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Just how conditioned are we?

imageThe theme of conditioning and to what degree conditioning asserts itself continues to be at the fore of my experience. It seems to me that even when I think I am making a choice I am not, it still remains my conditioning, it still remains and arises through the ego mind, it is still reasoned [or sometimes unreasoned 🙂 ]. It is not the spontaneous arising of the enlightened mind.

Dogen, I believe, is quoted as saying “Can you sit long enough for the answer to arise on its own?”

Answers arising on there own are answers that appear to arise from something other than the ego mind. It’s still mind, not something apart and separate, just mind not filtered through conditioning, not filtered through the ego.

Each time choices are made with the ego mind the ego mind is reinforced, each time we allow choices to be resolved by themselves we undermine the ego and reinforce the enlightened, spontaneous, liberated mind. That is not to say a reasoning mind is not of use just that it is best used appropriately, in the right place, at the appropriate time. Once you have finished digging a whole with a spade do you continue to carry the spade around all day? Do you try to make toast with it? No, you put it down.

So how do you know the difference? It seems to me that the spontaneous mind, by definition, is asking you to do something you hadn’t thought of and thus always imbues a quality of the unknown, of uncertainty of stepping into the void. You can’t trace a logical, reasoned process, although that’s not to say you can’t build one afterwards.

For me, more and more there is the intention to let answers arise rather than to force a resolution. This feels liberating, liberating from the worldly winds of praise and blame. The ego can try to, and will, appropriate the choice post event but ultimately it knows its false and it’s hard, at least harder, to take praise or blame for something ‘you’ didn’t do. Desire for fame and infamy or obscurity are transcended as both arise from something you did or didn’t do, thus neither apply to spontaneous arisings. The same is true for pleasure and pain, gain and loss. They all apply to the ego mind.

The teaching of the Buddha is that of conditionality. That all ‘things’ are born in dependence upon conditions and when those conditions are no longer present those ‘things’ cease to be. This law is subtler still, those conditions are themselves conditioned and, in turn, the same is true of those conditions. In this way we see nothing, no thing, is ever truly born or ever dies but is just in a constant state of flux, of transformation. We see that all things are completely empty of any fixed, enduring and ultimately separate nature. They are, in the truest sense, void.

The only conditions that are not present in the enlightened mind are those of suffering. We will still be conditioned by our environment, if you took oxygen away you would still die (or rather transform), we will still be conditioned by society, if we don’t make some money we won’t eat (or transform into skinnier beings), our biological conditioning will still be there, we won’t suddenly become a butterfly or a mountain but the conditions for suffering, suffering that arises through the attachment to concepts and to the ego, taking the transitory as permanent, imbuing phenomena with qualities they do not have, will cease and so to will suffering.

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