Our True Nature
An Excerpt from Dispelling Wetiko
The greatest protection against becoming negatively affected, and in extreme cases possessed by the evil aspects of wetiko, is to be in touch with our intrinsic wholeness, which is to be ‘self-possessed’ – in possession of the part of ourselves that is not possess-able, which is the Self, the wholeness of our being. We truly ‘defeat’ evil when we connect with the part of ourselves that is invulnerable and cannot be vanquished by it. In Buddhism, the wholeness of our true nature is likened to a mirror, which embraces and reflects whatever is put before it. The mirror itself, however, no matter how vile the object it is reflecting, is detached from and never tainted nor stained by its reflections, always remaining the same, retaining its intrinsic purity and never wearing out. The reflections do not affect our mirror-like nature, which is transcendent to the reflections, just like a mirage of water in the desert doesn’t make the grains of sand wet. Fire can’t burn our true nature, earth can’t bury it, water can’t drench it, and the wind can’t blow it away. Pure from the beginning, our true nature is ‘unimpeded,’ in the sense that it cannot be bound by anything. In the same way, when we are in touch with our true nature, the evil of wetiko cannot ‘touch’ us. Paradoxically, while on one hand the reflections seemingly obscure the empty, open surface of the mirror, on the other hand we would never notice the mirror without the reflections, which is to say that the reflections are the revelation of the mirror. The reflections in the mirror are the inseparable, indivisible, unmediated expression of the mirror, as we never have reflections without a mirror, nor a mirror without reflections. The reflections are the expressions of the mirror, indistinguishable from the mirror, while simultaneously, ‘not’ being the mirror.
The reflections in the mirror help us recognize what is not a reflection, i.e., the underlying mirror which embraces, contains, and is fundamentally unaffected by whatever it reflects. In the same way, wetiko potentially introduces us to the part of us that is wetiko-free. Without a break in its symmetry, the true nature of Being would have no way to encounter and become aware of itself. This is similar to light transforming aspects of itself into particles so as to reveal its potential in a new way. It is only after we have become engaged with wetiko that we potentially become aware of the part of us that is invulnerable to its effects. Previous to wetiko’s bursting on the scene, we were unconsciously identified with our true nature, which is to say that we were not conscious of it. It is as if a deeper part of ourselves dreamed up wetiko so as to make us conscious of the part of ourselves that is transcendent to it. Wetiko itself becomes the very instrument through which our intrinsic wholeness is consciously realized in time─the present moment─the only ‘place’ it can be realized. Similar to how a shadow is simultaneously an expression of the presence of light as well as its absence, wetiko, though apparently obscuring our true nature, is a disguised form, expression of, and introduction to it. Wetiko is then recognized to not only be a manifestation of our true nature, but actually evokes it. Once again we are at that mysterious place where the opposites become indistinguishable – is wetiko a disease of the soul that is getting in the way of us fully realizing who we are, or is it an initiation into the very true nature that it is apparently obscuring?
We won’t notice the underlying mirror, however, if we become entranced by, fixated on, or conditioned by the reflections. The reflections in the mirror are like thoughts in our mind; the problem is that we become absorbed in, react to and identify with the thoughts in our mind, without recognizing that who we actually are is the pure, all-embracing, mirror which underlies and is transcendent to the reflections. Thought-forms in our mind are like dreams, in the sense that if we recognize the empty, illusory nature of our thoughts, they have no power over us, just like when we recognize within a dream its illusory nature, the dream has no binding power over us. On the other hand, if we identify with our thoughts, which are like whole, self-contained universes, it is as if we have gotten absorbed into and attached to the forms of the dream, which we then take to be ‘reality.’ In doing so, we have invested our thought-forms with an unwarranted reality and have unwittingly created reality to reflect back our thought-forms, thereby limiting our creative freedom, as well as ourselves in the process.
The intrinsic purity of our true nature can be likened to how the clouds in the sky, though apparently obscuring the clear nature of the sky, in actuality never sully the deeper, spacious nature of the sky one iota. The spaciousness of our true nature is transcendent to and other than its contents, similar to how the clouds in the sky are separate and can be differentiated from the underlying spaciousness of the sky. Though both the clouds and the sky are present together, the clouds never become a part of nor touch the space-like nature of the sky. And yet, from another point of view, clouds are actually an expression and adornment of the sky, inseparable from the sky, in the sense that they emerge out of and dissolve back into the sky. This is similar to how our true nature is inseparable from its infinite manifestations, though its essential substance is transcendent to its myriad display.
Our true nature is like a spacious, empty openness in which the endless variety of thoughts arise, momentarily have their existence, and in which they dissolve. Our true nature is like the ‘background’ and deeper spacious ‘context’ in which the specific ‘contents’ of the mind appear. Our true nature is empty, in that it doesn’t have any form, while at the same time it is the nature of this emptiness to ‘take on’ form. Like the Heart Sutra, a.k.a. The Prajnaparamita Hrdaya, the Heart of the Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom reminds us “Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form.” Just like a dream, the physical forms of the universe are empty of inherent, substantial existence from its own side, as the seemingly outer waking dreamscape is inseparable from our consciousness of it. There is no independent universe; there is no independent observer – life is truly a participatory sport, a display in which we are creatively engaged, whether we know it or not. Form isn’t just empty, “Emptiness is Form” – It is the nature of emptiness to appear in the form of form. If we become overly attached to the forms of the dreams, however, we are cultivating ME disease, i.e., wetiko, within the petri dish of our own minds.
