Pamela Gayle White and Khedrub Zangmo, from Week 2 of their Tricycle Retreat,
PGW: At some point we should look at the difference between the view of someone who is completely awake, a Buddha, and the view of someone who is confused, like the rest of us. Is there a difference? What might that difference be?
The difference is that someone who is awakened has had all of their assumptions about reality completely replaced by direct experience. All their assumptions about the self and where clinging to a self might take them have been completely obliterated and replaced by the direct experience of selflessness.
KZ: That’s the enlightened being’s side of it. Our side is that we have lots of assumptions. Our assumptions are largely unquestioned and largely unconscious. Our view, our way of operating, and our outlook on life is clouded by these unconscious assumptions.
PGW: Absolutely, and because we don’t question these assumptions they go so far as to become assumptions about what we need to be happy. All beings want to be happy, to have comfort, satisfaction, a feeling of safety, achievements, and so on. But we, as humans, have these ideas about what we need to be happy. We may not think about them very much, they are just assumptions that we’ve got.
KZ: Yes, we are identified with our thoughts. We think I need this and we don’t see this as an assumption. We often don’t question, “do I actually need this?” No, we think it and believe it. Then we act on it.
PGW: Society encourages this! Everything we see around us from the time we are little up until the present moment tells us you need to get this to achieve that, to get that badge, that grade, that job, those friends, that relationship. You need to go on that retreat, get a blessing from that guru, the whole big thing. From the material to the spiritual, there’s always something to be “got” and that “getting'” is supposed to finally get us to that happiness that we are aching for. But it’s always just out of reach. Yet when we finally SEE our grasping, our insecurity, our fear, how we compensate etc., we see that it is full of much tension and stress.
KZ: To see this takes a kind of honesty. It takes a bit of stepping back and the courage to look honestly look at what is actually happening rather than having a knee-jerk reaction when a thought or desire arises and then just acting on it automatically.
PGW: This honesty means owning up to the fact that we are fighting a losing battle. We try to freeze time, but things change. We try to control the world but the world is not controllable. We are trying to find solace in confusion, and it’s JUST. NOT. WORKING. Yet we become so used to this grasping that we can become afraid to let go.
KZ: We are so afraid that we often feel like our only choice is to keep our minds distracted. Radios, phones, computers, movies, busy, busy, busy. We’re trying to keep ourselves from actually facing our insecurity about how this is not actually working for us.
PGW: Yeah, and this is really easy to market. It’s easy to sell things to this insecurity, because we are basically distraction junkies. As soon as we stop being distracted we are forced to face the truth of who we are.
To take part in this retreat, please become a Supporting or Sustaining Member of the Tricycle Community. Here is a two minute preview of Pamela and Khedrub’s Week 2 talk,
Image: Shakyamuni Buddha, HAR 699
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.