April 29, 1993

Aaron: I am Aaron. Good morning and my love to you all. I want to pick up with some of the questions that have been in your minds on the work of the past weeks. I have presented this segment of the chain in simple form, attempting to strike a balance between simplifying and the necessary distortions created by simplifying. Now we need to turn up the magnification to break down this consciousness, perception, sensation, mental formation phase and look even closer. As a prelude to that I want to speak a bit about karma again. Yes, again and again and again.

We have looked at just what it is that adheres, seen the self that provokes sticking, and seen that movement from a space of absence of self offers only non-adhering karma. Let us explore this a bit.

When you offer another a gift, that action of offering is a contributing factor in the resultant karma. The other factor is the motivation for the offering. If you offer another a slap, that act is also only one factor, the second being motivation. Let us suppose this first gift is something that will be very precious to the recipient. However you want to give it; there is a self doing the giving. Part of the motivation is to serve the other, to give them joy, but let us suppose there is also a self that wants attention, wants to be loved through this offering. Here we have wholesome adhering karma. It is wholesome in that no harm is done, but only good, wholesome in that which is offered. It is adhering because of the self. Technically, the act is wholesome, the part of motivation which seeks attention is unwholesome, but we cannot separate the act from the motivation. We can simply label the whole as 'wholesome adhering karma.'

Let us suppose the gift offered, instead of being that which would be cherished, is a bottle of wine offered to an alcoholic. This being has not had a drink for ten years. You did not know that being when it drank, but you had heard from a friend that this one had been an alcoholic. What is the intention? Was there intention to harm? At some level was there hostility that is being expressed through this gift?

The same gift made to another, would be deeply enjoyed, a gift of love. You can see then how much the importance lies in the intention. A slap to hurt another made in anger, or a slap to another who is falling asleep in a dangerous situation-is there intention to harm or to help? Is there a self wanting recognition for that help or service? So many variables. It is not merely the act or word that determines the nature of karma but the intention and the self or absence of self involved in the motivation.

Please remember that this is further complicated by the fact that there are always multiple motivations! Each one produces its own specific karma.

Let us take this information and come back to dependent origination. Contact is easy-consciousness-just the physical sense contact and mind knowing that contact, or mind touching a thought and knowing it, resultant in sense consciousness. Perception is where the first complexity lies. We have discussed two forms which perception may take: bare perception, which does not label the object nor conceptualize about it, but moves into intimate experience with it, and perception which distorts by moving into old mind biases. You have been practicing seeing freshly, watching old mind arise, knowing that the filter of old mind is distorting the present experience, and then as much as is possible, returning to that fresh experience.

We have two different pathways here. It is almost impossible for the human to live its life without any touch of old mind bias. This does not mean that you cannot experience freshly, only that it comes and goes. It is truly a learned skill. Have you ever come indoors with your sunglasses on, wondered why it was so dark inside, and forgotten, 'I am wearing sunglasses'? When you remember that the sunglasses are on, even without lifting them away, clearer perception takes place. Something registers in the mind, 'It is not so dark. I am looking through dark lenses.' You don't have to take off the sunglasses to know you are looking through dark lenses. You do not have to get rid of old mind to know that old mind is influencing the experience of this moment. When you recognize that you are looking through the filter, it helps you to see any attachment to the filter. Seeing the attachment allows it to dissolve.

When we move blindly into old mind there is a knower, observer, or thinker, and a conceptualized object. Then there is separation. There is someone with opinions about the object. As we move from perception into the sensation stage there is then someone to like or dislike. As soon as there is a separate being liking or disliking, mental formations may arise because there is somebody who needs protection, somebody who feels threatened that there will be not enough, or will be too much of, this object.

We must notice however that it is not the liking or disliking that leads to mental formation. It is the liking or disliking from a place of identity with that self. One would then ask, can there be liking and disliking with no identity with self? Can there be liking and disliking that does not lead to craving, greed, aversion, fear or hatred?

Please think here of your experience of a symphony or a sunset, or the smile of a child perhaps-something personal for each of you-something that you watched, heard, touched with any sense, found very beautiful, but there was no grasping to hold onto it. You have each experienced that. In Barbara's experience, many sunsets come to mind. There was no one watching the sunsets, just sunsets happening. Pure experience. Only after the experience, in memory, was there experiencer. There was no comparing with other sunsets. There was no desire to hold onto each, to slow it down. And yet, certainly there was liking, not just appreciation, but liking and enjoyment.

It is easier to like without self than to dislike, but this also can happen. If you touch a hot stove, there's pain. There is dislike of that physical sensation of pain. There must be or you would not survive your childhood. Physical pain is a skillful warning system of impending danger to the physical body. Usually you then move into dislike, 'I was burned; ouch!' sometimes followed by aversion. Most of you have found that you do not need to react that way to physical pain, at least not always. There can simply be the awareness: this is truly unpleasant to some physical sense. The smell of a skunk perhaps-dislike. But it need not move into aversion's 'I must get rid of that.' It is harder with dislike. Let the process of like without movement into attachment be a clue to understanding dislike without aversion.

