When you look closely at samsara it is easy to see the defects within this mode of existence. The difficult thing, or maybe the more awkward thing for us to do is look closely. The reason it is difficult or awkward is because it requires us being still, something which seems alien to us. Through meditation practice we begin to still lour mind, and when our mind becomes still we are able to see things clearly.
When we say the defects of cyclic existence we are referring to the different philosophies and techniques which we employ in daily life that simply do not work. So what is it that we see when the mind actually settles? What are the defects of cyclic existence? This is what we have been discussing the past four or five weeks. Tonight we will do a somewhat informal brief recap.
First we see that things are always changing without beginning or end. This is not a problem it is simply the way things are. Like the saying says no same man shall walk through the same river twice for the man and the river have changed. Really and truly we needn’t expound upon this anymore. Impermanence is not difficult to see. The weather changes, the seasons change, we are born, grow old, and then die. This is simple enough.
Now from the point of view of cyclic existence there is a problem. In the beginning things just are, pure being. This is a scary idea for us though. The reason being is that within suchness there are no distinctions made. There is no left, right, up, down, hot, cold, good, bad, and there is no self & other. This scares us because our idea of existence seems to be dependent upon our idea of who we are. However in order to have some idea of who we are, our position, we need a reference point. Therefore we look to solidify our experience in order to produce other. We do this because self arises simultaneously with other. The first step is to make distinction, create separation. This separation is the first skandha, and it is called form. Next there is interaction or sensation between the two, self & other. This interaction is the second skandha, and is called sensation. The third skandha is perception/impulse. Here the sensation is judged by our expectations and handled accordingly. If it is good there is attachment. If it is bad there is aversion. If it is confusing we react with indifference. Next the other is frozen with conceptualization. In the fourth skandha, label, we apply some concept to other to determine it’s role in our environment. We label it girlfriend, wife, etc. Interestingly enough by doing this we also develop some idea of ourselves. For example when we label something girlfriend or wife, we have also defined ourselves as boyfriend or husband. In the fifth skandha, consciousness, we manage this situation.
Within the fifth skandha called consciousness we employ a number of different techniques to maintain our sense of identity or security. These techniques may vary, but can be categorized into six classes called realms. These realms or techniques are aggression, consumption, stupidity, intellect, competition, and pleasure. They are more popularly known as the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, the animal realm, the human realm, the demi-god realm, and the god realm. In the fourth skandha we assembled a conceptual cage and placed the reference point that validated our existence within it. The framework of this cage is made up of our preconceived ideas about how this particular reference point should function in relationship to us. For example with the concept of wife we may think that she should clean up the house, cook dinner, and take care of the kids. All of these expectations come together to create the conceptual cage of “wife”, and then we place some woman in this cage. When we come home and the house is a mess and there is no food prepared it is like some of the bars on our cage are missing. Our little bird has escaped. It is then we start to employ all these different techniques to get them back in their cage or place. We may try to reason with them saying, “I have been at work all day and I am tired when I come home, etc.” If that doesn’t work we may try to bribe her take her out to eat or whatever. If all else fails we may resort to yelling and screaming. Of course this is a very exaggerated example and this process also plays out on much subtler levels than this. Nevertheless the principle is the same, we are trying to maintain our security, our sense of who we are.
Within this system we have set up the subject, the object, and the action. There is self, other and interaction between the two or relationship, and within this system there has to be cause and effect, or karma. Of course we will have more success with some of these different techniques we use to manage our situation than others, and as we do we will find ourselves spending more time in some of these realms than others. Our preoccupation with certain realms is a result of our karma. Karma is a Sanskrit word that simply means doing or creation. The potency of our karma is dependent upon four factors; understanding, intent, action, and completion. In other words we realize our wife has not done what we expect her to do. We act with the intent of getting her to do what we expect her to do. There is the actual action or employing one of our techniques. Finally there is either satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the result. When we fulfill all four factors the karma is strong. If we like the results of the action we intended to do to achieve whatever we thought had to be accomplished the karmic imprint will be strong. There are four primary laws in regards to the functioning of karma. First, the result will always be similar to the cause. An apple seed only produces an apple tree, or a good action will produce a positive result, and a bad action will produce a negative result. Second, the causes and conditions have to be operable for karma to manifest. The house has to be a wreck, or dinner not be cooked. Next, there is an increasing effect. As karma comes to fruition it reinforces the action or behavior, and as a result we develop certain patterns. Finally, time nor fruition will exhaust karma. We can not expect karma to go away simply by ignoring it. Nor can we expect to use up the momentum of the karma by acting it out, as this will only produce in an increasing effect. Samsara is our state of existence, it means to wander. We constantly seek security or some sense of validation in external things which are constantly changing. Therefore we spend an awful lot of energy seeking to arrange the external world to suit ourselves. When this inevitably fails we experience a type of death and rebirth, and then we repeat the process. This is cyclic existence.
The only way to truly work with our karma, or creation is to begin to cut through it. This is done by seeing it for what it is. In order to do this we have to allow our mind to settle in meditation. Once our mind has become peaceful or clear we can begin to look at it. This looking directly at the mind is called special insight. This special insight gives rise to wisdom, which dispels ignorance or confusion which was the primary cause to begin with. Once this confusion has been shattered by wisdom, or realizing the nature of mind, meditation is simply about remaining in it without seeking anything else. Therefore we cease to wander, and samsara was simply a concept that described this constant wandering around like a chicken with our head cut off.