'Living' is experiencing in duration.
Objective 'life' is subjection to experience.
But only the non-objective is what we are.

'Being sentient' is suffering 'experience' and, being the object of experience, gives the idea of individuality, of being a 'self'. What-we-are does not experience, can not experience at all. For only an object can suffer experience.

Identification with that which is suffering experience is what constitutes bondage, whereas 'being-this -experience', devoid of entity, cannot be bound.

To experience is paskein - to suffer, whether interpreted as positive or negative 'suffering'. The 'abolition of suffering' is nirvana, awakening to what-we-are, and what-we-are cannot suffer, since - not being an object - there is no 'thing' to suffer.

Suffering, therefore, is conceptual, i.e. 'experiencing' in a time-context.

Phenomenally, that experience-ing (being sentient) is what, extended in space-time, we are, whereas we imagine that we are some 'thing', an 'individual' self that has, that possesses, a body and a soul that is sentient and suffers experience. Such a pseudo-entity is a medium for suffering experience, and we are not to be identified with the objective medium whereby we are experienced.

Therefore, phenomenally, this sentience, spatially extended in duration, is our 'self-nature': only the 'being', that is imagined as subjected to suffering, is illusory.

And this same 'sentience', not extended in space-time, potential, devoid of objectivity, and not being experienced, not 'suffered', is our noumenal identity, called the Absolute, Bhutatathata, Dharmakaya, Tao - or what you will.

Note: There does not seem to be, and can hardly be assumed to be, any justification for supposing that the Buddha, by appellation incarnate enlightenment, intended the word translated as 'suffering' - whatever it may have been in the language he spoke, i.e. Maghadi - in the negative sense only, that is as applying solely to that kind of experience which we regard as disagreeable. His vision was total vision, and 'suffering' (paskein) means 'experience' - whether cognised as 'sorrowful' or 'joyous'.

The extent to which the Buddha's message may have been distorted by this sentimental and stultifying limitation, treating one element of a pair of interdependent counterparts as though it could have independent existence, has not yet - to my knowledge - been estimated. No doubt it could be maintained that Mahayana itself, particularly as represented by the Supreme Vehicle (Shresthyana), in fact represents a rectification of this somewhat ingenuous interpretation. It is clearly stated in the second section of Heart Sutra (see 'Open Secret' Part III, 42:I).

* * *


Yung Chia said: 'Ask a wooden puppet when it will attain Buddhahood by self-cultivation'.
Was he referring to sentient-beings as 'wooden puppets',
Or was he implying that they could do what puppets cannot do?
Puppets can only react to stimuli. Sentient-beings can both react to stimuli and act directly, activated indirectly (via volition) and directly by prajna, which is their sentience - the one 'false' action (yu wei), the other true (wu wei).
Receptivity is not reacting to stimuli, but lying open to prajna, which is dhyana, whole-mind, and what-we-are.

(© T.J. Gray, 1968)

* * * * *