Perhaps the words 'like' and 'dislike' are confusing here and we would be better to say only 'comfort/find pleasant' or 'discomfort/find unpleasant.' More specifically, there is sense contact, seeing with bare perception or old mind, finding that sense contact pleasant, or liking it, then the possibility of grasping when there is self and old mind, no possibility of grasping when there is no self and only bare perception. The same is true of the process of unpleasant/dislike/aversion. We will talk more about this next class.

Moving back then … Self is a bit like a light switch that may be turned on and off with a dimmer switch. Sometime it's all the way off, sometimes all the way on, mostly somewhere in between. When perception is only bare experience and contains no old mind, it is empty of self. Old mind draws in the delusion of self. If the move to self is not noticed, the dimmer switch is turned up. Identity with that delusion arises, and act, speech or thought from that space carries adhering karma and plants the seed of rebirth. Since it is impossible to eliminate old mind entirely, the best one can do is to know 'Old mind is present. I am looking through filters that distort.' Those filters bring in the solidified self, bring in the move into subject relating to object. Once there is subject and object, there must be the possibility, even the likelihood, of ownership of that which arises, of act, speech or thought from that 'self,' and thus, of adhering karma.

The arising of notion of separate self, which distorts bare perception to ego based old-mind perception, is not in itself a condition which necessarily leads to the move to mental formations of attachment and aversion, and thus to adhering karma. The arising of notion of separate self has a relationship of contributory causality to the creation of adhering karma. The arising notion of self is not the definitive factor but your relationship to that which has arisen. When you notice old mind bias quickly before there has been movement based on that bias, when there is no judgment of that bias arising, only noticing, 'Old mind is entering, self is entering,' then you return to bare perception. Then the arising of old mind becomes seen as a manifestation of pure mind, absolutely nothing in itself, just a cloud passing through. Once again there's no perceiver. Perhaps old mind enters again. You note it again. When you can clearly see the way old mind arises and dissolves, the struggle with its arising and dissolving is gone. It is the struggle which solidified the self! Now there is again no self trying to control this show.

At one level there is bare perception, and one might say, Ultimate Reality. At another level, there is a human mind doing, making sense of this reality, entertaining old mind. From the higher perspective you observe this human moving in and out of old mind. You see that old mind which is known to be present and accepted openheartedly creates far less distortion than old mind which solidifies self with a statement, 'I have got to get rid of old mind so I can come back to pure mind.' There can't be pure mind as long as 'I' am getting rid of this or that. Old mind is not different from pure mind but rests in pure mind. No duality! When you understand this, begin to just watch old mind arise and dissolve, with more space around it. There is a basic shift, as sudden profound awareness arises, 'There's nobody doing anything here. Old mind arises, old mind dissolves.'

This understanding becomes problematic if one has not first done considerable work on oneself because one could use this as an excuse to be irresponsible. One could say, 'Old mind arises with fear and prejudice; I do not have to-indeed, can not-get rid of that fear. Therefore my reaction of arising fear that harms another is okay.' That is why these teachings are not offered until the being has reached a deep level of commitment to live one's life in non-harm and service to all beings. When you merge that commitment and the basic understanding, 'It's just old mind; I do not have to get rid of it, just to know it is creating distortion,' then you move into a space of freedom. Then the wise mind and heart chooses appropriate, loving word or action.

Here you experience the 'I AM' connectedness, pure being. 'Big mind' begins to shine with a brilliance in your experience. If pleasant and unpleasant sensations, thoughts or emotions arise, they arise from a place that is empty of self. They do not lead into craving or aversion. There is only this shining luminescence that you are which is no different from the shining brilliance of your neighbor or of God. Over that luminescence drift occasional clouds of old mind of bias, of like, or dislike. The heart knows skillful action. It is no longer moved by any of these clouds. It rests in center.

I want to offer a very brief example here. Barbara is very free of racial prejudice. She has dear friends of many skin colors. She has risked her life to make the statement that one must look past skin color. This week her doorbell rang. She opened the door and there were two young men outside, adolescents, both a bit tough looking unrelated to skin color. One was as tall as she, the other smaller. Both black. The big one said, 'Where's your son?' Barbara noticed that she immediately became defensive. Her first thought was, 'Why are they after Peter? Is he in trouble?'

She said, 'He is not home now. Why do you want him?' at which point the smaller one stepped out from behind the larger one, and the basketball he held became visible. 'We want him to play basketball.' Peter has black friends. It is not unusual for a black child to ring the doorbell. But Barbara was acutely aware of how old mind distorted perception. Had these been white children she would not have felt that sense of fear for her son. The difference here is that because she knew immediately, 'Fear is arising, perception is distorted,' she had no need to respond in any hostile way. Her, 'Why do you want him?' was not hostile but inviting. She was already back in center. There was no adhering karma; there was no defending; only that moment of noting distortion, and then it passed. No like or dislike, no aversion or clinging, no need to make anything happen.

