Here’s a meditation technique I’ve been trying out. It covers the Theravadin view of the All, then the Madhyamakin view and it ends with the Zen view.
The All was described in the Sabba Sutta, a tiny Sutta that serves as the jumping off point for Right Mindfulness, View, and Concentration. This Sutta tells us to limit our focus to what’s happening here and now, to the Living experience.
It’s a decent way to unwrap ourselves from conjecture and conceptual proliferation. It’s also a nice stress relief. But, if it’s taken to an extreme, then it could cultivate selfishness and apathy.
The Mahayana came along to further soften the extremes in Buddhism by pulling the rug out from dualities. From a Mahayana point-of-view, there is no All and there is no void where the idea “All” used to be. What there is is Dharmata, Dharma-nature, a.k.a. emptiness. And Dharma-nature is also just a figure of speech, there’s no single, unchanging entity that that phrase points to.
Dharma-nature means that the nature of all things is continuous renewal (impermanence) and dependent transformation (dependent arising). Nothing is contained within itself, it’s propped up and supported by everything else.
Zen takes this back down to earth by reframing emptiness as Suchness, the living, dynamic experience of Dharma-nature in, and as, day-to-day life.
This meditation technique is designed to 1) bring the mind away from what isn’t here and now, 2) bring the mind away from clinging to the here and now, and 3) bring the mind away from clinging to emptiness.
It helps if you plant your focus on whatever the lines are referring to. So when it says, “Eyes and sights,” one can pay attention to seeing. “Ears and sounds,” hearing, “Nose and scents,” smelling, etc. Unlike the Sabba Sutta, I included the five aggregates and the 7th (grasping) and 8th (repository) “discriminating consciousnesses” here as well since I wanted to give a big picture view, and I’m also a huge Yogacara fanboy.
I don’t use this as a meditation in itself, but another technique in a mixed bag I call Dynamic Meditation, which basically means meditating by whatever means necessary, whatever the moment calls for. I sometimes use half a dozen different techniques in one sitting because the mind isn’t static. Like everything else, it’s dynamic. So, I think meditation should be dynamic as well.
Anyway, it’s best to begin with some kind of relaxation exercise, whichever you like. Then bring your focus to whatever your usual meditation object is. After that, go through the senses one by one, and then bring them altogether as “The All.” Then again, but negate them this time. Then, to wrap it up, just rest with things as they are, however they are.
(Meditation on Loving-kindness, the All, Emptiness, and Suchness)
“May all beings be at ease,
May all beings be enlightened.
What is the All?
Eyes and sights
Ears and sounds
Nose and scents
Tongue and flavors
Body and touch
Feeling and felt
Perception and perceived
Volition and action
Cognition and cognized
Grasper and grapsed
Unconsciousness and consciousness
What is the All?
No eyes, no sights
No ears, no sounds
No nose, no scents
No tongue, no flavors
No body, no touch
No feeling and nothing felt
No perception and nothing perceived
No volition and no activity
No cognition and nothing cognized
No grasper and nothing grasped
No unconsciousness and no consciousness
What is the All?
Just this, just like this.
May all beings be at ease,
May all beings be enlightened.”