Dawn is breaking. Lurking in my awareness for a long time–at least intermittently—is a perpetual presence lying just outside my field of vision. Try as I might, I cannot bring it wholly into view. Perhaps it’s an illusion, but regardless, it’s elusive, yet it also feels like something central to all understanding. Maybe I could see it if I had eyes on the side of my head instead of looking straight forward, as if I’m a fish, perpetually suspicious about the possibility of water—as if I once knew of it but have forgotten—still sensing its centrality to my existence. That is, if I, a fish, believed in existence.
My adventures in Buddhist philosophy and subsequent experiences, not merely the intellectual exercise nor any cognitive machinations, but by direct experience, have taken me all the way to the realization of water. Yet in the routine experience of relativity, I revert to a suspicion, which is accompanied by an annoying sense of inadequacy, that such clarity—enlightened clarity—is never as accessible as I might wish. This is surely a common phenomenon.
Today I noticed an essential truth housed in a familiar book passage. I recalled its past impact, this time it had no impact. It was as if my mind had closed and was no longer open to being impacted, or of having my current spell broken, not even for a moment, to permit what was once a possibility that my energy would change, that I could enter a spacious and unadorned frame of reference, that I could be lifted out of the all-too-familiar quagmire of routine discursive thought for even a moment.
It seemed that what were once anchors of a self-regulated, light-hearted, even somewhat innocent demeanor had been rendered inert, remote and inaccessible, almost completely foreign. And in their place is a frustrated, anxious, edgy, too easily angered, limited and defended, even fragile presence, helplessly attempting to regain some agency in a universe whose laws quickly undermine every presumption of agency.
I might have called this the bardo of everyday life, this forgetting, but my temptation to also name it the bardo of death is because I suspect the sensations are nearly identical, of being lost, drifting in a sea of semi-cognition, dreams with no sensations, no handholds, no anchors, no primary orientation whatsoever, being no-body, as if I will forever drift, uncertain if I wish to or am even capable of either surrendering to the dream or waking from it. Except now, the dreamscape abides whichever way I go.
I wonder if I’m merely experiencing aging, slipping across some threshold into a permanently shrunken space where the inventory of available brain cells has diminished. I don’t seem to be able to transcend, to free myself from these limitations. Until this:
I settled and began gazing, a deliberate and progressive meditative process, eyes wide open, into the heart of Being, expanding, loosening the anchors of the physical body, a condition in which the boundaries between self and object, seer and seen, flicker and dissolve like a mirage, like a dying flame. For a moment, I am free of my story. I breathe and rise to my full stature.
Gazing into the moment…as the moment gazes into you…the comforting stability of it, its fleeting nature and unlimited potential, the opportunity for wisdom to arrive, for benefit to arise for all beings, that is the nature, the whole (he)art of the gaze. It is not a condition of a single being gazing from or at or even with anything. Gazing is (potentially) a non-dual state, the formless form of Being, the perpetual condition of Being seeing through its own eyes. Gazing is more than looking or sensing or feeling. It is more than hearing or touching or interacting in any finite way with any thing. Gazing is taking a full breath of now. It is all things now, being now, creating now, living and dying now, absent any desire or agenda whatsoever.
Outside of meditation itself, in post-meditation, the presence of gazing may also partake of the ferment of ideas in the teeming bazaar of this time, the fertile turbulence of the evolutionary marketplace at the crossroads of this moment. Aren’t we all desperately gazing into this moment to comprehend, to extract the meaning and succulence of these increasingly desperate times? Take one full breath of this! Rise to your full stature and realize the world is gazing back at you.
Being is gazing back at your being, with no expectations, no demands, no promises, no guarantees, with no past and no future to destroy or create. We are all making the world in this moment, gazing into the future, becoming messengers to the future, rising to fullness as vital nodes in the web of life, sensing the energetics of the whole, a promise we make to ourselves as we fully breathe into the present.
This is what the future is asking of us now, to take a full breath of this moment. Each of us, in our personal conflicts, lifelong journeys, unresolved questions, resolutions, accomplishments large or small, is called to be a messenger, an ancestor, a gift to the future. Regardless of our karma, whatever our success or failings, we are guides, changing the course of history, bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice. That’s all we have. That’s all we’ve ever had and all we will ever have.
Accepting the fullness of one’s own karma may not be such an easy thing, because to do so you have to tell yourself the truth. But if ever there was a moment to breath fully into life, into this long-awaited transition, this re-opening of possibility, this moment to reflect and dedicate ourselves to the task ahead, this is it. Gaze into it; and may the Being of Samanthabadra, the consciousness of all Buddhas; of Manjushri, the wisdom of all Buddhas; of Chenrezig, the compassion of all Buddhas, the nature of Being itself, hiding in plain sight, be the guidance you wish for and deserve. Take a full breath and give everything to it.
Gratitude to Rudolph Bauer for sparking this content. See his article, “Gazing as Dzogchen.”