My dear ones, so much of this is so very hard to verbalize. My words are meaningless as intellectual guidance. You must watch this so carefully in yourselves and meditate and then you will understand it.

We have been focusing on perception. In just the same way that there can be bare perception free of self, or old mind perception, there are pleasant and unpleasant physical sensations free of self. Such sensations that are experienced from a place of center do not necessarily create the move to mental formations. There can be liking of pleasant sensation without clinging; there can be disliking of unpleasant sensation without aversion. Mental formations cannot arise without the movement from neutral to liking or disliking, but all move from neutral does not create mental formation. Is there a self there waging war with the like or dislike, trying to maintain safety and comfort, moving to clinging or aversion? Forget about the like and dislike and notice the war. Come back to center. Let these clouds of like and dislike drift by.

You can see how easily that teaching can be distorted by one not ready to work with it, to give self permission to like and dislike and act upon the like and dislike. You understand that this is emphatically not my meaning, only that old mind arises, like and dislike arise. You can stay in center and watch it arise and fade away. There is no identification with a self who likes or dislikes, only the bare perception of those sensations arising. In that center there is no craving, no aversion, no self to plant a seed of adhering karma, no ignorance with the delusion of self to lead to rebirth. That is all.

Question: I'm still fighting with dislike, saying 'I shouldn't dislike.' I think this tendency grows out of having been taught to become pure, to get rid of defilements. Talk more about how like/dislike is a manifestation of Pure Mind.

Aaron: This is that experience of one foot in ultimate reality and the other foot across the threshold in relative reality. The part of you experiencing relative reality feels the physical or emotional experience of pleasure or pain. Some bit of self arises. There is someone experiencing pleasure or pain. This movement just barely precedes the noticing of liking or disliking. To like or dislike involves subject-object; some momentary notion of separate self is necessary to like/dislike. Noticing that very momentary delusion, you return to center.

'Self' is a useful tool for the incarnation. It is not the notion of this self that is the problem, but getting caught in it, forgetting it is tool, which leads to subsequent movement to identification as that self. The arising notion of self is just another arising. What is the relationship to that arising? When this is all seen for what it is, the delusion is known as a manifestation of Pure Mind, really a distortion of Pure Mind, and not as other than pure awareness. There is nothing to be gotten rid of, no war. When you get into a fight with that arising and try to change it, self solidifies. You are deeper into the current. There is ownership of that which has arisen. When you simply notice the whole thing cloud by cloud by cloud and relax around it, self recedes and perspective shifts.

Here is a flower, just this flower. Here are four or five different colored filters on sticks, resting above the flower. One is here, one there, with space between them. When you press your eye against a filter, there is no sense of any reality but the filtered one. But you move your eye away, see briefly without the filter, then return to another filter. You begin to know when seeing in this way, 'I am looking through a filter.' It is as it seems, red, yellow, or blue, but you do not take it for ultimate reality. The space between filtered looks gives clarity. That is the shift you must create, to allow yourself space. As you observe old mind and know, 'This is old mind,' the filter shifts from directly before the eye; there is space. You see the filter but you can peer around it, so you are no longer caught in the filter. Bare perception returns. Then any sense of self controlling this whole show dissolves. You move back into this Ultimate Reality. This will be our focus next class. I also want to talk more about the relationship between comfort/discomfort, like/dislike, and attachment/aversion.

Questions: What is Ultimate Reality? What is enlightenment?

Aaron: I will speak to this but let you decide the final answers for yourselves! For the coming week, please watch the multiple motivations for your choices and see if you can understand the karma that grows from each motivation. See if you can experience the full diversity of karma ensuing from a word or act. Can you clarify that karma as it arises? What happens when there is awareness that an act or words comes from a foundation of self? No fixing it; no judgment. Just watch it.

I also want you to return to the dream work we did last spring, working with fear. The renewal of this exercise is in preparation for further dream work. That is all.

(Last year Aaron worked extensively with us with interpreting dreams. Then we went on to work with awareness of dreams, becoming aware that we were dreaming. After we were aware of the dream state while in it, he asked us to invite in fear before we went to sleep, then in the dream to know it was a dream, that the body was safe, and to confront that 'dragon' with love, but not to run from it. We spent many months working with this dream practice. The beginning of this work was to begin to record dreams, be aware of their content, and know when we are dreaming. For those new to this work, I suggest that as a first step. Before bed, state your intention to remember your dreams. Put a pad and pencil or tape recorder beside your bed. When you awaken, read what you wrote or listen, then just sit with it.)