Gateless gate and goals

 

Before passing the gateless gate (noticing clearly what we are), the goal of awakening may be held to quite strongly. It may seem very important, almost a matter of life or death.

Yet, when the gate has been passed, it is recognized as not important at all. “Awake” or “deluded” are equal. We realize that there is nothing but God, always and already awake, and either noticing that or not. If it notices, it is “awake” in a conventional sense, and if not, it is caught up in imagining itself to be a human being.

What shifts this is the realization that although it is all God – already and always awake – there is an experience of suffering, and of a separate someone suffering, so compassion comes up. And a desire to help alleviate this suffering, either through conventional ways or by aiding awakening.

It is clearly seen as part of the game and having no absolute value, but it is still done because we have to do something. And the heart moves us.

Fear of nothingness and infinity

 

I did a phone session with Karen this afternoon, and one of the things that came up for me was the fear of nothingness… and of infinity in all direction without a center…

It is one of those gateless gates that seem so real and substantial before we step through it, yet when we are on the other side and turn around, the gate is not there… it wasn’t there in the first place. It was there only in appearance, mind made, and since it was taken as real, I lived as if it was real. And still do, for that matter, to some extent.

Sometimes, we need to go through it many times, to become more familiar with the terrain, and also to really see that it isn’t there – over and over, until it sinks in more.

It is only natural to have a fear of nothingness and infinity. If we take ourselves to be something and finite, which most of us do (until we don’t, as Byron Katie says), then it is a terrible thing to be nothing and infinite. We die, or are stretched into spaghetti and die then too.

Either, I am here, something and finite. Or I am emptiness and infinity (and dead.) Not both. Or at least, so it seems.

Exploring two parts of the terrain

There are at least two areas of exploration here.

One is to become familiar with the terrain of emptiness and infinity, dipping into it, first noticing it as an Other, and then finding myself as it, tasting it.

The other is to become familiar with the fear around it, and the identities which appear mutually exclusive to emptiness and infinity, at least as long as I am identified with them…!

So we explore what we already are, directly, and we also explore the box which keeps us as a finite thing here and that as emptiness and infinity out there.

And at some point, it is all clarified enough so the boundaries are revealed as transparent, insubstantial, not very real, and then fall away altogether.

Finite and infinite, thing and no-thing

Now, there is still this human self here, as a finite thing in the world. That didn’t change. It didn’t die, or explore, or get stretched out into spaghetti.

Yet, at the same time, there is… and I am… emptiness. It is emptiness taking the temporary form of this human self and its surroundings. Emptiness dancing, as this human self and whatever else is happening.

There are lots of identities, of being human, male or female, of a particular age, liking strawberry ice cream, voting republican, and so on.

Yet, at the same time, there is no identification with these identities. They define who this human self is, in a relative sense, and that is essential for its life in the world. But they do not define what ultimately is… and what I ultimately am… emptiness.

Together, there is a far wider embrace. It is closer to what already is… an emptiness as a ground of all… an awake emptiness as the seeing… forms arising, as no other than this awake emptiness itself.