Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Heart Sutra - Buddhism's Key Concepts, Part 3

The cycle starts when an individual becomes aware of itself as a being separete from the universe. It becomes ignorent of its true nature and this leads to metal activity (karma). Karma leads to consciousness which leads to metal and physical phenomena. This is the opposite of the way we usually think of creation. For the Buddhists, the mind itself creates the phenomenal world. Here we see the five skandas come into play as the self becomes aware of the objective world though the senses. When the self becomes aware of the other, desire arises. "I want what is outside myself." It has forgotten through ignorance that the object is just a creation of its own mind. Desire leads to grasping, trying to get something, which leads to becomming and birth, the consciousness has taken physical form. Now physical form is subject to all the ill of the world: pain, decay, sickness, old and and ultimatly death. From death arises ignorance and the process starts over again.

Buddha Shakyamuni

The process of Buddhist meditation and practice is to reverse the cycle. Through the extinction of ignorance, karma ceases, and so on,up to the ceasation of birth, meaning escape from the the cycle of birth and death (samsara), into nirvana, the stopping of the cycle.

Yet, the Heart Sutra says "no ignorance and also no extinction of it" and the same for the other twelve factors. In this process there is no first cause and there is no self-being. Each factor in the process is relative and interdependent with the other twelve factors and therefore empty.
No suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path, no cognition also no attainment with nothing to attain.

This verse refers to the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha:

1. Suffering (samsara) Suffering is endemic to life, even if we have our physical needs met, we still feel uneasy, there is something missing in our lives.

2. Origination (samudaya)The origination of suffering is clinging. We attach ourselves to material objects or to ideas and become obsessed with things that are ultimately transient.

3. Stopping (nirvana)

4. Path (marga) The path to escaping the cycle of samsara is the eight categories or the eight-fold path:

right understanding

right thoughts

right speech

right action

right livelihood

right effort

right mindfulness

right meditation

When you have stopped this cycle you attain nirvana, yet this verse denies attainment. This is the emptiness of emptiness. If you are clinging to emptiness, it cannot be emptiness.