I have an interesting habit.
I take something simple, make it overly complicated, realize it’s overly complicated, then abandon it and return to simplicity; rinse and repeat.
I always end up taking away a few essentials picked up along the process, but little else. Buddha practice shouldn’t be complicated, life is complicated enough already isn’t it? When it becomes something complicated, then the message gets lost in the concepts.
It ends up being about something that it isn’t. So, here’s the simplest teaching I can vomit out that I’m going to try my best to not get distracted from:
We’re all naked. We just happen to also be wearing clothes. But those layers don’t make us any less naked, they just cover it up, and so we forget it ourselves.
The simple heart of Buddha practice is non-grasping. If we can just stop reaching, grasping, and holding onto things, we’d have this simple, beautiful naked mind that’s as nude as the moment.
The moment is totally naked, it’s always shedding itself and emerging as something new. It’s unholdable, ungraspable, and unreachable. We are the moment, there’s no us outside of the moment. When have you ever been anywhere but here and now, hm? Even when you’re thinking about the past or future, even when your mind is wandering or you’re daydreaming, you’re doing all of that here and now.
We suffer only because we think things are otherwise. Thinking that things are reachable, we reach out for them. Thinking that they’re graspable and holdable, we try to grasp and hold them, but we can’t. What we grasp onto and hold are memories.
Memories are the only things we can claim as our own, as ourselves. But even these memories are ultimately unholdable.
Check this out, how often do you actually see something as it is, without using memory to make it into something else? These words make sense, right? That’s only because you remember their meanings. These words weren’t with you when you were born, back when you only had one or two layers covering up your bare ass. Originally, they were just squiggles or, as spoken, sounds.
Then you reached out, grasped onto them and held them in your mind. You’ve carried them with you, wrapped them around yourself as a garment, to the point that you don’t ever just hear them as sounds anymore, do you? You don’t just see these sentences as squiggles. Instead of reaching for and grasping onto the sights and sounds, you reach for and grasp onto the memory now, to that garment you sowed so many years ago when you first learned how to pair words with objects.
This isn’t a huge problem in itself, words are pretty fuckin’ useful. The problem is that we’re unaware that this is what’s happening. And it isn’t just words, if that were the case there’d be nothing to talk about here. The problem is what we do with everything and everyone.
Take grief. Grief is the most blatant example of holding onto memories, but that didn’t start when our loved one died; it’s what we were doing while they were alive as well. How often do we see our friends and lovers as they are in that moment and instead hold onto who they were to us in the past? All the fuckin’ time is how often.
When we do that, we don’t know things as they are, meaning as they are right now, which is really the only way they ever are. When we talk about the naked mind, we’re talking about the truth of the moment, which is the only truth there is.
Grasping onto memories and holding them as if they reflect the present is how we make the world into an illusion and ignore its reality: that it’s unreachable, ungraspable, and unholdable.
And this reality is awesome, it’s alive! It’s meeting each moment as a new moment, as a new person in a new world. This is the naked mind, the mind prior to that first impulse to reach, grasp, and hold.
So, this is what’s it’s all about, then. We free ball it. As we practice, we strip of layer after layer of clothing, layers that we’ve been wearing in the baking summer heat. Then, when we’re naked, that’s when we realize that we’ve always been naked, that everyone’s always been naked, and that we’re sweating our asses off for no reason other than being lost in our memories.
We see that there’s always only been the present moment, that this moment doesn’t come and go but that it’s the same moment constantly transforming. We are many in space, but one in time.
You might be a thousand miles away from me while reading this, but we’re still both present. Who knows what I’m doing while you’re scrolling through these words; maybe I’m writing something else, maybe I’m toasting some waffles, or taking a shit?
As far as effort goes, the effort is in resting in non-holding, non-grasping, and non-reaching, being openly aware of everything but mindful of holding, grasping, and reaching and their absence. There is little else that’s needed.
When allowed to function freely, time will strip away all those layers your donning on its own, like the wind carrying off your hat. You don’t have to do anything to be naked, you’re already naked; just let time undress you and then get it on with life.
And it isn’t that all these notions, words, and what not disappear. The goal isn’t to be some kind of aloof statue of a person; quite the opposite, actually. The goal is to be a square peg in a round hold world, because the world wasn’t created for enlightened people. So, we start to be kind by causing trouble for everyone who’s bundled up in the scorching heat.
Anyway, words, thoughts, feelings, and everything else simply do as they wish, because remember: you were never grasping onto them in the first place, just ideas of them, so where do you suppose things would disappear to after letting go? They’re just right where they’ve always been.
As to the methods, there’s only one, but different variations of it:
- Rest in letting go (non-holding), letting be (non-grasping) and satisfaction (non-reaching) in day-to-day life.
- Rest in OM. Fill the world with OM, hold it like it’s a precious stone. Nurture it, protect it, and view all things as being it including yourself. This will naturally take you through the Four Immeasurables: Friendliness, compassion, joyfulness, and equanimity. When these are at their peak, let go of OM, let it be, and rest in non-holding, non-grasping, and non-reaching.
- Just like #1, except holding onto the desire for all beings to be enlightened.
- Just like #2, but with the desire for all beings to be enlightened.
One and two are the Arhat Path; three and four are the Bodhisattva path, which eventually leads to Buddhahood.
Sitting is only important in that it gives you space to really work on making non-holding, non-grasping and non-reaching automatic so that, as time goes on, it all becomes effortless. But, what we’re doing on the cushion should really be no different than what we’re doing off it since we aren’t monastics. Without the temple life, it’s impossible to adequately do a Buddha practice that separates doing from sitting since there’s just not enough time to sit that long.
In closing, this naked mind is the tabula rasa that some (Cough, Locke and Bankei) mistakenly felt we’re born with. It is the clean slate. We’re taking the unborn mind and bringing it into the world, the mind before it was even influenced by our genes, an embryonic mind that has never been touched by ignorance. It’s innocent, even more so than a child.
It is just this mind that you have right now, but naked of years.