Perception

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh spoke of perceptions when I went to listen to him in London on my birthday in October 2000, and what he had to say has stuck with me all of these years. He said that we see everything through our perceptions, and they are nearly always wrong.  This was brought home to me again  when reading Byron Katie’s work. The first question she says to ask about anything we are facing is ‘is that true?’ It is amazing how many thoughts can float through our minds each day, and when the question ‘is that true?’ is asked, the answer is ‘no’.

~ gill

The following is from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Our perceptions are conditioned by the many afflictions that are present in us: ignorance, craving, hatred, anger, jealousy, fear, habit energies, etc. We perceive phenomena on the basis of our lack of insight into the nature of impermanence and interbeing. Practicing mindfulness, concentration, and deep looking, we can discover the errors of our perceptions and free ourselves from fear and clinging. All suffering is born from wrong perceptions. Understanding, the fruit of meditation, can dissolve our wrong perceptions and liberate us. We have to be alert always and never seek refuge in our perceptions.

 

Eating the Blame

From: After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

By Jack Kornfield

When we are confused or in pain, we often judge ourselves as
“not spiritual enough.” But the awakened heart does not judge
anything-not our family or our love, nor our pain and confusion,
our passion or anger. “Terrible harm has been done by this
misunderstanding,” said one Catholic monk.

In mature spirituality we are willing to have a dialogue
with pain, with evil, to hold them in our prayers. In
situations Of great pain, someone has to consciously
suffer the impact, to become the ground where the
sorrows can be held and reworked. These things can be
carried with grace. But it can’t be faked. If you go to
someone with 99 percent of goodwill and are still caught
in 1 percent anger, all they feel is the anger, and it pushes
them from reconciliation. The heart has to willingly hold the
whole of suffering for it to be transformed.

In Zen, holding the suffering sometimes takes the form of
“eating the blame.” It is illustrated by the story of a
cook who made soup for the monks from a turtle offered by
fishermen that morning. When the soup was ladled into the
monks’ bowls, the roshi bellowed for the cook to come out.
The turtle’s head, which should have been removed before
serving, was floating in the master’s bowl. The cook bowed
to the master, looked into the bowl, saw the problem, and
with a deft movement of chopsticks plucked the turtle head
out and ate it. Then he bowed to the master, the master
back, and the cook returned to the kitchen.

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Sure Heart’s Release

From After the Ecstasy, the Laundry:
How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path

by Jack Kornfield

For almost everyone who practices, cycles of awakening and
openness are followed by periods of fear and contraction.
Times of profound peace and newfound love are often over-
taken by periods of loss, by closing up, fear, or the discovery
of betrayal, only to be followed again by equanimity or joy. In
mysterious ways the heart reveals itself to be like a flower that
opens and closes. This is our nature. The only surprising thing is
how unexpected this truth can be. It is as if deep down we all
hope that some experience, some great realization, enough years
of dedicated practice, might finally lift us beyond the touch of
life, beyond the mundane struggles of the world. We cling to
some hope that in spiritual life we can rise above the wounds of
our human pain, never to have to suffer them again. We expect
some experience to last. But permanence is not true freedom,
not the sure heart’s release.

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Dreamlike Fabrication

From Turning The Mind Into An Ally

By Sakyong Mipham

In gathering our scattered mind we begin to discover who we really are right now, just by seeing that the web of thoughts we solidified as “me” is actually a series of vibrations. If we don’t learn to see through this web, however, our continual dreamlike fabrication of “me” will continue to be our meditation. We could be enveloped in it for our whole life . Believing that thought patterns are a solid self is the source of our bewilderment and suffering. Seeing through this simple misunderstanding is the beginning of enlightenment.

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The Unchanging Truth Of Change

From Turning The Mind Into An Ally

By Sakyong Mipham

The face of impermanence is constantly showing itself. Why do we struggle to hide it? Why do we feed the circle of suffering by perpetuating the myth of permanence? Experiences, friends, relationships, possessions, knowledge-we work so hard to convince ourselves that they will last. When a cup breaks or we forget something or somebody dies or the seasons change, we’re surprised. We can’t quite believe it’s over.

Most summers I conduct a program at our retreat center in the Rocky Mountains. We create a world of tents in a huge meadow-dining tent, meditation tent, sleeping tents. It’s refreshing to live like this, since most of us live in buildings all year round. At the beginning of the summer we put the tents up, and at the end we take them down. After the tents come down and we look into the meadow, we’re always surprised. We feel happy and sad. We’re happy in reflecting back on what occurred during the summer; we’re sad that all the tents are gone. It seemed so real. No matter how many times we’ve done it, at the end of each summer we have the same feeling.

This bittersweet taste marks our lives. The movie ends, our relationship’s over, children grow up. Impermanence is always pounding at the door. Of course, acknowledging impermanence doesn’t mean we get permanence. It means we’re more in tune with reality; we can relax. As we relinquish our attachment to permanence, pain begins to diminish because we’re no longer fooled. Accepting impermanence means that we spend less energy resisting reality. Our suffering has a more direct quality. We’re no longer trying to avoid it. We see that impermanence is a river that runs through life, not a rock that stands in the way. We see that because we resist impermanence, pain and suffering are constants. We realize that pain comes from our desire for permanence.

Contemplation helps us understand profound truths that we rarely consider, even though our life is contained by them. We contemplate these truths to bring about a shift in our understanding of reality, our perception of our life. When, during a meditation session, we hold our mind to the words “Everything is impermanent,” the meaning begins to come through. When we have a glimpse of impermanence, we hold our mind to that realization. In this way we become familiar with a simple truth that we may have overlooked. We begin to live our lives with a deeper understanding.

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