What Awakening Means

The organization of human life, its systems of communication, and systems of control are extended. More and more and more in just the same way for example that by assimilating the minerals out of the soil and the Rays out of the sunlight. A plant like a fern grows and grows and grows and extends its form, and in this way its organization prevails.

Now then you see, if you take this task of what we call the conquest of nature, the task of making order victorious over chaos or randomness. If you take this seriously, you will look upon it as warfare and you will firmly believe that the most urgent thing that there possibly can be- is to make order prevail over randomness. To make good prevail over evil, to make life prevail over death. And we find that when we are in a contest of this kind a serious warfare game of this kind and we take it seriously. We are involved in it in a very deep and bitter sense.

Now the difference of Buddhism from science as a form of knowledge, is that in Buddhism it would be said that this view of things this view of the task of life, as making order triumph over disorder. Leave something out. You remember right at the beginning I made some importance of a Sanskrit word which is fundamental in Buddhism Vidya. a video which meant ah means non Vidya knowing.

Non-knowing or ignorance or better ignorance. Ignorance in other words leaving something out of account and I want to use a familiar illustration to show in what way we ignore. You see here a figure which is apparently as you look at it two faces in profile about to kiss each other.

Two faces or a cup – optical illusion

Now if we draw back a little from those two faces, we can see on the white area in between them the form of a cup. But the interesting thing about this is that as you look at it, you will either be able to see the form of the cup or the form of the two faces in profile as it were about to kiss each other. You can alternate them between them very rapidly. But you will not be able to see them both that way at the same time.

In other words either the white must be the background, and the black the figure on the ground or else the black must be the background and the white cup showing up on it. And so in this way we are unable to see really we can think it after a while we can get accustomed to the idea that the figure on the ground the black and the white are mutually necessary to each other. In that figure that I showed you you could say both the cup with the stem and the two faces are there.

But our ideas about them our concepts are mutually exclusive and we cannot see them both at the same time. And in the same way in this figure that I drew, we either see the sawn off stumps or the bear claws it’s difficult to see this figure both ways at the same time. And so also just as we see one and not the other. So we identify ourselves, after all when you’re looking at the white figure in that illustration which is the cup you as it were identify with the cup. When you look at the two faces you identify with the profile. So in the same way when we experience the world around us we identify with the subject the Noah. We don’t identify with what we see, but as a matter of fact if there is nothing seen there is no experience of the seer. If there is no seer there is no experience of anything seen they both go together in the same way as the black and the white.

And this idea that the yes and the no the black and the white, the inside of a class say we draw a square as representing fundamentally the idea of class, I can’t have a square which doesn’t have both inside and outside they go together. And in Buddhism this going together is called shunya although this is often translated void. It means that the inside of the square cannot exist, is void without the outside the subject without the object, the black without the white and this of course is represented in this fundamental Chinese figure of the yang or the positive principle and the yin or the negative principle like two fishes constantly circulating going round and round and round and round in the alternations of life.

Now the question is, are these two fishes involved in a fight? Here the white one eating up the black one and the black one trying to eat up the white one. If that is the situation, then of course life is fundamentally nothing but a grim contest- if this one up here is the good fellow, and this one is the bad fellow; if this is order and this is chaos then, if fight goes on between them. And that’s largely the way in which our technology has interpreted, man’s situation as against nature.

This is man the white, the good fellow this is nature. The dark the bad fellow, and the white one has got to eat him up. But what happens if the white fish succeeds in eating up the dark fish? The white fish disappears as well as the dark one because, the white one is only there in relation to the dark. So then if these two fishes as it will wake up if this one wakes up, and this one wakes up which is called awakening in Buddhism.

They realize they’re 1 in other words they go together, they’re inseparable from each other and this realization is that experience which is called in Zen Satori or in Buddhism Bodhi. Awakening this sudden dawning on our consciousness, that life is not really a contest to make yes triumph, over no to make the positive triumph over the negative.

The two sides go together and then, one sees in this strange way that underlying all that is negative in the world. All that is in a way painful and evil there is a kind of necessity. To it it goes with the good it is necessary for the good disorder is necessary, for the manifestation of order just as you must have say a black background to show up a light figure, and then when one sees that a profound transformation takes place in one’s attitude to the world that is to say instead of looking upon life as a contest.

It becomes it dance, it becomes a game. One doesn’t withdraw from it, one doesn’t stop living but one goes into the game so that these revolving fishes are no longer trying to eat each other. But they’re just going around dancing having the biggest fun in world.

So then must we have fixed in our minds the idea that all the forms and patterns of nature are simply methods of attack? or defense that there are devices for camouflage, that they are simply lures for sexual attraction, or other utilitarian purposes or can we see in them a dance a joyous cosmology?


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