I don’t know if I’m ready to write this yet, but it’s been a while so I thought I’d have a go and see what comes out. I should say sorry at the start because I’m going to lapse into ‘Buddhism mode’ to share this, simply because it’s the tools that Buddhism offers that led me to it and some of the terms of Buddhism that seem most useful to relate it.
Do I need to include the standard disclaimers? Dunno, but here they are in brief: this is not a post about ‘the way things are’, it’s an invitation to look, that’s all. Don’t expect to find truth in these words, it can’t be found in information only in realisation (they’re not the same but ask if you’re unsure why). I’m not even going to attempt to avoid personal or possessive pronouns but that doesn’t mean I have a sense of self – I don’t (get the irony?) – it just means I’m not clever enough to write without using them.
Okay, so here’s the Buddhism bit first, which was the source of my inquiry; the seam I was mining you might say. The tenth of the Ten Fetters is ignorance, which basically means ignorance of the way things are i.e. you’re still not quite seeing it. Which is strange in a way because if you’ve seen through and released the previous nine you’ve really seen quite a lot, so I was intrigued a little at this in a, ‘what am I missing?’ kind of way.
Interestingly (to me at least) the first step of the 12 stages of dependent origination state that ignorance supports or conditions kammic formations, so I thought maybe that was a good place to start. So what are kammic formations? Well, I’m not a Buddhist scholar, so apologies to those who are and who can reel off chapter and verse on this. I went at it armed only with my own looking (note to ‘self’:must write a post on Looking) and it comes down to some fairly simple observations but with profound implications.
Things that arise, anything that arises in any way, has the potential to create patterns; perhaps they all do. Once something happens then the next thing and the next thing emerge into being conditioned by the first and then the subsequent and so on. So although not neat or tidy, what we might loosely call patterns emerge. That seems to be the way things play out. Interestingly we see this because we’re of this nature too.
As soon as sensation happens, eliciting response, from our earliest experiencing, patterns begin to form: what the eye lights upon, what it does not see; what the ear picks up and the things it will not notice; the thoughts that pop up and those not considered. Beyond that, how each and every sensation is received, and then what judgments arise. Following this, what other thoughts emerge and on and on, patterns form like the patterns we see in nature, simply because we are nature; we arise as all of this arises.
These patterns are our kammic formations. Who can say where they really start, I’ll leave that to the metaphysicians to speculate upon. But they condition what we sense, how we experience, how we receive and judge experiencing, how we respond and how we act. Unique to us, as each thing in nature is unique we yet follow patterns, that in another sense are the structures underlying the processes running along that make up this human experiencing. A beautiful, amazing, awe inspiring, messy set of processes flowing alongside everything else, no more separate than a wave is from the sea. The tendency for awareness to arise and shine through this, as it does through so many forms, is a reflection of the unconditioned. It is not ours it is ubiquitous and changeless; and at the end of the day just a label that we attach to that which never really was a separate phenomena.
So even this seeing is conditioned by these patterns. Every aspect of it from sensation right down to how it is expressed, a reflection of the beautiful patterns that have emerged as this human experiencing. Seeing this clearly brought with it first a sense of sadness; the realisation there really is nothing beneath this, this is it, just this, just patterns and processes with nothing underneath; subtly observable. But when you see how amazing, how complex, how beautifully this flower of humanity grows then that becomes tempered with a sense of awe, at nature, it’s just beyond words. As Jodie Foster’s character says in Contact, ‘No words… They should have sent a poet.’ With metta.