my perspective I can allow the self to just be the self and the Buddha to be the Buddha. I have no need to force the self to become the Buddha. I can allow appropriate distance between the self and the Buddha, not too close and yet not too far away. The “self” is just perfect as the self and the Buddha of course is just perfect as the awakened one. I feel there is absolutely no need for them to integrate or become one, since from my perspective they already are one embodied by me. There is absolutely nothing to attain, only be. This is beyond the ordinary and the extraordinary. This is the identity of the relative and absolute. I am the Zenith, the highest point or state attainable, the culmination or the Apex. I am Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, unsurpassable complete perfect awakening.

5 thoughts on “Beyond Awakening”

  1. Thanks Genpo Roshi,
    Your insights here clarified something my Teacher, the late Glenn Battle said years ago (around 1972) but has stuck with me like a Koan ever since.
    I asked him on day when we were driving in his red triumph convertible from his house in Woodside, Ca. to a laundromat in Menlo Park, “How many selves are there? If we are always changing every millisecond as everything is constantly in a state of change do we have many, many selves or is there no self, or is there only one self where everything is one?
    He responded, without hesitation and with a kind of solid sense of authority, nothing second hand or merely conceptual. It was like he totally met this question and answered with 100% of his being and the answer, to me, was quite surprising.
    “We only have two selves” he said, “and they never want to see each other.”
    So I truly thank you Genpo Roshi (along with Mr. Merzel) for giving us this Big Mind/Big heart teaching and focusing a clarifying light on this Buddha/Self ecosystem for those who will listen.
    Once again you have done it, although I’m not quite sure how. That is, you manage to communicate and point out issues which are pivotal and which I’m most likely might have overlooked if you hadn’t taken the time and effort to approach us saying “Consider this.”, laying out our confusion and clarity simply before us. With my whole being I thank you!

  2. Genpo Roshi,
    The metaphor of the two columns holding up the temple makes sense, really, it makes perfect sense, sobering sense.
    To be honest though, I’d rather not be concerned about the distance between my self and my Buddha nature.
    Another metaphor came to me:
    The Apex is the temple ‘experience,
    the structure is my self, the roof, walls, windows, doors, floors.
    The Buddha nature is the space in and around the temple, the space inside the temple is ‘my’ Buddha nature, so thankfully, the doors and windows are often open…


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