One of the most poignant pieces of symbolism from this traditional image/teaching must be that of the finger pointing at the moon. Symbolic of the truth that no matter how much you think you know or understand a thought is nothing like the actual experience. That no matter how good the explanation, how accurate the metaphor it will never be anything like the actual experience
This month six of us have been discussing the symbolism of the wheel of life. We have been using the first and recommended teaching of the Buddha to become as clear as one can be about what the Buddha tells us leads to the cessation of suffering.
At the heart of the wheel lies the three root poisons. The impulses that drive the unenlightened mind and thus create the suffering, dissatisfaction and frustration inherent within it.
There is, in truth, just an experience but poetically we may say that it falls into three qualities. Things we like and things that we don’t. Qualities that appear to be different and yet are just opposite sides of the same coin. The third is the sense of confusion or frustration that arises due to the vacillation between the two, until you can decide, whether you want or don’t want, like or don’t like.
These three root poisons i.e. Greed/craving, hatred/aversion, ignorance/confusion drive the unenlightened mind, drive our sense of suffering but do we really believe this is true?
We must reflect deeply on all aspects of our experience to see if and why the Buddha declared these root poisons to be the source of our suffering. To assess for ourselves if it is true. If we do not accept this as an expression of deepest truth it would be inaccurate to call ourselves Buddhists.
To be a Buddhist means to directing as much, if not all, our energies into letting go of greed, hatred and confusion. Buddhism isn’t a fudge of accepting the vagaries of the poisons but transcending them altogether. Having a perspective where greed, hatred and confusion cannot get so much as a toe hold.
Accepting that Buddhist practise is a process. A process of gradually relinquishing our attachments to particular experiences but if we don’t really believe, at least provisionally believe, that the root poisons cause suffering we will be walking a path with both legs tied together.
Maybe an alternative reflection might be to imagine what it might be like to not experience greed, hatred and confusion, however small or great, and if there is any suffering inherent in that experience. Can we imagine never feeling a push or pull and the inevitable narrowing of perspective and drain of energy that comes along with it.
Imagine all the energy and freedom that arises from seeing clearly, fully experiencing and not feeling a need to hold onto or reject any of it.
A traditional metaphor for the enlightened mind is a highly polished sphere on a completely flat surface. The sphere can roll in any direction freely reflecting whatever it comes across without any sense of attachment or aversion.
Even if this short item has given you a sense of what Buddhadharma is offering it is still, only, a finger pointing at the moon.