Emptiness and Form are not separate things joined together; they are inseparably one, the universal opposites completely united. Quantum physics has had a similar realization: the material-like ‘stuff’ of the universe has been recognized to be a condensation of and inseparable from the spacious, underlying formless field out of which it arises. Entertaining both opposites as being true simultaneously─Emptiness IS Form─is an expression that we have become united with(in) ourselves, while at the same time we ourselves have been united by the opposites. When the opposites come together, a profound question arises: is wetiko the deepest evil, or is it a Judas-like entity of utmost necessity, evoking its own evolutionary transmutation, and thereby an expression of the highest good? When the opposites start to reveal themselves as being indistinguishable, wetiko outs itself’ to be a reconciling symbol whose function is transcendence that unites the opposites within us. Seeing the identity of the opposites is to step out of the two-valued logic of the dualistic mind into the four-valued logic of a mind seeing (w)holistically. To recognize the relativity, and hence, identity of the opposites is to realize the Self, which is a union of opposites. One of the deeper meanings of the Buddhist word ‘nirvana’ is to be released and have attained freedom from the opposites. In alchemy, the philosophers’ stone is found and the ‘gold’ is made when the ‘greater coniunctio’ is accomplished via the ‘sacred marriage,’ which is when the opposites are united as one.
Our true nature is already accomplished, in that we don’t have to attain it in the same way that we don’t have to ‘attain’ our body; we just have to re-cognize that we can’t avoid having it. We always remain naturally abiding in our true nature, which is spontaneously present without any effort on our part whatsoever, whether we know it or not. Our true nature conceals itself by immersing itself in us as a kind of camouflage, while at the same time it reveals itself through us. Once we recognize and become more familiar with the primordially pure, spacious mirror-like nature that has been our ever-present condition from the very beginning, we then are able to simply rest and abide in and as that, realizing that we already have in our possession that for which we are looking. Recognizing and opening to our true nature allows it to address us with its inherent richness, which is our true and rightful inheritance.
The nature of the mind is likened to the spaciousness of the sky, in the sense that we can’t really see the transparent, space-like sky as a thing, for there is nothing (‘no-thing’) to see except a state of openness which itself cannot be seen as an object. In a sense we recognize our true nature when we recognize that there is no-thing to recognize. Our true nature is not an object to be recognized just as we are not a subject recognizing it. Like space, our true nature is not identifiable, as it cannot be illustrated within a conceptual framework. Our true nature is like the element of space in that space is the most fundamental of all the elements; it is the element out of which all the other elements arise and into which they are absorbed, while space itself exists beyond all arising and ceasing. Our true nature is also like space in that it has no center (in that its center is everywhere), no circumference, no edge, no end and no extremes. One view of space is to maintain that the skin is the boundary of ourselves, which would make the space within us the separate self and the space outside of us the space which separates the separate selves. But when we see that space as a whole is the very ground of existence in which we are all contained, then space is recognized to not separate us, but rather, it unites us.
Our situation is also like those children’s puzzles where we attempt to find the ‘hidden’ faces. The concealed faces are actually staring us in the face, hidden in plain sight, we just have to re-cognize them. In the same way, our true nature is literally staring us in the face, we just haven’t recognized it; only the slightest shift in focus is needed in order to see it. The only thing to do, once we become acquainted with our true nature, is to not get distracted and fall back to sleep, which is easier said than done. Recognizing our true nature is not difficult, in the same way that momentarily becoming lucid in a dream is not hard; the challenging part is to be able to stabilize this realization and not fall back to sleep and get reabsorbed back into the forms of the dream. This is where the discipline of spiritual practice comes in, for the essence of any genuine spiritual practice of whatever tradition is to become familiar with and establish ourselves in our true nature, whereby we recognize everything that arises as its expression. Just like when we are in a dream, everything that arises within the dream is contained within and permeated by the fabric of the dream; everything that arises in this universe never strays from our true nature, in the same way that the reflections in the mirror never slide off the face of the mirror. Every moment is literally infused with our true nature, in the same way that water is saturated by wetness, and the waves of the ocean always remain within the domain of the ocean. Recognizing the nature of our situation, we are then able to alchemically transform whatever is happening in each moment into a ‘lucidity stimulator’ that helps to wake us up to the dream-like nature of reality even further. The greater the darkness of wetiko, the more energy is available for its liberation. The fetters that bind us become transformed into the very means of liberation, and the energies released can be utilized for this purpose. When we integrate this realization, wetiko self-liberates, and can do us no harm, like a thief entering an empty house.
Everything, and every state of consciousness we can ever experience, from the most debased to the most exalted is, in fact, a manifestation of our true nature, in the same way that sesame oil permeates and is found throughout every part of a sesame seed. It’s not that thoughts are something ‘bad’ that we have to get rid of; we simply need to recognize their empty nature and not unconsciously identify with them. In the same way that the reflections are the manifestation of the mirror, thoughts are themselves the expression of our true nature. Just like the rays of the sun are not separate from the sun, and the waves of the ocean are not separate from the ocean, but are rather, its unmediated expression, thoughts in our mind, instead of obscuring our true nature, are its very expression. Once we recognize this, thoughts cease to be problematic in any way, as they effortlessly self-liberate into their own empty nature in, of and by themselves. Then, instead of being created by our thoughts, we can play with them such that we can create with them. If we think it is impossible to recognize our true nature, then we simply need to rest directly in that which thinks it impossible to recognize, and ‘that is it.’ Our true nature can never be obscured, just as the clouds in the sky on one level seemingly obscure the sun, but from the sun’s point of view, it is always radiantly shining, even on the cloudiest of days.