Saturday, July 10, 2010

Present Mind

I recently received one of those jokes that find their way around the internet. After reading it, I thought it contained some important points about our way of perceiving our lives. This is the joke:

My name is Alice Smith and I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist.   I noticed his dental diploma, which bore his full name.

Suddenly, I remembered a tall, handsome, dark haired boy with the same name had been in my secondary school class some thirty-odd years ago. Could he be the same person that I had a secret crush on, way back then? Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought.

This balding, gray haired man with the deeply lined face was far too old to have been my classmate.  After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Morgan Park Secondary School. ‘Yes, yes I did. I was a Morganner! ‘He beamed with pride.

‘When did you leave to go to college?’ I asked. He answered, in 1965.  Why do you ask? ‘You were in my class!’ I exclaimed. He looked at me closely.

Then that ugly, old, bald, wrinkled, fat arsed, grey haired, decrepit, bastard asked me.... ‘What did you teach?’  

This is a common occurrence within our perception of reality. In the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (Diamond Cutter Sūtra,) Buddha states that past, present and future mind cannot get enlightenment. This joke focuses on past mind. Our past mind exists in our seventh and eighth consciousness. Each time we bring a memory from the past into the present, (a memory) we modify it in the present. Over time, these memories become distorted due to our recreation of the events.

We project out upon the world our ideas of who we are, what we are, and how we fit into our own worldview. The joke addresses the issues, and quite dramatically, that it is not just us, but also others who also live in this realm of cognitive projects.

Buddhism teaches us to not dwell on these manifestations, as they do not exist in our present experience. So if we can just see, then we can go any place with no hindrance. If we carry our baggage then we are stuck in our idea of the truth.

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