Ramakrishna 的故事。在 Sri Ramakrishna
和 Swami Vivekananda 出生之前，
Ramakrishna 就到最高的梵天跟蹤 Vivekananda
Baal Shem Tov。據說他在宇宙高級世界遨遊，選擇能下凡來救我們的人。因此，在不同傳統中，我們看到同樣的原理，真有趣！
I could see that this was very much the cause of the spirit of the Mahayana tradition and teaching: to arouse that unselfishness, that readiness, even if it is a pointlessly vast task, to take it on anyway. It then releases the natural altruism and affinities we have for other beings. We recognize our interconnectedness with all other beings, all other lives, and out of respect for that, one feels a sense of joy in being able to give, to help and to serve.
It is interesting that, at about that same time, someone gave me a book which showed me that this principle was found not only in the Buddhist tradition. The author was talking about this principle and gave examples from both the Hindu and the Judaic traditions. He told the story of Sri Ramakrishna and how, before he and Swami Vivekananda were born, he had tracked down Vivekananda (who was his chief disciple) up in one of the high Brahma heavens, where he was absorbed in meditation, utterly disinterested in the world, "Close to the mountain of the Absolute." What a great phrase! Anyway, Vivekananda was seated there, totally enraptured in bliss. Then Ramakrishna took on the form of a little child; he wove the body of a golden child out of the atmosphere of this high realm and he started to sing and play in front of this sage. Eventually, after some time, the sage's attention gets caught and he opens his eyes and sees this incredibly charming little child, playing and cavorting in front of him. And finally, with his eyes completely opened, he is looking at the child, and the child says to him, "I'm going down; you come with me." So, Vivekananda went down and joined him.
The other example was of a Rabbi named Rabbi Leib. He was telling some of his disciples, "Before this life I did not want to be born; I did not want to come here. This human world is so full of foolishness and crazy, idiotic people. I had had enough of the whole thing and just couldn't be bothered with it. One day this fellow who looked like a peasant came along, with a shovel over his shoulder, and he said to me, 'Haven't you got anything better to do than to lie around here all day just enjoying the bliss of eternity? I work non-stop just trying to bring a little happiness, a little more joy, into the lives of other people, and what are you doing? You're just hanging around!'" The Rabbi said that he was so touched by this person that he agreed to go along. The fellow with the shovel was the Baal Shem Tov, one of the founders of the Hassidim. It is said that he roams around the upper realms of the cosmos looking for likely characters whom he can dispatch down to earth to take care of the likes of us. So, it is interesting to see that this same principle exists in human experience in different traditions.
Self-concern takes us into a desert experience - even when we notice that the more coarse defilements of mind have abated or have worn themselves out, when we're not possessed by too much anxiety or lust, greed, aversion, jealousy, or whatever, and the mind is quite peaceful. As you may be aware, now that you've been a week into the meditation retreat, you can be sitting there with your mind quite concentrated, quite still and, rather than feeling rapture or a sense of wholeness and totality, the feeling is one of, "So what? Is this really what the Buddha built his teaching around, this blank mental state, with nothing much happening?" With nothing much in the way of thoughts and feelings, no great passions to wrestle with, it's like being in some little grey room. It's not disturbing in any way, but it seems a pretty tame experience to build a world religion around.
You think, "This is a rip-off! I've been struggling away for five or six years with fear and lust and so on, and now I get to the free space - here we are out in the open - and it's a desert. This is not... right!" But then, what you realize is that this is not what the Buddha was pointing to as the goal of the holy life, because even though one can't see any outstanding objects causing obstruction or defilement, what is there is you ... , or in this case, me .... There is the sense of I... - someone here experiencing - there's a person. This sense of identity, even though it is not outstanding, leaping out making itself vivid, is a constant presence. The ego is a psychological structure that is there like a wall around us, like a prison. And because we are so caught up with life in the prison, we don't notice that we are actually hemmed in. It is only when everything has cooled down and one has a chance to look around and take in the surroundings that one has a chance to feel the sense of limitation, barrenness; there's a boredom, it's just BLEAAGGHH!
Even in Mahayana Buddhism - which is outgoing, geared toward altruism, generosity, compassion, developing a spiritual life for the sake of all beings - if our practice stops at the state of, 'Me giving my life to help all others', even if this is highly developed, at the end of it there's still ME and YOU - me who is helping all sentient beings. Even in that respect, even though there can be a lot of joy, you still find this barrier, a sense of isolation or meaninglessness. There's a separation there. So,
it is important to use the meditation practice to not just absorb into altruistic thoughts and feelings, because, if you notice, a lot of the Buddha's teachings revolve around selflessness, around emptiness, like the teachings on Anatta .... If there is no self, who is it; who's going to be radiating kindness over the entire world? If there's no self, then who is sending Metta ... and who is there to send it to?
One then sees that there is a level of understanding, of being, which is beyond that which is tied up with self and other. No matter how high, refined and pure our aspiration might be, unless we go beyond that sense of self-identity and division in that respect, then there will always be that feeling of incompleteness; the desert experience will creep in.
So, if we pass through that grand-hearted attitude of mind, then we realize that which pertains to the wisdom of ultimate understanding, of Ultimate Reality; that which is called the Vajra teachings. Vajra ... means diamond or thunderbolt, indestructible, supremely powerful, the ada- mantine Truth. This is the understanding of selflessness.
When the attention is put onto the feeling of "I", one uses the practice to illuminate the assumptions we make about our identity. We have to turn the mind around from external objects, to shine it back upon the assumptions that we make about the 'subject'. When the mind is calm and settled, it's very helpful to start inquiring, "Who is the person that is the centre of all of this?" "Who is it that is meditating?" "Who is it that's knowing this?" "Who is the one who knows?" "What knows thought and feeling ?" It's when we look and challenge the assumptions about there being a discreet entity here, then suddenly the prison walls collapse.
I had an experience of this some six or seven years ago - when I first started using this kind of meditation on a long retreat, asking "Who am I?", or "What am I?" and using that to create a hesitation in the mind, to put the sense of self into perspective; it felt like stepping out of a grey prison cell into sunshine and a field of flowers. It was a tremendous feeling of refreshment and relief, like coming across an oasis in the desert.
The Buddha said that the greatest happiness of all is to be free from the sense of "I am." Now, this might seem to some people to be a bit farcical or pointless, because our 'self' seems to be the most real thing in the whole universe - "If anything is real, I ... am." But it's only because we have never really looked, or inquired into the feeling of I... , of me ... , of mine ... , It's only because we have never really studied that and seen it clearly that that illusion is maintained. Once you look at it closely, then the illusion falls apart. You can't be taken in by that.
So, one uses enquiry to challenge the assumptions that we are making and the walls that we create within the mind. That challenging of those assumptions is what dissolves the illusion. The instinct of the ego, however, is to immediately start creating things which produce activity elsewhere so that our attention will be distracted, so that we will stop doing this. The ego is like any creature that is frightened of dying, and as soon as we start to challenge the supremacy and the centrality of it, then a panic reaction gets going. You will find that the mind can throw up all kinds of interesting and compelling thoughts to persuade you to engage in something else quickly .... So, one requires a great deal of resolution just to say " NO ... !" and to bring the mind back to asking, "Who is this?" "What is knowing this panic?" "What is knowing this feeling?"
To be continued