Buddha Nature: The mystery of silence
Writings | Awareness
After the awareness that there is nothing other than mind
Comes the understanding that mind, too, is nothing itself.
The intelligent know that these two understandings are not things.
And then, not holding onto even this knowledge, they come to rest in the realm of totality.
I can’t get away from it. Like it or not, there is this quality in me which wants to know. That much is clear. However, as soon as I start asking any questions, a lot of problems arise.
First question. What does this quality or whatever want to know? The moment I ask that question to myself there is nothing, no response, silence.
Second question. What is this quality that wants to know? It’s just there, a palpable presence in my being.
Third question. Who’s being? Nothing, no response, silence. Wasn’t I just here?
Now I want to start thinking. T. S. Eliot comes to mind:
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Of what we cannot speak, we must rest in silence.
Be silent as a compass, the King has erased your name from the book of speech.
And a host of others. Suddenly, it is not very silent in here, but all these teachers and masters are talking about silence. One more teaching I recall encourages me:
It says in the sutras that buddha nature pervades all beings. But this does not mean that there is some thing which is buddha nature. Rather, when all the confusion of samsara is cleared away, what remains is buddha nature.
So, I return to the silence.
In the end, there is little more to do, but it is such a struggle to be able to do just this. Why? Largely, I feel, it is a matter of trust, trust in whatever it is that we are. In the Shangpa tradition, there is this teaching:
So close we cannot see it.
So simple we cannot believe it.
So profound we cannot fathom it.
So fine we cannot accept it.
The vast array of methods and techniques which comprise Buddhism, particularly the Tibetan tradition, are all to help us come to know simply what we are, buddha, awake and aware. Time and time again, we are told that we are buddha, that the buddha qualities are present now, but that we just don’t know it. The problem, for many of us, is that this knowing is not a form of knowing that we are used to. We need tools and methods to dismantle the emotional blocks, the habitual patterns, the worries, concerns, expectations, and hopes that keep us from trusting and knowing what we are.
Through consistent effort, we can come to the point that we can “hear” that silence all the time. This is the groundless nature of being. And this form of knowing is not something intellectual or conceptual. It takes effort to keep that silence in our hearing, and constant attention. Attention, attention, the key to practice, so many teachers have said. It’s true. When we come to know, even a little, this truly miraculous and open nature of our being, we begin to appreciate the jewels and riches in these very simple instructions that come down to us through our teachers.